Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pope explains what St. Therese of Lisieux can teach Christians about spirituality

October 1st is the feast day of St. Therese of Lisieux. Even though the French saint passed away at the age of 24, her short life continues to have great impact. During a general audience on April 6th 2011, the Pope explained what “The Little Flower” can teach Christians about spirituality. 

BENEDICT XVI (6/04/2012) -“Theresa received permission to enter the Carmel of Lisieux at the tender age of fifteen. Her name in religion – Sister Theresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face – expresses the heart of her spirituality, centered on the contemplation of God’s love revealed in the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption.

In imitation of Christ, Theresa sought to be little in all things and to seek the salvation of the world. Taken ill in her twenty-third year, she endured great physical suffering in union with the crucified Lord; she also experienced a painful testing of faith which she offered for the salvation of those who deny God. 

By striving to embody God’s love in the smallest things of life, Theresa found her vocation to be "love in the heart of the Church". May her example and prayers help us to follow "the little way of trust and love" in spiritual childhood, abandoning ourselves completely to the love of God and the good of souls.”

Why Do You Love Him?

Students at John Paul II Academy and Our Lady of Grace Catholic Schools tell why they love him.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels

St. Michael

The name of the archangel Michael means, in Hebrew,who is like unto God?and he is also known as "the prince of the heavenly host." He is usually pictured as a strong warrior, dressed in armor and wearing sandals. His name appears in Scripture four times, twice in the Book of Daniel, and once each in the Epistle of St. Jude and the Book of Revelation. From Revelation we learn of the battle in heaven, with St. Michael and his angels combatting Lucifer and the other fallen angels (or devils). We invoke St. Michael to help us in our fight against Satan; to rescue souls from Satan, especially at the hour of death; to be the champion of the Jews in the Old Testament and now Christians; and to bring souls to judgment.

This day is referred to as "Michaelmas" in many countries and is also one of the harvest feast days. In England this is one of the "quarter days", which was marked by hiring servants, electing magistrates, and beginning of legal and university terms. This day also marks the opening of the deer and other large game hunting season. In some parts of Europe, especially Germany, Denmark, and Austria, a special wine called "Saint Michael's Love" (Michelsminne) is drunk on this day. The foods for this day vary depending on nationality. In the British Isles, for example, goose was the traditional meal for Michaelmas, eaten for prosperity, France has waffles or Gaufres and the traditional fare in Scotland used to be St. Michael's Bannock (Struan Micheil) — a large, scone-like cake. In Italy, gnocchi is the traditional fare.

Patron: Against temptations; against powers of evil; artists; bakers; bankers; battle; boatmen; cemeteries; coopers; endangered children; dying; Emergency Medical Technicians; fencing; grocers; hatmakers; holy death; knights; mariners; mountaineers; paramedics; paratroopers; police officers; radiologists; sailors; the sick; security forces; soldiers; against storms at sea; swordsmiths; those in need of protection; Brussels, Belgium; Caltanissett, Sicily; Cornwall, England; Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee Florida; England; Germany; Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama; Papua, New Guinea; Puebla, Mexico; San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Sibenik, Croatia; Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington; Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts.

Symbols: Angel with wings; dressed in armour; lance and shield; scales; shown weighing souls; millstone; piercing dragon or devil; banner charged with a dove; symbolic colors orange or gold.

Prayer to St. Michael, the Archangel

Glorious Prince, chief and champion of the heavenly hosts; guardian of the souls of men; conqueror of the rebel angels! How beautiful art thou, in thy heaven-made armor. We love thee, dear Prince of Heaven! 

We, thy happy clients, yearn to enjoy thy special protection. Obtain for us from God a share of thy sturdy courage; pray that we may have a strong and tender love for our Redeemer and, in every danger or temptation, be invincible against the enemy of our souls. O standard-bearer of our salvation! Be with us in our last moments and when our souls quit this earthly exile, carry them safely to the judgement seat of Christ, and may Our Lord and Master bid thee bear us speedily to the kingdom of eternal bliss. Teach us ever to repeat the sublime cry: "Who is like unto God?" Amen.

St. Gabriel

St. Gabriel's name means "God is my strength". Biblically he appears three times as a messenger. He had been sent to Daniel to explain a vision concerning the Messiah. He appeared to Zachary when he was offering incense in the Temple, to foretell the birth of his son, St. John the Baptist. St. Gabriel is most known as the angel chosen by God to be the messenger of the Annunciation, to announce to mankind the mystery of the Incarnation.

The angel's salutation to our Lady, so simple and yet so full of meaning, Hail Mary, full of grace, has become the constant and familiar prayer of all Christian people.

Patron: Ambassadors; broadcasting; childbirth; clergy; communications; diplomats; messengers; philatelists; postal workers; public relations; radio workers; secular clergy; stamp collectors; telecommunications; Portugal; Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington.

Symbols: Archangel; sceptre and lily; MR or AM shield; lantern; mirror; olive branch; scroll with words Ave Maria Gratia Plena; Resurrection trumpet; shield; spear; lily; symbolic colors, silver or blue.

Prayer to St. Gabriel - An Angel Prayer for others

O loving messenger of the Incarnation, descend upon all those for whom I wish peace and happiness. Spread your wings over the cradles of the new-born babes, O thou who didst announce the coming of the Infant Jesus. 

Give to the young a lily petal from the virginal scepter in your hand. Cause the Ave Maria to re-echo in all hearts that they may find grace and joy through Mary. 

Finally, recall the sublime words spoken on the day of the Annunciation-- "Nothing is impossible with God," and repeat them in hours of trial--to all I love--that their confidence in Our Lord may be reanimated, when all human help fails. Amen.

St. Raphael

Our knowledge of the Archangel Raphael comes to us from the book of Tobit. His mission as wonderful healer and fellow traveller with the youthful Tobias has caused him to be invoked for journeys and at critical moments in life. Tradition also holds that Raphael is the angel that stirred the waters at the healing sheep pool in Bethesda. His name means "God has healed".

Patron: Blind; bodily ills; counselors; druggists; eye problems; guardian angels; happy meetings; healers; health inspectors; health technicians; love; lovers; mental illness; nurses; pharmacists; physicians; shepherds; against sickness; therapists; travellers; young people; young people leaving home for the first time; Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa; Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington.

Symbols: Staff; wallet and fish; staff and gourd; archangel; young man carrying a staff; young man carrying a fish; walking with Tobias; holding a bottle or flask; symbolic colors, gray or yellow.

Prayer to St. Raphael

God who in Thy ineffable goodness hast rendered blessed Raphael the conductor of thy faithful in their journeys, we humbly implore Thee that we may be conducted by him in the way of salvation, and experience his help in the maladies of our souls. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Friday, September 28, 2012

St. Wenceslaus

St. Wenceslaus, duke of Bohemia, was born about the year 907 at Prague, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). His father was killed in battle when he was young, leaving the kingdom to be ruled by his pagan mother. Wenceslaus was educated by his grandmother, Ludmilla, also a saint. She taught him to be a Christian and to be a good king. She was killed by pagan nobles before she saw him king, but she left him with a deep committment to the Christian faith.

Throughout his life he preserved his virginity unblemished. As duke he was a father to his subjects, generous toward orphans, widows, and the poor. On his own shoulders he frequently carried wood to the houses of the needy. He often attended the funerals of the poor, ransomed captives, and visited those suffering in prison. He was filled with a deep reverence toward the clergy; with his own hands he sowed the wheat for making altar breads and pressed the grapes for the wine used in the Mass. During winter he would visit the churches barefoot through snow and ice, frequently leaving behind bloody footprints.

Wenceslaus was eighteen years old when he succeeded his father to the throne. Without regard for the opposition, he worked in close cooperation with the Church to convert his pagan country. He ended the persecution of Christians, built churches and brought back exiled priests. As king he gave an example of a devout life and of great Christian charity, with his people calling him "Good King" of Bohemia.

His brother Boleslaus, however, turned to paganism. One day he invited Wenceslaus to his house for a banquet. The next morning, on September 28, 929, as Wenceslaus was on the way to Mass, Boleslaus struck him down at the door of the church. Before he died, Wenceslaus forgave his brother and asked God's mercy for his soul. Although he was killed for political reasons, he is listed as a martyr since the dispute arose over his faith. This king, martyred at the age of twenty-two, is the national hero and patron of the Czech Republic. He is the first Slav to be canonized.

Patron: Bohemia; brewers; Czech Republic; Moravia.

Symbols: Armour; corn; black eagle; coffin held by angels; sword and purse; red banner charged with a white eagle; banner; staff; eagle on shield.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sts. Cosmas and Damian

This is one of the most ancient feasts of the Church, and these two martyrs have been honored in the East and West in many ways, including the building of churches in their honor in Rome and Constantinople. Along with St. Luke, they are the patron saints of doctors. Little is known of their true history, but the legend that has come down to us is of very early origin.

Sts. Cosmas and Damian were venerated in the East as the "moneyless ones" because they practiced medicine gratis. According to the legend, they were twin brothers, born in Arabia, who studied in Syria and became skilled physicians. They were supposed to have lived on the Bay of Alexandretta in Cilicia, in what is now Turkey.

Since they were prominent Christians, they were among the first arrested when the great persecution under Diocletian began. Lysias, the governor of Cilicia, ordered their arrest, and they were beheaded. Their bodies, it was said, were carried to Syria and buried at Cyrrhus.

What is certain is that they were venerated very early and became patrons of medicine, known for their miracles of healing. The Emperor Justinian was cured by their intercession and paid special honor to the city of Cyrrhus where their relics were enshrined. Their basilica in Rome, adorned with lovely mosaics, was dedicated in the year 530. They are named in the Roman Martyrology and in the Canon of the Mass, testifying to the antiquity of their feast day.

The great honor in which they are held and the antiquity of their veneration indicate some historical memory among the early Christians who came out of the great persecutions with a new cult of Christian heroes. Cosmas and Damian were not only ideal Christians by their practice of medicine without fee, they also symbolized God's blessing upon the art of healing and that respect for every form of science, which is an important part of Christian tradition.

Excerpted from The One Year Book of Saints by Rev. Clifford Stevens

Patron: Apothecaries; barbers; blind; chemists; druggists; hairdressers; hernias; marital harmony; midwives; physicians; pharmacists; relief from pestilence; surgeons; Gaeta, Italy.

Symbols: A phial; phials and jars; vases; arrows; surgical instruments; lancet; red vestments; box of ointment; rod of Aesculapius (rod with serpent wrapped around, symbol of medicine); cylinder; stake and fagots; arrows; cross; swords; millstones.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

St. Finbarr

The patron saint of Cork, was born in Achaid Duborcon near Crookstown, Co. Cork, the son of a Connacht father, a metalworker, who moved to Munster to find work and married a slave girl.

Finbarr left home with three unidentified ascetics and spent much time in Scotland before establishing various hermitages in his native area, notably at Kilclooney and on an island in Gougane Barra, which bears his name.

Among many wondrous tales associated with him is, one in which he is led by an angel from the source of the river Lee at Gougane Barra to its marshy mouth, where he founded his most important monastery, out of which grew the see and the city of Cork. Another of Finbarr's great legends was the chase and expulsion of the great lake serpent from the lake in Gougane, which created the channel that is now the river Lee.

Finbarr died at Cloyne in 633 ad and his remains were taken to Cork to be enclosed in a silver shrine. A pattern is made to Gougane Barra on the Sunday nearest to the feast of St Finbarr which falls on the 25th of September.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Our Lady of Ransom

Today is a feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary under a particular title that is celebrated in various parts of the world. It is also known as “Our Lady of Mercy.” In 1218, when many Christians in Spain were imprisoned by the Moors who controlled much of the country, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in separate visions to St. Peter Nolasco, St. Raymond of Penafort, and King James I of Aragon. She asked them to found the Order of Our Lady of Ransom, also known as the Mercedarians. Its purpose would be to liberate the Christians who had been enslaved by the Moors, and members collected ransom money for that purpose and even took a vow to give themselves up as hostages should all else fail in their efforts to free Christians. Their work continued until 1779 when the last captive was freed but the Mercedarians continue the work of liberation focusing now on people who are enslaved in other ways through poverty and addictions, in prisons and in hospitals. Let us pray to Our Lady of Ransom that we may be free from all that stands in the way of our leading lives of honesty and integrity and love for the truth. Then, as we grow in these virtues, we pray that the people we elect to lead us will have them as well. The following reflection is from Fr. Joseph Kentenich, founder of the Schoenstatt movement.

The Church asks us today to celebrate the feast of Mary, Our Lady of Ransom. Thereby, she draws our attention to the fact that the Mother of God is the help of Christians and has the task to liberate the world from its modern chains of slavery. By this is meant the liberation from our enslavement to inordinate instincts and cravings like the desire for possessions, the desire for power and the desire for pleasure. Who should liberate us from that? Through this feast, the Church points out that this is an essential task of the Mother of God, particularly in our time.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

St. Matthew was a tax-collector who became an apostle and Gospel-writer. We ask him to intercede with us as we pray for politicians and for the poorest Churches in the world. Our reflection is from Pope Benedict’s General Audience of August 30, 2006.

Thus, in the figure of Matthew, the Gospels present to us a true and proper paradox: those who seem to be the farthest from holiness can even become a model of the acceptance of God's mercy and offer a glimpse of its marvelous effects in their own lives. St. John Chrysostom makes an important point in this regard: he notes that only in the account of certain calls is the work of those concerned mentioned. Peter, Andrew, James and John are called while they are fishing, while Matthew, while he is collecting tithes. These are unimportant jobs, Chrysostom comments, "because there is nothing more despicable than the tax collector, and nothing more common than fishing". Jesus' call, therefore, also reaches people of a low social class while they go about their ordinary work.

Another reflection prompted by the Gospel narrative is that Matthew responds instantly to Jesus' call: "he rose and followed him". The brevity of the sentence clearly highlights Matthew's readiness in responding to the call. For him it meant leaving everything, especially what guaranteed him a reliable source of income, even if it was often unfair and dishonourable. Evidently, Matthew understood that familiarity with Jesus did not permit him to pursue activities of which God disapproved. The application to the present day is easy to see: it is not permissible today either to be attached to things that are incompatible with the following of Jesus, as is the case with riches dishonestly achieved. Jesus once said, mincing no words: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Mt 19:21). This is exactly what Matthew did: he rose and followed him! In this "he rose", it is legitimate to read detachment from a sinful situation and at the same time, a conscious attachment to a new, upright life in communion with Jesus.

He Emptied Himself

Jesus left the glory of Heaven to come down and take upon Himself a nature like my own, because He loves me so much.

I wonder if I understand how much of a humiliation it was for Jesus to become human. If being with the Father is something beyond our wildest dreams, just imagine what being equal to God must be like! How could He leave such a position for me?

I am ungrateful most of the time and prefer myself, people and things to Him almost constantly. I do not have much to leave and yet I cling to the little I have as if I were never going to lose it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

21 Balançoires

The concept of cooperation is sweet: together we achieve better things than separately.

21 Balançoires is a giant cooperative musical instrument in front of Université du Québec à Montréal’s Science Faculty. Comprised of 21 musical swings, it’s quickly clear that this is less about music and motion, and much more about working together to make something beautiful. Individually, the swings in motion trigger notes. Together, they compose a kind of symphony.

My favorite part was when the adorable skater boy noted, “I find it adds to the beauty of life because a single sound isn’t really nice…but together they make a beautiful melody.” Lovely! Especially when said in French!

Korean Martyrs

The story of the Church in Korea is one of the greatest missionary stories in history. The faith was not planted there by foreign missionaries but as a result of one layman. He was a government official who ran across some Chinese Christian books and when he went on a diplomatic mission to China sought out a priest. He was baptized and brought the faith with him when he returned to his native land. Ten years later, when a Chinese priest arrived in Korea, he found 4,000 Christians. Unfortunately the spread of Christianity was not received well by all and the government began a persecution that led to the martyrdom of about 8,000 priests, religious, lay people, and a bishop. As we honor their memory today, let us pray that we may support the work of missionaries in the poorest Churches. Our reflection is from Pope John Paul II’s mission encyclical Redemptoris Missio #42.

People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories. The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission: Christ, whose mission we continue, is the "witness" par excellence (Revelation 1:5; 3:14) and the model of all Christian witness. The Holy Spirit accompanies the Church along her way and associates her with the witness he gives to Christ (John 15:26-27). The first form of witness is the very life of the missionary, of the Christian family, and of the ecclesial community, which reveal a new way of living. The missionary who, despite all his or her human limitations and defects, lives a simple life, taking Christ as the model, is a sign of God and of transcendent realities. But everyone in the Church, striving to imitate the Divine Master, can and must bear this kind of witness; in many cases it is the only possible way of being a missionary.

The evangelical witness which the world finds most appealing is that of concern for people, and of charity toward the poor, the weak and those who suffer. The complete generosity underlying this attitude and these actions stands in marked contrast to human selfishness. It raises precise questions which lead to God and to the Gospel. A commitment to peace, justice, human rights and human promotion is also a witness to the Gospel when it is a sign of concern for persons and is directed toward integral human development.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Photographing the pope in Lebanon

CNS photographer Paul Haring recounts some of what he saw while accompanying Pope Benedict XVI to Lebanon.

St. Januarius

Today’s saint was a bishop in the early Church who is now the patron saint of Naples. Little is actually known about him but he has become quite famous because a relic—a tube of his dried blood—liquefies several times a year, including on his feast day. Scientists have studied this event but have been unable to come up with any natural explanation for it. Perhaps this is God’s way of telling us that the saints are alive in him and can be powerful intercessors for us. Let us ask St. Januarius to pray with us for politicians and that Christian communities may practice charity as they reach out to help the poorest Churches. Our reflection is from Pope Benedict’s first encyclical Deus Caritas Est #20.

Love of neighbor, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level: from the local community to the particular Church and to the Church universal in its entirety. As a community, the Church must practice love. Love thus needs to be organized if it is to be an ordered service to the community. The awareness of this responsibility has had a constitutive relevance in the Church from the beginning: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-5). In these words, Saint Luke provides a kind of definition of the Church, whose constitutive elements include fidelity to the “teaching of the Apostles”, “communion” (koinonia), “the breaking of the bread” and “prayer” (cf. Acts 2:42). The element of “communion” (koinonia) is not initially defined, but appears concretely in the verses quoted above: it consists in the fact that believers hold all things in common and that among them, there is no longer any distinction between rich and poor (cf. also Acts 4:32-37). As the Church grew, this radical form of material communion could not in fact be preserved. But its essential core remained: within the community of believers there can never be room for a poverty that denies anyone what is needed for a dignified life.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pope to Lebanon: Don't give into voices that want to destroy peace

The Pope's closing ceremony in Beirut's international airport, was marked with full military honors. As his three day visit came to a close, the Pope thanked Lebanon and all the religious communities that gathered there for his visit. He then mentioned how both Christians and Muslims worked side by side during his visit. This, he said, sends a powerful message to the world.

Benedict XVI -“The Arab world and indeed the entire world will have seen Christians and Muslims united in celebrating peace.”

The Pope called for that spirit of peace to continue in Lebanon. Especially, when it comes to religious co-existence.

Benedict XVI - I pray to God for Lebanon, that she may live in peace and courageously resist all that could destroy or undermine that peace. I hope that Lebanon will continue to permit the plurality of religious traditions and not listen to the voices of those who wish to prevent it.”

With civil and military authorities present, along with several religious representatives, the Pope thanked the group for their warm hospitality, adding that he'd like to return.

Benedict XVI -“To that consideration and respect, you added something else, which can be compared to one of those renowned oriental spices which enriches the taste of your food: your warmth and your affection, make me want to return.”

During the Pope's three day visit to Lebanon, he signed and presented a document called an'apostolic exhortation' on the Middle East, which deals with the situation of Christians and the Church in the region.

Benedict XVI also met with young Muslims and Catholics, some of them from neighboring Syria. The Pope encouraged them to set high goals, since they are the future.

In every speech, Benedict XVI made a call for peace. More specifically, he made an appeal to the international community and to Arab countries, so they may seek concrete solutions to end today's ongoing conflicts. This visit to Lebanon marks the Pope's 24th trip outside of Italy.

St. Joseph of Cupertino

Joseph of Cupertino was such an extraordinary saint that his fellow-Christians could scarcely cope with him. First of all he was forgetful, even as a child, often not turning up for the scanty meals his impoverished widowed mother prepared. He would wander about the village of Cupertino, Italy, where he was born, gazing open-mouthed at everything. He found it hard to learn. And he was clumsy.

When he was seventeen he decided he wanted to become a monk or friar. The Franciscans would not take him because, they said, he was too stupid. The Capuchins threw him out after eight months because he broke everything. Eventually a Franciscan house at La Grotella accepted him as a stableboy.

He prayed and fasted and did his best to perform every task to perfection. Eventually the delighted brothers decided to accept him as one of their equals, and in 1628 he was ordained priest. From that time onwards Joseph of Cupertino was continually passing into ecstatic trances, sometimes even appearing to float above the ground. No meals could be taken in the monastery without some extraordinary interruption because of Joseph's miraculous behaviour. For thirty-five years the community decided that he should be kept out of the choir and refectory.

Naturally enough his miracles and above all the reports of his supernatural levitations attracted countless curious visitors. In 1653 the church authorities transferred him to a Capuchin friary in the hills of Pietarossa and kept him completely out of sight. Finally Saint Joseph was allowed to join his own order at a place called Osima, but he was still kept out of sight until his death in 1663. All this he bore without the remotest complaint. Fittingly the twentieth century has made the saint patron of pilots and airline passengers.

Excerpted from A Calendar of Saints by James Bentley

Patron: air travellers; astronauts; aviators; paratroopers; pilots; students; test takers.

Symbol: airplane.

Self Control

When I deny myself, what am I really doing? The power of my will is so strong that I can say "no" even to God. Although it is a spiritual faculty, the will needs exercise in order to strengthen itself-just as a muscle needs exercise to keep its tone. Misuse and no-use mean death to both physical and spiritual faculties. Every time I say "no" to a small temptation, I strengthen my will to say "no" to a greater one. The more my will is turned toward God, the greater will be my union with His Son.

Positive Effects of Self Denial

Love is increased when I refrain from speaking of my neighbor's faults.

Patience grows when I listen to a boring account of a friend's neurosis. Temperance becomes stronger when I use moderation.

Justice is sweetened when I put myself in my neighbor's shoes and forgive his offenses. Gentleness gives me more control when the opportunity to lose my temper is squelched. Humility is preserved when I give credit where credit is due—to God.

Prudence becomes easy when I forget myself and look for the good of others.

Fortitude is strengthened when I accept pain and suffering with resignation.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Optional Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, bishop and doctor

Some consider today’s saint to be the greatest theologian of his time. He was an Italian who joined the Jesuits when he was eighteen and, after his ordination, was sent to teach theology in Belgium and later in Rome where the Pope made him his personal theological advisor. In time he was made a bishop and a cardinal. The following excerpt from his treatise “On the Ascent of the Mind to God” reveals his single-minded focus on the goal of life—heaven. Let us pray that we may have this same focus as we reflect on how we can help the poorest Churches in the world.

Sweet Lord, you are meek and merciful. Who would not give himself wholeheartedly to your service, if he began to taste even a little of your fatherly rule? What command, Lord, do you give your servants? Take my yoke upon you, you say. And what is this yoke of yours like? My yoke, you say, is easy and my burden light. Who would not be glad to bear a yoke that does not press hard but caresses? Who would not be glad for a burden that does not weigh heavy but refreshes? And so you were right to add: And you will find rest for your souls. And what is this yoke of yours that does not weary, but gives rest? It is, of course, that first and greatest commandment: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart. What is easier, sweeter, more pleasant, than to love goodness, beauty and love, the fullness of which you are, O Lord, my God?

Is it not true that you promise those who keep your commandments a reward more desirable than great wealth and sweeter than honey? You promise a most abundant reward, for as your apostle James says: The Lord has prepared a crown of life for those who love him. What is this crown of life? It is surely a greater good than we can conceive of or desire, as St. Paul says, quoting Isaiah: Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pope Benedict in Lebanon - Day 2

People holding flags of Lebanon and the Vatican and images of the pope wait along a parade route for Pope Benedict XVI's arrival at the Baabda Presidential Palace southeast of Beirut Sept. 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Sept. 15, 2012).

Men celebrate after Pope Benedict XVI arrives to the Baabda Presidential Palace for meetings with Lebanese leaders southeast of Beirut Sept. 15. During the meetings the pope urged multifaith Lebanon to be a model of peace and religious coexistence in the Middle East. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Sept. 15, 2012) .

A young man holds up Lebanon's flag, an olive branch and a copy of the YouCat Catholic catechism as people wait for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI for his meeting with young people in Bkerke, Lebanon, Sept. 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Sept. 15, 2012).

Olive trees are seen onstage as Pope Benedict XVI leads a meeting with young people in the square outside of the Maronite patriarch's residence in Bkerke, Lebanon, Sept. 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Sept. 15, 2012).

Dancers perform for Pope Benedict XVI during his meeting with young people in the square outside the Maronite patriarch's residence in Bkerke, Lebanon, Sept. 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Sept. 15, 2012). 

Pope Benedict XVI acknowledges the crowd as he addresses young people in the square outside of the Maronite patriarch's residence in Bkerke, Lebanon, Sept. 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Sept. 15, 2012) .


Photos: Pope Benedict in Lebanon -- Day 1

Pope Benedict XVI arrives at Rafiq Hariri International Airport in Beirut Sept. 14 to begin his three-day visit to Lebanon. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Sept. 14, 2012).

People await the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI at Rafiq Hariri International Airport in Beirut Sept. 14. The pope began his three-day visit to Lebanon. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).

Pope Benedict XVI signs his apostolic exhortation on the church's concerns in the Middle East during his visit to St. Paul's Basilica in Harissa, Lebanon, Sept. 14. The document summarizing the conclusion of the 2010 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East was presented by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, left. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).
Pope Benedict XVI greets Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham of Damascus, Syria, during his visit to St. Paul's Basilica in Harissa, Lebanon, Sept. 14. During his visit, the pope presented an apostolic exhortation addressing the church's concerns in the Middle East. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Sept. 14, 2012).

Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, left, addresses Pope Benedict XVI and other church prelates at St. Paul's Basilica in Harissa, Lebanon, Sept. 14. During the ceremony at the basilica, the pope signed the document summarizing the conclusion of the 2010 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Sept. 14, 2012)

Pope's Address to Lebanese Youth
Pope's Address to Leaders of Lebanon
Pope's Address Upon Signing Apostolic Exhortation on Mideast

Friday, September 14, 2012

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Today’s feast is a very early one in Church history and actually commemorates several events. First, the discovery of the cross of Jesus by St. Helen, the mother of the emperor Constantine who was the first Roman emperor to legalize Christianity. Second, the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the church that was built over the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Third, the return of the cross after it had been carried off and held for 15 years by non-Christian Persians, and the lifting up and display of the cross upon its return to Jerusalem. But all these events are not as important as the event that gives the cross its prominence in our faith—the death of Jesus on the cross and its being made sacred by the precious blood that soaked into it. As we reflect on this mystery, we turn to Pope Benedict’s words on this feast in 2008 when he made a pilgrimage to Lourdes.

“What a great thing it is to possess the Cross! He who possesses it possesses a treasure” (Saint Andrew of Crete, Homily X on the Exaltation of the Cross). On this day when the Church’s liturgy celebrates the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Gospel you have just heard reminds us of the meaning of this great mystery: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that men might be saved (cf. Jn 3:16). The Son of God became vulnerable, assuming the condition of a slave, obedient even to death, death on a cross (cf. Phil 2:8). By his Cross we are saved. The instrument of torture which, on Good Friday, manifested God’s judgment on the world, has become a source of life, pardon, mercy, a sign of reconciliation and peace. “In order to be healed from sin, gaze upon Christ crucified!” said Saint Augustine. By raising our eyes towards the Crucified one, we adore him who came to take upon himself the sin of the world and to give us eternal life. And the Church invites us proudly to lift up this glorious Cross so that the world can see the full extent of the love of the Crucified one for mankind, for every man and woman. She invites us to give thanks to God because from a tree which brought death, life has burst out anew. On this wood Jesus reveals to us his sovereign majesty, he reveals to us that he is exalted in glory. Yes, “Come, let us adore him!” In our midst is he who loved us even to giving his life for us, he who invites every human being to draw near to him with trust.

How to watch Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon live

On Friday September 14, Benedict XVI will begin his trip to Lebanon which is expected to be one of the most important of his pontificate. His plane will depart from Rome's Ciampino Airport and land four hours later in Beirut.

He will spend Friday afternoon in the Basilica of St. Paul in Harissa, where he will sign the Apostolic Exhortation 'Ecclesia in Medio Oriente' to provide guidance for Christians in the region.

On Saturday, the Pope will meet with the President and leaders of Muslim communities. He will then have lunch with the Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon and in the afternoon he will meet with young people.

The Sunday morning Mass held and delivered the Apostolic Exhortation for the Middle East and pray the Angelus. In the afternoon, you will have an ecumenical meeting with religious leaders of Lebanon. And before returning to Rome, participate in a farewell ceremony at the airport in Beirut.

During these three intense days, ROME REPORTS will report in English and Spanish all the latest updates on the trip through its website and profiles on Facebook and Twitter.

The official website of the visit of Benedict XVI to Lebanon will provide all the details of meetings and different celebrations, which can also be followed through their smartphone application. You can also follow the journey live from the Vatican news portal on that has retransmission from the different media sources operated by the Vatican Television Center.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Most Holy Name of Mary

A feast honoring the Name of Mary was instituted in Spain in 1513, but on this day in 1693 a great military victory was won by King Jan Sobieski of Poland who, after entrusting his troops to the protection of Mary, came to the rescue of the city of Vienna which was under siege by Turkish forces. In thanksgiving for the deliverance of this Christian city, the pope extended this feast to the entire Church. It was dropped from the Church’s calendar in 1969, but Pope John Paul II reinstituted it. Let us invoke the Name of Mary upon politicians that they may seek the will of God and not their own interests as they fulfill their responsibility of service. Our reflection is from Pope John XXIII.

It is a name that moves heaven and earth, as well we know. We have had proof of this every time Mary has come back among us, with her visible appearances in places that have since become centers of devotion to her. Meanwhile we pray to her continually, and call upon her name. We have the holy rosary: a summary of the whole story of Redemption…. These are not events of yesterday—they go back two thousand years—yet they have preserved intact their meaning, their power and their lesson for every day. That is why we ask you all to recite the rosary, not only with the mechanical movements of your lips, or of your fingers on the beads, but really pondering each individual mystery. By so doing we shall have unending peace in our hearts and the hope, nay, the certainty, that Mary hears us, blesses us and guides us to salvation. In Mary’s company age does not wither us; everyone may keep the freshness and charm of childhood, which induced a great writer to comment: “Nothing can be lovelier than a child reciting the Hail Mary”. With the knowledge that this is the centuries old tradition of the Church, and the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman faith, we shall look forward also with serenity to our last hour on earth. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray now, and at the hour of our death.” Our last thought and look will be for her, and she will return like the dawn of a new day: “Turn to the morning star, and call on Mary”.

No prayer is ever lost

Vatican City, (VIS) - During his general audience, held this morning in the Paul VI Hall, Benedict XVI focused his catechesis on prayer in the second part of the Book of Revelation in which, he noted, attention moves from the interior life of the Church "to the entire world, because the Church advances through history and is a part thereof".

In this second part of Revelation, the Christian assembly is called "to undertake a profound interpretation of the history in which it lives, learning to discern events with faith so that, through its actions, it may collaborate in the advancement of the kingdom of God. Such interpretation, discernment and action are closely associated with prayer".

The assembly is invited to ascend unto heaven "in order to see reality with the eyes of God". There, according to St. John's narrative, we find three symbols with which to interpret history: the throne, the scroll and the Lamb. On the throne sits Almighty God "Who has not remained isolated in heaven but has approached man and entered into a covenant with him". The scroll "contains God's plan for history and mankind, but it is hermetically sealed with seven seals and no one can read it. ... Yet there is a remedy to man's confusion before the mystery of history. Someone is able to open the scroll and illuminate him".

That someone appears in the third symbol: "Christ, the Lamb, Who was immolated in the sacrifice of the cross but stands in sign of His resurrection. The Lamb, Christ, Who died and rose again, will progressively open the seals so as to reveal the plan of God, the profound meaning of history".

These symbols, the Pope explained, "remind us of the path we must follow to interpret the events of history and of our own lives. Raising our gaze to God's heaven in an unbroken relationship with Christ, ... in individual and community prayer, we learn to see things in a new way and to grasp their most authentic significance". The Lord invites the Christian community "to a realistic examination of the present time in which they are living. The Lamb then opens the first four seals of the scroll and the Church sees the world of which she is part; a world containing ... the evils accomplished by man, such as violence ... and injustice, ... to which must be added the evils man suffers such as death, hunger, and sickness".

"In the face of these often dramatic issues the ecclesial community is invited never to lose hope, but to remain firm in the belief that the apparent omnipotence of the Evil One in fact comes up against true omnipotence, that of God". St. John speaks of the white horse, which symbolises that "the power of God has entered man's history, a power capable not only of counterbalancing evil, but also of overcoming it. ... God became so close as to descend into the darkness of death and illuminate it with the splendour of divine life. He took the evil of the world upon Himself to purify it with the fire of His love".

The Holy Father went on: "How can we progress in this Christian interpretation of reality? The Book of Revelation tells us that prayer nourishes this vision of light and profound hope in each one of us and in our communities. ... The Church lives in history, she is not closed in herself but courageously faces her journey amidst difficulties and sufferings, forcefully affirming that evil does not defeat good, that darkness does not shade God's splendour. This is an important point for us too: as Christians we can never be pessimists. ... Prayer, above all, educates us to see the signs of God, His presence and His action; or rather, it educates us to become lights of goodness, spreading hope and indicating that the victory is God's".

At the end of the vision an angel places grains of incense in a censer then throws it upon the earth. Those grains represent our prayers, the Pope said. "and we can be sure that there is no such thing as a superfluous or useless prayer. No prayer is lost. ... God is not oblivious to our prayers. ... When faced with evil we often have the sensation that we can do nothing, but our prayers are in fact the first and most effective response we can give, they strengthen our daily commitment to goodness. The power of God makes our weakness strong".

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pope's coming visit to Lebanon: What's expected?

Fifteen years ago John Paul II visited Lebanon. Now his predecessor will pay a visit. Next week, Benedict XVI will be in the heart of the Middle East, to encourage Christians who are suffering and facing discrimination. The visit will also be a new opportunity to promote co-existence by strengthening ties with Muslim communities. 

To prepare and keep track of his visit, a website was launched in French, Arabic, English and Italian. The website will also include the Pope's speeches, which without a doubt will focus on the current instability in the Middle East.

BENEDICT XVI - Angelus 07-29-2012 
“It's with great pain and suffering that I'm following the tragic and rising violence in Syria,which has left many dead and others wounded, including civilians. The violence has also left many homeless, forcing them to become refugees in neighboring countries.”

The Pope will be in Lebanon for three very intense days. On Friday 14th, he will visit St. Paul's Basilica in Harissa to sign the apostolic exhortation that was developed after the Synod on the Middle East. The document of course focuses on Christians who live in that part of the world. 

On the morning of Saturday, September 15 the Pope will have meetings with local political authorities. He will also meet key leaders of the Muslim community, who have actually said that the Pope's visit will be very important for them as well. Benedict XVI will then have lunch with bishops of Lebanon, followed by a meeting with a youth group. 

Sunday morning the Pope will celebrate Mass in Beirut. That's when the Pope will officially present the signed apostolic exhortation. Before heading back to Rome in the afternoon, the Pope will preside over an ecumenical gathering in the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate.

What is Love?

Love is a tendency of the soul towards good, and so it means many things to many people, but when the good I seek is only perceived by Faith, that Love is supernatural-it is Christian Love. It is a gift given to me at Baptism, and one I must grow in every moment of my life.

How did Jesus love me?

He left all of Heaven to come down and teach me by word and example how to live. I am more valuable to Him than all of creation.

I will love my neighbor as Jesus loves me by —

Loving him as he is,
being patient with his sins, realizing I have a beam in my own eye,
making it easy for those who have offended me to ask forgiveness and assuring them all is forgotten,
weeping with those who weep and laughing with those who laugh.


Lord God and Father, You are Love; Your Son showed me Your Love and Your Spirit gave me Your Love. Grant me the grace I need to be love, to show Love and to give Love to my neighbor in the same way You have given Yourself to me. Amen.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Where is there a God who is as close as our God?

“Where is there a God who is as close as our God is close to us, every time we invoke Him?” 

What counts is interior closeness! God has become so close that He himself is a man: this should always disconcert and surprise us anew! He is so close that He is one of us. He knows the human being, the “taste” of the human being, He know him from within, has tested him with his joys and sufferings. He is close to me as man, close “within call”-- so close that he hears me and that I can know: He hears me and listens to me, even if perhaps it is not as I imagine it.

Allowing myself to be filled again by this joy: where is there a people to which God is so close as our God is to us? So close as to be one of us, to touch me from within. Yes, to enter into me in the Holy Eucharist, and that that is also disconcerting. On this process, Saint Bonaventure once used in his Communion prayers a formulation that shakes one, almost frightens one. He says: my Lord, how did it possibly come into your mind to enter into the filthy latrine of my body? Yes, He enters into our misery, he does so knowingly and does so to penetrate us, to cleanse and renew us so that, through us, in us, truth will be in the world and salvation brought about. Let us ask the Lord forgiveness for our indifference, for our misery that makes us think only of ourselves, for our egoism which does not seek the truth, but which follows our own habits, and which perhaps often makes Christianity seem like a system of habits. Let us ask Him to enter into our souls forcefully, that He make himself present in us and through us – and thus that joy is born also in us: God is here, and He loves me, He is our salvation! Amen.

Excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI homily at the Mass with his former pupils on 2/9/12.

The Angelus - 9.9.12

Vatican Radio - A very small word that sums up Christ’s mission on earth was the focus of Pope Benedict XVI’s Angelus reflections this week: "Ephphatha," which means, "Be opened. Drawn from the Sunday Gospel, Mark Chapter 7, which recounts Christ’s healing of the deaf mute, Pope Benedict XVI said Jesus “became man so that man, made inwardly deaf and dumb by sin, would become able to hear the voice of God, the voice of love speaking to his heart, and learn to speak in the language of love, to communicate with God and with others”.

The Pope's Address
Dear brothers and sisters! 

At the heart of today's Gospel (Mk 7, 31-37) there is a small but, very important word. A word that - in its deepest meaning- sums up the whole message and the whole work of Christ. The Evangelist Mark writes it in the same language that Jesus pronounced it in, so that it is even more alive to us. This word is "Ephphatha," which means, "be opened." Let us look at the context in which it is located. Jesus was travelling through the region known as the "Decapolis", between the coast of Tyre and Sidon, and Galilee, therefore a non-Jewish area. They brought to him a deaf man, so that he could heal him - evidently his fame had spread that far. Jesus took him aside, touched his ears and tongue, and then, looking up to the heavens, with a deep sigh said, "Ephphatha," which means, "Be opened." And immediately the man began to hear and speak fluently (cf. Mk 7.35). This then is the historical, literal, meaning of this word: this deaf mute, thanks to Jesus’ intervention, "was opened", before he had been closed, insulated, it was very difficult for him to communicate, and his recovery was '"openness" to others and the world, an openness that, starting from the organs of hearing and speech, involved all his person and his life: Finally he was able to communicate and thus relate in a new way. 

But we all know that closure of man, his isolation, does not solely depend on the sense organs. There is an inner closing, which covers the deepest core of the person, what the Bible calls the "heart". That is what Jesus came to "open" to liberate, to enable us to fully live our relationship with God and with others. That is why I said that this little word, "Ephphatha – Be opened," sums up Christ’s entire mission. He became man so that man, made inwardly deaf and dumb by sin, would become able to hear the voice of God, the voice of love speaking to his heart, and learn to speak in the language of love, to communicate with God and with others. For this reason, the word and the gesture of '"Ephphatha" are included in the Rite of Baptism, as one of the signs that explain its meaning: the priest touching the mouth and ears of the newly baptized says: "Ephphatha" praying that they may soon hear the Word of God and profess the faith. Through Baptism, the human person begins, so to speak, to "breathe" the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus had invoked from Father with that deep breath, to heal the deaf and dumb man. 

We now turn in prayer to Mary Most Holy, whose Nativity we celebrated yesterday. Because of her unique relationship with the Incarnate Word, Mary is fully "open" to the love of the Lord, her heart is constantly listening to his Word. May her maternal intercession help us to experience every day, in faith, the miracle of '"Ephphatha," to live in communion with God and with others. 

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus prayer, especially those from the Rome campus of the University of Mary in the United States. In today’s Gospel Jesus cures a deaf man with a speech impediment. Let us pray that our spiritual infirmities may be cured, so that our ears may be open to listen attentively to the Lord’s life-giving teachings, and our speech may plainly profess our faith in him. May God bless you! 

The priority of peace for the Middle East

“My apostolic visit to Lebanon, and by extension to the Middle East as a whole, is placed under the sign of peace”: On the eve of his departure, Pope Benedict XVI has clearly stated the aim of this his 24th foreign visit and has voiced his serious concern for the “daily sufferings” of the people of the Middle East, “which sadly, and at times mortally, plague their personal and family life”. 

In his greeting to French speaking pilgrims at Castel Gandolfo for the midday Angelus this Sunday, Pope Benedict said his visit to Lebanon, extends to the peoples of the entire region, “too long torn apart by incessant conflicts”. 

He added “My concerned thoughts go out to those who, in search of a place of peace, leave their family and professional life, and experience the precariousness of being exiles. Even though the search for solutions to the various problems affecting the region seems difficult, we can not resign ourselves to the violence and exasperation of tensions. A commitment to dialogue and reconciliation must be a priority for all parties involved, and must be supported by the international community, increasingly aware of the importance of a stable and lasting peace in the region for the entire world”. 

Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37) Jesus opens the ears and loosens the tongue of a man who could not hear or speak. We pray that the politicians of our world, and in particular of our nation during this election year, may hear the voice of God and speak the truth. Our reflection is from Blessed John Paul II’s homily for the Jubilee of Government Leaders and Politicians, November 5, 2000 in which he announced that he had made St. Thomas More the patron saint of government leaders and politicians.

Distinguished Government Leaders, Members of Parliament, Politicians, Public Administrators: at the beginning of the new century and the new millennium, those responsible for public life are faced with many demanding responsibilities. It is precisely with this in mind that, in the context of the Great Jubilee, I have wished, as you know, to offer you the support of a special Patron: the martyr Saint Thomas More.

Thomas More’s life is truly an example for all who are called to serve humanity and society in the civic and political sphere. The eloquent testimony which he bore is as timely as ever at an historical moment which presents crucial challenges to the consciences of everyone involved in the field of governance. As a statesman, he always placed himself at the service of the person, especially the weak and the poor. Honor and wealth held no sway over him, guided as he was by an outstanding sense of fairness. Above all, he never compromised his conscience, even to the point of making the supreme sacrifice so as not to disregard its voice. Invoke him, follow him, imitate him! His intercession will not fail – even in the most difficult of situations – to bring you strength, good naturedness, patience and perseverance.

This is the hope which we now wish to strengthen with the power of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which Christ once more becomes nourishment and direction for our lives. May the Lord help you to become politicians after his own heart, emulators of Saint Thomas More, courageous witnesses of Christ and conscientious servants of the State.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ava Maria

Feast of the Nativity of Mary

On Our Lady's birthday the Church celebrates the first dawning of redemption with the appearance in the world of the Savior's mother, Mary. The Blessed Virgin occupies a unique place in the history of salvation, and she has the highest mission ever commended to any creature. We rejoice that the Mother of God is our Mother, too. Let us often call upon the Blessed Virgin as"Cause of our joy", one of the most beautiful titles in her litany.

Since September 8 marks the end of summer and beginning of fall, this day has many thanksgiving celebrations and customs attached to it. In the Old Roman Ritual there is a blessing of the summer harvest and fall planting seeds for this day. 

The winegrowers in France called this feast "Our Lady of the Grape Harvest". The best grapes are brought to the local church to be blessed and then some bunches are attached to hands of the statue of Mary. A festive meal which includes the new grapes is part of this day.

In the Alps section of Austria this day is "Drive-Down Day" during which the cattle and sheep are led from their summer pastures in the slopes and brought to their winter quarters in the valleys. This was usually a large caravan, with all the finery, decorations, and festivity. In some parts of Austria, milk from this day and all the leftover food are given to the poor in honor of Our Lady’s Nativity.

Excerpted from The Holyday Book by Fr. Francis Weiser, SJ

Patron: All people named Mary, in any form.

Symbols: bruised serpent, sometimes encircling a globe; the lily; fleur de lis; virgin's monogram; pierced heart; crescent moon; sun and moon; starry crown; Mater Dei; rose; flowering almond; gilly flower; snow drop; hawthorn; the star; the balsam; the Ark of the Covenant; the mirror or speculum; apple; myrtle; palm, cypress and olive; closed gate; book of Wisdom; sealed book; rod of Jesse; lily of the valley; house of gold; city of God; vessel of honor; seat of wisdom.

Things to Do:

Learn prayers to Mary, such as the Angelus, Litany of Loreto, Memorare, Hail Mary, and Hail Holy Queen.

Learn and sing various hymns to Mary, such as the Salve Regina, Immaculate Mary, Hail Holy Queen. See top bar for list of suggested hymns.

Start researching and planning a Mary Garden, or a special plant or flower for each feast day of Mary. This can be for next spring, but if some bulbs are to be included, this is the time to plant them!

Contemplate on how all the feasts of Mary point to the mysteries of Christ and our salvation history. Biblical readings: Proverbs 8:22-35 and Matthew 1:1-16 (this points to the appreciation of the heritage and family of Jesus).

Find out about the devotion to "Maria Bambina" or "Baby Mary."

Women for Faith and Family have some wonderful ideas for this feastday.

Pray the......Liturgy of the Hours

Friday, September 7, 2012

Popes and Cars: It's not just about the 'Popemobile'

At 85 years old, the Pope may not drive, but he's constantly in a car-moving from one point, to another. When at the Vatican or even in Rome, he's usually seen in this black Mercedes, with dark tinted windows. It's easy to spot his car, since the license plate reads SCV 1, meaning State City Vatican. But over the years, the pope has been given many vehicles, as gifts.

It may seem odd, but back in 2007, Benedict XVI was given a tractor. The Italian car company 'FIAT' gave it to the Pope as a gift, so the Vatican could move the 17 ton mobile platform it uses during the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

Italy of course is known for its fast cars, so it's not that surprising that the president of Ferrari, gave the Pope a race car wheel, which of course, got quite a reaction from the Pope. 

Among the cars that have the Papal Seal is this electric City Car. Italian company NWG gave it to the Vatican's Press office, after the Vatican took several steps to become 'green.'

Under that same theme of going green, the Pope personally received a white Renault car with the Papal Seal. It was designed specifically for him, so he could move freely through the gardens of his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

But the Pope wasn't always used to the passenger seat. In fact, this four door Golf Saloon was the car Cardinal Ratzinger used before being elected Pope. Eventually it was sold on E-Bay.

In general, recent popes and cars have quite a long history.Back when John Paul II was Pope, he was given this Volkswagen.

But when it comes to cars and the Pope, the first word that comes to mind is the now famous 'Popemobile.' There are several versions of course, but perhaps the most famous is the customized Mercedes-Benz, with bullet-proof windows. It's the one the Pope uses when he takes trips outside the Vatican, as he greets hundreds of thousands of people.

The Lowest Place

The word "humility" is misunderstood by most people and despised by others. It does not mean making oneself a doormat. Jesus told us to learn from Him how to be meek and humble of heart. We must look at His life if we are to have any concept of what humility is all about.

Christ took the form of a servant but He never ceased to be the Master; He took the lowest place but was always the Leader; He was meek when accused unjustly, but strong enough to call men hypocrites when He had to; He cured the blind and then told them not to tell anyone; He felt the jealousy and hatred of His enemies but never lost His serenity; He was afraid in the Garden of Gethsemane, but did what He had to do; He suffered unheard of torments and asked forgiveness for His executioners; He felt abandoned but commended His soul to His Father. This is how He was humble.

Humility is-to know my place before God and to be grateful and to take my place before men with lowliness.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Could it be that the best way to become detached is to have an overwhelming attachment to God?

It is not so much the possession of things that makes me attached; it is the burden these things impose—the fear of loss, the greed for more, the power they exert, the glitter that is so bright for so short a time. All this puts me in a vicious circle that is hard to change. The more I have, the more I want; the more I want, the more anxious I become and everyday my mind and soul are absorbed in a complex web too tight to break through.

The visible reality brings a degree of happiness, but not peace; it gives' a glow but not a light; it gives security but never assurance; it promotes love based on service, but never feeds the love that is based on sacrifice.

Is detachment the answer to freedom? No, because detachment is negative—it is to be without. The answer must be positive—I must replace what I have with something better. The things that occupy my mind and are contrary to the Divine Will are the things that exercise the greatest power over my soul.

I must rise above the things that pass by seeing God in them. The essence of attachment is to possess, to hang on to, and yet everything is passing. Why should I put my heart in anything that is here today and gone tomorrow.

Where, my soul, is the balance between compassion and detachment, providing for today and not being anxious for tomorrow, having things and not possessing them, deeply caring and being unselfish? The balance is a deep and strong love for God. All lesser loves fall away in the presence of a great Loveand here is the balance and the answer to detachment: Supernatural Love.

Supernatural Love is free and unattached because it is based on an unseen Reality; it is sure because that Reality is eternal; it is strong because it is fed by God Himself; it can possess things without being possessed by them; it can love people and be content if that love is not returned; it can give and give and never run dry.

It is then, a matter of preference and priorities and first things first. It is not a matter of having or not having, of being rich or poor, a success or failure. It is putting God and His Kingdom FIRST, FOREMOST and ALWAYS, knowing that all these other things will be added.

The secret to real freedom is to prefer God to everything and to do everything for God.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pope's general audience: Prayer is much more than just words and requests

The Pope made his way from Castel Gandolfo back to the Vatican, to hold Wednesday's general audience. With roughly 7,000 people there, the Pope explained that the best way to develop a relationship with God, is through prayer. 

BENEDICT XVI -“Prayer with others, liturgical prayer in particular will deepen our awareness of the crucified and risen Jesus in our midst.”

By citing the Book of Revelation, the Pope said that prayer is much more than just words and requests. More than that, he said, it's a way to develop a friendship with God. A way to learn to speak to Him and listen to Him as well.

BENEDICT XVI -“Thus, the more we know, love and follow Christ, the more we will want to meet Him in prayer, for He is the peace, hope and strength of our lives.”

Among the thousands who attended the general audience at the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, the Pope gave a warm welcome to young adults who took part in 'GenFest.' The gathering, which is led by the Focolare Movement, gathered more than 12,000 youths in Budapest, under the theme, 'Building Bridges of Brotherhood.'

BENEDICT XVI -“I therefore encourage you: be strong in your Catholic faith; and let the simple joy, the pure love and the profound peace that come from the encounter with Jesus Christ make you radiant witnesses of the Good News.”

At the end of the general audience, the Pope made his way back to his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, but before that, he got a warm welcome from a young visitor, who according to this sign, is also named 'Joseph.'