“We are not often orphans … We are children,” Pope Francis exclaimed, reminding the faithful we have a mother in Mary, in the Church, and our own human mother.
The Holy Father made this powerful statement during today’s weekly general audience given in the Paul VI Audience Hall, just one day after the Epiphany.
Continuing his catechesis on the family, reflecting specifically on mothers, the Pope urged Christians to realize the essential role of mothers and to appreciate them properly.
“Without mothers, not only would there not be new believers, but the faith would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmness.”
Motherhood is more than childbearing, the Pope underscored, saying it is "a life choice" and a "giving of life," entailing three elements: sacrifice, respect for life, and passing on those human and religious values essential for a healthy society.
“Mothers are an antidote to the spread of a certain self-centeredness, a decline in openness, generosity and concern for others,” the Pope stressed.
The Argentine Pontiff lamented how mothers are often taken advantage of as they sacrifice themselves, even in Christian communities, and reminded the pilgrims how at the center of the life of the Church is the Mother of Jesus.
Francis recalled that Archbishop Oscar Romero spoke of a “martyrdom of mothers,” stating that: “Giving life does not only mean to be killed; giving life, to have the spirit of martyrdom, is to give in duty, in silence, in prayer, in the silence of daily life … giving life gradually.”
The Pope reflected that this is exactly what mothers do, as well as calling on the faithful to understand more their daily struggles in raising a loving family.
In the first prayers and religious gestures that children learn, even before they know the explanations, “mothers transmit the most profound sense of religious practice,” the Pope said.
Not only is the "seed of faith" planted and begins growing in these first, very precious moments, but mothers also, the Pope said, inscribe in children the value of faith.
To the mothers present and to all around the world, Francis thanked them for all they do for their families, the Church and the world.
Concluding his address, Pope Francis called for applause for all mothers.
Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Pope Francis gave this morning at Mass for the feast of the Epiphany in St. Peter's Square.
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That child, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, came not only for the people of Israel, represented by the shepherds of Bethlehem, but also for all humanity, represented today by the wise men from the East. It is on the Magi and their journey in search of the Messiah that the Church today invites us to meditate and to pray.
These wise men from the East were the first in that great procession of which the prophet Isaiah spoke in today’s first reading (cf. 60:1-6): a procession which from that time on has continued uninterrupted; in every age it hears the message of the star and finds the Child who reveals the tenderness of God. New persons are always being enlightened by that star; they find the way and come into his presence.
According to tradition, the wise men were sages, watchers of the constellations, observers of the heavens, in a cultural and religious context which saw the stars as having significance and power over human affairs. The wise men represent men and women who seek God in the world’s religions and philosophies: an unending quest.
The wise men point out to us the path of our journey through life. They sought the true Light. As a liturgical hymn of Epiphany which speaks of their experience puts it: “Lumen requirunt lumine”; by following a light, they sought the light. They set out in search of God. Having seen the sign of the star, they grasped its message and set off on a long journey.
It is the Holy Spirit who called them and prompted them to set out; during their journey they were also to have a personal encounter with the true God.
Along the way, the wise men encountered many difficulties. Once they reached Jerusalem, they went to the palace of the king, for they thought it obvious that the new king would be born in the royal palace. There they lost sight of the star and met with a temptation, placed there by the devil: it was the deception of Herod. King Herod was interested in the child, not to worship him but to eliminate him. Herod is the powerful man who sees others only as rivals. Deep down, he also considers God a rival, indeed the most dangerous rival of all. In Herod’s palace the wise men experience a moment of obscurity, of desolation, which they manage to overcome thanks to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, who speaks through the prophecies of sacred Scripture. These indicate that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem, the city of David.
At that point they resume their journey, and once more they see the star; the evangelist says that they “rejoiced exceedingly” (Mt 2:10). Coming to Bethlehem, they found “the child with Mary his mother” (Mt 2:11). After that of Jerusalem, this was their second great temptation: to reject this smallness. But instead, “they fell down and worshiped him”, offering him their precious symbolic gifts. Again, it is the grace of the Holy Spirit which assists them. That grace, which through the star had called them and led them along the way, now lets them enter into the mystery. Led by the Spirit, they come to realize that God’s criteria are quite different from those of men, that God does not manifest himself in the power of this world, but speaks to us in the humbleness of his love. The wise men are thus models of conversion to the true faith, since they believed more in the goodness of God than in the apparent splendour of power.
And so we can ask ourselves: what is the mystery in which God is hidden? Where can I find him? All around us we see wars, the exploitation of children, torture, trafficking in arms, trafficking in persons… In all these realities, in these, the least of our brothers and sisters who are enduring these difficult situations, there is Jesus (cf. Mt 25:40,45). The crib points us to a different path from the one cherished by the thinking of this world: it is the path of God’s self-abasement, his glory concealed in the manger of Bethlehem, on the cross upon Calvary, in each of our suffering brothers and sisters.
The wise men entered into the mystery. They passed from human calculations to the mystery: this was their conversion. And our own? Let us ask the Lord to let us undergo that same journey of conversion experienced by the wise men. Let us ask him to protect us and to set us free from the temptations which hide the star. To let us always feel the troubling question: “Where is the star?”, whenever – amid the deceptions of this world – we lose sight of it. To let us know ever anew God’s mystery, and not to be scandalized by the “sign” which points to “a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12), and to have the humility to ask the Mother, our Mother, to show him to us. To find the courage to be liberated from our illusions, our presumptions, our “lights”, and to seek this courage in the humility of faith and in this way to encounter the Light, Lumen, like the holy wise men. Amen.
Pope Francis says that each of us needs to work to bring peace in our own environments, especially amid family tensions, and that these "small gestures" have great value, opening paths to peace.
The Pope said this today during an address before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square. He also announced the names of the 20 new cardinals to be created in the upcoming February consistory.
Recalling that Jan. 1 is the World Day of Peace, and that his message for this year focused on slavery, the Holy Father said, "My hope is that the exploitation of man by man would be overcome."
"Each person, and every people hungers and thirsts for peace; therefore, it is necessary and urgent to build peace!"
The Pontiff affirmed that peace is more than an absence of war, and is rather "a general condition in which the human person is in harmony with himself, with nature, and with others."
"We must convince ourselves, despite any appearances to the contrary, that concord is always possible, at every level and in every situation," he pleaded. "There is no future without proposals and projects for peace!"
Citing the Old Testament, the Bishop of Rome noted that peace is a promise of God, and is proclaimed as a special gift of God at the birth of Christ.
"Such a gift requires that we seek it incessantly in prayer and welcome it every day with commitment, in the situations in which we find ourselves," he said. "At the dawn of a new year, we are all called to rekindle in our hearts an impulse of hope, that should result in concrete works of peace, reconciliation, and fraternity.
"Each one, in his own role and responsibility, can accomplish gestures of fraternity in dealing with one’s neighbor, especially with those who are tried by family tensions or by disagreements of different kinds. These small gestures have great value: they can be the seeds that give hope, they can open paths and prospects of peace."
The Pope concluded by inviting prayer to Mary, Queen of Peace. "She, during her earthly life, knew no small difficulties, joined to the daily fatigue of existence," he said. "But she never lost peace of heart, the fruit of trustful abandonment to the mercy of God. Let us ask Mary, our tender Mother, to show to the whole world the sure path of love and of peace."
Pope Francis urged people of all religions and cultures on Thursday to unite to fight modern slavery and human trafficking, saying in his first Mass of 2015 that everyone had a God-given right to be free.
The service at St. Peter's Basilica marks the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace. This year's theme is "No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters."
"All of us are called (by God) to be free, all are called to be sons and daughters, and each, according to his or her own responsibilities, is called to combat modern forms of enslavement. From every people, culture and religion, let us join our forces," he said.
Last month Francis appealed to consumers to shun low-cost goods that may be the product of forced labor or other forms of exploitation.
That message was sent to heads of state and governments, international institutions and parishes throughout the 1.2 billion-member Church.
The Argentine pope has made defense of migrants and workers a central issue of his papacy. At a Vespers service on New Year's Eve, he condemned administrators and criminals in Rome accused of pocketing public funds meant to help poor migrants, urging a "spiritual and moral renewal."
The second global slavery index released in November by the Walk Free Foundation, an Australian-based human rights group, estimated that almost 36 million people were living as slaves, trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labor, victims of debt bondage or born into servitude.
After Mass, the pope delivered his traditional New Year's Day noon address to tens of thousands of people, most of whom took part in peace marches to the Vatican.
"Peace is always possible but we have to seek it. Let us pray for peace," he told the crowd of people carrying balloons and banners with peace slogans
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