Editor: The following is taken from the prepared Catechesis Instruction for the 2016 International Eucharistic Congress held in Cebu, Philippines. Question-and-answer format and reflection questions are added.

Why do Asians and others have a great love for Mary?

Untitled 1Theotokos (God-bearer) of Vladimir; Phoitio: Ajvol/wikipedia, 12th century
“Asian Christians have a great love and affection for Mary, revering her as their own Mother and the Mother of Christ”. Thus did Saint John Paul II recall a statement made by the Synod Fathers at their Special Assembly for Asia in 1998. . .

She is the model of the Church in its mission of evangelization because of how she closely cooperated in the saving work of her Son (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 2; citing Jn 10:16) and because she exemplifies the missionary journey that the Church has taken and continues to take.

Why is Mary so special?

As Mary was first recipient of the Good News at the Annunciation before she brought the same Good News to Elizabeth at her Visitation and to the rest of the world at the Nativity of her Son, so is the Church also called first to be an evangelized and an evangelizing community (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi,15 & 22).

At the foot of the Cross, Christ entrusted the Church and its mission to the care of his Mother: “Woman, here is your son” (Jn 19:26-27). “Mary is the Mother of the Church which evangelizes, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelization.” (Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 284).

Stores are currently packed with chocolate confections shaped liked bunnies, butterflies, eggs, lambs and every other image related to Easter. Something similar occurs on the eve of Valentine’s Day, when chocolate creations similarly invade the marketplace.

But did you know that those sweets you savor with such relish are the products of child labor, of youths working under conditions akin to slavery?

Chocolate and Child Labor

Untitled 1While there are important ways to keep the Good News fresh and effective, priests must turn to their mother, Mary, Pope Francis underscored during the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica this Holy Thursday morning.

He began his Holy Thursday homily reminding his brother priests that everything he proclaims, and all priests proclaim, is good news, and that, “Like Jesus, the priest makes the message joyful with his entire person.”

In the Little Things

“When he preaches – briefly, if possible! –, he does so with the joy that touches people’s hearts with that same word with which the Lord has touched his own heart in prayer.”

“As we all know,” the Argentine Pontiff continued, “it is in the little things that joy is best seen and shared: when by taking one small step, we make God’s mercy overflow in situations of desolation; when we decide to pick up the phone and arrange to see someone; when we patiently allow others to take up our time…

Message of Joy

While recognizing that the phrase “good news” might appear as just another way of saying “the Gospel,” Francis clarified that those words point to something essential: the joy of the Gospel. The Gospel, he stated, is good news because it is, in essence, a message of joy.

The good news, Francis highlighted, is not a thing, but a mission, and is born of Anointing.

“Jesus’ first “great priestly anointing” took place, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of Mary. The good news of the Annunciation inspired the Virgin Mother to sing her Magnificat. It filled the heart of Joseph, her spouse, with sacred silence, and it made John leap for joy in the womb of Elizabeth, his mother.” …

Untitled 1from a group portrait of Francis Thompson (1859-1907) and his fellow students at St. Cuthbert's College

In an age which seems, as Louis Bertrand has said, to derive an ignoble pleasure in becoming barbarous again, the Catholic Church has been compared to an unknown city, a forgotten citadel, a strange and unique land possessing all the sweetness, the peace, and the poignant mystery of some isolated medieval cathedral close.

William Gladstone called it a wondrous church, "as old as Christianity, as universal as mankind, as fresh, as vigorous and as faithful as on the day when the Pentecostal fires were showered upon the earth."

Other men in Christendom's history, not less observant, have admired, at a distance, the richness and variety of the Catholic tradition, the seamless robe of Catholic unity, the splendor of the Catholic vision, the perennial beauty of the Catholic liturgy, the heroism of Catholic martyrs, and the enduring zeal of the children of the Household.

Yet they stand aloof – for with all this appreciation of one or another aspect of the Church, they know her not. They fail to see her as not only a closely-knit body of truths, with many most attractive accidents, but as, in substance, a divine organism, a supernatural way of life. And the duty of acquainting them with this vision is our inheritance from the Apostolic age of the Church – and, in particular, from the century of Francis Thompson.

Untitled 1Children in need
The streets of the town of Marayoor, in the east of the Indian state of Kerala, are festooned with bright silver bunting
to mark the feast of St. Sebastian. When a soft breeze rushers through them, the streets glitter with the reflected light of myriad small, mirror-like flags.

But on the street below the sparkling bunting, things are not so right. Day laborer John, 28, who dropped out of school at an early age, faces another day with no work and nothing to do.

"I quit school when I was 15 to take care of my family." says John, as his two friends, Selvam and Anad, look on. They also dropped out of school young and likewise struggle to find work.

Alcoholism, Therapy and the Family

John's father, in the grip of alcoholism, would drink all his income, his leaving John, his mother and his siblings next to destitute. So John, the eldest, took on the role of breadwinner. He left school to take work in the fields. “I find things very hard now because of having left school early,” he says, “I could have studied longer and I would have a much better life now.”

Towns and villages all across Kerala feature displays of shimmering bunting for about ten days each January. But listless boys such as John, Selvam and Anad, however, remain a feature across Kerala every day.

Untitled 1Fr. Michael Czerny, S.J., joint head of Vatican's new Office for Integral Human Development; Photo: corpo ART
The way a country responds to the needs of migrants and refugees is a “thermometer” of the wellbeing of that society. That’s the view of Canadian Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, recently appointed as undersecretary of the Vatican’s new department for Integral Human Development.

Alongside Italian Scalabrini Father, Fabio Baggio, Fr. Michael took up his new post on January 1, 2017, in charge of the section dealing with refugees, migrants and survivors of human trafficking. Answering directly to Pope Francis, he sees his “modest but ambitious mission” as helping the Church to accompany forced migrants at all stages of their often perilous journey.

As the child of a refugee family himself, Fr. Michael believes that “with a little bit of sharing of the enormous resources available throughout the world”, countries can “very comfortably and very securely and very profitably” provide for the needs of all people on the move.

Philippa Hitchen talked to Fr. Michael to find out more about the work and the vision of this new Vatican office…

Immigrants are a top priority for Pope Francis

Fr. Michael explains that the concept of “Integral Human Development” goes back to vision of the Second Vatican Council and its key document, Gaudium et Spes, on the Church in the Modern World. Over the years since then, he says, different Vatican offices have been set up to meet specific needs regarding human development.

But Pope Francis’ recent documents, ‘Evangeli Gaudium’ and ‘Laudato Sii’, have pioneered a new approach of “Integral Human Development” and within that context the plight of those forced to leave their homes is an “area of real concern”.

Untitled 1New washing machines for the poor in Rome; notice the Papal flag gold used in the porcelain walls.
The first washing machines and tumble dryers for the homeless in Rome whirred into action on Monday as “Pope Francis’ Laundry” opened its doors to provide a much-needed service.

One of the many difficulties for those who live on the streets is to be able to wash, dry and iron their clothes and blankets, and the Vatican-sponsored laundry is a response to Pope Francis’s invitation to give concrete signs of solidarity to our brothers and sisters in need.

A communiqué released by the Apostolic Almoner quotes from the Pope’s Apostolic Letter, Misericordia et misera, at the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy:

“The desire for closeness to Christ requires us to draw near to our brothers and sisters, for nothing is more pleasing to the Father than a true sign of mercy. By its very nature, mercy becomes visible and tangible in specific acts.”

Untitled 1In John’s Gospel, Jesus says: 

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Was Jesus wrong?

Clearly Jesus’ love was greater, no? Yes, he laid his life down for his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, his disciples who followed him, Peter who denied him three times, and even Judas who betrayed him. 

But, from the cross, he forgave those who crucified him. He laid his life down for Pilate who condemned him to death, the centurion who supervised his execution, and even those crucified with him and those who taunted him as he was dying. 

Editor: Detective Steven McDonald of the New York Police Department, who was shot and paralyzed in the line of duty in 1986, is greeted by then Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City during the St. Patrick's Day Parade in 2013. McDonald died on Jan. 10 at a Long Island hospital at age 59.
Untitled 1
For many New Yorkers, a beloved neighbor and true hero of mercy died this month. “New York’s Finest” took on new meaning when the world came to know Police Officer Steven McDonald, who was shot by a teenager in Central Park in the summer of 1986, paralyzing him from the neck down.

A Prophet of Reconciliation and Charity

Untitled 2“He became a living, breathing prophet of reconciliation and charity,” is how Cardinal Timothy Dolan described McDonald’s witness of forgiveness on his radio show. He would later even float the “s”-word about him – saint. I thought immediately of a line Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez has used to refer to Dorothy Day: “I don’t know if she is a saint but she makes me want to be one.” That captures the Steven McDonald effect.

Canonization is above my pay grade, but since learning that he liked the band The Who, I think of him as the saint who liked the Who, for whom love sure reigned o’er. His son quoted him as contending that “There's more love in New York City than there are street corners.” Most people certainly don’t think of New York that way. But then most people aren’t Steven McDonald. We’re just called to live the mercy and love like he did, albeit most of us without as obvious physical obstacles.

Perhaps a Patron Saint of Mercy?

I greet all of you and I thank you for taking part in this meeting concerned with the human right to water and the need for suitable public policies in this regard. It is significant that you have gathered to pool your knowledge and resources in order to respond to this urgent need of today’s men and women.

Water – Useful, Chaste and Humble

Untitled 1The Book of Genesis tells us that water was there in the beginning (cf. Gen 1:2); in the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, it is “useful, chaste and humble” (cf. Canticle of the Creatures). The questions that you are discussing are not marginal, but basic and pressing.

Basic, because where there is water there is life, making it possible for societies to arise and advance. Pressing, because our common home needs to be protected. Yet it must also be realized that not all water is life-giving, but only water that is safe and of good quality.

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”