id quod volo

Monday, July 28, 2008

Learning from Lourdes


Here’s the thing: Lourdes unites people around the ordinary, the poor, and the vulnerable. In that focus, divisions dissolve; a sense of oneness supervenes. Our God-dependent humanity is what comes first. What matters is faith: even a poor faith, weakened by doubt and suspicion, is enough – as long as there’s the thirst in the hope.
And the basics of the faith are everywhere, in earthy symbols which tell the Gospel story through signs: the poverty of Bernadette, which forces her to go in search of firewood – the same poverty which causes humans to look for God; the stone of the Grotto -- God as a rock and fortress; the cave, where in the Bible God is to be found – by Moses or Elijah, or as the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem; water – the healing sign of the Holy Spirit; light – the candle which Bernadette takes to the Grotto, reminding us of Jesus as light of the world; and the sign of the Cross -- the first gesture of Bernadette when she sees Our Lady -- which speaks of the suffering redeemed and made meaningful by Christ.

Monday, July 21, 2008


By Andrew Rabel

After week long celebrations, the final Mass of World Youth Day 2008 was celebrated by Pope Benedict in extraordinary fashion with the attendance a little over 400,000 persons at Randwick Racecourse and Centennial Park, which was a splash of color with the flags of people from over 100 countries represented.

This means that the 23rd World Youth Day had the smallest crowd attendance in another country. (Previously that record was set by Denver in 1993 with a tally of 500,000 people, and there are no recorded figures for Buenos Aires in 1987.)

However, in the opinion of many overseas journalists this was the best organized, and certainly the most innovative, being held in winter among other reasons. According to Fr Matthew Gamber SJ of Chicago, "I have been to several WYD’s, and this was by far the best. Cologne a few years ago was a bit of a disaster in terms of logistics".

This year’s event was completely 21st century in the online nature of registrations and accreditation of other professionals, and before the event Cardinal Pell had launched, a way WYD pilgrims could socially interact with each other, to which thousands had signed up for in just a couple of weeks.

The Stations of the Cross held through the streets of Sydney at some of its prominent landmarks, was for many the highlight of the six day event also drawing strong accolades in comparison to previous ones at other WYD’s.

Today’s Mass began in a spectacular way with helicopter fly over by the Pope and then a motorcade in his Popemobile.

This took place after 200,000 people slept the night out in the cold following the Evening Vigil at the racecourse.

Pope Benedict preached in his homily a challenge to all the young people there, "What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up Space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom?...What difference will you make?"

Later on he said to the youth to tremendous applause, "The Church especially needs the gift of young people, all young people. She needs to grow in the power of the Spirit who even now gives joy to your youth and inspires you to serve the Lord with gladness. Open your hearts to that power! I address this plea in a special way to those of you whom the Lord is calling to the priesthood and consecrated life. Do not be afraid to say "yes" to Jesus, to find your joy in doing his will, giving yourself completely to the pursuit of holiness, and using all your talents in the service of others!"

The highlight of the Mass was the Holy Father confirming 24 people - 14 Australians and 10 internationals, something never done in any previous World Youth Day.

The Holy Father wore for the Mass also the traditional looking pallium he has been sporting in Rome for the last couple of months, and distributed communion to kneeling communicants on the tongue. Again another first for a Pope doing this in a country outside Italy. (In 1970 when Paul VI visited Australia, newer postures for receiving communion had not been introduced yet).

Aside from an Aboriginal dance early in the Mass, the liturgy had a distinctly traditional feel to it, with both Latin and English used. The Pater Noster was sung by Benedict in Latin.

At the end of the Mass Cardinal George Pell thanked Pope Benedict for hosting World Youth Day in Australia saying, "Your Holiness... just a few days after your election as Bishop of Rome, you said that the historic days of April 2005 taught us that 'the Church is not old and immobile; she is young.'

"So we give thanks for World Youth Day, which is a gift for the Church as a whole, for both those old and young. At World Youth Day, the Church appears as she truly is, alive with energetic energy".

During the Angelus address Pope Benedict revealed that the next World Youth Day would be held in Madrid in 2011, to thunderous cheers from the thousands of Spanish pilgrims.

A few hours after the end of proceedings, rain started to fall in Sydney which had stayed away for the whole of the events. This prompted a nonreligious TV anchor to ask, "One would have thought there was a special plan in this". To which a journalist replied, "Well that is something worth thinking about".

N.B. The previous evening, a night-time Randwick Racecourse was transformed into a sea of colour and candle light, as the Holy Father called on the faithful to hear Christ's great promise and pray together, as his Apostles did.

"Tonight, we do the same. Gathered before our much-travelled Cross and the Icon of Mary and under the magnificent constellation of the Southern Cross, we pray," he said

"We recall our parents and grandparents who walked alongside us when we, as children, were taking our first steps in our pilgrim journey of faith.

"Now many years later, you have gathered as young adults with the
Successor of Peter. I am filled with deep joy to be with you."

The Pope also spoke about the role of the Holy Spirit in the Augustinian tradition. He said, "He noted that the two words 'Holy' and 'Spirit' refer to what is divine about God; in other words what is shared by the Father and the Son - their communion."

The crowd went completely silent when later on the Blessed Sacrament was brought out for adoration, as they were for the Consecration at Mass the next day.

Andrew Rabel, an Australian journalist, is covering the Pope's trip to Australia.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 19 JUL 2008 (VIS) - Shortly before 7 p.m. today, Benedict XVI arrived at Randwick Racecourse, the largest in Australia, where he presided at the World Youth Day prayer vigil with thousands of young people. The site, which has capacity for 300,000 people, has also hosted events with Paul VI (in 1970) and John Paul II (in 1986). The beatification ceremony Sr. Mary MacKillop, presided by John Paul II, was also held here in 1995.

The prayer vigil began with the racecourse in darkness, gradually illuminated by torches borne by dancers on the podium, representing the opening to the Holy Spirit. Subsequently, the World Youth Day cross and flag were positioned on the stage in anticipation of the Pope's arrival, who entered accompanied by 12 pilgrims while the assembly sang the hymn "Our Lady of the Southern Cross".

An indigenous woman lit the candles carried by the 12 pilgrims, who in their turn lit those of the assembly and of the bishops. Seven young people then invoked the Holy Spirit through the intercession of the patrons of WYD.

"Tonight we focus our attention on how to become witnesses", the Pope told the young people in his address. "You are already well aware that our Christian witness is offered to a world which in many ways is fragile. The unity of God's creation is weakened by wounds which run particularly deep when social relations break apart, or when the human spirit is all but crushed through the exploitation and abuse of persons. Indeed, society today is being fragmented by a way of thinking that is inherently short-sighted, because it disregards the full horizon of truth, the truth about God and about us. By its nature, relativism fails to see the whole picture. It ignores the very principles which enable us to live and flourish in unity, order and harmony".

"Unity and reconciliation cannot be achieved through our efforts alone. God has made us for one another and only in God and His Church can we find the unity we seek. Yet, in the face of imperfections and disappointments - both individual and institutional - we are sometimes tempted to construct artificially a 'perfect' community. That temptation is not new. The history of the Church includes many examples of attempts to bypass or override human weaknesses or failures in order to create a perfect unity, a spiritual utopia".

Yet, the Pope went on, "such attempts to construct unity in fact undermine it. To separate the Holy Spirit from Christ present in the Church's institutional structure would compromise the unity of the Christian community, which is precisely the Spirit's gift! ... Unfortunately the temptation to 'go it alone' persists. Some today portray their local community as somehow separate from the so-called institutional Church, by speaking of the former as flexible and open to the Spirit and the latter as rigid and devoid of the Spirit.

"Unity is of the essence of the Church", he added, "it is a gift we must recognise and cherish. Tonight, let us pray for the resolve to nurture unity: contribute to it! resist any temptation to walk away! For it is precisely the comprehensiveness, the vast vision, of our faith - solid yet open, consistent yet dynamic, true yet constantly growing in insight - that we can offer our world".

"Be watchful! Listen!" the Holy Father told his audience. "Through the dissonance and division of our world, can you hear the concordant voice of humanity?" he asked them. What emerges, he said, is "the same human cry for recognition, for belonging, for unity. Who satisfies that essential human yearning to be one, to be immersed in communion, ... to be led to truth? The Holy Spirit! This is the Spirit's role: to bring Christ's work to fulfilment. Enriched with the Spirit's gifts, you will have the power to move beyond the piecemeal, the hollow utopia, the fleeting, to offer the consistency and certainty of Christian witness!"

"The Holy Spirit has been in some ways the neglected person of the Blessed Trinity. A clear understanding of the Spirit almost seems beyond our reach", said Pope Benedict, going on to explain, however, that St. Augustine comes to our aid with his three "particular insights" about the Holy Spirit "as the bond of unity within the Blessed Trinity: unity as communion, unity as abiding love, and unity as giving and gift".

St. Augustine affirms, Benedict XVI recalled, "that the two words 'Holy' and 'Spirit' refer to what is divine about God; in other words what is shared by the Father and the Son: their communion. So, if the distinguishing characteristic of the Holy Spirit is to be what is shared by the Father and the Son, Augustine concluded that the Spirit's particular quality is unity".

"True unity could never be founded upon relationships which deny the equal dignity of other persons. Nor is unity simply the sum total of the groups through which we sometimes attempt to 'define' ourselves. In fact, only in the life of communion is unity sustained and human identity fulfilled: we recognise the common need for God, we respond to the unifying presence of the Holy Spirit, and we give ourselves to one another in service".

Augustine's second insight concerns love, the Pope explained. "Ideas or voices which lack love - even if they seem sophisticated or knowledgeable - cannot be 'of the Spirit'", he said. "Furthermore, love has a particular trait: ... to abide. By its nature love is enduring". Thus "we catch a further glimpse of how much the Holy Spirit offers our world: love which dispels uncertainty; love which overcomes the fear of betrayal; love which carries eternity within; the true love which draws us into a unity that abides!"

As for the third insight, "the Holy Spirit as gift", Benedict XVI said: "The Holy Spirit is God eternally giving Himself; like a never-ending spring He pours forth nothing less than Himself. In view of this ceaseless gift, we come to see the limitations of all that perishes, the folly of the consumerist mindset. We begin to understand why the quest for novelty leaves us unsatisfied and wanting. Are we not looking for an eternal gift? The spring that will never run dry?"

"Dear young people, we have seen that it is the Holy Spirit Who brings about the wonderful communion of believers in Jesus Christ. True to His nature as giver and gift alike, He is even now working through you. Inspired by the insights of St. Augustine: let unifying love be your measure; abiding love your challenge; self-giving love your mission!"

"Let us invoke the Holy Spirit: He is the artisan of God's works", the Pope concluded. "Let His gifts shape you! Just as the Church travels the same journey with all humanity, so too you are called to exercise the Spirit's gifts amidst the ups and downs of your daily life. Let your faith mature through your studies, work, sport, music and art. Let it be sustained by prayer and nurtured by the Sacraments. ... In the end, life is not about accumulation. It is much more than success. To be truly alive is to be transformed from within, open to the energy of God's love. In accepting the power of the Holy Spirit you too can transform your families, communities and nations. Set free the gifts! Let wisdom, courage, awe and reverence be the marks of greatness!"

Having concluded his remarks, 24 catechumens was presented to the Holy Father, upon whom he will impart the Sacrament of Confirmation tomorrow. The prayer vigil will continue through the night, with the Eucharist adoration alternating with moments of silence in preparation for tomorrow's Mass.

Ðường đến đêm Canh Thức

Giới trẻ VN từ Seattle

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bishop Samuel Aquila: ‘Create a culture of life’

Bishop of Fargo, Samuel Aquila tells WYD pilgrims, ‘Create a culture of life’

Sydney, Jul 17, 2008 / 09:21 pm (CNA) .- “Sent out into the world: the Holy Spirit, the principal agent of mission,” was the theme for the third day of Catechesis held during WYD08 Sydney.

Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota told a crowded room of pilgrims at Sydney's University of Notre Dame that they should work to "create a culture of life,” to participate in the mission of the Holy Spirit.

“This is extremely difficult in our culture today, especially when we are bombarded by technology.”

Of the many issues we face, one of the most challenging life issues for us is abortion, he told pilgrims.

“In building a culture of life we must have the courage to speak of the dignity of life, particularly that of the unborn child.”

“God in the book of Deuteronomy told us that He gave us life so that you and your descendants may have life and live it to the full.”

“I say to you, choose life, because life is a gift that is bestowed. Life is a pure gift given to you… You received the gift of life from God. You must be witnesses to that gift of life, by how we live our lives.”

“We cannot give in to the father of lies, who says ‘it’s a personal choice, it’s private. It is between the individual and God. That is relativism,” Bishop Aquila said.

The American bishop also addressed what happens when an abortion occurs: “A human life is destroyed every time an abortion occurs.”

“Any Catholic who says that they are Catholic and supports the so called right to abortion, will one day stand before God and be judged by him and they will have to argue with God. What will God say to them?”

“The very salvation of theirs souls is something we must understand. Jesus did not speak lightly about the possibility of hell,” he warned.

Bishop Aquila then shared an encounter he had that exposed the reality of abortion.

“Last year I was interviewed by an media person over the position that I took over the abortion. It was obvious that she was ‘pro-abortion, although I’m sure she wouldn’t be happy to be called that,” he said.

“Let’s put God out of the equation,” the bishop said he invited her to do. “I asked her two questions. Tell me, at what point did you’re life begin? Scientifically, at what point did your life begin?”

“She did not look real happy at me, because she knew the truth, and remained silent,” said the Bishop. “She knew as well as I did that her life began when a sperm and egg met in her mother’s womb united and formed a cell.”

“My second question to her, was ‘do you think that your life has more value now, than it did when you were in your mother’s womb?’ Once again, she remained silent.”

“If we’re the ones that decide the dignity of human life, we can justify anything,” said the bishop. “We can justify Nazi Germany, the genocide of Sudan, and we can justify the killing of unborn babies. All of these can be justified if we decide the dignity of human life. Only God alone can decide the dignity of the human person.”

“That is why so many of our societies today are supporting things like abortion, assisted suicide, genocide.”

Be a witness to Jesus

“But you are to be witnesses. You are called to be witnesses, and to truly follow the teachings of God, the teachings of Scripture and the teachings of the Church,” proclaimed the Bishop.

“You are all called to be saints. Blessed Mary Mackillop heard that call. She encouraged her sisters to listen to the whisperings of God in your heart.”
The Bishop then challenged the pilgrims to reflect in the silence of their hearts.

“My dear brothers and sisters, my dearest sons and daughters, what is the whisperings of God in your heart?” asked the Bishop.

“Jesus tells us that you are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Let your light shine before many, so that what they may see by your good works, that they may give glory to God by your presence.”

Finally he encouraged the pilgrims, saying “be not afraid to be that salt, to be the light. Know that your strength is Jesus Christ, and is the Holy Spirit.”

Arc. Bishop Nichols: 'The Holy Spirit is at the heart of the Church'

'The Holy Spirit is at the heart of the Church,' says Archbishop Vincent Nichols

Sydney, Jul 17, 2008 / 09:49 am (CNA) .- Speaking to an international audience of pilgrims at WYD08 in Sydney’s Convention and Exhibition Centre on Thursday, Most Rev. Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham, England explained how the Holy Spirit is at the heart of the Church.

"The sacraments of the Church are actions which convey to us the grace of God. Whether it be the pouring of water… or the laying over of hands in the ordination of the priests, all the actions of the Mass, and each of the sacraments, are a tangible sign of the inward grace of the Holy Spirit,” said Archbishop Nichols.

He illustrated his point through a story of a woman living in Edminton, north of London, who had been coming to Church for years, without being a Catholic and not knowing why she felt compelled to go to church. Upon being asked why she eventually converted to Catholicism, she said “ whatever it is that happens on that altar touches me very deeply.”

“Those simple words point us to the heart of the church. The heart of the Church is summed up by the action of the Mass,” said Archbishop Nichols.

The Bishop stressed that he wanted the pilgrims to take two things from the Catechesis today.

Firstly, that “the Church is instituted by Christ, he was there at its beginning. Everything flows from him. It is all instituted by Jesus Christ.”

Secondly, that “the Church is constituted by the Holy Spirit. Held together, [it] finds its strength, and changes from dry bones into life, by the Holy Spirit.”

“When we are baptized, we are given a name… God’s name for us, chosen by our parents,” said the bishop. “Another bit about Baptism, that we don’t always remember is that there is a prayer in the Baptism, “that our eyes be opened, that we have a new level of perception.”

“Listen to things that are underneath the noise of everyday,” he urged the pilgrims. “All life comes to us as a gift from the Holy Spirit. Baptism introduces us, every day of our lives, to a new way of seeing and listening… Through baptism, we begin to see life differently.”

“We live in the hope that God’s word in this world will be completed, and will bring all things to fulfilment in the Church.”

However, the Bishop also urged the pilgrims to be on guard.

“What have we got to be on our guard against? We’ve got to be on our guard against the comments of people who don’t understand that the Holy Spirit is at the heart of the church.”

“Constantly, you will get in discussion of the church, a division, she’s very conservative, right wing, left wing. That’s not the language to use about the Church,” said the bishop, which attracted a loud applause.

“That’s the language of political parties and politics. That’s not the way to describe the church.”

“The Church is the work of the Holy Spirit. Don’t fall into that habit of polarizing things in the Church, or seeing it as a battleground of ideas. It isn’t, it is a mystery of God’s love in the Church.”

“The Church is like a family. If you look back to the story of Mary and John and Jesus on the Cross. Obviously, each family has disagreements, but underneath their hearts belong to each other.”

He concluded by linking the catechesis of the previous day with the Thursday’s theme. “The Holy Spirit is the tutor of our interior life. It means the Holy Spirit can guide each one of us, give us a way of longing.”

“Today we add to that- in saying that the Holy Spirit is the heart of the Church. Those things are inseparable. Once we begin to recognise and respond to Jesus, it is inevitable that we are then drawn into the life of the Church.”

“Those who love Jesus love the Church, those who love him come to Church…when you love the church more and more, you will find you want to give time and effort to be part of the life of the Church…as you learn to love the Church, you will learn to love priests, who give their life to the Church.”

Finally, he said in preparation for the Pope’s arrival, “The welcome we give to the Pope springs from the love of Christ and the Church.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Being a Christian Means Your Life Has a Mission"

SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 16, 2008 ( Here is the text of the address given by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Colorado, at "Theology on Tap" held today at P.J. Gallagher's Irish Pub in Sydney.

* * *

You hear a lot of stories when you're in a pub having a pint. So I thought I'd start our time together tonight with a story. Now, some of the tales you hear when you're sitting with friends over a beer might stretch the truth a little. But I promise: the one I'm about to tell you is true.

It's about a young man named Franz who lived about 60 years ago in a small village in Austria. Franz was the illegitimate son of a farmer who later died in World War I. He was a wild kid. Everyone recalls he was the first one in the village to drive a motorcycle. And I don't think that's because he drove safely or kept to the posted speed limits.

Franz was the leader of a gang that used to fight rival gangs in neighboring villages with knives and chains. He was something of a cad, too, and a womanizer. He got a girl pregnant and was forced to leave town. People said he went to work for a while in an iron mine.

For reasons nobody knows, Franz came back a changed man. He had always gone to church, even during his wildest days. But when he returned, he was a serious Catholic, not just a Sunday-Catholic. He started making payments to support the child he had fathered out of wedlock. He married a good Catholic woman and settled down to become a good farmer, husband and father, raising three children and serving as a lay leader in his local parish.

I'll tell you the rest of the story later. But I want to quote something Franz wrote in a letter to his godson.He wrote: "I can say from my own experience how painful life often is when one lives as a halfway Christian. It is more like vegetating than living."

I remembered Franz and those words when I started thinking about tonight's topic: "Mission Possible: This Double-Life Will Self-Destruct." Most of you aren't Americans, and you're all too young to remember the original "Mission Impossible" TV series that aired in the States in the '60s and '70s. But I suppose the organizers of my talk figured you'd all seen the Tom Cruise movies that came out a few years back.

In any event, it's a clever image. Believers today are relentlessly tempted to lead a "double life" -- to be one person when we're in church or at prayer and somebody different when we're with our friends or family, or at work, or when we talk about politics.

Part of this temptation comes from normal peer pressure. We don't want to stand out. We don't want to appear different, so we keep our religious beliefs to ourselves. It's as if we've internalized the old adage: "Never talk about religion or politics in polite company." I've never bought that line of thinking, myself. Religion, politics, social justice - these are precisely the things we should be talking about. Nothing else really matters. What could be more important than religious faith, which deals with the ultimate meaning of life, and politics, which deals with how we should organize our lives together for the common good?

So those are the things we want to talk about tonight. I think it's important, though, that we start with a kind of "diagnosis" of the culture we're living in. The reason is simple. We're living in the first age in human history where entire societies are organized according to this principle of "the double life." Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor calls our period the "secular age." How we got to this moment is far too big a subject for us tonight. The point is that in just a few centuries we've gone from living in a world where it was virtually impossible not to believe in God, to living in a world where belief in God doesn't seem to be necessary or to make any difference.

Most men and women today can live their whole lives as if God didn't exist. Of course in the West - and by "the West" I mean developed, Western-style democracies like Australia -- we're allowed to believe in God, and even to pray and worship together. But we're constantly lectured by the mass media to never "impose" our religious viewpoints on our neighbors. This curious idea is always framed as a very reasonable and enlightened way to live. You're free to believe what you want to believe; I'm free to believe what I want to believe; and the government agrees not to tell either of us what to believe or not to believe.

But things aren't as reasonable and enlightened as they seem. For example, the last time I was in Australia, your parliament was considering legislation to allow the cloning of embryonic stem-cells. This cloning would translate into an attack on the fundamental dignity of human life. And Cardinal Pell and your bishops had the courage to stand up and say so. What astounded me was the backlash their statements provoked. There was talk of charging Church leaders with intimidating MPs and tampering with the legislative process. All because they had the audacity to voice a political opinion that was based on their religious convictions.

Cases like this are cropping up more and more in the developed world. Just last month a court in Belgium dismissed charges filed against a Catholic bishop. The allegation was that this bishop was fomenting hatred of homosexuals. Of course he did nothing of the sort. All he did was articulate the Church's ancient teaching that homosexual activity is a sin and that it's detrimental to an individual's spiritual health and well-being.

In a secular age, however, this kind of opinion becomes grounds for prosecution. And these cases have a very calculated "chilling effect." They reinforce, with the threat of jail and fines, the pressures that we Catholics already feel to keep our mouths shut. To obey the "double life" rule. To define our faith as simply private prayer and personal piety.

But we know we can't do that. We can't live a half-way Christianity. The organizers of tonight's event were right. Every double life will inevitably self-destruct. The question then becomes: How are we going to live in this world? How can we lead a Christian life in a secular age?

We can't really answer that question until we get some things straight about what it means to be a Christian. And that means first getting some things straight about Jesus Christ. This is another one of the by-products of our secular age: we don't really quite know what to think about Jesus anymore. A few years before he became Pope Benedict XVI, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote something that is unfortunately very true. He wrote: "Today in broad circles, even among believers, an image has prevailed of a Jesus who demands nothing, never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything, who no longer does anything but affirm us. . . . The figure is transformed from the 'Lord' (a word that is avoided) into a man who is nothing more than the advocate of all men."

We all know people -- friends or family members or both -- who think about Jesus in these terms. It's hard to avoid. Our culture has given Jesus a make-over. We've remade him in the image and likeness of secular compassion. Today he's not the Lord, the Son of God, but more like an enlightened humanist nice guy.

The problem is this: If Jesus isn't Lord, if he isn't the Son of God, then he can't do anything for us. Then the Gospel is just one more or less interesting philosophy of life. And that's my first point about how we need to live in a secular age: We have to trust the Gospels and we have to trust the Church that gives us the Gospels. We have to truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the son of Mary. True God and true man. The One who holds the words of eternal life. If we aren't committed to that truth, then nothing else I say tonight can make any sense.

Second point: Jesus didn't come down from heaven to tell us to go to church on Sunday. He didn't die on the cross and rise from the dead so that we would pray more at home and be a little nicer to our next-door neighbors. The fact that you smile when I say these things means we know intuitively how absurd it is to imagine a privatized, part-time Christianity.

The one thing even non-believers can see is that the Gospels aren't compromise documents. Jesus wants all of us. And not just on Sundays. He wants us to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind. He wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is, with a love that's total.

We need to take Christ at his word. We need to love him like our lives depend on it. Right now. And without excuses. Remember that man who told Jesus: I'm ready to be your disciple, but first I need to plan my father's funeral? The way Jesus responds is so blunt, so disturbing: "Leave the dead to bury their own dead. Follow me and proclaim the kingdom of God." Of course, he's not commanding disrespect for our parents. What he's saying is that there can be no more urgent priority in our lives than following him and proclaiming his kingdom.

My third point flows from the first two: Being a follower of Christ is not just one among many aspects of your daily life. Being a Christian is who you are. Period. And being a Christian means your life has a mission. It means striving every day to be a better follower, to become more like Jesus in your thoughts and actions.

Blessed Charles de Foucauld once said that, "God calls all the souls he has created to love him with their whole being. . . . But he does not ask all souls to show their love by the same works, to climb to heaven by the same ladder, to achieve goodness in the same way. What sort of work, then must I do? Which is my road to heaven?"

God expects big things from each of you. That's why he made us. To love him and to serve one another, and to play our personal part in bringing about the kingdom of love. So you have to ask yourselves the same questions that Blessed Charles asked himself. What does God want you to be doing? How does he want you to follow Christ?

Now, how do you go about finding the answers to these questions? By talking to God, humbly and honestly, in prayer. By getting to know Christ better through daily reading and praying over the Gospels. By opening yourself up to the graces he gives us in the sacraments. "Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you." It's not about you choosing what you want to do with your life. It's about discovering how God wants to use your life to spread the good news of his love and his kingdom.

Blessed Charles, by the way, is one of the great stories of the 20th century. He was a Frenchman who lived most of his life like the prodigal son, squandering his inheritance on alcohol, women, and deadend pleasures. But when he came to know Jesus Christ, his life changed forever. He felt called to follow Christ literally, setting off on foot to Nazareth to devote himself to a humble life of manual labor, prayer, and charity. Some years later, his imitation of Christ led him to the Sahara Desert, where he lived as a hermit and eventually died a martyr's death.

I want to suggest tonight that most of you will find your road to heaven starting a little closer to home. To illustrate that point, let's recall a story about another holy person of the 20th century, Blessed Mother Teresa.

Maybe you've heard of Celestial Seasonings, the herbal tea company. The company was founded by a man named "Mo" Siegel in the 1960s. "Mo" was very much a child of his age -- idealistic, with a generous heart. "Mo" made millions with his brand of herbal teas. And he gave a lot of his money to worthy causes. Yet he still wasn't satisfied. So he went to India to volunteer with Mother Teresa among the poor and dying. But when she met him, she told him to go home. The little nun poked this multi-millionaire entrepreneur in the chest and told him: "Grow where you're planted."

That's my advice to you, too. Grow where you're planted. Preach the gospel with your lives no matter where you are or whatever you find yourself doing -- going to school, working, making a home. St. John of the Cross said: "Where there is no love, put love and you will draw out love." Those are good words to live by. Put real love into everything you do. Not a vague, sentimental warm feeling. That kind of love doesn't mean anything because it doesn't cost you anything. No. Jesus wants a love that comes from the heart, a love that sacrifices for others as he sacrificed for us.

One final point before we begin our questions and discussion tonight. And it's this: Love the Church; love her as your mother and teacher. Help to build her up, to purify her life and work. We all get angry when we see human weakness and sin in the Church. But we have to remember always that the Church is much, much more than the sum of her human parts.

The Church is the Bride of Christ. The Spirit that worked in Jesus Christ and in his apostles is still at work in the Church. Jesus promised his apostles that when they teach, it will be he who is teaching. That when they forgive sins, it will be he who forgives. That when they say his words, "This is my body," the bread and wine will become his body and blood. Jesus doesn't forget his promises. Where the Church is, Jesus Christ is. Until the end of the age. And we always want to be where Christ is, because there is no way home to God except through him.

So love the Church. And this is crucial: Know what the Church teaches. What the Church teaches is what Christ wants you and everyone else to know -- for our own good and for our salvation. Know what the Church teaches so you can live those teachings and share those teachings with others.

The leaders of today's secularized societies like to fancy themselves as true humanists and humanitarians. But these same societies justify killing millions of babies in the womb and dismembering embryos in the laboratory. We dispatch the handicapped and the elderly and call it "death with dignity." Our very language has become distorted. The family is no longer the covenant communion of man and woman that leads to new life and hence the future of society. In fact, there are so few babies being born now in developed, Western-style countries that we have to wonder whether our civilization has lost its will to survive.

Only the Church stands up against these inhuman trends in our societies. It's your mission, as lay men and lay women, to ensure that Christ's teaching is preached and explained and defended at every level of our society -- in politics, in the workplace, in the culture. This takes real courage. There are all sorts of pressures, subtle and not so subtle, to sell out Jesus. To water down or diminish his Gospel. To pick and choose among his teachings. But we can't do that. Make a promise to Jesus Christ never to contradict the Church's teachings by your words or actions.

The Gospel is not just rules and "thou-shalt nots." It's the path to leading a heavenly life on earth. The way of life that alone brings true happiness and lasting joy. This age encourages us to seek a fool's paradise. To imagine that happiness is found in doing whatever we want to do. That's a snare. And many of our brothers and sisters are caught in that trap.

Only the truth can set people free. That truth is Jesus Christ. So if we truly love our neighbors we will want them to know the truth. The whole truth. Not just the parts of it that make them feel good, the parts that don't challenge them to change.

It's not possible for real Christians to lead a double life. We'll self-destruct. Or worse still, we'll just waste away. It will be like what Franz said. Being a half-way Christian is like being a vegetable. It's not a life. It's barely an existence.

I guess it's time for me to tell you the rest of the story about Franz.

The Nazis invaded Austria in 1938. Unlike most of his neighbors, Franz refused to cooperate in any way with the regime because he considered Hitler to be an enemy of Christ and the Church. For five years he waged a lonely campaign of resistance. Finally, he was arrested for refusing an order to enlist in the Nazi army.

While awaiting his sentence, many people, including his family and his local priest, urged him to pay lip-service to the regime and thereby spare his life. Franz wouldn't do it.

So 65 years ago, on August 9, 1943, Franz died on a Nazi guillotine. Today we remember him as Blessed Franz Jägerstätter -- a martyr for the truth that a Catholic can never lead a double-life. That there can be no such thing as a half-way Christian.

Blessed Franz wrote beautiful letters to his wife from prison. In one of them he talked about the great martyrs of the Church. He wrote: "If we hope to reach our goal some day, then we, too, must become heroes of the faith. For as long as we fear men more than God, we will never make the grade." Another time he wrote: "The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity."

Let me leave you with those thoughts. May you all strive to be heroes of the faith. And may you put every day to good use for eternity. Thank you.

Archbishop Chaput urges Sydney youth to shun ‘part-time Christianity’

Archbishop Chaput urges Sydney youth to shun ‘part-time Christianity’

Sydney, Jul 16, 2008 / 07:34 am (CNA) .- Charles J. Chaput, the Archbishop of Denver, spoke in Sydney on Wednesday night at a Theology on Tap session as part of a World Youth Day Youth Festival Event. In a speech which will be broadcast on the Australian television station Channel Nine, he exhorted young Catholics to avoid living a double life of “part-time Christianity,” and to know and love Christ “like our lives depend on it.”

Addressing a crowd of young people in P.J. Gallagher’s Irish Pub in Sydney, Archbishop Chaput said that Christian believers are pressured to live a “double life,” that is, “to be one person when we’re in church or at prayer and somebody different when we’re with our friends or family, or at work, or when we talk about politics.” He said Catholics should not internalize the “old adage” to avoid talking about religion and politics.

“These are precisely the things we should be talking about,” the archbishop argued. “Nothing else really matters. What could be more important than religious faith, which deals with the ultimate meaning of life, and politics, which deals with how we should organize our lives together for the common good?”

The archbishop noted how Australian bishops’ opposition to a bill that would allow the cloning of embryonic stem cells, opposition which he called courageous, was greeted with talk about charging Catholic leaders with intimidating Ministers of Parliament and tampering with the legislative process.

“All because they had the audacity to voice a political opinion that was based on their religious convictions,” Archbishop Chaput said. He further noted that a Belgian bishop had even faced criminal charges, which were dismissed, for explaining Church teaching that homosexual activity is a sin.

The archbishop continued, “these cases have a very calculated ‘chilling effect.’ They reinforce, with the threat of jail and fines, the pressures that we Catholics already feel to keep our mouths shut. To obey the ‘double life’ rule. To define our faith as simply private prayer and personal piety.”

But Christians cannot “live a half-way Christianity.” “Every double life will inevitably self-destruct,” Archbishop Chaput insisted.

The way to lead a Christian life in a secular age, he said, rests on knowing what to think about Jesus despite popular misconceptions about him.

The archbishop quoted a statement from the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, who said an influential view of Jesus holds that he was someone “who demands nothing, never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything, who no longer does anything but affirm us.”

“We’ve remade him in the image and likeness of secular compassion,” Archbishop Chaput elaborated. “Today he’s not the Lord, the Son of God, but more like an enlightened humanist nice guy.”

“The problem is this: If Jesus isn’t Lord, if he isn’t the Son of God, then he can’t do anything for us. Then the Gospel is just one more or less interesting philosophy of life.”

The archbishop critiqued another misconception of Jesus, saying:

“Jesus didn’t come down from heaven to tell us to go to church on Sunday. He didn’t die on the cross and rise from the dead so that we would pray more at home and be a little nicer to our next-door neighbors. The fact that you smile when I say these things means we know intuitively how absurd it is to imagine a privatized, part-time Christianity.”

Rather than believe such false conceptions, he said, “we need to take Christ at his word. We need to love him like our lives depend on it. Right now. And without excuses.”

“Jesus wants all of us. And not just on Sundays. He wants us to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind. He wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is, with a love that’s total.”

Being a follower of Christ is not just one part of life. “Being a Christian is who you are. Period. And being a Christian means your life has a mission. It means striving every day to be a better follower, to become more like Jesus in your thoughts and actions.”

Archbishop Chaput invoked as model Christians Blessed Charles de Foucauld and Blessed Franz Jagerstatter. The former, he said, asked himself what God wanted of him and how he should follow Christ. The latter man, an Austrian, refused to cooperate with the Nazi regime and was executed as what the archbishop described as “a martyr for the truth that a Catholic can never lead a double-life.”

He exhorted the audience to prayer, “talking to God, humbly and honestly,” to daily reading of the Gospels, and to study the teachings of the Church.

“Love the Church; love her as your mother and teacher,” he counseled. “Help to build her up, to purify her life and work. We all get angry when we see human weakness and sin in the Church. But we have to remember always that the Church is much, much more than the sum of her human parts.”

He asked the audience to explain and to defend Christian teaching at every level of society in the face of “inhuman trends.”

“The leaders of today’s secularized societies like to fancy themselves as true humanists and humanitarians,” Archbishop Chaput said. “But these same societies justify killing millions of babies in the womb and dismembering embryos in the laboratory. We dispatch the handicapped and the elderly and call it ‘death with dignity.’ Our very language has become distorted.”

Without the truth of Christ, he said, Christians living a double life will self-destruct or, worse, merely waste away.

“Only the truth can set people free. That truth is Jesus Christ. So if we truly love our neighbors we will want them to know the truth. The whole truth. Not just the parts of it that make them feel good, the parts that don’t challenge them to change.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"Look Ahead to the Future Stretching Out Before You"

Cardinal Pell's Homily at Youth Day Opening
"Look Ahead to the Future Stretching Out Before You"

SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 15, 2008 ( Here is the homily Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, gave today at the opening Mass of World Youth Day at Barangaroo.

The readings for today's Mass were: Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 23; Galatians 5:16-17, 22-25; Luke 8:4-15.

* * *

We all know that Christ Our Lord is often described as the Good Shepherd of today’s responsorial psalm. We are told that he leads us near restful waters, revives our flagging spirits, enables us to rest peacefully.

In developing this image on one occasion, Jesus explained that such a shepherd was prepared to leave the ninety-nine sheep to search out the one who was lost.

Few countries today have a shepherd who cares for only 20 or 30 sheep, and in Australia with large farms and huge flocks Our Lord’s advice is not very practical. If the lost sheep was valuable and probably healthy, it might make sense to take the time to search for it. More usually it would be left behind or its absence not even noticed.

Jesus was saying that both He and His Father are not like this, because He knows each one of His sheep and like a good father he goes searching for the lost one he loves, particularly if he is sick, or in trouble, or unable to help himself.

Earlier in this Mass I welcomed you all to this World Youth Day week and I repeat that welcome now. But I do not begin with the ninety-nine healthy sheep, those of you already open to the Spirit, perhaps already steady witnesses to faith and love. I begin by welcoming and encouraging any one, anywhere who regards himself or herself as lost, in deep distress, with hope diminished or even exhausted.

Young or old, woman or man, Christ is still calling those who are suffering to come to him for healing, as he has for two thousand years. The causes of the wounds are quite secondary, whether they be drugs or alcohol, family breakups, the lusts of the flesh, loneliness or a death. Perhaps even the emptiness of success.

Christ’s call is to all who are suffering, not just to Catholics or other Christians, but especially to those without religion. Christ is calling you home; to love, healing and community.

Our first reading today was from Ezekiel, with Isaiah and Jeremiah one of the three greatest Jewish prophets. Many parts of Australia are still in drought, so all Australians understand a valley of dry bones and fleshless skeletons. But this grim vision is offered first of all to any and all of you who are even tempted to say “our hope is gone, we are as good as dead”.

This is never true while we can still choose. While there is life there is always the option of hope and with Christian hope come faith and love. Until the end we are always able to choose and act.

This vision of the valley of the dry bones, the most spectacular in the whole of the Bible, was given when the hand of God came upon Ezekiel while the Jews were in captivity in Babylon, probably earlier rather than later in the sixth century B.C. For about 150 years the political fortunes of the Jewish people had been in decline, first of all at the hands of the Assyrians. Later in 587 B.C. came the final catastrophic defeat and their transportation into exile. The Jewish people were in despair, powerless to change their situation.

This is the historical background to Ezekiel’s dramatic vision where the dead were well dead, whitened skeletons as the birds of prey had long finished their ghastly business of stripping off the flesh. It was an immense battlefield of the unburied.

A hesitant and reluctant Ezekiel was urged by God to prophesy to these bones and as he did so the bones rushed together noisily, accompanied by an earthquake. Sinews knitted them together, flesh and then skin clothed the corpses.

Another stage was needed and the breath, or Spirit, came from the four corners of the earth as the bodies came “to life again and stood up on their feet, a great and immense army”.

While we now see this vision as a pre-figuration of the resurrection of the dead, the Jews of Ezekiel’s time did not believe in such a conception of the afterlife. For them the immense resurrected army represented all the Jewish people, those from the northern kingdom taken off to Assyria, those at home and those in Babylon. They were to be reconstituted as a people in their own land and they would know that the one true God alone had done this. And all this came to pass.

Over the centuries we Christians have used this passage liturgically at Easter, especially for the baptism of catechumens on Holy Saturday night and it is, of course, a powerful image of the one true God’s regenerative power for this life and eternity.

Secular wisdom claims that leopards do not change their spots, but we Christians believe in the power of the Spirit to convert and change persons away from evil to good; from fear and uncertainty to faith and hope.

Believers are heartened by Ezekiel’s vision, because we know the power of God’s forgiveness, the capacity of Christ and the Catholic tradition to cause new life to flourish even in unlikely circumstances.

That same power glimpsed in Ezekiel’s vision is offered to us today, to all of us without exception. You young pilgrims can look ahead to the future stretching out before you, so rich in promise. The Gospel parable of the sower and the seen reminds you of the great opportunity you have to embrace your vocation and produce an abundant harvest, a hundredfold crop.

Matthew, Mark and Luke all place this story of the sower at the beginning of their collection of Jesus’ parables. It explains some fundamental truths about the challenges of Christian discipleship and lists the alternatives to a fruitful Christian life. Fidelity is not automatic or inevitable.

One detail makes the parable more plausible, because it seems the Jews in Our Lord’s time threw the seed on the ground before they ploughed it, so explaining a little better the seed being in unlikely places rather than just in the furrows.

Are we amongst those whose faith has already been snatched away by the devil, as Our Lord explained the image of the birds of the sky gobbling up the seed? No one at this Mass would be in that category. Some might be like the seed on rocky ground which could not put down roots. Those here in this second category are likely to be striving to start again in the spiritual life, or at least examining the possibility of doing so. But most of us are in the third and fourth categories, where the seed has fallen on good soil and is growing and flourishing; or we are in danger of being choked off by the worries of life. All of us, including those who are no longer young, have to pray for wisdom and perseverance.

I have no problem in believing that Our Lord spelt out the meaning of this parable to his closest followers and that he would have been asked by them regularly to do so. But the disciples’ enquiries provoked a disconcerting response, when Our Lord divides his listeners into two groups; those to whom the mysteries of the Kingdom are revealed and the rest for whom the parables remain only parables. This second group is described in words from the prophet Isaiah as those who “may see but not perceive, listen but not understand”. Probably the background to this is the amazement of Our Lord’s disciples at the large number who did not accept his teaching.

Why is this still so? What must we do to be among those for whom the mysteries of the Kingdom are revealed?

The call of the one true God remains mysterious, especially today when many good people find it hard to believe. Even in the time of the prophets many of their hearers remained spiritually deaf and blind, while any number over the ages have admired the beauty of Jesus’ teaching, but never been moved to answer his call.

Our task is to be open to the power of the Spirit, to allow the God of surprises to act through us. Human motivation is complex and mysterious, because sometimes very strong Catholics, and other strong Christians, can be prayerful and regularly good, but also very determined not to take even one further step. On the other hand, some followers of Christ can be much less zealous and faithful, but open to development, to change for the better because they realize their unworthiness and their ignorance. Where do you stand?

Whatever our situation we must pray for an openness of heart, for a willingness to take the next step, even if we are fearful of venturing too much further. If we take God’s hand, He will do the rest. Trust is the key. God will not fail us.

How can we work to avoid slipping from the last and best category of the fruit bearers into those “who are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life” and so do not produce much fruit at all?

The second reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians points us in the correct direction, reminding us all that each person must declare himself in the age-old struggle between good and evil, between what Paul calls the flesh and the Spirit. It is not good enough to be only a passenger, to try to live in “no-mans land” between the warring parties. Life forces us to choose, eventually destroys any possibility of neutrality.

We will bring forth good fruit by learning the language of the Cross and inscribing it on our hearts. The language of the Cross brings us the fruits of the Spirit which Paul lists, enables us to experience peace and joy, to be regularly kind and generous to others. Following Christ is not cost free, not always easy, because it requires struggling against what St. Paul calls “the flesh”, our fat relentless egos, old fashioned selfishness. It is always a battle, even for old people like me!

Don’t spend your life sitting on the fence, keeping your options open, because only commitments bring fulfilment. Happiness comes from meeting our obligations, doing our duty, especially in small matters and regularly, so we can rise to meet the harder challenges. Many have found their life’s calling at World Youth Days.

To be a disciple of Jesus requires discipline, especially self discipline; what Paul calls self control. The practice of self control won’t make you perfect (it hasn’t with me), but self control is necessary to develop and protect the love in our hearts and prevent others, especially our family and friends, from being hurt by our lapses into nastiness or laziness.

I pray that through the power of the Spirit all of you will join that immense army of saints, healed and reborn, which was revealed to Ezekiel, which has enriched human history for countless generations and which is rewarded in the after-life of heaven.

Let me conclude by adapting one of the most powerful sermons of St. Augustine, the finest theologian of the first millennium and a bishop inthe small North African town of Hippo around 1600 years ago.

I expect that in the next five days of prayer and celebration that your spirits will rise, as mine always does, in the excitement of this World Youth Day. Please God we shall all be glad that we participated, despite the cost, hassles and distances travelled. During this week we have every right to rejoice and celebrate the liberation of our repentance, the rejuvenation of our faith. We are called to open our hearts to the power of the Spirit. And to the young ones I give a gentle reminder that in your enthusiasm and excitement you do not forget to listen and pray!

Many of you have travelled such a long way that you may believe that you have arrived, indeed, at the ends of earth! If so, that’s good, for Our Lord told his first apostles that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth. That prophesy has been fulfilled in the witness of many missionaries to this vast southern continent, and it is fulfilled yet again in your presence here.

But these days will pass too quickly and next week we shall return to earth. For a time some of you will find the real world of home and parish, work or study, flat and disappointing.

Soon, too soon, you will all be going away. Briefly we are now here in Sydney at the centre of the Catholic world, but next week the Holy Father will return to Rome, we Sydneysiders will return to our parishes, while you, now visiting pilgrims, will go back to your homes in places near and far.

In other words during next week we shall be parting from one another. But when we part after these happy days, let us never part from our loving God and his Son Jesus Christ. And may Mary, Mother of God, whom we invoke in this World Youth Day as Our Lady of the Southern Cross, strengthen us in this resolution.

And so I pray. Come, come O Breath of God, from the four winds, from all the nations and peoples of the earth and bless our Great South Land of the Holy Spirit.

Empower us also to be another great and immense army of humble servants and faithful witnesses.And we make this prayer to God our Father in the name of Christ his Son. Amen. Amen.George Cardinal PellArchbishop of Sydney

Bishop Pepe: How is the Holy Spirit calling you?

How is the Holy Spirit calling you? asks Bishop Pepe

Sydney, Jul 16, 2008 / 02:08 am (CNA) .- Around 400 youth packed St. Benedict's Church to hear Bishop Joseph Pepe of Las Vegas, Nevada deliver a catechesis on the Holy Spirit on Wednesday morning. The bishop challenged the youth to ask how the Holy Spirit is calling them vocationally.

During World Youth Day, catechesis or teaching sessions will be conducted in 29 languages in 235 different locations throughout Sydney.

Catechesis, which comes from the Greek word for echo, consists of a time of teaching where Catholic bishops from around the world fulfill their role as successors to the apostles by echoing their teaching. Sessions will involve a time of teaching, followed by a time for questions and answers. Most sessions will conclude with the celebration of the Eucharist and lunch.

Over the next three days, the themes of the catechesis are centred on the Holy Spirit and Mission’ as part of the Pentecost event.

The Most Reverend Joseph Pepe, led the catechesis at the University of Notre Dame on today’s theme, titled “Called to live in the Holy Spirit,” which focussed on the scripture verse “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit,” (Gal 5:25).

“The Holy Spirit is a mysterious force, but certainly a powerful one, which we don’t often think about,” he told over 400 pilgrims who lined the halls of the University’s St. Benedict’s church, leaving standing room only.

After inviting the pilgrims to blow on their hands and then hold their breath for a brief moment, he said, “Breath is the essence of life, and yet is it so subtle… The Spirit is also subtle, and mysterious to us, yet He is the breath that is gentle, yet so present, and so powerful because we need Him to have life.”

He offered the pilgrims another contrasting description of the Holy Spirit, as “an image of fire, burning the world causing a tremendous change and transformation.”

The Holy Spirit is present in many instances in the Bible, said Bishop Pepe. With reference to Genesis, he spoke of how “the Holy Spirit came out of God the creator to transform water into chaos.”

The Holy Spirit was present in the exodus of ancient Israelites from Egypt, where he told the pilgrims, “our God breathed on the water and parted them so that the people could walk to freedom, to a promised land.”

“The Spirit worked to make these ancient people to make them more aware of each other and more aware that God was part of their lives.”

The Spirit is such a powerful force that “He descended on the womb of Mary to conceive the Son of God,” he said to pilgrims.

Bishop Pepe asked pilgrims to imagine all the elements that brought them here today, to remind them that the Holy Spirit that made that possible.

How to Live in the Holy Spirit

“Jesus is a transforming power in our lives,” said Bishop Pepe, “It is through the Holy Spirit that we received in Baptism that we can be transformed.”

“Our faith and our gift of faith is always a gift. We have been transformed into a new life. Jesus Christ made it possible to have this divine life. It gives us happiness, peace, a sense of presence of God in life, and great love that will last forever.”

“Gaining more knowledge of the Holy Spirit is an opportunity to become personally involved in God, to be come more aware of Him, and to integrate Him into your life,” said Bishop Pepe.

He finally asked the pilgrims to discern through the Holy Spirit what God was calling them to.

“What is God calling you to? Is He calling you to difficult challenges, special life in vocation, priesthood or religious life? Is He calling you to be a husband, wife, or to single life?” asked the Bishop.

Whatever the path they discerned, he urged them to “take the word of God and make it living… People experience the message of Jesus in a living way.”

After Bishop Pepe celebrated Mass with the pilgrims he told Catholic News Agency that delivering a catechesis to the large group of youth was “overwhelming.”

“It was awesome to see the faith of young people there, to see how many have come to hear and to listen to the word of the Lord. You feel like you are an instrument of God.”

“When he was talking about how the Holy Spirit was like breathing, and how necessary it was though subtle, [that] really struck me,” said Jeffery, a young pilgrim from California.

“I came to World Youth Day to “bolster my faith. [Bishop Pepe] really put the Holy Spirit and the Trinity in good perspective,” said Mike, one of 150 pilgrims attending Chaminade and Kellenberg on Long Island, New York who travelled to World Youth Day.

Arch Bishop Chaput on Listening to the Holy Spirit

Denver archbishop teaches WYD pilgrims about listening to the Holy Spirit

Sydney, Jul 15, 2008 / 11:31 pm (CNA) .- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput spoke to World Youth Day participants in a teaching session titled, “Called to live in the Holy Spirit” on Wednesday morning. During his address he explained the importance of listening to the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit in today’s ‘violent’ world.

Archbishop Chaput of Denver began his catechesis on the Holy Spirit by asking the young pilgrims to reflect on the Holy Spirit, who is described in the Creed as “The giver of Life!”

“What do we thirst for more than anything else in the world? Life. We want as much life as we can get. We want a long life, a happy life, a healthy life. Everything we hope for is somehow summarized in that powerful word, ‘life’,” the archbishop said.

“So if the Holy Spirit is the giver of life, it means He’s the one that brings us to a full understanding and union with the real Jesus Christ -- not with the ‘nice guy’ or interesting teacher that the world would prefer Jesus to be, but the true Jesus Christ who is the only Son of the Father, the Savior of the world, and the source of all life and happiness for you, for me and for all humanity.”

The Holy Spirit as a dove?

The archbishop went on to explain that usually, in Catholic imagery, the Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove. “But have you ever wondered, Why a dove? Maybe one of the reasons is that there’s nothing threatening about a dove. A dove typically embodies purity, beauty and gentleness. The kindness of the Holy Spirit operating in our lives is exactly the opposite of the violence that the world and the devil rely on.”

However, this violence “isn’t always bloody. Some things can feel very pleasant but leave a deep wound that we only discover much later.”

The archbishop went on to say that every day, all people – including the faithful, “drink in a river of bad ideas pushed by marketers who want your money, your approval and your conformity -- and they make very sure they get it by using the radio, television, internet, popular songs and peer pressure to wrap you up in, like a spider getting ready for dinner. Today’s popular culture is based on a message that seems liberating, but it actually diminishes your humanity. …In a nutshell, the modern world suggests that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. If someone else suffers as a consequence, if some damage is unintentionally done to other people by your actions, well, that’s not your fault.”

The archbishop then spoke of the irony of when some young people criticize authority “claiming they want to be ‘free’ or that they want to ‘live their own lives,” but then dress exactly “the same way, listen to the same music, follow the same fashions and generally behave not like social reformers, but like lemmings.”

“It’s the worst kind of slavery,” he continued, “when corporations and fashion designers and political opinion makers treat people like chumps. They trick a whole generation into doing what the world demands, while at the same time telling young people that they’re ‘free,’ ‘original’ and even ‘revolutionary’.”

In contrast, “God acts in a completely different way. That’s why the Holy Spirit is shown as a dove: He reveals to us the truth, helps us understand who Jesus really is, and calls us to a radically new life in Christ. But He never forces us or deceives us into doing anything we don't willingly choose to do. That’s real freedom: when we choose, against our shortcomings and temptations from the world, to live the true life brought to us by Jesus Christ.”

“In an age when our minds are soaked by so many distractions, it’s not easy to experience the Holy Spirit and his action in our lives,” Archbishop Chaput observed.

He called to mind what “the great Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, wrote about the Holy Spirit: ‘Do not be worried or surprised if you find the Holy Spirit rather vaguer or more shadowy in your mind than the other two persons [of the Trinity]. In the Christian life you are not usually looking at [the Holy Spirit]: He is always acting through you. If you think of the Father as someone in front of you, and of the Son as someone standing at your side, helping you to pray, trying to turn you into another son, then you have to think of the third Person as someone inside you’.”

Living a Christian Life

The archbishop went on to describe a life marked by the virtues of the Holy Spirit: “a life that is pure, devout, chaste, generous to the poor and to those in need, courageous in protecting the human person from the moment of conception to natural death. And you’re asked in a special way to be generous to God, being ready to leave everything behind and follow His calling, be it to priestly, consecrated or married life.”

“This isn’t an easy task. And you know that too, of course. But the good news is that God also knows that it can be difficult, and so He has sent us his Holy Spirit, our Friend, our Comforter and our Counselor.”

“The Holy Spirit is the one who brings us ‘rest and relief’ in the midst of our toils; the one who provides ‘rest and ease’ in our struggle with the anxieties of every age, especially this age which is our own, so filled with hopes and fears. The Holy Spirit is the one who brings consolation when our hearts grieve, and when we’re tempted to despair.”

In conclusion, Archbishop Chaput told the young pilgrims that with the gift of the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t matter how insurmountable the challenge may appear. “God is stronger, Love is stronger. Grace is stronger. So, like every generation of Christians before us, and even in the midst of this difficult age, we have every reason to take joy in the phrase that Pope John Paul turned into his motto: ‘Be not afraid!’”

Monday, July 14, 2008

Message of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Young People of the World

Message of the Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Young People of the World on the Occasion of the XXIII World Youth Day, 2008

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;
and you will be my witnesses ” (Acts 1:8)

My dear young friends!

1. The XXIII World Youth Day

I always remember with great joy the various occasions we spent together in Cologne in August 2005. At the end of that unforgettable manifestation of faith and enthusiasm that remains engraved on my spirit and on my heart, I made an appointment with you for the next gathering that will be held in Sydney in 2008. This will be the XXIII World Youth Day and the theme will be: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). The underlying theme of the spiritual preparation for our meeting in Sydney is the Holy Spirit and mission. In 2006 we focussed our attention on the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth. Now in 2007 we are seeking a deeper understanding of the Spirit of Love. We will continue our journey towards World Youth Day 2008 by reflecting on the Spirit of Fortitude and Witness that gives us the courage to live according to the Gospel and to proclaim it boldly. Therefore it is very important that each one of you young people - in your communities, and together with those responsible for your education - should be able to reflect on this Principal Agent of salvation history, namely the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Jesus. In this way you will be able to achieve the following lofty goals: to recognize the Spirit’s true identity, principally by listening to the Word of God in the Revelation of the Bible; to become clearly aware of his continuous, active presence in the life of the Church, especially as you rediscover that the Holy Spirit is the “soul”, the vital breath of Christian life itself, through the sacraments of Christian initiation - Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist; to grow thereby in an understanding of Jesus that becomes ever deeper and more joyful and, at the same time, to put the Gospel into practice at the dawn of the third millennium. In this message I gladly offer you an outline for meditation that you can explore during this year of preparation. In this way you can test the quality of your faith in the Holy Spirit, rediscover it if it is lost, strengthen it if it has become weak, savour it as fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ, brought about by the indispensable working of the Holy Spirit. Never forget that the Church, in fact humanity itself, all the people around you now and those who await you in the future, expect much from you young people, because you have within you the supreme gift of the Father, the Spirit of Jesus.

2. The promise of the Holy Spirit in the Bible

Attentive listening to the Word of God concerning the mystery and action of the Holy Spirit opens us up to great and inspiring insights that I shall summarize in the following points.

Shortly before his Ascension, Jesus said to his disciples: “And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you” (Lk 24:49). This took place on the day of Pentecost when they were together in prayer in the Upper Room with the Virgin Mary. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the nascent Church was the fulfilment of a promise made much earlier by God, announced and prepared throughout the Old Testament.

In fact, right from its opening pages, the Bible presents the spirit of God as the wind that “was moving over the face of the waters” (cf. Gen 1:2). It says that God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7), thereby infusing him with life itself. After original sin, the life-giving spirit of God is seen several times in the history of humankind, calling forth prophets to exhort the chosen people to return to God and to observe his commandments faithfully. In the well-known vision of the prophet Ezekiel, God, with his spirit, restores to life the people of Israel, represented by the “dry bones” (cf. 37:1-14). Joel prophesied an “outpouring of the spirit” over all the people, excluding no one. The sacred author wrote: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh ... Even upon the menservants and maidservants, in those days, I will pour out my spirit” (3:1-2).

In “the fullness of time” (cf. Gal 4:4), the angel of the Lord announced to the Virgin of Nazareth that the Holy Spirit, “the power of the Most High”, would come upon her and overshadow her. The child to be born would be holy and would be called Son of God (cf. Lk 1:35). In the words of the prophet Isaiah, the Messiah would be the one on whom the Spirit of the Lord would rest (cf. 11:1-2; 42:1). This is the prophecy that Jesus took up again at the start of his public ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth. To the amazement of those present, he said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour” (Lk 4:18-19; cf. Is 61:1-2). Addressing those present, he referred those prophetic words to himself by saying: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). Again, before his death on the Cross, he would tell his disciples several times about the coming of the Holy Spirit, the “Counselor” whose mission would be to bear witness to him and to assist believers by teaching them and guiding them to the fullness of Truth (cf. Jn 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26; 16:13).

3. Pentecost, the point of departure for the Church’s mission

On the evening of the day of resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples, “he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn 20:22). With even greater power the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. We read in the Acts of the Apostles: “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them” (2:2-3).

The Holy Spirit renewed the Apostles from within, filling them with a power that would give them courage to go out and boldly proclaim that “Christ has died and is risen!” Freed from all fear, they began to speak openly with self-confidence (cf. Acts 2:29; 4:13; 4:29,31). These frightened fishermen had become courageous heralds of the Gospel. Even their enemies could not understand how “uneducated and ordinary men” (cf. Acts 4:13) could show such courage and endure difficulties, suffering and persecution with joy. Nothing could stop them. To those who tried to silence them they replied: “We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). This is how the Church was born, and from the day of Pentecost she has not ceased to spread the Good News “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

4. The Holy Spirit, soul of the Church and principle of communion

If we are to understand the mission of the Church, we must go back to the Upper Room where the disciples remained together (cf. Lk 24:49), praying with Mary, the “Mother”, awaiting the Spirit that had been promised. This icon of the nascent Church should be a constant source of inspiration for every Christian community. Apostolic and missionary fruitfulness is not principally due to programmes and pastoral methods that are cleverly drawn up and “efficient”, but is the result of the community’s constant prayer (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 75). Moreover, for the mission to be effective, communities must be united, that is, they must be “of one heart and soul” (cf. Acts 4:32), and they must be ready to witness to the love and joy that the Holy Spirit instils in the hearts of the faithful (cf. Acts 2:42). The Servant of God John Paul II wrote that, even prior to action, the Church’s mission is to witness and to live in a way that shines out to others (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 26). Tertullian tells us that this is what happened in the early days of Christianity when pagans were converted on seeing the love that reigned among Christians: “See how they love one another” (cf. Apology, 39 § 7).

To conclude this brief survey of the Word of God in the Bible, I invite you to observe how the Holy Spirit is the highest gift of God to humankind, and therefore the supreme testimony of his love for us, a love that is specifically expressed as the “yes to life” that God wills for each of his creatures. This “yes to life” finds its fullness in Jesus of Nazareth and in his victory over evil by means of the redemption. In this regard, let us never forget that the Gospel of Jesus, precisely because of the Spirit, cannot be reduced to a mere statement of fact, for it is intended to be “good news for the poor, release for captives, sight for the blind ...”. With what great vitality this was seen on the day of Pentecost, as it became the grace and the task of the Church towards the world, her primary mission!

We are the fruits of this mission of the Church through the working of the Holy Spirit. We carry within us the seal of the Father’s love in Jesus Christ which is the Holy Spirit. Let us never forget this, because the Spirit of the Lord always remembers every individual, and wishes, particularly through you young people, to stir up the wind and fire of a new Pentecost in the world.

5. The Holy Spirit as “Teacher of the interior life”

My dear young friends, the Holy Spirit continues today to act with power in the Church, and the fruits of the Spirit are abundant in the measure in which we are ready to open up to this power that makes all things new. For this reason it is important that each one of us know the Spirit, establish a relationship with Him and allow ourselves to be guided by Him. However, at this point a question naturally arises: who is the Holy Spirit for me? It is a fact that for many Christians He is still the “great unknown”. This is why, as we prepare for the next World Youth Day, I wanted to invite you to come to know the Holy Spirit more deeply at a personal level. In our profession of faith we proclaim: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son” (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed). Yes, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the love of the Father and of the Son, is the Source of life that makes us holy, “because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). Nevertheless, it is not enough to know the Spirit; we must welcome Him as the guide of our souls, as the “Teacher of the interior life” who introduces us to the Mystery of the Trinity, because He alone can open us up to faith and allow us to live it each day to the full. The Spirit impels us forward towards others, enkindles in us the fire of love, makes us missionaries of God’s charity.

I know very well that you young people hold in your hearts great appreciation and love for Jesus, and that you desire to meet Him and speak with Him. Indeed, remember that it is precisely the presence of the Spirit within us that confirms, constitutes and builds our person on the very Person of Jesus crucified and risen. So let us become familiar with the Holy Spirit in order to be familiar with Jesus.

6. The Sacraments of Confirmation and the Eucharist

You might ask, how can we allow ourselves to be renewed by the Holy Spirit and to grow in our spiritual lives? The answer, as you know, is this: we can do so by means of the Sacraments, because faith is born and is strengthened within us through the Sacraments, particularly those of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist, which are complementary and inseparable (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1285). This truth concerning the three Sacraments that initiate our lives as Christians is perhaps neglected in the faith life of many Christians. They view them as events that took place in the past and have no real significance for today, like roots that lack life-giving nourishment. It happens that many young people distance themselves from their life of faith after they have received Confirmation. There are also young people who have not even received this sacrament. Yet it is through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and then, in an ongoing way, the Eucharist, that the Holy Spirit makes us children of the Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, capable of a true witness to the Gospel, and able to savour the joy of faith.

I therefore invite you to reflect on what I am writing to you. Nowadays it is particularly necessary to rediscover the sacrament of Confirmation and its important place in our spiritual growth. Those who have received the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation should remember that they have become “temples of the Spirit”: God lives within them. Always be aware of this and strive to allow the treasure within you to bring forth fruits of holiness. Those who are baptized but have not yet received the sacrament of Confirmation, prepare to receive it knowing that in this way you will become “complete” Christians, since Confirmation perfects baptismal grace (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1302-1304).

Confirmation gives us special strength to witness to and glorify God with our whole lives (cf. Rom 12:1). It makes us intimately aware of our belonging to the Church, the “Body of Christ”, of which we are all living members, in solidarity with one another (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-25). By allowing themselves to be guided by the Spirit, each baptized person can bring his or her own contribution to the building up of the Church because of the charisms given by the Spirit, for “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7). When the Spirit acts, he brings his fruits to the soul, namely “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22). To those of you who have not yet received the sacrament of Confirmation, I extend a cordial invitation to prepare to receive it, and to seek help from your priests. It is a special occasion of grace that the Lord is offering you. Do not miss this opportunity!

I would like to add a word about the Eucharist. In order to grow in our Christian life, we need to be nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ. In fact, we are baptized and confirmed with a view to the Eucharist (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1322; Sacramentum Caritatis, 17). “Source and summit” of the Church’s life, the Eucharist is a “perpetual Pentecost” since every time we celebrate Mass we receive the Holy Spirit who unites us more deeply with Christ and transforms us into Him. My dear young friends, if you take part frequently in the eucharistic celebration, if you dedicate some of your time to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Source of love which is the Eucharist, you will acquire that joyful determination to dedicate your lives to following the Gospel. At the same time it will be your experience that whenever our strength is not enough, it is the Holy Spirit who transforms us, filling us with his strength and making us witnesses suffused by the missionary fervour of the risen Christ.

7. The need and urgency of mission

Many young people view their lives with apprehension and raise many questions about their future. They anxiously ask: How can we fit into a world marked by so many grave injustices and so much suffering? How should we react to the selfishness and violence that sometimes seem to prevail? How can we give full meaning to life? How can we help to bring it about that the fruits of the Spirit mentioned above, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (no. 6), can fill this scarred and fragile world, the world of young people most of all? On what conditions can the life-giving Spirit of the first creation and particularly of the second creation or redemption become the new soul of humanity? Let us not forget that the greater the gift of God - and the gift of the Spirit of Jesus is the greatest of all – so much the greater is the world’s need to receive it and therefore the greater and the more exciting is the Church’s mission to bear credible witness to it. You young people, through World Youth Day, are in a way manifesting your desire to participate in this mission. In this regard, my dear young friends, I want to remind you here of some key truths on which to meditate. Once again I repeat that only Christ can fulfil the most intimate aspirations that are in the heart of each person. Only Christ can humanize humanity and lead it to its “divinization”. Through the power of his Spirit he instils divine charity within us, and this makes us capable of loving our neighbour and ready to be of service. The Holy Spirit enlightens us, revealing Christ crucified and risen, and shows us how to become more like Him so that we can be “the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ” (Deus Caritas Est, 33). Those who allow themselves to be led by the Spirit understand that placing oneself at the service of the Gospel is not an optional extra, because they are aware of the urgency of transmitting this Good News to others. Nevertheless, we need to be reminded again that we can be witnesses of Christ only if we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit who is “the principal agent of evangelization” (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 75) and “the principal agent of mission” (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 21). My dear young friends, as my venerable predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II said on several occasions, to proclaim the Gospel and bear witness to the faith is more necessary than ever today (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 1). There are those who think that to present the precious treasure of faith to people who do not share it means being intolerant towards them, but this is not the case, because to present Christ is not to impose Him (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80). Moreover, two thousand years ago twelve Apostles gave their lives to make Christ known and loved. Throughout the centuries since then, the Gospel has continued to spread by means of men and women inspired by that same missionary fervour. Today too there is a need for disciples of Christ who give unstintingly of their time and energy to serve the Gospel. There is a need for young people who will allow God’s love to burn within them and who will respond generously to his urgent call, just as many young blesseds and saints did in the past and also in more recent times. In particular, I assure you that the Spirit of Jesus today is inviting you young people to be bearers of the good news of Jesus to your contemporaries. The difficulty that adults undoubtedly find in approaching the sphere of youth in a comprehensible and convincing way could be a sign with which the Spirit is urging you young people to take this task upon yourselves. You know the ideals, the language, and also the wounds, the expectations, and at the same time the desire for goodness felt by your contemporaries. This opens up the vast world of young people’s emotions, work, education, expectations, and suffering ... Each one of you must have the courage to promise the Holy Spirit that you will bring one young person to Jesus Christ in the way you consider best, knowing how to “give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but [to] do it with gentleness and reverence” (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

In order to achieve this goal, my dear friends, you must be holy and you must be missionaries since we can never separate holiness from mission (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 90). Do not be afraid to become holy missionaries like Saint Francis Xavier who travelled through the Far East proclaiming the Good News until every ounce of his strength was used up, or like Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus who was a missionary even though she never left the Carmelite convent. Both of these are “Patrons of the Missions”. Be prepared to put your life on the line in order to enlighten the world with the truth of Christ; to respond with love to hatred and disregard for life; to proclaim the hope of the risen Christ in every corner of the earth.

8. Invoking a “new Pentecost” upon the world

My dear young friends, I hope to see very many of you in Sydney in July 2008. It will be a providential opportunity to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s power. Come in great numbers in order to be a sign of hope and to give appreciative support to the Church community in Australia that is preparing to welcome you. For the young people of the country that will host you, it will be an exceptional opportunity to proclaim the beauty and joy of the Gospel to a society that is secularized in so many ways. Australia, like all of Oceania, needs to rediscover its Christian roots. In the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania, Pope John Paul II wrote: “Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church in Oceania is preparing for a new evangelization of peoples who today are hungering for Christ... A new evangelization is the first priority for the Church in Oceania” (no. 18).

I invite you to give time to prayer and to your spiritual formation during this last stage of the journey leading to the XXIII World Youth Day, so that in Sydney you will be able to renew the promises made at your Baptism and Confirmation. Together we shall invoke the Holy Spirit, confidently asking God for the gift of a new Pentecost for the Church and for humanity in the third millennium.

May Mary, united in prayer with the Apostles in the Upper Room, accompany you throughout these months and obtain for all young Christians a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit to set their hearts on fire. Remember: the Church has confidence in you! We Pastors, especially, pray that you may love and lead others to love Jesus more and more and that you may follow Him faithfully. With these sentiments I bless you all with deep affection.

From Lorenzago, 20 July 2007

WYD08: Receive the Power

Guy Sebastian and Paulini

Verse 1
Every nation, every tribe,
come together to worship You.
In Your presence we delight,
we will follow to the ends of the earth.

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Receive the Power, from the Holy Spirit!
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Receive the Power to be a light unto the world!

Verse 2
As Your Spirit calls to rise
we will answer and do Your Will.
We’ll forever testify
of Your mercy and unfailing love.

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Receive the Power, from the Holy Spirit!
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Receive the Power to be a light unto the world!

Lamb of God, we worship You,
Holy One, we worship You,
Bread of Life, we worship You,
Emmanuel, we worship You.

Lamb of God, we worship You,
Holy One, we worship You,
Bread of Life, we worship You,
Emmanuel, we will sing forever.

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Receive the Power, from the Holy Spirit!
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Receive the Power to be a light unto the world!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI to people of Australia

To the beloved people of Australia and to the young pilgrims taking part in World Youth Day 2008

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you will be my witnesses" (Act 1:8)

The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you! In a few days from now, I shall begin my Apostolic Visit to your country, in order to celebrate the Twenty-Third World Youth Day in Sydney. I very much look forward to the days that I shall spend with you, and especially to the opportunities for prayer and reflection with young people from all over the world.

First of all, I want to express my appreciation to all those who have offered so much of their time, their resources and their prayers in support of this celebration. The Australian Government and the Provincial Government of New South Wales, the organizers of all the events, and members of the business community who have provided sponsorship – all of you have willingly supported this event, and on behalf of the young people taking part in the World Youth Day, I thank you most sincerely. Many of the young people have made great sacrifices in order to undertake the journey to Australia, and I pray that they will be rewarded abundantly. The parishes, schools and host families have been most generous in welcoming these young visitors, and they too deserve our thanks and our appreciation.

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you will be my witnesses" (Act 1:8). This is the theme of the Twenty-Third World Youth Day. How much our world needs a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit! There are still many who have not heard the Good News of Jesus Christ, while many others, for whatever reason, have not recognized in this Good News the saving truth that alone can satisfy the deepest longings of their hearts. The Psalmist prays: "when you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth" (Ps 104:30). It is my firm belief that young people are called to be instruments of that renewal, communicating to their peers the joy they have experienced through knowing and following Christ, and sharing with others the love that the Spirit pours into their hearts, so that they too will be filled with hope and with thanksgiving for all the good things they have received from our heavenly Father.

Many young people today lack hope. They are perplexed by the questions that present themselves ever more urgently in a confusing world, and they are often uncertain which way to turn for answers. They see poverty and injustice and they long to find solutions. They are challenged by the arguments of those who deny the existence of God and they wonder how to respond. They see great damage done to the natural environment through human greed and they struggle to find ways to live in greater harmony with nature and with one another.

Where can we look for answers? The Spirit points us towards the way that leads to life, to love and to truth. The Spirit points us towards Jesus Christ. There is a saying attributed to Saint Augustine: "If you wish to remain young, seek Christ". In him we find the answers that we are seeking, we find the goals that are truly worth living for, we find the strength to pursue the path that will bring about a better world. Our hearts find no rest until they rest in the Lord, as Saint Augustine says at the beginning of the Confessions, the famous account of his own youth. My prayer is that the hearts of the young people who gather in Sydney for the celebration of World Youth Day will truly find rest in the Lord, and that they will be filled with joy and fervour for spreading the Good News among their friends, their families, and all whom they meet.

Dear Australian friends, although I will only be able to spend a few days in your country, and I will not be able to travel outside Sydney, my heart reaches out to all of you, including those who are sick or in difficulties of any kind. On behalf of all the young people, I thank you again for your support of my mission and I ask you to continue praying for them especially. It remains only for me to renew my invitation to the young people from all over the world to join me in Australia, the great "southern land of the Holy Spirit". I look forward to seeing you there! May God bless you all.

From the Vatican, 4 July 2008