FAITH/STORIES

Below is the homily of Pope Benedict XVI at World Youth Day 2011's closing mass in Madrid's Cuatro Vientos Air Base.

Dear Young People,

In this celebration of the Eucharist we have reached the high point of this World Youth Day. Seeing you here, gathered in such great numbers from all parts of the world, fills my heart with joy. I think of the special love with which Jesus is looking upon you. Yes, the Lord loves you and calls you his friends (cf. Jn 15:15). He goes out to meet you and he wants to accompany you on your journey, to open

the door to a life of fulfilment and to give you a share in his own closeness to the Father. For our part, we have come to know the immensity of his love and we want to respond generously to his love by sharing with others the joy we have received. Certainly, there are many people today who feel attracted by the figure of Christ and want to know him better. They realize that he is the answer to so many of our deepest concerns. But who is he really? How can someone who lived on this earth so long ago have anything in common with me today?

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

Yet faith is not the result of human effort, of human reasoning, but rather a gift of God: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven”. Faith starts with God, who opens his heart to us and invites us to share in his own divine life. Faith does not simply provide information about who Christ is; rather, it entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person, with all our understanding, will and feelings, to God’s self-revelation. So Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”, is ultimately a challenge to the disciples to make a personal decision in his regard. Faith in Christ and discipleship are strictly interconnected.

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy - Most people don't leave any time in their day to stop, listen and reflect on what God is doing and saying in their lives, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Our time is taken up by so many activities, commitments, worries and problems that often one tends to fill up one's whole day without having a second left for stopping to reflect and nourish one's spiritual life" by having contact with God, he said Aug. 17 as he held his weekly general audience in the courtyard of the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo.

The pope continued his series of talks on prayer by focusing on meditation and the role it plays in a Christian life.

He said it is essential to consistently find a moment every day to be able to "collect our thoughts in silence and meditate on what the Lord wants to teach us, since he is present and acts in the world and our lives."

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy - Temporal things can wait; only the things of God merit acting upon without hesitation, Pope Benedict XVI said.

God's words and his will are the only things "that are truly urgent for our lives," he said.

Celebrating an early morning Mass Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption of Mary, the pope reflected on the reading from the Gospel of Luke in which Mary visits Elizabeth "in haste" after the angel Gabriel announced to Mary God's plan that she conceive the son of God.

Mary's sense of haste is important, the pope said, because it shows "the only things in the world that merit haste are exactly the things of God."

Pope Benedict celebrated the Mass in the parish Church of St. Thomas, just across the main square from the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo. Those attending the Mass in the small church included retired Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and the pope's brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger.

School Sisters of Notre Dame celebrate Jubilees

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On July 30, 2011, fourteen Sisters from the Canadian Province of the School Sisters of Notre Dame celebrated their jubilee anniversaries of religious profession at the Motherhouse in Waterdown, Ontario.

In addition, ten Sisters from the Atlantic-Midwest Province joined them for the festivities. The Atlantic-Midwest province is located in the United States.

Shown in the photograph below are 14 Sisters of the Canadian Province of the School Sisters of Notre Dame celebrated their Jubilees on July 30, 2011.

With them are ten sisters from the Atlantic-Midwest Province (indicated by the asterisk) who also celebrated their Jubilees this year.

Silence is needed to hear God speak, pope says

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy - Getting off the grid and leaving behind the city is a great way to bring some much-needed silence to one's life, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Silence is the condition of one's surroundings that best fosters contemplation, listening to God and meditation," he said Aug. 10 as he held his weekly general audience in the courtyard of the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo.

"Just the fact of being able to enjoy silence, to let oneself, as it were, be 'filled' by silence, predisposes us to prayer," the pope said.

Many people spend a few days at a monastic community or spiritual center, which, as "places of the spirit, are a backbone of the world," he said.

Monastic communities have been built in beautiful places that are close to nature, he said.

Mass translations are a challenge in every language, official says

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VATICAN CITY - In Italian the verbs "to translate" and "to betray" sound very similar and have given birth to the adage, "To translate is to betray."

Msgr. Juan Miguel Ferrer Grenesche, undersecretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, cited the saying in an interview Aug. 9 with the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, about the task of translating Mass texts and the Bible.

English-speaking bishops are about to see stacks of new Roman Missals, the fruit of their long labors in commissioning, perfecting and obtaining Vatican approval for a new English translation of the prayers used at Mass. The Italian bishops' conference continues working on its new translation of the missal while the French bishops are working on both the missal and a new translation of the Bible, Msgr. Ferrer said.

He told the Vatican newspaper that the whole "translator-betrayer" idea "is true to a great extent since the translator, even if involuntarily, can betray the text because it's not easy to faithfully transmit a text in another language."

Summer novels are fine, but pick up the Bible, too, pope says

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy - While there's nothing wrong with a bit of light reading in the summer, reading a book or two of the Bible also can be a relaxing -- as well as enlightening -- vacation activity, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Naturally, many of the books of literature we pick up during vacation are for a diversion, and this is normal," he said Aug. 3 as he held his weekly general audience in the town square at Castel Gandolfo.

With some 4,500 visitors and pilgrims present for the audience, the gathering was too large to be held in the courtyard of the pope's summer villa.

The human need to relax is something to be thankful for, the pope said, because "it tells us that we were not made only to work, but also to think, reflect or simply to follow, with our mind and heart, a story we can identify with or even lose ourselves in and so find ourselves enriched."

Pope Benedict said, "The Bible is a little library born over the course of a millennium," and some of the books inside are very short. They would be a great place to start for someone who has never read an entire book of the Bible.

Pope emphasizes importance of rightly formed conscience

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI said the proper formation of conscience requires the ability to listen to "the voice of truth," which is particularly important for people in positions of governing.

The pope, meeting with pilgrims at his summer residence outside Rome July 24, spoke about the biblical figure of King Solomon, who prayed to God at the beginning of his reign for "an understanding heart." The king's prayer was motivated by the responsibility of guiding a nation, but is valid for everyone, the pope said.

Essentially, Solomon was praying for "a conscience that knows how to listen, that is sensitive to the voice of truth and for this reason is capable of discerning good from evil," he said.

Pope says Eucharist is antidote to modern individualism

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said the Eucharist is the heart of church life and an "antidote" to the increasingly individualistic global culture.

Addressing pilgrims June 26 on the feast of Corpus Christi, which commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, the pope said the Eucharist was like the "pulsing heart" that gives life and meaning to everything the church does.

As the sacrament of Communion, it is able to transform people's lives, leading them to God, he said.

"In a culture that is more and more individualistic -- a culture in which we are immersed in Western society, and that tends to spread itself throughout the world -- the Eucharist constitutes a type of 'antidote,'" the pope said.

"It works in the minds and hearts of believers and continually disseminates in them the logic of communion, of service, of sharing -- in short, the logic of the Gospel," he said.

Pope calls for aid to those fleeing North Africa, Middle East conflicts

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>VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI called for emergency assistance to thousands of people fleeing the violence and civil strife in North Africa and the Middle East, and he appealed to nations to explore "every possible form of mediation" to bring an end to the conflicts.

He asked the Vatican's coordinating body of church funding agencies for Eastern Catholic churches to "do everything possible" to help the minority Christian populations remain in the region.

The pope's appeal came during a meeting June 24 with the Vatican coordinating body, known by its Italian acronym ROACO. The ROACO assembly was holding its annual general meeting at the Vatican.

Participants were discussing the changes taking place in North Africa and the Middle East as well as how bishops were following up on the special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East in 2010.

Hedonism clouds judgment, risks annihilating morality, pope says

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VATICAN CITY - Hedonism clouds people's judgment and risks annihilating morality, Pope Benedict XVI said.

It also fools people into thinking their real worth lies in their social or personal standing and their ability to control reality, he said during a one-day visit June 19 to the Republic of San Marino, a tiny nation completely surrounded by Italy.

Like many Western nations, San Marino today faces many difficulties and challenges, the pope said in his homily during a Mass held at an open-air stadium.

Such difficulties are caused most of all by "hedonistic models that cloud the mind and risk quashing morality altogether," he told some 22,000 people in attendance, which included people who came from surrounding Italian cities.

"The temptation has crept in that says man's richness is not faith, but his personal and social power, his intelligence, his culture and his ability to scientifically, technologically and socially manipulate reality," he said.

Redemptorists launch TV website

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The Redemptorists have always looked for ways to reach the un-churched — so it is only natural that their search eventually led them to the web.

Redemptorist Television, a new Internet television website, is the latest initiative from the Redemptorists of the Edmonton-Toronto Province. The educational religious site was unveiled in late May to a group of young people attending the Redemptorist SERVE program (Summer Endeavour in a Redemptorist Volunteer Experience).

“Our tradition has always included teaching,” said Fr. Mark Miller, C.Ss.R., a frequent homilist on RTV. “There’s good solid content but also, when you put it into a sermon, you can add an emotional side… it appeals to the heart as well.”

RTV features a collection of five-minute homily-style clips — a format that’s easy to watch for youth, according to Miller.

The site is inspired by the Perpetual Help Devotions, an hour-long Redemptorist program that has been broadcast weekly for 16 years by Vision TV and Salt + Light TV.

Evangelize with courage, conviction, joy, pope says

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said that a proper transmission of the faith to the young or the uninitiated depends on a solid grounding of the basics of Catholic formation -- baptism, first Communion and catechism.

Pope Benedict XVI told participants of a diocesan conference in Rome June 13 to not be afraid of their duty as Christians to evangelize and to pass on the word of God "with courage, with conviction, with joy."

Speaking from Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran, the pope called for renewed efforts for evangelization, which he said, "is not the duty of a few, but of all the members of the church."

Special attention should be given to the education of children, adults who have not been baptized and those who have left the church, he said.