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The Year of St. Paul

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VATICAN CITY, 28 JUN 2009 (VIS) - This evening in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the Holy Father presided at first Vespers for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles. The ceremony, which officially closed the Pauline Year, was also attended by a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, headed by His Eminence Emmanuel, metropolitan of France.

Benedict XVI, standing before the sarcophagus of the Apostle Paul which lies under the main altar, recalled how a recent scientific analysis of the tomb had revealed the presence of a costly purple linen fabric, grains of incense and bone fragments which a carbon-14 test has dated to the first or second centuries. "This", he said, "seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul, and it fills our heart with profound emotion".

Paul, said the Holy Father, remains the "'Master of the Gentiles' who wished to carry the message of the risen Christ to all men and women, because Christ has known and loved them all, He died and rose again for them all". In his Letter to the Romans the Apostle makes it clear "that with Christ a new way of venerating God, a new form of worship, has begun. ... It is no longer things that are offered to God, it is our very lives that must become praise of God".

This Letter uses two decisive words, "transformation and renewal", said the Pope and he went on: "We must become new men and new women, transformed in a new way of existence. The world is always seeking novelty because, quite rightly, it is always discontented with concrete reality. Paul tells us that the world cannot be renewed without new men and women. ... The Apostle exhorts us to non-conformity. In this Letter he tells us not to succumb to the blueprint of the current age".

Paul explains this process more clearly "saying that we become new if we transform our way of thinking" and that "such renewal must be complete. ... The mind of old man, the common way of thinking, generally aims at possession, wellbeing, influence, success, fame and so on. But this has too limited a scope; in the final analysis, it is the 'self' that remains at the centre of the world. We must learn to think more deeply, ... we must learn to understand God's will so that it moulds our own will, so that we ourselves want what God wants, so that we recognise that what God wants is beautiful and good".

In his Letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle says that "with Christ we must reach adulthood, mature humanity. ... Paul wants Christians to have 'responsible' faith, 'adult' faith. The phrase 'adult faith' has become a common slogan over recent decades. It is often understood as the attitude of those who no longer listen to the Church and her pastors, but autonomously choose what they wish to believe and not to believe: a sort of 'do-it-yourself' faith. This is also presented as the 'courage' to go against the Magisterium of the Church. The truth, however, is that it requires no courage because one is always certain of garnering public sympathy.

"What does require courage", he added, "is to adhere to the faith of the Church even if this contradicts the blueprint of the modern world. It is the 'non-conformity' of faith that Paul calls 'adult faith'. What he considers childlike is to charge after all the winds and currents of the age".

The Holy Father went on: "Part of adult faith, for example, is commitment to the inviolability of human life from the very first moment, thus radically opposing the principle of violence by defending the most helpless human creatures. Part of adult faith is recognising lifelong marriage between a man and a woman, as ordained by God and re-established by Christ. Adult faith does not allow itself to be blown here and there by the slightest breeze".

"Yet Paul does not limit himself to mere negation, he leads us on to the great 'yes'. ... The new way of thinking that faith has given us is primarily directed towards truth. The power of evil is falsehood. The power of faith, the power of God, is truth. ... God makes Himself visible to us in the face of Jesus Christ. And looking at Christ we recognise another thing: that truth and charity are inseparable".

"The Apostle tells us that, by working according to truth in charity, we contribute to ensuring that everything - the universe - develops towards Christ. On the basis of his faith, Paul is not simply concerned for our personal rectitude or for the growth of the Church. ... The ultimate goal of Christ's work is the universe, the transformation of the universe, of the entire human world, of all creation. Those who, together with Christ, serve the truth in charity contribute to the true progress of the world".

Finally, Benedict XVI recalled how in the Letter to the Ephesians the Apostle speaks of the need to strengthen "'inner being'. ... The inner vacuum - the weakness of inner being - is one of the great problems of our age", he said. "Inner life must be strengthened: the perception of the heart, the capacity to see and understand the world and mankind from within, with the heart. We need a reason illuminated by the heart so as to learn to act according to the truth in charity".


VATICAN CITY, 28 JUN 2008 (VIS) - At 6 p.m. today in the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, Benedict XVI presided at the celebration of first Vespers for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul Apostles, which also marked the opening of the Pauline Year. Among those participating in the ceremony were the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and representatives from other Churches and Christian communities.

The Holy Father, Bartholomew I, delegates from other Christian confessions, and monks from the abbey of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls walked in procession to the portico of the basilica where, before the statue of the saint, the Pope lit a candle from a brazier which will remain burning for the entire Pauline year. After the Pope the ecumenical patriarch and the representative of the primate of the Anglican communion also lit candles. The procession then entered the basilica through the Pauline Door.

"We are gathered around the tomb of St. Paul, who was born 2000 years ago in Tarsus in Cilicia, in modern-day Turkey", said the Pope in his homily. "For us, Paul is not a figure of the past whom we recall with veneration. He is also our master, the Apostle and announcer of Jesus Christ to us too. Hence we are gathered here not to reflect upon a past history which has been left irrevocably behind. Paul wishes to speak to us today". Thus, the Pope explained, the Pauline Year serves "to listen to him and to learn from him, as from a master, the faith and the truth in which the reasons for the unity of Christ's disciples are rooted".

"It is of great joy to me", said the Holy Father, "that the opening of the Pauline year should have a particularly ecumenical character, thanks to the presence of many delegates and representatives of Churches and ecclesial communities, whom I welcome with all my heart". They include "the Patriarch Bartholomew I, ... fraternal delegates of Churches that have especially close ties to the Apostle Paul (Jerusalem, Antioch, Cyprus, Greece) and that form the geographical setting of the Apostle's life before his arrival in Rome, ... and brethren from various Churches and ecclesial communities of East and West".

"We are gathered here to ask ourselves about the great Apostle of the Gentiles. We ask ourselves not just who Paul was, but above all who he is. ... His faith was the experience of being loved by Jesus Christ with an entirely personal love; it was an awareness of the fact that Christ faced death not for some unidentified cause, but for love of him - of Paul - and that, being Risen, He loves him still. Christ gave Himself for him. ... His faith was not a theory, an opinion on God and on the world, His faith was the impact of God's love on his heart. And so this faith was love for Jesus Christ".

The Holy Father then recalled how many people see Paul as "combative" noting that, "in fact, there was no lack of disputes on the Apostle's path. He did not seek superficial harmony. ... The truth was too great for him to be disposed to sacrifice it in the name of exterior success. The truth he experienced in his encounter with the Risen One was, for him, well worth struggle, persecution and suffering. But his deepest motivations were the fact that he was loved by Jesus Christ and his desire to transmit this love to others. ... Only on this basis can the fundamental concepts of his message be understood".

Focusing then on one of Paul's "keywords: freedom", the Pope explained that "Paul, as a man loved by God, was free. ... This love was the 'law' of his life and, thus, it was the freedom of his life". Paul "spoke and acted moved by the responsibility of love. Freedom and responsibility are inseparably united. ... Those who love Christ as Paul loved Him can truly do as they please, because their love is united to the will of Christ and thus to the will of God; because their will is anchored in truth and because their will is not simply their own will - the decisions of an autonomous 'I' - but is integrated into the freedom of God".

The Pope then went on to consider Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus, when the Risen Christ proclaimed "I am Jesus Whom you are persecuting". By "persecuting the Church", said Benedict XVI, "Paul was persecuting Jesus" Who "identifies Himself with the Church as one single subject". This exclamation which transformed Saul's life "contains the entire doctrine of the Church as the Body of Christ. Christ has not withdrawn to heaven, leaving a group of followers on earth to pursue 'His cause'. the Church is not an association that seeks to promote a particular cause" but "the person of Jesus Christ Who, even when Risen remained as 'flesh'. ... He has a body. He is personally present in His Church".

"Through all this we glimpse the Eucharistic mystery, in which Christ continually gives His Body and makes us His Body", said the Pope and, noting with regret the laceration of this Body, asked Christ to overcome all divisions so that union "may once again become reality".

Finally, the Holy Father recalled Paul's words to Timothy shortly before his heath: "Join with me in suffering for the Gospel". The Pope went on to note that the "duty of announcement and the call to suffer for Christ are inseparable. ... In a world where lies are so powerful, truth is paid with suffering. Those who wish to avoid suffering, to keep it away, keep away life itself and its greatness; they cannot be servants of truth or servants of the faith. ... Where there is nothing worth suffering for, life itself loses value. The Eucharist - the focus of our being Christian - is founded on Jesus' sacrifice for us, it was born of the suffering of love".

"It is of this self-giving love that we live. It gives us the courage and the strength to suffer with Christ and for Him in this world, knowing that this is the way our lives become great, and mature, and true".

Running the Race with St. Paul
By Mary Jo Hitz

On June 29th, we celebrated the Solemnities of Sts. Peter and Paul. Also on that date, Pope Benedict celebrated the beginning of the Year of St. Paul. He dedicated this year to St. Paul as this is the 2000th Anniversary of his birth. During this year, the Holy Father encourages us to study the life of St. Paul, his writings and to know Christ through him.

Paul’s life encompassed three cultures. He came from a traditional Jewish background, was educated in Greek culture and language and he had the privilege of being a Roman citizen. Perhaps this is one reason that Paul is a larger than life figure.

One of the goals that the parish staff chose this year is zeal for the faith like St. Paul. What is zeal? It is a word that is not used very often in our society. Webster’s Dictionary gives the definition as ardent interest in a particular area or topic. Another word that is given for zeal is passion. Paul was definitely a passionate individual. Whatever he did he accomplished it with energy and conviction.

Do we have energy, passion and conviction for our faith? Paul told the Christians at Corinth, “at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers, in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure” (2 Cor 11:24-27).
As we can see, Paul’s life contained many physical hardships and threats. Perhaps our lives do not contain the physical difficulties that St. Paul endured, but evil still invades our world and presents us with hazards just as great as Paul suffered.

We live in a world where there is hostility to faith in Jesus Christ. Religion is sometimes criticized if not ridiculed. People who live by faith and morals are considered out-of-touch by some in today’s society. We live in a culture of death with our reliance on abortion, artificial contraception and an unjust death penalty. Euthanasia continues to be promoted. The sanctity of marriage is under attack through readily available divorces, cohabitation and same sex marriages. Drugs, alcohol and pornography are threats to all levels of society. Purity of body, mind and spirit is considered out-of-date and old-fashioned.

The Holy Father encourages us to embrace our Catholic Faith like St. Paul did. St. Paul is called the 13th Apostle. Apostle means one who is sent. Paul believed that Jesus Christ was Lord of all people and he journeyed throughout the known world at that time to bring that word to everyone. Pope Benedict is not calling us to make worldwide journeys to spread the faith, but to live it in our daily lives by seeking deeper conversion and holiness.

Paul’s writings include many images. One that we often hear is “running the race”. The Spiritual Life Commission and the Liturgy Committee have adopted this image to help us celebrate this Year of Paul.

During the Olympics we saw many athletes running races. It took intense training, great determination and absolute focus for them to participate and for a few to achieve the ultimate goal of winning a gold medal. Their achievement was not obtained without pain and sacrifice.

This is the resolve that we are called to develop during this Year of St. Paul. We need to ask ourselves, “How will I run the race this week so as to draw nearer to Christ?” We need to challenge ourselves on a regular basis. Our Holy Father instructs us, “…what counts is to place Jesus Christ at the center of our lives, so that our identity is marked essentially by the encounter, by communion with Christ and with his Word.”

What are ways in which we grow in our spirituality? The first is our participation in the Holy Eucharist. Paul had a deep love for the Eucharist. In Eucharist, we join with our God. We are changed by our union with Him. Another way is to spend time in the adoration chapel, especially as a family. Family unity in prayer is a wonderful quality to be developed and enjoyed. Prayer at anytime is a strong defense against the daily assaults of evil. We have ample opportunities for prayer each day; praying before meals, before we leave our homes in the mornings, prayer before bedtime. The Sacrament of Reconciliation provides a sound foundation for growth in holiness. We are especially encouraged to study the scriptures of Paul this year. Thirteen of the 27 documents in the New Testament are attributed to St. Paul.

St. Paul is traditionally shown with a sword and an open book. These symbols remind us not only of his courageous work in planting churches, but also his invaluable role in providing “the Church with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17). We need St. Paul today because the spiritual battle of good and evil rages on.
St. Paul, pray for us.