Pope Benedict’s Prayer for America

Pope Benedict loves the Americas, that much is clear.

Just look at what he told a group of cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laity from the American continent who were gathered for a congress in Rome to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Synod Bishops for America.

I call it his “Prayer for America” — the last part is my favorite:

Dear friends, the love of Christ impels us to devote ourselves without reserve to proclaiming his Name throughout America, bringing it freely and enthusiastically to the hearts of all its inhabitants. There is no more rewarding or beneficial work than this. There is no greater service that we can provide to our brothers and sisters. They are thirsting for God.

For this reason, we ought to take up this commitment with conviction and joyful dedication, encouraging priests, deacons, consecrated men and women and pastoral agents to purify and strengthen their interior lives ever more fully through a sincere relationship with the Lord and a worthy and frequent reception of the sacraments.

This will be encouraged by suitable catechesis and a correct and ongoing doctrinal formation marked by complete fidelity to the word of God and the Church’s magisterium and aimed at offering a response to the deepest questions and aspirations of the human heart. The witness of your faith will thus be more eloquent and incisive, and you will grow in unity in the fulfilment of your apostolate.

A renewed missionary spirit and zealous generosity in your commitment will be an irreplaceable contribution to what the universal Church expects and needs from the Church in America.

Remember, earlier this year Pope Benedict canonized two American saints, including Kateri Tekakewitha, the first Native American saint.

He has visited the United States, Mexico, Cuba and Brazil. He will visit Brazil again, God willing, next summer for World Youth Day and he has also promised to try to visit Philadephia in 2015 for the World Meeting of Families.

To bring about this renewed missionary spirit, the pope recently released a new motu proprio outlining how he intends to reform the identity of Catholic charitable initiatives. I’m excited to comment more on that when I get a chance to read it more closely.

Archbishop Chaput, meanwhile, has been writing beautifully on the value of new ecclesial communities and movements in the life of the Church in the Americas:

[These movements are] alive in Jesus Christ, and their new life and energy spill out into the whole Church. What they can bring to the Church is a clear and honest view of our pastoral realities—including the failures and flaws of the Church herself; a view tempered by love, ruled by fidelity, but unencumbered by legacy, habits of the past, or an investment in keeping things the way they are.

The essence of these communities is a new spirit of Christian equality rooted in the mandate of baptism, honoring each vocation in the Church for its unique task and importance, but recognizing that the call to holiness is universal, and that the mission to “make disciples of all nations” belongs to all of us in equal measure—ordained, consecrated, and lay.

A holy impatience; the passion of youth; a sober understanding of the culture that shapes us; a zeal for Jesus Christ guided by deep intellectual formation; and a demand for excellence in all things for the sake of God’s glory—these are all marks of the best of the new ecclesial communities. And they’re the tools God uses throughout history to make all things new. The fruitfulness of these communities and movements comes from living the new evangelization without compromise and at personal cost, instead of planning for it and talking about it, but never actually doing it.

Nothing is more powerful than the witness of Christian men and women loving God and serving God’s people; working together; and sharing lives of courage, joy, and friendship. In an age of aggressive individualism and the isolation it breeds, the new ecclesial movements offer two absolutely priceless gifts: community and purpose.

These new sources of renewal, of course, are not only appearing “outside” of the structure of the Church (they are in fact grafted to the Church and draw their vitality from her) — the bishops themselves are also mapping the path to Catholic renewal in the United States  through their five resolutions for American Catholics in 2013.

I think of these new initiatives as God beginning to answer Pope Benedict’s prayer for America.

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