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DPC Meeting Held, Bishop Urges To Promote Vocations to Consecrated Life

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altBALLARI, MARCH 21, 2015: “Consecrated Life is a precious gift of God to the Church and humanity. We need to promote vocations to religious life among young boys and girls”, declared Bishop Henry D’Souza, Bishop of Ballari. He was addressing the members of the Diocesan Pastoral Council at its meeting held at the Bishop’s House today.

“The families and lay faithful are invited to foster love for Jesus in the hearts of their children and that would bear fruit desiring to consecrate their lives to God” Bishop stated.

“The Consecrated persons to rethink, renew with freshness and enthusiasm their consecrated lives, to be attractive witness for the growth of the church”, insisted the Bishop.

 Also, quoting Pope Francis, the Bishop said “Joy is the remarkable sign of a consecrated person.”

The resource person of the day was Fr. Joe Francis ofm cap, Superior & Rector of Pothanal Franciscan Community.

He said that consecrated lives must be joyful, witness to the Good News, prophetic and evangelizing.  

In order to sensitize the people regarding the upcoming Karnataka Caste Census from April 11- 30. Fr. Chowrappa, Director, BDDS & Secretary for KRCBC, Regional Commission for SC/ST/BC Commission and Alphonse Kennedy, Bangalore enlightened the members.

The gathering also condemned the recent attacks on churches, women religious and Christian institutions. To show our solidarity with the victims it was decided to have a peaceful protest rally on 27th March in Bellary and thereafter to submit a Memorandum to the Prime Minister.

The Bishop also informed about the completion of term of Parish Pastoral Councils and Parish Finance Councils by June, 2015 and thereafter election of new members be held in July, 2015. 

 

Karnataka Bishops Urge More Effective Family Ministry

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altThe following is the full text of the Pastoral Letter issued by Archbishop Bernard Moras, Archbishop of Bangalore and President, KRCBC:

Dear Rev. Fathers, Brothers, Sisters and Lay Faithful,

Peace and Joy of Christ to all of you!

At the outset, we wish that the observance of the season of Lent may help all of us to get the necessary spiritual benefits that would lead us to personal conversion and our renewed Christian and religious commitment for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom in our Karnataka Region. The Holy Father has been constantly reminding us not to make our spirituality more ritualistic, but rather to make it more practical and people oriented. 

Introduction: 

The Catholic Bishops of Karnataka met together in the second week of February in Bangalore to deliberate on the situations in our country today and our concerted response to some of the troubling events in the spirit of the Gospel and our shared mission. We deliberated also on the Synod of the Family and the Year of Consecrated Life. We are deeply concerned at the latest outbreaks of violence and church attacks, and are also greatly dismayed at the ill-treatment meted out to Christians in certain parts of the state and country. While expressing our great shock and anguish at these happenings, we thought of sharing our reflections with you, primarily the following three main issues, through this pastoral letter. Please read it carefully and share it with your parishioners and the members of your religious communities.

1. The Central Government’s attitude towards Christian Minority

As we all know the General Elections of last May gave us for the first time in the last 30 years a single party Government at the Centre with an unprecedented majority of its own without being cramped or constrained by any coalition compulsions. It was a veritable festival of democracy of which we all can be proud of. Even those who may not share the ideology of the party in power nor favour the present Government rejoiced at the functioning of our vibrant democracy. Whatever apprehensions and anxieties that many segments of our population may have had when the new Government took charge were largely dispelled when the new Prime Minister proclaimed from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day his ostensible commitment to equal respect for all religions, governance without discrimination and development for all.

Unfortunately, all these beautiful slogans have largely remained just slogans. Today, beautiful speeches are made, catchy punch-lines are coined and grand promises are floated by our political leaders. But the ground reality is becoming increasingly worrisome. There seems to be a two-pronged strategy deliberately and consciously put in place: while those in the Government give us the assurance to keep up the façade of justice and fairness for all, their party people, both in Parliament and outside, would spout venom against the minorities. Thus “love Jihad”, “Ghar Wapsi” etc. have become household terms. Campaigns for the re-conversion of people into the Hindu fold have been launched. The RSS Supremo himself calls for the creation of a “Hindu Rashtra”. Neither the Prime Minister nor anyone else in his Government condemned such statements nor warned their party workers to refrain from making such provocative statements. Their purposeful silence has continued even in the wake of repeated anti-Christian vandalism and well-planned church attacks in the national capital. And just recently, the remarks made by RSS Chief, Shri. Mohan Bhagwat, accusing Mother Teresa of indulging in religious conversion is yet another salvo aimed at Christians who are serving the needy and the poor without any discrimination of caste, creed or religion. We are happy that many Christian and other religious and secular organizations have criticized strongly the RSS Chief for his uncharitable remarks against Mother Teresa, who gained worldwide acclaim as the 'Saint of the Gutter'.  Her exemplary life of simplicity, piety and charity vouched for her extraordinary love and dedication for poor, homeless and the needy.

At a recent event in Delhi organized to celebrate the canonisation of St. Elias Chavara and St. Euphrasia, the Prime Minister clearly committed himself to ensure equal respect for all religions, prevent violence against the followers of any faith and provide equal opportunities for all to prosper in peace and freedom. But the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. Fine words and catchy slogans need to be translated into concrete action. As a popular phrase puts it, we must walk the talk.  Love is shown more in deeds than in words.  Therefore, although the Prime Minister’s speech was truly commendable still, we should not lower our guard and be complacent. The real test of the sincerity and commitment of the new Government will be the actual ground reality all over the country. So let us wait and watch.

As the President of CBCI Cardinal Cleemis puts it in his recent circular, “The shocking incidents that have taken place against Churches, clergy and laity in Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have caused great concern to the Christian community. The recent controversies in the name of religious reconversions portray a negative image of India. Communal polarization and the bid to homogenize India are posing threat to all minorities - women, dalits, and all linguistic, cultural and religious minorities. The ‘Ghar Wapsi’ programmes, the 'saffronisation" of education and culture, and the demands for ‘a Hindu Rashtra’ are again posing challenges to the secular ethos of our beloved country. "Saffronisation" is an intellectual threat to the coming generation. Conversions of a religious nature are an exercise of one's free will and one's constitutional/fundamental right and freedom of conscience and of religion. Ghar Wapsi is a political process, carried out by the powerful exponents of religious nationalism - much against the principle of Secularism. We are afraid that the Bills and Ordinances that have been recently enacted would weaken the poor farmers, fishermen, workers, dalits, tribals and other marginalized communities of their legitimate right to life and livelihood.”  

The Constitution of India guarantees that all the citizens of our country can profess, practice and propagate a religion of one's choice. India is a land where different religious faiths have long since flourished and our founding fathers made special efforts to ensure that the rights of all are safeguarded, irrespective of our religious beliefs, gender or caste. Freedom of religion is a basic right, constitutional right, fundamental right and a democratic value. Christianity has its roots in Indian soil for almost 2000 years. The Christians in India believe in God and believe in the goodness of people and have been selflessly serving the people of this country in the fields of education, health care, community development etc. without any discrimination on the basis of caste, creed or religion. We the Christians of this country need an assurance from the Government that we are protected and secure and safe in our motherland. We express our strong concern on the aforementioned issues. Putting an end to such dangerous tendencies is inevitable for the growth and progress of our great nation. This great secular nation has to remain as a place where people of all religions and of different cultural backgrounds should live freely by practising their faith without fear or threat and in harmony. While we recommit ourselves for the progress and development of our nation, we strongly urge the Prime Minister, to intervene urgently and take appropriate action to stop incidents that pose a big threat to the unity of this secular nation and put an end to the statements made by the responsible persons in the central ministry and of the party.

The Church has always been compassionate to the poor and the suffering. We need to even more visibly concretize this attitude of 'preferential option for the poor' in all our ministry and apostolate, so emphatically reiterated by Holy Father Pope Francis. In this context, we should be more vigilant in our responsibility to protect and promote our brothers and sisters of the Dalit/Backward/Tribal communities who have embraced the Catholic faith. The current socio-political situation in the Country calls for better unity and collaboration among the various Christian Churches at the Parish/Diocesan/ Regional and National level. We need to empower our laity to critically evaluate the threats and challenges posed to the Church and to society and to evolve appropriate short term and long term strategic plans. Special efforts must be made to empower our women and youth in this regard. The values enshrined in our Constitution such as unity, fraternity, secularism, tolerance, peace and justice have to be inculcated in the mind of the youth through education and other social involvement, with a view to preparing them to be committed citizens of India and loyal sons and daughters of the Church. We should recognize our journalists, activists and other experts and promote them to respond to these threats in local basis in accordance with the mind of the Church. We need to create pressure against human rights violations in collaboration with other like-minded people.

Together with the Catholic Bishops and Religious Superiors in Karnataka, we urge our priests, religious and laity to mobilise themselves to protect and promote the basic human rights of all those who are vulnerable and are victimised on the basis of their religion, caste, class, creed, colour, culture or community.

2. Effective Ministry to the Family: The Domestic Church 

You are all aware that the recent Synod dealt with the theme of the family. The family, being the basic cell of human society and in the words of Pope John Paul II, “the domestic church” is of crucial importance for the health and wellbeing of human society as a whole and of the Church in particular. Unfortunately, the forces unleashed by globalisation, economic liberalisation, consumerism, moral relativism and weakening of fundamental values have severely jeopardised the family all over the world and even in our country, resulting in more and more people being condemned to languish in dysfunctional and even sick families with the consequence that they in their turn become wounded, fragmented and scarred personalities.

The family is the greatest institutional manifestation of Christ’s love. For those who wish to love as He would have us love, marriage and the family are indispensable, both as vehicles of salvation and as bulwarks of human society. The Church too is a family and marriage finds its richness and meaning within the mystery of the Church. Married couples and their children can find this meaning and fulfilment through building small communities of married couples who support each other unconditionally in their vocations to married life. These communities would provide networks of support grounded in the bonds of faith and family, commitment to lifelong marriage, and responsibility to and for each other.

There is particularly in the West, a dramatic increase in cohabitation, divorce, and non-marital childbearing in recent decades. In these countries marriage rate is at an all-time low, cohabitation is increasingly acceptable, and more than half of births to women under age 30 take place outside of marriage. Close to half of first marriages end in divorce. There are significant social costs to pornography and to “no fault” divorce laws that help dissolve marriages, often against the will of spouses who stand firm in their marital commitment. The time is not too far for these phenomena to affect the Church in India.

Marriage is a great good and holy marriages are something that we need more in this world! As Sacred Scripture beautifully intimates, earthly marriage is an icon of the union between Christ and His Bride, the Church (cf. Ephesians 5:25). It is the first school of living, a “community of life” where we are brought into the world and nurtured (Familiaris Consortio § 37). Pope Francis reiterated some of these points in his message to the 20 newly married couples last weekend at St. Peter’s: “Marriage” is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life! Marriage is a symbol of life, real life: it is not “fiction”! It is the Sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church, a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the Cross.”

But there are also other ways of living an integrated human life, of growing in sanctity, of the many paths to sainthood.  The different vocations all nourish and refer to each other: without strong families, where would vocations come from? And without holy Priests, Sisters, and Brothers, how can families flourish?

What can we do in the meantime? First, let us pray for the upcoming Synod on the Family in October 2015. We must also pray in our churches during Mass for Holy Marriages. We must advocate for a renewal of family life, pray for purity of heart, and implore God for healing from the broken forms of living in our culture. Most importantly, we must love our families. Mother Teresa was once asked, “What can we do to promote world peace?” She answered, “Go home and love your family.” Sometimes it is not in great deeds, lofty prayers, or in eloquent writings that we change the world; rather, it may be the little tasks, the quiet prayers at bedside, and the saying of grace at mealtime that affects eternity. Moreover, no matter what form of life we may be called to, in doing this, we will learn how to truly love, to forgive, to prepare in this earthly life for that heavenly union with the Divine Family, the Holy Trinity. It was a long time ago, the fruit of many generations, that there lived a little family in Nazareth. They did not have much in the way of material means, but they were rich in faith, hope, and love for each other. It was this that changed the world forever: “And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.” (cf. Luke 2:51-52)

3. The Recommitment of the Religious in The Year of the Consecrated Life  

The Church is in the Year of Consecrated Life. Pope Francis wishes that  all the consecrated men and women to recapture and rediscover their passion for God, passion for Christ, passion for humanity, passion for the Church and passion for the poor during this year. The Holy Father also invites the religious to go back to their sources and drink deeply from the life giving streams of their own original Charisms and ask themselves whether they are really living true to the spirit and apostolic drive of their Founders and Foundresses, evaluating their ministries to see if these really respond effectively to the needs of the Church and the whole humanity today.  The Pope also says that the Religious should be “experts in communion and specialists in encounter”. We cannot but make this call of the Supreme Pontiff our own and encourage the Religious to deepen their call, consecration and commitment. We wish to reaffirm our conviction that Religious Life is a gift of the Lord to the Church and to the world. A gift is also a task and the task of the Religious is to be a leaven at the heart of the Christian community and to be fires that kindle other fires everywhere. This calls for a continual renewal. The real fire that must burn is at the mystical level. This mystical core is the Heart! Not the physical organ but the spiritual core. Unless the heart is touched no change occurs. Therefore, it is not so much information to the head as a strong inspiration to the heart that is the key to spiritual renewal. Here at the mystical core the fire burns like in a furnace, and from there the energy emerges influencing the outer layers of affectivity, reason and senses. This mystical energy makes us powerful messengers of the Gospel.

Renewal is not some sort of repairing, rebuilding and renovating external structures to make them appear as if they are new, original and fresh.  Rather, renewal is recapturing the original spirit; restoring the original form; reviving the original dream; and rekindling the original fire.  We need to heed the call of the Word of God: “Be sure to keep alive in your hearts the message heard from the beginning.” (1 Jn. 2:24) or “Fan into flame the gift which God gave you when I laid my hands on you.” (2 Tim. 1:6). Both John and Paul speak of a gift received from God. John refers to faith and Paul to vocation.  Both are aware of the need for nurturing, guarding, protecting, feeding. Seeds need nurturing. Plants need protecting. Faith needs strengthening. Vocation needs deepening. Fervour needs rekindling.  It is our general experience that the original spirit cools. Very often, the original Charism becomes institutionalized.

This relentless trend towards fossilization has not spared the Church or the religious life. Vatican II was summoned by Pope John XXIII precisely for the purpose of a comprehensive renewal of the Church. He called it “aggiornamento”. The great document of the Council on Religious Life, Perfectae Caritatis gave a clarion call to all religious families to go back to their origins, recapture the original spirit and vision of their founders, return to their original charism and then adapt them to present realities. Every religious family begins as a movement. These movements are harnessed and channelized. They bear fruit in apostolic works and institutions. Unfortunately, an unintended side effect emerges. Very soon what began as a powerful movement becomes domesticated and diluted into a tame institution where external structures acquire greater importance than inner spirit. As years go by we tend to forget, lose the original drive. We let the original spring to dry up, become empty, and to take a different direction. Hence, there is a need for constant renewal. How?  Not so much in external structures, but in the inner renovation of spirit, which involve deeper internalization, personalization and living out the original inspiration of the Founder/Foundress. The external is important. The external is the expression and the embodiment of the interior. Inner experience and external expression have to be in dialectic tension. One cannot do without the other.  Without the external expression the inner experience dries up very fast. Without the inner experience the external expression is an empty shell, like the body without the soul – dead!

When we speak of renewal, we have to take into account the three main components of individual religious, religious community and the entire Congregation. Also different areas of our religious life are to be considered, in particular, the apostolic dimension, namely Evangelization in the sense of making Christ known, loved and followed. Spiritual renewal cannot be brought about by compulsion and command. It has to be a gift of grace. It has to be received. It is a result of our response to the inner call of the Spirit. God has to invade our inmost self. When this happens we manifest the life of God and become witnesses to the triumph of grace and the transformative action of the Holy Spirit.  Then indeed we will be true evangelizers. When we truly live our religious consecration, we become visible signs to the People of God that a life of total dedication to God in Christ is possible and that itself becomes a call to them to live their Christian vocation as generously as possible. When the Church becomes thus renewed she truly becomes Lumen Gentium (Light of the Nations) inviting every man, woman and child to share life in Christ.

Conclusion

These, then, are the three major themes that exercised our minds at the recent meeting of the Bishops of Karnataka. Each of these three themes holds out much promise and many challenges. Let us identify and rejoice at the good that is in our national life, in our family life and our religious life. At the same time, with the help of God’s grace, under the guidance of the Church and in communion with all Christians, let us together face the challenges and discover new and creative responses to our difficulties.

May Mary, our dearest Mother, help us to “do whatever he (Jesus) tells us (Jn, 2:5). May she continue to be a role model for our spiritual renewal, and Christian and religious witnessing.

May I implore the good Lord to shower on each one of you plentiful graces and blessings in this holy season of Lent, and may I, on behalf of the Bishops of the Region, take this opportunity to wish all of you a blessed and joyful Easter.

This Pastoral Letter was officially released on 4th March, 2015.

 Yours sincerely in Christ,

 

Bernard Moras

Archbishop of Bangalore

And President - KRCBC 

 

Message Of His Holiness Pope Francis For The Thirtieth World Youth Day 2015

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altTHE VATICAN: The following is the text of the message of Pope Francis for the World Youth Day 2015: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt 5: 8)

 

Dear Young Friends,

 

We continue our spiritual pilgrimage toward Krakow, where in July 2016 the next international World Youth Day will be held. As our guide for the journey we have chosen the Beatitudes. Last year we reflected on the beatitude of the poor in spirit, within the greater context of the Sermon on the Mount. Together we discovered the revolutionary meaning of the Beatitudes and the powerful summons of Jesus to embark courageously upon the exciting quest for happiness. This year we will reflect on the sixth beatitude: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8).

 

1. The desire for happiness

 

The word “blessed”, or “happy”, occurs nine times in this, Jesus’ first great sermon (cf. Mt 5:1-12). It is like a refrain reminding us of the Lord’s call to advance together with him on a road which, for all its many challenges, leads to true happiness.

Dear young friends, this search for happiness is shared by people of all times and all ages. God has placed in the heart of every man and woman an irrepressible desire for happiness, for fulfillment. Have you not noticed that your hearts are restless, always searching for a treasure which can satisfy their thirst for the infinite?

The first chapters of the Book of Genesis show us the splendid “beatitude” to which we are called. It consists in perfect communion with God, with others, with nature, and with ourselves. To approach God freely, to see him and to be close to him, was part of his plan for us from the beginning; his divine light was meant to illumine every human relationship with truth and transparency. In the state of original purity, there was no need to put on masks, to engage in ploys or to attempt to conceal ourselves from one another. Everything was clear and pure.

When Adam and Eve yielded to temptation and broke off this relationship of trusting communion with God, sin entered into human history (cf. Gen 3). The effects were immediately evident, within themselves, in their relationship with each other and with nature. And how dramatic the effects are! Our original purity as defiled. From that time on, we were no longer capable of closeness to God. Men and women began to conceal themselves, to cover their nakedness. Lacking the light which comes from seeing the Lord, they saw everything around them in a distorted fashion, myopically. The inner compass which had guided them in their quest for happiness lost its point of reference, and the attractions of power, wealth, possessions, and a desire for pleasure at all costs, led them to the abyss of sorrow and anguish.

In the Psalms we hear the heartfelt plea which mankind makes to God: “What can bring us happiness? Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord” (Ps 4:7). The Father, in his infinite goodness, responded to this plea by sending his Son. In Jesus, God has taken on a human face. Through his Incarnation, life, death and resurrection, Jesus frees us from sin and opens new and hitherto unimaginable horizons.

Dear young men and women, in Christ you find fulfilled your every desire for goodness and happiness. He alone can satisfy your deepest longings, which are so often clouded by deceptive worldly promises. As Saint John Paul II said: “He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives” (cf. Discourse at the Prayer Vigil at Tor Vergata, 19 August 2000: Insegnamenti XXIII/2, [2000], 212).

 

2. Blessed are the pure in heart…

 

Let us now try to understand more fully how this blessedness comes about through purity of heart. First of all, we need to appreciate the biblical meaning of the word heart. In Hebrew thought, the heart is the centre of the emotions, thoughts and intentions of the human person. Since the Bible teaches us that God does not look to appearances, but to the heart (cf. 1 Sam16:7), we can also say that it is from the heart that we see God. This is because the heart is really the human being in his or her totality as a unity of body and soul, in his or her ability to love and to be loved.

As for the definition of the word pure, however, the Greek word used by the evangelist Matthew is katharos, which basically means clean, pure, undefiled. In the Gospel we see Jesus reject a certain conception of ritual purity bound to exterior practices, one which forbade all contact with things and people (including lepers and strangers) considered impure. To the Pharisees who, like so many Jews of their time, ate nothing without first performing ritual ablutions and observing the many traditions associated with cleansing vessels, Jesus responds categorically: “There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mk 7:15, 21-22).

In what, then, does the happiness born of a pure heart consist? From Jesus’ list of the evils which make someone impure, we see that the question has to do above all with the area of our relationships. Each one of us must learn to discern what can “defile” his or her heart and to form his or her conscience rightly and sensibly, so as to be capable of “discerning the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2). We need to show a healthy concern for creation, for the purity of our air, water and food, but how much more do we need to protect the purity of what is most precious of all: our heart and our relationships. This “human ecology” will help us to breathe the pure air that comes from beauty, from true love, and from holiness.

Once I asked you the question: “Where is your treasure? In what does your heart find its rest?” (cf. Interview with Young People from Belgium, 31 March 2014). Our hearts can be attached to true or false treasures, they can find genuine rest or they can simply slumber, becoming lazy and lethargic. The greatest good we can have in life is our relationship with God. Are you convinced of this? Do you realize how much you are worth in the eyes of God? Do you know that you are loved and welcomed by him unconditionally, as indeed you are? Once we lose our sense of this, we human beings become an incomprehensible enigma, for it is the knowledge that we are loved unconditionally by God which gives meaning to our lives. Do you remember the conversation that Jesus had with the rich young man (cf. Mk 10:17-22)? The evangelist Mark observes that the Lord looked upon him and loved him (v. 21), and invited him to follow him and thus to find true riches. I hope, dear young friends, that this loving gaze of Christ will accompany each of you throughout life.

Youth is a time of life when your desire for a love which is genuine, beautiful and expansive begins to blossom in your hearts. How powerful is this ability to love and to be loved! Do not let this precious treasure be debased, destroyed or spoiled. That is what happens when we start to use our neighbours for our own selfish ends, even as objects of pleasure. Hearts are broken and sadness follows upon these negative experiences. I urge you: Do not be afraid of true love, the love that Jesus teaches us and which Saint Paul describes as “patient and kind”. Paul says: “Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:4-8).

In encouraging you to rediscover the beauty of the human vocation to love, I also urge you to rebel against the widespread tendency to reduce love to something banal, reducing it to its sexual aspect alone, deprived of its essential characteristics of beauty, communion, fidelity and responsibility. Dear young friends, “in a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘for ever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage to ‘swim against the tide’. And also have the courage to be happy” (Meeting with the Volunteers of the XXVIII Word Youth Day, 28 July 2013).

You young people are brave adventurers! If you allow yourselves to discover the rich teachings of the Church on love, you will discover that Christianity does not consist of a series of prohibitions which stifle our desire for happiness, but rather a project for life capable of captivating our hearts.

 

3. …for they shall see God

 

In the heart of each man and woman, the Lord’s invitation constantly resounds: “Seek my face!” (Ps 27:8). At the same time, we must always realize that we are poor sinners. For example, we read in the Book of Psalms: “Who can climb the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps 24:3-4). But we must never be afraid or discouraged: throughout the Bible and in the history of each one of us we see that it is always God who takes the first step. He purifies us so that we can come into his presence.

When the prophet Isaiah heard the Lord’s call to speak in his name, he was terrified and said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips” (Is 6:5). And yet the Lord purified him, sending to him an angel who touched his lips, saying: “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin is forgiven” (v. 7). In the New Testament, when on the shores of lake Genessaret Jesus called his first disciples and performed the sign of the miraculous catch of fish, Simon Peter fell at his feet, exclaiming: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8). Jesus’ reply was immediate: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be fishers of men” (v. 10). And when one of the disciples of Jesus asked him: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied”, the Master replied: “He who has seen me has seen the Father (Jn 14:8-9).

The Lord’s invitation to encounter him is made to each of you, in whatever place or situation you find yourself. It suffices to have the desire for “a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter you; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 3). We are all sinners, needing to be purified by the Lord. But it is enough to take a small step towards Jesus to realize that he awaits us always with open arms, particularly in the sacrament of Reconciliation, a privileged opportunity to encounter that divine mercy which purifies us and renews our hearts.

Dear young people, the Lord wants to meet us, to let himself “be seen” by us. “And how?”, you might ask me. Saint Teresa of Avila, born in Spain five hundred years ago, even as a young girl, said to her parents, “I want to see God”. She subsequently discovered the way of prayer as “an intimate friendship with the One who makes us feel loved” (Autobiography, 8,5). So my question to you is this: “Are you praying?” Do you know that you can speak with Jesus, with the Father, with the Holy Spirit, as you speak to a friend? And not just any friend, but the greatest and most trusted of your friends! You will discover what one of his parishioners told the Curé of Ars: “When I pray before the tabernacle, ‘I look at him, and he looks at me’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2715).

Once again I invite you to encounter the Lord by frequently reading sacred Scripture. If you are not already in the habit of doing so, begin with the Gospels. Read a line or two each day. Let God’s word speak to your heart and enlighten your path (cf. Ps119:105). You will discover that God can be “seen” also in the face of your brothers and sisters, especially those who are most forgotten: the poor, the hungry, those who thirst, strangers, the sick, those imprisoned (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Have you ever had this experience? Dear young people, in order to enter into the logic of the Kingdom of Heaven, we must recognize that we are poor with the poor. A pure heart is necessarily one which has been stripped bare, a heart that knows how to bend down and share its life with those most in need.

Encountering God in prayer, the reading of the Bible and in the fraternal life will help you better to know the Lord and yourselves. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35), the Lord’s voice will make your hearts burn within you. He will open your eyes to recognize his presence and to discover the loving plan he has for your life.

Some of you feel, or will soon feel, the Lord’s call to married life, to forming a family. Many people today think that this vocation is “outdated”, but that is not true! For this very reason, the ecclesial community has been engaged in a special period of reflection on the vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world. I also ask you to consider whether you are being called to the consecrated life or the priesthood. How beautiful it is to see young people who embrace the call to dedicate themselves fully to Christ and to the service of his Church! Challenge yourselves, and with a pure heart do not be afraid of what God is asking of you! From your “yes” to the Lord’s call, you will become new seeds of hope in the Church and in society. Never forget: God’s will is our happiness!

 

4. On the way to Krakow

 

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). Dear young men and women, as you see, this beatitude speaks directly to your lives and is a guarantee of your happiness. So once more I urge you: Have the courage to be happy!

This year’s World Youth Day begins the final stage of preparations for the great gathering of young people from around the world in Krakow in 2016. Thirty years ago Saint John Paul II instituted World Youth Days in the Church. This pilgrimage of young people from every continent under the guidance of the Successor of Peter has truly been a providential and prophetic initiative. Together let us thank the Lord for the precious fruits which these World Youth Days have produced in the lives of countless young people in every part of the globe! How many amazing discoveries have been made, especially the discovery that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life! How many people have realized that the Church is a big and welcoming family! How many conversions, how many vocations have these gatherings produced! May the saintly Pope, the Patron of World Youth Day, intercede on behalf of our pilgrimage toward his beloved Krakow. And may the maternal gaze of the Blessed Virgin Mary, full of grace, all-beautiful and all-pure, accompany us at every step along the way.

 

From the Vatican, 31 January 2015 

Memorial of Saint John Bosco

 

FRANCIS

 

Bishops Urge To Value And Experience The Beauty, Splendor And Majesty Of The Liturgy Of The Church

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altBANGALORE, FEB 9, 2015: The Plenary Assembly of the Conference of the Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) in it’s message has urged to “value and experience the beauty, splendor and majesty of the liturgy of the Church”. The following is the text of the message of the Bishops who met Feb. 3-9, at St. John’s National Institute for Health Sciences in Bengaluru:

MESSAGE OF THE 27th PLENARY ASSEMBLY OF THE Conference of the Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) HELD AT BENGALURU, FROM 3-9 FEBRUARY, 2015

I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10)

We, the 130 members of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India gathered for the 27th Plenary Assembly at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bengaluru from 3-9 February, 2015, wish to convey our greetings of joy, peace and love of Our Lord Jesus Christ to our Priests, Religious, Lay Faithful and all People of Good Will.

In the light of the theme of the Plenary Assembly, “Liturgy and Life”, we deliberated upon liturgical renewal in the Church in India and reflected on the intrinsic relationship of liturgy to the life of the People of God.  We were encouraged and inspired by the message of the Holy Father, Pope Francis to our Conference in which, quoting Evangelii Gaudium 24, he invites us to reflect that “the Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving”.

Thanks to the Second Vatican Council, liturgical renewal has enabled us to value and experience the beauty, splendor and majesty of the liturgy of the Church.

While considering the relationship between liturgy and life, we could not ignore the fact that our country is going through challenging times. Even as the Country has progressed economically, the benefits have not reached the poor and the marginalized, and at times have even worsened their situation. We are anxious about the increasing marginalization of the poor, the Dalits and the Tribals often in the name of development. 

Rising fundamentalism and communalism threatens to tear the social fabric and the secular nature of our beloved Country. We feel sad that the law abiding Christian community appears to be especially targeted. It was in this spirit that we bishops took part in a “Peace and Harmony March” in order to express our solidarity with Christians in different parts of our country who are affected by these atrocities, especially with the Church in Delhi where recently several churches have been vandalized and desecrated.

We were conscious of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that “the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 10). In the light of this Conciliar vision, many suggestions and recommendations were proposed for a liturgy that is celebrated in a proper, effective and relevant manner. Accordingly the National Liturgical Commission has been entrusted with the task of bringing out comprehensive liturgical guidelines. However, at this juncture, we would like to state:

1.            In order to promote a full, conscious and active participation in the liturgical celebrations of the Paschal Mystery, we urge all ministers and faithful to celebrate the liturgy, with due sense of the sacred and of beauty and with joyfulness, leading to a personal and communitarian encounter with God and transformation of life. Care should be taken to observe the prescribed norms in order to maintain the dignity and decorum of the celebrations. The holiness of the priest is the leaven of the liturgical celebration.

 

2.            At the National, Regional, Diocesan and Parish levels, and in the Formation and Religious Houses, well planned measures have to be undertaken to help the communities to celebrate the liturgy in all its richness.

 

3.            An extensive and regular liturgical catechesis will prepare the faithful to participate actively in the liturgy and allow the transforming power of the liturgy to flow into their lives.

4.             We are convinced that inculturation is demanded by faith in accordance with the exigencies of human nature (Sacrosanctum Concilium 37-40). At the same time, given the multi-cultured nature of our society and keeping in mind that cultures are ever evolving and transforming, the sensitivities of the people and of various groups are to be addressed when efforts are made to promote inculturation.

5.            Heeding the Holy Father’s exhortation that sometimes there is “an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time” (Evangelii Gaudium #77), we shall strive to make the liturgical celebrations also opportunities for catechesis on our missionary and social responsibilities, especially through Homilies and Prayers of the Faithful.

6.            As the Universal Church prepares herself for the Synod on the Family in October 2015, we recognize the importance of the communion of families in neighborhoods which are the Small Christian Communities (SCC) that always relate liturgy to life and vice versa. It is through the communion of families in the neighborhood, that the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church becomes Eucharistic like the early apostolic communities (Acts, chapters 2 and 4). We therefore pledge ourselves to strengthen the SCC as the true way of being the living Church.

May this Year dedicated to Consecrated Life be also a time of liturgical renewal in the Communities of the consecrated persons.

This Plenary Assembly was celebrated in a year full of grace with the recent canonization of three more Indian saints: St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, St. Euphrasia Eluvathingal and St. Joseph Vaz.  We are grateful to the Church for giving us saints as models for imitation and as our intercessors in heaven.

May Mary, the Mother of the Word Incarnate, be our guide and our protector.

  

 
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