Archbishop Zimowski's Homily for Paul VI Institute Anniversary

«25 Years of Service to Love and Life in the Family»

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OMAHA, Nebraska, SEPT. 5, 2010 ( Here is the homily delivered today by Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, at the closing Mass for the four-day «Celebration of Love and Life» seminar that marked the 25th anniversary of the Pope Paul VI Institute.

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«Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.»

Dear Dr. Thomas, your wife Susan and all your collaborators, 

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

We have now come to the climax of our celebration marking the 25th anniversary of the prestigious Pope Paul VI Institute. This celebration falls on the Labor Day weekend, which offers us the appropriate atmosphere to reflect upon work as a participation in the ongoing creation, especially the work of this institute. We come here to thank God for the tremendous work done by this institute, building a culture of life in women’s healthcare; as it has been emphasized we celebrate Love and Life. 

1. «Carry the Burdens of Each Other»

Certainly in these 25 years there have been many challenges; often the institute stood alone, but with God’s grace and the commitment of the management, staff and supporters, the institute has educated practitioners, instructors, supervisors, educators, nurses, medical consultants, clergy and religious and of course touched the lives of many mothers and families. I also wish to recall here the tremendous work that was done by the Servant of God John Paul II in promoting the culture of life and the importance of the Christian family, as well as the relentless efforts of Pope Benedict to promote the gospel of life.

Yes the challenges have been many, and of course they are to be expected by anybody who embraces the call to discipleship. Our Lord calls it taking up one’s cross and following Him. Taking up the cross and being a sign of contradiction to the world. When young people came to Mother Teresa and expressed a desire to join her congregation, she left them in no doubt as to what they were getting themselves into. She said, «Our work is hard. We are serving the poor and the homeless twenty-four hours a day.»

In the same way Jesus did not hide the difficulties, the hardships, and the sacrifices that would be required of those who would follow him. He told them in no uncertain terms that it would not be easy. In today’s Gospel, Jesus lays before us the reality of discipleship. Luke tells us that «great crowds accompanied Jesus and he turned and spoke to them: Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple». 

You will remember that Our Lord on his way to Calvary accepted to be helped by Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross. I do believe that over these 25 years the Paul VI Institute has been and continues to be a Simon of Cyrene to many couples and families in difficulty and offers them accompaniment and guidance, which enable them to rediscover hope and confidence in God’s plan for man.

2. Our Christian Discipleship Today

Marriage is one of the best forms of discipleship today. Christ loves us so much that he gave his life for us. A man and woman bound by the bonds of marriage is the best reflection of the union between Christ and the Church. We live in an era which tries to promote intimacy without complications. The reality is that there are no perfect couples just like there are no perfect disciples. There are a lot of struggling couples. It is in the struggles that discipleship is lived out and perfected. In fact, the prayer of blessing over couples celebrating their marriage anniversary acknowledges that «amid the joys and struggles of their life, God has preserved the union between them». The trials or tribulations we face are rich grounds upon which the seeds of discipleship can take root.

For 25 years now, Pope Paul VI Institute has been working to assist couples with fertility problems and also bring natural family planning close to the ordinary Christians. Besides the research and study, it takes the faith, the commitment, the conviction and collaboration of a couple to make the program work. We know that obedience to the Gospel is not easy. Following the Lord is not easy when there are pressures from within and from without that say «go the other way» or «don’t be bothered, no one else is.»

Thus, discipleship does not take us out of the ordinary. Instead, discipleship is exercised in the mundane everyday existence that we lead. A teacher is called to discipleship through faithful teaching. A mother tending to her brood is answering to discipleship. So whatever our circumstances, studying or working, married or single, male or female, to be as good stewards where God has placed us is the issue; then we can do all for the glory of God.

The most important thing when setting out is self-knowledge. We must not take on more than we are capable of. We may underestimate or overestimate ourselves. And we may need a challenge to bring the best out of us. We can draw encouragement from the example of the apostles. The Gospels show that they struggled at every point to follow Jesus. Yet he did not write them off. And it is clear that they learned from their failures. It was only after his death and resurrection that they became his true followers. By looking at them we discover our own inadequacies. The Gospel offers hope to Christians who fail. Repentance and a second chance are always possible. Jesus is generous with his grace to those who strive to answer his call.

3. A Triple Responsibility

Lastly dear Brothers and Sisters!

We leave this celebration of the 25th anniversary of Paul VI Institute with a triple responsibility:

— Responsibility for ourselves, for our salvation, for the holiness of our lives, for love, which has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, given to us at the moment of baptism;

— Responsibility for other people, for our neighbour, in the words of the apostle Paul, ‘Carry the burdens of each other, have no debts toward others save that of mutual love.’

— Responsibility for the mission of the Paul VI Institute and the Church, which works in the name of Christ, so that she can increasingly be a home and a school of communion for the family.

We ask for the intercession of our Most Blessed Mother Mary, so that by God’s grace we may be transformed into courageous witnesses to his teaching in the 21st Century. Amen.

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