Moon landing should inspire ‘even greater goals,’ Pope Francis urges

Vatican City, Jul 21, 2019 / 06:29 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Sunday recalled the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, encouraging Catholics to look to that great event for inspiration to overcome injustices and mistreatment of the weak.

“Fifty years ago yesterday man set foot on the moon, realizing an extraordinary dream,” the pope said July 21. “May the memory of that great step for humanity ignite the desire to progress together towards even greater goals: more dignity for the weak, more justice among peoples, more future for our common home.”

Pope Francis referenced the July 20 anniversary of the Apollo 11 spaceflight, the first to land humans on the moon, during his weekly Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square.

In his message before the Angelus, he reflected on the day’s Gospel, when Jesus goes to visit Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus. In this Gospel, St. Luke tells readers that Martha was busy serving, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to listen to his words.

Jesus, in response to Martha’s complaint that Mary is not helping, says she “has chosen the better part.”

“Today’s Gospel reminds us that the wisdom of the heart lies precisely in knowing how to combine these two elements: contemplation and action,” Pope Francis said, adding that “Martha and Mary show us the way.”

Francis commented that Martha had a gift for hospitality and Jesus did not intend to condemn an attitude of service, “but rather the anxiety with which it is sometimes experienced.”

In fact, it is important to follow Martha’s example in working to create fraternity and welcome in one’s home and community, he underlined. But, he explained, when Jesus is there, “everything must be put aside because, when He comes to visit us in our lives, his presence and His word comes before everything.”

“In this scene of Mary of Bethany at the feet of Jesus, St. Luke shows the prayerful attitude of the believer, who knows how to stay in the presence of the Master to listen to him and be in harmony with Him,” the pope said.

To live a joyful life, the two attitudes must be associated, he continued. “On the one hand, ‘to stay at the feet’ of Jesus, to listen to him while he reveals the secret of everything to us; on the other hand, to be attentive and ready in hospitality, when He passes and knocks on our door, with the face of a friend who needs a moment of refreshment and fraternity.”

Pope Francis prayed that the Virgin Mary will intercede in granting the Church the grace to love and serve God and others “with the hands of Martha and the heart of Mary.”

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  1. Pope Francis references the Apollo XI moon landing on July 20, 1969…

    A little-known detail of that story is that the commanding officer of the Apollo XI Recover Ship (aircraft carrier, USS Hornet, CVS-12) at the “splashdown” site in the southern Pacific (July 24) was Capt. Carl J. Seiberlich (later Rear Admiral). Seiberlich was a very devout (and Marian) Catholic his entire life, and during the recovery mission corresponded directly with Pope Paul VI.

    The Pope responded by extending his papal blessing to the entire Hornet crew, which was received on September 6 and read by the Catholic chaplain over the ship’s intercom. This was still in the Pacific and at “lights-out,” beneath a Milky Way of not less than a billion visible stars. (One has never really seen the Creator’s Milky Way unless on a moonless night at least 1,000 miles away from the nearest city lights, say, Honolulu).
    The papal message (from my journal as a crew-member junior officer):
    “The Secretariate of State is graciously directed by the Holy Father to acknowledge receipt of the special philatelic envelope [now in the incomparable Vatican stamp collection] from the Captain and Crew of the USS Hornet….and in expressing His sincere appreciation of the loyal filial devotion which prompted this gesture, has the honour to convey, in pledge of abundant divine graces, the paternal Apostolic Benediction of His Holiness.”

  2. Pope Francis inspires us: “May the memory of that great step for humanity [Apollo XI] ignite the desire to progress together towards even greater goals: more dignity for the weak, more justice among peoples, more future for our common home.” As a FOOTNOTE (in support), we might still remember also the global CONTEXT for Apollo XI…

    Goals can be a mixed bag. On the one hand, writer Saul Bellow commented that this technical achievement of Apollo was not much more than “the Protestant Ethic with nowhere else to go” (Life Magazine). But on the other hand, the threat then to “more justice among peoples” was the ATHEISTIC STATE SYSTEM sponsored by the Soviet Union. AND part of that threat was Soviet technical superiority in rocket delivery systems, for potential use in intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads.

    How soon we forget the depths of the Cold War… Apollo XI involved both a lunar landing craft AND a catch-up in rocket technology—a morally anguishing addition to the needed nuclear-deterrent (and box canyon) of what had become Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963 was only a few years back.

    (The totally unexpected DISMANTLING of the Soviet Union in 1991 came largely at the hands of St. Pope John Paul II, a teacher of very prudential judgment/strategies AND of moral absolutes and, therefore, of the irreducible difference between the two.)

    As if the Cold War were not enough, in the 1960s the UNITY of the United States was unraveling—a bit like Church unity today (?). Watts in Los Angeles, Washington DC, and many other cities were torched in the late 60s. Part of the overall moral devolution was the so-called Sexual Revolution—-which within the Church today undermines the pope’s moral message, and which overall has gone septic as “gender theory.”

    SO, underpinning our “GREATER GOALS”, then, is steadfast moral clarity about the nature and “transcendent dignity of the human person”—-the very core of the Catholic Social Teaching (CST).

    The global CONTEXT today? Advanced despair and distraction, yielding to: (1) not Communism, but resurgent SOCIALISM—-which is not to be confused with CST’s “solidarity”—-but as “Communism with the claws retracted” (Whittaker Chambers). And, (2) engulfing ISLAM: belief in a God other than ourselves (yes!), but then a denial of the self-disclosed inner nature of this (Triune) Oneness: a Father of infinite love, all the way through, and willfully shared with receptive human nature.

    Pope Francis is so right to champion solidarity, a need crystalized forever by Apollo 8’s photo of “Earthrise”, when he also clarifies that the Church, in Christ and with Mary, is more than just another non-governmental organization devoted to social uplift.

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