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While much of America was still sleeping, Pope Francis welcomed Donald Trump to the Vatican, then led his usual Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square. Here’s some of what you missed.

Sun rising here at the Vatican. Security high before @realDonaldTrump meets with #PopeFrancis pic.twitter.com/hNCzRtKWE7

— Junno Arocho Esteves (@arochoju) May 24, 2017

Swiss Guards marching in… pic.twitter.com/gMZQyWOrnG

— Junno Arocho Esteves (@arochoju) May 24, 2017

#PopeFrancis arrives for meeting with @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/Plu0ZBK3yu

— Junno Arocho Esteves (@arochoju) May 24, 2017

Here’s the announcement of the official American delegation:

The entourage that will accompany @realDonaldTrump to meeting with #PopeFrancis. pic.twitter.com/yszHw4LBcV

— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) May 24, 2017

And here comes the president:

.@realDonaldTrump motorcade uses side entrance by Domus Sanctae Marthae to avoid pilgrims waiting for audience w/ #PopeFrancis. pic.twitter.com/u57gZbKllW

— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) May 24, 2017

.@realDonaldTrump welcomed to Apostolic Palace by Abp Georg Ganswein, prefect of papal household. pic.twitter.com/y2wfL5lmm4

— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) May 24, 2017

Arch. Georg Ganswein greets @POTUS @realDonaldTrump & @FLOTUS pic.twitter.com/VeJVIpRWCI

— Junno Arocho Esteves (@arochoju) May 24, 2017

The handshake. Photo by Paul Haring for @CatholicNewsSvc. #PopeFrancis and @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/4of3BCMu6G

— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) May 24, 2017

But early in the meeting, a little misunderstanding:

#Pope to First Lady @flotus: "What do you give him [Trump] to eat?" Melania replied: "Pizza" #Pope #Vatican pic.twitter.com/vmC8dBhoqP

— Christopher Lamb (@ctrlamb) May 24, 2017

Later, this clarification:

#Vatican clarifies: @Pontifex asks Slovenian @FLOTUS about @POTUS diet: "Do you feed him 'potica'?" a Slovenian cake. Sorry Italy, no pizza pic.twitter.com/hku6Fc0eUK

— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) May 24, 2017

@margaretfelice #PopeFrancis, whose niece is married to a Slovenian, asked about potizza. Melania, not expecting that, asked "Pizza?" Downhill from there.

— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) May 24, 2017

And the meeting goes on routinely from there.

Some moments from @realDonaldTrump meeting with #PopeFrancis. Photos by Paul Haring for @CatholicNewsSvc pic.twitter.com/eh5G8YwEoc

— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) May 24, 2017

#Vatican statement on #PopeFrancis meeting with @realDonaldTrump @POTUS pic.twitter.com/CS1dAgAimp

— Junno Arocho Esteves (@arochoju) May 24, 2017

Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world. pic.twitter.com/JzJDy7pllI

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2017

And Pope Francis is off to his weekly general audience:

Busy day! After early morning 30-min. mtg with @POTUS, #PopeFrancis in StPetersSquare ready for weekly general audience #TrumpinItalia pic.twitter.com/1F3ONW7q0p

— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) May 24, 2017

#Pope: Our God isn't warlord who claims victory degrading his ppl w/ their enemies' blood. He's a gentle flame burning on a cold, windy day pic.twitter.com/rFfHzowXAI

— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) May 24, 2017

#PopeFrancis greets pilgrims from Hong Kong, today feast of Our Lady of Sheshan/Mary Help of Christianshttps://t.co/sfYdHTeDes pic.twitter.com/NJetklp0ee

— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) May 24, 2017

Meanwhile, the president met the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin:

Cardinal Parolin spoke to #Trump about #ClimateChange, says Rex Tillerson. Updated story on #PopeFrancis meeting. https://t.co/qsPRTcxpz8 pic.twitter.com/CpKCKxuxhQ

— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) May 24, 2017

And the first lady visited sick kids in the hospital:

.@FLOTUS visiting Rome's pediatric hospital @bambinogesu https://t.co/m8sHvZahhT

— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) May 24, 2017

Some moments from @FLOTUS Melania Trump's visit to Bambino Gesu children's hospital in Rome. Photos by @oss_romano pic.twitter.com/d6L6DzDexB

— Junno Arocho Esteves (@arochoju) May 24, 2017

And there was also time for a little sightseeing:

After meeting #PopeFrancis, @realDonaldTrump came face to face with the Last Judgment. Michelangelo. @oss_romano photo. pic.twitter.com/2uVyCCFjFv

— Cindy Wooden (@Cindy_Wooden) May 24, 2017

AHORA tras su audiencia con el Papa @realDonaldTrump visita la Capilla Sixtina con la directora Bárbara Jatta, via @rembrandt82 pic.twitter.com/iioz6LMVej

— Andrés Beltramo A. (@sacroprofano) May 24, 2017

Couple more from @oss_romano of visit of @realDonaldTrump, @FLOTUS & @IvankaTrump in Sistine Chapel. pic.twitter.com/Bu3wfDILLE

— Cindy Wooden (@Cindy_Wooden) May 24, 2017

The Vatican newspaper weighs in:

Just out @oss_romano. #PopeFrancis mtg Prez Trump is below the fold. Top story how church is called to walk with people, listen to them. pic.twitter.com/jL1pRNfCBW

— Cindy Wooden (@Cindy_Wooden) May 24, 2017

For more, read our main story on the meeting:

Pope, President Trump speak of hopes for peace https://t.co/3Fjt1xEAJd pic.twitter.com/eG3nxeNEwF

— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) May 24, 2017

… and our story on the pope’s general audience:

God is no warlord claiming victory with enemies’ blood, pope says https://t.co/xmzb86TFpm pic.twitter.com/y7RMbAQZS5

— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) May 24, 2017


Filed under: CNS, politics, Vatican
Posted: May 24, 2017, 8:25 pm

“If you love me and obey the commands I give you, I will ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete — to be with you always: the Spirit of truth.” — John 14:15-17a

 

May 21, Sixth Sunday of Easter

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

      Psalm 66:1-3a, 4-7a

      2) 1 Peter 3:15-18

      Gospel: John 14:15-21

 

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

I love the progression of this week’s Old Testament and New Testament readings, and how they speak to the “communication” of the Holy Spirit among believers.

The first reading tells about the apostles laying hands on new believers who then received the Holy Spirit. The Gospel talks about the Father sending an Advocate, “the Spirit of truth,” to those who love him, to live in them and reveal God to them (one might add, again and again).

During a confirmation preparation program I helped lead, parents joined us for one of the sessions, and at its conclusion we invited them to join the sponsors in laying hands on their children and other candidates in silent prayer.

We hoped the young people would feel the warm reality of God’s presence in the human touch of those who love them and who wanted the Spirit to come deeply into their lives. Subsequent comments from some of the candidates suggested that that was, indeed, what happened for them.

But comments from parents indicated that they, too, were touched powerfully by the Spirit as they laid hands on their young people. These were people who had held and hugged their kids throughout their 16 or 17 years of life, yet several remarked that they were thankful to have the opportunity, in the words of one, “to do this for my child.” Many were moved to tears.

I laid hands on their children, too, and I can vouch for the fact that I truly sensed the Spirit of Jesus passing between us. As Catholics, we are fortunate to have tangible symbolic acts, such as laying on hands, to bring alive our spoken or silent words in prayer.

And we don’t come out of the experience wondering, “What just happened?” The Gospel explains it, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. … And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

QUESTIONS:

How has God been revealed to you in the laying on of hands — either as the one laying on hands or the recipient? What other tangible prayer experiences have you had, and how has God been revealed in those?


Filed under: Word to Life
Posted: May 19, 2017, 8:33 pm
Drew Dillingham of the USCCB office of child protection is pictured in Rome Jan. 31. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Drew Dillingham
Catholic News Service

(Thirteenth in a series)

ROME — Among all the people I have met in Rome, I was most honored to meet Veronique Garnier on Wednesday. She spoke to me and my classmates about how she was able to rebuild her life after she was sexually abused by a priest when she was 13. For more on her story, you can read her testimony in French in La Vie. She has graciously allowed me to share her experiences on my blog this week.

Veronique’s presentation was the most important of the semester. Thanks to her courage, she was able to share with us what she thinks is valuable in the recovery process for those abused. These are lessons my classmates and I can bring back to our own episcopal conferences, dioceses, parishes and religious communities. For example, one of the most crucial tasks of both clergy and laity is personally accompanying and listening to those who have been hurt.

promiseVeronique was able to come forward to disclose her abuse because of her strength, faith and the grace of God. The personal accompaniment of Bishop Jacques Blaquart of Orleans, France, was also very important in her recovery. The relationship between Veronique and her bishop, which was based on listening, as well as the action of her diocese to hold healing and spiritual services for survivors of abuse (like Anointing of the Sick), was very helpful in her spiritual recovery process.

Archbishop Francisco Javier Martinez of Granada and diocesan priests lie prostrate in front of the cathedral’s high altar in 2014 to ask forgiveness for sexual abuses committed by several priests in Granada, southern Spain. (CNS photo/EPA)

Thanks to the Pontifical Gregorian University’s diploma course, as well as my experiences with victims/survivors, I know some of what it takes for those abused to begin their path to healing. However, it is the survivors themselves who offer the most practical and pledgeinsightful advice. For this reason, I would like to share four pieces of advice from Veronique that are meant to mend the faith of those who have been sexually abused. This advice is taken from an interview found in La Vie and has been translated here from French.

Four pieces of advice for mending one’s faith written by Veronique Garnier:

  1. Share your feelings with God

You can tell God everything, even when you are angry with him, even if something about him in the Bible shocks you deeply, even when we feel abandoned for a long time. Expressing your pain, your anger, your grief is also having a relationship with him. The Psalms — which illustrate every human emotion — help. At first, the words used in the Psalms may seem far removed. But, little by little through prayer, they increasingly become our own. The verses of the Psalms express what I feel better than my own words. In fact, I sometimes apply them to everyday life.

  1. Accept that we cannot forgive (at first)

The Bible tells us to forgive 77 times. So, it’s never over! But sometimes we can’t. Just as God allows mankind to be free to do evil, we are also free to forgive or to not forgive. No one has the right to make us feel guilty when we don’t succeed. The only one who can lead us along a path of forgiveness is the Holy Spirit, who respects our pace.

Catholic school students pray the rosary at Holy Spirit Church in New Castle, Del., in 2010. (CNS photo/Don Blake, The Dialog)

  1. Believe that the irreparable can be repaired

God can repair the irreparable. The road of resurrection is open to the most lifeless parts of our being: even if this path is slow, difficult and painful, we can trust in it and have hope.

  1. Lean on the Holy Spirit

When I was a child, I prayed to God a lot asking for the nightmare to stop. I was calling my Father. However, the abuse continued. On the other hand, the only prayer that was answered was when I asked for the Holy Spirit. God has never failed to do that: he will always give us the Holy Spirit. It is something I discovered very early on and this has never left me. But we must accept the element of surprise: we can never tell what is going to happen with him.

– – –

Drew Dillingham is the Coordinator for Resources and Special Projects with the Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.  He is attending Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University’s interdisciplinary program for a diploma in safeguarding minors. He is an avid reader of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and shares his April 26th birthday. Dillingham also dabbles in the works of Bishop Robert Barron, thanks to the ongoing encouragement of his wife, Kim. 

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Filed under: Protecting Children blog
Posted: May 19, 2017, 3:05 pm
Word to Life for May 14, 2017

“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (John 14:8).

 

Fifth Sunday of Easter

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Acts 6:1-7

      Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19

      2) 1 Peter 2:4-9

      Gospel: John 14:1-12

 

By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

I was 19 when my cousin came to live with my family. He was just out of the Marines. He was not doing very well and was lost in many ways. When we were children we had been close, but it had been a few years since we had seen each other, and trying to re-establish our friendship was hard. To complicate things, my faith was becoming very important to me, and he rarely darkened the door of a church.

I took this in stride though. We had many conversations about the meaning of life, God and faith in general. He had a lot of opinions, but he was not ready to believe that God existed, much less believe that God loved him and wanted a relationship with him.

Try as I might, I could not get him to budge. One night while we were lying in our bunk beds talking about life and faith, almost arguing, he finally said in an exasperated tone, “I’m not going to believe in God unless he comes down here and shakes my hand.” I had no idea what to say to that. I simply stared at the bottom of the top mattress with my mouth open and my mind empty.

I realize now that my cousin was no different from the first disciples. They had been with Jesus for three years and still did not completely understand who he was. At the Last Supper Philip said to Jesus: “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus responds rather incredulously, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

Twenty-five years ago, lying in that bunk bed, I felt the same way. Didn’t my cousin know Jesus had already come and revealed himself? He grew up Catholic and had heard all the same readings I had heard. What was I to say to this lack of belief? No words came, so I did the only thing I could think of; I silently asked God to come down and shake his hand.

I wish I could say that the next day he experienced a divine handshake, but though the hand of God was continually offered to him, it would be many years before he grabbed hold.

QUESTIONS:

How would you have responded to the challenge, “I’m not going to believe in God unless he comes down here and shakes my hand”? How does Jesus reveal the Father to us?


Filed under: Word to Life
Posted: May 13, 2017, 8:13 pm
"He walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice" (John 10:4).

“He walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.” (John 10:4)

Fourth Sunday of Easter

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Acts 2:14a, 36-41

      Psalm 23:1-6

      2) 1 Peter 2:20b-25

      Gospel: John 10:1-10

 

By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

I clearly remember Captain Picard from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” looking at a contraption on a wall and saying, “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.” The machine would beep, then magically a steaming mug of tea would appear on a shelf. The first time I saw this, I was amazed that all he had to do was say what he wanted and it appeared. Now, voice recognition software is a part of most smartphones and many computers.

If I push a button on my phone and say, “my hot wife,” a few seconds later I am speaking to my wife. I can also say, “Play Beatles,” and the next thing you know my phone is playing music. Sometimes modern technology really blows my mind.

But voice recognition software is not a new thing. It is built into our DNA. We know some people’s voices so well that we do not need caller ID to tell us who is on the other end of a phone call. Yet, there are many more people whose voices we could not pick out if our lives depended on it.

The most important use of voice recognition is the theme of today’s Gospel. Jesus says the Good Shepherd walks ahead of his sheep, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. Hearing the voice of God is simple, but it is not easy.

It is simple because it is no different from recognizing the voice of a friend. The more we get to know a person, and the more time we spend with that person, the easier it is to distinguish that friend’s voice.

The difficulty comes in that we do not get to hear God’s voice with our ears. Another complication is that the best way to learn to recognize his voice is to study his word. This takes time and effort, but if we learn the way he speaks in the Bible, we will learn to differentiate among the voices we may hear in our mind.

There are three possible voices in our head: God’s, ours and the voice of the world. Each one is vying for our attention, but it is the voice of God that is calling us forward all the way to the green pastures of heaven.

QUESTIONS:

Was there ever a time when you clearly heard the voice of God? What was that like? What are some obstacles to hearing the voice of God? How can we overcome them?


Filed under: Word to Life
Posted: May 5, 2017, 8:49 pm
Drew Dillingham of the USCCB office of child protection is pictured in Rome Jan. 31. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Drew Dillingham
Catholic News Service

(Twelfth in a series)

ROME — In this week’s blog, I will take a break from writing about my courses at the Gregorian to discuss an interesting experience I had last weekend.

My wife and I decided to take a trip out to an Italian theme park. Before we left, we were aware that the park called itself “family-friendly.” What that meant did not completely sink in until after we arrived.

Upon queuing at the entrance, we realized that family-friendly meant that the median age of park attendees was around 9 or 10 years old. This did not bode well for us in terms of how many rides would be enjoyable for adults.

Nevertheless, the spirits of my wife and I were lifted by the joyful energy of the children around us as well as the smiles on the faces of the parents who accompanied them. So despite the fact that only a couple of rides looked very exciting to us, Kim and I happily entered the park alongside (well a few long meters away from) the frenzied mob of children and their parents as they rushed through the turnstiles at the park entrance.

The Observation Wheel at an amusement park in Budapest, Hungary, in 2013. (CNS photo/EPA)

My joy was quickly replaced with incredulity when the park’s dance team came out to greet everyone as they passed through the main gate. As all the little children gathered around and placed their full attention on the team, music for the song “Baby Got Back” started playing. The dancers — who were adults — were gyrating to the repeated lyrics of “my anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun.” The lyrics in themselves may have not had much of an effect on the children considering they were in English and not their native Italian. But the fact that the dancers were making sexually suggestive movements and we could all see their underwear must have, at least subliminally.

I understand that the dances were probably meant for the viewing pleasure of adults; however, children were still present. As both a future parent (God-willing) and someone who works in the field of child and youth protection, I was disturbed by this display because of the messages this sends to children in terms of sexuality.

First, as a potential parent, I asked myself what message this sends to boys and girls who have just begun to try to understand the role of sexuality in their lives. For girls, it sends the message that they are meant to be sexual objects to be used by others. For boys, it sends the message that it is socially acceptable to view women as sexual objects. It also poses risks to the creation of healthy relationships between the two sexes as peers during childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

Dancers perform on stage in Dresden, Germany, in 2016. (CNS photo/EPA)

Second, in terms of child protection, I question whether this type of sexual exposure to children is a sexual offender’s dream. I say this because it is well-known that offenders groom their victims by exposing them to sexual images — in a way (though in a much lower degree and indirectly) doesn’t this type of public sexual exposure do the offender’s job for him?

promise

I wish I had noted how the parents of the children reacted when all of this occurred. Did any parents avert the eyes of their children or physically remove them and take them elsewhere? I don’t know but that could be one option in this situation. What parents could also do is use a moment like this to explain to their children that this type of song and dancing is not okay, especially for children. It could also be a quick opportunity to talk about healthy relationships and grooming behavior. Though not many people would want to talk about these topics at that immediate place and time, perhaps it could be spoken about later at home.

Sexual displays pervade all areas of society, not just theme parks in Italy. To me, it makes no sense to expose children to sexuality, as studies done in psychological and moral development tell us, before children can understand how sexuality fits into their emotional and relational lives. Understanding sexuality and its proper use is already difficult for children, especially because of the limited way in which it is sometimes taught within our families and in the church.

pledgeThe way sexuality is currently presented to children in our societies confuses children as they begin to learn more about what sexuality means — especially when we bring them into contact with images and ideas that should be meant only for adults (and in many cases, not even adults). As a society, especially a global society (believe me, this happens in the United States as well) and as a church, I hope we will work to make the world truly “family-friendly” by considering the needs of children first.

– – –

Drew Dillingham is the Coordinator for Resources and Special Projects with the Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.  He is attending Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University’s interdisciplinary program for a diploma in safeguarding minors. He is an avid reader of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and shares his April 26th birthday. Dillingham also dabbles in the works of Bishop Robert Barron, thanks to the ongoing encouragement of his wife, Kim. 

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Filed under: Protecting Children blog
Posted: May 4, 2017, 3:03 pm
"Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?" -- Luke 24:32

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” — Luke 24:32

April 30, Third Sunday of Easter

     Cycle A. Readings:

     1) Acts 2:14, 22-33

     Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11

     2) 1 Peter 1:17-21

     Gospel: Luke 24:13-35

 

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

I once served on a parish committee that was tasked with developing a comprehensive design for the interior of our new sanctuary. The idea was to plan the entire decor so that all the artistic elements combined — stained glass, statuary, wall decoration, crucifix — would create a meaningful space to enhance worship.

During our discussions, some committee members observed how the atmosphere in certain churches seemed to enliven the presence of God. Our design consultant, an accomplished artist in a variety of media, also reminded us about the quality of art to both teach and transport.

Our task turned out to be arduous, partly because of members’ differing tastes in art. But mostly we labored over what images to include that would best speak to our worship and enrich the formation of our faith community.

I wish I had paid more attention at the time to the Gospel story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, because it reveals all the elements of God’s comprehensive design for our life with him.

In this passage from today’s readings, the disciples are confused and having doubts about Jesus after his death.

As their faith appears to be wavering, Jesus explains in detail who he was, why he came and how his resurrection now confirms their beliefs and, moreover, signifies the reality of the world’s salvation.

Our worship at Mass effectively mirrors the disciples’ experience on the road to Emmaus. Imagine yourself on the road with them that day as you enter the sanctuary for Sunday worship: Needing a boost to your faith, you listen to the Scripture interpreting the teachings of the prophets, reminding you of Jesus’ life and ministry and what it meant to you.

Just as your heart begins burning with renewed understanding and inspiration, the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins. You recall the disciples seated at table with Jesus, remember his paschal sacrifice and at the moment of consecration you recognize him in the breaking of the bread.

Our daily lives can easily pull us away from our faith. That’s why we are drawn back into church each week, so our hearts will burn again in an atmosphere where we can walk with Jesus and be reassured of his promise.

QUESTIONS:

If you met Jesus on the road, what doubts in your faith would you want to discuss with him? What in your worship environment enhances your communication with God?


Filed under: Word to Life
Posted: April 28, 2017, 10:35 pm
Drew Dillingham of the USCCB office of child protection is pictured in Rome Jan. 31. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Drew Dillingham
Catholic News Service

(Eleventh in a series)

ROME — Time has flown since I arrived in Rome almost three months ago. As my studies at the Gregorian move into weeks 9 and 10, classes have begun to place an even greater emphasis on the theological aspect of child protection and healing. For example, the title of a couple of my seminars this week were “Images of God” and “Jesus and the Children.” One of my favorite quotes from Pope Francis easily ties into these subjects.

In an interview published in America magazine in 2013, Pope Francis was asked: “What does the church need most at this historic moment?” His Holiness replied:

“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”

To me, what is most interesting about Pope Francis’ answer was his emphasis on healing from the “ground up.” How can the church heal itself and others from the “ground up” especially in terms of protecting children and healing victims/survivors?

A child in St. Peter’s Square holds a figurine of baby Jesus for a papal blessing at the Vatican in 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

One way to build from the “ground up” is through a deeper understanding of Christ’s teachings concerning children. Throughout the Gospel there are extensive accounts of Jesus’ love and concern for children. This deep love and concern for children can provide the basis for our efforts to protect children and heal victims/survivors of child sexual abuse.

Jesus’ attitude toward children was revolutionary for his time: even his disciples rebuked the children who were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. Jesus, however, invites the children to come to him (Mt 19:13-14). He insisted children be removed from the peripheries of society and instead be placed directly in its midst (Mt 18:2). He chose to place children at the center of the room so that they could be loved and protected, rather than out of sight and out of mind. In an era where children were seen but not heard, Jesus sent a clear message about the inherent dignity of children and their value to society and the church.

Jesus was not naive; he was mindful of the existence of those who wished to harm others. In John 10, Jesus declares, “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep” (Jn 10:14-15). Throughout the Gospel, Jesus makes reference to the wolves who must be kept from the flock (Mt 10:16). He describes himself as the Good Shepherd who defends his people from the wolves in their midst.

Jesus with children depicted on a window from St. Gerard Church in Buffalo, N.Y., which closed in 2008. (CNS photo/Patrick McPartland, Western New York Catholic)

Jesus shows us that to fall short of our responsibility to protect children from those “wolves” is to damage our relationship with him. According to Bishop Robert Barron, “When the disciples disputed about which of them is greatest, Jesus said, ‘If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all’ (Mk 9:35-37). Then he took a child and in a gesture of irresistible poignancy, he placed his arms around him, simultaneously embracing, protecting and offering him as an example. The clear implication is that the failure to accept, protect and love a child, or what is worse, the active harming of a child, would preclude real contact with Jesus. Perhaps this is why Jesus warns that for whoever leads a child astray, it would be better “for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Lk 17:2).

promiseAnother major part of Christ’s ministry was his mission to bring mercy and healing to all he encountered. Jesus healed the wounded, comforted the suffering and brought mercy to those who most needed it. Based on the accounts of Jesus’ extensive advocacy for children in the Gospels, it is no surprise that many of those he healed were children: the daughter of Jairus (Mt 9:18-19; 23-26; Mk 5:22-24; 35-43; Lk 8:40-42; 49-56); the son of a royal official in Capernaum (Jn 4:46-54); and the daughter of a Canaanite woman (Mt 15:21-28; Mk 7:24-30).

pledgeThrough prayer and reflection on the Gospel, we can understand what it means to love, protect and heal. This understanding will lead us to consider the well-being of children as a top priority. We can use our faith to build from the “ground up” and create a culture in the church in which beliefs, attitudes and behaviors are reflective of Christ’s, and that means being deeply concerned about the safety of children and the care of those who have been abused.

– – –

Drew Dillingham is the Coordinator for Resources and Special Projects with the Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.  He is attending Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University’s interdisciplinary program for a diploma in safeguarding minors. He is an avid reader of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and shares his April 26th birthday. Dillingham also dabbles in the works of Bishop Robert Barron, thanks to the ongoing encouragement of his wife, Kim. 

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Filed under: Protecting Children blog
Posted: April 27, 2017, 8:53 am
"You rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." -- 1 Peter 1:8-9

“You rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” — 1 Peter 1:8-9

April 23, Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Acts 2:42-47

      Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24

      2) 1 Peter 1:3-9

      Gospel: John 10:19-31

 

By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

We all know people who endure hardships and trials but who never seem to complain or grumble. They manage to remain positive and joyful through it all. I wish I could count myself among those people, but I admit to being sometimes a bit slow to see the silver lining in the cloud.

Yet, one cannot read any of today’s readings without being lifted up to another plane. Six times the words “rejoice” and “joy” are used, and several more times the biblical writers burst forth with words of thanksgiving and spontaneous exultation. And why shouldn’t they? It is this resurrection joy, spilling over into praise, that propelled Jesus’ followers to “evangelize” — literally, share the good news.

In his apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis taps into this same joy when he writes: “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”

On Divine Mercy Sunday, we rejoice in the knowledge that in the resurrected Lord, each of us is loved without recrimination, without strings attached and without limits or preconditions. Sometimes we’re like Thomas and it’s hard to see Jesus, the face of the Father’s mercy, but Jesus continually reveals himself to us in new and unexpected ways. We’re blessed to be “those who have not seen and have believed,” living lives of joy and praise in such a way that others are able to see Jesus and believe in him.

It’s reasonable to read the Acts account of the early church as a legendary story in the distant past, out of reach for us today. But the pope exhorts: “I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the church’s journey in years to come.” This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it!

QUESTIONS:

When have you been able to experience joy despite difficult circumstances? In what way has Jesus shown you the face of the Father’s mercy?


Filed under: Word to Life
Posted: April 21, 2017, 8:27 pm

A stained-glass window of the risen Christ. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The faithful may feel unworthy of Christ’s love, because he “paid so high a price for our salvation, ” but “let us not be afraid,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Let’s allow ourselves to be taken — even seized — with Easter joy. As we proclaim on Easter Sunday, ‘Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining,'” the cardinal said in his Easter message April 16.

“Welcome the love of God into your life,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “Share it with those around you, especially the most vulnerable of our sisters and brothers. In this way, we proclaim with Mary, ‘I have seen the Lord.’ Sing joyfully, ‘the Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.’ Happy Easter!”

Here is the full text of his statement:

“Through Christ’s passion, his burial in the tomb and his glorious resurrection, we come to realize the enormity of the Lord’s sacrifice for us. We may feel unworthy of his love who paid so high a price for our salvation. Let us not be afraid. Let’s allow ourselves to be taken — even seized — with Easter joy. As we proclaim on Easter Sunday, ‘Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.’

“In the Gospel of John, chapter 10, Jesus says the shepherd calls his own sheep by name, ‘I am the Good Shepherd and I know mine.’ In chapter 20, how much fear and doubt must have gripped Mary of Magdala as she stood by the tomb?  There, it was Jesus who rescued Mary from her fears and darkness by calling her name. Listen carefully. Mary thought she had discovered the risen Lord, but it was the risen Lord who discovered her. Jesus calls out to each of us by name today as he did the very first Easter Sunday. His promise fulfilled. His word brings life, ‘I am the Good Shepherd and I know mine.’

“Jesus waits for you and me, embracing us in our moments of greatest need and desire.  Welcome the love of God into your life. Share it those around you, especially the most vulnerable of our sisters and brothers. In this way, we proclaim with Mary, ‘I have seen the Lord.’ Sing joyfully, ‘the Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.’ Happy Easter!”


Filed under: CNS
Posted: April 16, 2017, 4:22 pm