Doubts, Divine Mercy, and St. John Paul II

Fr Joseph Pellegrino

on April 28, 2014 at 4:30 am

The Sunday after Easter always presents the event that took place in the Upper Room one week after Jesus rose from the dead. Pope John Paul II also designated this Sunday as Divine Mercy Sunday. And today the world celebrated the Canonization of this pope whom so many refer to as John Paul the Great. I believe I can tie all three of these themes together.

There are times that we have doubts in our faith. The Gospel tells the story of someone who doubted Jesus, the story of doubting Thomas. To me it is understandable that Thomas had doubts. I am sure that he doubted Peter and the others who had said that they had seen the Lord. These are the same guys who only a few months earlier were squabbling with each other over who would be the most powerful in the Kingdom of God. Jesus had told them that they would be tested, but with the exception of John, they had all deserted the Lord, including Thomas, who in his own bravado had said earlier, “Let’s go with him to Jerusalem and die with him.” The fact that Thomas was nowhere to be found at the crucifixion must have left him with some pretty negative feelings about himself. And what was probably most devastating to Thomas is that for the first time, he questioned his belief in Jesus. So Thomas was vocal in his doubts. He doubted the other disciples. He doubted himself. And he doubted the Lord. This obviously changed when he saw the Lord. Pictures will often show Thomas putting his hands in the marks of the nails on Jesus’ hands and touching the Lord’s side, but actually Jesus only invites Thomas to do this. Thomas’ response to Jesus was, “My Lord and My God.” Jesus’ next comment was meant for us, “You believe because you have seen. Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe.”

We have doubts in our faith. That is part of being a human being. Faith asks us to take a step, a leap actually, away from all that we can see, hear and sense, a step away from the limits of our rational capabilities and a step into mystery. This is a difficult step for all of us, but particularly difficult for us as our minds develops their intellectual prowess. When we become teens, if not a bit before, we can do things with our mind that we could not do as children. We can think in abstractions. We can conceive concepts that do not exist in the real world but do exist in the world of mathematics, in the world of literature, psychology, and so forth. When we were eight, we could not fathom something that could not exist in the real world. We can now. When was the last time you came across the square root of two? It exists only in our minds. We have studied how a poet or author can create a totally imaginative world and apply human emotions to this world to such an extent that the reader can easily confuse the world with reality. And we have studied how certain psychological realities determine people’s actions, even though those realities are not physical but are purely mental.

But, now faith asks us to take a step into a deeper reality, into that which is beyond our intellectual capabilities, a step into a knowledge our minds can never come to on their own. So, it is normal for humans to doubt, particularly as Teens, but actually throughout our lives. Add to that the fact that many in our society transfer their own questions and doubts onto others, attacking the faith of those who believe, particularly the faith of Catholics. We take courses in high school, college and grad school with other students who question our faith. We even have to put up with some teachers and professors who treat us like naive children because we say that we believe in the Bible and the teaching of the Church. On top of all this, we have crises in our lives where our prayers appear to go unanswered. We pray for our parents to stop fighting, but they don’t. We pray that our grandmother might get over her sickness, but she doesn’t. We hear about the people who died in natural disasters like earthquakes and tornadoes, we are aware of the children who are starving to death in Africa, the suffering taking place in Haiti, etc, and we begin to question if anyone is hearing our prayers. Doubts in faith are normal. It takes courage and determination to say, “In spite of what others say, and in spite of my own questions, I still believe, Lord. I believe in your Word in the Bible. I believe that your Son became one of us as the Bible said He would. I believe that His sacrificial love on the cross earned for us the very life of God. I believe that no matter what my eyes see or don’t see, my ears hear or don’t hear, no matter what my mind can determine or what its limits are, you are still there for me, loving me, filling me with a joy that doesn’t go away.”

And God, in His Mercy, sees us for whom we are, human beings with doubts, but also people who have experienced His Love and want more of it. We might feel bad about ourselves for having doubts, but His Mercy, His Divine Mercy, is so great that He sees us not as people with doubts, but as people who are searching for Him. That’s why Divine Mercy Sunday fits so perfectly with the gospel of doubting Thomas, ordinary people like you and I called to have extraordinary faith.

St. Pope John Paul II was, really, an ordinary man called to have extraordinary faith. He had an extremely difficult life as a child and Teen. His mother died when he was nine. His older brother, a young doctor whom little Karol Wojtyla looked up to, died while still in his 20’s. Karol’s best friends, many of whom were Jewish, were hunted and killed by the Nazis. He was forced by the Nazis to work in the mines and given very little food to sustain his large body. He was even hit by a German truck and left to die on the side of the road. He survived and continued working to keep the faith alive in Poland. Karol was part of two secret religious groups, the Living Rosary and the Rhapsodic Theater, where Karol not only acted but wrote plays. When he decided to become a priest, he had to study secretly. Every day he and another clandestine seminarian, Jerzy Zachuta, would jeopardize their lives to assist a priest at Mass. One day, his friend did not show up for Mass. The Nazis learned that Jerzy was studying to be a priest and executed him. Still, Karol continued growing in his faith. He knew that the people needed priests more than ever. And he knew that somehow God would work His wonders through him. Karol was extremely intelligent, so intelligent that he understood there were limits to what his mind can come to but no limits to the knowledge that faith could provide. The war ended, but the Nazis were replaced by the Russians and their Polish communist puppets. The new priest, Fr. Wojtyla still continued in faith, fighting to proclaim the Truth of Jesus Christ. He continued this fight through the priesthood, episcopacy and the papacy. In everything all that mattered for St. John Paul was Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.

So, putting it together, Karol Wojtyla was a human being who suffered crisis after crisis, but held on to his faith. He was extremely intelligent, brilliant actually. But he knew that his mind could only go so far. Faith had infinitely more to offer than his rational skills. He was tested with a difficult life, but He knew that God was there through it all.

We need to pray to St. John Paul II today to intercede with the Lord for us. We need faith. We need forgiveness for the times that our humanity has led us to doubts. We need to trust in the Divine Mercy of the Lord. We need courage to withstand the attacks of the godless upon us. We need spiritual strength to take a leap away from those who belittle us for our beliefs, a leap away from our own doubts, a leap that refuses to let the crises of our lives destroy our faith, and a leap into the arms of our Savior.


Pope Francis thrills Manila as estimated 6 million turn up for Mass


Estimated turnout is largest ever audience for a head of the Catholic church, surpassing the 5 million record set by John Paul II in 1995

Sunshine de Leon in Manila

Monday 19 January 2015 07.22 AEST

An estimated six million people flocked to Manila’s Rizal park on Sunday to attend the final mass of Pope Francis’ five-day visit to the Philippines.

The turnout breaks the record set by the last pope to say mass in the same park – John Paul II in 1995, when five people million attended.

Pope Francis holds mass with millions in Manila

The pope is a revered figure in the Philippines, where 80% of the population is devoutly Catholic. Many at the mass considered his visit as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Chiqui Tulaio had arrived at the venue hours before the mass began, to try to find a good place to stand along the motorcade route. “He is a second Jesus for us, a second father for Filipinos,” she said.

Dancers in colourful attire the mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

Dancers in colourful attire attend the mass celebrated by Pope Francis. Photograph: Ettore Ferrari/EPA

Though it rained all day on Sunday, the weather did not dampen the spirits of the faithful who had come from all over the country, motivated by the chance to see a man whom they believe is an answer to their prayers.

Crowds lined the streets patiently and calmly, standing on the closed-off pavements near the venue or behind policed barricades waiting for a sight of their hero. To ­protect themselves from the rain they wore everything from rubbish bags turned into raincoats to shawls made of bubble wrap.

One observer, Joey Stefona, was so excited about the prospect of seeing Pope Francis in person he said: “If he passed by I would be so elated, no words can explain. I really love the pope. I can see all the people smiling – all smiling despite the rain because they are all hoping to see the pope and pray for ­everyone’s dream.”

Pope Francis waves to the crowd from  his popemobile based on the design of a jeepney.

Pope Francis waves to the crowd from his popemobile based on the design of a jeepney. Photograph: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images

As Francis rode into the park on a popemobile based on a Filipino “j­eepney” vehicle, he wore a simple plastic yellow rain poncho of the type that had been handed out to thousands who attended his visit to typhoon-ravaged Tacloban on Saturday.

Upon seeing the modified US army second world war jeep that so many use for public transportation, cheers of joy and excitement rang out in the crowd.
On seeing the pope for the first time, another member of the public, Fely Saldua, said: “It’s a happiness that you can’t describe, an inner happiness.”

A cancer patient who hoped seeing the pope would help her recovery said she wished him to hear “the voices of the Filipinos, not only the politicians or powerful people”.

An aerial view of the crowd of worshippers waiting  for the arrival of Pope Francis in Rizal park, Manila.

An aerial view of the crowd of worshippers waiting for the arrival of Pope in Manila’s Rizal Park. Photograph: EPA

Pope Francis also had a message for the Filipinos. During his homily he said that, given theirs was the foremost Catholic country in Asia, Filipinos were called to be missionaries of faith.

He also noted that it was sometimes tempting to “give up” amid the wrongs, but it was a time to remain strong.

A 16-year-old, named Brenda, said she wanted to tell the pope: “I want him to learn that even with all the crime going on there was hope, no matter how infinitesimal.”


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Day sought to honour John Paul II


Tom Godfrey, QMI Agency

Dec 26, 2011….

TORONTO — Catholics in Canada’s largest city want the federal government to
declare a day to honour Pope John Paul II, one of the most popular pontiffs in

More than 25,000 postcards have been mailed by Canadians to Prime Minister
Stephen Harper calling for April 2 to be recognized as Pope John Paul II Day,
organizers said.

The cards, which require no postage if mailed to MPs, have been distributed
to stores, offices and churches in the Toronto area by members of the
Toronto-Warsaw Friendship Committee, which is spearheading the campaign.

“Pope John Paul II was a man of peace who reached out to young people,” said
committee chairman and former city councillor Chris Korwin-Kuczinski. “We are
hoping to celebrate or commemorate his life every April in Canada.”

Korwin-Kuczinski said John Paul had special ties to Canada and visited
several times, including in July 2002 for a World Youth Day festival in that
attracted 500,000 young people to a Toronto park.

“He was a very brilliant man, and we want to remember him,” he said. “He was
a very popular pope and people want to celebrate his life.”

Tory MP Ted Opitz said the proposal has received first reading in the House
of Commons.

“We are hoping for a second reading early next year because we hope to have
this in place by April,” Opitz said.

“I was involved in World Youth Day, and it was the greatest experience of my

He said the day will be one for people to remember John Paul and the work he
did in helping dismantle communism in Europe and reaching out to disenchanted

John Paul, born Karol Jozef Wojtyla, reigned as pope of the Catholic Church
and sovereign of Vatican City from 1978 until his death in 2005, at 84.


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Don’t Turn Your Back on Fatima

Did you hear the true story of the Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors? Fr. Hubert Schiffer, SJ and at least four other Jesuits were living in quarters eight blocks away from the epicenter of the bomb. They miraculously survived the bomb blast and Fr. Schiffer lived for at least fifty more years without a trace of radioactive side effects.
Fr. Schiffer attributes the miracle in his own words as related by Fr. Paul Ruge O.F.M.I, “We believe that we survived because we lived the message of Fatima. We lived and prayed the rosary daily in that home.”
The Message of Fatima
‘Fatima’ refers to the Church approved apparitions of Mary in 1917 to three shepherd children in Portugal for a period of six months. The children were given messages concerning world events and the miracle of the sun capped the end of the public apparitions. Through St. Jacinta, St. Francisco and Bl. Lucia (the seers), the Church was introduced to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, entreated to pray the rosary daily, and encouraged devotion known as the Communion of Reparation where the faithful assist First Saturday Masses in reparation to the offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Mary also begged the world to stop offending the Lord and to make sacrifices so that sinners would be saved. She promised that if her requests are heeded, “a period of peace will be given the world… and in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” The alarming Fatima prophecies centered around world wars, the Pope’s assassination and the danger of Russia’s communistic influence. Today, it is tempting to dismiss that the A-bomb of Nagasaki, the crumbling of the Berlin wall and St. Pope John Paul II’s consecration of the world closed the case for Fatima’s relevance. However, St. Pope John Paul II’s successors didn’t think so. Pope Benedict XVI on May 13, 2010 in a Mass at the Fatima shrine said:
“We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete.”
After him, Pope Francis, not even a year into his papacy requested Our Lady of Fatima’s statue to be brought to St. Peter’s square. On October 13th, 2013 (the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and anniversary of the last apparition), Pope Francis consecrated the world to Mary.
The threat of China and North Korea’s communism over Asia, Russia’s re-appearance in world events, middle east instability, killing of the innocent unborn, and universal Church persecution should alert us that this period of peace is not among us yet. What we see, in fact, looks more like the cusps of a brewing storm of global mayhem. Current events make for a compelling case of why we still need to listen to and live out Mary’s message in Fatima. We put our own future at risk if we turn our backs on Fatima.
Living Out the Fatima Message
The Fatima lifestyle ushers in the reign or triumph of Mary’s Immaculate Heart, a precursor to the coming of Jesus’ kingdom on earth. St. Louis de Montfort once prophesied: “His [Jesus] kingdom will come.   But this will happen only after the Blessed Virgin is known and has begun to reign…She gave him birth the first time. She will bring Him forth to us when He comes to us again.” How do we live out the messages of Fatima?
  1. Pray the rosary daily
  2. Follow Pope Francis’ example and consecrate ourselves to Mary
  3. Practice the Communion of reparation for First Saturdays
  4. Make penance and sacrifices for sinners
The Fatima lifestyle is a shield of the Church for these perilous times. During the super cyclone that hit the Eastern seaboard of the Philippines, almost all the parishes the diocese of Tacloban sustained heavy damage. All except one: the parish where a First Friday Eucharistic Adoration was going on at the time of the storm. This parish had been practicing the Communion of Reparation, a devotion which begins with an evening first Friday Mass, through nine hours of Adoration and rosaries, and closes with a midnight first Saturday Mass… as inspired by Our Lady of Fatima’s requests.

No salvation outside the Church Fr David Watt

In offering a few thoughts on this well-known dogma, I will be drawing extensively on material from Fr Brian Harrison OS, both published (Living Tradition nos 149 and 150) and unpublished.  Apart from the Magisterial data and classical authors, of all I can remember reading, the work of Fr Harrison has been far and away the most illuminating.  No surprise there, since I know of no finer theologian active in the Church today.

Though we do have our differences.  For example, of catechumens Fr Harrison says they are in porticu Ecclesiae; neither inside nor outside the Church.  I believe Fr Harrison and I are in agreement about the underlying reality here, which of course is far more important than the actual terms we use.  Nevertheless I find his terminology infelicitous.   To the best of my knowledge it has not been employed by any Magisterial document, Doctor or Father of the Church.

To justify what, as I say, appears to be novel terminology, Fr Harrison asks ‘When you are in the portico of St Peter’s, are you inside or outside the Basilica?’ – to which he replies Neither, for the boundaries have not been defined with sufficient exactitude for either answer to be accurate.  My reply:  you can be said to be inside or outside, depending on what is meant by St Peter’s Basilica.  One person may take the term as meaning what might be called the greater Basilica, in which case you are inside, whereas for someone else, the Basilica proper does not begin until the doors, in which case you are outside.

Fr Harrison however may press the point by saying What if you have one foot inside the building and one foot outside? – then, surely, you cannot be said to be either inside or outside. I agree, in the sense that you are not completely inside or outside.  Or to put it another way, you are partially inside and partially outside.  That is because a body has extension.  But you cannot extend this to set-membership, on pain of infringing the Law of the Excluded Middle.  For example, you cannot be partly a member of a chess-club, or neither inside nor outside the club.  Now the language of Tradition about membership of the Church is surely much more akin to being in a club than to being partly inside a building.  No one ever speaks of being partially Catholic.

How then does the Tradition deal with the case of catechumens?

For eg St Robert Bellarmine and Pope Pius XII, they are outside the Church (though not in the sense excluding from salvation) whereas in Vatican II (Lumen Gentium 14) they seem to be already inside.  The apparent contradiction is resolved by the definition of Church being broader in one case than in the other.  (One traditional formulation is that certain people may belong to the soul of the Church while not belonging to her body.)

Indeed, much of the confusion surrounding the dictum Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus – no salvation outside the Church – would appear to be terminological.  Take the case of someone validly baptized as an adult into a virulently anti-Catholic sect; let us suppose that, whatever other mortal sins he has committed, his heresy, at least, is material rather than formal.  In the more common acceptation of the word, he would not be called a Catholic, and yet, since there is only one true Church, if he has indeed been validly baptized, he must have been baptized into that Church, and so it must be correct, in a sense, to describe him at that moment as a Catholic, albeit one who is badly-instructed and possibly even ill-disposed.

It is clear from the work of Fr Harrison that in the phrase ‘no salvation outside the Church’ the sense of ‘Church’ needs to be quite broad.  Nevertheless, from his writings we can glean cogent reasons for not making the term so broad as to include adults who die without ever explicitly professing faith in Christ.  The reward for obeying the grace to follow one’s conscience is that God will provide, if need be in a miraculous way, the opportunity to make an act of explicit faith in Christ before dying.

Not that this should slacken our resolve to share the Catholic Faith.  As Fr Harrison and Dr Ralph Martin agree, we need to be far more active here, knowing that although salvation is just as possible for an adult who dies without ever being consciously Catholic, ceteris paribus it is far more improbable (1 Pet. 4:18). Someone unaware that the Catholic Church is the One True Church will obviously not be able to access all the aids to salvation that are to be found only in her.   It is for this reason that Vatican II promotes the missions with ‘sedulous care’ (Lumen Gentium 16).


Pope Francis’ New Cardinals Reflect a ‘Poor Church’

Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.

The appointees follow through on the Pope’s desire to include those who have been excluded from governance and decision-making authority in both modern-day political and ecclesial structures

But Francis’s selections are also noteworthy because so many of them come from countries struggling with military violence, political turmoil, and devastating poverty.

Shortly after his election, the pope said he took the name Francis to honor the patron saint of the poor, Francis of Assisi, and to emphasize the responsibility of the Church to protect and defend the poor: “[t]his is what I want, a poor church for the poor.” Francis had early detractors who said the pontiff was all talk and would not bring substantial change to the Catholic Church and its governance. Nearly two years into his tenure as the Bishop of Rome, it’s clear that these prophets of doom were wrong.

By naming cardinals from the geographic and existential peripheries of the modern world, Pope Francis is showing us that’s he serious in his mission to rebuild the Church as “a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.” To do this, Pope Francis realizes that he must lift up the voices and experiences of those who have been excluded from governance and decision-making authority in both modern-day political and ecclesial structures.

There is great precedence for this in Christianity. The Jewish prophets told us that God was the one who turns the world upside down by lifting up the lowly and humbling the most powerful. And it is important to note that Jesus himself was a surprise for the Jewish people. Many in Israel expected the Messiah to come as a mighty king who would use military power to set them free from their political slavery.

But the messiah wasn’t born in royal splendor, but in a cave of obscurity and poverty far from the cultural, political, or even religious centers of the ancient world. The liberation he brought wasn’t just for the Jewish people of his generation, but for all people of every generation. And the means of this liberation wasn’t a victorious war against Israel’s enemies, but a humiliating defeat on the cross.

For Catholics, the pope is the Vicar of Christ. In simpler words, in his life and in his deeds, he is supposed to remind us of Jesus. And with Francis’s newest choices, it’s likely that next Vicar will look even more like the founder of the faith: poor in things of the world, but rich in the things that matter.

Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.


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