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I Have Set Before You Life and Death – CCCB Message for Lent 2016

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‘I HAVE SET BEFORE YOU LIFE AND DEATH’
Message for Lent 2016
by the Most Reverend Douglas Crosby, O.M.I.,
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

The readings of the liturgy for the opening days of Lent invite us to focus on some basic questions as we begin our journey through this sacred season. What does it mean to repent and believe the Good News? What difference should faith make to our living and dying? How do we convert hearts and lives? The Old Testament reading for the Thursday after Ash Wednesday has particular significance this year for us as God’s people and as a country: I call heaven and earth to witness … that I have set before you life and death …. Choose life, so that you and your descendants may live…. (Deuteronomy 30.19)

The Supreme Court of Canada a year ago, in its decision in the case of Carter v. Canada, invited those in our land to choose death. Any adult suffering from an illness, disease or disability would have the option of physician-assisted suicide. Already, various voices in our country have argued in favour of this even being extended to minors. Appalling as that is, it is not surprising. Children as well as incapacitated adults are being euthanized in the handful of other countries where assisted suicide and euthanasia are now legal.

Throughout the Church’s funeral rite, we are reminded that each life and each death has an important impact on the life of others. In the words of Saint Paul, We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves (Romans 14.7). A consequence of this for Christians is that our mission and our glory is to defend and protect life from conception to natural death as a sacred gift from God, Source of all life.

This year, the Thursday after Ash Wednesday is also the World Day of the Sick. In his Message for this day, Pope Francis reminds us that when we experience suffering, pain and vulnerability, our faith in God is on the one hand tested, yet at the same time can reveal all of its positive resources. Not because faith makes illness, pain, or the questions which they raise, disappear, but because it offers a key by which we can discover the deepest meaning of what we are experiencing; a key that helps us to see how illness can be the way to draw nearer to Jesus who walks at our side, weighed down by the Cross. And this key is given to us by Mary, our Mother, who has known this way at first hand.

Ambassadors for Christ and Ministers of God’s Justice

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Ambassadors for Christ and Ministers of God’s Justice
A Biblical Reflection for Ash Wednesday, Year C
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

Ash Wednesday makes one’s faith very visible and public.  Not offensively, but also not easy to miss, the sign of our faith shows up in the office, at school, on buses and subways, in lines at grocery store, or at the gas station.  This small symbol of the cross of ashes on our foreheads expresses an important truth:  faith doesn’t happen only at church, but lives among us, in public, every day.

The Scripture texts for the liturgy of Ash Wednesday do not only remind us of sin and death; they are a loud call to overcome sin, to be converted to Christ and the Gospel and to prepare for the new life of Easter.  I would like to offer some reflections on what it means to be reconciled to God, to be an “Ambassador for Christ” [II Cor 5:20-21], and the meaning of authentic piety and devotion as outlined in Matthew’s Gospel text for today’s liturgy [6:1-6, 16-18].  I will conclude with some thoughts on Pope Francis 2016 Lenten Message that has as its theme: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13). The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee.

Be reconciled to God!

Today – the liturgy tells us – is the “acceptable time” for our reconciliation with God.  Reconciliation is a gratuitous gift of God.  Reconciliation must involve everyone: individuals, families, nations and peoples.  In the passage from II Corinthians 5:20-21, Paul encouraged the fractious Corinthian community to recognize that God has “reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” [5:18].  Paul speaks of “the new creation in Christ” [cf. II Cor 5:17] and goes on to tell us: “God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding individuals’ faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that we are reconciled… the appeal we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God” [II Cor 5:19-20].

When we speak of the world as reconciled to God, we are speaking not only of individuals but also of every community: families, communities, clans, tribes, nations and states. In his providence, God made covenant after covenant with the human family: the covenant with our first parents in the Garden of Eden; the covenant with Noah after the Flood and the covenant with Abraham.  In the Book of Joshua we learn about the covenant made with Israel, when Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in the land of Egypt. And God has now made the final and definitive covenant with all of humanity in Jesus Christ, who reconciled individual men and women — as well as entire nations — to God by his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

In the sacrament of the Eucharist, we celebrate the mystery of our redemption and full reconciliation with God.  It is through his passion, death and resurrection that Jesus has saved the world.  Before receiving the body and blood of the Lord, we show that we are at peace with one another. The Eucharist is celebrated by a reconciled community.  When the celebration is ended, we are sent out to spread this peace and message of reconciliation to others.

Ambassadors for Christ

Because we have been entrusted with this message of reconciliation, we are “ambassadors for Christ” [5:20].  The mission that we have been given is one of high rank. It is a mission that ennobles us. Because we have been called to be ambassadors, we have to be true and loyal to the one we represent.  An ambassador is known by his or her credentials. Ambassadors must give credible proof that they have been sent. As ambassadors of Christ we too must give proof of our mission. And the greatest proof is our own fidelity to the Christian way of life.

If we are reconciled with God, with ourselves and with others, and if we in turn foster Christ’s reconciliation in society, we can make a convincing claim to be ambassadors of the Prince of Peace.  Just as God took the initiative in sending his son to reconcile the world, so he expects us to take the initiative to restore harmony to a broken world and an often-divided Church.

Can we apply this Christian vision, this wonderful mission of reconciliation, to our own situations?  Can we put it into practice among family, friends and community members and try over and over again when we fail?  It is very sad when grudges are carried for long periods of time, when people refuse to speak together, when the joy of attending reunions or celebrations is denied someone, perhaps for a misdemeanor that occurred long ago and whose circumstances are practically forgotten!

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Jesus’ three-fold process of self-denial

Matthew’s Gospel [6:1-6, 16-18] issues a warning against doing good in order to be seen and gives three examples for right living: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  In each, the conduct of the hypocrites [6:2] is contrasted with the behavior demanded of the disciples. The sayings about reward found here and elsewhere [Matthew 5:12, 46; 10:41-42] show that this is a genuine element of Christian moral exhortation.

Let us look closely at what the Gospel demands of us in this threefold process of self-denial:  we must pray: “Go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in private.”  We must fast: “No one must see you are fasting but your Father.”  We must give alms: “Keep your deeds of mercy secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”  There is nothing ambiguous about what is required of us this season.  Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the pillars of the Lenten journey for Christians.  This is the piety, the devotion and the sincerity that the Lord seeks from us this Lent.

Here is an excerpt from Pope Francis’ Message for Lent this year: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13). The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee.

The works of mercy

God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, I expressed my hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” (ibid., 15). For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us” (ibid.). It is the unprecedented and scandalous mystery of the extension in time of the suffering of the Innocent Lamb, the burning bush of gratuitous love. Before this love, we can, like Moses, take off our sandals (cf. Ex 3:5), especially when the poor are our brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith.

In the light of this love, which is strong as death (cf. Song 8:6), the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep (cf. Lk 16:20-21). Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us and which we may well fail to see. Such blindness is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence, which reflects in a sinister way the diabolical “you will be like God” (Gen 3:5) which is the root of all sin. This illusion can likewise take social and political forms, as shown by the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century, and, in our own day, by the ideologies of monopolizing thought and technoscience, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited. This illusion can also be seen in the sinful structures linked to a model of false development based on the idolatry of money, which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies; they close their doors, refusing even to see the poor.

For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy. In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy – counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer – we touch more directly our own sinfulness. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated. By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they too are poor and in need. By taking this path, the “proud”, the “powerful” and the “wealthy” spoken of in the Magnificat can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord who died and rose for them. This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power and riches. Yet the danger always remains that by a constant refusal to open the doors of their hearts to Christ who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich and powerful will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell. The pointed words of Abraham apply to them and to all of us: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Lk 16:29). Such attentive listening will best prepare us to celebrate the final victory over sin and death of the Bridegroom, now risen, who desires to purify his Betrothed in expectation of his coming.

Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion! We ask this through the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, who, encountering the greatness of God’s mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness (cf. Lk 1:48) and to call herself the Lord’s humble servant (cf. Lk 1:38).”

Video Reflection for Ash Wednesday: It Took 40 Days

St. Josephina Bakhita – Model of True Emancipation

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Called the “Madre Moretta” (the Black Mother), Josephina Bakhita was a former slave who became a Canossian Sister (Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa) in Italy. She was born in the Sudan, in northeastern Africa, about 1870, and at the age of nine was stolen by slavers. The slave traders gave her the name Bakhita, meaning “the Lucky One.” She escaped from these slavers only to be caught by another, who took her as a gift to his daughter in El Obeid. There she was treated well until she broke a vase. Then she was sold to a Turkish officer who sold her again in the market in Khartoum. She was brought by the Italian vice-council, who returned to Italy, taking Josephine with him. There she was given to a Signora Michieli in Genoa. She was sent to a convent by her new owner, to be educated in the school operated by the Daughters of Charity of Canossa. Josephina became a Christian on January 9, 1890, and was baptized by the cardinal patriarch. She refused to leave the convent after discovering her religious vocation, despite the demands of Signora Michieli, who claimed ownership. The cardinal patriarch and the king’s procurator were called upon to mediate the matter, and they decided in favor of Josephina’s vocation. Josephina was welcomed into the Canossian convent, and she made her novitiate and took religious vows. Her holiness and devotion were demonstrated in her labors as a cook, gate keeper, and keeper of linens. It was obvious that God had brought Josephina out of Africa to glorify him among the Europeans. With this in mind, Josephina, the Madre Moretta, traveled throughout Italy to raise funds for the missions. She served as a Canossian for half a century, dying in Schio, Italy, on February 8, 1947, and was revered by the people of her adopted land. She has not been forgotten by the Sudanese either. Her portrait hangs in the cathedral at Khartoum.

Pope John Paul II beatified Josephina on May 17, 1992, in the presence of three hundred Canossian Sisters and pilgrims, many from the Sudan. The Holy Father declared:

In our time, in which the unbridled race for power, money, and pleasure is the cause of so much distrust, violence, and loneliness, Sister Bakhita has been given to us once more by the Lord as a universal sister, so that she can reveal to us the secret of true happiness: the Beatitudes….Here is a message of heroic goodness modeled on the goodness of the Heavenly Father.

During his homily at her canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II said that in St. Josephine Bakhita:

We find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.
Former National Director and C.E.O., World Youth Day 2002
C.E.O., Salt and Light Catholic Television Network, Canada

Deacon-structing Mercy: We are not God

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It’s always a nice confirmation when the Pope says the same thing you’ve been trying to say. (Maybe he read my blog from last week?)

Last Wednesday, Pope Francis’ General Audience Address was titled, God’s Justice is Mercy.

You can listen to the Vatican Radio report here:

In short, Pope Francis is eloquently making the point that I tried to make last week: That Justice demands Mercy.

If you missed the Audience and the report above does not give you the full sense, read this:

“The Sacred Scripture presents God as infinite mercy, but also as perfect justice”, How can the two be reconciled? They may appear to be contradictory, but this is not the case, as it is precisely God’s mercy that leads us to achieve true justice. In the legal administration of justice, we see that those who consider themselves to have been victims of abuse consult a judge in court and ask that justice be done. It is a retributive justice, inflicting punishment on the guilty, according to the principle that each person receives what he deserves. … But this route does not lead to true justice, as in reality it does not conquer evil, it simply limits it. Instead, only by responding with good can evil truly be conquered”.

The Pope explained that the Bible proposes a different form of justice, in which the victim invites the guilty party to convert, helping him to understand the harm he has done and appealing to his conscience. This is the principle behind restorative justice. Many of us have a hard time picturing how this can work since our justice system is, by nature confrontational. But this is not how we solve conflict in the family. This is not how we solve conflict with people who we care about; not when we value the relationship. Pope Francis continued:

“This is the way of resolving conflicts within families, in relations between spouses and between parents and children, in which the injured party loves the guilty and does not wish to lose the bond between them. It is certainly a difficult path: it demands that the victim be disposed to forgive and wishes for the salvation and the good of the perpetrator of the damage. But only in this way can justice triumph, as if the guilty party acknowledges the harm he has done and ceases to do so, the evil no longer exists and the unjust becomes just, as he has been forgiven and helped to find the way of good”.

This is the way God administers Justice; so that the unjust become just. How profound! Justice has to be served – that’s the natural course when consequences are inevitable. God’s perfection demands Justice. But God’s Justice is Perfect Justice. It seems to me that Pope Francis is telling us that God’s Perfect Justice demands mercy. He also said:

“God does not seek our condemnation, only our salvation. God does not wish to condemn anyone! … The Lord of Mercy wishes to save everyone. … The problem is letting Him enter into our heart. All the words of the prophets are an impassioned and love-filled plea for our conversion”.

This is what I am discovering as I begin my reflection on mercy this Jubilee Year. God demands perfection – that’s why we have purgatory – we strive to be “perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect”. But all we can do is strive. God’s perfection demands Justice, but only God can administer perfect Justice, which is why it’s not up to us to administer justice. We can’t. All we can do is administer forgiveness. You and I are not capable of justice; we are only capable of mercy.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we are not capable of being just. God asks us to be just and righteous (I believe we saw that in all the Scripture references from last week). When we act justly (fairly) we are, in fact, acting mercifully.

What we are not capable of doing is administering justice. We tend to think that justice is receiving payment from someone who has trespassed against us. That is not justice, nor are we capable of exercising that kind of “justice”. Remember that Justice is the quality of being fair or being reasonable. If we demand justice as receiving payment, we will never be satisfied. This is why people have such a hard time with forgiveness and why, instead Pope Francis is inviting us to consider mercy. This is why God calls us to mercy. Mercy is directly related to forgiveness. This is the kind of Justice that leads to reconciliation and healing. It is the Justice that makes us whole, that makes the unjust just. Pope Francis said:

“God’s heart is “the heart of a Father Who loves all His children and wants them to live in goodness and justice, and therefore to live in fullness and happiness. A Father’s heart that goes beyond our meagre concept of justice so as to open up to us the immense horizons of His mercy. A Father’s heart that does not treat us or repay us according to our sins, as the Psalm says”.

“It is precisely a Father’s heart that we encounter when we go to the confessional. Perhaps it will tell us something to better understand our evil, but at the confessional we all go in search of a father who will help us change our life; a father who gives us the strength to go on; a father who forgives us in God’s name. Therefore, to be a confessor is a great responsibility, as the son or daughter who comes to you seeks only to encounter a father. And you, the priest there in the confessional, are the place where the Father does justice with His mercy.”

I am not capable of administering justice. Let’s leave that to God. Instead, I am capable of mercy. I am capable of great mercy. That has been given to us. Let’s not try to be God by judging everyone and everything around us and let’s be humans who are merciful; who are forgiving, who seek reconcilication; who seek to help the unjust become just; as we strive to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is Perfect.

Last week I received a comment about my use of the word “doctrine.” Come back next week and let’s deacon-struct that word. In the meantime, I am curious to know your thoughts: How would you define “doctrine”? What is the difference between “dogma” and “doctrine”? Email me pedro@saltandlighttv.org and help me with next week’s post.]


Photo credit: Pope Francis at Feb 3, 2016 General Audience in St. Peter’s Square (CNS photo/Paul Haring)


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Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Behind Vatican Walls: Historic Meeting of East and West

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For the first time ever, the pope will meet with the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. The announcement was made in a joint press release issued by the Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow. Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill will meet in Cuba on February 12. At the end of their two hour meeting, they will sign a joint declaration.

Although the announcement seemed to come out of the blue, it reportedly took two years of quiet dialogue and negotiation. Russian Orthodox officials say this does not mean past tensions have been resolved, it just means there is a bigger problem that requires the Catholic and Orthodox churches to work together. Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion, who is responsible for the church’s foreign relations, said the problem between the two churches is the Ukrainian Catholic Church – which he referred to as “uniates.” He said “regrettably, the problem of Unia is still there, with Unia, remaining a never-healing blooding wound that prevents the full normalization of relations between the two Churches.”

However, Metropolitan Hilarion said the issue of Christians being persecuted in the Middle East and North Africa is bigger than the historic tensions between the two churches and requires them to work together. It is estimated that out of the 1.5 million Christians who used to live in Iraq, there are only 200,000 left in the country.

One of the requirements that had to be satisfied in order for the meeting to happen was finding the right location. According to Russian Orthodox Church’s department for foreign relation, Patriarch Kirill wanted the meeting to happen outside of Europe. The patriarch will visit Cuba, Paraguay and Brazil from February 11 to 22, while Pope Francis is scheduled to be in Mexico from February 12 to 18. The fact that both men would be in Latin America at the same time provided a chance to meet in fairly neutral territory.

The pope’s Mexican itinerary will not change. Instead he will leave Rome earlier than scheduled to allow for a stop over in Cuba. He is expected to touch down in Havana around 2pm local time and be on route to Mexico by 5:30 pm local time. The meeting will take place at Jose Marti International Airport. Some observers say Patriarch Kirill could possibly face backlash from within the Russian Orthodox Church for going ahead with the meeting.

This is not the first time a pope and Russian patriarch have tried to meet. Russian Orthodox official revealed today that from 1996 to 97 negotiations took place for a meeting between St. Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Alexy II. That meeting was supposed to be held in Austria but negotiations stopped after both sides got stuck on two points: actions of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and the activity of Catholic clergy within the geographic area of the patriarchate of Moscow which Moscow considered proselytism.

Vatican officials said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has been informed of the meeting and is pleased.

The meeting comes just as Orthodox patriarchs have agreed on the details of the Pan – Orthodox Synod, to be held in Crete starting June 19.

CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below:


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Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

Connect5: John Mulderig on bringing a Christian perspective to films

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CNS media reviewer and film critic John Mulderig discusses the importance of a “Catholic” review and why no film should be off limits.


How are you going to spend the next five minutes of your time?  You could browse social media or check your email, but how about meeting a fascinating person and learning something relevant that will broaden your perspective?  Sit down with host Sebastian Gomes and his various guests, and go straight to the heart of the matter.  It will be five minutes well spent…

Connect5 airs on our network every Friday at 8:25 pm ET, immediately following Vatican Connections. Catch a new episode of Connect5 online every Wednesday.

Interview with the Pope: seeking the richness of faith in Mexico

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Vatican City, 3 February 2016 (VIS) – Next week Pope Francis will begin his apostolic trip to Mexico. From 12 to 17 February he will visit Mexico City, Ecatepec, Tuxtla Gutierrez, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Morelia and Ciudad Juarez, and will pray before Our Lady of Guadalupe. For the occasion, the agency Notimex recorded a series of brief questions and expressions of hope for the Mexican people in four videos, presented to the Holy Father. The Pope responded with a video that will be broadcast today on the Notimex website. The following is a summary of the questions and answers. The images can be obtained from the Vatican Television Centre.

Question: Why are you coming to Mexico? What brings you to Mexico?

Pope Francis: “What moves me most is this: what are [we] coming to look for in Mexico? I will come to Mexico not like a Wise Man loaded with things to bring, messages, ideas, solutions to problems … I come to Mexico as a pilgrim, to look for something among the Mexican people. … I come to seek the wealth of faith you have, I come for that infectious wealth of faith. You have an idiosyncrasy, a way of being that is the fruit of a very long road, a history that has been forged slowly, with pain, with success, with failures, with searching, but with a common thread. You have great richness in your heart and, above all, you are not an orphaned people, as you are proud to have a Mother, and when a man or a woman or a people do not forget their Mother, this provides a wealth that cannot be described; it is received and transmitted. So, I will go in search of some of this in you. A people that does not forget its Mother, the Mother who forged her people in hope”.

WOMAN LAYS HAND ON IMAGE OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE ON DISPLAY AT NEW YORK CATHOLIC CHURCH

Question: What does Our Lady of Guadalupe represent for the Pope?

Pope Francis: “Security, tenderness. Sometimes I am afraid of certain problems or something unpleasant happens and I do not know how to react, and I pray to her. I like to repeat to myself, ‘Do not be afraid, am I not here, your Mother?’. They are her words: ‘Do not be afraid’. … I feel this, that she is our Mother, who cares, protects and leads a people, who leads a family, who gives the warmth of home, who caresses with tenderness and who banishes fear. … It is an eloquent image, that of a Mother like a blanket who covers and cares, in the midst of her people. … This is what I feel before Her. … What I would ask you, as a favour, is that this time, the third time I will be on Mexican soil, that you will let me spend a moment before the image. That is the favour I ask of you”.

Question: How would you help us to face the violence here?

Pope Francis: “Violence, corruption, war, children who cannot go to school because their country is at war, trafficking, arms manufacturers who sell weapons so that the wars of the world can continue … this is more or less the climate that we live in the world, and you are experiencing a part of it, a part of this ‘war’, this part of suffering, of violence, of organised trafficking. If I come to you, it is to receive the best of you and to pray with you, so that the problems … that you know exist may be resolved, because the Mexico of violence, the Mexico of corruption, the Mexico of drug trafficking, the Mexico of the cartels, is not the Mexico that our Mother loves, and of course I do not wish to cover up any of that; on the contrary, I would urge you to fight, day by day, against corruption, against trafficking, against war, against disunity, against organised crime, against human trafficking”.

“‘May you bring us a little peace’, one of you said. Peace is something that must be worked on every day, and – to use a phrase that sounds like a contradiction – it must be fought for, every day. It is necessary to combat every day for peace, not for war. It is necessary to sow gentleness, understanding, peace. St. Francis prayed, ‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace’. I would like to be an instrument of peace in Mexico, but with all of you. … And how is peace formed? Peace is a craft, it is formed by hand. From the education of a child to the care for an elderly person: they are all seeds of peace. Peace is born of tenderness, peace is born of understanding, peace is born or is made in dialogue, not in rupture, and this is the key word: dialogue. Dialogue between leaders, dialogue with the people, and dialogue among all people. … Do not be afraid of listening to others, to seeing their motivations. And please, do not enter into any traps to make money; it enslaves life in an inner war and takes away freedom, because peace brings freedom. I come to ask the Virgin, along with you, to give us this peace, so that Our Lady of Guadalupe may give us peace in our heart, in the family, in the city, and in all the country”.

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Question: What do you wish for from us, and what are your hopes for us?

Pope Francis: “I come to serve, to be a servant of the faith for you … because I felt this vocation … to serve the faith of the people. But this faith must grow and go out into daily life; it must be a public faith. And faith becomes strong when it is public, above all … in moments of crisis. … It is true that there is a crisis of faith in the world. But it is also true that there is a great blessing and a desire … for faith to come forth, for faith to be missionary, for faith not to be closed up in a tin. Our faith is not a museum faith, and the Church is not a museum. Our faith is born of contact, of dialogue with Jesus Christ, our Saviour, with the Lord. … If faith does not go out into the street, it is no use; and taking faith out into the street does not mean merely a procession. That faith goes out into the street means that we show ourselves to be Christians in the workplace, in the family, at university, in college. … Faith wants to be on the streets, like Jesus. … Where did Jesus spend most of his time? On the street, preaching the Gospel, bearing witness. … Our faith demands that we too go forth, that we do not keep Jesus confined to ourselves without letting Him out, as Jesus goes out with us, so if we do not go forth, neither does He. … Renewing the faith means going out into the streets, not being afraid of conflict, seeking solutions to family, school, social and economic problems. Faith has to be my inspiration for my commitment to my people, and it has its risks and its dangers. I would like to end with some of our Mother’s words; through me, she is saying to you, ‘Do not be afraid of going forth, do not be afraid, my child, I am here and I am your Mother”.

Sharing the Joy of the Gospel With the Media and Through the Media

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*Cardinal Foley addressing Catholic Media Convention Banquet in 2011 in Pittsburgh.*

The third annual John Cardinal Foley Lecture on Social Communications
by FR. THOMAS ROSICA, C.S.B.

Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia
February 1, 2016

INTRODUCTION
by Rev. Thomas F. Dailey, O.S.F.S.

Good evening and welcome to Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary for this, the third annual Foley Lecture in Social Communications.

This series honors the legacy of Cardinal JOHN PATRICK FOLEY, a native of Philadelphia and long-time President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. In his work at the Vatican, Cardinal Foley saw the world as “as an interconnected globe humming with electronic transmissions – a chattering planet nestled in the provident silence of space.” In that world he recognized and championed the decisive importance of social communications as the means for determining our culture.

We are blessed this evening to have as our lecturer one who keeps that humming globe and chattering planet in motion, in terms of how the Church interacts with contemporary culture.

A priest in the Congregation of St. Basil, he holds advanced degrees in Sacred Scripture from Regis College in Toronto, the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, and the École Biblique in Jerusalem.

For him, the hum of global transmissions first became a reality when he served for three years as national director of World Youth Day and the visit of Pope John Paul II that took place in Toronto in 2002.

Following that he founded the Salt & Light Catholic Media Foundation and still serves as its Chief Executive Officer. As Canada’s first Catholic Television Network, and now reaching across continents, Salt & Light TV plays a vital part in determining Catholic culture through the medium of story-telling, with the aim of bringing people closer to Christ and to our faith.

But, since 2008 he hasn’t had much experience with what Cardinal Foley described as the silence of space. That’s because he’s in constant connection with Rome as a member of the staff of the Holy See Press Office. As an official spokesperson, he brings news about Pope Francis and the Vatican to the entire English-speaking world through his daily interactions with the media.

Tonight we are honored that he has come here as the third John Cardinal Foley Lecturer. Please join me in welcoming … Fr. Thomas Rosica.

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Sharing the Joy of the Gospel With the Media and Through the Media 
The John Cardinal Foley Lecture on Social Communications
Vianney Hall – St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
February 1, 2016

Archbishop Chaput,
Bishop Senior,
Dear Friends,

Thank you for the privilege of addressing you this evening in this lecture series in memory of a great friend and mentor, the late Cardinal John Foley. I wish to thank Fr. Thomas Dailey, OSFS, who heads up the Foley Chair of Social Communications and the Cardinal Foley Lecture series here at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. Your hospitality and kindness these past few days is much appreciated! You have invited me to speak about “Sharing the Joy of the Gospel: With the Media and Through the Media”, a very fitting topic for the man after whom this series is named. For that is exactly what Father, then Archbishop, then Cardinal Foley did his entire life: he lived and shared the Gospel of joy with the media and through the media to the entire world.

First let’s take a panoramic view of how people have communicated the faith through the ages. Beginning with the oral tradition, including the teaching ministry of Jesus, and continuing through the formation of the Biblical canon to modern telecommunications, human beings have recorded, shared and communicated their faith. The history of faith is a history of communication. For Christians, the Word did not become a divine oracle from some distant heaven, a FAX, an e-mail, an SMS or text message, a probe, a prompt, a quick like, or some other new fangled way to grab our attention. Through Mary, the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us. The Word became close to real, human beings in real time. The Word became a person to be followed, enjoyed and loved! From that moment onward, anyone who really understands that God has become human will never be able to speak and act in an inhuman way. In Jesus, the message and the messenger are united. The medium is indeed the message and the life and witness of the messenger is a itself a vital part of the message.

In every age the Church has used whatever media are available to spread the good news. St. Augustine practically invented the form of the autobiography; the builders of the great medieval cathedrals used stone and stained glass to teach us a powerful lesson about God’s dwelling place among us; Renaissance popes used not only papal bulls but colorful frescoes; Hildegard of Bingen wrote one of the first operas; Francis de Sales wrote thousands of letters to people; the early Jesuits used theater and stagecraft to put on morality plays for entire towns; Dorothy Day founded a newspaper that still exists today: The Catholic Worker; Jesuit Fr. Daniel Lord, jumped into radio; Bishop Fulton Sheen used television to a stunning effect; Bishop Robert Barron has dazzled us all with his masterful teaching videos, and now we have popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, sisters and brothers and tons of Catholic laity blogging and tweeting like mad! How sad it would be if we did not use the latest tools available to us to communicate and share the Word of God!

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*Cardinal John Foley and Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, at 2008 Catholic Media Convention in Toronto, Canada.*

New Floodgates of Communication

In nearly three years at the helm of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis has opened the floodgates of communication in an institution that has been somewhat cloistered for centuries. Yes, his two immediate predecessors, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI communicated through the media, but something new is afoot with Francis. Pope Francis is now among the top global newsmakers of our time. He has brought renewed visibility to the papacy and to the Church. While it is no exaggeration that a pope has never been so widely quoted by the secular press, it could also be said that the pope’s intentions have never been so widely misinterpreted. He is not quite “conservative” nor entirely “progressive”. His message is filled with paradoxes because life is a paradox and Christian life is a great paradox. The world is listening to him because Francis models a solid consistency: the one between his words and deeds, and that between its current papal mission and life eternal. People listen to him because he walks the talk and walks the walk. He speaks our talk. Francis is the world’s shepherd and a beautiful model and example of the new evangelization in action.

What is the most important achievement of Pope Francis? He has rebranded Catholicism and the papacy. Prior to Pope Francis, when many people on the street were asked: “What is the Catholic Church all about? What does the pope stand for?,” the response would often be, “Catholics, well they are against abortion, gay marriage and birth control.” “They are known for the sex abuse crisis that has terribly marred and weakened their moral authority and credibility.”

Today, the response is somewhat different. What do they say about us now? What do they say about the Pope? People are speaking about our leader who is unafraid to confront the sins and evils that have marred us. We have a pope who is concerned about the environment, about mercy, compassion and love, and a deep passion, care and concern for the poor. Pope Francis has won over a great part of the media. By no means is this an indication that the teachings of the Church and message of the Gospel have been fully understood or received by all.  Nevertheless, something has shifted in terms of Church-media relations. Many of my colleagues in the “secular” media industry have said that Francis has made it fun to be a religion reporter and journalist again. He has changed the image of the church so much that prestigious graduate schools of business and management are now using him as a case study in rebranding. He has also ruffled many feathers and upset some folks because of his free-flowing, unscripted remarks at times, and he raises a few eyebrows now and then!

Initially perhaps many of us (myself included) may have thought that Pope Francis’ accessibility, free-flowing interviews, homilies and quotes are more a source of consternation and frustration than opportunities to deepen knowledge about the Church, her founder and her message. But Francis has chosen many different opportunities to speak and encounter the world. No matter how fraught with the potential or real confusion and misinterpretation those methods may sometimes be, the world is now listening to the Pope in ways that have not happened for a long, long time. No longer can we simply attribute this interest to an initial fascination, a “honeymoon period”, or other cynical ways of trying to dismiss what is really happening. The world is listening because Francis and the Church have something solid to say and to offer to a world plunged in chaos, war, terror, violence, moral deprivation, despair and darkness. Francis has given us an opportunity to teach, catechize and evangelize those establishments, agencies and individuals that bring us the news and the consumers of that news.

The inability of commentators to pigeonhole Francis into a single category is frustrating to some people. Francis does not compromise on the hot-button issues that divide the Church from the secular West – a gap that liberals would like to close by modernizing doctrine. Yet he is also not a pope for the Catholic Right. For him contrasting positions, held together in tension, loyal to fundamentals but open to the action of the Holy Spirit, are necessary to forge a new, better consensus and the differences make for an honest, open discussion.

Look at what Pope Francis said to the special session of the US Congress last September and how he said it. He didn’t scold, chastise, excoriate, condemn or excommunicate those powerful women and men sitting before him – many of them Catholics! Rather he urged lawmakers to build on their great history, to draw from their deepest principles. He reminded them of the good they have done in the past, which serves as an example of the good they can and should do in the future:

“Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.”

This was hardly a call to overthrow the system that the pope’s more radical-minded fans would have us believe. Instead, he asked us to call on all that is best, good, and true in our society. The other day, in a taxi ride from downtown Philadelphia to the seminary, when the driver realized where he was taking me, he remarked: “Hey buddy, this is the Pope’s house in Philly!” I smiled and told him I knew that. He then immediately asked me if I had watched the Pope’s televised address to the US Congress last September. I said that I certainly did! He remarked: “You know what he did that day, he called for our better angels!”

Francis’ words to congress in that historic gathering in the Chamber of the House of Representatives that morning did not fall on the deaf ears of the media and the millions who watched that historic event. Tenor and tone, eye-contact and gesture, kindness, gentleness and firmness all met together and did indeed call forth our better angels. What a profound moment of evangelization that September morning! We owe a debt of gratitude to the public media of this country and many other countries who brought us the stunning, wall-to-wall coverage and the powerful messages of the Pope last September in Cuba and in America. And here I must honestly admit that the secular media of this country, in particular the major networks did a far better job in allowing the Pope to speak to us rather than having that message filtered, distorted, editorialized and minimized by some commentators claiming to represent, faithful Catholic communication networks. I teased my colleagues at CNN, with whom I worked closely those days that they should have been called the Catholic News Network during the blessed days the Pope was among us.

One of the critiques of Francis’ Petrine Ministry and teaching heard in these parts is that the Pope is not speaking out enough against abortion. I hear this criticism often. I assure you that Pope Francis is profoundly Pro-Life. He offers to the Church and the world a consistent ethic of life, from its earliest moments of conception to natural death, from womb to tomb. Pope Francis is doing what the Bishop of Rome and successor of Peter should do, positioning the evil of abortion within its proper moral context, the failure to recognize the dignity of every single human person at every age and stage of life. Procured abortion is only one of the poisonous fruits from the rotted tree growing in the corrupted garden of a culture of death.

Over the past years, Pope Francis has strongly denounced efforts to redefine marriage, and issued a thundering condemnation of abortion, euthanasia, and in-vitro fertilization, calling them “sins against God.” As late as January 22 of this year, he addressed the Roman Rota with these words: “The Church… can show the unfailing merciful love of God to families – especially those wounded by sin and the trials of life – and, at the same time, proclaim the essential truth of marriage according to God’s design.” Pope Francis avoids any opportunity that can lend itself to political manipulation of his person and his words. He is very clear in giving positive messages even in the most complex situations. He is never “against” someone. He understands the Church to be of the people and not of political or cultural elites.

We are unlikely to forget Pope Francis’ magnificent, unscripted reflection at the great vigil of the World Meeting of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in this very city, the night of September 26, 2015. It was a stunning catechesis on marriage and family life:

“When the man and his wife went astray and walked away from God, God did not leave them alone. Such was his love. So great was his love that he began to walk with mankind, he began to walk alongside his people, until the right time came and then he gave the greatest demonstration of love: his Son. And where did he send his Son? To a palace, to a city, to an office building? He sent him to a family. God came into the world in a family. And he could do this because that family was a family with a heart open to love, a family whose doors were open.”

I would like to consider three ways that the Pope is joyfully communicating to us, often through the media, core teachings of our faith, foundational principles of Catholic life: Joy, Ecology and the Environment, and Mercy.

Joy, the weapon of mass construction

In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis invites and challenges all of us to move beyond our “comfort zones.” He asks us to rediscover the joy of being Christian.

“Consequently, an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that “delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow… And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who have first received the joy of Christ”. [EG #10]

Francis wants us to be warm, welcoming and forgiving as Jesus has modeled to us on every page of the New Testament. This morning in Rome at the Jubilee of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis reminded thousands of religious women and men that we have a Lord and Master “who shared in the joy of the spouses in Cana of Galilee and the anguish of the widow of Nain; a Lord and Master who enters into the house of Jairus, touched by death, and the house of Bethany, perfumed with nard. He took upon Himself illness and suffering, to the point of giving His life in ransom. Following Christ means going where He went; taking upon oneself, like the good Samaritan, the wounded we encounter along the road; going in search of the lost sheep. To be, like Jesus, close to the people; sharing their joys and pains, showing with our love the paternal face of God and the maternal caress of the Church.”

Francis wants us to eat with tax collectors and sinners; he wants us to forgive the woman caught in adultery (while admonishing her to sin no more); he wants us to welcome and respect foreigners (even our enemies), and, above all, not to judge others. He has spoken simply, powerfully and beautifully about returning to lost unity, a desire to achieve a missing fullness, a disarming invitation to simply come together to witness to the beauty of the love of Christ. He wants to build bridges that everyone can cross. He is especially conscious of the poor and those who have been marginalized – social outcasts kept on the fringes of society.

On being close to the people he writes: “An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others.”

Pope Francis models that “a church which ‘goes forth’ is a church whose doors are open…. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way.”

Evangelization must be an invitation to respond to God’s love and to seek the good in others, he says. “If this invitation does not radiate forcefully and attractively, the edifice of the church’s moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards, and this is our greatest risk. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options.”

The church’s internal “wars” – the tendency to form groups of “elites,” to impose certain ideas and even to engage in “persecutions which appear as veritable witch hunts” – are all a counter-witness to evangelization. “Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?”

In his meeting with the United States Bishops in St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, DC, on September 23, 2015, Francis said:

“It is not about preaching complicated doctrines, but joyfully proclaiming Christ who died and rose for our sake. The “style” of our mission should make our hearers feel that the message we preach is meant “for us”.  May the word of God grant meaning and fullness to every aspect of their lives; may the sacraments nourish them with that food which they cannot procure for themselves; may the closeness of the shepherd make them long once again for the Father’s embrace. Be vigilant that the flock may always encounter in the heart of their pastor that “taste of eternity” which they seek in vain in the things of this world.  May they always hear from you a word of appreciation for their efforts to confirm in liberty and justice the prosperity in which this land abounds.” 

He reminded his brother bishops: “…We are promoters of the culture of encounter. We are living sacraments of the embrace between God’s riches and our poverty. We are witnesses of the abasement and the condescension of God who anticipates in love our every response. …Dialogue is our method, not as a shrewd strategy but out of fidelity to the One who never wearies of visiting the marketplace, even at the eleventh hour, to propose his offer of love (Mt 20:1-16).”

And he took leave of them with these words:

“…Only a Church which can gather around the family fire remains able to attract others. And not any fire, but the one which blazed forth on Easter morn. The risen Lord continues to challenge the Church’s pastors through the quiet plea of so many of our brothers and sisters: “Have you something to eat?” We need to recognize the Lord’s voice, as the apostles did on the shore of the lake of Tiberius (Jn 21:4-12). It becomes even more urgent to grow in the certainty that the embers of his presence, kindled in the fire of his passion, precede us and will never die out. Whenever this certainty weakens, we end up being caretakers of ash, and not guardians and dispensers of the true light and the warmth which causes our hearts to burn within us (Lk 24:32).”

These words are not only addressed to the shepherds and pastors of the American Church but to each and each one of us here tonight. What he says and how he says it offers us a unique model of authentic communication and connection with people.

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*Cardinal Foley addressing Catholic Media Convention Banquet in 2011 in Pittsburgh.*

Ecology and the Environment

Pope Francis’ tone in his recent encyclical Laudato Sì is passionate, personal and urgent. He has drafted this major letter with the mind and heart of a disciple of Jesus and the pen and voice of a prophet who has seen and personally experienced the grave injustices and ugliness that human beings can cause on this earth. The encyclical On the Care of our Common Home is addressed to “everyone living on this planet” and calls for a new way of looking at things. We face an urgent crisis, when the earth has begun to look more and more like, in the Pope’s vivid image, “an immense pile of filth”. Still, the document is hopeful, reminding us that because God is with us, all of us can strive to change course. We can move towards an “ecological conversion” in which we can listen to the “cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”. This is a deeply uncomfortable encyclical because it is not content simply to face up to the institutional and moral issues of climate change and environmental degradation, but addresses the deeper tragedy of humanity itself.

Never before has the public media spoken so much about what many have wrongly called “The Climate Change Manifesto!” More than any other encyclical, “Laudato Sí” draws from the experiences of people around the world, referencing the findings of bishops’ conferences from Brazil, New Zealand, Southern Africa, Bolivia, Portugal, Germany, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Australia, Canada and the United States.

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

When the environmental world and many people not of our faith or tradition welcome the Pope as a powerful ally and the religious Right dismisses him as a disingenuous radical, socialist or a communist, these have missed the essential point. This is the Gospel call, as disconcertingly direct today as was Jesus’s confrontation with the rich young man, the scribes and the Pharisees, or the moneychangers in the Temple. That’s the unique quality of the encyclical. It is not just the declaration of assent to a program of international environmental action, but also the prophetic voice of the Church. It is therefore far more fundamentally disturbing and uncomfortable, demanding an individual response that will change our lives forever.

Laudato Sì is a perfect example of how the Church, at the highest level, understands the modern world, enters into a profound dialogue with the world, and repeats again her age-old message of salvation in a new way.  Laudato Sì is rooted in the concrete realities of our times. With Laudato Sì Pope Francis is laying the groundwork for a new Christian humanism, rooted in the simple and beautiful image of Jesus that he presents for the world’s consideration. For in the end, it is in the name and mission of Jesus of Nazareth that the Pope issues his call to conversion – a compelling invitation to each of us to look at the earth and all of its creatures with the loving eyes and heart of Jesus Christ. With Laudato Sì, we learn to cherish the world God so loved and adore the Son given to us by the Father.

Mercy

In the well-known programmatic Jubilee text of Luke 4, we read that Jesus “stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written: The spirit of the Lord has been given to me…” (Lk 4:16-18; Is 61:1). Very significantly the last line of Isaiah read by Jesus says: “to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour” (Lk 4:19; Is 61:2), and immediately afterwards, Jesus’ message was a declaration that precisely “this text” was being fulfilled on that day. The expression of Isaiah 61:2 “year of the Lord’s favour” clearly refers to the prescriptions in the Book of Leviticus on the Jubilee Year (Lev 25:10-13). Therefore at Nazareth Jesus was proclaiming a Jubilee Year.

But there is something very odd about the Isaiah quotation on Jesus’ lips. The Gospel does not quote the whole phrase of Isaiah, which includes two compliments of the object after the verb “proclaim” in Is 61:2. The Gospel quotes only the first “the Lord’s year of favor” neglecting the second which is “a day of vengeance for our God”. The quotation of Isaiah foresees two aspects of divine intervention, the first being the liberation of the Jewish people, the other punishment of her enemies. The Gospel has not retained this opposition! The omission has two consequences: a) the message contains nothing negative; b) it is implicitly universal. There is no suggestion of distinction between Jews and non-Jews. This is discreet preparation for the universal nature of the Gospel message, which will become explicit after the death and resurrection of Jesus: when the most fundamental liberation, from sin will be proclaimed “in his name to all people” (Lk 24:47). Universal openness is an essential character of the proclamation of the Good News and the sharing of our story.

On March 13 last year, Pope Francis surprised the world by announcing a Jubilee of Mercy that began this past December. Francis wants this jubilee to go deeper spiritually and to be a far-reaching Christian witness of mercy to the world.  Mercy is a theme very dear to Pope Francis, in his episcopal motto: miserando atque eligendo, literally, “Chosen Through the Eyes of Mercy.” During the first Angelus after his election to the See of Peter, Pope Francis stated: “Feeling mercy, that this word changes everything. This is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient” (March 17, 2013).

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

What is the story within the story of the Jubilee of Mercy?  Pope Francis wants to bring the whole church, starting with the cardinals, bishops, priests and consecrated persons, to open themselves to God’s mercy and to find concrete, creative ways to put mercy into practice in their areas of ministry.

As Bishop of Rome, he is blazing the trail by word and deed, showing what mercy means in relation to the poor, the homeless, prisoners, immigrants, the sick and the persecuted. They are for him “the flesh of Christ.” In this same optic of mercy, he has called for the abolition of the death penalty and life-imprisonment “the hidden death penalty”.

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

Pope Francis’ art of communicating

For the 48th World Communications Day message in 2014, Pope Francis wrote:

“How, then, can communication be at the service of an authentic culture of encounter? What does it mean for us, as disciples of the Lord, to encounter others in the light of the Gospel?…How can we be “neighborly” in our use of the communications media and in the new environment created by digital technology? I find an answer in the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is also a parable about communication. Those who communicate, in effect, become neighbors. The Good Samaritan not only draws nearer to the man he finds half dead on the side of the road; he takes responsibility for him. Jesus shifts our understanding: it is not just about seeing the other as someone like myself, but of the ability to make myself like the other. Communication is really about realizing that we are all human beings, children of God. I like seeing this power of communication as “neighbourliness”.”

In his 2015 Message for the World Day of Communications, Francis reminded us that “modern media, which are an essential part of life for young people in particular, can be both a help and a hindrance to communication in and between families.”

“The media can be a hindrance if they become a way to avoid listening to others, to evade physical contact, to fill up every moment of silence and rest, so that we forget that “silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist.” The media can help communication when they enable people to share their stories, to stay in contact with distant friends, to thank others or to seek their forgiveness, and to open the door to new encounters.”

In this year’s message for the 2016 World Day of Communications, Francis writes:

“Communication has the power to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, and thus to enrich society. How beautiful it is when people select their words and actions with care, in the effort to avoid misunderstandings, to heal wounded memories and to build peace and harmony. Words can build bridges between individuals and within families, social groups and peoples. This is possible both in the material world and the digital world. Our words and actions should be such as to help us all escape the vicious circles of condemnation and vengeance which continue to ensnare individuals and nations, encouraging expressions of hatred. The words of Christians ought to be a constant encouragement to communion and, even in those cases where they must firmly condemn evil, they should never try to rupture relationships and communication.”

“Our primary task is to uphold the truth with love.”

“It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal. Social networks can facilitate relationships and promote the good of society, but they can also lead to further polarization and division between individuals and groups.”

Field Hospitals

Let me conclude by taking up one of Pope Francis favorite images which has certainly been seized by the media: the powerful image of the “field hospital.” This expression is not unique to Francis, but is drawn from the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. When Francis speaks of the church as a “field hospital after a battle” he appeals to Ignatius’ understanding of the role of the church in light of God’s gaze upon the world: “so many people ask us to be close, that ask us for what they were asking of Jesus: closeness, nearness.”  It is the opposite image of a fortress under siege. The image of a church as a field hospital is not just a simple, pretty poetic metaphor; from this very image we can derive an understanding of both the church’s mission and the sacraments of salvation. Field hospitals by their very nature indicate a battleground, a struggle, suffering, confusion, emergency and they foster dialogue and encounter, conversation and meeting, consolation, compassion and the binding of wounds. Because my topic this evening is specifically about communications and media, I would like to indicate two areas where field hospitals are badly needed. And not only hospitals but caregivers willing to step into the battle and bring healing.

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*Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, Cardinal John Foley and Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB at mass in Salt and Light Studio Chapel during Catholic Media Convention in May, 2008.*

New Media and Young People

There is no question that the Church has entered the whole world of New Media with bravado and great zeal. I am concerned at times that we do so without careful reflection on what is really happening in this new universe. Does the use of new media serve to deepen our attentiveness to the presence of God, to the risen Christ to the living Spirit, to the community gathered about us, and to the world in which we are called to minister? In the digital world, no matter how hasty, undigested, unreflected the responses may be from our audience, our patient listening must always triumph. Internet culture conditions us to think that quick, instant responses to complex questions are the most valuable responses. It is then that we teachers and pastors become choreographers of immediacy rather than midwives of a slower wisdom. 

Many times in the new media culture, our flight from conversation can mean diminished chances to learn skills of self-reflection. It’s hard to do anything with 2000 intimate Facebook friends except connect. We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. Many times the opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely.

Most of all, we need to remember – in between text messages, tweets, probes, likes, prompts, e-mails and Facebook posts – to listen to one another, even to the boring conversations, because it is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate, stammer, stutter, cry and go silent, that we reveal our deepest selves to one another.

In today’s schools, universities and workplaces, so many people who have grown up fearing conversation show up at school or on the job wearing earphones. Walking through big newsrooms of the TV or Radio networks, visiting journalists at major newspapers, strolling through university and seminary libraries and sleek downtown offices or at times even through our Salt and Light Television studios, one sees the same thing: we are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens. We are working away quietly at workstations with a whole array of technologies spread before them: laptops, iPads, iPods, and multiple cell phones. No one dares to break the silence with a greeting of  “Hello!” “How are you?” “How was your weekend?” In the silence of supposed connection, people are carefully kept at bay. We keep one another at bay. We seem almost willing to dispense with people altogether. It is our role to tell people to look up, look at one another, and to start the conversation again.  The Word became flesh… not an e-mail, text or prompt or probe!

Pope Francis warns us:

“some people… want their interpersonal relationships provided by sophisticated equipment, by screens and systems which can be turned on and off”. He continues, “the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us.” (EG #88)

The Digital World and Catholic Blogosphere

Let me identify a second battleground where a field hospital is badly needed.  We can each name a country or land where blood, terror and violence seem to have the upper hand.  But the big battlefield before humanity is also the digital world: one that requires no passport and travel ticket to enter.  You only need a keyboard, a screen or a hand-held device.  It is in that universe that many wars are waged each day and where many wounded souls live, walk or troll. It is an immense battleground that needs many field hospitals set up to bind wounds and reconcile warring parties.

In the wild, crazy world of the blogosphere, there is the challenge of accountability and responsibility. On the Internet there is no accountability, no code of ethics, and no responsibility for one’s words and actions. It can be an international weapon of mass destruction, crossing time zones, borders and space. In its wake is character assassination, destruction of reputation, calumny, libel, slander and defamation.

Many of my non-Christian and non-believing friends have remarked to me that we “Catholics” have turned the Internet into a cesspool of hatred, venom and vitriol, condemnation and excommunication all in the name of defending the faith!  The character assassination on the Internet by those claiming to be faithful Catholics and Christians has turned it into a graveyard of filth and of corpses strewn all around.

What view do others have of us when they view our blogs? If we judged our identity based on certain “Catholic” websites and blogs on the Internet, we would be known as the people who are against everyone and everything! If anything, we should be known as the people who are for something, something positive that can transform lives and engage and impact the culture. To what degree are our blogs and websites really the expression of the wealth of the Christian patrimony and successful in transmitting the Good News that the Lord has asked us to spread?

In Vianney Hall this evening, there are dozens of field hospital workers ready for deployment. On these new battlefields today, the Church must shine with the light that lives within itself, it must go out and encounter human beings who – even though they believe that they do not need to hear a message of salvation – often find themselves afraid and wounded by life. In one of his well-known poems, Blessed Cardinal J.H. Newman wrote about a “kindly light.” The light of Christ reflected in the Church must not become the privilege of only a few elect who float enclosed within a safe harbor: this would be a “church clique” or a “personal blog” or “chat room” more than an ecclesial community.

TomTalkFoley5

*Fr. Rosica blessing body of Cardinal Foley before his funeral mass in Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul – December 16, 2011.*

Cardinal John Foley

If Vatican Communications are undergoing a massive reform at present, so much of this is due to the quiet, painstaking, often hidden and underappreciated, groundbreaking work of the late Cardinal Foley. Everything I have said in this presentation was found in the life of Cardinal Foley, especially in the 23 years that he headed the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. His goodness, kindness, humanity and humor, genuine interest in others and compassion for them, was the joy of the Gospel for countless people who encountered him, especially for tens of thousands of journalists and media personnel who had the privilege of interacting with him. John Patrick Foley of Philadelphia won the hearts of tens of thousands of people because he opened doors for them, listened, smiled, accompanied, laughed and shared their lot. He admonished when necessary, but did it in charity.

Three things Cardinal Foley taught me will always remain with me. As I prepared to lead World Youth Day 2002 in Canada, he told me to be sure to spend much time with journalists, leading them by the hand, never dismissing foolish questions, challenging where necessary, answering when possible, and thanking them always when they did a good job. I remember well one of his mantras to me: “We are very good at criticizing, complaining and writing people off when they have done a poor job in covering a story or smearing us. We do a terrible job in thanking them when they got it right.”

Second, the Cardinal told me that every single encounter with journalists must be considered a moment of catechesis and evangelization. Even though we may not use those words explicitly, he said: “Use every opportunity as a teaching moment.”Always be kind. Always express gratitude for their interest in us, even though some of it is misplaced, misguided or misinformed.”

Thirdly, the Cardinal told me at the height of the hoopla over the DaVinci Code back in 2004, “When well meaning Catholics demand that we protest booksellers, writers, movie houses for presenting negative or even false images of the Church, don’t join those crusades. They only help to increase sales of books and break box office sales records! Rather, seize the opportunity to present the alternative story which is the truth.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan described the late Cardinal with these accurate words during his very moving homily at Cardinal Foley’s funeral on December 16, 2011 here in Philadelphia:

[His] was “A courtesy that was so impeccable and the thoughtfulness that was so unfailing that we might not be surprised to find his photograph in the “pictionary” for the entry on “gentleman.” “A holiness in “His Foleyness” that was evident without being overbearing; A depth to his intellect which could express itself with warmth and childlikeness.”

Cardinal John Patrick Foley laid the groundwork for Pope Francis’ dynamic, creative and successful outreach to the world through the media. Over 23 years of often hidden work at our headquarters on the Tiber, John Patrick Foley sowed the seeds for a new springtime of evangelization in the Church. May this good shepherd of Philadelphia rest in peace, intercede for us, continue to inspire us and show us how to be good communicators, how to work closely with the media, and through them, to teach the world.


Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

Ordained a priest in the Congregation of St. Basil in 1986, Fr. Thomas Rosica, a native of Rochester, New York, holds advanced degrees in Theology and Sacred Scripture from Regis College in the University of Toronto, the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem.  Fr. Rosica has lectured in Sacred Scripture at Canadian Universities in Toronto, Windsor and London and served as Executive Director of the Newman Centre Catholic Chaplaincy at the University of Toronto from 1994-2000.

In June 1999, he was appointed by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops as the Chief Executive Officer and National Director of the World Youth Day and the Papal Visit of Pope John Paul II, that took place in Toronto during July, 2002.  On July 1, 2003, Fr. Rosica became the founding Chief Executive Officer of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, Canada’s first national Catholic Television Network.

Appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in 2009, Fr. Rosica also served as Media Attaché at four Synods of Bishops at the Vatican in 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2015. Since the Papal Transition in 2013, he has been English language Assistant to Holy See Press Office. Fr. Rosica a member of several Boards of Governors of Institutions of Higher Learning, including the Board of the Gregorian University Foundation in Rome.

Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for February 2016

CreationPrayer

Join us in prayer for the intentions entrusted to us by Pope Francis. For February 2016, we join the Holy Father in praying for:

  • Care for Creation – That we may take good care of creation–a gift freely given–cultivating and protecting it for future generations. 
  • Asia – That opportunities may increase for dialogue and encounter between the Christian faith and the peoples of Asia. 

Daily Offering Prayer
God, our Father, I offer You my day. I offer You my prayers, thoughts, words, actions, joys, and sufferings in union with the Heart of Jesus, who continues to offer Himself in the Eucharist for the salvation of the world. May the Holy Spirit, Who guided Jesus, be my guide and my strength today so that I may witness to your love. With Mary, the mother of our Lord and the Church, I pray for all Apostles of Prayer and for the prayer intentions proposed by the Holy Father this month. Amen.

Traditional Daily Offering of the Apostleship of Prayer
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month. The Apostles of Prayer offer themselves to God each day for the good of the world, the Church, one another, and the Holy Father’s intentions.

Thank you for praying with us!

In a tradition that is centuries old, the Apostleship of Prayer publishes the Pope’s monthly prayer intentions. To become a member of the Apostleship of Prayer, you need only to offer yourself to God for his purposes each day. When you give God all the “prayers, works, joys and sufferings” of your day, you turn your entire day into a prayer for others. You are joining your will to God’s will. If you feel called to this simple, profound way of life, find out more at Apostleship of Prayer.

Deacon-structing Mercy: Justice

PoliceTicket

mer·cy
noun: mercy; plural noun: mercies

  1. Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

jus·tice
noun: justice; plural noun: justices

  1. Just behavior or treatment.
  2. The quality of being fair and reasonable.

By now you know that when trying to figure out what words mean, I always find out where the word came from. The English word, “justice” comes from the Old French “justice,” which meant, “justice, legal rights or jurisdiction.” That came from the Latin “iustitia” which meant, “righteousness or equity,” and in turn that came from the Latin word, “iustus” which means, “upright or just.” The word began to be used in English around 1200 as a title for a judicial officer.

The word “mercy” comes from the Latin “merces” or “mercedem” which means “reward or wages” (in Vulgar Latin “favor or pity”). As of the late 12 century, the word was used in English to mean, “God’s forgiveness of his creatures’ offenses.” This comes from Old French mercit or merci, which meant “reward, gift; kindness, grace or pity.” The meaning, “reward” comes from from the Latin “merx” which means “wares or merchandise” (as in market). In French, the word “merci” meaning pity was largely replaced by miséricorde. The word “merci” kept the meaning and use as a word of thanks.

Today we generally equate “justice” with “fairness”. We also equate “mercy” with “compassion”.  I actually would like to propose that true justice demands mercy. Let me tell you a little story.

I began the Year of Mercy by breaking the law.

Well, technically:  I was driving without a headlight. To be fair, the bulb had burned out that morning and so we were only driving without the headlight for about an hour. In fact, when the officer pulled us over, we had already purchased the replacement bulb and, had it not been 10pm we would have been replacing the bulb as soon as we got home.

Turns out that when the officer pulled us over, our licence plate light bulb was also out. We had broken two laws: driving without a headlight and driving without a license plate light. We thought we would simply get a warning (we were really only about a block home and had the replacement bulb), but as it goes, being the end of the month, there was no mercy; only justice. The officer very politely gave us, not one, but two tickets: $110 each!

I have to admit that I was not happy. But after giving the matter some thought, I figured that this was just; this was fair: There’s a law and we had broken the law, therefore we had to pay the fine.

But I contested the ticket.

A few weeks later I received a notice in the mail for an “early resolution” appointment.

And here began my reflection on the Year of Mercy.

Justice is defined as “Just behavior or treatment.” That means, pay both tickets. That’s fair. Suck it up and don’t drive without a headlight.

However, justice is also defined as “The quality of being fair and reasonable.” Surely if the police officer could not be reasonable, the Justice of the Peace (or judge or clerk) would be. I should be forgiven the tickets. We didn’t know about the license plate light. We intended to replace the headlight bulb. We meant no harm. That’s fair.

Mercy is defined as “Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” At the very least, the Justice of the Peace would be merciful and forgive the offence. Afterall, we had replaced the bulbs. If the purpose of the law is to prevent people from driving without lights, because that is not safe, then we had been warned. Is it reasonable to have to pay $220 in order to learn that lesson? If it was up to the Justice of the Peace to effect justice and that meant paying both tickets, then I hoped that reasonable-ness would prevail and forgiveness shown. What would it be, mercy or justice?

A few weeks before my court appearance one of the readings at Mass was from Isaiah 42.

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold
my chosen one in whom I delight;
will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
(Isaiah 42:1)

This is what Jesus came to do: to bring justice to the nations. To bring what’s fair and reasonable to the nations. The passage continues:

He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”
(Isaiah 42: 2-4)

Isaiah is telling us that “justice” means, not shouting or crying out. It means not breaking a bruised reed. It means not snuffing out a smoldering wick. That means not breaking those who are bruised, not destroying those who are weak and dying. This is the justice that Jesus will establish. This is the justice that gives us hope.

Sounds like mercy.

In fact, most of the references in the Old Testament about God’s justice equate justice with doing what is right, with fairness and with compassion.

In another place, Isaiah says,

“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.”
(Isaiah 30:18-19)

God is a God of Justice; He rises to show us compassion!

The prophet Zechariah says,

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.”
(Zechariah 7:9)

Justice, mercy and compassion go hand in hand.

And one of my favourite passages in Scripture is from the prophet Micah:

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
(Micah 6:8)

Not only is God a God whose justice is mercy, but this is what He requires of us, to act justly and to love mercy – this is how we walk humbly (not righteously) with our God.

In the end justice was served: I was forgiven my trespasses of the law. Both tickets were forgiven once I showed that we had replaced the bulbs. This is God’s justice; a justice that demands mercy and forgiveness, because that is what’s fair.

Justice and mercy were served.

Come back next week and we can look at one of the reasons why we are not God.


DcnPedro

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org