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Two Eyes & a Smile, Innocence & Goodness

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Photo credit: Salt + Light


Remembering Cardinal Loris Capovilla & the Saint he served so well…

St. John XXIII’s personal secretary, Cardinal Loris Capovilla died Thursday at the age of 100. It is not possible to speak of him without speaking of Pope John XIII, and to speak of them both is to speak of the Second Vatican Council. Shortly after the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II two years ago, Sebastian Gomes and I had the great privilege of spending a day in Sotto il Monte and visiting with Cardinal Capovilla. I shall never forget our lively conversation that day, as well as the day I spent last year after the October 2014 Synod of Bishops at the Vatican when I returned to Sotto il Monte to film a long interview with the Cardinal who was then 99 and still going strong.

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Photo credit: Salt + Light

During our first visit with the Cardinal in 2014, he shared with us his memories of the Second Vatican Council and where the whole idea started. A few weeks after the conclave which elected Cardinal Angelo Roncalli as Pope in 1958, Pope John XXIII called his faithful young secretary, Monsignor Capovilla, to his office in the Apostolic Palace. The Pope told him, “My desk is piling up with problems: with questions, requests, hopes. What is really necessary is a Council.”

“I kept quiet,” said Capovilla.

The Pope responded, “I have asked myself why my secretary, when I confide in him says nothing! But I know why,” he continued, “You think I’m old. You worry! You mean well, but you think I’ll make a mess out of this enormous task; that I don’t have time! Because you think like a commander, like a bank director! But that’s not the way you reason with faith. To receive a great inspiration, and regard it with admiration, and imagine your pleasure in it, is already of great merit. If God allows one to carry on with collaborators, who encourage one to move ahead, even better! And if one begins only with the first preparatory commission, that is of great merit. If one dies, another will come. It is a great honor just to begin!”

04 Capovilla Cardinal Loris

Photo credit: CNS

Cardinal Loris continued to tell us story after story about the behind the scenes activities that led to the opening of the historic Council on October 11, 1962. The time spent with this holy, little man has left a deep and lasting impression on me, on Sebastian, and on some friends who were with us.

Capovilla also spoke with much emotion about the death of the ailing pontiff on June 3, 1963, only a few months after the Council began. On that warm, Roman June evening, only a few people were gathered around the Pope’s death bed in the Papal apartment. Capovilla told us: “I said to him, Holy Father there are only a few of us here in this room, but if you were to look out of your window onto the piazza you would see crowds of people. I thought he’d reply in his usual reserved manner, but instead he responded: “naturally that’s the way it should be because the Pope is dying, I love them, they love me.”

Cardinal Capovilla also told us the story of when he was kneeling at the bedside of the dying Pope. The Pope called him over and whispered, “When this is all over, be sure and go see your mother.”

To the end, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was a human being, more concerned with his faithfulness than his image, more concerned with those around him than with his own desires.

Pope John’s personal secretary has often highlighted how rather than cultivate nostalgia, Papa Giovanni, the new saint proclaimed by Pope Francis, look towards the future. Capovilla told me last year in our final meeting and interview:

“We are not custodians of a shrine, a reliquary or a museum. As Pope John himself said we are called to cultivate a garden where the seed of the Word, of the Word Incarnate is set in an effort to foster the Advent of a New Pentecost, a new Easter, a new Spring. Not just for our personal happiness but for the happiness of all of humanity. It’s a long journey, we are far from our final destination, one that is not there merely to safeguard but to share with the people of the world”.

St. John XXIII has gone down in history as the ordinary man who astonished the world, by launching the Catholic Church into one of its most momentous epochs by calling the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. With an infectious warmth and vision, John stressed the relevance of the church in a rapidly changing society and made the church’s deepest truths stand out in the modern world. But according to Cardinal Capovilla, his faithful and loyal secretary and friend, to describe Pope John all that one need to say is: “Two eyes and a smile, innocence and goodness”.

02 Roncalli Capovilla

Photo credit: Archives in Sotto il Monte

Cardinal Capovilla also had high praise for Pope Francis, who created him a cardinal in February 2014. Speaking to me last year about Francis’ first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Cardinal Capovilla reiterated to us how much the Gospel is the good news. But he also stressed this point to us: “What is this good news? It’s that I am a son of God and God does not abandon me. It’s wonderful to hear Pope Francis say almost every day that God does not reject anyone but accepts everyone”.

Now that Loris is united with his former boss and friend, John, may the two of them intercede for us and help us to keep alive the spirit and messages of the Second Vatican Council, and may they teach us to never forget that if we wish to change the world and the Church, what is required above is a smile, innocence and goodness.

Cardinal Capovilla’s funeral will take place on Monday morning, May 30 in the parish church of Sotto il Monte, near Bergamo.  He will be laid to rest in the cemetery of the ancient Abbey of Fontanella of Sotto il Monte, close to his priest friend Fr. David Maria Turoldo.

Loris and St. John, pray for us!

Reflections of his Light: The Journey of His Holiness John Paul II and the World Youth Day Cross in Canada

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All proceeds from the purchase of this book are to make possible Salt + Light‘s coverage of the World Youth Day in Kraków, Poland in July of 2016.

Throughout Pope John Paul II’s papacy, youth has been a priority. When he was elected Pope in 1978, John Paul II said that young people are the future of the world and the hope for the Church.

At the end of the Jubilee Year of the Redemption in 1984, the Pope invited young people to a special gathering in Rome on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. Three hundred thousand young people attended.

It was at this celebration that the Pope entrusted the Holy Year Cross to the youth of the world. This cross is now known as the World Youth Day Cross. It has visited all the countries where WYDs have been held. In 1985 – the United Nations International Year of Youth – Pope john Paul II extended a second invitation to young people. This time, 4500,000 attended on Palm Sunday in Rome.

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These events inspired the Pope to create WYD, which brings together young Catholics from around the world to celebrate their faith. WYD is an encounter of the youth of the world with the Holy Father and the Christian community of the host country. With a renewed faith in Jesus Christ, young people go out into the world to be witnesses to the Gospel.
The first WYD was held in Rome in 1985 on Palm Sunday. Since then, WYD celebrations have been held in Argentina, Spain, Poland, the United States, the Philippines, France and again in Italy.
At the conclusion of WYD 2000 in Rome, Pope John Paul II announced that Canada would host in 2002 in Toronto from July 23 to 28th.
The theme would be, “You are the salt of the Earth, You are the light of the World” (Matthew 5.13-14)
This book is about the Journey of His Holiness John Paul II and the World Youth Day Cross in Canada.
 

My John Paul II Memories

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I have many memories of April 2, 2005, when St. John Paul II died after a lengthy illness and much suffering.

I remember the succession of news reports the evening before his death,  people praying in St. Peter’s Square and the shared sense of concern and sadness that most people felt; this was not limited just to the faithful.

A few days earlier, on March 30, he made his last public appearance. It was a quick glimpse with no words, but only a breath. Amid all the suffering, there was also profound dignity, as he maintained his position and role, in any way he could, until the last moment. I was at home when the news of his death was made official by Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls on Saturday, April 2, after 9:30 pm.

The funeral followed six days later. There was a unanimous cry, and strong desire among people to see Karol Wojtyla made a saint. I remember this chant everywhere; in newspapers, shouting from the crowds – a continuous repetition.

Three million mourners descended upon Rome for the biggest funeral ever, and the capital city responded perfectly, with an efficiency never before seen. I remember the chaos around the city. It was impossible to take the subway enroute to school as Termini Station was sieged by pilgrims and people trying to navigate their way through the Vatican. A huge crowd converged at St. Peter’s Square, to give a final farewell to the beloved Pope. The day of the funeral, Friday, April 8th, was declared a day of mourning in Rome. Schools were closed and all eyes turned to the Vatican where the future pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, celebrated the funeral.

Among the many recollections I have of Pope John Paul II, there are two that particularly stand out from my childhood.The first dates back to 1997, a few weeks after my first communion, in the same parish where I received the Eucharist, the Holy Father came to visit. For us children, but especially for those of us who just recently received our first communion, there were special seats near the altar. What a great privilege to be in such close proximity that I had a chance to shake hands with the Pope, who greeted me with a smile on his face.

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The second moment occurred three years later, on the occasion of World Youth Day at Tor Vergata. It took place in front of the  home where I would eventually spend my  wonderful years at university.

I remember the human tide that was able to fill the vast plain of Tor Vergata, as well as the steady stream of young people who passed by me on their journey to see the Pope that night.

As residents in the area, our family had received a special pass three days earlier from mayor Francesco Rutelli, a pass that allowed us to move freely in our neighborhood without restriction and among areas designated for young faithful.
I remember that long night of August 19th at Tor Vergata,  sitting on the lawn with my father and my aunt. I remember a smiling and joyful Pope John Paul II  and  the contagious, youthful passion, music and incredible party atmosphere we took in.

For eighteen years of my life, he was Pope. He was a man, who unlike others, had such impact on contemporary history and changed the course of events. In Krakow, where the next World Youth Day will be held in his honor, the feeling of his presence is felt everywhere.  One can sense his imposing spirituality, charisma, and ability as an incredible religious leader.

In 27 years of his pontificate,  he has been able to accomplish a huge breakthrough for the Church, as well as to how to live within the church. It is hard to think that there might be someone equally decisive in so many aspects that will be a future Pope.  It is hard to believe that there may be someone who could make a mark on  world  history as Karol Józef Wojtyla from Wadowice did.


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Matteo Ciofi is an Italian producer for Salt + Light. Follow him on Twitter!

 

Thank you, John Paul II!

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A video tribute to a great saint who walked among us on the 11th Anniversary of his death.

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

6 things to consider ahead of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family

Synod Report Blog Photo

Among the many topics discussed in our recent 2015 Year in Review program was the highly anticipated and much debated Synod of Bishops part two, on the vocation and mission of the family today.

It was easily the biggest news story in the Catholic world last year, and could very well carry over into 2016. That’s because we’re still awaiting the definitive conclusion to the Synods on family life in the form of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation.

Since the 1960’s, an apostolic exhortation has been the traditional form of teaching that concludes a Synod of Bishops; a teaching document written by the Pope alone but factoring in the deliberations and propositions of the Synod Fathers. There’s no scheduled date for the release of Pope Francis’ exhortation on the family, but it is expected to drop sometime before the end of the Year of Mercy (November 20, 2016).

In the meantime it’s a good idea to read, study and discuss the Final Report from the 2015 Synod of Bishops, recently translated into English. This is the result of the more than two-year reflection that took place in the universal Church and among the Bishops gathered in Synod during October 2014 and 2015.

About a third of the 265 bishops who voted on this Final Report were also present at the Synod in October 2014. In that sense there was a great deal of continuity between the Synods. To get a sense of the content and tone of the Synods, this Final Report is key. Here are 6 things to consider as we await Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family:

  1. This will be Pope Francis’ second exhortation.  This doesn’t seem that important until we recall how revolutionary his first exhortation was. Evangelii Gaudium dropped in November of 2013, less than a year after his election. It was supposed to be an exhortation based on the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization under Pope Benedict. Then Cardinal Bergoglio wasn’t present at that Synod.  So instead of using the draft text that was prepared for him when he became Pope, Francis simply wrote his own document on evangelization. The document is unlike any papal teaching we’ve seen. It’s full of practical ideas that are easily understood by everyone. It also contains some profound challenges for the Church like this programmatic line from paragraph 49: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” If the new exhortation on the family is anything like Evangelii Gaudium, we’re in for another rollercoaster ride.
  2. This will be the second exhortation on the theme of the family. There have only been fourteen general Synods since their inception back in the 60’s. So it might be surprising to learn that two have dealt with the same topic: the family. The first took place under Pope John Paul II in 1980 from which came the influential document Familiaris Consortio. Now Saint John Paul II is widely regarded as “the Pope of the family” because of the frequency and depth of his teaching on the subject. Many in the Church still consider this body of teaching to be relevant, so the question can be asked, why was it necessary to have another Synod on the family? Along with the Final Report from the 2015 Synod, a reading or re-reading of Familiaris Consortio is vital for anyone interested in seeing where and how Francis might develop the teachings of JPII.

  3. An exhortation is official Catholic teaching. Considering what was just said in #2, it’s important to remember that all exhortations are “official” Catholic teaching. It wouldn’t make sense to say that Francis’ exhortation will diminish or discredit John Paul’s. History has shown that Popes will build on previous papal teachings rather than nullify them. Certainly there will be differences in tone, style and content between Francis’ and JPII’s exhortations, but don’t expect a complete whitewash. At the same time, we have to remember that Francis is the Pope, Peter, the Vicar of Christ, and whatever he says about family life at this moment in history is highly consequential for every Catholic.

  4. There is a clear shift in tone and approach. As with everything Francis, we witnessed at the 2014 and 2015 Synods a clear shift in tone and approach to important theological and pastoral issues. One example is the kind of language used to describe complex situations people find themselves in today and the Church’s pastoral attitude in response. In paragraph 70 the Synod Fathers wrote that in complex situations, “Pastoral ministry on behalf of the family clearly proposes the Gospel message and gathers the positive elements present in those situations, which do not yet or no longer correspond to this message.” Throughout this Final Report we find this type of pastoral approach: to begin the conversation by pointing out what’s good in people’s lives as opposed to where they fail to live up to the Christian ideal. Look for nothing less in Francis’ exhortation.

  5. The Final Report says a lot in what it doesn’t say. Navigating the 2014 and 2015 Synods can be difficult. It’s not always clear where developments happened. I often say that if a Catholic who didn’t follow the Synod picked up the Final Report out-of-the-blue and read it, he or she would conclude that nothing has changed. The Catholic Church doesn’t change drastically overnight—even under Pope Francis—rather many of the important developments in our understanding of teaching and practice happen subtly. Perhaps the best example of subtle development in the Final Report concerns the highly contentious issue of the reception of Communion by divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. From the time of Familiaris Consortio the Church has articulated very clearly and directly its position of not admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion. The issue reignited at the 2014 and 2015 Synods. Some Bishops advocated for re-examining the Church’s position in some cases, others defended the established teaching unequivocally. Interestingly, the Final Report did not mention at all the reception of the Sacraments by divorced and remarried Catholics. It simply did not make a definitive statement one way or the other. But considering the Church’s aforementioned categorical denial of the possibility of admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion, the fact that the Synod Fathers did not reaffirm this established position is highly significant. So generally speaking, in order to understand what’s happening we must read between the lines and see that something consequential can be said by not saying anything. In any case, it’s up to Francis as the Pope to make an authoritative decision.

  6. There’s much more in the Final Report than the issue of the reception of the sacraments by divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Considering what was just said in #5, it’s important to remember that the Synods were about much more than the issue of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. The Final Report consists of 94 paragraphs that address countless challenges facing families today. They also express much hope and faith in families and promote a spirit of encouragement and accompaniment among the pastors of the Church. One of the great developments of the 2014 and 2015 Synods often overlooked was the call for a new kind of language that reaches people today. The mission of evangelization is still at the heart of the Catholic Church, and what permeates the Final Report is that positive and hopeful spirit that we’ve come to know and love in the Church under Pope Francis.  We should remember that before getting bogged down in any one particular issue.


 

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On Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice for dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and host at Salt+Light TV.

John Paul II, A Saint for Canada

Father Karol Wojtyla reading in canoe in 1955

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

 

Who was Junípero Serra and why is he becoming a Saint?

Junipero Serra in US Capitol Statuary Hall

During his Apostolic Visit to the United States of America next month, Pope Francis will celebrate the Mass of Canonization of Blessed Junípero Miguel José Serra Ferrer  (Fray Junipero Serra) at 4:15 p.m. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday afternoon,September 23, 2015. Earlier that same day, he will be formally welcomed at the White House by US President Barack Obama and also meet with the Bishops of the United States at St. Matthew’s Cathedral.

Blessed Junipero Serra (1713 – 1784), a Franciscan Missionary, died at the aged of 70 at the St Charles Borromeo Mission in Carmel, Monterey (California) in 1784, where he is now buried under the sanctuary floor. Pope Francis has recently said that Serra’s work of evangelization “reminds us of the first “12 Franciscan apostles” who were pioneers of the Christian faith in Mexico… . He ushered in a new springtime of evangelization in those immense territories, extending from Florida to California, which, in the previous two hundred years, had been reached by missionaries from Spain.”

Some experts are writing these days about Serra’s negative effects and impact on indigenous persons, Serra defended the indigenous peoples against abuses by the colonizers. The canonization of Blessed Serra, like those of other American saints, speaks to the deep spiritual roots and holiness of America. Among the many questions I have received about Blessed Junipero Serra’s life, ministry in California in the 18th century, and appropriateness and timing of his canonization, are those regarding the very meaning of canonization and holiness as well as the potentially negative impact that this canonization could have upon Native (indigineous) peoples throughout the world.

When social justice struggles become the ideological test for the veneration of martyrs, blessed and saints, we must ask some deeper questions. That persons are declared “Blessed” or “Saint” is not a statement about perfection. It does not mean that the person was without imperfection, blindness, deafness or sin. Nor is it a 360-degree evaluation of the pastoral agenda of the Petrine Ministry of the current Pope or of the Vatican.

Martyrdom, beatification and canonization mean that persons lived their lives with God, relying totally on God’s infinite mercy, going forward with God’s strength and power, believing in the impossible, loving one’s enemies and persecutors, forgiving in the midst of evil and violence, hoping beyond all hope, and leaving the world a better place. Though they may have experienced moral solitude, they manifested incredible hope and peace and brought many people to God. The proclamation of new saints and blesseds invites us to look beyond the labels and stereotypes that we often place on the martyrs, blessed, saints and all holy men and women, and consider the ultimate witness and gifts of their lives to God. We must learn from their examples of how they transformed hatred and violence into love, and only love. Having willed the one thing in their lives, the martyrs, saints and blesseds allowed themselves to be touched by God at the core of their beings that was beyond words, conceptualization, imagination and feeling. Such persons let those around them know that there is a force or spirit animating their lives that is not of this world, but the next.  They let us catch a glimpse of the greatness and holiness to which we are all called, and show us the face of God as we journey on our pilgrim way on earth.

It is hoped that this background information would address the matters of the meaning of canonization and holiness as well as provide for you numerous texts of both St. John Paul II and Pope Francis that provide important elements of Blessed Junipero Serra’s life and ministry. The frequent references to Blessed Serra by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis answer some of the questions people are asking on the eve of Serra’s canonization in Washington.

Who Was Junipero Serra?

Junípero Serra was born in 1713 in Majorca, Spain, a son of Antonio Nadal Serra and Margarita Rosa Ferrer who spent their lives as farmers. In Petra, Spain, Serra attended the primary school of the Franciscans conducted at the friary of San Bernardino. At the age of fifteen he was taken by his parents to Palma to be placed in the charge of a cathedral canon, and he began to assist at classes in philosophy held in the Franciscan monastery of San Francisco.

He took the name Junípero when he joined the Franciscan order in 1730. He taught for more than a decade before going to Mexico in 1749. After working as a missionary in Sierra Gorda and Mexico City, Serra was sent to California. He made the trip by foot despite having terrible sores on his legs. Once he reached California, Serra established his first mission, San Diego de Alcalá, in 1769. He built eight more missions over the next thirteen years: San Antonio de Padua; San Gabriel, Arcángel; San Luis, Obispo de Tolosa; San Juan Capistrano; San Francisco de Asis; and San Buenaventura. Serra worked tirelessly tirelessly to maintain the missions and is credited with helping the Spanish establish a presence in California.

Serra died in 1784 at Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo located in present-day Carmel, California. The site is now home to the National Shrine to Blessed Junípero Serra, and many visitors go there each year to honor the famous missionary.

Full Text of Biography of Serra from Franciscan Website.

Serra Stamp

Excerpt of HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION AT THE PONTIFICAL NORTH AMERICAN COLLEGE

Janiculum Hill, Rome
Saturday May 2, 2015

“What made Friar Junípero leave his home and country, his family, university chair and Franciscan community in Mallorca to go to the ends of the earth? Certainly, it was the desire to proclaim the Gospel ad gentes, that heartfelt impulse which seeks to share with those farthest away the gift of encountering Christ: a gift that he had first received and experienced in all its truth and beauty. Like Paul and Barnabas, like the disciples in Antioch and in all of Judea, he was filled with joy and the Holy Spirit in spreading the word of the Lord. Such zeal excites us, it challenges us! These missionary disciples who have encountered Jesus, the Son of God, who have come to know him through his merciful Father, moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit, went out to all the geographical, social and existential peripheries, to bear witness to charity. They challenge us! Sometimes we stop and thoughtfully examine their strengths and, above all, their weaknesses and their shortcomings. But I wonder if today we are able to respond with the same generosity and courage to the call of God, who invites us to leave everything in order to worship him, to follow him, to rediscover him in the face of the poor, to proclaim him to those who have not known Christ and, therefore, have not experienced the embrace of his mercy. Friar Junípero’s witness calls upon us to get involved, personally, in the mission to the whole continent, which finds its roots in Evangelii Gaudium.

Full text found here.

Excerpt from ADDRESS OF POPE JOHN PAUL II
TO THE BISHOPS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
ON THEIR «AD LIMINA» VISIT

Wednesday June 8, 1988

“One event of those days has a very special relevance now. It is the visit that I made to the Basilica of Carmel and to the tomb of Fray Junipero Serra. In less than three months from now, some of us will gather again here as the Church beatifies him, officially proclaiming him worthy of honour and imitation by all. In venerating “the Apostle of California” at his tomb I spoke of his contribution, which was “to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the dawn of a new age.” I also endeavoured to present his essential message, which is the constant need to evangelize. In that context I stated: “Like Father Serra and his Franciscan brethren, we too are called to be evangelizers, to share actively in the Church’s mission of making disciples of all people”.

Full text found at here.

Excerpt from ADDRESS OF POPE JOHN PAUL II

Basilica of the Mission of San Carlos in Carmel
Thursday, September 17, 1987

Junipero SerraI come today as a pilgrim to this Mission of San Carlos, which so powerfully evokes the heroic spirit and heroic deeds of Fray Junípero Serra and which enshrines his mortal remains. This serene and beautiful place is truly the historical and spiritual heart of California. All the missions of El Camino Real bear witness to the challenges and heroism of an earlier time, but not a time forgotten or without significance for the California of today and the Church of today.

These buildings and the men who gave them life, especially their spiritual father, Junípero Serra, are reminders of an age of discovery and exploration. The missions are the result of a conscious moral decision made by people of faith in a situation that presented many human possibilities, both good and bad, with respect to the future of this land and its native peoples. It was a decision rooted in a love of God and neighbour. It was a decision to proclaim the Gospelof Jesus Christ at the dawn of a new age, which was extremely important for both the European settlers and the Native Americans.

Very often, at crucial moments in human affairs, God raises up men and women whom he thrusts into roles of decisive importance for the future development of both society and the Church. Although their story unfolds within the ordinary circumstances of daily life, they become larger than life within the perspective of history. We rejoice all the more when their achievement is coupled with a holiness of life that can truly be called heroic. So it is withJunípero Serra, who in the providence of God was destined to be the Apostle of California, and to have a permanent influence over the spiritual patrimony of this land and its people, whatever their religion might be. This apostolic awareness is captured in the words ascribed to him: “In California is my life and there, God willing, I hope to die”. Through Christ’s Paschal Mystery, that death has become a seed in the soil of this state that continues to bear fruit “thirty – or sixty – or a hundred-fold” (Matth. 13, 9).

Father Serra was a man convinced of the Church’s mission, conferred upon her by Christ himself, to evangelize the world, to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Ibid. 28, 19). The way in which he fulfilled that mission corresponds faithfully to the Church’s vision today of what evangelization means: “… the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieux which are theirs” Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi, 18).

He not only brought the Gospel to the Native Americans, but as one who lived the Gospel he also became their defender and champion. At the age of sixty he journeyed from Carmel to Mexico City to intervene with the Viceroy on their behalf – a journey which twice brought him close to death – and presented his now famous Representación with its “bill of rights”, which had as their aim the betterment of every phase of missionary activity in California, particularly the spiritual and physical well-being of its Native Americans.

Father Serra and his fellow missionaries shared the conviction found everywhere in the New Testament that the Gospel is a matter of life and salvation. They believed that in offering to people Jesus Christ, they were doingsomething of immense value, importance and dignity. What other explanation can there be for the hardships that they freely and gladly endured, like Saint Paul and all the other great missionaries before them: difficult and dangerous travel, illness and isolation, an ascetical life-style, arduous labour, and also, like Saint Paul, that “concern for all the churches” (2Cor. 11, 28) which Junípero Serra, in particular, experienced as Presidente of the California missions in the face of every vicissitude, disappointment and opposition.

Dear brothers and sisters: like Father Serra and his Franciscan brethren, we too are called to be evangelizers, to share actively in the Church’s mission of making disciples of all people. The way in which we fulfil that mission will be different from theirs. But their lives speak to us still because of their sure faith that the Gospel is true, and because of their passionate belief in the value of bringing that saving truth to others at great personal cost. Much to be envied are those who can give their lives for something greater than themselves in loving service to others. This, more than words or deeds alone, is what draws people to Christ.

This single-mindedness is not reserved for great missionaries in exotic places. It must be at the heart of each priest’s ministry and the evangelical witness of every religious. It is the key to their personal sense of well-being, happiness and fulfilment in what they are and what they do. This single-mindedness is also essential to the Christian witness of the Catholic laity. The covenant of love between two people in marriage and the successful sharing of faith with children require the effort of a lifetime. If couples cease believing in their marriage as a sacrament before God, or treat religion as anything less than a matter of salvation, then the Christian witness they might have given to the world is lost. Those who are unmarried must also be steadfast in fulfilling their duties in life if they are to bring Christ to the world in which they live.

“In him who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything” (Phil. 4, 13). These words of the great missionary, Saint Paul, remind us that our strength is not our own. Even in the martyrs and saints, as the liturgy reminds us, it is “(God’s) power shining through our human weakness” (Praefatio Martyrum). It is the strength that inspired Father Serra’s motto: “always forward, never back”. It is the strength that one senses in this place of prayer so filled with his presence. It is the strength that can make each one of us, dear brothers and sisters, missionaries of Jesus Christ, witnesses of his message, doers of his word.

Full text found at here.

MEETING WITH THE NATIVE PEOPLES OF THE AMERICAS

Excerpt from ADDRESS OF POPE JOHN PAUL II

Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix
Monday September 14, 1987

Serra in US Capitol Statuary Hall 2“One priest who deserves special mention among the missionaries is the beloved Fray Junipero Serra, who travelled throughout Lower and Upper California. He had frequent clashes with the civil authorities over the treatment of Indians. In 1773 he presented to the Viceroy in Mexico City aRepresentación, which is sometimes termed a “Bill of Rights” for Indians. The Church had long been convinced of the need to protect them from exploitation. Already in 1537, my predecessor Pope Paul III proclaimed the dignity and rights of the native peoples of the Americas by insisting that they not be deprived of their freedom or the possession of their property. In Spain the Dominican priest, Francisco de Vitoria, became the staunch advocate of the rights of the Indians and formulated the basis for international law regarding the rights of peoples.

Unfortunately not all the members of the Church lived up to their Christian responsibilities. But let us not dwell excessively on mistakes and wrongs, even as we commit ourselves to overcoming their present effects. Let us also be grateful to those who came to this land, faithful to the teachings of Jesus, witnesses of his new commandment of love. These men and women, with good hearts and good minds, shared knowledge and skills from their own cultures and shared their most precious heritage, the faith, as well. Now, we are called to learn from the mistakes of the past and we must work together for reconciliation and healing, as brothers and sisters in Christ. “

Full text found at here.

Why going on a pilgrimage is worth every penny

New documentary 'Camino' follows hikers' trek from France to famed pilgrimage site in Spain

I came across an article the other day that indicated there’s research that suggests that experiences, not things, make us happier.

Turns out there are a few reasons for this – the value of experience increases over time, and it’s something that people share, and even bad experiences (apparently) are valued more over the course of time because they become good stories.

Reflecting on this research, what immediately popped into my mind was pilgrimages. Because it really doesn’t matter how terrible the accommodations or the inevitable logistical fiascos may be because, in the end, it is overcoming these trials or bad experiences, like the saints before us, that makes these journeys, these experiences, worthwhile.

To quote St. John Paul II, “For the Church, pilgrimages, in all their multiple aspects, have always been a gift of grace.”

The best part is that you don’t always have to be trekking halfway across the world to go on a good pilgrimage. There are many spots close to home that you can enjoy. One place in particular, which I thought I’d share with you, is a stunning exhibit of the life of St. John Paul II that allows pilgrims to immerse themselves in his life and teachings.

I caught up with Dr. Jem Sullivan, Director of Research and Education for the Saint John Paul II National Shrine to learn more.

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The permanent exhibit is dedicated to preserving the legacy of St John Paul II – why is that important and what are some of the unique features of the exhibit?

Saint John Paul II is the “pope of the family,” as noted by Pope Francis when he canonized him a saint of the Church in 2014. Pope John Paul II’s clear and courageous witness to the gift and sanctity of the family continues to be among his most enduring legacies.

The exhibit is meant to be both an informative and a transformative experience that invites pilgrims to become part of the “spiritual family” of Saint John Paul II by walking in the footsteps of one of the great saints of our time.

Saint John Paul II’s entire life was an embodiment of his fearless preaching of the Gospel. From his early experiences of family, and his personal and physical sufferings, he showed the world that it is possible to live a fully human life through the power of faith in Jesus Christ.

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Many people considered Pope John Paul an important player on the world stage, how does the exhibit explore this?

The permanent exhibit  explores the impact of his teachings and witness to the dignity of the human person through an extraordinary collection of photos, quotes, short films, personal interviews, artifacts, and original works of art.

Pilgrims can view his handwritten notes of his 1979 speech to the United Nations on display in the exhibit, and be inspired by his 1995 address to the United Nations when he said that, “…the answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the twentieth century is the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty.” (John Paul II, Address to the United Nations, October 5, 1995).

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How has John Paul’s life personally had an impact on who you are today?

As a young student of theology and philosophy in the 1980s and 1990s, I had the privilege of reading and reflecting on the writings of Pope John Paul II. The pope’s first encyclical, Redeemer of Man, and his writings on catechesis, evangelization, and art made a deep impression on me and was a guide to the subsequent intellectual paths I would take during my graduate and doctoral studies.

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The pope radiated the love of God in a way that had a strong impact on my faith and life, as a wife and mother, and as a catechist, teacher, and professor. His love for Christ was a powerful example of Christian discipleship that encouraged me to serve the Church over the past twenty years. I took to heart Saint John Paul II’s call and challenge to grow daily in prayer and holiness of life, and to “not be afraid” to give one’s life in service of Christ and His Church. His saintly witness and example of Christian discipleship was among the reasons I was led to serve through catechesis, evangelization, and the renewal of culture and art for the past two decades.

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So this summer consider visiting this stunning exhibit to learn about a hero, live his life and share in something which will inspire you, challenge you and leave you grateful for his witness.

What could make you happier?

Exhibit photos courtesy of: Matthew Barrick, Barrick Photography and CNS.

 

 


CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

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Watch S+L TV Special – The Ecology Encyclical: Care for Our Common Home

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The highly anticipated teaching document of Pope Francis on ecology has arrived. How does it build on the teachings of Popes John Paul II and Benedict the XVI? What does it say about climate change? What does it say about poverty and those most affected by ecological destruction around the world?

Join host Sebastian Gomes for a panel discussion on the major themes and reactions to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si. Guests include: Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, English language assistant to the Director of the Holy See Press Office; Mardi Tindal, immediate past moderator of the United Church of Canada; Alicia Ambrosio, producer and journalist for S+L TV.

Watch the full video of the show below.