Cacao, the Chocolate Fruit

Liquid Chocolate

Cacao –Food of the Gods

Cacao is among the most famous plants on Earth. Its name comes from the Greek, and means “food of the gods”. Cacao was used and cultivated by ancient Central American indigenous tribes such as the Mayas, Aztecs and Kunas as currency. Their abundant gold was used as a mere decoration as it could not be as valuable as that which produced health.

Modern scientists are re-discovering the many medicinal uses of antioxidant-rich cacao, including its ability to fight cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression, while stimulating cognitive function, improving memory and intelligence.

Cacao, and Natural Chocolate

Liquid Chocolate, made from the Cacao Fruit
Liquid Chocolate, made from the Cacao Fruit

Cacao is the most important component in the production of chocolate. While commercial chocolates often contain copious amounts of sugar, cow milk and other addictive and toxic substances, it is certainly possible to produce a high quality chocolate using only healthy ingredients like cacao, coconut, and a natural sweetener like stevia, honey or maple syrup.

Health Benefits of Cacao and Chocolate

A 2012 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found a “close, significant linear correlation between chocolate consumption per capita and the number of Nobel laureates”. (1)

Other recent studies have shown a positive effect on cholesterol, cough, weight loss, eczema, heart disease, high blood pressure and skin care.

In my wellness center, several female clients reported an absence of PMS symptoms following a chocolate therapy administered prior to the expected onset of the monthly symptoms. This chocolate therapy consisted of painting dark chocolate sauce on the patient from head to toe, allowing the skin to absorb the nutrients, as well as inhalation of the chocolate aroma, and a small amount of this same chocolate mixture was consumed.

Chocolate has long been considered an aphrodisiac and a mood-enhancer. Raw cacao stimulates the production of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, important neurotransmitters that block pain while creating pleasure and relaxation. Endorphins are our natural pain relievers; when pain suddenly disappears, a feeling of euphoria takes its place. Dopamine produces a feeling of joy with heightened focus and attention. Serotonin is our natural anti-depressant and it is important for relaxation and sleep. Each of these neurotransmitters are needed for good physical and mental health. Higher-than-normal levels of these neurotransmitters is likely to produce a feeling of intense pleasure and euphoria.

Interestingly, when forced to choose between chocolate and sex, 22 percent of women said they’d prefer chocolate. A survey of  2000 people found that alcohol, chocolate and sex were the three most difficult things to forgo.  (2)

It is important to keep both sides of this coin in proper perspective. While decreasing pain and increasing both pleasure and relaxation are normally welcomed benefits, relying on any one nutrient to stimulate these natural functions can lead to addiction and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if consumption ceases. In other words, cacao may be considered a medicine, and it is important to regulate the dosage. An excess external stimulation may cause the body to under-produce on its own, which would explain the withdrawal symptoms.

The Chicago Sun Times reported that people who suffer extreme depression have an irregular production of phenylethylamine or PEA, an amphetamine that stimulates dopamine receptors and increases mental alertness, pulse,  blood pressure and blood sugar levels. When we fall in love, our brain naturally releases phenylethlamine, producing so much pleasure that it can be addictive. The heartbroken may self-medicate by binging on chocolate since chocolate is high in phenylethylamine.

Theophylline is a stimulant of the heart and central nervous system, relaxes the bronchial smooth muscles, and may be effective in preventing and treating apnea in premature infancy.

Anandamide is an endocannabinoid. Endocannabinoids occur naturally in the brain, but are most concentrated in the cannabis plant, and to a much lesser extent in cacao.

The Raw Cacao Fruit

Cacao pod
Cacao pod

Pictured above is an entire cacao pod, which grows directly from the trunk of a tree in Central America.

Cacao pod, split open
Cacao pod, split open

The picture above shows the cacao pod sliced in half, revealing the seeds covered in a sweet gooey white gel.

Cacao seeds coated in gel
Cacao seeds coated in gel

Pictured above are the raw seeds covered in white slimy gel. This sweet gel may be the key to prevention of cancer and heart disease as it is consumed by the indigenous tribe that does not suffer either of these degenerative diseases. There are almost no studies on the consumption of the gel, most probably because developed countries normally only receive the processed cacao and have never had access to the fruit in its raw form.

Cacaotero Theobroma

The scientific name of the chocolate fruit is “Cacaotero Theobroma”. Its chemical composition includes a large number of vitamins, amino acids and other phyto-nutrients… over 300 compounds in all. The flavor components include polyphenols, aliphatic esters, unsaturated aromatic carbonyls, pyrazines, diketopiperazines, and theobromine.

Per 100 grams, the seed contains 456 calories, 3.6 grams of water, 12.0 grams of protein, 46.3 grams of fat, 34.7 grams of total carbohydrate, 8.6 grams of fiber, 106 mg of calcium, 537 mg phosphorus, 3.6 mg iron, 30 mg beta-carotene, 0.17 mg of thiamine (Vitamin B1), 0.14 mg riboflavin (Vitamin B2), 1.7 mg niacin (Vitamin B3), and 3 mg ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).

Wealth of India reported that the edible pulp of the fruit contains 79.7–88.5% water, 0.5–0.7% albuminoids, astringents, etc.; 8.3–13.1% glucose, 0.4–0.9% sucrose, a trace of starch, 0.2–0.4% non-volatile acids (as tartaric), 0.03% Fe2O3 and 0.4% mineral salts (K, Na, Ca, Mg).

Raw seeds contain 0.24 mg/100 g thiamine, 0.41 riboflavin, 0.09 pyridoxine, 2.1 nicotinamide, and 1.35 pantothenic acid.

Cocoa also contains about 18% proteins, fats (cocoa butter), amines and alkaloids including theobromine (0.5 to 2.7%), caffeine (ca 0.25% in cocoa; 0.7 to 1.70 in fat-free beans, with forasteros containing less than 0.1% and criollos containing 1.43 to 1.70%), tyramine, dopamine, salsolinol, trigonelline, nicotinic acid, and free amino acids; tannins; phospholipids; and more.

The seeds, leaves and roots contain alkaloids theobromine and caffeine which has diuretic and vasodilator. Antitumor activity was found in the root and bark. The seeds contain fat (cocoa butter) are used in pharmacy as an emollient and for making ointments and creams. It is helpful in treating dry skin, burns, dandruff, dysentery, measles, and even snakebites, according to folk healers. Overall, cocoa is slightly tonic and stimulant, although in large doses or in sensitive individuals, can cause insomnia and tachycardia. (5)

Cacao and Caffeine

To compare the amount of caffeine in a 6 oz cup of various beverages, I rely on information from Tyler and Palotti (6,7).

  1. Expresso coffee: 310 mg
  2. Boiled coffee: 100 mg
  3. Instant coffee: 65mg
  4. Hierba mate: 25–50 mg
  5. Tea: 10–50 mg
  6. Cola: 25 mg
  7. Coca cola: 20 mg
  8. Cocoa (cacao): 13 mg
  9. Pepsi cola: 10 mg

References

  1. Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function, and Nobel Laureates, Franz H. Messerli, The New England Journal of Medicine, October 18, 2012.
  2. Cancer Research UK, survey of 2000 people
  3. The Chicago Sun Times
  4. Wealth of India
  5. Maria Candelaria, 102-year-old herbalist
  6. Tyler 1982
  7. Palotti 1977

Thank you, and Good-bye to Doctor David John Carmos

Doctor David Carmos

Today we say good-bye to a remarkable man, a talented healer and a wise teacher. Doctor David John Carmos had devoted a great part of his life to studying and teaching the healing ways of Jesus and the Essenes, an ancient mystical Jewish sect that is most famous for having written The Dead Sea Scrolls.

According to historians, the Essenes may have lived about three times longer than their contemporaries, owing to their clean, vegetarian, disciplined and loving lifestyle. The Essenes were known to adopt abandoned children and care for them greatly. Doctor David became a Bishop of the Essene order.

While returning from a mission in Brazil, he was wrongly imprisoned in Mexico. While serving his ten-year sentence, David performed more than 18,000 treatments… word had traveled throughout Mexico and people in need of healing would line up outside the penitentiary. In his spare time, David penned 12 of his 15 books.

I recently had the good fortune to meet one of David’s students and closest friends, Dr. Shawn C. Miller, who is himself remarkable, disciplined and wise. I am especially thankful to Dr. Miller for gifting me with the book The Essene Master: Gospel of Healing, which was the first book published following David’s release from prison. The book, masterfully written in meter and rhyme, is divided in nine parts.

The following is an excerpt from part one of The Essene Master:

The Spirit of God is seen in the Path of every way,
in the falling of the rain, in the sprouting of a seed,
in the snowflake, in the wave,
and in the breaking of the day.

The Spirit in its various forms
is felt in the light of the full moon,
in the glow of the evening stars,
in the fog of the clouds,
in the cool warm of the sunset,
and in the dampness that makes the dew wet,
in the color of a flower,
in the wave crest’s awesome power,

in the ability of wild oats themselves to sew,
in the magic of a mustard seed, within itself to grow,
within a flock of sheep,
the knowledge of a ewe its young to know,

in the softness of a springtime breeze,
in the society of a hive of bees,
in the intricacy of a spider’s web,
in the recession of a tide at the new moons ebb,
in the river rapids constant flow,
in the presence that makes a toothless baby’s smile glow,
in the thunder and lightning of the first storm of spring,
and in the voice of the nightingale when it sings.

I am grateful to David for his wise words and the beautiful example that was his life on Earth. I will leave you with the following excerpt from part four of The Essene Master, as it is especially appropriate in saying goodbye to a beloved friend:

Life is our opportunity to experience and
to grow according to a certain plan
and when we have exhausted this earthly shell,
then we complete another life’s span.

Then enters death, which in reality
is no enemy of man,
but another opportunity
to in other ways grow and expand.

Death is but the knife which cuts the cord
that anchors the human ship to Earth,
that it might sail the oceans of the spirit world,
until it finds a new port, to experience another birth.

When a soul and body go their separate ways,
which is a time of growth and rest,
then the spirit enters on another phase;
somewhat like leaving an old cow loose in a field,
to stand in the warmth of the sun and graze.

The calls of death are always for the best,
for we are solving further dilemmas there,
as well as continuing on our spiritual quest.

Russell Brand

My uncle Luke just sent me a clip of a man I had never before heard of. For a second, I thought it was a British comedian and that I might require subtitles to understand his humour. As he rambled several poignant thoughts consecutively, I realized that this was no comedy bit, and–I must confess–I briefly suspected that he had been reading some of my own writings. But his voice echoed even the words from my new book, which is not yet published. So instantly I realized that this is no copycat. Quite simply he speaks aloud the very same thoughts and feelings that are inside all of us. It just so happens that he speaks these words with a very cool English accent. (Brilliant!!)

I fully expect that you will agree with Russell on every single point. If any part of Russell’s message seems strange, it is only because the media and society have together caused your inner voice to compete with zillions of superfluous messages.

 

Russell speaks of yoga and transcendental meditation as his two main tools for feeling a brief connection with God and with the universe. And he is exactly right: these are extremely powerful tools. But let me add that these tools are much simpler to use than most people believe.

In the case of yoga, there are millions of students being told erroneously that the word “yoga” means “to join”, a verb, implying that you must do something to connect yourself to the Universe. And one fallacy becomes two, because the students are then led to believe that the “connection” that they “achieved” during the yoga class is but a temporary one, requiring many visits to the yoga school, effectively selling yoga as an addictive drug.

So let me clarify that yoga means oneness or unity and it is your very essence. There is absolutely no action required to connect yourself to the divine Universe. Your only task is to become fully aware of your connectedness.

That brings us to transcendental meditation. Again, this is commonly “sold” by some “masters” that would prefer to have many students coming back to them for more and more. But in reality, nothing could be simpler than meditation, because to meditate simply means to observe, as intently and profoundly as possible. Intently is the opposite of accidentally, and profoundly is the opposite of superficially, so the only kind of observation that doesn’t qualify as meditation is the kind of observation that we typically do throughout most of the day using the five notorious senses. (I’ve written an article on these already, so I’ll dig it up and post it here shortly.)

Russell calls these same famous senses “the limited senses” and again, he is right. The eyes see but a tiny fraction of the total light energy that surrounds us, while the vast majority usually goes unnoticed.  Ditto for the other four commonly-exploited senses that keep us chasing our proverbial tail… if we continue to focus on just that which is being sold, we will continue to miss the majority of reality, and we will perpetually feel empty, desiring more stimulation.

Profound observation elegantly solves this problem! By diverting one’s attention away from the noise of the media and society (as simple as turning off all electronics) one is left with only  the sound of one’s inner voice plus the zillions of messages previously recorded in our minds by the media and society.  And even though this may initially seem overwhelming, I assure you that before long you will have no trouble distinguishing your innermost thoughts from the outermost, and thus the massive housekeeping chore gets lighter and lighter, and this lightening is where the transcendence comes in. All meditation, when done correctly, is transcendental. Your consciousness will expand irreversibly. You do not need a more complicated strategy to achieve transcendence. Simply stick with the profound observation for as long as possible and do it frequently.

By living a life of meditation or prayer,  you will effectively distill the mental mayhem down to just the core truths, the same ones that Russell and I speak of… about love being the most important part of life, about kindness being the surest way to feel good, about focusing on abundance and cooperation instead of scarcity and competition… I’ve “known” Russell for a total of ten minutes, but I am absolutely sure that neither of us will ever claim a patent on these ideas, because they are the very same thoughts and feelings that persist in the heart and soul of every single human being.

 

 

Sr. Jane Ducharme

Mother Teresa
Sister Jane Ducharme
Sister Jane Ducharme

 

Like a second mother, my Aunt Jane was always present as a role model, teacher and friend. She lives by the example of Jesus, as a servant to the poor, and lovingly passes on the wisdom of Mother Teresa and of her own mother, Theresa, my grandmother.

Jane is a devoted Catholic Nun, a committed sister to her siblings, and a loving aunt, and a compassionate teacher to thousands of students, whom she loves as her own children. She does everything with love. She promotes good health, using good food and laughter as medicine.

Aunt Jane inspired me to pursue wellness and healing at a very early age. She taught me that physical ailments can be cured with natural, non-toxic methods such as strategic body manipulation. This inspired me to search for more ways to eliminate suffering. Jane is also the inventor of what is now called “the Emotional Freedom Technique” or “tapping”. But her system is better than tapping. Jane lovingly “plays the piano” on the back of a person that is stressed, and the stress melts away instantly.

 

Mohandas Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi

Mohandas Karamachand “Mahatma” Gandhi

October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948

The sensory perceptions can be and often are false and misleading. Where there is realization outside the senses it is infallible. Not tested by extraneous evidence but by the transformation of the conduct and character of those who have felt the real presence of God within them.

Faith itself can not be proved by extraneous evidence… I confess that I have no argument to convince through reason. Faith transcends reason. The only thing I can advise is not to attempt the impossible.

Reject everything that is contrary to truth and love.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

What kind of victory is there when someone is left defeated?

Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the achievement.

A nation that is capable of sacrifice without limits is capable of dealing with unlimited heights. More pure sacrifice, faster progress.

The truth, purity, self-control, steadfastness, courage, humility, unity, peace, and renunciation – these are the intrinsic qualities of a civil resister.

The lack of cooperation is a protest against an unconscious participation in evil.

It does not require money to be neat, clean and dignified.

To forget how to dig the earth and the soil is to forget ourselves.

Mahatma Gandhi’s personal mission:

Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolutions for the day:

  • I shall not fear anyone on Earth.
  • I shall fear only God.
  • I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.
  • I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
  • I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.

Dalai Lama

Tenzin, the Dalai Lama

The purpose of our lives is to be happy.

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that of love, compassion and forgiveness. The important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.

We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.

In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.

It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.

Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.

Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

Sleep is the best meditation.

Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.

Erich Fromm – The Art of Loving

On Giving and Receiving

Giving produces more happiness than receiving, not because of deprivation but rather because in the act of giving is the expression of my vitality… In the sphere of material things, giving signifies being rich. He that has a lot is not nearly as rich as he that gives a lot. 

On the Objects of Love

Love is not essentially a relationship with a specific person; it is an attitude, an orientation of the  character that determines the type of relationship that a person has with the entire world, not with a single “object” of love. If a person only loves one other person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not true love, but rather a symbiotic relationship, or an amplified selfishness.

On Fraternal Love

The most fundamental kind of love, basic in all types of love, is fraternal love. By this, one understands a sense of responsibility, care, respect and knowledge with respect to any other human being, the desire to promote his or her life… if I have developed the ability to love, I cannot avoid loving my brothers… this is based on the experience that we are all one. The differences in talent, intelligence and knowledge, are negligible compared with the identity of human essence that is common to all men.

On Maternal Love

The narcissistic, dominating and possessive woman can be a “loving” mother while her child is young. Only the mother that truly loves, the woman that is happier giving than receiving, that is firmly planted in her own existence, can be a loving mother when her child in in the process of separation.

Maternal love for the growing child, love which desires nothing for the self, may be the most difficult form of love to achieve, and also the trickiest, because of the ease with which a mother can love her young child. But precisely due to the said difficulty, a woman can only truly be a loving mother if she can love; if she can love her husband, other children, strangers, and all human beings.

On Erotic Love

… the longing of complete fusion, of union with another person. By its very nature, it is exclusive and not universal; it is also, perhaps, the trickiest form of love that exists.

In the first place, it is easily confused with the explosive experience of “falling in love”, the hasty removal of barriers that existed prior to this moment between two strangers. But such an experience of sudden intimacy is, by its very nature, of short duration. When the stranger has been converted to an intimately-known person, there are no more barriers to overcome, no more sudden closening to achieve. One gets to know the “loved” person as much as one knows oneself. Or, perhaps, it would be better to say as little. If the experience of the other person were more profound, if one could experience the infinite depth of the other’s personality, they would never seem so familiar–and the miracle of taking down barriers would renew itself daily. But for the majority of the people, the self as well as others, seem to be rapidly explored to exhaustion. For them, intimacy is principally established through sexual contact. Because they experience separation from the other fundamentally as a physical separation, a physical union means overcoming separation.

If the desire for physical union is not stimulated by love, if the erotic love is not at the same time fraternal, this will never lead to unity except in a transitory, orgiastic sense.

Erotic love, if it is true love, has a premise. To love from the essence of the being–and to experience the other person in the essence of their being. In essence, all human beings are identical.

On Tenderness

Tenderness is in no way, as Freud believed, a sublimation of the sexual instinct; it is the direct product of fraternal love, and exists equally in physical forms of love and in the non-physical forms.

On Lovers

At the beginning of a relationship, the lovers “consider the intensity of their passion, that being crazy for one another, as a proof of the intensity of their love, when it only shows the degree of their prior loneliness.”

On Marriage

To love someone is not merely a powerful feeling–it is a decision, it is a choice, a promise. If love were not more than a feeling, there would not be any basis for the promise of eternal love. A feeling begins and it may disappear. How can I judge that it will endure eternally, if my act does not imply a deliberation and decision?

Taking these points of view in to account, one may arrive at the conclusion that love is exclusively an act of will and a commitment.

On Selfishness

The selfish person is only interested in himself, desires everything for himself, does not feel pleasure in giving, but rather only in taking… judges others based on their utility; is basically incapable of lovingSelfishness and love for oneself, far from being identical, are really opposites. The selfish individual does not love himself too much, but rather too little; in reality, he hates himself.

Freud sustained that the selfish person is narcissistic, as though he denies his love to other and instead directs it toward himself. It is true that selfish people are incapable of loving others, but they are also unable to love themselves.

On Sexual Satisfaction

Love is not the result of adequate sexual satisfaction; on the contrary, sexual satisfaction–and even knowledge of the so-called sexual techniques–is the result of love. If any proof other than daily observation were necessary to support this thesis, these could be found in the vast material of psycho-analytic data. The study of the most frequent sexual problems–frigidity in women and the more and less serious forms of psychic impotence in men–, demonstrates that the cause is not rooted in a lack of knowledge of an adequate sexual technique, but rather in the inhibitions that impede loving. Fear or hatred of the opposite sex are at the root of difficulties that impede a person from surrendering completely… If a sexually-inhibited person can let go of his or her fear or hatred, and thus become capable of loving, their sexual problems are resolved. If not, then no knowledge of sexual techniques will help.

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II

Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women

I greet you all most cordially, women throughout the world!

I am writing this letter to each one of you as a sign of solidarity and gratitude on the eve of the Fourth World Conference on Women, to be held in Beijing this coming September.

Before all else, I wish to express my deep appreciation to the United Nations Organization for having sponsored this very significant event. The Church desires for her part to contribute to upholding the dignity, role and rights of women, not only by the specific work of the Holy See’s official Delegation to the Conference in Beijing, but also by speaking directly to the heart and mind of every woman. Recently, when Mrs Gertrude Mongella, the Secretary General of the Conference, visited me in connection with the Peking meeting, I gave her a written Message which stated some basic points of the Church’s teaching with regard to women’s issues. That message, apart from the specific circumstances of its origin, was concerned with a broader vision of the situation and problems of women in general, in an attempt to promote the cause of women in the Church and in today’s world. For this reason, I arranged to have it forwarded to every Conference of Bishops, so that it could be circulated as widely as possible.

Taking up the themes I addressed in that document, I would now like to speak directly to every woman, to reflect with her on the problems and the prospects of what it means to be a woman in our time. In particular I wish to consider the essential issue of the dignity and rights of women, as seen in the light of the word of God.

This “dialogue” really needs to begin with a word of thanks. As I wrote in my Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, the Church “desires to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the ‘mystery of woman’ and for every woman-for all that constitutes the eternal measure of her feminine dignity, for the ‘great works of God’, which throughout human history have been accomplished in and through her” (No. 31).

2. This word of thanks to the Lord for his mysterious plan regarding the vocation and mission of women in the world is at the same time a concrete and direct word of thanks to women, to every woman, for all that they represent in the life of humanity.

Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.

Thank you, mothers

Thank you, women who are wives! You irrevocably join your future to that of your husbands, in a relationship of mutual giving, at the service of love and life.

Thank you, women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity.

Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of “mystery”, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.

Thank you, consecrated women! Following the example of the greatest of women, the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, you open yourselves with obedience and fidelity to the gift of God’s love. You help the Church and all mankind to experience a “spousal” relationship to God, one which magnificently expresses the fellowship which God wishes to establish with his creatures.

Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.

3. I know of course that simply saying thank you is not enough. Unfortunately, we are heirs to a history which has conditioned us to a remarkable extent. In every time and place, this conditioning has been an obstacle to the progress of women. Women’s dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude. This has prevented women from truly being themselves and it has resulted in a spiritual impoverishment of humanity. Certainly it is no easy task to assign the blame for this, considering the many kinds of cultural conditioning which down the centuries have shaped ways of thinking and acting. And if objective blame, especially in particular historical contexts, has belonged to not just a few members of the Church, for this I am truly sorry. May this regret be transformed, on the part of the whole Church, into a renewed commitment of fidelity to the Gospel vision. When it comes to setting women free from every kind of exploitation and domination, the Gospel contains an ever relevant message which goes back to the attitude of Jesus Christ himself. Transcending the established norms of his own culture, Jesus treated women with openness, respect, acceptance and tenderness. In this way he honoured the dignity which women have always possessed according to God’s plan and in his love. As we look to Christ at the end of this Second Millennium, it is natural to ask ourselves: how much of his message has been heard and acted upon?

Yes, it is time to examine the past with courage, to assign responsibility where it is due in a review of the long history of humanity. Women have contributed to that history as much as men and, more often than not, they did so in much more difficult conditions. I think particularly of those women who loved culture and art, and devoted their lives to them in spite of the fact that they were frequently at a disadvantage from the start, excluded from equal educational opportunities, underestimated, ignored and not given credit for their intellectual contributions. Sadly, very little of women’s achievements in history can be registered by the science of history. But even though time may have buried the documentary evidence of those achievements, their beneficent influence can be felt as a force which has shaped the lives of successive generations, right up to our own. To this great, immense feminine “tradition” humanity owes a debt which can never be repaid. Yet how many women have been and continue to be valued more for their physical appearance than for their skill, their professionalism, their intellectual abilities, their deep sensitivity; in a word, the very dignity of their being!

4. And what shall we say of the obstacles which in so many parts of the world still keep women from being fully integrated into social, political and economic life? We need only think of how the gift of motherhood is often penalized rather than rewarded, even though humanity owes its very survival to this gift. Certainly, much remains to be done to prevent discrimination against those who have chosen to be wives and mothers. As far as personal rights are concerned, there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State.

This is a matter of justice but also of necessity. Women will increasingly play a part in the solution of the serious problems of the future: leisure time, the quality of life, migration, social services, euthanasia, drugs, health care, the ecology, etc. In all these areas a greater presence of women in society will prove most valuable, for it will help to manifest the contradictions present when society is organized solely according to the criteria of efficiency and productivity, and it will force systems to be redesigned in a way which favours the pro- cesses of humanization which mark the “civilization of love”.

5. Then too, when we look at one of the most sensitive aspects of the situation of women in the world, how can we not mention the long and degrading history, albeit often an “underground” history, of violence against women in the area of sexuality? At the threshold of the Third Millennium we cannot remain indifferent and resigned before this phenomenon. The time has come to condemn vigorously the types of sexual violence which frequently have women for their object and to pass laws which effectively defend them from such violence. Nor can we fail, in the name of the respect due to the human person, to condemn the widespread hedonistic and commercial culture which encourages the systematic exploitation of sexuality and corrupts even very young girls into letting their bodies be used for profit.

In contrast to these sorts of perversion, what great appreciation must be shown to those women who, with a heroic love for the child they have conceived, proceed with a pregnancy resulting from the injustice of rape. Here we are thinking of atrocities perpetrated not only in situations of war, still so common in the world, but also in societies which are blessed by prosperity and peace and yet are often corrupted by a culture of hedonistic permissiveness which aggravates tendencies to aggressive male behaviour. In these cases the choice to have an abortion always remains a grave sin. But before being something to blame on the woman, it is a crime for which guilt needs to be attributed to men and to the complicity of the general social environment.

6. My word of thanks to women thus becomes a heartfelt appeal that everyone, and in a special way States and international institutions, should make every effort to ensure that women regain full respect for their dignity and role. Here I cannot fail to express my admiration for those women of good will who have devoted their lives to defending the dignity of womanhood by fighting for their basic social, economic and political rights, demonstrating courageous initiative at a time when this was considered extremely inappropriate, the sign of a lack of femininity, a manifestation of exhibitionism, and even a sin!

In this year’s World Day of Peace Message, I noted that when one looks at the great process of women’s liberation, “the journey has been a difficult and complicated one and, at times, not without its share of mistakes. But it has been substantially a positive one, even if it is still unfinished, due to the many obstacles which, in various parts of the world, still prevent women from being acknowledged, respected, and appreciated in their own special dignity” (No. 4).

This journey must go on! But I am convinced that the secret of making speedy progress in achieving full respect for women and their identity involves more than simply the condemnation of discrimination and injustices, necessary though this may be. Such respect must first and foremost be won through an effective and intelligent campaign for the promotion of women, concentrating on all areas of women’s life and beginning with a universal recognition of the dignity of women. Our ability to recognize this dignity, in spite of historical conditioning, comes from the use of reason itself, which is able to understand the law of God written in the heart of every human being. More than anything else, the word of God enables us to grasp clearly the ultimate anthropological basis of the dignity of women, making it evident as a part of God’s plan for humanity.

7. Dear sisters, together let us reflect anew on the magnificent passage in Scripture which describes the creation of the human race and which has so much to say about your dignity and mission in the world.

The Book of Genesis speaks of creation in summary fashion, in language which is poetic and symbolic, yet profoundly true: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). The creative act of God takes place according to a precise plan. First of all, we are told that the human being is created “in the image and likeness of God” (cf. Gen 1:26). This expression immediately makes clear what is distinct about the human being with regard to the rest of creation.

We are then told that, from the very beginning, man has been created “male and female” (Gen 1:27). Scripture itself provides the interpretation of this fact: even though man is surrounded by the innumerable creatures of the created world, he realizes that he is alone (cf. Gen 2:20). God intervenes in order to help him escape from this situation of solitude: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18). The creation of woman is thus marked from the outset by the principle of help: a help which is not one-sided but mutual. Woman complements man, just as man complements woman: men and women are complementary. Womanhood expresses the “human” as much as manhood does, but in a different and complementary way.

When the Book of Genesis speaks of “help”, it is not referring merely to acting, but also to being. Womanhood and manhood are complementary not only from the physical and psychological points of view, but also from the ontological. It is only through the duality of the “masculine” and the “feminine” that the “human” finds full realization.

8. After creating man male and female, God says to both: “Fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). Not only does he give them the power to procreate as a means of perpetuating the human species throughout time, he also gives them the earth, charging them with the responsible use of its resources. As a rational and free being, man is called to transform the face of the earth. In this task, which is essentially that of culture, man and woman alike share equal responsibility from the start. In their fruitful relationship as husband and wife, in their common task of exercising dominion over the earth, woman and man are marked neither by a static and undifferentiated equality nor by an irreconcilable and inexorably conflictual difference. Their most natural relationship, which corresponds to the plan of God, is the “unity of the two”, a relational “uni-duality”, which enables each to experience their interpersonal and reciprocal relationship as a gift which enriches and which confers responsibility.

To this “unity of the two” God has entrusted not only the work of procreation and family life, but the creation of history itself. While the 1994 International Year of the Family focused attention on women as mothers, the Beijing Conference, which has as its theme “Action for Equality, Development and Peace”, provides an auspicious occasion for heightening awareness of the many contributions made by women to the life of whole societies and nations. This contribution is primarily spiritual and cultural in nature, but socio-political and economic as well. The various sectors of society, nations and states, and the progress of all humanity, are certainly deeply indebted to the contribution of women!

9. Progress usually tends to be measured according to the criteria of science and technology. Nor from this point of view has the contribution of women been negligible. Even so, this is not the only measure of progress, nor in fact is it the principal one. Much more important is the social and ethical dimension, which deals with human relations and spiritual values. In this area, which often develops in an inconspicuous way beginning with the daily relationships between people, especially within the family, society certainly owes much to the “genius of women”.

Here I would like to express particular appreciation to those women who are involved in the various areas of education extending well beyond the family: nurseries, schools, universities, social service agencies, parishes, associations and movements. Wherever the work of education is called for, we can note that women are ever ready and willing to give themselves generously to others, especially in serving the weakest and most defenceless. In this work they exhibit a kind of affective, cultural and spiritual motherhood which has inestimable value for the development of individuals and the future of society. At this point how can I fail to mention the witness of so many Catholic women and Religious Congregations of women from every continent who have made education, particularly the education of boys and girls, their principal apostolate? How can I not think with gratitude of all the women who have worked and continue to work in the area of health care, not only in highly organized institutions, but also in very precarious circumstances, in the poorest countries of the world, thus demonstrating a spirit of service which not infrequently borders on martyrdom?

10. It is thus my hope, dear sisters, that you will reflect carefully on what it means to speak of the “genius of women”, not only in order to be able to see in this phrase a specific part of God’s plan which needs to be accepted and appreciated, but also in order to let this genius be more fully expressed in the life of society as a whole, as well as in the life of the Church. This subject came up frequently during the Marian Year and I myself dwelt on it at length in my Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (1988). In addition, this year in the Letter which I customarily send to priests for Holy Thursday, I invited them to reread Mulieris Dignitatem and reflect on the important roles which women have played in their lives as mothers, sisters and co-workers in the apostolate. This is another aspect-different from the conjugal aspect, but also important-of that “help” which women, according to the Book of Genesis, are called to give to men.

The Church sees in Mary the highest expression of the “feminine genius” and she finds in her a source of constant inspiration. Mary called herself the “handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38). Through obedience to the Word of God she accepted her lofty yet not easy vocation as wife and mother in the family of Nazareth. Putting herself at God’s service, she also put herself at the service of others: a service of love. Precisely through this service Mary was able to experience in her life a mysterious, but authentic “reign”. It is not by chance that she is invoked as “Queen of heaven and earth”. The entire community of believers thus invokes her; many nations and peoples call upon her as their “Queen”. For her, “to reign” is to serve! Her service is “to reign”!

This is the way in which authority needs to be understood, both in the family and in society and the Church. Each person’s fundamental vocation is revealed in this “reigning”, for each person has been created in the “image” of the One who is Lord of heaven and earth and called to be his adopted son or daughter in Christ. Man is the only creature on earth “which God willed for its own sake”, as the Second Vatican Council teaches; it significantly adds that man “cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self” (Gaudium et Spes, 24).

The maternal “reign” of Mary consists in this. She who was, in all her being, a gift for her Son, has also become a gift for the sons and daughters of the whole human race, awakening profound trust in those who seek her guidance along the difficult paths of life on the way to their definitive and transcendent destiny. Each one reaches this final goal by fidelity to his or her own vocation; this goal provides meaning and direction for the earthly labours of men and women alike.

11. In this perspective of “service”-which, when it is carried out with freedom, reciprocity and love, expresses the truly “royal” nature of mankind-one can also appreciate that the presence of a certain diversity of roles is in no way prejudicial to women, provided that this diversity is not the result of an arbitrary imposition, but is rather an expression of what is specific to being male and female. This issue also has a particular application within the Church. If Christ-by his free and sovereign choice, clearly attested to by the Gospel and by the Church’s constant Tradition-entrusted only to men the task of being an “icon” of his countenance as “shepherd” and “bridegroom” of the Church through the exercise of the ministerial priesthood, this in no way detracts from the role of women, or for that matter from the role of the other members of the Church who are not ordained to the sacred ministry, since all share equally in the dignity proper to the “common priesthood” based on Baptism. These role distinctions should not be viewed in accordance with the criteria of functionality typical in human societies. Rather they must be understood according to the particular criteria of the sacramental economy, i.e. the economy of “signs” which God freely chooses in order to become present in the midst of humanity.

Furthermore, precisely in line with this economy of signs, even if apart from the sacramental sphere, there is great significance to that “womanhood” which was lived in such a sublime way by Mary. In fact, there is present in the “womanhood” of a woman who believes, and especially in a woman who is “consecrated”, a kind of inherent “prophecy” (cf. Mulieris Dignitatem, 29), a powerfully evocative symbolism, a highly significant “iconic character”, which finds its full realization in Mary and which also aptly expresses the very essence of the Church as a community consecrated with the integrity of a “virgin” heart to become the “bride” of Christ and “mother” of believers. When we consider the “iconic” complementarity of male and female roles, two of the Church’s essential dimensions are seen in a clearer light: the “Marian” principle and the Apostolic- Petrine principle (cf. ibid., 27).

On the other hand-as I wrote to priests in this year’s Holy Thursday Letter-the ministerial priesthood, according to Christ’s plan, “is an expression not of domination but of service” (No. 7). The Church urgently needs, in her daily self-renewal in the light of the Word of God, to emphasize this fact ever more clearly, both by developing the spirit of communion and by carefully fostering all those means of participation which are properly hers, and also by showing respect for and promoting the diverse personal and communal charisms which the Spirit of God bestows for the building up of the Christian community and the service of humanity.

In this vast domain of service, the Church’s two-thousand-year history, for all its historical conditioning, has truly experienced the “genius of woman”; from the heart of the Church there have emerged women of the highest calibre who have left an impressive and beneficial mark in history. I think of the great line of woman martyrs, saints and famous mystics. In a particular way I think of Saint Catherine of Siena and of Saint Teresa of Avila, whom Pope Paul VI of happy memory granted the title of Doctors of the Church. And how can we overlook the many women, inspired by faith, who were responsible for initiatives of extraordinary social importance, especially in serving the poorest of the poor? The life of the Church in the Third Millennium will certainly not be lacking in new and surprising manifestations of “the feminine genius”.

12. You can see then, dear sisters, that the Church has many reasons for hoping that the forthcoming United Nations Conference in Beijing will bring out the full truth about women. Necessary emphasis should be placed on the “genius of women”, not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives. For in giving themselves to others each day women fulfil their deepest vocation. Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them. In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty-not merely physical, but above all spiritual-which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women.

While I commend to the Lord in prayer the success of the important meeting in Beijing, I invite Ecclesial Communities to make this year an occasion of heartfelt thanksgiving to the Creator and Redeemer of the world for the gift of this great treasure which is womanhood. In all its expressions, womanhood is part of the essential heritage of mankind and of the Church herself.

May Mary, Queen of Love, watch over women and their mission in service of humanity, of peace, of the spread of God’s Kingdom!

With my Blessing.

From the Vatican, 29 June 1995, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.

JOHN PAUL II

Amma

Sudhamani (Amma)

Amma has inspired and started innumerable humanitarian services. She is known all over the world for her love and compassion toward her fellow human beings.

As a child, Sudhamani did whatever she could to ease the suffering of her elderly neighbors. She washed their clothes, bathed them and even brought them food and clothing from her own home. This habit of giving away things from her family’s house landed her in deep trouble. However, no amount physical abuse or punishment could stop the expression of her inborn compassion. She later said, ” An unbroken stream of Love flows from me towards all beings in the cosmos. That is my inborn nature.”

Amma has dedicated her life to the uplifting of suffering humanity through the simplest of gestures, an embrace. In this intimate manner Amma has blessed and consoled more than 25 million people throughout the world.

When someone asked Amma why she receives every person who comes to her in a loving embrace Amma replied, “If you ask the river, ‘why do you flow?’ what can it say?”

Amma spends most of her waking hours receiving the distressed and all who come to her for comfort, day after day without a break.

Once asked how was it possible for her to embrace everyone in the same loving way, even if they were diseased or unpleasant, Amma replied, “When a bee hovers over a garden of varied flowers, what it beholds is not the difference between the flowers but the honey within them.” Similarly Amma sees the same Supreme Self in each and every one.”

As Dr. Jane Goodall, while presenting Amma with the 2002 Gandhi-King Award for Non-violence said, “She stands here in front of us. God’s love in a human body.”