Posts Tagged 'Pope Benedict XVI'

The Gift of Youthful Fidelity

When Pope Benedict XVI met with young women religious at World Youth Day last week, he said, among many other beautiful things, that “the Church needs your youthful fidelity, rooted and built up in Christ.” It seems like such a simple statement, an obvious reality. But as I have sat with this since last week, I have been struck by his use of the word need.

I have the privilege of spending lots of time with young women who are either contemplating a religious vocation or have recently begun the formation process in religious life. I experience their “youthful fidelity” on a daily basis, and it is always—always—a source of inspiration and encouragement to me. There is a freshness and a vitality to their love for Christ that rekindles my own “first love” and reminds me of just why I have committed myself to Christ in the service of the Church for a lifetime. I think the Pope was 100% on-target with his use of the word “need.” The Church does need the witness of youthful fidelity to Christ, as a confirmation that boldly proclaims that all we have been promised by God is trustworthy…and that God is worth the gift of our lives!

The Holy Father went on to say to young women religious: “Your lives must testify to the personal encounter with Christ which has nourished your consecration, and to all the transforming power of that encounter.” It all starts with a personal relationship with Christ…and from there, if we remain open to his love, he can transform all that is fearful within us to trust, all that is anxious within us to courage, all that is doubtful within us to deep, deep faith. May the Christ who knows each of us so personally, through the power of his Spirit, fill you this day with the love of his Heart.

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Pope Benedict’s 60th Annivesary of Ordination

Prayer for Priests prayer card

Dear Friends,

Pope Benedict will be celebrating his 60th anniversary of priestly ordination on June 29th this year! Dioceses and parishes across the world are planning to pray 60 hours of Eucharistic Adoration for the intention of the sanctification of the priesthood and for new and holy vocations to the priesthood. Read more here, and enjoy a prayer card that was made to use for this intention (but can be used any time of the year, too!).

May 15 – World Day of Prayer for Vocations

What a tremendous encouragement we receive from Pope Benedict XVI in his Message for World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which we will celebrate this Sunday, May 15th! The Holy Father reminds us that “Vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life are first and foremost the fruit of constant contact with teh living God and insistent prayer lifted up to the “Lord of the harvest”…” Its so true…everyone who has a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life has realize their vocation through prayer. Personal and liturgical prayer help us grow in familiarity with Christ because we are listening to God’s word.

When God’s call to the priesthood or consecrated life is realized in a person’s heart, often there can be fears or resistance to accepting and doing God’s will. But again, the Holy Father encourages us, “entering into God’s will does not crush or destroy a person, but instead leads to the discovery of the deepst truth about ourselves…” This truth is realized most clearly in our personal relationship with Christ. It is also realized in relationship with others, for in being generous and fraternal in relationships with others, we become open to and share with others the love of God. And in doing so “we discover true joy and the fulfillment of our aspirations.”

Let us continue to invite young men and women to open their hearts to God’s will and prayerfully consider His call.

Being True Witnesses

“How can we meet the Lord, each time becoming more and more his true witnesses?” the Holy Father asked, explaining that St. Maximus of Turin affirmed, “whosoever wishes to reach the Savior must first put themselves, in their very faith, at the right hand of the divinity, and place themselves in heaven with the belief of their hearts”. This is constantly learning to direct the mind’s and the heart’s gaze toward the heights of God where the risen Christ is. In prayer and in adoration God encounters the human being … Only if we know how to direct ourselves toward Him and pray to Him can we discover the deepest meaning of our lives and our daily path will be illuminated with the light of the Risen One”.
–Pope Benedict XVI, Regina Coeli, Easter 2011

Mixed Emotions

I don’t know what Palm Sunday means for you, but for me it’s a little bit of a jumbled combination of things. It means the proclamation of the Passion during the Gospel at Mass, it means the reception of new palms to be brought home and placed behind the crucifixes all around the house, it means the beginning of Holy Week, and it means somehow that it’s time to “turn toward Jerusalem” and consciously ready myself for the celebration of the Paschal Triduum beginning on Holy Thursday.

But Palm Sunday has many other meanings as well, particularly if we look carefully at what exactly happened upon Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict tells us that the acclamation “Hosanna!” had many different connotations for first-century Jews. He says it was “an expression of the complex emotions of the pilgrims accompanying Jesus and of his disciples,” namely joyful praise of God, ardent hope that the coming of the Messiah was imminent, and fervent prayer that the arrival of this King would be the definitive beginning to God’s everlasting reign over Israel. As I read this, I ask myself, “What are the complex emotions of this pilgrim—myself—as I accompany Jesus today?” Yes, there is much joy in the praise of God and all the ways He continues to bless me, there is certain hope that He will fulfill all His promises to me and to our world, and there is indeed fervent prayer for all that requires His power, His grace, His touch. There are a few other emotions mixed in there, too, as I’m sure there are for you. A bit of fear about all that is uncertain or painful in my life, a bit of anxiety over all that is stressful, a bit of negativity that I’d rather not own up to. But all of these put together make up the “me” that celebrates Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and I shout with all other pilgrims of “complex emotions” down through the centuries and even down through the pews, “Hosanna to the King of David!”

Making Tents

I’ve always been somewhat bemused by Peter’s response to the experience of the Transfiguration. Picture this: Jesus invites you, personally, to join him on a private journey up the mountain to join him in prayer. As he prays, the most incredible white light surrounds him and dazzles you with visions of pure brilliance. The Jesus you see before you is, indeed, the Jesus you know and love, but he is transfigured into the most beautiful, resplendent version of a human being you could ever imagine. As his prayer continues, you see with him Elijah, the ancient prophet of Israel, and Moses, the father of all that Hebrew Law holds. If this were your experience of the Lord, quite likely you might utter what Peter did: “Lord, it is good that we are here!” But, it seems unlikely that you would continue with the somewhat awkward suggestion “…let me make three tents…” (no offense meant to St. Peter, mind you!)

Peter is, indeed, dazzled by the experience, and seems to want to make some sense out of what is happening—and perhaps even more courageously, wants to respond to this incredible experience with a fitting gesture or act of adoration. He recognizes, it seems, that he is privileged with an experience that is quite extraordinary…the recipient of a gift of grace that he neither anticipated nor requested…but that, nonetheless, he is being given gratuitously. He is struck to the heart with the realization that this Jesus is, undeniably, the Beloved Son of God, and he desires with all his heart to adore this Christ with full heart. In his reflections on this Gospel of the 2nd Sunday of Lent, Pope Benedict writes that the Transfiguration of Christ is an indication that God desires “to hand down to us, each day, a Word that penetrates the depths of our spirit.” May we, with Peter, find a way to respond to that Word, that brilliance, that resplendence, with gratitude, awe, and reverence.

Frailty and Temptation

During this frist week of Lent we are invited to meditate on two points: our human frailty weakened by original sin (Genesis 3), as well as to reflect on Jesus’ temptations in the desert (Matthew 4). Reflecting on these two points, Pope Benedict’s Lenten Message for 2011 states the following: “The First Sunday of the Lenten journey reveals our condition as human beings here on earth. The victorious battle against temptation, the starting point of Jesus’ mission, is an invitation to become aware of our own fragility in order to accept the Grace that frees from sin and infuses new strength in Christ – the way, the truth and the life (cf. Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum, n. 25).”

Recognizing our need for God’s grace implies a real struggle with the power of sin that has taken hold of our heart in manifold ways. One response that the Devil often wants to produce in us is an initial resistance to convert or change our lives. He uses fear to make us think we will loose something precious if we abandon our familiar ways of sin. However, in Christ’s temptations in the desert we are encouraged to recognize that the devil only promises distortions of what only belongs to God. In following Christ through these fourty days of penance and prayer we are strengthened in grace to turn away from sin and trust in the Lord’s plan for our lives. Our frailty as human beings is not something bad in itself, since dependance on God is the way we were created to exist. However, the frailty we suffer because of the effects of original sin in our souls is a great reminder that we cannot save ourselves from sin. The latter frailty mentioned, which is caused by sin, is the clearest sign that we need to walk closely with the one who is our strength.

During this first week of the Lenten season, let’s renew our resolution to pray and fast with Christ, so that we too may overcome temptation and sinful frailty. St. Paul reminds us that “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” (Romans 6:8)



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