Bl. Pope Paul VI’s Message to Women

Below is the full text of Bl. Pope Paul VI’s message to women as part of the  speeches and messages at the close of the Second Vatican Council,  December 8, 1965. You can read the entire text of the closing speeches and messages here.

pope paul viTO WOMEN

And now it is to you that we address ourselves, women of all states—girls, wives, mothers and widows, to you also, consecrated virgins and women living alone—you constitute half of the immense human family. As you know, the Church is proud to have glorified and liberated woman, and in the course of the centuries, in diversity of characters, to have brought into relief her basic equality with man. But the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is under-going so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.

You women have always had as your lot the protection of the home, the love of beginnings and an understanding of cradles. You are present in the mystery of a life beginning. You offer consolation in the departure of death. Our technology runs the risk of becoming inhuman. Reconcile men with life and above all, we beseech you, watch carefully over the future of our race. Hold back the hand of man who, in a moment of folly, might attempt to destroy human civilization.

Wives, mothers of families, the first educators of the human race in the intimacy of the family circle, pass on to your sons and your daughters the traditions of your fathers at the same time that you prepare them for an unsearchable future. Always remember that by her children a mother belongs to that future which perhaps she will not see.

And you, women living alone, realize what you can accomplish through your dedicated vocation. Society is appealing to you on all sides. Not even families can live without the help of those who have no families. Especially you, consecrated virgins, in a world where egoism and the search for pleasure would become law, be the guardians of purity, unselfishness and piety. Jesus who has given to conjugal love all its plenitudes, has also exalted the renouncement of human love when this is for the sake of divine love and for the service of all.

Lastly, women in trial, who stand upright at the foot of the cross like Mary, you who so often in history have given to men the strength to battle unto the very end and to give witness to the point of martyrdom, aid them now still once more to retain courage in their great undertakings, while at the same time maintaining patience and an esteem for humble beginnings.

Women, you do know how to make truth sweet, tender and accessible, make it your task to bring the spirit of this council into institutions, schools, homes and daily life. Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or non-believing, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.


 

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Eight suggestions for surviving the Synod hype

wedding ringsAre you overwhelmed by all the media coverage of the Synod? I am. While being informed about the events in Rome is necessary and even a duty of responsible Catholics, it is too easy to get swept along by all the commentaries, opinion pieces, and social media bickering.

On the Catholic Insight website, I wrote about my strategy for maintaining calm and reason while the Synod hype swirls around me. Here it is if you’d like to read it.

 

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St. Teresa of Avila’s Last Vision

Teresabernini

The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini, Basilica of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome.

“I saw an angel close by me, on my left side, in bodily form. He was not large, but small of stature and most beautiful – his face burning, as if he were one of the highest angels, who seem to be all of fire. I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God.”

Source: Sackville-West, V. (1973) The Eagle and the Dove: A study in contrasts Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Therese of Lisieux. London: Quarter Books Limited.

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Even in darkness, life has purpose

Posted at Catholic Insight

An_Old_Woman_Praying_-_Nicolaes_Maes“Every night when I go to bed I ask God to not wake me up anymore,” she confided.

I studied her tired face for a moment and then asked, “What makes you feel that way?”

“When I was young,” she began, ” I had my children and I looked after them. Then they got married and had their own children and I looked after them. Then my husband had a stroke and was in a wheelchair and I looked after him for fourteen years. Now, nobody needs me anymore. I don’t have a purpose. I don’t have any more reason to live. I have so many aches and pains. Look at my legs. They are so swollen again today.”

She is a very generous woman, often buying little bags of candy for the children of her parish and asking Father to hand them out. When I visit her, she insists on giving me a little something from her pantry: a small bagel, perhaps a cookie, maybe even a bit of candy for my children. I don’t dare refuse because I know how important it is for her to show that she cares for me.

Her tiny apartment is modest but comfortable, clean and tidy. The crucifix given to her at her husband’s funeral hangs against a narrow wall. On her low bookshelf stands a humble statue of Our Lady gazing up at her crucified Son on His cross. Her bible and prayer book are neatly arranged on her coffee table.

“Well,” I began slowly. “God obviously still has work for you to do here since you still wake up each day. I think you have a great purpose. Maybe you can’t do the things you did when you were younger but I know you pray. Prayer is important. You can pray for your family. You can pray for the world. You can pray for those who don’t know how to pray. That’s such great work.”

“Oh, nurse!” she exclaimed. “I never thought of that! I pray all the time.”

“That’s right,” I encouraged her. “Look at Pope Benedict. In the eyes of the world, he is nothing but a frail old man hidden away somewhere waiting to die. But he’s doing God’s  work by his prayers. He’s praying for all of us. That’s his purpose. And look at the saints who suffered from painful illnesses: St. Therese, St. Bernadette, St. John-Paul. And there are so many others. They offered up their suffering to save souls. Their pain and their illness had great meaning and purpose.”

By now, a smile seemed to melt away the lines on her face. “That’s true! I can offer my pains. Oh, yes! That’s prayer, too!”

Often we think that in order to live a purposeful life, we must be productive and very busy doing things. When illness or advanced age force us to slow down and we are no longer active, we can lose our sense of purpose, our sense of belonging, and life loses its meaning.

But God gives great meaning to our lives because He blesses each moment as an opportunity to be part of His great plan and to do His Will on earth. In a homily, St. Josemaria Escriva said that “[o]rdinary life is something of great value.  All the ways of the earth can be an opportunity to meet Christ, who calls us to identify ourselves with Him and carry out His divine mission – right where he finds us.” And for many people, God finds us in places of uncertainty and struggling.

Our call is to trust in His providence and pray always to know His Will in any given time, in every trial, in the greatest sufferings, in the darkest, loneliest night. And our call is also to help our brothers and sisters in Christ who have lost their sense of purpose, and for whom the struggle is sometimes too great and too dark.

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote a beautiful prayer on the purpose of our lives:

I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by name.

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.  I have a mission – I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next……….I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.  He has not created me for naught.  I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust Him.  Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away.  If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.  My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us.  He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about.  He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me – He still knows what He is about.

Painting: An Old Woman Praying by Nicolaes Maes [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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St. Gianna and Pietro Molla: model for the Synod on the Family

The Journey of our Love

Guerriero, E. (2014). The Journey of Our Love: The Letters of Saint Gianna Beretta and Pietro Molla. Boston: Pauline Books and Media.

This past summer I wrote a book review of The Journey of Our Love: The Letters of Saint Gianna Beretta and Pietro Molla, for the October issue of Catholic Insight (magazine). The book, a compilation of 70 letters, cards and notes written to each other by Saint Gianna and Pietro Molla, gives us a sometimes intimate look into the lives of these two holy people.

Through their letters, Saint Gianna and Pietro show us that a modern sacramental marriage can thrive when the Holy Eucharist, prayer, action, and sacrifice are at the centre. The bishops at the Synod on the Family ought to examine the marriage of Saint Gianna and Pietro and guide Catholic married couples to strive toward the same ideals they held dear.

This week, my article at Catholic Insight reflects on what Saint Gianna and Pietro teach us about the sacrament of marriage. I invite you to read it here.

 

Guerriero, E. (2014). The Journey of Our Love: The Letters of Saint Gianna Beretta and Pietro Molla. Boston: Pauline Books and Media.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face

“On the day of her religious profession she prayed that no soul be damned today. She saw herself as a Bride of Christ and a Mother of Souls. Indeed she had entered Carmel to save souls and to pray for priests. Though she died at only twenty-four, her spiritual legacy continues to enlighten the Church.”  Read the rest of the homily for today’s Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux on the Priest Blog at Catholic Insight.

 

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Bishop Athanasius Schneider: Holy Communion on the tongue

Dominus est - it is the Lord In 2008, Bishop Athanasius Schneider penned a short book on his thoughts regarding the reception of Holy Communion in the hand while in a standing position and why this is a form of liturgical abuse. Dominus Est – It is the Lord! Reflections of a Bishop of Central Asia on Holy Communion, was published by the Vatican Press. He wrote the book in response to the widespread problem of “a gradual, growing weakening of the attitude of reverence toward the Sacred Eucharistic Species,” not to mention the abuses of dropping the Eucharistic Host, saving It for later use, or profaning the Blessed Sacrament as in a Satanic Mass.”

I invite you to read my article on this necessary and powerful book at Catholic Insight.

 

Schneider, A. (2008). Dominus Est – It is the Lord! Reflections of a Bishop of Central Asia on Holy  Communion. New Jersey: Newman House Press.

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Dear young family at Sunday Mass

Also posted at Catholic Insight

519px-Let_the_Little_Children_Come_unto_JesusTo the young family who sat in front of us at Sunday Mass, this is for you. You made me smile as I was reminded of what Mass with young children is all about.

How old are your three beautiful children: six, three, two? Yes, you do have your hands full. You arrived promptly and everyone was so beautifully dressed as you slid in to the pew in front of us. Mom, you had your bag of picture books and prayer cards to keep the little ones amused. Dad, you prodded and cajoled your angels into their seats as you held tight to your squirming toddler.

The kid shuffle began as you, mom and dad, traded off exuberant little children intent on keeping up their game of musical laps. Then things became intense so one of you picked up an active little one and headed for the vestibule, leaving the other parent at the mercy of the children in the pew. You traded places and toddlers as one returned to the pew and the other parent headed to the back of the church.

I’ll bet you were exhausted by the end of Mass. I’ll bet you wondered whether or not you actually attended Mass even though you were in the church. I’ll bet you wonder if the weekly juggling act (otherwise known as attending Mass with young children) is even worth it.

Well, I’d like to tell you that it is. We were just like you not so long ago. We balanced one child on the hip while holding on tightly to another child determined to torpedo himself down the aisle. We rushed out of the pew with a hungry baby, a squirming toddler, a crying infant, a full diaper. We brought our bag of tricks hoping that something would distract the children long enough so we could at least hear a bit of the homily.

We were the parents who persevered and before we knew it, the kids were too big to carry, the church bag was frayed and its contents ripped, stained, misplaced, and the children were beautifully behaved in the pew beside us. Then the children stopped sitting with us as they served Mass, lent their voices in the choir, and volunteered as lectors. Eventually, they started moving away, attending Mass in other parishes where they live or go to school, or at other times on Sunday.

It all happened so quickly and believe it or not, it’s starting to happen to you. Look at your handsome six – year old son who knows when to stand, when to kneel, and who didn’t have to be carried in or out of Mass. Appreciate that child and take comfort in the fact that you did something right with him and you are doing something right with your other children.

After Mass, when my husband and I complimented your lovely family and encouraged you to keep up the good work, we meant every word. When I pointed to my sons who were tidying up the sanctuary after serving Mass and my daughter who was listening to her choir director, my purpose was to show you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Each time you bring your family to Mass, you are inching closer to that light.

I know it’s difficult. Some days you will choose to leave the cranky, uncooperative toddler or teething baby at home and you and your husband will go to Mass at different times with your older children. At times, that is the only way you will be able to manage. Don’t beat yourself up and think you are failing as a parent. You are not failing; that is just life.

In fact, by your steadfastness, you are teaching your children many important life lessons. You are showing them that Mass is important, that weekly Sunday Mass attendance is normal and non-negotiable, that a life of faith, while sometimes difficult, is worth the struggle and sacrifice.

Cherish this time, parents of young children, and remember it well. One day, when your children know when to sit, kneel, and stand, when they are assisting the priest or attending Mass at a different time or place, a young family with squirming, curious children will pile into the pew in front of you. When that day comes, you will know what to say to them. You will encourage them because you will understand how important it is to make them feel that their efforts and hardships are a valuable witness to love and faith. You will assure them that families with young children are necessary in the life of the parish Church.

Painting: Christ with Children by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890). Wikimedia.org under a Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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St. Monica, pray for us

Assereto_Gioachino-Saint_Augustine_and_Saint_MonicaThe Antiphon for the Canticle of Zechariah, Morning Prayer for August 27, Memorial of St. Monica reads:

“You answered her prayer, O Lord, you did not disregard her tears which fell upon the earth wherever she prayed”

As a mom, I want the very best for my kids:  academic success, a healthy social life, reasonable financial comfort, good health, professional achievement.  While all those things are good, they are not enough.  What I desire most for my kids is spiritual success. I want them to be purpose-driven, generous, honest, humble, faith-filled and God-centered.  In our modern age, it’s easier and definitely more acceptable to achieve financial and professional success than spiritual success.

My husband’s and my ability to ensure that our kids put God first in their lives is limited by our personality flaws and human frailty.  As much as we try to model a faith-filled life for our kids, we aren’t perfect.  We know and they know when we fall short of our goal.

I hope our kids see how we persevere in attaining holiness despite ourselves.  I would like to think that they see us trying over and over, every day, to live the life of the gospels.  I hope they see the virtues of faith, hope and charity in the way we treat them and the way we treat our neighbours.

Teaching by example is a start but it isn’t enough.  Before we can even hope to live an exemplary life for our kids, we need to pray for it.  There’s just no way we can be good Christian parents if we don’t have the necessary graces from God.  Those graces help us to realize that we can’t realistically raise our children well without any help.

That’s where St. Monica comes in.  The long-suffering mother of St. Augustine, Monica prayed unceasingly for the conversion of her rambling husband and her wayward son.  She cried so much over the years that St. Ambrose famously said, “woman, the child of so many tears shall never perish.”

Monica didn’t care what other people thought or how hopeless the situation probably seemed at times.  She was a true prayer warrior, a wife and mother on a mission, and there’s no force in hell that can deter a mom and wife on the move.  The two people she loved the most were on a path to self-destruction at break-neck speed and she was determined to stop them.  What a wife!  What a mom!  What a saint!

It seems to me that if she could do that for the people that she loved more than her own life, she won’t mind helping me with the people that I love more than my own life.  She has the heart of an uber-mom and now that she’s counted among the greatest of saints, she’s everybody’s uber-mom.  She wouldn’t want anybody’s spouse or child to fall away from the Truth.

Thankfully, none of our kids are anything like the young, pre-Christian Augustine.  And we want to keep it that way.  So we’ll keep trying to model a faith-filled life and  keep asking St. Monica to help by praying for our kids, and praying for us.

St. Monica, pray for us.

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Islam, the Rosary, and the Battle of Lepanto

320px-The_Battle_of_Lepanto_of_1571_full_version_by_Juan_LunaThe Battle of Lepanto was a decisive conflict fought between the outnumbered European fleet and the advancing Islamic Ottoman Turks on October 7, 1571. Pope Pius V armed the entire European fleet with rosaries and named them the Holy League. The European victory became known as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, later renamed Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Read about the early history of Islamic terrorism and the victory of the Battle of Lepanto on my blog at Catholic Insight.

 

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