"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
The Church celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday on April 8. Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Vatican City. His homily follows:
"In today's Gospel, we hear, over and over, the word 'see.' The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord (Jn 20:20). They tell Thomas: 'We have seen the Lord' (v. 25). But the Gospel does not describe how they saw Him; it does not describe the risen Jesus. It simply mentions one detail: 'He showed them His hands and His side' (v. 20). It is as if the Gospel wants to tell us that that is how the disciples recognized Jesus: through His wounds. The same thing happened to Thomas. He too wanted to see 'the mark of the nails in his hands' (v. 25), and after seeing, he believed (v. 27).
"Despite his lack of faith, we should be grateful to Thomas, because he was not content to hear from others that Jesus was alive, or merely to see Him in the flesh. He wanted to see inside, to touch with his hand the Lord's wounds, the signs of His love. The Gospel calls Thomas Didymus (v. 24), meaning the Twin, and in this he is truly our twin brother. Because for us too, it isn't enough to know that God exists. A God who is risen but remains distant does not fill our lives; an aloof God does not attract us, however just and holy He may be. No, we too need to 'see God,' to touch Him with our hands and to know that He is risen, and risen for us.
"How can we see Him? Like the disciples: through His wounds. Gazing upon those wounds, the disciples understood the depth of His love. They understood that He had forgiven them, even though some had denied Him and abandoned Him. To enter into Jesus' wounds is to contemplate the boundless love flowing from His heart. This is the way. It is to realize that His heart beats for me, for you, for each one of us. Dear brothers and sisters, we can consider ourselves Christians, call ourselves Christians and speak about the many beautiful values of faith, but, like the disciples, we need to see Jesus by touching His love. Only thus can we go to the heart of the faith and, like the disciples, find peace and joy (cf. vv. 19-20) beyond all doubt.
"Thomas, after seeing the Lord's wounds, cried out: 'My Lord and my God!' (v. 28). I would like to reflect on the adjective that Thomas repeats: my. It is a possessive adjective. When we think about it, it might seem inappropriate to use it of God. How can God be mine? How can I make the Almighty mine? The truth is, by saying my, we do not profane God, but honor His mercy. Because God wished to 'become ours.' As in a love story, we tell Him: 'You became man for me, You died and rose for me and thus You are not only God; You are my God, You are my life. In You I have found the love that I was looking for, and much more than I could ever have imagined.'
"God takes no offense at being 'ours,' because love demands confidence, mercy demands trust. At the very beginning of the Ten Commandments, God said: 'I am the Lord your God' (Ex 20:2), and reaffirmed: 'I, the Lord your God am a jealous God' (v. 5). Here we see how God presents Himself as a jealous lover who calls Himself your God. From the depths of Thomas's heart comes the reply: 'My Lord and my God!' As today we enter, through Christ's wounds, into the mystery of God, we come to realize that mercy is not simply one of His qualities among others, but the very beating of His heart. Then, like Thomas, we no longer live as disciples, uncertain, devout but wavering. We too fall in love with the Lord! We must not be afraid of these words: to fall in love with the Lord.
"How can we savor this love? How can we touch today with our hand the mercy of Jesus? Again, the Gospel offers a clue, when it stresses that the very evening of Easter (cf. v. 19), soon after rising from the dead, Jesus begins by granting the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. To experience love, we need to begin there: to let ourselves be forgiven. To let ourselves be forgiven. I ask myself, and each one of you: do I allow myself to be forgiven? To experience that love, we need to begin there. Do I allow myself to be forgiven? 'But, Father, going to confession may seem difficultâ€¦' Before God we are tempted to do what the disciples did in the Gospel: to barricade ourselves behind closed doors. They did it out of fear, yet we too can be afraid, ashamed to open our hearts and confess our sins. May the Lord grant us the grace to understand shame, to see it not as a closed door, but as the first step towards an encounter. When we feel ashamed, we should be grateful: this means that we do not accept evil, and that is good. Shame is a secret invitation of the soul that needs the Lord to overcome evil. The tragedy is when we are no longer ashamed of anything. Let us not be afraid to experience shame! Let us pass from shame to forgiveness! Do not be afraid to be ashamed! Do not be afraid.
"But there is still one door that remains closed before the Lord's forgiveness, the door of resignation. Resignation is always a closed door. The disciples experienced it at Easter, when they recognized with disappointment how everything appeared to go back to what it had been before. They were still in Jerusalem, disheartened; the 'Jesus chapter' of their lives seemed finished, and after having spent so much time with Him, nothing had changed, they were resigned. We too might think: 'I've been a Christian for all this time, but nothing has changed in me; I keep committing the same sins.' Then, in discouragement, we give up on mercy. But the Lord challenges us: 'Don't you believe that My mercy is greater than your misery? Are you a backslider? Then be a backslider in asking for mercy, and we will see who comes out on top.' In any event, - and anyone who is familiar with the sacrament of Reconciliation knows this - it isn't true that everything remains the way it was. Every time we are forgiven, we are reassured and encouraged, because each time we experience more love, and more embraced by the Father. And when we fall again, precisely because we are loved, we experience even greater sorrow - a beneficial sorrow that slowly detaches us from sin. Then we discover that the power of life is to receive God's forgiveness and to go forward from forgiveness to forgiveness. This is how life goes: from shame to shame, from forgiveness to forgiveness. This is the Christian life.
"After the shame and resignation, there is another closed door. Sometimes it is even ironclad: our sin, the same sin. When I commit a grave sin, if I, in all honesty, do not want to forgive myself, why should God forgive me? This door, however, is only closed on one side, our own; but for God, no door is ever completely closed. As the Gospel tells us, He loves to enter precisely, as we heard, 'through closed doors,' when every entrance seems barred. There God works His wonders. He never chooses to abandon us; we are the ones who keep Him out. But when we make our confession, something unheard-of happens: we discover that the very sin that kept us apart from the Lord becomes the place where we encounter Him. There the God who is wounded by love comes to meet our wounds. He makes our wretched wounds like His own glorious wounds. There is a transformation: my wretched wounds resemble His glorious wounds. Because He is mercy and works wonders in our wretchedness. Let us today, like Thomas, implore the grace to acknowledge our God: to find in His forgiveness our joy, and to find in His mercy our hope."
(Editor's note: This report was provided by a United States Conference of Catholic Bishops press release, dated April 20.)
WASHINGTON - According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate's (CARA) annual survey, in the Ordination Class of 2018, almost all responding ordinands reported being baptized Catholic as an infant (90 percent). Among those who became Catholic later in life, the average age of conversion was 26. Four in five responding ordinands (83 percent) report that both their parents were Catholic when they were children. One in three (35 percent) has or had a relative who is a priest or religious.
The total number of potential ordinands for the class of 2018, 430, is a lower number from 590 in 2017.
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR, of Newark, Chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, found that the data gives reason for hope as well as provides areas for future growth.
"Although the overall number of ordinations to the Priesthood is lower this year, the information gathered from this survey and the generosity of those to be ordained continues to inform the important work of vocations ministry for the future. It is essential that we continue to make the conscious effort to encourage young men to be open to hearing God's call in their life and assist them in the discernment process."
Father Ralph B. O'Donnell, Executive Director of the Secretariat, cited the significance of encouraging vocations awareness: "One of the most encouraging statistics to see in this study is that 86 percent of those to be ordained to the priesthood this year were encouraged to do so by someone in their life (most frequently a parish priest, friend, or another parishioner). A similar percentage was reported in February in the most recent survey of those solemnly professed. This fact should enliven in the faithful a resolve to actively encourage the young people that they encounter to consider to what vocation God is calling them and to be generous in their response."
The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate gathered the data for "The Class of 2018: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood." CARA collects the data annually for the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. Approximately 78 percent of the 430 potential ordinands reported to CARA. These 334 respondents include 252 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood and 78 ordinands to the religious priesthood.
Among the survey's major findings:
The majority of responding ordinands are Caucasian (seven in ten) and were born in the United States (three in four). One in four is foreign-born. By comparison, since 1999, on average each year, 30 percent of responding ordinands were foreign-born.
The four most common countries of birth among the foreign-born are Mexico, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Colombia. On average, foreign-born responding ordinands came to live in the United States 12 years ago at the age of 23.
On average, responding ordinands first considered priesthood when they were 17 years old. Responding ordinands were scheduled for ordination on average 18 years later (at the age of 35). Since 1999, the average age of responding ordinands has fluctuated only slightly each year, from an average of 36 in 1999 to the current average age of 35.
Between 39 and 47 percent of all responding ordinands attended a Catholic school for at least some part of their schooling. Half of responding ordinands (51 percent) participated in a religious education program in their parish for seven years, on average.
Nearly half of responding ordinands (45 percent) report that they completed a college or university undergraduate degree before entering the seminary. The most common fields of study are social science, theology or philosophy, business, or liberal arts.
Two in three responding ordinands (64 percent) reported full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary. One in twenty responding ordinands served in the U.S. Armed Forces themselves. About one in eight responding ordinands (13 percent) reported that one or both parents had a military career in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Almost all responding ordinands reported being baptized Catholic as an infant (90 percent). Among those who became Catholic later in life, the average age of conversion was 26. Four in five responding ordinands (83 percent) report that both their parents were Catholic when they were children. One in three (35 percent) has or had a relative who is a priest or religious.
Regarding participation in parish ministries before entering the seminary, nearly three fourths of responding ordinands (74 percent) served as altar servers before entering the seminary. Nearly three in five (57 percent) served as lectors. Around half served as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (46 percent). One in three served as catechists (38 percent), in campus ministry or youth ministry (35 percent), or as confirmation sponsors/godfathers (31 percent).
In regard to participation in vocation programs before entering the seminary, half of responding ordinands (46 percent) reported participating in "Come and See" weekends at the seminary or the religious institute/society.
Nearly nine in ten responding ordinands (86 percent) reported being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life (most frequently, a parish priest, friend, or another parishioner). Responding ordinands indicate that, on average, four individuals encouraged their vocation.
One-half of responding ordinands (51 percent) indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood by one or more persons. Most often, this person was a friend/classmate or a family member (other than parents).
The full report can be found online: http://usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/ordination-class/class-of-2018/ordination-class-of-2018.cfm.
Trent Horn says, "Writing [What the Saint Never Said] has shown me ... that it is easier to prove an authentic quote than disprove an inauthentic quote." He subtitles it "Pious Misquotes and the Subtle Heresies They Teach You."
When it comes to famous saint quotes, some of them may not appear in any of the saint's extant writing or in any early secondary sources, or may contain ... anachronisms or may contradict something in the saints authentic writing, thus showing the quote in question is not authentic. An allegedly original saying found in the earlier writing of another person becomes proof of the quote's true origin."
The most well-known misquote by a saint is St. Francis of Assisi's "Preach the gospel always; if necessary use words." Pope Francis recently quoted it in a homily.
Horn, however, could find no reference to the statement with or without attributing it to St. Francis before 1990 in Daisy Osborn's Woman Without Limits. He also points out the problem with "if necessary."
Another quote attributed to St. Francis is "All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of one candle." This Horn found in a prayer by Rev. Wilbur C. Christmas from 1972. It sounds like the motto of the Christophers theme song "One Little Candle" from 1952.
The Serenity Prayer prayed in Anonymous groups since 1941 has also been misattributed to St. Francis. Horn found a slightly different version attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr in 1927.
Yet another is "Start by doing what's necessary, then do what's possible and then suddenly you are doing the impossible." Horn writes that this "fails the 'sounds right' test" and is "probably fake."
The Prayer for Peace attributed to St. Francis does not come from him. It traces back to the French devotional magazine La Clomesse from 1912. Christian Renoux, author of "the Origin of the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis," traced the association of this French prayer to a holy card from 1918. Fr. Etienne Benoit a Franciscan, printed St. Francis on one side and the prayer on the other. It was translated into English in 1936 in Living Courageously by Kirby Page, a Disciple of Christ minister, misattributing it to St. Francis.
Pope Francis also has been misquoted. He did not say "You don't need to believe in God to be a good person." What he actually said was "The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ, all of us, not just Catholics, Everyone! Even the atheists." and "We all have a duty to do good." In other words, it is by the grace of God that any person does any good.
Another Pope Francis misquote, one among many, is "Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Jehovah, Allah, these are all names employed to describe an entity that is distinctly the same across the world." It was traced back to anonymous fake news.
Horn investigates quotes allegedly from St. Augustine, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis de Sales, St. John Chryostom, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Theresa of Calcutta, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Ven. Fulton J. Sheen. He even includes what non-saints didn't say like Bishop Josip Strossmayer, G. K. Chesterton, Cardinal Ercole Consalvi, Galileo, Martin Luther, and Tertullian.
According to George Barna, author of The Second Coming of Christ, "God helps those who help themselves" is the most quoted verse thought to be in the Bible. St. Paul's "Money is the root of all evil," however, is also much "quoted."
Horn also sprinkles "better quotes" from St. Cyprian, St. John, St. Paul. He also includes a section called What the Saints DID Say. These help tune the reader's 'sounds right' tester. A couple from St. Francis are "All this reverence which is paid to me I never take to myself, but simply pass it on to God." and "What are the servents of God if not His minstrels, who must move people's hearts and lift them up to spiritual joy."
Horn concludes his introduction appropriately with a true quote from Pope St. Clement, "Cleave to the holy [saints], for those that cleave to them shall [themselves] be made holy [saints]."
An international forum on modern slavery met May 5-8 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Pope Francis sent a video message which said:
"... I have welcomed the invitation to send a greeting to you, participants in this Forum on modern forms of slavery, 'Old problems in the new world,' organized by the Orthodox Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, guided by the beloved Metropolitan Tarasios, and by the Orthodox Patriarchate Athenagoras Institute of Berkeley in California with the patronage of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. First of all, I express my heartfelt gratitude to the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomew I, and to the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Justin Welby, who last year inaugurated this Forum. It comforts me to know that we share the same concern for the victims of modern slavery.
"Slavery is not something from other times. It is a practice that has deep roots and continues to manifest itself today and in many different ways: trafficking of human beings, exploitation of work through debt, exploitation of children, sexual exploitation, and forced domestic work are some of the many forms. Each one is as serious and inhuman as the others. Despite the lack of information available to us from some regions of the world, the figures are dramatically high and, most likely, underestimated. According to some recent statistics, there would be more than 40 million people, men, but especially women and children, who suffer as a result of slavery. Just to give us an idea, imagine that if they lived in a single city, it would be the largest megalopolis on our planet and would have, more or less, four times the population of the entire urban area of Buenos Aires and Greater Buenos Aires.
"Faced with this tragic reality, no one can wash their hands of it without being, in some way, an accomplice to this crime against humanity. A first task to be imposed is to put into effect a strategy for ensuring greater awareness of the subject, breaking the veil of indifference that seems to cover the fate of this portion of humanity that suffers, that is suffering. It seems that many do not want to understand the extent of the problem. There are some who, directly involved in criminal organizations, do not want it to be talked about, simply because they earn high profits as a result of the new forms of slavery. There are also some who, despite knowing about the problem, do not want to talk because they are there where the 'chain of consumption' ends, as a consumer of the 'services' offered by men, women, and children who have been turned into slaves. We can not become distracted: we are all called to leave behind any form of hypocrisy, facing the reality that we are part of the problem. The problem is not in the opposite lane: it involves us. We are not permitted to look elsewhere and declare our ignorance or our innocence.
"A second great task is to act in favor of those who have been turned into slaves: to defend their rights, and to prevent the corrupt and criminals from escaping justice and having the final word on the exploited. It is not enough for some states and International Organizations to adopt a particularly harsh policy in order to punish the exploitation of human beings, if then the causes, the deepest roots of the problem, are not addressed. When countries suffer extreme poverty, violence, and corruption, neither the economy, nor the legislative framework, nor the basic infrastructures are effective; they fail to guarantee security or assets or essential rights. In this way, it is easier for the perpetrators of these crimes to continue acting with total impunity. In addition, there is a sociological fact: organized crime and the illegal trafficking of human beings choose their victims among people who today have little means of subsistence and even less hope for the future. To be clearer: among the poorest, among the most neglected, the most discarded. The basic response lies in creating opportunities for integral human development, starting with a quality education: this is the key point, quality education from early childhood, to continue generating new opportunities for growth through employment. Education and employment.
"This immense task, which requires courage, patience, and perseverance, demands a joint and global effort on the part of the different actors that make up society. The Churches must also play a role task in this. While individuals and groups speculate shamefully on slavery, we Christians, all together, are called to develop more and more collaboration, to overcome all kinds of inequality, all kinds of discrimination, which are precisely what makes it possible for a man to make another man a slave. A common commitment to facing this challenge will be a valuable aid for the construction of a renewed society oriented towards freedom, justice, and peace.
"I wish this Forum every success, and I ask the Lord to bless you and to bless your work. And, please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you."
(A Christian Perspective on World News)
WASHINGTON - In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Blessed Paul VI's encyclical letter, Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is making available a special 50th anniversary edition that includes reflections from succeeding popes on the prophetic teaching that honors the spiritual and sensory elements found in conjugal love.
Recognizing the fullness of the marital union as total, faithful, and exclusive, the encyclical proclaims the path of grace and true happiness for married couples under the abiding yoke of Christ. Originally published in 1968, Blessed Paul VI's letter promotes the whole human person in the context of marital love that respects both the spiritual and physical dimensions of man and woman. Considering the human person as a whole, it also presents the practical social implications if the document's conclusions-based on the full respect of the totality of persons-are ignored.
This 50th anniversary edition includes the full encyclical, with excerpts from Blessed Paul VI's successors affirming the teachings of Humanae Vitae. Also included are selections from the 1968 US Catholic bishops' statement, Human Life in Our Day.
The 50th anniversary edition of Humanae Vitae can be ordered online at http://store.usccb.org/humanae-vitae-50th-anniversary-edition-p/7-596.htm.
Additional books and resources pertaining to marriage and family life, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Vatican, ministry and more can be found by visiting the USCCB's online bookstore at https://store.usccb.org.
(Source: USCCB press release)
WASHINGTON - At the start of National Foster Care Month, three bishop chairmen, faith leaders, and numerous nonprofit organizations sent a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady urging the committee to give a high priority to the enactment of the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2017 (H.R. 1881) this year.
The Inclusion Act protects child welfare providers from being discriminated against by federal or state government entities due to the providers' religious beliefs or moral convictions.
The letter states that "keeping kids first involves protecting the birth mother's choice to place the child with the family she feels is best," and it quotes a birth mother who chose to work with a Christian adoption agency "because their values match mine."
The letter continues: "At a time when the opioid crisis is driving more children into foster care and adoption, we need all available agencies to assist with placing vulnerable children in stable homes. Faith-based agencies in particular excel at recruiting good families who can provide stability for children in crisis; that excellence is propelled by both the faith-driven mission of these agencies as well as their connections to houses of worship where they can recruit prospective foster and adoptive parents."
Signatories from Bethany Christian Services, Catholic Charities USA, Buckner International, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, Lutheran Church -Missouri Synod, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congrega-tions of America, and many other organizations concerned about the freedom of adoption and foster care providers to serve children in need of loving homes joined Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Chairman of the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, in signing the letter.
A link to the letter can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Support-for-the-Child-Welfare-Provider-Inclusion-Act-of-2017-HR-1881.pdf.
(Source: USCCB press release)
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
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