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Urban was born around the turn of the thirteenth century in Troyes, France where, as the son of a shoemaker he exceeded all expectations when he excelled in studies at the University of Paris and became a canon and then archdeacon. Throughout he acquired a reputation as a man with wide-ranging diplomatic skills and this prompted him to be elevated to Bishop of Verdun in 1252 and, shortly thereafter, Pope Alexander named him legate of the Latin territories and Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1255. One of the great advantages that Urban possessed that his predecessors did not was the fact he was a non-Italian and therefore not subject to the in-fighting politics that had so hindered the previous popes. Using this to his advantage he took a firm hold on recovering most of the papal states that had been lost through poor or failed negotiations with Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen and his illegitmate son Manfred who succeeded him. Though Urban wanted dearly to return the papacy to Rome, he was, like his predecessors, unable to accomplish this but he did not let that hinder him from doing all in his power to reinstate prestige and power within the Church. One of his first acts was to hold a consistory where he named fourteen more cardinals, including six of his fellow Frenchmen of which three were close confidants of the holy King Saint Louis IX who were both astute and holy in their intent. In order to bring stability to the region, he convinced the bankers and money merchants to back the Holy See which saw the revival of the Guelph party which favored the papal states. With the help of this group he was able to gain influence throughout Italy and through deft political moves, defeat all of Manfred's candidates. Papal prestige was returning and this caused Manfred to begin to fear. In the west Urban tried to gain support as well as appease the problems in his own native land by offering Sicily to King Louis IX but he declined and so Urban made one of the few mistakes of his regime by offering it to Louis' brother Charles of Anjou, who was unlike his saintly brother, more of an ambitiouss man. Manfred was now seeing the balance of power shifting and therefore he sought to pacify the Pope by offering a truce, enlisting the aid of Baldwin II of Constantinople, a fugitive Latin emperor who was hoping Manfred could help him win back the Latin empire from the infidels with a crusade. However, the House of Hohenstaufen had betrayed the papacy enough over the years that Urban did not trust Manfred's advances and instead drew up on June 17, 1263 a pact with Charles of Anjou that he would be given all of southern Italy and Sicily in return for 50,000 marks and an annual payment to the Holy See of a goodly amount of gold in an effort to rebuild the papal coffers and pay for the papal troops. In return Charles would promise loyalty and military protection for the Pope and the papal states. This did not sit well with Manfred who retaliated by launching an attack on Urban's troops in Tuscany and Viterbo, forcing Urban to flee to Orvieto. The assault came so quickly that Charles could not react and this caused further hard feelings. Urban appealed to King Louis but word never reached him as the messengers were either intercepted by Manfred's men or desserted the the Holy Father in cowardice. Manfred pressed on to Orvieto, and Urban retreated farther to Perugia, it was there that this poor man, who had so wanted to strengthen the Church politically and spiritually, died on October 2, 1264.
As much as he accomplished in trying to reunite and refurbish the Holy See, Urban could do nothing to change the destiny of the Hohenstaufen clan. This was partly Urban's fault because he depended too much on the two non-Hohenstaufen candidates in Germany Richard of Cornwall and Alfonso X, the king of Castille. They had been wrestling for control and, through in-fighting and divisiveness allowed the Hohenstaufens to regain a foothold through Conradin, Frederick II's grandson and the last in the line of Hohenstaufens. Conradin had been weaned in the papal courts and knew the inner workings of the Holy See and used this, as we shall see in future installments, against the popes. Moreover, Urban, because he had been the Patriarch of Jerusalem and was in concert with Louis' hopes of resurrecting a crusade to once and for all crush the infidels, turned his attention more toward the east, where, in Constantinople, the emperor Michael VIII Paleologus of Nicaea showed overtures of wanting to end the centuries-long schism between East and West. This so consumed Urban in his desire to reunite the Church universally, that he neglected the warning signs in the west, much to the detriment of the Church as we shall see in future installments. Add to this that Michael's motives were to discourage a crusade which he knew Louis was promoting throughout France and other parts of Europe. This confused Urban and greatly distressed Louis, but Urban pressed on to bring about reconciliation and died before he could effect such a landmark concord.
Of all that Urban is known for, he is best known as the "Corpus Christi" Pope for it was in 1263 at Bolsena that a Eucharistic Miracle took place when a priest was consecrating the Host at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There, before the eyes of all, the Sacred Blood of Jesus began trickling from the confected host. Word spread fast throughout Italy and the Holy Father acknowledged it by extending a feast that had been celebrated locally in Liege, France to the universal Church. That feast was, of course, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ called Corpus Christi. Urban assigned a Dominican philosopher and theologian to establish guidelines and write some songs for the occasion that would totally show the proper reverence for the True Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. That preacher extraordinaire recommended the feast be celebrated sixty days after Easter every year and Urban decreed it thus in 1264 Oh, yes, that Dominican? None other than Saint Thomas Aquinas! We will cover this great saint's and Saint Louis' roles in the Church during this time in our next installment.
Next installment: Saints who preserved the Church in the turbulent thirteenth century.
Now I will speak to all of My children about that particular Spiritual Work of Mercy properly called "To Comfort The Sorrowful" Does not Sacred Scripture tell you to come to Me all who are heavy laden and burdened, for I will give you rest - for My Yoke is easy, My burden light?"
You do not properly understand this promise, My covenant with you. Therefore, you are unable to receive the supreme Gift of My Divine Mercy and Comfort. If you do not receive first My Comfort, how can you properly, with pure heart, fulfill your duty to Comfort the Sorrowful?
Little children, your earthly, mortal life is truly a valley of tears. Do I, Your God, not know this? Did I not weep? Did I not sorrow, even unto death? Was My life unlike yours? No, My earthly life was a journey of sorrow turned to joy because I bore all for Love of you in Perfect Obedience to The Eternal Father, Who sent Me.
Therefore, you must also recognize from the example I left you that if you are to be Mine, you are duty bound to Comfort the Sorrowful.
Yet, little children, you analyze this phrase and your mind dissects every situation: You say, even as you ponder these words, "But I am sorrowful and no one comforts me…" What is real sorrow? To what degree must I comfort? Who am I bound to comfort? When can I stop comforting others so that I may seek a bit of Comfort for myself."
Of what value are your ceaseless reckonings of your mind? Do you give comfort with the expectation of being comforted in return? Then you give comfort from an impure intention of your heart, and leave your heart and soul vulnerable to human hurt.
Who was there in My earthly life to truly comfort Me, the Only-Begotten Son of God? My Immaculate Mother and blessed and holy foster father. As I began My public ministry, By Beloved Mother was able to comfort Me by Her prayers and obedience to the Will of the Triune Divinity. Of all my apostles it was St. John who so comforted My Pure and Sacred Heart, for John was pure of heart and he above all the others knew how to comfort because he knew how to love. In time all the other apostles and disciples rose to this spiritual level, but first they had to undergo many trials which purified them from all earthly expectations.
Now, in your life you must believe that you do not travel the road alone. I Am with you. I am Comfort. If you have Me, then you are able to truly Comfort the Sorrowful.
To what degree must you comfort and to whom do you seek to give Comfort?
My children, I solemnly tell you that there is no limit, no end to the Comfort you must give - for it is to begin with life and ends only when I call you home to Me. And to whom? First, you seek to Comfort Me, for in exchange I give you the Love and Strength to Comfort. Then your duty is first to your immediate family, be you a consecrated religious or in the married or single state. This duty to comfort must then go beyond the limits of family and be given in your parish family, your community, the place where you work, wherever you travel, and even those places where you recreate.
So attuned must you be to doing My Will and imitating Me, that you search for and anticipate every opportunity to fulfill this most important Spiritual Work of Mercy - To Comfort the Sorrowful. Until the End of All Time the sorrowful will be with you.
What does it mean then to Comfort the Sorrowful? It is Love and Hope together, My children. Love and Hope in Me intertwined as a Spiritual rope which is united to Me - Jesus Christ, Savior and God.
Comforting those who sorrow is attentiveness of soul that sees the smallest need of a person and rushes to that person’s aide.
It is the gentle, loving hand that cares for the infant, whose demands are many throughout each day. It is the attentiveness to the child who falls and scrapes his knee; It is being there to wipe away tears, a shoulder for a child to weep upon. It is the spoken word of encouragement whereby the child does not cease growing, but continues to grow, only stronger and surer.
And when I speak of the ‘child’, consider this:: "Are all of you, no matter your age, but a child of Mine? Does this then not mean that you are to comfort in like manner your children as they mature? Are you to cease comforting spouse, your aging mother and father, your own brothers and sisters? Do you neglect those with whom you work, pray, recreate?
O! How My Sacred Heart sorrows because I see your distress and wish to Comfort through each of you, My children! I send down torrents of immeasurable grace, but My graces are lost because you do not seize them, nor do you recognize them.
Every person in need of comfort must, above all else, receive your heartfelt prayers. And this means to pray ceaselessly—to become a living prayer. Then, in each circumstance by and through your prayer The Holy Spirit guides you in Comforting. Words are often important to those who sorrow, but those words must issue forth from the Holy Spirit so that the Spiritual rope of Love and Hope is extended to soul and heart. But mere words are often not sufficient. As I created you to be, so you who are My children must never hesitate to touch in chaste love he who sorrows. A hand laid upon a feverish brow; the gentle arm of strength around the shoulder, an ear that truly listens and is not impatient or unkind.
Now, there is another point I wish you to understand concerning this Spiritual Work of Mercy!
You must be in union with Me, you must seek and rely upon the Holy Spirit as your sure guide when you Comfort the Sorrowful, for there is a danger to the Comforter and the Sorrowful to let satan use sorrow to paralyze and drain My Life from your soul.
Thus, in all circumstances you must, if you are Mine, Comfort the Sorrowing person. However, guided by the Holy Spirit, you come to that sublime spiritual understanding when you know in your heart you, as My instrument, have done all that is within your power to do, and with faith, hope, love and trust, you commend the inconsolable person to Me, and ceaselessly pray for this person, who is bereft of My Peace.
To Comfort the Sorrowful is never to lose My Peace, but to seek to give My Peace to others. If you lose My Peace, then you must stop and pray so that you will understand that the loss of My Peace has come from an impure intent of your heart, or if the blockage of the evil one will not allow My Light to penetrate to the soul of the sorrowing one.
If your intent has not arisen from a pure intention then you must seek forgiveness and purify your intention. If the evil one has thwarted all your efforts, then you must commend all to Me, and retain your inner Peace.
I ask all to meditate on these words so that you will draw closer to Me, and many souls will be saved, for I tell you again: I Come! Prepare well, little children, through these Spiritual Works of Mercy, for they are the very same works I showed to you in My earthly life.
Come then and live as I have taught you, for I love and bless each of you. Peace, little children. Peace.
NEXT INSTALLMENT: Lesson/Meditation #81:BEAR ALL WRONGS PATIENTLY
The formal recognition of a life of "heroic virtue" completes the first major step in the progress of a case for beatification; after that decree is published, the approval of a miracle paves the way for the Pope to approve and schedule the beatification. The recognition of a martyr's death, on the other hand, opens the route to beatification directly.
The list of decrees published today covers a number of priests, nuns, and religious brothers, from Italy, France, Spain, Poland, Ukraine, Austria, and Brazil. A martyr's death was proclaimed for Sister Maria Restituta-- born Helene Kafka-- who was killed by Nazis in 1943 and will be beatified by Pope John Paul II during his June trip to Austria.
Father Alberto Barrios, OFM, told the Vatican news agency Fides that the Franciscan monastery of St. Dominic at Guanabacoa, near Havana, had produced 300 copies of the addresses, but found that number "absolutely insufficient" to cover the demand in a town of 37,000 people; "they disappeared before my eyes," he reported.
The collection of the Pope's public talks "could change our society," Father Barrios said. He reported that teachers have read the talks to students in schools, while in universities they have become the subjects for seminar discussions, and hospitals have also put together discussion groups for medical personnel. "To hear the word 'freedom' said with such spontaneity, to hear the proclamation of Jesus Christ in the streets-- it is something which has changed us," he said.
The survey of the level of confidence in public institutions in 21 Hispanic countries -- including Spain and Portugal and those in Latin America -- was carried out early this year by Spanish scholar Tomas Calvo Buezas, a professor at Madrid's Complutense University, sponsored by UNESCO.
According to the poll, 44% of Spanish teenagers between 13 and 19 years old don't trust any institution, while 40% trust in the Catholic Church, followed by the police (21%). In Latin America, the Catholic Church tops the ranking of confidence with 67%. The second largest group are those who don't trust any institution. In Latin America, the lowest ranking goes to the legislative bodies, political parties, and trade unions.
The poll, carried out among 44,000 students in 21 countries, also revealed that 40% of the youth would not vote for any political party or candidate in their own country, and no political figure appears among the most admired personalities. In Spain, the most admired person is Mother Teresa of Calcutta, followed by Pope John Paul II, while in Latin America the two Catholic figures switch places: the Holy Father is the most popular personality, closely followed by the late nun.
"The poll strongly questions the stereotype of youth being against institutions organized by dogmas or strong principles," Calvo said. "It is clear that a demanding life has still an appeal for youth." The number of young Hispanics who show confidence in the Catholic Church even "largely exceeds the 34% that are actually practicing Catholics," he added. Calvo was especially surprised by the fact that in Spain, 40% of the youth believe the army deserves their confidence, while 40% of Spanish youth oppose military service.
Father Gruner was ordained to the priesthood-- not suspended from priestly duties-- in 1976. He was threatened with suspension by the Diocese of Avellino in May 1995, when he failed to obey an order to return to that diocese after an approved absence of many years. Father Gruner has appealed that suspension, and under canon law the suspension does not officially take effect while the appeal is in process.
Supporters of Father Gruner charge that the order to return to Avellino was the result of intense lobbying by "Vatican bureaucrats" who have consistently opposed his Fatima crusades. In 1992 the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy took the unusual step of announcing that these Fatima conferences were undertaken without ecclesial approval.