Thursday, April 24, 2014

1,000,000 pilgrims expected for canonization

(Zenit) Up to a million pilgrims will be attending the canonization Mass of Blessed Popes John XXIII and John Paul II on Sunday, the city and Vicariate of Rome predict. 

Maurizio Pucci, chief coordinator of special projects for the Mayor of Rome, told reporters Wednesday that the city estimates a minimum of 500,000 pilgrims and a maximum of a million to join the canonization celebrations. However, some foresee a far higher number, possibly even seven million. 

Pucci said 1,700 coaches, 58 chartered planes and five trains are bringing pilgrims from Poland alone. He said a problem is that the number of reservations is difficult to predict because unlike previous times, many groups are coming independent of their dioceses. 

Both the city of Rome and event sponsors are sharing the costs of the event and an enormous amount of manpower will be on hand.

This will include 2,500 civil protection volunteers, 4,400 police and security personnel from the city of Rome and the Italian state, and several hundred medical staff. 5,000 priests, several hundred seminarians and deacons will help administer holy communion, and hundreds of volunteers will act as welcomers. 

The Vicariate of Rome has prepared a number of prayer vigils in different churches on the night of April 26th, some geared to particular language groups. 

All of Rome’s churches will stay open on the night of 26th and 27th April for pilgrims to pray and go to confession.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Youth fill cathedral in Rome to remember John Paul II & John XXIII; 500 Catholics in Papua New Guinea make 2 week pilgrimage in steps of first missionaries

(CNA/EWTN News).- The Basilica of St. John Lateran, cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, was filled Tuesday with thousands of youth who had come to learn more about the two former popes who will be canonized Sunday.


In other pilgrimage news, Catholics in Papua New Guinea honored the evangelization, 80 years ago, of the remote interior of the nation's main island by making a pilgrimage in the steps of its first missionaries.

“After 80 years, the Catholic faithful in the Archdiocese of Mount Hagen felt it is time to say thank you and to acknowledge all the blessings from God through the missionaries,” said Paul Petrus, a social researcher and a layman of Papua New Guinea, in an April 21 interview with CNA.

Some 500 Catholics, including three priests and nine seminarians, trekked through the mountainous highlands of New Guinea from March 28 until April 13, Palm Sunday.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pope at Easter Vigil: 'Return to Galilee' and rediscover God's grace

Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ Easter Vigil homily:

The Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ begins with the journey of the women to the tomb at dawn on the day after the Sabbath. They go to the tomb to honour the body of the Lord, but they find it open and empty. A mighty angel says to them: “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28:5) and orders them to go and tell the disciples: “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee” (v. 7). The women quickly depart and on the way Jesus himself meets them and says: “Do not fear; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (v. 10).

After the death of the Master, the disciples had scattered; their faith had been utterly shaken, everything seemed over, all their certainties had crumbled and their hopes had died. But now that message of the women, incredible as it was, came to them like a ray of light in the darkness. The news spread: Jesus is risen as he said. And then there was his command to go to Galilee; the women had heard it twice, first from the angel and then from Jesus himself: “Let them go to Galilee; there they will see me”.

Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began! To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called. Jesus had walked along the shores of the lake as the fishermen were casting their nets. He had called them, and they left everything and followed him (cf. Mt 4:18-22).

To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory. To re-read everything – Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal – to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of love.

For each of us, too, there is a “Galilee” at the origin of our journey with Jesus. “To go to Galilee” means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience. To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey. From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters. That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.

In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also a more existential “Galilee”: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him. It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.

Today, tonight, each of us can ask: What is my Galilee? Where is my Galilee? Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it? Lord, help me: tell me what my Galilee is; for you know that I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy.


The Gospel of Easter is very clear: we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection. This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia. It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth.

“Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt 4:15; Is 8:23)! Horizon of the Risen Lord, horizon of the Church; intense desire of encounter… Let us be on our way!

Celebrating the Octave of Easter

We celebrate the eight days of Easter this week.  We keep celebrating so that we might continue to enter into the meaning of the resurrection.  In the early Church, the newly baptized would be at each liturgy this week, wearing their white garments.  We go through our everyday lives this week conscious of the “white garments” we all wear.  We are renewed as a priestly people, committed with Jesus to give our lives for others.


The resurrection stories, which we read this week, come from communities that are proclaiming the good news.  The tomb is empty - Jesus' tomb and every tomb that tries to claim us in death.  These are not believers who, in their deep desire, just made up the resurrection.  These are people who can hardly believe what they are seeing and experiencing.  They, like us now, had trouble recognizing his presence with them.

We let the prayers of this Easter week draw us into the joy.  Jesus is with us.  He is not dead, but alive.  And, that makes all the difference in the world in how much hope and courage we have, before any struggle, any possible fear of death.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Sunday - Why Easter Matters

Easter is significant because it reveals that love is more powerful than death. Death is what frightens us most. It hems us in and it sets the ultimate limit to everything. If death has the final word, then all the evil in the world wins and there's no hope because there's nothing after death. That's the end. 


But Easter is the declaration that God's love, the love that made the world and sustains it, is more powerful than death. That's a moment of liberation. It means death no longer enslaves us. The first Christians saw that the bursting forth of Christ from the tomb is the shattering of death's bonds. 

Even more, the Resurrection is God's great salvation of the world he has made. The God of the Bible doesn't despise matter--just the opposite. God makes everything good. And through the Resurrection, God ratifies, sums up, and valorizes his material creation. Therefore, Jesus' resurrection from the dead is not just about him. It's about all those who will participate in his Mystical Body, the Church, and it's about all of matter. In raising Jesus bodily from the dead, the Father is raising all of matter to new life. 

We see this as the Bible comes to its climax in the Book of Revelation. There we discover a New Heaven and a New Earth. Heaven is not just some purely spiritual space that our souls go to after we die. It's a new creation, God ratifying and elevating his whole work. That's the climax of the biblical revelation. 

The God who made the world good has now, out of a passion to set it right, saved that world by raising it up to a higher pitch. 

The Christian Church gives witness to that great fact. And that's what Easter is about. 

"Easter is the declaration that God's love, the love that made the world and sustains it, is more powerful than death."

- Father Robert Barron  

Holy Saturday - Jesus Descends Into Hell

Today we commemorate Holy Saturday, the quiet, somber interlude between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Instead of sharing my own reflections I'd like to share this ancient homily, written by an anonymous source. It brings to life that stirring line in the Apostle's Creed: "He descended into hell."

What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled. 

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son. 

The Lord goes into them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: "My Lord be with you all." And Christ in reply says to Adam: "And with your spirit." And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: 

"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light. 

I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise. 

I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person. 

For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden. 

Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine in-breathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image. 

See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one. 

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you. 

But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God. 

The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages."  

"Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light. "

- Ancient Homily on Holy Saturday  

Good Friday - Why Focus on the Cross?

It's somewhat Pollyannish to say, "Christianity is just about the Resurrection, and not the Cross." To say that is to deny the gritty evil in the world. But once you get past childhood and start reading serious books and watching more sophisticated films, you find people desperately wrestling with evil. That's what any serious novel, film, or play is about. Just look at any of Shakespeare's plays--there's always someone engaging profound evil. Therefore, it doesn't make sense to say, "Let's not focus on the Cross; it's too sad, too dark, too evil." 

Pressing the issue theologically, what is the Cross? It's God journey into God-forsakenness. God enters into human dysfunction in all of its forms. In the Passion narratives you have cruelty, violence, hatred, injustice, stupidity--all of human dysfunction is on display. And Jesus enters into that, thereby redeeming it. 

The Church fathers liked to say, "What has not been assumed has not been saved." Jesus assumes the human condition in all of its dysfunction, going all the way down, so to say. And it's only for that reason he can bring us all the way up. 

The Resurrection without the Cross is superficial, just as the Cross without the Resurrection is despair. It's the play between the two that matters.  

- Father Robert Barron