"Someone Was Waiting For Me... And Something Changed In Me" – Francis Gives Witness... and A Manifesto to the Church
Lest anyone missed this earlier in the week, given the ongoing festival of bread and circuses – read: "atheists and 'exorcisms'" – elsewhere, those who take the time to read and listen with a degree of depth will find that the substance of these days is a good bit more interesting... and it's actual news, to boot.
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On the Vigil of Pentecost, before a crowd of more than 200,000 in St Peter's Square and halfway down the Via della Conciliazione, the 266th Pope gave the Church what, in essence, would prove to be his first encyclical.
For close readers, a good number of the points are already well-familiar – Papa Francesco tends to recycle content far more eagerly and often than his predecessors, but does so that the message might be unmistakable and impossible to avoid. Still, in a 38-minute, mostly off-the-cuff response to several questions put to him – a nod to the teaching format in which his predecessor famously shone – starting from his own conversion story, Jorge Bergoglio laid out the full spread of his impressions on the state of the church, and his vision for the road ahead, tying together in the process the threads which have marked his two months on Peter's chair.
Even if English summaries of the talk are around, these last ten weeks should've already made more than clear that the magic or "secret" of Francis isn't something that can be fully, nor even duly, communicated in the printed word. Instead, it lies in a humanity which fuels a delivery, one whose gestures, cadences, emblematic lines and emphases – irrespective of language – have spoken to and touched a far deeper and more universal nerve.
Given the significance of the address and the way it was given, it's best to hear this straight from the horse's mouth... ergo, here's fullvideo of the message, layered over with audio of its real-time English translation by Vatican Radio:
"Who Are We Before God? What Are Our Challenges?" – Francis Meets the Bishops
At the close of the Italian bishops' plenary this week in Rome, the home-bench – led by its primate, the Pope – gathered in St Peter's tonight to make a communal Profession of Faith as part of the ongoing Year of Faith.
The event marked Francis' first full encounter with the powerful Italian conference, known as the CEI.
While the event ranked as a liturgical occasion – and the Sistine Choir and ceremonies crew all donned choir dress – Papa Francesco and the prelates wore the simple "house cassock," which has been the new pontiff's invariable daily wardrobe since his election for everything but Masses. Following the rite, meanwhile, instead of the long-standing custom of prelates queueing up to pay their respects to the Pope at his throne, Francis spent well over a half-hour snaking through the multiple rows of seats in front of the main altar alone, warmly greeting the bishops one by one at their places.
While the bishop of Rome enjoys the status of primate of Italy, the CEI is led by a president appointed by the pontiff – currently Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, who was said to be a compromise choice on his selection in 2007. In what would be a significant change to the custom, early speculation shortly after the March Conclave indicated that the new Pope was leaning toward letting the bishops choose their own chief, but no movement in that direction has since emerged.
Himself a two-term president of the Argentine bishops, before the Creed was assented to in the Q&A form usually kept for the renewal of baptismal promises at Easter, Francis delivered the following allocutio, here in its Vatican Radio translation.
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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
The readings we have heard make us think. They have made me think a great deal. I have made something like a meditation. For us bishops, and first of all for me, a bishop like you, I share it with you.
It is significant - and I am particularly happy - that our first meeting should be held right here in the place that preserves not only the tomb of Peter, but also the living memory of his witness of faith, of his service to the truth, and of the gift he gave of himself – to the point of martyrdom – for the Gospel and for the Church.
This evening this altar of the Confession becomes our Lake of Tiberias, on the shores of which we listen to the wonderful dialogue between Jesus and Peter, with the question addressed to the Apostle, but which should resound in our own hearts, the hearts of bishops.
“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?” (Cf. Jn 21:15 ff)
The question is addressed to a man who, despite his solemn declaration, was overcome by fear and went back on his word.
“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?”
The question is addressed to me and to each one of you, to all of us: if we avoid reacting too hastily and superficially, it encourages us to look within, to enter into ourselves.
“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?”
He who searches hearts (cf. Rom 8:27) makes himself a beggar of love, and questions us on the only really essential question, the premise and condition for pastoring his sheep, his lambs, his Church. Every ministry is based on this intimacy with the Lord; to live in him is the measure of our ecclesial service, which is expressed in an openness to obedience, to emptying of self, as we heard in the Letter to the Philippians, to total giving (cf. Phil 2:6-11).
Moreover, the consequence of loving the Lord is giving everything - absolutely everything, even one’s very life - for Him: this is what must distinguish our pastoral ministry; it is the litmus test that shows how profoundly we have embraced the gift received in response to the call of Jesus, and how we are joined to the people and the communities that have been entrusted to us. We are not expressions of a structure or an organizational need: even with the service of our authority we are called to be a sign of the presence and action of the Risen Lord, and so, to build up the community in fraternal charity.
Not that this is taken for granted: even the greatest love, in fact, when it is not continuously fed, fades and goes out. Not without reason the Apostle Paul warns: “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the Church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son”(Acts 20:28).
The lack of vigilance - we know – makes the Pastor lukewarm; he becomes distracted, forgetful and even impatient; it seduces him with the prospect of a career, the lure of money, and the compromises with the spirit of the world; it makes him lazy, turning him into a functionary, a government clerk worried more about himself, about organisations and structures, than about the true good of the People of God. He runs the risk, then, like the Apostle Peter, of denying the Lord, even if he is present to us and speaks in His name; the holiness of the hierarchy of Mother Church is obscured, making it less fertile.
Who are we, Brothers, before God? What are our challenges? We all have so many, each one of us knows his own. What is God saying to us through them? What are we relying on to overcome them?
As it was for Peter, the insistent and heartfelt question of Jesus can leave us saddened and may leave us more aware of the weakness of our freedom, beset as it is by a thousand internal and external constraints, which often cause confusion, frustration, even disbelief.
These are certainly not the feelings and attitudes that the Lord intends to arouse; rather, the Enemy, the Devil, takes advantage of them to isolate us in bitterness, in complaints, and in discouragement.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does not humiliate us or abandon us to remorse: in Him, the tenderness of the Father speaks, He who comforts and raises up; He who makes us pass from the disintegration of shame – because shame surely causes us to disintegrate – to the fabric of trust; who restores courage, recommits responsibility, and consigns us to the mission.
Peter, purified by the fire of forgiveness, can humbly say, “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17). I am sure we can all say this from the heart. In this Peter, purified, in his first letter exhorts us to feed “the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock”(1 Peter 5,2-3).
Yes, to be pastors means to believe every day in the grace and strength that comes to us from the Lord, despite our weakness, and to fully assume the responsibility of walking in front of the flock, freed from the burdens that hinder a healthy apostolic swiftness, and without hesitation in leading, to make our voice recognizable both to those who have embraced the faith, but also to those who are “not of this fold” (John 10:16): we are called to make our own the dream of God, whose house knows no exclusion of persons or nations, as Isaiah prophetically announced in the First Reading (cf. Is 2:2-5).
Therefore, being pastors also means to be ready to walk in the midst of and behind the flock: capable of listening to the silent story of the suffering and bearing up the steps of those who are afraid of not succeeding; careful to raise up, to reassure, and inspire hope. By sharing with the humble our faith always comes out strengthened: let us put aside, therefore, any form of arrogance, to incline ourselves toward those the Lord has entrusted to our care. Among these, a special place is reserved for our priests: especially for them, may our hearts, our hands, and our doors remain open at all times. They are the first faithful we bishops have, our priests. Let us love them! Let us love them from the heart! They are our sons and our brothers.
Dear brothers, the profession of faith that we now renew together is not a formal act, but is a renewal of our response to the “Follow Me” with which the Gospel of John concludes (21:19): allow your own life to unfold according to the project of God, committing your whole self to the Lord Jesus. From here springs that discernment that recognises and takes on the thoughts, the expectations, and the needs of the men of our time.
With this in mind, I sincerely thank each of you for your service, for your love for the Church and the Mother, and here, I place you, and I place myself, too, under the mantle of Mary, Our Mother.
Mother of the silence that preserves the mystery of God, deliver us from the idolatry of the present, to which those who forget are condemned. Purify the eyes of pastors with the balm of memory:
that we might return to the freshness of the beginning, for a praying and penitent Church.
Mother of the beauty that blossoms from fidelity to daily work, remove us from the torpor of laziness, of pettiness, and defeatism. Cloak Pastors with that compassion that unifies and integrates: that we might discover the joy of a humble and fraternal servant Church.
Mother of the tenderness which enfolds in patience and mercy, help us burn away the sadness, impatience, and rigidity of those who have not known what it means to belong.
Intercede with your Son that our hands, our feet and our hearts may be swift: that we may build the Church with the truth in charity. And [that] we will be the People of God, on pilgrimage towards the Kingdom. Amen.
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As a coda to the above, in the days following his election to Rome, Jorge Bergoglio sent a personal note to the Argentine bishops' autumn plenary in late March, firstly to apologize for not being able to make it, but likewise reinforcing what've become some of the key emphases of his pontificate:
Dear Brothers: I am sending these lines of greeting and also to excuse myself for being unable to attend due to "commitments assumed recently" (sound good?). I am spiritually with you and ask the Lord to accompany you very much during these days. I express to you a desire. I would like the Assembly’s works to have as a frame of reference the Document of Aparecida and “Go into the Deep.” The guidelines are there that we need for this moment of history. Above all I ask you to have the special concern to grow in the continental mission in all its aspects: programmatic mission and paradigmatic mission. May the whole of ministry be in a missionary key. We must come out of ourselves to all the existential peripheries and grow in boldness. A Church that does not go out, sooner or later gets sick in the vitiated atmosphere of her enclosure. It is true also that to a Church that goes out something can happen, as it can to any person who goes out to the street: to have an accident. Given this alternative, I wish to say to you frankly that I prefer a thousand times an injured Church than a sick Church. The typical illness of the shut-in Church is self-reference; to look at herself, to be bent over herself like the woman in the Gospel. It is a kind of narcissism that leads us to spiritual worldliness and to sophisticated clericalism, and then it impedes our experiencing “the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.” I wish all of you this joy, which so many times is united to the Cross, but which saves us from resentment, sadness and clerical [solitude]. This joy helps us to be each day more fruitful, spending ourselves and unraveling ourselves in the service of the holy faithful people of God. This joy will grow increasingly to the degree that we take seriously the pastoral conversion that the Church asks of us. Thank you for all that you do and for all that you are going to do. May the Lord free us from making up our episcopate with the tinsel of worldliness, of money and of “market clericalism.” The Virgin will show us the way of humility and that silent and courageous work that carries apostolic zeal forward. I ask you, please, to pray for me, [so that I won’t be puffed up] and so that I will be able to hear what God wants and not what I want. I pray for you. A brother’s embrace and a special greeting to the faithful people of God that you have in your care. I wish you a holy and happy Eastertide. May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin look after you. Fraternally, Francisco
Speaking of plenaries, the US bishops' spring meeting begins on June 10th in San Diego.
Keeping with the conference's longtime schedule, the plenary's sole agenda will be the bench's three-yearly communal retreat, its focus on the new evangelization. No formal conference business will take place.
In November, the body will elect Cardinal Timothy Dolan's successor as its president... and more on that later.
For everything he's placed aside, apparently the Pope's settled on a new piece of regalia....
Just kidding, of course – the garland seen above was a welcoming gift from the Missionaries of Charity, whose shelter and soup-kitchen within the Vatican walls got a Francis-visit last night (and, perhaps, some take-home food for a pontiff suddenly deprived of a place where he can cook).
During his stop at the "Gift of Mary" house, the pontiff gave his now-trademark "three words," taking aim yet again at "a wild capitalism [which] has taught the logic of profit at all cost, of giving to get, of exploitation without looking at the persons... and we see the results in the crisis we are living!"
By contrast, "an open hospitality is lived here, without distinctions of nationality or religion, according to the teaching of Jesus," Francis said.
"We must recover the whole sense of gift, of gratuitousness, of solidarity."
Currently marking 25 years since John Paul II called the community founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to establish it, the house feeds 60 people a day in addition to providing overnight space for 25 women in need.
"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there. "Today is [the feast of] Santa Rita, Patron Saint of impossible things – but this seems impossible: let us ask of her this grace, this grace that all, all, all people would do good and that we would encounter one another in this work, which is a work of creation, like the creation of the Father. A work of the family, because we are all children of God, all of us, all of us! And God loves us, all of us! May Santa Rita grant us this grace, which seems almost impossible. Amen."
Even if it's held every Wednesday through the year, the main Novena (prayers) at St Rita's on Broad Street comes over the week leading up to today's feast, its observances culminating in dawn-to-dusk rounds of Masses and confessions, the patroness' trademark roses all over the place and cars strewn everywhere outside, yet left unticketed out of deference to religious freedom... and, this River City being what it is, the high municipal official among the devotees who keeps the Parking Wars people down.
Much as Francis' tribute is a special thing for everyone who's kept up Rita's cult through the years, that it's remained the case here is a reminder of this town's particular debt to the venerable Fr Michael DiGregorio, who rebuilt the shrine with such great dedication and care before his election as vicar-general of the Augustinian Curia in Rome. To him, the whole family of the friars, and everyone celebrating today – a group which, so it seems, now includes the Pope – tanti auguri per una buona festa.
In his first major speech since boarding the Curia train as "communications adviser" in the Secretariat of State last June, Greg Burke delivered the latest edition of the annual World Communications Day talk sponsored by the bishops of England and Wales, during which the Time and Fox News veteran detailed both the papal transition and the ongoing challenges and breakthroughs in guiding "The Vatican" into this media age.
For Pentecost, Three Words: "Newness, Harmony, and Mission"
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS PENTECOST SUNDAY
ST PETER'S SQUARE
19 MAY 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we contemplate and re-live in the liturgy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit sent by the risen Christ upon his Church; an event of grace which filled the Upper Room in Jerusalem and then spread throughout the world.
But what happened on that day, so distant from us and yet so close as to touch the very depths of our hearts? Luke gives us the answer in the passage of the Acts of the Apostles which we have heard (2:1-11). The evangelist brings us back to Jerusalem, to the Upper Room where the apostles were gathered. The first element which draws our attention is the sound which suddenly came from heaven “like the rush of a violent wind”, and filled the house; then the “tongues as of fire” which divided and came to rest on each of the apostles. Sound and tongues of fire: these are clear, concrete signs which touch the apostles not only from without but also within: deep in their minds and hearts. As a result, “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”, who unleashed his irresistible power with amazing consequences: they all “began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability”. A completely unexpected scene opens up before our eyes: a great crowd gathers, astonished because each one heard the apostles speaking in his own language. They all experience something new, something which had never happened before: “We hear them, each of us, speaking our own language”. And what is it that they are they speaking about? “God’s deeds of power”.
In the light of this passage from Acts, I would like to reflect on three words linked to the working of the Holy Spirit: newness, harmony and mission.
1. Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, programme and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences. This is also the case when it comes to God. Often we follow him, we accept him, but only up to a certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves to him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives in our every decision. We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. Yet throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness and change, and demands our complete trust: Noah, mocked by all, builds an ark and is saved; Abram leaves his land with only a promise in hand; Moses stands up to the might of Pharaoh and leads his people to freedom; the apostles, huddled fearfully in the Upper Room, go forth with courage to proclaim the Gospel. This is not a question of novelty for novelty’s sake, the search for something new to relieve our boredom, as is so often the case in our own day. The newness which God brings into our life is something that actually brings fulfilment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and desires only our good. Let us ask ourselves: Are we open to “God’s surprises”? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which God’s newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new?
2. A second thought: the Holy Spirit would appear to create disorder in the Church, since he brings the diversity of charisms and gifts; yet all this, by his working, is a great source of wealth, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which does not mean uniformity, but which leads everything back to harmony. In the Church, it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony. One of Fathers of the Church has an expression which I love: the Holy Spirit himself is harmony – “Ipse harmonia est”. Only the Spirit can awaken diversity, plurality and multiplicity, while at the same time building unity. Here too, when we are the ones who try to create diversity and close ourselves up in what makes us different and other, we bring division. When we are the ones who want to build unity in accordance with our human plans, we end up creating uniformity, standardization. But if instead we let ourselve be guided by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity never become a source of conflict, because he impels us to experience variety within the communion of the Church. Journeying together in the Church, under the guidance of her pastors who possess a special charism and ministry, is a sign of the working of the Holy Spirit. Having a sense of the Church is something fundamental for every Christian, every community and every movement. It is the Church which brings Christ to me, and me to Christ; parallel journeys are dangerous! When we venture beyond (proagon) the Church’s teaching and community, and do not remain in them, we are not one with the God of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Jn 9). So let us ask ourselves: Am I open to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, overcoming every form of exclusivity? Do I let myself be guided by him, living in the Church and with the Church?
3. A final point. The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone. As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever” (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the “Comforter”, who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel! The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission?
Today’s liturgy is a great prayer which the Church, in union with Jesus, raises up to the Father, asking him to renew the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. May each of us, and every group and movement, in the harmony of the Church, cry out to the Father and implore this gift. Today too, as at her origins, the Church, in union with Mary, cries out:“Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love!” Amen.
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The preceding homily was given at the closing Mass of a weekend-long congress for the new ecclesial movements – a long-planned event to mark the global church's Year of Faith, which runs through late November.
While projections for the meeting's attendance were initially tipped at around 70,000 people, Vatican officials said last week that, by the gathering's eve, nearly double that figure would be coming. By the time the Pope emerged to start last night's outdoor vigil for the groups, the crowd reportedly stood in excess of 200,000. The weekend event was the last of four major celebrations held in St Peter's Square on the Sundays of the last month. Next weekend, Francis makes his first pastoral visit to a Roman parish as the city's 266th bishop.
"We've Returned to the Golden Calf" – Francis on Money
Earlier today, the Pope received a group of four new ambassadors to the Holy See for the presentation of their credentials.
Per custom for the pontiffs, Francis gave an address on issues of geopolitical concern. Yet while his predecessors would tailor their remarks to issues in the home-countries of the diplomat(s) being welcomed, the new Pope targeted what's long been one of his key focus-areas – the poor, and their treatment in the economic system.
Packing a punch – and unusually for Francis, referring to himself as "the Pope" (as opposed to his normally-preferred "bishop of Rome") to add full weight to some of his statements – here's the bulk of the address' English translation:
Ladies and Gentlemen, our human family is presently experiencing something of a turning point in its own history, if we consider the advances made in various areas. We can only praise the positive achievements which contribute to the authentic welfare of mankind, in fields such as those of health, education and communications. At the same time, we must also acknowledge that the majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences. Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences; fear and desperation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so-called rich countries; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident. People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way. One cause of this situation, in my opinion, is in the our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society. Consequently the financial crisis which we are experiencing makes us forget that its ultimate origin is to be found in a profound human crisis. In the denial of the primacy of human beings! We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old (cf. Ex 32:15-34) has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.
The worldwide financial and economic crisis seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces man to one of his needs alone, namely, consumption. Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have begun a throw away culture. This tendency is seen on the level of individuals and whole societies; and it is being promoted! In circumstances like these, solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy. While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good. A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules. Moreover, indebtedness and credit distance countries from their real economy and citizens from their real buying power. Added to this, as if it were needed, is widespread corruption and selfish fiscal evasion which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The will to power and of possession has become limitless.
Concealed behind this attitude is a rejection of ethics, a rejection of God. Ethics, like solidarity, is a nuisance! It is regarded as counterproductive: as something too human, because it relativizes money and power; as a threat, because it rejects manipulation and subjection of people: because ethics leads to God, who is situated outside the categories of the market. These financiers, economists and politicians consider God to be unmanageable, unmanageable even dangerous, because he calls man to his full realization and to independence from any kind of slavery. Ethics – naturally, not the ethics of ideology – makes it possible, in my view, to create a balanced social order that is more humane. In this sense, I encourage the financial experts and the political leaders of your countries to consider the words of Saint John Chrysostom: “Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs” (Homily on Lazarus, 1:6 – PG 48, 992D).
Dear Ambassadors, there is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone. This would nevertheless require a courageous change of attitude on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and farsightedness, taking account, naturally, of their particular situations. Money has to serve, not to rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ’s name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them. The Pope appeals for disinterested solidarity and for a return to person-centred ethics in the world of finance and economics.
For her part, the Church always works for the integral development of every person. In this sense, she reiterates that the common good should not be simply an extra, simply a conceptual scheme of inferior quality tacked onto political programmes. The Church encourages those in power to be truly at the service of the common good of their peoples. She urges financial leaders to take account of ethics and solidarity. And why should they not turn to God to draw inspiration from his designs? In this way, a new political and economic mindset would arise that would help to transform the absolute dichotomy between the economic and social spheres into a healthy symbiosis.
On a related note, it's worth recalling that Villa Richardson – the seat of the US' ambassador to the Holy See – remains vacant following Miguel Diaz's departure early this year for a professorship at the University of Dayton.
Schönborn as "Alpha Male" – At HTB, A Clasp of the Titans
His hair still apparently electrified from a Conclave experience roundly described as intense in prayer and its outcome a shock even to the electors, earlier this week – in what's become a rare English-language turn – Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schönborn OP gave some colorful testimony on the election, Popes Benedict and Francis, the situation of the church and much more at the annual leadership conference of the vaunted "HTB": Holy Trinity Brompton, the evangelical London Anglican parish best known for birthing the Alpha Course of evangelization and catechesis... and, now, for being the ecclesial "cradle" of an archbishop of Canterbury.
The general editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church – released in 1992, the first universal text of its kind since Trent – the Dominican cardinal (a longtime B16 protege) was interviewed in a sold-out Royal Albert Hall by HTB's vicar, Fr Nicky Gumbel, whose 1990s transformation of Alpha toward spiritual seekers instead of the already evangelized launched the course's global spread across denominations, its reach now said to have extended to some 20 million people in over 100 languages.
Staffed by 24 clerics who lead 11 weekly services at four sites (in a national church whose decades-long decline in attendance only recently stabilized), HTB bills itself as the UK’s largest parish. Before his death in 2000, Cardinal Basil Hume of Westminster led a push for Alpha to be adapted for Catholics. While the #2 official of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, Colombian Archbishop Octavio Ruiz, has called the course "a providential tool because it precisely tries to reach out to those who are far from the church" – and two French Alpha teachers (a married couple) were named to last year's Synod on the re-proposal of the faith by Benedict – a Detroit-based effort to bring the program into American Catholic life remains fledgling.
All that said, here's Schönborn – one of the Catholic world's most fluent, yet oft-controversial top figures – in a clip that's as long as it's worthwhile....
Beyond Gumbel's plug for the Catechism, the vicar's introduction even more exceptionally worked in high praise for Loving the Church – the book of Schönborn's talks at the 1996 Lenten retreat to John Paul II and the Papal Household.
Lest anybody forgot – or for newcomers 'round these parts – even when things aren't moving on these pages' centerpiece, you'll find the up-to-the-minute ticker either just down the right sidebar here, or directly via this link.
Even if that's already become obvious for some (hopefully most) here, the metrics and mail seem to say the reminder's in order. In any event, as some 20 stories tend to flit by daily, suffice it to say that: 1. like it or not, a movement toward the rapid succinct (with the option for a fuller treatment) is the way the medium – and, with it, the news-cycle – is going... and 2. to be well-informed these days would seem to mean wanting to keep up with the pace of things as they develop.
Accordingly, the freshest bit in the live-feed is a notable one: the just released Vatican announcement that, "in agreement" with the Pope, the disgraced Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien – who resigned as archbishop of Edinburgh and recused himself from the Conclave in late February amid reports that he instigated multiple instances of sexual misconduct with priests and seminarians over several decades – "will be leaving Scotland for several months for the purpose of spiritual renewal, prayer and penance."
For the rest, well, now you know... from here, it's just a matter of choosing to not be left out.
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno! Today, I want to focus on the action that the Holy Spirit accomplishes in guiding the Church and each one of us to the Truth. Jesus says to his disciples: the Holy Spirit, “he will guide you to all truth" (Jn 16:13), he himself being "the Spirit of truth" (cf. Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). We live in an age rather skeptical of truth. Benedict XVI has spoken many times of relativism, that is, the tendency to believe that nothing is definitive, and think that the truth is given by consent or by what we want. The question arises: does "the" truth really exist? What is "the" truth? Can we know it? Can we find it? Here I am reminded of the question of the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate when Jesus reveals the profound meaning of his mission: "What is truth?" (Jn 18,37.38). Pilate does not understand that "the" Truth is in front of him, he cannot see in Jesus the face of the truth, which is the face of God yet, Jesus is just that: the Truth, which, in the fullness of time, "became flesh" (Jn 1,1.14), came among us so that we may know it. You cannot grab the truth as if it were an object, you encounter it. It is not a possession, is an encounter with a Person. But who helps us recognize that Jesus is "the" Word of truth, the only begotten Son of God the Father? St. Paul teaches that "no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3). It is the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen Christ, that helps us recognize the Truth. Jesus calls him the "Paraclete", meaning "the one who comes to our aid," who is by our side to support us in this journey of knowledge, and at the Last Supper, Jesus assures his disciples that the Holy Spirit will teach them all things , reminding them of his words (cf. Jn 14:26). What is then the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of the Church to guide us to the truth? First of all, remind and imprint on the hearts of believers the words that Jesus said, and precisely through these words, God’s law - as the prophets of the Old Testament had announced - is inscribed in our hearts and becomes within us a principle of evaluation in our choices and of guidance in our daily actions, it becomes a principle of life. Ezekiel’s great prophecy is realized: "I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. …I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them"(36:25-27). Indeed, our actions are born from deep within: it is the heart that needs to be converted to God, and the Holy Spirit transforms it if we open ourselves to Him The Holy Spirit, then, as Jesus promises, guides us "into all truth" (Jn 16:13) he leads us not only to an encounter with Jesus, the fullness of Truth, but guides us "into" the Truth, that is, he helps us enter into a deeper communion with Jesus himself, gifting us knowledge of the things of God. We cannot achieve this on our own strengths. If God does not enlightens us interiorly, our being Christians will be superficial. The Tradition of the Church affirms that the Spirit of truth acts in our hearts, provoking that "sense of faith" (sensus fidei), through which, as the Second Vatican Council affirms, the People of God, under the guidance of the Magisterium, adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints,(113) penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life (cf. Dogmatic Constitution. Lumen gentium, 12). Let's ask ourselves: are we open to the Holy Spirit, do I pray to him to enlighten me, to make me more sensitive to the things of God? And this is a prayer we need to pray every day, every day: Holy Spirit may my heart be open to the Word of God, may my heart be open to good, may my heart be open to the beauty of God, every day. But I would like to ask a question to all of you: How many of you pray every day to the Holy Spirit? Eh, a few of you I bet, eh! Well, a few, few, a few, but we realise this wish of Jesus, pray every day for the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to Jesus We think of Mary who "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Lk 2,19.51). The reception of the words and the truths of faith so that they become life, is realized and grows under the action of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, we must learn from Mary, reliving her "yes", her total availability to receive the Son of God in her life, and who from that moment was transformed. Through the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son come to dwell in us: do we live in God and of God, is our life really animated by God? How many things do I put before God? Dear brothers and sisters, we need to let ourselves be imbued with the light of the Holy Spirit, so that He introduces us into the Truth of God, who is the only Lord of our lives. In this Year of Faith let us ask ourselves if we have actually taken a few steps to get to know Christ and the truths of faith more, by reading and meditating on the Scriptures, studying the Catechism, steadily approaching the Sacraments. But at the same time let us ask ourselves what steps we are taking so that the faith directs our whole existence. Do not be a ‘part-time” Christian, at certain moments, in certain circumstances, in certain choices – be Christian at all times! The truth of Christ, that the Holy Spirit teaches us and gives us, always and forever involves our daily lives. Let us invoke him more often, to guide us on the path of Christ's disciples.
SVILUPPO: Understandable as it'd be for the 266th Bishop of Rome to take to lamenting the new, daunting job in a new city a continent away from home – and, indeed, having been made to leave his beloved Argentina at age 76 with little warning and a suitcase – with the traditional exhortation to new bishops figuring in today's readings, Father Francis struck a conspicuously different note at this morning's workers' Mass....
"In the end, a bishop is not a bishop for himself. He is for the people, and a priest is not a priest for himself. He, [too], is for the people: to serve [them], to nurture them, to shepherd them, that are his flock – in order to defend them from the wolves. It is beautiful to think this! When the bishop does this, there is a good relationship with the people, such as Paul the bishop did with his people, no? And when the priest [builds] that good relationship with the people, it gives us a love: a love [unites] them, a true love, and the Church becomes united.”
Pope Francis went on to describe the relationship of the bishop and the priest with the people as a existential and sacramental. “We [bishops and priests] need your prayers,” he said, “for, even the bishop and the priest may be tempted.” Bishops and priests should pray much, proclaim Jesus Christ Risen, and “boldly preach the message of salvation.” However, he said, “We are men and we are sinners,” and, “we are tempted.”: "St. Augustine, commenting on the prophet Ezekiel, speaks of two [temptations]: wealth, which can become greed, and vanity. He says, ‘When the bishop, the priest takes advantage of the sheep for himself, the dynamic changes: it is not the priest, the bishop, for the people - but the priest and the bishop who take from the people.’ St. Augustine says, ‘He takes the meat from the sheep to eat [it], he takes advantage; he makes deals and is attached to money; he becomes greedy and even sometimes practices simony. Perhaps he takes advantage of the wool for vanity, in order to vaunt himself.’” So , the Pope observes, “when a priest, a bishop goes after money, the people do not love him – and that's a sign. But he ends badly.” St. Paul reminds us that he worked with his hands. “He did not have a bank account, he worked, and when a bishop, a priest goes on the road to vanity, he enters into the spirit of careerism – and this hurts the Church very much – [and] ends up being ridiculous: he boasts, he is pleased to be seen, all powerful – and the people do not like that!”
“Pray for us,” the Pope repeated, “that we might be poor, that we might be humble, meek, in the service of the people.” Finally, he suggested to the faithful that they read Acts 20:28-30, where Paul says, “Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. I know that, after my departure, ravening wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. And of your own selves shall arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.": “Read this fine passage, and while reading it, pray, pray for us bishops and priests. We have such need in order to stay faithful, to be men who watch over the flock and also over ourselves, who make the vigil their own, that their heart be always turned to [the Lord’s] flock. [Pray] also that the Lord might defend us from temptation, because if we go on the road to riches, if we go on the road to vanity, we become wolves and not shepherds. Pray for this, read this and pray. So be it.”
Speaking of the preaching Francis on ministries in the church, the English translation of a retreat then-Cardinal Bergoglio gave to the bishops of Spain prior to his election is soon to be released by Ignatius Press under the title In Him Is Our Only Hope.
“In the exercise of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles. I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah, risen from the dead, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, and established as judge of the living and the dead. I have come to repeat the Apostle’s urgent call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins, and to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country. As we have heard throughout this Easter season, the Church was born of the Spirit’s gift of repentance and faith in the risen Lord. In every age she is impelled by the same Spirit to bring to men and women of every race, language and people the good news of our reconciliation with God in Christ. The readings of today’s Mass invite us to consider the growth of the Church in America as one chapter in the greater story of the Church’s expansion following the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In those readings we see the inseparable link between the risen Lord, the gift of the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, and the mystery of the Church. Christ established his Church on the foundation of the Apostles as a visible, structured community which is at the same time a spiritual communion, a mystical body enlivened by the Spirit’s manifold gifts, and the sacrament of salvation for all humanity. In every time and place, the Church is called to grow in unity through constant conversion to Christ, whose saving work is proclaimed by the Successors of the Apostles and celebrated in the sacraments. This unity, in turn, gives rise to an unceasing missionary outreach, as the Spirit spurs believers to proclaim “the great works of God” and to invite all people to enter the community of those saved by the blood of Christ and granted new life in his Spirit. I pray, then, that this significant [moment] in the life of the Church in the United States, and the presence of the Successor of Peter in your midst, will be an occasion for all Catholics to reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their contemporaries a convincing account of the hope which inspires them, and to be renewed in missionary zeal for the extension of God’s Kingdom. The world needs this witness! Who can deny that the present moment is a crossroads, not only for the Church in America but also for society as a whole? It is a time of great promise, as we see the human family in many ways drawing closer together and becoming ever more interdependent. Yet at the same time we see clear signs of a disturbing breakdown in the very foundations of society: signs of alienation, anger and polarization on the part of many of our contemporaries; increased violence; a weakening of the moral sense; a coarsening of social relations; and a growing forgetfulness of Christ and God. The Church, too, sees signs of immense promise in her many strong parishes and vital movements, in the enthusiasm for the faith shown by so many young people, in the number of those who each year embrace the Catholic faith, and in a greater interest in prayer and catechesis. At the same time she senses, often painfully, the presence of division and polarization in her midst, as well as the troubling realization that many of the baptized, rather than acting as a spiritual leaven in the world, are inclined to embrace attitudes contrary to the truth of the Gospel. “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!” The words of today’s Responsorial Psalm are a prayer which rises up from the heart of the Church in every time and place. They remind us that the Holy Spirit has been poured out as the first fruits of a new creation, “new heavens and a new earth,” in which God’s peace will reign and the human family will be reconciled in justice and love. We have heard Saint Paul tell us that all creation is even now “groaning” in expectation of that true freedom which is God’s gift to his children, a freedom which enables us to live in conformity to his will. Today let us pray fervently that the Church in America will be renewed in that same Spirit, and sustained in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel to a world that longs for genuine freedom, authentic happiness, and the fulfillment of its deepest aspirations!”
“In these days of waiting for the feast of the Holy Spirit, we ask: Come, Holy Spirit, come and give me this big heart, this heart capable of loving with humility, with meekness, an open heart that is capable of loving. And let's ask this grace of the Holy Spirit. And may He free us always from the other path, the path of selfishness, which eventually ends badly. Let us ask for this grace.”
–Pope Francis Homily at Morning Mass
Chapel of the Holy Spirit
14 May 2013
* * *
Sure, the turn of pontificates might change some things... others, however, not so much.
To use the traditional phrase, this is – well, this is supposed to be – "privileged time": with Pentecost at hand, the company of believers is taken up with the nine-day vigil before being sent out.
Even in our own time, even in the wider world, this is still the commissioning season as weddings, graduations, ordinations, new assignments or jobs and changes of seemingly every other sort fill up these weeks with a lot of goodness and new life. Obviously, going through these won't be the case for the lot of us – at least, not in the direct sense. Still, only at the 50th day of Easter did The Church have its launch... and that's not to mean the building we take to on Sunday or the offices "Downtown," either.
Simply put, if this weekend in your neck of the woods is little more than "the Sunday we wear red in May," what you've got is no longer a church, just a glorified corporation – one whose "market share" is, in all likelihood, rapidly eroding, and its decline likely being blamed on some external cause instead of the lethal wound inflicted from within.
Along those lines, five years since the 264th successor of Peter laid out his assessment of Stateside Catholicism and its needed remedy on these very shores (reprised above), how well that call's been heeded – above all, precisely in those places where the prod was most intensely needed, and toward which it was duly aimed – is an especially worthwhile matter of reflection over these days.
As Avery Dulles depicted much of today's scene some three decades ago, "Since charisms, in the widest sense, are simply concretizations of the life of grace, a Church without charisms could only be a Church without grace. Such a Church would be a false sign; it would betoken the presence of what is absent; it would be a pseudosacrament, and for this reason it would not be truly Church."
In the same vein, as another Jesuit cardinal elsewhere more recently put it, "The church of... 'whoever doesn't enter doesn't exist' is Pharisee-ism. Jesus teaches us another way: to go out. Going out to give witness, going out to invest ourselves in our brother, going out to share, going out to ask questions. To embody Him [in the world]."
While the great man of Fordham now belongs to the ages, as for the latter Jebbie there... well, he's now the Pope – and having spoken of the Third Person more frequently than anything else in the two months since his election, it's become fairly clear that, much as the Conclave was suddenly "driven by the Spirit" toward electing Jorge Bergoglio in five ballots, Peter's 265th successor is keen for the Body to focus on even more crucial things for her life and vitality than his black shoes.
On that one, though, the question seems to be the same it's been from the beginning: that is, does The Church accept the challenge?
O Lord, give thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, and lighten our understanding, that we may dwell in the fear of thy Name, all the days of our life, that we may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.
Y que así sea entre nosotros.... Così sia per noi. That is, "let it be so" for us. Amen.
Finally together again in the roll of the saints as they worked alongside each other in life, this Friday brings the feast of the first minister of Hawaii's Molokai leper colony to be canonized, St Damien de Veuster.
Just three years after his 2009 raising to the altars, the Belgian-born cleric was joined last October by his longtime collaborator, now St Marianne Cope, who succeeded Fr Damien as the colony's guide following his death at 49 in 1889 after contracting the disease.
Having attained the requisite "national cultus" to be added to the US calendar just prior to her canonization, the New York-bred Mother Marianne's feast is now celebrated beyond Hawaii on 23 January.
Honored in today's church as an unofficial patron for both HIV/AIDS sufferers and the marginalized in general, Damien – and Marianne with him – continues to be revered as a hero in the islands; a statue of the priest stands outside the capitol in Honolulu, and a copy of it is one of the two "representatives" of Hawaii that (alongside two outstanding figures from every other state) occupy a place in Statuary Hall at the US Capitol in Washington. (Notably, he's just one of several other missionaries who symbolize their states in the hall – the Jesuit Eusebio Kino is there from Arizona, the Franciscan Blessed Junipero Serra from California, and the Sister of Providence Mother Joseph for Washington State.)
As the Breviary reading for today's feast isn't included in the editions of the Office in print – at least, for now – here's the proper text for the day, a mash-up from Damien's letters to his provincial and his brother....
Divine Providence, having compassion on the unfortunate, has thought fit to look upon your unworthy servant to care for the spiritual needs of a well-known leprosy hospital that our Government had to establish to preserve the whole archipelago from disease. Thus, it is in my role as pastor of an unusual parish of eight hundred lepers, nearly half of whom are now Catholics, that I take the liberty to write to you these lines.
Here I am in the midst of my dear lepers. They are so frightful to see, it is true, but they have souls redeemed at the price of the Precious Blood of our Divine Saviour. He also in his divine charity consoled lepers. If I can not cure them as he did, at least I can console them and by the holy ministry which in his goodness he has entrusted to me, I hope that many among them, purified from the leprosy of the soul, will present themselves before his tribunal prepared to enter the communion of the blessed.
My chapel, which was too big the first weeks I was here, has now become too small. Three weeks in a row I have had to ask some of the older Christians to stand outside along the windows in order to give their places to the new-comers or to the fallen away who have returned or to the catechumens of whom there are always some.
Besides Sunday, there are a good number who come regularly to Mass and evening rosary everyday of the week. A good number receive communion every Sunday. Besides the consolations that the heart of a priest finds in the church, there is also much good to do by visiting homes, going from one hut to another, almost all of them filled with poor unfortunates who can hardly drag themselves around as often their hands and feet have been eaten away by this horrible disease. They are condemned to breathe foul air. Ordinarily they listen with great attention to the word of salvation which I share with each one according to their disposition.
Even though I am not a leper, I make myself a leper with the lepers; when I preach, I always use the expression, "We, lepers". Thus may I gain all for Christ as St. Paul.
As you know, it has been already quite a while that Divine Providence chose me to become a victim of this repugnant disease of ours. I hope to remain eternally grateful for this grace. It seems to me that this disease will shorten and narrow the way that will lead me to our dear homeland. In that hope accepted this disease as my particular cross; I try to bear it as did Simon of Cyrene, following in the footsteps of our Divine Master. Please assist me with your good prayers, so as to obtain for me the strength of perseverance, until I reach the summit of Calvary.
R/. There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. To lay down one's life for one's friends. That is the fruit of true love.
V/. I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain. To lay down one's life for one’s friends.
...and in the spirit of aloha, we'd be remiss to leave out a taste of the liturgical hula that's graced Rome twice in the last four years, the halau shown below before the cathedra of the city's bishop in St John Lateran:
Especially to dear Linda and all the crew back in the islands, aloha, mahalo... and, of course, buona festa.
One of global Catholicism's most prominent chroniclers, Rocco Palmo has held court as the "Church Whisperer" since 2004, when the pages you're reading were launched with an audience of three, grown since by nothing but word of mouth, and kept alive throughout solely by means of reader support.
A former US correspondent for the London-based international Catholic weekly The Tablet, Palmo's served as a church analyst for The New York Times, Associated Press, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, BBC, NBC, CNN, National Public Radio and many other mainstream print and broadcast outlets worldwide.
A native of Philadelphia, Rocco Palmo attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. In 2010, he received a Doctorate of Humane Letters honoris causa from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St Louis. In 2012, he was named an at-large member of the Pastoral Council of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap.