"To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop." ~ Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life, n.101
Everything is grace, everything is the direct effect of our Father's love.Everything is grace because everything is God's gift.Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events -- to the heart that loves, all is well.
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The saint of the day for April 23 is St. George, a soldier of the Roman army who was tortured and beheaded for his Christian faith in the year 303, in Lydda (in modern day Palestine). He was likely born in Cappadocia, of a Cappadocian father and a Palestinian mother of noble rank. At the death of his father (possibly martyrdom) he moved to Palestine with his mother where he joined the military and apparently served with some distinction, meriting several promotions in rank.
One account of the martyrdom of St. George is Eusebius´ Ecclesiastical History, which relates that when the emperor Diocletian issued an edict "to tear down the churches to the foundations and to destroy the Sacred Scriptures by fire…a certain man, of no mean origin, but highly esteemed for his temporal dignities, stimulated by a divine zeal, and excited by an ardent faith, took it as it was openly placed and posted up for public inspection, and tore it to shreds as a most profane and wicked act." This act of intransigence and holy audacity enraged the emperor who had the man tortured and killed. This man “of no mean origin”, i.e. of nobility, has been identified by more than one ancient source, including Eusebius, as St. George, though most modern historians of the period state that this is unlikely.
St. George is usually depicted in Christian art as a soldier on horseback killing a dragon with a lance. This image is a representation of a popular legend of St. George which first appears in 1265 in a romance titled "The Golden Legend," in which he saved a town terrorized by a dragon with one blow of his lance. The image, however, is also, and more significantly, a powerful symbol of the victory of Christian faith over evil (sometimes interpreted more contextually in the early Church as “paganism”), personified by the devil who is symbolized by the dragon according to the imagery in Revelations.
St. George is invoked as a patron of military causes, not only because he was a soldier, but also, and primarily, due to his appearance to the Christian armies before the battle of Antioch, in which they were victorious, and to King Richard the Lionheart of England during his crusade against the Saracens.
The cult of St.George, while universal, remains strongest in the Eastern Church where he is venerated as “The Great Martyr.” Accounts of early pilgrims identify the seat of the cult of St.George at his burial site in Lydda. The cult has been in existence since the 4th century, soon after his death.
John Paul II's pontificate broke many records. But, beyond the numbers, the leadership of the Polish Pope guided the Catholic Church through many rising challenges in modern times.
FIGHT FOR FREEDOM
"Don't be afraid!”
One of the greatest challenges was the Cold War, and the two blocs that pitted the world against each other. John Paul II had suffered first hand from the oppression of Nazi and Communist regimes. His role was fundamental in the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. One of his first trips was to his native Poland in 1979. It became a defining point that encouraged Poles to fight for freedom.
John Paul II was a seasoned traveler and reached all corners of the world. He made 104 international trips, and visited 130 countries. In terms of mileage, it's enough to go around the world 30 times. But there were two countries he was unable to visit, China and Russia
DIALOGUE WITH MUSLIMS AND JEWS
John Paul II referred to Jews as "older brothers,” and became the first Pope to step inside a synagogue since the times of Jesus. He also prayed before the Western Wall. He was also the first Pope to kiss a Koran, and step inside a mosque.
Speaking of spurring inter-religious dialogue, John Paul II was a pioneer in calling for joint prayer in favor of peace, as he did so in Assisi. The first joint prayer was in 1986. More than 150 delegates from 12 religions heeded his call.
NO TO WAR
During his pontificate, several major conflicts made international headlines: Rwanda, Kosovo, Sudan, Iraq and the Balkan wars. The Pope, who had survived World War II, did not remain silent. He became the voice of humanity, actively advocating against violence.
"War, never again.” SAINTS
When it came to proclaiming saints, the Polish Pope looked to modern times. He raised to the altars hundreds of people who led exemplary lives for Christians today. For example, and for the first time, he jointly beatified a married couple: Luigi and Maria Beltrame.
LETTER TO WOMEN
John Paul II took a particular concern for women. He was the first Pope to write an apostolic letter directed to women, Mulieris Dignitatem. In it, he urged them to reflect on their personal, cultural, social and ecclesiastical responsibilities. DIGNITY OF THE SICK
Weakened by sickness himself, John Paul II remained active until his very last moments. He used his personal experience as a teaching tool for a world already under the influence of the "throw-away” culture.
In the Jubilee for the Year 2000, John Paul II formally apologized for the Church's past errors. It was a historic moment, which the Pope defined as a purification of memory, which allowed Christians to enter the Third Millennium more open to God.
A POPE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
John Paul II understood that young people needed special attention and guardianship. He came up with a gathering dedicated exclusively to them: World Youth Day. The Pope said he felt like another young person in the crowd.
"If you live with youth, you have to become young.”
Over the course of his 27 year pontificate, John Paul II overcame many obstacles and reached many goals. But above all, he was able to reach millions of Christians, talking to them one on one, from heart to heart.
Today we honor Blessed Maria Gabriella, an Italian Trappist nun, who died at the age young age of 25, and was renowned for her gift to heal divisions and unify the Church through her redemptive sufferings. She is the patron saint of bodily ills
Sr. Maria Gabriella was beatified on January 25th, 1983 in the Basilica of St. Paul's outside the Walls. It was the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle of the Gentiles, and also the last day of the Church Unity Octave. In his homily, Pope John Paul II stated: "I am happy to note, and to point out particularly to the young who are so fond of athletics and sport, that the young Trappist whom we are honoring today for the first time with the title "Blessed", was able to make her own the Apostles exhortation to the faithful of Corinth (1 Cor. 9:25), to "run as to win".
She succeeded in the span of a few years to set a number of records in the stadium of sanctity that would make the most qualified champions envious. In fact she is historically the first Blessed to come from the ranks of "Girls of Catholic Action"; she is the first among the youth of Sardinia; the first among the Trappist monks and nuns; the first among those who work for Christian Unity. Four records set in the arena of that "school of divine service" proposed by the great Patriarch St. Benedict, which evidently is still valid even today after fifteen centuries, if it has been able to produce such examples of virtue in one who accepted it and put into practice "with the mind of love".
Blessed Maria Gabriella is a young girl from Sardinia, in Italy, who died in 1939 at the Trappist monastery of Grottaferrata on the outskirts of Rome, at the age of 25. Like many another young man or woman she had accepted the gentle but compelling call of God to give her youth and life to Him. She entered a poor and hidden monastery and after three and a half years of prayer and penance died of the tuberculosis which had sapped her strong constitution. The only thing she had at her command was her life and this she offered as a holocaust to heal divisions and make all Christians visibly "one" in Christ. Her brief but total gift of herself was lived without any self-pity or regret. Outwardly, her life was insignificant, but through a series of events hard to explain in human terms, God used her to make known the beginning of the ecumenical movement in Italy and then, in the late 30's, the universal call to Christian Unity. In his encyclical "Ut unum sint" John Paul II pointed to her as an outstanding example of spiritual ecumenism.
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis began his Regina Coeli address on Monday by saying Happy Easter !Christ is risen! He is truly risen ."
The Holy Father told the faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square that the dominant feeling that shines in the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection is one of joy and wonder, and he went on to say that in the liturgy we relive the mood of the disciples with the news that the women had brought, Jesus is risen!
The Pope said, “Let this experience imprinted in the Gospel, be imprinted in our hearts and in our lives. Let the joyous wonder of Easter Sunday radiate through our thoughts , looks, attitudes , gestures and words ..." But, he stressed, let this come from within us.
When it comes from within, Pope Francis added , from a heart immersed in the source of this joy, it is like that of Mary Magdalene, who wept for the loss of her Lord and could not believe her eyes seeing him risen.
The person who does this, said the Pope becomes a witness to the resurrection and is then able to bring the "ray " of light of the Risen Lord to various human situations such as spreading happiness , helping those in pain and bringing serenity and hope.
Declaring someone a saint is a process that takes years. But what's actually involved?
Each canonization includes a long process that's divided in several phases. The first one is carried out by the local diocese of the candidate.
"This includes writing and gathering the testimonies of those who directly knew the person. So documents, letters and declarations that shed light on the candidate's grace.”
The information is then sent to the Vatican, where it's reviewed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. If approved, the candidate is declared a Servant of God.
The next step is analyzing whether the candidate manifested heroic virtues that reflect the Gospel. If so, the person is recognized as 'Venerable.'
CARD. JOSÉ SARAIVA MARTINS
Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
"When someone is declared as having heroic virtues, it's based on the way he or she lived. For example, those who leave everything behind to head out on mission. This is obvious heroism.”
The next step is being declared a Blessed. For that to happen a miracle needs to be attributed to the candidate. It's a process that involves scientists, doctors and theologians. All of whom will look into the validity of the miracle.
CARD. JOSÉ SARAIVA MARTINS
Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
"One miracle is needed for the beatification to happen. Yet another for the canonization. This last miracle needs to happen after the beatification ceremony. Unless the person is a martyrin that case a miracle is not necessary.”
When that happens, on behalf of the Pope, a prefect from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints can celebrate the beatification ceremony, in a location that's relevant to candidate's life. From that point on the Blessed can be venerated.
So the last stage is to prove that a second miracle took place after the beatification ceremony. If that is approved, then the candidate can be declared a saint.
Finally, the entire process comes to a close with a canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square, where the candidate is declared a Saint of the Catholic Church.
On Holy Saturday, the Church waits at the Lord's tomb in prayer, meditating on His Passion and Death and on His descent into Hell, awaiting His Resurrection.
"Here we are, Your Church the Body from Your Body and from Your Blood. We are here, we are keeping watch. We are by Your sepulcher."
~ Pope John Paul II
"Holy Saturday is the day of the 'death of God,' the day which expresses the unparalleled experience of our age, anticipating the fact that God is simply absent, that the grave hides him, that he no longer awakes, no longer speaks, so that one no longer needs to gainsay him but can simply overlook him…Christ strode through the gate of our final loneliness; in his Passion he went down into the abyss of our abandonment. Where no voice can reach us any longer, there is he. Hell is thereby overcome, or, to be more accurate, death, which was previously hell, is hell no longer. Neither is the same any longer because there is life in the midst of death, because love dwells in it."
~ Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Francis celebrated one of the most important ceremonies of the year surrounded by the sick. His Holy Thursday Mass took place at the St. Mary of Providence Center, for the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation.
When he arrived, he greeted the families, workers and patients of this center, which takes care of people with special needs, as well as the elderly and sick.
During his homily, he explained that in Jesus' times, slaves would wash the feet of their masters. He then added that when Jesus did the same for their disciples, he left them this tradition.
"We've listened to what Jesus said during the Last Supper: this gesture is a farewell. It is like a heritage he leaves us. He is God, and has made Himself servant, our servant. This is His heritage: you also must become servants of each other.”
The Pope then asked everyone to compare this action to the personal attitude we have whens serving others.
"I will now wash their feet, but we all, in our hearts, let's think about others and about the love Jesus says we must have for others. Let's think also about how we can serve better other people. Because that's what Jesus wanted of us.”
After his words, the Pope washed the feet of 12 disabled and elderly people, just like Jesus did with His apostles. Their ages ranged from 16 to the 86. One of them was Muslim. He's named Hamed and was born in Libya 75 years ago.
Even though he had some trouble getting up, Pope Francis knelt before them, washed and carefully kissed the feet of each of the patients from the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation.
This Italian organization has 39 centers all around Italy, and also works in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Ecuador and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where they look after children with disabilities and deformations.
Last year, the Pope visited a juvenile detention center in Rome. He then washed the feet of 12 jailed teens. Among them was a Muslim girl.
As cardinal in Buenos Aires, he used to spend the Holy Thursday surrounded by the sick, poor and marginalized. Now, he does the same in Rome: he chooses to stay close to those in the "existential outskirts.”
Today is Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, which solemnly celebrates the institution of the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Jesus Christ and the institution of the sacrament of the priesthood.
During the Last Supper, Jesus offers himself as the Passover sacrifice, the sacrificial lamb, and teaches that every ordained priest is to follow the same sacrifice in the exact same way. Christ also bids farewell to his followers and prophesies that one of them will betray him and hand him over to the Roman soldiers.
Around the world, Bishops and priests come together at their local Cathedrals on Holy Thursday morning to celebrate the institution of the priesthood. During the Mass, the bishop blesses the Oil of Chrism that will be used for Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the sick or dying.
At this Mass, the bishop washes the feet of twelve priests to symbolize Christ’s washing of his twelve Apostles, our first bishops and priests.
Later that night, after sundown – because Passover began at sundown- the Holy Thursday Liturgy takes place, marking the end of Lent and the beginning of the sacred "Triduum,” or three, of Holy Week. These days are the three holiest days in the Catholic Church.
This Mass stresses the importance Jesus puts on the humility of service, and the need for cleansing with water, a symbol of baptism. Also emphasized are the critical importance of the Eucharist and the sacrifice of Christ’s Body, which we now find present in the consecrated Host.
On Holy Thursday the ringing of bells ceases, the altar is stripped after vespers, and the night office is celebrated under the name of Tenebræ.
At the conclusion of the Mass, the faithful are invited to continue Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the night, just as the disciples were invited to stay up with the Lord during His agony in the garden before His betrayal by Judas.
After Holy Thursday, no Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil celebrates and proclaims the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In all the German speaking countries, Slavic nations and in Hungary this day is also known as "Green Thursday." The word is a corruption of the German word grunen (to mourn) to the German word for green (grün). Many people believe they must eat green at today's meal, which is probably derived from from the Jewish Passover meal that included bitter herbs.
The Community of St. John has initiated a new summer program, known as Ecclesia. The website describes the program as a place where the Saints of the Third Millenium are formed and the protagonists of a New Evangelization can come to pray, study, and live in the “deep waters” of Catholic Faith.
In response to Pope John Paul II’s call to a New Evangelization, Ecclesia offers the opportunity to earn undergraduate, graduate, or continuing education credits, all while experiencing a summer of prayer, study, evangelization, and fellowship with other young people from across the country. Ecclesia seeks to especially serve those young people who are looking for a deeper and more intense experience of Christ and His Church.
Persons of a variety of backgrounds and interests will join the Brothers and Apostolic Sisters of the Community of Saint John from June 30-August 4. The Ecclesia program kicks off with four days of back-packing in the North Dakota Badlands. Its purpose is to form leaders and new evangelizers: those wanting to be Saints wherever they find themselves in the Church.
Wednesday of Holy Week is traditionally known as "Spy Wednesday" because on this day Judas made a bargain with the high priest to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. In other words, Judas was spying on Jesus. Readings for Wednesday of Holy Week
We are healed by His bruises! O heavenly Physician, who takes upon Himself the sufferings of those He comes to cure! But not only was He bruised for our sins, He was also slaughtered as a lamb; and this not merely as a Victim submitting to the inflexible will of His Father who hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all, but (as the prophet here assures us) because it was His own will. His love for us, as well as His submission to His Father, led Him to the great Sacrifice. Observe, too, how He refuses to defend Himself before Pilate, who could so easily deliver Him from His enemies: He shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearers, and He shall not open His mouth. Let us love and adore this divine silence, which works our salvation. Let us not pass over an iota of the devotedness which Jesus shows us—a devotedness which never could have existed save in the heart of a God. Oh! how much He has loved us, His children, the purchase of His Blood, His seed, as the prophet here calls us. O holy Church! thou long-lived seed of Jesus, who laid down His life, thou art dear to Him, for He bought thee at a great price. Faithful souls! give Him love for love. Sinners! be converted to this your Savior; His Blood will restore you to life, for if we have all gone astray like sheep, remember what is added: The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. There is no sinner, however great may be his crimes, there is no heretic, or infidel, who has not his share in this precious Blood, whose infinite merit is such, that it could redeem a million worlds more guilty even than our own. — The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B. The special prayer either before or after the Wednesday evening meal is a selection from Psalm 21, in which we see through the eyes of David the picture of Christ suffering for us on the Cross. Prayer for Wednesday of Holy Week: Psalm 21:23-32
I will proclaim your name to my brethren: in the midst of the assembly I will praise you; "You who fear the Lord, praise him; all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him; revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not spurned nor disdained the wretched man in his misery Nor did he turn his face away from him, but when he cried out to him, he heard him." So by your gift will I utter praise in the vast assembly; I will fulfill my vows before those who fear him. The lowly shall eat their fill; they who seek the Lord shall praise him: "May your hearts be ever merry!" All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; All the families of the nations shall bow down before him. For dominion is the Lord's and he rules the nations. To him alone shall bow down all who sleep in the earth; Before him shall bend all who go down into the dust. And to him my soul shall live; my descendants shall serve him. Let the coming generation be told of the Lord that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born the justice he has shown.
Prayer Source: Lent and Holy Week in the Home by Emerson and Arlene Hynes, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1977
April 16th marks Benedict XVI's 87th birthday. It will be the first time he will celebrate the big day as Pope Emeritus at the Vatican. Since last year, for his birthday he was just a few miles away at Castel Gandolfo.
Even though a public celebration is unlikely this year, Joseph Ratzinger has had a full list of unforgettable birthdays, with music being the one common denominator.
He's seen it all...From Germany's Stuttgart Radio Symphonic Orchestra performing for him at the Vatican.
Then all the way to the White House, where he celebrated his birthday with president George W. Bush and the first lady.
But sometimes there's no better company than family. Whenever possible Benedict XVI has made it a point to celebrate his birthday with his older brother Georg. Back in 2012, for his 85th birthday the two brothers celebrated the Pope's birthday with traditional folk music from their native Bavaria, complete with costumes and dancing.
This was actually the last birthday celebration Benedict XVI had as the head of the Catholic Church. But birthdays are always a great excuse for a party...Benedict XVI hosted his brother's 90th birthday at the Vatican, with a classical music concert.
All in all, Benedict XVI celebrated a total of seven birthdays as the head of the Catholic Church. Now on his 87th birthday, classical concerts or not, he will continue to make history as the only Pope Emeritus on earth.