Pope’s Saturday Homily for Nascent Human Life Vigil


Dear brothers and sisters,

With this evening’s celebration, the Lord gives us the grace and joy of opening the new liturgical year beginning with its first stage: Advent, the period that commemorates the coming of God among us. Every beginning brings a special grace, because it is blessed by the Lord. In this Advent period we will once again experience the closeness of the One who created the world, who guides history and cared for us to the point of becoming a man. This great and fascinating mystery of God with us, moreover of God who becomes one of us, is what we celebrate in the coming weeks journeying towards holy Christmas. During the season of Advent we feel the Church that takes us by the hand and – in the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary – expresses her motherhood allowing us to experience the joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord, who embraces us all in his love that saves and consoles.

While our hearts reach out towards the annual celebration of the birth of Christ, the Church’s liturgy directs our gaze to the final goal: our encounter with the Lord in the splendour of glory. This is why we, in every Eucharist, “announce his death, proclaim his resurrection until he comes again” we hold vigil in prayer. The liturgy does not cease to encourage and support us, putting on our lips, in the days of Advent, the cry with which the whole Bible concludes, the last page of the Revelation of Saint John: “Come, Lord Jesus “(22:20).

Dear brothers and sisters, our coming together this evening to begin the Advent journey is enriched by another important reason: with the entire Church, we want to solemnly celebrate a prayer vigil for unborn life. I wish to express my thanks to all who have taken up this invitation and those who are specifically dedicated to welcoming and safeguarding human life in different situations of fragility, especially in its early days and in its early stages. The beginning of the liturgical year helps us to relive the expectation of God made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, God who makes himself small, He becomes a child, it speaks to us of the coming of a God who is near, who wanted to experience the life of man, from the very beginning, to save it completely, fully. And so the mystery of the Incarnation of the Lord and the beginning of human life are intimately connected and in harmony with each other within the one saving plan of God, the Lord of life of each and every one of us. The Incarnation reveals to us, with intense light and in an amazing way, that every human life has an incomparable, a most elevated dignity.

Man has an unmistakable originality compared to all other living beings that inhabit the earth. He presents himself as a unique and singular entity, endowed with intelligence and free will, as well as being composed of a material reality. He lives simultaneously and inseparably in the spiritual dimension and the corporal dimension. This is also suggested in the text of the First letter to the Thessalonians which was just proclaimed: “May the God of peace himself – St. Paul writes – make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ “(5:23). Therefore, we are spirit, soul and body. We are part of this world, tied to the possibilities and limits of our material condition, at the same time we are open to an infinite horizon, able to converse with God and to welcome Him in us. We operate in earthly realities and through them we can perceive the presence of God and seek Him, truth, goodness and absolute beauty. We savour fragments of life and happiness and we long for total fulfilment.

God loves us so deeply, totally, without distinction, He calls us to friendship with him, He makes us part of a reality beyond all imagination, thought and word; His own divine life. With emotion and gratitude we acknowledge the value of the incomparable dignity of every human person and the great responsibility we have toward all. ” Christ, the final Adam, – says the Second Vatican Council – by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear…. by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. “(Gaudium et Spes, 22).

Believing in Jesus Christ also means having a new outlook on man, a look of trust and hope. Moreover, experience itself and reason show that the human being is a subject capable of discernment, self-conscious and free, unique and irreplaceable, the summit of all earthly things, that must be recognized in his innate value and always accepted with respect and love. He has the right not to be treated as an object of possession or something to manipulate at will, not to be reduced to a mere instrument for the benefit of others and their interests. The human person is a good in and of himself and his integral development should always be sought. Love for all, if it is sincere, naturally tends to become a preferential attention to the weakest and poorest. In this vein we find the Church’s concern for the unborn, the most fragile, the most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the darkening of consciences. The Church continually reiterates what was declared by the Second Vatican Council against abortion and all violations of unborn life: “from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care ” (ibid., n. 51).

There are cultural tendencies that seek to anesthetize consciences with misleading motivations. With regard to the embryo in the womb, science itself highlights its autonomy capable of interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism. This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being. So was Jesus in Mary’s womb, so it was for all of us in our mother’s womb. With the ancient Christian writer Tertullian we can say: ” he who will be a man is already one” (Apologeticum IX, 8), there is no reason not to consider him a person from conception.

Unfortunately, even after birth, the lives of children continue to be exposed to abandonment, hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, violence or exploitation. The many violations of their rights that are committed in the world sorely hurt the conscience of every man of good will. Before the sad landscape of the injustices committed against human life, before and after birth, I make mine Pope John Paul II’s passionate appeal to the responsibility of each and every individual: ” respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!”(Encyclical Evangelium vitae, 5). I urge the protagonists of politics, economic and social communications to do everything in their power to promote a culture which respects human life, to provide favorable conditions and support networks for the reception and development of life.

To the Virgin Mary, who welcomed the Son of God made man with faith, with her maternal womb, with loving care, with nurturing support and vibrant with love, we entrust our commitment and prayer in favour of unborn life . We do in the liturgy – which is the place where we live the truth and where truth lives with us – worshiping the divine Eucharist, we contemplate Christ’s body, that body who took flesh from Mary by the Holy Spirit, and from her was born in Bethlehem for our salvation. Ave, verum Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine!

Become Catholic

How To Become Catholic

Many people ask about how they can become a member of the Catholic Church, often without realizing that any validly baptized Christian (baptized with water, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) is already a member of the Catholic Church … just not a full-fledged member.

With a bit of faith, plus some formal training and preparation, just about anyone can easily become Catholic.

How to become Catholic

Click here for another comprehensive article explaining the process

More, from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website

Bible


Many fail to realize that it was the Catholic Church that originally decided to compile all of the sacred scriptures, that the Catholic Church wrote ALL of the New Testament scriptures under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that the Catholic Church certified ALL of the sacred scriptures as authentic, officially declared the scriptures to be the inerrant, inspired Word of God, translated the scriptures from the original languages into the common language of the people, and did all of this by the end of the 4th century.

Furthermore … since the New Testament was written by Catholics and for Catholics, it necessarily reflects only authentic Catholic beliefs and practices.

This is something non-Catholics often overlook, to their detriment, and at the expense of the truth.

Everyone interested in the Bible … Catholic or not … should spend some time reading these authentic Catholic Church documents on the nature of sacred scripture:

A Catholic Catechism on the Bible

ON THE STUDY OF HOLY SCRIPTURE … PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS

DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON DIVINE REVELATION … DEI VERBUM

ON THE WORD OF GOD IN THE LIFE AND MISSION OF THE CHURCH … Verbum Domini

The Bible … True … or Not (PDF)?

For a look at a purely secular guide to the Bible, primarily written in order  to inform writers and journalists, by The Bible Society in England, click the link below:

SECULAR BIBLE GUIDE – PDF format

Homily in Memorial of Legion of Mary Founder, Frank Duff

Servant of God, Frank Duff

Homily given by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin on Nov. 20, at the 30th anniversary Mass in commemoration of the servant of God Frank Duff,  founder of the Legion of Mary:

Frank Duff died thirty years ago. This quiet, personally unassuming man, in quiet simple external circumstances in Dublin, on 7th September 1921 established a movement of prayer, Christian care and Marian spirituality. The Legion of Mary is a movement which has spread worldwide and has enriched the Church in many parts of the world, especially at moments in which the Church was experiencing difficulty and persecution.

We have come to thank God for the charism of Frank Duff: a charism recognized in a special way by the Second Vatican Council which he attended. We thank God for the spiritual enrichment that that charism has brought the Members of the Legion of Mary. We thank God for the Christian care and spiritual formation that millions have encountered through their contact with the Legion of Mary.

We remember especially the tenacity of this outwardly retiring man: tenacity in reaching out unashamedly to bring the message of Jesus to people in the varied circumstances of their livers, a tenacity driven not by human ambition but through a devotion to Mary who in every aspect of her life opened her heart to understand and to do the will of God.

The Church in Ireland is on a path of renewal. Renewal is an essential dimension of the Church’s life at any moment in history. The need for renewal of the Church in Ireland is however particularly urgent at this moment.

The scandals that have been revealed about aspects of the Church’s life have opened our eyes not just to the particular horrors of the abuse of children and of an inadequate response to them. They have opened our eyes to a much deeper crisis within the Church in Ireland.

Society in Ireland has changed. Religious culture in Ireland has changed. Religious practice has dropped at times in staggering proportions. There is disillusionment among many believers. Many have opted for or drifted into a more secularised vision of their life. Many have become indifferent and live as if God did not exist.

The significant role of the Church in serving Irish society, a role assumed in good faith and in a spirit of service which was undertaken with great dedication, is now being re-examined. What emerge are not just examples of evident failure and inadequacy alongside vision and commitment, but of a certain sense arrogance and power seeking, which has alienated many from the very message that such a presence in society was supposed to represent.

We face real crisis of vocations to the priesthood. Last Saturday here in Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral I remembered at Mass 20 priests who had ministered in the Archdiocese and who had died in the previous twelve months. A further dozen or so priests retired from active ministry in the same period. And yet in the past year I ordained just one new priest for the diocese.

But the crisis of the Church is still a deeper one. It is not about the role of the Church in society. It is not about numbers. It is about the very nature of faith in Jesus Christ. It is about our understanding of the message of Jesus Christ. It is about faith in the God revealed in Jesus Christ and about the fundamental question: who is Jesus Christ?

We do not create our own identity for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came to bring a message of love. But it was not a message just of being nice to each other. We have to ask: what is it that makes a Christian different in his or her interaction with others? What is it that should mark the Church of Jesus Christ as a people driven by the message of salvation revealed through the death and resurrection of Jesus?

The Church will never be reformed from outside. Historically it must be recognized that the recent shattering revelations about abuse would probably never have come to full light without outside intervention. Renewal and reform of the Church, however, will only come from within the Church, that is from within a community of man and women who listen to the word of God, who come together to pray, who celebrate the Eucharist and are called to share in the very life of Christ himself. The Church is communion. That is not the same as saying the Church is a community, or an association or an institution. The Church is formed by the Word of God and is lived by men and women who allow that word of God to transform them.

The Church is communion. The theme of the forthcoming International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Dublin in 2012 is: Communion with Christ and with one another. It is however the communion of Christ which determines the shape of communion we form with each other. It is not a network of social interaction which determines what our communion with Jesus Christ is or ultimately who Jesus Christ is. The Church is formed through our communion with Christ.

The Gospel we have heard is a complex one. It is an interesting insight into the friendship of Jesus with this family and their practical service to help him in his mission. Jesus on his mission was not just surrounded by the twelve Apostles. There were many who accompanied him on his missionary journeys, there were men and women who served him in different ways yet who together imbibed his teaching and his witness.

Lazarus and his Sisters were close to Jesus in friendship. Friendship with Jesus for us means friendship in his service through understanding his word. Each of us can join with him in his mission and living out in his mission in the great and small tasks of life. Frank Duff could never have been described in terms of what today would be called “a celebrity”. He shunned publicity. He shunned superficiality. Yet his work has spread to so many parts of the world and has affected so many lives through the fruits of constant bonds of friendship with the Lord.

Renewal of the Church is not about media strategies or structural reform. In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus clearly indicates in the figure of Mary that what is vital – and what can never be substituted by any other merits – is the willingness to know Jesus and to enter into true friendship with him. That means allowing his word to capture our hearts; it means having the same mind that was within Christ Jesus himself. It is about knowing the Father through encountering Jesus.

Renewal in the Church in Ireland will be painful renewal. Jesus message was not that anything goes. There is something radical about the commitment which Jesus requires of us. “Let the dead bury their dead”, is not a message of compromise

There are many indications that the Church in Ireland has lost its way. Let me be very clear: sadly many people, of various ages, no longer really know Jesus Christ. That is not to say that they are not good people, caring people. It is not to say that the Church is only for a holy elite: the Church is a Church of sinners; each of us has to repent day after day; each of us compromises and each of us lets Jesus down and betrays Jesus.

The Church is the Church of Jesus Christ. It is not a vague moralizing agency in society. It is not there to provide some sort of spiritual comfort zone for all comers. The Eucharist and the sacraments are celebrations of faith in Jesus Christ within a Christian community. Allowing the sacramental life of the Church become some just sort of vague social celebrations is allowing the true identity of the Church to become distorted.

I am not saying the active members of the Church community have been authentic followers of Jesus Christ. The Church has indeed been betrayed by its own active members. In the face of such failure the Church has at times given the impression of wishing to be all-embracing and all-forgiving in a simplistic manner.

Where do we go on the path of renewal? Can we be happy to celebrate first communion services which put people into debt for thousands of Euro for empty external expenses, while neither the children nor their parents have been led to a true understanding of the Eucharist and the Eucharistic community which is the Church? Can we be satisfied when confirmation is looked on by many as a graduation out of Church life? In not addressing such issues we are not just deceiving ourselves but we are damaging the integrity of the message of Jesus.

The Church is not a holy elite. It is made up today as always by the humble of heart. Many people with little education have a deeper insight into the message of Jesus Christ than learned theologians or bishops. But in today’s society where the message of Jesus is less and less accessible, the Church must become a place where formation in the Word of God resounds in a way that it has not done so in the Irish Church for generations.


I would like to thank the Legion of Mary in the Archdiocese of Dublin for their generous participation in our diocesan project this year of making the word of God in the Gospel of Saint Luke available to families. I would like to thank the Legion of Mary nationwide for their renewed reflection on the Word of God and its application to daily life. I would like to thank you for your commitment to prayer and to the Eucharist where Jesus is present in our hearts.

I am very happy today to see such a large representation of priests present at our ceremony today. I would like to thank the priests who act as spiritual directors to the Legion of Mary and who provide formation for the spiritual life of the members, helping them day by day to rediscover and to recommit themselves top the charism of the movement. The Legion of Mary is fundamentally a lay movement but the place of the priestly ministry is aloe essential to it. I particularly wish to thank those priests who have so many demands on their time and yet who are so dedicate to the work with the Legion of Mary.

Frank Duff founded the Legion of Mary in 1921 at a critical moment in Irish history. It was a time of political uncertainty which eventually would explode into civil war. It was a time in which this city was marked by very harsh poverty and also of widespread moral impoverishment. Frank Duff was a man who in the face of a major social challenge did something. He did not write a Letter to the Editor. He gathered like-minded men and women around him into a movement of spiritual renewal, prayer and Christian service. He was not discouraged either by the size of the challenge or by the paucity of his means. He was a man of the Church – misunderstood by many in the Church, including Archbishops of Dublin. Like Mary, his model, he never flinched. Frank Duff pondered the Word of God day by day and through him then the Lord worked great things.

Baptism

Infant Baptism – Salvation With No Works At All

Many fail to realize that infant Baptism, as it has always been practiced in the Catholic Church, is the most significant demonstration of salvation without any works at all … since infants can do nothing for themselves.

This makes salvation a truly free gift from God, through his Church, which has always faithfully done God’s will, for the purpose of our salvation.

Let no one doubt that the Holy Spirit … through Baptism … indwelling a human soul of any age … most certainly has the power to remove original sin (and sin of all kinds) … to make one an adopted child of God, a member of the Church, a citizen of Heaven, and co-heir with Jesus Christ.

The sooner … the better!

An interesting related article (with ancient catacomb inscription)

More …

Read what the Catholic Catechism has to say about it

This … from a Yahoo Answers poster (and Catholic Priest):

 

The Church from the beginning has practiced the Baptism of children. The reasons are very clear in Scriptures.

(Joh 3:5 DRB) Jesus answered: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

To the first Christians that baptized their children it was understood by them that Baptism is the doorway to salvation. St. Peter said the following:

(1Pe 3:18 DRB) Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust: that he might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit,

(1Pe 3:19 DRB) In which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison:

(1Pe 3:20 DRB) Which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.

(1Pe 3:21 DRB) Whereunto baptism, being of the like form, now saveth you also: not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but, the examination of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The effects of Baptism are the regeneration of the soul (born again), eradication of original sin and actual sin and its effects on the soul. A baby does not have actual sin but does have original sin. Through Baptism we become members of the Body of Christ, of which St. Paul says the following:

(2Co 5:17 DRB) If then any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away. Behold all things are made new

(1Co 3:16 DRB) Know you not that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Baptism is the sacramental doorway into the Church:

(Mat 28:19 DRB) Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.

The Bible teaches that everyone should be Baptized:

(Act 2:38 DRB) But Peter said to them: Do penance: and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins. And you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

(Act 2:39 DRB) For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call.

(Act 2:40 DRB) And with very many other words did he testify and exhort them, saying: Save yourselves from this perverse generation.

(Act 2:41 DRB) They therefore that received his word were baptized: and there were added in that day about three thousand souls.

(Act 2:42 DRB) And they were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles and in the communication of the breaking of bread and in prayers.

St. Peter at Pentecost said to the adults to repent but did not exclude children from Baptism, instead saying that everyone should receive the Holy Spirit not just those of age to repent. He said it is “to you and to your children”. That is why people in the early Church brought even their smallest children to be baptized as do parents today.

There is no necessity to repent for children to be Baptized according to Scriptures. The command to repent is not binding on infants nor to mentally incapacitated people as the intent of repentance is not to exclude those incapable of such an act. They are not to be condemned because of their lack of ability to repent. Certainly the same understanding should apply as we understand St. Paul’s statement in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 where St. Paul says that someone who does not work does not eat. Are we to deny children or the mentally handicapped sustenance? Certainly they should not, nor should they be denied eternal life.

The Old Testament required circumcision at eight days old as a sign of the covenant of God. The child had no knowledge of why he was being circumcised yet the parents brought the son to the synagogue to have this done. God accepted the child into the covenant for what the parents had done just as He accepts the Baptism when the parents present their child to be baptized. The Scriptures tell us clearly that Baptism replaced circumcision:

(Col 2:11 DRB) In whom also you are circumcised with circumcision not made by hand in despoiling of the body of the flesh: but in the circumcision of Christ.

(Col 2:12 DRB) Buried with him in baptism: in whom also you are risen again by the faith of the operation of God who hath raised him up from the dead.

We must remember what Christ said when there were those who attempted to forbid the children from coming to Him:

(Luk 18:15 DRB) And they brought unto him also infants, that he might touch them. Which when the disciples saw, they rebuked them.

(Luk 18:16 DRB) But Jesus, calling them together, said: Suffer children to come to me and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

(Luk 18:17 DRB) Amen, I say to you: Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a child shall not enter into it.

 

Abortion

infantenh

Is abortion murder or is it an acceptable form of birth control and family planning? What about the sanctity of human life-no matter how elementary and new that life may be-as a creation in the very image of God? Is abortion an amoral matter of individual choice or is it a moral perversion, a sin, a crime against God and humanity and thus worthy of judgment? When does life begin? Is the baby an individual person separate from its mother, or just a blob of tissue, an extension of the host organism?

In varying degrees, these are questions with which the early church fathers wrestled. While it may surprise modern readers to learn that abortion is not a distinctly twentieth-century phenomenon, they may be surprised even further to learn that the church leaders who dealt with this issue came to virtually the same conclusions that Bible based Christianity has arrived at today.

Click here to view the entire article

A great, joyous, old fashioned Advent hymn

Watch the video

Monsignor Charles Pope maintains a daily blog that is one of the finest Catholic sites I know … right up there with Bob Stanley’s Catholic Treasure Chest. But unlike the Treasure Chest, Monsignor Pope’s site paces the liturgical year.

Today, the good monsignor shares with us an ancient, favorite Advent hymn, along with a very insightful article.

Take some time to listen and to read. Then, add both sites mentioned above to your favorites!