Friday, November 23, 2012

A Catholic's Gratitude for Barack Obama

Yesterday, November 22, was Thanksgiving Day in America.  This a day that has been set aside for all Americans to pause and give thanks for the blessings in our lives.  Originally it was to give thanks to our Creator, but since it is now basically against the law to mention Divinity in public, I guess we're suppose to just sort of thank each other.  But in recent years even giving thanks on this day has become moot.  Thanksgiving has become a time to watch football and/or go to to the mall and stand in line for Black Friday so we can get an iPad or flat screen TV really cheap.

Shoppers camping out at mall on Thanksgiving Day
The point of this post is not to lament the loss of the meaning of Thanksgiving and what that says about the sad state of our culture. That's for another time.  Notwithstanding what much of the rest of the nation does, I still like to use this day as originally intended and thank my Creator for all the many, many blessings I have received.  I thank Him for my faith, for my family and friends, for the fact that I still have a job in this economy, for the fact that we did not suffer the ravages of Hurricane Sandy as so many did here in the Northeast.  And I also thank God for the re-election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

Oh yes, you read that correctly.  I, a serious Catholic who loves my faith above all else in my life, am grateful for President Barack Obama, an avowed enemy of the Catholic Church and everything that is holy and sacred.   I am saying that the re-election of Barack Obama, while not a good thing for Catholics, was absolutely necessary if any part of our Church is going to survive in this once great nation.

Before you decide that I have completely lost my mind and move to something else, read on a bit.  Up until the election of Barack Obama, most Catholics, and specifically our bishops and priests, sort of sat back and let things happen.  Our nation legalized the killing of our babies in 1973.  There has been outrage here and there, and admittedly many good Catholic groups were raised up to fight this terrible evil such as the Priests for Life and the Sisters of Life, but for the most part we rarely heard about this holocaust from our pulpits.  The vast, vast majority of Catholics (well over 90%) used birth control, yet next to nothing was said about this.  Millions of Catholics were living together without benefit of marriage, but silence pretty much reigned supreme on this subject as well.  

Militant homosexuals were gaining ground and making themselves accepted by general society, and not only was little being said, but to the contrary, a fair number of Catholic Churches were proudly proclaiming themselves "inclusive" and welcoming sexually active homosexuals into their parishes.  The Church did get what should have been a wake-up call when the sexual abuse crisis hit.  She was forced to admit that there were renegade clergy in her ranks, but nothing much changed in her message to the faithful and the rest of the world.  The vast majority in the Church quietly continued along on what seemed to be a path of self destruction.

Father Frank Pavone
Then came Barack Obama, put into office by the Catholic vote in 2008.  There were most definitely voices from the Church warning us of the danger in doing so.  I remember a Youtube video from Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life the day after the 2008 election in which he gave us a very dire warning:
Barack Obama has been elected the new president of the United States, and this is one of the biggest mistakes that the American people have made in the entire history of our nation.
And the many reasons why that's true, will come to light as the months go on. But the biggest reason why that's true, is that here, we have a president elect who cannot tell the difference between serving the public and killing the public.
He is, as you know, the most ardent supporter of the so called 'Right to Abortion', in an unrestricted way, throughout all nine months of pregnancy for any reason, or no reason at all. This is the man who said, 'I don't know when human rights are attached to a baby.' Well if you don't know when human rights begin, you're in no position to govern a country that was founded on the principle of human rights.
We saw how prophetic Father Pavone was when newly sworn-in President Obama's first executive order was to overturn the Mexico City policy put into effect by President Ronald Reagan, and allow funding for overseas abortion.  This was only the first of hundreds of actions on the part of the Obama administration in promoting abortion and other intrinsic evils.  The crowning achievement of the Obama administration is Obamacare, which allows, nay enforces federal funding of contraception, sterilization and abortion.  Of course this bill also requires all employers to provide, via insurance coverage, free contraception and morning after pills to their employees regardless of the employer's personal beliefs.  We must not forget that Obama is also our first president to openly support homosexual rights and same sex marriage.

We have seen the bishops come fully awake under President Barack Obama.  They have had no choice but to acknowledge to the world that the Catholic Church is under siege from the government.  Unlike the 2008 election, bishop after bishop has been announcing from the pulpit that Catholics cannot vote for politicians who openly support abortion and other intrinsically evil practices.  Because of the HHS Mandate, the bishops have been forced to talk about birth control, some for the first time in their ministries.  They have to tell the faithful and the rest of the world that the Catholic church views birth control as evil and that use of it endangers the salvation of souls.

Here is a screenshot from from just before the election, showing several headlines about bishops warning of voting for Barack Obama:

Bishop John Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois
Our bishops are now talking about salvation and sin and even hell, subjects that seemed to have been taboo and forgotten by large portions of the Church for the last decades.  We are hearing about the need to make our faith and our Savior the central point of our lives.  Bishops are taking responsibility for the grave crisis we have seen in the Church in the last decades.  In a response to the HHS Mandate back in April 2012, Timothy Cardinal Dolan made a huge admission:
In a frank interview with the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and is increasingly being billed as America’s leading Catholic cleric, says the Church has failed to communicate its moral teachings in the area of sexuality. He says further that the fault lies with Church leaders.

“I’m not afraid to admit that we have an internal catechetical challenge—a towering one—in convincing our own people of the moral beauty and coherence of what we teach. That’s a biggie,” said Dolan.
“We have gotten gun-shy . . . in speaking with any amount of cogency on chastity and sexual morality,” he added.
The Church’s own failure to communicate its teachings on contraception has been one of the leading tools used against it in its fight against Obama’s mandate, with critics repeatedly pointing out that the majority of Catholic women are using some form of contraception.
Cardinal Dolan
There is the recent speech given at the Bishops' Conference by Cardinal Dolan in which he did not specifically mention the war being waged by President Obama against the church, but Cardinal Dolan did say that in response to these times in which there are so many lapsed Catholics, we need to once again emphasize the Sacrament of Penance, starting with the Bishops themselves, as a pathway to reconversion. As he said at the end of his speech:
With this as my presidential address, I know I risk the criticism. I can hear it now: "With all the controversies and urgent matters for the Church, Dolan spoke of conversion of heart through the Sacrament of Penance. Can you believe it?"
To which I reply, "You better believe it!"
First things first!
This theme was very much echoed by Cardinal Charles Chaput of Philadelphia in which he said that "Being a Saint is the Only Thing that Matters".  As the Cardinal stated:
“More than 70 million Americans describe themselves as Catholics. But for all practical purposes, they’re no different from everybody else in their views, their appetites and their behaviors.”
Cardinal Chaput went on to say that Catholics need to get back to basics:
“So we need to ask ourselves: What do I want my life to mean? If I claim to be a Catholic, can I prove it with the patterns of my life? When do I pray? How often do I seek out the Sacrament of Penance? What am I doing for the poor? How am I serving the needy? Do I really know Jesus Christ?”

“Who am I leading to the Church? How many young people have I asked to consider a vocation? How much time do I spend sharing about God with my spouse, my children and my friends? How well and how often do I listen for God’s will in my own life?”
One of the most important results of Barack Obama's re-election as president is that more and more Catholics are realizing that our salvation, both physical and spiritual, is not in politics, as shown in this editorial from entitled "The End of Pro Life Politics.  As Dr. Jeff Mirus writes:
Have we as pro-life Catholics been wrong to invest the lion’s share of our time, talent and energy in the political battle against abortion over the past forty years? Or even if we have not been wrong the whole time, are we wrong now? Perhaps it is obvious that I believe the answer is yes. It ought to be clear by now that Western culture is insufficiently healthy to sustain a political solution to abortion. Therefore, it is counter-productive to pour our resources into the effort to achieve such a solution. We must use our resources far more wisely than that.
Dr. Mirus writes:
The time has come to admit the obvious and, in consequence, to speak the unspeakable. Is it not clear now that the social order as we know it in the West is utterly incapable of sustaining successful pro-life politics? The evidence is overwhelming. First, there is again the remarkable lack of success over the past forty years despite the staggering resources expended in the cause. Second, in the United States at least, this lack of success seems to conflict with polls that repeatedly show a majority of voters to prefer restrictions on abortion—which proves that such voters do not regard abortion as significant enough to influence their votes. Third, as indicated at the outset, the number of other serious social and political challenges which have so rapidly emerged in recent years are clear signs that our mainstream culture has problems far deeper than a disagreement about how to handle the question of legal abortion.
It is no longer satisfactory—in fact I would say it is disingenuous—to stress (for example, in response to the Obama juggernaut) that we simply need to go back to the trenches and mobilize more people and more resources in the same political effort next time around. Twenty-five years ago this seemed to make sense. Ten years ago people were reluctant to suggest that it did not. Today, anybody who thinks this is a reasonable response to the problems we face either has his head in the sand or possesses a vested interest in the economic viability of one or more of the many pro-life organizations which—almost certainly through no great fault of their own—simply cannot succeed.
What does Dr. Mirus see as the proper response to the evil surrounding us and the persecution of the Catholic Church?
Personally, I do not see this as cause for alarm, just as I do not see it as anything new. I think, rather, that we are just beginning to see our situation as it really is, after a generation and more of intense confusion over the signs of the times. This misreading of the signs has unfortunately caused us to waste enormous amounts of energy fighting not so much for Christ as for political outcomes which cannot be sustained without Christ. This does not mean that we must despair, though we are very likely in for a rough time. Nor does it mean, obviously, that we are absolved from voting morally. But it does mean that we ought to expend our greatest energies elsewhere, in widespread efforts to strengthen the Church, to develop our own Christian subculture complete with vibrant intermediary institutions, to evangelize our neighbors, and to offer practical service to any and all who, increasingly ill-served by a bureaucratic pagan State, may turn to us in their need.
This is, in fact, exactly what Christians had to do in the early centuries of the Church (and what they must never fail to do at any time, even when things happen to be going better politically). In other words, the answer to the disturbing question with which I opened this essay is clear. This is not the time to place the emphasis on politics, any more than it was time for politics when Karol Wojtyla was growing up in Poland. This is the time for Faith and family, evangelization and the formation of Christian culture.
This is not the time to waste immense resources and energies on political efforts which our larger Western culture cannot possibly sustain. It is rather a time to grow in Faith, evangelize those around us, and form vibrant local cultures which draw our neighbors into the light of Christ.
The re-election of Barack Obama has forced the Catholic Church to face reality with no place to hide.  Our enemy is firmly in control.  The GOP has made it it quite clear that they are no longer going to fight, if they ever did. The war started by Barack Obama against the Catholic Church will continue unabated and for all intents and purposes, unopposed by the Republicans.  As Politico told us two days after the election:
House Speaker John Boehner made it official Thursday: Obamacare isn’t going anywhere.
In an interview with ABC News, Boehner seemed to suggest the election ended any efforts to wipe out the whole law. When “World News” anchor Diane Sawyer asked if there would be any more votes to repeal the law, Boehner said “the election changes that” and “Obamacare is the law of the land.
If Mitt Romney had defeated Barack Obama, many Catholics would have heaved a sigh of relief with the belief that we will live to see another day.  We would have comforted ourselves with the thought that Romney would appoint the right judges to the Supreme Court who would make everything right.  God would come back into the public square.  The HHS Mandate would be lifted, and the Catholic Church could once again go about her business unimpeded.  In other words, we could put the blinders back on as to the real condition of the nation and our Church.

An Obama administration leave us with nowhere to hide and forces us to face our own spiritual nakedness.  We need to acknowledge and repent of the fact that the problems we as a Church face in 2012 are largely the result of both our own actions and inactions of the last 50 years   Catholics are realizing that while Barack Obama is the face of our enemy, our real fight is not against him.  Our fight is against our own disbelief and rejection of Church teachings, our lack of dependence upon and faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ, and our indifference to the sin in our lives and our lack of repentance for it.  The solutions to our problems are spiritual, not political.

The message we are getting from our bishops and other leading voices in the Church is that the answer to the spiritual crisis in which we find ourselves is to rediscover our Catholic roots. We need to become Catholics again.

The best days of the United States are behind us.  We are headed for very dark and troubling times. The Culture of Death is firmly ensconced in our nation and our entire world, and all those who oppose it will be persecuted.  The Obama administration is not the cause of the great evil that we face but the symbol of it. As the Apostle Paul told us 2000 years ago:
For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.  (Ephesians 6:12)
Barack Obama has galvanized the Church in a way no one and nothing else has been able to do and made us realize that we are in the fight of our lives, both physically and spiritually.  And that is why I as a Catholic am thankful for Barack Obama.

Pray for our bishops and priests that they will have the courage and fortitude to stand up to the evil that we all face, and pray for your own soul as well.  St. Paul gave us our marching orders in Ephesians 6:13-18:
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

¡Viva Cristo Rey! ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI: We Are Restless Until We Rest In God

The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for(Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 27).

We have seen many stories of celebrities and other well known people who seem to have it all - talent, beauty, fame, money, the adulation of millions.  Yet so often they have terrible tragic endings, and we find out they were deeply addicted to drugs or alcohol, going from one failed relationship to another with little or no happiness or contentment in their lives.  We think of people like Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston.  All great talents, "loved" by millions, at the very top of their game and yet, desperately lonely and unhappy people who died as total failures in their personal lives.

Blessed Mother Teresa and Princess Diana
We were given a prime example of this in 1997 when we witnessed the untimely and tragic death of Princess Diana, a terribly frustrated and unhappy individual who knew little peace or happiness in her short life.  Less than one week later Blessed Mother Teresa died, having lived a life of love and service to others and completely at peace.  Mother Angelica described this event perfectly:
One who had everything died with nothing; one who had nothing died with everything.
What was Blessed Mother Teresa's secret?  No secret at all - she loved Our Lord above everything else.  She found what she was looking for:
“To me - Jesus is my God. Jesus is my Spouse. Jesus is my Life. Jesus is my only Love. Jesus is my All in all. Jesus is my everything. Jesus, I love with my whole heart, with my whole being. I have given Him all, even my sins, and He has espoused me to Himself in all tenderness and love. Now and for life I am the Spouse of my crucified Spouse.”
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has continued his talks in regard to the Year of Faith.  On November 7, he gave a talk in St. Peter's Square about man's innate desire for God, that desire which was completely fulfilled in Blessed Mother Teresa's life.  I have copied a translation of our Holy Father's talk from the Vatican website and given my understanding of the Holy Father's talk:

Pope Benedict starts his talk by reminding us that we all have an innate desire for God.  
The journey of reflection that we are making together during this Year of Faith leads us to meditate today on a fascinating aspect of the human and the Christian experience: man carries within himself a mysterious desire for God. In a very significant way, the Catechism of the Catholic Church opens precisely with the following consideration: “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (n. 27).
A statement like this, that even today in many cultural contexts seems quite acceptable, even obvious, might, however, be taken as a provocation in the West’s secularized culture. 
Our secular world is trying very hard to push God out, telling us that He is a figment of our imagination and that belief and obedience to Him will only enslave us and make us unhappy.  But that doesn't lessen our need for God in any way.  We often try to fill this desire for God by using the things of this world, especially all the distractions we have in our contemporary world such as movies, TV, video games, etc.  Some people use their work, some people use food.  Some people try to use other people in their lives - a spouse, children, etc.  And of course millions get involved in false pagan religions in which the real God is nowhere to be found  All of these are substitutes.  Pope Benedict XVI explains that try as we might, nothing will satisfy our desire for God but God Himself.

The Holy Father then states that despite our natural desire for God, many in our world today deny this vehemently.  They dismiss belief and faith in God almost as some sort of neurosis:
Many of our contemporaries might actually object that they have no such desire for God. For large sectors of society he is no longer the one longed for or desired but rather a reality that leaves them indifferent, one on which there is no need even to comment. In reality, what we have defined as “the desire for God” has not entirely disappeared and it still appears today, in many ways, in the heart of man. Human desire always tends to certain concrete goods, often anything but spiritual, and yet it has to face the question of what is truly “the” good, and thus is confronted with something other than itself, something man cannot build but he is called to recognize. What can really satisfy man’s desire?
Many of us think the answer to our desires is "romantic" love.  If we can just find our soul mate, that person who can complete us, we will have everything we need.  Pope Benedict directs us to his  first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est ("God Is Love") in which he discussed the meaning and significance of romantic love:
In my first Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, I sought to analyze how such dynamism can be found in the experience of human love, an experience that in our age is more easily perceived as a moment of ecstasy, of leaving oneself, like a place in which man feels overcome by a desire that surpasses him. Through love, a man and a woman experience in a new way, thanks to each other, the greatness and beauty of life and of what is real. If what is experienced is not a mere illusion, if I truly want the good of the other as a means for my own good, then I must be willing not to be self-centred, to place myself at the other’s service, even to the point of self-denial. The answer to the question on the meaning of the experience of love then passes through the purification and healing of the will, required in loving the other. We must cultivate, encourage, and also correct ourselves, so that this good can truly be loved.
The Holy Father, quoting from his own encyclical, tells us that truly loving another takes us out of ourselves and can actually start us on the journey "towards authentic self-discovery and indeed discovery of God."  The more authentic the love, "the more it reveals the question of its origin [that origin being God, who is Love Personified] and its destiny [the destiny of love is union with God], of the possibility that it may endure for ever."  Notice that Pope Benedict says that this reveals the question of love's origin and destiny.  Loving another opens us up to go beyond ourselves, but that is only the beginning.
Thus the initial ecstasy becomes a pilgrimage, “an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God” (Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, n. 6). Through this journey one will be able to deepen gradually one’s knowledge of that love, initially experienced. And the mystery that it represents will become more and more defined: in fact, not even the beloved is capable of satisfying the desire that dwells in the human heart. In fact, the more authentic one’s love for the other is, the more it reveals the question of its origin and its destiny, of the possibility that it may endure for ever. Therefore, the human experience of love has in itself a dynamism that refers beyond the self, it is the experience of a good that leads to being drawn out and finding oneself before the mystery that encompasses the whole of existence.
The Holy Father explains that the more we experience true, genuine love in our lives, the more restless we become because "every good experienced by man projects him toward the mystery that surrounds the human being; every desire that springs up in the human heart echoes a fundamental desire that is never fully satisfied."   To truly love projects us towards God, making us realize that there is something bigger than we are  But these desires cannot be fulfilled solely by human effort, and thus the act of loving another make us even more restless in looking for the answers.  As Pope Benedict explains, "Undoubtedly by such a deep desire, hidden, even enigmatic, one cannot arrive directly at faith".  The Pope tells us we know what does not satisfy us, but apart from God, we are unable to put a name on exactly what it is that we do desire and need.  "One cannot know God based on human desire alone."  As St. Augustine said, we are still restless. "Man is, deep down, a religious being, a beggar of God":  Experiencing true love and true beauty creates in us "a desire to know the light itself, what makes the things of the world shine and with them ignites the sense of beauty."
One could make similar observation about other human experiences as well, such as friendship, encountering beauty, loving knowledge: every good experienced by man projects him toward the mystery that surrounds the human being; every desire that springs up in the human heart echoes a fundamental desire that is never fully satisfied. Undoubtedly by such a deep desire, hidden, even enigmatic, one cannot arrive directly at faith. Men and women, after all, know well what does not satisfy them, but they cannot imagine or define what the happiness they long for in their hearts would be like. One cannot know God based on human desire alone. From this point of view he remains a mystery: man is the seeker of the Absolute, seeking with small and hesitant steps. And yet, already the experience of desire, of a “restless heart” as St Augustine called it, is very meaningful. It tells us that man is, deep down, a religious being (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 28), a “beggar of God”. We can say with the words of Pascal: “Man infinitely surpasses man” (Pensées, ed. Chevalier 438; ed. Brunschvicg 434). Eyes recognize things when they are illuminated. From this comes a desire to know the light itself, what makes the things of the world shine and with them ignites the sense of beauty.

The Holy Father next gives us hope that despite the fact that everything in our contemporary world is so completely focused on the material, at blocking out what he calls the "transcendent dimension", we can still find the "true religious meaning of life, that shows how the gift of faith is not senseless, is not irrational."  The Holy Father tells us that in order to find this "transcendent dimension,"  we need to  "to discover or rediscover the taste of the authentic joy of life."  He defines the taste for true joy as "family, friendship, solidarity with those who suffer, self-renunciation for the sake of the other, love of knowledge, art, the beauty of nature."  He says this needs to be instilled in children from a young age. Developing a taste for the true joys of life produces "antibodies that can fight the trivialization and the dulling widespread today."  He does not exclude adults, who "need to rediscover this joy, to desire authenticity, to purify themselves of the mediocrity that might infest them."

Pope Benedict XVI tell us that it is only these authentic joys that will "bring out the desire for God." This is very important to note for us who live in such immoral times in which everything around us seems designed to take us as far away from God as possible.  We must be very careful of the entertainment we allow ourselves and our family to watch, the books we read, the places we frequent, even the people with whom we socialize.  We have a mighty adversary who is doing everything he can to snatch away the spark of God that is in each person.
We must therefore maintain that it is possible also in this age, seemingly so blocked to the transcendent dimension, to begin a journey toward the true religious meaning of life, that shows how the gift of faith is not senseless, is not irrational. It would be very useful, to that end, to foster a kind of pedagogy of desire, both for the journey of one who does not yet believe and for the one who has already received the gift of faith. It should be a pedagogy that covers at least two aspects. In the first place, to discover or rediscover the taste of the authentic joy of life. Not all satisfactions have the same effect on us: some leave a positive after-taste, able to calm the soul and make us more active and generous. Others, however, after the initial delight, seem to disappoint the expectations that they had awakened and sometimes leave behind them a sense of bitterness, dissatisfaction or emptiness. Instilling in someone from a young age the taste for true joy, in every area of life – family, friendship, solidarity with those who suffer, self-renunciation for the sake of the other, love of knowledge, art, the beauty of nature — all this means exercising the inner taste and producing antibodies that can fight the trivialization and the dulling widespread today. Adults too need to rediscover this joy, to desire authenticity, to purify themselves of the mediocrity that might infest them. It will then become easier to drop or reject everything that although attractive proves to be, in fact, insipid, a source of indifference and not of freedom. And this will bring out that desire for God of which we are speaking.

Pope Benedict also warns us never to be content with our status in life, with what we have achieved.  We must be constantly moving forward, or we will begin to go backward in the wrong direction.  That is our only choice.  He calls this discontent a "healthy restlessness that leads us to be more demanding — to want a higher good, a deeper good — and at the same time to perceive ever more clearly that no finite thing can fill our heart."
A second aspect that goes hand in hand with the preceding one is never to be content with what you have achieved. It is precisely the truest joy that unleashes in us the healthy restlessness that leads us to be more demanding — to want a higher good, a deeper good — and at the same time to perceive ever more clearly that no finite thing can fill our heart. In this way we will learn to strive, unarmed, for the good that we cannot build or attain by our own power; and we will learn to not be discouraged by the difficulty or the obstacles that come from our sin.
Pope Benedict tell us that even when our desire become disordered and "follows artificial paradises and seems to lose the capacity of yearning for the true good", we can still be redeemed by God.  "Even in the abyss of sin, that ember [the yearning for the true good] is never fully extinguished in man. . . .God, by the gift of his grace, never denies man his help."  The Holy Father tell us "When in desire one opens the window to God, this is already a sign of the presence of faith in the soul, faith that is a grace of God."  This is what Divine Mercy is all about, this is what faith is all about - God reaching out to man:
In this regard, we must not forget that the dynamism of desire is always open to redemption. Even when it strays from the path, when it follows artificial paradises and seems to lose the capacity of yearning for the true good. Even in the abyss of sin, that ember is never fully extinguished in man. It allows him to recognize the true good, to savour it, and thus to start out again on a path of ascent; God, by the gift of his grace, never denies man his help. We all, moreover, need to set out on the path of purification and healing of desire. We are pilgrims, heading for the heavenly homeland, toward that full and eternal good that nothing will be able to take away from us. This is not, then, about suffocating the longing that dwells in the heart of man, but about freeing it, so that it can reach its true height. When in desire one opens the window to God, this is already a sign of the presence of faith in the soul, faith that is a grace of God. St Augustine always says: “so God, by deferring our hope, stretched our desire; by the desiring, stretches the mind; by stretching, makes it more capacious” (Commentary on the First Letter of John, 4,6: PL 35, 2009).

Because of God's great mercy and love for us and His desire to reach down to us even in the midst of great sin, we can feel like brothers and sisters to all men, even of those who do not believe.  As the Catechism tells us "God never ceases to draw man to Himself."  This is the reason why we must be praying for all who are truly seeking God:
On this pilgrimage, let us feel like brothers and sisters of all men, travelling companions even of those who do not believe, of those who are seeking, of those who are sincerely wondering about the dynamism of their own aspiration for the true and the good. Let us pray, in this Year of Faith, that God may show his face to all those who seek him with a sincere heart. Thank you.

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