Browsing News Entries

Mother Angelica was a 'forerunner' of the New Evangelization

Rome, Italy, Mar 27, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A veteran Vatican official praised EWTN foundress Mother Angelica as a pioneer of the New Evangelization, saying the way in which the Church speaks to the men and women of today wouldn't be the same without her influence.

“I think Mother Angelica was a New Evangelizer ante litterum (before her time),” Monsignor Graham Bell told CNA.

An official of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization who has spent around three decades in Rome, Msgr. Bell said that while St. John Paul II coined the phrase some 30 years ago, Mother Angelica had been an active player “long before.”

“She just fits into that so well, because why do we have the New Evangelization? Not because the Gospel is new – the Gospel is ever-new, but it’s also unchanging, and the 'new' in the New Evangelization is essentially seeking to find new languages with which to communicate the Gospel to the men and women of our time.”

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation founded EWTN in 1981, and it has since become the largest religious media network in the world. She died March 27, 2016 after a lengthy struggle with the aftereffects of a stroke. She was 92 years-old.

Mother Angelica, Msgr. Bell said, was able to talk about even difficult or sensitive topics in a meaningful way that always brought people “back to the center, which is Christ.”

Please see below CNA's full interview with Msgr. Bell:

One of the reasons I wanted to speak to you about this is because of the frequent remarks you’ve made in the past about Mother Angelica and what she accomplished. Why is she such a striking and important person for you?

I came to Mother Angelica not through her television programs, but maybe at the beginning of the 2000s, there was a craze – maybe it was more popular then, I’m not sure, but there was a kind of podcast craze, and what EWTN did at that time is they would put out Mother Angelica live as a podcast, so I faithfully downloaded this every week. I didn’t know this nun before I started listening to the podcasts, and what immediately became clear is that there’s nothing original in Mother Angelica, she’s not trying to be original, all she’s trying to do is she’s taking the Word of God, she’s taking the teaching of the Church and she’s applying them to people’s lives. And the more I listened to this lady, the more I was reminded of Cardinal Newman’s motto: Cor ad cor loquitur, heart speaks to heart. And she has this phenomenal capability of speaking to your heart, and that comes across. Obviously I was listening to it as a podcast, I couldn’t see how people were reacting in the studio to what she was doing, but this great humanity came out. I think Newman got his motto from Saint Francis de Sales, and I think Francis de Sales said heart speaks to heart, whereas the tongue just hits the ear. You always had the impression with Mother Angelica that her heart was behind what she was saying. It struck people as true because she recognized it as true, and I think this is a phenomenal gift. It’s a gift every preacher should seek to have, but it’s also a gift that every Christian should seek to have. This phenomenal capacity to communicate and to communicate the unchanging truth of the Gospel in a way that’s relevant for men and women today, and that’s an art, it’s a grace.

Do you think this is a reason she’s been so attractive and appealing to so many people?

Yes, I do. Because language changes, and it changes now at a greater pace than it’s ever changed, and Mother Angelica in my opinion was able to bridge the gap. Sometimes the institutional Church isn’t good at speaking to people, but I think Mother Angelica, first of all with her many books, and then when she got the television and radio thing going, she was capable of bridging that gap. I can think of many things she said about people with addictions, you know? Sometimes the Church isn’t good at doing that, but she was good at looking at things which were difficult to talk about, but talking about them in a way that was very, very meaningful and always bringing people back to the center, which is Christ. I listened to all of her podcasts, and I just thought it was phenomenal. It certainly helped me in my preaching, and also helped me in the living of my priesthood.

In view from your position on the Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, how do you think Mother Angelica has influenced the New Evangelization? Clearly she’s been a huge personality …

I think Mother Angelica was a New Evangelizer ante litterum (before her time). I think John Paul II coined the expression himself in 1979 when he was in Poland, and what Mother Angelica had been doing long before that was certainly New Evangelization, certainly. She just fits into that so well, because why do we have the New Evangelization? Not because the Gospel is new, the Gospel is ever-new, but it’s also unchanging, and the “new” in the New Evangelization is essentially seeking to find new languages – I use the term language in the extended sense – with which to communicate the Gospel to the men and women of our time, who obviously have to hear the Gospel in a language which can understand. But the thing about Mother Angelica is, it was never the case of communicating a content which really didn’t concern her. Her communicating the Gospel was she was really communicating a part of herself, because Christ was so much a part of her and a part of her religious vocation. In communicating Christ through television, through radio, through her many books, she was actually communicating a part of herself, she was so identified with Christ, and I think that’s the heart of the New Evangelization. Obviously another thing I think is very close to the heart of the New Evangelization is the whole question of witness. Because how did Jesus communicate the Gospel to his disciples? He is the Gospel in himself and in his person. It was done through what he said and what he did, and what he said and what did find their center in his very person. So it must be for those who witness to the Gospel. It’s not enough just to speak about Christ, and it’s not enough just to do good works. There has to be a relationship so that what we say is explained by what we do, and what we do is explained by what we say. And I think in Mother Angelica, as in the great saints, this is exemplified, this is exemplified very, very strongly.

A lot of people see the impact she had specifically in the Church in the Unites States and say that she changed the Church in the U.S. during a really critical time, but we also see that this is spreading very internationally. With your experience and in your time following EWTN, how do you see that she’s influenced culture even here in Europe?

Mother Angelica, it must never be forgotten, was a woman religious. And women religious have a very, very, very important role to play in the New Evangelization and in the Church generally, because people react so favorably to them, because they express the maternity of the Church in a way in which priests and men religious really aren’t capable of doing. Mother Angelica, I think, is exemplary in this, and in her clarity of identity. What you see is what you got, there was no mystification there. You saw this nun with her habit, and she was always the same, the message was always the same, and this sense of authenticity I think absolutely captivates people. And I think that’s a big part of her secret and why she’s so popular. It’s this capacity of expressing maternity in an age in which maternity is not very fashionable.

Being here in the Vatican for so long – you’ve been here for about 30 years, right? – have you seen any impact that she’s made here specifically?

I don’t know about that, about what impact she’s made here. I think she’s made a positive impact to the extent that I think women religious always make a positive impact. When women religious are faithful to their vocations and faithful to the Church, they always make an impact, and I think the history of the Church demonstrates this. I wouldn’t be able to say what her impact has been on the various dicasteries. Certainly I do consider her one of the forerunners of the New Evangelization, and it would be difficult to imagine the New Evangelization without figures like her. I think one of the keys to the success of the New Evangelization will be how we can involve women religious in this project. I think the more we involve them, the more the New Evangelization will be successful.

So in your opinion, aside from EWTN, what do you think is the core of the legacy she has left that and that we’re continuing to see grow?

I would say this very, very humble, that I think today in the Church we are very much concerned, I would even say obsessed, by the question of communications, because we want to keep up with the times and we realize that this is very, very important; communications are a very important part of how the modern world works, and it’s important that the Church should be there. But what we must never forget, in my opinion, is that content always has a primacy over the technical aspect. The technical aspect is absolutely wonderful, but if you’ve got nothing to communicate it's completely useless, and I think Mother Angelica, she wasn’t just the person who founded this fantastic, hotshot television network that was financed completely by the people who listened to it. It wasn’t just that. It was the fact that she always put content first, and I think that’s a great part of her legacy. But I also think another equally important part of her legacy is the eternal truth of our Catholic faith. It always has been and always will be until Christ comes again, it’s a question of a man or a woman who believes in the Resurrection of Christ, looks into the eyes of another man or another woman and says ‘I believe’, and asks you to believe, too. And Mother Angelica exemplifies this; the transmission of the revelation, the transmission of our faith will always be an interpersonal relationship, and all of the hardware and all of the software and all of the gadgetry will never be able to replace that. And she never imagined that EWTN or her various initiatives would ever substitute this interpersonal transmission of the faith. So I think her legacy will be discovered 10, 20 years down the way. I really do.

Would you say that part of the appeal and effectiveness of how she communicated the Gospel and the Resurrection had to do with how she experienced it in her own life?

Yeah. She suffered. I can’t remember all the details of her biography, but I know early on in her life she had a serious medical conditions, and these were overcome and they were overcome through prayer. She might also have been the subject of a miracle, thinking about her very early life before she decided to become a nun. And then all through her life she battled through ill health. One of the things that makes her so authentic is that when you listen to – one of the things I used to love about EWTN was listening to all the podcasts, and you could hear her coughing, and she would put a cough sweet into her mouth, and if you look at the big, sleek media operations like the BBC, you very rarely hear people coughing and at EWTN you could hear all this, and it was so human. With technology, I think a television lens transforms everything, and it really is – if it’s the great observer, it’s also the great betrayer because you look at these television studios and how they come through the lens of the camera, but when you actually go there and you see how they’re built with all the cables everywhere that people never see, and the lighting makes it seem much bigger than it is, it’s smoke and mirrors, it really is from start to finish. You never got that impression with EWTN. You got the impression that here’s a lady in her parlor, speaking to you in your parlor, that’s what it came across as. So she coughed, and she put in a cough sweet and it was wonderful.

Did you ever get to meet her personally?

I didn’t, no. I always used to ask – sometimes we got people coming up from EWTN – I would always ask how is she, and I think the most of the latter half of her life she was bedridden. And sometimes you wonder what did God want from her in that time? What was her vocation in that time? That’s very difficult to discern.

It was striking to me that the culmination of those last few years and then to pass away on Easter after what I understand were very excruciating last days. There was clearly something at work …

Her oneness with Christ … Another chap who greatly influenced me when I was listening to Mother Angelica about 10-12 years ago was Father Benedict Groeschel, because he had Sunday Night Live. That would come out as a podcast and I would download that too. He is another one, I think they’ll both be saints. With Benedict, I know something happened at the end of his life, but that will be forgotten. In fact, it should probably be forgotten right away, because I don’t think he said what he was intending; an old man – and a young man – can make mistakes. But I am convinced that both of them will be beatified, I’m absolutely convinced.

PCPM meets for Plenary Assembly

(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] met for its eighth Plenary Assembly from March 24-26, 2017. The resignation of founding member Marie Collins was a key topic on the agenda. The Commission expressed its gratitude to her and supported her continuing work to promote healing for victims of abuse and the prevention of all abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. During the Plenary the Commision also discussed  the importance of responding directly and compassionately to victims/survivors when they write to offices of the Holy See. The Plenary Assembly followed the Education Day on March 23, at the Gregorian University, co-sponsored in partnership with the Centre for Child Protection and the Congregation for Catholic Education.

 

Please find below the Concluding Statement 

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] met for its eighth Plenary Assembly from March 24-26, 2017. 

A central topic in this Plenary Assembly was the resignation of founding member Marie Collins. The Commission members expressed strong support for her and her continuing work to promote healing for victims of abuse and the prevention of all abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.  They also expressed their particular gratitude that Marie Collins has agreed to continue working with the Commission’s educational programs for new bishops and the offices of the Roman Curia.

Commission members have unanimously agreed to find new ways to ensure its work is shaped and informed with and by victims/survivors. Several ideas that have been successfully implemented elsewhere are being carefully considered for recommendation to the Holy Father.

The Commission discussed the importance of responding directly and compassionately to victims/survivors when they write to offices of the Holy See.  Members agreed that acknowledging correspondence and giving a timely and personal response is one part of furthering transparency and healing.  They acknowledged that this is a significant task due to the volume and nature of the correspondence and requires clear and specific resources and procedures. They have agreed to send further recommendations to Pope Francis for consideration.

This Plenary Assembly followed the Education Day on March 23, at the Gregorian University, co-sponsored in partnership with the Centre for Child Protection and the Congregation for Catholic Education.  Titled “Safeguarding in schools and homes: learning from experience worldwide”, it had a particular focus on Latin American countries that have large Catholic school systems, and presentations concerning efforts in Australia and Italy.  The academic seminar was attended by more than 150 people.  These included prefects and representatives from Vatican dicasteries including the Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin, seminary rectors, educators, formators and authorities from Italian State Police and the Vatican gendarme who are all seen as key collaborators in the PCPM’s educational efforts.  The Commissioners reiterated their sincere gratitude to the invited guests and speakers:  Fr Friedrich Bechina, FSO, Undersecretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education; Mónica Yerena Suárez - Provincia Marista de México Central; Fr Wilfredo Grajales Rosas, SDB – Director del Instituto Distrital para la Protección de Niños, Niñas, Adolescentes y Jóvenes, Bogotá, Colombia; Juan Ignacio Fuentes, CONSUDEC Argentina; Francis Sullivan, CEO, Truth Justice and Healing Commission, Australia and Dott. Giovanni Ippolito, Direttore Tecnico Capo Psicologo, Questura di Foggia.  The speakers were also invited to address the opening session of the PCPM Plenary Assembly.  

The Commission members continue the work entrusted by Pope Francis to assist local Churches with their responsibility for the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults (Statutes, art. 1).  As our Holy Father wrote to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, “I now ask for your close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors. The work I have entrusted to them includes providing assistance to you and your Conferences through an exchange of best practices and through programmes of education, training, and developing adequate responses to sexual abuse” (2 February 2015).  The Commission is also receiving representatives of bishop’s conferences around the world who are in Rome for their Ad Limina visits.

Commissioners continue to visit episcopal conferences and local churches throughout the world to assist in policy development and implementation of best practices to create a safer environment. So far this year, these include workshops with the Church leadership, formators, catechists and child protection officers in Zambia and Colombia. Members are currently preparing to present to the first European Conference on Formation and Prevention in Seminaries co-organized by the Archdiocese of Florence and the Centre for Child Protection of the Gregorian University, and the upcoming meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Bangkok, Thailand this Spring, and the May meeting of the Directors of CELAM and the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean Islands.

An essential element of these presentations is the PCPM Guidelines template. The Holy Father wrote, “every effort must also be made to ensure that the provisions of the Circular Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dated 3 May 2011 are fully implemented” (2 February 2015).  Thus, at the plenary meeting, the members spoke again of their willingness to work together with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith communicating a “Guidelines Template” to episcopal conferences and religious congregations, both directly and through the CommissionWebsite (www.protectionofminors.va).

(from Vatican Radio)

Burying the Alleluia

Burying the Alleluia

I overheard my small sons talking during snack time in the kitchen. The youngest, who is 6 says, “You know what’s tough about Lent?” It…

The post Burying the Alleluia appeared first on Busted Halo.

What's the most convincing argument against porn? Science.

San Francisco, Calif., Mar 26, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In 2013, Beyonce Knowles topped GQ’s list of “The 100 Hottest Women of the 21st Century.”

That same year, the “definitive men's magazine” that promises “sexy women” along with style advice, entertainment news and more ran a shorter listicle: “10 Reasons Why You Should Quit Watching Porn.”  

The list included reasons such as increased sexual impotence in men that regularly viewed pornography, and a reported lack of control of sexual desires. It was inspired by an interview with NoFap, an online community of people dedicated to holding each other accountable in abstaining from pornography and masturbation.The site clearly states that it is decidedly non-religious.

Matt Fradd, on the other hand, is a Catholic. Fradd has spent much of his adult life urging people to quit pornography, and developing websites and resources to help pornography addicts.

But even though he’s Catholic, Fradd’s new anti-porn book, “The Porn Myth,” won’t quote the saints or the Bible or recommend a regimen of rosaries.

“I wanted to write a non-religious response to pro-pornography arguments,” Fradd said.

That’s not because he’s abandoned his beliefs, or thinks that faith has nothing to say about pornography.

“Whenever I get up to speak, people expect that I’m just going to use a bunch of moral arguments (against porn). And I have them, and I’m happy to use them, and I think ultimately that’s what we need to get to. But I think using science...is always the best way to introduce this issue to people.”  

“In an increasingly secular culture, we need arguments based on scientific research, of which there’s been much,” he said. It’s why he cites numerous studies on each page of his book, and why he’s included 50 pages of additional appendixes citing additional research.  

Fradd is careful to clarify in his book that it is not a book against sex or sexuality. What he does want to do is challenge the way many people have come to think about pornography, and question whether it leads to human flourishing.

“This book rests on one fundamental presupposition: if you want something to flourish, you need to use it in accordance with its nature,” Fradd wrote. “Don’t plant tomatoes in a dark closet and water them with soda and expect to have vibrant tomato plants. To do so would be to act contrary to the nature of tomatoes. Similarly, don’t rip sex out of its obvious relational context, turn it into a commodity, and then expect individuals, families and society to flourish.”

But why dedicate a whole book to the scientific effects of pornography?

Fradd said that the sheer volume of pornography consumption makes this an especially urgent book - and it’s at least two decades too late. According to one survey, about 63 percent of men and 21 percent of women ages 18-30 have reported that they view pornography several times a week - not to mention those viewing it slightly less often.

“If we have an iPhone we have a portable X-rated movie theater. And some studies suggest children as young as 8 are being exposed to it, so if I meet someone who’s 14, I know that they have looked at porn or are looking at it regularly,” Fradd said.

Fradd recalls in his book a study done by Melissa Farley, director of Prostitution Research and Education. When Farley’s team set out to do a study about men who buy sex, they had a difficult time finding men who don’t do so.

“The use of pornography, phone sex, lapdances, and other services has become so widespread that Farley’s team had to loosen their definition of a non-sex buyer in order to assemble a hundred-person control group for their research,” Fradd wrote.

Throughout the book, Fradd uses scientific research to debunk numerous and prevailing “myths” or arguments about pornography, including the ideas that pornography empowers women, that it isn’t addictive, and that it’s a healthy part of sexuality and relationships.

One of the most commonly believed myths is that pornography doesn’t hurt anyone, Fradd said. But he has found that pornography harms people personally, relationally, and societally.

On the personal level, a 2014 study from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin found that frequent pornography use in men was associated with decreased brain matter in certain areas of the brain.

The abstract explained that the association may not be causation, but correlation, “which means that if porn isn’t shrinking your brain, it would mean that people with small brains like porn more,” Fradd said.

“It’s not a feather in your cap, either way.”

As for whether or not pornography empowers women, Fradd said that while he agrees that a woman who consents to producing pornography is in some sense “better” than a woman who is forced or coerced, but not by much, because pornography is still being used by the consumer to treat another person as a means to an end.  

“No matter the level of consent, it is a manly thing to treat a woman who has forgotten her dignity with dignity nonetheless,” Fradd wrote.

Fradd also quotes Rebecca Whisnant, a feminist theory professor, who once refuted the myth of porn as female empowerment in a talk:

“Feminism is about ending the subordination of women. Expanding women’s freedom of choice on a variety of fronts is an important part of that, but it is not the whole story. In fact, any meaningful liberation movement involves not only claiming the right to make choices, but also holding oneself accountable for the effects of those choices on oneself and on others,” she said in a 2007 talk.

These women are also perpetuating a system that robs women, as a group, of empowerment, Fradd said, such as women who are sex trafficked while participating in the porn industry. By some estimates, two million women and girls are held in sexual slavery at any given time.

It’s part of the reason why Fradd is donating all of the proceeds of “The Porn Myth” to Children of the Immaculate Heart, a non-profit corporation operating in San Diego, Calif, whose mission is to serve survivors of human trafficking.

Porn also disempowers the women whose relationships are destroyed by men caught up in pornography addictions, Fradd noted.

“Ask the millions of women whose husbands habitually turn to porn. Do these women feel empowered by pornography?” Fradd asked.

Pornography use in marriage is one way that porn harms relationships. According to Fradd’s research, a survey of 350 divorce lawyers reported in 2003 that pornography was at least part of the problem in half of all divorce cases they saw.

Another commonly believed myth is that marriage will solve a porn addiction, which shows a misunderstanding of the psychology of addiction in the first place, Fradd explains.

But pornography can also damage the relationships of a single person looking for love.

A 2011 TED talk by psychologist Philip Zimbardo said that studies showed a “widespread fear of intimacy and social awkwardness among men,” and an inability to engage in face-to-face conversations with women, Fradd wrote.  

“Why? Zimbardo says this is caused by disproportionate Internet use in general and excessive new access to pornography in particular. ‘Boys’ brains are being digitally rewired in a totally new way, for change, novelty, excitement.’”

And Zimbardo is not alone in his observations. As Fradd notes, neuroscientist William Struthers wrote in 2009 that “With repeated sexual acting out in the absence of a partner, a man will be bound and attached to the image and not a person.”

In other words, men can start preferring pixels to people. According to NoFap’s statistics in 2013, about half of their users had never had sex with a real person, meaning their only experience of sexual intimacy has been digital.

That reason alone has been why many people, men especially, have sought to kick their porn habits, Fradd said.

“I know agnostics or atheists who quit porn literally because they couldn’t have sex with people they were hooking up with. That’s why they quit porn. And these guys are fit, good-looking young men, who couldn’t get an erection around a young woman. But they realized if the woman left and they opened up their laptop they’d get an immediate erection.”

Studies have also shown that pornography addiction is driven by the increase in amounts, and varieties, of material readily available to anyone with access to the internet.

“People find themselves viewing more and more disturbing pornography, and the reason for this is because of a decrease in dopamine in the brain, which happens because of the addiction one has, and they end up seeking out more graphic, violent forms of pornogrpahy just to boost the dopamine enough to feel normal,” Fradd said.

“People don’t wake up when they’re 30 and decide to look at child porn or feces porn or something disgusting like that. These are big things that people spiral into, and the industry has to keep pushing the envelope because it’s addictive,” he added.

While the statistics of pornography can be disturbing and depressing, Fradd stressed that there was still hope. He devotes several chapters in the book to protecting children from pornography, dealing with pornograpy in marriage, and getting help for those addicted to pornography.

Fradd himself has spent years in ministry to those with pornography addictions, and helps run the site Integrity Restored, which offers numerous resources to help those struggling with addictions and those in ministry to them.

The most effective steps for someone to follow for someone addicted to porn?

“They should find a spiritual director, they should go to therapy, and they should find a 12 step group (like Sexaholics Anonymous),” Fradd said. “With those three things together, we’ve seen the most success.”

Often well-meaning Christians will relegate pornography addictions to the spiritual realm, telling people that they simply need to pray more, Fradd said. And while prayer isn’t a bad thing, it doesn’t address the psychological aspect of addiction.

“When people do things like put a picture of Mary on their laptop or pray more, it doesn’t actually usually work. It’s not a solely spiritual problem, so what we don’t need is a solely spiritual answer,” he said.

Just as you should encourage a clinically depressed person to seek counseling and therapy, you should also encourage someone experiencing addiction to seek professional help, he added.

Fradd said he’s also been encouraged by the number of celebrities who have recently spoken out against pornography, such as Pamela Anderson, British comedian Russell Brand, actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Rashida Jones, and former NFL player and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” actor Terry Crews, to name a few.

Slowly, he said, society is catching up to the science that shows how harmful pornography can be.

“We’ve reached a tipping point in our culture such that everyone either struggles with porn and/or knows someone who does, and we all see the negative effects,” he said.

“So the porn industry’s cronies can tell us that pornography is healthy for well-rounded adults,  but they now sound like the tobacco apologists sounded like in the 80s. In light of the evidence, their assertions seem increasingly ridiculous.”

Fradd’s book is available at: https://www.thepornmyth.com/

How an American bishop became a Korean martyr

Washington D.C., Mar 26, 2017 / 08:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Patrick James Byrne was born in the United States, but he died on a forced march in the harsh Korean snows under the watch of communist soldiers.

Now the Catholic bishops of South Korea are considering whether he should beatified among a group of Korean martyrs.

“Bishop Byrne is one of the unsung heroes of Maryknoll,” Father Raymond Finch, Superior General of the Maryknoll Society, told CNA. “We remember him as an example of a missioner who stayed at his post.”

As a newly ordained priest in 1915, Bishop Byrne joined the Maryknoll Society, just four years after its founding. He led the society's mission to Korea in the early 1920s, and he served as prefect apostolic of Pyongyang from 1927 to 1929.

In the 1930s he was transferred to Japan, and during World War II he was held under house arrest.

After the war's conclusion, he was named the first apostolic delegate to Korea, in April 1949. He was promptly ordained a bishop, at the age of 60.

His ordination came at a portentous moment early in the Cold War. Korea was splitting between the North Korean communists, backed by China and the Soviet Union, and the U.S.-backed South Korea.

With the rise of communism in northern Korea, many of the Catholics in the north, including Maryknoll clergy, had to escape to the south in order to continue to practice their Catholic faith.

But not Bishop Byrne.

“It was then, remaining at his post, that he was taken with many other religious priests and members of the Church, taken prisoner on a forced march,” Fr. Finch said. “And he died on that march.”

In July 1950, after the capture of Seoul by North Korean forces, Bishop Byrne was arrested by communists and put on trial. According to Glenn D. Kittler’s history “The Maryknoll Fathers,” he was threatened with death if he did not denounce the U.S., the United Nations, and the Vatican. He refused.

He and other priests were put on several forced marches with Korean men and women and captured American soldiers.

Bishop Byrne was known for trying to help others on the marches through the cold, wet Korean weather, Fr. Finch said.

Aiding others was risky. Some of the prisoners were shot for dropping out of line, while others were executed for aiding those who had become immobilized. Nonetheless, the bishop would help others. At one point he gave his entire blanket to a Methodist missionary who was suffering worse than he.

During a four-month-long forced march, suffering from bad weather and a lack of food and shelter, he began to succumb to pneumonia at Chunggan-up, not far from the Yalu River on the border with China.

He knew he was dying.

“After the privilege of my priesthood, I regard this privilege of having suffered for Christ with all of you as the greatest of my life,” he told his companions.

He received absolution from his secretary, Father William Booth, the bishop’s biography at the Maryknoll Mission Archives website says.

He died Nov. 25, 1950. News of his death took two years to reach the world, when U.N. prison camp inspectors found survivors of the march.

Bishop Byrne was buried by Msgr. Thomas Quinlan, an Irish-born Columban Father who placed his own cassock on the bishop. The monsignor was later named Bishop of Chunchon, South Korea.

Now, a special commission of South Korean bishops has begun a process that could make Bishop Byrne a candidate for beatification. The bishops have grouped him with Bishop Francis Borgia Hong Yong-ho of Pyongyang and 80 companions, who were killed in persecutions from 1901 to the mid-20th century.

Fr. Finch said the launch of the beatification process for Bishop Byrne was “a tremendous honor” and showed he was an example for the Maryknoll Society to follow.

“He answered the call to mission, from the very beginning, and stayed with it, and gave his life to that,” he said. “That’s what we want to do, one way or another, whether it’s through a lifetime, or in a moment in which supreme sacrifices are asked for.”

“We’re inspired,” the Maryknoll superior general said. “We’re inspired by him, and we’re inspired by a number of other Maryknollers who have given their lives over the years in Asia, in Latin America and in Africa.”

Other victims of the Korean conflict include Maryknoll Sisters like Sister Agneta Chang, who was kidnapped by the communist military in late 1950 and is believed to have been martyred.

“I believe they never found her body,” Fr. Finch said.

While the context of the conflict was very difficult, it led to “tremendous Church growth” in South Korea after the war from people who were dedicated to the Church.

“Korea is one of the tremendous success stories of Asia: a Church that started out with 20-25,000 of people of the faith at the start of the last century and ended up with 10 percent of the population today,” Fr. Finch told CNA.

Let go of 'false lights' that lead down the wrong path, Pope says

Vatican City, Mar 26, 2017 / 04:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis said Lent is a key time to open ourselves to the light of Christ and let go of all the “false lights” that lead us away from him, taking us instead down a path of darkness marked by our own selfishness.

“If now I were to ask you, do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe that he can change your heart? Do you think you can see reality as he sees it, not as we do? Do you believe that he is light, that he gives us the true light?” the Pope asked March 26, telling pilgrims to respond in silence.

The walk in the light of Christ means to convert, he said, explaining that this transformation means above all “abandoning false lights.”

One of these false lights, he said, is the “cold and fatuous light of prejudice against others, because prejudice distorts reality and builds hate against those who we judge without mercy and condemn without an appeal.”

Gossip is an example of this, he said, noting that to speak badly of others leads away from light, and down the path of darkness.

Another false light that is particularly “seductive and ambiguous,” he said, “is personal interest.”

“If we evaluate men and things based on the criteria of our profit, our pleasure, our prestige, we will not live the truth in relationships and in situations,” the Pope said. “If we go down this path of seeking only personal interests, we will walk in darkness.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus address, focusing on the day’s Gospel reading from John which recounts the healing of man blind from birth who, after receiving his sight, recognizes and worships Jesus as the Son of God.

“With this miracle Jesus manifests himself as the light of the world,” Francis said, explaining that the blind man represents each of us, who, blinded by sin, “need a new light, that of the faith, which Jesus has given us.”

Referring to the Gospel passage, Francis noted that it was precisely by “opening to the mystery of Christ” that the man gained his sight.  

Francis pointed to the line in the passage where Jesus asks the man “do you believe in the Son of Man?” and tells him that “you have seen him, it is he who is speaking with you.”

The man then prostrated himself and worshipped Jesus, the Pope observed, saying the episode serves as an invitation to reflect on our own faith in Christ, and to remember the moment we received it in our Baptism.

Baptism “is the first sacrament of the faith: the sacrament which make us ‘come to the light,’ through rebirth in water and in the Holy Spirit,” he said, noting how the blind man’s eyes were opened after bathing in the Pool of Siloam, upon Jesus’ request.

The man’s need for healing and rebirth is a sign of the times when we fail to recognize “that Jesus is the light of the world, when we look elsewhere, when we prefer to rely on small lights, when we fumble in the darkness.”

The fact that that blind man didn’t have a name, Pope Francis said, “helps us to see ourselves with our face and our name in his story.”

We have also been “illuminated” by Christ through our Baptism, he said, explaining that because of this, we, like the blind man, “are called to act like sons of light.”

But to do this “requires a radical change of mentality, a capacity to judge men and things according to a new scale of values, which comes from God,” the Pope said, adding that Baptism itself requires “a firm and decisive choice” to let go of the false lights, and live as children of the true light of Christ.

Francis concluded his address by praying that Mary, welcomed Jesus as the “light of the world,” would intercede for us in obtaining the grace needed to really welcome “the light of faith” into our lives during Lent.

“May this new illumination transform us in attitude and action, so that also we, starting from our poverty, may be bearers of a ray of the light of Christ.”

After leading pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer, Pope Francis offered special thanks to the diocese of Milan for his March 25 pastoral visit.

He also gave a shout-out to Blessed José álvarez-Benavides y de la Torre and his 114 martyr companions, who were beatified yesterday in Spain.

“These priests, religious and laity were heroic witnesses of Christ and his Gospel of fraternal peace and reconciliation,” he said, and prayed that their example and intercession would “sustain the commitment of the Church in building the civilization of love.”

Pope Angelus: look to the light of Christ

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday during the Angelus in a sunny St Peter’s Square took inspiration from the Gospel reading in which Jesus restores the sight of the blind man.

Listen to Lydia O'Kane's report:

With this miracle the Holy Father explained, “Jesus reveals himself as light of the world”. Each of us, the Pope said, is blind from birth, in that, “we were created to know God, but because of sin we are like the blind, we need a new light, that of faith, that Jesus has given us.”

In fact, Pope Francis went on to say, “the blind man of the Gospel regaining his vision is opened up to the mystery of Christ.”

This man represents us when we do not realize that Jesus is "the light of the world" and when we look elsewhere when we prefer to rely on small lights when fumbling in the dark,” the Pope said.

We too, he continued, have been "enlightened" to Christ in baptism, and then we are called to behave as children of light.”

Posing the question, “What does it mean to have true light and to walk in the light?, the Holy Father answered by saying, “it means first of all to abandon false lights.” Another false light, Pope Francis noted, is self-interest: “if we evaluate people and things based on the criterion of our profit, our pleasure, our prestige, we are not being truthful in relationships and situations.”

Following the recitation of the Marian prayer the Pope remembered José Álvarez-Benavides y de la Torre, and one hundred and fourteen companion martyrs who were beatified on Saturday in Spain. He said, “these priests, religious and lay people have been heroic witnesses of Christ and his Gospel of peace and fraternal reconciliation. Their example and their intercession sustain the Church's involvement in building a civilization of love.”

Pope Francis also recalled his one day pastoral visit to Milan on Saturday expressing his thanks to the organisers and those who took part, both believers and non-believers, adding, it felt home.

 

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Meet the monks who decided to go green years before Laudato Si

Arlington, Va., Mar 25, 2017 / 03:20 pm (CNA).- Years before Pope Francis’ ecology encyclical was published, a Trappist monastery in Virginia went back to its spiritual roots by embracing environmental stewardship.

“This really is a re-founding,” Fr. James Orthmann of Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Va. told CNA, a “real renewal and a re-founding, and in a real sense getting back to our traditional roots.”

Since 2007, the community has taken concrete steps be better stewards of the earth in the tradition of the Cistercian Order, while also reaching into the outside world to draw more Catholic men to their monastic life.

The abbey was founded in 1950 after a planned Trappist abbey in Massachusetts burned down. The Diocese of Richmond offered to accept the monks and they procured 1200 acres of pasture on the Shenandoah River in Northwest Virginia, just in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east.

However the community has shrunk along with the overall number of religious priests and brothers in the U.S., which has fallen by more than 50 percent since 1965. The community’s Father Immediate – the abbot of their mother house – suggested in 2007 they start planning how to sustain the abbey for the long-term.

The monks discussed their most important resources and “literally everybody talked about our location, our land,” Fr. James recalled. “As monks who follow the Rule of St. Benedict, we have a vow of stability. So we bind ourselves to the community and to the place that we enter.”



The Trappists have a long history of settling in valleys and caring for the land, dating back to their roots in the Cistercian Order and their mother abbey in Citeaux, France, founded in 1098. Monks at Holy Cross Abbey began farming the land in 1950 but as the community grew older, they leased out the land to local farmers and made creamed honey and fruitcake for their labor.

“We live a way of life that’s literally rooted in the land,” Fr. James explained. “The liturgical life reflects the succession of the seasons, and the more you become sensitized to that, the symbolism of the liturgy becomes so much more compelling.”

So what specifically have the monks done to become better environmental stewards? First, they reached out to the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment to author a study on how the abbey could be more environmentally sustainable in the Cistercian tradition.

A group of graduate students made the project their master’s thesis. The result was a massive 400-page study, “Reinhabiting Place,” with all sorts of recommendations for the monks. With these suggestions as a starting place, the monks took action.

First, they turned to the river. They asked the cattle farmer to whom they lease 600 acres of their land to stop his cattle from grazing in the river. This would protect the riverbanks from eroding and keep the cows from polluting the water, which flows into the Potomac River, past Washington, D.C., and eventually feeds the massive Chesapeake Bay.

They fenced off tributaries of the river and planted native hardwoods and bushes on the banks as shelter for migratory animals and to attract insects and pollinators to “restore the proper biodiversity to the area,” Fr. James explained. They also leased 180 acres of land to a farmer for natural vegetable farming.

Most of the abbey’s property was put into “conservation easement” with the county and the state. By doing this, the monks promise that the land will forever remain “fallow,” or agricultural and undeveloped, and they receive a tax benefit in return. The county provides this policy to check suburban sprawl and retain a rural and agricultural nature.

The community also switched their heating and fueling sources from fossil fuels to propane gas. They had a solar-fed lighting system installed in two of the guest retreat dorms, and they pay for the recycling of their disposable waste. The monks stopped making fruitcake for a year to install a new more energy-efficient oven and make building repairs.

The have even started offering “green burials” at Cool Spring Cemetery in the Trappist style.

Normal burials can cost well over $7,000 with embalming fluids and lead coffins that can be detrimental to the soil. A Trappist burial, by contrast, is “rather sparse” and “rather unadorned,” Fr. James explained. A monk is wrapped in a shroud and placed directly on a wooden bier in the ground.

The Trappist burials, while quite different from a typical modern burial, actually have an earthy character to them that’s attractive, Fr. James maintained.

After the “initial shock” at seeing such a sparse burial for the first time, “oddly enough, it’s very cathartic and you have a real sense of hope,” he said. The burials are “a lot less formal” and “people [in attendance] are more spontaneous,” he noted, and there’s “even a certain joyfulness to it.”

With their “green burials,” the body is wrapped in a shroud or placed in a biodegradable container like a wooden coffin, and buried in the first four feet of the soil. By one year, just the skeleton may be left, but it’s a harkening back to the Ash Wednesday admonition, “Remember man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.”

And this contrasts with the complicated embalming process of normal funerals where chemicals like formaldehyde can seep into the ground.



The monks have already touched lives with their example of stewardship.

Local residents George Patterson and Deidra Dain produced a film “Saving Place, Saving Grace” about the monastery’s efforts to remain sustainable, for a local PBS affiliate station. The affiliate’s general manager had looked at the story and thought everyone needed to hear it.

The monastery has been an “example” to the county’s leadership with its care for the land, Patterson said. Dain, a retreatant at the monastery 15 years ago, is not Catholic but found her time at the abbey “inspiring” and as a lover of nature praises their sustainability initiative.

All in all, the communal effort for stewardship is “helping to renew our life,” Fr. James said of the community.

Papal statements on the environment have given a boost to their efforts. “There was a lot of supportive stuff from the time of Pope Benedict about the environment,” Fr. James recalled, particularly in his 2008 encyclical Caritas in Veritate which upheld the responsibility of man to care for the environment.

This “helped bridge” any gulfs that kept certain members of the community from fully embracing the sustainability initiative, Fr. James said.

Parts of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on the environment Laudato Si are “so sophisticated in (their) grasp of environmental teaching,” he continued, and it’s quite a support to have popes promoting environmental stewardship amidst the bureaucratic tediousness of upgrading the abbey’s land and facilities.

“At the end of the day, I can open up Laudato Si and say to myself ‘Ah, this is worth it. We should keep doing this. I’m going to keep putting up with the nonsense to get this done’,” he said.

The community hopes too that it can be a sustainability model for developing countries that might not be able to afford high-tech and expensive solutions to environmental problems. Their facilities are simple by nature and not sophisticated, and the monks’ consumption is already low because they take a vow of poverty.

Plus, retreatants at the monastery can observe first-hand the changes made and consider what they can do in their own lives to be more caring for the environment.



However, in its “re-founding” efforts, the community has also explored ways to attract more vocations to the abbey.

“In the last 10 years, we’ve lost most of our seniors first to illness, aging, and then death. So in a sense, the community has a whole new profile right now,” Fr. James said. The abbey was founded to be “separate” from the cosmopolitan world, but young men are not actively seeking out the monastic life like they did in the 1950s and 60s.

So the community created a new website and continuously update it with new posts. They started hosting “immersion weekends” where men come and live with the monks for a weekend, praying with them. They expanded their local profile in the community by hosting teenagers to earn their school community service hours. “Only two students had realized we existed here,” Fr. James recalled in a telling moment.

“We’re reaching out to men of all ages, and it’s probably even more likely, given the limits of our way of life, that nowadays it’s going to be older men who are coming to this vocation,” Fr. James admitted. “This way of life and its limits make much more sense to people who have tried their quote-unquote dream, have been disillusioned by the result, and they’re yearning for something more.”

What distinguishes Holy Cross Abbey and the Trappist way of life? Their vocation to community life, Fr. James answered, “the silence, the discipline of silence, and daily familiarity with the Scriptures.”

The monks follow an intense daily schedule of prayer, contemplation, and work that includes 3:30 a.m. prayer and a “Great Silence” beginning at 8:15 p.m. They don’t leave the abbey grounds and don’t own private property.

“It’s a lifestyle that very much will develop one’s interiority, spirituality, relationship with God,” he said. “It’s a vocation of adoration, done in community, and offered to the world around us through hospitality here in this place.”

And the modern world offers special challenges to a man discerning this vocation, he admitted.

“There’s not much in the pop culture to invite a person to even think about interiority. And in fact it can be rather threatening to people,” he said. “Initially,” when one begins to seriously cultivate an interior life, “it’s the negative stuff that comes up.”

However, “with guidance you realize that’s the negative face of very important, unrecognized resources. And our vulnerability is perhaps the greatest resource we have in life. (Even if) that’s not the message you’d get from watching Oprah.”
 
This article was originally published on CNA Sept. 2, 2015.
 

In Milan, Pope makes youth promise to never be a bully

Milan, Italy, Mar 25, 2017 / 01:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In last meeting during his day trip to Milan, Pope Francis issued a harsh criticism of bullying in schools, asking youth to promise him and Jesus to never bully others, and telling teachers to be aware of the problem.

“There is an ugly phenomenon in education today: bullying. Please, be aware,” the Pope said during a March 25 encounter with youth in Milan.

He responded to a question posed by a catechist asking how to foster an open dialogue between educators, students and their parents. Among other points, he told teachers to watch out for bullying before addressing the youth about it themselves.

“I ask you, in silence: in your schools, in your neighborhoods, is there someone that you mock? That you make fun of because they look a little funny, because they are a little fat? That you like to embarrass and hit because of this?” the Pope asked.

“Think about this. This is called bullying," he said, and asked the youth – many of whom will receive the sacrament of Confirmation this year – to use their Confirmation to “make the promise to the Lord to never do this” and to pray that it doesn’t happen in their schools, neighborhoods or parishes.

“Understood? Promise me: never, never make fun of, never mock a friend, a neighbor, etc. Do you promise this?” he said. Not satisfied with the strength of their answer, he again asked the youth the same question, which was then met with a roaring "yes".

“Think in silence if you do this and if you are able to promise this to Jesus. Promise Jesus to never bully.”

Pope Francis spoke to a stadium filled with youth at the end of his March 25 daytrip to Milan.

The pope started his trip visiting the city’s impoverished “White Houses” complex greeting several of the families who live there, including a Muslim family.

He then headed directly to Milan’s cathedral where he met with the priests and religious before praying the Angelus and eating lunch with inmates at the city’s Casa Circondariale di San Vittore prison.

After lunch, he celebrated Mass at Milan’s Parco di Monza for the Feast of the Annunciation, traveling by car after to the Meazza-San Siro Stadium where he met with some 78,000 people, including catechists, volunteers and many of the 45,000 youth who have either received the Sacrament of Confirmation in 2017 or will receive it, along with their parents and family members.

After scripture readings and a series of performances by the youth, Francis responded to three of their questions, one of which was posed by a boy named Davide, one by a couple with three children and one by the catechist.

In his response to Davide’s question about what helped him to grow in friendship with Jesus when he himself was young, the Pope said it came down to three main things: his grandparents, playing with his friends and participating in groups at this parish.

Francis recalled how one grandfather had told him to “never go to bed without saying something to Jesus; tell him goodnight.” This reinforcement combined with the prayers he learned from his grandmothers and his mother helped reinforce the faith, he said.

“Grandparents have the wisdom of life, and with that wisdom they teach us to grow closer to Jesus,” he said, urging the youth to talk to their grandparents, “ask them whatever questions you want. Listen to what they say.”

Playing with friends also helps, he said, because in knowing how to play well with others, “without insulting each other,” you learn “to respect others, you learn to make a team, to work together, and this unites us to Jesus. So play with your friends!”

Parish life is also crucial, he said, and jestingly encouraged the youth to have the same excitement about Mass as they do about their groups and activities.

When answering the couple’s question on how they can transmit the beauty of the faith to their children without sounding boring, annoying or authoritarian, Pope Francis advised them to think of who helped them to grow in the faith.

He asked the stadium to take a moment and ponder the answer in silence, explaining that an important figure for him was the priest who baptized him and who was then present throughout his life until he entered the novitiate with the Jesuits.

“I never, never forget that priest. He was an apostle of the confessional; merciful, good, a hard worker. And so he helped me to grow,” the Pope said, explaining that he asked for this reflection because “our children watch us constantly; even when we are not aware.”

On this point, as he often has in the past, Francis warned against the damage it can do to children when they see their parents fight.

“You don’t understand the suffering a child experiences when they see their parents fight, they suffer. And when their parents separate, they pay the price,” he said, explaining that when parents bring a child into the world, “you must be aware of this.”

“We take responsibility to help this child grow in the faith,” he said, and suggested that the couple reach Chapters 1 and 4 of his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, a fruit of the 2014 and 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family.

Dedicated to love in marriage and in the family, the Pope told them the chapters, particularly the first, would be helpful, and told them to never forget that “when you fight, children suffer and they don’t grow in the faith.”

He also stressed the importance of playing with their children and practicing the works of mercy together, which help nourish faith and family life.

Sunday’s are an especially good day to spend together as a family, he said, but noted that for some this is hard to do, since many have to work on weekends in order to provide for their families.

“Parents at this time can’t or have lost the virtue of playing with their children,” he said, explaining that whenever when he hears a parent complaining about their children’s behavior, he often asks if they take time to just sit and play with their children.

Many parents “don’t know how to respond,” he said, recalling how he once spoke with a father who only saw his children on the weekends, since he left for work while they were still asleep and came back after they were already in bed.

“It’s this life that takes your humanity,” he said, and told parents to “play with your children, and transmit the faith.”

On Annunciation, Pope says God still seeks hearts like Mary

Milan, Italy, Mar 25, 2017 / 10:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation in Milan, telling mass-goers that even today God is still searching for hearts like Mary’s that are open to welcoming his invitation and providing hope, even when it’s hard.  

As in the past, “God continues to look for allies, he continues to seek men and women capable of believing,” remembering and recognizing that they are part of his people and cooperating with the Holy Spirit, the Pope said March 25.

“God continues to walk our neighborhoods and our streets, he pushes in each place in search of hearts capable of listening to his invitation and making it become flesh here and now,” he said.

In the end, the Lord “continues to seek hearts like that of Mary, disposed to believe even in very extraordinary conditions.”

Pope Francis offered his reflection during Mass on the Feast of the Annunciation, celebrated in Milan’s Manzo Park during his daytrip to the city, marking the first papal visit there since Benedict XVI’s trip in 2012.

He kicked off the visit by stopping by the “White Houses” high-rise complex in the eastern quarter of the city, marked by acute poverty, visiting two families in the complex before stepping out to greet families gathered outside, including immigrants and some Muslims.

After greeting families in the complex, Francis headed to the cathedral, where he delivered an off-the-cuff speech to priests and seminarians of the diocese, answering three of their questions.

He then prayed the Angelus with pilgrims before heading to the city’s Casa Circondariale di San Vittore prison, which holds about 1,700 detainees, and greeted employees and police officers who work at the prison before greeting the inmates themselves. He ate lunch with 100 of them before heading to Mass at Monza Park.

In his homily, the Pope referred to the day’s Gospel reading from Luke recounting the Annunciation, saying he likes to read it alongside the “annunciation” to Zachariah of John the Baptist’s birth.

One annunciation happens to a priest in the Temple of God during a liturgy where everyone is waiting outside, while the other happens to a young woman named Mary in a small town that didn’t necessarily have a good reputation, he noted.

This contrast is “not insignificant,” he said, noting that it serves as a sign “that the new Temple of God, the new encounter of God with his people will take places in places which we normally don’t expect, on the margins, on the peripheries.”

“By now it will no longer be in a place reserved for the few while the majority wait outside. Nothing and no one will be indifferent, no situation will be deprived of his presence: the joy of salvation began in the daily life of the home of a youth in Nazareth.”

Just like he did with Mary, God also takes the initiative in our lives, inserting himself into our daily struggles, anxieties and desires, the Pope said, explaining that it’s precisely in the daily routine of our lives that we receive “the most beautiful announcement we can hear: ‘Rejoice, the Lord is with you!’”

However, despite the joy of hearing this annunciation, we can also be distracted by the “speculation” of our times, asking like Mary, “how will this be?” he said.  

Nowadays “one speculates on the poor and migrants, one speculates on youth and their future,” he said. “Everything seems reduced to figures, leaving, on the other hand, that the daily lives of many families is tinged with uncertainty and insecurity.”

“While the pain is knocking on many doors, while in many youth dissatisfaction is growing due to the lack of real opportunities, speculation abounds everywhere,” Francis continued, noting that the “dizzying rhythm” we have become accustomed to at times seems to “rob us of hope and joy.”

In the midst of the speed and pressures of society, it’s easy to lose time for family, friends and community while rushing to build a better society, Pope Francis said.

In this context, the Pope said it would be good to stop and ask ourselves how we can live the joy of the Gospel in our cities, and whether or not it’s possible to have hope in the here and now of our concrete situations.

Francis said by looking to the Gospel passage of the Annunciation, we see that the Angel Gabriel gives us three keys to finding this hope and accepting the mission entrusted to us.

The first, the Pope observed, is the importance of “evoking memory.” Just as the angel reminded Mary of the history of salvation, which she is a part of, we are also invited to look to our own past “in order not to forget where we come from,” he said.

Referring to Milan, Francis noted that “this land and it’s people have known the pain of two world wars; and sometimes thy have seen their deserved reputation for industriousness and civilization polluted by unregulated ambitions.”

However, taking time to remember helps us “to not remain prisoners of speeches which sow fractures and divisions as the only way to resolve conflicts,” he said, adding that “to evoke memory is the best antidote to our disposition in front of the magic solutions of division and estrangement.”

A second key the angel gives us is a sense of belonging to the People of God, he said, explaining that a part of remembering salvation history is remembering that we, like Mary, are among God’s chosen people.

In this sense, he pointed to the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic background of Milan, saying that because of this, they specifically are called to welcome differences and “integrate them with respect and creativity and to celebrate the novelty that comes from others.”

Finally, Pope Francis noted that the third key we get from the angel is his assurance to Mary that “nothing will be impossible for God.”

“When we believe that everything depends exclusively on us we remain prisoners of our abilities, of our strengths, of our horizons,” he said, noting that if we don’t allow ourselves to be helped, advised or open to grace, “it seems that the impossibility begins to become reality.”

However, pointing to the many missionaries who have come to the area, the Pope noted that in overcoming “the sterile and divisive pessimisms, they opened to God’s initiative and became a sign of how fertile a land can be that doesn’t allow itself to close in its own ideas, in its own limits and in its open capacity and opens to others.”

After Mass, Pope Francis will head to Milan’s Meazza-San Siro stadium to meet with youth before heading back to the Vatican.