Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Veni, Creator....

And so, folks, for now, silence.

In nine nights' time, see, the River City's transition of an epoch will have been accomplished.

Given that, the order of the moment on the ground is as intense as it's simple: to prepare, to pray and, above all, to invoke -- that each and all of us might know the needed gifts for the daunting work of rebuilding a fallen church in our midst... and along the way, that the vision of a people of God, called as never before to realize fully the best of what we can be, might finally come to pass among us, and so renew the face of this earth....

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful/
And kindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created/
And You shall renew the face of the earth....


Monday, August 29, 2011

From 408... To the 1100s

The nod already having been dubbed the "Shock of the Century" in some authoritative quarters -- including the one which received it -- via the good offices of Baltimore's venerable Catholic Review, fullvid of this morning's presser at which Archbishop Ed O'Brien reacted to his appointment as Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre:

One pertinent question remained unasked, however: as a prior grand master once remarked on his selection, given the etymology of things, "Does this mean I need to learn how to ride a horse?" (For the record, he didn't.)

In his own statement on the move, the nominee's iconic predecessor, John Cardinal Foley -- who retired from the post in February -- said he "could not be happier" that O'Brien was named to fill the spot, and that his heir would be "an outstanding leader" of the global group dedicated to the support of the church's membership and institutions in the Holy Land.

The news "is a delight," His Foleyness said.

With his fierce work-ethic in the face of increasing weakness and heartfelt spirit of genuine friendship and commitment, Philadelphia's "patriarch" -- the first non-European cleric ever to hold the post -- proved an immensely popular chief among the order's rank-and-file over his four-year tenure at its helm, during which time the Knights extended their presence to (among other spots) Russia and Africa.

Remaining as apostolic administrator of the Premier See for the unknown duration of its first interregnum in over six decades, while O'Brien said he would split his time between the Baltimore chancery and Holy Sepulchre duties until his successor takes office, the scenario should make for an easy start.

Come Fall, the bulk of the order's activity invariably focuses on the US, as the nation's 11 lieutenancies, which command an outsize share of the order's membership and heft, hold their annual gatherings between September and December, each highlighted by the investiture of new knights and ladies.


The Grand Hon: O'Brien Named Holy Sepulchre Chief

Not to sound like a broken record or anything... but what was expected is now official: at Roman Noon today, Pope Benedict tapped Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore as Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

His move to Rome first revealed on these pages Saturday, the 72 year-old prelate -- now, in effect, a "Cardinal-in-Waiting" in advance of the next consistory (expected in late 2012) -- will comment on his transfer at a 10am press conference at the offices of the nation's oldest diocese, just across from the Basilica of the Assumption, American Catholicism's mother-church. As previously noted, O'Brien will remain apostolic administrator of the 500,000-member Baltimore church until his successor is installed, a period which could extend for close to a year, or even longer, given present conditions on the pipeline.

On a historic note, for the first time since 1947, when Archbishop Michael Curley died after a 26-year tenure, the Premier See of these United States has fallen vacant -- and this time, due to an unprecedented departure for another post. Speaking of history, at just shy of 3 years and 11 months since his October 2007 installation, O'Brien's occupancy of John Carroll's chair becomes the briefest among Charm City's 15 archbishops since the founding father's immediate successor, the Jesuit Leonard Neale, died in a carriage accident in June 1817, barely 18 months after acceding to the reins on Carroll's own death.

The first prelate having been consecrated in England, in 1800 Neale -- then president of Georgetown College -- became the first bishop ordained on American soil following his appointment as coadjutor to Carroll.

A notably energetic figure -- he's exhorted his priests on the importance of personal fitness -- word from Rome emphatically adds that, despite the age of the millennium-old order's new chief, "this is not a 'retirement' appointment." O'Brien's enjoyment of travel, efficient management-style and savvy at navigating difficult geopolitical situations (a skill honed during his decade leading the archdiocese for the Military Services) are all expected to be employed to their fullest extent, both for the effectiveness of the order's work in the Holy Land, and to keep connected with the group's membership spread across the globe.

As ever, more to come.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

So, gang, this morning was supposed to be taken up with a hurricane post... then, breaking news intervened.

Put simply, church, all prayers to everyone else among us feeling the brunt of Irene -- hold fast, be safe, don't do anything crazy, and when it's over, please, send word that you made it out OK. (And if you could, please send one up that these pages' Home Office doesn't flood, again, for the second time in a fortnight.)

Even in the dead of August, as if things ad intra weren't wild enough. Above all, though, hope you're hanging in there and, even for the weather, getting a good and restful weekend.


For "Premier" Prelate, A "Grand" Finale -- Baltimore's O'Brien to Head Holy Sepulchre

(SVILUPPO: The appointment reported below was formally announced by the Vatican at Roman Noon on Monday, 29 August.)

As Hurricane Irene strikes the Eastern seaboard, the weather's brought a fitting parallel on the church-beat: according to multiple reports, one of the Stateside church's top rank is about to be swept across the Atlantic.

As soon as Monday, Whispers has learned that Pope Benedict is set to name Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore, 72, as Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

By long-standing tradition, the
"Pro-" designation indicates that an archbishop-holder of the Rome-based post is placed at the front of the line to receive the red hat of a cardinal at the next consistory, at which point the prefix disappears.

Sent to the nation's Premier See in 2007 after a decade at the helm of the 1.5 million-member archdiocese for the Military Services, the Bronx-born prelate would become the second American in a row to head the ancient order, following Philadelphia's iconic Cardinal John Foley, who retired in February due to the acceleration of the leukemia he was diagnosed with in 2009, and the anemia that's limited his energy and movement. While Foley had been the first non-European to preside over the thousand-year old association dedicated to the support of the sacred sites and small Christian community in the Holy Land, a plurality of the Holy Sepulchre's global cadre of knights and dames live on these shores.

The order's base located just down the Via della Conciliazione from the Vatican, the reported move would return O'Brien to cherished old stomping grounds -- the archbishop served as rector of the Pontifical North American College from 1990-94 and earned a doctorate in theology from the Angelicum in 1976.

Above all, the unprecedented nod for a residential archbishop -- until now, Holy Sepulchre chiefs have invariably come from the ranks of the Roman Curia or Holy See diplomatic corps -- would stand as a substantial tribute to the Charm City prelate's record of distinguished service to the wider church, most notably in overseeing the 2005-6 Apostolic Visitation of US seminaries at the Vatican's behest. It's likewise a pointed vindication of O'Brien's 2008 move to take on the now-scandal scarred Legionaries of Christ, whose activity in Baltimore was placed under significant restrictions by the archbishop, but only after he was persuaded by a senior Curial official out of his initial thought to expel the community's clerical and lay apostolates from the Premier See.

The only American bishop who's served as rector of two seminaries, O'Brien is already a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Vatican dicastery that oversees formation houses.

The 14th successor of John Carroll at the helm of the nation's mother-diocese, O'Brien spent the early 1980s as priest-secretary to Cardinals Terence Cooke and John O'Connor and subsequently the spokesman for his native archdiocese of New York, then embarking on the first of two tours as rector of the Big Apple seminary, St Joseph's at Dunwoodie, holding the post both before and after his four years at the NAC -- a place which, according to friends, "he's never left" in his heart.

On his second Dunwoodie stint, O'Brien was named an auxiliary of New York months after he welcomed Blessed John Paul II to the Yonkers house on the late Pope's October 1995 visit to the Northeast. (During the latter tenure, O'Brien ordained Eugene Hamilton -- one of his seminarians stricken with terminal cancer -- to the priesthood hours before the young man succumbed at 25.) Barely a year later, the veteran of Army chaplain's duty at West Point and in Vietnam was named coadjutor-archbishop of the 1.5 million-member church comprising the nation's servicemen and women and Federal government workers around the globe, succeeding to the Washington-based AMS' command within months.

Notably, word of the appointment has arrived weeks after the archbishop made national headlines for his public confrontation with Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley -- a Catholic Democrat -- over the latter's move to support a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the Free State.

In an exchange of letters, O'Brien accused O'Malley of "mere political expediency" in backing a gay marriage measure for the upcoming legislative session, saying that the governor was "promoting a goal that so deeply conflicts with [his] faith." In response, O'Malley said that while he wouldn't "ever" seek "question or infringe upon [O'Brien's] freedom to define, to preach about and administer" the sacraments, "on the public issue of granting equal civil marital rights to same sex couples, you and I disagree.

"As Governor," O'Malley added, "I am sworn to uphold the law without partiality or prejudice."

While the governor's stance in support of legal abortion has likewise clashed with church teaching, the archbishop has never publicly attempted to withhold the Eucharist from O'Malley, or any pro-choice public official in heavily-Democratic Maryland.

At the same time, acknowledging that he was "something of a late-comer" to understanding the Magisterium's position on capital punishment, in 2009 O'Brien testified before the Maryland legislature to support a state moratorium on the death penalty, saying that "our church’s long-standing advocacy" on the issue "rests upon our consistent advocacy for laws that respect all human life -- even that of the convicted criminal." To boot, the former Military-church chief has repeatedly argued over recent years for the US' nuclear disarmament, terming the persistance of atomic weapons a "disproportionate and indiscriminate threat to human life” during a 2010 talk in Washington.

O'Brien would be the third resident American archbishop to be called to a Vatican post by Benedict, following William Levada's 2005 transfer from San Francisco to lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Raymond Burke's 2008 elevation from St Louis to the helm of the Holy See's "supreme court," the Apostolic Signatura.

Both Levada and Burke were made cardinals at the first consistory to follow their respective appointments. Accordingly, at the college's next intake -- most likely to occur late next year -- the Holy Sepulchre nod would continue Benedict XVI's consistent practice of splitting the US' traditional quota of two new cardinals between one American in Curial service and the head of one of the nation's preeminent sees. Along those lines, the move sets up the most-likely scenario of O'Brien and his successor at the NAC's helm, New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan, 61, comprising the next class' Yankee contingent.

While, as of today, 12 cardinal-electors from these shores could enter a hypothetical conclave, the Stateside bloc is set to lose three members within the next year as Cardinals Bernard Law, Edward Egan, and Francis Stafford (a Baltimore native and, crucially, likewise a member of the Congregation for Bishops) all reach the ineligibility age of 80.

In the three consistories since his 2005 election, the reigning Pope has already named half of the US' current voting group -- the second largest national bloc, after the Italians. In full, the papal "Senate" currently comprises 114 electors, a figure set to drop by at least another 14 before September 2012 on age-outs alone (read: barring deaths).

Lastly, the move is a watershed on another front -- until now, the archbishops of Baltimore (under the provisions of an 1858 decree from Rome which remains in force, the "first among equals" of the American hierarchy) have either died in office or retired from the post. Surprising as the final outcome is, though, earlier this year the nod was widely envisioned to be given to Cardinal Justin Rigali at the close of his tenure in Philadelphia. The bruising fallout of February's second grand-jury on his charge's handling of clergy sex-abuse cases, however, is said to have precluded that scenario.

Home to some 500,000 Catholics, the Baltimore church comprises ten of the state's 24 counties, with the capital suburbs covered by the archdiocese of Washington and the Eastern Shore affixed to the diocese of Wilmington.

Given the vacancy of the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington -- which, as previously reported, will likely prolong the succession processes of more recently-vacated Stateside dioceses -- authoritative indications are that O'Brien will remain as apostolic administrator of Baltimore, with the full powers of its diocesan bishop, until his successor takes possession of American Catholicism's White House, 408 N. Charles St.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An Icon Leaves... The Legacy Lives

Indeed, it's rare to find a figure of modern global commerce who's had an impact on the life of mankind's most enduring corporate structure... with tonight's news of Steve Jobs' resignation as CEO of Apple, though, it's worth re-running the pinnacle-proof of Cupertino's mark on Catholic life: Pope Benedict XVI -- long an owner of two early-model iPods (both white, of course) -- launching the Vatican's rebooted news-portal in late June with a tap on an iPad.

To be sure, again, much as that's the high-water moment, it's far from the lone one. Because -- to borrow Umberto Eco's famous judgment -- "The Mac is Catholic" (...and runs the Holy See's Internet Office, to boot).

For an institution whose upper reaches were long uninterested in (or taken aback by) the leaps and bounds of the technological revolution of recent decades -- a reality that, candidly, long stalled the recognition and growth of modern communications platforms into the ecclesial mainstream -- the watershed ad intra shift of the last three or so years can be credited in large part to the "Cult of Mac," thanks to the ease and captivation Apple devices have garnered.

Put simply, the characteristic traits of Jobs' legacy served to break down iron-clad anxieties and spike fascinations over technology and its import to a degree which, in a first for our time, made a critical mass of senior prelates and the ecclesiastical policy-making world finally lose what often felt like an impenetrable sense of immunity. (Among many other instances of this, one need only survey the depth and speed of the sea-change at USCCB meetings -- among a group for whom, just four years ago, the number of smartphones or laptops could be measured on less than two hands, what often seems like a thousand iPads have bloomed... and that was just by last November.)

And as if it needed to be said, beyond the rungs, for no shortage of this church in full, the succeeding generations of Airs and apps, mice and multi-touch have changed what we know and how we learn it, what we can see and hear and say, where we can experience it: how we work, how we live... and, above all, how we pray.

As contributions go, for the life of a communion, you can't really ask for more of a gift than that.

And beyond those, personally, these pages' own dent in the project likewise owes itself to the varied incarnations of OSX. For one, the news could only go so far if I tried shouting it out the front door... above all, though, even as the demands and strains of the work have grown since this shop's "conversion experience" five years ago next week, for everything I have had to worry about along the way, the devices and their ability to keep up have never been among them.

Ergo, for the overarching, immeasurable contribution of this scribe's iFlock (Phone, Pad, iMac and MacBook Pro, plus the now-retired seniores) to the shop's productivity -- or, at least, the appearance thereof -- this Apple overconsumer remains eternally grateful, day in and day out... and on most days, for around 17 hours of each.

* * *
To put a finer point on it, two snips of prior texts from the off-page archive.

First, from a June 2010 talk to the diocesan IT directors of North America at their convention in Toronto....
"Another aspect we’d be very wise to address -- especially when it comes to reaching my generation, but well beyond, too -- is linked to this very device in my hand. [NB: an iPad]

Admittedly, even outside the church, I’ve become a true believer. In Apple. In my first full year of doing Whispers, I blew out three Dells and spent more time on a renter in Kinko’s than I can remember... but I’m grateful -- the experience allowed me to see the light and convert to the one true faith.

Of course, some of you might disagree, but the reality remains that -- full machinery aside -- what the iPod, iPhone and, now, iPad have done to push the boundaries of computing and revolutionize its experience in the marketplace cannot be overestimated.

Along these lines, I always watch the Apple keynotes, not just to salivate from afar over the latest goodies, but to hear the stats on the device’s penetration in the marketplace. And as they're given, part of me always wonders why we haven’t done a better job in engaging this staggering opportunity.

In his Monday rollout, Steve Jobs announced that, this month, the company will sell its 100 millionth device running iOS -- the new name for the iPhone platform. Given the release of the new hardware later this month and the ongoing sellout in most places of the iPad -- I found myself having to hit four stores before I could nab mine -- it’s clear they won’t be slouching toward the milestone, but rocketing quickly past it. [As an update, less than a year after this talk's delivery, said sales-figure more than doubled.]

That said, last time I checked, I was able to find all of one -- repeat: one -- diocese which had stepped into the App Store: New Orleans... a church whose entire infrastructure was effectively knocked out in [Hurricane] Katrina.

In effect, friends, we’re talking about a market that’ll soon be twice the size of the state of California, three times the population of Canada, a dozen times the size of New York City.

And still, for all that... the equivalent of one diocese? One chapel, as it were?

We need to do better than this. And we can.

Sometimes, and God knows how often it happens in the church, it’s easy to overthink things or feel powerless by some sort of preconception that “They’re not looking for what we’ve got” or “Why do we need to be there? They can just come to us.”

In a word, though, one thing -- maybe the most powerful thing -- I’ve learned these years is the extent to which our people are looking for us out there. But here’s the kicker: they’ll never ask for it; they’ll never say they’re looking for it. As the line goes, “if you build it, they will come.”
For the record, the number of diocesan apps has since tripled -- the archdiocese of St Louis launched one for the iPhone in April, and just last week saw the rollout of an iPad tool from the archdiocese of Chicago. Yet for a predominantly Anglophone market now numbering in excess of 200 million -- a figure larger than the Catholic populations of the US, Italy, Britain, France and Spain combined -- much more remains to be done.

Even so, it must be noted and duly lauded that -- whether it's been accomplished via MacOS, PC, Linux or whatever else -- the greatest efforts to date remain the fruit of no institutional gift, but the overwhelmingly unpaid time and unbidden programming done by pioneering layfolk, and even some priests, who've taken to the task out of a simple conviction that the church and its cyber-reach deserved better and more than what they found, and who've realized that if no one else would something about it, they could.

...and lastly, from a reflection on faith and technology written around the 2007 debut of the device some would quickly dub the "Jesus Phone":
"To be sure, Mac-heads aren’t known for moderating their enthusiasm for every word that comes from the mouth of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and the release of what’s been dubbed “The God Machine” has become a cultural watershed, with press coverage rivaling Paris Hilton’s now-multiple jail stints.

When the first commercials for the device (which only a handful of people outside Apple’s top brass has even been able to touch yet) began airing last week, even devotees were quick to label them “iPhone porn.” Simultaneously, the enormous swath of cyberspace devoted to Apple gossip dissected the ads’ glimpses of the product with a compulsiveness that puts even the Catholic blogosphere's most anal-retentive liturgical critiques to shame.

(For the blissfully unaware, that’s an astonishing level of unhealthy hair-splitting.)

Some might see this as making God out of gadgets, or simply more proof of the end of the world. But no, it's neither -- even the hype bears a message of hope, and a challenge as big as the buzz.

First, let’s be grateful that people are getting excited about technology that actually has the capability of keeping them in touch with the rest of the world, as opposed to the usual frenzy over the newest video-game console that further seals its possessed into a virtual bubble. I might be computer-inclined, but I can’t help but think of PlayStation 3 or the Wii as further sentinels of the disintegration of mankind.

Second, the folks from Apple just seem to have an ability for captivating innovations in design, capability and ease of function. The company prides itself on its reputation for great aesthetics; inside and out, the clean lines and iconic looks of its product designs that (thankfully) have replaced the boxy, clunky old IIe models many of us 20-and-30-somethings used in our school days.

Message here? The quest for, and appreciation of, beauty still exists in the world -— and a bitten-into piece of fruit marks its vanguard.

As an amateur architecture buff, I can't help but see a parallel at work. While the modernist project in design sought to exalt utilitarianism, banishing what it saw as a superfluous emphasis on the “decorative,” the post-modern movement has restored the balance, as if to say, “Sure, functionality is helpful... but in our focus on function, the uplift of something bigger went missing.”

There’s an analogy of faith in this. People want to belong to something that makes greatness manifest in our own time, a movement that can show beauty and achievement as more than just traits of the past. If that weren’t true, today’s masses wouldn’t go to the ends of the earth -— or, alternatively, blow thousands of bucks after keeping vigil all night on a strip-mall pavement -— to it seek out, bring it home and plug it in.

As far as some of our own are concerned, man’s worthy expression of his God-given creativity seems to have halted sometime around 1570. Yet just as there’d be no internet without Gutenberg and no iPhone without Bell, tradition’s clock never stops ticking. It extends even into our own time. It becomes our responsibility to cultivate, grow and pass forward even richer than we found it, but just as faithful to its beginnings as it was before....
* * *
Not all that long ago, Apple itself had become a fallen legend, with much of the tech world seeing its most sensible future course as being shut down and liquidated.

All of a decade later, the company ends each market-day as either the most valuable company in the world or a close runner-up and, in its second rise, exponentially more a lodestar of the culture than it had been in its first.

What made the difference?

In a nutshell, its fidelity to the vision of the Founder -- the contagious passion and sense of newness it birthed... and, at its core, an ideal best summed up in the simple message he learned early on:

"Stay hungry, stay foolish."

And whether we're high-tech or dead-tree, Old Mass, November Missal (or, in some cases, neither of the latter), maybe that example, and the stunning turnaround it birthed, could serve as a sign of hope and possibility for the ever-needed renewal of an oft-struggling church -- one that, today as ever, remains called to "go out into the whole world" through whatever means necessary.

Indeed, gang, the parallels are many... and this crowd would have a tough time finding a better user-guide for a modern push than the era that ends tonight.

After all, church, you're not exactly reading this on newsprint.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Suffice it to say, gang, the day's workload went out the window just shy of 2 in the afternoon....

As if things weren't already eventful (or surreal) enough in this part of the world.

Some reflections on The Quake tomorrow. Above all, though, hope nothing more happened on your end than a memorable experience, and you and yours aren't feeling too rattled.

PHOTO: Getty


Monday, August 22, 2011

The Reign, in Spain

Fuller Madrid wrap to come... for now, though, lest anyone missed the past week's sights and sounds, more than ever before, a World Youth Day has been preserved for digital posterity.

From the major Pope-helmed events to breakout catecheses and national gatherings, an extensive on-demand video archive is up and running (with English translations/commentary) thanks to Toronto's Salt + Light, itself the fruit of a prior incarnation of Catholicism's Olympic event.

As a taste of the things that transpired between the headline-grabbers of protests, politics, throngs and thunderstorms, one especially moving moment sticks out -- the turn of a 20 year-old, "born deaf and near death" as he put it, who was chosen to welcome B16 on the pontiff's Saturday visit to a home for disabled young people:

And, well, whatever our age or limitations, may Antonio's spirit be an inspiration for, and call to, the lot of us.

PHOTO: Getty


Sunday, August 21, 2011

At Day's End, "I Ask You to Love the Church"




21 AUGUST 2011

Dear Young People,

In this celebration of the Eucharist we have reached the high point of this World Youth Day. Seeing you here, gathered in such great numbers from all parts of the world, fills my heart with joy. I think of the special love with which Jesus is looking upon you. Yes, the Lord loves you and calls you his friends (cf. Jn 15:15). He goes out to meet you and he wants to accompany you on your journey, to open the door to a life of fulfilment and to give you a share in his own closeness to the Father. For our part, we have come to know the immensity of his love and we want to respond generously to his love by sharing with others the joy we have received. Certainly, there are many people today who feel attracted by the figure of Christ and want to know him better. They realize that he is the answer to so many of our deepest concerns. But who is he really? How can someone who lived on this earth so long ago have anything in common with me today?

The Gospel we have just heard (cf. Mt 16:13-20) suggests two different ways of knowing Christ. The first is an impersonal knowledge, one based on current opinion. When Jesus asks: "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?", the disciples answer: "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets". In other words, Christ is seen as yet another religious figure, like those who came before him. Then Jesus turns to the disciples and asks them: "But who do you say that I am?" Peter responds with what is the first confession of faith: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God". Faith is more than just empirical or historical facts; it is an ability to grasp the mystery of Christ’s person in all its depth.

Yet faith is not the result of human effort, of human reasoning, but rather a gift of God: "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven". Faith starts with God, who opens his heart to us and invites us to share in his own divine life. Faith does not simply provide information about who Christ is; rather, it entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person, with all our understanding, will and feelings, to God’s self-revelation. So Jesus’ question: "But who do you say that I am?", is ultimately a challenge to the disciples to make a personal decision in his regard. Faith in Christ and discipleship are strictly interconnected. And, since faith involves following the Master, it must become constantly stronger, deeper and more mature, to the extent that it leads to a closer and more intense relationship with Jesus. Peter and the other disciples also had to grow in this way, until their encounter with the Risen Lord opened their eyes to the fullness of faith.

Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: "Who do you say that I am?" Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to him: "Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me and you love me. I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me".

Jesus responds to Peter’s confession by speaking of the Church: "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church". What do these words mean? Jesus builds the Church on the rock of the faith of Peter, who confesses that Christ is God. The Church, then, is not simply a human institution, like any other. Rather, she is closely joined to God. Christ himself speaks of her as "his" Church. Christ cannot be separated from the Church any more than the head can be separated from the body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12). The Church does not draw her life from herself, but from the Lord.

Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so "on his own", or to approach the life of faith with kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.

Having faith means drawing support from the faith of your brothers and sisters, even as your own faith serves as a support for the faith of others. I ask you, dear friends, to love the Church which brought you to birth in the faith, which helped you to grow in the knowledge of Christ and which led you to discover the beauty of his love. Growing in friendship with Christ necessarily means recognizing the importance of joyful participation in the life of your parishes, communities and movements, as well as the celebration of Sunday Mass, frequent reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and the cultivation of personal prayer and meditation on God’s word.

Friendship with Jesus will also lead you to bear witness to the faith wherever you are, even when it meets with rejection or indifference. We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others. So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith. The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God. I think that the presence here of so many young people, coming from all over the world, is a wonderful proof of the fruitfulness of Christ’s command to the Church: "Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mk 16:15). You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.

Dear young people, I pray for you with heartfelt affection. I commend all of you to the Virgin Mary and I ask her to accompany you always by her maternal intercession and to teach you how to remain faithful to God’s word. I ask you to pray for the Pope, so that, as the Successor of Peter, he may always confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith. May all of us in the Church, pastors and faithful alike, draw closer to the Lord each day. May we grow in holiness of life and be effective witnesses to the truth that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, the Saviour of all mankind and the living source of our hope. Amen.



Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Do Not Be Content With Anything Less Than Christ"

20 AUGUST 2011

Dear Young Friends,

I greet all of you, especially the young people who have asked me their questions, and I thank them for the sincerity with which they set forth their concerns, that express the longing which all of you have to achieve something great in life, something which can bring you fulfilment and happiness.

How can a young person be true to the faith and yet continue to aspire to high ideals in today’s society? In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus gives us an answer to this urgent question: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (Jn 15:9).

Yes, dear friends, God loves us. This is the great truth of our life; it is what makes everything else meaningful. We are not the product of blind chance or absurdity; instead our life originates as part of a loving plan of God. To abide in his love, then, means living a life rooted in faith, since faith is more than the mere acceptance of certain abstract truths: it is an intimate relationship with Christ, who enables us to open our hearts to this mystery of love and to live as men and women conscious of being loved by God.

If you abide in the love of Christ, rooted in the faith, you will encounter, even amid setbacks and suffering, the source of true happiness and joy. Faith does not run counter to your highest ideals; on the contrary, it elevates and perfects those ideals. Dear young people, do not be satisfied with anything less than Truth and Love, do not be content with anything less than Christ.

Nowadays, although the dominant culture of relativism all around us has given up on the search for truth, even if it is the highest aspiration of the human spirit, we need to speak with courage and humility of the universal significance of Christ as the Saviour of humanity and the source of hope for our lives. He, who took upon himself our afflictions, is well acquainted with the mystery of human suffering and manifests his loving presence in those who suffer. They in their turn, united to the passion of Christ, share closely in his work of redemption. Furthermore, our disinterested attention towards the sick and the forgotten will always be a humble and warm testimony of God’s compassionate regard.

Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world.

During this prayer vigil, I urge you to ask God to help you find your vocation in society and in the Church, and to persevere in that vocation with joy and fidelity. It is a good thing to open our hearts to Christ’s call and to follow with courage and generosity the path he maps out for us.

The Lord calls many people to marriage, in which a man and a woman, in becoming one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24), find fulfilment in a profound life of communion. It is a prospect that is both bright and demanding. It is a project for true love which is daily renewed and deepened by sharing joys and sorrows, one marked by complete self-giving. For this reason, to acknowledge the beauty and goodness of marriage is to realize that only a setting of fidelity and indissolubility, along with openness to God’s gift of life, is adequate to the grandeur and dignity of marital love.

Christ calls others to follow him more closely in the priesthood or in consecrated life. It is hard to put into words the happiness you feel when you know that Jesus seeks you, trusts in you, and with his unmistakable voice also says to you: “Follow me!” (cf. Mk 2:14).

Dear young people, if you wish to discover and to live faithfully the form of life to which the Lord is calling each of you, you must remain in his love as his friends. And how do we preserve friendship except through frequent contact, conversation, being together in good times and bad? Saint Teresa of Jesus used to say that prayer is just such “friendly contact, often spending time alone with the one who we know loves us” (cf. Autobiography, 8).

And so I now ask you to “abide” in the adoration of Christ, truly present in the Eucharist. I ask you to enter into conversation with him, to bring before him your questions and to listen to his voice. Dear friends, I pray for you with all my heart. And I ask you to pray for me. Tonight let us ask the Lord to grant that, attracted by the beauty of his love, we may always live faithfully as his disciples. Amen.

[Greetings to pilgrim groups in their native languages]

Dear young French-speakers, be proud of the gift of faith which you have received, as it will illumine your life at every moment. Draw strength from the faith of your neighbours, from the faith of the Church! Through faith we are grounded in Christ. Gather with others to deepen it, be faithful to the celebration of the Eucharist, the mystery of faith par excellence. Christ alone can respond to your aspirations. Let yourselves be seized by God, so that your presence in the Church will give her new life!

Dear young people, in these moments of silence before the Blessed Sacrament, let us raise our minds and hearts to Jesus Christ, the Lord of our lives and of the future. May he pour out his Spirit upon us and upon the whole Church, that we may be a beacon of freedom, reconciliation and peace for the whole world.

Dear young Christians from the German-speaking countries! Deep in our hearts we yearn for what is grand and beautiful in life. Do not let your desires and aspirations dissipate, but ground them in Jesus Christ. He himself is the sure foundation, the point of reference, for building up your life.

I now turn to the Italian-speaking young people. Dear friends, this vigil will remain as an unforgettable experience in your lives. Guard the flame which God has lit in your hearts tonight. Never let it go out, renew it each day, share it with your contemporaries who live in darkness and who are seeking a light for their way. Thank you! Until tomorrow morning!

My dear friends, I invite each of you to enter into a personal dialogue with Christ, sharing with him your hesitations and above all listening to his voice. The Lord is here and he is calling you! Young friends, it is good to hear within us the word of Jesus and to follow in his footsteps. Ask the Lord to help you to discover your vocation in life and in the Church, and to persevere in it with joy and fidelity, knowing that he never abandons you or betrays you! He remains with us until the end of the world.

Dear young friends from Poland! This prayer vigil is filled with the presence of Christ. Grounded in his love, draw near to him with the flame of your faith. He will fill your hearts with his life. Build your lives on Christ and on his Gospel. I willingly bless all of you.

PHOTOS: Getty, Reuters


Pope in the Box

No text on this one, obviously... still, a key -- indeed, unprecedented -- moment of this World Youth Day.

For the record, the Confessor-in-Chief of the hundreds who've filled the 200 booths at the "Festival of Forgiveness" in Madrid's Retiro Park was able to celebrate Reconciliation with three penitents, according to the wires.

As an aside, at this morning's Mass for Seminarians in the Spanish capital's Almudena cathedral, Benedict XVI made a rare move, announcing that he would "soon declare" the patron of the Spanish clergy -- the 16th century priest and preacher St John of Avila, a son of converts to the fold from Judaism -- a Doctor of the Church.

The group of the faith's great teachers now set to comprise 34 members who stretch to the door of the 20th century, the last Doctor to join the line came in 1997, when Blessed John Paul II added St Therese of Lisieux -- the celebrated "Little Flower" -- to their number.

As the French Carmelite mystic (who died at 24 in 1897) was preceded in 1970 by the first female Doctors -- Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena -- two of the last four to be named have hailed from Spain.


To Seminarians, "We Have to Be Saints"

20 AUGUST 2011

Your Eminence the Archbishop of Madrid,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Priests and Religious,
Dear Rectors and Formators,
Dear Seminarians,
Dear Friends,

I am very pleased to celebrate Holy Mass with you who aspire to be Christ’s priests for the service of the Church and of man, and I thank you for the kind words with which you welcomed me. Today, this holy cathedral church of Santa María La Real de la Almudena is like a great Upper Room, where the Lord greatly desires to celebrate the Passover with you who wish one day to preside in his name at the mysteries of salvation. Looking at you, I again see proof of how Christ continues to call young disciples and to make them his apostles, thus keeping alive the mission of the Church and the offer of the Gospel to the world. As seminarians you are on the path towards a sacred goal: to continue the mission which Christ received from the Father. Called by him, you have followed his voice and, attracted by his loving gaze, you now advance towards the sacred ministry. Fix your eyes upon him who through his incarnation is the supreme revelation of God to the world and who through his resurrection faithfully fulfills his promise. Give thanks to him for this sign of favour in which he holds each one of you.

The first reading which we heard shows us Christ as the new and eternal priest who made of himself a perfect offering. The response to the psalm may be aptly applied to him since, at his coming into the world, he said to the Father, “Here I am to do your will” (cf. Ps 39:8). He tried to please him in all things: in his words and actions, along the way or welcoming sinners. His life was one of service and his longing was a constant prayer, placing himself in the name of all before the Father as the first-born son of many brothers and sisters. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews states that, by a single offering, he brought to perfection for all time those of us who are called to share his sonship (cf. Heb 10:14).

The Eucharist, whose institution is mentioned in the Gospel just proclaimed (cf. Lk 22:14-20), is the real expression of that unconditional offering of Jesus for all, even for those who betrayed him. It was the offering of his body and blood for the life of mankind and for the forgiveness of sins. His blood, a sign of life, was given to us by God as a covenant, so that we might apply the force of his life wherever death reigns due to our sins, and thus destroy it. Christ’s body broken and his blood outpoured – the surrender of his freedom – became through these Eucharistic signs the new source of mankind’s redeemed freedom. In Christ, we have the promise of definitive redemption and the certain hope of future blessings. Through Christ we know that we are not walking towards the abyss, the silence of nothingness or death, but are rather pilgrims on the way to a promised land, on the way to him who is our end and our beginning.Dear friends, you are preparing yourselves to become apostles with Christ and like Christ, and to accompany your fellow men and women along their journey as companions and servants.

How should you behave during these years of preparation? First of all, they should be years of interior silence, of unceasing prayer, of constant study and of gradual insertion into the pastoral activity and structures of the Church. A Church which is community and institution, family and mission, the creation of Christ through his Holy Spirit, as well as the result of those of us who shape it through our holiness and our sins. God, who does not hesitate to make of the poor and of sinners his friends and instruments for the redemption of the human race, willed it so. The holiness of the Church is above all the objective holiness of the very person of Christ, of his Gospel and his sacraments, the holiness of that power from on high which enlivens and impels it. We have to be saints so as not to create a contradiction between the sign that we are and the reality that we wish to signify.

Meditate well upon this mystery of the Church, living the years of your formation in deep joy, humbly, clear-mindedly and with radical fidelity to the Gospel, in an affectionate relation to the time spent and the people among whom you live. No one chooses the place or the people to whom he is sent, and every time has its own challenges; but in every age God gives the right grace to face and overcome those challenges with love and realism. That is why, no matter the circumstances in which he finds and however difficult they may be, the priest must grow in all kinds of good works, keeping alive within him the words spoken on his Ordination day, by which he was exhorted to model his life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross. To be modeled on Christ, dear seminarians, is to be identified ever more closely with him who, for our sake, became servant, priest and victim. To be modeled on him is in fact the task upon which the priest spends his entire life. We already know that it is beyond us and we will not fully succeed but, as St Paul says, we run towards the goal, hoping to reach it (cf. Phil 3:12-14). That said, Christ the High Priest is also the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep, even giving his life for them (cf. Jn 10:11). In order to liken yourselves to the Lord in this as well, your heart must mature while in seminary, remaining completely open to the Master. This openness, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, inspires the decision to live in celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and, leaving aside the world’s goods, live in austerity of life and sincere obedience, without pretence.

Ask him to let you imitate him in his perfect charity towards all, so that you do not shun the excluded and sinners, but help them convert and return to the right path. Ask him to teach you how to be close to the sick and the poor in simplicity and generosity. Face this challenge without anxiety or mediocrity, but rather as a beautiful way of living our human life in gratuitousness and service, as witnesses of God made man, messengers of the supreme dignity of the human person and therefore its unconditional defenders. Relying on his love, do not be intimidated by surroundings that would exclude God and in which power, wealth and pleasure are frequently the main criteria ruling people’s lives. You may be shunned along with others who propose higher goals or who unmask the false gods before whom many now bow down. That will be the moment when a life deeply rooted in Christ will clearly be seen as something new and it will powerfully attract those who truly search for God, truth and justice.

Under the guidance of your formators, open your hearts to the light of the Lord, to see if this path which demands courage and authenticity is for you. Approach the priesthood only if you are firmly convinced that God is calling you to be his ministers, and if you are completely determined to exercise it in obedience to the Church’s precepts. With this confidence, learn from him who described himself as meek and humble of heart, leaving behind all earthly desire for his sake so that, rather than pursuing your own good, you build up your brothers and sisters by the way you live, as did the patron saint of the diocesan clergy of Spain, St John of Avila. Moved by his example, look above all to the Virgin Mary, Mother of Priests. She will know how to mould your hearts according to the model of Christ, her divine Son, and she will teach you how to treasure for ever all that he gained on Calvary for the salvation of the world. Amen.



Friday, August 19, 2011

Shot of the Day


...suffice it to say, good thing it wasn't a cat.

And lest there was any doubt, clearly the old boy's still The Fluffiest.

That said, tomorrow's World Youth Day schedule brings another B16 visual that promises to heavily make the rounds, albeit on a more serious note, as the Pope hears confessions at one of the 200 temporary boxes (below) set up in Madrid's Retiro Park -- a first-of-its-kind moment at Catholicism's triennial "Olympic event."

In a recent interview, the head of the Madrid organizing committee said that when Benedict was informed that he could celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with "two, three or four" penitents, the pontiff shot back to ask "only that?!"

As of press time, no indication emerged of how many confessions the Pope will actually get to conduct.

PHOTO: L'Osservatore Romano/Reuters (via Salt + Light) (1); Getty(2)


To Young Professors, "If Truth and Goodness Go Together, So Do Knowledge and Love"

19 AUGUST 2011

Your Eminence, My Brother Bishops,
Dear Augustinian Fathers, Dear Professors,
Distinguished Authorities, Dear Friends,

I have looked forward to this meeting with you, young professors in the universities of Spain. You provide a splendid service in the spread of truth, in circumstances that are not always easy. I greet you warmly and I thank you for your kind words of welcome and for the music which has marvellously resounded in this magnificent monastery, for centuries an eloquent witness to the life of prayer and study. In this highly symbolic place, reason and faith have harmoniously blended in the austere stone to shape one of Spain’s most renowned monuments.

I also greet with particular affection those of you who took part in the recent World Congress of Catholic Universities held in Avila on the theme: “The Identity and Mission of the Catholic University”.

Being here with you, I am reminded of my own first steps as a professor at the University of Bonn. At the time, the wounds of war were still deeply felt and we had many material needs; these were compensated by our passion for an exciting activity, our interaction with colleagues of different disciplines and our desire to respond to the deepest and most basic concerns of our students. This experience of a “Universitas” of professors and students who together seek the truth in all fields of knowledge, or as Alfonso X the Wise put it, this “counsel of masters and students with the will and understanding needed to master the various disciplines” (Siete Partidas, partida II, tit. XXXI), helps us to see more clearly the importance, and even the definition, of the University.

The theme of the present World Youth Day – “Rooted and Built Up in Christ, and Firm in the Faith” (cf. Col 2:7) can also shed light on your efforts to understand more clearly your own identity and what you are called to do. As I wrote in my Message to Young People in preparation for these days, the terms “rooted, built up and firm” all point to solid foundations on which we can construct our lives (cf. No. 2).

But where will young people encounter those reference points in a society which is increasingly confused and unstable? At times one has the idea that the mission of a university professor nowadays is exclusively that of forming competent and efficient professionals capable of satisfying the demand for labor at any given time. One also hears it said that the only thing that matters at the present moment is pure technical ability. This sort of utilitarian approach to education is in fact becoming more widespread, even at the university level, promoted especially by sectors outside the University. All the same, you who, like myself, have had an experience of the University, and now are members of the teaching staff, surely are looking for something more lofty and capable of embracing the full measure of what it is to be human. We know that when mere utility and pure pragmatism become the principal criteria, much is lost and the results can be tragic: from the abuses associated with a science which acknowledges no limits beyond itself, to the political totalitarianism which easily arises when one eliminates any higher reference than the mere calculus of power. The authentic idea of the University, on the other hand, is precisely what saves us from this reductionist and curtailed vision of humanity.

In truth, the University has always been, and is always called to be, the “house” where one seeks the truth proper to the human person. Consequently it was not by accident that the Church promoted the universities, for Christian faith speaks to us of Christ as the Word through whom all things were made (cf. Jn 1:3) and of men and women as made in the image and likeness of God. The Gospel message perceives a rationality inherent in creation and considers man as a creature participating in, and capable of attaining to, an understanding of this rationality. The University thus embodies an ideal which must not be attenuated or compromised, whether by ideologies closed to reasoned dialogue or by truckling to a purely utilitarian and economic conception which would view man solely as a consumer.

Here we see the vital importance of your own mission. You yourselves have the honour and responsibility of transmitting the ideal of the University: an ideal which you have received from your predecessors, many of whom were humble followers of the Gospel and, as such, became spiritual giants. We should feel ourselves their successors, in a time quite different from their own, yet one in which the essential human questions continue to challenge and stimulate us. With them, we realize that we are a link in that chain of men and women committed to teaching the faith and making it credible to human reason. And we do this not simply by our teaching, but by the way we live our faith and embody it, just as the Word took flesh and dwelt among us. Young people need authentic teachers: persons open to the fullness of truth in the various branches of knowledge, persons who listen to and experience in own hearts that interdisciplinary dialogue; persons who, above all, are convinced of our human capacity to advance along the path of truth. Youth is a privileged time for seeking and encountering truth. As Plato said: “Seek truth while you are young, for if you do not, it will later escape your grasp” (Parmenides, 135d). This lofty aspiration is the most precious gift which you can give to your students, personally and by example. It is more important than mere technical know-how, or cold and purely functional data.

I urge you, then, never to lose that sense of enthusiasm and concern for truth. Always remember that teaching is not just about communicating content, but about forming young people. You need to understand and love them, to awaken their innate thirst for truth and their yearning for transcendence. Be for them a source of encouragement and strength.

For this to happen, we need to realize in the first place that the path to the fullness of truth calls for complete commitment: it is a path of understanding and love, of reason and faith. We cannot come to know something unless we are moved by love; or, for that matter, love something which does not strike us as reasonable. “Understanding and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in understanding and understanding is full of love” (Caritas in Veritate, 30). If truth and goodness go together, so too do knowledge and love. This unity leads to consistency in life and thought, that ability to inspire demanded of every good educator.

In the second place, we need to recognize that truth itself will always lie beyond our grasp. We can seek it and draw near to it, but we cannot completely possess it; or put better, truth possesses us and inspires us. In intellectual and educational activity the virtue of humility is also indispensable, since it protects us from the pride which bars the way to truth. We must not draw students to ourselves, but set them on the path toward the truth which we seek together. The Lord will help you in this, for he asks you to be plain and effective like salt, or like the lamp which quietly lights the room (cf. Mt 5:13).

All these things, finally, remind us to keep our gaze fixed on Christ, whose face radiates the Truth which enlightens us. Christ is also the Way which leads to lasting fulfilment; he walks constantly at our side and sustains us with his love. Rooted in him, you will prove good guides to our young people. With this confidence I invoke upon you the protection of the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom. May she help you to cooperate with her Son by living a life which is personally satisfying and which brings forth rich fruits of knowledge and faith for your students.



Thursday, August 18, 2011

"Build Your Lives Upon the Firm Foundation of Christ"

18 AUGUST 2011

Dear Friends,

Thank you for the kind words addressed to me by the young people representing the five continents. And I salute with affection all of you gathered here, young people from Oceania, Africa, America, Asia and Europe; and also those unable to be here. I always keep you very much in my heart and pray for you. God has given me the grace to see and hear you for myself and, as we gather together, to listen to his word.

In the reading which has just been proclaimed, we heard a passage from the Gospel which talks of welcoming the words of Jesus and putting them into practice. There are words which serve only to amuse, as fleeting as an empty breeze; others, to an extent, inform us; those of Jesus, on the other hand, must reach our hearts, take root and bloom there all our lives. If not, they remain empty and become ephemeral. They do not bring us to him and, as a result, Christ stays remote, just one voice among the many others around us which are so familiar. Furthermore, the Master who speaks teaches, not something learned from others, but that which he himself is, the only one who truly knows the path of man towards God, because he is the one who opened it up for us, he made it so that we might have authentic lives, lives which are always worth living, in every circumstance, and which not even death can destroy. The Gospel continues, explaining these things with the evocative image of someone who builds on solid rock, resistant to the onslaught of adversity, and in contrast to someone who builds on sand – we would say today in what appears a paradise – but which collapses with the first gust of wind and falls into ruins.

Dear young people, listen closely to the words of the Lord, that they may be for you "spirit and life" (Jn 6:63), roots which nourish your being, a rule of life which likens us – poor in spirit, thirsting for justice, merciful, pure in heart, lovers of peace – to the person of Christ. Listen regularly every day as if he were the one friend who does not deceive, the one with whom we wish to share the path of life. Of course, you know that when we do not walk beside Christ our guide, we get lost on other paths, like the path of our blind and selfish impulses, or the path of flattering but self-serving suggestions, deceiving and fickle, which leave emptiness and frustration in their wake.

Use these days to know Christ better and to make sure that, rooted in him, your enthusiasm and happiness, your desire to go further, to reach the heights, even God himself, always hold a sure future, because the fullness of life has already been placed within you. Let that life grow with divine grace, generously and without half-measures, as you remain steadfast in your aim for holiness. And, in the face of our weaknesses which sometimes overwhelm us, we can rely on the mercy of the Lord who is always ready to help us again and who offers us pardon in the sacrament of Penance.

If you build on solid rock, not only your life will be solid and stable, but it will also help project the light of Christ shining upon those of your own age and upon the whole of humanity, presenting a valid alternative to all those who have fallen short, because the essentials in their lives were inconsistent; to all those who are content to follow fashionable ideas, they take shelter in the here and now, forgetting true justice, or they take refuge in their own opinions instead of seeking the simple truth.

Indeed, there are many who, creating their own gods, believe they need no roots or foundations other than themselves. They take it upon themselves to decide what is true or not, what is good and evil, what is just and unjust; who should live and who can be sacrificed in the interests of other preferences; leaving each step to chance, with no clear path, letting themselves be led by the whim of each moment. These temptations are always lying in wait. It is important not to give in to them because, in reality, they lead to something so evanescent, like an existence with no horizons, a liberty without God. We, on the other hand, know well that we have been created free, in the image of God, precisely so that we might be in the forefront of the search for truth and goodness, responsible for our actions, not mere blind executives, but creative co-workers in the task of cultivating and beautifying the work of creation. God is looking for a responsible interlocutor, someone who can dialogue with him and love him. Through Christ we can truly succeed and, established in him, we give wings to our freedom. Is this not the great reason for our joy? Isn’t this the firm ground upon which to build the civilization of love and life, capable of humanizing all of us?

Dear friends: be prudent and wise, build your lives upon the firm foundation which is Christ. This wisdom and prudence will guide your steps, nothing will make you fear and peace will reign in your hearts. Then you will be blessed and happy and your happiness will influence others. They will wonder what the secret of your life is and they will discover that the rock which underpins the entire building and upon which rests your whole existence is the very person of Christ, your friend, brother and Lord, the Son of God incarnate, who gives meaning to all the universe. He died for us all, rising that we might have life, and now, from the throne of the Father, he accompanies all men and women, watching continually over each one of us.

I commend the fruits of this World Youth Day to the most holy Virgin Mary, who said "Yes" to the will of God, and teaches us a unique example of fidelity to her divine son, whom she followed to his death upon the Cross.

Let us meditate upon this more deeply in the Stations of the Cross. And let us pray that, like her, our "Yes" to Christ today may also be an unconditional "Yes" to his friendship, both at the end of this Day and throughout our entire lives.

Thank you very much.

PHOTOS: Getty, Reuters


"Why Has This Multitude Come?"

18 AUGUST 2011

Your Majesties,
Your Eminence the Archbishop of Madrid,
Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Distinguished National, Autonomous Regional and Local Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters of Madrid and of all Spain,

I am grateful to Your Majesty for your presence together with the Queen, and for the kind and deferential words with which you welcomed me, reviving in me the unforgettable gestures of kindness which I received during my previous Apostolic Journeys to Spain, and most particularly during my recent Visit to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona. I greet very cordially those of you gathered here at Barajas and those of you following this event on radio and television. A very grateful greeting also goes to those who, with such commitment and dedication, from the ecclesiastical and civil spheres, have contributed with their efforts and work so that this World Youth Day in Madrid might unfold well and bring forth abundant fruits.

With all my heart I also wish to recognize the hospitality so many families, parishes, schools and other institutions which have welcomed young people from all over the world, firstly in various regions and cities of Spain, and now in the great cosmopolitan and welcoming city of Madrid.

I have come here to meet thousands of young people from all over the world, Catholics committed to Christ searching for the truth that will give real meaning to their existence. I come as the Successor of Peter, to confirm them all in the faith, with days of intense pastoral activity, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life; to motivate the commitment to build up the Kingdom of God in the world among us; to exhort young people to know Christ personally as a friend and so, rooted in his person, to become faithful followers and valiant witnesses.

Why has this multitude of young people come to Madrid? While they themselves should give the reply, it may be supposed that they wish to hear the word of God, as the motto for this World Youth Day proposed to them, in such a way that, rooted and built upon Christ, they may manifest the strength of their faith.

Many of them have heard the voice of God, perhaps only as a little whisper, which has led them to search for him more diligently and to share with others the experience of the force which he has in their lives. The discovery of the living God inspires young people and opens their eyes to the challenges of the world in which they live, with its possibilities and limitations. They see the prevailing superficiality, consumerism and hedonism, the widespread banalization of sexuality, the lack of solidarity, the corruption. They know that, without God, it would be hard to confront these challenges and to be truly happy, and thus pouring out their enthusiasm in the attainment of an authentic life. But, with God beside them, they will possess light to walk by and reasons to hope, unrestrained before their highest ideals, which will motivate their generous commitment to build a society where human dignity and true brotherhood are respected. Here on this Day, they have a special opportunity to gather together their aspirations, to share the richness of their cultures and experiences, motivate each other along a journey of faith and life, in which some think they are alone or ignored in their daily existence. But they are not alone. Many people of the same age have the same aspirations and, entrusting themselves completely to Christ, know that they really have a future before them and are not afraid of the decisive commitments which fulfill their entire lives. That is why it gives me great joy to listen to them, pray with them and celebrate the Eucharist with them. World Youth Day brings us a message of hope like a pure and youthful breeze, with rejuvenating scents which fill us with confidence before the future of the Church and the world.

Of course, there is no lack of difficulties. There are tensions and ongoing conflicts all over the world, even to the shedding of blood. Justice and the unique value of the human person are easily surrendered to selfish, material and ideological interests. Nature and the environment, created by God with so much love, are not respected. Moreover, many young people look worriedly to the future, as they search for work, or because they have lost their job or because the one they have is precarious or uncertain. There are others who need help either to avoid drugs or to recover from their use. There are even some who, because of their faith in Christ, suffer discrimination which leads to contempt and persecution, open or hidden, which they endure in various regions and countries. They are harassed to give him up, depriving them of the signs of his presence in public life, not allowing even the mention of his holy name. But, with all my heart, I say again to you young people: let nothing and no one take away your peace; do not be ashamed of the Lord. He did not spare himself in becoming one like us and in experiencing our anguish so as to lift it up to God, and in this way he saved us.

In this regard, the young followers of Jesus must be aided to remain firm in the faith and to embrace the beautiful adventure of proclaiming it and witnessing to it openly with their lives. A witness that is courageous and full of love for their brothers and sisters, resolute and at the same time prudent, without hiding its Christian identity, living together with other legitimate choices in a spirit of respect while at the same time demanding due respect for one’s own choices.

Your Majesty, as I reiterate my thanks for the kind welcome which you gave to me, I in turn wish to express my esteem for and nearness to all the peoples of Spain, as well as my admiration for a country so rich in history and in culture through the vitality of its faith, which has borne fruit in so many saints over the centuries, in numerous men and women who, leaving their native land, brought the Gospel to every corner of the globe, and in people through all this land who act with rectitude, solidarity and goodness. It is a great treasure which should be cared for constructively, for the common good of today and in order to offer a bright horizon to future generations. Although there are currently some reasons for concern, the greatest one is the desire for the betterment of all Spaniards with that dynamism which characterizes them and to which their deep and very fruitful Christian roots have contributed so much down through the centuries.

From this place I send very cordial greetings to you all, dear friends of Spain and Madrid, and those of you from other lands. During these days I will be with you, thinking of all young people in the world, in particular those who are going through various kinds of trial. Entrusting this Meeting to the most holy Virgin Mary, and to the patron saints of this Day, I ask God always to bless and protect the sons and daughters of Spain. Thank you very much.

PHOTO: Reuters