Ever wonder why we should pray to angels? This Feast of Michael, Gabriel and Raphael reminds us that like angels we should fight against evil and do our best to protect the Word of God. We are meant to be messengers of God's mercy and love - just like the angels.
We give a good friend back to God who gave her to us to begin with - author and motivational speaker Sister Anne Bryan Smollin, known for her sense of humor — for lifting a spirit, defusing a tense situation or filling an awkward void with a quip - died this past week. Sister Anne urged her listeners to pay attention to the small blessings in their lives but her little, lighthearted comments served a greater purpose.
"She had a tremendous sense of humor, but it was always humor that was intended to make a serious point, and to help people grow and develop in their own life," said Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard.
Perhaps you might want to watch some of the following video (it is quite long) to better know this fine religious woman. I think her words will lift your spirits - and as she would say - "boost your immune system". Thank you, Sr. Anne, for a life well lived and for your incredible gift of lifting our hearts.
A Christian cannot understand Christ the Redeemer without the Cross, without being ready to bear the Cross with Jesus. That was Pope Francis’ message at Friday’s morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. To be a Christian means to be a “Cyrene,” that is, to be like Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry his cross, he said. Having the faith consists in this: You belong to Jesus if you bear the weight of the Cross with Him. Otherwise you are going along a path that seems “good” – but is not “true.” The basis for the Pope’s reflections was the day’s Gospel, in which Christ asks His disciples what the people are saying about Him, and receives the most disparate answers. This episode, the Pope noted, takes place in the context of the Gospel that sees Jesus guarding “in a special manner His true identity.” On several occasions, when someone came close to divulging His identity, “He stopped them,” just as many times He prevented the demons from revealing His nature as the “Son of God,” Who had come for the salvation of the world. This, the Poe explained, was because the people misunderstood and thought of the Messiah as a military leader who would expel the Romans. It was only privately, to the Twelve, that Jesus “began to do the catechesis on His true identity”: “‘The Son of Man, that is, the Messiah, the Anointed must suffer greatly, must be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.’ This is the path of your liberation. This is the path of the Messiah, of the Just One: the Passion, the Cross. And He explains His identity to them. They don’t want to understand; and in the passage from Matthew, one sees how Peter refuses this: ‘No! No, Lord…’ But He begins to open up the mystery of His true identity: ‘Yes, I am the Son of God. But this is my path: I must go along this path of suffering.’” This, Pope Francis said, is the “pedagogy” that Jesus uses “to prepare the hearts of the disciples, the hearts of the people, to understand this mystery of God”: “Sin is so ugly, but God’s love is so great that He saves us in this way: with this identity in the Cross. You can’t understand Jesus Christ the Redeemer without the Cross: you can’t understand! We can come to believe that he is a great prophet, he does good things, he’s a saint. But without the Cross you can’t understand Christ the Redeemer. The hearts of the disciples, the hearts of the people were not prepared to understand it. They didn’t understand the Prophecies, they didn’t understand that He Himself was the Lamb for the sacrifice. They were not prepared.” It is only on Palm Sunday, the Pope noted, that Christ allowed the crowds to proclaim, “more or less,” His identity, when they cried out “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” And this, Pope Francis said, was because “if the people did not cry out, the stones would have cried out.” On the other hand, it is only after His death that the identity of Jesus appears in its fullness; the “first confession” came from the Roman centurion, the Pope noted. He concluded: “Step by step [Jesus] prepares us so that we can understand better. He prepares us to accompany Him with our crosses, along His path to Redemption”: “He prepares us to be ‘Cyrenes’ to help Him bear the Cross. And our Christian life without this is not Christian. It is a spiritual life, good… ‘Jesus is the great prophet, and He has saved us. But He and I, no… No, you with Him! Taking the same path. Still our identity as Christians must be guarded, not believing that being Christian is a merit; it is a spiritual path of perfection. It is not a merit, it is pure grace.”
Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence on Tuesday morning. In remarks following the readings of the day, the Holy Father focused on the simplicity of the Christian life and the Gospel’s call to radical simplicity in life and action. Christ’s words had a “new” sound to them, as did the authority with which he spoke them – and this was why people followed him in such large numbers. Christ’s words had “the power of salvation” in them. Even so, there were those, who followed him “for the sake of convenience” only, without too much purity of heart, or perhaps with the desire to be “a little better” only. Pope Francis said that little has changed in two thousand years. Even today, many listen to Jesus as did the nine lepers of the Gospel who, “happy” with their newfound health, “forgot” the Lord, who had restored it to them: “Jesus continued to talk to people and loved the people and He loved the crowd, to the point that He says, ‘these who follow me, that immense crowd, are my mother and my brothers – that’s who they are’. He explains: ‘those who listen to the Word of God, put it into practice’. These are the two conditions in order to follow Jesus: to listen to the word of God, and to put it into practice. This is the Christian life – nothing more. Simple, simple. Maybe we’ve made it a little difficult, with many explanations that no one understands, but the Christian life is thus: listening to the Word of God and practicing it.” That is why – as described in the passage from the Gospel of Luke (8:19-21) that was read at Mass – Jesus replies to those who reported that her relatives were looking for him by saying, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” The point is not to hear casually, but to bend our ears – really to listen to the word of God, which we find in the Gospel – the pages of which need to be heard, and heeded, rather than merely read by rote “Listening to the Word of God,” said the Holy Father, “means reading it and then asking, ‘What does this say to me? How does this speak to my heart? What is God saying to me, with this word?” This, said Pope Francis, is a life-changing line of questioning: “Every time we do this – each time we open the Gospel and read a passage and ask ourselves: ‘Is God speaking to me with this? Is He saying something to me?’ – and if He is saying something, what is it that He is saying? This is [what it means] to listen to the Word of God: to listen with your ears and hear with your heart. Open your heart to the Word of God. The enemies of Jesus heard the word of Jesus, but were there in order to try to find a mistake, to make Him slip, so that He would lose His authority. They never asked themselves, though: ‘What is God saying to me in this Word?’ God not only speaks to all: yes, he does speak to all of us – but He also speaks to to every one of us – to each of us. The Gospel was written for each of us.” The Holy Father went on to say that putting into practice what we have heard is “is not easy” and that “it is easier to live a mellow life without worrying about the exigencies of the Word of God.” He went on to remind the gathered faithful that the Commandments and the Beatitudes are sure guides for anyone who would really attempt to understand the requirements the Gospel places on us and act accordingly – always counting on Jesus’ help. “[The Lord],” Pope Francis concluded, “ “is merciful and forgives all,” and waits for everyone, “because He is patient.”: “Jesus receives everyone, even those who go to hear the Word of God and then betray Him. Think of Judas. ‘Friend,’ He says, in that moment where Judas betrays him. The Lord is always sowing His word, and asks [us] only [to have] an open heart [with which] to listen and willingness to put it into practice. For this reason, then prayer today, which is that of the Psalm [119:35]: ‘Lead me Lord in the path of thy commandments,’ that is, the path of your Word, that I may learn with your guidance to put it into practice.”
Pope Francis is telling the bishops appointed under his watch to always stay close to their flock, digging deeper to see what "the Spirit continues to inspire in your Bride." The Holy Father said this this week when he received in audience the bishops appointed during the last year, who are participating in the congress organised by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for Eastern Churches. Francis commented that he was happy to meet them and said that they were “the fruit of the arduous work and tireless prayer of the Church who, when she chooses her pastors, recalls that entire night the Lord spent on the mount, in the presence of the Father, before naming those He wanted to stay with him and to go forth into the world”. The Pope asked them now that they have overcome their initial fears and excitement of their consecration, never to take for granted the ministry entrusted to them, never to lose their wonder before God's plan nor the awe of walking aware of His presence and the presence of the Church who is, first and foremost, His. He also reminded them of “the inseparable bond between the stable presence of the bishop and the growth of the flock”. “When the pastor is missing or unavailable, pastoral care and the salvation of souls is at risk. In fact, in the pastors Christ gives to the Church, He shows His love for His bride and gives His life for her," the Pontiff said. He continued, “we do not need superficially happy bishops; it is necessary to dig deeper to discover what the Spirit continues to inspire in your Bride. You are not fixed-term bishops, who always need to change address, like medicines that lose their power to cure, or like those insipid foodstuffs that have to be thrown away because they have lost their usefulness. It is important not to block the curative force that springs from within the gift you have received, and this defends you from the temptation to come and go aimlessly, because no wind is favourable to he who does not know where he is going. And we have learned where we are going: we are always going towards Jesus”. He added, “in this way, your watch over your flock will never fail to encounter the flame of the Risen Christ”. “I also beg you not to fall prey to the temptation to change the people. Love the people that God has given you, even when they have committed grave sins, without tiring of turning to the Lord for forgiveness and a new beginning, even at the cost of having to cancel your false images of the divine face or the fantasies you have nurtured of how to ensure their communion with God”. The Church, he added, is to offer “welcome to all without discrimination, offering the firmness of the authority that enables growth and the gentleness of paternity that generates. Do not fall prey to the temptation to sacrifice your freedom by surrounding yourself with courts, networks or choirs of assent, as the Church and the world always have the right to hear from the lips of bishops the Gospel that sets them free”. Pope Francis advised the bishops to imitate Moses' patience in leading his people, as “nothing is more important than introducing people to God!”. He therefore urged them to begin with the young and the elderly, “because the first are our wings, and the second are our roots. Wings and roots without which we do not know what we are, much less where we are going”. He added that he saw the bishops as sentinels, able to awaken their Churches; men able to cultivate and ripen God's fields and pastors able to restore unity. “Do not waste energy in conflict and disagreement, but rather use it to build and to love”, he concluded, wishing them “fruitfulness, patience, humility and much prayer”.
Pope Francis focused on the Resurrection as the seal of Christian identity at Mass this morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence. Drawing on the words of St Paul the Apostle from his Letter to the Corinthians, read today at Mass, Pope Francis spoke of the difficulty that some Christians – and others, who might otherwise be attracted to the Faith – have in understanding and living with the certain knowledge in faith that our bodies will be transformed and that we shall be restored to them. “[The Corinthians],” said Pope Francis, “had other ideas: ‘sure, the dead are justified, they shall not go to hell – good thing, too! – but they’ll go into the cosmos, into the air – just the soul before God’,” and so St. Paul had to offer a “difficult correction”: that of the Resurrection. Nor were the Christians of Corinth the only ones to have difficulty with the teaching. The Greeks at Athens, to whom St. Paul also preached – the wise philosophers – were even afraid of the notion: “[The Christian teaching on the bodily resurrection] is a scandal: they cannot understand it. This is why Paul offers the following line of reasoning, which is quite clear: ‘if Christ is risen, how can they say that there is not among yourselves resurrection from the dead, as well? If Christ is risen, the dead, too, shall rise’. There is resistance to the transformation, resistance to the work of the Spirit we received at Baptism, which is to transform us utterly, unto the Resurrection. When we speak of this, our language tlls us: ‘I want to go to heaven, I don’t want to go to hell’, but we stop there. None of us says: ‘I shall rise as Christ [did]’. No, even for us it is difficult to understand this.” Pope Francis went on to say that a sort of “cosmic pantheism” is easier to grasp, since there is this resistance to transformation – St Paul’s word – and, “in the Resurrection, we shall all be transformed.” “This is the future that awaits us and this is the fact that brings us to pose so much resistance: resistance to the transformation of our bodies. Also – resistance to Christian identity. I’ll say more: perhaps we are not so much afraid of the Apocalypse of the Evil One, of the Antichrist who must come first – perhaps we are not so afraid [of him]. Perhaps we are not so afraid of the voice of the Archangel or the sound of his trumpet – that shall sound the victory of the Lord. Fear of our resurrection, however, we have: we shall all be transformed. That transformation shall be the end of our Christian journey.” Pope Francis went on to say that the essence of Christian identity is, “being with the Lord, in body and soul.” He went on to say, Our Christian identity is completed, therefore, “with the resurrection of our bodies, with our resurrection.”: “That is the end, right there: [that point in which we are] satiated, by the image of the Lord. Christian identity is a way, a journey, on which we ‘are’ with the Lord, as those two disciples who ‘were with the Lord’ on that night. All our whole life is called to being with the Lord, in order – at the end – after the voice of the Archangel, after the sound of his trumpet, to remain with Him and abide with the Lord [forever].”
Having the courage to acknowledge that we are sinners enables us to receive Christ’s caress - His forgiveness, said Pope Francis Thursday morning during Mass at Santa Marta. The day's liturgy presents the Gospel of the sinful woman who washes Jesus' feet with her tears and anoints them with perfume drying them with her hair. Jesus is invited to the house of a Pharisee, "a person of a certain level of culture", the Pope said, who "wanted to listen to Jesus", hear his doctrine, find out more. In his own mind, he judges both Jesus and the sinful woman, thinking if Jesus "truly were a prophet he would know want kind of woman is touching him”. The Pharisee “is not a bad man” he simply “cannot understand the woman’s actions”. "He cannot understand the simple gesture: the simple gestures of the people. Perhaps this man had forgotten how to caress a baby, how to console a grandmother. In his theories, his thoughts, his life of government - because perhaps he was a councilor of the Pharisees – he had forgotten the simple gestures of life, the very first things that we all, as newborns, received from our parents". Pope Francis said that Jesus rebukes the Pharisee "with humility and tenderness", "his patience, his love, the desire to save everyone" leads him to explain the woman’s gesture to the Pharisee, and at the same time point to the Pharisee’s own lack of courtesy. And amid the shocked murmuring of the crowd, he says to the woman: "Your sins are forgiven". "Go in peace, your faith has saved you!" "He only says the word salvation - 'Your faith has saved you' – to the woman, who is a sinner. And he says it because she was able to weep for her sins, to confess her sins, to say 'I am a sinner', and admit it to herself. He doesn’t say the same to those people, who were not bad people: they simply did not believe themselves to be sinners. Other people were sinners: the tax collectors, prostitutes ... These were the sinners. Jesus says this word - 'You are saved, you are safe - only to those who open their hearts and acknowledge that they are sinners. Salvation only enters our hearts when we open them to the truth of our sins". "The privileged place to encounter Jesus Christ is in our sins". Pope Francis observed that this may seem like "heresy” but St. Paul also said as much when he said he would boast of only two things: his sins and the Risen Christ who saved him. "This is why the ability to acknowledge our own sins, to acknowledge our misery, to acknowledge what we are and what we are capable of doing or have done is the very door that opens us to the Lord’s caress, His forgiveness, to His Word 'Go in peace, your faith has saved you!', because you were brave, you were brave enough to open your heart to the only One who can save you". Jesus said to the hypocrites, "Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you". These are strong words, concluded the Pope, because those who feel themselves sinners "open their hearts in the confession of their sins, to encounter Jesus, who gave His blood for us all".
Underlining the universal and apostolic nature of the Church, Pope Francis has urged the faithful not to be closed in on themselves but to go forth and bring the message of the Gospel to everyone. Speaking on Wednesday during his General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, he explained that the word catholic means that she is universal, something that she shows by speaking all languages. ”The Church was born Catholic, “symphonic” from her origins, and cannot but be Catholic, pointing to evangelization and the encounter with all,” he said. Speaking off-the-cuff, he repeated his appeal that everyone carry with them a “pocket” Gospel and read a passage everyday. “This is good for us,” he said. The Pope also highlighted the missionary nature of the Church which is called to show the tenderness and power of God. “This also stems from the Pentecost event,” the Pope said. “It is for the Holy Spirit, in fact, to surmount every resistance, to overcome the temptation to be closed-in on oneself.” He then warned against Christians who believe themselves to be exclusively God’s elect. “They die in the end,” Francis said. “They die before, in their soul, then their body dies, because they have no life, they don’t have the capacity to generate life to other people … They are not apostolic.” The Pope then paid tribute to the “heroic lives” of the Church’s many missionaries. Again speaking off the cuff, he recalled a Brazilian cardinal who used to a visit cemeteries of cities he’d visit to honour the missionaries who were buried there. “These brothers and sisters could all be canonized now,” the cardinal told him. “Let us give thanks to the Lord because our Church has many missionaries, has had many missionaries, and needs yet more! We thank you Lord for this,” the Pope said. “Perhaps among many young people, boys and girls who are here, someone has the desire to become a missionary,” he added. “Go ahead! It’s a beautiful thing to bring the Gospel of Jesus. Be brave and courageous!”
Beautiful homilies are useless and mere vanity if you are not close to the people, if you do not suffer with the people and do not give hope.This was Pope Francis’ reflection Tuesday morning during Mass in Santa Marta, the day on which the Church remembers the Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, bishop martyrs. The Gospel of the day speaks of Jesus approaching a funeral procession: a widow of Nain lost her only son. The Pope said that not only does the Lord perform the miracle of bringing her son back to life, he does something more: he is close to her. "God – the people say - visited his people," the Pope said. When God visits "there is something more, there is something new", "it means that His presence is especially there". Jesus is close. "He was close to the people. A close God who is able to understand the hearts of the people, the heart of His people. Then he sees that procession, and the Lord drew near. God visits His people in the midst of his people, and draws near to them. Proximity. This is how God works. Then there is an expression that is often repeated in the Bible: 'The Lord was moved with great compassion'. The same compassion which, the Gospel says, that moved Him when he saw so many people like sheep without a shepherd. When God visits His people, He is close to them, He draws near to them and is moved by compassion: He is filled with compassion". "The Lord," Pope Francis continued, "is deeply moved, just as He was before the tomb of Lazarus". Just like the Father who was moved "when he saw his prodigal son come home". "Closeness and compassion: this is how the Lord visits His people. And when we want to proclaim the Gospel, to bring forth the word of Jesus, this is the path. The other path is that of the teachers, the preachers of the time: the doctors of the law, the scribes, the Pharisees [who] distanced themselves from the people, with their words ... well: they spoke well. They taught the law, well. But they were distant. And this was not a visit of the Lord: It was something else. The people did not feel this to be a grace, because it lacked that closeness, it lacked compassion, it lacked that essence of suffering with the people". Pope Francis continued: "And there's another word which is proper to when the Lord visits His people: 'The dead man sat up and began to speak, and He - Jesus - restored him to his mother'". "When God visits His people he restores hope to them. Always. You can preach the Word of God brilliantly. There have been many excellent preachers throughout history. But if these preachers have failed to sow hope, that sermon is useless. It is mere vanity". Looking at Jesus, who restored a living son to this mother, the Pope said "we can understand what God visiting His people means. And so we ask for the grace that our Christian witness be a witness that brings the closeness of God to His people, that closeness that sows hope
Pope Francis marked the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows during Monday morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, with a reflection on how Mary learned, obeyed and suffered at the foot of the Cross. The Holy Father said that in the liturgy of the day first we are shown the glorious Cross, then the meek and humble Mother. In the Letter to the Hebrews, "Paul emphasizes three strong words": he says that Jesus "learned, obeyed and suffered". "It’s the opposite of what had happened to our father Adam, who did not want to learn what the Lord commanded, who did not want to suffer, or obey." Instead, even though Jesus is God, He "is annihilated, He humbled Himself and became a servant. This is the glory of the Cross of Jesus": "Jesus came into the world to learn how to be a man, and by being a man, walk with men. He came into the world to obey, and He obeyed. But he learned this obedience from suffering. Adam left Paradise with a promise, a promise that lasted for so many centuries. Today, through this obedience, this self-abnegation, this humiliation, through Jesus, that promise becomes hope. And the people of God walk with sure hope. Even the Mother, 'the New Eve', as Paul himself calls her, in order to participate in her Son’s journey, learned, suffered and obeyed. And thus she becomes Mother”. The Gospel shows us Mary at the foot of the Cross. Jesus says to John, "Behold your mother." Mary - the Pope said - "is anointed Mother" "And this is our hope. We are not orphans, we have Mothers: Mother Mary. But the Church is Mother and the Mother Church is anointed when it takes the same path of Jesus and Mary: the path of obedience, the path of suffering, and when she has that attitude of continually learning the path of the Lord. These two women - Mary and the Church - carry on the hope that is Christ, they give us Christ, they bring forth Christ in us. Without Mary, there would be no Jesus Christ; without the Church, we cannot go forward". "Two women and two mothers" - continued the Pope Francis - and next to them our soul, which in the words of Isaac, the abbot of Stella, is "feminine" and is like "Mary and the Church". "Today, looking at this woman by the Cross, steadfast in following her Son in His suffering to learn obedience, looking at her we see the Church and look at our Mother. And also, we look at our little soul that will never be lost, if it continues to be a woman close to these two great women who accompany us in life: Mary and the Church. And just as our fathers left Paradise with a promise, today we can go forward with a hope: the hope that our Mother Mary, steadfast at the Cross, and our Holy Mother, the hierarchical Church, give us.”
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