Rightly, then, the Psalmist's cry is applied to Sunday: "This is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Ps 118:24). This invitation to joy, which the Easter liturgy makes its own, reflects the astonishment which came over the women who, having seen the crucifixion of Christ, found the tomb empty when they went there "very early on the first day after the Sabbath" (Mk 16:2). It is an invitation to relive in some way the experience of the two disciples of Emmaus, who felt their hearts "burn within them" as the Risen One walked with them on the road, explaining the Scriptures and revealing Himself in "the breaking of the bread" (cf. Lk 24:32,35). And it echoes the joy - at first uncertain and then overwhelming - which the Apostles experienced on the evening of that same day, when they were visited by the Risen Jesus and received the gift of his peace and of his Spirit (cf. Jn 20:19-23).
2. The Resurrection of Jesus is the fundamental event upon which Christian faith rests (cf. 1 Cor 15:14). It is an astonishing reality, fully grasped in the light of faith, yet historically attested to by those who were privileged to see the Risen Lord. It is a wondrous event which is not only absolutely unique in human history, but which lies at the very heart of the mystery of time. In fact, "all time belongs to [Christ] and all the ages", as the evocative liturgy of the Easter Vigil recalls in preparing the Paschal Candle. Therefore, in commemorating the day of Christ's Resurrection not just once a year but every Sunday, the Church seeks to indicate to every generation the true fulcrum of history, to which the mystery of the world's origin and its final destiny leads.
It is right, therefore, to claim, in the words of a fourth century homily, that "the Lord's Day" is "the lord of days".(2) Those who have received the grace of faith in the Risen Lord cannot fail to grasp the significance of this day of the week with the same deep emotion which led Saint Jerome to say: "Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, it is the day of Christians, it is our day".(3) For Christians, Sunday is "the fundamental feastday",(4) established not only to mark the succession of time but to reveal time's deeper meaning.
3. The fundamental importance of Sunday has been recognized through two thousand years of history and was emphatically restated by the Second Vatican Council: "Every seven days, the Church celebrates the Easter mystery. This is a tradition going back to the Apostles, taking its origin from the actual day of Christ's Resurrection - a day thus appropriately designated 'the Lord's Day'."(5) Paul VI emphasized this importance once more when he approved the new General Roman Calendar and the Universal Norms which regulate the ordering of the Liturgical Year.(6) The coming of the Third Millennium, which calls believers to reflect upon the course of history in the light of Christ, also invites them to rediscover with new intensity the meaning of Sunday: its "mystery", its celebration, its significance for Christian and human life.
I note with pleasure that in the years since the Council this important theme has prompted not only many interventions by you, dear Brother Bishops, as teachers of the faith, but also different pastoral strategies which - with the support of your clergy - you have developed either individually or jointly. On the threshold of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, it has been my wish to offer you this Apostolic Letter in order to support your pastoral efforts in this vital area. But at the same time I wish to turn to all of you, Christ's faithful, as though I were spiritually present in all the communities in which you gather with your Pastors each Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist and "the Lord's Day". Many of the insights and intuitions which prompt this Apostolic Letter have grown from my episcopal service in Krakow and, since the time when I assumed the ministry of Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter, in the visits to the Roman parishes which I have made regularly on the Sundays of the different seasons of the Liturgical Year. I see this Letter as continuing the lively exchange which I am always happy to have with the faithful, as I reflect with you on the meaning of Sunday and underline the reasons for living Sunday as truly "the Lord's Day", also in the changing circumstances of our own times.
4. Until quite recently, it was easier in traditionally Christian countries to keep Sunday holy because it was an almost universal practice and because, even in the organization of civil society, Sunday rest was considered a fixed part of the work schedule. Today, however, even in those countries which give legal sanction to the festive character of Sunday, changes in socioeconomic conditions have often led to profound modifications of social behaviour and hence of the character of Sunday. The custom of the "weekend" has become more widespread, a weekly period of respite, spent perhaps far from home and often involving participation in cultural, political or sporting activities which are usually held on free days. This social and cultural phenomenon is by no means without its positive aspects if, while respecting true values, it can contribute to people's development and to the advancement of the life of society as a whole. All of this responds not only to the need for rest, but also to the need for celebration which is inherent in our humanity. Unfortunately, when Sunday loses its fundamental meaning and becomes merely part of a "weekend", it can happen that people stay locked within a horizon so limited that they can no longer see "the heavens".(7) Hence, though ready to celebrate, they are really incapable of doing so.
The disciples of Christ, however, are asked to avoid any confusion between the celebration of Sunday, which should truly be a way of keeping the Lord's Day holy, and the "weekend", understood as a time of simple rest and relaxation. This will require a genuine spiritual maturity, which will enable Christians to "be what they are", in full accordance with the gift of faith, always ready to give an account of the hope which is in them (cf. 1 Pt 3:15). In this way, they will be led to a deeper understanding of Sunday, with the result that, even in difficult situations, they will be able to live it in complete docility to the Holy Spirit.
5. From this perspective, the situation appears somewhat mixed. On the one hand, there is the example of some young Churches, which show how fervently Sunday can be celebrated, whether in urban areas or in widely scattered villages. By contrast, in other parts of the world, because of the sociological pressures already noted, and perhaps because the motivation of faith is weak, the percentage of those attending the Sunday liturgy is strikingly low. In the minds of many of the faithful, not only the sense of the centrality of the Eucharist but even the sense of the duty to give thanks to the Lord and to pray to him with others in the community of the Church, seems to be diminishing.
It is also true that both in mission countries and in countries evangelized long ago the lack of priests is such that the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist cannot always be guaranteed in every community.
6. Given this array of new situations and the questions which they prompt, it seems more necessary than ever to recover the deep doctrinal foundations underlying the Church's precept, so that the abiding value of Sunday in the Christian life will be clear to all the faithful. In doing this, we follow in the footsteps of the age-old tradition of the Church, powerfully restated by the Second Vatican Council in its teaching that on Sunday "Christian believers should come together, in order to commemorate the suffering, Resurrection and glory of the Lord Jesus, by hearing God's Word and sharing the Eucharist, and to give thanks to God who has given them new birth to a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (cf. 1 Pt 1:3)".(8)
7. The duty to keep Sunday holy, especially by sharing in the Eucharist and by relaxing in a spirit of Christian joy and fraternity, is easily understood if we consider the many different aspects of this day upon which the present Letter will focus our attention.
Sunday is a day which is at the very heart of the Christian life. From the beginning of my Pontificate, I have not ceased to repeat: "Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ!".(9) In the same way, today I would strongly urge everyone to rediscover Sunday: Do not be afraid to give your time to Christ! Yes, let us open our time to Christ, that he may cast light upon it and give it direction. He is the One who knows the secret of time and the secret of eternity, and he gives us "his day" as an ever new gift of his love. The rediscovery of this day is a grace which we must implore, not only so that we may live the demands of faith to the full, but also so that we may respond concretely to the deepest human yearnings. Time given to Christ is never time lost, but is rather time gained, so that our relationships and indeed our whole life may become more profoundly human.
TOMORROW: Part Two of Dies Domini: Chapter One, "The Celebration of the Creator's Work" part one.
The Blessed Mother requested, through a Washington locutionist near Seattle Kenneth Staloch, that she desired her original Image of the miraculous tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe be brought to every state and province in the United States and Canada as a Missionary Image. Through this Our Lady promised "Together, my dear children, we will end the horrible evil of abortion. I will help you stop all abortions...Throught the miracle of my Image I want to come among you and convert millions of your hearts to my Divine Son." Ken contacted Father Walter Winrich, a Maryknoll priest who was in Mexico and through the dedication of attorney Dan Lynch from Vermont efforts were begun. Mexican authorities and their ecclesiastical counterparts denied access to the original tilma expressing concern for the safety of this treasured icon and fear of a surge of resentment by the peoples who would look unkindly toward the Image being removed from the Basilica near Mexico City where she resides under glass high above the altar and where millions of pilgrims trek annually to pray to the Virgin. However the authorities graciously offered Fr. Winrich whatever other reproduction he wished.
As we chronicled in the print edition of A CALL TO PEACE in December 1994, the Mother of God never demands something to be done, only that we try to accomplish what she asks. So also in this case Our Lady blessed the effort and assured Fr. Walter that this would effect many, many conversions. True to her word the Missionary Image has, with countless accounts of miraculous happenings and transformations of heart, documented in Dan Lynch's book. Dan has, for the last five years or so overseen the project of the traveling image, taking it throughout the United States and Canada and around the world on the celebrated 101 pilgrimage to Russia and China.
Our Lady also asked that her Image be permanently placed in every parish church and in as many homes as possible. Thus began, through Life Foundation, the efforts to provide a life-size Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in every Catholic church in the world. If your parish church wishes to obtain this life size Image please place your request in writing to Life Foundation, Southwest Distribution Center, P.O. Box 5333, Scottsdale, AZ 85261 - (602) 941-5385. This large Image is an exact replica of the original tilma for your parish. Also available is a family size replica of the Tilma for you to honor Our Lady in your home. Any donation you can generously make to help fund the enormous and increasing costs of reproducing replicas would be greatly appreciated.
From that time on Fr. Walter had gone through all the necessary channels to receive permission for such a procedure for consulting with the Abbot of Guadalupe, Monsignor Guillermo Schulenburg Prado who advised Fr. Winrich that in order to remove the protective glass and secure a son-a-gram on the image, permission could only be granted by the Holy Father. Thus, on November 12, 1994 Fr. Winrich formally petitioned the Holy Father for permission to have an ultra-sound performed on the original tilma. However, because of numerous red-tape in protocol and the sensitivity of the Tilma, which is still vividly intact today, officials feared such a maneuver could be damaging to the tilma. They reasoned that the portrait could be damaged. Because the image is made of a cactus fiber, under normal time lines it should have, by all rights, deteriorated in less than 50 years after Juan revealed the miraculous image and the cascading roses to the Bishop as proof of her appearance. Even though the Blessed Mother assured Fr. Winrich that no harm would come to the tilma, Fr. Walter was obedient. Again, as we asserted earlier in this article, all Our Lady asks is that we try. This Fr. Winrich did. As a reward for this, when one door closes another is opened. Our Lady accepted this decision. She had asked originally that this procedure be performed three times at three hour intervals on December 24th, with a fourth on December 25th. In 1995 this was performed in Denver, Colorado at these requested times. Our Lady had promised this unusual "Son-a-gram" would produce a special "Message from the SON". The message was given through the original image that Fr. Walter first carried from Mexico to British Honduras to see if Our Lady would be received by the Bishop and the people as a missionary to evangelize the world. The reception was overwhelming! This was Fr. Walter's verification. He then returned to Mexico City to secure a life-size immmage now known as The Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that he took to the First International Rosary Conference at Washington, D.C. in June 1991. The original image has always been with Fr. Walter and is now in a place of honor with Life Foundation at Kettle River. It was also this same original image which produced the successful and miraculous Son-a-gram taken in Denver at Christmas of 1996.
It was God's way of emphasizing even more emphatically the vital importance of devotion to Divine Mercy which Jesus first asked of Blessed Sister Faustina Kowalska in the decade of the thirties of this century. Since that time this devotion has grown where today both Our Lord and Our Lady have called for a true devotion to Divine Mercy for the sake of the whole world. It is another manifestation of the times and how God links one apparition to another, one private revelation with another in His master quilt of salvation. It should, then, come as no surprise that this Son-a-gram truly did produce a special "Message from the SON" - another merciful miracle from Our Lady of Guadalupe - the Virgin of the Americas - Patron of the Unborn. After all, Our Lady promised. This merciful miracle proves once again the Power and Wisdom of the Almighty in sending His Own Mother to warn us and convert us to her Divine Son. It should also confirm that Our Lady is truly communicating with today's modern prophets and we are in the times spoken of first in Joel and reiterated by Peter in Acts 2: 17-19, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, says the Lord, that I will pour forth My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And moreover upon my servants and upon my handmaids in those days will I pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the Heavens above and signs on the earth beneath..." We have seen many wonders and signs and this is the latest - this merciful miracle of Guadalupe that confirms these words of Sacred Scripture, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the need for Divine Mercy in this sinful world.
The horrors of abortion, mounting through the years and piercing the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts anew, continue and grow more horrendous, evidenced by Bill Clinton's senseless vetos of a bill that would have curtailed abortions. His actions have been properly condemned by the United States Bishops. What is there left? The impact of Guadalupe had more effect on the Aztecs than it has on this amoral society. Let us hope and pray this most recent merciful miracle of Guadalupe will not only wake those who have been stupored in sin, but those who are in a slothful slumber of indifference and lukewarmness. It is only through prayer and our intensified efforts to spread the messages of the Gospel and Our Lady, as well as devotions such as Divine Mercy, that we can hope to end abortion forever. No legislative lobbying will do it, only supernatural intervention through the power of prayer. Our Lady has said as much and has given us much. The message she imparted over four and a half centuries ago is no different than today in these end times. How much longer will God continue to grant His Infinite Mercy? We don't know, but we do know when the Mercy ends, the Divine Justice will begin. It's getting later than we think. God has spoken and repeated everything over and over through His primary emissary to His Children, the Blessed Mother. They've done all they can to wake us up and bring us back into the Refuge of the Two Hearts. As the old axiom goes, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." Because of free will, the same holds true for man. Jesus and Mary can lead us all to the fountain of Divine Mercy, but they can't force us to drink and be nourished from that merciful font. That's up to us. Wouldn't it be sad, however, to come this far and not be refreshed in His everlasting graces?
In the next issue, we will resume the time-line of the Age of Marian Apparitions as we pick up after Guadalupe and the ensuing apparitions of the sixteenth century, the "Century of Saints."
NEXT WEEK: century of mystics.
Almighty, everlasting God, Who didst appoint Thine only-begotten Son Redeemer of the world, and didst deign to be appeased by the shedding of His Blood; grant, we beseech Thee, that by our solemn service we may so honor what He paid as the price our Redemption, and by Its virtue be so defended here on earth from the evils of this present life, that we may forevermore enjoy Its fruit in Heaven. Throught the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.