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January 8-10, 1999
SECTION ONE vol 10, no. 5
To print out entire text of Today's issue, print this section as well as SECTION TWO and SECTION THREE
The Agony and the Ecstasy: A dichotomy of emotions
In this weekend's editorial we stretch out the canvas of hope, applying the lacquer of truth and the palette of examples in which Pope John Paul II has proven he is a "man for the millennium" providing the spiritual and temporal brush strokes to complete God's masterpiece in time for exhibiting this exemplary artwork in the new millennium, promoting the sanctity and dignity of life in all its stages just as the Almighty designed. God has charged His specially chosen protege and Vicar on earth to be the beacon of morality, goodness and decency in a world blinded by the dark shadows of satan. For this weekend's commentary "The Agony and the Ecstasy", click on CATHOLIC PewPOINT.
"The Agony and the Ecstasy!"
One week down, fifty-one to go and we have mixed feelings as we turn the first page of the final chapter of the millennium. Amidst all the Y2K scares and the tragic news out of the Congo where 500 innocent souls were senselessly slaughtered on New Year's Day and now the killings in Angola and harassment in Sierra Leone, plus word out of China that the communist government is up to their old tricks again in persecuting priests and religious with unspeakable crimes one would think Armaggeddon is truly near. Yet, despite all this bad news - and we haven't even mentioned the current impeachment trial, there is hope on the horizon: The Holy Father ordained nine new bishops a few days ago; the Vatican is making grandiose plans for a memorable two-week papal visit down memory lane as Pope John Paul II not only will return to his old "haunts" in June, but officiate at the millenial celebration of the Diocese where he was born and grew up - Wadowice, Poland which was established in 999. That, in itself is commendable, but the fact their favorite son will be there makes it all the more special. But before he sets foot on the soil of his beloved homeland, he will wing his way to our shores with a special 24-hour stop in St. Louis on January 27th and a much-anticipated showdown with badboy Bill Clinton after officially closing the Synod of America in Mexico City at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There is much speculation that he will announce at that time when he will canonize the venerable visionary Blessed Juan Diego. There are even rumors that the Holy Father will make an unscheduled stop-off in Havana where, one year ago, he brought the entire island to its knees including hard-hearted Fidel Castro who only John Paul could soften through the grace of God. The results of that visit are showing great fruits with even the United States relaxing their hard line stance that has held since John F. Kennedy shut out Cuba well over three decades ago.
The agony of omission and oppression
It brings cause to offer John Paul II's name as not only the most influential man of the twentieth century, but possibly of the second millennium. A list of the top 1000 most influential people of the millennium has just been released in a book titled "1,000 Years, 1,000 People: Ranking the Men and Women Who Shaped the Millennium" and Pope John Paul II is not even in the top ten. When you consider who is on the list, it bears one to answer why the back-handed prejudice or was it just ignorance? Johann Gutenberg topped the list because he invented the printing press and played a significant role in circulating the bible. Good selection, but still, not number one. Christopher Columbus was ranked number two. Yes, he skippered the expedition that discovered the New World and was most effective in bringing the faith to these shores through the Queen's commission and Pope's encouragement of sending missionaries along. The rebellious, disobedient monk Martin Luther was number three and that is akin to saying Benedict Arnold was a great hero of the American Revolution. Enough said. Number four was Galileo Galilei whose death we commemorate this weekend. Though his contributions were large, he did not effect the soul as others such as John Paul II. The fifth name William Shakespeare evokes thoughts of the heart and soul, but not in the spiritual sense. Number six we can't argue too much with for he proved that what goes up, must come down. Hopefully it was the Second Coming Isaac Newton was referring to when he discovered the law of gravity. Coming in number seven was Charles Darwin. Oh, please!!! The next man on the list deserves to be higher for he truly imbued the truths of the existence of God in his brilliant writings providing the cornerstone of faith for millions, make that a billion Catholics! That holy man holding down the number eight spot was Saint Thomas Aquinas, the angelic Dominican Doctor of the Church. Number nine was the talented Leonardo da Vinci, the master painter but not as influential as many might think. Rounding out the top ten, according to their poll, was Ludvig van Beethoven. As great as his music, we have one thing to say: Move over, Beethoven. It is truly a travesty that men like John Paul II and Winston Churchill were not included in the top ten. While the latter remains one of the strongest of this century, still his accomplishments pale in comparison to our present pontiff. Oh, there were great saints in this millennium as well such as Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Dominic, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Bridget of Sweden, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Teresa of Avila, and more modern ones such as Saint Theresa of Lisieux and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. There were many great leaders such as Saint Louis IX, king of France, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln but none with the global impact as John Paul II. No man in the history of the Popes or in the annals of nations, has ever commanded the sincere respect and response this 264th successor of Peter has. This millennium has had some great Sovereign Pontiffs such as Pope Saint Gregory VII in the eleventh century; Pope Saint Pius V in the sixteenth century; and the triumverate of Pope Pius IX, who declared the Immaculate Conception, Pope Leo XIII who tweaked the world's conscience about communism and socialism, and Pope Saint Pius X who was truly one of the most Eucharistic Vicars of Christ ever. But even with this illustrious list of great and holy men, none achieved the overall impact on history that John Paul II has. And yet, he wasn't even close in the top twenty! When you look at the next ten of that questionable list we find eleven through twenty listed as John Locke, Mohandas Ghandi, Michelangelo, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Napoleon Bonaparte, Albert Einstein, Nicholas Copernicus, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and, the most vile, despicable villain of the millennium - Adolph Hitler. One thing is definitely certain: with the omission of John Paul II we have no doubt there is something rotten in Denmark!
Consider that our present pontiff has been largely responsible for the fall of the iron curtain; consider that he has remained one of the lone voices upholding the sanctity of life in a world being suffocated by the culture of death. The UN-sponsored Cairo Conference and Beijing Conference set the course for ultimately phasing out the human race with its culture of death platform. NATO is listing badly, the European Union, as well as Russia and China are still trying to flex their ungodly muscles, and everywhere the moral fiber of our society is being ripped to shreds from the unnatural becoming the natural and indecency triumphing over decency from the White House to China, from the jungle villages of Africa to the jungle climes of Central America, from Indonesia and India to the courtrooms of America where one liberal judge after another is overturning the partial-birth abortion ban as unconstitutional.
The ecstasy of faith, hope and love
But there is one constitutional truth that rises above them all - the Holy Father who remains one of the singular beacons of morality and goodness in a darkened world. Practically every country has invited him to visit their land regardless of their majority faith including Orthodox countries like Romania and Islamic ones such as Iraq where the Pope hopes to walk in the footsteps of Abraham at Ur in November of the new millennium. Leaders of these lands realize the consequences or should we say "fruits" of his visits for everywhere the Pope goes, he preaches the gospel of life and human dignity, something many despots do not agree with such as Castro, but once the Supreme Pontiff has touched hearts and souls in a country he leaves an indelible mark that no temporal government can erase. John Paul II is the one man who has placed emphasis of God over country rather than the propaganda we have been fed so long of "my country, right or wrong." We ask you, what man can not only bring countries to their knees, but persuade them to forgive millions and millions, yea billions of dollars in debts as the Pope is in requesting advanced, well-to-do nations to forgive the debts of third-world, impoverished countries. The Holy Father has started this whole "reconciliation" ball rolling, asking forgiveness of the Jews for any inaction or insensitivities Catholics might have been guilty of in the holocausts, asking forgiveness of all for any unjust treatment by the Inquisition throughout the centuries when it was abused by political leaders and clerics, prelates and even a few popes for their own personal gains or prejudices, and asking others to forgive and seek forgiveness in an overall "cleansing of the soul" in preparation for Jubilee 2000.
You see, the one difference between John Paul II and all the other leaders of this century, nay even millennium, is that he practices what he preaches at all times. And what he preaches is exactly what Jesus teaches - the greatest man Who ever lived. Not bad company! So you see, even as satan scours the world for souls, there is great hope because of one man who greatly balances the scales in God's favor. Christ said that "I will be with you always" and because John Paul II is setting the example we can be assured Our Lord is not only truly with us but personified through His exemplary Vicar on earth. John Paul II is so obedient that Jesus has commissioned His very Own Mother Mary to guide and protect her beloved-Pope, who, in allegiance, has dedicated his pontificate from the beginning to Our Lady - Totus Tuus. It is only through the grace of God and the intercession of the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church that he is still with us. He was almost taken from us on May 13, 1981 when he was shot in St. Peter's Square on the 64th anniversary of the first apparition at Fatima. But Our Lady intervened and through the Mercy of God he was miraculously healed and allowed to remain with us for another two decades. Now, in 1999, as finite man is wont to do, the Pope is growing older, much older, and more feeble; the sands of time are catching up to his frail body but not his mind. His wisdom remains stronger than ever and his resolve remains more committed than ever in not only righting the stately ship of the Church, but inviting the world to board the barque of Peter in sailing through the rough seas of temporal waves and safely anchoring between the two pillars of Eucharistic Devotion and Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
There are many Catholics who hail Vatican II but deride John Paul II for keeping the Church imprisoned in the middle ages, not allowing her to sail free of the bondage of old, outdated customs and traditions. They call for more changes for they attest the "spirit of Vatican II" hasn't been fulfilled. They blame John Paul II for that, not realizing that he was one of the major authors of all that was good about Vatican II and that the "spirit of Vatican II" did not come from him nor the Council Fathers, who were indeed inspired by the Holy Spirit, but rather by liberals who purposely mislead and deceived great numbers with their own translation of what came out of the Second Vatican Council. Their objective was to promote their own agenda rather than the will of God. Now, thirty some years laters John Paul II continues to reign in the stampede that resulted from insubordination and the same pride that caused the downfall of Martin Luther and his ilk that were responsible for millions of souls in the 1500's. Our Lady balanced those scales by appearing to a humble, obedient Aztec hermit effecting millions of conversions and the birth of the faith in the New World.
Now the Holy Father returns to the origins of those fruits nearly 500 years later. There was a novel, made into a movie on the life and trials of Saint Thomas More called "A Man for all seasons.". In truth, this title best befits this man as well as the emotional highs and lows of Karol Wojtyla's life attest, summed up in another novel and film about a Pope and a great artist. For today's Pope is a true Michelangelo in creating a masterpiece to be cherished by those of the third millennium through his inspiring portrait of the true faith illustrated to an unbelieving world as, with tools of doctrine and Divine inspiration, he sculptures the sanctity and dignity of life out of hearts of granite. Yes, with the Father's inevitable Justice about to come and God's Mercy still available with tremendous hope and promise for the future, the great tableau is truly coming to completion in this last year that could appropriately be called "The Agony and the Ecstasy!"
Turning over a new leaf in 1999.
In her column this week, Sister Mary Lucy Astuto delves into what New Year's resolutions mean and what resolutions are really important in this final year of the millennium, a year that could be turned topsy-turvy for 1999 turned over reads 6661. Could that be an omen? Even if it were, Sister points out that we have nothing to fear if we resolve to follow God's Will on a daily basis for we are totally at His Mercy and that Divine Mercy can truly be our salvation. For Sister's column, How 'bout a daily resolution?!? , click on GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER
HOW 'BOUT A DAILY RESOLUTION!?!
Now we have begun a New Year!
Someone pointed out to me recently that if you turn 1999 upside down, it
reads: 6661. Hmmmmmm!
On New Yearís Day, as part of my meditation, I read that every New Year is
like a blank page. God knows all of the details and everything that will happen to
us this year. Everything that will affect us is all within the Providence of God.
My reading went on to say that at the top of the page, we should write: "Be
it done unto me, according to Your Will." And at the bottom of the page, we
should write: "Amen, alleluia."
Not bad advice, Iíd say!
Maybe youíve made some New Yearís resolutions and maybe you didnít. A
survey that was taken indicated that most people donít bother making New
Yearís resolutions. Actually, we shouldnít worry so much about making New Yearís resolutions as
we should be concerned about making a daily resolution. Thatís part of working
continually at our conversion. We all need to, from the greatest sinner to the greatest
What I mean is that every morning, when we awaken, it would be good for us to
pray for the grace to overcome a fault of ours. Perhaps, it is that we tend to be too
impatient. Perhaps, we drink too much alcohol. Perhaps, we donít give God even 15
minutes out of the day just for Him. Each of us has a superfluity of faults and so we have
quite a selection to choose from.
None of us should think that we can overcome any of our faults all by
ourselves. Not possible, friend! No way, Jose, as it is said!
We need Godís help and He will give us help, if we ask Him.
On one of my trips to Venezuela, I stopped at a convent of Sisters founded by
Mother Maria of St. Joseph. (Her body is incorrupt, by the way after being
buried for 25 years. Even the lilies that were placed in her hands at burial remained
incorrupt and appeared as though they had just be picked.) As I was leaving, one of the
Sisters approached me. I did not know her, but what she said to me, I knew was the
influence of God. She said: "None of us will be saved except by the mercy of God."
Now that may not seem very much to you, but the reality is that I had been
mulling over in my mind for some days about salvation, -- my own, especially, but
that of others, as well.
So for that Sister, out of the clear blue, and without any knowledge of my
own "mullings" made a point that hit me astoundingly. She was used by God
directly and maybe didnít even know the power of her words to me at the time.
And thank God for it, because we can count on Him, His love for us, His
faithfulness. It's something to think about, think very seriously about each day throughout
The New Year's celebrations are over, but God has given us every day to celebrate
His goodness and graces. So have a holy, happy, grace-filled New Year...each and every day.
And let us, each day, begin anew!
God bless you!
Like the sands of time, the mind sifts through memories that can be good or bad
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the words of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen have been known to launch a thousand images in one's mind. Today we begin famous quotes from this late luminary who did so much to evangelize the faith. Because of the urgency of the times and because few there are today who possess the wisdom, simplicity and insight than the late Archbishop who touched millions, we are bringing you daily gems from his writings. The good bishop makes it so simple that we have dubbed this daily series: "SIMPLY SHEEN". On Fridays we bring you more than just a quote; we bring you a brief homily on a subject that is pertinent today. That subject today is education and learning. For words of wisdom from Bishop Sheen, click on Simply Sheen.
"The mind is like an hourglass through which ideas pass like sands, nothing remaining."
There is a world of difference between a mind that has in it ten thousand bits of uncorrelated information, and a mind that is like an organism in which one fact or truth is functionally related to every other truth, as the heart is related to the legs and arms. The wisest of men reads out of a philosophy of life, as he eats out of a philosophy of health. Mental garbage is as scrupulously avoided by the eyes in reading, as another kind of garbage is avoided by the lips. On the other hand, certain "hard" reading, such as Plato, Aquinas, Tonybee pass like iron in the blood and into the mind giving it consistency and strength.
The easiness with which reading matter can be procured today has much to do with the ministering to lower tastes. Those who had a taste for philosophy in the days of Aristotle, a yearning for poetry in the days of Dante, for metaphysics in the days of Abelard, and for sacred science when the monasteries held all the treasures of knowledge, spared no effort to absorb learning. But now that reading is accessible in every drugstore and city corner, the discrimination has decreased with the availability.
After a time, useless reading weakens the mind rather than strengthens it; then reading becomes an excuse for the mind to lie dormant while thoughts are poured over it like chocolate over ice cream. The mind is like an hourglass through which ideas pass like sands, nothing remaining. We, in the modern age, have more leisure than those of a century ago, but we know less what to do with it. Our education is rightly preparing us to make a living. But let education not forget that since we have more leisure than working ours, it might do well to teach us how to spend our leisure. Give a person a taste for the intellectual, the spiritual and the moral, and you make them happy. As a Latin poet put it: "Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros." Reading civilizes conduct and keeps it from becoming barbarous.
Though not eligible for the Sacred Conclave, Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini's tireless work with health care workers makes him eligible for great graces
We continue with this new series that debuted last week, bringing you on a regular basis three times a week the Princes of the Church. Our third red hat we feature, in alphabetical order is the Italian Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini who hails from Rome where he was born and has served the Church for most of his 82 years. For more on Cardinal Angelini, click on COLLEGE OF CARDINALS COLLECTION
3. Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini
One of the oldest of the cardinals, Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini is 82 years-old and has exceeded the age limit for being eligible to participate in a papal election. Nevertheless, we are bringing you all of the Princes of the Church and Angelini has a distinguished past. Despite his age, he is one of Pope John Paul II's selections, having received his red-hat at the Consistory of June 28, 1991. He is is now retired after faithfully creating and serving as the President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers from 1989 through 1996. He gained this office for his exemplary pastoral experience with hospital chaplains as head of the Rome Vicariate's section for the apostolate to health care workers. In 1956 he began his life-long work in the field of medical health by providing spiritual direction and assistance to Roman clinics and hospitals, founding the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors in 1959. His work has been greatly commended and we only wish there was such devotion to health and the concern for both body and soul in the United States as Cardinal Angelini promotes.
Cardinal Angelini has spent nearly his entire life in Rome where he was born on August 1, 1916 in the midst of World War I. On the eve of World War II on February 3, 1940 he became a priest. Early in his ministry he saw a need to assist the impoverished and sick, organizing the Secretariat for People's Assistance which provided aid to downtrodden Italians. At the end of the war he was appointed the national ecclesiastical assistant for Catholic Action in Italy in 1945, a position he held until 1959. Seven years after his ordination to the priesthood he was made Master of Pontifical Ceremonies during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. On July 26, 1956 Pius XII made him a bishop, assigning him as Titular Bishop of Messene. In 1985 he was elevated to Archbishop and four years later the curial agency for health care workers was established. His dedication to helping heal the soul and the body is greatly admired and his only ambition has always been the care of man's human dignity and wellness.
December 25th Medjugorje Monthly Message
Dear children! In this Christmas joy I desire to bless you with my blessing. In a special way, little children, I give you the blessing of little Jesus. May He fill you with His peace. Today, little children, you do not have peace and yet you yearn for it. That is why, with my Son Jesus, on this day I call you to pray, pray, pray, because without prayer you do not have joy or peace or a future. Yearn for peace and seek it, for God is true peace. Thank you for having responded to my call.
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January 8-10, 1999 volume 10, no. 5 DAILY CATHOLIC