Seven years ago the bells of St. Peter’s tolled solemnly, echoing the mournful cries of the piazza below.  Seven years ago, we lost our Papa on earth but gained a new saint in heaven. 
[Photo:  I took this picture several years ago at the Marello Youth Retreat Center in Loomis, CA]

Seven years ago the bells of St. Peter’s tolled solemnly, echoing the mournful cries of the piazza below.  Seven years ago, we lost our Papa on earth but gained a new saint in heaven. 

[Photo:  I took this picture several years ago at the Marello Youth Retreat Center in Loomis, CA]

Hail to the Fisherman!  May he rest in peace!

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Mexico.  In commemoration of his first Apostolic Visit to their country, several latino artists came together to record the official theme song of his visit. 

Now, to commemorate the 7th anniversary of Bl. John Paul’s death, here is the theme song of his 1999 visit to Mexico—a country that seemed to have a special place in his heart and whose people joyfully showered him with great affection and filial love.

Here is my poor high-school-Spanish translation of the lyrics; if I made a mistake, please let me know.

Fisherman, Christ made you the fisherman
Tell us where to find Him
In order to be with Him, happy like you.

I go sailing without a rudder;
on the open sea, reason abandons me.
Barely I survive
as a lost child.
I am looking for something that is not within me
                              
Plus, you suddenly arrive
and your word, the beacon of white light.
Take me to a safe harbor
where there is a future
where exists a buler sky.

Your word is the hope
that many souls seek
Fisherman, you will be the wind of change

You will be the friend,
that leads to a new world
in your great infinite heart
in your great infinite heart.

Yes, it costs sometimes to continue
in the shipwreck and amid so much darkness,
i
n the midst of a sea that silences
and the faith that we lack.
I go in search for a little peace.

Plus, you suddenly arrive
and your word, the beacon of white light.

Take me to a safe harbor
where there is a future
where exists a buler sky.

Your word is the hope
that many souls seek
Fisherman, you will be the wind of change

You will be the friend,
that leads to a new world
in your great infinite heart

Your word is the hope
that many souls seek
Fisherman, you will be the wind of change

You will be the friend,
that leads to a new world
in your great infinite heart

Your word is the hope
that many souls seek
Fisherman, you will be the wind of change

You will be the friend..

At the Window of the Father’s House
Here is part of Cardinal Ratzinger’s homily at the Requiem Mass of Pope John Paul II who died 7 years ago today on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday.

Follow me! In October 1978 Cardinal Wojtyła once again heard the voice of the Lord. Once more there took place that dialogue with Peter reported in the Gospel of this Mass: “Simon, son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep!” To the Lord’s question, “Karol, do you love me?,” the Archbishop of Krakow answered from the depths of his heart: “Lord you know everything; you know that I love you.” The love of Christ was the dominant force in the life of our beloved Holy Father. Anyone who ever saw him pray, who ever heard him preach, knows that. Thanks to his being profoundly rooted in Christ, he was able to bear a burden which transcends merely human abilities: that of being the shepherd of Christ’s flock, his universal Church…
Follow me! Together with the command to feed his flock, Christ proclaimed to Peter that he would die a martyr’s death. With those words, which conclude and sum up the dialogue on love and on the mandate of the universal shepherd, the Lord recalls another dialogue, which took place during the Last Supper. There Jesus had said: “Where I am going, you cannot come.” Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied: “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow me afterward.” (Jn 13:33,36). Jesus from the Supper went towards the Cross, went towards his resurrection – he entered into the paschal mystery; and Peter could not yet follow him. Now – after the resurrection – comes the time, comes this “afterward.” By shepherding the flock of Christ, Peter enters into the paschal mystery, he goes towards the cross and the resurrection. The Lord says this in these words: “… when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18). In the first years of his pontificate, still young and full of energy, the Holy Father went to the very ends of the earth, guided by Christ. But afterwards, he increasingly entered into the communion of Christ’s sufferings; increasingly he understood the truth of the words: “Someone else will fasten a belt around you.” And in this very communion with the suffering Lord, tirelessly and with renewed intensity, he proclaimed the Gospel, the mystery of that love which goes to the end (cf. Jn 13:1).
He interpreted for us the paschal mystery as a mystery of divine mercy. In his last book, he wrote: The limit imposed upon evil “is ultimately Divine Mercy” (Memory and Identity, pp. 60-61). And reflecting on the assassination attempt, he said: “In sacrificing himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order: the order of love … It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good” (pp. 189-190). Impelled by this vision, the Pope suffered and loved in communion with Christ, and that is why the message of his suffering and his silence proved so eloquent and so fruitful.
Divine Mercy: the Holy Father found the purest reflection of God’s mercy in the Mother of God. He, who at an early age had lost his own mother, loved his divine mother all the more. He heard the words of the crucified Lord as addressed personally to him: “Behold your Mother.” And so he did as the beloved disciple did: he took her into his own home” (eis ta idia:  Jn 19:27) – Totus tuus. And from the mother he learned to conform himself to Christ.
None of us can ever forget how in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing urbi et orbi. We can be sure that our beloved Pope is standing today at the window of the Father’s house, that he sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the eternal glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

[Photo:  by Mario Tama/Getty Images News]

At the Window of the Father’s House

Here is part of Cardinal Ratzinger’s homily at the Requiem Mass of Pope John Paul II who died 7 years ago today on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday.

Follow me! In October 1978 Cardinal Wojtyła once again heard the voice of the Lord. Once more there took place that dialogue with Peter reported in the Gospel of this Mass: “Simon, son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep!” To the Lord’s question, “Karol, do you love me?,” the Archbishop of Krakow answered from the depths of his heart: “Lord you know everything; you know that I love you.” The love of Christ was the dominant force in the life of our beloved Holy Father. Anyone who ever saw him pray, who ever heard him preach, knows that. Thanks to his being profoundly rooted in Christ, he was able to bear a burden which transcends merely human abilities: that of being the shepherd of Christ’s flock, his universal Church…

Follow me! Together with the command to feed his flock, Christ proclaimed to Peter that he would die a martyr’s death. With those words, which conclude and sum up the dialogue on love and on the mandate of the universal shepherd, the Lord recalls another dialogue, which took place during the Last Supper. There Jesus had said: “Where I am going, you cannot come.” Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied: “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow me afterward.” (Jn 13:33,36). Jesus from the Supper went towards the Cross, went towards his resurrection – he entered into the paschal mystery; and Peter could not yet follow him. Now – after the resurrection – comes the time, comes this “afterward.” By shepherding the flock of Christ, Peter enters into the paschal mystery, he goes towards the cross and the resurrection. The Lord says this in these words: “… when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18). In the first years of his pontificate, still young and full of energy, the Holy Father went to the very ends of the earth, guided by Christ. But afterwards, he increasingly entered into the communion of Christ’s sufferings; increasingly he understood the truth of the words: “Someone else will fasten a belt around you.” And in this very communion with the suffering Lord, tirelessly and with renewed intensity, he proclaimed the Gospel, the mystery of that love which goes to the end (cf. Jn 13:1).

He interpreted for us the paschal mystery as a mystery of divine mercy. In his last book, he wrote: The limit imposed upon evil “is ultimately Divine Mercy” (Memory and Identity, pp. 60-61). And reflecting on the assassination attempt, he said: “In sacrificing himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order: the order of love … It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good” (pp. 189-190). Impelled by this vision, the Pope suffered and loved in communion with Christ, and that is why the message of his suffering and his silence proved so eloquent and so fruitful.

Divine Mercy: the Holy Father found the purest reflection of God’s mercy in the Mother of God. He, who at an early age had lost his own mother, loved his divine mother all the more. He heard the words of the crucified Lord as addressed personally to him: “Behold your Mother.” And so he did as the beloved disciple did: he took her into his own home” (eis ta idia: Jn 19:27) – Totus tuus. And from the mother he learned to conform himself to Christ.

None of us can ever forget how in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing urbi et orbi. We can be sure that our beloved Pope is standing today at the window of the Father’s house, that he sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the eternal glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

[Photo:  by Mario Tama/Getty Images News]

glorialaudes:

It was seven years ago, on April 2, 2005, that John Paul II passed away. Millions of people mourned his death, as the bells of St. Peter’s Square rang over and over again. To mark the seventh anniversary of his death, here is a portion of ROME REPORTS’ documentary “John Paul The Great: A Pope Who Made History.”

(via glorialaudes-deactivated2012091)

Always Faithful

As you probably know, the Holy Father is currently in Mexico on an Apostolic Visit with our brothers and sisters down south.  This made me think of the very first time that I had a personal encounter with Papa Benedicto. 

I took the photos above at Pope Benedict’s very first World Youth Day after having been chosen to as the Successor of St. Peter and the successor of World Youth Day’s founder, our beloved Bl. John Paul II the Great.

After morning catechesis, I decided to join thousands of other young pilgrims in lining the route that our still new Holy Father would take as part of the events to welcome him to Cologne, Germany.  On my search for the perfect spot, I came across the above group of young people from Mexico and decided to take a picture of their banner which read,  Mexico:  Siempre Fiel (Mexico:  Always Faithful).

When I first saw this back in 2005, I thought what an interesting statement to make to Pope Benedict as he passed in his Popemobile.  I took it to mean that these young Mexican pilgrims were somehow assuring the new Vicar of Christ that they and many of their countrymen are faithful to Holy Mother Church, that they have been faithful to Pope John Paul II, and that they would continue to be faithful to Pope Benedict. 

This sentiment of ongoing loyalty has a lot, I think, to do with the special relationship between Bl. John Paul II and the Mexican people.  Of course, our beloved JP2 connected with people wherever he went, but it seems to me that he had a particularly intimate connection with Mexico and Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

Whatever the reason for this unspoken bond, the people of Mexico were absolutely not shy about showing their great affection for their Polish pope.  A recent article from the Associated Press told of a tradition that young people of the Mexican city where the pope was staying would get up early in the morning and serenade the Holy Father at his temporary residence.  The young people started this special papal mananitas for Pope John Paul II and they continue it for Pope Benedict XVI.

Upon his arrival at the Guanajuato Airport, Pope Benedict gave his first address on Mexican soil in which he said,

"I am very happy to be here, and I give thanks to God for allowing me to realize the desire, kept in my heart for a long time, to confirm in the faith the People of God of this great nation in their own land. The affection of the Mexican people for the Successor of Peter, whom they always remember in their prayers, is well known."

And, he is also reported to have remarked, “This is a proud country of hospitality, and nobody feels like a stranger in your land.  I knew that, now I see it and now I feel it in my heart.

What I find surprising is that many people (yes, in the mainstream media) were genuinely surprised that the Mexican people actually love this nearly 85-year-old German man, just as they were surprised that young people would gather from around the world to hear his words and to express their deep affection for him.

Just three days ago, CNN published an article declaring, Pope’s visit overshadowed by predecessor’s legacy in Mexico.  The Miami Herald even said that Pope Benedict makes Mexicans “ache for John Paul II,” noting that the Holy Father’s upcoming trip “is drawing little excitement, underscoring the stark differences between this pontiff and his predecessor, John Paul II….”  (Yeah, tell that to the thousands of people who will wait hours just to personally greet Papa Benedicto and welcome him to their country!)  The Miami Herald even quoted Maria de las Heras, the head of a PR firm, who so optimistically concluded, Pope Benedict is the “antithesis of John Paul II.” 

Yet, today’s headline in the Chicago Sun-Times proclaims—I think with some astonishment and confusion—Pope’s arrival in Mexico sparks surprising emotion.

Surprising?"  Really?

I mean, you would have thought that Big Foot had just strolled out of some forest in the Pacific Northwest and ordered a Venti Mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks!

Surprising?  Well, that’s our Papa for you.  This brilliantly theological, and intimately pastoral German octogenarian has once again shocked mainstream journalists—perhaps its his particular Benedictine charism.  Now that their minds and preconceptions have been papally blown, these poor, clueless folks are left again wondering, “Why is this man relevant?  And to young people, for that matter!?” 

This only goes to show even further (as if you need any more evidence) that the secular media, the secular world doesn’t get it.  It doesn’t get who the pope is, whose chair he sits upon, and Who built our Church, the Church upon solid Rock.

Even though they don’t get it, the young people of Mexico do—and our Papa knows it, and responds with great paternal love and affection. 

Dear Young People,

I am happy to be able to meet with you and to see your smiling faces as you fill this beautiful square. You have a very special place in the Pope’s heart. And in these moments, I would like all the children of Mexico to know this, especially those who have to bear the burden of suffering, abandonment, violence or hunger, which in recent months, because of drought, has made itself strongly felt in some regions. I am grateful for this encounter of faith, and for the festive and joyful presence expressed in song. Today we are full of jubilation, and this is important. God wants us to be happy always. He knows us and he loves us. If we allow the love of Christ to change our heart, then we can change the world. This is the secret of authentic happiness.

This place where we stand today has a name which expresses the yearning present in the heart of each and every person: “la paz”, Peace. This is a gift which comes from on high. “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:21). These are the words of the Risen Lord. We hear them during each Mass, and today they resound anew in this place, with the hope that each one of you will be transformed, becoming a sower and messenger of that peace for which Christ offered his life.

The disciple of Jesus does not respond to evil with evil, but is always an instrument of good instead, a herald of pardon, a bearer of happiness, a servant of unity. He wishes to write in each of your lives a story of friendship. Hold on to him, then, as the best of friends. He will never tire of speaking to those who always love and who do good. This you will hear, if you strive in each moment to be with him who will help you in more difficult situations.

I have come that you may know my affection. Each one of you is a gift of God to Mexico and to the world. Your family, the Church, your school and those who have responsibility in society must work together to ensure that you receive a better world as your inheritance, without jealousies and divisions.

That is why I wish to lift up my voice, inviting everyone to protect and to care for children, so that nothing may extinguish their smile, but that they may live in peace and look to the future with confidence.

You, my dear young friends, are not alone. You can count on the help of Christ and his Church in order to live a Christian lifestyle. Participate in Sunday Mass, in catechesis, in apostolic works, looking for occasions of prayer, fraternity and charity. Blessed Cristóbal, Antonio and Juan, the child martyrs of Tlaxcala, lived this way, and knowing Jesus, during the time of the initial evangelization of Mexico, they discovered that there is no greater treasure than he. They were children like you, and from them we can learn that we are never too young to love and serve.

How I would like to spend more time with all of you, but the time has already come for me to go. We will remain close in prayer. So I invite you to pray continually, even in your homes; in this way, you will experience the happiness of speaking about God with your families. Pray for everyone, and also for me. I will pray for all of you, so that Mexico may be a place in which everyone can live in serenity and harmony. I bless all of you from my heart and I ask you to bring the affection and blessing of the Pope to your parents, brothers and sisters, and other loved ones. May the Virgin accompany you. Thank you very much, my dear young friends.

And as we never tired of chanting in Madrid for World Youth Day this past summer, proclaiming for all the secular world to hear, "Esta es, la juventud del papa!  Esta es, la juventud del papa!  Esta es, la juventud del papa!"  This is the Pope’s youth!  This is the Pope’s youth!  This is the Pope’s youth!

Lady’s Night — Total Consecration

Ash Wednesday is just around the corner.  It is, of course, the start of the liturgical season of Lent:  a time to fast, pray, and give alms. 

This year, Ash Wednesday is also the start of the preparation to renew my consecration to Jesus through Our Lady.  It has been almost 4 years, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, since I stood before the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the outdoor shrine at the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer and pronounced the following words:  "This day, with the whole court of heaven as witness, I choose you, Mary, as my Mother and Queen.  I surrender and consecrate myself to you, body and soul, as your slave, with all that I posses,  both spiritual and material, even including the value of all my actions, past, present, and to come.  I give you the full right to dispose of me and all that belongs to me, without any reservations, in whatever way you please, for the greater glory of God in time and throughout eternity."

The formula I used for the consecration as well as for the preparation stage came from St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort.  Although you can consecrate yourself to Jesus through Our Lady at any time and without any specific preparation, it is greatly recommended that you choose a special feast day (like the Solemnity of the Assumption or of the Immaculate Conception) and take the 33 days beforehand to spiritually prepare yourself.

For me, I renew my consecration on every anniversary.  If you haven’t already made an act of total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I would like to invite all of you to join me in consecrating yourself to Our Lady, Mother, and Queen on this upcoming Solemnity of the Annunciation.

Usually, the Solemnity of the Annunciation is on March 25th, however, since that day falls on a Sunday, this solemnity is transferred to Monday, March 26th.

Why would anyone consecrate himself or herself to Jesus through Mary in the first place?

Well, it seems to me that such a consecration is a complement to my baptism.  For, Our Lady helps me to live my baptismal promises, to embody the one faith in her Son, and to proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth.  Additionally, such a consecration—like all Marian devotion—has Christ as its center and its end. Thus, one is following the example of God the Father who chose to entrust the Savior of the World to the care of Our Lady.  So, too, we entrust ourselves in all our entirety and without reserve to the maternal Heart of the Blessed Virgin.

Also, I find it particularly comforting to know that Bl. John Paul the Great more than likely made a total consecration himself, for he took his motto from the prayer that St. Louis-Marie de Montfort suggests that one pray before Holy Communion after making his or her consecration:  TOTUS TUUS ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt. Accipio te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor tuum, Maria. (I belong entire to you, and all that I have is yours.  I take you for my all.  O Mary, give me your heart.

How does one follow the Montfortian formula and preparation for total consecration to Jesus Christ, Wisdom incarnate, through the hands of Mary?

I recommend getting this book (which can also be found in many Catholic book stores).  Or you can click this link for an online version, or you can even get the Total Consecration app on iTunes for $0.99!!!

For me, our meeting has been a deep and moving experience of your faith in Christ, and I make my own the words of St. Paul: “I have great confidence in you, I have great pride in you; I am filled with encouragement, I am overflowing with joy” (2 Cor. 7:4). These are not words of empty praise. I am confident that you have grasped the scale of the challenge that lies before you and that you will have the wisdom and courage to meet that challenge. So much depends on you…

Young pilgrims, Christ needs you to enlighten the world and to show it the “path to life” (Ps. 16:11). The challenge is to make the church’s yes to life concrete and effective. The struggle will be long, and it needs each one of you. Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your fortitude at the service of life!

Have no fear. The outcome of the battle for life is already decided, even though the struggle goes on against great odds and with much suffering…At this stage of history, the liberating message of the Gospel of life has been put into your hands. And the mission of proclaiming it to the ends of the earth is now passing to your generation. Like the great apostle Paul, you too must feel the full urgency of the task: “Woe to me if I do not evangelize” (1 Cor. 9:16). Woe to you if you do not succeed in defending life. The church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals, in order to make the Gospel of life penetrate the fabric of society, transforming people’s hearts and the structures of society in order to create a civilization of true justice and love. Now more than ever, in a world that is often without light and without the courage of noble ideals, people need the fresh, vital spirituality of the Gospel.

Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places like the first apostles, who preached Christ and the good news of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (cf. Rom. 1: 16). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops (cf. Mt. 10:27). Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern “metropolis.” It is you who must “go out into the byroads” (Mt 22:9) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father (cf. Mt. 5:15-16)…

Christ needs laborers ready to work in his vineyard. May you, the Catholic young people of the world, not fail him. In your hands, carry the cross of Christ. On your lips, the words of life. In your hearts, the saving grace of the Lord.

— Homily of Bl. John Paul the Great at the Closing Mass of World Youth Day in Denver, 1993