Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pope Francis' Mission for Southern California

"I asked the Pope if he had a special message for us. Without hesitation, he responded that we should have a great devotion to our Blessed Mother Mary. He said that if we turn to Mary, she will help us in every way and with every difficulty. 

He insisted that our prayer life is very important. And he urged us to continue growing deeper in understanding our Catholic faith. 

He said to me that we have to continue trying to be involved in the life of our society. We need new conviction that it’s our Christian duty to share the life and teachings of Jesus with our brothers and sisters, he said. We need to encounter the challenges of our society with the truth of the Gospel, and we need to be in active dialogue with the people around us.

At the end of the audience, the Pope gave me his blessing and he sent his Apostolic Blessing to all the faithful of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. He asked me again to ask you to pray for his ministry. "

-Archbishop Gomez commenting on Pope Francis's mission for us, here in Southern California 

From the Holy Land to Rome, and an Audience with the Holy Father

Written by Archbishop José H. Gomez 
It’s so good to be home!

My pilgrimage was a special time of grace. Thank you for your prayers! I was praying for you all the time — and with great intensity at the holy sites of our salvation, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

I really felt I wasn’t making this pilgrimage by myself, or with only my fellow pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Through our mutual prayers and sacrifices, I felt we were accompanying one another on this faith journey.

In this Year of Faith, I feel blessed to go back to the “sources” of our faith in the Holy Land.

I know I’ll never read the Gospels or pray the Rosary the same way again.

Already, my prayer has a new urgency since being on my knees in the place where Jesus was born. Since following those same roads as his first disciples, and standing in the places where they heard his teaching and witnessed his miracles. What a difference it makes to pray where his Blessed Mother watched him die and where the angels appeared to announce his rising from the dead.

In these places, I sensed the reality of heaven touching earth and the divine becoming human. I realized once more the great hope that Jesus gave us when he established his Church on the “rock” of St. Peter.

I come away with new joy and new desire to serve the Church’s mission — to proclaim his Gospel to everyone and to make God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

So it was perfect and providential that my journey ended in Rome, the eternal city, where I was blessed to have a private audience with Pope Francis, St. Peter’s apostolic successor and Christ’s vicar on earth.

This was my second meeting with the Pope. I had the privilege to celebrate a morning Mass with the Pope back in April, shortly after his election.

Our Holy Father is the first Pope from the Americas and he has a deep passion for the new evangelization. So I brought him a gift from all of us — a book on the California missions by Msgr. Francis J. Weber, our Archdiocesan archivist emeritus. I brought him the Spanish translation.

And it was a joy to speak with the Pope in Spanish, which is our native tongue.

The Pope gave me a warm welcome and we talked for about 40 minutes. I told him we were praying for him and that we’re all excited by his ministry and grateful for his extraordinary example of tireless dedication to the Church and the world. He thanked us for our prayers and asked for more prayers!

He asked me many questions about Los Angeles. He was so happy to hear about the faith of our Catholic people, especially our young people, and the growth we are experiencing in priestly vocations.

I asked the Pope if he had a special message for us. Without hesitation, he responded that we should have a great devotion to our Blessed Mother Mary. He said that if we turn to Mary, she will help us in every way and with every difficulty.

He insisted that our prayer life is very important. And he urged us to continue growing deeper in understanding our Catholic faith.

He said to me that we have to continue trying to be involved in the life of our society. We need new conviction that it’s our Christian duty to share the life and teachings of Jesus with our brothers and sisters, he said. We need to encounter the challenges of our society with the truth of the Gospel, and we need to be in active dialogue with the people around us.

At the end of the audience, the Pope gave me his blessing and he sent his Apostolic Blessing to all the faithful of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. He asked me again to ask you to pray for his ministry.

So this week, let’s pray for one another and together let’s accompany our Pope with our prayers and love.

We are truly blessed by our Pope’s extraordinary energy and love. His ministry has caused people all over the world to begin talking about the Church with new excitement. That’s a sign that in our secularized societies millions are still seeking God — and they’re still looking to the Catholic Church to show them the way.

This is our mission, my friends! The mission Jesus gave to his Church in the Holy Land all those centuries ago.

So let’s ask our Blessed Mother to help us really hear what the Pope is saying to us. Let’s ask for the grace to have deeper love for Jesus and a new desire to bring our neighbors to know him.

Archbishop Gomez’s pastoral letter, “Witness to Faith,” is available at Follow him at: and

New Cardinals to be created in February 2014

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Texas Bishops Welcome Implementation of One of Nation's Toughest Pro-Life Laws

"While we will continue to work and pray to end abortion in our time, this day is a sign of progress toward that goal"

HOUSTON, TEXAS, October 30, 2013 ( - Here is a statement from the Texas Catholic Conference, regarding the implementation today of one of the strictest abortion laws in the United States.

* * *

Texas' Catholic Bishops applauded today's implementation of one of the nation's strongest pro-life laws for protecting the unborn and ensuring the health of Texas women, despite a last-minute U.S. District Court ruling that affected only a portion of the law.

U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that a provision which required abortionists to have admitting privileges within 30 miles of their facilities fell short of constitutional standards. The state of Texas immediately filed an appeal of the decision.

Today's law was a product of a special session of the 83rd Texas Legislature. It prohibits late-term abortions after five months of pregnancy, and also works to improve the health and safety of Texas women by requiring abortion facilities to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers. While the Texas Catholic Conference opposes abortion, it equally values protecting and preserving the health of women, whose lives and dignity are just as precious as those destroyed by the act of abortion. Short of closing these abortion facilities, abortionists must meet the most rigorous, mandatory standards of medical inspections and regulation.

U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel's last minute ruling also modified part of the law that required doctors to adhere to FDA protocols for administering the RU-486 abortifacient drug. Judge Yeakel ruled that drug-induced abortions using a non-FDA protocol could be performed within a 13-day window should there be a risk to the health and safety of the mother at the end of the first two months of pregnancy. Given that the RU-486 drug is used early in pregnancy, it is very unlikely that following the FDA protocol would present a risk to the health and safety of the mother. Thus, his ruling keeps in place provisions that require a physician to be present to administer the drugs in the vast majority of cases.

The Bishops remind Texans that today marks an important day in Texas history as it becomes illegal to take the life of innocent unborn child at 5 month's gestation. They look forward to the 5th circuit overturning Judge Yeakel’s ruling and to the full implementation of the ambulatory surgical center requirements which are effective in Sept 2014. While we will continue to work and pray to end abortion in our time, this day is a sign of progress toward that goal.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and Young Catholics

October 18, 2013
Pier Giorgio Frassati had a lot in common with other young men. He enjoyed the outdoors, he was an avid mountain climber and soccer player; he was interested in friendships and in politics. Frassati was also a serious and devout Catholic. He went to Mass daily, and he was active in the Saint Vincent DePaul Society.
Pier Giorgio Frassati was, in many respects, like the young people I’ve met in the Diocese of Lincoln: he lived life fully, engaging his faith, his intellect, and his community, as he discovered the plan God had for him.
But Pier Giorgio Frassati died unexpectedly in 1925, at the age of 24. At his funeral, his family discovered something extraordinary. The streets along his funeral procession were lined with mourners. They were people Pier Giorgio had helped during his short life. Thousands of people, most of them poor, had come to pray for Pier Giorgio’s soul.
Quietly, without making a spectacle, Pier Giorgio Frassati had given his entire life to helping the poor, to reaching out to those on margins and peripheries of life.
Frassati lived and loved the good life. His charity sprang from his formation: he strove for excellence in all dimensions of his life, including the spiritual. His life exemplified the Church’s call to universal holiness: by becoming more fully himself, he became more like Christ.
One of his favorite expressions was verso l’alto – "to the summit!" He applied this hiking expression to the spiritual life – "to the heights of perfection."
In 1990, Blessed Pope John Paul II beatified Pier Giorgio Frassati. He was, said the Holy Father, "a man of the Beatitudes."
In the Diocese of Lincoln, a small group of young adults has recently formed a fellowship in Frassati’s honor. The Frassati Society of Lincoln was established to imitate the heroic virtues of Pier Giorgio, and his commitment to human and spiritual formation for the Kingdom of God.
I have been very impressed with the young men and young women I have met who make up the Frassati Society. They inspire me with their love of Christ and his Church. It is my hope that this fellowship will go a long way to help form young men and young women whose hearts are given to Christ, to his Church, and to the poor. I pray it will be a force for evangelization: for radical witness to a life of prayer, fraternity, and charity. I pray it will form the next generation of our Church’s leaders.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said recently that young adults "are not merely one constituency among many in the Church. They’re the future of Catholic life in flesh and blood, the key to triggering a chain reaction of conversion and zeal." Archbishop Chaput is right. He has a long track record of reaching out to the Catholic young adult community wherever he has served. He knows, and so do I, how much young people can animate the Church’s life.
Last week, I appointed two young priests, Father Michael Zimmer and Father Craig Clinch, to serve as chaplains to the Frassati Society. Their ministry is important. But the Frassati Society is an initiative of faithful lay Catholics, to form lay Catholics in the faith. In 2004, Blessed John Paul II said that, "evangelical animation of the temporal order is the duty of every baptized person, in particular the lay faithful." The Frassati Society is an effort to animate the world with the presence of Jesus Christ.

When Pier Giorgio Frassati died, thousands of people came to his funeral. They came because in him, they saw Jesus Christ. May our lives reflect the life of Jesus Christ. May we, like the Frassati Society, bring the transforming power of Christ, to the world.

By Bishop James Conley, Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

EWTN, State of Alabama File New Lawsuit Against HHS Mandate

‘The government should not be in the business of forcing people to violate 

their religious convictions,’ said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.

Catholic News Agency
Michael Warsaw, EWTN chairman and CEO and publisher of the National Catholic Register
– Catholic News Agency
IRONDALE, Ala. — On Oct. 28, with just months to go before federal law requires its compliance with the Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate, EWTN Global Catholic Network filed a new legal challenge in federal court against the controversial law.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange announced that the state would join EWTN as a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit, which asks the court both to halt the government from imposing the HHS mandate and to find that the law is unconstitutional. The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, names the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
“EWTN has no other option but to continue our legal challenge to the mandate,” said EWTN chairman and CEO Michael Warsaw, in a statement released on Oct. 28. “The revised rules, published by the government in July, have done nothing to address the serious issues of conscience and religious freedom that EWTN has been raising since the mandate was first published last year.”
Alabama’s Attorney General Strange said in a statement, “I am proud to stand with EWTN to oppose this unconscionable mandate. Whatever we personally may think about contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, the government should not be in the business of forcing people to violate their religious convictions.” 
In February 2012, in the wake of the government’s initial approval of the HHS mandate, EWTN was among the first Catholic nonprofit organizations to file a lawsuit against the rule.
But in March 2013, Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama dismissed the lawsuit as premature because of the government’s promises to amend the mandate and address religious-liberty concerns.
At that time, the White House had offered a yearlong “safe harbor” extension for religious nonprofits that were not exempted under the federal law, and government lawyers told the court that further amendments to the final rule were still under consideration. Thus the time was not “ripe” for a ruling on the merits of the case, according to Blackburn.
“Defendants further point out that not only is there a lengthy delay before they will enforce the mandate against EWTN, but they have also initiated the amendment process in which EWTN may participate. ... According to defendants, these circumstances illustrate the absence of impending injury to EWTN,” Blackburn noted in the finding.
However, the government did not amend the rule and expand the religious exemption to incorporate Catholic nonprofits like EWTN; the exemption only applied to churches.
The Register is a service of EWTN.

Strong Catholic Opposition
The U.S. bishops have strongly opposed the final rule, and many dioceses have joined in the slew of lawsuits against the mandate filed by more than 36 nonprofit and 39 for-profit plaintiffs in courts across the country. Of the 36 nonprofit lawsuits, only one case has been decided on its merits; the other cases received rulings on procedural issues. Of the 39 for-profit lawsuits, 35 have obtained rulings on the merits of their claims, and 30 of those have received injunctive relief.
“The government has decided that EWTN is apparently not religious enough to be exempt from the rule,” said Warsaw, in his statement released today.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public interest group, will continue to represent EWTN as it seeks protection from the court against imminent financial penalties for non-compliance and requests a finding that the mandate violates the free exercise of religion protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund, noted that the government’s “accommodation” requires EWTN to contract with a third party to provide contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs on its behalf.
“That’s a violation of the Catholic teachings EWTN expresses every day and a solution only a bureaucrat could love,” Windham told the Register, noting the looming July 2014 deadline, when EWTN will be subject to compliance with the mandate, as the reason why the case requires immediate action from the court.
In his press release, Attorney General Strange characterized the third-party provision as a “shell game” and an “accounting gimmick.”
“We all know that insurance companies do not provide anything for free; the employers are still going to be paying for these services through increased premiums or otherwise, even if the insurance company technically covers those products through a separate ‘free’ policy,” Strange said. “This isn’t just about who ultimately has to pay. It is about the government forcing EWTN to participate in a scheme that violates its religious beliefs.”

Violation of Administrative Law?
The 48-page complaint filed by the Becket Fund alleges that the government action also violates the right to due process and equal protection, protected under the Fifth Amendment, and that the regulation is improperly enforced because it was not promulgated according to the requirements of law.
While many legal challenges to the mandate argue that the federal law violates the plaintiffs’ religious freedom, the complaint filed in court on behalf of EWTN also alleges that the final rule violates administrative procedure laws.
Administrative law requires federal agencies preparing to issue a regulation to consider public comments made to a proposed rule, the complaint notes. And among the facts alleged in the complaint is the history of the government’s repeated requests for comments from citizens and organizations regarding the mandate.
Beginning with the first of three officially designated comment periods, the response steadily increased with 100,000, then 200,000 and, finally, 400,000 public comments registered against the rule.
But while the final rule mentioned EWTN at one point, EWTN’s complaint alleges that its concerns, and those of hundreds of thousands of other citizens and religious groups, were essentially ignored in the final HHS rule.
“The government says that only churches are religious enough for the government to respect their rights of conscience. This is an insult to EWTN, which exists to serve its Church,” said the Becket Fund’s Windham.
The last time EWTN filed a legal challenge, she said, “the court wanted to wait until the rulemaking process was complete. That process is finished now.”

‘First Freedom’
Windham said that, with the official January 2014 mandate compliance deadline approaching, “a short time from now, EWTN must choose between following its faith and paying millions of dollars in fines. That’s a choice no American should have to make.”
In his Oct. 28 press statement, Alabama Attorney General Strange echoed those sentiments.
Said Strange, “The freedom of religion, and to believe as conscience requires, is our ‘first freedom’ under the United States Constitution.”
“The people of Alabama have recognized the importance of this freedom and have enshrined it in their Constitution as well,” Strange added. “Alabama law does not allow anyone to be forced to offer a product that is against his or her religious beliefs or conscience.”
Joan Frawley Desmond is the Register’s senior editor.

Read more: 13:12:01#ixzz2j82nqt5W

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pope Francis on the Family: An Inestimable and Irreplacable Good

"The Family is the Building Block of Society!"
-Blessed John Paul II

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St Peter's Square on Sunday, October 27th, 2013, to mark the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time and the World Family Day at the close of the 21st Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which met in Rome this past week to reflect on the theme of living the joy of the Faith. In his homily, the Holy Father spoke of the Christian family as an institution that prays, keeps faith, and experiences joy. Listen

Over 100 thousand people were in St Peter’s Square on Sunday morning under a late October sky that was at first overcast and threatening before giving way during the course of Mass to brilliant sunshine. In his homily, Pope Francis challenged families to pray together:. “It is,” he said, “a matter of humility: of realizing that we need God.” The Holy Father went on to call families to lives of Christian witness, asking them to model their lives on St the example of St. Paul, who kept the faith by sharing it. “ Christian families are missionary families,” said Pope Francis, “in their everyday life, in their doing everyday things, as they bring to everything the salt and the leaven of faith!”
Pope Francis concluded his homily with a reflection on the joy of living as a Christian family. He said, “The family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally.” He went on to say, “That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society.”
After Mass, before reciting the Angelus with the gathered faithful, the Holy Father paused before an icon of the Holy Family that was placed on the steps of the Basilica, and recited a prayer composed for the occasion: “Holy Family of Nazareth,” he prayed, “reawaken in our society the awareness of the sacred and inviolable character of the family, an inestimable and irreplaceable good. Let every family be a welcoming place of goodness and peace for children and the elderly, for the sick and lonely, for the poor and needy.”

2013-10-27 Vatican Radio
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St Peter's Square on Sunday, October 27th, 2013, to mark the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time and the World Family Day at the close of the 21st Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which met in Rome this past week to reflect on the theme of living the joy of the Faith. In his homily, the Holy Father spoke of the Christian family as an institution that prays, keeps faith, and experiences joy. Below, please find the official English translation of Pope Francis' prepared remarks.

Homily of the Holy Father
Family Day(Saint Peter’s Square, 27 October 2013)
The readings this Sunday invite us to reflect on some basic features of the Christian family.
1. First: the family prays. The Gospel passage speaks about two ways of praying, one is false – that of the Pharisee – and the other is authentic – that of the tax collector. The Pharisee embodies an attitude which does not express thanksgiving to God for his blessings and his mercy, but rather self-satisfaction. The Pharisee feels himself justified, he feels his life is in order, and he judges others from his pedestal. The tax collector, on the other hand, does not multiply words. His prayer is humble, sober, pervaded by a consciousness of his own unworthiness, of his own needs. Here is a man who realizes that he needs God’s forgiveness.
The prayer of the tax collector is the prayer of the poor man, a prayer pleasing to God. It is a prayer which, as the first reading says, “will reach to the clouds” (Sir 35:20), unlike the prayer of the Pharisee, which is weighed down by vanity.
In the light of God’s word, I would like to ask you, dear families: Do you pray together from time to time as a family? Some of you do, I know. But so many people say to me: How can we? Prayer is something personal, and besides there is never a good time, a moment of peace… Yes, all that is true enough, but it is also a matter of humility, of realizing that we need God, like the tax collector! And we need simplicity! Praying the Our Father together, around the table, is something all of you can do. And praying the Rosary together, as a family, is very beautiful and a source of great strength! And praying for one another!
2. The second reading suggests another thought: the family keeps the faith. The Apostle Paul, at the end of his life, makes a final reckoning: “I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). But how did he keep the faith? Not in a strong box! Nor did he hide it underground, like the lazy servant. Saint Paul compares his life to a fight and to a race. He kept the faith because he didn’t just defend it, but proclaimed it, spread it, brought it to distant lands. He stood up to all those who wanted to preserve, to “embalm” the message of Christ within the limits of Palestine. That is why he made courageous decisions, he went into hostile territory, he let himself be challenged by distant peoples and different cultures, he spoke frankly and fearlessly. Saint Paul kept the faith because, in the same way that he received it, he gave it away, he went out to the fringes, and didn’t dig himself into defensive positions.
Here too, we can ask: How do we keep our faith? Do we keep it for ourselves, in our families, as a personal treasure, or are we able to share it by our witness, by our acceptance of others, by our openness? We all know that families, especially young families, are often “racing” from one place to another, with lots to do. But did you ever think that this “racing” could also be the race of faith? Christian families are missionary families, in their everyday life, in their doing everyday things, as they bring to everything the salt and the leaven of faith!
3. There is one more thought we can take from God’s word: the family experiences joy. In the responsorial psalm we find these words: “let the humble hear and be glad” (33/34:2). The entire psalm is a hymn to the Lord who is the source of joy and peace. What is the reason for this gladness? It is that the Lord is near, he hears the cry of the lowly and he frees them from evil. As Saint Paul himself writes: “Rejoice always … The Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5).
Dear families, you know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well... True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey. But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all. God alone knows how to create harmony from differences. But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centredness prevails and joy fades. But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society.
Dear families, always live in faith and simplicity, like the Holy Family of Nazareth! The joy and peace of the Lord be always with you!

Friday, October 25, 2013

San Bernardino 5th largest diocese in the U.S.

Larger than San Diego and Orange

Diocese_of_San_BernardinoThe following comes from a mid-Oct. story in the San Bernardino diocese paper, Inland Byte.
At the very top of the list of the most populous dioceses in the country, you will find expected Catholic  strongholds like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Boston.
With the release of the 2013 Kenedy Directory, a widely-used annual volume of church statistics, you now find the Diocese of San Bernardino near the top of that list, too.

The increase parallels sharp growth in the general population of San Bernardino and Riverside counties along with an even more rapid rise in the Hispanic population of the region, which led the nation between 2000 and 2010. In making its Catholic population estimate for the Kenedy Directory, the Diocese factored in Census statistics on the Hispanic population of the two counties for the first time…. In the Diocese’s report to the Kenedy Directory, those who self-identify as Catholic are counted in the population estimate….There are an estimated 1.6 million Catholics in the Diocese of San Bernardino, as reported in the Kenedy Directory, making it the fifth largest diocese in the nation. It continues a sharp upward trajectory in the population of the Diocese in recent decades. The Kenedy Directory reported a population of over 561,000 Catholics here 20 years ago, 24th biggest in the nation. By 2003, the Diocese reported one million Catholics, moving up to 12th on the list.

Pope Francis: Confess Sins with Concreteness and Sincerity

(Vatican Radio) To have the courage in the presence of the confessor to call sin by its name, without hiding it: Pope Francis homily this morning at the Casa Santa Marta was focused entirely on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To go to Confession, he said, is to encounter the love of Jesus with sincerity of heart and with the transparency of children, not refusing, but even welcoming the “grace of shame” that makes us perceive God’s forgiveness.
For many believing adults, confessing to a priest is an unbearable effort – that often leads one to avoid the Sacrament – or such a painful process that it transforms the moment of truth into an exercise of fiction. Pope Francis, commenting on the Letter to the Romans, says that Saint Paul does exactly the opposite: he admits publically to the community that “good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh.” He acknowledges that he is a “slave” who does not do the good that he wants to do, but the evil that he does not want to do. This happens in the life of faith, the Pope said, that “when I want to do good, evil is close to me”:
“This is the struggle of Christians. It is our struggle every day. And we do not always have the courage to speak as Paul spoke about this struggle. We always seek a way of justification: ‘But yes, we are all sinners.’ But we say it like that, don’t we? This says it dramatically: it is our struggle. And if we don’t recognize this, we will never be able to have God’s forgiveness. Because if being a sinner is a word, a way of speaking, a manner of speaking, we have no need of God’s forgiveness. But if it is a reality that makes us slaves, we need this interior liberation of the Lord, of that force. But more important here is that, to find the way out, Paul confesses his sin to the community, his tendency to sin. He doesn’t hide it.”
Confession of sins, done with humility, is something the Church requires of all of us, Pope Francis noted, citing the invitation of Saint James: “Confess your sins to one another.” Not to get noticed by others, the Pope explained, “but to give glory to God,” to recognise that it is God Who saves me. That, the Pope continued, is why one goes to a brother, a “brother priest” to confess. And one must do as Paul did – above all, confessing with the same “concreteness”:
“Some say: ‘Ah, I confess to God.’ But it’s easy, it’s like confessing by email, no? God is far away, I say things and there’s no face-to-face, no eye-to-eye contact. Paul confesses his weakness to the brethren face-to-face. Others [say], ‘No, I go to confession,’ but they confess so many ethereal things, so many up-in-the-air things, that they don’t have anything concrete. And that’s the same as not doing it. Confessing our sins is not going to a psychiatrist, or to a torture chamber: it’s saying to the Lord, ‘Lord, I am a sinner,’ but saying it through the brother, because this says it concretely. ‘I am sinner because of this, that and the other thing.’”
Concreteness and honesty, Pope Francis added, and a sincere ability to be ashamed of one’s mistakes. There are no shadowy lanes that can serve as an alternative to the open road that leads to God’s forgiveness, to the awareness, in the depths of the heart, of His forgiveness and His love. And here the Pope explained we must imitate little children:
“Little children have that wisdom: when a child comes to confess, he never says something general. ‘But father, I did this and I did that to my aunt, another time I said this word’ and they say the word. But they are concrete, eh? They have that simplicity of the truth. And we always have the tendency to hide the reality of our failings. But there is something beautiful: when we confess our sins as they are in the presence of God, we always feel that grace of shame. Being ashamed in the sight of God is a grace. It is a grace: ‘I am ashamed of myself.’ We think of Peter when, after the miracle of Jesus on the lake, [he said] ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinner.’ He is ashamed of his sins in the presence of the sanctity of Jesus.”
Listen to Christopher Wells' report: 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Good Old Days

A string of good popes!

In recent memory, all of the occupants of the Chair of St. Peter have been virtuous, good, even saintly men.

Only the naïve will consider that statement a “no-brainer.” Why? Because this has not always been the case.

We have had more than one bad pope! There are books written on them! We have had drunks, philanderers, tyrannical, bloodthirsty rogues whose exploits would make a truck driver blush.

Come to think about it, the first one, St. Peter, was no gem, as he denied even knowing Jesus, three times, at the very moment the Lord could most have used a loyal friend.

No wonder, one of the best histories of the papacy around is entitled Saints and Sinners, since we’ve had our share of both. And, no surprise, the word “Borgia,” the name of a family that gave us more than one medieval pope, connotes corruption and immorality.

What’s remarkable, of course, is not that there have been knavish, scandalous popes — there sure have been! — but that the Church keeps on going in spite of them.

No surprise there, if you trust the promise Jesus made that “I will be with my Church all days, even until the end of the world.”

In our time, though, the successors of St. Peter have been men of sanctity and honor, real luminaries for the Church and the world.

I’m just thinking of the pontiffs I’ve known:

Pius XII, who died when I was eight, was a man of piety, asceticism, diplomatic skills, and theological erudition. I remember my third grade teacher commenting, as we dropped to our knees to pray the rosary upon hearing of his death in 1958, “We’re all spiritual orphans now, and I don’t know who could ever take his place after his nineteen years as our Holy Father!”

The Holy Spirit was not as worried, and we got Blessed John XXIII. When he died in 1963, my hometown newspaper had an editorial cartoon showing the globe, with the face of a man, crying.

Then came Paul VI, who led the Church courageously and wisely through the final years of the council, and the decade of its implementation keeping us from “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

We can hardly remember the brief thirty-three days of Pope John Paul I in September, 1978, except that he captivated us with his warmth, smile, and sincerity.

But we sure recall with awe and devotion the twenty-seven years soon-to-be-Saint John Paul II filled the “shoes of the fisherman.” It was no hyperbole when shouts of Santo Subito (“a Saint now!”) filled the square at his funeral, or that God’s people began to refer to him as John Paul the Great. And today’s his feast day.

His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, was just what we needed after Pope John Paul II, and challenged us with insightful teaching worthy of the vicar of Christ. We’re still in awe of his act of humility in resigning the office of Peter lest the Church suffer from a fragile pontiff.

And now? Viva il Papa! The world has fallen in love with Pope Francis, who has already been hailed as “the world’s parish priest.” If I had a dollar for every New Yorker, Catholic and not, who has told me how much he or she loves our current Holy Father, I’d pay off the big repair bill of St. Patrick’s Cathedral!

So, face it: we’ve had quite a few popes throughout our 2,000 year run that have been real lemons, hardly worthy of the high dignity of the office. Thank God Jesus is in charge!

But, in our memories today, we’ve had great, holy, and good popes. These are “the good old days” for us as Catholics

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Feast of Blessed John Paul II


(Vatican Radio) October 22nd is the day the Church remembers Blessed John Paul II. Elected to the See of Peter thirty- five years ago, as we know this twentieth century pope is to be canonized on the 27th of April 2014.

To mark his feast day Veronica Scarisbrick brings you excerpts from an archive interview with Cardinal Roberto Tucci, chief organiser of almost all of Blessed John Paul's Apostolic journeys abroad, focusing on this Polilsh Pontiff's prayer and priestly life.  

Remembering Pope John Paul II

By Chris Sparks (Oct 21, 2013)
The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy celebrated the life and legacy of Bl. Pope John Paul II on Saturday, Oct. 19, a prelude to Tuesday's feast day. The Shrine offered pilgrims a talk by Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, on the late and beloved Bl. Pope John Paul II, as well as a special opportunity to venerate the blessed's relic.

"I had the privilege of knowing John Paul," said Fr. Kaz, the provincial superior for the Marian Fathers' Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy Province. "I had the privilege of growing up during that time when he just become Holy Father. I have followed him. I have read many things. I had the privilege of living and studying when he was very active, when he was at the height of who he was. I had a personal encounter through the various events that took place."

He recounted his experience of attending the University of Lublin, Poland, when the then-Professor Karol Wojtyla was still teaching there. "The youth loved him," said Fr. Kaz, describing how the manuscript of Love and Responsibility, a key work laying the framework for Pope John Paul II's renowned Theology of the Body, was passed from student to student whose names were on a waiting list.

Father Kaz also shared a powerful memory of attending a private Mass in the papal chapel in 2001 with Bl. Pope John Paul II, who was kneeling in prayer for a good half hour before the Mass began — even though, toward the end of his life, his Parkinson's severely limited his mobility.

"He lived faith, hope, and love," Fr. Kaz concluded. "Because I have seen, I have to witness."

Throughout the day, the pilgrims got a chance to tour the grounds of Eden Hill, in Stockbridge, Mass., make their confessions, pray a Rosary before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, attend Mass, participate in the Divine Mercy devotions during the Hour of Great Mercy, and receive a blessing of religious articles.

Deacon Bob Digan gave the homily at the day's Mass, celebrated by Fr. Bob Shaldone in honor of the North American Martyrs.

"And today we celebrate Blessed John Paul," Deacon Bob said. "He will soon be canonized on Mercy Sunday. It's reasons of God how all this comes into play. What really strikes me about his life is that he was very much involved with what they call existential phenomenology. And what it is, it's about the essence of people and their personalities. He looked very deeply into the life of faith and what this meant to the individual person. He had tremendous, tremendous respect for the dignity and worth of human beings." Because of that respect, concluded Deacon Bob, John Paul II could see the image and likeness of God in every person he met, whether they were the poorest of the poor or dictators oppressing their peoples.

Pilgrims also venerated the first-class relic of Bl. John Paul II in the National Shrine — a drop of the blood taken from the late pope at Gemelli Hospital in Rome during his last days. The relic was a gift to the Marians from Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, Pope John Paul II's personal secretary. The Marians also have several of Bl. John Paul II's zuchettos, or skullcaps, in the Shrine and elsewhere on the grounds.

And those relics drew pilgrims from a long ways away.

Teresa Walsh, from St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Elyria, Ohio, brought her two boys up to see the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. "We came up because we wanted to venerate the relics of John Paul II." Her devotion to the late Holy Father was sparked by reading his writings, she said, "and seeing him — hearing everything he had to say. Especially 'Be not afraid,' because the culture that we're living in, everybody's fearful of this and that. So that's probably what started it. I was a senior in college the day he was elected, it was like, 'Wow,' you know? And [my devotion] just got bigger after that."

To join the Marians on a pilgrimage to the canonization of Bl. Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, visit our pilgrimage page. To learn more about Bl. Pope John Paul II's Divine Mercy legacy, see here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Blessed John Paul II: Feast Day Tomorrow!

His Marian Legacy Continues

By Chris Sparks (Oct 19, 2013)
As prominent Catholic blogger Rocco Palmo recently noted, "For Francis, there's something about Mary." But Pope Francis owes an important part of his Marian devotion to the example set by Blessed Pope John Paul II, whose feast day we celebrate Tuesday, Oct. 22

Upon the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) was interviewed by the magazine 30 Days to share memories of the late pontiff. He recounted a time in 1985 when he had attended a public recitation of the Rosary led by Pope John Paul II. There was a large crowd gathered in prayer. "He was in front of everybody, on his knees," Cardinal Bergoglio said. "I saw the Holy Father from the back and, little by little, I got lost in prayer. I was not alone: I was praying in the middle of the people of God to which I and all those there belonged, led by our Pastor.

"In the middle of the prayer I became distracted, looking at the figure of the Pope: his pi[e]ty, his devotion was a witness," Cardinal Bergoglio continued. "And the time drifted away, and I began to imagine the young priest, the seminarian, the poet, the worker, the child from Wadowice ... in the same position in which [he] knelt at that moment, reciting Ave Mariaafter Ave Maria. His witness struck me. I felt that this man, chosen to lead the Church, was following a path up to his Mother in the sky, a path set out on from his childhood. And I became aware of the density of the words of the Mother of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego: 'Don't be afraid, am I not [...] your mother?' I understood the presence of Mary in the life of the Pope. That testimony did not get forgotten in an instant. From that time on I recite the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary every day."

And the world has been witness to the fruits of that Marian prayer.

On April 19, 1998, then-Archbishop Bergoglio welcomed one of the international pilgrim statues of Our Lady of Fatima to Buenos Aires. He ended his homily with the prayer, "Dear Mother! Welcome home! Teach us that Jesus is alive, make us feel Him alive in our midst. Teach us the language of tenderness. Welcome home, Mother! Look at my family! You know what its needs are. Look at our housing district! You know where to go. Look at my heart! You know it better than I. Welcome home! Teach me that Jesus is alive, so that I won't ever think that He is dead to me. Give me strength, Mother! Give me tenderness, so that I may help everybody. Give me peace of heart! Welcome home!"

Upon being elected Pope, Francis twice asked Cardinal Jose Polycarp, the Patriarch of Lisbon, Portugal, to consecrate his pontificate to Our Lady of Fatima. Cardinal Polycarp did so at the shrine in Fatima on May 13, 2013. "[W]e consecrate to you, Our Lady, you who are the Mother of the Church, the ministry of the new Pope; please fill his heart with the tenderness of God, which like no one else You Yourself experienced, so that he may embrace all men and women of our time with the love of Your Son Jesus Christ," Cardinal Polycarp prayed.

Note the common element in the Marian prayers of Pope Francis. He has consistently asked Our Lady to fill his heart with the tenderness of God — with God's compassion. That is, he has consistently begged Our Lady to intercede on his behalf for a share in God's Fatherly mercy. Just as in Blessed Pope John Paul II, the Great Mercy Pope, we got to see a man completely consecrated to Mary serving to promote St. Faustina's message from Jesus for the whole world, so now do we see Pope Francis, a man completely in love with and serving Our Lady, speaking everywhere of the mercy of God. On the plane ride back from World Youth Day in Brazil this year, he said:
I believe this is the time of mercy. This change of epoch, also because of many problems of the church — such as the example of some priests who aren't good, also the problems of corruption in the church — and also the problem of clericalism, for example, has left many wounds, many wounds. The Church is a mother: It must reach out to heal the wounds, yes? With mercy. If the Lord never tires of forgiving, we don't have any other path than this one: before anything else, curing the wounds, yes? It's a mother, the Church, and it must go down this path of mercy. It must find mercy for everyone, no? I think about how when the Prodigal Son returned home, his father didn't say: "But you, listen, sit down. What did you do with the money?" No, he held a party. Then, maybe, when the son wanted to talk, he talked. The Church must do the same. When there's someone ... but, it's not enough to wait for them: We must go and seek them. This is mercy. And I believe that is a kairos: This time is a kairos of mercy. John Paul II had this intuition first, when he began with Faustina Kowalska, the Divine Mercy ... he had something, he intuited that it was a necessity of this time.
The legacy of John Paul II is alive and well, being lived out and implemented in the pontificate of Pope Francis. Ask Blessed John Paul II's intercession on his feast day for Pope Francis, for the Church, and for the world, that we might all learn from the Great Mercy Pope to give ourselves entirely to Mary and to love and trust Jesus, the Divine Mercy.

Blessed Pope John Paul II is scheduled to be canonized, along with Bl. Pope John XXIII, by Pope Francis on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014. To join the Marians on pilgrimage and attend the canonizations, see here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Mission to Bring Jesus to Others

Written By Archbishop Jose Gomez 

This week I write to you from the Holy Land, where I am on pilgrimage with some 300 of our brothers and sisters from the Archdiocese.

I’ve never been here before, and I feel blessed for this chance to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. The soil here is holy and rich in history. Not only the history of peoples and tribes, kingdoms and empires. But also the history of God — the history of his loving plan of salvation.

It’s amazing for me to reflect — that in these hills and plains, God spoke and revealed himself in blazing fire and peals of thunder. Under this sky, Jesus walked these roads, healing the blind and curing the sick, and speaking words of mercy and forgiveness.

And here in this place, the Church was born in the mission that Jesus gave her to continue his work: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”

This is good for us to remember as the Church prepares to renew her missionary commitment on World Mission Day.

This Sunday we give thanks for the men and women — priests, religious and lay people — who respond generously to God’s call by leaving family and friends to go off to proclaim Christ in foreign lands and cultures. We pray that many more will join them in serving the Church’s mission of evangelization.

But this Sunday we also remember that Jesus entrusted this evangelizing mission to every one of us.

Pope Francis said recently: “Every baptized person is a ‘cristoforo,’ a bearer of Christ, as the
ancient holy Fathers said. Whoever has encountered Christ, as the Samaritan woman at the well, cannot keep this experience to himself or herself, but has the desire to share it, to bring Jesus to others.”

This was the main theme of my first pastoral letter, “Witness to the New World of Faith” which I published a year ago this week.

During this Year of Faith, I have been hoping to focus our attention to this essential dimension of our Catholic identity — our missionary vocation to proclaim the Gospel and invite others to join us on the path of following Jesus Christ.

Our faith in Jesus is a gift that is meant to be shared. As I wrote in my letter:

“The faith we have received, we are called to pass on to others. The love of God we know, we are called to share with others. This is the most basic identity and responsibility of every Catholic. … Our world will return to God — but not by way of words and programs, no matter how eloquent or well-conceived. Our world will return to God only by way of witnesses — by way of men and women who testify by the example of their lives that Jesus Christ is real and that his Gospel is the path to true happiness.”

Here in the Holy Land, as we enter the final weeks of the Year of Faith, I have started to revisit these themes of my pastoral letter in my short communications over Twitter and on my Facebookpage.

These concluding weeks are a chance for all of us to reflect on our missionary commitment and witness. Are we living what we say we believe? We have to ask ourselves: Can the people we live with, and the people we meet each day, find the path to God through us? Can they tell we are Christians by the joy in our hearts and the way we act?

Evangelization always begins in the believer’s heart — in your heart and mine. And the lives we lead will always be the most credible testimony we can offer to the truth of the Gospel.

Evangelization has its own “language” — and this language is spoken more by actions and attitudes than by words.

By the witness of our lives we can make the Gospel “incarnate” — alive and visible. By our love and compassion, we can light the way for others to find God’s mercy and reconciliation. Through our missionary outreach to others — even those who have fallen far from God — we can awaken in their hearts the hope for a new life.

In this special time of nearness to God in the Holy Land, I am praying for each of you. Please pray for me! And this week, let’s pray for all of us to have a stronger faith — to witness to God’s mercy and to share it through our words of understanding and our works of love.

And let’s ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us to bring our brothers and sisters to the new encounter with Jesus Christ, who alone can make our lives beautiful and complete.

Archbishop Gomez’s pastoral letter, “Witness to Faith,” is available at Follow the Archbishop at: