Thursday, October 28, 2010

Election Day 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010, is election day. Although we are not of the world, we are in the world, and ours is a living faith, not something merely philosophical or academic that we take out once a week for an hour or so, and then put back in the closet, where the world thinks it belongs, unseen and unheard. Part of living the faith -- everyday, in all aspects of our lives -- is the question of how to apply the truths of the faith -- and the moral obligation to do so -- most especially the truths of the inherent dignity of the human person, in that part of civil society known as the political and electoral process.

The process of electing, of making choices, has been with us from the very beginning, when the man and the woman were put to the choice of (a) rejecting God and seeking power for themselves by eating the fruit or (b) choosing to embrace God, who is Love and Truth, and rejecting the lie of relativism.

Similarly, in elections today, we are faced with a choice -- do we choose (1) that which is most consistent with authentic love and truth or (2) that which we believe will lead to the most power or personal gain?

As they have in years past, the bishops of Virginia have written a letter, Faithful Citizenship: On Election Day and the Other 364 Days, providing guidance and teaching in this area --

“Love God and love your neighbor.” That is what the Gospels and our own baptism call us to do in every situation. Whether at home, the office, the grocery store, the mall, or the movie theater, we make choices every day about how we live our faith.

Another arena where each of us is faced with the challenge of loving God and one another to the best of our ability is the public square. Participating in the political process is an integral part of who we are as people called to be faithful citizens – that is, Americans who practice civic virtue guided by their Catholic faith. But before engaging in such an important venture, we must first form our consciences thoughtfully, prayerfully, and correctly – just as an athlete practices thoroughly before entering an event. And the “venture” or “event” for which we are called to prepare ourselves is not merely the day of an election, although elections are certainly critical. Rather, exercising faithful citizenship means bringing our principles, guided by Gospel values, to bear on decisions that are shaped and made every day of every year.

Election Day

As bishops, we do not tell Catholics for whom to vote. Our role is to teach, and the upcoming Election Day (November 2) provides a “teaching moment” for us to reflect on timeless truths in a timely way. It is the duty of each individual voter to receive the Church’s moral and social teachings with an open mind and heart and to make decisions by applying those teachings.

Unfortunately, the decisions we all must make are in the context of a culture that does not fully embrace our values. Party platforms are far from perfect; most candidates do not agree with the Church on every issue; and a candidate may support some aspects of the Catholic moral framework but not others. There are so many issues that require our attention:

  • How can we build a culture of life when others propose abortion to deal with difficult pregnancies, euthanasia to address illness, embryo-destructive research to seek cures, and capital punishment to combat crime?
  • How can our economy create more jobs?
  • What assistance can be provided to people who cannot afford housing or health care?
  • How can we protect the institution of marriage against efforts to redefine it?
  • Can our nation’s broken immigration system be repaired?
  • What can governments do to help parents, as primary educators, offer their children the best educational options?
  • What are the best ways to achieve greater security and lasting peace in our region and our world?

Faced with these questions and so many more, it is essential to remember that not all issues have equal moral weight; we must be able to discern differences in moral gravity among them before we vote. While most issues debated in the public square are matters of prudential judgment about which people of goodwill can legitimately disagree (e.g., deciding on the best way to ensure access to health care), some practices permitted by government (and sometimes even funded with taxpayers’ money) are intrinsically evil – that is, always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. As the U.S. bishops’ statement Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship ( makes clear, “[T]he moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions.”

Among acts that are intrinsically evil, those that directly attack life itself are the foremost threats to human dignity. The right to life is the foundation upon which all other human rights are based and without which no other right could possibly exist. Therefore, violations of this right are more serious than any other human rights violation. And sometimes these violations occur with almost unimaginable frequency. Such is the case with abortion, which extinguishes the lives of nearly 4,000 children per day (and well over one million per year) in the United States alone.

It follows, then, that protecting life to the maximum degree possible should be our highest consideration when we vote. Many issues deserve our careful attention. When the issue is whether to protect or deny the fundamental right to life, however, it outweighs other matters.

The other 364 days

Once we vote, we are not free to “leave the scene” until the following November. When it comes to exercising civic responsibility, voting is just the tip of the iceberg. No matter who gets into office, he or she will be making decisions that determine whether families thrive or struggle, whether individuals are respected or exploited, and even whether people live or die. We must take an active role in influencing these debates throughout the year, especially by letting those who represent us know how we want them to vote on legislation they are considering.

To highlight the baptismal responsibility we all share to advocate for just policies throughout the year, we have instituted a statewide “Advocacy Sunday” campaign to boost enrollment in the Virginia Catholic Conference Email Advocacy Network. In an August 30th letter we sent to all parishes in our two dioceses, we encouraged every parish to conduct a sign-up drive for the Conference’s network during the weekend of November 13-14.

This network provides alerts about key respect-life, social-justice, and education bills being considered by the Virginia General Assembly and the U.S. Congress and provides an easy way (in under a minute) for participants to email their legislators before they vote for or against these bills. The staff of our Conference has repeatedly found that these very simple constituent messages to their representatives’ offices play a decisive role in outcomes, especially on close votes. Over the last several years, contacts to elected officials made by users of the Conference’s network have restricted state abortion funding, excluded embryonic stem-cell research from new state biotechnology programs, thwarted death-penalty expansions, and preserved policies to protect the mission and values of religious institutions that serve those most in need.

These communications – from constituents to those who represent them – have truly saved lives and improved the quality of life for the poorest and most vulnerable. But imagine just how much could be accomplished if many more of the hundreds of thousands of registered parishioners in our two dioceses participated in the Conference’s network. Surely, we could much better build a culture of life in our Commonwealth, much better assist the poorest and most vulnerable in our midst, and much better enhance family life and educational opportunities for our state’s children.

We renew our appeal to every Virginia parish to conduct a sign-up drive to expand the Virginia Catholic Conference Email Advocacy Network the weekend of November 13-14. Many parishes have ordered postcards provided by the Conference for use in this “Advocacy Sunday” campaign. If your parish has not ordered these postcards (designed to make the sign-up process as easy and effective as possible), the Conference’s website ( contains an order form, as well as other materials that were previously mailed to parishes to facilitate these campaigns. These resources can all be accessed via the “Materials for Sign-Up Campaign” link, and we highly encourage their use. During the Conference’s Catholic Advocacy Day on January 27 (see Events link at, we will personally present awards to representatives of the parishes whose sign-up drives yielded the best outcomes.

We also encourage individuals to volunteer at their parishes to help make these drives successful. And if you are not currently enrolled in the Conference’s network, we invite you to sign up, either during an “Advocacy Sunday” drive at your parish or in advance by visiting the Conference’s website, clicking the “Join the Network!” icon, and completing the short electronic form. In addition, please consider inviting others to join. Are there family members, friends, or coworkers who would be interested in advocating for just policies to protect human life, enhance human dignity, and advance the common good?

Importance of Prayer

We conclude by emphasizing the importance of prayer in forming our consciences as we prepare to vote whenever elections are held and to advocate for just policies on all 365 days of the year. Prayer should be our solid foundation in these activities, just as it should be in all of our endeavors. By opening our minds and our hearts to the Lord in the Eucharist and in our daily prayer lives, we enable Him to mold and fashion us into the faithful citizens He calls us to be.

As together we seek to participate faithfully in the political process as voters, advocates, and followers of Christ, let us pray for each other, for our Commonwealth, and for our country.

Faithfully Yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of Arlington
Most Reverend Francis X. DiLorenzo, Bishop of Richmond


Friday, October 22, 2010

The World Needs Priests, Pastors - Today, Tomorrow and Always, Until the End of Time

Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to Seminarians
October 18, 2010

Dear Seminarians,

When, in December 1944, I was drafted for military service, the company commander asked each of us what we planned to do in the future. I answered that I wanted to become a Catholic priest. The lieutenant replied: “Then you ought to look for something else. In the new Germany, priests are no longer needed.” I knew that this “new Germany” was already coming to an end, and that, after the enormous devastation which that madness had brought upon the country, priests would be needed more than ever.

Today, the situation is completely changed. In different ways, though, many people nowadays also think that the Catholic priesthood is not a “job” for the future, but one that belongs more to the past.

You, dear friends, have decided to enter the seminary and to prepare for priestly ministry in the Catholic Church in spite of such opinions and objections. You have done a good thing. Because people will always have need of God, even in an age marked by technical mastery of the world and globalization: they will always need the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the God who gathers us together in the universal Church in order to learn with him and through him life’s true meaning and in order to uphold and apply the standards of true humanity. Where people no longer perceive God, life grows empty; nothing is ever enough. People then seek escape in euphoria and violence; these are the very things that increasingly threaten young people.

God is alive. He has created every one of us and he knows us all. He is so great that he has time for the little things in our lives: “Every hair of your head is numbered.” God is alive, and he needs people to serve him and bring him to others. It does makes sense to become a priest: the world needs priests, pastors -- today, tomorrow and always, until the end of time.

The seminary is a community journeying towards priestly ministry. I have said something very important here: one does not become a priest on one’s own. The “community of disciples” is essential, the fellowship of those who desire to serve the greater Church. In this letter, I would like to point out – thinking back to my own time in the seminary – several elements which I consider important for these years of your journeying.

1. Anyone who wishes to become a priest must be first and foremost a “man of God,” to use the expression of Saint Paul (1 Tim 6:11). For us, God is not some abstract hypothesis; he is not some stranger who left the scene after the “big bang.” God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. In the face of Jesus Christ we see the face of God. In his words, we hear God himself speaking to us. It follows that the most important thing in our path towards priesthood and during the whole of our priestly lives is our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ.

The priest is not the leader of a sort of association whose membership he tries to maintain and expand. He is God’s messenger to his people. He wants to lead them to God and in this way to foster authentic communion between all men and women.

That is why it is so important, dear friends, that you learn to live in constant intimacy with God. When the Lord tells us to “pray constantly,” he is obviously not asking us to recite endless prayers, but urging us never to lose our inner closeness to God. Praying means growing in this intimacy. So it is important that our day should begin and end with prayer; that we listen to God as the Scriptures are read; that we share with him our desires and our hopes, our joys and our troubles, our failures and our thanks for all his blessings, and thus keep him ever before us as the point of reference for our lives. In this way, we grow aware of our failings and learn to improve, but we also come to appreciate all the beauty and goodness which we daily take for granted and so we grow in gratitude. With gratitude comes joy for the fact that God is close to us and that we can serve him.

2. For us, God is not simply Word. In the sacraments, he gives himself to us in person, through physical realities. At the heart of our relationship with God and our way of life is the Eucharist. Celebrating it devoutly, and thus encountering Christ personally, should be the centre of all our days.

In Saint Cyprian’s interpretation of the Gospel prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” he says among other things that “our” bread – the bread which we receive as Christians in the Church – is the Eucharistic Lord himself. In this petition of the Our Father, then, we pray that he may daily give us “our” bread; and that it may always nourish our lives; that the Risen Christ, who gives himself to us in the Eucharist, may truly shape the whole of our lives by the radiance of his divine love.

The proper celebration of the Eucharist involves knowing, understanding and loving the Church’s liturgy in its concrete form. In the liturgy, we pray with the faithful of every age – the past, the present and the future are joined in one great chorus of prayer. As I can state from personal experience, it is inspiring to learn how it all developed, what a great experience of faith is reflected in the structure of the Mass, and how it has been shaped by the prayer of many generations.

3. The sacrament of Penance is also important. It teaches me to see myself as God sees me, and it forces me to be honest with myself. It leads me to humility.

The Curé of Ars once said: “You think it makes no sense to be absolved today, because you know that tomorrow you will commit the same sins over again. Yet,” he continues, “God instantly forgets tomorrow’s sins in order to give you his grace today.” Even when we have to struggle continually with the same failings, it is important to resist the coarsening of our souls and the indifference which would simply accept that this is the way we are. It is important to keep pressing forward, without scrupulosity, in the grateful awareness that God forgives us ever anew – yet also without the indifference that might lead us to abandon altogether the struggle for holiness and self-improvement.

Moreover, by letting myself be forgiven, I learn to forgive others. In recognizing my own weakness, I grow more tolerant and understanding of the failings of my neighbour.

4. I urge you to retain an appreciation for popular piety, which is different in every culture yet always remains very similar, for the human heart is ultimately one and the same. Certainly, popular piety tends towards the irrational, and can at times be somewhat superficial. Yet it would be quite wrong to dismiss it. Through that piety, the faith has entered human hearts and become part of the common patrimony of sentiments and customs, shaping the life and emotions of the community. Popular piety is thus one of the Church’s great treasures. The faith has taken on flesh and blood. Certainly popular piety always needs to be purified and refocused, yet it is worthy of our love and it truly makes us into the “People of God.”

5. Above all, your time in the seminary is also a time of study. The Christian faith has an essentially rational and intellectual dimension. Were it to lack that dimension, it would not be itself.

Paul speaks of a “standard of teaching” to which we were entrusted in Baptism (Rom 6:17). All of you know the words of Saint Peter which the medieval theologians saw as the justification for a rational and scientific theology: “Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an ‘accounting’ (logos) for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15). Learning how to make such a defence is one of the primary responsibilities of your years in the seminary.

I can only plead with you: Be committed to your studies! Take advantage of your years of study! You will not regret it.

Certainly, the subjects which you are studying can often seem far removed from the practice of the Christian life and the pastoral ministry. Yet it is completely mistaken to start questioning their practical value by asking: Will this be helpful to me in the future? Will it be practically or pastorally useful? The point is not simply to learn evidently useful things, but to understand and appreciate the internal structure of the faith as a whole, so that it can become a response to people’s questions, which on the surface change from one generation to another yet ultimately remain the same.

For this reason, it is important to move beyond the changing questions of the moment in order to grasp the real questions, and so to understand how the answers are real answers. It is important to have a thorough knowledge of sacred Scripture as a whole, in its unity as the Old and the New Testaments: the shaping of texts, their literary characteristics, the process by which they came to form the canon of sacred books, their dynamic inner unity, a unity which may not be immediately apparent but which in fact gives the individual texts their full meaning. It is important to be familiar with the Fathers and the great Councils in which the Church appropriated, through faith-filled reflection, the essential statements of Scripture. I could easily go on.

What we call dogmatic theology is the understanding of the individual contents of the faith in their unity, indeed, in their ultimate simplicity: each single element is, in the end, only an unfolding of our faith in the one God who has revealed himself to us and continues to do so. I do not need to point out the importance of knowing the essential issues of moral theology and Catholic social teaching. The importance nowadays of ecumenical theology, and of a knowledge of the different Christian communities, is obvious; as is the need for a basic introduction to the great religions, to say nothing of philosophy: the understanding of that human process of questioning and searching to which faith seeks to respond.

But you should also learn to understand and – dare I say it – to love canon law, appreciating how necessary it is and valuing its practical applications: a society without law would be a society without rights. Law is the condition of love.

I will not go on with this list, but I simply say once more: love the study of theology and carry it out in the clear realization that theology is anchored in the living community of the Church, which, with her authority, is not the antithesis of theological science but its presupposition. Cut off from the believing Church, theology would cease to be itself and instead it would become a medley of different disciplines lacking inner unity.

6. Your years in the seminary should also be a time of growth towards human maturity. It is important for the priest, who is called to accompany others through the journey of life up to the threshold of death, to have the right balance of heart and mind, reason and feeling, body and soul, and to be humanly integrated.

To the theological virtues, the Christian tradition has always joined the cardinal virtues derived from human experience and philosophy, and, more generally, from the sound ethical tradition of humanity. Paul makes this point this very clearly to the Philippians: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (4:8).

This also involves the integration of sexuality into the whole personality. Sexuality is a gift of the Creator yet it is also a task which relates to a person’s growth towards human maturity. When it is not integrated within the person, sexuality becomes banal and destructive.

Today we can see many examples of this in our society. Recently we have seen with great dismay that some priests disfigured their ministry by sexually abusing children and young people. Instead of guiding people to greater human maturity and setting them an example, their abusive behaviour caused great damage for which we feel profound shame and regret.

As a result of all this, many people, perhaps even some of you, might ask whether it is good to become a priest; whether the choice of celibacy makes any sense as a truly human way of life. Yet even the most reprehensible abuse cannot discredit the priestly mission, which remains great and pure. Thank God, all of us know exemplary priests, men shaped by their faith, who bear witness that one can attain to an authentic, pure and mature humanity in this state and specifically in the life of celibacy.

Admittedly, what has happened should make us all the more watchful and attentive, precisely in order to examine ourselves earnestly, before God, as we make our way towards priesthood, so as to understand whether this is his will for me. It is the responsibility of your confessor and your superiors to accompany you and help you along this path of discernment. It is an essential part of your journey to practise the fundamental human virtues, with your gaze fixed on the God who has revealed himself in Christ, and to let yourselves be purified by him ever anew.

7. The origins of a priestly vocation are nowadays more varied and disparate than in the past. Today the decision to become a priest often takes shape after one has already entered upon a secular profession. Often it grows within the Communities, particularly within the Movements, which favour a communal encounter with Christ and his Church, spiritual experiences and joy in the service of the faith. It also matures in very personal encounters with the nobility and the wretchedness of human existence.

As a result, candidates for the priesthood often live on very different spiritual continents. It can be difficult to recognize the common elements of one’s future mandate and its spiritual path. For this very reason, the seminary is important as a community which advances above and beyond differences of spirituality. The Movements are a magnificent thing. You know how much I esteem them and love them as a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. Yet they must be evaluated by their openness to what is truly Catholic, to the life of the whole Church of Christ, which for all her variety still remains one.

The seminary is a time when you learn with one another and from one another. In community life, which can at times be difficult, you should learn generosity and tolerance, not only bearing with, but also enriching one another, so that each of you will be able to contribute his own gifts to the whole, even as all serve the same Church, the same Lord. This school of tolerance, indeed, of mutual acceptance and mutual understanding in the unity of Christ’s Body, is an important part of your years in the seminary.

Dear seminarians, with these few lines I have wanted to let you know how often I think of you, especially in these difficult times, and how close I am to you in prayer. Please pray for me, that I may exercise my ministry well, as long as the Lord may wish. I entrust your journey of preparation for priesthood to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, whose home was a school of goodness and of grace. May Almighty God bless you all, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

From the Vatican, 18 October 2010, the Feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist.

Yours devotedly in the Lord,

Monday, October 11, 2010

Holy Mary, Clothed with the Sun:
Mother of God, Mother of the Church

Reflection of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Opening of the First General Congregation of
the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops

October 11, 2010

On October 11 1962, 48 years ago, Pope John XXIII inaugurated Vatican Council II. At the time, on October 11, the feast day of the Divine Motherhood of Mary was celebrated and, with this gesture, with this date, Pope John wished to entrust the whole Council into the motherly hands and maternal heart of the Madonna. We too begin on October 11th, we too wish to entrust this Synod, with all its problems, with all its challenges, with all its hopes, to the maternal heart of the Madonna, the Mother of God.

Pius XI, in 1930, introduced this feast day, 1600 years after the Council of Ephesus, which had legitimated, for Mary, the title of Theotókos, Dei Genitrix. With this great word Dei Genitrix, Theotókos, the Council of Ephesus had summarized the entire doctrine of Christ, of Mary, the whole of the doctrine of redemption. So it would be worthwhile to reflect briefly, for a moment, on what was said during the Council of Ephesus, on what this day means.

In reality, Theotókos is a courageous title. A woman is the Mother of God. One could say: how is this possible? God is eternal, He is the Creator. We are creatures, we are in time: how could a human being be the Mother of God, of the Eternal, since we are all in time, we are all creatures?

Therefore one can understand that there was some strong opposition, in part, to this term. The Nestorians used to say: one can speak about Christotókos, yes, but Theotókos no: Theos, God, is beyond, beyond the events of history. But the Council decided this, and thus it enlightened the adventure of God, the greatness of what He has done for us.

God did not remain in Himself: He went out, He united in such a way, so radically to this man, Jesus, that this man Jesus is God, and if we speak about Him, we can also speak about God. Not only was a man born that had something to do with God, but in Him was born God on earth. God came from Himself. But we could also say the opposite: God drew us to Himself, so that we are not outside of God, but we are within the intimate, the intimacy of God Himself.

Aristotelian philosophy, as we well know, tells us that between God and man there is only an unreciprocated relationship. Man refers to God, but God, the Eternal, is in Himself, He does not change: He cannot have this relation today and another relationship tomorrow. He is within Himself, He does not have ad extra relations. It is a very logical term, but it is also a word that makes us despair: so God has no relationship with me.

With the incarnation, with the event of the Theotókos, this has been radically changed, because God drew us into Himself and God in Himself is the relationship and allows us to participate in His interior relationship. Thus, we are in His being, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are within His being in relationship, we are in relationship with Him and He truly created the relationship with us. At that moment, God wished to be born from woman and remain Himself: this is the great event. And thus we can understand the depth of the act by Pope John, who entrusted the Council, Synodal Assembly to the central mystery, to the Mother of God who is drawn by the Lord into Himself, and thus all of us with her.

The Council began with the icon of the Theotókos. At the end, Pope Paul VI recognized the same title of Mater Ecclesiae to the Madonna. And these two icons, which begin and end the Council, are intrinsically linked, and are, in the end, one single icon. Because Christ was not born like any other individual. He was born to create a body for Himself: He was born - as John says in Chapter 12 of his Gospel - to attract all to Him and in Him. He was born - as it says in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians - to summarize the whole world, He was born as the firstborn of many brothers, He was born to unite the cosmos in Him, so that He is the Head of a great Body. Where Christ is born, the movement of summation begins, the moment of the calling begins, of construction of His Body, of the Holy Church. The Mother of Theos, the Mother of God, is the Mother of the Church, because she is the Mother of He who came to unite all in His resurrected Body.

Saint Luke leads us to understand this in the parallel between the first chapter of his book and the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, which repeat the same mystery on two different levels. In the first chapter of the Gospel the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary and thus she gives birth to and gives us the Son of God. In the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, Mary is at the center of Jesus' disciples who are praying all together, pleading with the cloud of the Holy Spirit. And thus from the believing Church, with Mary at its heart, is born the Church, the Body of Christ. This dual birth is the only birth of the Christus totus, of the Christ who embraces the world and all of us.

Birth in Bethlehem, birth at the Last Supper. Birth of the Infant Jesus, birth of the Body of Christ, of the Church. These are two events or just one event. But between the two lie truly the Cross and the Resurrection. And only through the Cross comes the path towards the totality of Christ, towards His resurrected Body, towards the universalization of His being in the unity of the Church. And thus, bearing in mind that only from the wheat fallen to earth can a great harvest be reaped, from the Lord pierced on the Cross comes the universality of His disciples reunited in this His Body, dead and risen.

Keeping this connection between Theotókos and Mater Ecclesiae in mind, we turn our attention to the last book of the Holy Scripture, Revelation, where, in chapter 12, we can find this synthesis. The woman clothed with the sun, with twelve stars over her head and the moon at her feet, gives birth. And gives birth with a cry of pain, gives birth with great suffering. Here the Marian mystery is the mystery of Bethlehem extended to the cosmic mystery. Christ is always reborn in all generations and thus takes on, gathers humanity within Himself. And this cosmic birth is achieved in the cry of the Cross, in the suffering of the Passion. And the blood of martyrs belongs to this cry of the Cross.

So, at this moment, we can look at the second psalm of this Hour [of the Divine Office], Psalm 81, where we can see part of this process. God is among gods - they are still considered as gods in Israel. In this Psalm, in a great concentration, in a prophetic vision, we can see the power taken from the gods. Those who seemed to be gods are not gods, and they lose their divine characteristics and fall to earth. Dii estis et moriemini sicut nomine (cf. Ps 81:6-7): the wresting of power, the fall of the divinities.

This process that is achieved along the path of faith of Israel, and which here is summarized in one vision, is the true process of the history of religion: the fall of the gods. And thus the transformation of the world, the knowledge of the true God, the loss of power by the forces that dominate the world, is a process of suffering.

In the history of Israel, we can see how this liberation from polytheism, this recognition - "Only He is God" - is achieved with great pain, beginning with the path of Abraham, the exile, the Maccabeans, up to Christ. And this process of loss of power continues throughout history, spoken of in Revelation chapter 12; it mentions the fall of the angels, which are not truly angels, they are not divinities on earth. And is achieved truly, right at the time of the rising Church, where we can see how the blood of the martyrs takes the power away from the divinities, starting with the divine emperor, from all these divinities. It is the blood of the martyrs, the suffering, the cry of the Mother Church that makes them fall and thus transforms the world.

This fall is not only the knowledge that they are not God; it is the process of transformation of the world, which costs blood, costs the suffering of the witnesses of Christ.

And, if we look closely, we can see that this process never ends. It is achieved in various periods of history in ever new ways; even today, at this moment, in which Christ, the only Son of God, must be born for the world with the fall of the gods, with pain, the martyrdom of witnesses.

Let us remember all the great powers of today's history, let us remember the anonymous capital that enslaves man, which is no longer in man's possession, but is an anonymous power served by men, by which men are tormented and even killed. It is a destructive power, that threatens the world. And then the power of the terroristic ideologies. Violent acts are apparently made in the name of God, but this is not God: they are false divinities that must be unmasked; they are not God. And then drugs, this power that, like a voracious beast, extends its claws to all parts of the world and destroys it: it is a divinity, but it is a false divinity that must fall. Or even the way of living proclaimed by public opinion: today we must do things like this, marriage no longer counts, chastity is no longer a virtue, and so on.

These ideologies that dominate, that impose themselves forcefully, are divinities. And in the pain of the saints, in the suffering of believers, of the Mother Church which we are a part of, these divinities must fall, what is said in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians must be done: the dominations, the powers fall and become subjects of the one Lord Jesus Christ.

On this battle we find ourselves in, of this taking power away from God, of this fall of false gods, that fall because they are not deities, but powers that can destroy the world, chapter 12 of Revelations mentions these, even if with a mysterious image, for which, I believe, there are many different and beautiful interpretations. It has been said that the dragon places a large river of water before the fleeing woman to overcome her. And it would seem inevitable that the woman will drown in this river. But the good earth absorbs this river and it cannot be harmful.

I think that the river is easily interpreted: these are the currents that dominate all and wish to make faith in the Church disappear, the Church that is supposed to not have a place anymore in the face of these currents which impose themselves as the only rationality, as the only way to live. And the earth that absorbs these currents is the faith of the simple at heart, that does not allow itself to be overcome by these rivers and saves the Mother and saves the Son. This is why the Psalm says - the first psalm of the Hour - the faith of the simple at heart is the true wisdom (cf Ps 118:130). This true wisdom of simple faith, which does not allow itself to be swamped by the waters, is the force of the Church. And we have returned to the Marian mystery.

And there is also a final word in Psalm 81, "movebuntur omnia fundamenta terrae" (Ps 81:5), the foundations of earth are shaken. We see this today, with the climatic problems, how the foundations of the earth are shaken, how they are threatened by our behavior. The external foundations are shaken because the internal foundations are shaken, the moral and religious foundations, the faith that follows the right way of living. And we know that faith is the foundation, and, undoubtedly, the foundations of the earth cannot be shaken if they remain close to the faith, to true wisdom.

And then the Psalm says: "Arise, God, judge the world" (Ps 81:8). Thus we also say to the Lord: "Arise at this moment, take the world in your hands, protect your Church, protect humanity, protect the earth." And we once again entrust ourselves to the Mother of God, to Mary, and pray:

You, the great believer, you who have opened the earth to the heavens, help us, open the doors today as well, that truth might win, the will of God, which is the true good, the true salvation of the world. Amen.