VATICAN CITY, 31 MAR 2009 (VIS) - Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for April is: "That the Lord may bless farmers' work with an abundant harvest and sensitise the richer populations to the drama of hunger in the world".

His mission intention is: "That the Christians who operate in the territories where the conditions of the poor, the weak and the women and children are most tragic, may be signs of hope, thanks to their courageous testimony to the Gospel of solidarity and love".

Contemplating the Face of Christ in Film

From the Pastoral Letter encouraging Evangelization with Film -

I encourage parishes and diocesan offices to sponsor film festivals and film studies that expose Catholics to the 1995 Vatican list of Best Films and other films that are wholesome, cultural, meaningful and that have eternal significance. Local Catholic organizations and small groups should occasionally show a film at their meetings or go to the theater together and afterward discuss the film. Likewise I encourage youth ministers in our parishes and teachers in our schools to use films in their work with our young people. I especially urge parents to go to the theater with their children and to watch films in the home and talk about them as a family.

Most Rev. Michael A. SaltarelliBishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington

Read the whole Pastoral Letter here:

Mary's Yes to Evangelization

Mary is referred to as Theotokos (Θεοτόκος="God-bearer"). The traditional Eastern Orthodox Troparion (hymn for the day) of the Annunciation is:

Today is the beginning of our salvation,
And the revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
"Rejoice, O Full of Grace, The Lord is with You!"

Today is the day that Mary answered the question that is asked of all of us: For whom do I live? In her "yes" to her vocation to be "mother of God" Mary is our forunner in the Christian faith.

Blessed James Alberione writes:
"Mary carries out her apostolate: to give Jesus to the Father, to human beings, to heavn. She gave Jesus on earth: in her God was magnified, becoming also man and the Savior of all."

"Mary always gives Jesus, like a branch that always bears him and offers him to humanity: suffering, glorious and eucharistic; the way, truth and life of humanity. She is the apostle of Jesus - an apostle not only of words, but of mind, will and heart."

US Bishops on Culture of Life

USCCB Congratulates New Mexico on Repeal of the Death Penalty
WASHINGTON—The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) congratulated the bishops of New Mexico and other advocates on their successful efforts to repeal the death penalty in New Mexico.
"The bishops of New Mexico and many others worked tirelessly to see New Mexico become a leader in turning away from the death penalty in our country," said Kathy Saile, director of the Office of Domestic Social Development at the USCCB.
On March 18, Governor Bill Richardson signed HB 285 into law making New Mexico the second state to repeal the death penalty since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the use of the death penalty in 1976. In December 2007, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed legislation repealing the death penalty in that state. Fifteen states have now have laws banning the death penalty.
Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development at the USCCB, wrote to Governor Richardson on March 16, urging him to sign the legislation, saying it "would help begin building a culture of life in our country."

Bearing Witness to Meeting Jesus Christ

"Announcing the Gospel, as is evident from the Apostle Paul's missionary activity, does not consist in the unfeeling transmission of a doctrine but, fundamentally, in bearing witness to an individual experience of meeting a person, Jesus Christ. He is the only reality with the power to open the hearts of men and women to contact with the Truth. Hence, it is only united to Christ, only with Christ, that America can live its mission!" Benedict XVI

"St. Paul is not a stern wielder of the sword, but the most ardent and tender lover of Christ. He has a mother's heart that loves immensely, and a father's heart that give unqualified support."
--Blessed James Alberione, SSP

Did Patrick accomplish his mission?

At the time of his death human sacrifice had ceased, the Irish people abandoned the slave trade, and, although they had not stopped warring with each other, the battles were more restrained. Patrick knew these people would not change overnight. This is the legacy left by St. Patrick: he had met the objective set by Christ, the Master of Apostles, to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. And his successors continued the pursuit of that objective. As Ireland without Patrick is unthinkable, so too is life today without the saints. The saints are for the ages, ours no less than others. Without saints life would be miserable. The saints are for everyone -- believing and unbelieving -- because they are the people who proclaim by their lives that life is valuable, life is worth living, that a provident God cares for us. Without them life would be a series of disasters. St. Patrick personified this Christian hope. (by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.) For the entire article contact Sr Margaret.

Destroying Live Human Embryos: objectiving life

Bishops denounce the use of tax dollars to destroy human lives in embryonic stem cell research
Washington (Agenzia Fides) – Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, has issued a statement calling President Obama's executive order on embryonic stem cell research "a sad victory of politics over science and ethics." For the first time in U.S. history, federal tax dollars will be used to encourage researchers to destroy live human embryos for stem cell research. The Cardinal says that Obama's decision “ is morally wrong because it encourages the destruction of innocent human life, treating vulnerable human beings as mere products to be harvested. It also disregards the values of millions of American taxpayers who oppose research that requires taking human life.” Moreover, the text continues, “it ignores the fact that ethically sound means for advancing stem cell science and medical treatments are readily available and in need of increased support.”The USCCB statement also cites the recent January 16 letter written by Cardinal Francis George, President of the USCCB, in which he offers three reasons for which this kind of research, now encouraged by Obama, is unnecessary and immoral. Among these is the fact that advances in adult stem cell research appears “to be making embryonic stem cells irrelevant to medical progress,” as adult and cord blood stem cells “are now known to have great versatility, and are increasingly being used to reverse serious illnesses and even help rebuild damaged organs.”“If the government wants to invest in hope for cures and promote ethically sound science, it should use our tax monies for research that everyone, at every stage of human development, can live with,” the statement concludes. (RG) (Agenzia Fides 10/3/2009)

Pope Benedict XVI recently said: “Every human being, then, is much more than a singular combination of genetic information that is transmitted to him by his parents. The generation of man can never be reduced to the mere reproduction of a new individual of the human species, as is the case with all other animals. Every appearance of a person in the world is always a new creation. If we want to enter into the mystery of human life, then it is necessary that no science isolate itself, pretending to have the last word.”

To Make God Present in this World

In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God. Not just any god, but the God who spoke on Sinai; to that God whose face we recognize in a love which presses "to the end" (cf. Jn 13:1) – in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects.

The complete text of the letter written by pope Joseph Ratzinger to the Catholic bishops, in reply to the "avalanche of protests" against his decision to lift the excommunication from the Lefebvrists is found here:

Using Media to Promote Life

The campaign for respecting human life, from conception until natural death, in Korean society is being extended to the new forms of mass-media as well. The Catholic Church in Korea has decided to launch a campaign for life through communications instruments such as videos that will be promoted throughout the country.The culture of the image and video is now dominant, especially among the youth. The words of Pope Benedict XVI in his Message for the World Day of Social Communications 2009, leave no room for doubt as to the urgent need to evangelize through the new media and technologies. With this in mind, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Korean Bishops' Conference and the Commission for Life, of the Archdiocese of Seoul, have decided to contribute funding to the production of several brief films in promotion of life, which will later be shown in parishes, on national television, and on the Internet. The videos will focus mainly on unborn life, on stories related to abortion and manipulation of embryos, explaining the basis and reasons behind the Church's doctrine in the area of bioethics.There will be other films that will address euthanasia, the end of life, the death penalty, contributing in the campaign to abolish the death penalty. There will be a special showing of all the films on October 10, 2009, International Day for the Abolition of the Death Penalty.The Church in Korea continues to reflect and invest resources and attention on bioethical issues, in defense and promotion of human life. In 2008, the Church announced the opening of a International Life Academy to unite eastern Asian forces in this field. The faithful are also working actively to promote a culture of life in the country on a daily basis. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 9/3/2009)

Awakening Faith Resources

Awakening Faith, Reconnecting with Your Catholic Faith, is a small group process that helps inactive Catholics return to the Church. The group meets once a week for six weeks of conversation and socializing. The conversations are based on short, easy to read essays about spirituality, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, God’s mercy, the Mass, and the Church. The meetings foster reflection, prayer, and honest sharing in a setting of hospitality and acceptance.

Three free Awakening Faith aides are attached for your immediate use:
1. Implementing Awakening Faith during Lent/Easter 2009*
2. Six Reasons to Think About Reconnecting with Your Catholic Faith* (to be printed on the back of the Awakening Faith invitation flyers your parish creates with the Parish Flyer template that is on the Awakening Faith Parish Manual CD)
3. Copies of the the Awakening Faith Prayer that can be reproduced and distributed widely: (Prayer for Awakening Faith (black and white) and Prayer for Awakening Faith (color).
*Requires Adobe Reader 9.0 to open.

Angels: Messengers of the Gospel

VATICAN CITY, 1 MAR 2009 (VIS) - Before the Marian prayer the Pope reflected upon the passage from the Gospel of St. Mark which describes how Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. "In the desert - a place of trial, as evinced by the experience of the People of Israel - the truth of the 'kenosis' becomes dramatically evident: that is, the 'emptying' of Christ Who divested Himself of divine form. He, Who did not sin and could not sin, subjected Himself to trial and so was able to share our weakness".

"Against this dark and shadowy figure who dared tempt the Lord, stand the angels, luminous and mysterious beings" who are "counterpoints to Satan. 'Angel' means 'messenger'. Throughout the Old Testament we find these figures who, in the name of God, help and guide mankind. ... At the beginning of the New Testament Gabriel is sent to announce ... the joyful events that begin our salvation. ... A choir of angels brings the shepherds the good news of the birth of the Saviour, and it is angels who announce to the women the joyous news of His resurrection".

"If we were to disregard these beings sent by God we would remove a considerable portion of the Gospel", said Pope Benedict. "They announce His presence among us and are a sign thereof. Let us, then, call upon them often that they may support us in the task of following Jesus and identifying ourselves with Him".