Photo: Joseph Romagnano
When in Rome ...
Pope John Paul II — the man who told the Marians to "be Apostles of The Divine Mercy under the maternal and loving guidance of Mary" — is to be beatified Sunday in Rome. To celebrate this historic moment, the Marians and staff members are sending us dispatches from Rome in the form of reflections, photos, and videos. The Marians are leading two beatification pilgrimages.
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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27
Pope Benedict XVI's General Audience
'Faith in the Risen Christ Transforms Our Lives'
By Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC
Being at St. Peter's Square under the blue sky of the midmorning sun with the majestic Basilica as the backdrop and the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI speaking and extending his hands in welcome from under the canopy to the thousands of enthusiastic pilgrims, was truly a sight to behold. Yet it was not the pageantry of the visual beauty that captured my heart, but the reflection of the Holy Father in the Wednesday General Audience.
The Holy Father spoke of the joy that the liturgical celebrations of the Easter brings. The liturgical celebrations of Christ's death and resurrection are "not mere commemorations of these events, they are its actualization. For "faith in the risen Christ transforms our lives." That transforming power of Christ's life is described by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth" (Eph 5, 8-9).
The Holy Father asked: How can we make Easter our life? How can our inner and outer existence assume an Easter "form"? We must start by understanding the true nature of the resurrection of Jesus. He said: "This event is not simply a return to a previous life, as it was for Lazarus and Jairus' daughter or the young man of Nain, but it is something completely new and different. The resurrection of Christ is the port to a life no longer subject to the lapsing of time, a life immersed in God's eternity." In the resurrection of Jesus we are ushered into a new condition that enlightens and transforms our human nature and opens a new and qualitatively different future for all humanity.
But with this gift of Christ's transforming life comes responsibility: "If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth" (Col 3:1-3).
As Christ's faithful shepherd and teacher, the Pope Benedict XVI wants all of Christ's followers to seek what is above and avoid all that is of earth. Quoting St. Paul, he says: "put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry" (Col 3:5-6). He exhorts all to "die to the insatiable desire for material goods, selfishness — the root of all sin. " For as "God's chosen ones, holy and beloved put on, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another (...) And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection" (Col 3.12 to 14).
Pope Benedict states that St. Paul is "not inviting the Christians to escape from the world in which God has placed us", but as citizens of our true home "by our participation in the life of the Risen Christ" who "continue to live in the heart of the earthly city" we must keep our eyes set on the things of above. And in this way with Christ's power we will not only "transform ourselves, but transform the world. We will give the earthly city a new face that "encourages the development of every person and society according to the logic of solidarity, goodness, deep respect for the dignity of all." Charity in faith and hope is the "great rule of Christian life and define their deep nature.
"Easter, therefore — in the words of the Holy Father — brings news of a passage from a deep and total life subject to the slavery of sin to a life of freedom, inspired by love, a force that breaks down barriers and builds a new harmony in human hearts and in their relationship with others." Summarizing his reflection, the Holy Father tells us: "The light of Christ's resurrection must penetrate our world, must come as a message of truth and life to all people through our daily witness."
These words of the Holy Father stayed on in my heart throughout the remaining part of the day, increased my confidence in God's plans for my life and deepened my gratitude to our Loving Savior.
Father Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, is director of Evangelization and Development for the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. He lives in Stockbridge, Mass., home of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy and the Marian Helpers Center.
View our video from the General Audience.
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THURSDAY, APRIL 28
The Last Thursday Mass at John Paul II Tomb
With a New Beginning, a Tradition Ends
By Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC
After John Paul II passed away on April 2, 2005, the Polish priests and religious residing in Rome began a tradition of celebrating a Holy Mass every Thursday near His tomb.
John Paul II's tomb was located in the crypt area of St. Peter's Basilica nearest to the tomb of St. Peter. It was in this chapel facing St. Peter's tomb that the faithful gathered to honor their beloved Holy Father, remembering his life and teaching, praying for his beatification and seeking his intercession.
Today, April 28, 2011 was the last Thursday Mass celebrated at that location before his body is transferred into the main Basilica. It will no longer be possible to continue this tradition. All in attendance realized the historicity of this moment.
Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, Archbishop of Warsaw, who presided in this Liturgy summarized the importance of this Mass for the many pilgrims who wished to spend precious moments with this faithful Shepherd and friend and to unite their hearts with him in the Eucharistic Liturgy. Cardinal Nycz recalled John Paul's Pontificate filled with tender care for all human beings, especially those who suffer in any way. He also shared the great trust that John Paul II placed in God's mercy and how he wished all to do so. His beatification on Divine Mercy Sunday is God's special gift for John Paul II, for the Church and for all who share in His mission of mercy for the good of humanity.
Concelebrating with Cardinal Nycz were, among others, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, STD, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, another brother Bishop and almost a hundred priests. There were numerous women and men religious and hundreds of lay people present as pilgrims on this special day. Members of the media were also present to record this historic event.
Even though I had the privilege of concelebrating several of these Thursday Masses in the past six years, this was both a very special Mass and a bittersweet experience for me. It was sad because John Paul II's tomb was so close to St. Peter, and I always put St. Peter and his successor John Paul together — as they both were chosen by Christ to shepherd and guide the Church in His name. I also liked the simplicity of John Paul's tomb with plain marble slab and the bas-relief of Our Lady holding the Child Jesus and guarding with her maternal care her Son, who surrendered Himself completely to her, Totus Tuus. This tomb meant so much to me personally. Its elegant simplicity always inspired me and drew my heart to contemplation of his dedication, fidelity, love and mission.
I will miss this tomb, but I wait in joyful anticipation to see his new location, which will enable millions of people to easily see and spend time with him in prayer and seek his intercession.