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SEALED WITH GOD'S SPIRIT: A Child's View of Community

Length10 min.
Age GroupPI - Primary -Intermediate
PublisherSt. Anthony Messenger Press
TopicsCatechist Resources
Spirituality

This program is presented as a child's religion class report on Church. A young person's crayon drawings "come alive" in video images depicting what it means to "be Church." Diverse cultures are represented to help children see that "my Church" is broader

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  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Junno Arocho EstevesKRAKOW, Poland (CNS) -- Pope Francis told young people they are not called to be couch potatoes, living boring lives, but should leave their mark in history and not let others determine their future. Like a soccer match, life "only takes players on the first string and has no room for benchwarmers," the pope young people at the World Youth Day prayer vigil July 30. "Today's world demands that you be a protagonist of history, because life is always beautiful when we choose to live it fully, when we choose to leave a mark." Organizers said up to 1.6 million youths from around the world -- many of whom walked more than four miles to the Field of Mercy -- attended the prayer vigil with the pope. Arriving in his popemobile, Pope Francis waved at the throngs of young people who stretched out their hands. Stopping at a wooden Door of Mercy inscribed with the words "Jesus, I trust in you" in five languages, he was greeted by several young men and women. Hand-in-hand with the pope, they entered through the door. The pope then surprised the youths by inviting them aboard the popemobile. Visibly emotional and wide-eyed, the youths boarded the vehicle and joined Pope Francis, waving at the crowd. After taking his place on the stage, young people from Poland, Syria and Paraguay gave their experiences of finding hope in the midst of disbelief, war and addiction. Natalia, a young Polish woman from Lodz, spoke of her experience of encountering the love of God through the sacrament of reconciliation after 20 years of "not having anything in common with the church." "Going to confession, I was convinced of having irredeemably lost eternal life. Instead, I had heard that God had made everything evil I had done disappear forever," she said. Rand Mittri, a 26-year-old Syrian woman from Aleppo, shared the pain and sorrow that comes from seeing her city "destroyed, ruined and broken." "The meaning in our lives has been canceled. We are the forgotten city," she said. Mittri went on to describe how she and many families live in constant fear of leaving their homes, not knowing when disaster will strike. "Perhaps we will be killed that day. Or perhaps our families will. It is a hard and painful feeling to know that you are surrounded by death and killing, and there is no way to escape, no one to help," she recounted. Despite the horror she faces daily, Mittri said she learned her faith in Jesus "supersedes the circumstances" and that with each passing day she believes "God exists despite all of our pain." "Jesus, I trust in you," she concluded. Miguel from Asuncion, Paraguay, gave the final testimony of the evening, recounting his 16-year struggle with drug addiction. Beginning to experiment with drugs at age 11 and imprisoned for a crime by 15, Miguel said he continued committing crimes until he was eventually imprisoned for six years. A priest, he said, took him to a halfway house in Brazil, Fazenda de la Esperanza, where he learned to live as a family with his fellow companions. "I recovered 10 years ago and today I am responsible for 'Quo Vadis' house of Fazenda de la Esperanza in Cerro Chato, Uruguay, for the past three years," he said. Between the testimonies, dancers performed. A woman depicting St. Faustina Kowalska looked on in disbelief as youths in glass boxes were fixated on their cellphones and tablets. A young woman dressed in white danced around them, beckoning them to come out. Another performance on the beauty of forgiveness recreated the scene in which St. John Paul II sat down with would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca in his prison cell and forgave him. After listening to their experiences, Pope Francis addressed the youths, calling on them first to not be absorbed by their cellphones and computers and to think about those, like Mittri, who live through violence and war daily. "They have a name, they have a face, they have a story, they are close at hand," he said forcefully. Recalling Natalia and Miguel's experiences, the pope thanked them for sharing their struggles and said they are a "living sign of what God's mercy wants to accomplish in us." In a world beset by conflict, terror and death, he continued, brotherhood and communion remain the only true response. The pope then invited everyone present to hold hands and pray silently, asking them to "place before the Lord your own battles, the interior struggles that each of you carries in his or her heart." Silence descended on the field as the pope bowed and joined the youths in prayer. Pope Francis continued his address by warning the pilgrims to not fall into a "paralysis that comes from confusing happiness with a sofa." This sofa that promises comfort, safety and relaxation, he said, instead is an "insidious form of paralysis" that makes young men and women become "dull and drowsy." Pope Francis encouraged the pilgrims, reminding them they are not called to "vegetate" in life but to leave a mark in the world. "When we opt for ease and convenience, for confusing happiness with consumption, then we end up paying a high price indeed: We lose our freedom," he said. He invited them to instead embark on the "path of 'craziness' of our God" that urges Christians to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Like Miguel, who discovered God's calling by helping others at the halfway house, the pope said God is also calling them, encouraging them to dream. "He wants to make you see that, with you, the world can be different. For the fact is, unless you offer the best of yourselves, the world will never be different," he said. However, the pope also called on adults to teach younger generations "how to live in diversity, in dialogue, to experience multiculturalism, not as a threat but an opportunity." Young people, he said, must "be our accusers if we choose a life of walls, a life of enmity, a life of war." "Have the courage to teach us that it is easier to build bridges than walls. We need this," he said.- - -Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Agency Gazeta, Jakub Porzycki, via ReutersBy Junno Arocho EstevesKRAKOW, Poland (CNS) -- Humankind's cruelty did not end with the Holocaust, but rages on in the suffering of those living through war, homelessness and persecution, Pope Francis said. "This cruelty exists today. We say: 'Yes, we have seen cruelty, 70 years ago; how they died shot, hanged or gassed.' But today, in so many places in the world where there is war, the same thing happens," the pope told a crowd gathered late July 29 outside the archbishop's residence in Krakow where he is staying. The pope's words came at the end of a day focused on the suffering of innocents. He had begun the day with a silent prayer at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, followed by a visit to a local children's hospital and participation in the Way of the Cross with young people at Blonia Park. Calling it "a day of sorrow," the pope said that in following the Way of the Cross, Christians were united in Jesus' sufferings. However, Christ not only "suffered 2,000 years ago," but continues to suffer in today's world. "So many people suffer: the sick, those who are in war, the homeless, the hungry, those who are doubtful in life, who do not feel happiness, salvation or who feel the weight of their own sin," he said. Before unspeakable horrors and suffering -- especially the pain of children who suffer -- Christians may ask themselves why it happens, he continued. "There are no answers for that question," the pope said. The pope also said his visit to Auschwitz-Birkeneau was a reminder of "such pain, such cruelty" that human beings are capable of inflicting. "Is it possible that we men and women, created in God's likeness, are capable of doing these things? These things were done. I do not want to make you bitter, but I have to say the truth. Cruelty did not end in Auschwitz, in Birkeneau. Even today, people are tortured; so many prisoners are tortured to make them talk. It is terrible!" he exclaimed. "What I am telling you is a bit sad, but it is reality. But the fact that Jesus has taken upon himself all these things is also a reality," the pope said. Jesus loves everyone despite their sins, he concluded, inviting the young people to pray together for those who suffer from "so many bad things, so much wickedness." "When there are tears, a child seeks out his or her mother. We sinners, too, are children; let us look for our mother and pray to Our Lady together," he said. - - - Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Junno Arocho EstevesKRAKOW, Poland (CNS) -- By embracing the hunger, thirst and loneliness of others, young people can touch Jesus' cross and experience the light of the resurrection, Pope Francis said. It was Jesus who chose to identify with people who suffer pain and anguish, especially those fleeing violence and persecution, by "agreeing to tread the way of sorrows that led to Calvary," the pope told young men and women July 29 participating in the Way of the Cross at World Youth Day in Krakow. The reflection on Jesus' passion and death capped an emotional day that included a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp and a stop at children's hospital in Krakow before his arrival at Blonia Park. Police stood shoulder-to-shoulder at some crossing points into the park and would not let people pass, sending them to other entry points on the grounds. Thousands of people still were streaming to the service from the crowded streets 30 minutes into the service. Dancers, acrobats, painters and other artists performed interpretations of each key moment leading up to Christ's crucifixion, death and burial. Each significant event of Jesus' crucifixion was linked to a corporal or spiritual work of mercy. A group of mimes dressed and painted completely in white acted out Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus carry his cross, while wall climbers seemed to stumble as they climbed and formed a cross on the wall, representing Jesus falling for the first time. The first station -- Jesus sentenced to death -- related to sheltering the homeless and refugees who share in that same suffering through humanity's indifference. About two dozen young people from the Sant'Egidio Community from Italy, Argentina, Ukraine and Pakistan carried a wooden cross to the first station. They were accompanied by two formerly homeless Poles and a couple who fled the war in Syria. "In the last few years, you have been sentenced to death in the persons of 30,000 refugees. Sentenced -- by whom? Who will agree with this sentence?" a young woman prayed at the first station. Following the Stations of the Cross, Pope Francis, who had watched from the stage, began his address by welcoming the Syrian refugees "with fraternal affection and friendship." "By embracing the wood of the cross, Jesus embraced the nakedness, the hunger and thirst, the loneliness, pain and death of men and women of all times. Tonight, Jesus -- and we with him -- embrace with particular love our brothers and sisters from Syria who have fled from the war," he said. The pope said that suffering of refugees, the sick, and exploited children could often lead to questioning God's presence. While those questions "humanely speaking have no answer," Christ does have an answer. "Jesus' answer is this: 'God is in them.' Jesus is in them; he suffers in them and deeply identifies with each of them," he said. The pope emphasized the importance of both corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which can bring young people to touch Christ's "sacred flesh" and determine whether they're Christians. "In welcoming the outcast who suffer physically and welcoming sinners who suffer spiritually, our credibility as Christians is at stake. Not (just) in ideas," he said. "Humanity today needs men and women, and especially young people like yourselves, who do not wish to live their lives 'halfway,' young people ready to spend their lives freely in service to those of their brothers and sisters who are poorest and most vulnerable, in imitation of Christ, who gave himself completely for our salvation," he said. Pope Francis called on all young people to be at the forefront of serving others, a path of "personal commitment and self-sacrifice" that "is the Way of the Cross." "The Way of the Cross is not sadomasochistic," he said. "The Way of the Cross is the only thing that conquers sin, evil and death, for it leads to the radiant light of Christ's resurrection and opens the horizons of a new and fuller life." Not far from the stage, a group of about 200 Iraqis waved flags of their homeland. Raega Teresa, a member of Ascension Parish in Baghdad, told Catholic News Service the effort of getting so many Iraqis -- including some from Kurdistan -- to Poland was worthwhile. "Meeting the pope will strengthen our faith in God," said Teresa, a member of the Catholic Youth Committee of Iraq. "We can take this faith to Iraq and to other people there and strengthen all and pray for all." She said the group was inspired by Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, who also traveled to Krakow. "He gives us strength for our faith in spite of all the bad circumstances," she said. In a neighboring section, a contingent from Portugal wore stark white T-shirts with the message "Syria: Peace is possible" emblazoned on the front in English and on the back in Portuguese. The T-shirts bore the logo of Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church's international relief and development agency. "We wanted to send a message to the pope that we listen to him in seeking peace in Syria," said Rute Tavares, 17, of Lisbon, one of the about 15 people seated on yellow plastic sheeting to protect them from the wet ground. "We want him to know that young people can make a difference," she said. "We want to be together with youth all around the world, but especially those who are suffering." - - - Contributing to this story was Dennis Sadowski. – – – Follow on Twitter: @arochoju, @DennisSadowski.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Elizabeth EvansBy Elizabeth Eisenstadt EvansPHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- At a time when the official party platform advocates for removing current legislative restrictions on obtaining abortions, pro-life Democrats came to Philadelphia with a counter message: You can't win big without us. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has called for repealing the Hyde Amendment, which forbids federal funding for most abortions and continues to be included in many federal appropriations bills for abortions. Her stance has been endorsed in the party platform, which also calls for eliminating the Helms Amendment, which prohibits U.S. foreign aid from being used to fund abortion-related activities. But Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, notes that since 2008, when President Barack Obama launched his first term, the party has lost 11 governorships, 30 state chambers, 69 house seats, 13 seats in the U.S. Senate and 912 seats in state legislatures. While the pro-life Democrats agree with 99 percent of their party's views on issues like paid maternity leave and a living wage, Day said the Democrats have become a party of the Northeast and the West. "We've got to open up the big tent," she said in an interview with Catholic News Service. "Voters want to come back to the Democratic Party, but the party platform and the extreme positions we have been taking prevent them from doing so." Day has been buoyed by a recent Dallas gathering of approximately 500 women who identify as pro-life feminists. "We think we are doing this alone but we have this whole network of women out there," she said. "A lot of them (are) doing this work on the ground to provide the support we are talking about. They know what women want and what we women need. We're the fourth wave of feminism, and we are pro-life." As the Democratic National Convention played out at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center, she said she had some revealing, encouraging conversations while sitting at the Democrats for Life table in a bustling hallway at the city's convention center. "So many of those who think they are pro-choice are actually pro-life," she told CNS July 27. Christian Matozzo, a Temple University student who describes himself as a "dedicated pro-life Democrat from Philadelphia," said he had some positive and some "tougher" conversations at the convention. "I enjoy the dialogue. It's been great to promote the message that we do exist in great numbers, and that we are not being represented by the party." The stumbling block for many, he said, is that many equate the pro-life cause with a lack of compassion and concern for helping women facing unplanned pregnancies. "I vehemently disagree with that," Matozzo said. "I want to provide for women as much as they do, but I don't feel that you need to abort an unborn child to do so." At a reception honoring Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Catholic, who is the only Democratic governor in the South, for his support of the pro-life cause, Day underlined that idea from the podium: "We choose the mother. We choose the child. We choose both." Matt Tuman, an organization volunteer who has helped update the Democrats for Life website and aided with research projects, is hopeful that the supporters of keeping abortion legal and the pro-life advocates in his party can find common ground and reduce the number of abortions by advocating for paid maternity leave, a 20-week ban on abortions and Medicaid expansion to help the economically disadvantaged. He agrees with Day that the party's hardening stance on abortion has contributed to its loss of electoral clout. "When we don't have pro-life Democrats in the House, we can't hold the House" he said. "There are a lot of pro-life areas out there in the deep South, where pro-life Democrats have a better opportunity to win (those seats.)" Day and honoree Edwards, who said that his Catholic Christian faith informs his views, both argued that pro-life beliefs aren't limited to abortion. "There is a difference between being anti-abortion and pro-life," said Edwards in accepting the Governor Casey Whole Life Leadership Award. Rejecting the label of "liberal" or "conservative," Edwards suggested that people listen to what he has to say, and make up their own minds. He noted that with the party's embrace of such an outspoken supporter of legal abortion like Emily's List president Stephanie Schriock -- who addressed the convention July 27 -- the prospects for pro-life Democrats could dim. Schriock's organization focuses on electing "pro-choice" Democratic women to office. "It's going to be increasingly difficult to navigate these waters if the party doesn't moderate" Edwards said. "I almost started to cry when he spoke," said Day. "We've needed an outspoken leader like this.' She characterizes Louisiana as her new favorite state "ground zero" in progress made in reclaiming ground lost to supporters of legal abortion. Louisiana state Rep. Katrina Jackson, who introduced Edwards as a friend and colleague, said that while many of her colleagues acknowledge that a fetus is a human being, they emphasize what will happen to children after they are born. "The majority of those I meet aren't as concerned about promoting abortion as they are concerned about how the child will live out its life. But everything is connected," Jackson said. While the role of faith in shaping her decisions is "overarching," she said, she has found that other Democrats have many different reasons for being pro-life. Many of those at the meeting where Edwards was honored represented younger voters, including a Life Matters group from Pittsburgh. "According to statistics, ours is the most pro-life generation," said Aimee Miller, a young adult with that group, "but also the most secular generation." In conversations they had with attendees at the convention, her group's members found most people were genuinely interested and respectful, she told CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. As the DNC neared its close July 28, Day reflected on what she had gleaned from days of interacting with delegates and visitors. "We're right. Our position is right, and it's given me so much encouragement," she said. "The platform was discouraging and I felt the party went too far, but being here, and finding that more people agree with me than not has given me more encouragement to keep fighting the fight. People are cheering for us and saying, keep it up. "We're bringing the Democratic Party back to its roots to protect all living beings." - - - Lou Baldwin contributed to this story.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Junno Arocho EstevesOSWIECIM, Poland (CNS) -- Sitting with head bowed and eyes closed, Pope Francis paid silent tribute to the victims of one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. The pope arrived July 29 at the Auschwitz-BirkenauNazi death camp in Oswiecim, an area now blanketed by green fields and empty barracks lined by barbed wire fences, remnants of a horror that remains embedded in history. Used by the Nazis from 1940 to 1945, the camp was the Nazi's largest and consisted of three parts: Auschwitz I, where many were imprisoned and murdered; the Birkenau extermination camp -- also known as Auschwitz II -- and Auschwitz III (Auschwitz-Monowitz), an area of auxiliary camps that included several factories. In 1942, Auschwitz became the site of the mass extermination of over 1 million Jews, 23,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war and thousands of Polish citizens of different nationalities. Among those killed were St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar, and Edith Stein, a Jewish philosopher who converted to Catholicism and became a Carmelite nun, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Crossing the gate inscribed with the infamous motto "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work sets you free") the pope quietly sat on a small bench for 10 minutes with his head bowed, occasionally glancing somberly around before closing his eyes in silent prayer. He stood up, and slowly walked up to the wooden post of one of the barracks, reverently touching and kissing it. The pope then made his way to Block 11 to greet a dozen survivors of the camp, including a 101-year-old violinist, who survived by being in the camp orchestra. Pope Francis greeted each survivor individually, gently grabbing their hands and kissing their cheeks. Among the survivors was Naftali Furst of Bratislava, Slovakia, who was deported to Auschwitz and was evacuated to Buchenwald in January 1945 before his liberation. Furst, who now lives in Israel, gave the pope a photograph showing him and other inmates imprisoned in the Auschwitz barracks. Pope Francis also signed a book for Furst before he made his way toward the "death wall" where thousands of prisoners were lined up and shot in the back of the head before their bodies were sent to the crematoriums. Candle in hand, the pope lit an oil lamp in front of the wall, before praying and laying his hand on the wall. He then turned around and entered the barracks of Block 11. Also known as "the death block" because the Nazis used it to inflict torture, it houses the cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe spent his final hours, starved and dehydrated before being given a lethal injection of carbolic acid. Pope Francis entered the darkened cell, illuminated by a faint light from the corridor, revealing a candle, an engraved plaque marking the site of the Franciscan friar's death, and countless words -- even a cross -- etched on the walls by those who spent their final moments in the starvation cell. Once again Pope Francis sat in silence with his head bowed. Alone in the cell for eight minutes, he occasionally looked up to contemplate his surroundings. Outside the cell, he signed the visitors' book, writing a simple message: "Lord, have mercy on your people. Lord, forgive so much cruelty." Pope Francis then made his way to the Holocaust memorial at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, driven in an electric cart on a path parallel to the railroad tracks that carried countless men, women and children to their doom. It now leads to a monument that honors their memory. To the left of the memorial lay the ruins of one of four crematoriums used to incinerate the bodies of those who died of disease or starvation or who were executed in the two gas chambers housed within the extermination camp. The pope approached the memorial to the victims, lined with 23 plaques, each inscribed with a message in a different language: "Forever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women and children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe." Passing each plaque, Pope Francis reached the end of the monument where he set a candle in a large glass bowl and once again stood in silence, clasping his hands together over his chest in prayer. While he prayed, the voice of Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Joseph Schudrich echoed Psalm 130 in Hebrew throughout the camp. The psalm begins with a cry to God: "From the depths I have cried out to you, O Lord." The event ended with the pope greeting 25 people honored as "righteous among the nations," a recognition of non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazi extermination. Among those present for the solemn occasion was Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a longtime friend of the pope from Buenos Aires. Speaking to journalists July 28, Rabbi Skorka recalled a telephone conversation with Pope Francis in which he asked about the visit to Auschwitz. "The pope told me, "I am going to behave the same way I did in Armenia -- the places where people were killed -- I will remain silent,'" he said. "From a theological point of view and from a biblical point of view, this attitude means a lot," the rabbi said. - - - Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.