Release of Special Commemorative Double DVD for 50th International Eucharistic Congress

The 50th International Eucharistic Congress Special Commemorative DVD, which captures the recent 50th International Eucharistic Congress (IEC2012) – held in Dublin in June 2012 – has been announced today. The Eucharistic Congress 2012 which took place from 10 – 17 June 2012, was attended by approximately 150,000, with several thousand pilgrims participating representing more than 114 countries in total.

The DVD, which goes on sale on the 9th November, includes footage of the Opening Ceremony and Mass in the RDS, the Statio Orbis closing ceremony and Mass in Croke Park as well as a ‘Would You Believe’ television special which aired on Irish television during Congress week. The all-regions DVD has more than 400 minutes of footage from IEC2012, which had the theme, Communion with Christ and with One Another.

Fr Kevin Doran, Secretary General of IEC2012, says: “The DVD gives pilgrims another opportunity to enjoy the wonderfully spiritual atmosphere of the Congress once again, as well as bringing the rich celebration of the Eucharist, as experienced by those who participated in the Congress, to those who were unable to attend.”

The 50th International Eucharistic Congress Special Commemorative DVD is produced by RTE Television in association with IEC2012 and Kairos Communications and is being distributed by Indi Entertainment. It will be available from the RTE shop, Veritas, Golden Discs, HMV, Tesco, Xtravision and other retail outlets and is priced at €14.99.

International customers can purchase the DVD through the RTE shop at or at Veritas online at

IEC 2012 Wrap up Show

Join us as we look back at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland. And we take you behind the scenes of an amazing week. Special features on the Irish High Crosses, Jerpoint Abbey, “Through the Eyes of the Apostles” exhibit, Liturgies, Catechists, Speakers and all the major events of the congress.

IEC 2012: Statio Orbis – Closing Mass – June 17, 2012

Salt + Light is proud to present to you a complete video of the closing mass held in Dublin, Ireland, of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress. See our IEC videos page: for full videos of the rest of the Eucharistic Congress.

Croke Park Stadium – Statio Orbis Mass – Presider: Papal Legate, Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission on Latin America

IEC 2012: Reflecting on the Pope’s video message

Following the Closing Mass of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, S+L’s Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB spoke with Fr. Patrick Jones, the director of the National Centre for Liturgy in Ireland. Fr. Jones shared his thoughts on the Pope’s video message, which reflected upon active participation in the liturgy.

Closing greeting at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress

Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin

One week ago we set out on a journey of prayer and reflection, of song and silence, of renewal of our hearts and renewal of our Church.   In these eight days the Eucharist has awakened in our hearts something which went way beyond our plans and expectations.

The Eucharist has been the nourishment of the extraordinary sense of our communion with one another which those of us who have been in the RDS and are here today have experienced.  We have experienced the communion of the Church.  We have been enriched by our sharing with those who have joined us from over 120 countries.  We have been joined by individuals, parish groups, and diocesan pilgrimages from all over Ireland.  We have come as bishops and priests, deacons, religious men and women, families, lay people who animate much of our parish life, young people and children.  Catholic communities right across Ireland, and with them many communities of other Christian denominations, have been praying with and for this event.

We are grateful for his presence here today of the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, along with public figures from North and South.

We thank God for the experience of these days.  We experienced the presence of Jesus with us in the Eucharist and the power of the Eucharist spread through every aspect of our assembly.  We thank all those who contributed to this great event.  We thank Father Kevin Doran, the General Secretary and his team for the extraordinary organization; we thank Father Damian McNiece who prepared all the liturgies and his team who coordinated them.  We thank the various choirs from all over Ireland.  We thank the volunteers who made us welcome and assisted us and kept us in good cheer.  We thank those who spoke at the various events.  We thank those who celebrated our liturgies and those who ensured vital moments of silent prayer and adoration.

We thank Cardinal Marc Ouellet most sincerely for his tireless work during these days in Dublin, at Lough Derg and in Knock.  We express through you our affection and loyalty and gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI and you can assure him of the prayers of all of us.

Our prayers and support go to the city and the diocese which will host the 51st International Eucharist Congress: Cebu City in the Philippines.  We pray that the Congress will bring the same special blessing to that city and diocese and nation as this Congress has brought to Dublin and Ireland.     I am told that in the monsoon season you can produce rain storms which equal or even surpass the ones we experienced in these last days.

The 50th International Eucharistic Congress was not just a seven-day event.  Over the past year a great deal of catechesis has been carried out across Ireland in preparation for this week.  Tomorrow we must start our catechesis anew to prolong the fruits of this Eucharistic Congress through a dynamic of New Evangelization.  The extraordinary interest that was shown in these days for the workshops and catecheses of the Congress tells us just how much thirst there is in our Catholic community to deepen the understanding of our faith.

In my service at the Holy See I was privileged to work alongside two extraordinary superiors.  One was a Polish Bishop, who in the early days of the Second World War, then a young Deacon, was arrested and interned for the entire period of the War in Dachau where he was the object of horrendous medical experiments.  The other was a Vietnamese cardinal who was held in prison camps, often in total isolation, or under house arrest for over eleven years.  Both had remarkable stories to tell of their ordeal, but the most striking thing that both spoke about was the Eucharist.  Both told of the extraordinary lengths they went to in order to be able to celebrate or participate in the Eucharist in secret and how it was the Eucharist which gave them gave them courage and hope in the darkest of days.   They spoke of the sadness they experienced on the days and months when it was not possible to experience the nourishment of the Eucharist.

We must go away from here with a renewed passion for the Eucharist.  We must go away with a renewed love the Church.  We must go away from here wanting to tell others not just about the Congress, but about Jesus Christ himself who in giving himself in sacrifice revealed to us that God is love.   In the Eucharist we are captured into that self-giving love and are empowered to be loving people.

We go away deepened in our faith.  In October next, Pope Benedict will inaugurate the Year of Faith.  His words about that year can be a programme for us as we move forward from this Eucharistic Congress:  “We want the Year of Faith to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope…; to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist…; to ensure that believers’ witness of life may grow in credibility; to rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed.

In our prayers in these days we have kept in our prayers and in our hearts all those who suffered criminal abuse within the community of Christ’s Church and all those who feel in any way alienated from the Church and who have not experienced in our Church the love of Jesus Christ.  We go away from here committed to build a Church of communion and service after the model of Jesus Christ.  It is Jesus himself who will renew his Church.  It is Jesus present in the Eucharist who will be food for the journey of purification and renewal to which we commit ourselves as we leave this Fiftieth International Eucharistic Congress strengthened in our desire to deepen our Communion with Christ and communion with one another.

Benedict XVI’s message at the International Eucharistic Congress 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With great affection in the Lord, I greet all of you who have gathered in Dublin for the Fiftieth International Eucharistic Congress, especially Cardinal Brady, Archbishop Martin, the clergy, religious and faithful of Ireland, and all of you who have come from afar to support the Irish Church with your presence and prayers.

The theme of the Congress – Communion with Christ and with One Another – leads us to reflect upon the Church as a mystery of fellowship with the Lord and with all the members of his body.  From the earliest times the notion of koinonia or communio has been at the core of the Church’s understanding of herself, her relationship to Christ her founder, and the sacraments she celebrates, above all the Eucharist.  Through our Baptism, we are incorporated into Christ’s death, reborn into the great family of the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ; through Confirmation we receive the seal of the Holy Spirit; and by our sharing in the Eucharist, we come into communion with Christ and each other visibly here on earth.  We also receive the pledge of eternal life to come.

The Congress also occurs at a time when the Church throughout the world is preparing to celebrate the Year of Faith to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council, an event which launched the most extensive renewal of the Roman Rite ever known.  Based upon a deepening appreciation of the sources of the liturgy, the Council promoted the full and active participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic sacrifice.  At our distance today from the Council Fathers’ expressed desires regarding liturgical renewal, and in the light of the universal Church’s experience in the intervening period, it is clear that a great deal has been achieved; but it is equally clear that there have been many misunderstandings and irregularities.  The renewal of external forms, desired by the Council Fathers, was intended to make it easier to enter into the inner depth of the mystery.  Its true purpose was to lead people to a personal encounter with the Lord, present in the Eucharist, and thus with the living God, so that through this contact with Christ’s love, the love of his brothers and sisters for one another might also grow.  Yet not infrequently, the revision of liturgical forms has remained at an external level, and “active participation” has been confused with external activity.  Hence much still remains to be done on the path of real liturgical renewal.  In a changed world, increasingly fixated on material things, we must learn to recognize anew the mysterious presence of the Risen Lord, which alone can give breadth and depth to our life.

The Eucharist is the worship of the whole Church, but it also requires the full engagement of each individual Christian in the Church’s mission; it contains a call to be the holy people of God, but also one to individual holiness; it is to be celebrated with great joy and simplicity, but also as worthily and reverently as possible; it invites us to repent of our sins, but also to forgive our brothers and sisters; it binds us together in the Spirit, but it also commands us in the same Spirit to bring the good news of salvation to others.

Moreover, the Eucharist is the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, his body and blood given in the new and eternal covenant for the forgiveness of sins and the transformation of the world.  Ireland has been shaped by the Mass at the deepest level for centuries, and by its power and grace generations of monks, martyrs and missionaries have heroically lived the faith at home and spread the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness well beyond your shores.  You are the heirs to a Church that has been a mighty force for good in the world, and which has given a profound and enduring love of Christ and his blessed Mother to many, many others.  Your forebears in the Church in Ireland knew how to strive for holiness and constancy in their personal lives, how to preach the joy that comes from the Gospel, how to promote the importance of belonging to the universal Church in communion with the See of Peter, and how to pass on a love of the faith and Christian virtue to other generations.  Our Catholic faith, imbued with a radical sense of God’s presence, caught up in the beauty of his creation all around us, and purified through personal penance and awareness of God’s forgiveness, is a legacy that is surely perfected and nourished when regularly placed on the Lord’s altar at the sacrifice of the Mass.  Thankfulness and joy at such a great history of faith and love have recently been shaken in an appalling way by the revelation of sins committed by priests and consecrated persons against people entrusted to their care.  Instead of showing them the path towards Christ, towards God, instead of bearing witness to his goodness, they abused people and undermined the credibility of the Church’s message.  How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord’s body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way?  It remains a mystery.  Yet evidently, their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ: it had become merely a matter of habit.  The work of the Council was really meant to overcome this form of Christianity and to rediscover the faith as a deep personal friendship with the goodness of Jesus Christ.  The Eucharistic Congress has a similar aim.  Here we wish to encounter the Risen Lord.  We ask him to touch us deeply.  May he who breathed on the Apostles at Easter, communicating his Spirit to them, likewise bestow upon us his breath, the power of the Holy Spirit, and so help us to become true witnesses to his love, witnesses to the truth.  His truth is love.  Christ’s love is truth.

My dear brothers and sisters, I pray that the Congress will be for each of you a spiritually fruitful experience of communion with Christ and his Church.  At the same time, I would like to invite you to join me in praying for God’s blessing upon the next International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in 2016 in the city of Cebu!  To the people of the Philippines I send warm greetings and an assurance of my closeness in prayer during the period of preparation for this great ecclesial gathering.  I am confident that it will bring lasting spiritual renewal not only to them but to all the participants from across the globe.  In the meantime, I commend everyone taking part in the present Congress to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of God, and to Saint Patrick, the great patron of Ireland; and, as a token of joy and peace in the Lord, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.



IEC 2012: Cardinal Ouellet’s homily at the Statio Orbis

Dear brothers and sisters,

The fiftieth occurrence of the International Eucharistic Congress is now coming to a close. We are deeply grateful to God for the light of His Word and for the gift of the Holy Eucharist, which strengthen our communion with Christ and with one another.

At the end of this celebration we will listen to the message of Pope Benedict XVI. His speaking to us reminds us that this International Eucharistic Congress bears witness to the Catholic Church as the universal communion of many particular Churches. The Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful here represent the Catholic Church which is found throughout the world in thousands of communities, but which is one in faith and love of Jesus Christ. I greet the ecumenical representatives and I thank you all for being part of this grace-filled event.

I greet the President of Ireland, and all the civil authorities, fondly aware of the noble tradition of this courageous nation. I thank wholeheartedly Archbishop Martin, Cardinal Brady and all the collaborators of this event for the gift of their warm hospitality and for the example of their strong dedication to Christian renewal in this country.

In order to prepare ourselves to listen to the Holy Father’s message, let us briefly reflect on today’s readings, which bring us a message of great hope and confidence.

Through the prophet Ezekiel the Lord says, “From the top of the cedar, from the highest branch I will take a shoot and plant it myself on a very high mountain. I will plant it on the high mountain of Israel. It will sprout branches and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar” (Ez. 17:22-23).

In the Gospel, Jesus uses a similar image to speak about the Kingdom of God: “[The kingdom] is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade” (Mk. 4:31-32).

We understand the prophecy of Ezekiel in the light of Christ. Jesus Christ is the shoot taken from the highest branch, he is God from God, and planted by God himself on a very high mountain, which is Calvary.

God the Father has planted on Calvary the seed of the Cross out of love for his creation and for all sinners. The seed of the Cross is the Sacred Heart of His only begotten Son, pierced to death by our sins, but raised up from death by the power of divine mercy. Therefore Christ Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is the Holy Redeemer in whom we trust and find salvation. The seed of Christ’s love, buried in the ground of Calvary, produced an unimaginable fruit: a tree, the Tree of Life, a noble cedar which is the Holy Church of God, the dawn of the Kingdom. We believe in the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church, because we believe in Christ who wills the Church to be His body, born from the self-gift of His Eucharistic Body.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us rejoice and be full of confidence. “We are full of confidence” (2 Cor. 5:6), as St. Paul says to the Corinthians. We are so because the risen Lord is our home and our safety. We do experience limitations and failures in the Church, but the Lord sustains us, healing our wounds and strengthening our love. Let us rejoice in Him and be glad!

We can rely on the Lord for a new beginning. St. Paul gives us the key for any personal or ecclesial renewal: “We are intent on pleasing Him” (2 Cor. 5:6). This key to renewal in our lives is a decision to recommit ourselves to love the Lord and to live and to die for Him, knowing that His grace will never fail. May the upcoming Year of Faith strengthen in us this decision!

Jesus is the seed sowed by God Himself in the depths of the earth, a seed that fell to the earth, died and was raised to eternal life. From this smallest seed of salvation comes the Tree of Life, the Church, in which all of humanity is called to find a home and safety in the company of the risen Lord.

For this very reason, the Church is called, and we are called, to bear witness to the Lord by pleasing Him, that is, preaching the Gospel, living in fraternity and praising God for the gift of salvation.

After this week of Eucharistic reflection, celebration and adoration, we are certainly more aware of God’s call to communion with Him and with one another.

Let us bear witness to this grace by calling others to faith in this communion. The Irish bell, which resounds from Lough Derg, from Knock and Dublin, must resound in the whole world. Let’s ring the bell further through our personal testimony of renewed faith in the Holy Eucharist.

Faith is the most precious gift we have received with Baptism. Let’s not keep it private and fearful! Let it grow as a splendid tree through sharing everywhere!

Even if we are sometimes tested in our faith, do not be afraid, and remember who we are: the body of Christ intent on loving God over and above all things, intent on living in the Spirit of the new and eternal covenant.

We are not alone; the Spirit of Pentecost dwells in us. The communion of saints, with Mary at its heart, comes to our assistance as soon as we have rung the bell of prayer in total confidence. Keep hope and be glad, for the kingdom of God is near!

Dear brothers and sisters, at the end of this Mass we will listen to the Holy Father’s message for the conclusion of this Congress. Let us listen to him with great respect and gratitude since he is our spiritual father, a father who is holy and worthy of our trust and sincere obedience.

May our communion with the Body of Christ be a new bond of love; a small seed perhaps, but, by God’s grace and divine mercy, a fruitful one.

Together we pray the words of Saint Ephrem, deacon and doctor of the Church: “Lord … we have had your treasure hidden within us ever since we received baptismal grace; it grows ever richer at your sacramental table. Teach us to find our joy in your favour! Lord, we have within us your memorial, received at your spiritual table; let us possess it in its full reality when all things shall be made new” (Sermo 3, De fine et admonitione 2. 4-5). Amen!

Marc Cardinal Ouellet
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
Papal legate to the international eucharistic congress

– Photo Credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring

IEC Day 7 – John Monaghan: Living out the Eucharist through Christian Solidarity

Listed below is the full text of John Monaghan’s personal testimony from earlier today.  Monaghan currently serves as Vice President for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Ireland. He offered some sobering stats on the number of people served by the SVDP, increasing poverty and isolation (especially for young people) in Ireland and the resources needed to keep the society active and running.

Hello, my name is John Monaghan.  I have been married to Catherine for just on 40 years and we have 3 grown up children and 3 grandchildren and we live in Leixlip, Co. Kildare. Both Catherine and I have been involved in various activities within our parish in Leixlip over the past 40 years. Back in the early 1990 I chaired the parish committee for Parish Development and Renewal and in 2005 I chaired the fist Parish Pastoral Council in Leixlip.  By profession I am an engineer and have recently retired as Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Trinity College Dublin.

I am a volunteer with the Society of St Vincent De Paul since the mid-80’s when I joined my local Conference in Leixlip. Currently I am a National Vice President for the Society of St Vincent de Paul here in Ireland with responsibility for Social Justice and Advocacy and I have held this role since the late 90’s.

Christian Solidarity 

I was asked to focus on how the word of God, heard in the communion of the Church, takes flesh in the response of Christian Solidarity.  But before speaking of my personal experience of trying to apply Christian Solidarity through the application of Catholic Social Teaching in my everyday life I think it’s worthwhile reminding ourselves of the origin of this requirement for each of us to show solidarity to one another and particularly to those, of our friends, our neighbours and their children, who are most in need.

It is worth recalling that when Jesus was asked, ‘Master what is the greatest commandment?’ he replied that there are in fact two commandments and they are intertwined. The first is to love God with all your heart and the second is to love our neighbour as ourselves. So these two great intertwined and inseparable commandments indicate that we cannot say we love God if we do not simultaneously love our neighbor in a very tangible way, in other words through showing solidarity. Consequently in loving God we are all expected to look beyond our own personal needs, spiritual and worldly, and actively reach out to our neighbour, whoever and wherever they might be.

Thankfully Jesus left us with many very clear examples of how we should live out these two great intertwined commandments to love God and love our neighbour. One powerful source is the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3 -12) which provide us with examples of the personal characteristic of solidarity expected of each of us:

Blessed are the poor in spirit…. not blessed is the comfortable.

Blessed are they who mourn…. not blessed are the uncaring or hard hearted.

Blessed are the lowly… not blessed are the mighty and self-important.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for what is right…. not blessed are those who cheat and behave unjustly.

Blessed are they who show mercy…. not blessed are they who extract vengeance.

Blessed are the pure in heart…. not blessed are the amoral or immoral.

Blessed are the peacemakers… not blessed are those who ferment strife and unrest.

Blessed are the persecuted for holiness sake… not blessed are they who are sectarian.

Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of right…. not blessed are those who are corrupt and prey on people.

It is also worth recalling the response by Jesus when he was asked by the apostles what would happen on the last day, and he replied:

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me…….. Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25: 31-46)

What I have always been struck by is that throughout the gospels there are many powerful examples of how Jesus very cleverly used stories about people from the marginalised groups of his day to emphasise his message of love, hope and above all solidarity.

For example, consider the role of women in the world 2000 years ago and contrast this with the prominence he gave to their role in his ministry, often to make a very important point. This included the virgin birth; his friendship with Mary Magdelaine; the fact it was women who lined the road to Calvary; that it was women who stood longest at the foot of the cross when the men had run away and it was women who were the first to know of his resurrection.

Remember also the powerful gospel stories highlighting issues of faith, forgiveness and charity. For example, the story of the Roman centurion who came asking Jesus to cure his sick son illustrating that the power of faith is available to everyone irrespective of background, even to a soldier of an occupying army; or the story of Zacchaeus the small and hated tax collector, yet Jesus sought him out from the crowed emphasising that acceptance, forgiveness and the love of God is there for everyone. And then the powerful story of the Good Samaritan demonstrating so vividly that charity, goodness and kindness is so often to be found among strangers. Each of these gospel stories and so very many more provide us with very clear powerful reminder that we should be very careful of how we treat and judge one another, because God can, and will, work through each one of us if we let him.

Faith and Works

And so for us Roman Catholics if our faith is to be meaningful and effective it must be lived out in our everyday life in the world around us in solidarity with others, particularly in these difficult times. The words of St James provide us with another very clear challenge in respect of our attitudes and behavior in living out Christian Solidarity with those in need, when he said:  ‘What good is it if someone says they have faith but do not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear, has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, it is dead.’    (James 2: 14-17)

And the words of the late Pope John Paul II were equally emphatic when he spoke of the role of laity in the Church and in the world, he said, ‘There cannot be two parallel lives in your existence as lay men and women: on the one hand the so called ‘spiritual’ life and the other the so called ‘secular’ life, because every opportunity in the family, at work, in engagement in public life presents an opportunity for the continuous exercise of faith, hope and charity’.

So caring for one another, showing Solidarity, and not just to our immediate family or friends, is not optional for us Roman Catholics, it is mandatory.

Catholic Social Teaching

Thankfully the Church has provided us with a clear pathway that guides us as to the attitude and the actions necessary to help us fulfill our dual obligation to love God and Love one another. That pathway is clearly signposted by the 10 principles of Catholic Social Teaching, sadly sometimes referred to as the ‘Church’s best kept secret’. These 10 principles are:

  • The dignity of the Human Person – that a human person is never a means, always an end.
  • Respect for Human Life – that it is always wrong to directly attack innocent human life.
  • Association – that the organisation of society; in economics, politics, law and policy all directly affect human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community.
  • Participation – that all people have a right and duty to participate in society and especially the poor and vulnerable
  • Preferential Protection for the Poor and Vulnerable – that we must protect the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the homeless, the prisoner – those affected by poverty and lack of power – those with no voice.
  • Solidarity – that we are in fact our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers wherever they live and that ‘Loving our neighbor’ has a global dimension, so we must all work for more just social structures throughout the world.
  • Stewardship – that we have a moral responsibility for the protection of the environment and the proper use of natural resources.
  • Subsidiary – that limits must be put on oppressive government and that no higher level of an organisation should perform any function that can be handled efficiently and effectively by persons or groups that are closer to the ground.
  • Human Equality – that this comes from a person’s essential dignity and while differences in talents are part of God’s plan, however, cultural and social discrimination in fundamental rights are not.
  • The Common Good – means the promotion of social conditions that allows every person to reach their full human potential and realize their human dignity. This takes on a global dimension today and so we must always be sensitive to the impact that our actions, lifestyle, politics, economics, etc. can have on our neighbour, irrespective of where they live in the world.

The human face of Catholic Social Teaching

While the principles of the Social Teachings of the Church are all very noble they do need a ‘human face’ to bring them alive. They have to be conveyed in words and images that move the heart of each one of us to live out the Eucharist in Christian Solidarity.

In my own case from an early age I was fascinated and greatly influenced by the messages of love and hope contained in the Gospels, that’s where I first encountered the ‘human face’ of what was later to be called Catholic Social Teaching. Indeed it was the social message of the Church that always seemed to me to be more authentic and closer to the teachings of Jesus than the autocratic focus on rules and regulations that characterised so much of Church life up to the Vatican Council when I was growing up. For me another great source of inspiration is the powerful message of concern for the well being of ordinary people contained in the great social Encyclicals, such as, Rerum Novarum published back in 1891; the expansion of its core principles contained in Quadragesimo Anno published by Pope Pius XI in 1931; in Laborem Exercens by Pope John Paul II in 1981 and Centesimus Annus by Pope John Paul II in 1991 on the centenary of Rerum Novarum. All of these have provided me with a clear focus for the practical application of my faith and Catholic Social Teaching. Because what I always found striking about these important encyclicals is that they were not just based on the conditions affecting the lives of people at the time they were written, but had in fact evolved from the lived experiences of so many great women and men over many years, people who lived out the solidarity of the Eucharist in their daily lives. These great men and women who worked hard to put their faith into action in the world around them included the extraordinary lives of people such as St Anthony; St. Francis of Assisi; St Anthony; St. Vincent de Paul; Sister Rosalie Rendu and Blessed Frederic Ozanam and many, many others. Their lives and work provide a striking practical confirmation that for them it was the innate dignity of the people they served and not their possessions or status that mattered most, just as had been the case with Jesus during his short ministry on earth. For me their lives were obvious examples of how to live out the commandment to love God through service to and love of our neighbour in a very practical way. Also when  growing up I was very impressed by the kindness and dedication of so many good and kind priests and religious, wonderful men and women who spent their lives in the services of the poor and needy in areas such as, education, health and in many other ways both here in Ireland and on the missions.  And so it was probably not surprising that as a lay person in an effort to put my faith into action I eventually ended up as a member of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, the largest lay Catholic organization for social action in Ireland with over 10,300 volunteers, 1300 Conferences (Branches), nearly 600 employees and a budget of over €75,000,000 per annum.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul:  – How did it begin?

So let me tell you a little of the origins and background of the Society of St Vincent and the Vincentian ethos of love, hope, charity and justice that underpins our work of living out the Eucharist by attempting to apply Christian Solidarity each day in the world around us .

In 1617, Divine Providence called an ordinary man to an extraordinary mission, by touching the heart of Vincent de Paul and leading him to the service of the suffering and destitute poor in the villages of France. However, it was nearly 200 years later in 1833, that Divine Providence once again called an ordinary young man to undertake an extraordinary mission by touching the heart of Frederic Ozanam, a young 20 year old university student, who along with six friends founded what they called the first ‘Conference of Charity’. Frederic and his friends took St Vincent de Paul as their patron because as Frederic said, ‘Even the revolutionaries admired St Vincent and forgave him the crime of having loved God’. In his early work Frederic was mentored in serving the poor by an ordinary woman with an extraordinary mission, Sister Rosalie Rendu, a Daughter of Charity who was at that time working in the slums of Paris and she provided invaluable advice and support to Frederic and his young friends. After a short, but eventful life, Frederic died on September 8th 1853 in Marseilles in France and he was beatified by Pope John Paul II on August 22nd 1997. And due to the influence and vision of Frederic the Society of St Vincent de Paul, that started with just six people in 1833, has grown so that today there are approximately 1 million member of the Society working in over 130 countries on all 5 continents. Yet despite his short life Frederic left us with a great legacy of writings rich in inspiration and practical suggestions for the members of the Society of St Vincent de Paul as to how they should live out the Eucharist.

The three essential principles of that first ‘Conference of Charity’ are still the cornerstones of the work and ethos of the Society of St Vincent de Paul today, and they are:

  • Spirituality – to bear witness to Christ and his Church by showing that the faith of Christians inspires them to work for the good of humanity, in other words in living out the Eucharist. But remembering that focus on spirituality alone is not Vincentian; because you can join any number of dedicated groups if spirituality is your only concern.
  • Faith Community – to bring together men and women of good will and to assist them by mutual example and true friendship and to love and see God in the person of others. But also remembering that a focus on fellowship alone is not Vincentian, because there are lots of organisations and groups within parishes that have a social focus.
  • Service – to establish personal contact between its members and those who suffer and to provide them with the most appropriate charitable aid possible. But remembering that a focus on Service alone is not Vincentian; because there are many other good and active community service groups in most parishes.

Consequently being a Vincentian has always required the integration of all three of these intertwined principles of spirituality, faith and service The Society tries to live out Frederic’s vision of ‘Embracing the world in a network of love,’ and so today the SVP is a world-wide lay Catholic organization of men and women of all ages and backgrounds serving people in need and remembering that No work of charity is foreign to the Society’These statements mean that the possibilities for Vincentian action are almost limitless. Because being poor is not just about being short of money and material things. It can also mean having a physically or mental disability, being sick, or old, or illiterate. The poor also includes those who are made to feel alone and unwanted, for example, immigrants, asylum seekers, migrant workers, the abandoned or rejected, or those who find themselves among others who are indifferent, even hostile. Being poor can also mean being a prisoner, an alcoholic or a drug addict. All these forms of poverty and deprivation, and many others, are to be found in every country in the world. Consequently as the Society of St Vincent de Paul continues to reach out to the lonely and troubled and indeed all those who have a need for care and friendship.

The innate Dignity of the person, Justice and Charity and the Vincentian Mission

Frederic knew that service to those in need must promote their human dignity and integrity.  He told the early members of the Society that:

‘Yours must be a work of love, of kindness; you must give your time, your talents, yourself, because the poor person is a unique person of God’s fashioning with an inalienable right to respect’.

He was telling the members of the Society of St Vincent de Paul to look for, and find, the face of God in all those we meet. But Frederic was also very strong in his belief that the Society of St Vincent De Paul must not only be concerned with relieving immediate need but must also redress the structure within society that causes it, he said:

‘You must not be content with simply tiding the poor over a poverty crisis: but rather you must study their condition and the injustices which brought about such poverty with the aim of a long term improvement’.

And so in fact he was advocating that the concepts of Christian social justice, the rights and dignity of ever individual and the need for equality of opportunity in education and employment, nearly 60 years before the great encyclical Rerum Novarum was published in 1891. For example as a professor of Commercial Law at the Sorbonne in Paris Frederic was active politically as an academic, especially in the material he wrote on social justice. He challenged his students with his teachings and he touched them deeply with his great compassion. He showed and taught them that, indeed ‘Charity and Justice must go together,’ that the Principles of Social Justice do need a human face.  He also told his students that:

‘The knowledge of social well-being and reform is to be learned not from books nor from the public platform, but by climbing the stairs to the poor man’s garret, sitting by his bedside, feeling the same cold that pierces him. When these conditions have examined in all different parts of the country it is then and only then that we know the elements of these formidable problems, it is only then that we begin to grasp it and may hope to solve it.’

In other words Christian Solidarity requires active engagement with our neighbours and particularly the poor and the deprived no matter how difficult or challenging that might prove for each of us.

So the missions of both St. Vincent and Blessed Frederic were firmly rooted in the virtues of charity and justice. Vincent said: ‘There is no charity that is not accompanied by justice.’ And Frederic tells us: ‘the order of society is based on two virtues: charity and justice. However, justice presupposes a lot of charity already, for one needs to love a person a great deal in order to respect his rights that infringe on our rights, and his freedom that infringes in our freedom.

Consequently today the Mission of the Society of St Vincent de Paul in Ireland stems directly from the words and Inspiration of Frederic Ozanam. That Mission has three intertwined strands:

  • To offer Friendship and Support – both financial and emotional
  • To help people achieve independence with dignity from both the Society and the State
  • To identify the structural cause of poverty and need in Irish society and to advocate for their elimination.

In some respects the first two strands of the Mission can be considered as a modern application of the story of the Good Samaritan, providing financial and emotional support to those we find lying hurt and bruised on the road of life. But the third strand asks the awkward question of both the State and each one of us, ‘Why is this person lying on the road in this condition in the first place?’

While the words and teachings of St Vincent del Paul and Frederic Ozanam were first made many years ago the daily experience of the members of the Society of St Vincent De Paul here in Ireland is that sadly they are as valid and necessary to day as they ever were. Consequently the three principles of the SVP Mission; offering love and friendship; helping people achieve independence and working for social justice are more than ever necessary in the Ireland of 2012. For example, last year here in Ireland the Societies 10,300 volunteer members in over 1000 Visitation and 300 Special Works Conferences, here in Ireland assisted by 600  supporting staff, spent more than €75 million responding to calls for assistance within nearly every parish in Ireland. In other words responding to calls from our friends, our neighbours and their children. That expenditure was divided nearly equally between spending on services such as:

  • 1000 social housing units – mainly for older people
  • 14 hostels, providing accommodation for over 350 homeless people each night.
  • Over 150 Charity Shops
  • 11 Holiday Centres, providing holidays for families, older people and children.
  • 15 Family Resource and Day Centres, including pre-schools and crèche facilities
  • After School Activities such as Homework and Breakfast Clubs for children.
  • Special works – such as visiting prisoners, patients in hospitals and older people in Nursing Homes.

In direct financial support to households the Society spent over €42million, this included:

  • €15m in cash assistance, general bills; rent mortgages; medical and funeral expenses, etc.
  • €9million on food
  • €6.7million on energy bills
  • €4.2 on education from pre-school to university.

It is a chilling fact nearly 80% of the calls for assistance to the Society come from people receiving some form of social welfare payment and nearly two-thirds of all calls come from households with children. Strikingly, in a still wealthy country, the three most frequently requested items are; money to buy food; help with the cost of energy bills and help with the cost of education and over Christmas 2011 we estimate that we helped over 150,000 households. So it is our daily experience that the extent of poverty and need in Ireland is increasing due to the corrosive impact of rising unemployment; the breakdown of families and the continuous reduction in welfare, health and education supports to the poorest households in the country resulting from the austerity measures introduced by the Government in recent budgets. Sadly therefore the words of Frederic to the members of the Society are as relevant today as they were in 1842:

‘I am asking that we look after people who have too many needs and not enough rights, who demand with reason a fuller share in public affair, security in work and safeguards against poverty. It is in these people that I can see enough faith and morality left to save a society whose higher classes are lost.’ Frederic Ozanam, February 1842

Consequently this means that the third strand of the Societies Mission, to highlight the structural causes of poverty and need in Irish society and to advocate for their elimination is of greater importance today than at any time over the past 15 year. And so it is my firm belief that it is the duty and responsibility of each one of us to work for a society, indeed for a world, in which the vision of Frederic Ozanam, the example of so many great saints and Popes and the principles of Catholic Social Teaching are actively applied.  In essence we as Catholics must continuously work for a world in which the concept of the Common Good takes precedence over the sectional interests of the powerful, whether individuals, Governments or business interests. Because as long as our friends, neighbours and their children are still in need, not just here in Ireland but in any part of the world,  it is our duty as Catholics to actively show love and solidarity in a practical way. We need to continue to try, in a very real and tangible way, to live out the everlasting and powerful message of love and hope contained in the Gospel and the message of Christian Solidarity set out so clearly by the late Pope John Paul II when he said:

‘I appeal to all who love freedom and justice to give the poor and the powerless a chance. Break open the hopeless cycles of poverty and ignorance that still trap too many of our brothers and sister; the hopeless cycles of prejudice that linger: the cycles of despair in which the poor are imprisoned because they lack decent food, shelter or employment; the cycles of underdevelopment that are the consequences of international mechanisms that subordinate human existence to the domination of partially conceived economic progress; and finally the inhuman cycles of war that spring from the violation of fundamental human rights and that produced greater violations’.  Pope John Paul II, October 1979.

And so if the Eucharist is to be lived out in the world around us and if the word of God is to be heard clearly in the communion of the Church then the challenge for each of us is to respond courageously to the call for Christian Solidarity. This will not always be easy; it will at times cost us, both financially and emotionally, and we will encounter powerful interest groups and individuals opposing what we say and do. But we need to remember the prize which is the realization of the message of love and hope contained in the Gospels and the immense benefits for mankind in each of us trying to live out the Eucharist in Christian Solidarity with one another.

John Monaghan

Credit: CNS photo

IEC 2012: Full video of Fr. Rosica’s speech on Catholic Media

International Eucharistic Congress 2012  – Is there a Catholic Media? 

Above is Fr. Thomas Rosica’s address on Catholic media. He made this special and passionate presentation on Day 6 of the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland. Many thanks to for hosting this video.


Below is the text of the entire speech:

IEC Day 7 – Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle: Communion in the Word through Mary

The 50th International Eucharistic Congress has been providing us with a wealth of reflection on The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one another. Having explored communion in baptism, in marriage and family, in the priestly ministry, in reconciliation and in suffering and healing, we now turn to communion in the Word through Mary. Allow me to develop this fascinating theme in two parts. In the first section I will dwell on communion in the Word of God, and in the second I will meditate on Mary’s experience of communion in the Word as a model for the Church.

Part I. Communion in the Word of God

How will we approach this topic? It might help to turn to ordinary human experience. One common way of establishing a connection with another human being is through conversation or dialogue. This occurs so often that we seldom notice its significance. Take a person who sees a good movie, excitedly shares it with a friend, who in turn goes to the cinema to watch it due to the friend’s satisfying experience. Then they spend hours talking about the film, digressing many times to the stories of their lives. Or take another person whose marriage is falling apart, calls up a friend who becomes equally distressed after listening intently. Then they spend hours talking about the sorrows of life, finding hope in each other’s presence. We now see that human communion ordinarily happens when someone begins to tell a story to another person who listens, enters the experience, and makes it one’s own. In the exchange that follows, their roles shift and alternate: the one who narrates also listens, the one who listens spontaneously narrates. Two persons and their unique worlds meet in a unity that goes beyond them.

This simple process called communion in the word is at the heart of the mystery and mission of the Church.  St. John vividly portrays it in his first letter (1:1-4): “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life – for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us – what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have communion with us; for our communion is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.”

Human communion. What St. John is describing is similar to the ordinary experiences of communion between two or more human beings we mentioned earlier. But St. John’s account involves a special person, called an apostle who proclaims a special word to a listener. Their converse blossoms into communion with each other, which in reality is their communion with the Father and with Jesus Christ, the Word made visible in the flesh. What a great mystery unfolding in a quite ordinary human experience! Let us delve deeper into this beautiful text.

What word does the apostle share with his listener? It is the Word of life, present with the Father and made visible. The word that the apostle proclaims is Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Simply put, the apostle’s word is Jesus Christ. We can see it plainly in the New Testament. After Pentecost, Peter proclaimed to his hearers the person of Jesus the Nazorean sent by God, crucified but whom God raised from the dead, making him Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:22-24, 36). Peter declared that salvation comes to us in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12). But let us not forget that Peter was able to proclaim Jesus because he had heard, seen and touched Jesus.

Another great apostle, Paul tirelessly spoke of nothing but Jesus Christ. Not being a member of the Twelve, he nevertheless was graced by a special revelation from the Risen Lord that changed his life radically (Acts 9:1-19). But he received his knowledge about the earthly life and ministry of Jesus from others who had spoken to him about Jesus. In I Corinthians, he said, “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received (I Cor. 15:3). His encounter with the living Lord and the story of Jesus transmitted to him have equipped him to proclaim Him as the Messiah and Lord.

In a nutshell, the apostle proclaims the person of Jesus Christ, the story of his ministry, preaching and healing centred on the Reign of God. He narrates how people rejected and crucified Him and how God raised Him from death. At His resurrection, Jesus was revealed as the Anointed One of God, indeed, the divine Son of God who exercises full dominion over the world and its future. Whether it is Peter, Paul, Stephen, Philip or Mary of Magdala, the joyful story told is that of Jesus Christ and the destiny of the world in Him who is Divine Saviour and Messiah.

We must note that the apostle renders an objective account concerning Jesus. But he can hand on facts about Jesus because he has experienced Him personally. He has heard, seen, looked upon and touched Jesus. Thus an apostle’s familiarity with Jesus enables him to be the source of a historical proclamation about Him. Here the objective and the subjective, the factual and the personal meet. Those who have listened to Jesus can tell this story to others in a credible way. Then their listeners accept Jesus into their dreams, joys, pains, hopes, frustrations, questions and wisdoms. They bring all these that comprise their worlds as they listen towards communion.

You might say, “Well and good for the original companions of Jesus. They saw Him firsthand. But how can we who are separated from Jesus by centuries talk meaningfully about Him?” Let us not forget that Jesus is alive. He is truly raised from the dead! He is with us now. He rules the world. He continues to visit the homes of many Martha’s and Mary’s of our time to enjoy a restful meal. He continues to weep at our tombs the way he did at the tomb of Lazarus his friend. He continues to quietly call on the Zacchaeuses of our age to pay back what they have stolen. He continues to have compassion for widows who carry their children to the grave. He continues to see the hungry crowds and asks us to feed them with our five loaves and two fish. He continues to welcome the weary and heavy burdened to find rest in Him. He continues to cry out to God with the suffering victims, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” My brothers and sisters please do not say we have not seen, heard, looked upon and touched Jesus. Yes, we have. If only we could listen to Him more attentively, we will have stories of Jesus to tell.

Communion with Christ and the Father. St. John claims that the human communion between the messenger and listener centred on the Word of life is not merely a human transaction. It is at the same time their communion with Jesus Christ and with the Father. In other words, this quite ordinary human togetherness has a transcendent dimension.

We already said that the word proclaimed by the apostle is not a only a historical fact that could be verified by scientific methods but also an experience of the mystery of the Word of God made flesh and who now lives eternally with the Father. Where two or three are in communion with each other on account of Jesus, He is in their midst. This is not just a sociological fact. We believe that this communion with Christ is the action of the Holy Spirit who teaches and reminds us of all that Jesus taught (Jn 14:26). The same Holy Spirit enables us to confess, “Jesus is Lord” (I Cor 12:3). The Spirit “assimilates” us with Jesus Christ so that as children in the Son we can also cry out, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:14-15). Now it is clear that communion with Jesus in the Holy Spirit brings about communion with the Father. Jesus reveals the Father to us so that whoever sees Him sees the Father also (Jn 8:9). As the Way (Jn 14:6), Jesus gives us access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18) and to the Father’s house where he prepares a place for us (Jn 14:2-3).

What a marvellous communion in the Word that gives us weak and sinful human beings a participation in the eternal communion of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! This is the mystery of the Church celebrated in the Eucharist where the Word proclaimed and received is the same Word become flesh eaten as the Bread of life. Communion in the Word, experienced at every Eucharist is one contribution of the Church to the building up of a world of unity and peace.

We see in our time so much exchange of words happening at high speed and across national boundaries. But unfortunately the world is as divided as ever. Why is communion not achieved in spite of the exchange of words? Because Jesus is not the word they share and receive. When financial wizards talk about ways of manipulating the economy for their own profit, you do not call that communion; that is corruption! When politicians talk to people about grand promises without intending to fulfil them, you do not call that communion; that is cheating! When the powerful “negotiate” among themselves while neglecting the weak, you do not call that communion; that is oppression! When so-called enterprising persons deal with each other on how women and children could be profitable merchandise, you do not call that communion; that is slavery! When communion consists in Jesus who is the Word of Life then the common good becomes central. And that is pleasing to God’s eyes.

To close this section, let me tell you a story. On my way back to the Philippines from one of my trips to Rome, I had a lay-over of more than three hours in an airport. To while away the time, I went around looking for a coffee bar.  I found one, placed my order and paid. This is a normal human transaction, so I thought. The man who handed the coffee and the receipt asked, “Are you a priest?” A bit surprised, I said, “Yes”. Then the next question, “Are you a Filipino?” Now truly amused, I smiled and said, “Yes”. He turned to one concern of the store, and while waving to some people hidden from my sight, said, “He is the one! Come!” A group of Filipinos working in that airport came rushing to me. They said that they followed on You Tube or Facebook my weekly reflections on the readings for Sunday mass shown on television, entitled The Word Exposed. Due to their irregular work schedule, they could not always be present at mass. Through the Word they experience some form of communion with Jesus, they said. One woman commented, “Through your stories, we feel united with our families back home. How we miss them!” Communion in the Word can happen on-line and in unexpected places. We shared our stories until my coffee turned cold.

Part II. Communion in the Word through Mary

The Blessed Virgin Mary experienced communion in the Word in an utterly unique way. As a listener to and the bearer of the Word made flesh, she is the model and teacher for the Church. Let us contemplate her Immaculate Heart, where she guarded and pondered the mystery of the Word.

In her journey of faith, Mary initially received proclamations about Jesus, the Word of God who will become her son in the flesh. God sent messengers or ‘apostles’ to her. From them she heard about her Son.

A.In the annunciation (Luke 1:26-28), the angel Gabriel sent by God proclaims a word to Mary. The very greeting, “Rejoice!” signals that a special moment is about to happen to Mary and her people Israel that awaits the promised Messiah. Gabriel tells Mary that she will bear a son. But who is this child? In the words of the angel, Mary learns that her son will be great for he is the Son of the Most High, the Son of David who will rule forever. This child will be holy, the Son of God. She who is a virgin will conceive by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. His name shall be Jesus, for God saves.

The angel proclaims to Mary a word about the Son of God. She listens intelligently, accepts in faith and utters her word, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word!” This is a singular moment of communion between God and Mary. By calling herself the handmaid of the Lord, she does not debase herself but accepts the grace of being part of God’s saving action. She speaks in union with her people Israel in welcoming the Messiah that they have been pining for. Mary becomes Daughter Zion, the Ark of the New Covenant, by her communion with God in the Word. By being in communion with the Word, the Church like Mary will actively promote God’s saving plan in the world – not advancing its own projects but the will of God.

B. Let us now follow Mary as she visits her kinswoman Elizabeth, known to be barren but who is now with child (Luke 1:39-56). Filled with Holy Spirit, Elizabeth tells Mary that the fruit of her womb is the Lord. She is the bearer of the Lord! As David danced before the Ark of the Covenant, now the baby in Elizabeth’s womb dances before the Ark of the New Covenant.

Mary listens, accepts and utters her word, a song in praise of the merciful God, the immortal Magnificat. She sings of God’s mercy in her life and through her, in the life of the poor and the oppressed of Israel. In her prayer she gives voice again to Sarah, Leah and Judith. In her song, we hear Miriam, Deborah and Hanna singing once more. Accepting the revelation about her son through Elizabeth, Mary becomes the mother of grace and hope for the poor. By being in communion with the Word, the Church like Mary will be the companion of the poor so that they could recover their voice and sing for joy.

C. Then the time for Mary to give birth to her Son comes (Luke 2:1-20). They are in Bethlehem, the city of David. The Son of the Most High God is born in a manger. God sends messengers to tell Mary about her Son; they are the lowly shepherds. An angel that appeared to them at their night watch said that a Savior who is Messiah and Lord was born in Bethlehem. This birth would be news of joy to all the people. Indeed a multitude of heavenly host appeared to them in joyful praise of God.

Mary, with Joseph by her side, listens, accepts and responds in silence. What mother would not be rendered speechless by such a report about her son? Amazed like the rest who hear the story of the shepherds she keeps all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. The most meaningful word is uttered in silence. Gazing upon the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, she nurtures her communion in the Word through silence. By being in communion with the Word, the Church like Mary will gladly listen to the lowly and the poor with reverential silence, listening to God speaking through them.

D. With Mary’s ritual purification over, it is now time to present the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:22-38). God sends another poor man to utter a word about Jesus to Mary and Joseph – Simeon, filled with the Holy Spirit. With him is Anna a poor widow. Like the many poor people of Israel, they search for freedom and joy in the promised Messiah. They recognize the Child. Simeon tells his parents that he is salvation (his name is Jesus), a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for Israel. In this Child the nations of the world and Israel will be gathered in communion. But he will also be a sign to be contradicted, destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel.

Mary and Joseph are amazed at these words. She comes to the Temple to offer to God no less than what God has given her, namely God’s Son who is her son. But the news of joy from Simeon is coupled with the disturbing word of contradiction that will not spare Mary for she will be pierced by a sword. What is this sword? It is the Word of God, living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword penetrating even between soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12). The sword is Jesus, the Word of God. She is the mother of the One who will bear the cross. Mary listens, accepts and responds in amazement. She goes home to Nazareth where the Child grows in wisdom and grace. She nurtures Jesus her son, who will brings her both joy and sorrow. By being in communion with the Word, the Church like Mary will proclaim Jesus in season or out of season, whether accepted or rejected, joyful with Him, sorrowful with Him (2 Timothy 4:2).

At this point, a shift occurs. From now on, the messenger who will speak to Mary about Jesus is Jesus Himself.

E. The scene is the annual Passover Feast. The family joins many pilgrims to Jerusalem. The boy Jesus is twelve years old (Luke 2:41-52). After completing their duties in the festivities and offering of sacrifice, Mary and Joseph return to Nazareth but Jesus stays behind unknown to them. After three days of searching, they find him in the temple, listening to the teachers and asking them questions. Mary asks the boy why he did it to her and his father, to which he responds, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Mother now listens to the stunning word of her Son. “Who is this boy?” she must be asking. Maybe thought like these cross her mind: Sitting with the teachers in his Father’s house, Jesus will surely fulfil the Law and the Prophets. Seeing the blood of the animals offered in his Father’s house, he knows that the sacrifice of a pure heart is more pleasing to the Father than burnt offerings of animals.

Mary listens and accepts Jesus’ enigmatic word to her, even if she does not understand. As before, she keeps all these things in her heart. In that immaculate heart overflowing with faith she knows that one day her Son will disappear again. She knows that her heart will be pierced when that day comes. She knows that she will see him again after three days. She knows her heart will rejoice on that blessed third day. By being in communion with the Word, the Church like Mary will look for Jesus among the lost, wounded, tired and abandoned and lead them with rejoicing to the Father’s house.

F. Let us now turn to the public of ministry of Jesus. The wedding at Cana is the site of his first “sign” (John 2:1-12). Mary tells Jesus that they have run short of wine. He utters a word to his mother that unsettles us, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” For Jesus, his hour is the moment of glorification on the Cross, when life that is given up produces much fruit unto eternity (John 12:23-26). Maybe out of lack of understanding or out of helpless, Mary listens, accepts and utters her own words to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” They obey her and Jesus. And the miracle happens. It is the beginning of Jesus’ hour after all. The wine is God’s word and wisdom that will flow in abundance at the coming of the Messiah. Mary, who is obedient to her Son’s word, now asks the servers to give Jesus full obedience as well. In the communion of obedience to the word, miracles happen.

We run out of wine too: the wine of wisdom, understanding, insight, energy and meaning. God seems to be unreachable at times. When those moments come, know that Mary is close by. She sees our empty jars. She approaches Jesus. If we listen to Jesus and do what he tells us, those jars will overflow with unbelievably good wine. By being in communion with the Word, the Church like Mary will be attentive to the emptiness experienced by our age and lead people not to us but to Jesus for he alone can make miracles happen through his word.

G. According to the gospels, the last time Jesus talks to Mary is before he breathes his last on the cross (John 19:23-28). Jewish thought teaches that death disrupts communion, but not so for Jesus. On this hour of his glorification, with the four pagan soldiers vying for his tunic and four women, with the beloved disciple mourning at the foot of his cross, he tells his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Then he says to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” Jesus reveals and creates his mother as the mother of the new family of disciples, of those who hear the word of God and act on it (Luke 8:21). Jesus’ death, freely embraced in communion with God and with sinners, does not destroy community but gives birth to a new family. By the word of Jesus, Mary becomes the mother of both his disciples and the people called to believe in him. She responds to Jesus by doing what he says – she goes to the home of the beloved disciple.

Even now Jesus beholds mothers and fathers who lose their children to hunger, diseases, wars, illegal drugs, sex tourism, immorality, false philosophies and empty utopias. Jesus tells us to take care of the sorrowful mothers and fathers for they are our parents too. He tells us to look after the lost children of the world, for they are our daughters and sons too. No wound is so great that it could not be healed by love. By being in communion with the Word, the Church like Mary will be the seed of the new family of justice, healing and peace.

I recall a dark day when I was still a priest serving in my home diocese. One morning a young priest, 32 years of age, was found dead. His body, stabbed 32 times, was left in a rice field. He was a former student of mine. At the wake I walked his mother toward the coffin. Upon seeing her lifeless son she shed tears of sorrow and cried out in prayer, “My God, you know how heavy my heart was when my son entered the seminary. But you prevailed. So I surrendered him to you. Now you took him again from me. If it is your wish, then I give him totally to you. He is all yours.” I could not believe what I was hearing. A few days later, in a forum on justice that we attended, someone asked her, “What would you do if the killer of your son is presented to you?” I thought it was an insensitive question but before I could stop her, she already responded, “Dear police do not hesitate to bring my son’s killer to me. Do not fear. I will not hurt him. I just want to know why he did it. I will observe the dictates of justice but deep in my heart, I will forgive for Jesus tells me to forgive. My love might help make the killer a better person.” Once again, I could not believe what was happening. But I know we were again at the foot of the cross and hearing the same words, “Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.”  Those days were followed by many more weeks of listening to the stories of the priest’s mother about her son and her family, stories that I would hear for the first time. I could not help but think then that I have come to know the priest much better now that he is gone but made more vividly present by his mother’s stories.

H. I believe this also happened to Mary and her new family. After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the extended family of disciples with Mary went to the upper room to await the promised Holy Spirit who would remind us about Jesus (Acts 1:13-14). I would like to think that with the help of the same Spirit that overshadowed her at the annunciation, Mary could now understand better the things about Jesus that she had kept in her heart. Now she could proclaim her stories to her new sons and daughters: what she has heard, seen with her eyes, looked upon and touched with her hands concerning her Son, the Word of life. She must have ended every story by saying, “Do whatever he tells you.” Like Mary, go and tell the good news of Jesus to the ends of the earth. And do whatever he tells you. Amen.

+ Luis Antonio G. Tagle
Archbishop of Manila


– Photo Credit: Emanuel Pires