JOHN OF THE CROSS: PURIFY THE HEART IN ORDER TO MEET CHRIST
VATICAN CITY, 16 FEB 2011 (VIS REPORT) - In his general audience today, held in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope focused his attention on St. John of the Cross, "spiritual friend to St. Teresa and, with her, reformer of the Carmelite religious family. (IMAGE SOURCE; RADIO VATICANA) Proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pius XI in 1926, he is traditionally known as the 'Doctor mysticus', the Mystical Doctor", the Holy Father said.
John was born to a poor family at Fontiveros near the Spanish town of Avila in 1542 and entered the Carmelite order at Medina del Campo. Ordained a priest in 1567, it was on the occasion of his first Mass that he met Teresa, "who explained to him her plan for the reform of the Carmelites". In his renewal of his religious profession John took the name "of the Cross" and collaborated enthusiastically in the process of reform, something "which brought him great suffering", and even led to his imprisonment following an unjust accusation. While preparing a journey to Mexico he fell seriously ill and died in December 1591. He was beatified by Clement X in 1675 and canonised by Benedict XIII in 1726.
St. John of the Cross, said Benedict XVI, "is considered one of most important lyric poets of Spanish literature. He wrote four major works: 'Ascent of Mount Carmel', 'Dark Night of the Soul', 'Spiritual Canticle' and 'Living Flame of Love'.
"In his 'Spiritual Canticle' St. John outlines the soul's journey of purification", the Holy Father added. "The 'Living Flame of Love' continues in the same line, describing in greater detail the condition of union with God. ... 'Ascent of Mount Carmel' outlines the spiritual itinerary from the point of view of a progressive purification of the soul, which is necessary in order to scale the heights of Christian perfection, symbolised by the summit of Mount Carmel".
The Pope continued his catechesis by explaining how "the 'Dark Night of the Soul' describes the 'passive' aspect; in other words, God's contribution to the process of purifying the soul. Human effort alone, in fact, is incapable of reaching the deepest roots of a person's bad inclinations and habits. It can halt them but not eradicate them completely. To do this, we need a special action by God which radically purifies the spirit and disposes it to the union of love with Him".
"The rate of increase of faith, hope and charity goes hand in hand with the work of purification and with progressive union with God, until attaining transformation into Him. When this goal is reached, the soul is immersed in Trinitarian life itself. ... This is why the Mystical Doctor held that there is no true union of love with God that does not culminate in Trinitarian union".
The Pope completed his remarks by asking whether the life of St. John of the Cross has anything to say to everyday Christians, or whether it is an example only for the few select souls who can follow the path of purification and mystical ascesis. "The journey with Christ, travelling with Christ ... is not an additional weight to the already sufficiently-heavy burden of our lives", he said. "It is something totally different. ... It is a light, a power which helps us carry our everyday burden. ... Allowing ourselves to be loved by Christ is the light which helps us to carry the daily burden, and sanctity is not a task we must accomplish on our own, a very difficult task. ... Let us ask God to help us become saints, to allow ourselves to be loved by God, which is the vocation and true redemption of us all".
VATICAN CITY, 16 FEB 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father:
- Appointed Bishop Emanuel Messias de Oliveira of Guanhaes, Brazil, as bishop of Caratinga (area 14,927, population 678,000, Catholics 569,000, priests 76, religious 150), Brazil. He succeeds Bishop Helio Goncalves Heleno, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
- Appointed Fr. Teodoro Mendes Tavares C.S.Sp., vicar general of the prelature of Tefe, Brazil, as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Belem do Para (area 2,082, population 2,090,000, Catholics 1,527,000, priests 152, permanent deacons 49, religious 687), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Sao Miguel Arcanjo - Ilha de Santiago, Cape Verde in 1964 and ordained a priest in 1993.
- Appointed Fr. Jose Francisco Falcao de Barros of the clergy of the diocese of Palmeira dos Indios, Brazil, pastor of San Vincenzo de Paoli and chaplain of the military police in the State of Alagoas, as auxiliary of the military ordinariate of Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Paulo Jacinto, Brazil in 1965 and ordained a priest in 1991.
The Catholic Church in Cambodia says it deeply regrets the “needless loss of human life” during border clashes with Thailand last week and appealed for a peaceful resolution to the dispute.
The fighting has also caused “serious injuries, the destruction of sacred places and irreparable damage to a world heritage site,” a February 14 statement said.
“The Catholic Church of Cambodia calls on all communities, national and international organizations to urgently cooperate at all levels to help stop conflict around the Preah Vihear Temple,” said the statement signed by Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh.
“We pray to almighty God that the Good Lord will bless the two sides with peace and guide the leaders of both countries to resolve this conflict by peaceful means and to avoid further shedding of blood,” it continued.
Long Sophal, a Church worker with the Jesuit Service in Cambodia, said he hopes Thailand and Cambodia heed Bishop Schmitthaeusler’s words.
“We are always against war because everyone suffers, so we must support a call for peaceful solutions,” he said.
Other organizations also voiced their support for the Church’s appeal.
Duong Savong, director of the Catholic Catechesis Center, said the statement, “Made us reflect that the fighting not only brought suffering to Cambodians, but to all from both sides.”
The February 4-7 border clashes reportedly killed at least eight people – three in Thailand and five in Cambodia – and injured many more, as well as displacing thousands.
CBC REPORT: A Quebec municipality is making an almighty effort to get donations to fight a court ruling banning prayers at city council.
An illustration of Jesus Christ himself sits on the city's Internet page, his eyes questioning and palm open, above a French-language logo that translates as "Donations, prayer on trial."
Click on the Messiah and another page opens up, where several handy payment options are offered including cheques delivered in person and donations by phone and Internet.
Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay says the very future of Quebec's francophone culture and Roman Catholic heritage are at stake.
In a verdict rendered last week, Quebec's human-rights tribunal ordered the crucifix removed from Saguenay's assembly room, demanded an end to prayers at council meetings, and asked the city to pay $30,000 in penalties. It ordered that the sum be paid to the citizen who complained about the prayers.
But Saguenay city hall is fighting back.
"Where are we French-Canadians going with our values?" Tremblay asked during a fiery statement to reporters announcing the appeal bid Wednesday.
"Where will we French-Canadians be in 50 years?"
Although the request for appeal hasn't been filed yet, Tremblay says the city's lawyers believe it stands a good chance.
It's the latest salvo is the bubbling debate over identity in Quebec, which has seen one controversy after another about how much tolerance should be shown for other people's religious views.
Occasionally the debate focuses, as it has in Saguenay, on the habits of the traditional francophone Roman Catholic majority. More often, though, it has been about Muslim women's veils and Sikhs' ceremonial daggers.
Last week, members of the provincial legislature unanimously banned the Sikh kirpan from the premises.
The move came after a group of Sikhs scheduled to attend hearings on the wearing of religious headgear were stopped by security guards when the ceremonial daggers tripped metal detectors.
Some legislators said the move was based on security concerns. Some said it was to preserve the national assembly's secular character.
The Parti Quebecois' critic for secularism, however, said Wednesday that she agrees with keeping the crucifix perched above the provincial legislative chamber because it reflects 400 years of history.
Saguenay's mayor was also keen to talk history Wednesday.
In his address to reporters, Tremblay confidently stated that in the entire history of the human race, there had never been a precedent for such persecution as that suffered by his administration.
"In the history of the world, and we verified this just for fun, this has never happened," Tremblay said.
"Not even in antiquity, not even in the Middle Ages — a mayor punished for saying a prayer!"
Tremblay bemoaned the hefty legal fees that an appeal could entail and said he would like to see them paid through donations rather than on the shoulders of taxpayers.
He stressed that he was not a religious "extremist," but merely wanted to fight back against what he perceived to be an imbalance in Quebec society.
He wondered why the majority, francophone Catholics, have to leave their faith at home when minorities seem to enjoy so many rights.
"Here, it seems that reasonable accommodation is good provided it is not for Catholics," he said, pointing out that 90 per cent of his fellow townsfolk are Catholics.
On 14 February, the “Big Bicycle March on the Fuel Crisis” had been organised in the capital, Lilongwe, to protest against fuel shortages in the Country. The demonstrators had intended to march on bicycle in front of the Parliament and Government headquarters with whistles and vuvuzela. The police blocked the demonstration and arrested several organisers of the protest.
“To have organised a demonstration, albeit unsuccessful, is already a good start that will increase awareness of the Country's current situation, which seems to have been taken back in time by the current political administration, fortified by an election victory that gave them absolute majority in Parliament. In this way, we also learn the value of voting and political participation, which remains the primary task of every citizen,” said the missionary.
“If the invitation of the Bishops of Malawi to read the signs of the times is valid, this could be the time that responds to a political and social situation almost in decay,” says Fr Gamba. “There is no fuel in the Country. Despite the increase in prices that makes a litre of gasoline 1.3 euros, you can not buy it. Trade, transportation and even basic necessities are no longer assured. The lack of foreign currency to secure imports, a refrain that has virtually shut down several small industries in the Country, is resulting in the exponential growth of chronic unemployment. There are also laws that restrict freedom of information, others that the local courts re-introduce, that conjure up the horrors and killings during the 30 years of dictatorship.” These are all symptoms that preoccupy and contribute to creating a climate, not seen throughout the years of democracy, reaffirmed in Malawi in 1994, concludes the missionary.
MARTYR AND FORMER SLAVE
Feast: February 16