Welcome!

If you have never been to a Catholic church, or if you are new to our area of Kansas City, welcome!

If you and your family have been away from the Catholic Church for some time, welcome back! If you are an active member of our family at St. John Francis Regis, welcome! In short, we are glad you are here.

Come and join us for Holy Mass and be transformed by God’s grace. Participate, go out “into the deep”— get involved. We are truly blessed to have such a Christ-centered, faith-filled community. We invite you to join us and experience this great gift of God. Learn ways you can get involved at St. John Francis Regis by browsing our site, our bulletin, or our Facebook page. Take advantage of the various links and videos and contemplate anew the splendor of our faith alive in our age.

I invite you to consider becoming a registered member of our parish so you can grow in abundant love of God and neighbor. We look forward to seeing you, and may God richly bless you!

In Christ,
Fr. McCaffery

Upcoming Events

First Friday Adoration

October 5, 2018 - 9:00am
Adoration Chapel
First Fridays we have 12 hour Adoration in the Adoration Chapel from 9:00am to 9:00pmRead more

First Friday Adoration

November 2, 2018 - 9:00am
Adoration Chapel
First Fridays we have 12 hour Adoration in the Adoration Chapel from 9:00am to 9:00pmRead more

First Friday Adoration

December 7, 2018 - 9:00am
Adoration Chapel
First Fridays we have 12 hour Adoration in the Adoration Chapel from 9:00am to 9:00pmRead more
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Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

RCIA Program

Saint of the day

September 22, 2018 - 12:00am
On Sept. 22, the Catholic Church remembers Saint Thomas of Villanova, a 16th century Spanish Augustinian monk and archbishop who lived a life of austerity in order to provide for the spiritual and material needs of his people. Born during 1488 in the Spanish region of Castile, in the town of Villanova de los Infantes, Thomas Garcia was raised to take after the faith and charitable works of his parents Alphonsus and Lucia. His father, a mill worker, regularly distributed food and provisions to the poor, as did his mother. Generous and devout from an early age, their son was also intellectually gifted, beginning his studies at the University of Alcala at age 16. Within ten years he had become a professor of philosophy at that same university, where he taught for two years before being offered a more prestigious position at the University of Salamanca. Thomas, however, chose not to continue his academic career. After his father’s death, he had determined to leave much of his inheritance to the poor and sick rather than retaining it himself. At age 28, after much deliberation, Thomas embraced a life of chastity, poverty, and religious obedience with his entry into the monastic Order of St. Augustine. Thomas made his first vows as an Augustinian in 1517 and was ordained a priest in 1518. He taught theology within his order and became renowned for his eloquent and effective preaching in the churches of Salamanca. This led to his appointment as a court preacher and adviser to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Presented with the prospect of being named an archbishop, Thomas initially declined and instead continued his work within the Order of St. Augustine, during a period that saw its expansion across the sea to Mexico. In August of 1544, however, he was ordered by his religious superiors to accept his appointment as the Archbishop of Valencia. Thomas arrived wearing the same well-worn monastic habit that he had worn for several years and would continue wearing for years to come. Given a donation to decorate his residence, he funnelled the money to a hospital in need of repair. After his installation, he visited local prisons and ordered changes to be made in response to their inhumane conditions. While continuing his life of monastic asceticism, the archbishop worked to improve the spiritual lives and living conditions of the faithful. He gave special attention to the needs of the poor, feeding and sheltering them in his own residence. During the same period he worked to promote education, restore religious orthodoxy, and reform the lifestyles of clergy and laypersons. After 11 years leading the Archdiocese of Valencia, St. Thomas of Villanova succumbed to a heart condition at the end of a Mass held in his home on Sept. 8, 1555. He is said to have died on the floor rather than in his bed, which he insisted on offering to a poor man who had come to his house. Pope Alexander VII canonized him in 1658.
September 21, 2018 - 12:00am
Saint Matthew, the first-century tax collector turned apostle who chronicled the life and ministry of Christ in his Gospel, is celebrated by the Church today, September 21. Although relatively little is known about the life of St. Matthew, the account he wrote of Christ's ministry – traditionally considered to be the first of the four Gospels - is of inestimable value to the Church, particularly in its verification of Jesus as the Messiah. Eastern Catholics and the Orthodox churches celebrate St. Matthew on November 16, along with St. Fulvianus, a prince who is recorded in some traditions as converting from paganism after Matthew's martyrdom. The Gospel accounts of Mark and Luke, like Matthew's own, describe the encounter between Jesus and Matthew under the surprising circumstances of Matthew's tax-collecting duties. Jewish publicans, who collected taxes on behalf of the Roman rulers of first-century Judea, were objects of scorn and even hatred among their own communities, since they worked on behalf of the occupying power and often earned their living by collecting more than the state's due. Jesus most likely first encountered Matthew near the house of Peter, in Capernaum near the Sea of Galilee. The meeting of the two was dramatic, as Matthew's third-person account in his Gospel captured: “As Jesus passed on,� the ninth chapter recounts, “he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, 'Follow me'. And he got up and followed him.� Matthew's calling into Jesus' inner circle was a dramatic gesture of the Messiah's universal message and mission, causing some religious authorities of the Jewish community to wonder: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?� Jesus' significant response indicated a central purpose of his ministry: “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners."A witness to Christ's resurrection after death, as well as his ascension into heaven and the events of Pentecost, Matthew also recorded Jesus' instruction for the apostles to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.�Like 11 of the 12 apostles, St. Matthew is traditionally thought to have died as a martyr while preaching the Gospel. The Roman Martyrology describes his death as occurring in a territory near present-day Egypt. Both the saint himself, and his Gospel narrative, have inspired important works of religious art, ranging from the ornate illuminated pages of the Book of Kells in the ninth century, to the Saint Matthew Passion of J.S. Bach. Three famous paintings of Caravaggio, depicting St. Matthew's calling, inspiration and martyrdom, hang within the Contarelli Chapel in Rome's Church of St. Louis of the French.Reflecting on St. Matthew's calling, from the pursuit of dishonest financial gain to the heights of holiness and divine inspiration, Pope Benedict said in 2006 that “in the figure of Matthew, the Gospels present to us a true and proper paradox: those who seem to be the farthest from holiness can even become a model of the acceptance of God's mercy and offer a glimpse of its marvelous effects in their own lives.�
September 20, 2018 - 12:00am
Pope John Paul II said this of the Catholic Church in Korea: "The Korean Church is unique because it was founded entirely by laypeople. This fledgling Church, so young and yet so strong in faith, withstood wave after wave of fierce persecution. Thus, in less than a century, it could boast 10,000 martyrs. The years 1791, 1801, 1827, 1839, 1846, and 1866 are forever signed with the holy blood of your martyrs and engraved in your hearts. The death of these many martyrs became the leaven of the Church and led to today's splendid flowering of the Church in Korea. Even today their undying spirit sustains the Christians of the Church of Silence in the north of this tragically divided land." Christianity came to Korea through Christian books which had been brought across the border from China. In 1784 the small community of Koreans who had been converted through what they read in the books sent one of their own to Beijing to receive baptism.In the next half century, the rapidly growing Christian community of Korea was sustained in the Sacraments by only two priests from China, until 1836, when, after years of pleading, a group of French missionary priests were sent to Korea. These priests all numbered among the martyrs.At the end of the 18th century and throughout the next, there were six great waves of persecution in which 10,000 martyrs shed their blood for the faith. Saints Andrew Kim Taegon and Paul Chong Hasañg, were leaders of the Catholic Church in Korea. Andrew Kim Taegon was born to Korean nobility, and his parents converted when he was 15-years old. He traveled over 1000 miles to study in a seminary and became the first native Korean priest. He was tortured and beheaded in 1846.Paul Choñg Hasang was a Korean Catholic lay leader who defended the faith before the government of Korea, and reunited the Christians in the midst of the persecutions, encouraging them to stay strong in the faith. In response to his direct appeals, the Pope, Gregory X, confirmed the validity of the Korean Church and sent more priests to Korea. He was martyred in 1839.
September 19, 2018 - 12:00am
Emily was born in 1787 at Rodez, France.  She was educated at Villefranche, became a teacher at the age of 18 and, realizing that many of the children of the poor were not going to school because they could not afford to, she opened a school for them and taught without charge. She also began to consider religious life, but after entering three or four congregations for a short time, she realized that she was not called to any of the existing orders. Emily devoted all of her life to teaching the poor and gathered other young women to help her cope with the rapidly growing numbers of children in her school. These women also gave all their lives to teaching the children and became the nucleus of the Religious Congregation of the Holy Family of Villefranche.  The congregation was devoted to caring for the elderly, prisoners, and orphans, in addition to the schools for the poor. Some of the nuns were also contemplative and spent their time in prayer and adoration. She died of cancer at Villefranche on September 19, 1852.  At the time of her death Saint Emily de Rodat had opened 38 charitable institutions.   Saint Emily was canonized in 1950 by Pope Pius XII.
September 18, 2018 - 12:00am
On September 18, the Church celebrates the life of St. Joseph of Cupertino, a mystic who was perhaps most famous for his ability to fly.  His father, a poor carpenter, died before his birth and his mother, who was unable to pay the debts, lost her home and gave birth to Joseph in a stable at Cupertino, Italy on June 17, 1603.Joseph began having mystical visions when he was seven, and was often so lost to the world around him that the other children made fun of him giving him the nickname, "open-mouthed" for his gaping manner.He had an irascible temper and read very poorly, giving others the impression that he was dumb and good for nothing. Aside from that, he was so continually drawn into ecstasy that it was impossible for him to be attentive to the tasks at hand. Thus, when he secured a job, he lost it very quickly.He finally managed to obtain a post taking care of a stable in a Franciscan convent near Cupertino. Upon realizing his holiness and aptitude for penance, humility, and obedience, it was decided that he could begin studying for the priesthood.Joseph was a very poor student, however during his final examination, the examiner happened to ask him a question on the one topic he knew well.  He passed and was admitted into the priesthoodIt was also soon recognized that though he knew little by way of worldly knowledge and had little capacity to learn, Joseph was infused with a divine knowledge that made him capable of solving some of the most intricate theological quandaries.For the last 35 years of his life as a priest he was unable to celebrate Mass in public because he would often, without being able to help it, be lifted up into the air when he went into an ecstatic state, which happened at nearly every Mass.  It took only the slightest reference of anything having to do with God in order for this state to be induced in him.Despite being moved from one friary to another, because of the disruption he caused by his ecstasies and the persecutions he endured from some of his brothers who were envious of his gifts, he remained profoundly inundated by the joy of abandoning himself to Divine Providence.He died on September 18, 1663 and was canonized in 1767 by Pope Clement XIII.  He is the patron of air travelers and students preparing for exams.
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Daily Readings

September 22, 2018 - 1:00am
35 But some one will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?"
36 You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.
37 And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.
42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.
43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.
45 Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
46 But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual.
47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.
48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven.
49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
September 22, 2018 - 1:00am
9 Then my enemies will be turned back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust without a fear. What can man do to me?
12 My vows to thee I must perform, O God; I will render thank offerings to thee.
13 For thou hast delivered my soul from death, yea, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
September 22, 2018 - 1:00am
4 And when a great crowd came together and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable:
5 "A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell along the path, and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air devoured it.
6 And some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew with it and choked it.
8 And some fell into good soil and grew, and yielded a hundredfold." As he said this, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant,
10 he said, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.
11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved.
13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have no root, they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.
14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.
15 And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.
September 21, 2018 - 1:00am
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
2 with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love,
3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call,
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.
7 But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
11 And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;
September 21, 2018 - 1:00am
1 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun,
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Catholic News

September 22, 2018 - 6:34pm

Dallas, Texas, Sep 22, 2018 / 05:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, said that the Catholic Church is currently in a “very dark moment” in its history, and that Catholics should look to the example of Mary in reacting to the abuse crisis.

Speaking in a closed session to reporters at the National V Encuentro conference in Grapevine, Texas on September 22, Garcia-Siller was asked how lay people can work to engage fallen-away Catholics who were upset by the recent sexual misconduct scandals.

Rather than turn away from the crisis, Garcia-Siller said that “we need to face how people are dealing with it,” and not just have emotional reactions to the stories of sexual assault and harassment. Garcia-Siller acknowledged that the problem of sexual abuse has existed in the Church for a long time, “and painfully.”

Garcia-Siller suggested that people “have to evangelize” during this time, despite everything that is happening in the Church. He said he’s seen suffering in his own archdiocese, and he has worked to let the survivors of abuse know that he will be there for them. He compared the current abuse crisis to the crucifixion of the Lord.

“People are suffering for many reasons. It is the way of the cross,” he said.

“And Jesus was very bold about it. It is the way of the cross," he repeated.

The bishop shot down the idea of having to “re-evangelize” people who have fallen away from the Church during the crisis, saying that "somebody has to evangelize, (they don’t) need re-evangelization.” He said that they should work on ensuring proper formation for those who have already been exposed to the Church.

He cautioned against the mentality that people do not need to continually experience Christ. People “cannot grasp who he is and his work of love once,” and cannot be satisfied with one singular Church experience.

“We forget,” he said, “that the Holy Spirit will remind us who Jesus is and what is the work of the Kingdom.”

Garcia-Siller drew an example from Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s homily earlier that day, when the cardinal spoke of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the first “missionary disciple” of Jesus Christ, before the apostles.

In his homily, O'Malley said that Mary was courageous in her "yes" to the Lord, even when Jesus was on the cross.

"Mary was standing, a pillar of strength, courage and faith, even with her broken heart, she said 'yes Lord, your will and not mine,'" O'Malley said. 

Now, Catholics should strive to imitate Mary during “this time of pain and suffering,” including the victims of abuse, and “in mysterious ways, the perpetrators, and the bishops,” Garcia-Siller said.

“All of us, to cope with this, we'll be needed everywhere,” he noted.

“We need everyone, everyone,” he said, because the Church, as “the Body of Christ--when one hurts, everybody hurts. When one is joyful everyone should be joyful.”

“May we, by the mercy of God, carry on what He started.”

September 22, 2018 - 6:09pm

Dallas, Texas, Sep 22, 2018 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When Miriam Joyce of the Diocese of Raleigh talks about immigration, her face folds with concern.

Her worry is not for her own wellbeing; she is a United States citizen. But she worries for her friends - they come from El Salvador, they have children, and soon they may have to go back to a violent, unstable country.

“One of my friends has a daughter that is 19 years old, and they came here here with permission, and now with what’s going on with the President now they have to leave by January 2019, in less than four months,” Joyce told CNA.

Her friends once had Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which was granted to El Salvador in 2001, following a massive earthquake in the country. TPS is granted for countries who are experiencing an ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or “other extraordinary and temporary conditions that prevent people from safely returning home to the country.”

In January 2018, the Department of Homeland Security terminated TPS status for El Salvador, Haiti, Sudan, and Nicaragua.

“They’re always worrying that they’re going to get a knock on the door and it’s the government telling them it’s time for you to leave.”

Immigration is a tough topic no matter what the crowd. But when that crowd is the National V Encuentro, a gathering of Hispanic and Latino Catholics throughout the United States, the topic is undoubtedly emotional and incredibly personal. Many of the 3,000-some participants are immigrants. Or are related to some. Or are best friends with others.

Andrea Lerma tears up talking about her mother, who is still in Mexico. Although Lerma was born in the United States, she grew up in Mexico until she was 15 years old. She then moved to the U.S. to live with her uncles, whom she hadn’t met.

To Latino immigrants, Lerma said she would encourage them to “keep fighting for what you want, and don’t forget who you are, who your parents are, or where you come from, because that is going to help you to set up your goals,” she said. “And pray, because sometimes we forget to pray. We forget to give thanks to God for another day.”

Alejandra Brava, is a young adult immigrant from Vera Cruz, Mexico, is a DACA recipient who now lives in and works as the Hispanic youth and young adult minister for the Archdiocese of Denver.

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Obama-era policy that protects undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States as children. The program prevents DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” from being deported. It also provides work permits.

Brava said she was able to get a teaching job in the United States thanks to DACA, and it has allowed her to do what she loves.  

“I am evidence that I’m not here to hurt someone,” Brava told CNA. “I’m here and I came to study and I just wanted to do something with my life, I love teaching and I love doing ministry.”

While President Donald Trump has sought to end DACA, there have been legislative efforts to maintain elements of DACA in an immigration law, and DACA recipients may still submit applications to renew their status.

Brava said she hoped other Catholics would see immigrants as their brother or sister in the faith. “We’re human beings, there’s no difference. Legal status doesn’t make a person less worthy,” she said.

Many immigrants from Central and South America who come to the United States are Catholic, and Hispanics make up more than 40 percent of Catholics within the U.S.

Because of this, immigrants often look to the Church for help once they arrive in the U.S.

Alfonso Lara is the Director of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado. He said that parishes need to be intentional about welcoming immigrants, “not only with coffee and donuts but also having a committee to welcome them, realizing that they’re another human being coming to your country with a different experience of life and a different experience of the Church.”

He said he would encourage church leaders not to inquire about the legal status of immigrants, but to be “humans receiving humans.”

“We’re welcoming the stranger, that’s what we do,” he said. “When another person comes to church to have an encounter with Jesus, we need to respect that.”

Patricia Zapor is the director of communications for The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), which is a network of non-profit organizations that provide immigration legal services to their clients.

Zapor told CNA that there are many practical things that parishes can do to support and welcome immigrants in their parish.

“It could be something as simple as collecting money to help people pay the fees that go along with their applications," she said. Depending on the form, that could be anywhere between hundreds or more than a thousand dollars, which doesn’t include the fingerprint and background check fees.

“They might offer (language classes), or they might host a know your rights event,” Zapor said. CLINIC has resources about the rights of immigrants available in nine languages.

Immigrants often are not sure where to get started in the application process, and there are a “fair amount” of fraudulent companies out there that try to offer immigration services to unwitting clients, so providing proper resources and information is key, Zapor noted.

If a parish really wanted to get involved, they could host a refugee family, Zapor said.

Or they could host something as simple as a rosary with immigration-themed reflections, or a Las Posadas celebration, or other simple ways “of getting a community to think about immigrants and maybe have a conversation about them without being hammered over the head with the politics,” she said.

Ultimately, Catholics should acknowledge immigrants as fellow human beings who should be treated with care and respect, Brava said.

“We need to treat each other as brothers or sisters in Christ,” she said. “We have differences in culture, in ideas, in opinions, but at the end of the day, we believe in the same God. We need to value our neighbors, our brothers and sisters regardless of their status and immigration.”

 

September 22, 2018 - 5:31pm

Honolulu, Hawaii, Sep 22, 2018 / 04:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Hawaii law requiring pro-life doctors and pregnancy centers to advertise for abortion was struck down by a federal district court Thursday.

“Hawaii’s pro-life, nonprofit pregnancy centers offer free practical resources, information, and emotional support to women—no matter what choices those women make,” said Derald Skinner, pastor of Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor and president of “A Place for Women in Waipio,” one of the pregnancy centers involved in the case.

“We’re grateful that the state has backed off its unconstitutional attack on our ministry,” Skinner said in a press release. “Our doors remain open and we continue to offer love, care, and compassion for all women and their precious little babies in our community.”

The case involved a Hawaii law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to notify clients about state programs offering free or low-cost “comprehensive family planning services,” including abortion.

The law was challenged by Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor’s pregnancy center, “A Place for Women in Waipio,” as well as the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), which has five affiliated pregnancy centers in the state.

NIFLA was involved in a similar case over the summer, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in its favor in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra.

That decision, a 5-4 ruling in June, blocked a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to post information on state programs to obtain a free or low-cost abortion. The Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court to be reconsidered, saying, “We hold that petitioners are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the FACT Act violates the First Amendment.”

The Hawaii decision, Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor v. Suzuki, cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in striking down the Hawaii regulation.

NIFLA President Thomas Glessner called the ruling “a major victory for free speech and freedom of religion.”

“Hawaii’s law was particularly egregious,” he said in a statement. “Not only did it force pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion, it also compelled a church to promote abortion inside its building.”

The pro-life centers were represented in the case by Alliance Defending Freedom. Kevin Theriot, senior counsel with the alliance and vice president of the Center for Life, praised the court’s ruling.

“No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates his or her beliefs, especially on deeply divisive subjects like abortion,” he said.

“In NIFLA v. Becerra, the Supreme Court affirmed that we don’t force people to say things they don’t believe. For that reason, the district court was correct to permanently halt Hawaii’s enforcement of Act 200’s compelled speech requirement.”

September 22, 2018 - 3:54pm

Vilnius, Lithuania, Sep 22, 2018 / 02:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During his first speech in the Baltics Saturday, Pope Francis told Lithuanian authorities to take pride in their country’s history of welcoming people of different faiths and ethnicities.

“All found a place to live in this land,” the pope said Sept. 22. “Lithuanians, Tartars, Poles, Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Armenians, Germans … Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Old Catholics, Muslims, Jews – lived together in peace until the arrival of totalitarian ideologies that, by sowing violence and lack of trust, undermined its ability to accept and harmonize differences.”

He encouraged Lithuanians to draw strength from their past by recovering their roots of welcoming and keeping alive “all that continues to be most authentic and distinctive about you, everything that enabled you to grow and not succumb as a nation: tolerance, hospitality, respect and solidarity.”

Pope Francis was in Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania, for the start of his four-day trip to the Baltic States. His visit falls during the 100th anniversary of the states’ declaration of independence. They had been previously part of the Russian Empire.

They became part of Soviet Union in 1940-1941, endured Nazi domination in 1940-1944, and were returned to the Soviet Union in 1945. In 1991, they regained democratic independence.

The centenary, the pope said, is a “particularly important moment in your life as a nation.”

“It has been a century marked by your bearing numerous trials and sufferings: detentions,

deportations, even martyrdom,” he said. “Celebrating the hundredth anniversary of independence means taking time to stop and revive the memory of all those experiences.”

“In this way, you will be in touch with everything that forged you as a nation, and thus find the key to assessing present challenges and looking to the future in a spirit of dialogue and unity with all those who dwell here, careful to ensure that no one remains excluded.”

After his meeting with the Lithuanian president, authorities, civil society, and diplomatic corps, the pope walked through the streets of the Old City to the Gate of Dawn, one of the ancient points of access to Vilnius.

There, he prayed a decade of the rosary led by Lithuanian children and gave a speech before the revered icon of Mary, Mother of Mercy.

Referring to the image, he said, “this Mother without Child, radiant with gold, is the Mother of everyone. She sees in every person who comes here what we ourselves fail so often to see: the face of her Son Jesus impressed on our heart.”

He said that because Jesus is impressed on the heart of every man and woman, in every person one encounters it is possible to encounter God, “when we close our hearts for fear of others, when we build walls and barricades, we end up depriving ourselves of the Good News of Jesus, who shares in the history and the lives of others.”

Today is felt the need to look at one another as brothers and sisters, “to discover and experience with joy and peace the value of fraternity,” he continued.

“The Mother of Mercy, like every good mother, tries to bring her family together. She whispers in our ear: ‘Look for your brother, look for your sister.’ In this way, she opens to us the door to a new dawn, a new day.”

The pope concluded his first day in the Baltics with an encounter with youth outside the Vilnius cathedral. There he also venerated the original image of Divine Mercy, usually kept inside Holy Trinity Church.

During the meeting with youth he heard testimonies from two young people, Jonas and Monica, telling them to not ever be afraid “to put your trust in Jesus, to embrace his cause, the cause of the Gospel.”

“It is true that believing in Jesus can often demand taking a leap of blind faith, and this can be frightening,” he said. “But stand firm! Following Jesus is a passionate adventure that gives meaning to our lives and makes us feel part of a community that encourages and accompanies us, and commits us to the service of others.”

“Dear young people, following Christ is something worthwhile!” he said, and stressed that they should not let the world tell them it is better to do everything on their own. “Don’t yield to the temptation of getting caught up in yourself, ending up selfish or superficial in the face of sorrow, difficulty or temporary success.”

He said identity is found in being part of a people, a culture, and though it is at times painful, it is also beautiful and encouraged those present to “aim for holiness through your encounters and your fellowship with other people; be attentive to their needs.”

After the meeting, the pope stopped inside the Cathedral Basilica of St. Stanislaus and St. Ladislaus to pray before the tomb of St. Casimir. 

September 22, 2018 - 3:36pm

Vilnius, Lithuania, Sep 22, 2018 / 02:36 pm (CNA).- Traveling Saturday to Lithuania, Pope Francis joked that, in the eyes of some, Pope St. John Paul II is considered a saint while he himself is considered “a devil.”

The pope’s joke came amidst a Sept. 22 conversation with journalists, the Associated Press reported, during which he was presented a book about Pope St. John Paul II, written by long-time papal photographer Grzegorz Galazka.

Francis joked as he examined the book, reportedly telling reporters “[John Paul II] was a saint, I am a devil.”

“No, you are both saints!” Galazka responded.

The pope has shown a similar penchant for self-deprecating humor in the past.

Talking with reporters in August, he said his role in securing Italy’s reception of controversial controversial migrants had been that of “the devil’s paw.”

In January, Francis joked with cloistered nuns in Peru that they had come to hear him speak only “to get out of the convent a bit to take a stroll.”

In 2015, Pope Francis reportedly joked with then-Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa. After a visit, Correa tweeted that Pope Francis had made a joke based on stereotypes about Argentine vanity. “Being Argentine, they thought I would call myself Jesus II,” Francis reportedly told Correa.

The pope’s trip to Lithuania is the start of a four-day trip through the Baltic states, during which Pope Francis will visit Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, before returning to Rome Sept. 25.

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