During his weekly general audience, Pope Francis said that certain qualities make up the "alphabet" that ministers need to effectively serve their flocks. Addressing thousands of pilgrims gathered on a cloudy day in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father spoke on what is required to authentically and fruitfully minister to the Church and warned against the natural temptation of relying on oneself or trying to place oneself at the center. Reflecting on the catechesis series on the Church, Francis reminded the faithful how God continues to shepherd his flock with love through the ordained ministry of bishops, priests and deacons. "In a special way," the Pope said, "Saint Paul urges the Church’s ordained ministers to rekindle constantly the gift of God which they have received." In addition to outlining needed qualities inherent in the faith and spiritual life, Pope Francis said St. Paul listed other human qualities that are needed, including hospitality, sobriety, patience, meekness, reliability and goodness of heart. "This is the alphabet, the basic grammar of each ministry!” he said. Without this preparation, he said, ministers cannot properly serve nor offer a joyful and credible witness. For a pastor to not fall into the "temptation of being at the center of attention" and "relying only on himself," the Pope said he must have the knowledge that everything is a gift and a grace. “Only by acknowledging that their ministry is an unmerited gift of God’s mercy, bishops, priests and deacons can serve their brothers and sisters with humility, generosity, wisdom and compassion, and thus build up the Church’s communion in faith and love,” he said. While stressing the need to consider the qualities demanded of these ministers in their service to Christ and the Church, he reflected on the underlying attitude that Paul recommended to his disciples. “This means you must always be keenly aware that you are not bishops, priests or deacons because you are smarter, more talented and better than others, but only by virtue of a gift, a gift of love bestowed by God in the power of his Spirit, for the good of his people.” This awareness, he highlighted, is very important and is a grace ministers must ask for every day. Pope Francis concluded praying that ordained ministers may always be sustained in their efforts to be “living icons of the Father’s loving concern for all his children.”
At the conclusion of today’s General Audience, the Pope reiterated his appeal for all persecuted Christians. After saying he has been following the dramatic events of Chritians being persecuted or killed for their religious beliefs with great trepidation, he expressed his deep spiritual closeness to the Christian communities “hard hit by an absurd violence that shows no signs of stopping.” While encouraging pastors and the faithful to be strong and firm in hope, he again extended his appeal to all political leaders at the local and international levels, as well as to all people of good will, to undertake a "vast propelling of consciences in favor of persecuted Christians." Before asking those gathered to join him in praying an Our Father for those persecuted, he reminded the faithful that these people have the right, within their own countries, to security, peace of mind, and free profession of faith.
In his homily at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis warned against the temptations that lead Christians away from serving others. According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on today’s Gospel from St. Luke, in which Jesus speaks on the meaning of service through a parable in which a servant is asked to serve despite a long day working in the field. “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants, we have done what we were obliged to do,’” Jesus says. Regarding the servant, the Pope said that while many in the world would advise the servant to seek justice, Jesus instead stresses the importance of service as a total donation of oneself. Jesus, he said, “presents himself as a servant, the one who came to serve and not to be served: He says so clearly. And so, the Lord shows the Apostles the path of those who have received the faith, that faith which works miracles. Yes, this faith will do wonders on the path of service.” While conveying the importance of this spirit of service, the 77 year old Pontiff said that Christians are often tempted to stray away from this through laziness and selfishness. However, Christians are called to give all of themselves in worship, prayer, praise to God and service to others completely. Echoing Jesus’ words, the Pope said: “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants.’ Gratuitous service – service that asks for nothing in return". Concluding his homily, Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to fight against the temptations against laziness, which he said, “leads to ease” and “half-hearted” service. Laziness also leads Christians to become the master instead of the service, thus giving way to arrogance, pride and treating others as inferiors. “The Lord gives us these two great graces: humility in service, in order to be able to say, 'We are unprofitable servants - but servants - until the very end'; and hope while waiting for the manifestation, when the Lord will come to us,” the Pope concluded.
In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning , Pope Francis warned that “scandals destroy faith” and that all Christians are “capable of scandalizing” others with our actions. According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on today’s Gospel from St. Luke in which Jesus warns of those who cause others to sin through their scandal. “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin,” Jesus says. The Pope said that one common scandal is to say that one is Christian yet continue living like a pagan. “When a Christian man or a Christian woman, who goes to church, is part of the parish, does not live in this way, they cause scandal. How often have we heard men and women say: ' I do not go to church because it is better to be honest at home and not go to church like that man or woman who then does this, this, this ...'”, he said. “Scandal destroys, it destroys the faith! And that is why Jesus is so strong: 'Beware! Watch out!' It would do us good to repeat this today: ‘Be on your guard!'. All of us are capable of causing scandal.” The Holy Father noted that Christ calls on all to forgive because it is that which identifies them as Christians. “A Christian who is not able to forgive,” he said, “causes scandal: he is not Christian.” "We have to forgive, because we have been forgiven. This is in the Lord's Prayer, Jesus taught us about it there,” he continued. “Human logic is incapable of fathoming this. Human logic leads us not to forgive, to seek revenge; it leads to hate, division.” The Pope went on to lament how families break apart because of their inability to forgive. If one does not forgive, he stressed, it means that he/she does not understand what it means to be forgiven by God. Concluding his homily, Pope Francis told the faithful that only through the light of faith is one capable of living without scandal and always forgiving. One doesn't get faith by reading books or going to conferences, he said. "Faith is a gift of God that comes to you and this why the Apostles asked Jesus, 'Increase our faith!'”
In his Angelus address today, Pope Francis remembered the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, calling on the world to spread a “culture of encounter.” The Holy Father began his address recalling the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which the Catholic Church celebrates today. The Basilica is the Cathedral Church of Rome and the ecclesiastical seat of its Bishop, the Pope. Dedicated by Pope Sylvester I in 324, it is the oldest church in the West. Noting that the basilica is known as the “mother of all Churches”, the Pope said that this term not only refers to the building itself, but the “work of the Holy Spirit that is manifested” through the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, in unity with the Church around the world. “This unity presents the nature of a universal family, and as there is a mother in a family, so does the venerated Cathedral of Lateran become a ‘mother’ to the churches of all the communities of the Catholic world,” he said. “With this feast, therefore, we profess, in the unity of the faith, the bond of communion that all the local Churches, spread throughout the earth, has with the Church of Rome and with its Bishop, the successor to Peter.” The Holy Father also noted that the building itself is a sign of the Church alive in the world, made up of men and women and in which Christ is the living stone. This sign, he continued, calls all Christians to be consistent in their lives "with the gift of faith and Christian witness.” “It is not easy, we all know, the consistency in life between faith and witness,” he said. “But we should go forward and have daily consistency in our lives. This is a Christian! Not so much for what he says, but for what he does, for the way in which he acts. This coherence, which gives us life, is a grace of the Holy Spirit that we should ask for.” Prior to praying the Angelus with the faithful, the Pope reminded the faithful that today’s feast is an invitation to reflect on the communion of the Church around world. This communion is a motivation for Christians to overcome barriers of indifference and “build bridges of understanding and dialogue.” “The Church Herself,” he explained, “is a sign and an anticipation of this new humanity, when it lives and spreads the Gospel with Her witness, a message of hope and reconciliation for all mankind.”
Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall Recalling the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Pope Francis said that the wall represented the ideological divisions that existed in Europe and the world. He also noted those who died, fought and prayed for the wall's destruction, including his predecessor, St. John Paul II, who he said, “had a lead role” in its fall. After his election, Pope John Paul II’s support of the Solidarity movement in his native Poland contributed to the fall of Communism there, causing a ripple effect throughout Europe. Pope Francis prayed that the walls that continue to divide the world today may continue to fall and that “a culture of encounter may continue to spread.” This culture, he concluded, is “capable of bringing down all the walls that still divide the world, and that never again will innocent people be persecuted and even killed because of their beliefs and their religion.” “Where there is a wall there is a closing of the heart. We need bridges, not walls!” he exclaimed.
We must be careful not to slip toward the path of being pagan Christians, Christians in appearance," Pope Francis warned the faithful today during his Mass at Casa Santa Marta. As reported by Vatican Radio, the Pope reflected on St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. In it, the Apostle warns against those Christians who “live like enemies of the cross of Christ.” “Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their 'shame.' Their minds are occupied with earthly things,” St. Paul writes. Calling them “pagan Christians,” the Pope described these people as those who identify themselves as Christians yet live a pagan life. He also said that like in the time of Paul, there are many today who are Christians only in appearance. "The temptation to get used to mediocrity, the mediocrity of Christians, these Christians, it is their undoing because their hearts cool, they become lukewarm,” the Pope said. “And the Lord had strong words for these lukewarm [Christians]: 'because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth'. These are very strong words! They are enemies of the Cross of Christ. They take the name, but do not follow the requirements of Christian life.” Echoing Paul’s words that the citizenship of Christians is in heaven, the Pope called on those present, including himself, to reflect on whether this worldliness exists within. "Do I like to brag? Do I like money? Do I like pride, arrogance? Where are my roots, that is, where am I a citizen of? Heaven or earth? In the world or the worldly spirit?” the Pope asked. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and we await heaven and Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And theirs? Their ultimate fate will be destruction!” Path towards corruption Regarding today’s Gospel, which recalled the parable of the dishonest steward, the Pope said that like the steward, Christians do not become enemies of the cross immediately, but bit by bit. "How did this steward in the Gospel arrive at this point of cheating, of stealing from his master?” he asked. “How did he get there? From one day to the next? No! Little by little. One day a tip here, the next day a bribe there, and this is how little by little you arrive at corruption. The path of worldliness of these enemies of the Cross of Christ is like this, it leads you to corruption! And then you end up like this man, right? Openly stealing ... " Concluding his homily, the Pope encouraged the faithful to follow the the cross of Christ, which he said included “humility, poverty, meekness, service to others, worship, prayer."
Even if it means risking one’s reputation, true Christians must follow Jesus’ loving example and not be afraid to "get their hands dirty" with sinners. This was the theme of Pope Francis' morning homily today at Casa Santa Marta. Vatican Radio reported that the Holy Father began by warning against being “half way” Christians and pastors, who go until a certain point, then stop, rather than doing as Jesus did, “going to the limit,” without fear of others' opinions. Reflecting on the two parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, the Pope observed that the Pharisees and scribes were scandalized because Jesus "welcomes sinners and eats with them. It was quite a scandal at the time for these people." "Imagine if at that time there were newspapers," he jokingly added. He went on to say that Christ came to look for those who strayed, while noting that the parables allow the faithful to see the heart of God. "God does not stop. God does not go up to a certain point, God goes all the way, always to the limit," the Pope said. Warning against being “half way” pastors, the 77-year-old Pontiff lamented that it was sad to see both pastors who wait for Christians to come and Christians who do not feel the need to "tell others that the Lord is good." True shepherds and Christians don't allow anyone to be lost, to stray away, he stressed. "They are not afraid to get their hands dirty. They are not afraid and go where they need to go. They’ll risk their lives, risk their reputation, even if it means risking their comfort and status.” Concluding his homily, Pope Francis urged the faithful to not be silent out of fear of losing their comfort, reputation, and peace of mind. "Do not be afraid that they badmouth us because we go to visit our brothers and sisters who are distant from the Lord.," he said.
During his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis entrusted himself and all bishops to the prayers of the faithful. Through their prayers, he said, "we can at least hope to be closer to the [acts of service] that the Apostle Paul advises for all bishops." Encouraging the thousands gathered, he asked, “Do you agree? Will you pray for us?” The Holy Father said that bishops must have many virtues, despite being "sinners." Through the Holy Spirit’s power and grace, he continued, “Christ does not fail to give rise to the ordained ministries, in order to build up the Christian community as His body.” The Pope said the role of the bishop, among these ministries, “stands out.” “In the bishop, assisted by priests and deacons,” he said, “it is Christ Himself who is present and who continues to take care of his Church, ensuring his protection and guidance.” Through their presence and ministry, he declared, we can recognize the “true face” of the Church. “She is our Holy Mother, the Hierarchical Church,” he said. “And really, through these brothers chosen by the Lord and consecrated by the sacrament of Holy Orders, the Church exercises her motherhood." “There should not be room in the Church for a worldly mentality,” he continued. “A worldly mentality speaks of a man who has an ‘ecclesiastical career and has become a bishop.’" The 77 year old Pontiff went on to say that that the role of a bishop is not a place of honor but rather a service to others, following the example of the Good Shepherd. It is sad, he said, when we see a man “who seeks this office and does all he can to get it and when he gets it does not serve, instead goes around like a peacock and lives only for his vanity.” Recalling the recent Synod of Bishops, the Pope noted that while the bishops came from different cultures and places, the meeting exemplified that bishops are "a single college." He noted “how beautiful” it is "when the bishops, with the Pope, express this collegiality!" More than just Christian communities recognizing the bishop as a “great gift,” he stressed they are called to nurture a sincere and profound communion with him, starting with the priests and deacons. "There is no healthy Church if the faithful priests, deacons are not united around their bishop," he underscored. “This Church not united around their bishop is a sick Church.” Concluding his address, Pope Francis said that the "relationship of each Church with the Apostles is visible and with all the other communities, united with their bishops and the Pope in the One Church of the Lord Jesus, that is our Holy Mother, the Hierarchical Church.”
In his homily at Casa Santa Marta today, Pope Francis said that because of selfishness, Christians at times can be afraid of the gratuitousness of God. Today’s Gospel from St. Luke spoke on the parable of the man who held a great banquet, only to be refused by his guests who were busy with other matters. Enraged, the master of the banquet commanded his servant to invite “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” to his feast. According to Vatican Radio, the Pope said that the guests who turned down the master’s invitation only had their own interests at heart rather than sharing a meal with a friend. Had they been invited to dine with businessmen, he said, “no one would have excused themselves.” “It is so difficult to listen to the voice of Jesus, the voice of God, when you believe that that the whole world revolves around you: there is no horizon, because you become your own horizon. And there is more behind all of this, something far deeper: fear of gratuity. We are afraid of God’s gratuity. He is so great that we fear Him”. All Christians, he continued, have this fear of God’s generosity toward us, because many times, “we feel safer in our sins, in our limitations, but feel at home.” This fear, he noted, brings Christians to not answer God’s invitation in order to not leave that safety net. “Catholics, but not too Catholic,” the Pope said. “Trusting in the Lord, but not too much. This 'but not too much' marks our lives, it belittles us." Recalling the master’s order to invite the poor and crippled to the banquet, and even to force people to the feast, the 77-year-old Pontiff said that the Lord does the same with us “with trials, so many trials.” "Compel that heart, that soul to believe in God's gratuity, that God’s gift is free, that salvation cannot be bought: it is a great gift, the love of God is the greatest gift! This is gratuity!,” he exclaimed. Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to accept the invitation to this banquet which was paid by Christ “with His humiliation unto death, death on a cross.” “Today, the Church asks us not to be afraid of the gratuitousness of God,” he said. “Instead we must open our hearts, do our part as much as we can, because He will prepare the banquet.”
When no one seeks his own interests and is genuinely grateful, then there is harmony in the Church. This was the main theme of Pope Francis' homily during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today. He reflected on the First reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, in which the Apostle says to “do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves." According to Vatican Radio, the Pope noted that often in churches, parishes and schools, we can find rivalry and vainglory, referring to them as “two worms that eat the fabric of the Church, weakening Her.” “Rivalry and vainglory go against this harmony, this agreement. Instead of rivalry and vainglory, what does Paul recommend? ‘Rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,’” the Pope said. “[St. Paul] felt this himself. He qualifies himself as ‘not worthy to be called an apostle,' the least one. He even strongly humbles himself there.” Noting that the Church celebrates today the memorial of St. Martin de Porres, the Pope said that the example set by the “humble Dominican friar” is something that Christians should aspire to. St. Martin’s spirituality, he said, was in service; a spirituality that the first reading calls all to follow. The Holy Father also spoke on today’s Gospel, in which Jesus invites one of the Pharisees to invite to a banquet those who “have no ability to repay you.” Jesus, the Pope said, urges to “not take the road of seeking repayment.” "This is gratuity!” the Pope exclaimed. “When there is harmony in a Church, there is unity, no one seeks his or her own interests, and there is an attitude of gratefulness. I do good; I don't strike a deal with good.” Concluding his homily, the Pope invited the faithful to ask themselves if they have a spirit of gratitude or of seeking vainglory. “Is this spirit, this sentiment of love, unanimity, concord, without selfishness or vainglory, of humility, is this vision that others are superior to us, in our parish, in our community ... and perhaps we will find that there is something to improve. Now, how can I help to improve this?” he asked.
Pope Francis remembered those who have died today during his Sunday Angelus Address. The Holy Father began his address noting the relation between today's celebration of All Souls Day and yesterday's Solemnity of All Saints. "On the one hand, in fact, the Church, a pilgrim in history, rejoices for the intercession of the Saints and the Blessed that sustains Her in the mission of announcing the Gospel," he said. "On the other, She, like Jesus, shares in the tears of those who suffer the departing of a loved one, and like Him and thanks to Him, resounds the thanks to the Father who has freed us from the dominion of sin and death." Recalling those who today will visit the graves of their loved ones, the Pope called on the faithful to remember those "who no one remembers." Among them, he continued, are the victims of war, violence and in particular the "little ones in the world crushed by hunger and poverty." "We remember the unnamed people who rest in common graves. We remember our brothers and sisters killed for being Christians; and those who sacrificed their lives to serve others. We especially entrust to the Lord those who have left us in the course of this year," he said. Citing the Second Vatican Council's document, Lumen Gentium, the Pope exhorted those present to offer the Eucharistic celebration for deceased souls. Remembering the dead, he said, "is rooted in the certainty that death is not the final word on the human fate." The Holy Father then recited a prayer for the dead composed by Passionist Father Antonio Rungi. "May no one fear the encounter with You at the end of their earthly pilgrimage, in the hope of being welcomed within the embrace of your infinite mercy. May sister death find us in prayerful vigilance, and full of all the good we have done during our existence, be it long or short," he prayed. Concluding his address, Pope Francis invoked the Virgin Mary to help in understanding the value of praying for the deceased. "May She sustain us in our daily pilgrimage on this earth and help us to not lose sight of the final goal of life which is Paradise,"
The Pope has warned against the closed minded, saying those who are open and merciful are the ones following our Lord's loving path and example. At his daily morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta, Francis warned against being hypocritical, Vatican Radio reported. Recalling the day’s Gospel reading in which Jesus asked whether it was lawful to heal a sick person on the Sabbath, the Holy Father reflected on how the path to Christ is realized through love and justice, rather than attachment to the laws. The Argentine Pontiff reminded those gathered how Jesus described the Pharisees as hypocrites for criticizing him behind his back after he healed a sick man on the Sabbath. “This way of life of being attached to the laws,” Francis noted, “distanced them from love and from justice. They followed the laws and they neglected justice.” "They followed the laws and they neglected love,” the Jesuit Pontiff continued, “They were the models. And for these people, Jesus had only one word (to describe them): hypocrites. Francis went on to call them: “Closed-minded men, men who are so attached to the laws, to the letter of the law that they were always closing the doorway to hope, love and salvation… Men who only knew how to close doors.” Citing St. Paul, Pope Francis said that the path in which one faithfully abides by the laws allows for one to, at the same time, be just and loving. “This is the path that Jesus teaches us, totally opposite to that of the doctors of law," that which he said, is the path from love and justice that leads to God. Instead, the other path, the Pontiff noted, of being attached only to the laws, to the letter of the laws, leads to closure, leads to egoism. This path leads to egoism, the arrogance of considering oneself to be in the right, to that so-called holiness of appearances. The Pope said there are the two different paths and Jesus shows us the right one. "Jesus draws close to us: his closeness is the real proof that we are proceeding along the true path. That’s because it’s the path which God has chosen to save us: through his closeness." Pope Francis said Jesus’ flesh is the bridge that brings us closer to God and not the letter of the law, and concluded that these examples of Jesus’s closeness and love can help us from sliding into hypocrisy because a hypocritical Christian is a really negative thing.
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