Reflecting on Passion Leads to Focus On Those Who Suffer, John Paul Says

VATICAN CITY — Focusing one's prayers and reflections on Christ's suffering and resurrection helps Christians see Christ in their suffering neighbors, Pope John Paul II said.

Meeting 700 young people from around the world Aug. 9 at the end of a pilgrimage to Assisi and other sites connected with the life of St. Francis, the Holy Father prayed they would share God's love with others as St. Francis did.

Contemplating the suffering face of the crucified Christ led St. Francis to such a deep relationship with Christ, the Pope said, that at the end of the saint's life “he carried impressed in his own flesh the signs of the Passion,” the stigmata.

Christ's suffering, he told the young people, was not “the anguish of a desperate person” but an offering of his life in love for the salvation of all people.

“It is necessary to welcome this message of hope into your own lives and to announce it to the world as the full revelation of God's love,” he said.

“Following the example of Francis, you also will learn to look with faith upon the face of the Crucified One and see there the reflection of all human suffering,” John Paul said.

As with St. Francis, he said, contemplation leads to welcoming, supporting and reaching out in solidarity to all those suffering because of illness, violence, hatred and injustice.

The other famous saint of Assisi was featured in a papal letter, released at the Vatican on Aug. 11; the letter marked the 750th anniversary of the death of St. Clare, a companion of St. Francis and founder of the contemplative Poor Clares.

In the letter, sent to Poor Clares in more than 900 monasteries around the world, the Holy Father said the saint, who died Aug. 11, 1253, was so focused on her love for the crucified Christ that she gave up everything to devote herself to prayer and a life of absolute poverty.

Poverty, she believed, marked every aspect of Christ's earthly existence to the point of his being stripped and nailed to the cross, the Pope said.

“Hers was the gaze of a loving bride,” John Paul said, “full of desire for a sharing that was increasingly complete. In particular, she immersed herself in meditating on the Passion, contemplating the mystery of Christ who, from the heights of the cross, called her

Representing the Holy Spirit that descended “like a dove” and hovered over Jesus when he was baptized.

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Representing the Holy Spirit that descended “like a dove” and hovered over Jesus when he was baptized.

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