Tuesday, October 30, 2012

“Art and Faith”

Last Thursday evening, in the Paul VI Hall, a new Polish documentary was released entitled “Art and Faith”.  Pope Benedict XVI attended the showing, along with many other cardinals, bishops, priests, seminarians, religious, and lay people.  The film captured the beauty of the all the treasures displayed within the Vatican museums and the broad history of art throughout Christianity found therein.  The documentary devoted much of its research and commentary to the splendor of Michelango’s Sistine Chapel.  In fact, October 31st will be the 500th anniversary of its completion! 
(You can take a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel here.)

            After the viewing, the Holy Father reflected on the beauty of art, its importance for the new evangelization, and the timeliness of the release of this documentary during the Year of Faith.  He commented,

One could say that the artistic heritage of Vatican City constitutes a sort of grand ‘parable’ through which the Pope speaks to men and women from around the world…The language of art is a ‘parabolic’ language, with a special openness to the universal: the ‘Way of Beauty’ is a way capable of leading the mind and heart to the Lord, to elevate them to the heights of God.

             The documentary also gave special reference to some of our more recent Holy Fathers, such as Blessed John XXIII, Servant of God Paul VI, and Blessed John Paul II, and their work and encouragement of the importance of art and its role in faith.  Blessed John Paul II, especially, was acknowledged for his work and dialogue with artists.  Here is a link to his Letter to Artists.  Pope Benedict XVI was touched and appreciative that they gave special notice to him.  Pope Benedict XVI himself also met with a group of artists in the Sistine Chapel in November 2009, which was reflected in the documentary.  Here is a text of that Meeting with Artists.

             Pope Benedict XVI concluded his thoughts, saying, “Art and faith: a combination that accompanies the Church and the Holy See for two thousand years; a combination that we need even more today in our commitment to announcing to the men and women of our time the Gospel of a God who is infinite Beauty and Love.”

             Just as an aside, in the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith’s Note for Pastoral Recommendation’s for the Year of Faith, art and music is given special attention as a way to promote and catechize our faith.  We pray that we and all may use our artistic talents and gifts for the greater glory of God, to witness to God’s infinite love and beauty and to draw others to the truths of the Faith!

Friday, October 26, 2012

“Let Jesus Christ take hold of you!  […]  Let your life be an open book that narrates the experience of the new life in the Spirit, the presence of God who sustains us on the way and opens to us life that will never end.”

On October 24, 2012, Pope Benedict addressed a huge crowd in Saint Peter’s Square for his weekly audience.  As promised, the Holy Father is using the Wednesday audiences to reflect on the Apostles’ Creed, but this week he wanted to start with a fundamental question: What is faith?

It may seem like we have asked that question a lot lately, but Pope Benedict XVI is emphasizing for us that the science and technology only take us so far.  The most profound questions of life, questions like “What is the meaning of life?” and “How should we live in order to be happy?” or “Is there a future for humanity?”—these cannot be answered by physics, chemistry, biology, or any other scientific knowledge.

It is not because scientific knowledge is useless or bad that it can give no response to such questions; they simply are beyond the scope of these fields of inquiry.  It’s important to recognize this in order to situate faith—through which we can give an answer to these questions—in its proper relationship with science and reason.  Truth can never contradict truth.

We don’t just need bread, in other words.  We need love, meaning, and hope.  Faith, by being an entrustment of myself to God and a personal response to His love, gives me a certainty that is different from but no less solid than the exact calculations of science. 

Faith is a certainty that gives a secure foundation and solid ground to live authentically every day.  What does “authentically” mean here?  Faith believes in the love of God that does not shrink back from our failures, our wickedness, or even death.  We know that God’s love is capable of transforming every form of slavery that we know in our lives; it is the reason for our hope.  God promises an indestructible love for all eternity and he is giving it to us.  Through faith we accept this we begin to live without fear; we begin to become what we were made to be: God’s sons and daughters.  It is a gift from God and, at the same time, a profoundly human act.

(For the full text of the Holy Father's address, please click here.  The Vatican translation should be available in English in about a week.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Canonization of Seven Saints: October 21, 2012

On Sunday, October 21st, the Holy Father canonized 7 news saints in Saint Peter's Square, including two Americans: Saint Marianne Cope and Saint Kateri Tekakwitha.

Below are some excerpts from his homily, and a few pictures from the event will be posted soon.  It was attended by tens of thousands of people, and a great way to celebrate World Mission Day.

Saint Peter's Square
Sunday, 21 October 2012
The Son of Man came to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (cf. Mk 10:45)
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear brothers and sisters!

Today the Church listens again to these words of Jesus, spoken by the Lord during his journey to Jerusalem, where he was to accomplish the mystery of his passion, death and resurrection.  They are words which enshrine the meaning of Christ’s mission on earth, marked by his sacrifice, by his total self-giving.  On this third Sunday of October, on which we celebrate World Mission Sunday, the Church listens to them with special attention and renews her conviction that she should always be fully dedicated to serve mankind and the Gospel, after the example of the One who gave himself up even to the sacrifice of his life. […]
The coincidence between this ecclesiastical meeting and World Mission Sunday is a happy one; and the word of God that we have listened to sheds light on both subjects.  It shows how to be evangelizers, called to bear witness and to proclaim the Christian message, configuring ourselves to Christ and following his same way of life.  This is true both for the mission ad Gentes and for the new evangelization in places with ancient Christian roots.

These words were the blueprint for living of the seven Blessed men and women that the Church solemnly enrols this morning in the glorious ranks of the saints.  With heroic courage they spent their lives in total consecration to the Lord and in the generous service of their brethren.  They are sons and daughters of the Church who chose a life of service following the Lord. […] Today’s canonization is an eloquent confirmation of this mysterious saving reality.  The tenacious profession of faith of these seven generous disciples of Christ, their configuration to the Son of Man shines out brightly today in the whole Church.

Jacques Berthieu, born in 1838 in France, was passionate about Jesus Christ at an early age.  During his parish ministry, he had the burning desire to save souls.  Becoming a Jesuit, he wished to journey through the world for the glory of God.  A tireless pastor on the island of Sainte Marie, then in Madagascar, he struggled against injustice while bringing succour to the poor and sick. […]He died, saying “I prefer to die rather than renounce my faith”.  Dear friends, may the life of this evangelizer be an encouragement and a model for priests that, like him, they will be men of God!  May his example aid the many Christians of today persecuted for their faith!  In this Year of Faith, may his intercession bring forth many fruits for Madagascar and the African Continent!  May God bless the Malagasy people!

Pedro Calungsod was born around the year 1654, in the Visayas region of the Philippines. His love for Christ inspired him to train as a catechist with the Jesuit missionaries there. In 1668, along with other young catechists, he accompanied Father Diego Luís de San Vitores to the Marianas Islands in order to evangelize the Chamorro people. Life there was hard and the missionaries also faced persecution arising from envy and slander. Pedro, however, displayed deep faith and charity and continued to catechize his many converts, giving witness to Christ by a life of purity and dedication to the Gospel. Uppermost was his desire to win souls for Christ, and this made him resolute in accepting martyrdom. […]

Giovanni Battista Piamarta, priest of the Diocese of Brescia, was a great apostle of charity and of young people.  He raised awareness of the need for a cultural and social presence of Catholicism in the modern world, and so he dedicated himself to the Christian, moral and professional growth of the younger generations with an enlightened input of humanity and goodness. […]The secret of his intense and busy life is found in the long hours he gave to prayer.  When he was overburdened with work, he increased the length of his encounter, heart to heart, with the Lord.  He preferred to pause before the Blessed Sacrament, meditating upon the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, to gain spiritual fortitude and return to gaining people’s hearts, especially the young, to bring them back to the sources of life with fresh pastoral initiatives. […]

María Carmelo Sallés y Barangueras, a religious born in Vic in Spain in 1848 […]  Filled with hope in spite of many trials, she, on seeing the progress of the Congregation of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching, which she founded in 1892, was able to sing with the Mother of God, “His mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation” (Lk 1:50).  Her educational work, entrusted to the Immaculate Virgin Mary, continues to bear abundant fruit among young people through the generous dedication of her daughters who, like her, entrust themselves to God for whom all is possible. 

I now turn to Marianne Cope, born in 1838 in Heppenheim, Germany.  Only one year old when taken to the United States, in 1862 she entered the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis at Syracuse, New York.  Later, as Superior General of her congregation, Mother Marianne willingly embraced a call to care for the lepers of Hawaii after many others had refused. […]There she looked after Father Damien, already famous for his heroic work among the lepers, nursed him as he died and took over his work among male lepers. […]

Kateri Tekakwitha was born in today’s New York state in 1656 to a Mohawk father and a Christian Algonquin mother who gave to her a sense of the living God. […]Kateri impresses us by the action of grace in her life in spite of the absence of external help and by the courage of her vocation, so unusual in her culture.  In her, faith and culture enrich each other!  May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are.  Saint Kateri, Protectress of Canada and the first native American saint, we entrust to you the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in all of North America!  May God bless the first nations!

Anna Schaeffer, from Mindelstetten, as a young woman wished to enter a missionary order.  She came from a poor background so, in order to earn the dowry needed for acceptance into the cloister, she worked as a maid.  One day she suffered a terrible accident and received incurable burns on her legs which forced her to be bed-ridden for the rest of her life.  So her sick-bed became her cloister cell and her suffering a missionary service.  She struggled for a time to accept her fate, but then understood her situation as a loving call from the crucified One to follow him. […]May her apostolate of prayer and suffering, of sacrifice and expiation, be a shining example for believers in her homeland, and may her intercession strengthen the Christian hospice movement in its beneficial activity. […]

May the witness of these new saints, and their lives generously spent for love of Christ, speak today to the whole Church, and may their intercession strengthen and sustain her in her mission to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New Year of Faith Catechesis series:

Today at the General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he is going to interrupt the catechesis on prayer which he had been giving in order to dedicate the Wednesday audiences to the Creed.  As we progress through this year, the Pope will open up for us the Apostles' Creed, one of the most fundamental formulas of our faith.

What is is this going to look like?

First of all, it's important to know what exactly the General audience is.  Every Wednesday when he is in Rome, Pope Benedict invites pilgrims from all over the world to the Vatican for the "general audience".  This meeting is a chance for the successor of Saint Peter to teach and to pray with the pilgrims who come to see him and receive his blessing.  Usually, the Pope picks a theme and then develops it over a period of several months or even longer--this is what we mean by "catechesis" in this context.

In today's audience--which included over 20,000 pilgrims--the Holy Father basically gave a program of what he is going to talk about during this Year of Faith.  The Vatican's translation is not ready yet, but once it is, you will be able to find it here.  Please note that the notes below are my own, but the Pope's speech is given in Italian. 

  • Why did the Holy Father announce the Year of Faith?  So that Church might renew the enthusiasm that comes from believing in Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world; revivify the joy that comes from following the path He has showed us; and testify in a very real way the transforming power of faith.
  • What does it look like when faith is something exterior, something set apart from my daily life?  I live my faith passively; I refuse to become educated and knowledgeable about what I believe; there is a rupture between my life and my faith.  Relativism creeps in and my thinking becomes muddled: I no longer believe in the singular salvific power of Christianity.  Faith becomes something that I make up, a do-it-yourself religion, no longer truth that I assent to.
  • How does this split between faith and life happen?  There is a two-fold process going on.  First there is the advancement of secularization and the spreading of a nihilistic mentality present in our culture.  Both of these promote a mentality and a lifestyle that cannot offer true ideals or solid hopes.  This has a profound effect on people, and is the catalyst for the second process, which happens on the individual level.  The search for truth and a desire to understand the most profound meaning of existence--both of which come naturally to us!--become unimportant.  Our desire for the infinite is blunted, and we settle for less.  This affects us not only in our relationship with God, but in every facet of our life, day-in-day-out.  Our human relationships also suffer: they are suspect to emotivity instead of true love; instability instead of a joined, willed effort at communion and happiness; responsibility becomes a burden, when it is actually a sign of maturity.
  • How can faith help us through all this?  Faith is not outside of me--it is the soul of my concrete experience of life.  Or rather, it has the power to be so.  In faith we know that the fullness of being human consists in love, a love that is given to me by God and that animates my entire life, every aspect, every day.
That is the challenge of the Year of Faith for all of us.  By leading us through the contents of the faith as enumerated in the Apostles' Creed, Pope Benedict is also going to continue to ask us to examine what the contents of that Creed really mean in our daily lives.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October 14, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI's Angelus Message

            Sunday, the Holy Father gave his Angelus reflection on Sunday's Gospel, Mark 10:17-30 – the story of the rich man who asks Christ, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  He reflected upon the idea of wealth, and Jesus' saying of how difficult it is for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God, impossible for man but not impossible for God. 
            The Holy Father reflects, “As often happens in the Gospels, everything begins from an encounter”.  This man had many possessions and yet desired true happiness.  He is searching and seeking after fullness of life, but is dependent upon his own wealth. 
            The Holy Father teaches:

            “Jesus welcomes the profound desire that is in him and, the evangelist notes, casts a gaze full of love upon him, God's own gaze (cf. 10:21).  But Jesus also understands what the man's weakness is: it is precisely his attachment to his many possessions, and this is why he invites him to give everything to the poor, so that his treasure – and thus his heart – will no longer be on earth but in heaven...” 

            He conludes by quoting Saint Clement who advises that those who are rich and have many possessions “must learn how to use their wealth and obtain life”.  The Holy Father then offered three saints who were wealthy and had many possessions but used their wealth for the poor and those in need – Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, and Saint Charles Borromeo.  Perhaps, throughout this week, we could ask their intercession on how we can best use our talents and possessions in God's service.
            Following his address, the Holy Father rejoiced in sharing the news that in Prague, Frederick Bachstein and 13 of his confreres of the Order of Friars Minor were beatified, the first beatifications to be held within the Year of Faith!  They were martyrs who died for their faith, and our Holy Father exhorts us, “...they remind us that believing in Christ also means suffering with him and for him”. 
            Finally, when greeting the English-speaking pilgrims present in Saint Peter's Square, he said, “During this Year of Faith may we, like the man in today's Gospel, have the courage to ask the Lord what more can we do, especially for the poor, the lonely, the sick and the suffering, so as to be witnesses and heirs to the eternal life God promises.” 
            Blessed Mother, pray for us!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Opening Mass for the Year of Faith: October 11, 2012

As you all know, the Year of Faith opened with the Holy Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11th.  A few of us were able to attend--all the pontifical universities in Rome called off school--and we have a few pictures from the day:

The outdoor Mass was attended by pilgrims from all over the world.

Sister Maria Pacis (left), Sister Regina Marie, and Sister Anna Marie were able to attend the Mass.

Pope Benedict XVI (after the Mass) greeted the crowd in the piazza.

To top it all off, it was a beautiful day:

Finally, here are some of the Holy Father's remarks from his homily, which you can find in its entirety on the Vatican website: Year of Faith Opening Mass Homily

Saint Peter's Square
Thursday, 11 October 2012
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, fifty years from the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, we begin with great joy the Year of Faith […] [T]his celebration has been enriched by several special signs: the opening procession, intended to recall the memorable one of the Council Fathers when they entered this Basilica; the enthronement of the Book of the Gospels with the same book that was used at the Council; the consignment of the seven final Messages of the Council, and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I will do before the final blessing. These signs help us not only to remember, they also offer us the possibility of going beyond commemorating. They invite us to enter more deeply into the spiritual movement which characterized Vatican II, to make it ours and to develop it according to its true meaning. And its true meaning was and remains faith in Christ, the apostolic faith, animated by the inner desire to communicate Christ to individuals and all people, in the Church’s pilgrimage along the pathways of history.
The Year of Faith which we launch today is linked harmoniously with the Church’s whole path over the last fifty years: from the Council, through the Magisterium of the Servant of God Paul VI, who proclaimed a Year of Faith in 1967, up to the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, with which Blessed John Paul II re-proposed to all humanity Jesus Christ as the one Saviour, yesterday, today and forever. Between these two Popes, Paul VI and John Paul II, there was a deep and complete convergence, precisely upon Christ as the centre of the cosmos and of history, and upon the apostolic eagerness to announce him to the world. Jesus is the centre of the Christian faith. The Christian believes in God whose face was revealed by Jesus Christ. He is the fulfilment of the Scriptures and their definitive interpreter. Jesus Christ is not only the object of the faith but, as it says in the Letter to the Hebrews, he is “the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith” (12:2). […]

The Second Vatican Council did not wish to deal with the theme of faith in one specific document. It was, however, animated by a desire, as it were, to immerse itself anew in the Christian mystery so as to re-propose it fruitfully to contemporary man. The Servant of God Paul VI, two years after the end of the Council session, expressed it in this way: “Even if the Council does not deal expressly with the faith, it talks about it on every page, it recognizes its vital and supernatural character, it assumes it to be whole and strong, and it builds upon its teachings. We need only recall some of the Council’s statements in order to realize the essential importance that the Council, consistent with the doctrinal tradition of the Church, attributes to the faith, the true faith, which has Christ for its source and the Church’s Magisterium for its channel” (General Audience, 8 March 1967). Thus said Paul VI in 1967. […]

In the light of these words, we can understand what I myself felt at the time: during the Council there was an emotional tension as we faced the common task of making the truth and beauty of the faith shine out in our time, without sacrificing it to the demands of the present or leaving it tied to the past: the eternal presence of God resounds in the faith, transcending time, yet it can only be welcomed by us in our own unrepeatable today. Therefore I believe that the most important thing, especially on such a significant occasion as this, is to revive in the whole Church that positive tension, that yearning to announce Christ again to contemporary man. But, so that this interior thrust towards the new evangelization neither remain just an idea nor be lost in confusion, it needs to be built on a concrete and precise basis, and this basis is the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the place where it found expression. This is why I have often insisted on the need to return, as it were, to the “letter” of the Council – that is to its texts – also to draw from them its authentic spirit, and why I have repeated that the true legacy of Vatican II is to be found in them. Reference to the documents saves us from extremes of anachronistic nostalgia and running too far ahead, and allows what is new to be welcomed in a context of continuity. The Council did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient. Rather, it concerned itself with seeing that the same faith might continue to be lived in the present day, that it might remain a living faith in a world of change. […]

If today the Church proposes a new Year of Faith and a new evangelization, it is not to honour an anniversary, but because there is more need of it, even more than there was fifty years ago! […]This, then, is how we can picture the Year of Faith, a pilgrimage in the deserts of today’s world, taking with us only what is necessary: neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money, nor two tunics – as the Lord said to those he was sending out on mission (cf. Lk 9:3), but the Gospel and the faith of the Church, of which the Council documents are a luminous expression, as is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published twenty years ago.
Venerable and dear Brothers, 11 October 1962 was the Feast of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. Let us entrust to her the Year of Faith, as I did last week when I went on pilgrimage to Loreto. May the Virgin Mary always shine out as a star along the way of the new evangelization.

ON Thursday evening, there was a candlelight vigil in Saint Peter's Square.  50 years ago, when the Second Vatican Council opened, there was also a vigil in the piazza, but Pope John XXIII knew nothing about it!  When he came to his window, he spoke totally off the cuff to the thousands of people gathered in the piazza below.  There is a famous line from the end of that speech in which he tells the people to go to their homes, and when they see their children, to give them a kiss, and tell them it is from the Pope.
Here are a few pictures from the vigil--there were over 40,000 people there. 

Pope Benedict also came to his window to greet us and, also speaking extemporaneously, encouraged all to embrace the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization with courage and personal conversion.

It is easy to imagine that some who had been present for Pope John XXIII’s message were also present on Thursday evening in Saint Peter’s Square, as Pope Benedict gave a message to all the faithful the evening of the opening of the Year of Faith.  In fact, the Holy Father commented himself that he had been present that evening in Saint Peter’s Square when Pope John XXIII had given his famous speech which made him beloved by all.  Given below is the message given by Pope Benedict XVI:
“Good evening to all of you and thank you for coming! Many thanks as well to Catholic Action for having organized tonight's vigil.

Fifty years ago tonight, I, too, was in this square, with my eyes turned toward this window, as the Good Pope, Pope John, spoke to us those unforgettable words – full of poetry, of goodness, words from his heart. We were all happy that night and full of enthusiasm – the great ecumenical council had begun, and we were sure of a new springtime for the church, a new Pentecost with a new presence of the liberating grace of the Gospel.

We're happy today, too – we should carry joy in our hearts. I would say, however, that our joy is a more sober one, something more humble. Over these fifty years, we have learned and experienced that original sin exists, and that it translates itself into personal sins which can become structures of sin. We have seen that even in the Lord's field there is discord, that even in the net of Peter we find bad fish, that human weakness is present even in the church, that the ship of the church journeys in the face of an opposing wind, amid storms that threaten the ship. And sometimes we have thought that 'the Lord is asleep and has forgotten us.' But this is only one part of the experience of these fifty years. We've also been made to experience the presence of the Lord, the gifts of his goodness and strength.

The fire of the Holy Spirit, the fire of Christ is never one that devours nor a destructive one. It's a quiet fire, a small flame of goodness, of goodness and truth, that transforms with its light and warmth. We have seen that the Lord doesn't forget us – even today, his way is humble. The Lord is present, he gives warmth to our hearts, shows us life, creates charisms of goodness and charity that shine in our world, which are for us a guarantee of the goodness of God. 
Yes, Christ lives with us today and we can be happy because, even now, his goodness remains and is strong. And finally, I dare to make my own the unforgettable words of Pope John: 'When you go home, give your children a kiss and tell them that it's from the Pope.' 
With this sense from my whole heart, I give my blessing to you.”
As we begin this Year of Faith, with the Holy Father, we remember that the joy of knowing Christ surpasses all understanding and He is always with us.  This Year of Faith brings to light that we must seek Christ, we must keep our eyes fixed upon Him, and we must allow ourselves to be transformed by Him.    

Blessed Pope John XXIII, pray for us!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Welcome to our Year of Faith blog

Hi, and welcome to our Year of Faith blog.  The title for our blog is taken from Pope Benedict XVI's Motu proprio Porta Fidei: "rediscover the journey of faith".  The Holy Father has invited all of us to a renewal of faith in two fundamental dimensions: our understanding of the content of the Catholic faith; and our personal adherence to Jesus Christ and the Gospel by the "yes" of faith.

The purpose of this blog is to bring to our attention in a visible and accessible way what the Holy Father is saying this year, that is, to answer the question: How is Pope Benedict leading us through the Year of Faith?  We are going to follow in his footsteps by reading and listening to what he has to say and incorporating it into our own experience of the Year of Faith.

The Year of Faith officially begins on October 11th, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.  Today, however, in Saint Peter's Square, the Holy Father celebrated the opening Mass for the Synod on the New Evangelization...and he proclaimed Saint John of Avila and Saint Hildegard of Bingen doctors of the universal Church. 

Since the new evangelization is intrinsically tied to the Year of Faith, we went to the Mass to be with the Holy Father and to be present for the declaration of the new doctors:

St. Hildegard of Bingen

St. John of Avila

It was a great opportunity to pray with the Holy Father and celebrate with the universal Church.  The Holy Father asked all of us to pray for the work that the Synod is about to undertake.  Here are a few quotes from his homily, which you can find here in its entirety: Homily from Opening of Synod Mass
  • In every time and place, evangelization always has as its starting and finishing points Jesus Christ, the Son of God (cf. Mk 1:1); and the Crucifix is the supremely distinctive sign of him who announces the Gospel: a sign of love and peace, a call to conversion and reconciliation.  My dear Brother Bishops, starting with ourselves, let us fix our gaze upon him and let us be purified by his grace. 
  • ...the New Evangelization [is] directed principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life.  The Synodal Assembly which opens today is dedicated to this new evangelization, to help these people encounter the Lord, who alone who fills our existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favour the rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life.
  • The message of the word of God [in today's Gospel] may be summed up in the expression found in the Book of Genesis and taken up by Jesus himself: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24; Mk 10:7-8).  What does this word say to us today?  It seems to me that it invites us to be more aware of a reality, already well known but not fully appreciated: that matrimony is a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today, especially the dechristianized world.  The union of a man and a woman, their becoming “one flesh” in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence which in our days has become greater because unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis.  And it is not by chance.  Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way.  Marriage, as a union of faithful and indissoluble love, is based upon the grace that comes from the triune God, who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross.  Today we ought to grasp the full truth of this statement, in contrast to the painful reality of many marriages which, unhappily, end badly.  There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage. 
Let us continue to pray with the Holy Father for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church and the world, and let us also pray to respond.  "The 'door of faith' (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church." - Porta Fidei 1