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Archive of April 9, 2009

Youths, young adults gather for Lenten prayer, reflection at Belmont Abbey

Charlotte, N.C., Apr 9, 2009 (CNA) - “We are all on a pilgrimage during the Lenten season,” said Bishop Peter J. Jugis.  This is a “time for interior renewal and turning away from sin, a time to embrace Jesus,” said the bishop to young Catholics from across the Diocese of Charlotte.

 

Bishop Jugis was one of the speakers during the diocese’s fifth annual Lenten spiritual pilgrimage to Belmont Abbey for youths and young adults March 29.

 

The approximately 450 participants included students from middle and high schools and colleges across the diocese, as well as youth ministers, other adults, diocesan priests and deacons, women religious and monks from Belmont Abbey.

 

The pilgrimage, a day of prayer and reflection, was part of the diocese's preparation for the fifth diocesan Eucharistic Congress, themed "The Word Became Flesh and Made His Dwelling Among Us," to be held at the Charlotte Convention Center Sept. 25-26.

 

“The words from St. John’s Gospel are the perfect theme to reflect on the meaning of the Eucharist,” said Bishop Jugis.

 

“We usually hear these words during the Christmas season,” he said, “but they are appropriate any time of year.”

 

“Two thousand years ago Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit,” said Bishop Jugis, reflecting on the theme.

 

Today, “the Word becomes flesh once again here in the holy Eucharist,” he said. “We see the mystery right here before us, there in the monstrance. This is the real presence of Christ.”

 

“I think it was a great success,” said Jenny Ryan, campus ministry director at Belmont Abbey College. “The students who participated seemed very engaged and very enthusiastic.”

 

The day included a Eucharistic procession, Benediction, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and vespers with the monks of the Belmont Abbey.

 

“It was really student organized and student led,” Ryan said, referring to the 15 Belmont Abbey student volunteers who helped coordinate the event.

 

Student volunteers gave witness talks and led the youths in singing praise and worship music.

 

“I think the high school and middle school youths look up to that,” said Ryan, “I think that had a lot to do with the success of the event.”

 

Katie Bess, youth activity coordinator at Queen of the Apostles Church in Belmont, brought seven youths to the pilgrimage.

 

“I think it’s important for them to see other people their age committed to the church and the life of the church,” said Bess.

 

One of the speakers, Brother Edward Mancuso of Belmont Abbey, talked about the importance of faith in defining good relationships.

 

“It is important to have friends who support your faith,” he said.

 

He shared the importance of the Eucharist in his life and how it led him to his vocation as a monk.

 

“The Eucharist started to play a defining role in my life when I went to college,” said Brother Mancuso of his time at St. Bonaventure University in New York.

 

He talked about the graces that come from receiving Christ in the Eucharist.

 

“Not everyone can attend Mass each day,” said Brother Mancuso, “but when possible, Jesus is waiting to energize your day.”

 

Christ in the Eucharist is a gift to us from the Lord, said Bishop Jugis, and it is not based on anything “we could have merited or deserved.”

 

“It is my hope that as you offer yourself to Christ you will be a blessing for your friends and family and that the Lord will choose some of you to offer yourselves as priests or as brothers or sisters,” said Bishop Jugis in his address to the pilgrims.

 

“Many good works come from a person who is offering himself to God,” he said.

 

Printed with permission from the Catholic News & Herald, newspaper from the Diocese of Charlotte.

 

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Southern African Catholics donate 258 tons of aid relief for Zimbabwe

Pretoria, South Africa, Apr 9, 2009 (CNA) - Responding to a call from their bishops, Southern African Catholics have gathered 258 tons of food and medicine to be delivered to Zimbabwe to relieve the economic crisis there.

The bishops of Southern Africa, including those of Swaziland, South Africa and Botswana, had called for the observance of Solidarity Sunday for Zimbabwe on Feb. 15 to encourage donations.

According to an announcement by Fr. Chris Townsend, Information Officer for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SABC), individual donors have given over 96 tons of soybeans and fortified children’s food. Donors have also contributed to the cost of packaging and transport, with about $90,000 in cash donations having been raised.

One individual donor gave over $83,000 worth of food.

A refrigerated container of medicine will also be part of the 258-ton shipment. Money raised in South Africa has been used to buy basic medical supplies for the Catholic Healthcare networks in Zimbabwe.

Fr. Townsend credited companies such as Future Life and Imana for “generously” allowing food to be purchased at cost. The Makro warehouse club chain has also given a discount on food purchased for Zimbabwe.

“So many individuals and communities, many of them poor themselves, have responded with incredible generosity,” said Fr. Vincent Brennan, Secretary General of the SACBC. “I’m amazed that so many people responded so generously. For many families, the current economic crisis is hitting hard, but so many gave so generously, from those who gave large donations …to those who came to the churches involved and dropped off one tin of food and some clothes.”

The aid shipment will leave for Zimbabwe in the next week. The aid will be distributed under the supervision of the Catholic charity Caritas International, with the guidance of a multi-agency food security need survey.

Caritas International is also running an International Emergency Appeal for Zimbabwe.

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Ten Holy Cross priests write in objection to Notre Dame Obama invite

South Bend, Ind., Apr 9, 2009 (CNA) - A letter from ten priests of the Congregation of the Holy Cross has been published in the University of Notre Dame’s student newspaper objecting to the university’s invitation of President Barack Obama. Regretting the “fissure” the invitation has caused, the priests warned that the university’s decision may unintentionally distance itself from the Church.

Considering the good of Notre Dame and the good of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the priests said they “cannot remain silent.”

The letter was published in the Notre Dame newspaper The Observer.

Signatories to the letter included Fr. Wilson D. Miscamble, CSC, a Notre Dame history professor and former rector of the Holy Cross Congregation's Moreau Seminary; Fr. Ronald J. Wasowski, C.S.C., a physics professor at the University of Portland, Oregon; Notre Dame vocations mentor Fr. Daniel J. Parrish; and at least two parish pastors.

According to the Cardinal Newman Society, in the past Fr. Miscamble has criticized Notre Dame’s failure to hire sufficient numbers of Catholic professors. He was also critical of university president Fr. John Jenkins’ permission for the performance of the obscene play “The Vagina Monologues.”

“We write as priests of the Congregation of Holy Cross and as proud graduates of the University of Notre Dame to voice our objection to the University's decision to honor President Barack Obama by inviting him to deliver this year's Commencement address and by conferring on him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree,” the priests’ letter begins.

Saying they associate themselves with and encourage the “courageous students and treasured alumni” who oppose the “sad and regrettable decision” to honor the president, the priests said they deeply believe that Notre Dame should lead “by word and deed” in upholding Church teaching that human life must be respected from conception.

They also cited the U.S. bishops’ instructions that Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of “fundamental moral principles.”

Saying they regret the “fissure” opened between Notre Dame and Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend John D’Arcy, they expressed “deep gratitude” towards the bishop for his “leadership and moral clarity” and asked the university to consider the bishop’s advice.

“The University pursues a dangerous course when it allows itself to decide for and by itself what part of being a Catholic institution it will choose to embrace,” the priests wrote. “Although undoubtedly unintended, the University administration's decision portends a distancing of Notre Dame from the Church which is its lifeblood and the source of its identity and real strength. Such a distancing puts at risk the true soul of Notre Dame.”

Regretting their differences with university president Fr. Jenkins, they said the invitation to President Obama has caused “moral confusion” and has given many “reason to believe that the University's stance against the terrible evil of abortion is weak and easily trumped by other considerations.”

The confreres of Fr. Jenkins asked him to revisit his decision, and warned that failing to do so will damage the integrity of the school and detract from its good work.

“We offer these views as we enter Holy Week, recalling the triumph of Christ's holy cross,” their letter concluded. “As ‘men with hope to bring’ we are confident that Notre Dame may yet give true honor to its patroness, and witness to Her Son, through its commitment to the sanctity of life.”

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School faces lawsuit for dismissing student who refused to condone homosexuality

Ypsilanti, Mich., Apr 9, 2009 (CNA) - A lawsuit was filed against Eastern Michigan University on Thursday after school officials allegedly dismissed a student from the school’s counseling program for not affirming homosexual behavior as morally acceptable.

The Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom filed the lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of student Julea Ward.

EMU reportedly requires students in its counseling program to affirm or validate homosexual behavior within the context of a counseling relationship. It also prohibits students from advising clients that they can change their homosexual behavior.

According to the Alliance Defense Fund, Ward has never addressed homosexual behavior in any form during counseling sessions with her clients.

The school initiated a disciplinary process against Ward and reportedly said she could stay in the graduate school counseling program if she agreed to undergo a “remediation” program. According to the ADF, the program’s purpose was to change her belief system as it concerns counseling about homosexual relationships and to conform her beliefs to the university’s views.

Given the choice of voluntarily leaving the program or asking for a formal review hearing, Ward chose the hearing.

During the hearing, EMU faculty reportedly denigrated her Christian views and asked “several inappropriate and intrusive questions about her religious beliefs,” the ADF said.

Pam Young, director of Communications for EMU, would not address the Ward's dismissal, and instead explained that the university has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation. Young told WorldNetDaily that, “we are a diverse campus with a strong commitment not to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression."

But ADF Senior Counsel David French says that discrimination is exactly what took place. "Christian students shouldn’t be penalized for holding to their beliefs," he said. "When a public university has a prerequisite of affirming homosexual behavior as morally good in order to obtain a degree, the school is stepping over the legal line. 

“Julea did the responsible thing and followed her supervising professor’s advice to have the client referred to a counselor who did not have a conscience issue with the very matter to be discussed in counseling. She would have gladly counseled the client if the subject had been nearly any other matter."

ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco added: “Julea has a constitutional right not to be compelled to speak a message she disagrees with. She acted as a professional counselor should--with great concern both for her beliefs and the client.”

Tedesco claimed that EMU’s policies are incompatible with the Constitution.

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Pope renews his priestly vows at Holy Thursday Mass

Vatican City, Apr 9, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI presided over the Mass of the Holy Oils and the renewal of priestly vows this morning at 10:30 in St. Peter's Basilica. In his homily, the Holy Father focused on the priest's promises, telling his fellow clerics that “we want to pray to the Lord to make us men of truth, men of love, men of God.”

The Pope also sent holy oils to the Archbishop of L'Aquila, who was unable to gather his priests to consecrate the oils because of the earthquakes that have devastated his archdiocese.

The full text of the Pope's homily...


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Upper Room, on the eve of his Passion, the Lord prayed for his disciples gathered about him. At the same time he looked ahead to the community of disciples of all centuries, "those who believe in me through their word" (Jn 17:20). In his prayer for the disciples of all time, he saw us too, and he prayed for us. Let us listen to what he asks for the Twelve and for us gathered here: "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, so that they also may be consecrated in truth" (17:17ff.). The Lord asks for our sanctification, sanctification in truth. And he sends us forth to carry on his own mission. But in this prayer there is one word which draws our attention, and appears difficult to understand. Jesus says: "For their sake I consecrate myself". What does this mean? Is Jesus not himself "the Holy One of God", as Peter acknowledged at that decisive moment in Capharnaum (cf. Jn 6:69)? How can he now consecrate – sanctify – himself?

To understand this, we need first to clarify what the Bible means by the words "holy" and "consecrate – sanctify". "Holy" – this word describes above all God’s own nature, his completely unique, divine, way of being, one which is his alone. He alone is the true and authentic Holy One, in the original sense of the word. All other holiness derives from him, is a participation in his way of being. He is purest Light, Truth and untainted Good. To consecrate something or someone means, therefore, to give that thing or person to God as his property, to take it out of the context of what is ours and to insert it in his milieu, so that it no longer belongs to our affairs, but is totally of God. Consecration is thus a taking away from the world and a giving over to the living God. The thing or person no longer belongs to us, or even to itself, but is immersed in God. Such a giving up of something in order to give it over to God, we also call a sacrifice: this thing will no longer be my property, but his property. In the Old Testament, the giving over of a person to God, his "sanctification", is identified with priestly ordination, and this also defines the essence of the priesthood: it is a transfer of ownership, a being taken out of the world and given to God. We can now see the two directions which belong to the process of sanctification-consecration. It is a departure from the milieux of worldly life – a "being set apart" for God. But for this very reason it is not a segregation. Rather, being given over to God means being charged to represent others. The priest is removed from worldly bonds and given over to God, and precisely in this way, starting with God, he is available for others, for everyone. When Jesus says: "I consecrate myself", he makes himself both priest and victim. Bultmann was right to translate the phrase: "I consecrate myself" by "I sacrifice myself". Do we now see what happens when Jesus says: "I consecrate myself for them"? This is the priestly act by which Jesus – the Man Jesus, who is one with the Son of God – gives himself over to the Father for us. It is the expression of the fact that he is both priest and victim. I consecrate myself – I sacrifice myself: this unfathomable word, which gives us a glimpse deep into the heart of Jesus Christ, should be the object of constantly renewed reflection. It contains the whole mystery of our redemption. It also contains the origins of the priesthood in the Church.

Only now can we fully understand the prayer which the Lord offered the Father for his disciples – for us. "Sanctify them in the truth": this is the inclusion of the Apostles in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, the institution of his new priesthood for the community of the faithful of all times. "Sanctify them in truth": this is the true prayer of consecration for the Apostles. The Lord prays that God himself draw them towards him, into his holiness. He prays that God take them away from themselves to make them his own property, so that, starting from him, they can carry out the priestly ministry for the world. This prayer of Jesus appears twice in slightly different forms. Both times we need to listen very carefully, in order to understand, even dimly the sublime reality that is about to be accomplished. "Sanctify them in the truth". Jesus adds: "Your word is truth". The disciples are thus drawn deep within God by being immersed in the word of God. The word of God is, so to speak, the bath which purifies them, the creative power which transforms them into God’s own being. So then, how do things stand in our own lives? Are we truly pervaded by the word of God? Is that word truly the nourishment we live by, even more than bread and the things of this world? Do we really know that word? Do we love it? Are we deeply engaged with this word to the point that it really leaves a mark on our lives and shapes our thinking? Or is it rather the case that our thinking is constantly being shaped by all the things that others say and do? Aren’t prevailing opinions the criterion by which we all too often measure ourselves? Do we not perhaps remain, when all is said and done, mired in the superficiality in which people today are generally caught up? Do we allow ourselves truly to be deeply purified by the word of God? Friedrich Nietzsche scoffed at humility and obedience as the virtues of slaves, a source of repression. He replaced them with pride and man’s absolute freedom. Of course there exist caricatures of a misguided humility and a mistaken submissiveness, which we do not want to imitate. But there also exists a destructive pride and a presumption which tear every community apart and result in violence. Can we learn from Christ the correct humility which corresponds to the truth of our being, and the obedience which submits to truth, to the will of God? "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth": this word of inclusion in the priesthood lights up our lives and calls us to become ever anew disciples of that truth which is revealed in the word of God.

I believe that we can advance another step in the interpretation of these words. Did not Christ say of himself: "I am the truth" (cf. Jn 14:6)? Is he not himself the living Word of God, to which every other word refers? Sanctify them in the truth – this means, then, in the deepest sense: make them one with me, Christ. Bind them to me. Draw them into me. Indeed, when all is said and done, there is only one priest of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ himself. Consequently, the priesthood of the disciples can only be a participation in the priesthood of Jesus. Our being priests is simply a new way of being united to Christ. In its substance, it has been bestowed on us for ever in the sacrament. But this new seal imprinted upon our being can become for us a condemnation, if our lives do not develop by entering into the truth of the Sacrament. The promises we renew today state in this regard that our will must be directed along this path: "Domino Iesu arctius coniungi et conformari, vobismetipsis abrenuntiantes". Being united to Christ calls for renunciation. It means not wanting to impose our own way and our own will, not desiring to become someone else, but abandoning ourselves to him, however and wherever he wants to use us. As Saint Paul said: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). In the words "I do", spoken at our priestly ordination, we made this fundamental renunciation of our desire to be independent, "self-made". But day by day this great "yes" has to be lived out in the many little "yeses" and small sacrifices. This "yes" made up of tiny steps which together make up the great "yes", can be lived out without bitterness and self-pity only if Christ is truly the center of our lives. If we enter into true closeness to him. Then indeed we experience, amid sacrifices which can at first be painful, the growing joy of friendship with him, and all the small and sometimes great signs of his love, which he is constantly showing us. "The one who loses himself, finds himself". When we dare to lose ourselves for the Lord, we come to experience the truth of these words.

To be immersed in the Truth, in Christ – part of this process is prayer, in which we exercise our friendship with him and we come to know him: his way of being, of thinking, of acting. Praying is a journey in personal communion with Christ, setting before him our daily life, our successes and failures, our struggles and our joys – in a word, it is to stand in front of him. But if this is not to become a form of self-contemplation, it is important that we constantly learn to pray by praying with the Church. Celebrating the Eucharist means praying. We celebrate the Eucharist rightly if with our thoughts and our being we enter into the words which the Church sets before us. There we find the prayer of all generations, which accompany us along the way towards the Lord. As priests, in the Eucharistic celebration we are those who by their prayer blaze a trail for the prayer of today’s Christians. If we are inwardly united to the words of prayer, if we let ourselves be guided and transformed by them, then the faithful will also enter into those words. And then all of us will become truly "one body, one spirit" in Christ.

To be immersed in God’s truth and thus in his holiness – for us this also means to acknowledge that the truth makes demands, to stand up, in matters great and small, to the lie which in so many different ways is present in the world; accepting the struggles associated with the truth, because its inmost joy is present within us. Nor, when we talk about being sanctified in the truth, should we forget that in Jesus Christ truth and love are one. Being immersed in him means being immersed in his goodness, in true love. True love does not come cheap, it can also prove quite costly. It resists evil in order to bring men true good. If we become one with Christ, we learn to recognize him precisely in the suffering, in the poor, in the little ones of this world; then we become people who serve, who recognize our brothers and sisters in him, and in them, we encounter him.

"Sanctify them in truth" – this is the first part of what Jesus says. But then he adds: "I consecrate myself, so that they also may be consecrated in truth" – that is, truly consecrated (Jn 17:19). I think that this second part has a special meaning of its own. In the world’s religions there are many different ritual means of "sanctification", of the consecration of a human person. Yet all these rites can remain something merely formal. Christ asks for his disciples the true sanctification which transforms their being, their very selves; he asks that it not remain a ritual formality, but that it make them truly the "property" of the God of holiness. We could even say that Christ prayed on behalf of us for that sacrament which touches us in the depths of our being. But he also prayed that this interior transformation might be translated day by day in our lives; that in our everyday routine and our concrete daily lives we might be truly pervaded by the light of God.

On the eve of my priestly ordination, fifty-eight years ago, I opened the Sacred Scripture, because I wanted to receive once more a word from the Lord for that day and for my future journey as a priest. My gaze fell on this passage: "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth". Then I realized: the Lord is speaking about me, and he is speaking to me. This very same thing will be accomplished tomorrow in me. When all is said and done, we are not consecrated by rites, even though rites are necessary. The bath in which the Lord immerses us is himself – the Truth in person. Priestly ordination means: being immersed in him, immersed in the Truth. I belong in a new way to him and thus to others, "that his Kingdom may come". Dear friends, in this hour of the renewal of promises, we want to pray to the Lord to make us men of truth, men of love, men of God. Let us implore him to draw us ever anew into himself, so that we may become truly priests of the New Covenant. Amen.

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Jesus freely offers himself 'today,' Benedict XVI says at Mass of the Lord's Supper

Vatican City, Apr 9, 2009 (CNA) - This evening at 5:30 in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Benedict celebrated the Mass of the Lord's Supper with priests from the Diocese of Rome. Noting that it is “today” that Jesus instituted the Eucharist, the Pope offered a profound reflection on Jesus' gift of himself “in the freedom of his love.”

The Pope's in-depth homily can be read below.

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Qui, pridie quam pro nostra omniumque salute pateretur, hoc est hodie, accepit panem: these words we shall pray today in the Canon of the Mass. "Hoc est hodie" – the Liturgy of Holy Thursday places the word "today" into the text of the prayer, thereby emphasizing the particular dignity of this day. It was "today" that He did this: he gave himself to us forever in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. This "today" is first and foremost the memorial of that first Paschal event. Yet it is something more. With the Canon, we enter into this "today". Our today comes into contact with his today. He does this now. With the word "today", the Church’s Liturgy wants us to give great inner attention to the mystery of this day, to the words in which it is expressed. We therefore seek to listen in a new way to the institution narrative, in the form in which the Church has formulated it, on the basis of Scripture and in contemplation of the Lord himself.

The first thing to strike us is that the institution narrative is not an independent phrase, but it starts with a relative pronoun: qui pridie. This "qui" connects the entire narrative to the preceding section of the prayer, "let it become for us the body and blood of Jesus Christ, your only Son, our Lord." In this way, the institution narrative is linked to the preceding prayer, to the entire Canon, and it too becomes a prayer. By no means is it merely an interpolated narrative, nor is it a case of an authoritative self-standing text that actually interrupts the prayer. It is a prayer. And only in the course of the prayer is the priestly act of consecration accomplished, which becomes transformation, transubstantiation of our gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. As she prays at this central moment, the Church is fully in tune with the event that took place in the Upper Room, when Jesus’ action is described in the words: "gratias agens benedixit – he gave you thanks and praise". In this expression, the Roman liturgy has made two words out of the one Hebrew word berakha, which is rendered in Greek with the two terms eucharistía and eulogía. The Lord gives thanks. When we thank, we acknowledge that a certain thing is a gift that has come from another. The Lord gives thanks, and in so doing gives back to God the bread, "fruit of the earth and work of human hands", so as to receive it anew from him. Thanksgiving becomes blessing. The offering that we have placed in God’s hands returns from him blessed and transformed. The Roman liturgy rightly interprets our praying at this sacred moment by means of the words: "through him, we ask you to accept and bless these gifts we offer you in sacrifice". All this lies hidden within the word "eucharistia".

There is another aspect of the institution narrative cited in the Roman Canon on which we should reflect this evening. The praying Church gazes upon the hands and eyes of the Lord. It is as if she wants to observe him, to perceive the form of his praying and acting in that remarkable hour, she wants to encounter the figure of Jesus even, as it were, through the senses. "He took bread in his sacred hands …" Let us look at those hands with which he healed men and women; the hands with which he blessed babies; the hands that he laid upon men; the hands that were nailed to the Cross and that forever bear the stigmata as signs of his readiness to die for love. Now we are commissioned to do what he did: to take bread in our hands so that through the Eucharistic Prayer it will be transformed. At our priestly ordination, our hands were anointed, so that they could become hands of blessing. Let us pray to the Lord that our hands will serve more and more to bring salvation, to bring blessing, to make his goodness present!

From the introduction to the Priestly Prayer of Jesus (cf. Jn 17:1), the Canon takes these words: "Looking up to heaven, to you his almighty Father …" The Lord teaches us to raise our eyes, and especially our hearts. He teaches us to fix our gaze upwards, detaching it from the things of this world, to direct ourselves in prayer towards God and thus to raise ourselves. In a hymn from the Liturgy of the Hours, we ask the Lord to guard our eyes, so that they do not take in or cause to enter within us "vanitates" – vanities, nothings, that which is merely appearance. Let us pray that no evil will enter through our eyes, falsifying and tainting our very being. But we want to pray above all for eyes that see whatever is true, radiant and good; so that they become capable of seeing God’s presence in the world. Let us pray that we will look upon the world with eyes of love, with the eyes of Jesus, recognizing our brothers and sisters who need our help, who are awaiting our word and our action.

Having given thanks and praise, the Lord then breaks the bread and gives it to the disciples. Breaking the bread is the act of the father of the family who looks after his children and gives them what they need for life. But it is also the act of hospitality with which the stranger, the guest, is received within the family and is given a share in its life. Dividing (dividere), sharing (condividere) brings about unity. Through sharing, communion is created. In the broken bread, the Lord distributes himself. The gesture of breaking also alludes mysteriously to his death, to the love that extends even to death. He distributes himself, the true "bread for the life of the world" (cf. Jn 6:51). The nourishment that man needs in his deepest self is communion with God himself. Giving thanks and praise, Jesus transforms the bread, he no longer gives earthly bread, but communion with himself. This transformation, though, seeks to be the start of the transformation of the world – into a world of resurrection, a world of God. Yes, it is about transformation – of the new man and the new world that find their origin in the bread that is consecrated, transformed, transubstantiated.

We said that breaking the bread is an act of communion, an act of uniting through sharing. Thus, in the act itself, the intimate nature of the Eucharist is already indicated: it is agape, it is love made corporeal. In the word "agape", the meanings of Eucharist and love intertwine. In Jesus’ act of breaking the bread, the love that is shared has attained its most radical form: Jesus allows himself to be broken as living bread. In the bread that is distributed, we recognize the mystery of the grain of wheat that dies, and so bears fruit. We recognize the new multiplication of the loaves, which derives from the dying of the grain of wheat and will continue until the end of the world. At the same time, we see that the Eucharist can never be just a liturgical action. It is complete only if the liturgical agape then becomes love in daily life. In Christian worship, the two things become one – experiencing the Lord’s love in the act of worship and fostering love for one’s neighbour. At this hour, we ask the Lord for the grace to learn to live the mystery of the Eucharist ever more deeply, in such a way that the transformation of the world can begin to take place.

After the bread, Jesus takes the chalice of wine. The Roman Canon describes the chalice which the Lord gives to his disciples as "praeclarus calix" (the glorious cup), thereby alluding to Psalm 23 [22], the Psalm which speaks of God as the Good Shepherd, the strong Shepherd. There we read these words: "You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes … My cup is overflowing" – calix praeclarus. The Roman Canon interprets this passage from the Psalm as a prophecy that is fulfilled in the Eucharist: yes, the Lord does indeed prepare a banquet for us in the midst of the threats of this world, and he gives us the glorious chalice – the chalice of great joy, of the true feast, for which we all long – the chalice filled with the wine of his love. The chalice signifies the wedding-feast: now the "hour" has come to which the wedding-feast of Cana had mysteriously alluded. Yes indeed, the Eucharist is more than a meal, it is a wedding-feast. And this wedding is rooted in God’s gift of himself even to death. In the words of Jesus at the Last Supper and in the Church’s Canon, the solemn mystery of the wedding is concealed under the expression "novum Testamentum". This chalice is the new Testament – "the new Covenant in my blood", as Saint Paul presents the words of Jesus over the chalice in today’s second reading (1 Cor 11:25). The Roman Canon adds: "of the new and everlasting covenant", in order to express the indissolubility of God’s nuptial bond with humanity. The reason why older translations of the Bible do not say Covenant, but Testament, lies in the fact that this is no mere contract between two parties on the same level, but it brings into play the infinite distance between God and man. What we call the new and the ancient Covenant is not an agreement between two equal parties, but simply the gift of God who bequeaths to us his love – himself. Certainly, through this gift of his love, he transcends all distance and makes us truly his "partners" – the nuptial mystery of love is accomplished.

In order to understand profoundly what is taking place here, we must pay even greater attention to the words of the Bible and their original meaning. Scholars tell us that in those ancient times of which the histories of Israel’s forefathers speak, to "ratify a Covenant" means "to enter with others into a bond based on blood or to welcome the other into one’s own covenant fellowship and thus to enter into a communion of mutual rights and obligations". In this way, a real, if non-material form of consanguinity is established. The partners become in some way "brothers of the same flesh and the same bones". The covenant brings about a fellowship that means peace (cf. ThWNT II, 105-137). Can we now form at least an idea of what happened at the hour of the Last Supper, and what has been renewed ever since, whenever we celebrate the Eucharist? God, the living God, establishes a communion of peace with us, or to put it more strongly, he creates "consanguinity" between himself and us. Through the incarnation of Jesus, through the outpouring of his blood, we have been drawn into an utterly real consanguinity with Jesus and thus with God himself. The blood of Jesus is his love, in which divine life and human life have become one. Let us pray to the Lord, that we may come to understand ever more deeply the greatness of this mystery. Let us pray that in our innermost selves its transforming power will increase, so that we truly acquire consanguinity with Jesus, so that we are filled with his peace and grow in communion with one another.

Now, however, a further question arises. In the Upper Room, Christ gives his Body and Blood to the disciples, that is, he gives himself in the totality of his person. But can he do so? He is still physically present in their midst, he is standing in front of them! The answer is: at that hour, Jesus fulfills what he had previously proclaimed in the Good Shepherd discourse: "No one takes my life from me: I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again …" (Jn 10:18). No one can take his life from him: he lays it down by his own free decision. At that hour, he anticipates the crucifixion and resurrection. What is later to be fulfilled, as it were, physically in him, he already accomplishes in anticipation, in the freedom of his love. He gives his life and he takes it again in the resurrection, so as to be able to share it forever.

Lord, today you give us your life, you give us yourself. Enter deeply within us with your love. Make us live in your "today". Make us instruments of your peace! Amen.

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Obama's candidates for Vatican ambassador failing 'simple standard'

Rome, Italy, Apr 9, 2009 (CNA) - The Obama administration has seen three possible candidates it floated for the position of U.S. ambassador to the Holy See sunk due to their views on abortion.  Additionally, a source at the Vatican confirmed to CNA that Professor Douglas Kmiec will not become the ambassador due to his stance on life issues.

With the President traveling to Rome in July, when he hopes to meet Pope Benedict XVI, not filling the position would be a major gaffe.

The news that the Vatican has balked at Obama's first three nominees was first reported by the Italian journalist Massimo Franco. According to Franco, a columnist for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, papal advisers told Mr. Obama's aides privately that all three nominees failed to meet the Vatican's most basic qualification on the abortion issue.

"The informal dismissal of the first names whispered in the Obama inner circle is a signal," Mr. Franco told the Washington Times' Embassy Row in email.

The well-connected Mr. Franco also explained that the rejection of the Obama candidates "would suggest that, at least so far, none of the potential Democratic diplomats were considered fit to 'improve relations' with the Holy See."

Neither the Vatican Embassy in Washington nor the White House would comment Monday on the appointment of a new U.S. ambassador, according to the Washington Times.

Mr. Franco, whose new book, "Parallel Empires: The Vatican and the U.S.," explores U.S.-Vatican relations over the past 200 years, said Mr. Obama's predicament underscores a deeper problem the Vatican has with the Democratic Party and its anti-life positions on abortion.

He also noted that the lack of a U.S. ambassador "could become embarrassing" for the White House, if the position remains vacant when Obama goes to Italy for the G8 meeting this July. The White House is trying to arrange a time before or after the summit for Mr. Obama to meet the Pope.

CNA contacted a Vatican official from the Office of the Secretary of State who said that he could not elaborate on the names that have been proposed so far by the Obama administration, but confirmed that the name of Professor Douglas Kmiec “never showed up.”

The official told CNA that “there have only been informal exchanges of opinions, not direct, official proposals,” from the Obama administration.

“Obviously, the exchange has not been fruitful in finding a mutually satisfying candidate, otherwise, at this point, there would have been an announcement, and there isn’t one.”

Asked if pro-abortion Catholic Caroline Kennedy was on the short-list proposed by the administration, the official said he had “no comment.” 

“Obviously she would not match the profile,” he said.

An April 2 article in Panorama, an Italian news magazine, journalist Carlo Rossella predicted that Kennedy would be considered for the Vatican position.  Rosella explained that after Sen. John Kerry was passed over in favor of Sen. Hillary Clinton for the position of Secretary of State, he asked two favors of President Obama, one of which was to name his former brother-in-law David Thorne as the ambassador to Italy. 

Kerry's second request was that Kennedy, herself aspiring to Clinton’s vacated Senate seat in New York, be appointed the administration’s Vatican ambassador.

While some observers of the Vatican-Obama diplomatic debate have said that the Holy See is being too demanding, the Secretary of State official contacted by CNA dismissed the notion.

“The Holy See has always set a very simple standard: the person should not be in opposition to fundamental teachings of the Church that belong to our common shared humanity. He or she may not believe in Catholic dogma if he or she is not a Catholic, but we could not accept someone who is in favor of abortion, or (human) cloning or same-sex unions equated to marriage,” the official said.

“That is a fairly simple principle that governments like, say, Spain and Cuba, or Mr. Clinton’s administration, have been able to understand without a problem.”

The official said that the debate around the chances of Prof. Kmiec to become Vatican Ambassador “is closed.”  “He nailed the last nail in the coffin with his latest “disappointing position on embryonic stem cell research."

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October 24, 2014

Friday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

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Lk 12:54-59

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Lk 12:54-59

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