Friday, December 30, 2016

2017: But, make it “new”

A "new" year, a "new" beginning. The beginning of a new year soothes and refreshes us all. A new year means having the possibility to forget and restart, to erase and renew, to forget, forgive and rediscover the way. ... The beginning of a new year places us at a crossroads where we learn from the past and plan a better future. 

But the illusions incorporated into our promises for a better future do not prevent us from ignoring the present reality, marked by a deep crisis that manifests in the most varied conflicts of our natures: personal, family, labor-related, economic, political, social, cultural, religious, etc. ... 

The lives of many men and women with neither sense nor direction that are reflected in higher rates of suicide, drug use, alcoholism ..., families destroyed by a wide range of circumstances, deep economic crises for which nobody seems to be responsible and that most affect the poorest of the poor, war fronts in different nations, abysmal relations with the rest of the world, a conflictive coexistence among the different groups that make up American society, etc. … These put before this nation the need for the new year to be truly novel and new. 

To preside over the newness that confronts the United States - in the face of past and present failures - Mr. Donald Trump was elected President of the government of this great nation. 

The election of the first president who has never held public office is already a novelty in our nation’s history. It is very novel if it is considered that this election takes place in a society where signs of discrimination and racial segregation persist and in which minorities continue being, and leading the lives of, minorities. 

Even though we have our highest hope in God, people have put their earthly hopes in the leaders of the people and in the good and correct management that they have over their governments. Thus, for the immediate future of American society, we place our trust and hope in the government that, starting on January 20, will be led by President-elect Donald Trump. In it, we have the hope that, as promised in the election campaign, his government will put an end to the irrational, unjust and inhuman bellicose confrontations that not only bleed the economy and the social welfare of the nation, but also the young blood of our young soldiers and that, in addition, while well-surrounded by his immediate advisors, will succeed in a national and international management of the economy that, in the short term, will return us to the prosperity for which this nation has come to be known by its citizens and for the rest of the world. 

But, we are confident that Mr. Trump’s government will have a "new", handling of the immigration issue in which all immigrants and, especially, Hispanics and other ethnic groups established in this nation, who have arrived from different continents without documentation, obtain treatment that is more dignified, more solidary, fairer and more humane and fitting for a population that has put the best of itself and its efforts into contributing to the greatness of the entire American society that he flaunts before the world. 

In the same way, the Hispanics living in this nation and in all our countries of origin expect from the incoming government better and more adequate international relations with all countries, as is required between nations that share the same planet and the same destiny to which all humanity is called: to make this world a more livable place, more fraternal and, therefore, more human. 

Upon beginning a new year, let us leave behind the bad news and let us jointly launch ourselves into the construction of more and better good news with the certainty that if the small or large crises that affect us now have as their ultimate cause a crisis of humanity, that is to say, a deep crisis in the spirit of the human being will be a process and a "humanizing" growth inwardly for each person and the emergence of new and more honest relations between men and the people that offer us a new year and a better future. 

This joy for a new year and these hopes in a new government are grounded in the faith that always invites us to renew ourselves, to leave behind the old man and build in each one of us the new man. The new year will be new to the extent that everyone: both those who participate more directly in the mission of government and also all the citizens who are building the novelty we so need with our deeds, words, behaviors and attitudes. Let us now offer a new year, a new society, a new government for a better nation and a new world. 

I wish all of you, together with your loved ones, a new, blessed and happy 2017.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas and the Holy Family

Christmas is a time of year that has its foundation in a historical-salvific event: the birth of Jesus Christ, which Christians commemorate during a liturgical time of the same name. In a materialistic society like ours, Christmas has been turned into a season of the year to sell and buy, to spend and consume, to flaunt and splurge. And within this enormous consumer traffic, the message that Christians remember, the meaning of what Christians celebrate at this time is manipulated, lost, diluted, and forgotten.

The significance that Christmas holds for the world in general and for Christians in particular is enormous. What we celebrate is the birth of JESUS OF NAZARETH, who is, for all, a model of Humanity and Divinity, because Jesus is Divine for the profoundly human.

When Christians acknowledge Jesus as God made Man, we acknowledge at the same time, the ultimate and definitive destiny to which all humanity is called: that of divinely incarnating ourselves in history and, in our daily lives, to divinely humanize ourselves. At Christmas, therefore, we celebrate the joyful and hopeful certainty that in the Birth of Jesus, God has wanted to remain forever with us, showing us in Him, the Way, the Truth and the Life to which we are all called.

The historical event of Christmas occurs in the context of a family. Among the many meanings assigned to the commemoration of the first Christmas, the value given by God to the family at the birth of Jesus is, today, important and special among us.

Today, we suffer and witness a deep crisis of humanity and humanity in all its forms. The serious problems revealed in the crisis show a more profound and definitive crisis in the very heart of the human being:  a de-humanization contrary to all that is meant and implied in the message of Christmas. But, at the same time, the serious social problems that emerge from the heart of man have their origin in a deep crisis of the family.

The list is extensive of the enormous conflicts that today attack the family model put forward on that first Christmas night and supported by the teachings of the Catholic Church in the West: 
  •  The growing generational gap between parents and children in a world that changes daily and swiftly, 
  • Rapid and easy – “express” – separations, divorces, and annulments, 
  • Infidelity in a pan-sexual society that placates and encourages it,
  • The lack of commitment in a hedonistic society that advocates for the simple, the fleeting, the ephemeral, the easy, the disposable, the purely aesthetic and apparent, 
  •  The academic and labor world that separates, distances, and disintegrates families, 
  •  Machismo and feminism,
  • The alleged scientific manipulation of God’s designs on creation and family life, 
  • Abortion, 
  • Smoking, alcohol, drugs,
  • The meaninglessness of life in a society that quickly kills the will to live while it reduces the meaning of life to the merely material and the intra-historical hiding of the transcendent vision of man, the world, and its history.
In a world that advocates for the plurality of ideas and lifestyles along with respect for individual liberties and human rights, Truth – under that pretext – should not be denied, confused, or dissolved in the middle of the sea of individuals, each small and almost always a petty pocket of truth. Every day, and especially at Christmas, it falls to the Church to announce, from the Good News that the Gospel contains for every man and woman of goodwill, that every person has the right to be born and to "grow in grace and wisdom" in the bosom of a family made up by a father, a mother and children: a family model in which the parental, filial, and fraternal love relationships are replicated and lived in a way that we Christians praise and recognize in the very bosom of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The disturbing statistics that tell us about the millions of boys and girls who try to “grow up” and “raise” themselves in dysfunctional “homes,” single-family “homes,” “surrogate” homes with grandparents, other family members, or in government institutions that try to supplement non-existent families, are an alarm about something very serious that is happening in our communities and a urgent challenge for us to evaluate and return to living the model of the Christian family suggested in the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, as never before, there is nostalgia for Nazareth:
  • Nostalgia for homes where parents and children live and live together in communion, 
  • Nostalgia for homes like Nazareth: where parents love and fulfill the will of God by loving and serving the lives of their children,
  • Homes in which children fulfill the will of God by obeying their parents, 
  • Homes that foster the construction of a world in solidarity by first living brotherly and sisterly relationships at home,
  • Homes where love and respect prevail over the ever-difficult and ever-changing circumstances of life,
  • Homes with parents dedicated to the care of their children and with children attentive and devoted to their parents,
  • Homes that are true domestic churches, providing a first church experience and a seedbed for lifelong evangelization,
  • Homes where parents and children grow in humanity by cooperating with the creative work of the God of the Bible through daily work,
  • Families that are true homes, that is, bonfires lit with love capable of heating and illuminating a world so often cold and dark.
I congratulate you during these holy days that we Christians live in memory of the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. I rejoice in the joy of the world because “a child has been born to us, a child has been given to us” who is called “Emmanuel”, which means “God-with-us” and I encourage you all to spend more time in our homes, our environments, and with the great lessons, the good lessons, the sacred and eternal lessons we can learn for our family life, this Christmas and forever, from the example set by the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Talking about God in the time of Francis

Talking about God in the time of Francis

+ Fernando Chomali Garib
Archbishop of the Ssma. Concepción

Concepción, Chile – November 2016

1.  Society wants to remove God from the public spotlight

In these times, to speak of God does not come easy; it is challenging and, above all, fascinating. For some time, society has been removing God from the public spotlight.  We perceive this so clearly, across the broader fields of our social, educational and cultural lives. Society has also tried to remove God from men’s hearts by postulating that faith is a departure from our personal and social lives, and that it represents an alienation that oppresses and removes freedom. An anthropocentric view of man has supported this attempt, with its ultimate goal of well-being at any cost, and with its emphasis placed on the self-fulfillment that becomes the absolute foundation and purpose of life. Man does not achieve this self-fulfillment outside of himself or in another.  Rather, he finds it in his own subjectivity that acquires normative value. The Creator God, the only God and foundation of all that is good, has been supplanted by wants and personal desire. This true cultural misunderstanding led to the impoverishment of philosophical thought and to the ignorance of others as part of our lives, diminishing the rational and social dimension of man.

2.  The Eradication of Metaphysical Thinking

The question of the essence of things, in truth, independent of the study of the subject, is for many, a thing of the past. As a result, ethics has lost space in the cultural landscape and is limited to the idea that acts have value insofar as they are the result of autonomy, that they do not harm another and that they recall utility as a reference and maximum value to be achieved. Perhaps this is the reason why society seeks to make philosophy and theology classes disappear from the educational and cultural horizon. In this context, devoid of gnoseology and binding ethics, beauty has been losing all meaning and the results of this are clearly seen. Society in its most varied aspects has been impoverished, in a clear process of the ‘peasantification’ of human dignity and of culture. The hero, the saint, the altruistic man who looks to the heavens and acts, even to the point of giving his own life, is becoming extinct, and, at best, is considered someone worthy to applaud, but not to imitate. The man determined to build a society by taking God out of the personal and social spectrum ended up destroying himself. This is the thesis of the Second Vatican Council, which all Pontiffs have insistently made clear.

Certainly the words of Paul VI in Populorum Progressio echo: “Man can set about organizing terrestrial realities without God. But "closed off from God, they will end up being directed against man. A humanism closed off from other realities becomes inhuman."

The thousands of immigrants who die, drowning in the sea, in the sight and patience of those who have the power to prevent this, the thousands and thousands of old lonely people, abandoned and poor, that no one is willing to take charge of, who moan for a little love and are offered death as an alternative to that pain of the soul, as well as the millions of children who do not see the light of day because they simply constitute a threat, give account to this truly decadent scenario that we see daily and that challenges us.  Not to mention the large gaps that exist between the few that have more each day, and the many that have less and that remain at the mercy of others at every level. The social disenchantment we see day to day is the response to this logic of indifference and self-absorption.

3.  If there is no God, only self-referentiality is left.

This attempt to disembark God from culture began by denying the value of the religious condition of man as a properly human and social experience. At most, its value is recognized in the personal sphere, but not as a reality that can be converted into culture. When the human being loses any objective reference that guides him beyond the vicissitudes of time and space, the path is cleared and paved to begin to build the self-referent man who creates himself from his own convictions. Thus, the condition of being social, of being sexed as a man or woman, of being a being that is understood in the light of all the others, are mere remnants that, according to them, were culturally imposed, but do not necessarily conform to the reality (which is no longer given) that they feel called to impose as such. In this cultural context, the parliaments of the West ended up being mere notaries of the infinite anthropologies and ethics that swarm everywhere. If anyone postulates the existence of a reality before it is perceived by someone who understands it, this is treated harshly. With this society lost. The weakest lost most of all. The strongest won. There is the paradox. Liberty misunderstood transformed, for many, into the worst of slaveries.  It is the logical consequence of a freedom that an ultimate truth is not recognized, and less so a good that reaches beyond an individual.

This panorama was a cultivating field of caudillismos in every sphere of society and of a great discontent. Even God himself, each man draws in his own way. The important thing is that it is meaningful to me "my" meaning of what it means to be a human being. The absence of a final reference upon whom to base existence and coexistence has led to social segregation and violence as the method to resolve conflicts. Bad treatment whose worst form is directed towards women, children, immigrants, indigenous peoples, and so many other communities, account for this attempt to deny all objective truth and values that cannot be negotiated because they are in front of the same man and State. Without a metaphysical or transcendent foundation that is worthy for all and that is, above all, the final say of the interpretation of reality, truth is diluted, reason yields to violence and justice ends in revenge. Is not that the scenario that we see every day and that has acquired a true pornographic character?

4. Self-reference is built from consumption

The society that is based on the self-referential individual has caused society, at its practical core, to revolve around consumption, which is its engine, and has made the economic indexes the index to measure the development of the country. Development is understood only as economic development and personal growth is intimately linked to individual well-being. The inequality that this method of social organization brings is very silenced. The words of Paul VI in Populorum Progressio strongly echo: “We cannot allow economics to be separated from human realities, nor development from the civilization in which it takes place. What counts for us is man—each individual man, each human group, and humanity as a whole.”  Thus it is impossible to achieve social coherence because the other person is no longer part of the common project, and becomes one more in the competition, which, obviously, must be overcome. Many believe that the important thing is to arrive first, but, from our condition as brothers and members of humanity, we believe that it is better to arrive together. This competition, in practice, begins in the womb when discarding human beings who come with malformations, are the result of rape or other causes.

They, according to this way of conceiving reality, are not part of this social structure where the center is not the person, but instead is what that person can achieve for himself, or what society can bestow on him. This is understood as the lack of proportion between the requirement of rights and the fulfillment of duties. Notable in this regard is the teaching of Benedict XVI regarding the deeper meaning of solidarity as a form of knowledge and expression of being a gift called to become a gift for others.

The key to understanding human relationships today lies in utilitarianism. This doctrine has done great damage; it has left many people, especially the poor and elderly, the immigrants and the disabled, in the most absolute defenselessness. The reality of children who, for different reasons, do not live with their families, but in the homes of abandoned and lonely old people, refugees abandoned to their fate, these children live this reality.

5. Clear and unambiguous Christian testimony

Francis, the Pope, is clear about this reality. That is why he has invited us with insistence and without ambiguity to return to the foundation of the contribution made by the Catholic Church to generate a more just, fraternal and dignified society for man, every man and all men. That foundation is not power; it is not money; it is God and, specifically, His mercy shown in a unique and definitive way in Jesus Christ. The Pope seeks to return the eyes of all members of society to those who are excluded and discarded in a system for the exchange of goods and services that has not put man at the center of our social organizations. He does so from the prism of Jesus. From his gaze, the pains and anguishes of so many human beings are the consequence of a system not based on man and his constitutively spiritual nature, but on greed and ambition beyond measure that is fixed in power and money. The invitation from Francis to exchange the consumption lifestyle for one of sharing is concrete and real and those who are called in the first place to accept this call are those who profess that God became flesh in Jesus, the Christ, present, paradoxically, in the suffering. For the pope, Christian witness lived with coherence and courage has to become the theological place from which we are being called to show the world another face.

This implies a deep questioning of our behavior, especially of all who recognize that Jesus is Lord. Thus, together with the denunciation, which is certainly necessary, a horizon is opened, of the construction of the broader social framework, linked to love given, to tenderness squandered, to joy that infects, to Christian witness. This is not a key to interpreting the apostolic exhortations "The Joy of the Gospel" and "The Joy of Love". Perhaps it is not there, in the Gospel and in love; where is the mustard seed that will generate the much-longed-for civilization of love?  Said in the words of John Paul II:  “A civilization of love must be the true point of arrival for human history.” (Juan Pablo II, 3.11.1991)  Thus, Francis is clearly inviting us to take a clearer stand on our own way of life, for it is in this concrete and real practice that we will be the light that enlightens others. The Pope is asking us over and over again that our actions speak for themselves. Gestures are the most precious way to show not only that God is the foundation of our life, but also the guiding principle from which we can mend the social fabric. He has clearly begun. It is now up to each one of us to act. And with joy, hope, faith and much charity.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Gratitude: A Lifestyle

Our present historical, social and cultural situation is one of transition from modernity to post-modernity. Such a context is opposed to any attitude of thankfulness and gratitude, or even a special THANKSGIVING DAY.

Post-modern man lives immersed in a consumer society in which what is desired is obtained through money which comes to us through human work and effort… Thanksgiving is relegated and replaced by materialism and consumer pragmatism which makes it difficult to recognize what is free instead, post-modern man buys, acquires, negotiates…

In such a chain nothing is free and there is no reason to be thankful in commercial competition where what I obtain and possess I owe to my money and commercial and professional accomplishments. Here the only thing that counts is the free exchange of supply and demand, production and consumption, in which human beings are seen as objects and “possessing” takes priority over “being” as the highest ideal to be achieved.

THANKSGIVING, the possibility of being thankful, grateful, comes from another horizon of the understanding of life: it is born out of the recognition that, thanks to God, everything that we are and have, we have freely received, to share freely with others.

Faced with the certainty of what is ours without cost, humans are grateful, they give thanks, they live with the joyful certainty that they are loved freely, with a love that only requires us to love: to give freely what we have freely received (Mt 10,8). In this way, the person who is thankful commits himself to the construction of occasions and opportunities that make possible the expression of freedom and gratitude.

In addition, this certainty of having, receiving and enjoying life as a “gift” makes possible a happy existence, “a joy that no one can take away” (Jn 16,22).

From this perspective, THANKSGIVING DAY is a beautiful national tradition of incalculable worth, that encourages us to gather to express our gratitude, but even beyond the date and social formalities it leads us to ask what kind of individual, family and social life we are building. That is to say, we ask ourselves:
  • Do we perceive that our personal, family and social life is a gift?
  • Does our marketing and the consumer society in which we live allow us to transcend such to discover God’s loving presence in all that we are and have?
  • Is gratitude a permanent possibility in the life of those around us, or is it rather a privilege of a few: of those who have, as opposed to the poor in our society and in the world?
  • Finally, let’s ask ourselves about the deeper reasons that we have to maintain the tradition and to celebrate THANKSGIVING DAY.
As Christians, we live the lifestyle of children. We understand life as a gift from God and therefore we live trusting him, in joyful hope…

THANKSGIVING DAY, more than a religious festival, is a national tradition, and requires of all of us who inhabit this North American society, the construction of a more just and fraternal nation, to be more committed to each other and more equitable, for not only one day a year but every day. Mindful that we can and should always be thankful, and we all have clear and sufficient motives to be optimistic, for hope, and for joy without end.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Pope at General Audience:
What Should We Do With Those People Who Bother Us?...

Posted by ZENIT Staff on 16 November, 2016

Pope at General Audience
“We dedicate today’s catechesis to a work of mercy that we all know very well, but perhaps do not put into practice as we should: bearing patiently those who wrong us”, said Pope Francis to the thousands of faithful gathered in a sunny but chilly St. Peter’s Square during this week’s Wednesday general audience.
“We are all very good at identifying the presence of a person who is bothersome: it happens when we meet someone in the street, or when we receive a telephone call. Immediately we think, ‘For how long must I listen to the complaints, gossip, requests or bragging of this person?’ At times, it may be that annoying people are those closest to us: among our relatives there is always one; they are not lacking in the workplace; and even in our spare time we are not free of them”.
“What must we do with these people?” asked the Holy Father, without neglecting to mention that we too can be bothersome to others. He went on to explain why patiently bearing those who wrong us appears among the spiritual works of mercy.
“In the Bible we see that God Himself must use mercy to suffer the complaints of His people”, he said. “For example, in the Book of Exodus the people are truly unbearable: first they weep because they are enslaved in Egypt, and God frees them; then in the desert they complain because there is nothing to eat, and God sends them quails and manna, but in spite of this the complaints do not cease. Moses acts as a mediator between God and His people, and he too at times is bothersome to the Lord. But God was patient and in this way He taught Moses and His people also this essential dimension of faith”.
“A first question therefore comes to us spontaneously”, he added. “Do we ever carry out an examination of conscience, to ask ourselves whether or not we too, at times, can be annoying to others? It is easy to point the finger at the defects and shortcomings of others, but we should learn to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. Let us look above all at Jesus: how much patience He had to have during the three years of His public life! Once, while He was walking with His disciples, He was stopped by the mother of James and John, who said to Him, ‘Promise that in your kingdom these two sons of mine will sit on your right and on your left’. Even in that situation, Jesus took the opportunity to give a fundamental teaching: His is not a kingdom of power and glory like earthly ones, but rather of service and giving to others. Jesus teaches always to go towards the essential and to look further ahead, to assume one’s mission with responsibility”.
The situation narrated in the Gospel of Matthew relates to another two works of spiritual mercy: admonishing sinners and instructing the ignorant. “Let us think of the great effort it takes when we help people to grow in faith and in life. I think, for example, of catechists – among whom there are many mothers and women religious – who dedicate time to teaching children the basic elements of faith. How much effort, especially when the children would prefer to play instead of listening to the catechism!”.
“Accompanying in the search for the essential is good and important, as it lets us share in the joy of tasting the meaning of life. Often it happens that we meet people who dwell on superficial things, ephemeral and banal; at times they have not met anyone to stimulate them to look for something else, to appreciate the true treasures. Teaching to look to the essential is a decisive help, especially in a time like our own, which seems to have lost its bearings and pursues short-sighted satisfactions. Teaching to discover what the Lord wants from us and how we can respond to it means setting out on the road to grow in our own vocation, the road of true joy”.
“So, Jesus’ words to the mother of James and John, and then to all the group of disciples, indicate the way to avoid so as not to fall into the trap of envy, ambition and adulation, temptations that are always lurking even amongst us Christians. The need to advise, admonish and instruct must not make us feel superior to others, but obliges us first and foremost to look inwardly at ourselves to check that we are consistent with what we ask of others. Let us not forget Jesus’ words: ‘Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?’. He concluded, “May the Holy Spirit help us be patient in bearing others, and humble and simple in giving counsel”.
On ZENIT’s Web page:

Posted by ZENIT Staff on 16 November, 2016

A scene of the video One Human Family
Below is the Vatican-provided transcription of the video message Pope Francis sent yesterday to the the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on Tuesday during their annual fall General Assembly regarding the Fifth National Hispanic Pastoral Encuentro, which will take place in dioceses of the United States from January 2017 to September of 2018:
Dear Brother Bishops,
I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you. Just a year ago, I was with you during my Pastoral Visit to the United States. There I was impressed by the vitality and diversity of the Catholic community. Throughout its history, the Church in your country has welcomed and integrated new waves of immigrants. In the rich variety of their languages and cultural traditions, they have shaped the changing face of the American Church.
In this context, I would commend the coming Fifth National Hispanic Pastoral Encuentro. The celebration of this Fifth Encuentro will begin in your Dioceses in this coming January and conclude with a national celebration in September 2018.
In continuity with its predecessors, the Encuentro seeks to acknowledge and value the specific gifts that Hispanic Catholics have offered, and continue to offer, to the Church in your country. But it is more than that. It is part of a greater process of renewal and missionary outreach, one to which all of your local Churches are called.
Our great challenge is to create a culture of encounter, which encourages individuals and groups to share the richness of their traditions and experiences, to break down walls and to build bridges. The Church in America, as elsewhere, is called to “go out” from its comfort zone and to be a leaven of communion. Communion among ourselves, with our fellow Christians, and with all who seek a future of hope.
We need to become ever more fully a community of missionary disciples, filled with love of the Lord Jesus and enthusiasm for the spread of the Gospel. The Christian community is meant to be a sign and prophecy of God’s plan for the entire human family. We are called to be bearers of good news for a society gripped by disconcerting social, cultural and spiritual shifts, and increasing polarization.
It is my hope that the Church in your country, at every level, will accompany the Encuentro with its own reflection and pastoral discernment. In a particular way, I ask you to consider how your local Churches can best respond to the growing presence, gifts and potential of the Hispanic community. Mindful of the contribution that the Hispanic community makes to the life of the nation, I pray that the Encuentro will bear fruit for the renewal of American society and for the Church’s apostolate in the United States.
With gratitude to all engaged in the preparation of the Fifth Encuentro, I assure you of my prayers for this important initiative of your Conference. Commending you, and the clergy, religious and lay faithful of your local Churches, to the prayers of Mary Immaculate, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord.
[Original text: English] [Vatican-provided text]
On the NET:

Posted by Bishop Robert Barron on 16 November, 2016

I’m in the process of re-reading a spiritual classic from the Russian Orthodox tradition:  The Way of a Pilgrim. This little text, whose author is unknown to us, concerns a man from mid-19th century Russia who found himself deeply puzzled by St. Paul’s comment in first Thessalonians that we should “pray unceasingly.” How, he wondered, amidst all of the demands of life, is this even possible? How could the Apostle command something so patently absurd?
His botheration led him, finally, to a monastery and a conversation with an elderly spiritual teacher who revealed the secret. He taught the man the simple prayer that stands at the heart of the Eastern Christian mystical tradition, the so-called “Jesus prayer.” “As you breathe in,” he told him, say, ‘Lord Jesus Christ,’ and as you breathe out, say, ‘Have mercy on me.’” When the searcher looked at him with some puzzlement, the elder instructed him to go back to his room and pray these words a thousand times. When the younger man returned and announced his successful completion of the task, he was told, “Now go pray it ten thousand times!” This was the manner in which the spiritual master was placing this prayer on the student’s lips so that it might enter his heart and into the rhythm of his breathing in and out, and finally become so second nature to him that he was, consciously or unconsciously, praying it all the time, indeed praying just as St. Paul had instructed the Thessalonians.
In the power of the Spirit, the young man then set out to wander through the Russian forests and plains, the Jesus prayer perpetually on his lips. The only object of value that he had in his rucksack was the Bible, and with the last two rubles in his possession, he purchased a beat-up copy of the  Philokalia, a collection of prayers and sayings from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Sleeping outdoors, fending largely for himself, relying occasionally on the kindness of strangers, reading his books and praying his prayer, he made his way. One day, two deserters from the Russian army accosted him on the road, beat him unconscious and stole his two treasures. When he came around and discovered his loss, the man was devastated and wept openly: how could he go on without food for his soul? Through a fortuitous set of circumstances, he managed to recover his lost possessions, and when he had them once again, he hugged them to his chest, gripping them so hard that his fingers practically locked in place around them.
I would invite you to stay with that image for a moment. We see a man with no wealth, no power, no influence in society, no fame to speak of, practically no physical possessions—but clinging with all of his might and with fierce protectiveness to two things whose sole purpose is to feed his soul. Here’s my question for you: What would you cling to in such a way? What precisely is it, the loss of which would produce in you a kind of panic? What would make you cry, once you realized that you no longer had it? And to make the questions more pointed, let’s assume that you were on a desert island or that you, like the Russian pilgrim, had no resources to go out and buy a replacement. Would it be your car? Your home? Your golf clubs? Your computer? To be honest, I think for me it might be my iPhone. If suddenly I lost my ability to make a call, my contacts, my music, my GPS, my maps, my email, etc., I would panic—and I would probably cry for sheer joy once I had the phone back, and my fingers would close around it like a claw. What makes this confession more than a little troubling is that, 10 years ago, I didn’t even own a cell phone. I lived my life perfectly well without it, and if you had told me then that I would never have one, it wouldn’t have bothered me a bit.
What I particularly love about the Pilgrim is that he was preoccupied, not about any of the passing, evanescent goods of the world, but rather about prayer, about a sustained contact with the eternal God. He didn’t care about the things that obsess most of us most of the time: money, power, fame, success. And the only possessions that concerned him were those simple books that fed his relationship to God. Or to turn it around, he wasn’t frightened by the loss of any finite good; but he was frightened to death at the prospect of losing his contact with the living God.
So what would you cling to like a desperate animal? What loss would you fear? What do you ultimately love?
Posted by ZENIT Staff on 16 November, 2016

As next Sunday, 20 November, is Universal Children’s Day, dedicated to promoting the rights of the child, Pope Francis today launched an appeal “to the conscience of all, institutions and families, that children always be protected and their wellbeing safeguarded, so that they never fall prey to forms of slavery, recruitment for armed groups, and maltreatment.”
The Pope offered this appeal at the end of the weekly general audience.
“I hope that the international community may watch over their lives, guaranteeing to every boy and girl that right to schooling and education, so that they may grow in serenity and look with trust to the future.”

Posted by ZENIT Staff on 16 November, 2016

Pope Francis today concluded his general audience with the traditional greetings to various groups.
In his closing comments, he noted that in this month of November, “the liturgy invites us to pray for the deceased.”
“Let us not forget those who have loved us and have preceded us in faith, and also those whom no-one remembers; the Eucharistic celebration is the best spiritual aid we can offer to their souls,” he said.
The Pope also made particular reference to the victims of the recent earthquake in Central Italy.
“Let us pray for them and for their families, and continue to express our solidarity with those who have suffered damages.”
Posted by ZENIT Staff on 16 November, 2016

Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, has signed a joint ecumenical and interfaith letter with a number of other religious leaders in Canada, as well as representatives from various religious agencies working in the areas of ecumenism or social justice.
The joint letter conveys prayers and support for the Canadian participants at the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) taking place in  Marrakech, Morocco, November 7-18, 2016. The letter was sent to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honorable Catherine McKenna, who is leading the Canadian delegation. In their letter, the religious leaders state that “religions can truly contribute to building up a safer, healthier and more just society. We thus take to heart this Conference’s deliberations and wish to applaud all the conscientious and selfless efforts that are being made on behalf of the world community, the good of every human person, and the gift of creation itself. ”
Pope Francis likewise sent a message to the Marrakech participants. In it the Holy Father states that “The current situation of environmental degradation … challenges us all, each of us with our own roles and competencies, and brings us together here with a renewed sense of awareness and responsibility.”
Earlier, participants in a symposium organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences issued a statement in anticipation of the Marrakech Conference, highlighting its connection with Laudato Si’, the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis on care for our common home. The Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) also published in 2015 various statements and letters regarding climate change and care for creation. The President of the CCCB was among the signatories of a declaration entitled “On Promoting Climate Justice and Ending Poverty in Canada – Faith Communities in Canada Speak Out”, published in September 2015.
Posted by ZENIT Staff on 16 November, 2016

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Here is a ZENIT working translation of Pope Francis’ prepared address during this morning’s General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
We dedicate today’s catechesis to a work of mercy that we all know very well, but that perhaps we do not put into practice as we should: to endure patiently people who annoy us. We are all very good in identifying a presence that can annoy us: it happens when we meet someone on the street, or when we receive a phone call … We immediately think: “How long will I have to hear the complaints, the gossip, the requests or the boasts of this person?” It also happens some times that annoying persons are those closest to us: among relatives there is always one; they are not lacking in the workplace and not even in free time are we exempted. What should we do with annoying persons? But we also many times are annoying to others. Why has this also been inserted among the works of mercy? To endure patiently people who annoy us?
In the Bible, we see that God Himself must exercise mercy to endure the complaints of His people. For instance, in the Book of Exodus the people are truly unbearable: first they weep because they are slaves in Egypt, and God delivers them; then, in the desert, they complain because there is nothing to eat (cf. 16:3), and God sends quails and manna (cf. 16:13-16), yet despite this, the complaints do not cease. Moses was the mediator between God and the people, and sometimes the Lord also annoyed him. However, God had patience and thus He also taught Moses and the people this essential dimension of faith.
Then a first question comes spontaneously: do we ever make an examination of conscience to see if we also, sometimes, are annoying to others? It is easy to point the finger at the defects and lacks of others, but we should learn to put ourselves in others’ shoes.
We look above all at Jesus: how much patience He had to have during the three years of His public life! Once, when He was walking with His disciples, he was stopped by the mother of James and John, who said to Him: “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom” (Matthew 20:21). The mother was lobbying for her sons, but she was the mother …
Jesus takes that situation also as a starting point to give a fundamental teaching: His is not a kingdom of power and glory as the earthly ones, but of service and donation to others. Jesus teaches to go always to the essential and to look beyond to assume one’s mission with responsibility. We can see here the recalling to two other works of spiritual mercy: to admonish sinners and to teach the ignorant. We think of the great commitment we can give when we help people to grow in faith and in life. I am thinking, for instance, of catechists – among whom there are so many mothers and so many women religious – who dedicate time to teach youngsters the basic elements of the faith. How much effort, especially when youngsters prefer to play rather than to listen to the catechism!
It is good and important to accompany in the search for the essential, because it makes us share the joy of relishing the meaning of life. It often happens that we meet persons who stop at superficial, ephemeral and trivial things, sometimes because they have not met someone who would stimulate them to seek something else, to appreciate the true treasures. To teach to look at the essential is a determinant help, especially in a time like ours, which seems to have lost the way and chases short-term satisfactions. To teach to discover what the Lord wants from us, and how we can correspond to Him, means to set out on the way to grow in one’s vocation, the way of true joy. Thus were Jesus’ words to the mother of James and John, and then to the whole group of the disciples, indicating the way to avoid falling into envy, ambition and adulation, temptations that are always lurking also among us Christians. The need to counsel, admonish and teach must not make us feel superior to others, but obliges us first of all to enter within ourselves to verify if we are coherent with all that we ask of others. Let us not forget Jesus’ words: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? (Luke 6:41).” May the Holy Spirit help us to be patient in enduring and humble and simple in counseling.
[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT]
In Italian
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet the Masters of Work Federation, which is observing the sixtieth anniversary of its foundation and I hope that the occasion will contribute to foster social and economic inclusion, especially of the weakest sectors of the population.
I greet the Sons of God Community of Florence; the Red Cross of Spoltore; the “Christmas Oranges” Association of Camisano Vicentino; the parish groups and the students. In the imminence of the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee may each one remember how important it is to be merciful as the Father and may love for brothers make us more human and more Christian.
A special greeting goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. In the month of November, the liturgy invites us to pray for the deceased. Let us not forget how much they loved us; they have preceded us in faith, as well as those that no one remembers: the suffrage in the Eucharistic Celebration is the best spiritual help that we can offer their souls. We remember with particular affection the victims of the recent earthquake in Central Italy: we pray for them and for their relatives and we continue to be solidaristic with all those who have suffered damages.
The Holy Father’s Appeal
This coming Sunday, November 20th, the International Day of the Rights of Childhood and Adolescence will be observed. I appeal to the conscience of all, institutions and families, may children and their wellbeing always be protected, so that they never fall into forms of slavery, are recruited into armed groups and mistreated. I hope that the International Community will watch over their life, guaranteeing to every boy and girl the right to school and to education, so that their growth is serene and they look at the future with confidence.
[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT]

Posted by ZENIT Staff on 16 November, 2016

Pope at Audience CTV
Here is the Vatican-provided English-language summary of Pope Francis’ General Audience this morning in St. Peter’s Square:
Speaker: Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now consider the spiritual work of mercy which is bearing wrongs patiently. In showing patience to those who wrong us and, by extension, to those we find irritating, we imitate God’s own patience with us sinners. Exercising patience with others also challenges us to reflect on our own conduct and failings. Patience is also required in two related spiritual works of mercy: admonishing sinners and instructing the ignorant. We think of the patience shown by the many parents, catechists and teachers who quietly help young people to grow in faith and knowledge of the important things in life. Helping others to look past the ephemeral, to discover the Lord’s will in their lives and thus to find lasting joy, is a great act of charity. By serving our brothers and sisters in this way, our own minds and hearts are purified and renewed. May the Holy Spirit grant us the generosity and patience needed to support and encourage those around us, so that together we may cherish the things that truly matter
Speaker: I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from Great Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Iceland, Malta, Nigeria, Indonesia, Malysia, the Philippines, New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America. With prayerful good wishes that these final days of the Jubilee of Mercy will be a moment of grace and spiritual renewal for you and your families, I invoke upon all of you joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.