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Dear boys and girls,


     I wish everyone well, but I give my special greetings to you youth because you have a special place in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Who wished to remain with children and to talk to the young (read Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16). He addressed his call to the young particularly (read Matthew 19:21), and John, the youngest Apostle, was His favorite.          My last letter to you discussed three very important thoughts: Looking for Jesus, Loving Jesus, and Bearing witness to Jesus. The heart of my last letter urged you to look for Jesus, not in the world, but in the Word of God, that is, the Bible.
     In this letter, let us discuss the equally important thought of loving Jesus.
     Jesus is not an idea, a sentiment, or a memory. Jesus is a person! He is always alive and present with us. The first way that I urge you to love Jesus is in His Presence in the Eucharist. Yes, He is present in a sacrificial way in the Holy Mass, which renews the Sacrifice of the Cross. To go to Mass means to go to Calvary to meet Him, our Redeemer. He comes to us in Holy Communion and remains present in the Tabernacles of our churches, because He is our friend, He is the friend of all and He particularly wishes to be the friend and support in the journey of life of you children and young people, you who are in need of confidence and friendship.
      Jesus is also present in the Church by means of his priests. So, you can love Him in your priest.         
      Jesus is present in your family, too, in your parents and in those who love you. And so, you can also love Jesus in your family.
     Yet most especially, love Jesus in those who are suffering in any way, those who are suffering in their body, in their mind, and even suffering in their spirit. Therefore, let it be your Christian goal and commitment to love your neighbors, and to discover in them the Holy Face of Jesus Christ.
     In my next letter to you, we will talk about the third thought: Bearing witness to Jesus.   
God bless you.
Pope Saint John Paul II
November 8, 1978

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Dear boys and girls,

   Warmly I greet you and I wish to express the depth of my feelings for you. I also wish to express my hope for you—yes, my hope, because you are the promise of tomorrow. You are the hope of the Church and of the world. Whenever I think of you, I worry about your future, but I also trust who you will be when you are adults. Throughout your life, look for Jesus and love Jesus, as we have been discussing, but you must also bear witness to Jesus.

    Dear boys and girls, I tell you to bear witness to Jesus with your courageous faith and your innocence. It is useless to complain about the wickedness of our times. As Saint Paul wrote in Romans 12:21, we must “overcome evil by doing good.” The world esteems and respects the courage of ideas and the strength of virtues. Do not be afraid to refuse words, acts and attitudes which do not conform to Christian ideals. Be courageous in rejecting what destroys your innocence or wilts the freshness of your love for Christ.

    Look for Jesus, love Jesus, and bear witness to Jesus—this is your commitment; these are the instructions that I leave to you. By doing these three things, you will have real joy in your lives and you will also make the world better, which needs, above all, consistency with the message of the Gospel.

    This is what I wish for you from the bottom of my heart.
   Affectionately, I bless you, all your loved ones, and those people who are dedicated to your formation.

    Pope Saint John Paul II
    November 8, 1978

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Dear boys and girls,

   Your deep feelings about religion and morality, and your deep spiritual aspirations, give me joy and comfort. I wish to assure you that I follow your problems and your difficulties, I share your hopes, and I wish to accompany you on your spiritual journey.

   You young people are the hope of the Church and of the world. Do you feel this way, too? Do you feel truly and deeply that you are the hope and the joyful promise of tomorrow?       

   Certainly, to understand that you are young is not enough to give you the inner confidence that enables you to look to the future with calm certainty, and to see that you can change the world and build a society really worthy of man. To be young means keeping inside yourself an incessant newness of spirit, nourishing a continual quest for good, releasing an impulse to change always for the better, realizing a persevering determination of dedication.

    Who will make all this possible for us? Does man have within himself the strength to face with his own forces the snares of evil, selfishness and the disintegrating snares of (let us say it clearly) the “prince of this world,” who, first, is always active to give man a false sense of freedom, and then, through failure, to bring him to the abyss of despair?

   All of us - youth and adults - must have recourse to Christ who is eternally young, Christ who is the conqueror of every expression of death, Christ who rose again for ever, Christ who communicates in the Holy Spirit the continuous, irrepressible life of the Father. Yes, we must have recourse to Christ in order to discover and to ensure the hope of tomorrow, which you will build, but which is also potentially present today. 

                                         November 15, 1978

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Dear boys and girls,

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   Christ Jesus conquers all. He must. Whenever His grace defeats in us the forces of evil, He renews our youth, He widens the horizons of our hope, and He strengthens our confidence. Christ's victory in our hearts calls for the exercise of the virtue of fortitude, which is the third cardinal virtue.

  Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches us that this virtue - fortitude - enables us to face dangers, to bear adversity, to fight courageously, and to agere contra* for the ideals of justice, honesty, and peace. All of us feel attracted to this deeply, for our discipleship in the Lord Jesus Christ has two realities superimposed on each other, requiring us to bear on himself, which only happens in authentic love. This is what is demanded of us in order to move beyond all barriers of fear.

  You see, dear young people, to follow Christ, to build up the true man in yourselves and to strive to help others to do so, entails courageous resolutions, unshakable strength to put these resolutions into practice, and assisting others to do so, too. This will make it possible to unite your efforts, to deepen your mutual convictions, and to inspire one another with reciprocating, loving help.

  Entrust yourselves to the grace of the Lord who cries within us and for us: "Courage!"

  Victory over the world will be Christ's (read John 16:33). Take His side, and face with Him this battle of love, animated by invincible hope and courageous fortitude. You will not be alone; the Pope is with you. He loves you and blesses you.

Pope Saint John Paul II
November 15, 1978

*Agere contra is a Latin phrase that means "to act against," and it refers to acting against behaviors that are sinful, that are not life-giving, and that hold us back from the true freedom which God desires for us.

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Beloved children,

   You youth and adolescents, you who are so enthusiastic and so lively, you are a sign of joy and hope.

    You are a sign of joy, because where there are young people, adolescents and children, there is the guarantee of joy, since it is life in its most spontaneous and most exuberant bloom. You possess the joy of life abundantly and you bestow it generously on a world that is sometimes tired, discouraged, disheartened and disappointed.

    You are also a sign of hope. Adults—not only your parents, but also your teachers and anyone who helps your physical and intellectual growth and development—they see in you the capability of achieving goals that they have not been able to achieve (perhaps because of various circumstances).

    Therefore, a young person without joy and without hope is not a real young person, but someone who has dried up and aged prematurely. For this reason the Pope says to you: Bring, share, and radiate joy and hope!

Pope Saint John Paul II
November 22, 1978

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Dear young friends,

   All that I can say to you is summed up in the words: Get to know Christ and make yourselves known to Him.
   He knows each one of you in a particular way. His knowledge of you should not be frightening. He makes no guesses about you. His knowledge is not a science that hypothesizes about you or objectifies you or strips you of dignity. You do not need to protect the secrets of your heart. On the contrary, the knowledge of Christ is full of the simple truth about humanity and, above all, it is full of love. Surrender yourself to this simple and loving knowledge of the Good Shepherd. Be certain that He knows you more than you know yourself. He knows you because He has laid down His life for you (read John 15:13).
   Allow Him to find you. Sometimes, you, a human being, a young person, you get lost in yourself, in the world about you, and in all the webs of human affairs  that wrap around you. Allow Christ to find you. Let Him know all about you. Let Him guide you. It is true that following someone also requires making demands on ourselves. That is the law of friendship. If we wish to travel together, we must pay attention to the road we are to take. If we go walking in the mountains, we must follow the signs. If we go mountain climbing, we cannot let go of the rope. We must also preserve our unity with the Divine Friend whose name is Jesus Christ. We must cooperate with Him.
   You are the future of the world, of the nation, of the Church. Tomorrow depends on you. Accept this simple truth with a sense of responsibility and ask Christ, through His Mother, that you may be able to face it.
   Be consistent in your faith. Be faithful to Mary, the Mother of Fair Love. Have trust in her, as you shape your love and form your young families.
   May Christ always be with you "the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6).

                                              Pope Saint John Paul II
                                              June 8, 1979

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Dear Young People,

   The Church wants to communicate Christ to you. Therefore, today, I would like to tell you why the Church considers Catholic education so important. The answer can be summarized in one Word - in one person - Jesus Christ.

     To receive a Catholic education is to know who Jesus Christ is as a friend, to know Him as someone who cares about you and the person next to you, and to know Him as someone who loves all people, no matter the language they speak, or the clothes they wear, or the color of their skin. Know Christ - this is what Catholic education is all about because this is the meaning of life.

     Catholic education ought to teach you ways of recognizing the needs of others and to have the courage to practice your faith. With a Catholic education, you must try to meet every circumstance of life with the attitude of Christ. Yes, the Church wants to communicate Christ to you so that you will come to full maturity in Him, because He is the perfect human being, and, at the same 
time, the Son of God.

     One day, when you are old enough, you will take personal responsibility for your future, and you will make important decisions that affect the rest of your life. If your decisions reflect the attitude of Jesus, then your Catholic education will have been a success, because you will have learned to meet challenges and crises in the light of Christ's Cross and Resurrection.

     So, be educated. Understand your Catholic faith. Know Christ.

Pope Saint John Paul II
October 3, 1979

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Dear boys and girls,

  The Gospel that you receive must not remain lifeless in you, but must be given to others, communicated like the Apostles who scattered over the world to proclaim to all peoples the message of salvation they had received from their Master and ours, when the Lord Jesus said: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19). You will do this too, if you feel in your hearts that you are true living witnesses to Christ among your friends. Yes, you will be like the Apostles if you are able to manifest your joy in life and growth and love, and if you are able to overcome the deceptive lure of the senses, and if you are humble before other boys and girls who do not have the gifts you have been given or who might be poorer than you. Indeed yes, you will share the Gospel like the Apostles if you do not act selfishly, if you are not hateful, and if  you do not seek revenge but are able to forgive sincerely those who have offended you. If you are able to live in an evangelical way, you will certainly succeed in the Great Commission of Our Lord, to go make disciples of all nations. When other boys and girls see your good works, they will give glory to God the Father in Heaven (read Matthew 5:16).

     Pope Saint John Paul II
     May 26, 1979

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Dear boys and girls,

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   If Christmas is a feast and a moment of joy for the whole Church and for all generations, it is above all a solemnity in which the little ones gather. Children are able to guess the meaning and message of Christmas. With simple faith, they grasp the truth that is at the center of divine work: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became man, He became a Child, He became fragile and humble and small like all the children of the world. At Christmas, God made Himself close to us.
    On the Holy Night of Christmas Eve, when you place a statue of the child Jesus in the crib, pause for a moment in prayer, just like the shepherds once did! Then, take a moment to ask yourself: "Do I know Jesus? Do I love Jesus? Do I share my knowledge of Him and love for Him?"
     Know Jesus by reading the Bible and listening to you parents, priests, and teachers when they explain Jesus and His holy love. Be friends with Jesus by being close to Him with a heart that is always listening to Him and is always generous with time for Him. Announce Jesus by speaking of Him with all people so that He may be better known by everyone and never forgotten by anyone. 
     I wish all boys and girls to experience this joy of Christmas. This joy is, above all, an internally supernatural joy that is instilled in hearts.
      To all, Merry Christmas!

     Pope Saint John Paul II
     December 22, 1986

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Dear youth disciples,

   When God came into His creation in the person of Jesus Christ, He knew that He would not remain with us in that form forever because He would return to the Father. However, He promised us, “I will not leave you orphans” (John 14:18).

So, Jesus established the Church to be His home and our home in this world. The Church is His home because it is the place where He resides in the Blessed Sacrament. It becomes our home once we are baptized. 

   Furthermore, Jesus entrusted the Seven Sacraments to the Church so that we would always have access to His divine life and love.

   Each Sacrament has a particular purpose given to it by Christ. We can look at each of them to see in what way that particular Sacrament builds up the divine life within us. At the same time, we can also say that all Seven Sacraments work together. 

   They heal us from the effects of original sin and personal sin, and they build up the life of Christ within us. By the power of the Sacraments, He lives in us and His life grows in us. That is why St. Paul can say, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

God bless you.

Father Paul N. Check

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Dear young disciples,

  One of the reasons why we bless ourselves with holy water is to call to mind our Baptism. Whether we are in church or at home, holy water recalls the Sacrament that cleansed our souls of original sin. At that moment, we became part of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church. 
  Baptism is the gateway to the Church and to salvation because it brings grace to the soul and prepares the soul to receive additional grace as time passes. Once we are baptized, it becomes possible for us to receive the other Sacraments and, therefore, to grow in the life of God. Baptism also enlightens the soul so that it can recognize and embrace the truths of the Catholic faith. 
  On your birthday, you celebrate the gift of life. But on the day of your Baptism, you were born into eternal life and you celebrate the gift of supernatural life, or life in Christ. For the day that you were Baptized is the day that Christ claimed you for Himself and prepared you for the gift of all of the other Sacraments, especially the mercy of God in the Sacrament of Penance, and His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. So, I encourage you to find out the date of your Baptism, if you do not know it, and celebrate that day every year, in the same way you celebrate your birthday. 

    God bless you, 

    Father Paul Check

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Dear Young Disciples,

   In the Gospel of John, the risen Lord bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and grants them the authority to forgive sins. (Read John 20:19-23.) Through the surpassing power of Christ’s grace, entrusted to frail human ministers, the Church is constantly reborn and each of us is given the hope of a new beginning. Let us trust in the Spirit’s power to inspire conversion, to heal every wound, to overcome every division, and to inspire new life and freedom. How much we need these gifts! And how close at hand they are, particularly in the Sacrament of Penance! The liberating power of this Sacrament, in which our honest confession of sin is met by God’s merciful word of pardon and peace, needs to be rediscovered by every Catholic and made their own again. To a great extent, the renewal of the Church in America and throughout the world depends on the renewal of the practice of Penance and the growth in holiness which that Sacrament both inspires and accomplishes.

Pope Benedict XVI
Homily, 17 April 2008

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Dear Young Disciples,

  In the final chapter of the Gospel of Saint John, when Jesus appeared to His apostles after His resurrection, He breathed on them and gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. (Read John 20: 19-23.) When it came time for the apostles to share this gift of the Holy Spirit, they laid hands upon men who would be their successors, the bishops of the Church, who ordain men to the priesthood to assist them in the care of souls, as with hearing confessions and absolving sins. As a result, the grace of the Sacrament of Penance has come to us today in an unbroken line from the time of the apostles and from Jesus Himself.
  Our Lord united the apostles with Himself in this way because only God can forgive sins; and so Jesus, who is God and man, gave His apostles and their successors the authority to act on His behalf. The Church refers to this as “in persona Christi Capitis,” which means that bishops and priests act in the person of Christ the Head when hearing confessions and absolving sins. In fact, when the priest gives absolution, he speaks in the first person singular: he does not say “Jesus absolves you of your sins,” but rather, because of the grace of Holy Orders, he says, “I absolve you of your sins.” This makes clear that it is only Jesus who is forgiving sins in the Sacrament of Penance. 
  So, the next time you receive the grace of this Sacrament from a priest, who has the permission of the Church to hear confessions and forgive sins, be assured that he is acting in persona Christi Capitis. Try using your imagination to think of Jesus Himself, through the priest, hearing your confession and forgiving your sins. For the Sacrament of Penance not only helps us to turn away from sin and to grow in the desire for a good and virtuous life, but also the grace of this Sacrament helps us unite our hearts more fully and more generously to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is the goal of our Christian lives. 

Pax Christi,
Father Paul N. Check


Dear youth disciples,

  As the Lord’s disciples, we believe that every good and holy thing begins in the Heart and the love of Jesus, who said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Our Lord proved His great love for us when He gave Himself on the Cross and, today at every Mass, the Holy Eucharist perfectly expresses and conveys the grace of His self-gift.
  The Eucharist is more than just a symbol of Christ’s presence and love. The Holy Mass re-presents Jesus’ offering of Himself to the Father at Calvary. In other words, the Mass solves the problem of time by bringing Calvary forward to us or, said the other way, the Mass brings us back to Calvary.
  The Cross is the dramatic proof of Jesus’ self-gift and the Eucharist is the supreme expression of His self-gift. At Calvary, His body was broken on the altar of the Cross. Today, His Body in the Eucharist is broken upon the altar of the Holy Mass. At Calvary, He gave Himself upon the Cross for us. Today, He gives Himself in the Holy Eucharist for us.
  Perhaps even more remarkable than His willingness to suffer and die for us, you might say, is His eagerness to give Himself in sacrifice to us in love! Jesus is eager for you to receive Him in the Holy Eucharist. He welcomes us through grace at Holy Communion each Mass because, then, He fulfills promises He made during the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). Coming to us in the Holy Eucharist, He assures us that we are not alone in our difficulties and sufferings, not alone carrying the crosses that we must bear in this life. “Peace I leave with you,” He also promises during the Last Supper, “my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
  In this issue of Full of Grace, and throughout this month, I encourage you to reflect upon the gift of these promises that Jesus has made to you, to me, and to all who receive Him in the Holy Eucharist.

Pax Christi,
Father Paul N. Check


Message to youth...

     You might have heard the word “liturgy” spoken by a priest of your parish during a homily. What does it mean? The New Testament and the Catechism of the Catholic Church explain that “liturgy” is “the participation of the People of God in the ‘Work of God’” (CCC 1069). Our participation involves three key activities: (1) the solemn celebration of divine worship; (2) the proclamation of the Gospel; and (3) active charity. Each of these are united in a special way at the Holy Mass, which Pope Benedict XVI called “the greatest and highest act of prayer in the Church” (Homily, 3 May 2009). Simply put, liturgy is prayer.

     During the liturgy of the Holy Mass, Jesus Christ is the center and high priest who honors the Father in Heaven. The Holy Spirit unites the Church—both the Church in Heaven and the Church in the world—in total communion with Christ, participating through Him, with Him, and in Him.

     Yet Christ’s members do not all participate in the same way during the liturgy of the Mass.

     The priest at the Holy Mass, chosen and consecrated by the sacrament of Holy Orders, serves as an image of Christ the High Priest, in the person of Christ the Head. 

     Those community of the baptized not ordained to the priesthood participate in the “common priesthood” of Jesus Christ. Some serve in particular ministries, such as servers, readers, and choir members. Others, such as people in the pews, join their prayers to the prayers of the priest through gestures, responses, acclamations, and attentiveness. In this way at the Holy Mass, the whole celebrating assembly participates, each according to his or her own important role. The liturgy, then, is the action of the entire Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, offering the right and just worship due to the Father in Heaven. 

     So, the next time you go to Holy Mass, you might be a lector or an acolyte or you might be in the pew. You must ask God to help you participate the best way you can. Remember that, every time you do your part at Mass, you are participating in the greatest and highest prayer in the Church.

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Message on Confirmation

   The faithful reborn in Baptism are strengthened in the Sacrament of Confirmation and nourished in the Eucharist with the food of eternal life, so that, through these Sacraments of Christian Initiation, they come to see more clearly the treasure of divine life, and progress to the perfection of charity...
   In the New Testament, it is explained how the Holy Spirit came to Christ to fulfill His role as the Savior. Jesus received John's baptism and saw the Spirit descend and remain upon Him (read Mark 1:10 and John 1:32). The Spirit of Truth moved Jesus interiorly to depend upon His presence and help so that He the Savior would undertake His public ministry. In teaching the people of Nazareth, Jesus explained that Isaiah's prophecy of the Spirit of the Lord referred to Himself (read Isaiah 61:1-2 and Luke 4:17-21). On the day before His Passion, Jesus assured the Apostles that the Father would send the Spirit of truth to remain with them forever and help them to bear witness about Him (read John 14:16, 15:26). Finally, after His resurrection, Christ promised the coming descent of the Holy Spirit: "When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses" (Acts 1:8; read also Luke 24:49).
   In fact, on the Feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended in an absolutely wonderful way on the Apostles, together with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the assembly of disciples. They were so filled with the Holy Spirit that He inspired them to urgently announce the great things of God (read Acts 2:4).
  But when the Holy Spirit descended upon Peter and the Apostles, they received gifts for the time of Christ (read Acts 2:17-18). Those who believed in their preaching were baptized and received the gift of the Holy Spirit (read Acts 2:38). From that time on, the Apostles fulfilled the will of Christ and imparted the gift of the Spirit, which completes the grace of Baptism by the laying on of hands (read Acts 8:14-17; 19:5). Thus, in the Letter to the Hebrews, the doctrine of Baptism and the laying on of hands is listed among the elements of Christian initiation (read Hebrews 6:2). This laying on of hands is rightly recognized by Catholic tradition as the beginning of the Sacrament of Confirmation, which continues the grace of Pentecost in the Church.    

Pope Saint Paul VI -  Apostolic Constitution of the Sacrament of Confirmation (1971)


Beloved young people and dear friends in Christ,

  At her Assumption, Mary was “taken up to Life”—body and soul. She is already a part of “the first fruits” (1 Corinthians 15:20) of our Savior’s redemptive Death and Resurrection. The Son took his human life from her; in return he gave her the fullness of communion in Divine Life. She is the only other being in whom the mystery has already been completely accomplished. In Mary the final victory of Life over death is already a reality. And, as the Second Vatican Council teaches: “In the most holy Virgin the Church has already reached the perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle” (Lumen gentium, 65). In and through the Church we too have hope of “an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us” (read 1 Peter 1:4).
  You are blessed, O Mary! Mother of the Eternal Son born of your virgin womb, you are full of grace (Read Luke 1:28). You have received the abundance of Life (Read John 10:10) as no one else among the descendants of Adam and Eve. As the most faithful “hearer of the Word” (Read Luke 11:28), you not only treasured and pondered this mystery in your heart (Read Luke 11:2; 11:19; 11:51), but you observed it in your body and nourished it by the self-giving love with which you surrounded Jesus throughout his earthly life. As Mother of the Church, you guide us still from your place in heaven and intercede for us. You lead us to Christ, “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:16), and help us to increase in holiness by conquering sin (Read Lumen gentium, 65).
  The Liturgy presents you, Mary, as the Woman clothed with the sun (Read Revelation 12:1). But you are even more splendidly clothed with that Divine Light which can become the Life of all those created in the image and likeness of God himself: “this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4–5).
  O Woman clothed with the sun, the youth of the world greet you with so much love; they come to you with all the courage of their young hearts. They know that Life is more powerful than the forces of death; they know that the Truth is more powerful than darkness; that Love is stronger than death (Read Song of Songs 8:6). Your spirit rejoices, O Mary, and our spirit rejoices with you because the Mighty One has done great things for you and for us—for all the young people of the world, this generation, the future generation. The Mighty One has done great things for you, Mary, and for us. For you and for us, for us with you. The Mighty One—and holy is his name! His mercy is from age to age.
   We rejoice, Mary, we rejoice with you, Virgin assumed into heaven.

Pope Saint John Paul II
August 15, 1993
Homily on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the
Blessed Virgin Mary
8th World Youth Day, Denver, Colorado


How to Grow in the Love of God

  The love of God as divine friendship is, in a way, the fundamental meaning of love of God. It is not only theologically but doctrinally correct to speak of the love of God as our state of friendship with Him. Another name would be the state of grace, or, if you wish, the state of love. More than once in the New Testament we find this idea of divine love as the state or condition of those who are the friends of God. This means that everyone in the state of grace possesses God’s love in his soul. Essentially this refers to God’s love for us because when we say “love of God” we do not immediately say “whose love for whom?”; but there could be no love on our part for God unless He first loved us. So the primordial meaning of the love of God is His for us as the condition of our love for Him.
    His presence in a soul is another name for that soul’s right to the Beatific Vision. God loves those in whom He dwells by His grace, so that if they die in this state of divine friendship, they are assured the Beatific Vision, which means the power of loving God for eternity. Consequently, already in infancy a child who has just been baptized not only is loved by God but possesses this love of God. It is also true of a child or an adult who does not have the use of reason, which means that they have no capacity for actually loving God here and now, but they are necessarily and already in the state of divine love.
How does a person grow in this, sometimes called “substantial” love of God? Everything which increases sanctifying grace also increases this love; in fact, a perfect theological synonym for the state of grace is the love of God, and whatever increases the state of that friendship, also increases God’s love for us and our capacity for loving Him. What do we mean by “everything” that increases sanctifying grace? It is everything that is meritorious in the eyes of God. Consequently, though baptized in infancy, we do not really grow in this substantial love of God until we can begin to merit. Another name for merit is that which increases the friendship of God in our souls. But to merit, we must have 
the use of reason or better, we must have the use of liberty. We merit only with 
our freedom, and we cannot be free until we have the use of our reason to give
us options on the basis of which the will makes a choice.
  The first and primary effect of supernatural merit is to increase this love of God. All other merit is secondary and consequential on this one. This is the main purpose of doing good works, in order that by our merit we can merit a greater friendship of God for us and the greater capacity of ours for Him. We must be in the state of grace to merit; but every good work in the state of grace, when we use our free will to cooperate with the inspirations that God sends us, is an infallible way of growing in His love.
   Thus, every sacrament received, just by being received, increases God’s friendship for us and ours for Him. Every Holy Mass attended; every prayer said; every act of humility, charity, patience, obedience, trust, mercy, faith, or resignation is a divinely promised means of increasing the habitual grace we already have—otherwise we couldn’t even merit. This is what the words, “To those who have more will be given” mainly mean. Thereby we grow in God’s love for us, which is a precondition for our loving Him.

                                                              - Fr. John A. Haron, S.J.

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Respect for the Priesthood

   Christ instituted the sacrament of Holy Orders for three fundamental reasons. The first reason is so that the Holy Eucharist would be possible. We need the Priesthood in order to have the Holy Eucharist: the Sacrifice sacrament of the Mass; the Communion sacrament of Holy Communion; and the Presence sacrament of Christ’s Real Presence. No priesthood, no Eucharist.
   The second reason is the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Both remove sins. The sacrament of Penance requires the priesthood because a priest must hear what the penitent is confessing. Only in heaven will we know what a precious gift the sacrament of Confession really is. That is why the Church recommends frequent confessions. The Church’s definition of frequent confession is at least every two weeks. Through the Sacrament of Anointing, the priesthood can also enable the forgiveness of sins, including grave sins, and thus the removal of the eternal punishment, which we believe is the consequence of mortal sin.
   The third reason Christ instituted the sacrament of Holy Orders is authority. Christ founded the Church on the Apostles. Bishops are the successors of the Apostles. The Pope, the bishop of Rome, has supreme authority. All bishops are to be obedient to the Pope, but each individual bishop has authority in his diocese to teach the people. A priest is an extension of his bishop’s action, so he shares his bishop’s authority to direct the people of the diocese. For example, after the penitents have confessed their sins in the Sacrament of Penance, the priest can tell them how they are to live, what they are to do or stop doing. In other words, the authority which Christ bestowed on His Church is vested in the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
   Without the priesthood we would not have the Holy Eucharist, we would not have forgiveness of sins, and we would have no authority in the Catholic Church. So, we should pray and sacrifice for priests. We should ask our Lord to give priests the grace to be faithful to their priesthood. But that is not all. Priests need encouragement. The more faithful a priest wants to be to his vowed commitment, the more encouragement he will need. Ask our Lord to enlighten you on how you, in your own way, can help priests. 
                                                                                                             Servant of God, Father John A. Hardon, S.J.

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Dear young people,

   You are at the great crossroads of your lives and you must decide how your future can be lived happily, accepting the responsibilities which you hope will be placed squarely on your shoulders, playing an active role in the world around you. You ask me for encouragement and guidance, and most willingly I offer some words of advice to all of you, in the name of Jesus Christ.
   First, you must never think that you are alone in deciding your future!
   Second, when deciding your future, you must not decide for yourself alone!
   There is an episode in the life of Saint Andrew, which can serve as an example for what I wish to tell you. Jesus had been teaching a crowd of five thousand people about the Kingdom of God. They had listened carefully all day, and as evening approached, He did not want to send them away hungry, so He told his disciples to give them something to eat. He said this really to test them, because He knew exactly what He was going to do. Saint Andrew spoke up and said, “There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fishes; but what is that between so many?” Jesus took the loaves, blessed them, and gave them out to all who were sitting waiting; He then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. Later the disciples collected twelve baskets of the fragments that were left over.
   Now the point I wish to make is this: Saint Andrew gave Jesus all there was available, and Jesus miraculously fed those five thousand people and still had something left over. It is exactly the same with your lives. Left alone to face the difficult challenges of life today, you feel conscious of your inadequacy and afraid of what the future may hold for you. But what I say to you is this: place your lives in the hands of Jesus. He will accept you, and bless you, and He will make such use of your lives as will be beyond your greatest expectations! In other words, surrender yourselves, like so many loaves and fishes, into the all-powerful, sustaining hands of God and you will find yourselves transformed with “newness of life” (Romans 6:4), with fullness of life. “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will support you” (Psalm 55:22).
   Young people, I thank you. Keep the faith joyfully. My blessing be with you.
                                                                                                                       Pope Saint John Paul II May 31, 1982

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