Lourdes and Fatima

  • By Fr. Joseph Byerley
  • 06 Oct, 2017


I have just returned from a very beautiful pilgrimage to Spain, Portugal, and France. It was filled with many blessings; I was fortunate to have visited some amazing places and shrines. I remembered you, the wonderful parishioners of Saint Rose of Lima at every Mass and especially at Lourdes and Fatima where I was blessed to be able to concelebrate Mass at the actual spots where the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary took place.  

One of the things that I was reminded of as I visited these holy places where the Blessed Mother appeared was some common themes that these apparitions shared. Whether it was the humble shepherd children of Fatima or the poor country girl, Saint Bernadette, Mary seems to choose those whom the world finds insignificant to deliver a very significant message. This also is seen in the Blessed Mother’s apparitions to Saint Juan Diego in Guadalupe. It is a humble and simple heart that can respond so much better to Our Lady and to her Son, Jesus, than a sophisticated one. This humble and simple heart that Jesus speaks of so often is the one we need to always be striving for if we are going to make any real spiritual progress.  

Whether it was Lourdes or Fatima about sixty years later, there were three things that Mary stressed at both places: penance, prayer for sinners, and the Rosary.  

Mary asked repeatedly to those to whom she appeared to undertake penance for sinners. We are to do penance in reparation for sins. And we must believe that, if we can take the word of Our Lady, which I am sure we can, consciously “offering up” of penances and sufferings really does matter. It isn’t some old fash-ioned idea that was made up to keep us docile, but truly contributes to the salvation of others. It makes sense too, considering what Saint Paul states in his letter to the Colossians, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24).  

Not only do our sufferings offered up in reparation for sins spiritually benefit others; our Blessed Mother was also insistent that we are to also pray for sinners. Although we ourselves are sinners and in need of other’s prayers for ourselves, our prayers for our fellow sinners brings down graces to them that they would never receive if we were not praying for them. This mutual benefit of praying for each other, as sinners, is a humble recognition that our disobedience of God’s laws matters. That is, what we do or don’t do matters greatly in our eternal lives and that we need God’s grace and mercy to advance spiritually.  

Finally, Mary strongly encouraged (in fact, essentially mandated) to Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia in Fatima and to Bernadette in Lourdes, to pray the Rosary daily. Meditating on the mysteries of Christ in the Rosary and offering this special prayer to Jesus through Mary, His Mother, is one of the most powerful prayers that exists. Since the month of October is the month of the Rosary, it would be a wonderful time for all of us to rediscover the beauty and the power of the Rosary. We have our Lady’s word and innumerable historical events that confirm that the short time that it takes to pray the Rosary profits us with incredible spiritual benefits.  

God bless you,  

Father Joseph Byerley  

By Fr. Joseph Byerley 20 Oct, 2017

We can always learn new perspectives on prayer. Pope Emeritus Benedict shows us how the Blessed Mother can help us in our prayer. Meditation isn’t just for the Saints, it is for us all and it is fundamentally simple and uncomplicated. I hope this reflection is beneficial to you. 

God bless you, 

Father Joseph Byerley 

Today, I do wish to speak about meditation. And what is meditation? It means to "remember" all that God has done and not to forget all his benefits (cf. Psalm 103:2b). Often, we see only the negative things. We also need to hold in our memory the good things, the gifts that God has given us; we need to be attentive to the positive signs that come from God, and remember these. Therefore, we are speaking about a kind of prayer that the Christian tradition calls "mental prayer." We are more familiar with vocal prayer, and naturally the mind and heart must also be present in this prayer, but today we are speaking about a meditation that does not involve words, but that is rather a making contact of our mind with the heart of God. 

And here Mary is a true model. The Evangelist Luke repeats numerous times that Mary, for her part, "kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (2:19; cf. 2:51). She keeps them; she does not forget. She is attentive to all that the Lord has said and done to her, and she ponders; that is, she makes contact with diverse things -- she dwells deeply upon them in her heart. 

In our own time, we are absorbed with so many activities and commitments, concerns and problems. Often, we tend to fill up all the spaces of the day, without having a moment to stop and reflect and to nourish our spiritual life -- our contact with God. Mary teaches us how necessary it is to find in our days -- with all its activities -- moments to recollect ourselves in silence and to ponder all that the Lord wants to teach us, how He is present and acts in the world and in our life: to be able to stop for a moment and meditate. St. Augustine likens meditation on the mysteries of God to the assimilation of food, and he uses a word that recurs throughout the Christian tradition: "ruminate." The mysteries of God should continually resound within us so that they might become familiar to us, guide our life, and nourish us as happens with the food that is neces-sary to sustain us. And St. Bonaventure, referring to the words of sacred Scripture, says that they "should al-ways be ruminated on so as to be kept in mind by the ardent application of the soul". 

To meditate therefore means to create within ourselves an atmosphere of recollection, of interior silence, so as to reflect upon and assimilate the mysteries of our faith, and all that God is doing in us -- and not only the things that come and go. We can "ruminate" in many ways; for instance, by taking a short passage of sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostle's Letters, or a page from a spiritual author we are drawn to and which makes the reality of God in our today more present, perhaps taking advice from a confessor or spiritual director; by reading and reflecting on what we've just read, pausing to consider it, seeking to understand it, to understand what it says to me, what it says today -- to open our soul to all that the Lord wants to say to us and teach us. 

The holy rosary is also a prayer of meditation: In repeating the Hail Mary we are invited to think back and to reflect upon the mystery we have announced. But we can also dwell upon some intense spiritual ex-perience, on the words that have remained with us from our participation in the Sunday Eucharist. You see, therefore, there are many ways of meditating and of thereby making contact with God -- of drawing near to God, and in this way, of being on the road to heaven. 

Dear friends, consistency in giving time to God is a fundamental element for spiritual growth; it will be the Lord Himself who gives us a taste for His mysteries, His words, His presence and action, to feel how beautiful it is when God speaks with us. He will make us understand in a more profound way what He wants of us. In the end, this is the goal of our meditation: to entrust ourselves ever more to the hands of God, with trust and love, certain that, in the end, it is only in doing His will that we are truly happy. 

By Fr. Joseph Byerley 06 Oct, 2017


I have just returned from a very beautiful pilgrimage to Spain, Portugal, and France. It was filled with many blessings; I was fortunate to have visited some amazing places and shrines. I remembered you, the wonderful parishioners of Saint Rose of Lima at every Mass and especially at Lourdes and Fatima where I was blessed to be able to concelebrate Mass at the actual spots where the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary took place.  

One of the things that I was reminded of as I visited these holy places where the Blessed Mother appeared was some common themes that these apparitions shared. Whether it was the humble shepherd children of Fatima or the poor country girl, Saint Bernadette, Mary seems to choose those whom the world finds insignificant to deliver a very significant message. This also is seen in the Blessed Mother’s apparitions to Saint Juan Diego in Guadalupe. It is a humble and simple heart that can respond so much better to Our Lady and to her Son, Jesus, than a sophisticated one. This humble and simple heart that Jesus speaks of so often is the one we need to always be striving for if we are going to make any real spiritual progress.  

Whether it was Lourdes or Fatima about sixty years later, there were three things that Mary stressed at both places: penance, prayer for sinners, and the Rosary.  

Mary asked repeatedly to those to whom she appeared to undertake penance for sinners. We are to do penance in reparation for sins. And we must believe that, if we can take the word of Our Lady, which I am sure we can, consciously “offering up” of penances and sufferings really does matter. It isn’t some old fash-ioned idea that was made up to keep us docile, but truly contributes to the salvation of others. It makes sense too, considering what Saint Paul states in his letter to the Colossians, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24).  

Not only do our sufferings offered up in reparation for sins spiritually benefit others; our Blessed Mother was also insistent that we are to also pray for sinners. Although we ourselves are sinners and in need of other’s prayers for ourselves, our prayers for our fellow sinners brings down graces to them that they would never receive if we were not praying for them. This mutual benefit of praying for each other, as sinners, is a humble recognition that our disobedience of God’s laws matters. That is, what we do or don’t do matters greatly in our eternal lives and that we need God’s grace and mercy to advance spiritually.  

Finally, Mary strongly encouraged (in fact, essentially mandated) to Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia in Fatima and to Bernadette in Lourdes, to pray the Rosary daily. Meditating on the mysteries of Christ in the Rosary and offering this special prayer to Jesus through Mary, His Mother, is one of the most powerful prayers that exists. Since the month of October is the month of the Rosary, it would be a wonderful time for all of us to rediscover the beauty and the power of the Rosary. We have our Lady’s word and innumerable historical events that confirm that the short time that it takes to pray the Rosary profits us with incredible spiritual benefits.  

God bless you,  

Father Joseph Byerley  

By Fr. Joseph Byerley 01 Oct, 2017
I offer you another reflection of the preacher to the Papal Household, Father Cantalamessa. This time, Father Cantalamessa speaks on friendship. "Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha was burdened with much serving." The village is Bethany and the house is that of Lazarus and his two sisters. Jesus loved to stop there and take some rest when he was traveling near Jerusalem. Mary was stupefied that for once she had the master all to herself and could listen in silence to the words of eternal life that he spoke when he was taking his rest. So she sat there at his feet, as is still done today in the East. It is not difficult to imagine Martha's half-resentful, half-joking tone when, passing by them, she says to Jesus: "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." It was at this point that Jesus said something that by itself is a mini Gospel: "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." The tradition has seen in the sisters a symbol of the active and the contemplative life respectively. I think, however, that the more evident theme is that of friendship. "Jesus loved Martha, together with her sister and Lazarus," we read in John's Gospel (11:5). When they bring him the news of Lazarus' death he says to his disciples: "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep but I am going to wake him up" (John 11:11). Faced with the sorrow of the two sisters he also breaks down and weeps, so much so that those who are present exclaim: "See how much he loved him!" (John 11:13). It is wonderful and consoling to know that Jesus knew and cultivated that sentiment that is so beautiful and precious for us men -- friendship.

Of friendship we must say what St. Augustine said of time: "I know what time is but if someone asks me to explain it, I no longer know what it is." In other words, it is easier to intuit what friendship is than to explain it in words. It is a mutual attraction and deep understanding between two people, but it does not have a sexual component as does conjugal love. It is a union of two souls, not two bodies. In this sense the ancients said that friendship is to have "one soul in two bodies." It can be a stronger bond than that of family. Family consists in having the same blood in one's veins. In friendship one has the same tastes, ideals, interests. It is essential to friendship that it is founded on a common search for the good and the true. That which binds people who get together to do evil is not friendship but complicity, it is "an association that corrupts," as is said in judicial jargon.

Friendship is also different from love of neighbor. The latter must embrace everyone, even those who do not return it, even enemies, while friendship demands reciprocity, that is, that the other corresponds to your love. Friendship is nourished by confidences, that is, by the fact that I confide in another that which is deepest and most personal in my thoughts and experiences. I think Father Cantalmessa has highlighted some wonderful aspects of what friendship is and what it’s not, especially in distinguishing friendship from family relationships as well as our Christian duty of love of neighbor. We need to thank God for the gift of true friendship, and make sure also to thank our true friends for that gift as well.

God bless you,

Father Joseph Byerley
By Fr. Joseph Byerley 24 Sep, 2017


In the early Church, the “four living creatures” that encircle God’s throne in the Book of Revelation (4:7-8) became symbols for the evangelists. These symbols originated from the four-sided creatures described by the prophet Ezekiel six hundred years before the birth of Christ. “Within it (a storm wind) were figures resembling four living creatures that looked like this: their form was human, but each had four faces and four wings ... Each of the four had the face of a man, but on the right side was the face of a lion, and on the left side the face of an ox and finally each had the face of an eagle.” (Ezekiel 1:5, 6 & 10). While a number of early authors ascribe different creatures to different Evangelists, we have St. Jerome, in the latter part of the fourth century, whom we owe the formation of this tradition as we now hold it:  

St. Matthew : Winged Man, Incarnation.—To St. Matthew was given the creature in human likeness, because he commences his gospel with the human generation of Christ, and because in his writings the human nature of Our Lord is more dwelt upon than the divine.  

St. Mark : Winged Lion, The Resurrection.—The Lion was the symbol of St. Mark, who opens his gospel with the mission of John the Baptist, "the voice of one crying in the wilderness." He also sets forth the royal dignity of Christ and dwells upon His power manifested in the resurrection from the dead.  

St. Luke : Winged Ox, Passion.—The form of the ox, the beast of sacrifice, fittingly sets forth the sacred office, and also the atonement for sin by blood, on which, in his gospel, he particularly dwells.  

St. John : The Eagle, Ascension.—The eagle was allotted to St. John because, as the eagle soars towards heaven, he soared in spirit upwards to the heaven of heavens to bring back to earth revelation of sublime and awful mysteries as well as the divinity of Christ.  

God bless you,  

Father Joseph Byerley  

By Fr. Joseph Byerley 08 Sep, 2017
The last “theology” book that many Catholics have read, unless they went to a Catholic high school or college, is whatever text they used for their Confirmation preparation. That’s really quite a shame. Most Catholics have really never formally studied their Catholic faith. Rightly so, they depend on the preaching of their priests to form them both spiritually and theologically. Yet is that really enough for the “average” Catholic? Not at all. No matter who we are, Priests, laypersons or Religious, the ongoing study of our Faith is essential to not just our growth in holiness, but also our basic spiritual health.
Jesus stated in the Gospel, when tempted by the Devil in the beginning of his ministry, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”. Revealed truth, the Word of God, then is food for us. And as Frank Sheed writes in his book, Theology for Beginners, when talking about the value of Theology, “Now it is a peculiarity of food that it nourishes only those who eat it. We are not nourished by the food that someone else has eaten. To be nourished by it, we must eat it ourselves.”
While it is true we are spiritually nourished by the Holy Eucharist when we receive it worthily and with love (as well as in our prayers), it is nonetheless true that the more we know about the Lord we receive, the greater the effect we can receive when we receive him sacramentally (and through the grace of prayer). Knowledge serves love. The more misunderstandings about God we can remove, the greater clarity we will have of our knowledge of God, which will make it easier to love Him and remain secure in our faith.
Here is an example: think about the times when you have a poor understanding of some topic. When it comes up in conversation, we can easily feel intimidated when someone seems to know more, and perhaps we even doubt our own understating of the topic. While it doesn’t really matter if the topic is for instance, what kind of new refrigerator to get, it does matter greatly when we are talking about our eternal salvation. It’s important to know what we believe and be secure in it.
I am not suggesting that a person goes out and gets the full three volume set of St. Thomas Aquinas’ watershed work, Summa Theologiae in Latin and start reading, but there are certainly a lot of wonderful texts available that are both easy to read without a theology degree and present the Faith in a coherent, complete, and most importantly - authentic and faithful manner.
The one text from Frank Sheed I mentioned above is a good start, or perhaps, What Catholics Really Believe by Karl Keating. I feel that probably everyone can read and understand the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What is most important is that we seek to learn about our faith in order to develop a mature, strong faith that is able to bear up under scrutiny. Relying on knowledge that we may just partially remember from our childhood is not the best way to remain strong in our Faith.
So go out and get one of these books. Spend a few minutes a day reading about our awesome Lord. Learn about what we believe. Develop a deeper and stronger faith. Having a well-informed, mature knowledge of our Faith is one of the best ways to protect it from harm and enable us to ultimately develop a greater love for the Lord and come ever closer to him. If you have a question about a particular text and whether it is good, or don’t understand something that you have read, feel free to talk to one of your priests - we will be happy to help!

God Bless you,

Father Joseph Byerley


By Fr. Joseph Byerley 03 Sep, 2017
As we gear up for another academic year, before anything else, I want to wish the best to all students and educators of St. Rose of Lima Parish and School. You are all in my prayers for a successful school year. From a Catholic perspective, the goal of education is to enable children to learn and develop - intellectually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually - so that they can reach their full God-given human potential to contribute to the common good of society and to deepen their relationship with the Lord, leading to eternal salvation.
I was in Catholic education as a high school teacher at Paul VI High School for seven years and I have learned that education plays a critical role in the development of young people. I urge parents to show constant vigilance upon what is going on at the school(s) where their children are present, whether a Catholic school or not. Please talk to your children every day and find out what their teachers are saying in class. Be prepared to offer a response to them when you find that they are “learning” things that go against our faith, as well as affirming the good and true things that they are taught. Being intimately involved in the education of your children is not just the duty of parents, but also a great opportunity to bring the light of Christ and his love to them. Don’t forget - the earlier the involvement starts and more constant it is, the less likely that it will seem intrusive to the children. Also don’t forget to attend every possible event in which your children participate. They may not mention it, but you can be sure that your presence means very much to them.
Now, to the students. To be honest, I never liked school. Although I have given this example many times, it still is true: I looked forward to the end of college like you can’t believe, thinking that I would never have to go to school again. Well, after six years of seminary and two of further studies (that’s eight years of school after college!); I didn’t seem to get my wish. But along the way, I did learn a lot. One thing I also disliked was doing homework. But I know, from my own experience and from working with high school students, it’s actually easier to work reasonably hard all the time and not get behind, than to let things go and then have periods of crazy activity just to throw a bunch of stuff together just to get something in on time. You end up with better grades with less stress. It’s a tough lesson to learn but it works.
Try it. Have a great year!

God Bless you,

Father Joseph Byerley
By Fr. Joseph Byerley 23 Aug, 2017
The media really does influence adolescents' behavior, and early exposure to sexual con-tent in the movies leads them to commence sexual activity at an earlier age and to take more risks. This was the conclusion of a study just published in the journal Psychological Science, titled Greater Exposure to Sexual Content in Popular Movies Predicts Earlier Sexual Debut and Increased Sexual Risk Taking. It started by noting how it is documented that the media influences adolescent behavior in such areas as alcohol and tobacco use, but that less is known about its impact on sexual behavior.

Starting sexual activity at an earlier age is associated with a greater number of partners and an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. More than 9 million new cases of sexual diseases occur annually among adolescents in the United States, the paper observed. Popular movies provide adolescents with a wealth of sexual exposure, much of which may promote risk behaviors, the authors commented.
They cited a survey that looked at movies released from 1950 to 2006. It showed that more than 84% contained some sexual content. In addition the survey found that the level of sexual explicitness of PG-13 and R-rated movies has increased in the past decade. Not only are adolescents influenced by what they see, but one survey found that 57% of those aged 14-16 use the media as a primary source of sexual information.

The study published in Psychological Science looked at movie sexual exposure (MVE) in those aged under 16. A longitudinal study was carried out over the period June 2003 to October 2009. It consisted in a random telephone survey of 6,522 adolescents, aged 10 to 14. After the initial contact they were followed up three subsequent times. They found that higher exposure to explicit sexual content was an accurate predictor of riskier sexual behavior. The authors said that this study confirms previous ones and also found that this exposure has a lasting influence on risky sexual behaviors in adulthood. Reducing adolescents’ viewing of sexually explicit content would delay their sexual debut and also reduce their engagement in risky sexual behaviors later in life, they concluded.

Do you know and regulate what your children are viewing? In our sexually permissive culture, this is a big question parents need to ask themselves. And we all need to ask; do we regulate what we see as well? Children aren’t the only ones affected by a sexually saturated society. Are we aware how this rails against the beauty and dignity of our authentic God-given sexuality and how destructive it is to healthy and loving relationships between men and women?

God bless you,

Father Joseph Byerley
By Fr. Joseph Byerley 17 Aug, 2017

(From Catholic.org) The August 21 solar eclipse will be visible mostly in the United States, but it's impact is already being noticed around the world. It's fueling an interest in astrology and fortune telling, as such events often do. Now, Pope Francis has issued a warning against "false securities," reminding us to trust in Christ. People are flocking to astrologers and fortune tellers to find meaning in the event. It's natural for people to seek meaning in things they don't understand. This is especially common when the event in question is rare or poorly understood. As we know, a solar eclipse is the product of the Moon passing in front of the Sun from the perspective of a person on the surface of the Earth. There is no meaning beyond this. Yet, astrologers are enjoying renewed interest in their trade.

Pope Francis reminded audiences last Sunday when he said, "When we do not cling to the Word of the Lord, but consult horoscopes and fortune tellers, we begin to sink." Pope Francis connected his comment to the Gospel reading in which Peter began to sink in the water but was saved by Christ. The word of God, Pope Francis said, is "like an outstretched rope to cling to in front of the hostile and turbulent waters." We sink when we put our faith in the wrong things. "The guarantee against a shipwreck is faith in Christ and in his word."

Heading off to College? God is there!

Every college has a Catholic center located somewhere on or near the campus. There will be Mass, definitely on Sundays and often during the week, as well as a supportive community of fellow Catholic students. Our Lord always wants to be near to us and help us. College is a really important time for any person’s growth. It is so important for us to make sure that God plays a big part in that growth. Getting to Sunday Mass, practicing our faith, saying our prayers are all essential in staying close to God and receiving his grace, protection, and love.

House of Charity Update
We are very close to our goal for this year…we are at 89%. We are about $16,000 from making our goal. Thank you so much for what you have done so far. If you haven’t made your gift yet, please do so, we need to come through for the needy in our diocese and for the good of our parish. You are always so generous and responsive, please, let’s make our goal!

God bless,

Father Joseph Byerley
By Fr. Joseph Byerley 13 Aug, 2017
There is a story of a saintly priest from long ago who had a problem with one of his parishioners who attended daily Mass but left immediately after Communion. He solved the problem by ordering two altar boys with lighted candles to walk on either side of the man as soon as he started to leave the church and accompany him all the way to his carriage (pre-automobile days). After three days repeating this action, the somewhat flustered and embarrassed gentleman asked the priest for an explanation. He was told that since Christ was still present in him as he left the church, his presence had to be honored by lighted candles. Needless to say, the man didn’t leave Mass early again.
I wonder sometimes if we, including us priests, remain sufficiently aware of the truth of Christ’s presence abiding with us as Mass comes to conclusion. Honestly, I really don’t know what to say to those who regularly choose to come to Mass late or leave Mass early. Nor do I know what to say to those who come to worship God at Mass in shorts and tee shirts and flip flops. Of course, sometimes neither of those situations can be helped. I understand that and the Lord certainly does too. But coming to Mass on time and dressing well for the Lord is, to a certain extent, one of those things you either “get” or you don’t. There is very little a priest can say to people who choose to leave Mass early, come late, or dress inappropriately. Saying anything, no matter how well thought out, or kind, or gentle, usually comes off very badly. At the same time, I do have a responsibility before God to encourage and instruct the people entrusted to me by Him. Take one look at the letters of Saint Paul to his people, his parishioners if you like, and anything I would say or have said wouldn’t seem all that bad. After all, he used to call people “foolish”, “backsliders”, “ignorant”, etc. I wouldn’t dare say that to you. Of course, I am no saint either, so I better not say things like that.
However it is quite sad to observe the near contempt we can sometimes have for the Lord at Mass. We dress for the beach when we come to worship Almighty God. Before and after Mass, in Church, we can talk about everything but the Lord, as if the Church were some kind of lounge. We can arrive late, we leave early, never giving ourselves time to spiritually prepare for Mass or to thank the Lord for coming into our hearts.
The Mass is the one of the greatest things in which we can participate, for at Mass, we enter into the one saving sacrifice of Jesus to the Father on our behalf. It is the celebration of our salvation. We are inserted into this eternal event and are united with Jesus Christ. There is nothing on earth that is more beautiful, profound or important than the Mass. I know we all believe this and I hope we always do everything we can to keep conscious of that each time we come to Mass and show our consciousness externally by our dress, our behavior during and after, and how and when we arrive and depart. For all of these things together will have a great impact on both our subjective experience of Mass as well as the spiritual benefit we receive. In the end, if we believe worship of God at Mass is important and act as if it is important to us, then very likely, it will become as important to us as it really is.

God bless you,


Father Joseph Byerley
By Fr. Joseph Byerley 07 Aug, 2017
Given our contemporary world situation, that seems to experience almost daily violence and suffering both at home and abroad, I think it opportune to relate some of the late Pope Saint John Paul II’s message on the World Day of Peace of January 1, 2002, just a few months after
9-11. The Holy Father makes some profound points in his address. I was tempted to reproduce the whole text, but there isn’t room, but I urge you to look it up for it is well worth reading. Here are some weighty words to ponder.

     How do we restore the moral and social order subjected to such horrific violence? My reasoned conviction, confirmed in turn by biblical revelation, is that the shattered order cannot be fully restored except by a response that combines justice with forgiveness. The pillars of true peace are justice and that form of love which is forgiveness…But in the present circumstances, how can we speak of justice and forgiveness as the source and condition of peace? We can and we must, no matter how difficult this may be; a difficulty which often comes from thinking that justice and forgiveness are irreconcilable. But forgiveness is the opposite of resentment and revenge, not of justice…Forgiveness is in no way opposed to justice, as if to forgive meant to overlook the need to right the wrong done. It is rather the fullness of justice, leading to that tranquility of order which is much more than a fragile and temporary cessation of hostilities, involving as it does the deepest healing of the wounds which fester in human hearts. Justice and forgiveness are both essential to such healing.
     It is precisely peace born of justice and forgiveness that is under assault today by international terrorism. When ter-rorist organizations use their own followers as weapons to be launched against defenceless and unsuspecting people they show clearly the death-wish that feeds them. Terrorism springs from hatred, and it generates isolation, mistrust and closure. Violence is added to violence in a tragic sequence that exasperates successive generations, each one inheriting the hatred which divided those that went before. Terrorism is built on contempt for human life. For this reason, not only does it commit intolerable crimes, but because it resorts to terror as a political and military means it is itself a true crime against humanity.
There exists therefore a right to defend oneself against terrorism, a right which, as always, must be exercised with respect for moral and legal limits in the choice of ends and means. The guilty must be correctly identified, since criminal cul-pability is always personal and cannot be extended to the nation, ethnic group or religion to which the terrorists may belong. International cooperation in the fight against terrorist activities must also include a courageous and resolute political, diplo-matic and economic commitment to relieving situations of oppression and marginalization which facilitate the designs of terrorists. The recruitment of terrorists in fact is easier in situations where rights are trampled upon and injustices tolerated over a long period of time.
     Still, it must be firmly stated that the injustices existing in the world can never be used to excuse acts of terrorism, and it should be noted that the victims of the radical breakdown of order which terrorism seeks to achieve include above all the countless millions of men and women who are least well-positioned to withstand a collapse of international solidarity — namely, the people of the developing world, who already live on a thin margin of survival and who would be most grievously affected by global economic and political chaos. The terrorist claim to be acting on behalf of the poor is a patent falsehood.
     Those who kill by acts of terrorism actually despair of humanity, of life, of the future. In their view, everything is to be hated and destroyed. Terrorists hold that the truth in which they believe or the suffering that they have undergone are so absolute that their reaction in destroying even innocent lives is justified. Terrorism is often the outcome of that fanatic fundamentalism which springs from the conviction that one's own vision of the truth must be forced upon everyone else. To try to impose on others by violent means what we consider to be the truth is an offence against human dignity, and ultimately an offence against God whose image that person bears. For this reason, what is usually referred to as fundamentalism is an atti-tude radically opposed to belief in God. Terrorism exploits not just people, it exploits God: it ends by making him an idol to be used for one's own purposes. Consequently, no religious leader can condone terrorism, and much less preach it. It is a profa-nation of religion to declare oneself a terrorist in the name of God, to do violence to others in his name. Terrorist violence is a contradiction of faith in God, the Creator of man, who cares for man and loves him. It is altogether contrary to faith in Christ the Lord, who taught his disciples to pray: "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Mt 6:12).
     Forgiveness is not a proposal that can be immediately understood or easily accepted; in many ways it is a paradoxical message. Forgiveness in fact always involves an apparent short-term loss for a real long-term gain. Violence is the exact op-posite; opting as it does for an apparent short-term gain, it involves a real and permanent loss. Forgiveness may seem like weakness, but it demands great spiritual strength and moral courage, both in granting it and in accepting it. It may seem in some way to diminish us, but in fact it leads us to a fuller and richer humanity, more radiant with the splendour of the Creator…
     Prayer for peace is not an afterthought to the work of peace. It is of the very essence of building the peace of order, justice, and freedom. To pray for peace is to open the human heart to the inroads of God's power to renew all things. With the life-giving force of his grace, God can create openings for peace where only obstacles and closures are apparent; he can strengthen and enlarge the solidarity of the human family in spite of our endless history of division and conflict. To pray for peace is to pray for justice, for a right-ordering of relations within and among nations and peoples. It is to pray for freedom, especially for the religious freedom that is a basic human and civil right of every individual. To pray for peace is to seek God's forgiveness, and to implore the courage to forgive those who have trespassed against us…
     No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: this is what in this Message I wish to say to believers and unbelievers alike, to all men and women of good will who are concerned for the good of the human family and for its future.
     No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: this is what I wish to say to those responsible for the future of the human community, entreating them to be guided in their weighty and difficult decisions by the light of man's true good, al-ways with a view to the common good. No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: I shall not tire of repeating this warning to those who, for one reason or another, nourish feelings of hatred, a desire for revenge or the will to destroy.

May the God of peace bless you,

Fr. Joseph Byerley
More Posts
Share by: