In 2016 the parish celebrates the 50th anniversary of the consecration of the church building. The chosen theme for this celebration is from Psalm 6.4: ‘We are filled with the blessings of your house’. The celebration is not so much about a building, but about the people, the families and the generations that have worshipped and experienced God’s loving kindness and mercy in the house of God at St Charles over the past fifty years. The occasion is being marked by a celebratory mass at 10:00 on Sunday 29 May 2016, celebrated by His Grace Archbishop Buti Tlhagale OMI.
SPECIAL FEATURE: Pope Francis Speaks to ZENIT – An Inside Look Into Pope’s Landmark Trip to Geneva – ZENIT
Pope Francis has made a landmark ecumenical day trip to Geneva on June 21, 2018 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches.
Zenit was on the papal flight, traveling with Pope Francis, and was present at various events, and getting voices on the ground. During the return trip to Rome, Zenit represented the English-speaking journalists aboard to ask the Pope a question, along with the French, German and Spanish representatives.
The journalists, many of whom had woken up by 3:30 in the morning made their way to Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport, to go through security, get a special sticker on their passport, and follow various other steps of protocol, including a necessary caffè at the bar, once they reached the gate. Given the brevity of the flight, they were able to hold on to their passports; for longer trips, they are taken in the beginning and returned at the end.
When it was time to board the journalists got on a bus, which brought them to the flight. Then there was the mad rush for getting good seats, given that basically only photographers and some others have assigned seats. Then orange juice, iced tea, and snacks with nutella were distributed. Then breakfast boxes. Many chowed down. Others may not have had much appetite as they knew their one on one moment with the Pope was moments away. After taking off, the Pope would said hello to journalists, thanked them for their work, and expressed his sincere hope that this June 21 visit be one of unity. Then he would personally greeted each journalist.
The theme of the visit is an “Ecumenical Pilgrimage – Walking, Praying and Working Together” and the meeting began with a prayer service at the Ecumenical Center chapel.
He then visited the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, which is connected to the World Council of Churches and is involved with theological formation. There, 30 men and women of different countries study and share everyday life. After followed an ‘ecumenical lunch,’ which, during the papal flight press conference, the Pope told journalists that they spoke about human rights and against ‘proselytism.’
At this lunch, we can inform our readers was the following menu (though we were not present): vegetable tartare served with salad; Grilled fish & rice and sautéed vegetables. For dessert, there was lemon tart, fruit and maracuja. Bishop Swensen had blessed the meal and the lunch was in English, but the Pope’s translator was present.
Unimaginable Beauty of Knowing Jesus
During the ecumenical meeting yesterday at the WCC headquarters, the Pope reminded: “We are called to be a people that experiences and shares the joy of the Gospel, praises the Lord and serves our brothers and sisters with hearts burning with a desire to open up horizons of goodness and beauty unimaginable to those who have not been blessed truly to know Jesus.”
“What is really needed is a new evangelical outreach,” Francis stressed. Reflecting on the day’s motto of walking, praying and working together, the Holy Father also gave some advice: “Let us ask ourselves: How much do we pray for one another? The Lord prayed that we would be one: do we imitate him in this regard?”
Cardinal on Pope’s Desire for Ecumenism
Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told ZENIT:
“According to Pope Francis, to be open to other churches means first of all brotherhood and closeness. After his election as Pope, I remember, I met him and asked what he would desire for the ecumenism.”
“He replied with only one word, ‘brotherhood.’”
Friendly and fraternal relationship between different churches, the Swiss Cardinal explained, is the foundation for ecumenism. Once this is established, he added, the practical ecumenism can follow, in which churches can work together on cultural, political and social issues.
Meeting for Dinner Once a Year Isn’t Authentic Ecumenism
Nigerian priest, Father Lawrence Iwuamadi, is the dean of the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey. Before Father Lawrence, the institute had never had a Catholic dean.
“The fact that I am the first Catholic dean of the Institute,” he shared, “I think has to do with the
Spirit that Francis brought, a spirit that is difficult to explain with just one word: it is a spirit of trust, thanks to which I live and I work here, among 90% of non-Catholics, I have seen over the years how the attitude towards the Catholic Church has changed: now they appreciate what the Catholic Church does and says.”
The Catholic priest noted that even if the Christians all get along pretty well, but they do not interact much, other than ‘maybe a dinner once a year’ that doesn’t constitute much ecumenism.
“What is the main novelty that Francis brought?” he said, “As I always say, Pope Francis has a way of speaking that reaches everyone’s heart, whether they are Protestant, Orthodox or Pentecostal, so as to make them say: ‘”With this Pope, I could also associate myself with what he says.’”
“For example, when the encyclical Laudato si‘ on protecting Creation was published, the World Council of Churches held several conferences on the encyclical of a Catholic Pope. In addition to this, Pope Francis is cited very frequently in the WCC documents.”
“We must take more seriously what the Pope says, have the courage to go out and meet, is what I also understood as a professor of this institution, with 30-35 people from 25 countries and 20 Christian churches represented.”
“When people sit in front of each other, they walk together, they can understand who the other really is, then ecumenism becomes easier. First, however, there are prejudices, that is so, that other is so, but when we live together they no longer exist.”
We Will Not Stop Here
In the afternoon, Pope Francis again visited the Ecumenical Center, where the WCC does much of its work. The Catholic Church and the WCC work together for joint peace initiatives in many areas and concretely work together in projects to help the poor, counter injustices, help migrants, and so on.
The Pope cited the active Catholic presence in the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism; collaboration with the Office for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation, most recently on the important theme of education for peace; and the joint preparation of texts for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
General secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said, “This day is a landmark. We will not stop here. We will continue, we can do much more together for those who need us.”
During the Holy Father’s Mass to some 40,000 faithful of all races and ages, who were so eager to see him that they were standing on their benches to catch a glance, the Pope reflected on the words ‘Father,’ ‘Bread’ and ‘Forgiveness.’
Speaking on prayer, he said: “Every time we make the sign of the cross at the start of the day or before any other important activity, every time we say “Our Father”, we reclaim our roots. We need those roots in our often rootless societies.”
“Let us never tire of saying “Our Father”. It will remind us that just as there are no sons or daughters without a Father, so none of us is ever alone in this world.”
Turning to bread, he stressed: “Our “daily bread”, we must not forget, is Jesus himself. Without him, we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15:5). He is our regular diet for healthy living. Sometimes, however, we treat Jesus as a side dish.”
“God frees our hearts of all sin, he forgives every last thing. Yet he asks only one thing of us: that we in turn never tire of forgiving,” he said, speaking on forgiveness, adding: “We should take a good x-ray of our heart, to find out if there are blockages within us, obstacles to forgiveness, stones needing to be removed. Then we can say to the Father: “You see this stone? I hand it over to you and I pray for this person, for that situation; even if I struggle to forgive, I ask you for the strength to do it.’”
“Forgiveness renews, it works miracles,” he said.
The Pope trip shortly thereafter came to an end, and before we knew it, we were back on the flight. And it was time for the flight, where the Holy Father noted his satisfaction for the ecumenical fruits of the visit and answered four questions to journalists for different speaking language groups.
In 2017, Roman Catholic and Protestant Lutherans jointly commemorated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with Pope Francis’ Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2016, visit to the Swedish cities of Malmo and Lund. Zenit’s Deborah Castellano Lubov had covered the Pope’s trip to Sweden.
On the flight to Geneva, Deborah Castellano Lubov also had a moment to greet the Holy Father where she gave him a personal momento tied to a family in Buenos Aires very close to the Holy Father’s heart, which upon seeing, he stopped a moment, closed his eyes and blessed, and her recent book ‘The Other Francis’ (L’Altro Francesco) currently in Italian, Spanish and Lithuanian, and in English in 2018 and possibly in German.
Then, during the return flight, Deborah Castellano Lubov asked the Pope the following question. Here is the Vatican-provided translation of the question and answer in Italian:
Deborah Castellano Lubov:
Thank you, Your Holiness. Your Holiness, in your address today at the ecumenical meeting, you referred to the enormous power of the Gospel. We know that some of the Churches of the World Council of Churches are so-called “Churches of peace”, who believe that a Christian cannot use violence. Let us recall that two years ago, in the Vatican, there was a conference organized to reconsider the doctrine of the “righteous war”. So, Your Holiness, my question is, do you think it would be right for the Catholic Church to join with these so-called “Churches of peace” and to set aside the theory of the “righteous war”? Thank you.
A clarification: why do you say that they are “Churches of peace”?
Deborah Castellano Lubov:
They are considered “Churches of peace” because they have this concept, that a person who uses violence can no longer be considered Christian.
Thank you, I understand. You have put your finger in the wound … Today, at lunch, a Pastor said that perhaps the first human right is the right to hope, and I liked this, and it relates a little to this theme. We talked about the human rights crisis today. I think I have to start with this to arrive at your question. The human rights crisis appears clear. We speak a little of human rights, but many groups or some countries keep their distance. Yes, we have human rights but … there is not the strength, the enthusiasm, the conviction of, I do not say 70 years ago, but 20 years ago. And this is serious because we must see the causes. What are the causes for which we have arrived at this? That today human rights are relative. The right to peace is also relative. It is a human rights crisis. This I think we have to think about it thoroughly.
Then, the so-called “Churches of Peace”. I believe that all the Churches that have this spirit of peace must come together and work together, as we said in the speeches today, both I and the other people who spoke, and at lunch, it was discussed. Unity for peace. Today peace is a need because there is a risk of war … Someone said: this third world war, if it takes place, we know what weapons will be used, but if there were to be a fourth, it would be with sticks because humanity will be destroyed. The commitment to peace is a serious matter. When you think about the money that is spent on armaments! For this reason, they are “Churches of Peace”: but it is God’s mandate! Peace, brotherhood, united humanity … And all conflicts, we must not resolve them like Cain, but resolve them through negotiation, dialogue, and mediation. For example, we are in crisis of mediations! Mediation, which is a very precious legal tool, is in crisis today. Crisis of hope, crisis of human rights, crisis of mediations, crisis of peace. But then, if you say that there are “Churches of Peace”, I ask myself: are there “Churches of War”? It is difficult to understand this, it is difficult, but there are certainly some groups, and I would say in almost all religions, small groups, I will say simplifying somewhat, “fundamentalist”, who seek wars. We Catholics also have some, who always seek destruction. And it is very important to keep this in view. I do not know if I answered …
They tell me that people are asking for their dinner, that it is the right time to arrive with a full stomach …
I would like to say only one word clearly: that today was an ecumenical day, truly ecumenical. And at lunch, we said something very nice, that I will leave to you to think about and reflect upon, and to consider well: in the ecumenical movement we must remove a word from the dictionary: proselytism. Is that clear? There can be no ecumenism with proselytism, we need to choose: either you are of an ecumenical spirit, or you are a “proselyte”.
On-flight Press Conference (Full Text): https://zenit.org/articles/holy-fathers-in-flight-press-conference-on-return-from-geneva-full-text/
Pope’s Address to WCC Ecumenical Meeting (Full Text): https://zenit.org/articles/geneva-holy-fathers-address-to-wcc-ecumenical-meeting-full-text/
Pope’s Homily at Mass in Geneva: https://zenit.org/articles/the-popes-homily-at-mass-in-geneva-full-text/
The birth of a child always represents both an end and a beginning. For the child, it is the end of the narrow world of the mother’s womb and the beginning of all the possibilities that will lead from infancy to childhood, and then finally to adulthood. For parents, the new life of the child means new possiblilties, but it also means and end to the former status quo; old patterns and behaviors will have to be re-negotiated, even abandoned. The story of the birth of John the Baptist has this dynamism, but the richness of the tale is much more than that of a domestic story of a child being born. It is the story of the birth of not only a child, but a birth of a whole new world and the end of an old one.
With the birth of John the Baptist, which we celebrate this Sunday, the first rays of the dawn of redemption break upon the world. For in his light we see the One who will be all Light: Jesus the Lord. The coming of Christ into the world will mean that the old world of sin and death has come to an end and the new world of grace and mercy has begun. So you see, as John is born, more is born into the world than just a baby, as today’s Gospel makes clear. John will be the one who lets us know that God has come into our world in Christ and the promises of salvation to Israel are now fulfilled. May we recognize this great revelation and stop living as if the old world of sin and death is our greatest truth; it is not!
Instead, Jesus has given us new possibilities—beyond the fear, anxiety, and regret; beyond the anger, hate, and scapegoating. Let us seek in the here and now of our lives the grace and mercy of the new world that Jesus has given to us—and in imitation of St. John the Baptist, invite others to share in this promise.
Local atheist Thomas Winters has been accused of saying “Bless you” to a stranger who sneezed late Wednesday night, several sources are reporting.
Friends of Winters say that at approximately 11:07 pm at Burger Club Lounge, Winters, a staunch atheist, blessed a man sitting at a table next to him, and then continued to bless him after each consecutive sneeze.
Winters allegedly said “bless you” up to ten times as the stranger underwent a severe sneeze attack.
Longtime friend of Winters, Ben Daltrey, called the accusations “false and slanderous.”
“Thomas did not say and would never say ‘Bless you.’ He said ‘Gesundheit’ which means health—and atheists take no issue with the concept of health. In the end, I believe that truth and logic will prevail.”
But others like Burger Club Lounge waitress Donna McPherson heard differently, saying that Winters did bless the man at least ten times.
“I know Thomas—he’s a regular here, so I know that he’s atheist. He once made fun of my cross and told me that I might as well wear a unicorn medallion. So when I heard him say ‘bless you’ I dropped my tray and turned to look, and lo and behold, there was Thomas.”
Another friend of Winters and fellow atheist, Conner Strauss, confirmed to EOTT that Winters did in fact say “bless you,” and did so repeatedly between bites of his vegan burger.
“As a militant atheist myself, I’m not nearly as offended at the fact that he blessed the man, as I am at the fact that he had to say it after each sneeze. Just say it once and let it go, for goodness sake!”
Using simple words and the “Our Father”, Pope Francis on June 21, 2018, urged the faithful to ask only for what they truly need, to lead a simpler life. His reflections came in his homily at the Geneva Palexpo, the last major event of his one-day ecumenical pilgrimage to Geneva to mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the WCC.
“Father, bread, forgiveness,” the Pope began. “Three words that the Gospel offers us today. Three words that take us to the very heart of our faith.”
Father: The Pope stressed that this is where the central prayer of our faith begins. Before being powerful and infinite, God is father.
Bread: In the “Our Father” the Pope notes that we ask for our needs for just that day. This is our call to a simpler life.
Forgiveness: The Holy Father reminded the congregation that God never tires of forgiving our sins. For us, forgiveness is not easy – but that is what God expects, that we forgive others as he forgives us.
The Holy Father urged the faithful to never tire of saying “Our Father”. It holds many vital reminders.
“It will remind us that just as there are no sons or daughters without a Father, so none of us is ever alone in this world,” the Pope said. “It will also remind us that there is no Father without sons or daughters, so none of us is an only child. Each of us must care for our brothers and sisters in the one human family.
“When we say ‘Our Father’, we are saying that every human being is part of us, and that, in the face of all the wrongs that offend our Father, we, as his sons and daughters, are called to react as brothers and sisters. We are called to be good guardians of our family, to overcome all indifference towards our brothers or sisters, towards any of our brothers or sisters. This includes the unborn, the older person who can no longer speak, the person we find hard to forgive, the poor and the outcast. This is what the Father asks us, indeed commands us, to do: to love one another from the heart, as sons and daughters in the midst of their brothers and sisters.”
Pope Francis concluded with a reminder that forgiveness “renews and works miracles”:
“Forgiven by our Father, each of us is born again as a new creation when we love our brothers and sisters. Only then do we bring true newness to our world, for there is no greater novelty than forgiveness, which turns evil into good.”
I have loved being on the road ever since I was young. Each summer my scout troop—Troop 110 from Barberton, Ohio—put on summer camps for us around Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. These camps always meant the chance of going on a road trip. There was something exciting, refreshing about going to the store and buying snacks which we usually weren’t allowed to buy, getting into the car, and heading off to a new, somewhat unknown destination. Certainly, the ending location was the reason for the trip, but the journey it took to get there, for me, was always one of the most enjoyable parts of camp.
I know that not everyone loves going on road trips, and the reasons people have for their displeasure with them can be understandable. Yet, why for some people is being crammed together in a car on the road for multiple hours so enjoyable? Having the right perspective can help for the greater appreciation and enjoyment of a good road trip.
For a majority of the year, most of us operate within the same fifteen-to-twenty mile circles. We drive the same roads, see the same signs and billboards, visit the same stores and coffee shops, run or cycle by the same houses on the same routes, and encounter, generally, the same people on a daily or weekly basis. Eventually, this ocular routine can become less and less stimulating and even uninteresting, which can translate to a numbing of our normally excited and inspirational selves.
Going on road trip takes us outside the circle and breaks away from what has become normal, even uninterestingly so. We see different things—roads, trees, signs, buildings, and cities. We breathe different air, walk into different coffee shops and stores, and encounter new people we know are operating within their own twenty-mile circles.
There is a freshness in being in a new place, and this freshness can transport us to a different mental place as well. When we are in a new place we can begin to think new thoughts. We can set aside struggles and challenges we have with certain people and situations as we experience reality in a renewed way.
The Church’s Eucharistic liturgy, especially when it is done well, takes us outside of what is normal; it takes us to a realm beyond our earthly, temporal space. In the liturgy, we see different things, smell different things, hear different things than we would on a normal morning. Going to Mass on Sunday breaks us outside of our normal daily routine and for a good reason. It is a reminder that encountering God is an encounter with the Being who is mystical and otherworldly, yet can be found in our everyday experience.
In The Wellspring of Worship, a masterpiece on the cosmic depth of the liturgy, Jean Corbon states, “The church of stone or wood that we enter in order to share in the eternal liturgy is indeed a space within our world; it is set apart, however, because it is a space that the Resurrection has burst open.” Our churches are designed in a specific, intentional, beautiful, and incarnational way to help our minds and hearts journey to God. For this reason, the church building, the place of encounter with God, should look drastically different than its surroundings, inside and out. These places should help transport us—mentally and spiritually, body and soul—to an otherly place, a place outside of space and time, yet one within our own world.
Just as driving in the car down the road for hours can be grueling to some and transforming for others, liturgy can be transforming for some and grueling for others. Some of the reasons people have for not liking the work of liturgy are even understandable… but only if they misunderstand the purpose of the liturgy and struggle to truly enter into the ritual.
If we really allow ourselves to enter into a road trip—the newness of the sights, the smell of the fresh air, the conversation with friends—it can be an enjoyable experience. After a great road trip we can come back to our lives with a fresh energy and perspective, maybe seeing our normal routine in a new way.
Similarly, entering more deeply into the Mass can change our experience of the Mass completely. Instead of a weekly spiritual chore, entering into the Eucharistic liturgy can be a refreshing part of our day or week, a brief spiritual road trip where we are transported body and soul, but only if we have such an approach. By having the right perspective and appreciation of what liturgy is and can do in our lives, the liturgy becomes not a task to be done, an appointment to be checked off, but a rejuvenating spiritual journey. The destination then lies in taking the fruit of that journey back out into our normal, often routined, everyday life.
Pope Francis began his June 21, 2018, ecumenical pilgrimage to mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) with an address to a prayer service at the WCC Ecumenical Center.
The Pope’s Full Address, provided by the Vatican
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have heard the words addressed by the Apostle Paul to the Galatians, who were experiencing conflict and division. Groups were fighting and hurling accusations at one another. It is in this context that the Apostle, twice in the space of a few verses, invites us to “walk in the Spirit” (cf. Gal 5:16.25).
Walking. We human beings are constantly on the move. Throughout our lives, we are called to set out and keep walking: from our mother’s womb and at every stage of life, from when we first leave home to the day we depart from this earthly existence. The metaphor of walking reveals the real meaning of our life, a life that is not self-sufficient but always in search of something greater. Our hearts spur us to keep walking, to pursue a goal.
Walking is a discipline; it takes effort. It requires patience and exercise, day after day. We have to forego many other paths in order to choose the one that leads to the goal. We have to keep that goal constantly before us, lest we go astray. Remembering the goal. Walking also demands the humility to be prepared at times, when necessary, to retrace our steps. It also involves being concerned for our traveling companions, since only in company do we make good progress. Walking, in a word, demands constant conversion. That is why so many people refuse to do it. They prefer to remain in the quiet of their home, where it is easy to manage their affairs without facing the risks of travel. But that is to cling to a momentary security, incapable of bestowing the peace and joy for which our hearts yearn. That joy and peace can only be found by going out from ourselves.
That is what God has called us to do from the beginning. Abraham was told to leave his native land and to set out on a journey, equipped only with trust in God (cf. Gen 12). So too Moses, Peter and Paul, and all the Lord’s friends were constantly on the move. But Jesus himself set us the greatest example. He is himself the Way (cf. Jn 14:6). He left his divine state (cf. Phil 2:6-7) and came down to walk among us. Our Lord and Master, he became a wayfarer and a guest in our midst. When he returned to the Father, he granted us his Spirit, so that we too might have the strength to walk towards him. As Paul tells us: to walk in the Spirit.
In the Spirit. If we human beings are constantly on the move, and by closing our hearts to others we deny our very vocation, this is even more true of us Christians. For as Paul emphasizes, the Christian life involves an unavoidable decision. We can either walk in the Spirit along the path opened up by our baptism or else we can “gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). What does this last expression mean? It means thinking that the way to fulfillment is by acquiring possessions, selfishly attempting to store up here and now everything we desire. Rather than letting ourselves quietly be led where God would have us, we go our own way. It is easy to see the result of this tragic loss of direction. The thirst for material things blinds us to our companions along the way, and indifference prevails in the streets of today’s world. Driven by our instincts, we become slaves to unbridled consumerism, and God’s voice is gradually silenced. Other people, especially those who cannot walk on their own, like children and the elderly, then become nuisances to be cast aside. Creation then comes to have no other purpose than to supply our needs.
Dear brothers and sisters, today more than ever the words of the Apostle Paul challenge us. Walking in the Spirit means rejecting worldliness. It means opting for a mindset of service and growing in forgiveness. It means playing our part in history but in God’s good time, not letting ourselves be caught up in the whirlwind of corruption but advancing calmly on the way whose signpost is the “one commandment: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (v. 14). The path of the Spirit is marked by the milestones that Paul sets forth: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (v. 22).
We are called, together, to walk along this path. This calls for constant conversion and the renewal of our way of thinking so that it can conform to that of the Holy Spirit. In the course of history, divisions between Christians have often arisen because at their root, in the life of communities, a worldly mindset has seeped in. First, self-concern took priority over concern for Christ. Once this happened, the Enemy of God and man had no difficulty in separating us, because the direction we were taking was that of the flesh, not of the Spirit. Even some past attempts to end those divisions failed miserably because they were chiefly inspired by a worldly way of thinking. Yet the ecumenical movement, to which the World Council of Churches has made so great a contribution, came about as a grace of the Holy Spirit (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, 1). Ecumenism made us set out in accordance with Christ’s will, and it will be able to progress if, following the lead of the Spirit, it constantly refuses to withdraw into itself.
It might be objected that to walk in this way is to operate at a loss, since it does not adequately protect the interests of individual communities, often closely linked to ethnic identity or split along party lines, whether “conservative” or “progressive”. To choose to belong to Jesus before belonging to Apollos or Cephas (cf. 1 Cor 1:12); to belong to Christ before being “Jew or Greek” (cf. Gal 3:28); to belong to the Lord before identifying with right or left; to choose, in the name of the Gospel, our brother or our sister over ourselves… In the eyes of the world, this often means operating at a loss. Let us not be afraid to operate at a loss! Ecumenism is “a great enterprise operating at a loss”. But the loss is evangelical, reflecting the words of Jesus: “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it” (Lk 9:24). To save only what is ours is to walk according to the flesh; to lose everything in the footsteps of Jesus is to walk in the Spirit. Only in this way does the Lord’s vineyard bear fruit. As Jesus himself teaches, those who store up riches for themselves bear no fruit in the Lord’s vineyard, only those who, by serving others, imitate the “mindset” of God, who never stops giving, even to the gift of his very self (cf. Mt 21:33-42). Such is the mindset of Easter, which alone truly bears fruit.
Looking at our own journey, we can see a reflection of ourselves in some of the experiences of the early communities of Galatia. How difficult it is to overcome hard feelings and to foster communion! How hard it is to leave behind centuries-old disagreements and mutual recriminations! It is even more formidable to withstand the subtle temptation to join others, to walk together, but for the sake of satisfying some partisan interest. This is not the “mindset” of the Apostle, but that of Judas, who walked with Jesus but for his own purposes. There is only one way to shore up our wavering footsteps: to walk in the Spirit, purifying our hearts of evil, choosing with holy tenacity the way of the Gospel and rejecting the shortcuts offered by this world.
After so many years of ecumenical commitment, on this seventieth anniversary of the World Council, let us ask the Spirit to strengthen our steps. All too easily we halt before our continuing differences; all too often we are blocked from the outset by a certain weariness and lack of enthusiasm. Our differences must not be excuses. Even now we can walk in the Spirit: we can pray, evangelize and serve together. This is possible and it is pleasing to God! Walking, praying and working together: this is the great path that we are called to follow today.
And this path has a clear aim, that of unity. The opposite path, that of division, leads to conflict and breakup. We need but open our history books. The Lord bids us set out ever anew on the path of communion that leads to peace. Our lack of unity is in fact “openly contrary to the will of Christ, but is also a scandal to the world and harms the most holy of causes: the preaching of the Gospel to every creature” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 1). The Lord asks us for unity; our world, torn by all too many divisions that affect the most vulnerable, begs for unity.
Dear brothers and sisters, I have desired to come here, a pilgrim in quest of unity and peace. I thank God because here I have found you, brothers and sisters already making this same journey. For us as Christians, walking together is not a ploy to strengthen our own positions, but an act of obedience to the Lord and love for our world. Obedience to God and love for our world, the true love that saves. Let us ask the Father to help us walk together all the more resolutely in the ways of the Spirit. May the Cross guide our steps because there, in Jesus, the walls of separation have already been torn down and all enmity overcome (cf. Eph 2:14). In him, we will come to see that, for all our failings, nothing will ever separate us from his love (cf. Rom 8:35-39). Thank you.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
I lost my Mom almost a year ago and have spent a lot of time grieving, thinking about grief, and now, reflecting on healing. I am convinced that death and loss were never intended for the human person to experience. It pulls you into your core and pierces your heart in such away that it almost forces authenticity and confrontation with your inner life.
Men and women grieve differently. In their essential nature, masculinity is spontaneity or a giving; femininity is receiving. The posture of the heart is structured around these same natures.
Since death is adverse to humanity, it would be a natural response for our own hearts to operate in opposition to themselves. Men would no longer give. Women would no longer receive. But, instead, both would do the exact opposite.
By this, I mean that men (in dealing with grief) would turn in and their grieving would be internalized instead of “given.” Women, in the same instance, would no longer receive but would “give” of their grief. For example, at the moment of my mother’s passing, we all wept openly—the men and the women by her bedside. But thereafter, the grieving was different. The men didn’t speak of it often or with depth. Meanwhile the women would grieve by a pouring out. The men were no longer “giving.” The women were no longer “receiving.”
There are, of course, exceptions to this. Men and women do not always grieve in this way. And the “giving” and “receiving” is only in respect to the grief, not in the overall being or act. Exceptions occur when the person is “inward” or aware of their inner life and interiority.
As I shared this thought with friends, one friend brought up the instance of grieving at the foot of the cross. Most of the men were absent, cutting off their gift of self, but the women remained, pouring out.
The point of healing occurs when the man has finally had enough internalization and instead finally “gives.” Maybe in a torrent of tears or an outburst of grief! He returns to spontaneity or giving. The woman finally gains her strength and composes her tears. She returns to receiving. They are able to be gifts to the other again. In other words, when faced with death which is contrary to humanity and life in God, for a moment, our nature and inner life is reversed in grieving, and when that nature returns to its ordered state, healing begins.
Again, there are exceptions to grieving in each of these ways. Periods of grief vary and healing varies. Grief is to be explored and much of it is beyond intellect. Thank God for grace!
From another approach, grief also raises the mundane into the sacred. The great loss of someone or something will elevate those things or memories into the divine. A simple dirt road will always remind you of them. Their favorite shirt or the last song you listened to together…maybe the voicemails that you listen to after they are gone…no longer ordinary but somehow now so very special. We are confronted with the reality that nothing is ever really simple or mundane. Our sight had only grown dull or maybe even hazy. Grief has a way of making our hearts so tender that every moment then becomes essential, every moment full of meaning. We can finally see.
And I believe there’s a temptation with grief to see it as weakness. Given the anthropology explained here, in the face of great loss, grieving is an essential part of the actualization of man, of humanity. It also provides an opportunity to take the simple and make it extraordinary. So, let us weep. Let us grieve. Let us heal. Grieving is strength.
“I have a special thought for young people, old people and newlyweds,” said the pope in Italian at the end of the General Audience on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, Saint Peter’s Square.
Then he added: “In the month of June, popular piety makes us pray with more fervor to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. May this merciful Heart teach you to love without asking for anything in return and to support you in the most difficult life choices.”
The Pope recommended the prayer to the Heart of Christ especially for his ministry and for all priests: “Pray for him also for me and for my ministry, but also for all the priests to strengthen their fidelity to the Lord’s call.”
Pope Francis invited to pray the Heart of Christ for priests at the beginning of the month, June 6, saying: “Friday, it will be the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I invite you, throughout the month of June, to pray to the Heart of Jesus and to support your priests by your closeness and your affection so that they are the image of this Heart full of merciful love.”
Speaking to the young, sick, and newlyweds, the Pope added, “Draw the food and spiritual drink of your life from the heart of Jesus so that, nourished by Christ, you may be new, profoundly transformed people by this Divine Love.”
For Pope Francis, the Jesuit Pope, “the heart of Christ is the center of mercy.” The Holy Father reminded priests on the occasion of their Jubilee of Mercy on June 2, 2016, at Santa Maria Maggiore. He advised them to read Pius XII’s encyclical Haurietis Aquas on the Heart of Christ. The encyclical of Pius XII was published on May 15, 1956.
On June 11, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI concluded the Year of the Priest on the Feast of the Sacred Heart and proclaimed St. John Vianney as the patron saint of all priests (and not only priests).
God wants to give you from his abundance and he gives us pathways of obedience in which to receive that abundance. The lens through we wish to see abundance can reveal so much about where we see our faith. Proclaimed prosperity gospel taught by some churches places their leaders in positions of great wealth seems to conflict against Jesus ministry done on foot and background as a carpenter. Luke 12:15 ‘And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Appointment time to go to that secret place, from your prayers flows God’s abundance and grace. Bless you.
Prayer. Holy LORD, please give us wisdom to appreciate your abundance. Please heal Christian and encourage him and his family around him. Thank you for the rain in western Cape of South Africa, please bring rain in the dry parts of the world that need it most.
Let Dominique find you in her struggle with ill health. Strengthen David in his work. Fill Elsa, Enrique, Michael , Delano, Anthony, Jean- Pierre and Enzo with your gift of faith and healing. Please reconcile and restore Anton and Nadia, Monique and Brett, Lambert and Ida, please help Kevin with business, David, Peter, Jared and Imelda with employment and restore and heal: Keith, Martine, Jude, Dricky, Ria, Albert, John, Tiffany, Mathew, John, Richard, Dominique, Lequisha, Jeanne, Nicolene, Sandy, Christopher, N, Theresa, Ryan, Fr Barney, Bronwyn, Charlotte, Vicky, Claudia, Wendy, Travis, Jenny, Peter- Junior, Chris, Petra, Ward, Theresa-Charmaine, Mel, Christopher, Ken, Rose, Debbie, Darren, Eric, Bernadine , Alice, Daniel, Fatima, Allyson, Veronica, Tracey, Keith, Chris, Fr Terry, Helmut, Justine, Joseph, Graham, Angelo, Nicole, Gabriel, Leigh, Rene, Joanne. Vincent, Anthea, Eli, Herc, Tony, Zoe, Isaiah, Robin, Sylvie, Lynette, Joe, Nick G, Sharon, Ethne, Belinda, Marcus, Gillian, Joan, Johan, Ronnie, Natasha, Joshua, Angelina, Guida, Fiona, Tanya, Addie, Deborah, Darren, Jacqui, Colleen, Joyce, Bella, John, baby Mathew, Wally, Jimmy, Ralph, Mark, baby Daniella, Barbara, Austen, Keith, Johan, Marius, Rose, Lesley, Jimmy, Joanne, Roger, Don, Petra, Racheal, Pauline, Billy, Bernadette, Jenny, Sarah, Stacey, Maria, Teena, Debra, Trish, Michelle, Pedro, Charlotte, Chad, Anton, Nicky, Tony, baby Mia, Kathy, Michael, Brandon, Mark. Amen.
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For years, millennials have been hand-holding baby boomer family members, co-workers, and churchgoers as they explain (and not without a splash of condescension) how the digital world works. To do this type that, to send that click this. We were there for Sega Genesis, the Hamster Dance, and AOL Instant Messenger. We know our world back to front.
Well, I recently had the opportunity to try VR (virtual reality) for the first time using the Oculus headset, and I realized something: it won’t be long before we are the ones sheepishly asking for help. Technology is moving so quickly that the lifespan of digital natives will soon mirror that of the mayfly.
When you see video or pictures of people using VR, you tend to imagine an intense video game. But VR is more like a hallucination or an illusion, one that tricks the brain into receiving the virtual as the real. Of course, you know that this grainy pastiche of perception isn’t real. But everywhere you look—up, down, left, right, front, behind—you are totally immersed in a new visual field with the matching sounds, and the experience is disorienting. I entered a skydiving simulation, looked down to see nothing but sky, and froze, a primordial fear of plummeting welling up in my brain and body. VR is aptly named, because more than anything that came before it, it feels real.
With Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus a few years ago, it’s clear that giving users an amazing virtual experience rather than just a product or a tool is where innovators want to go next. And as people get used to it (as I started to after just a few games), digital creators will look to push the boundaries and incorporate VR beyond entertainment and into medicine, business, education, travel—you name it.
But then a curious thing happened. A few days after experiencing Oculus, I came across a new study from Blue Cross Blue Shield that found that more than 9 million commercially insured people in the U.S. suffer from major depression, a 33-percent jump from 2013 through 2016. The rise in rates of depression was substantial for people ages 35 and up, but especially pronounced for young people: 47 percent for millennials and 63 percent for those 12 to 17 years old.
A number of factors might be playing into this rise, but a 2017 study from researchers at San Diego State and Florida State universities found a strong correlation between depression and increased screen time. The study showed that “nearly half of teens who spent five or more hours in front of screens daily experienced thoughts of suicide or prolonged periods of hopelessness or sadness.”
Why, in the age of amazing tools like iPhones and Oculus headsets, do people feel so hopeless and sad? Is it the kinds of messages young people are seeing on their screen? Is it the message of the medium itself? Is it the whole odd world around them that vanishes when that comforting digital haze flicks on, or the way that world rushes back in when they eventually have to extinguish it?
Or is it somehow all of the above?
Walker Percy, a writer whose father and grandfather both committed suicide, was attuned to the reality of depression in the modern world. And this is how he saw it: “You are depressed because you have every reason to be depressed. No member of the other two million species which inhabit the earth—and who are luckily exempt from depression—would fail to be depressed if it lived the life you lead. You live in a deranged age—more deranged than usual, because despite great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.”
Percy’s point is this: if someone with a why can bear almost any bad how, isn’t it equally true that someone with almost every good how still can’t bear having no why? Science and technology are certainly good things, but all the entertainment, information, and friend updates in the world don’t add up to the peace of a why; in fact, they only makes its absence more glaring and awful.
Henry Kissinger made this point in a recent piece sounding the alarm on artificial intelligence. Despite our great how of self-taught AI, he argues, we have forgotten our need for a grounding and governing why. And where AI is concerned, the danger is more than a sunken psyche: it’s a collapsed social order. Whether that danger is real or imagined, VR and AI are on our doorstep, and we’ve only just begun to see what screen time can do for us—and to us.
Where does the Christian faith fit in this picture? Some, like Kissinger, assume that it doesn’t; that an “Age of Reason” has superseded the “Age of Religion.” Catholics know better—our faith has always harmonized with reason, and in fact established the conditions for the possibility of modern science—but is that message reaching people? Many in the Christian churches generally, but the Catholic Church in particular, have been mind-bogglingly slow in adapting to the digital world and meeting young people where they are. We’ve been reactive at best, and it shows.
But what happens when smartphones suddenly look as quaint as rotary phones, and young people go from being attached to their phones to literally immersed in digital worlds?
The Church has to do a better job presenting itself and the why of the Gospel to a culture increasingly held captive to screen time. It has to make the joy of its truth and goodness and beauty known to young people who assume faith is a dead option because no one told them otherwise. It has to be proactive.
The alternative might just be giving this fallout of digital gloom the last word.