St John Paul II, Pope of the family

ImageThis last weekend was historic. It has been described as the day of 4 Popes. Pope Francis canonised two of his predecessors, Pope John XXIII and John Paul II, while Pope emeritus Benedict XVI was present.

For us in the pro-life movement, the canonisation of Pope Saint John Paul II is particularly special. He was a fearless defender of human dignity, human life, and the family. And his insights into human interpersonal relations, including sexual relations was profound, and has been described as one of the Church’s best kept secrets.

Pope Francis in his Regina Coeli address after told the pilgrims of Bergamo and Krakow “Dear ones, honour the memory of these two holy Popes by following their teachings faithfully.”

St John Paul II’s life was remarkable.

He grew up in the town of Wadowice, Poland. A town with a large Jewish population, some of which he counted as his close friends.

It’s ironic, but the “Pope of the Family” lost all of his family by the time he was twenty. An elder sister died before he was born. His mother died when he was eight years old. His older brother when he was twelve, and finally his father died when he was twenty, leave the future Pope as the only surviving member of his family.

At the time of his father’s death, Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany. He had to take manual labouring work at a mine, and then a chemical factory to avoid being deported. He is also credited with protecting many Jews from the Nazi authorities. It was at this time that he began to feel the call to the priesthood. He started his studies for the priesthood in an underground seminary and eventually had to go into hiding from the Nazi authorities until the end of the war.

As a priest he became popular with young people and as Pope he started World Youth Day, which he and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta are now the patrons. As a bishop, he was involved in Vatican II, and had a role in preparing influential documents for the council. He also published his important book “Love and Responsibility”. As Archbishop he was influential in the writing of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

He was a walker, runner, kayaker and skier. As a cardinal he was asked if it was becoming for a cardinal to ski, his reply was, “It is unbecoming for a cardinal to ski badly”. He continued to run and weight train in the Vatican during the first few years of his pontificate.

His election as Pope was a surprise. He was the first non-Italian Pope in over 460 years. His energy and achievements as a Pope were outstanding. He travelled to 129 countries and fearlessly preached to all who would listen. Dictatorships fell after his visits, notably in Chile and Haiti and Paraguay. His support for the solidarity movement in Poland was the catalyst that brought down communism in Poland, which started a chain reaction in the eastern bloc countries.

St John Paul II sent out a call to defend life, faith and family before the Cairo conference on Population and Development, and as a result the attempt the make abortion a “human right” failed.

Wherever he went he attracted large crowds, as many as 5 million attended the 1995 world youth day in Manila, the Philippines. His funeral attracted 4 million to Rome, with over 250 000 within the Vatican.

Defence of life, faith and family was his personal mission. His weekly angelus audiences for the first years as Pope were devoted to the “theology of the body”. It’s a teaching that is slowly gaining popularity within the Catholic Church, and recently within other Christian Churches too.

St John Paul II was a priest, Pope, theologian, writer, poet, actor and sportsman. He wrote 14 encyclicals, beatified 1340, canonised 483 and improved relations with Judaism, Islam and other Christian denominations. He was shot and critically injured, but survived, then meet and forgave his attacker.

But he will be remembered as Pope Francis said, “the Pope of the family”.

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40 Days for Life

40 days of hopeImage

I remember during my early years at university becoming friends with an exchange student from West Germany. When she left her home country, a wall divided it from the communist country of East Germany, and people had been killed for trying to cross that wall. By the time her year in New Zealand was over, Germans could freely travel across the border between the two Germanys, and official German reunification had taken place within a year.

When she came to New Zealand, the fall of the Berlin wall was a distant hope, with few people expecting it to happen within their lifetime. It seemed beyond reasonable for the wall to fall.

But it did.

The flame of resistance within the eastern bloc countries had been lit a decade before when Pope John Paul II visited his home country of Poland. His battle cry, “Be not afraid”, gave the people of Poland hope. A hope that spread throughout Eastern Europe, and contributed greatly to the eventual collapse of communism in Europe.

That same battle cry was also for the pro-life movement which was always so close to his heart. We have the Lord himself on our side. No matter how strong the opponents of the ‘Culture of Life” might be, they cannot endure. No matter how strong they seem, or how much they influence government policy, they are running on borrowed time. In fact, the war against them has already been won. It was won on the cross.

And victories are happening.

In the US, there have been a record number of pro-life laws being passed1,2, and it’s bringing abortion rates down. Spain is considering ending abortion on demard3.

So how might an end of abortion look? Especially here in New Zealand?

We have seen the numbers and rates of abortions drop here and New Zealand and in the US as well. And the greatest declines in abortion rates are in the youngest age groups. We can expect this to continue.

There are already shortages of staff willing to participate in abortion4. And this has affected abortion services5. The 40 days for life program includes prayer for medical staff involved in abortion, and has seen 88 workers leave abortion providers. This is something that could easily happen in New Zealand, and we know there are abortion staff in New Zealand who have doubts about their jobs6. They need our prayer.

I have noticed a change in public perception of the pro-life movement. We are now seen as the ones who are helping women. The opposition is still there, and they can still dominate the political process and the media. But the general public are more open to the pro-life message than ever before. I’m constantly surprised by the people who are genuinely enthusiastic about our work helping expectant mums. As in Eastern Europe during the last years of communism, hope is rising. And I can feel the change.

There is still more work to do. More prayer and pro-life work is needed. But slowly the public is seeing that abortion isn’t the solution that they thought it was. One day they will see that it isn’t a solution at all.

We need to hope. We need to pray. And we need to “Be not afraid”.

 

 

Get involved: 40 days for life

 

1.            Johnson, J. Pro-life laws and clinic closures lowered abortion rate: CDC | LifeSiteNews.com. LifeSiteNews (2013). at <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/abortion-laws-and-clinic-closures-lowered-abortion-rate-cdc>

2.            Johnson, J. ‘Record number’ of pro-abortion laws being introduced dwarfed by pro-life gains, legal expert says | LifeSiteNews.com. LifeSiteNews (2014). at <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/record-number-of-pro-abortion-laws-being-introduced-dwarfed-by-pro-life-gai>

3.            Metaxas, E. Restricting abortion, Spanish style | LifeSiteNews.com. LifeSiteNews at <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/restricting-abortion-spanish-style>

4.            Board forced to bring outsiders to staff abortion facility -. CathNews N. Z. (2012). at <http://cathnews.co.nz/2012/10/16/board-forced-to-bring-outsiders-to-staff-invercargill-abortion-facility/>

5.            Hill, M. Abortion clinic opens in secrecy to protect staff. Stuff.co.nz (2012). at <http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/7813405/Abortion-clinic-opens-in-secrecy-to-protect-staff>

6.            Whelan, M. A day at the clinic. The Wireless at <http://thewireless.co.nz/themes/free/a-day-at-the-clinic>

It is Not Permissible for Anyone to Remain Idle

Labouring in the VineyardAs the new year begins I have been reflecting on the Apostolic Exhortation of Blessed John Paul II Christifideles Laici, on the vocation and the mission of the lay faithful in the Church and in the world.  This document was promulgated on the Feast of the Holy Family (December 30th), 1988.  Twenty-four years on its words are just as encouraging, calling all of Christ’s followers to labour in the vineyard.

Blessed John Paul II desired that the lay faithful would “…take an active, conscientious and responsible part in the mission of the Church in this great moment in history.”  He then pointed out that “A new state of affairs today both in the Church and in social, economic, political and cultural life, calls with a particular urgency for the action of the lay faithful. If lack of commitment is always unacceptable, the present time renders it even more so. It is not permissible for anyone to remain idle.”  How urgent those words are this day in my ears.

There are three trends which Blessed John Paul II identified:

  • Secularism and the need for religion;
  • The human person: A dignity violated and exalted, and;
  • Conflict and peace.

Of particular interest for this post is the inherent dignity of the human person.

“The dignity of the person is manifested in all its radiance when the person’s origin and destiny are considered: created by God in his image and likeness as well as redeemed by the most precious blood of Christ, the person is called to be a “child in the Son” and a living temple of the Spirit, destined for the eternal life of blessed communion with God. For this reason every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the Creator of the individual.”

In acknowledging the dignity of the human person, we therefore acknowledge the rights of the human person – the right above all to life.

“The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, fínds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights-for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”

May it never be forgotten that the right to life is at the very core of any other rights a person may have in this world.

As secular society becomes more entrenched in the culture of death the mission of the Church becomes even more urgent.

“The Church today lives a fundamental aspect of her mission in lovingly and generously accepting every human being, especially those who are weak and sick.  This is made all the more necessary as a “culture of death” threatens to take control. In fact, “the Church family believes that human life, even if weak and suffering, is always a wonderful gift of God’s goodness. Against the pessimism and selfishness which casts a shadow over the world, the Church stands for life: in each human life she sees the splendour of that ‘Yes’, that ‘Amen’, which is Christ himself (cf. 2 Cor 1:19; Rev 3:14). To the ‘No’ which assails and afflicts the world, she replies with this living ‘Yes’, this defending of the human person and the world from all who plot against life”(138). It is the responsibility of the lay faithful, who more directly through their vocation or their profession are involved in accepting life, to make the Church’s “Yes” to human life concrete and efficacious.”

And how are we, the lay faithful, to accept life, to proclaim it, to live it?

We need to live it in our own families first.  Married couples need to be open to the possibility of new life.  We need to teach our children to know, love and serve God, their creator.  We need to teach our children to love one another.  Prayer being at the heart of our lives.  When we do this, we naturally will be of service to those less fortunate.  We will care for the disabled and the sick.  We will visit the elderly and house-bound.  We will then be able to share this great “Yes” to life in our work place and social circles because we live it ourselves, with God’s Grace.

“God calls me and sends me forth as a labourer in his vineyard. He calls me and sends me forth to work for the coming of his Kingdom in history. This personal vocation and mission defines the dignity and the responsibility of each member of the lay faithful and makes up the focal point of the whole work of formation, whose purpose is the joyous and grateful recognition of this dignity and the faithful and generous living-out of this responsibility.”

Let your labour in the vineyard begin today, in your own family, for this is your calling, your responsibility, and as the great Blessed John Paul II reminds us, “it is not permissible for anyone to remain idle.”

Respect Life Month – Day Twenty-Nine

Two brothers

“We will stand up every time that human life is threatened.  When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life.  When a child is described as a burden or is looked upon only as a means to satisfy an emotional need, we will stand up and insist that every child is a unique and unrepeatable gift of God, with the right to a loving and united family…”  (Blessed John Paul II, 1979)

  • Be informed – read up on the issues and attend conferences and seminars.

St Michael the Archangel, defend us in this day of battle.  Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, cast into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits who wander now throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.

30 Years of Familiaris Consortio

Thirty years ago, Blessed John Paul II wrote a letter exhorting the Christian family.  That apostolic exhortation was “Familiaris Consortio” or “The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World”.

Three decades have passed since its writing, and the wisdom contained within its pages is just as relevant, if not even more so.  This exhortation is a great reflection on marriage, the family, the Church and society.

For today’s parents who have not yet read this document, I encourage you to do so.  There is a whole generation of families who could now benefit from reflecting on the words that Blessed John Paul II gave to us regarding the family.  If you have not yet had the opportunity to read Familiaris Consortio” then I urge you give it a go.

Below are a selection of great quotes which is by no means exhaustive.

“The Church is deeply convinced that only by the acceptance of the Gospel are the hopes that man legitimately places in mariage and in the family capable of being fulfilled.” (#3)

“At a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family, ensuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the People of God.” (#3)

“Not infrequently ideas and solutions which are very appealing, but which obscure in varying degrees the truth and the dignity of the human person, are offered to the men and woman of today, in their sincere and deep search for a response to the important daily problems that affect their married and family life.” (#4)

“Following Christ, the Church seeks the truth, which is not always the same as the majority opinion.” (#5)

“The situation in which the family finds itself presents positive and negative aspects:  the first are a sign of the salvation of Christ operating in the world; the second, a sign of the refusal that man gives to the love of God.” (#6)

“…signs are not lacking of a disturbing degradation of some fundamental values:  a mistaken theoretical and practical concept of the independence of the spouses in relation to each other; serious misconceptions regarding the relationship of authority between parents and children; the concrete difficulties that the family itself experiences in the transmission of values; the growing number of divorces; the scourge of abortion; the ever more frequent recourse to sterilization; the appearance of a truly contraceptive mentality.” (#6)

“Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.” (#11)

“The only ‘place’ in which this self-giving in its whole truth is made possible is marriage.” (#11)

“In its most profound reality, love is essentially a gift; and conjugal love, while leading the spouses to the reciprocal ‘knowledge’ which makes them ‘one flesh,’ does not end with the couple, because it makes them capable of the greatest possible gift, the gift by which they become cooperators with God for giving life to a new human person.  Thus the couple, while giving themselves to one another, give not just themselves but also the reality of children, who are a living reflection of their love, a permanent sign of conjugal unity and a living and inseparable synthesis of their being a father and a mother.” (#14)

“The family finds in the plan of God the Creator and Redeemer not only its identity, what it is, but also its mission, what it can and should do… Each family finds within itself a summons that cannot be ignored, and that specifies both its dignity and its responsibility:  family, become what you are.” (#17)

“To bear witness to the inestimable value of the indissolubility and fidelity of marriage is one of the most precious and most urgent tasks of Christian couples in our time.” (#20)

“Family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice.” (#21)

“Concern for the child, even before birth, from the first moment of conception and then throughout the years of infancy and youth, is the primary and fundamental test of the relationship of one human being to another.” (26)

“…the fundamental taks of the family is to serve life, to actualize in history the original blessing of the Creator – that of transmitting by procreation the divine image from person to person.” (#28)

“But the Church firmly believes that human life, even if weak and suffering, is always a splendid gift of God’s goodness.  Against the pessimism and selfishness which cast a shadow over the world, the Church stands for life:  in each human life she sees the splendor of that “Yes,” that “Amen,” who is Christ Himself.  To the “No” which assails and afflicts the world, she replies with this living “Yes,” thus defending the human person and the world from all who plot against and harm life.” (#30)

“Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive gudance, whether at home or in educational centres chosen and controlled by them.” (#37)

“…those in society who are in charge of schools must never forget that the parents have been appointed by God Himself as the first and principal educators of their children and that their right is completely inalienable.” (#40)

“The family has vital and organic links with society, since it is its foundation and nourishes it continually through its role of service to life…” (#42)

“…families should be the first to take steps to see that the laws and institutions of the State not only do not offend but support and positively defend the rights and duties of the family.” (#44)

“…the Christian family is grafted into the mystery of the Church to such a degree as to become a sharer, in its own way, in the saving mission proper to the Church.” (#49)

“Thus the little domestic Church, like the greater Church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized:  hence its duty regarding permanent education in the faith.” (#52)

“Just as husbands and wives receive from the sacrament the gift and responsibility of translating into daily living the sanctification bestowed on them, so the same sacrament confers on them the grace and moral obligation of transforming their whole lives into a ‘spiritual sacrifice'”. (#56)

“The dignity and responsibility of the Christian family as the domestic Church can be achieved only with God’s unceasing aid, which will surely be granted if it is humbly and trustingly petitioned in prayer.” (#59)

“But it is especially necessary to recognize the unique place that, in this field, belongs to the mission of married couples and Christian families, by virtue of the grace received in the sacrament.  This mission must be placed at the service of the building up of the Church, the establishing of the Kingdom of God in history.  This is demanded as an act of docile obedience to Christ the Lord.  For it is He who, by virtue of the fact that marriage of baptized persons has been raised to a sacrament, confers upon Christian married couples a special mission as apostles, sending them as workers into His vineyard, and, in a very special way, into this field of the family.” (#71)

“No one is without a family in this world:  the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who “labor and are heavy laden.” ” (#85)

“The future of humanity passes by way of the family.” (#86)

Respect Life Month – Day One

…Christ needs you to enlighten the world and to show it the path to life (Ps 16,11). The challenge is to make the Church’s “yes” to Life concrete and effective. The struggle will be long, and it needs each one of you. Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your fortitude at the service of life!  Have no fear. The outcome of the battle for Life is already decided, even though the struggle goes on against great odds and with much suffering.”  Blessed John Paul II, Denver USA, 1993

Begin Pro-Life Month by spiritually adopting a pre-born child.  Pray for this child (and their mother) for the next nine months.  For more information on spiritually adopting a pre-born child please contact us.

PRAYER OF SPIRITUAL ADOPTION  Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I love you very much.  I beg you to spare the life of the unborn baby that I have spiritually adopted who is in danger of abortion.   (Prayer of Archbishop Fulton J Sheen)