The Beatitudes: Blueprint for Holiness

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Solemnity of All Saints – Saturday, November 1, 2014

The following words of Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, spoken during the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in 2008, still resound in my mind and heart on this Solemnity of All Saints:

Jesus says: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). For more than 2,000 years men and women, old and young, wise and ignorant, in the East as in the West, applied themselves to the school of the Lord Jesus, which caused this sublime commandment to echo in their hearts and minds: “You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48) […]

Their library was largely composed of the life and the words of Jesus: blessed are the poor, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the gentle, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who are persecuted. The saints, understanding that the Beatitudes are the essence of the Gospel and the portrait of Christ Himself, became their imitators. 

The Beatitudes: Blueprint for Holiness

The Beatitudes in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12) are a recipe for extreme holiness. As has been pointed out by many others in the past, though the Mount of the Beatitudes is a few dozen feet above sea level, it is the really the highest peak on earth! On this holy mountain in Galilee, Jesus proclaimed the new law that was expression of Christ’s holiness. They are not an abstract code of behavior. Jesus is the poor in spirit, the meek, the persecuted, the peacemaker. He is the new “code of holiness” that must be imprinted on hearts, and that must be contemplated through the action of the Holy Spirit. His Passion and Death are the crowning of his holiness.

Holiness is a way of life that involves commitment and activity. It is not a passive endeavour but rather a continuous choice to deepen one’s relationship with God and then to allow this relationship to guide all of one’s actions in the world. Holiness requires a radical change in mindset and attitude. The acceptance of the call to holiness places God as our final goal in every aspect of our lives.

Looking at Jesus, we see what it means to be poor in spirit, gentle, and merciful, to mourn, to care for what is right, to be pure in heart, to make peace, to be persecuted. This is why he has the right to say to each of us, “Come, follow me!” The call of Christ is not simply, “Do what I say.” He says, “Come, follow me!” 

Taking stock of our treasury of Saints

The Saints and Blesseds are travel companions along our journey, in our joy and in our suffering. They are men and women who turned a new page in their own lives and in the lives of so many people. This was the core of Saint John Paul II’s message to humanity: holiness is not a gift reserved for a few. We can all aspire to it, because it is a goal within our capacity – a great lesson articulated by the Second Vatican Council and its call to universal holiness (cf. Lumen Gentium).

The Solemnity of All Saints is a wonderful opportunity for the whole Church to take stock once again of the way that Pope John Paul II changed our way of viewing the Saints and Blesseds. In nearly 27 years of his pontificate, he gave the Church 1,338 Blesseds and 482 Saints!

John Paul II reminded us that the heroes and heroines the world offers to young people today are terribly flawed. They leave us so empty. The real “stars” are the Saints and Blesseds who never tried to be regarded as heroes, or to shock or provoke. To believe greatness is attainable, we need successful role models to emulate. There is a desperate need for real heroes and heroines, models and witnesses of faith and virtue that the world of sports, cinema, science, and music simply cannot provide.

Standing at the radical centre

Many think that sainthood is a privilege reserved only for the chosen few. In fact, to become a saint is the task of every Christian, and what’s more, we could even say it’s the task of everyone! How many times have we thought that the Saints are merely “eccentrics” that the Church exalts for us to try to imitate – people who were so unrepresentative of and out of touch with the reality of the human scene? It is certainly true that all of those men and women were “eccentric” in its literal sense: they deviated from the centre, from usual practice, from the ordinary ways of doing things, the established methods. Another way of looking at the saints is that they stood at the “radical centre.”

Be the Saints of the New Millennium

Saint John Paul II spoke powerfully to young people about the call to holiness and their vocation to be saints. In his message for World Youth Day 2000 in Rome, he wrote to his “dear young friends” throughout the world unforgettable words that became the rallying cry for the greatest celebration of the Jubilee Year:

Young people of every continent, do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium! Be contemplative, love prayer; be coherent with your faith and generous in the service of your brothers and sisters, be active members of the Church and builders of peace. To succeed in this demanding project of life, continue to listen to His Word, draw strength from the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance. The Lord wants you to be intrepid apostles of his Gospel and builders of a new humanity.

Two years later for our World Youth Day 2002 in Canada, John Paul II took up the theme of holiness and saints with renewed vigour:

Just as salt gives flavor to food and light illumines the darkness, so too holiness gives full meaning to life and makes it reflect God’s glory. How many saints, especially young saints, can we count in the Church’s history! In their love for God their heroic virtues shone before the world, and so they became models of life which the Church has held up for imitation by all. […] Through the intercession of this great host of witnesses, may God make you too, dear young people, the saints of the third millennium!

At the concluding World Youth Day Mass at Downsview Park in Toronto on July 28, 2002, Saint John Paul issued a stirring challenge:

And if, in the depths of your hearts, you feel the same call to the priesthood or consecrated life, do not be afraid to follow Christ on the royal road of the Cross! At difficult moments in the Church’s life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent. And holiness is not a question of age; it is a matter of living in the Holy Spirit, just as Kateri Tekakwitha did here in America and so many other young people have done.

Pope Benedict XVI continued the momentum of John Paul’s invitations and exhortations to holiness at World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany. At the opening ceremony on August 18, 2005, Benedict addressed the throng of young people gathered from across the entire world:

Dear young people, the Church needs genuine witnesses for the new evangelization: men and women whose lives have been transformed by meeting with Jesus, men and women who are capable of communicating this experience to others. The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity. Many have gone before us along this path of Gospel heroism, and I urge you to turn often to them to pray for their intercession.

Benedict XVI continued this theme at the great Vigil on Saturday evening, August 20, 2005 at Marienfeld:

It is the great multitude of the saints – both known and unknown – in whose lives the Lord has opened up the Gospel before us and turned over the pages; he has done this throughout history and he still does so today. In their lives, as if in a great picture book, the riches of the Gospel are revealed. They are the shining path which God himself has traced throughout history and is still tracing today.

Then Pope Benedict XVI cried out in that great assembly of over one million young people gathered in prayer at Marienfeld in Cologne:

The saints…are the true reformers. Now I want to express this in an even more radical way: only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world.

The core of the proclamation of Saints and Blesseds

Every crisis that the Church faces, every crisis that the world faces, is a crisis of holiness and a crisis of saints. Holiness is crucial because it is the real face of the Church. The core of the proclamation of the Saints and Blesseds was always hope, even in the midst of the darkest moments of history. It’s almost as if in those times of darkness the light of Christ shines ever more brightly. We are living through one of those times, and the Lord is still taking applications for his extreme form of holiness and sanctity.

Believers in Jesus and his message must allow themselves to be enticed and enchanted by his life and his message contained in the Beatitudes. Today we must hold up the Beatitudes as a mirror in which we examine our own lives and consciences. “Am I poor in spirit? Am I humble and merciful? Am I pure of heart? Do I bring peace? Am I ‘blessed,’ in other words, ‘happy’?” Jesus not only gives us what he has, but also what he is. He is holy and makes us holy.

[The readings for the Solemnity of All Saints are: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3:1-3; and Matthew 5:1-12a.]
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Witness: Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal Pell

Cardinal George Pell is one of the most well-known leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.  Appointed Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and Archbishop of Sydney in 2001, he has been a consistent and unwavering voice in favour of traditional Catholic doctrine particularly in the Western world.  In 2008, his diocese hosted the World Youth Day and Apostolic Journey of Pope Benedict XVI which is widely regarded as one of the most efficient and well-organized WYD’s in the three decades of their existence.

A long time critic of the financial and administrative mishaps at the Vatican, Cardinal Pell was appointed by Pope Francis to his “Council of Cardinals” one month after his election as Pope.  During an extensive assessment of the various bureaucratic structures of the Vatican, the Pope decided on February 14, 2014 to create a new Secretariat for the Economy in order to oversee all financial dealings at the Vatican. Cardinal Pell was hand-picked as the Secretary.

In this exclusive interview Fr. Thomas Rosica poses the practical questions that many watchers of the Vatican have long-wondered: just what exactly does the Cardinal’s work entail?  How is it being done? What are the goals desired by the Cardinal and the Holy Father?  The work of the new Secretary, it turns out, may be an essential key to understanding the pontificate of the beloved Pope Francis and why he was elected in the first place.

Premiere: Sunday, October 12 at 8pm ET / 5pm PT

Perspectives Daily – Logo and Prayer Announced for WYD 2016

In Krakow today, the logo and official prayer for World Youth Day 2016 were revealed. At a press conference held by His Eminence Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow, the former private secretary to Saint John Paul II explained the symbolism behind the design chosen for the massive gathering. The red border is a geographic outline of Poland itself, with the yellow circle in the middle signifying the location of Krakow. The cross, which is the symbol World Youth Day, is at the center of the logo, wound in the red and blue flames of Divine Mercy. The red, yellow and blue color scheme plays on Krakow’s official colors as seen in the city’s coat of arms. The logo was designed by a 28 year-old, Monika Rybczynska from the small town of Ostrzeszow in mid-western Poland. In addition to the logo being revealed, Cardinal Dziwisz also released the official prayer for World Youth Day 2016. It entrusts young people and the whole of humanity to Divine Mercy, asks for the grace of a merciful heart and requests the intercession of the Virgin Mary as well as the patron saint of World Youth Day 2016, Saint John Paul II. To read the full text of the prayer, please visit the Vatican’s news aggregate at news.va

Beginning tomorrow, Salt and Light will bring you extensive live coverage of the Steubenville Toronto conference from the Mattamy Centre in downtown Toronto. Presented by the Archdiocese of Toronto, the conference will bring thousands of young people from across North America together for three days of dynamic talks, incredible music, prayer, fellowship, and liturgies. Salt and Light’s coverage will include masses, Eucharistic Adoration, prayer, and a wide range of talks from the conference’s speakers. Here’s a look ahead at what you can expect this weekend.

Salt and Light’s coverage of Steubenville Toronto begins tomorrow at 7:30pm with the conference’s opening ceremonies live from the Mattamy Centre. For more information on the conference as well as our full broadcast schedule, please visit saltandlighttv.org/steubenville

Meet the Cardinals: Orani Joao Tempesta – Rio de Janeiro

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By Lise Alves Catholic News Service

SAO PAULO (CNS) — Cardinal-designate Orani Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro said he was surprised that Pope Francis named him a cardinal, but friends and thousands of Brazilian Catholics saw it coming.

At the end of World Youth Day in July in Rio de Janeiro, several Brazilian newspapers and TV stations covering the event reported that Pope Francis, in thanking the Rio archbishop for his role in holding the event, had referred to him as cardinal.

“I think he was the only one who didn’t hear the Holy Father say cardinal,” chuckled Msgr. Sergio Costa Couto of the Church Our Lady of Glory on the Knoll in Rio de Janeiro.

Msgr. Couto said the news that Cardinal-designate Tempesta will be elevated into the College of Cardinals Feb. 22 in Rome has caused a great deal of joy among the religious and people in Rio.

“He makes friends very easily, and he maintains friendships for a long time,” said Msgr. Couto, who has been friends with the cardinal-designate since the 1980s.

With a friendship that goes back to 1974, when they met at St. Bernard Monastery in Sao Jose do Rio Pardo, Cistercian Abbot Paulo Celso Demartini said the nomination was a tribute to a man who has lived his life humbly to serve.

“He is a humble, simple man, faithful to the doctrine,” Abbot Demartini said of his friend. “He always has a kind word for us, visits us when he can and telephones us often to ask how we are.”

Orani Tempesta was born June 23, 1950 in Sao Jose do Rio Pardo. He entered the Cistercian order in 1969 and was ordained a priest Dec. 4, 1974.

After rising to the post of abbot at the Cistercian Monastery of St. Bernard in 1996, he was named bishop of Sao Jose do Rio Preto in 1997. In 2004 he became archbishop of Belem, the most important archdiocese in Brazil’s Amazon region.

In 2009, when he was transferred to Rio de Janeiro, he told Catholics in Belem, “I am leaving for Rio, but I take with me Belem, Para state, the warmth of this state and the friendliness of its people.”

Cardinal-designate Tempesta arrived in Rio de Janeiro with instructions to bring back the flock, many of whom had strayed toward evangelical congregations. He is often seen visiting poor communities in Rio and going up the hillsides to slums to visit his flock, even when several priests from the archdiocese have been threatened by drug lords.

Msgr. Couto said he believes his friend is unlikely to change his routine after formally becoming a cardinal. He said one of the cardinal-designate’s most striking characteristics is his drive to continue on, even after most of the other priests are already exhausted.

In 2011, after mudslides in a mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro state left more than 850 dead and thousands homeless, “he and I left at 2 a.m. from Rio to drive up to celebrate Mass. The road was almost unpassable at certain points,” Msgr. Couto recalled.

“We arrived early in the morning; he celebrated Mass and then went back down the mountains and onto Sao Paulo because a friend had passed away. He seems never to tire out.”

Abbot Demartini agreed with Msgr. Couto.

“I remember some of the letters he would write to me while I was studying at St. Benedict’s in Rio and he was still at the monastery. He would finish his letters close to 2 a.m. and would have to rise again at 4:30. He always had a word of encouragement, always worried about how we were doing,” said the abbot.

“Three words to describe him … father, brother, friend,” said Abbot Demartini.

(CNS Photo/Paul Haring)

Vatican Connections: Friday, February 7, 2014

This week Pope Francis released two special messages: his message for Lent, and a message for World Youth Day. Lent begins on March 5 this year and World Youth Day will be celebrated at the diocesan level on April 13, which is also Palm Sunday. The full text of the Pope’s Lenten message is published below. You can read his message for World Youth Day 2014, here.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    As Lent draws near, I would like to offer some helpful thoughts on our path of conversion as individuals and as a community. These insights are inspired by the words of Saint Paul: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). The Apostle was writing to the Christians of Corinth to encourage them to be generous in helping the faithful in Jerusalem who were in need. What do these words of Saint Paul mean for us Christians today? What does this invitation to poverty, a life of evangelical poverty, mean for us today?

    1. Christ’s grace

    First of all, it shows us how God works. He does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty: “though He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor …”. Christ, the eternal Son of God, one with the Father in power and glory, chose to be poor; he came amongst us and drew near to each of us; he set aside his glory and emptied himself so that he could be like us in all things (cf. Phil 2:7; Heb 4:15). God’s becoming man is a great mystery! But the reason for all this is his love, a love which is grace, generosity, a desire to draw near, a love which does not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved. Charity, love, is sharing with the one we love in all things. Love makes us similar, it creates equality, it breaks down walls and eliminates distances. God did this with us. Indeed, Jesus “worked with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he truly became one of us, like us in all things except sin.” (Gaudium et Spes, 22).

    By making himself poor, Jesus did not seek poverty for its own sake but, as Saint Paul says “that by his poverty you might become rich”. This is no mere play on words or a catch phrase. Rather, it sums up God’s logic, the logic of love, the logic of the incarnation and the cross. God did not let our salvation drop down from heaven, like someone who gives alms from their abundance out of a sense of altruism and piety. Christ’s love is different! When Jesus stepped into the waters of the Jordan and was baptized by John the Baptist, he did so not because he was in need of repentance, or conversion; he did it to be among people who need forgiveness, among us sinners, and to take upon himself the burden of our sins. In this way he chose to comfort us, to save us, to free us from our misery. It is striking that the Apostle states that we were set free, not by Christ’s riches but by his poverty. Yet Saint Paul is well aware of the “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8), that he is “heir of all things” (Heb 1:2).

    So what is this poverty by which Christ frees us and enriches us? It is his way of loving us, his way of being our neighbour, just as the Good Samaritan was neighbour to the man left half dead by the side of the road (cf. Lk 10:25ff ). What gives us true freedom, true salvation and true happiness is the compassion, tenderness and solidarity of his love. Christ’s poverty which enriches us is his taking flesh and bearing our weaknesses and sins as an expression of God’s infinite mercy to us. Christ’s poverty is the greatest treasure of all: Jesus’ wealth is that of his boundless confidence in God the Father, his constant trust, his desire always and only to do the Father’s will and give glory to him. Jesus is rich in the same way as a child who feels loved and who loves its parents, without doubting their love and tenderness for an instant. Jesus’ wealth lies in his being the Son; his unique relationship with the Father is the sovereign prerogative of this Messiah who is poor. When Jesus asks us to take up his “yoke which is easy”, he asks us to be enriched by his “poverty which is rich” and his “richness which is poor”, to share his filial and fraternal Spirit, to become sons and daughters in the Son, brothers and sisters in the firstborn brother (cf. Rom 8:29).

    It has been said that the only real regret lies in not being a saint (L. Bloy); we could also say that there is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.

    2. Our witness

    We might think that this “way” of poverty was Jesus’ way, whereas we who come after him can save the world with the right kind of human resources. This is not the case. In every time and place God continues to save mankind and the world through the poverty of Christ, who makes himself poor in the sacraments, in his word and in his Church, which is a people of the poor. God’s wealth passes not through our wealth, but invariably and exclusively through our personal and communal poverty, enlivened by the Spirit of Christ.

    In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual. Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.

    No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person – is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us through Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.

    The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness. It means following and imitating Jesus, who sought out the poor and sinners as a shepherd lovingly seeks his lost sheep. In union with Jesus, we can courageously open up new paths of evangelization and human promotion.

    Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. We can do this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.

    May the Holy Spirit, through whom we are “as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Cor 6:10), sustain us in our resolutions and increase our concern and responsibility for human destitution, so that we can become merciful and act with mercy. In expressing this hope, I likewise pray that each individual member of the faithful and every Church community will undertake a fruitful Lenten journey. I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you safe.

    From the Vatican, 26 December 2013
    Feast of Saint Stephen, Deacon and First Martyr

    FRANCISCUS

Message of Pope Francis for the 29th World Youth Day 2014

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Vatican City, 6 February 2014 (VIS) – We publish below the full text of the message the Holy Father has sent to the young people preparing for the 29th World Youth Day 2014, which will take as its theme: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

Dear Young Friends,

How vividly I recall the remarkable meeting we had in Rio de Janeiro for the Twenty-eighth World Youth Day. It was a great celebration of faith and fellowship! The wonderful people of Brazil welcomed us with open arms, like the statue of Christ the Redeemer which looks down from the hill of Corcovado over the magnificent expanse of Copacabana beach. There, on the seashore, Jesus renewed his call to each one of us to become his missionary disciples. May we perceive this call as the most important thing in our lives and share this gift with others, those near and far, even to the distant geographical and existential peripheries of our world.

The next stop on our intercontinental youth pilgrimage will be in Krakow in 2016. As a way of accompanying our journey together, for the next three years I would like to reflect with you on the Beatitudes found in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. This year we will begin by reflecting on the first Beatitude: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. For 2015 I suggest: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’. Then, in 2016, our theme will be: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’.

1. The revolutionary power of the Beatitudes

It is always a joyful experience for us to read and reflect on the Beatitudes! Jesus proclaimed them in his first great sermon, preached on the shore of the sea of Galilee. There was a very large crowd, so Jesus went up on the mountain to teach his disciples. That is why it is known as ‘the Sermon on the Mount’. In the Bible, the mountain is regarded as a place where God reveals himself. Jesus, by preaching on the mount, reveals himself to be a divine teacher, a new Moses. What does he tell us? He shows us the way to life, the way that he himself has taken. Jesus himself is the way, and he proposes this way as the path to true happiness. Throughout his life, from his birth in the stable in Bethlehem until his death on the cross and his resurrection, Jesus embodied the Beatitudes. All the promises of God’s Kingdom were fulfilled in him.

In proclaiming the Beatitudes, Jesus asks us to follow him and to travel with him along the path of love, the path that alone leads to eternal life. It is not an easy journey, yet the Lord promises us his grace and he never abandons us. We face so many challenges in life: poverty, distress, humiliation, the struggle for justice, persecutions, the difficulty of daily conversion, the effort to remain faithful to our call to holiness, and many others. But if we open the door to Jesus and allow him to be part of our lives, if we share our joys and sorrows with him, then we will experience the peace and joy that only God, who is infinite love, can give.

The Beatitudes of Jesus are new and revolutionary. They present a model of happiness contrary to what is usually communicated by the media and by the prevailing wisdom. A worldly way of thinking finds it scandalous that God became one of us and died on a cross! According to the logic of this world, those whom Jesus proclaimed blessed are regarded as useless, ‘losers’. What is glorified is success at any cost, affluence, the arrogance of power and self-affirmation at the expense of others.

Jesus challenges us, young friends, to take seriously his approach to life and to decide which path is right for us and leads to true joy. This is the great challenge of faith. Jesus was not afraid to ask his disciples if they truly wanted to follow him or if they preferred to take another path. Simon Peter had the courage to reply: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’. If you too are able to say ‘yes’ to Jesus, your lives will become both meaningful and fruitful.

2. The courage to be happy

What does it mean to be ‘blessed’ (makarioi in Greek)? To be blessed means to be happy. Tell me: Do you really want to be happy? In an age when we are constantly being enticed by vain and empty illusions of happiness, we risk settling for less and ‘thinking small’ when it come to the meaning of life. Think big instead! Open your hearts! As Blessed Piergiorgio Frassati once said, ‘To live without faith, to have no heritage to uphold, to fail to struggle constantly to defend the truth: this is not living. It is scraping by. We should never just scrape by, but really live’ (Letter to I. Bonini, 27 February 1925). In his homily on the day of Piergiorgio Frassati’s beatification (20 May 1990), John Paul II called him ‘a man of the Beatitudes’ (AAS 82 [1990], 1518).

If you are really open to the deepest aspirations of your hearts, you will realize that you possess an unquenchable thirst for happiness, and this will allow you to expose and reject the ‘low cost’ offers and approaches all around you. When we look only for success, pleasure and possessions, and we turn these into idols, we may well have moments of exhilaration, an illusory sense of satisfaction, but ultimately we become enslaved, never satisfied, always looking for more. It is a tragic thing to see a young person who ‘has everything’, but is weary and weak.

Saint John, writing to young people, told them: ‘You are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one’. oung people who choose Christ are strong: they are fed by his word and they do not need to ‘stuff themselves’ with other things! Have the courage to swim against the tide. Have the courage to be truly happy! Say no to an ephemeral, superficial and throwaway culture, a culture that assumes that you are incapable of taking on responsibility and facing the great challenges of life!

3. Blessed are the poor in spirit…

The first Beatitude, our theme for the next World Youth Day, says that the poor in spirit are blessed for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. At a time when so many people are suffering as a result of the financial crisis, it might seem strange to link poverty and happiness. How can we consider poverty a blessing?

First of all, let us try to understand what it means to be ‘poor in spirit’. When the Son of God became man, he chose the path of poverty and self-emptying. As Saint Paul said in his letter to the Philippians: ‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness’. Jesus is God who strips himself of his glory. Here we see God’s choice to be poor: he was rich and yet he became poor in order to enrich us through his poverty. His is the mystery we contemplate in the crib when we see the Son of God lying in a manger, and later on the cross, where his self-emptying reaches its culmination.

The Greek adjective ptochos (poor) does not have a purely material meaning. It means ‘a beggar’, and it should be seen as linked to the Jewish notion of the anawim, ‘God’s poor’. It suggests lowliness, a sense of one’s limitations and existential poverty. The anawim trust in the Lord, and they know that they can count on him.

As Saint Therese of the Child Jesus clearly saw, by his incarnation Jesus came among us as a poor beggar, asking for our love. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that ‘man is a beggar before God’ and that prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst and our own thirst.

Saint Francis of Assisi understood perfectly the secret of the Beatitude of the poor in spirit. Indeed, when Jesus spoke to him through the leper and from the crucifix, Francis recognized both God’s grandeur and his own lowliness. In his prayer, the Poor Man of Assisi would spend hours asking the Lord: ‘Who are you?’ ‘Who am I?’ He renounced an affluent and carefree life in order to marry ‘Lady Poverty’, to imitate Jesus and to follow the Gospel to the letter. Francis lived in imitation of Christ in his poverty and in love for the poor – for him the two were inextricably linked – like two sides of one coin.

You might ask me, then: What can we do, specifically, to make poverty in spirit a way of life, a real part of our own lives? I will reply by saying three things.

First of all, try to be free with regard to material things. The Lord calls us to a Gospel lifestyle marked by sobriety, by a refusal to yield to the culture of consumerism. This means being concerned with the essentials and learning to do without all those unneeded extras which hem us in. Let us learn to be detached from possessiveness and from the idolatry of money and lavish spending. Let us put Jesus first. He can free us from the kinds of idol-worship which enslave us. Put your trust in God, dear young friends! He knows and loves us, and he never forgets us. Just as he provides for the lilies of the field, so he will make sure that we lack nothing. If we are to come through the financial crisis, we must be also ready to change our lifestyle and avoid so much wastefulness. Just as we need the courage to be happy, we also need the courage to live simply.

Second, if we are to live by this Beatitude, all of us need to experience a conversion in the way we see the poor. We have to care for them and be sensitive to their spiritual and material needs. To you young people I especially entrust the task of restoring solidarity to the heart of human culture. Faced with old and new forms of poverty – unemployment, migration and addictions of various kinds – we have the duty to be alert and thoughtful, avoiding the temptation to remain indifferent. We have to remember all those who feel unloved, who have no hope for the future and who have given up on life out of discouragement, disappointment or fear. We have to learn to be on the side of the poor, and not just indulge in rhetoric about the poor! Let us go out to meet them, look into their eyes and listen to them. The poor provide us with a concrete opportunity to encounter Christ himself, and to touch his suffering flesh.

However – and this is my third point – the poor are not just people to whom we can give something. They have much to offer us and to teach us. How much we have to learn from the wisdom of the poor! Think about it: several hundred years ago a saint, Benedict Joseph Labre, who lived on the streets of Rome from the alms he received, became a spiritual guide to all sorts of people, including nobles and prelates. In a very real way, the poor are our teachers. They show us that people’s value is not measured by their possessions or how much money they have in the bank. A poor person, a person lacking material possessions, always maintains his or her dignity. The poor can teach us much about humility and trust in God. In the parable of the pharisee and the tax-collector, Jesus holds the tax-collector up as a model because of his humility and his acknowledgement that he is a sinner. The widow who gave her last two coins to the temple treasury is an example of the generosity of all those who have next to nothing and yet give away everything they have.

4. … for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

The central theme of the Gospel is the kingdom of God. Jesus is the kingdom of God in person; he is Immanuel, God-with-us. And it is in the human heart that the kingdom, God’s sovereignty, takes root and grows. The kingdom is at once both gift and promise. It has already been given to us in Jesus, but it has yet to be realised in its fullness. That is why we pray to the Father each day: ‘Thy kingdom come’.

There is a close connection between poverty and evangelisation, between the theme of the last World Youth Day – ‘Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations!’ – and the theme for this year: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. The Lord wants a poor Church which evangelises the poor. When Jesus sent the Twelve out on mission, he said to them: ‘Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the labourers deserve their food’. Evangelical poverty is a basic condition for spreading the kingdom of God. The most beautiful and spontaneous expressions of joy which I have seen during my life were by poor people who had little to hold onto. Evangelisation in our time will only take place as the result of contagious joy.

We have seen, then, that the Beatitude of the poor in spirit shapes our relationship with God, with material goods and with the poor. With the example and words of Jesus before us, we realize how much we need to be converted, so that the logic of being more will prevail over that of having more! The saints can best help us to understand the profound meaning of the Beatitudes. So the canonization of John Paul II, to be celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter, will be an event marked by immense joy. He will be the great patron of the World Youth Days which he inaugurated and always supported. In the communion of saints he will continue to be a father and friend to all of you.

This month of April marks the thirtieth anniversary of the entrustment of the Jubilee Cross of the Redemption to the young. That symbolic act by John Paul II was the beginning of the great youth pilgrimage which has since crossed the five continents. The Pope’s words on that Easter Sunday in 1984 remain memorable: ‘My dear young people, at the conclusion of the Holy Year, I entrust to you the sign of this Jubilee Year: the cross of Christ! Carry it throughout the world as a symbol of the love of the Lord Jesus for humanity, and proclaim to everyone that it is only in Christ, who died and rose from the dead, that salvation and redemption are to be found’.

Dear friends, the Magnificat, the Canticle of Mary, poor in spirit, is also the song of everyone who lives by the Beatitudes. The joy of the Gospel arises from a heart which, in its poverty, rejoices and marvels at the works of God, like the heart of Our Lady, whom all generations call ‘blessed’. May Mary, Mother of the poor and Star of the new evangelisation help us to live the Gospel, to embody the Beatitudes in our lives, and to have the courage always to be happy.

Remembering September 11, 2001


From Pope John Paul II’s Evening Address to young people
Toronto, Downsview Park
Saturday July 27, 2002

The new millennium opened with two contrasting scenarios: one, the sight of multitudes of pilgrims coming to Rome during the Great Jubilee to pass through the Holy Door which is Christ, our Savior and Redeemer; and the other, the terrible terrorist attack on New York, an image that is a sort of icon of a world in which hostility and hatred seem to prevail.

The question that arises is dramatic: on what foundations must we build the new historical era that is emerging from the great transformations of the twentieth century? Is it enough to rely on the technological revolution now taking place, which seems to respond only to criteria of productivity and efficiency, without reference to the individual’s spiritual dimension or to any universally shared ethical values? Is it right to be content with provisional answers to the ultimate questions, and to abandon life to the impulses of instinct, to short-lived sensations or passing fads?

The question will not go away: on what foundations, on what certainties should we build our lives and the life of the community to which we belong?

Prayer of Pope Benedict XVI
Visit to Ground Zero, New York
Sunday April 20, 2008

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.
We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
[Read more…]

Re-live all WYD main events this coming week

Copa cropped

Pilgrims have returned home, Copacabana Beach has been cleaned and Rio de Janeiro has returned to business as usual, but in the hearts of everyone something has changed.

Something has to have changed. This has been my fourth international World Youth Day and every time, something changes. Perhaps it’s an insight, perhaps an emotion or a memory. After this WYD there are many memories: Memories of all the people I saw and met; good friends from SpiritandSong.com and World Library Publications; friends from the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM and from the USCCB, Holy Cross Ministries and the Jesuit Conference of the U.S. There are also memories of each event, memories of the one nugget of wisdom of that one insight that I received each and every time Pope Francis spoke. And all these memories come with many emotions.

Which is why it’s good to look back. We are so lucky to live in a day and age when we can look back at these experiences, thanks to the miracle of technology.

And thanks to Salt + Light TV, you’ll be able to re-live all the main events of WYD Rio 2013 between August 12-18.

We will begin with Pope Francis’ historic arrival in Rio de Janeiro. Remember the little Fiat, whizzing down the highway with the Pope sitting in the back with the window down? Remember the wrong turn and the traffic jam and the little Fiat being swarmed by eager fans. Remember the first Pope in 30 years to ride an open Pope Mobile? And the greeting at Guanabara Palace with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff? The Pope said that he came to bring Christ. For me, that set the mood for the whole week: World Youth Day is an occasion for an encounter with Jesus Christ; but we don’t go to encounter Him; He comes to encounter us. And Pope Francis had no other agenda but that of a missionary: To bring Christ – to make disciples of all nations.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow afternoon for the Papal arrival ceremony and enjoy the rest of the week as we re-live all the main events of WYD Rio 2013.

Pope Francis Arrives in Rio de Janeiro
Monday, Aug 12 at 12:30pm ET / 9:30am PT
Tuesday, Aug 13 at 12:00am ET / 9:00pm (Mon) PT

Opening Mass for WYD Rio
Tuesday, Aug 13 at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT
Wednesday, Aug 14 at 12:30am & 1:00pm ET / 9:30pm (Tue) & 10:00am PT

Pope Francis visits Aparecida
Wednesday, Aug 14 at 8:00pm ET / 5:00pm PT
Thursday, Aug 15 at 12:00am & 12:30pm ET / 9:00pm (Wed) & 9:30am PT

Papal Welcome Ceremony: WYD Rio
Thursday, Aug 15 at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT
Friday, Aug 16 at 12:30am & 1:00pm ET / 9:30pm (Thurs) & 10:00am PT

Way of the Cross: WYD Rio
Friday, Aug 16 at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT
Saturday, Aug 17 at 12:30am & 1:00pm ET / 9:30pm (Fri) & 10:00am PT

Vigil with Pope Francis: WYD Rio
Saturday, Aug 17 at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT
Sunday, Aug 18 at 12:30am ET / 9:30pm (Sat) PT

Final Mass of WYD Rio
Sunday, Aug 18 at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT
Monday, Aug 19 at 12:30am ET / 9:30pm (Sun) PT

In case you missed them, here are some of my personal insights and reflections of our two weeks in Rio:
-Being open to surprises
-Worshipping God on Copacabana Beach
-The Cross of service: Between two Marthas
and to watch WYD events from Rio or previous World Youth Days visit us at WYD Central!

The cross of service: Between two Marthas

martha-and-mary-2

I don’t want to run to the Cross. I want to run from the Cross. And today, the Monday after WYD the Cross beckons me.

Today, exhausted, after a week of 16-hour days, I complained to Jesus that I had to do all the work by myself. Actually, I didn’t even complain to Jesus; I just complained. But Jesus answered right away: “Today is the feast of Martha and Mary. “

I’ve always liked Martha: She is the example of the service that Pope Francis keeps reminding us of. She reminds me of diaconal service. Her service is diakonia. And this is what this papacy seems to be about. When Francis was elected I said that the Church would become a more diaconal Church. I think that it’s fair to say that it already has. And here in Rio de Janeiro, we have just spent a week of Pope Francis reminding us of this call to service, but he didn’t call it service; he called it love. How do we build the Church? We love.

I’ll never forget the three words that he gave us on Thursday night when telling us that we need to be athletes of Christ. How do we train? We train through prayer, the Sacraments and love of the other. They’re all important, yet so often the story of Martha and Mary is interpreted to mean that prayer is the most important part.

I don’t mean to imply that prayer is not important; so are the Sacraments, but true, deep and authentic prayer will always lead us to love of other, to service, diakonia. Perhaps that is what was wrong with Martha: Not that she was serving, after all, the guests need to eat and we are called to divine hospitality; but that she was anxious and worried about many things. Had she been rooted in prayer and in the Sacrament that was sitting in her living room, the focus of her service would have been love and her desire to serve would not have made her anxious.

And how often does the “doing” of Church make us anxious? How often is it stressful. How often is it exhausting? How many people are made anxious by WYD? How many youth leaders need things to be a certain way? How many broadcasters rely on things having to be a certain way? And then we have a new pope and the schedule changes and the liturgies are changed and translations are not available. Then the program in the pilgrim guide is not the actual program, and then the satellite goes down. And there is rain and flooding and the site has to be changed from Guaratiba to Copacabana. And the Vigil is not Evening Prayer but Adoration. These are the surprises God sends us. These are the opportunities that Pope Francis referred to at the Shrine of Aparecida when he said that we need to be open to being surprised by God.

And this was the WYD of surprises. Martha was also probably surprised to hear Jesus tell her to slow down. I’ve always imagined Jesus saying that they could just order take-out. Surprise! “We don’t need a fancy meal, lets just order pizza.” And I wonder if Martha struggled with that busyness for the rest of her life. Did she struggle to stay rooted in prayer and the Sacraments? I struggle with that. Maybe that’s why I like Martha so much.

On Friday night, at the Way of the Cross, we heard a testimony from a young seminarian. He prayed for strength to be able to carry the Cross of being a priest. I’m not a priest, but there is also a Cross of being a deacon. And it’s the Cross of service. It’s easy to stay in our comfort zone, inside the Parish, in the comfort of the hospital or seniors home, in our scheduled ministries. It’s not as easy to truly love the other: The other in our families, in our workplaces, in our communities, our neighbour. Who is my neighbour? The guy who lives next door to me. That is my neighbour.

And Pope Francis keeps reminding us that the doors of the Church need to be open, not so that people can come in, but so that we can go out. Go and make disciples of all nations. Go be missionaries of love. We don’t have to venture too far from home to do that. How do we rebuild the Church? We love.

Yet love means the Cross. Laying down your life for someone else is the Cross. Being open to God’s surprises is the Cross. Having to be present to the other, being authentic to the other is the Cross. Still, when we do it out of love, and it is rooted in prayer and the Sacraments, it doesn’t feel like a cross.

On Saturday night, at the Vigil, Pope Francis told us that it doesn’t have to be perfect. “There will always be thorns and rocks in life.” But all we need is a little bit of good soil. He said using Argentinian slag, that we just need to make a “little bit of good soil (un cachito de buena tierra) in your hearts.” “You will see how it grows.” It’s okay to struggle and it’s okay to fall, all we need is a little bit of good soil.

On Sunday morning, in front of 3.2 million pilgrims, Pope Francis again gave us three parting ideas: Go, without fear, to serve. I’m afraid to go, yet Jesus says “I am with you always.” He will always help us carry our Cross. I am afraid to serve but Jesus sends us two-by-two. I am afraid to be surprised, yet Jesus asks, “do you trust me?”

And it was that same Martha who was too anxious and worried, when her brother Lazarus died and Jesus asked her, “do you believe?” who gave one of the only five confessions of faith found in the Gospels. She said, “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” If I am to say the same, I have to let Him be God.

As I reflect on all of this, I remember our little English Mass at a local parish a block away from Copacabana Beach the Sunday before WYD with Bishop Vincent Long of Melbourne, Australia. The Gospel reading was the story of Mary and Martha. And so, for me, this WYD took place between two Marthas: One who was anxious and worried, and one who was open to being surprised by the one who is the resurrection and the life.

This was the WYD of transformation. The WYD where pilgrims came as disciples and left as missionaires. And what is found in-between those two? The Cross. It is the Cross that allows for this transformation. It is in being able to say, “not my will be done, but yours,” that God can truly use us.

Eleven years ago I had my first WYD experience, one that began my journey from disciple to missionary. The journey has taken me many places, to Salt + Light and to so many experiences and relationships and now to the permanent diaconate. It was love that beckoned. I was love that asked us, through the witness of a young man in a wheelchair on Saturday night, to open our pilgrim bags and take out the pilgrim cross: To hold the cross; to lift up our cross. “Love lifted on the Cross for me…”

And now it is that very Love, the One who is Love, that calls me by name, to pick up my Cross and follow Him to the ends of the earth to go make disciples of all nations.

At his Angelus address after the Closing Mass on Sunday, Pope Francis said, “During these days, Jesus has insistently and repeatedly invited you to be his missionary disciples; you have listened to the voice of the Good Shepherd, calling you by name, and you have recognized the voice calling you (cf. John 10:4). Could it be that in this voice, resounding in your heart, you have felt the tenderness of God’s love? Have you experienced the beauty of following Christ together with others, in the Church? Have you understood more deeply that the Gospel is the answer to the desire for an even fuller life? (cf. John 10:10). Have you?”

Pilgrims responded with a resounding, “yes!”

And then referring to the Visitation he said, “There, my dear friends, we have our model. She who received the most precious gift from God, as her immediate response sets off to be of service and to bring Jesus. Let us ask our Lady to help us too to give Christ’s joy to our families, our companions, our friends, to everyone. Never be afraid to be generous with Christ. It is worth it! Go out and set off with courage and generosity, so that every man and every woman may meet the Lord.”

I don’t want to run to the Cross, but I do want to run towards Love. Come with me. Let’s not stay up in the balconies; let’s be protagonists of change: Let us go and make disciples of all nations!

Perspectives Daily – Saturday, July 27

Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis celebrates mass with clergy and religious, meets civic leaders, addresses bishops and attends the World Youth Day prayers vigil on Copacabana Beach. We also talk to a young pilgrim who spent Friday afternoon having lunch with Pope Francis.