by Fr Richard Heilman | March 10, 2016 12:30 AM
Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade in 1095 with the primary goal of the Christian re-conquest of the sacred city of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. So great was the pope’s speech in Clermont, France, on that day that the crowd was inspired to cry out: “Deus Vult! Deus Vult!” (“It is the will of God! It is the will of God!”). This became the battle cry of brave and noble knights who sought to recover that holy ground.
In our vastly secularized modern world, the need has never been greater to reclaim the surrendered ground of the sacred. While it was nearly a millennium ago that Pope Urban II challenged would-be warriors to “reclaim the sacred,” in our day it was Pope John Paul II, in his January 6, 2000, Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, who made his clarion call for us to put aside all fear and pursue daring apostolic goals which are rooted deeply in prayer. This is a call to return to our first priority, the Universal Call to Holiness: “All Christian faithful … are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity.”
The spiritual devastation of the last few decades compelled Pope John Paul II to draw up his master plan for the new millennium. In his plan, he emphasized the importance of “starting afresh from Christ”: “No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person.” Thus, he called for pastoral initiatives that would focus on “Training in Holiness” and “Schools of Prayer.” St. Francis of Assisi affirms this training in holiness as the fundamental starting point: “Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.”
Pope John Paul II challenges us to consider, “since baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity … ‘Do you wish to become holy?’ It means to set before you the radical nature of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 5:48).”
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