Vatican City, Oct 24, 2014 / 04:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In his homily for Mass at the Santa Marta residence on Oct. 24, Pope Francis reflected on the call of Christians to perpetuate unity in the Church by being “living stones” built upon the “cornerstone of Christ.”
This creating of unity in the Church, the Pope said, recounting the reading from Saint Paul to the Philippians, “is the work of the Church and of every Christian throughout history.”
In addition, the Holy Father cited the Apostle Peter, who contrasts the Church – “a temple made of living stone” – with the Tower of Babel, which he described as the “temple of pride.” The first temple creates “unity,” he said, whereas the second symbolizes disunity and misunderstanding.
The task of every Christian, Pope Francis said, is “to create unity in the Church,” the temple built upon Jesus, who is the “cornerstone”.
Jesus is the “rock upon which the Church's unity” is built, the Pope said, adding that “there is no unity without Jesus Christ at its base: He is our certainty.”
It is the Holy Spirit who creates this unity, the Holy Father said. “For this reason, Jesus sent Him: to make the Church grow, to make it strong, to make it one.”
In order to be strong “bricks” of the Temple, Pope Francis said the faithful must first become “weak” through the virtues of humility, kindness, and generosity. The weaker we become through these virtues which seemingly serve no purpose, the Pope said, the stronger we become as “living stones” of the Temple.
Just as Jesus “was made weak” even unto the Cross, the Pope said, “He became strong.” On the other hand, “Pride [and] conceit are useless.”
In creating this Temple, Pope Francis said, the architect must lay out a ground plan. This plan is “the hope to which we are called: the hope of going towards the Lord, the hope of living in a living Church, made with living stones, with the strength of the Holy Spirit.” It is only with this hope as the “ground plan” that it is possible “to move forward in the unity of the Church.”
“We are called to a great hope,” he said. “Let us go there! But with the strength which Jesus' prayer for unity gives us; with the gentleness of the Holy Spirit, who is able to make living stones from bricks; and with the hope of finding the Lord who has called us to encounter him in the fullness of time!”
Vatican City, Oct 23, 2014 / 11:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As founders of an institute studying reproductive healthcare, Thomas and Susan Hilgers have seen the benefits that natural family planning can offer in the realms of health, sexuality and human relationships.
But the couple was not always focused on advocating Church teaching on sexuality and family planning. Their years of dedication to the subject were largely inspired by reading Blessed Pope Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae” and later St. John Paul II’s “Familiaris Consortio,” documents that they say bring “great hope and joy to the people to utilize them.”
“This whole concept is rich. I said in another place we should be shouting out from the mountain tops as a Church, we shouldn’t be crawling under like it’s something we have to be embarrassed by,” Dr. Thomas Hilgers told CNA on Oct. 15.
The Hilgers were present in Rome for the Oct. 19 beatification of Pope Paul VI at the end of the Synod of Bishops on the Family. During the Mass, the doctor read aloud one of the Prayers of the Faithful in English.
Together with his wife, Dr. Hilgers founded the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction and the National Center for Women's Health in Omaha, Neb., in 1985 after reading Paul VI’s encyclical letter “Humanae Vitae” on the regulation of birth.
The doctor recalled that he was one of many people who had expected the Church’s position on contraception to change at the time that the encyclical was released. However, he said, upon reading the document, he was “an instant convert, because the things that were being portrayed in the newspapers and television was not what Humanae Vitae was saying.”
“It was much more, (it was) a rich document spiritually, rich sociologically and rich in a lot of other ways,” he said, noting how at the end of the encyclical Bl. Paul VI had written a series of pastoral directives to physicians and those working in the fields of science and healthcare.
With the feeling that the pontiff was speaking directly to him, Dr. Hilgers went on to complete his first research project in natural methods of parental planning in December 1968, after which he received training in obstetrics and gynecology.
He currently works at the St. Louis University and Creighton University Schools of Medicine. At Creighton, he serves as a clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The doctor is also a senior medical consultant in obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive medicine and surgery at the Pope Paul VI Institute, where he still serves as director. He was appointed to the permanent membership of the Pontifical Academy for Life in 1994.
Together with his other colleagues, Dr. Hilgers developed NaPro Technology – Natural Procreative Technology – a method of women’s healthcare that relies upon scientific methods of monitoring and maintaining a woman's reproductive health.
Using Creighton Model Fertility Care System biomarkers to monitor the hormonal patterns during the menstrual cycle, NaPro Technology is the current method practiced at the Paul VI Institute, which will change its name following the beatification of its patron.
The technology has successfully been used to help women better understand their bodies’ natural fertility, achieve or avoid pregnancy, and find solutions to a variety of health problems.
In his more than 35 years of experience in the reproductive medical field, Dr. Hilgers said that since the publication of Humanae Vitae, “I don’t know of any other field that could claim such advances in (so) many ways.”
Although medical sciences have changed since the time of Pope Paul VI, the late pontiff knew the importance of promoting natural methods, “and that’s why he called on people to be involved, and that’s why I became involved,” the doctor noted.
“So what we see is the potential that these approaches bring: balance in your sexual life, harmony into your physical life with regard to your illnesses, diseases or whatever you might have, and it builds relationship in marriage.”
Among the institute’s biggest advocates are the women and couples themselves who have received treatment there, said Dr. Hilger’s wife, Susan.
Most women, she told CNA, don’t understand their fertility because “we haven’t been teaching women about how their bodies work and how to live with their fertility.”
For perhaps the first time in history, women are truly starting to understand how their bodies function, she explained, saying that it brings her “great joy as a woman” to see other women know exactly what their bodies are doing.
“It’s been a great blessing for us personally, and to see the blessings that have come from this work because of the teachings of the Church has been absolutely miraculous and unbelievable for us. That’s why we’re so dedicated to this.”
When asked if it was difficult for him and the 22 members of the institute’s staff to stay faithful to the precepts laid out in Humanae Vitae in a secularized culture, Dr. Hilgers said: “Not at all,” because Pope Paul VI “predicted all of those sociological calamities we have come up against.”
“The way we treat women, the divorce rate, abortion and everything that has occurred in one way or another is predicted in Humanae Vitae,” he said, observing how some have referred to the revolutionary encyclical “as ‘Paul VI’s Prophecies’ (precisely) because they were so prophetic.”
Although they never met Bl. Paul VI, “he spoke to us in Humanae Vitae and we listened, so it is an honor” to continue his work, the couple observed.
To see Pope Paul VI beatified “brings a lot of emotion out of me personally,” Dr. Hilgers explained. “Sometimes it is hard for me to talk about it because he suffered so much; he was an incredibly courageous man and I personally have no doubt he’s in heaven.”
“I am deeply grateful for the Church recognizing him as being blessed and I hope someday he will be canonized. For us, he’s our namesake.”
Dr. Hilgers has recently written a book entitled “War on Women,” in which he compiled 17 of the cases he has seen at his clinic of women who have experienced great damage and trauma due to the use of contraception, abortion and in vitro fertilization.
“There has been a lot of political chatter about the so-called war on women, but they described it as the inability to abort, the inability to get contraceptive measures, and it pretty much stops there, abortion and contraception,” the doctor noted.
However, he said that the real “war on women” doesn’t come from a lack of access to these “very accessible” products and procedures, but rather from “the result of abortion, contraception and in vitro fertilization,” which can often be physically damaging and emotionally scarring to women.
The book, he said, could just as easily be filled with “1,700 or 17,000 cases,” because most everyone that comes to his institute has some sort of history with artificial contraception in their background.
“And that is why they’ve sought services with us; because we provide a real alternative to them, we look for the causes, we treat the diseases.”
Vatican City, Oct 23, 2014 / 05:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his homily on Thursday, Pope Francis said no one has the strength to be a Christian without the Holy Spirit, and encouraged attendees to imitate St. Paul in praying with praise and adoration.
“This is a mystical experience of Paul and it teaches us the prayer of praise and the prayer of adoration…he says to the Father: ‘thank you, because you are able to do what we do not dare to think.’ It is a beautiful prayer, a beautiful prayer,” the Pope told those present in the Vatican’s St. Martha house on Oct. 23.
The Roman Pontiff continued to reflect on the third chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, the source of the liturgy’s first readings for the past few days.
In his letter, Paul describes an encounter with Jesus that “led him to leave everything behind (because) he was in love with Christ,” the Pope observed, calling this a true “act of adoration.”
First St. Paul adores by kneeling in front of God the Father who is able to accomplish anything. St. Paul also uses “limitless language” describing God, who “is like a sea without beaches, without limitations, an immense ocean,” the Pope said.
St. Paul then prays for all to be strengthened in the Spirit, the pontiff noted, because we are too weak to go forward on our own.
“We cannot be Christians without the grace of the Spirit. It’s the Spirit who changes hearts, who keeps us moving forward in virtue, to fulfill the commandments.”
Pope Francis then observed how the apostle made another request to the Lord by asking for the presence of Christ to help all grow in charity. The love of Christ which goes beyond our comprehension, the pope said, can only be understood through the adoration of such great immensity.
This mystical prayer of St. Paul teaches us to pray in praise and adoration, the Pope continued, saying that in front of “our pettiness, our many, selfish interests, Paul bursts out in praise, in this act of worship and asks the Father to send us the Holy Spirit to give us strength and to be able to move forward.”
In his prayer, Paul helps us to truly understand the love of Christ who “consolidates us in love” by thanking God the Father for his ability to do what we would never imagine is possible.
The Bishop of Rome concluded his homily by noting how, with an inner spiritual life, it is easy to understand why St. Paul gave up everything he had and considered the world “rubbish” in comparison with what he gained by finding and following Jesus.
“It does us good to praise God, to enter this world of amplitude, of grandeur, generosity and love,” he said, and it also does us good “because then we can move forward in the great commandment – the only commandment, which is the basis of all others – love; love God and love your neighbor.”