[JMJ 97 - Le Cyberjournal]

Archbishop of Boston speaks
on the holiness of youth in Paris


Today marked the opening of three mornings when bishops and youth meet and debate together on questions concerning faith and how it fits into our lives. In a church packed with over a thousand English-speaking WYD travellers, the Archbishop of Bishop spoke about who is holy in the Church.


TODAY was the first of the three-morning catechism workshops that have come to characterize John-Paul II's World Youth Day assemblies. Here in Paris, catechesis in English was conducted in four different sites this morning: one in the church of the Sacré Coeur, two in the great Paris Expo Center (Porte de Versailles) and another in the church of St. Augustine. The "Cyberjournal" attended several catechesis workshops, including the one at St. Augustine. H. Exc. Bernard Cardinal Law, Archbishop of Boston (USA) presided at this site, together with 15 other English-speaking bishops.

The theme of Cardinal Law's talk was "holiness." Being holy isn't reserved for objects like plates, spoons or dirt. Being holy is what adds meaning to life. It gives direction and a sense of dignity to our everyday experience, as does everything that comes from God.

This is holy ground

As the Lord spoke to Moses out of the burning bush and warned him that he was stepping on holy ground, so does He speak to us to say that we are living in a holy place with holy people, men and women made holy and therefore worthy of dignified lives because God has chosen to make His home in their lives. Cardinal Law went on to point out that the Church's mission on earth is essentially one of assistance on the path to holiness and to the fullness of dignity that is God's will for all.

The Cardinal particularly insisted on the fact that this dignity that is a gift from God is the same for all regradless of sex, color or religion. In this respect, he pointed out that many people, and Americans in particular, have yet a long way to go in recognizing that no one has more dignity than others, and certainly men have no more dignity to defend than women. Turning to the topic of the place of women in the Church, he added that the Catholic Church's refusal to ordain women to the priesthood was not proof of the Church's male chauvinism but a reminder that ordination is not simply a question of dignity; what is at stake above all is being obedient to the plan of God as revealed by the apostolic tradition. The audience burst into applause as the Cardinal went on to say that holiness and human dignity were not proven by whether or not one had the right to become a priest, and that on the contrary, the Church is primarily made up of lay people, not priests and bishops, and therefore the path to holiness dwells rightly in the hands and hearts of the lay majority who are called to become holy in their everyday non-clerical lives.

Help in the face of temptation

The Cardinal then answered questions from the floor. In response to one young woman's question about finding help to holiness in a world that seems constantly bent on pulling everyone down to the depths of unholiness, he recommended three guiding principles. First, seek the God of consolations instead of seeking the consolations of God. In other words, look for God and keep in constant touch with Him instead of focusing on things, even if those things are a consolation. Second, Holy Scripture. The Cardinal described how reading the Bible, particularly certain psalms, has helped him throughout his life. It was by reading and praying with the psalms that he found the courage to tell his family that he wanted to become a priest in spite of his fearing that they, especially his parents, would not be pleased at the news. (It turned out that they were glad he had finally made the right decision for himself!) Thirdly, doing what is right and not what just feels good. Feelings, although important in life, change too often and quickly to be a help in the long term. Getting to know God is also getting to know right from wrong, and in following what is right, we follow God on the path of holiness to abundant happiness on this earth.

Paul-Dominique Masiclat