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Missionary work begins with everyone, cardinal says

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2017 / 04:05 pm (CNA).- In a press conference ahead of World Mission Day, Cardinal Fernando Filoni stressed the importance of missionary work, saying that it is a necessary aspect of the Christian faith, and that it must begin with each of us.

“In the Christian faith there is a pulse that gives life to the body. If the pulse stops, we enter into crisis, shock,” he said Oct. 20. This pulse of the Christian faith is missionary work, “and this pulse also begins with us.”

Head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Filoni emphasized that all Catholics are called to be a missionary in some way, not only religious men and women and priests, but also young people and all laity.

For example, the two patron saints of missions are St. Francis Xavier and St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who were both missionaries in completely different ways, he pointed out.

The former traveled to Japan to spread the faith, while the latter stayed within the confines of a monastery, yet they were both great missionaries, each in their own way, he said.

To these, Filoni said he hopes to someday add a third patron saint, Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot, a French laywoman who in the 19th century founded the Society of the Propagation of the Faith.

“Jaricot is a laywoman who realized the role of lay people in missionary life,” he said. And she not only recognized the importance of active missionary work, but also of prayer.

One of her first initiatives was to create “a crown of prayer” for missionaries, because she knew that missionaries, who work at the “outposts” of society, could not survive without a network of prayer for support, he said.

Filoni spoke to journalists just two days ahead of World Mission Day, which falls on Oct. 22.

World Mission Sunday was begun in 1926 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and is now promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Mission Societies.

The Pope's message for the 91st World Mission Day was published by the Vatican earlier this year. Pope Francis said that World Mission Day “is a good opportunity for enabling the missionary heart of Christian communities to join in prayer, testimony of life and communion of goods, in responding to the vast and pressing needs of evangelization.”    
 
This is because “the world vitally needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Christ, through the Church, “continues his mission as the Good Samaritan, caring for the bleeding wounds of humanity, and as Good Shepherd, constantly seeking out those who wander along winding paths that lead nowhere.”

You can tell that mission is “deeply imbedded” in the Pope’s heart, Fr. Tadeusz Nowak, OMI, said in the press conference Friday.

Representing the Pontifical Missionary Societies, Nowak said that Pope Francis “would want all Christians to have this deep sense of longing to share the faith and allow others to encounter personally Jesus Christ risen from the dead.”

 

Love of Another Kind

One of my favorite churches started several years ago as a ministry to ex-prisoners who were transitioning back into society. Now the church flourishes with people from all walks of life. I love that church because it reminds me of what I picture heaven will be like—filled with different kinds of people, all redeemed sinners, all bound together by the love of Jesus.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if church seems more like an exclusive club than a safe-haven for forgiven sinners. As people naturally gravitate into groups of “a certain kind” and cluster around those they feel comfortable with, it leaves others feeling marginalized. But that’s not what Jesus had in mind when He told His disciples to “love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). His church was to be an extension of His love mutually shared with all.

If hurting, rejected people can find loving refuge, comfort, and forgiveness in Jesus, they should expect no less from the church. So let’s exhibit the love of Jesus to everyone we encounter—especially those who are not like us. All around us are people Jesus wants to love through us. What a joy it is when people unite to worship together in love—a slice of heaven we can enjoy here on earth!

Daily Readings for Sunday, October 22, 2017

Reading 1: Isaiah 45:4-6, Reading 1: Isaiah 45:1, Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 96:1, Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 96:3-5, Responsorial Psalm: Psalms ...

St. Pope John Paul II: Saint of the Day for Sunday, October 22, 2017

Karol J. Wojtyla, known as John Paul II since his October 1978 election to the papacy, was born in Wadowice, a small city 50 kilometres from Cracow, ...

Prayer to St. John Paul II: Prayer of the Day for Sunday, October 22, 2017

Oh, St. John Paul, from the window of heaven, grant us your blessing! Bless the church that you loved and served and guided, courageously leading it ...

Prayer to St. John Paul II: Prayer of the Day for Sunday, October 22, 2017

Oh, St. John Paul, from the window of heaven, grant us your blessing! Bless the church that you loved and served and guided, courageously leading it ...

St. Pope John Paul II: Saint of the Day for Sunday, October 22, 2017

Karol J. Wojtyla, known as John Paul II since his October 1978 election to the papacy, was born in Wadowice, a small city 50 kilometres from Cracow, ...

Daily Readings for Sunday, October 22, 2017

Reading 1: Isaiah 45:1, Reading 1: Isaiah 45:4-6, Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 96:1, Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 96:3-5, Responsorial Psalm: Psalms ...

Pope slams 'eugenic' mentality that seeks to eliminate disability

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2017 / 04:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday, Pope Francis issued a harsh condemnation of the underlying eugenic mentality in society that leads many to abort children who are are disabled, saying the Church must be a place of acceptance and welcome for all who are vulnerable.

While great strides have been made in recent years in terms of recognizing the dignity of every person, especially the weakest and most vulnerable, “at the cultural level there are still expressions that undermine the dignity of these people due to the prevalence of a false conception of life,” the Pope said Oct. 21.

“An often narcissistic and utilitarian vision unfortunately leads not a few to consider people with disabilities as marginal, without perceiving in them the multifaceted human and spiritual wealth,” he said.

Far too prevalent in common thought is also “an attitude of rejection” toward people with disabilities, as if their handicap “impedes them from being happy and fully realizing themselves,” he said.

“This is proven by the eugenic tendency to suppress the unborn who have some form of imperfection.”

An example of this “eugenics” mentality is a recent article in CBS News claiming that Iceland has come close to being the first country to “eradicate” Down syndrome, meaning they are aborting every unborn child found to have the condition.

Pope Francis offered his comments to participants in a Vatican-sponsored conference dedicated to catechesis for those with intellectual disabilities, titled “Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church.”

Taking place Oct. 20-22 at the Pontifical Urbanianum University in Rome, the conference drew over 420 people who work in catechesis from professions and countries all over the world, as well as people with disabilities themselves.

Among the participants is Bridget Brown, a young actress, speaker and prolife advocate with Down syndrome. In a letter written to the Pope, Brown said her heart breaks to think that “I might be the last generation of people with Down syndrome.”

“The world will never again benefit from our gifts,” she said, explaining that she does not “suffer” from the condition, but is “filled with joy” to be alive.

Referring to German dictator Adlof Hitler and the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. commemorating the thousands of people who died under the Nazi regime, Brown noted how people with disabilities were often the first to be killed.

“It seems to me we are doing the same thing to children with disabilities today in our country,” she said. However, despite being discouraged, Brown said she has hope for people with disabilities, and prays for people “who think we don't have the right to live.”

In his speech, Pope Francis said the response to this “eugenic tendency” must be one of love. “Not the false, clever and pious kind,” he said, “but the one that is true, concrete and respectful.”

To the extent that people with disabilities are “welcomed, loved, included in the community and accompanied to look to the future with confidence,” a true path of life develops and “lasting happiness is experienced.”

This goes for everyone, but even more so the most fragile, he said, adding that faith is “a great companion” which allows these people to feel God's presence closely, no matter their condition.

Francis said that as far as the Church goes, she cannot be “voiceless” or “out of tune” in the defense and promotion of people with disabilities.

“Her closeness to families helps them to overcome the loneliness which they often risk closing themselves into due to a lack of attention and support,” he said, adding that to have this closeness is even more important for those who form others in the Christian life.

Neither words nor gestures can be missing for “the encounter and welcome of people with disabilities,” especially in the liturgy, he said, because this encounter with the Lord and the community is a source of “hope and courage” on a path that isn't easy.

Catechesis, then, “is called to discover and experience coherent forms so that each person, with their gifts, their limits and their disabilities, even serious ones, is able to encounter Jesus on their path and abandon themselves to him in faith.”

“No physical or psychological limit can ever be an impediment to this encounter, because the face of Christ is shown in the intimacy of every person,” the Pope said, stressing that everyone, but especially ministers of the Church, must be careful “not to fall into the neo-pelagian error of not recognizing the need for the strength of grace which comes from the Sacraments of Christian initiation.”

The Church and her ministers must learn to “intelligently 'invent' adequate instruments” of catechesis to ensure that no one lacks “the support of grace,” he said.

Catechists must be formed, “first of all by example,” who are “increasingly able to accompany these people so that they grow in faith and give their genuine and unique contribution to the Church,” he said.

Pope Francis closed his address voicing hope that within the Christian community, people with disabilities can themselves increasingly “be catechists, even with their testimony, to transmit the faith in a more effective way.”

Though his speech was little over 10 minutes long, the Pope stayed with the group for more than an hour, personally shaking hands with participants. 

Catechesis must encounter the disabled with love, archbishop says

Rome, Italy, Oct 21, 2017 / 02:01 am (CNA).- The Church must learn “how to encounter disabled people today, how to allow them to have an encounter with Christ in the silence of their own interior and in the signs that indicate his presence in brothers; how to foster their commitment to witness and to be protagonists in the community as catechists, and therefore believers who transmit the faith, living it and teaching it,” Archbishop Rino Fisichella said Friday.

“God directs his word to everyone, no one excluded,” the archbishop said Oct. 20. “He finds ways in which to speak to the people who derive from the multiformity of his being,” while addressing the misperception that intellectually disabled people cannot understand the Catholic faith.

God communicates through the dynamics of “support, inclusion and integration,” he said, adding that “a person can be blind, but hear; can be deaf, but perceive; can be unable to reflect, but grasp the intimacy of the strength of presence.”

Archbishop Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, offered these remarks in a keynote speech on the opening night of a Vatican-sponsored conference dedicated to catechesis for those with intellectual disabilities.

The conference, titled “Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church,” is taking place Oct. 20-22 at the Pontifical Urbanianum University in Rome.

Over 420 people who work in catechesis are registered for the conference, and come from professions and countries all over the world.

In addition to Fisichella, other speakers include Baroness Sheila Hollins of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and representatives from dioceses around the world, who will present methods for the catechesis of disabled people. Disabled people participating will lead moments of prayer throughout the gathering.

Participants will also have an audience with Pope Francis during the event, demonstrating the Pope's keen interest in the topic.

In his speech, Fisichella said addressing the topic of disability within the Christian community is “urgent” because of the social and cultural stigmas that people with disabilities often face today.

Recounting several examples of situations when people with disabilities have been discriminated against, he noted that in 2015 an elderly parent who was beaten for taking a reserved parking spot when buying medicine for his son, who was having an epileptic emergency.

He also pointed to how in August of this year a disabled teenage girl was raped in the Italian town of Piacenza, and her attacker immediately set free. Another example was how, earlier this month in Naples, seven couples who had made adoption requests refused the offer of a child with Downs Syndrome.

“The bullying and arrogance of the stronger” can always happen to anyone, Fisichella said, but noted that it's also always true “that when this happens to a person who is disabled, and therefore weak and defenseless, then the disdain and the complaint” must be more forceful.  

Fisichella reflected on the way that God relates to man, saying it is the Lord from the beginning who chose to speak and reveal himself to man. Revelation, and the response of faith, begins with “the act of love from which comes God’s decision to reveal himself and the purpose of calling one to share in his own life,” he said.

There are different stages of revelation, he said, noting that each one “is marked by the love of God.”

“It's a love that reaches the heart of every person, meeting them in their interior, where the perception of a presence that gives meaning to life is best expressed,” he said.

Faith, he said, is “a personal act which testifies to having encountered God who made himself known.”

Faith “is never far from love,” Fisichella said, explaining that love itself “generates faith and sustains it with the strength of hope.”

“Love comes from God and returns to God,” he said, and “this completely transforms man, because it renders him capable of relating to himself and others with a love he receives as a gift and which he himself cannot produce.”

Fisichella said that “one can think of catechesis as a desire to stay for a long time in order to grow in knowledge of the Lord Jesus,” adding that the heart of catechesis is “to make the life of the believer a path where through the knowledge of what is believed we enter into the mystery by celebrating it with the prayer of the entire people of God.”

To fully understand this, it's necessary that “it be made easier to understand the impact that catechesis can have on people with disabilities,” he said.

Ultimately, the goal of catechesis is “to make it so that God seizes everyone, whatever state they are in, because the primacy lies with him,” Fisichella said, stressing that God “finds the most adequate means to communicate his life of love and to make the love he invests in a person felt.”

The archbishop pointed to music, song and art, which all bespeak love, he said, allowing those who experience them to understand God in a different way, he said. So “no one is excluded from the Word that God speaks, with which he makes himself known to each one.”

He then spoke of the need to promote the “culture of encounter” that Pope Francis speaks of so often, with a special emphasis on friendship, brotherhood and solidarity.

We must learn to take the initiative on this, the archbishop said, explaining that a true culture of encounter “does not stop at a few hurried moments, and in the form of formalities.”

“Rather, it feels the duty to 'entertain' itself with people, of giving one's own time without the hurry that prevents them from entering into depth (of) the encounter with the richness of experience acquired and with the charisms which are offered to each person, no one excluded, for the growth of the entire community.”

“A culture of encounter, then, is to welcome the mystery of the brother in order to understand better the mystery of his own existence,” Fisichella said, adding that this “culture” must also be a place where “the dimension of the Church, a community that lives communion, becomes the criteria of judgement and testimony of our presence in today's world”

Our responsibility, then, “is to transmit the faith in a living way, and not to create obstacles, so that it reaches everyone, above all those who are preferred by the Lord.”