S. John Paul II Homil. 754

754 "O happy man, Saint Joseph!". How glad I am to celebrate this Eucharistic Sacrifice in the Shrine of Saint Joseph! For it has a special place in the history of the Church and of the nation. While we listen to the Gospel which recounts for us the flight into Egypt, there come to mind the words contained in the liturgical preparation for Holy Mass: "O happy man, Saint Joseph, whose privilege it was not only to see and hear that God whom many a king has longed to see, yet saw not, longed to hear, yet heard not (cf. Mt Mt 13,17); but also to carry him in your arms and kiss him, to clothe him and watch over him!" In this prayer Saint Joseph appears as the guardian of the Son of God. The prayer continues with the following petition: "God, who has conferred upon us a royal priesthood, we pray to you to give us grace to minister at your holy altars with hearts as clean and lives as blameless as that blessed Joseph who was found to hold in his arms and with all reverence to carry your only-begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary. Enable us this day to receive worthily the sacred Body and Blood of your Son, and fit us to win an everlasting reward in the world to come".

It is a beautiful prayer! I say it every day before Holy Mass and certainly many priests around the world do so. Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, the foster father of the Son of God, was not a priest, but shared in the common priesthood of the faithful. And since as father and guardian of Jesus he could hold him and carry him in his arms, priests turn to Saint Joseph with the fervent request to be able to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice with the same veneration and the same love with which he carried out his mission as the foster father of the Son of God. These words are very eloquent. The hands which touch the Eucharistic Body of Christ wish to ask from Saint Joseph the grace of a chastity and devotion equal to that which the holy carpenter of Nazareth showed to his adopted Son. And therefore it is fitting that in the itinerary of the pilgrimage connected with the Eucharistic Congress of Wroclaw there is also this visit to the Shrine of Saint Joseph in Kalisz.

2. "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt" (Mt 2,13).

Joseph heard these words in his sleep. The angel had warned him to flee with the Child, because he was threatened by mortal danger. From the Gospel just read we learn about those who were threatening the Child's life. In the first place Herod, but then also all his followers. In this way the liturgy of the word guides our thought towards the problem of life and its defence. Joseph of Nazareth, who saved Jesus from the cruelty of Herod, is shown to us in this moment as a great supporter of the cause of the defence of human life, from the first moment of conception to natural death. In this place, therefore, we wish to commend human life to Divine Providence and to Saint Joseph, especially the life of children not yet born, in our homeland and throughout the world. Life has an inviolable value and an unrepeatable dignity, especially because - as we read today in the liturgy - every person is called to share in God's life. Saint John writes: "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are!" (1Jn 3,1).

With the eyes of faith we can see with particular clarity the infinite value of every human being. The Gospel, by proclaiming the Good News of Jesus, announces also the Good News of man, of his great dignity, and teaches sensitivity concerning man. Because every man, insofar as he has a spiritual soul, is "capable of God". The Church, in defending the right to life, is making a broader appeal, a universal one which obliges all men and women. The right to life is not a question of ideology, not only a religious right; it is a human right. The most fundamental human right! God says: "You shall not kill!" (Ex 20,13). This commandment is at one and the same time a basic principle and a norm of the moral code written in the conscience of every human being.

The measure of civilization, a universal and permanent measure which includes all cultures, is its relationship with life. A civilization which rejected the defenceless would deserve to be called a barbarian civilization, even though it had great successes in the field of economics, technology, art and science. The Church, faithful to the mission received from Christ, despite the weaknesses and infidelities of many of her sons and daughters, has consistently brought into human history the great truth of love of neighbour, has reduced social divisions, overcome racial and ethnicdifferences, cared for the sick and the orphaned, the old, the handicapped and the homeless. She has taught with words and deeds that no one can be excluded from the great human family, that no one can be pushed to the edges of society. Defence of the life of children not yet born is the consequence of this mission of the Church.

Here in Kalisz, where Saint Joseph, this great defender and careful guardian of Jesus' life, is venerated in a special way, I wish to remind you of the words that Mother Teresa of Calcutta addressed to those who took part in the International Congress on "Population and Development" called by the United Nations Organization in Cairo in 1994: "I speak today to you from my heart - to each person in all the nations of the world . . to all the mothers, fathers and children in the cities, towns and villages. Each one of us is here today because we have been loved by God, who created us, and by our parents, who accepted and cared enough to give us life. Life is the most beautiful gift of God. That is why it is so painful to see what is happening today in so many places around the world: life is being deliberately destroyed by war, by violence, by abortion. And we have been created by God for greater things - to love and be loved. I have said often, and I am sure of it, that the greatest destroyer of peace in the world today is abortion. If a mother can kill her own child, what is there to stop you and me from killing each other? The only one who has the right to take life is the One who has created it. Nobody else has that right: not the mother, not the father, not the doctor; no agency, no conference, no government ... It frightens me to think of all the people who kill their conscience so that they can perform an abortion. When we die, we will come face to face with God, the Author of life. Who will give an account to God for the millions and millions of babies who were not allowed to have the chance to live, to love and be loved? ... The child is the most beautiful gift of God to a family, to a nation. Let us never refuse this gift of God".

3. Dear Brothers and Sisters, support life. I address this appeal to all my fellow countrymen, regardless of each one's religious convictions. I address it to all people, without excluding anyone. From this place, I repeat once more what I said in October last year: "A nation which kills its own children is a nation without a future". Therefore a general mobilization of consciences and a joint ethical effort is necessary in order to put into action the great strategy of the defence of life. Today the world has become the arena of the battle for life. The struggle between the civilization of life and the civilization of death continues. This is why the building of the "culture of life" is so important: the creation of cultural works and models which will emphasize the grandeur and dignity of human life; the establishment of scientific and educational institutions which will promote a true vision of the human person, of conjugal and family life: the creation of environments which will embody in everyday life the merciful love which God grants to every person, especially those who are suffering, weak or poor.

I know that in Poland a lot is being done for the defence of life. I am very grateful to all who, in different ways, are doing their utmost in this work of building the "culture of life". In a special way I express my thanks and appreciation to all those in our homeland who, with a great sense of responsibility before God, before their own conscience and the nation, are defending human life and supporting the dignity of marriage and the family. I cordially thank the Federation of Movements for the Defence of Life, the Associations of Catholic Families and all the many other organizations and institutions which in recent years have arisen in our country. I thank the doctors, nurses and private individuals. Continue to defend life! This is your great contribution to the establishment of the civilization of love. May the ranks of the defenders of life steadily increase! Do not lose heart! This is a great mission entrusted to you by Providence. May God from whom every life takes its origin bless you.

4. The duty of service lies with each and every person, but this responsibility lies in a special way with the family which is a "community of life and love" (Gaudium et Spes GS 48).

Brothers and Sisters, do not forget even for a moment the great value which the family is. Thanks to Christ's sacramental presence, thanks to the covenant freely entered into by which spouses give themselves to each other, the family is a sacred community. It is a communion of persons united by love, which Saint Paul describes in this way: "Love rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends" (cf. 1Co 13,6-8). Every family can build such love. But it is attainable in marriage only and exclusively if the spouses become "a sincere gift of self" (Gaudium et Spes GS 24), unconditionally and for ever, without placing any limit. This conjugal and family love is constantly ennobled, perfected by shared worries and joys, by mutual support in moments of difficulty. Each forgets himself or herself for the good of the one loved. True love never comes to an end. It becomes a source of strength and conjugal fidelity. The Christian family, faithful to its sacramental covenant, becomes a true sign God's free and universal love for people. This love of God is the family's spiritual centre and foundation. Through this love the family is born, develops, matures and is a source of peace and happiness for parents and children. It is a true nest of life and unity.

755 Dear Brothers and Sisters, the sacrament which unites you to each other, unites you in Christ! It unites you with Christ! "This mystery is a profound one"! (Ep 5,32). God "has given you his love". He comes to you and is present in your midst and dwells in your souls. In your families! In your homes! Saint Joseph was well aware of this. For this reason he did not hesitate to entrust himself and his family to God. By virtue of this trust he completely fulfilled his mission, entrusted to him by God for the sake of Mary and his Son. Supported by the example and protection of Saint Joseph, offer a constant witness of devotion and generosity. Protect and show concern for the life of your children, of every person - especially the sick, the weak and the disabled. Bear witness to your love for life and share it generously.

Saint John writes: "See what love the Father has give us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (1Jn 3,1). The person adopted in Christ as a child of God truly shares in the sonship of the Son of God. And therefore Saint John, developing his thought, continues thus: "Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1Jn 3,2). Behold the man! Behold his full, inexpressible dignity! Man is called to share in the life of God; to know, enlightened by faith, and to love his Creator and Father, first through his creatures here on earth, and then in the beatific vision of his divinity for eternity.

Behold the man! In the itinerary of the Eucharistic Congress this man is revealed at every step.

Man in the community of the family and nation!

Man, sharer in the life of God!



TO POLAND (MAY 31-JUNE 10, 1997)



Czestochowa, Jasna Góra

4 June 1997

1. Hail Jesus, Son of Mary!

The International Eucharistic Congress which has taken place at Wroclaw is now having a vast effect throughout Poland. Here at Czestochowa, at Jasna Góra, the Congress is accompanied by this Eucharistic hymn which at the same time is Marian:

"We greet you, O living Host,
in which is concealed the divinity of Jesus Christ.
756 Hail Jesus, Son of Mary,
in the Blessed Host you are true God".

The following verses of this hymn contain a wealth of theology. Let us dwell though on this first verse, which is connected in a special way to the Gospel passage read at today's meeting. We know this passage well, it is one of the texts most often used in the liturgy: the one in which the Evangelist Luke describes the main events of the Annunciation. The Archangel Gabriel sent by God to Nazareth, to the Virgin Mary, greets her with the words which will make up the beginning of the prayer which is perhaps the one most frequently said, the Hail Mary: "Hail, O favoured one, the Lord is with you!" (
Lc 1,28). The Angel continues: "You have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus" (Lc 1,30-31). And when Mary asks: "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" (Lc 1,34), the Angel replies: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Lc 1,35). Mary's response: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Lc 1,38).

In this way the Eternal Word became flesh. The only Son of God became man, taking on our nature in the womb of the Immaculate Virgin of Nazareth. Mary, accepting with faith the gift of God, the gift of the Incarnate Word, is for that very reason located at the beginning, the source of the Eucharist. The faith of the Mother of God brings the whole Church into the mystery of the Eucharistic presence of the Son. In the Church's liturgy, of both West and East, the Mother of God always leads the faithful to the Eucharist. It was good, therefore, that, a year before the Eucharistic Congress at Wroclaw , here at Jasna Góra the Marian Congress took place on the theme: "Mary and the Eucharist". In this very sequence of events the truth about Mary who leads to the Son, about the Mother of the Church who leads her children to the Eucharist, is symbolically highlighted. In fact, for us who believe in Jesus Christ, Mary is the most perfect Teacher of that love that enables us to unite ourselves most completely to the Redeemer in the mystery of his Eucharistic Sacrifice and his Eucharistic presence.

2. Jasna Góra is the place where our Nation down the centuries has come together to bear witness to its faith and to its attachment to the community of the Church of Christ. Many times we used to come here, asking Mary for help in the struggle to preserve fidelity to God, the Cross, the Gospel, the Holy Church and her Shepherds. Here we accepted the duties of the Christian life. At the feet of Our Lady of Jasna Góra we found the strength to remain faithful to the Church, when she was persecuted, when she had to keep silent and suffer. We always said "yes" to the Church, and this Christian attitude has been a great act of love for her. For the Church is our spiritual mother. It is thanks to her that "we should be called children of God; and so we are" (cf 1Jn 3,1). The Church is inscribed for ever in the history of our Nation, keeping careful watch over the destiny of her children, especially in times of humiliation, war, persecution or loss of independence.

Here, at the feet of Mary, ever anew we "learn the Church", entrusted by Christ to the Apostles and to all of us. The mystery of Mary is linked inseparably to the mystery of the Church, from the moment of the Immaculate Conception, through the Annunciation, the Visitation, Bethlehem, Nazareth, up to Calvary. Together with the Apostles Mary remained in prayer in the Upper Room, waiting, after the Ascension of her Son, for the fulfilment of the promise. She awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would publicly make know the birth of the Church, and afterwards she watched over the development of the first Christian community.

Saint Paul says that "the Church is the Body of Christ" (cf 1Co 12,27). This means that she is formed according to Christ's plan as a community of salvation. The Church is his work, and is being endlessly built up in Christ, because he continues to live and work in her. The Church belongs to him and will remain his for ever. We must be faithful children of the Church which we ourselves make up. If by our faith and our lives we say "yes" to Christ, we cannot fail to say "yes" also to the Church. Christ told the Apostles and their successors: "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects the one who sent me" (Lc 10,16). It is true that the Church is also a human reality, that she bears in herself all the limits and imperfections of the human beings who make her up, sinful and weak beings. Was it not Christ himself who desired that our faith in the Church should face this difficulty? Let us always seek generously and in a spirit of trust to accept what the Church proclaims and teaches. The path shown to us by Christ, living in the Church, leads us to goodness, truth, eternal life. For it is Christ who speaks, who forgives and who sanctifies. A "no" said to the Church would at the same time be a "no" said to Christ.

At this point I wish to use the words of my Predecessor in the See of Peter, Paul VI, the Pope who loved Poland and wanted to take part in the ceremonies of the Millennium at Jasna Góra on 3 May 1966, but to whom the authorities of that period did not grant permission. Here are his words: "Love the Church! The hour has come to love the Church with a strong and renewed heart . . . the very defects and misfortunes of those who belong to the Church ought to make our charity all the more powerful and solicitous. At least, such will be the case with whoever aims at being a living, healthy and persevering member of the Church. Such is the attitude of good sons and of the Saints . . . To love the Church is to esteem her and to be happy to belong to her. It means to obey and serve her, to help her with joy and sacrifice in her arduous mission" (General Audience at Castelgandolfo, 18 September 1968; in L'Osservatore Romano, English-language edition, 26 September 1968, p. 8).

"Hail Jesus, Son of Mary", we sing today at Jasna Góra and then we add: "In the Blessed Host you are true God". We profess our belief that when we receive Christ in the Eucharist under the appearance of bread and wine we receive the true God. It is he who becomes the supernatural food of our souls, when we our united to him in Holy Communion. Let us give thanks to Christ for the Church instituted by him, which lives by his redeeming Sacrifice made present on the altars throughout the world. Let us give thanks to Christ, because he shares with us his divine life, which is eternal life.

3. It is good that my visit to Poland includes this time also a stop in Jasna Góra. I wish to greet cordially the whole Archdiocese of Czestochowa with its Pastors, with the Monks of Saint Paul the First Hermit, and also the pilgrims from all over Poland, gathered today at the feet of Our Lady of Jasna Góra. I have said many times that Jasna Góra is the shrine of the Nation, the confessional and the altar. It is the place where Poles find spiritual transformation and renewal of life. May it remain so for ever. I wish to repeat the words which I spoke during my first pilgrimage to my homeland: "So many times we came here to this holy place with attentive pastoral ear, to listen to the beating of the heart of the Church and of that of the motherland in the heart of the Mother . . . For her heart beats, we know, together with all the happenings of history, with all the events of our national life . . . But if we want to know how this history is interpreted by the heart of the Poles, we must come here, we must attune our ear to this shrine, we must hear the echo of the life of the whole nation in the heart of its Mother and Queen. And if her heart beats with a tone of disquiet, if it echoes with solicitude and the cry for the conversion and strengthening of consciences, this invitation must be accepted. It is an invitation springing from maternal love, which in its own way is shaping the historical processes in the land of Poland" (Homily at Mass, Jasna Góra, 4 June 1979; in L'Osservatore Romano English-language edition, 11 June 1979, PP 10-11). This perhaps is also the best place to recall the most ancient Polish hymn:

"O Mother Divine,
757 O Virgin by God glorified,
Mother elect, to us send
Your Saviour Son.
O Son of God, by your Baptist,
Hear our voices,
Fulfil our human thoughts.

This is how our ancestors prayed and today the pilgrims who come to Jasna Góra continue to pray: "Hear our voices, fulfil our human thoughts". I too ask this during the pilgrimage that I am making on the occasion of the millennium of Saint Adalbert. Standing here today at this point of the millenary celebrations, I cannot fail to recall another man of God whom Providence gave to the Church in Poland at the end of the Second Millennium, a man who prepared this Church for the celebrations of the millennium of her Baptism and who is commonly called the Primate of the Millennium. How often the Servant of God, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, the great devotee of the Mother of God, stayed here; how many graces he obtained kneeling motionless before the image of Jasna Góra. It was precisely here, on 3 May 1966, that the Cardinal Primate read the Act of Jasna Góra of complete service of the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, for the freedom of the Church of Christ. Remembering that historic act, I wish today to entrust anew to the Queen of Jasna Góra all the prayers of my fellow countrymen and all the needs and intentions of the universal Church and of all people throughout the world, both known and unknown to me, especially the sick, the suffering and those who have no hope. Here too, at the feet of Mary, I wish to give thanks for all the graces of this year's Eucharistic Congress — for all the good that it has brought about in people's hearts and in the life of the Nation and the Church.

Mother of the Church at Jasna Góra, pray for us all. Amen.



TO POLAND (MAY 31-JUNE 10, 1997)




Zakopane [Wielka Krokiew]

6 June 1997

1. We meet today in this great liturgical assembly at the foot of the Cross on Mount Giewont, on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I thank Divine Providence for enabling me to celebrate this Solemnity in my homeland, with you - dear Brothers and Sisters - who faithfully preserve in your religious devotion veneration for the mystery of the Heart of Jesus. The Church in Poland made a great contribution to the introduction into the liturgical calendar of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was the expression of a deep desire that the extraordinary fruits produced by this devotion should be multiplied in the life of the faithful throughout the Church. And so it happened. How we should thank God for all the graces which we experience through his Son's Heart! How thankful we are for today's meeting! We have long waited for it. For a long time you had been inviting the Pope, an invitation made on various occasions, especially during your frequent pilgrimages to the Eternal City. You certainly remember how I then used to say that we have to be patient and leave to Divine Providence the visit to Zakopane. During my pilgrimage to Slovakia, at Levoca, I read the placard which you had prepared: "Zakopane is waiting! Zakopane welcomes you!" And today we can say that Zakopane has managed it and I have too. God has so arranged it: Our Lady of Levoca has brought the Pope to Zakopane.

758 I greet you all, especially the people of Zakopane. I address words of particular greeting to Cardinal Franciszek, Metropolitan of Krakow, to his Auxiliary Bishops, and to the Bishops who have come from neighbouring Dioceses. I greet the clergy, the women Religious, and especially the Albertine Sisters and the Good Shepherd Sisters, for whom this day has a particular significance. I address words of greeting to the Mayor of Zakopane and to the local Authorities of Podhale. I am grateful for this eloquent homage of Podhale, ever faithful to the Church and the Nation. You can always be counted on! Let us thank God for this day which he has made for us. In a spirit of gratitude I wish, together with you - dear Brothers and Sisters - to meditate upon the great mystery of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is good that we can do this in the course of my pilgrimage occasioned by the Eucharistic Congress in Wroclaw . In fact, all devotion to the Heart of Jesus and all its manifestations are profoundly Eucharistic.

2. "They shall look on him whom they have pierced" (
Jn 19,37). These are the words which we have just heard. With this prophetic quotation Saint John ends his description of Christ's Passion and Death on the Cross. We know from it that on Good Friday, before the Feast of the Passover, the Jews asked Pilate that the legs of those crucified might be broken and their bodies taken away (cf. Jn Jn 19,31). The soldiers did this to the two criminals crucified with Jesus. "But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water" (Jn 19,33-34). It was the proof of death. The soldiers were able to assure their superior that Jesus of Nazareth had ceased to live. But Saint John the Evangelist sees at this point the need for a special authentication. He writes thus: "He who saw it has borne witness—his witness is true". And at the same time he affirms that in this piercing of Christ's side the Scripture had been fulfilled. For it says: "Not a bone of him shall be broken", and elsewhere: "They shall look on him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19,35-37).

This Gospel passage is at the foundation of the whole tradition of devotion to the Divine Heart. It developed in a special way from the seventeenth century onwards, in connection with the revelations to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. Our own century testifies to an intense development of devotion to the Heart of Jesus, attested to by the magnificent "Litany of the Sacred Heart" and linked to it "The Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart" with the added "Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart". All this has profoundly pervaded our Polish piety; it has become part of the life of many of the faithful who feel the need to make reparation to the Heart of Jesus for the sins of humanity and also of individual nations, families and people.

3. "They shall look on him whom they have pierced"- these words guide our gaze towards the Holy Cross, towards the tree of the Cross on which was hung the Saviour of the world. "For the word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, but for us it is the power of God" (cf. 1Co 1,18). The people of Podhale understood this well. And as the nineteenth century was drawing to a close and the new one was beginning, your forebears planted a Cross on the top of Giewont. It is there and remains there still. The Cross is a silent but eloquent witness to our time. It can be said that this Jubilee Cross looks in the direction of Zakopane and Krakow, and beyond: in the direction of Warsaw and Danzig. It embraces all our land from the Tatra to the Baltic. Your fathers wanted the Cross of Christ to reign in a special way in this beautiful corner of Poland. And thus it happened. This city of yours extended, one can say, to the feet of the Cross; it lives and develops in its radius. The beautiful little wayside chapels, carefully carved and tended, speak of this fact. This Christ accompanies you in your daily work as well as on your walks through the mountains. The churches of this city speak of it, both the ancient and monumental ones, which contain the whole mystery of faith and human piety, and also recent ones, built thanks to your generosity.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, do not be ashamed of this Cross. Try every day to accept it and to return Christ's love. Defend the Cross; do not offend God's Name in your hearts, in family or social life. We thank Divine Providence that the crucifix has returned to the schools, public offices and hospitals. May it ever remain there! May it remind us of our Christian dignity and national identity, what we are and where we are going and where our roots are. May it remind us of God's love for humanity, which on the Cross found its deepest expression.

Love is always associated with the heart. The Apostle Paul linked it precisely to that Heart which on Golgotha was pierced by the centurion's lance. In this gesture there was revealed the depth of the love with which the Father has loved the world. He has loved it so intensely "that he gave his only Son" (Jn 3,16). In this pierced Heart that dimension of love which is greater than any created love whatever has found its external expression. In it saving and redemptive love has manifested itself. The Father has given "his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3,16). And therefore Paul writes: "I bend my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named" (Ep 3,14-15); I bend them to express the gratitude which I feel before the revelation which the Father has made of his love in his Son's redeeming Death. At the same time I bend my knees, so that God "according to the riches of his glory may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man" (Ep 3,16). The heart is precisely "the inner man". The Heart of God's Son becomes, for the Apostle, the source of strength for all human hearts. All this has been wonderfully rendered in many of the invocations of the Litany of the Sacred Heart.

4. The Heart of Jesus became the source of strength for the two women whom the Church is raising today to the glory of the altars. Thanks to this strength they reached the heights of holiness. Maria Bernardina Jablowska - spiritual daughter of Saint Albert Chmielowski, his helper and the one who continued his work of mercy; living in poverty, she consecrated herself to the service of the poorest of the poor. The Church places this devout Religious before us today as an example. Her motto of life were the words: "To give, eternally to give". With her gaze fixed on Christ she followed him faithfully, imitating his love. She wanted to satisfy her neigbour's every request, to dry every tear, to console at least with a word every suffering soul. She always wanted to be good to everyone, but even better to those most tried by fate. She used to say: "My neighbour's suffering is my suffering". Together with Saint Albert she founded hospices for those who were sick and homeless as a result of war.

This great and heroic love matured in prayer, in the silence of the nearby hermitage of Kalatówki, where she stayed for some time. In life's most difficult moments - in keeping with the suggestions of the one who guided her soul - she entrusted herself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. To him she offered everything she possessed, especially her inner sufferings and physical torments. All for the love of Christ! As Superior General of the Congregation of the Sisters Servants of the Poor of the Third Order of Saint Francis - the Albertines - she ceaselessly gave her sisters the example of that love which flows from the union of the human heart with the Sacred Heart of the Saviour. Jesus' Heart was her solace in her service of the most needy.

At the same time, in the territories under Prussian occupation, another woman, Maria Karlowska, worked as a true Samaritan among women suffering great material and moral deprivation. Her holy zeal quickly attracted a group of disciples of Christ, with whom she founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd of Divine Providence. For herself and her Sisters she set the following goal: "We must proclaim the Heart of Jesus, that is, so to live from him, in him and for him, as to become like him and that in our lives he may be more visible than we ourselves". Her devotion to the Saviour's Sacred Heart bore fruit in a great love for people. She felt an insatiable hunger for love. A love of this kind, according to Blessed Maria Karlowska, will never say "enough", will never stop mid-way. Precisely this happened to her, who was as it were transported by the current of love of the Divine Paraclete. Thanks to this love she restored to many souls the light of Christ and helped them to regain their lost dignity.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, both these heroic women Religious, carrying forward their holy works in extremely difficult conditions, showed in all its fullness the dignity of woman and the greatness of her vocation. They showed that "feminine genius" which is revealed in deep sensitivity to human suffering, in tact, openness and readiness to help, and in other qualities proper to the feminine heart. Often this is shown without drawing attention to itself and therefore is sometimes undervalued. How much today's world, our generation, needs this! How badly needed is this feminine sensitivity in the things of God and man, that our families and all of society may be filled with heartfelt warmth, goodwill, peace and joy! How much this "feminine genius" is needed, that today's world may esteem the values of life, responsibility and faithfulness; that it may preserve respect for human dignity! For God, in his eternal plan, has established such a role for women, by creating the human being "man and woman" in his own "image and likeness".

5. In his Letter to the Ephesians Saint Paul makes as it were a personal confession. He writes: "To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things" (3:8-9). In this way, through the Heart of Jesus Crucified and Risen, we read God's eternal plan for the salvation of the world. The Divine Heart becomes, in a sense, the centre of this plan, which is mysterious and which gives life. In this Heart the plan is fulfilled. As the Apostle writes: "that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known ... This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in him" (Ep 3,10-12).

759 All is contained here. Christ is the fulfilment of the divine plan of redemptive love. By virtue of this plan man has access to God, not only as a creature to its Creator, but as a son to his father. Christianity therefore means a new creation, a new life - life in Christ through which man can say to God: Abba - my Father, our Father. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is thus in a sense a magnificent completion of the Eucharist, and the Church, guided by a profound intuition of faith, therefore celebrates this feast of the Divine Heart on the day after the end of the octave of Corpus Christi.

We praise you, Christ our Saviour, who from your Heart on fire with love pour out upon us fountains of grace. We thank you for these graces through which the hosts of the saints and beati have been able to bring to the world the witness of your love. We thank you for the Blessed Sisters - Maria Bernardina and Maria - who found the source of their holiness in your loving Heart.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

S. John Paul II Homil. 754