God is calling every one of you. In one sentence, this is the story of our lives. Jesus has saved us. Once, for all; there are no excuses, there is no turning back. We can be free from our sins, free from our past, open to the infinite possibilities of a future lived for God and with God. The choice is ours. God calls us simply because he loves us, because he has his own design, a plan of grace that he established in Jesus Christ from before time began.
Again, we hear the amazing truth: before the dawn of creation, God had a plan for our lives. Jesus died to make us holy, and he calls us with a holy calling, inviting us to share in his own holiness. I want to repeat something I said in my first pastoral letter. And it is true today.
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This is so vital to understand. Holiness — to be saints — is the summary, the goal and meaning of our lives. My prayer is that all of us in the Church will dedicate ourselves once again to making holiness the goal of everything we do in the Church. Let us examine our ministries and apostolates, all our efforts in our parishes and schools. Let us seek creative and bold new ways to make the call to holiness and the work of sanctification a basic aspect of all our preaching, religious education and pastoral care.
I know that holiness can seem like all too much for us. We feel we are not good enough, not strong enough. This is true, of course — for me as much as it is for you. It is true about everyone! No one knows better than we do how inadequate we feel, our limitations and weaknesses. Surely, God cannot have such high expectations for us.
Surely, holiness must be only for a select few. If we are all sinners, how can God expect us all to become saints? My brothers and sisters, I urge you: Do not be afraid of holiness! God knows everything about us. And he calls us anyway. This is the mystery of his plan of love. And God will never ask for more than you can handle. He will stretch us, he will call us to great things, he will discipline us in love, but he will always give us the grace we need to accomplish what he is asking us to do.
Open your little heart: Our lives will be judged by our love. So what is this perfection, what is holiness? Holiness is simply love, lived totally and completely. Holiness is the perfection of charity. The divine image is perfected in us through love. The saints call us to live by the love that we see in the heart of the Blessed Trinity — the love of the Father, the Son and the Spirit.
The spiritual master and doctor of the Church, St. Love is the path, then, that we are called to follow in this life. As the love of God is what gives us life, so his love should be the driving force for everything we do. Love — choosing to make a sincere gift of ourselves — is the fullest expression of human freedom. Walking the path of love is a journey of conversion. It is a daily struggle with our inclinations to selfishness.
We must work every day to purify our love from any self-interested motives. We want to love for the sake of love alone, without seeking anything for ourselves in return. And in the evening of our lives, we will be judged by our love. So on this earth we want to live for love.
We want to offer ourselves to God as St. In everything, our goal should be to bring ourselves and others to the love that never ends. So we want to put love into everything we do — all for the love of Jesus and all for the good of our neighbors! Nothing is little in the life of Jesus: We must live in imitation of Christ. In our love, as in everything else in life, Jesus Christ is our model. Jesus comes as the Holy One of God and he is the pattern for our holiness.
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Jesus calls us to learn from him and to make his life the way and the truth for our lives. We do this by trying to become more like him. We want to think as he thinks and act as he acts. We want to listen to his words in the Gospel and live by these words — and according to the example we find in the pages of his life. Jesus, Jesus, always be to me my Jesus: We need a plan for our lives.
We should live with a purpose. We make progress through good habits. So I want to recommend several habits that can help us to grow in our relationship with Christ and deepen our sense of connection to his plan for our lives. The saints and spiritual masters recommend these simple practices and I can say that I have found them to be fruitful in my own spiritual life.
We need to begin and end each day by making contact with God in simple prayer. Offer your day to God in the morning and review your day with God in the evening. Remember, prayer is just a conversation with God. Step away for a few minutes from your ordinary duties to be alone and quiet with the Lord.
Raise your heart and mind to God and just talk to him in honesty and simplicity and open your heart to listen for his voice. Tell your Father what you are anxious about, what you want to do for him; talk to him about areas of your life you want to improve. Tell him you love him and you want to love him more.
However you pray, the point is to bring yourself into the presence of the living God, in an attitude of humility, love and worship — knowing his nearness, knowing he is present, walking with us. And we can repeat his name over and over throughout the course of our day. As a third practice, I recommend that you read a passage from the Gospels every day — prayerfully and personally, using the ancient technique of lectio divina.
Ask Jesus to open his Word for you. What are you asking me to do? I cannot emphasize this enough: Learn to love spending time with Jesus in the reading of Sacred Scripture! To imitate Christ we need to know him. And we can only come to know him by reading his teachings and reflecting on his life in the Gospels. Lectio divina , the prayerful reading of the Gospels, is the way of the saints! Make it your way! In this way, come to think, speak and act as Jesus would, and not by the examples and modes of the world, whose practices we quickly fall back into if we take our eyes away from our Divine Model.
The fourth practice I recommend is to meet Christ as often as you can in the Eucharist and to find opportunities to pray and adore him in the Blessed Sacrament. In my own life, I can say that I truly began to grow in my relationship with God when I started going to Mass on weekdays, in addition to going on Sundays.
I was a teenager and I began going to Mass daily, following the example of my father. It was all natural and beautiful and this friendship with God continues to grow deeper every day. So I highly recommend daily Mass as a way for you to grow in holiness. A fifth practice is to make a daily examination of conscience and go to Confession regularly.
I can also point to this practice as helping me in my life. When I was a teenager in Mexico, it was common practice for us to go to Confession on Thursday evenings before First Friday devotions. I remember walking up the little hill to go to church with my friends and I remember how great we felt walking back home, the sense of liberation and peace — our sins were forgiven! It is one of the joys of my life to be able to bring that same sense of liberation and peace to others through my priestly ministry.
To be able to speak his word of pardon, to be able to grant forgiveness of sins in his name — there is no greater privilege I can imagine, no more beautiful and worthwhile way to spend my life. I thank God every day that he has called me to be his priest. Sixth and finally, we need to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy — seeking contact with our Lord through serving others, especially the poor, the lonely and the vulnerable. Love is the way we imitate Christ. We need to love others as Jesus loves them, beginning with the people who are closest to us, in our families, and moving outside ourselves to seek out the needy in our communities.
These practices will provide you with a good practical starting point for a coherent and beautiful way of life, and these practices will help you grow day by day into the image of Christ. I also urge you to root your Christian identity in the Beatitudes of Jesus and the theological and cardinal virtues. In our daily lives, we need to live intentionally according to the Beatitudes and cultivate good habits rooted in the virtues, trying to make little strides of progress every day.
Through the Beatitudes, Jesus shows us what we should desire and what we should be seeking in our lives — he calls us to be poor in spirit and pure in heart, to be meek and merciful and to mourn in solidarity with those who are sorrowful; he calls us to hunger and thirst for righteousness and to be peacemakers in our relationships and in our society. Through the virtues, Jesus directs our actions to what will truly make us happy and good people — he calls us to live with faith, hope and charity; he calls us to be prudent, just, temperate and courageous. The Beatitudes and virtues form a beautiful path for us to follow in our daily lives.
They reveal the face of Christ and they are the definition of the good life, the happiness that God intends for us. Your own cross behind the Savior: We must love as Jesus loved. Following Jesus, making him the model for our own holiness, we see the form that our life is called to take. It is the form of his own self-offering for us on the Cross. In the way of his Cross, we see the beauty of our humanity, what God desires for our lives.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life. Those last words are important. Paul taught us. What can we give back to God in exchange for the love of his only Son?
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We can offer him nothing less than our whole lives. In every martyr we see the beauty of a life offered totally to God — flesh and blood, body and soul — laid down for love of him, for love of the Church, and for love of humanity. In the martyrs we see the connection between the Cross and the Eucharist. I am always moved by the story of St. Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch. While he was being transported in a cage to Rome for his execution, he wrote a series of beautiful letters in which he described his death as a sacrificial offering to God.
He knew he was going to be fed to the lions. So let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ. No one writes this way about his death unless he has already been living his life this way. Ignatius thought of his body and blood — he thought of his whole life — as a Eucharist, an offering that he was making to God in thanksgiving and love. Priestly soul: We are made to worship, to glorify God by our lives. We are not all called to be martyrs. It is key to understanding how God wants us to live in the world, the purpose of our lives. What do priests do?
In the Bible, the priest is the mediator between God and his people. His primary work is leading worship, and in the Bible worship means offering sacrifice. And that is how the first Christians described their identity and mission. That we are made to serve God in love and sacrifice.
Then all your actions will take on a genuine supernatural meaning which will keep your whole life united to the source of all graces. The Eucharist is the source of all graces, and the Eucharist gives our lives supernatural meaning. In every Mass, we offer the good things of creation back to God — the fruits of the earth and the work of our own human hands. In imitation of Christ, and in union with him, we turn our lives into liturgy, a prayer, giving our lives back to him in love and thanksgiving for his gifts.
What we pray reflects what we believe and the form of our prayer is meant to shape the form of our lives. This is the truth of the Eucharist. As we participate in the Eucharist day in and day out, week in and week out, our lives are meant be changed. We are made to worship, and worship is meant to become our way of life. All our prayers, all the work we do in our ministries, all our loves in our families and marriages; our daily labor and even our time spent relaxing; whatever we are thinking or feeling, every word and deed — all of this is made for the altar!
All of this is made to be offered up as a spiritual sacrifice to God through Jesus Christ in the Eucharist! We thank him for the sheer fact of being alive — what St. Thomas Aquinas called beneficium creationis, the great gift of having been created. Thanksgiving is meant to become the reason and the way for our lives. It is a way of joy anticipated by the Psalmist, whose words seem to prepare us for the Eucharist:.
What shall I render to the Lord for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord … I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. Elizabeth of the Trinity, said that these words of St. These are the greater things that we are made for — the purpose, the meaning and the highest possibility for our lives! We are made to glorify God by our lives — by everything we say and do and by how we live out our days. All for Jesus!
All for the praise of his glory! Here I am Lord, I come to do your will: Jesus is calling you to follow him. We are made to share in his divine nature as his beloved children. We are made to be holy, to be saints. And Jesus is calling you, as he calls his disciples in every age — to follow him, to come and see.
He is calling you to find in him the meaning and destiny of your life — the way you are made to live, who you are made to be. Jesus is calling you now to follow in his footsteps, to live in imitation of his example. He is calling you now to share in his mission of love — to be merciful as our Father is merciful, to serve God in his creation and glorify him in our bodies, to lift up our hearts to the Father in thanksgiving and praise.
Jesus makes himself the new way for our lives. He walks with us, he wants to show us every day how to live. Our old life ends and our new life begins in following him. And with him all things are possible! Holiness is our adventure, our mission!
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Jesus promises us a life that is beautiful and blessed. And the saints testify that there is no limit to the holiness and beauty that we can know in following Christ. Seeking not what we want, but what he wants. With Jesus we find our lives in losing our lives for the sake of the love of God. In every situation, we want to offer ourselves to God. Am I not your mother? These are the greater things that we are born for! We are not consumers or workers, computing-machines or highly evolved organisms, the sum of our DNA.
We are not thrill-seekers or pleasure-seekers. This is our divine vocation. This is why we are born.
Our lives have a beautiful direction and purpose. And this is my prayer for every one of you, for the whole family of God in Los Angeles. I pray that we all come to a new awareness of our vocation to be holy, to be saints! Let every one of us in Los Angeles strive to become saints and strive to lead others to become saints, too!
My prayer is that through our words and actions, we will inspire the birth of a new Christian humanism. Only in God can the human person know completeness and joy. And only in God can our society establish justice and make peace. As I conclude this letter to you, it is Christmas.
Juan Diego. Some believe this is the only relic of the tilma in the world outside of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, where the original tilma is to be found. This relic is a national treasure, perhaps the greatest artifact of the history of the Americas. Every day, it is a moving reminder to me that we are all children of the Virgin of Tepeyac. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the soul of the peoples of the Americas. The Christian identity of the Americas — the spiritual foundation of our nations — finds its heart in her.
I am struck by how the Mother of Jesus chose to leave us this holy sign at the spiritual dawn of the Americas — the image of her tender and radiant face and her body borne by an angel emblazoned on this tilma. I believe she wanted to help us realize just what it means to be his beloved sons and daughters.
Are you not under my shadow and my gaze? Am I not the source of your joy? We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person. Call to Family, Community, and Participation In a global culture driven by excessive individualism, our tradition proclaims that the person is not only sacred but also social.
How we organize our society,in economics and politics, in law and policy,directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. The family is the central social institution that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. While our society often exalts individualism, the Catholic tradition teaches that human beings grow and achieve fulfillment in community.
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We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. Our Church teaches that the role of government and other institutions is to protect human life and human dignity and promote the common good. Rights and Responsibilities In a world where some speak mostly of "rights" and others mostly of "responsibilities," the Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met.
Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities,to one another, to our families, and to the larger society. While public debate in our nation is often divided between those who focus on personal responsibility and those who focus on social responsibilities, our tradition insists that both are necessary.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable In a world characterized by growing prosperity for some and pervasive poverty for others, Catholic teaching proclaims that a basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring.
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In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment Mt and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first. The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers In a marketplace where too often the quarterly bottom line takes precedence over the rights of workers, we believe that the economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God's creation.
If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected,the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organize and join unions, to private property, and to economic initiative. Respecting these rights promotes an economy that protects human life, defends human rights, and advances the well-being of all. Solidarity Our culture is tempted to turn inward, becoming indifferent and sometimes isolationist in the face of international responsibilities. Catholic social teaching proclaims that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, wherever they live.
We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. Learning to practice the virtue of solidarity means learning that "loving our neighbor" has global dimensions in an interdependent world. This virtue is described by John Paul II as "a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all" Sollicitudo Rei Socialis , no.
Care for God's Creation On a planet conflicted over environmental issues, the Catholic tradition insists that we show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God's creation.
This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored. This teaching is a complex and nuanced tradition with many other important elements. Principles like "subsidiarity" and the "common good" outline the advantages and limitations of markets, the responsibilities and limits of government, and the essential roles of voluntary associations. These and other key principles are outlined in greater detail in the Catechism and in the attached Report of the Content Subgroup see pp. These principles build on the foundation of Catholic social teaching: the dignity of human life.
This central Catholic principle requires that we measure every policy, every institution, and every action by whether it protects human life and enhances human dignity, especially for the poor and vulnerable. These moral values and others outlined in various papal and episcopal documents are part of a systematic moral framework and a precious intellectual heritage that we call Catholic social teaching. The Scriptures say, "Without a vision the people perish" Prv As Catholics, we have an inspiring vision in our social teaching. In a world that hungers for a sense of meaning and moral direction, this teaching offers ethical criteria for action.
In a society of rapid change and often confused moral values, this teaching offers consistent moral guidance for the future. For Catholics, this social teaching is a central part of our identity. There will be legitimate differences and debate over how these challenging moral principles are applied in concrete situations. Differing prudential judgments on specifics cannot be allowed, however, to obscure the need for every Catholic to know and apply these principles in family, economic, and community life.
The Educational Challenge. Catholic schools, religious education, adult education, and faith formation programs are vitally important for sharing the substance and values of Catholic social teaching. Just as the social teaching of the Church is integral to Catholic faith, the social justice dimensions of teaching are integral to Catholic education and catechesis.
They are an essential part of Catholic identity and formation. In offering these reflections, we want to encourage a fuller integration of the Church's social tradition into the mainstream of Catholic education and catechesis. We seek to encourage a more integral sharing of the substance of Catholic social teaching in Catholic education and catechesis at every level. The commitment to human life and dignity, to human rights and solidarity, is a calling all Catholic educators must share with their students.
It is not a vocation for a few religion teachers, but a challenge for every Catholic educator and catechist. The Church has the God-given mission and the unique capacity to call people to live with integrity, compassion, responsibility, and concern for others. Our seminaries, colleges, schools, and catechetical programs are called to share not just abstract principles but a moral framework for everyday action.
The Church's social teaching offers a guide for choices as parents, workers, consumers, and citizens. Therefore, we emphasize that the values of the Church's social teaching must not be treated as tangential or optional. They must be a core part of teaching and formation. Without our social teaching, schools, catechetical programs, and other formation programs would be offering an incomplete presentation of our Catholic tradition. This would fall short of our mission and would be a serious loss for those in our educational and catechetical programs. We strongly support new initiatives to integrate the social teachings of the Church more fully into educational and catechetical programs and institutions.
Many catechists and Catholic teachers do this every day by weaving these ideas into curricula and classrooms. They introduce their students to issues of social justice. They encourage service to those in need and reflect on the lessons learned in that service. Yet in too many schools and classrooms, these principles are often vaguely presented; the values are unclear; the lessons are unlearned.
We support the task force's clear call for new efforts to teach our social tradition and to link service and action, charity and justice. The report of the task force includes a series of recommendations for making the Church's social teaching more intentional and explicit in all areas of Catholic education and formation. Without summarizing the full agenda, we call attention to several recommendations which we believe deserve priority attention:. Elementary and Secondary Schools We strongly urge Catholic educators and administrators to create additional resources and programs that will address the lack of familiarity with Catholic social teaching among many faculty and students.
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