Monday, May 21, 2012

And Peter stood up....

A year ago on World Communications Sunday Pope Benedict XVI encouraged priests: "For God's" His words of encouragement are words that inspired me to start writing back in January. On this day I would like to share the concluding paragraph of Carl Anderson's book A Civilization of Love. Carl Anderson is Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbs. These are his words: "On October 7, 1979, I stood on te grass of the Mall in Washington DC with humdreds of thousands of other Catholics to join John Paul II as he said Mass for the last time on his first visit to the United States. I still remember clearly the sky beginning to darken, the pope's green vestments blowing in the wind, his hand resting on his silver pilgrim's cross, the Capitol Dome behind him; and then the heavily accented Polish voice that would grow so familiar as the years went on:'All human beings ought to value every person for his or her uniqueness as a creature of God, called to be a brother or sister of Christ....And so, we will stand up every time that human life is threatened. When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life.' And then he went on, repeating his refrain, saying we would stand up to protect children, marriage, the family, the environment, the poor, and finally, 'When the sick, the aged or the dying are abandoned in loneliness, we will stand up and proclaim that they are worthy of love, care and respect.' Of course we were all standing." One of the unique traits about Pope John Paul II is that just as "Peter stood up" (Acts 1:15), Pope John Paul II also "stood up" for the rights and dignity of human persons. He stood until he could stand no more. The first Peter may have fled the cross but Pope John Paul stood for many years in the balcony at St Peter's and with the suffering masses at the world day for the sick. Friends of mine happened to be in Rome during the Jubilee year 2000 and they commented on how he individually greeted all the sick who were presented to him. This was not on human strength alone. He, too, was a very sick man at that point. Where did he get this strength? It came from prayer. I have a picture from a mass I was able to attend in his private chapel in January 2001. The Picture is taken from behind the altar and you see the pontiff deep in prayer with concelebrating priests and invited guests behind. At this mass I was handed a copy of the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennion Ineunte. In this letter Pope John Paul asserts that "our Christian communities must become genuine 'schools' of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly 'falls in love'". Because we live in such an active society we may think of something that needs to be done...a new program etc. The Pope says no. Here are his thoughts: "To make the church the home and the school of communion: that is the greatest challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning, if we wish to be faithful to God's plan and respond to the world's deepest yearnings. But what does this mean in practice? Here too, our thoughts could run immediately to the action to be undertaken, but that would not be the right impulse to follow. Before making practical plans, we need to promote a spirituality of commuion, making it the guiding principle of education wherever individuals and Christians are formed, wherever ministers of the altar, consecrated persons, and pastoral workers are trained, whereveer families and communities are being built up. A spirituality of communion indicates above all the heart's contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters around us. A spirituality of communion also means an ability to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the Mystical Body, and therefore as 'those who are a part of me'. This makes us able to share their joys and sufferings, to sense their desires and meet their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship. A spirituality of communion implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God: not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly, but also as a 'gift for me.' A spirituality of communion means, finally, to know how to 'make room' for our brothers and sisters, bearing 'each other's burdens' (Gal 6:2)." All of this comes from prayer. When we realize who we are in prayer we recconnect with God who never stops saying: "You are my beloved son, You are my beloved daughter." We recognize our own dignity and love ourselves in a Godly way which then enables us to see that same dignity in others. Want to stand up for justice, human rights, the unborn, the poor? To stand up you must first bow your head in prayer and kneel before the God of the universe and listen for the still small voice that the prophet Elijah heard on Mount Carmel

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