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Pope John Paul II

Pope Benedict’s Resignation…Be Not Afraid!


Whenever I give a talk on anxiety, I ask the audience if they know what phrase Blessed Pope John Paul II used three times in his first speech as Holy Father. Invariably, several people cry out…

“Be not afraid!”

Echoing a familiar Biblical theme, used several times by Jesus, the late Holy Father reminds us that God is in control. No matter what happens in our life, the Lord is right there beside us. While it can be a very comforting reminder, it is also really easy to forget…especially when change or suffering arises in our lives.

Today, many of us woke up to some shocking news. Our beloved Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI will resign on February 28. While this is certainly sad news for those of us who love and respect the Holy Father, it is also a time to put our trust in the words of Jesus to St. Peter, the first pope:

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. (Mt 16:18)

In other words, we can relax because the Church isn’t going anywhere. We will get through this, just as we survived the death of Blessed John Paul II and every other pope before him. Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be sad. I have a deep love and respect for Pope Benedict and the Church has been blessed to have him as a leader. However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:13) who guides us to the truth.

I’m starting to see a lot of traffic on social media outlets, expressing unhappiness about what is sure to come in the mass media: mainly speculation on whether the new Holy Father will be “liberal” or “conservative”. The individuals who can be classified as “conservative” are hoping that the new pope will “straighten out the Church”. Those who consider themselves “liberal”, on the other hand, are praying for someone who will eliminate priestly celibacy and permit the ordination of women. Unfortunately, my friends, when we spend time dwelling on either of those positions, we can easily lose sight of a very important fact.

In two days, we enter into the holy season of Lent. This is a time given to us by the Church, to allow us to reflect our shortcomings and inordinate attachments and focus on moving closer to the Lord. There is not a day that goes by when I don’t sin in one way or another. Whether it’s by commission (doing things I shouldn’t do) or omission (not doing things I should do), I fall into this trap every single day. And, like it or not, I’m going to be judged for these sins one day. Even worse, I’m going to stand face to face with the Lord and try to explain why I let Him down so many times. Fortunately, Lent allows me to address some of my shortcomings and express remorse for them. It gives me a chance, with God’s grace, to become a better person. Right now, that has to be my main focus. None of us know if we will ever get to experience another Lent. It would be a shame to waste the opportunity!

Considering today’s news, it’s normal to feel sad and be concerned about the future of the Church, but don’t get carried away. My family and I pray for the Holy Father every day. This morning, my wife reminded our children that our prayers (and the prayers of all who pray for him daily) helped Pope Benedict to make this decision. He is a prayerful man and he is guided by the Holy Spirit. Continue to pray for him and for the Church and don’t forget to invoke the intercession of Our Lady, who was instrumental in praying for the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church (Acts 1:14). In the meantime, let’s get ready to enter into Lent, mindful of the fact that it is a great opportunity for purification. If you’d like some company along the way, don’t forget that the Following The Truth Lenten Radio Retreat begins on Ash Wednesday. I’d love to have you join us!

Mary And The Eucharist


“If we wish to discover in all its richness the profound relationship between the Church and the Eucharist, we cannot neglect Mary, Mother and model of the Church…Mary can guide us toward this most holy sacrament because she herself has a profound relationship with it.” (Blessed Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia)

At the center of our Catholic Faith is the belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Unfortunately, we often lose sight of or don’t appreciate the profound blessing that we have been granted. If we desire to become better Catholics and improve our relationship with the Lord, we must deepen our love for the Eucharist. How can we do so? One of the best and most underutilized ways is to turn to the Mother of Jesus, Mary. By getting to know her and studying her life, we can grow closer to Our Lord who is fully present in the Eucharist. In his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Blessed Pope John Paul II devotes an entire chapter to Mary, “Woman of the Eucharist”. Let’s examine some of his thoughts on how Our Lady can help us better understand the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament
Sometimes referred to as Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Mary can take us by the hand and lead us to a closer relationship with the Eucharistic Christ. While observing that “at first glance”, the Gospel is silent on the subject of Mary and the Eucharist, the late Holy Father makes an interesting observation. We know that Mary was present with the apostles who prayed “with one accord” (Acts 1:14) for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it follows that Mary was most certainly present at the Eucharistic celebrations of the early Christians who were devoted to “the breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42). Blessed John Paul II then points to Mary’s interior disposition and observes that Mary is a “woman of the Eucharist” in her whole life.

A Mystery of Faith
Scripture tells us that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). The Eucharist is certainly a mystery of faith and cannot be grasped by our limited human understanding. Accepting Jesus’ command to “Do this in memory of me”, requires us to deny our senses and humbly submit to His instruction. What better advice can we be given than the words of Mary at the wedding feast of Cana when she stated, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5)? Just as He changed water into wine, He can turn ordinary bread and wine into His Body and Blood. By listening to Mary’s advice, we can accept (without fully understanding) the miracle that occurs on the altar and embrace Our Lord’s words, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54).

The Fiat and the Amen
By offering her womb for the Incarnation of God’s Word, Mary lived her Eucharistic faith even before the institution of the Eucharist. At the Annunciation, when Mary conceived the Son of God, she foreshadowed what happens to us when we receive Holy Communion. As a result, according to Blessed John Paul II, “there is a profound analogy between the Fiat which Mary said in reply to the angel, and the Amen which every believer says when receiving the Body of the Lord”. Although we sometimes forget the significance of our response to the words “The Body of Christ”, by replying “Amen” we are expressing our belief that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. Mary’s belief in the mystery of the Annunciation (“Blessed is she who believed”) anticipates the Church’s belief in the Eucharist.

It is impossible to deny that there is a sacrificial dimension to the Eucharist. The Body and Blood of He whom we receive in this great sacrament was sacrificed for our redemption. Just as suffering was a major part of Our Lord’s life, it was a constant theme in the life of Mary. Beginning with Simeon’s crucifixion prophecy at the Lord’s Presentation (“a sword will pierce your soul”) and culminating with Our Lord’s death on the Cross, Mary had a very real share in the suffering of Christ. In this encyclical, the Holy Father made the following profound observation:

In her daily preparation for Calvary, Mary experienced a kind of ?anticipated Eucharist? ? one might say a ?spiritual communion? ? of desire and of oblation, which would culminate in her union with her Son in his passion, and then find expression after Easter by her partaking in the Eucharist which the Apostles celebrated as the memorial of that passion.

The Magnificat
According to Blessed Pope John Paul II, “in the Eucharist the Church is completely united to Christ and His sacrifice and makes her own the spirit of Mary. This truth can be understood more deeply by re-reading the Magnificat in a Eucharistic key”. He points out that when Mary proclaims “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”, she is praising God “through” Jesus (who is in her womb), “in” Jesus and “with” Jesus. This, he observes, is the true “Eucharistic attitude” and that “the Eucharist has been given to us so that our life, like that of Mary, may become completely a Magnificat”. Saint Louis de Montfort, who greatly inspired John Paul II, recommended that the Magnificat be recited after the reception of Holy Communion. In doing so, we unite our voice with that of Mary and allow our often weak faith to be infused by her perfect and unfailing faith!

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.

During this month devoted to Mary, why not take some time and meditate on her role as Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament? There is no better person to help us increase our appreciation for the Eucharist than the Mother of Our Lord. She knows Him better than any other human. Ask her to help you believe the “unbelievable”!

“Mary is present, with the Church and as the Mother of the Church, at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist. If the Church and the Eucharist are inseparably united, the same ought to be said of Mary and the Eucharist.” (Blessed Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia)

Be Not Afraid!

Be Not Afraid!

As we celebrate the feast of Blessed Pope John Paul II today, let’s remember the famous words repeated 3 times during his installation homily.? First spoken by Our Lord, these words are something we all need to hear on a daily basis.? They remind us that, despite problems and uncertainty, Jesus is always beside us to provide comfort.? Another source of help can be observed on JPII’s papal coat of arms.? The “M” next to the cross reminds us that our Blessed Mother Mary is?always found next to the Cross.? No greater example of this can be found than her presence at the crucifixion of?Jesus?(John 19:25).? Jesus and Mary know every problem we are facing and will provide us with the graces needed to endure.

Blessed Pope John Paul II, pray for us!

DVD Review: Mary, Mother Of Our Century (John Paul II At Marian Shrines)

In a previous post, I mentioned that I was one of 10 Catholic bloggers chosen by CCC of America?to review the newly released DVD series, John Paul II – The Man, The Pope, And His Message.? The volume that I’ll be looking at is Mary, Mother of Our Century (John Paul II at Marian Shrines).? Not only do I consider it an honor to be?chosen to participate in this project, but?I consider myself especially blessed to be?asked to discuss the Marian devotion of the late Holy Father.

Aside from the fact that we’re both Polish (boy, were my parents happy when he was elected!), Blessed Pope John Paul II and I share something else in common.? We both made the Total Consecration of our lives to Jesus through Mary, as popularized by St. Louis de Montfort.? As pointed out in the DVD, when?JPII?was a young man, he carried Montfort’s book (True Devotion To Mary) everywhere he went.??This devotion was?extremely important to him and greatly influenced his life.

As I watched this 3o minute episode (the entire set consists of 10 30-minute?segments), it was easy to see the Holy Father’s?love for the Blessed?Mother.? I relived his trips to Marian shrines in such locations as Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe and Czestochowa as he gave us an example of what it means to be truly devoted to Mary.? In each of these locations, he re-consecrated himself, the country that he was visiting, and?the world to Mary and her Immaculate Heart.

One of the most profound statements in the film was the Holy Father’s comment, “To those who strive to know and Love Him, Christ reveals His Mother as He revealed her to His disciple John from the Cross”.? Sadly, many Christians ignore this monumental event that took place while Jesus was dying on the Cross.? Can you imagine the effort it took for Our Lord to utter the words, “Behold your Mother” (John 19:27)?? JPII knew the significance of this gesture and, as a sign of?his love for Mary,?included an “M” next to?the cross on his official coat of arms.

Many of us have been inspired by the holiness of others – your grandmother who faithfully prayed? her rosary each day, the elderly man who bows his head in prayer after daily Mass, your coworker who always has a positive attitude and a kind word.? Watching JPII as he traveled to the various Marian shrines had this same kind of effect on me and filled me with gratitude for the gift of our Blessed Mother.? Watching these visits, observing his actions and listening to his words caused?me to reflect on my own relationship with Mary.? Do I love her enough?? Do I speak with her frequently?? Do I ask her to lead me closer to Jesus?? Am I utilizing her intercessory power?

Do you ever wish that you could see and hear some of the great saints such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua and St. Teresa of Avila?? While we can read their writings and the details of their lives, we can’t actually see and hear them.??In?this DVD?series, we are blessed with the opportunity to watch the actions and hear the words?of a ?future saint!? If you’re tired of all the garbage on TV and are looking for?worthwhile programming that will inspire and entertain the whole family, I strongly encourage you to look into this DVD set.?

Do you know someone who would like a copy of this DVD series???CCC?of America is hosting a contest: JP II, They?Love You!??Visit the website for details about how you can nominate someone to win a free copy of the series or purchase your own copy.

Catholic Bloggers To Reflect On New JPII DVD Release!

To celebrate the release of a new DVD series about the life of Blessed Pope John Paul II, CCC of America has selected 10 Catholic bloggers to comment on various chapters of the series.? For the most part, the list is a “who’s who” in the Catholic blogosphere: Lisa Hendey, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Fr. John Bartunek, Matt Warner, Lisa Mladinich, Elizabeth Scalia, Leticia Velasquez, Steven McEvoy, Deacon Greg Kandra, and last and CERTAINLY least…

yours truly, Gary Zimak!

What an honor it is, not only to be in such good blogging company, but to be given the chance to write about our beloved Blessed Pope John Paul II’s life.? Many of you know that I have just completed?St. Louis de Montfort’s?Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, a devotion that was near and dear to JPII and you’re not going to believe the topic that was chosen for me!

I’ll have more info in a few days.? Stay tuned…