Last November, the Holy See announced that they would be opening three showers under the colonnades of St. Peter's Basilica for the homeless. Now they will also open a barber shop and offer haircuts and shaves free of charge for homeless people.
According to the Italian news agency, ANSA, haircuts and shaves will be available to those less fortunate on Mondays. In Italy, barbershops are traditionally closed on Mondays, allowing for volunteer barbers to donate their time.
The initiative, which is run by the Office of Papal Charities, has also received a number of donations from barbers across Rome who have donated, razors, brushes, scissors, a mirror and a barber's chair.
The idea for the showers and bathrooms came from the Papal Almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski. The Archbishop had dinner with a homeless man on his birthday despite the man's embarrassment because of his appearance.
During the meal, the man explained to him that although homeless people in Rome could manage to find something to eat, what they really needed was a place to wash. Upon hearing this, Archbishop Krajewski suggested the idea to the Pope, who immediately approved the idea.
The barber shop for the homeless, located in the same area where the showers and toilets are, will be officially opened on February 16th.
In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis called on the faithful to never forget the memory of their first love, Christ, in order to not become lukewarm Christians.
The first reading of today continued from St. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews, in which he invites Christians to "remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering."
The Pope noted that this memory of the first encounter with Christ is an important moment for Christians to remember. "Memory is so important, to remember the grace received, because if we drive away this enthusiasm that comes from the memory of the first love […], that great danger for so many Christians comes: to be lukewarm."
The Holy Father said that in becoming "lukewarm", many Christians have lost not only enthusiasm, but also patience and the will to "tolerate" difficulties in life with the same spirit of Christ.
"The lukewarm Christians, poor things, are in grave danger," he said.
Memory and hope, he went on to say, are the two parameters that Christians have. For a Christian to recall the memory of that first encounter with Christ, "feeds hope."
"These two parameters are precisely the framework in which we can preserve this salvation of the just that comes from the Lord," the Holy Father said.Referring to today's Gospel, the Pope said that salvation that is guarded and protected allows "that mustard seed to grow and give fruit"
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to pray "for the grace to preserve this gift, the gift of salvation."
Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family during his weekly General Audience, reflecting on the important role of fathers. The Holy Father was in good spirits as he entered the Paul VI Audience Hall, even taking a moment to pose for a picture with a group of pilgrims.
The Pope began his address by noting that the word father is important for Christians because "it is the name in which Jesus taught us to call God."
"The meaning of this name has received a new depth just from the way in which Jesus used it to address God and manifest his special relationship with Him," he said. "The blessed mystery of the intimacy of God, Father, Son and Spirit, revealed by Jesus, is the heart of our Christian faith."
Reflecting on the symbolic role of the father, the Holy Father lamented the its decreasing role in today's society. This absence, he explained, is perceived in Western culture as the emancipation from an obstacle to happiness. While there are cases where fathers have been overly authoritative or treat children as servants, the Pope said that the situation can go to the opposite extreme: where the presence of the father is completely absent.
"Even as bishop of Buenos Aires," the Pope recalled, "I warned of this sense of orphan-hood that children live today. And I regularly asked fathers if they played with their children; if they had the courage to have the love to waste time with their children. The answer wasn't good, eh! The majority would say: 'But, I can't because I have so much work to do…' And the father was absent from that child that was growing up and didn't play with him, he didn't waste time with him."
The 78 year old Pontiff called on the Christian community to be more attentive to their children, saying that the absence of the father causes gaps and wounds that, over time, can become very serious.
'Orphaned within the Family'
Continuing his catechesis, Pope Francis continued to explain detrimental effects that a father's absence can have on children. Due to this absence, children at times are like "orphans but within the family." He also warned that because of this, fathers risk having a relationship on the same level of the children instead of a role as "educator".
"At times, it seems that fathers do not know well which place to occupy within the family and how to educate the children," he explained. "So, when in doubt they abstain, they withdraw and neglect their responsibilities, perhaps taking refuge in an unlikely relationship 'on par' with the children."
"It is true that you should be a companion for your child but without forgetting that you are the father. If you act as a companion equal to your child, it will not do him well."
Concluding his address, Pope Francis said that while his catechesis may have seemed to have taken a serious or negative tone regarding the role of fathers, it is for good reason.
"I wanted to emphasize this because next Wednesday, I will continue this catechesis by highlighting the beauty of fatherhood," he said. "For this reason I chose to begin from the darkness to arrive to the light. May the Lord help us to understand well these things."
In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis stressed the importance of mothers and grandmothers in transmitting the faith to future generations.
The first reading of today's Memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus recounts Paul's letter to Timothy, in which he recalls the faith of the latter's mother and grandmother.
"I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy, as I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and that I am confident lives also in you," St. Paul writes.
The Holy Father said that mothers and grandmothers are the ones who first transmit faith.
"It is one thing to pass on the faith, and another to teach the matters of faith. Faith is a gift: it is not possible to study Faith. We study the things of faith, yes, to understand it better, but with study [alone] one never comes to Faith. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, which surpasses all [“academic”] formation," the Pope said.
Reflecting on why it is mainly women who pass on the faith, the Holy Father noted that Jesus was brought into the world by a woman.
"It is the path chosen by Jesus. He wanted to have a mother: the gift of faith comes to us through women, as Jesus came to us through Mary." The Jesuit Pope went on to ask whether women today are aware of their duty to transmit the faith. He also stressed Paul's exhortation to guard the Faith so that it may remain strong.
“We have – all of us – received the gift of faith: we have to keep it, at least in order that it not become watered down, so that it remains strong, with the power of the Holy Spirit who gave it to us," he said.
If this faith becomes diluted, he warned, it becomes a "specialized kind of knowledge" and turns faith from something that is lived to something that is learned.
The Holy Father also said that being timid and ashamed is what dilutes faith and that it instead must be nourished with power, love and prudence.
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to pray for the grace of sincere Faith.
"A Faith that is not negotiable depending on the opportunities that come, a Faith that every day I try to revive or at least ask the Holy Spirit to revive it, and make it bear much fruit," he said.
In his homily as Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis said that the Sacrament of Confession is not like going to the dry cleaners to remove a stain, but an encounter with God who never tires of forgiving us.
The Holy Father reflected on today’s first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, which speaks of a new covenant made by God to his people. “They will all know me, the least no less than the greatest, since I will forgive their iniquities and never call their sins to mind,” the reading states.
The Pope noted the aspect of forgiveness that encompasses this new covenant made by God through Jesus Christ. “First of all, God always forgives us. He never tires of this. It’s we who become tired of asking for forgiveness,” he said.
“But HE does not tire of pardoning us. When Peter asked Jesus: ‘How many times must I forgive? Seven times?’ – ‘Not seven times: seventy times by seven.’ Namely always. That’s how God forgives us: always.”
Emphasizing the mercy of God, the Holy Father went on to say that even if a person has lived a life of sin but in the end is repentant and asks for forgiveness, God, “will immediately pardon you!”
“He forgives everything. If you go (to confession) repentant, He will forgive everything,” he said. “So many times He doesn’t even let you speak! You start to ask for forgiveness and He lets you feel that joy of forgiveness before you have even finished confessing everything.”
The Jesuit Pope also spoke on the Sacrament of Confession, saying that while to some it may seem like a formality, it is actually a meeting with God who “pardons you, embraces you and rejoices.”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis stressed the need for Christians to teach others, especially children and youth, the value of a good confession. “We too need to teach [others]: teach our children, our youth to make a good confession, because going to confession is not like going to the dry cleaners to get a stain removed,” he explained.
“No! It’s about going to meet with our Father who reconciles, who forgives us and who rejoices.”
Tearfully recounting a young life as yet spent forced to forage for food from garbage and to sleep outside on cardboard mats, 12-year-oldGlyzellePalomar had a simple but profound question for Pope Francis.
"Why did God let this happen to us?" the young Filipino asked, covering her face with her hands as she sobbed.
Speaking on a stage in front of some 30,000 young people as part of a meeting between Francis and Filipino youth Sunday, Palomar's intense query visibly affected the pontiff.
Putting aside a text he had prepared for the occasion in order to respond directly to the young woman, Francis answered her with a 40-minute reflection on the nature of suffering, love, and service.
"The nucleus of your question almost doesn't have a reply," the pontiff said at first, pain clearly etched on his face as he mentioned that he had seen her tears.
"Only when we too can cry about the things that you said are we able to come close to replying to that question," Francis continued.
"Why did children suffer so much?" he asked. "Why do children suffer?"
"Certain realties in life we only see through eyes that are cleansed through our tears," Francis said.
Addressing the thousands of youth in the crowd, he continued: "I invite each one of you to ask yourselves: 'Have I learned how to weep, how to cry when I see a hungry child, a child on the street who uses drugs, a homeless child, an abandoned child, an abused child, a child that society uses as a slave?'"
"Let us learn how to weep, as she has shown us today," said Francis. "Let us not forget this lesson. The great question of why so many children suffer. She did this crying. And the response that we can make today is let us learn, really learn, how to weep."
Francis' remarks Sunday came in a meeting with Filipino youth organized as part of his visit to the country Thursday-Sunday and held at Manila's Dominican-run University of Santo Tomas.
Palomar was one of four young people who gave testimonies about their lives during the event. Rescued from living on the streets by a foundation in Manila dedicated to helping such children, she and a young man helped by the same foundation spoke of the intense poverty faced by many Filipino children.
A nation of some 100 million, more than one-quarter of the population of the Philippines is estimated to live below the poverty line. A 2009 study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies found that 36 percent of Filipino children live in impoverished conditions.
In answering Palomar, Francis also said that Jesus cried often in the stories of the Gospel.
"If you don't learn how to cry, you can't be good Christians," said the pope. "This is a challenge."
Francis spoke extemporaneously Sunday in his native Spanish, with the help of a priest translating his remarks into English for the crowd.
Beginning his talk, Francis first asked the youth at the meeting to offer prayers for the young woman who died at the end of a Massthe pontiff celebrated SaturdayinTacloban, an area about 500 miles southeast of Manila.
"I have very sad news today," the pope said Sunday, before asking that those assembled take a minute of silence in prayer. "Let us also pray for her father and mother," Francis added. "She was the only daughter."
Francis then addressed the fact that besides Palomar those that gave testimonies at the youth event were young men.
There was "only a very small representation of women among you," he said, adding: "too little."
"Women have much to tell us in today's society," the pope continued. "Sometimes we are toomachista... and we don't allow room for the women."
"When the next pope comes, please more women among the number!" he asked.
The pope then addressed two other testimonies given by young men at the event, one focusing on the struggles young people face becoming overloaded with information in the internet age and the other speaking about volunteering to help survivors of 2013's TyphoonHaiyan.
Addressing the first testimony, Francis said there is so much information available now "but perhaps we don't know what to do with that information."
"We run the risk of becoming museums of young people, that have everything but without knowing what to do with it," he said.
"Which is the most important subject that you have to learn in university, that you have to learn in life?" Francis asked, answering: "To learn how to love. And this is the challenge that life offers you, to learn how to love."
The pontiff then said that in order to love, one has to use three languages: Of the mind, of the heart, and of the hands.
"What you think you must feel and put into effect," he continued. "Your information comes down to your heart and you realize it in real works."
Francis then said that love also requires being open to being loved and to surprises.
"Don't be frightened of surprises," he told the youth. "They shake the ground from underneath your feet and they make us unsure, but they move us forward in the right direction."
Reflecting on the example of St. Francis of Assisi -- who he said "died with empty pockets but with a very full heart" -- the pope said that "real love leads you to spend yourselves in life, to leave your pockets empty."
Responding to the man who volunteered after the Typhoon, one of the most devastating ever experienced in the Philippines, Francis told the young people they must not only learn to give of themselves but to receive from others.
"Jesus had to come to allow himself to feel compassion, to be loved," said the pope. "How many young people are there like this? You know how to give and yet you haven't yet learned how to receive."
"You lack only one thing, to become a beggar," he continued. "This is what you lack, to learn how to beg."
"To learn how to receive with humility," said Francis. "To learn to be evangelized by the poor, those that we help: The poor, the sick, the orphans, they have so much to offer us. Have I learned how to beg also for that?"
"Do you let yourselves be evangelized by those you serve?" he asked. "Or do I feel self-sufficient or I'm only going to offer something and think that you have no need of anything?"
Francis is visiting the Philippines, Asia's largest Catholic nation, Thursday-Sunday in the second visit of a two-part Asian voyage that first saw him visit Sri Lanka earlier in the week.
Later Sunday the pontiff will celebrate a public Mass in Manila'sRizalPark, an event the Vatican has called a "mega Mass" because of the expected crowds. Millions have converged since early Sunday morning on the streets of Manila, under pouring rain, to try and secure a place in the celebration.
In one sign of the massive operation to prepare for the event, officials from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Saturday night celebrated a Mass and consecrated 2.5 million hosts for distribution Sunday from 20 tents among the crowd.
Security for the papal visit has been extraordinarily tight. About 50,000 police and soldiers have been on patrol and authorities have been using jamming technology to prevent use of cellular networks in areas near where the pope is traveling.
As Francis traveled the some four miles Sunday between Manila's apostolicnunciature, where he has been staying during his visit, and the university for the youth meeting, crowds pressed in along the route, with some people coming so close as to almost touch the pope's hand.
Police were lined shoulder to shoulder along barricades lining the road, attempting to hold the crowd in.
This is a modest effort at a "blog" my attempt to offer some brief reflections each day that come from various sources that I find interesting - primarily the daily reflections of Pope Francis as found on Zenit and Rome Reports. Fr. John