The Passion of the Christ

March 31, 2010

Last night, I went to the cross. I watched our Lord suffer and die. I watched him sold for 30 pieces of silver. I watched his best friend turn his back on him. I watched his blood stain the ground as his flesh was ripped from his body. I watched men of God call for his death. I watched them hammer nails into his hands. I watched his heart break. I watched his mother weep. And I watched in horror. For the first time, I watched the Passion of the Christ. I have avoided it all these years. I had no desire to see my Lord suffer. I did not want that visual image to haunt me like I know it will.

 I felt the nudge to watch it when I ran across images from the movie on YouTube. I was preparing a presentation on salvation for the middle school youth and I was looking for an inspirational video that would grab their attention. The attention that was grabbed was mine as images of the movie kept rolling across the screen. I resisted. I told Jesus that if he wanted me to watch that movie, then it better be easy to find- like be on HBO when I happen to be flipping channels. I wasn’t going to go to great lengths to watch my Lord tortured and killed. He has been answering a lot of my prayers lately and this one was no exception. My dear friend just happened to bring up the subject of the movie on our way out of mass on Sunday. I promptly shared my reservations about watching it. She empathized and said that she was thinking about watching it again but was pretty sure she would have a hard time renting it during holy week. I told her that if she happens to find it, then maybe I would be interested in borrowing it- maybe. To my shocking surprise, she arrived at my house 30 minutes later with the movie. She found three copies at the video store and promptly rented two and told me it was a sign. So I was trapped. I couldn’t say no anymore.

 In my Baptist church, we really didn’t talk about how Christ suffered. I can’t recall a preacher standing at the pulpit describing how Christ suffered. In fact, the Baptist church uses a cross instead of a crucifix because they don’t want to focus on the suffering Lord but rather the risen Lord. My first encounter with our suffering Lord happened in the Catholic Church where I came face to face with the crucifix. It took me a while to get comfortable with this image. But once I did, I realized that by knowing more about his suffering, I could know more about his love. I went from the crucifix to the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary and stopped there. That was the extent of my knowledge of his suffering- until now.

 Horrified is not a big enough word to describe how I felt through the entire movie. Although I knew how it was going to end, I found myself pleading for someone to make it stop. How could they do this to a person- any person? How could they call themselves priests of our loving God and murder someone like this? One emotion I was surprised to feel was anger. How could Judas betray my Jesus and sell him for 30 pieces of silver? How could men of God incite a crowd to kill their messiah? How come no one came to his senses and called for the torture to end? I am angry. This was my Jesus. And they tortured and killed him. I know that I will go through many different emotions as I try to unwrap myself from this movie. At least that is what I keep saying to myself. I hope that the anger will give way to something different soon. I feel guilty taking this anger with me into the Triduum. However, I do feel a little peace with my anger so maybe that is what Jesus wants me to feel before I enter into Holy Thursday.

 It has helped to talk it out with my husband. He pointed out to me that the society Jesus was born into was a lot more brutal than what we know today. This is how he is able to justify some of the torture. But that got me thinking. God could have brought his son into any point in history. Why did he do it at such a brutal time? Or if he did choose modern times, would we do the same? Would Jesus meet the same end? Would he suffer like he did? Where would I be in the story? Would I be anointing his feet with oil and drying it with my hair? Would I be weeping with Mary? Or would I be standing in the crowd and calling for his death? There is a reason I was born 2000 years after his crucifixion. He knew I couldn’t handle it. He knows that had I been there, I may not be with him. Had I been there, I may not have heard him call me. I may not have recognized who he was. I may have been standing in the crowd like all the rest of them. He knows me so well.

 I am blessed to have been born at this point in history where I can experience him with my spirit while surrounded by the sacraments and holding hands with my brothers and sisters in Christ. And the reason I can experience him is because of his willing crucifixion. He can call me to himself because his suffering and death won the salvation of mankind. All I have to do is step out of the crowd and live in his love. And that love has so much more meaning and depth now that I have seen his passion and watched him suffer. I am completely unworthy of that suffering, but he did it anyway. He loves me anyway. And in return, all I can do is give myself to him. Since his heart stopped beating for me, mine must beat for him.

Lori is a stay-at-home mom to her two boys and the children she loves on during the day at her home daycare.  She loving supports her Husband’s calling as a High School Band Director.  Originally from New Orleans, she was raised in the Southern Baptist Church and converted to the Catholic faith while in college.  When she has a rare free moment, she publishes her thoughts and musings at www.lorislifeandtimes.blogspot.com.

Pope Faces a ‘Scourging by Words’, says Former Student and Publisher

March 31, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (MetroCatholic) - As nearly one billion Catholics enter Holy Week, their chief shepherd faces attacks in newspapers, blogs, twitter posts, and television and radio news. Unfortunately, the primary news sources repeatedly fail to report accurate timelines and crucial details. The impression is left that Pope Benedict XVI is part of the problem, rather than leading the way to solving it. Consequently, concerned Catholics and others are agitated and confused.

Pope Benedict’s former student speaks out in support of the Pope and responds to the lack of responsible journalism on this story.

“Benedict the XVI is only infallible as an authoritative teacher of the Faith, not as an administrator. He certainly may have made some mistakes, even serious ones, in the 33 years since he was first made a bishop. But there is no evidence for the ones he’s being blamed for in the media; for those who know the facts, the evidence leads to just the opposite conclusion. Like the Master he serves, he’s also, after 33 years, being publically scourged, this time with words,” Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio says.

Comments from Pope Benedict’s media detractors have been severe. Fr. Fessio admires how, in the midst of this very public suffering, the Holy Father continues to underscore his firm commitment to address the issue of clergy sexual abuse and the underlying problems that gave rise to it. For example, last weekend, the Holy Father released a pastoral letter to Catholics in Ireland regarding the developments there and the Holy See press office has continued to update the media in this area.

Fr. Fessio is founder and editor of Ignatius Press, which is the primary English-language publisher of Pope Benedict XVI’s writings. He is also publisher of Catholic World Report magazine, the leading Catholic news and commentary journal in the U.S. Father Fessio wrote his doctoral dissertation under Pope Benedict (then Professor Joseph Ratzinger). During Ratzinger’s time as Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, Fr. Fessio maintained contact with his former teacher, collaborating with him on several important projects, and was a prominent defender of Ratzinger against his critics. Fr. Fessio is a member of the Joseph Ratzinger “student circle”, which continues to meet annually with Pope Benedict.

Faith Leaders to Honor Terri Schiavo in Front of the White House on the 5th Anniversary of Her Death

March 31, 2010

WASHINGTON, March 30 /Christian Newswire/ — The Christian Defense Coalition, Faith and Action and Generation Life will pray and leave a single rose on the public sidewalk in front of the White House.  (On the Pennsylvania Ave. NW side.)
 
The leaders will also hold a news conference to discuss the legacy of Terri’s life and death and the impact it has on the current healthcare debate concerning end of life issues and the controversy over “death panels.”
 
The prayer and news conference will be held on Wednesday, March 31, at 11:00 A.M. on Pennsylvania Ave. NW in front of the White House.
 
The group will also draw attention to President Obama’s lack of commitment to human rights and the disabled community in America.
 
They will especially focus on his comments during the Presidential campaign when then Senator Obama stated concerning the Senate intervening to help Terri.
 
“It wasn’t something I was comfortable with, but it was not something that I stood on the floor and stopped, and I think it was a mistake…”
 
Simply put, how can the American public trust the President and his Administration to deal compassionately with end of life issues in his health care bill when he considered it a “mistake” to have intervened in attempting to keep a young woman from being starved and dehydrated to death?
 
Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition and one of the leaders who worked to save Terri’s life in Florida, states,
 
“Terri’s life had purpose, meaning and great value.  It was tragic that she was brutally starved and dehydrated to death in full view of the America public.  We are coming to the White House to honor her life and loudly say never again and pray this Administration embraces compassion for the disabled community.
 
“We also want to be a prophetic witness for justice and human rights to President Obama who considered it a ‘mistake’ to attempt and keep a young woman from being starved to death.
 
“End of life issues are a deep concern in this new health care legislation. Simply put, how can the American public trust the President and his Administration to deal compassionately with end of life issues when he considered it a ‘mistake’ to have intervened in attempting to keep a young woman from being starved and dehydrated?”
 
Rev. Rob Schenck, President of Faith and Action, comments,
 
“Nothing arrested the conscience of the nation like Terri’s suffering and needless death.  Now, she continues her ministry by provoking us all to appreciate and value the worth and dignity of brain injury victims.
 
“Her life and death are not in vain.”
 
Brandi Swindell, Director of Generation Life and while in Florida was on a 14 day hunger strike while Terri was starved, adds,
 
“As a young woman, my heart broke every day outside of Terri’s room thinking about the pain and suffering she was experiencing.
 
“As a nation, we must offer the most needy of our society compassion, dignity and justice.  Regrettably, we forced Terri to die the most painful and barbaric of deaths.
 
“My hope is that we have learned valuable lessons from Terri’s  death and how we treat the disabled.  Those lessons must be founded on equality and human rights for all.
 
“I pray that President Obama reconsiders his unconscionable statement  that helping Terri was a ‘mistake’ and works toward building a nation that values all human life.”

U.S. Bishops Voice Concern for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse, Thank Pope Benedict for Leadership

March 31, 2010

WASHINGTON DC (MetroCatholic) - The U.S. bishops March 30 voiced concern for victims of child sexual abuse by clerics and praised Pope Benedict XVI for leadership in dealing with the sin and crime of child sexual abuse.
           
“We know from our experience how Pope Benedict is deeply concerned for those who have been harmed by sexual abuse and how he has strengthened the Church’s response to victims and supported our efforts to deal with perpetrators,” the bishops said. “We continue to intensify our efforts to provide safe environments for children in our parishes and schools. Further, we work with others in our communities to address the prevalence of sexual abuse in the larger society.”
           
The bishops’ comments came in a statement issued by the Executive Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: Cardinal Francis George, OMI, of Chicago, president; Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, vice-president; Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, treasurer; Bishop George Murry, SJ of Youngstown, Ohio, secretary; and Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, elected member.
     
The complete statement follows.

On behalf of the Catholic bishops of the United States, we, the members of the Executive Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, write both to express our deep concern for those harmed by the crime and sin of sexual abuse by clergy and to express our profound gratitude for the assistance that Pope Benedict XVI has given us in our efforts to respond to victims, deal with perpetrators and to create safe environments for children. The recent emergence of more reports of sexual abuse by clergy saddens and angers the Church and causes us shame.  If there is anywhere that children should be safe, it should be in their homes and in the Church.

We know from our experience how Pope Benedict is deeply concerned for those who have been harmed by sexual abuse and how he has strengthened the Church’s response to victims and supported our efforts to deal with perpetrators. We continue to intensify our efforts to provide safe environments for children in our parishes and schools. Further, we work with others in our communities to address the prevalence of sexual abuse in the larger society.

One of the most touching moments of the Holy Father’s visit to the United States in 2008 was his private conversation with victims/survivors at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington. Pope Benedict heard firsthand how sexual abuse has devastated lives. The Holy Father spoke with each person and provided every one time to speak freely to him. They shared their painful experiences and he listened, often clasping their hands and responding tenderly and reassuringly. 

With the support of both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, we bishops have made a vigorous commitment to do everything in our power to prevent abuse from happening to children. We live out this commitment through the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which calls us to respond with compassion to victims/survivors, to work diligently to screen those working with children and young people in the Church, to provide child abuse awareness and prevention education, to report suspected abuse to civil law enforcement, and to account for our efforts to protect children and youth through an external annual national audit.

As we accompany Christ in His passion and death during this Holy Week, we stand with our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in prayer for the victims of sexual abuse, for the entire Church and for the world.

Cardinal Francis George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago
President

Bishop Gerald Kicanas
Bishop of Tucson
Vice-President

Bishop George Murry, SJ
Bishop of Youngstown
Secretary

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz
Archbishop of Louisville
Treasurer

Bishop Arthur Serratelli
Bishop of Paterson
Elected Member

Catholics Called To Strengthen The Church At Home

March 31, 2010

WASHINGTON DC (MetroCatholic) - The 2010 Catholic Home Missions Appeal calls Catholics to Strengthen the Church at Home. The appeal will be made in most dioceses around the country the weekend of April 24-25.
           
This year, the Catholic Home Missions Appeal turns its focus to youth ministry, an essential component of the life, vibrancy and future of the Church, explained Bishop Michael W. Warfel of Great Falls-Billings, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions.
           
“In youth ministry programs, young Catholics grow in faith and gain valuable leadership skills. Without this appeal, some poorer dioceses might not be able to sustain vital youth programs,” Bishop Warfel said.  From 2003-2007, the Catholic Home Missions Appeal gave more than $2.25 million to 130 diocesan youth ministry programs, sustaining faith formation for the next generation.
           
The Catholic Home Missions Appeal funds a wide range of essential pastoral activities in mission dioceses across the United States, with special emphasis on evangelization; religious education; ministry training for priests, deacons, religious sisters, and lay people; youth ministry; and support for poor parishes.
           
Home mission dioceses often exist in rural settings with struggling economies, long distances between parishes, and a lack of priests and lay people to sustain parishes. As the U.S. continues to recover from the economic downturn and too many Americans remain unemployed, the poorest dioceses, financially fragile in the best of times, are the most vulnerable. 
           
Approximately 90 of the 195 Latin and Eastern-rite dioceses (eparchies) in the United States, about 45 percent, are unable to provide basic ministries of word, worship and service for their people without funding from the Catholic Home Missions Appeal. They need support from Catholics in places where the Church is financially stronger.
           
In the Diocese of Lexington, a 2009 grant of $125,000 from the Catholic Home Missions Appeal made it possible for nine mission parishes in Appalachia to remain open. Funds helped pay salaries and benefits for priests, pastoral assistants and office staff. In the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Home Missions supported nine seminarians. The vast diocese, which encompasses the entire state of Utah, is in dire need of priests to serve the growing Catholic population. 
           
For more information about the Catholic Home Missions Appeal and the dioceses that benefit from it, visit: www.usccb.org/hm.

EASTER TRIDUUM LEADS US TO CHRIST

March 31, 2010

VATICAN CITY, 31 MAR 2010 (VIS) - The Easter Triduum was the central theme of Benedict XVI ’s catechesis during his general audience, held this morning in St. Peter’s Square.

“We are”, the Pope began, “living through the holy days that invite us to meditate upon the central events of our Redemption, the essential nucleus of our faith”. In this context, he encouraged everyone “to experience this period intensely, that it may decisively guide everyone’s life to a generous and strong adherence to Christ, Who died and rose again for us”.

At the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday, apart from the blessing of the oil used for catechumens, the sick and those being confirmed, priests will renew their vows. “This year the gesture has particular significance because it takes place in the context of the Year for Priests, which I called to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of the holy ‘Cure of Ars’. To all priests I would like to reiterate the hope I expressed at the end of my Letter inaugurating the Year: ‘In the footsteps of the Cure of Ars, let yourselves be enthralled by Christ. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!’”.

On the evening of Holy Thursday “we will celebrate the moment of the institution of the Eucharist” when Christ, “in the species of the bread and the wine, makes Himself truly present with the Body He gave and the Blood He split as a sacrifice of the New Covenant. At the same time He made the Apostles and their successors ministers of this Sacrament, which He consigned to His Church as the supreme proof of His love”.

On Good Friday, in memory of the passion and death of the Lord, we will recall how “Jesus offered His life as a sacrifice for the remission of the sins of humankind, choosing the most cruel and humiliating death: crucifixion. There exists an indissoluble link between the Last Supper and the death of Jesus”, said Pope Benedict , explaining how in the Upper Room “Jesus offered His Body and Blood (that is, his earthly existence, Himself), anticipating His own death and transforming it into an act of love. And so death, which by its nature is the end, the destruction of all relations, is made by Him an act of communication of Self, an instrument of salvation and a proclamation of the victory of love”.

Easter Saturday “is characterised by a great silence. … At this time of expectation and hope, believers are invited to prayer, reflection and conversion, also through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that, intimately renewed, they may participate in the celebration of Easter”, said the Holy Father.

On the night of Easter Saturday, “that silence will be broken by the cry of Alleluia, which announces the resurrection of Christ and proclaims he victory of light over darkness, of life over death. The Church will joy in the meeting with her Lord, entering the day of Easter which the Lord inaugurated by rising from the dead”, the Pope concluded.

BENEDICT XVI’S PRAYER INTENTIONS FOR APRIL

March 31, 2010

VATICAN CITY, 31 MAR 2010 (VIS) - Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for April is: “That every tendency to fundamentalism and extremism may be countered by constant respect, by tolerance and by dialogue among all believers”.

His mission intention is: “That Christians persecuted for the sake of the Gospel may persevere, sustained by the Holy Spirit, in faithfully witnessing to the love of God for the entire human race”.

UNIVERSITY STUDENTS: BEAR WITNESS TO CHRIST IN ALL PLACES

March 31, 2010

VATICAN CITY, 31 MAR 2010 (VIS) - Among his greetings at the end of today’s general audience, the Pope addressed a group of 4,000 university students from thirty countries who are participating in an international congress promoted annually by the Prelature of Opus Dei. The theme of this year’s gathering is: “Can Christianity inspire a global culture?”

“Dear friends, you have come to Rome in Holy Week for an experience of faith, friendship and spiritual enrichment”, said the Holy Father. “I invite you to reflect on the importance of university study for the formation of that ‘universal Catholic mentality’ which St. Josemaria described in these terms: ‘a breadth of vision and a vigorous endeavour to study more deeply the things that are permanently alive and unchanged in Catholic orthodoxy’. May there be, in each of you, a growing desire to meet Jesus Christ personally, so as to bear joyful witness to Him in all places”.

TELEGRAM FOR VICTIMS OF BOMB ATTACKS IN MOSCOW

March 31, 2010

VATICAN CITY, 31 MAR 2010 (VIS) - Made public yesterday afternoon was a telegram of condolence sent by the Pope to Dimitry Medvedev, president of the Russian Federation, for the victims of last Monday’s bomb attacks on the Moscow underground.

“Having learned the news of the attacks on the Moscow underground in which numerous people lost their lives, I wish to manifest my profound sorrow and firm condemnation for those barbaric acts of violence, and to send an expression of my solidarity, spiritual closeness and condolences to the families of the victims. With assurances of my fervent prayers for the lives so abruptly cut short, and while invoking heavenly consolation for those who mourn their tragic loss, I readily send my blessings and greetings, with a particular thought for the injured”.

Set Me Free

March 30, 2010

I long to be in your presence,
call me, Lord.

I long to bask in your glory,
save me, Lord.

I long to live in your will,
guide me, Lord.

I long to feel your love,
surround me, Lord.

Be my God and I your creation.
Be my King and I your servant.
Be my Father and I your child.
Be my Light and I your candle.

Show me what I have not yet surrendered.
Show me where to walk with you.
Show me who you want me to be.
Show me how to live in your love.

I long to be in your presence.
Set me free, Lord.

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