Pope Calls Seminarians, Cardinals, Faithful to 'Christian Non-Conformism'
answer the summons to shed my blood in grave matters? Do I speak of the Gospel full and entire, with joy and conviction, even to those who appear to be indifferent or hostile? Do I defend the Church when she is maligned or attacked, or when her proper liberties are threatened?"
"Do I stand fast with those around the world persecuted and even martyred for their faith, raising my voice in solidarity with them? Do I do my utmost, with the help of God's grace, to live the virtues, especially those of humility and charity? Do I fight the daily battle to make room for God, in time set aside for prayer, the sacraments and works of service to others, especially those in need? Might I invite you to ask those same questions?"
The media in the United States falsely portrays the US Administrations' effort to compel the Catholic Church to apostatize as a battle over "contraception" rather than what it truly is -- a denial of the fundamental right to Religious Freedom. The sobering words of the Successor of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI, that he spoke to the future priests and the new Cardinals, echo for all of us to hear and reflect upon as well. The culture we are called to engage is not friendly turf.
However, we need to remember it has never been. One of the oldest post New Testament writings we have is called the Letter to Diognetus. It was written to an early inquirer to the Christian faith at the beginning of the Second Century. The challenges then were not all that different. Here are but a few excerpts for our reflection:
"Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign."
"And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. "
"They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again.To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world."
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Apostasy, Religious liberty, Cardinals, Pope Benedict XI, Christian Non-Conformism, Seminarians, Cardinal Dolan, Deacon Keith Fournier
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