Sunday, August 30, 2009

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

From within us, from our unredeemed hearts, evil pours forth, as we hear in this weekend's Gospel. God's law is to put the limits on this evil, but more important, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, redeems us and makes us capable of true transformation. After listening to the Bread of Life discourse, it is perhaps most appropriate that we return to the Gospel accord to Mark with this passage. The Eucharist is Christ given to us, and at every Mass, we have the re-presentation of Calary - Christ's grace poured out for us, and - in our reception of Christ - in us! How great God is in giving us His Law, and that Word of God that is planted in our souls. May we allow it to grow, and in doing so, allow Him to direct us to all that is good and holy.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

"Lord, to whom shall we go," St. Peter responds to the question of whether they, too, were going to leave. Many had stopped walking with Jesus - of course this is more than just being with Him. It meant that they no longer followed Him and allowed Him to teach them. The disciples who remain do so not simply because they understood every word of what Jesus said, but rather they knew Him and that He is God, and that His words were for eternal life.

We are asked to follow Jesus Christ, to walk with Him. We, too, might not understand every word thoroughly, but we place our faith in Jesus Christ. May we follow faithfully.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vatican to Prepare Document on Seminarians

Zenit reports that the Vatican to Prepare Document on Seminarians. Keep them in prayer as they do this - sounds like it will be timely and very much useful!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On the Saints of August

On August 2, Pope Benedict spoke On the Saints of August.
"Real Models of Spirituality and Priestly Devotion"

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in the courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, on Aug. 2.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I returned a few days ago from the Val d'Aosta and it is with great pleasure that I am with you once again, dear friends of Castel Gandolfo. To the Bishop, the parish priest and the parish community, to the civil Authorities and the entire population of Castel Gandolfo, along with the pilgrims as well as the holiday-makers, I renew my affectionate greeting together with a heartfelt "thank you" for your ever cordial welcome. I also thank you for the spiritual closeness that many people expressed to me in Les Combes at the time of the small accident to my right wrist.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Year for Priests that we are celebrating is a precious opportunity to deepen our knowledge of the value of the mission of priests in the Church and in the world. In this regard, useful ideas for reflection can be found in remembering the saints whom the Church holds up to us daily.

In these first days of the month of August, for example, we commemorate some who are real models of spirituality and priestly devotion. Yesterday was the liturgical Memorial of St Alphonsus Mary de' Liguori, a Bishop and Doctor of the Church, a great teacher of moral theology and a model of Christian and pastoral virtues who was ever attentive to the religious needs of the people. Today we are contemplating St Francis of Assisi's ardent love for the salvation of souls which every priest must always foster. In fact today is the feast of the "Pardon of Assisi", which St Francis obtained from Pope Honorious III in the year 1216, after having a vision while he was praying in the little church of the Portiuncula.

Jesus appeared to him in his glory, with the Virgin Mary on his right and surrounded by many Angels. They asked him to express a wish and Francis implored a "full and generous pardon" for all those who would visit that church who "repented and confessed their sins". Having received papal approval, the Saint did not wait for any written document but hastened to Assisi and when he reached the Portiuncula announced the good news: "Friends, the Lord wants to have us all in Heaven!". Since then, from noon on 1 August to midnight on the second, it has been possible to obtain, on the usual conditions, a Plenary Indulgence, also for the dead, on visiting a parish church or a Franciscan one.

What can be said of St John Mary Vianney whom we shall commemorate on 4 August? It was precisely to commemorate the 150th anniversary of his death that I announced the Year for Priests. I promise to speak again of this humble parish priest who constitutes a model of priestly life not only for parish priests but for all priests at the Catechesis of the General Audience next Wednesday. Then on 7 August it will be the Memorial of St Cajetan da Thiene, who used to like to say: "it is not with sentimental love but rather with loving actions that souls are purified".

And the following day, 8 August, the Church will point out as a model St Dominic, of whom it has been written that he only "opened his mouth either to speak to God in prayer or to speak of God". Lastly, I cannot forget to mention the great figure of Pope Montini, Paul VI, the 31st anniversary of whose death, here in Castel Gandolfo, occurs on 6 August. His life, so profoundly priestly and so rich in humanity, continues to be a gift to the Church for which we thank God. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, help priests to be totally in love with Christ, after the example of these models of priestly holiness.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer, including the international pilgrimage group of Sisters of St Felix of Cantalice. In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us to work for the food that remains unto life eternal. During these quiet days of summer, may all of us find spiritual nourishment in "the bread come down from heaven", offered to us daily in God's holy word and in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Upon you and your families I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord!

[In Italian, he said:]

Lastly, I address my cordial greetings to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, and first of all to the citizens of Castel Gandolfo to which I always return joyfully and where today the traditional Peach Festival is being held. I greet in particular the young people from the parishes of San Giovanni Battista and Santa Maria Assunta in Monterosso Almo and all the parish groups and families, including those who are watching us at this moment on the screens set up in St Peter's Square, Rome. I wish you all a good Sunday and a peaceful month of August.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

On the Curé d'Ars

In his morning address on August 5th, the Pope spoke on On the Curé d'Ars.

"Since His Earthly Youth He Sought to Conform Himself to God

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Aug. 5 at his Summer Residence in Castel Gandolfo, during which commented on the Holy Curé d'Ars.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today's Catechesis I would like briefly to review the life of the Holy Curé of Ars. I shall stress several features that can also serve as an example for priests in our day, different of course from the time in which he lived, yet marked in many ways by the same fundamental human and spiritual challenges.

Precisely yesterday was the 150th anniversary of his birth in Heaven. Indeed it was at two o'clock in the morning on 4 August 1859 that St John Baptist Mary Vianney, having come to the end of his earthly life, went to meet the heavenly Father to inherit the Kingdom, prepared since the world's creation for those who faithfully follow his teachings (cf. Mt 25: 34).

What great festivities there must have been in Heaven at the entry of such a zealous pastor! What a welcome he must have been given by the multitude of sons and daughters reconciled with the Father through his work as parish priest and confessor!

I wanted to use this anniversary as an inspiration to inaugurate the Year for Priests, whose theme, as is well known, is "Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests". The credibility of witness depends on holiness and, once and for all, on the actual effectiveness of the mission of every priest.

John Mary Vianney was born into a peasant family in the small town of Dardilly on 8 May 1786. His family was poor in material possessions but rich in humanity and in faith. Baptized on the day of his birth, as was the good custom in those days, he spent so many years of his childhood and adolescence working in the fields and tending the flocks that at the age of 17 he was still illiterate.

Nonetheless he knew by heart the prayers his devout mother had taught him and was nourished by the sense of religion in the atmosphere he breathed at home. His biographers say that since his earthly youth he sought to conform himself to God's will, even in the humblest offices.

He pondered on his desire to become a priest but it was far from easy for him to achieve it.

Indeed, he arrived at priestly ordination only after many ordeals and misunderstandings, with the help of far-sighted priests who did not stop at considering his human limitations but looked beyond them and glimpsed the horizon of holiness that shone out in that truly unusual young man.

So it was that on 23 June 1815 he was ordained a deacon and on the following 13 August, he was ordained a priest. At last, at the age of 29, after numerous uncertainties, quite a few failures and many tears, he was able to walk up to the Lord's altar and make the dream of his life come true.

The Holy Curé of Ars always expressed the highest esteem for the gift he had received. He would say: "Oh! How great is the Priesthood! It can be properly understood only in Heaven... if one were to understand it on this earth one would die, not of fright but of love!" (Abbé Monnin, Esprit du Curé d'Ars, p. 113).

Moreover, as a little boy he had confided to his mother: "If I were to become a priest, I would like to win many souls" (Abbé Monnin, Procès de l'ordinaire, p. 1064). And so he did. Indeed, in his pastoral service, as simple as it was extraordinarily fertile, this unknown parish priest of a forgotten village in the south of France was so successful in identifying with his ministry that he became, even in a visibly and universally recognizable manner, an alter Christus, an image of the Good Shepherd who, unlike the hired hand, lays down his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10: 11).

After the example of the Good Shepherd, he gave his life in the decades of his priestly service. His existence was a living catechesis that acquired a very special effectiveness when people saw him celebrating Mass, pausing before the tabernacle in adoration or spending hour after hour in the confessional.

Therefore the centre of his entire life was the Eucharist, which he celebrated and adored with devotion and respect. Another fundamental characteristic of this extraordinary priestly figure was his diligent ministry of confession.

He recognized in the practice of the sacrament of penance the logical and natural fulfillment of the priestly apostolate, in obedience to Christ's mandate: "if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (cf. Jn 20: 23).

St John Mary Vianney thus distinguished himself as an excellent, tireless confessor and spiritual director. Passing "with a single inner impulse from the altar to the confessional", where he spent a large part of the day, he did his utmost with preaching and persuasive advice to help his parishioners rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence (cf. Letter to Priests for the inauguration of the Year for Priests).

The pastoral methods of St John Mary Vianney might hardly appear suited to the social and cultural conditions of the present day. Indeed, how could a priest today imitate him in a world so radically changed? Although it is true that times change and many charisms are characteristic of the person, hence unrepeatable, there is nevertheless a lifestyle and a basic desire that we are all called to cultivate.

At a close look, what made the Curé of Ars holy was his humble faithfulness to the mission to which God had called him; it was his constant abandonment, full of trust, to the hands of divine Providence.
It was not by virtue of his own human gifts that he succeeded in moving peoples' hearts nor even by relying on a praiseworthy commitment of his will; he won over even the most refractory souls by communicating to them what he himself lived deeply, namely, his friendship with Christ.

He was "in love" with Christ and the true secret of his pastoral success was the fervor of his love for the Eucharistic Mystery, celebrated and lived, which became love for Christ's flock, for Christians and for all who were seeking God. His testimony reminds us, dear brothers and sisters, that for every baptized person and especially for every priest the Eucharist is not merely an event with two protagonists, a dialogue between God and me. Eucharistic Communion aspires to a total transformation of one's life and forcefully flings open the whole human "I" of man and creates a new "we" (cf. Joseph Ratzinger, La Comunione nella Chiesa, p. 80).

Thus, far from reducing the figure of St John Mary Vianney to an example albeit an admirable one of 18-century devotional spirituality, on the contrary one should understand the prophetic power that marked his human and priestly personality that is extremely timely.

In post-revolutionary France which was experiencing a sort of "dictatorship of rationalism" that aimed at obliterating from society the very existence of priests and of the Church, he lived first in the years of his youth a heroic secrecy, walking kilometers at night to attend Holy Mass. Then later as a priest Vianney distinguished himself by an unusual and fruitful pastoral creativity, geared to showing that the then prevalent rationalism was in fact far from satisfying authentic human needs, hence definitively unlivable.

Dear brothers and sisters, 150 years after the death of the Holy Curé of Ars, contemporary society is facing challenges that are just as demanding and may have become even more complex.

If in his time the "dictatorship of rationalism" existed, in the current epoch a sort of "dictatorship of relativism" is evident in many contexts. Both seem inadequate responses to the human being's justifiable request to use his reason as a distinctive and constitutive element of his own identity.

Rationalism was inadequate because it failed to take into account human limitations and claims to make reason alone the criterion of all things, transforming it into a goddess; contemporary relativism humiliates reason because it arrives de facto at affirming that the human being can know nothing with certainty outside the positive scientific field.

Today however, as in that time, man, "a beggar for meaning and fulfillment", is constantly in quest of exhaustive answers to the basic questions that he never ceases to ask himself.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council had very clearly in mind this "thirst for the truth" that burns in every human heart when they said that it is the task of priests "as instructors of the people in the faith" to see to the "formation of a genuine Christian community", that can "smooth the path to Christ for all men" and exercise "a truly motherly function" for them, "showing or smoothing the path towards Christ and his Church" for non-believers and for believers, while also "encouraging, supporting and strengthening believers for their spiritual struggles" (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 6).

The teaching which in this regard the Holy Curé of Ars continues to pass on to us is that the priest must create an intimate personal union with Christ that he must cultivate and increase, day after day.

Only if he is in love with Christ will the priest be able to teach his union, this intimate friendship with the divine Teacher to all, and be able to move people's hearts and open them to the Lord's merciful love. Only in this way, consequently, will he be able to instil enthusiasm and spiritual vitality in the communities the Lord entrusts to him.

Let us pray that through the intercession of St John Mary Vianney, God will give holy priests to his Church and will increase in the faithful the desire to sustain and help them in their ministry. Let us entrust this intention to Mary, whom on this very day we invoke as Our Lady of the Snow.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Holy Father then greeted the people in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially the pilgrimage groups from England, China, Korea and the United States of America. Yesterday the Church celebrated the 150th anniversary of the death of St John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, who is the patron saint of parish priests. In this Year for Priests, let us pray that through his intercession all priests will be renewed in love of the Lord, in the joyful pursuit of holiness and in generous commitment to the spread of the Gospel. Upon you and your families I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace!

My thoughts turn lastly to the sick, the newlyweds and the young people, especially to those participating in The Fifth International Encounter "Youth Towards Assisi". Today, the liturgical Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St Mary Major, the liturgy invites us to turn our gaze to Mary, Mother of Christ. Always look to her, dear young people, imitating her in doing God's will faithfully; turn to her with trust, dear sick people, to experience the effectiveness of her protection in moments of trial; entrust your family to her, dear newlyweds, so that it may always be supported by her maternal intercession.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus Christ is Living Bread that comes from heaven. The Jews were repulsed by the idea, asking how He can give His flesh to eat. But Jesus strengthens His statement, telling them unless the eat His flesh, they cannot be truly alive. Jesus, the Son of God, gives Himself to us for the life of the world. We are invited to eat His flesh and drink His blood, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and to respond to the will of our heavenly Father.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pope examines relationship of Mary to priests

Catholic News Agency reports on the Pope's Wednesday Audience in "Pope examines relationship of Mary to priests".

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 12, 2009 / 10:48 am (CNA).- During Wednesday’s general audience in Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of there being a “nexus” between the Blessed Virgin Mary and the priesthood. Like St. John, he said, all priests “are called to accept her into their home.”

Pope Benedict pointed out that this nexus is rooted in the mystery of the Incarnation. “God does not act against our freedom,” he explained. “He needed the yes of his creatures.”

“St. Bernard of Clairvaux, in one of his homilies, explained in dramatic manner this decisive moment of universal history, when heaven, earth and God Himself await this creature’s response,” he added.

“Mary is truly and profoundly involved in the mystery of the Incarnation, of our salvation. … Sacrifice, the priesthood and the Incarnation go together and Mary is at the heart of this mystery,” the Pontiff said.

Pope Benedict also reflected on the tie between priests and Mary.

From the cross, Jesus sees his mother and the beloved apostle, an important individual, but more importantly a prefigurement of loved people and especially all priests.

“The Second Vatican Council invites priests to see Mary as the perfect model of their existence,” the Pope added.

“The Curé d'Ars, who we think of this year especially, loved to repeat that after Jesus Christ gave us everything he could give, he wanted to make us heirs of what was most precious to him, his holy mother,” the Pope continued. “This applies to all Christians, but especially for priests.”

"Every priest can and should truly feel himself to be the son of this most holy and most humble mother," he said.

...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This weekend, we read of Elijah and his journey to Mount Horeb nourished by the bread of the angel. In our Gospel, we hear Jesus telling us that He is the Bread of life, that leads to eternal life. Without Christ, the Bread of Life, the Eucharist, we are bound to fail. We need the Eucharist to nourish us on our journey through life. At the end of Elijah's journey, he was assured that God had heard him and his plea. God hears us, too. We come to the Eucharist, to receive Christ.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

"Lord, Give us this bread always", we hear the people ask Jesus. It is a profound prayer of the heart, a prayer that both reveals that deep desire, but also betrays a certain sense of misunderstanding. Jesus is the Bread of Life, and we can receive Him in the Eucharist, but this is not simply for the feeding of our bodies. It nourishes our souls, and in the Eucharist, we are consumed to become the Body of Christ. Give us this Bread always, not our humanistic understanding, but Christ's understanding of what He offers.

To continue this reception of the Bread of Life, Christ has given to the Church priests, and in ordination configures them to offer the sacrifice that becomes the Eucharist, Christ truly present. We need the Eucharist, we need priests to confect the Eucharist.

All are called by God to love Him.

All are called to serve Him.

Some are called to special lives of service,

to give witness to God's love through being a priest, religious brother, or sister.

Is He calling you?