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Pope Calls Seminarians, Cardinals, Faithful to 'Christian Non-Conformism'

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To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body

These words will be said to each new Cardinal: "To the praise of God, and the honor of the Apostolic See receive the red biretta, the sign of the cardinal's dignity; and know that you must be willing to conduct yourselves with fortitude even to the shedding of your blood: for the growth of the Christian faith, the peace and tranquility of the People of God, and the freedom and spread of the Holy Roman Church".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.The culture we are called to engage is not friendly turf.

ROME, Italy (Catholic Online) - On Wednesday, February 15, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Pontifical Major Seminary in Rome. He made comments called "off the cuff" by some in the Press. However, observers of this Pope know that these remarks were deliberate. They reflected his deeply held convictions concerning the challenge which the Church faces in a Western culture which has attempted to evict God.

The Holy Father read the first two verses of the twelfth chapter St. Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome, "I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect."

Referring to the Church of the seminarians as "the Church of the future, the Church which lives forever" Benedict the Teacher gave a twenty minute exposition of St. Paul's instruction, calling the young men to "Christian non-conformism." He explained that "this does not mean that Christians flee from the world but on the contrary, that they let themselves be transformed by their faith in order thereby to transform the world."

He reminded those studying for the priesthood of two different ways in which the term translated "the world" is used in Sacred Scripture. He noted that the word "world" has two different meanings: creation, loved by God to the point that He gave Himself for its salvation; but also the world represented by the powers of evil that reflect original sin. This "world" is a system which has all too often ejected God. He warned the future priests of two aspects often captive to this world, the world of finance and the world of the media.

Though both in themselves are "useful and good" they are, in the Pope's words "so easy to abuse that they often become the contrary of their true intentions." He challenged the future priests to not conform themselves to this age or this world, in the sense of submission to falsehood, "We do not want always to be praised, we do not want appearances - but the truth." Because, he concluded, "this alone gives us true freedom from the need to please or to speak as the mass thinks."

On February 18, 2012, the consistory - wherein twenty-two Churchmen will be made Cardinals - will begin. They will also be called to a "Christian non-conformism" even to the point of shedding their blood for the ancient yet ever new faith.

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These words will be said to each new Cardinal, "To the praise of God, and the honor of the Apostolic See receive the red biretta, the sign of the cardinal's dignity; and know that you must be willing to conduct yourselves with fortitude even to the shedding of your blood: for the growth of the Christian faith, the peace and tranquility of the People of God, and the freedom and spread of the Holy Roman Church."

It is interesting to note that the rings given to those who will join the Senate of advisors to the Pope, the ones who will gather when the need arises to vote for his successor, is different this year.  It has been cast with the images of the martyrs of Rome, Saints Peter and Paul. This call to martyrdom reflects the sober tone in which the consistory is set.

In reflecting upon his own selection, Cardinal -designate Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, in an article for the Catholic New York wrote these words, "When the Holy Father presents the "red hat" to the new cardinals, he will ask us to accept it as a sign of our readiness to shed our blood for the strengthening of the faith, the peace and tranquility of the people of God, and the liberty and growth of the Church. Get it? Blood! Red!"

"Would you pray for me that I might do as I am asked? That I will be a courageous preacher of the
Gospel, and defender of human dignity, the Church and our cherished religious freedom? I need more than your prayers though. I need your joyful witness, your solidarity. Just as the whole community shares in this honor, so too do we all share in the responsibility. If all this only means that I now dress up in a red cassock and red hat, we will have missed the whole point."

"Are you ready to shed your blood? Every Christian disciple should aspire to be brave enough to do so. Please God, the day of shedding one's blood for the faith will not come to New York, but the cardinalatial red should invite everyone to ask some questions and examine our consciences. As Blessed John Paul II observed, "If something is not worth dying for, it's not worth living for." God, family, faith, freedom, one's country, friends, honor, virtue, life itself, the Church -- all worth dying for . . . all worth living for!"

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"For my part, I have to ask myself: Where do I show steadfastness now? If I can't be courageous now in small things, how might I be ready to 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. "

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"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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