Tag Archives: conversion

Benedict XVI: to whom do you belong? –asks for prayers for himself and future pope

When the Pope came into the Paul VI Hall he was greeted with lots of people which is typical, but there seemed to be more than c. 8000 people in attendance. The outpouring of affection was evident. Before the weekly teaching, he said, 

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Dear brothers and sisters, as you know I decided. Thank you for your kindness. I decided to resign from the ministry that the Lord had entrusted me on April 19, 2005. I did this in full freedom for the good of the Church after having prayed at length and examined my conscience before God, well aware of the gravity of this act.

I was also well aware that I was no longer able to fulfill the Petrine Ministry with that strength that it demands. What sustains and illuminates me is the certainty that the Church belongs to Christ whose care and guidance will never be lacking. I thank you all for the love and prayer with which you have accompanied me.

I have felt, almost physically, your prayers in these days which are not easy for me, the strength which the love of the Church and your prayers brings to me. Continue to pray for me and for the future Pope, the Lord will guide us!

The catechesis the Pope offers us today…

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Significant remarks from the Evangelization Synod: faith’s different reality in Northern Europe

Berislav Grgic.jpgAt the Synod of Bishops men and women from all parts of the world gathered in Rome in October to speak on matters pertaining to evangelization. We in the USA, need perspective: the lower Europe and North America is not the only place where the Christian faith is incarnated. The bishop of Tromso since 2009,
Norway, Berislav Grgić, 52, said to the Synod Fathers:

The Catholic Church in the Northern Lands – Denmark, Finland,
Iceland, Norway and Sweden – is a very small minority and therefore has neither
the advantages nor the disadvantages that the Catholic Church often comes
across in traditional and prevalently Catholic regions. Despite its limited
relevance, numeric as well as social, our Church is nonetheless a growing
Church. New churches are built or bought, new parishes are instituted,
non-Latin rites are added, there is a relatively high number of adult
conversions and baptisms, there are vocations to priesthood and to religious
life, the number of baptisms is much higher than the number of deaths and
number of those who abandon the Church, and attendance at Sunday Mass is
relatively high.

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Year of Faith: sharing Christ’s Good News is new life, a journey that transforms

In the presence of  hundreds of bishops, the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs, ecumenical partners and laity, Pope Benedict prayed the Mass and preached on the meaning of both the Second Vatican Council and the Year of Faith through the lens of conversion. Benedict is clear: the Year of Faith is not celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The Church needs not a special forum for this anniversary; it is all an invitation to conversion and to deepen one’s faith in the Christ. The homily Pope Benedict delivered today follows.

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fifty years from the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, we begin
with great joy the Year of Faith. I am delighted to greet all of you,
particularly His Holiness Bartholomaois I, Patriarch of Constantinople, and His
Grace Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. A special greeting goes to the
Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches, and to the
Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences. In order to evoke the Council, which
some present had the grace to experience for themselves – and I greet them with
particular affection – this celebration has been enriched by several special
signs: the opening procession, intended to recall the memorable one of the
Council Fathers when they entered this Basilica; the enthronement of a copy of
the Book of the Gospels used at the Council; the consignment of the seven final
Messages of the Council, and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I
will do before the final blessing. These signs help us not only to remember,
they also offer us the possibility of going beyond commemorating. They invite
us to enter more deeply into the spiritual movement which characterized Vatican
II, to make it ours and to develop it according to its true meaning. And its
true meaning was and remains faith in Christ, the apostolic faith, animated by
the inner desire to communicate Christ to individuals and all people, in the
Church’s pilgrimage along the pathways of history.

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Pope Benedict speaks of the New Evangelization as an “encounter the Lord, who alone who fills our existence”

This morning in Rome, Pope Benedict opened the 13th Ordinary Synod of Bishops whose it will be to guide him and the entire Church, in the work of Evangelization. At Holy Mass, His Holiness bestowed the honor of being Doctors of the Church on Saint John of Avila and Saint Hildegard of Bingen. The Pope’s homily follows.

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With this solemn concelebration we open the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. This theme reflects a programmatic direction for the life of the Church, its members, families, its communities and institutions. And this outline is reinforce by the fact that it coincides with the beginning of the Year of Faith, starting on 11 October, on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. I give a cordial and grateful welcome to you who have come to be part of the Synodal Assembly, in particular to the Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops, and to his colleagues. I salute the fraternal delegates of the other churches and ecclesial communities as well as all present, inviting them to accompany in daily prayer the deliberations which will take place over the next three weeks.

The readings for this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word propose to us two principal points of reflection: the first on matrimony, which I will touch shortly; and the second on Jesus Christ, which I will discuss now. We do not have time to comment upon the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews but, at the beginning of this Synodal Assembly, we ought to welcome the invitation to fix our gaze upon the Lord Jesus, “crowned with glory and honour, because of the suffering of death (2:9). The word of God places us before the glorious One who was crucified, so that our whole lives, and in particular the commitment of this Synodal session, will take place in the sight of him and in the light of his mystery. In every time and place, evangelization always has as its starting and finishing points Jesus Christ, the Son of God (cf. Mk 1:1); and the Crucifix is the supremely distinctive sign of him who announces the Gospel: a sign of love and peace, a call to conversion and reconciliation. My dear Brother Bishops, starting with ourselves, let us fix our gaze upon him and let us be purified by his grace.

I would now like briefly to examine the new evangelization, and its relation to ordinary evangelization and the mission ad Gentes. The Church exists to evangelize. Faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ’s command, his disciples went out to the whole world to announce the Good News, spreading Christian communities everywhere. With time, these became well-organized churches with many faithful. At various times in history, divine providence has given birth to a renewed dynamism in Church’s evangelizing activity. We need only think of the evangelization of the Anglo-Saxon peoples or the Slavs, or the transmission of the faith on the continent of America, or the missionary undertakings among the peoples of Africa, Asia and Oceania. It is against this dynamic background that I like to look at the two radiant figures that I have just proclaimed Doctors of the Church, Saint John of Avila and Saint Hildegard of Bingen. Even in our own times, the Holy Spirit has nurtured in the Church a new effort to announce the Good News, a pastoral and spiritual dynamism which found a more universal expression and its most authoritative impulse in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Such renewed evangelical dynamism produces a beneficent influence on the two specific “branches” developed by it, that is, on the one hand the Missio ad Gentes or announcement of the Gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and his message of salvation, and on the other the New Evangelization, directed principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life. The Synodal Assembly which opens today is dedicated to this new evangelization, to help these people encounter the Lord, who alone who fills our existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favour the rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life. Obviously, such a special focus must not diminish either missionary efforts in the strict sense or the ordinary activity of evangelization in our Christian communities, as these are three aspects of the one reality of evangelization which complement and enrich each other.

The theme of marriage, found in the Gospel and the first reading, deserves special attention. The message of the word of God may be summed up in the expression found in the Book of Genesis and taken up by Jesus himself: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24; Mk 10:7-8). What does this word say to us today? It seems to me that it invites us to be more aware of a reality, already well known but not fully appreciated: that matrimony is a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today, especially the dechristianized world. The union of a man and a woman, their becoming “one flesh” in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence which in our days has become greater because unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis. And it is not by chance. Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way. Marriage, as a union of faithful and indissoluble love, is based upon the grace that comes from the triune God, who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross. Today we ought to grasp the full truth of this statement, in contrast to the painful reality of many marriages which, unhappily, end badly. There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage. And, as the Church has said and witnessed for a long time now, marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the new evangelization. This is already being seen in the many experiences of communities and movements, but its realization is also growing in dioceses and parishes, as shown in the recent World Meeting of Families.

One of the important ideas of the renewed impulse that the Second Vatican Council gave to evangelization is that of the universal call to holiness, which in itself concerns all Christians (cf. Lumen Gentium, 39-42). The saints are the true actors in evangelization in all its expressions. In a special way they are even pioneers and bringers of the new evangelization: with their intercession and the example of lives attentive to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they show the beauty of the Gospel to those who are indifferent or even hostile, and they invite, as it were tepid believers, to live with the joy of faith, hope and charity, to rediscover the taste for the word of God and for the sacraments, especially for the bread of life, the Eucharist. Holy men and women bloom among the generous missionaries who announce the Good News to non-Christians, in the past in mission countries and now in any place where there are non-Christians. Holiness is not confined by cultural, social, political or religious barriers. Its language, that of love and truth, is understandable to all people of good will and it draws them to Jesus Christ, the inexhaustible source of new life.

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At this point, let us pause for a moment to appreciate the two saints who today have been added to the elect number of Doctors of the Church. Saint John of Avila lived in the sixteenth century. A profound expert on the sacred Scriptures, he was gifted with an ardent missionary spirit. He knew how to penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity. A man of God, he united constant prayer to apostolic action. He dedicated himself to preaching and to the more frequent practice of the sacraments, concentrating his commitment on improving the formation of candidates for the priesthood, of religious and of lay people, with a view to a fruitful reform of the Church.

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Saint Hildegard of Bingen, an important female figure of the twelfth century, offered her precious contribution to the growth of the Church of her time, employing the gifts received from God and showing herself to be a woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority. The Lord granted her a prophetic spirit and fervent capacity to discern the signs of the times. Hildegard nurtured an evident love of creation, and was learned in medicine, poetry and music. Above all, she maintained a great and faithful love for Christ and his Church.

This summary of the ideal in Christian life, expressed in the call to holiness, draws us to look with humility at the fragility, even sin, of many Christians, as individuals and communities, which is a great obstacle to evangelization and to recognizing the force of God that, in faith, meets human weakness. Thus, we cannot speak about the new evangelization without a sincere desire for conversion. The best path to the new evangelization is to let ourselves be reconciled with God and with each other (cf. 2 Cor 5:20). Solemnly purified, Christians can regain a legitimate pride in their dignity as children of God, created in his image and redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and they can experience his joy in order to share it with everyone, both near and far.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us entrust the work of the Synod meeting to God, sustained by the communion of saints, invoking in particular the intercession of great evangelizers, among whom, with much affection, we ought to number Blessed Pope John Paul II, whose long pontificate was an example of the new evangelization. Let us place ourselves under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization. With her let us invoke a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that from on high he may illumine the Synodal assembly and make it fruitful for the Church’s journey today, in our time. Amen.

Following the Lord demands a profound conversion, Pope Benedict reminds

… as God himself revealed through the mouth of the
prophet Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, / your ways are not my
ways” (Isaiah 55:8). This is why following the Lord always demands of man – of
all of us – a profound conversion, a change in our way of thinking and living,
it demands that we open our hearts to list
en, to let ourselves be interiorly
enlightened and transformed. A key point on which God and man differ is pride:
in God there is no pride, because he is the complete fullness of love and is
entirely disposed to love and give his life
; in us men, however, pride is
deeply rooted and requires constant vigilance and purification. We, who are
little, aspire to appear big, to be the first, while God, who is truly great,
is not afraid to abase himself and become last. And the Virgin Mary is
perfectly in “synch” with God: let us invoke her with confidence so that she
might teach us how to faithfully follow Jesus on the path of love and humility. 

Pope Benedict XVI
Sunday Angelus, excerpt
30 September 2012

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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