Teaching young about human dignity promotes peace, justice, pope says

VATICAN CITY - When young people recognize the dignity and beauty of every human life, including their own, and are supported in their natural desire to make the world a better place, they become agents of justice and peace in the world, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Peace and justice are built on "a profound respect for every human being and helping others to live a life consonant with this supreme dignity," the pope said in his message for the World Day of Peace 2012.

The Catholic Church celebrates World Peace Day Jan. 1. The pope's message for the occasion was released Dec. 16 at the Vatican and sent, through Vatican ambassadors, to the leaders of nations around the world.

    Jesus comes to make the world right

    Nativity of the Lord (Year B) Dec. 25 (Isaiah 9:2-4, 6-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-16)

    Who are the people walking in darkness? This prophetic passage was originally addressed to the nation of Israel under threat from first the Assyrians and then the Babylonians. It was supposed to give them hope, courage and perseverance in the face of oppression and the collapse of their world. God had not abandoned them but would lead the nation to freedom and prosperity.

      Those with no room at the inn are life’s most meaningful

      Mary gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.

      In the Christmas story, we have always vilified and demonized the innkeeper who turned Mary and Joseph away, leaving them no choice for shelter except a stable. And the lesson we took from this was the need for greater hospitality in our lives, the need to not be so busy and preoccupied that there is “no room in the inn,” that is, that there is no place in our busy lives for a messiah to be born, for Christmas to happen.

        Prayer, not activism, is key to evangelization, preacher tells pope

        VATICAN CITY - The Catholic Church's project of "new evangelization" faces two dangers: people thinking others will do the work and people so fired up to preach the Gospel, they forget to pray, said the preacher of the papal household.

        Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who preaches to the pope and top Vatican officials on the Fridays of Advent and Lent, dedicated his December 2011 series to lessons the church can learn from its own history of evangelization efforts.

          Church should fear sin of members more than persecution, pope says

          ROME - The church should fear the sin of its own members more than hatred against Christians, Pope Benedict XVI said.

          While the church has suffered from persecution throughout its history, it "is supported by the light and strength of God" and will always end up victorious, he said.

          Overcoming trials and outside threats shows how the Christian community "is the presence, the guarantee of God's love against all ideologies of hatred and selfishness," he said on the feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8.

            Our journey depends on what we allow God to do for us

            Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year B) Dec. 18 (2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Psalm 89; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38)

            The idea of building a house for God seems rather preposterous. In the verses omitted from the lectionary reading, God tells David in no uncertain terms that he is out of line.

            David is sternly reminded that throughout all the years of wandering in the wilderness God never asked for a permanent dwelling and was quite content. We can have mixed motivations for big God-projects. Often lurking below the surface is a subtle desire to play God. The result is usually a hugely inflated ego.

              Seeking depth through prayer

              In our more reflective moments we sense the importance of prayer, yet we struggle to pray. Sustained, deep prayer doesn’t come easy for us. Why?

              First of all, we struggle to make time for prayer. Prayer doesn’t accomplish anything practical for us, it’s a waste of time in terms of tending to the pressures and tasks of daily life, and so we hesitate to go there. Coupled with this, we find it hard to trust that prayer actually works and brings about something real in our lives. Beyond that, we struggle to concentrate when we try to pray. Once we do settle in to pray, we soon feel ourselves overwhelmed by daydreams, unfinished conversations, half-forgotten melodies, heartaches, agendas and the impending tasks that face us as soon as we get up from our place of prayer. Finally, we struggle to pray because we really don’t know how to pray. We might be familiar with various forms of prayer, from devotional prayers to different kinds of meditation, but we generally lack the confidence to believe that our own particular way of praying, with all its distractions and missteps, is prayer in the deep sense.

                Pope prays for migrants, encourages international assistance

                VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI expressed concern for the millions of migrants around the world, and encouraged the agencies trying to help them.

                "I entrust to the Lord all those who, often forcibly, must leave their homeland, or who are stateless," the Pope said at his noon blessing Dec. 4.

                "While I encourage solidarity for them, I pray for all those who are doing their utmost to protect and assist these brothers and sisters in emergency situations, even if it means exposing themselves to serious hardships and dangers," he said.

                  Christian theology has role to play in promoting peace, pope says

                  VATICAN CITY - Theology is not simply an academic discipline or a means of explaining the faith to believers, it also has a role in promoting peace and harmony, Pope Benedict XVI said.

                  Catholic theology's attention to the links between faith and reason "is more necessary than ever today" because it demonstrates the compatibility of different sources of knowledge, avoiding "the violent results of a religiosity opposed to reason and of a reason opposed to religion," the pope said.

                  Pope Benedict made his comments Dec. 2 during a meeting with members of the International Theological Commission, a group of theologians appointed by the pope to study themes of current interest and offer expert advice to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

                    Toronto parishioners seem to accept new Missal

                    TORONTO - Toronto’s first run at the new Sacramentary hit a few rough spots but didn’t upset many parishioners.

                    “I didn’t notice a lot of difference. It was more what the priest says, I think,” noted Our Lady of Lourdes parishioner Peter Maigher at the end of the 11:30 a.m. Sunday Mass. Maigher’s reaction was typical of what churchgoers told The Catholic Register at Nov. 26-27 Masses.

                      At audience, Pope praises groups for efforts to ban death penalty

                      VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI gave a special greeting of encouragement to delegations meeting in Rome -- including a group from Illinois -- to promote the abolition of the death penalty.

                      During his weekly audience Nov. 30 at the Vatican, Pope Benedict said he hoped the work of the delegations would "encourage political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a number of countries to eliminate the death penalty" and promote progress in penal law that speaks equally to "the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order."

                      The 12-person Illinois group, members of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, was led by state Rep. Karen Yarbrough. Under Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois became the 16th state to abolish the death penalty in March.