My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ,
I greet all of you with the peace and joy of Our Lord. The first Philippine Conference on the New Evangelization is a worthy offering to the Year of Faith. For this I thank all of you, my brother Bishops, the priests, religious men and women, seminarians and the lay faithful who organized and are participating in the conference. I am happy to learn that you came to Manila from different parts of the Philippines and Asia. The Holy Spirit is actively at work in you. The Church of Christ is alive!
Through this conference, I hope you would experience again the loving presence of Jesus in your lives, that you would love the Church more and that you would share the Gospel to all people with humility and joy. Do not get tired of bringing the mercy of the Father to the poor, the sick, the abandoned, the young people and families. Let Jesus be known in the world of politics, business, arts, science, technology and social media. Let the Holy Spirit renew creation and bring forth justice and peace in the Philippines and in the great continent of Asia that is close to my heart.
Please pray for me. I promise to pray for you, especially to Our Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization.
Mabúhay ang Pilipínas! Mabúhay ang Asia! Pagpaláin kayó ng Dios!
[Long live the Philippines! Long live Asia! God bless you!]
Source: the Vatican Radio website.
While I’ve got you here, I’d like to share something else that is positive about our Holy Father. It’s from an article written by Regis Martin, published today in Crisis Magazine. It’s about the malaise that occurred in the Church in the 1960’s titled Recollections of a World That Is No More.
So how does one escape the mindset of an age that has lost its mind? Has jettisoned even its soul? Where does one turn for oxygen at a time when the air having turned dangerously and terribly toxic, people everywhere are gasping for breath? The only enduring solution, of course, is to turn to Christ, from the intensity of the encounter with whom an entire world can be rebuilt. But along the way back toward God, one has got to take ownership for the mess one has made. An accounting, in other words, of what went so disastrously wrong on the cusp of what we’d all been so confidently promised—from Good Pope John who convoked the Council, to the least chancery bureaucrat breezily charged with implementing its reforms—would be a new and blessed Pentecost for the Church and the world. Because what followed upon those high and heady days was an attempted high jacking of the Church herself, which proved ruinous to great sectors of her institutional life. It was certainly no exercise in hyperbole that moved Pope Paul VI to pronounce balefully on the “smoke of Satan” having penetrated the hallowed precincts of the Church. So why did it happen? And is there any hope of recovery?
My own theory is that amid all the materialism of modern life, the ever expanding comfort zone of bourgeois culture, a world unwilling to set limits on the pursuit of appetite and pleasure, a terrible forgetfulness of God began, as a result of which too many Catholics found themselves unprepared for the excesses if the sixties. There were no more reserves, as it were, of heroic sanctity on which they could draw.
Is there a way out? Certainly there is and Pope Francis, the latest in a series of wise and holy popes, has given us the road map. In his remarks this past July to the young people of the world, who had come to Brazil to reconnect with Christ and the Church, he urged them (and urges us) to heed the advice of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. When asked what needed to change in the Church, she replied that the starting point is always and everywhere the same: the soul of each human being whom Christ came to redeem. “This woman showed determination,” the Pope exclaimed. “And today I make her words my own and I say to you: shall we begin? Where? With you and me! Each one of you, once again in silence, ask yourself: if I must begin with myself, where exactly do I start? Each one of you, open his or her heart, so that Jesus may tell you where to start.”
Pope Francis is calling us personally to begin again. Not to repeat the mistakes of the past, but having learned from them, to move forward again as followers of Jesus.
Pray for Pope Francis, and pray for us all, as we prayed yesterday on the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch.
May the heavenly Bread we have received, O Lord,
on the feast day of Saint Ignatius
renew us, we pray,
and make us Christians in name and in deed.
Through Christ our Lord.