Pope Francis today drew from the First Book of Maccabees to warn against worldliness and apostasy, saying that a Christian musn't put his identity up for auction, or do things just because everyone else is doing it. The Pope made this reflection during his morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, according to Vatican Radio. The First Reading of today's Mass speaks of King Antiochus Epiphanes, referring to him as a "sinful offshoot" or a root of evil, who imposes pagan customs on the Chosen People. Pope Francis commented that, "the image of the root is under the ground." The "phenomenology of the root" is this: "What is not seen does not seem to do any harm, but then it grows and shows its true nature." The Holy Father noted that it was a "rational root," pushing the Israelites to ally with neighboring nations for protection. “Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us; since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us," the reading says. The Pope explained this reading with three words: "Worldliness, apostasy, persecution." Worldliness in life is to do what the world does. It’s saying: "We put up for auction our identity card; we are equal to everyone. " Thus, as the reading recounts, many Jews "disowned the faith and 'abandoned the holy covenant.'" And what "seemed so rational - 'we are like everyone else, we are normal' - became their destruction." "Then the king recommended that his whole kingdom should be one people - the one thought; worldliness - and each abandoned their own customs. All peoples adapted themselves to the orders of the king; also many Jews accepted his worship: they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. Apostasy. That is, worldliness that leads you to one unique thought, and to apostasy. No differences are permitted: all are equal. And in the history of the Church, the history we have seen, I think of a case, where religious feasts were renamed - the birth of the Lord has another name – in order to erase its identity." In Israel the books of the law were burned "and if someone obeyed the law, the judgment of the king condemned him to death." That's "persecution," initiated by a "root of bitterness," Francis said. "I have always been struck," the Pope remarked, "that the Lord, at the Last Supper, in that long prayer, praying for unity [asks] the Father that he would deliver them from every spirit of the world, from all worldliness, because worldliness destroys identity; worldliness leads to the single thought." "It starts from a root, but it is small, and ends up an abomination of desolation, in persecution. This is the deception of worldliness, and why Jesus asked the Father, at that Supper: 'Father, I do not ask you to remove them from the world, but keep them from the world,' this mentality, this humanism, which is to take the place of the true man, Jesus Christ, that comes to take away the Christian identity and brings us to the single thought: 'They all do it, why not us?' This, in these times, should make us think: what is my identity? Is it Christian or worldly? Or do I say to myself, 'Christian because I was baptized as a child or was born in a Christian country, where everyone is Christian?' Worldliness that comes slowly, it grows, it justifies itself and infects: it grows like the root, it defends itself - 'but, we do as others do, we are not so different' - always looking for a justification, and eventually it becomes contagious, and many evils come from there." "The liturgy, in these last days of the liturgical year," said the Pope, exhorts us to beware of "poisonous roots" that "lead away from the Lord." "And we pray to the Lord for the Church, that the Lord will guard it from all forms of worldliness. That the Church will always have the identity given to it by Jesus Christ; that we will all have the identity that we received in baptism. May the Lord give us the grace to maintain and preserve our Christian identity against the spirit of worldliness that always grows, justifies itself and is contagious. "
Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin sent this telegram on behalf of the Holy Father to Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, following the terrorist attacks in the French capital which took place during the night of 13 November. "Having learned of the horrible terrorist attacks in Paris and at the Stade de France, causing the death of many people and injuring many others, the Holy Father Francis joins in prayer with the suffering of the families affected by this tragedy and the mourning of the French people. He asks that God, the merciful Father, welcome the victims in the peace of His light and offer consolation and hope to the injured and their families. He assures them, and all the members of the emergency services, of his spiritual proximity. Once again the Holy Father vigorously condemns violence, which resolves nothing, and asks God to inspire in all thoughts of peace and solidarity, and to extend to all families at this difficult time, and all the French people, the abundance of His blessings." -- The Catholic television channel Sat 2000, during a special programme on the Paris attacks, made a telephone call to Pope Francis who, when asked about his reaction to the massacre, said: “I am moved, saddened and do not understand, but these things are difficult to comprehend … and so I pray. I am very close to the beloved French people, I am close to the families of the victims, and I pray for all of them." In response to the journalist who remarked that the Holy Father has often stated we are experiencing a “piecemeal third world war,” he affirmed, “Yes, and this is one of the pieces. But there are no justifications for these things, … neither religious nor human. This is not human. Therefore, I am close to all those who suffer and to all France, whom I love greatly. Thank you for calling." -- Message of Cardinal Vingt-Trois following the terrorist attacks in Paris: Our city of Paris, our country, was hit last night with particular savagery and intensity. After the attacks of last January, after the attack in Beirut this week and many others in these past months, including in Nigeria and other African countries, our country knows anew the pain of grief and must face the barbarism spread by fanatical groups. This morning I pray, and invite Catholics of Paris to pray, for those who were killed yesterday and for their families, for the injured and their loved ones and for those who are hard at work assisting them, for the police forces who face formidable challenges, and for our leaders and country, so that together we will remain in unity and peace of heart. I ask the parishes of Paris to comply strictly with the measures issued by public authorities. I ask them to make today and tomorrow days of mourning and prayer. Sunday evening at 18.30 I will preside at Mass at Notre-Dame de Paris for the victims and their families and for our country; the bell of the cathedral will toll at 18.15. Catholic Television (KTO) will broadcast this Mass, allowing all who wish to join us. Faced with the violence of men, may we receive the grace of a firm heart, without hatred. May the moderation, temperance and control that has been shown so far, be confirmed in the weeks and months to come; let no one indulge in panic or hatred. We ask that grace be the artisan of peace. We need never despair of peace if we build on justice. + Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris
In his morning homily today, Pope Francis reiterated one of his favorite points about the Church: that it must be a poor Church at the service of others. The Pope spoke of poverty today at Casa Santa Marta, Vatican Radio reported, as the issue of poverty and finances is in Vatican news for two other reasons. An interview the Pope gave to a Dutch newspaper produced by the homeless was published today, and this week in Rome, two books were released rehashing accusations of Vatican financial mismanagement. In the Pope’s homily, he said there are people in the Church who “instead of serving, of thinking of others, of laying the foundations, are served by the Church: ‘climbers,’ those who are attached to money. And how many priests and Bishops like this have we seen? It’s sad to speak of it, isn’t it? The radical character of the Gospel, of the call of Jesus Christ: to serve, to be at the service [of others], of not stopping for oneself, going out to others always, being forgetful of oneself. “And the comfort of the state: I have reached a certain state and I live comfortably, without integrity, like those Pharisees Jesus spoke about, who go out into the public square to be seen by others.” But, the Pope said that he is given great joy by meeting the many people in the Church who are dedicated to serving like Christ. “I tell you how much joy I have,” Pope Francis said, “what moves me, when in this Mass some priests come up and greet me: ‘O Father, I have come here to find my own people, because for 40 years I have been a missionary in the Amazon.’ Or a sister who says, ‘I have worked for 30 years in a hospital in Africa.’ Or when I find a little sister who for 30, 40 years is working in the department of the hospital with the disabled, always smiling. This is called ‘serving,’ this is the joy of the Church: going out to others, always; going out to others and giving life. This is what Paul did: serving.” Jesus, the Pope said, “makes us see this model in Paul,” this “Church that never stops” that “always goes forward and shows us the path.” Saint Paul “boasts of serving Him, of being chosen, of having the strength of the Holy Spirit.” He was the servant who served, the Pope said, “he ministered, laying the foundation, that is, announcing Jesus Christ” and “he never stopped to take advantage of his position, of his authority, of being served. He was a minister, a servant in order to serve, not to be served.” “Instead,” the Pope said, “when the Church is tepid, closed in on itself, businesslike, it cannot be said to be a Church that serves, that is at the service [of others], but rather [it must be said] that it is using others. May the Lord give us the grace He gave to Paul, that point of pride of always going forward, always, renouncing, time and again, its own comfort; and may He save us from temptations, from those temptations which at their base are temptations to a double life: I see myself as a minister, that is, as one who serves, but at the base I am served by others.”
Christians shouldn't be cliquey, says Pope Francis, who in today's morning Mass warned against the Pharisees' tendency to exclude others. Vatican Radio reported on the Pope's homily at the Casa Santa Marta, which he drew from today's readings from St. Paul and the Gospel of Luke. In the Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul exhorts us not to judge and not to despise our brothers, because, the Pope said, this leads to excluding them from “our little group,” to being selective, "and this is not Christian.” Christ, in fact, “with His sacrifice on Calvary” unites and includes “all men in salvation.” In the Gospel, publicans and sinners draw near to Jesus – “that is, the excluded, all those that were outside,” – and “the Pharisees and the scribes complained”: “The attitude of the Scribes and the Pharisees is the same, they exclude. [They say,] ‘We are the perfect, we follow the law. These people are sinners, they are publicans’; and the attitude of Jesus is to include. There are two paths in life: the path of exclusion of persons from our community and the path of inclusion. The first can be little but is the root of all wars: all calamities, all wars, begin with an exclusion. One is excluded from the international community, but also from families, from friends – How many fights there are! – and the path that makes us see Jesus and teaches us Jesus is quite another, it is contrary to the other: to include.” “It is not easy to include people,” Pope Francis said, “because there is resistance, there is that selective attitude.” For this reason, Jesus tells two parables: the parable of the lost sheep, and the parable of the woman and the lost coin. Both the shepherd and the woman will do anything to find what they have lost, and when they find it, they are full of joy: “They are full of joy because they have found what was lost and they go to their neighbours, their friends, because they are so happy: ‘I found, I included.’ This is the ‘including’ of God, against the exclusion of those who judge, who drive away people, persons: ‘No, no to this, no to that, no to that…’; and a little of circle of friends is created, which is their environment. It is a dialectic between exclusion and inclusion. God has included us all in salvation, all! This is the beginning. We with our weaknesses, with our sins, with our envy, jealousies, we all have this attitude of excluding which – as I said – can end in wars.” Jesus, the Pope said, acts like His Father, Who sent Him to save us; “He seeks to include us,” “to be a family.” “We think a little bit, and at least – at least! – we do our little part, we never judge: ‘But this one has acted in this way…’ But God knows: it is his life, but I don’t exclude him from my heart, from my prayer, from my greeting, from my smile, and if the occasion arises I say a good word to him. Never excluding, we have no right! And how Paul finishes the Letter: ‘We shall all stand before the judgment seat of God . . . then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.’ If I exclude I will one day stand before the judgment seat of God, I will have to give an account of myself to God. Let us ask the grace of being men and women who always include, always, always! in the measure of healthy prudence, but always. Not closing the doors to anyone, always with an open heart: ‘It pleases me, it displeases me,’ but the heart is open. May the Lord grant us this grace.”
Pope Francis says the family is a great gym where one trains in mutual giving and forgiveness. During today's General Audience in St. Peter's Square, the Pope said he wanted to underline this point as he reflected on the importance of the family as the place where we learn the value of forgiveness. He reminded those gathered that each day, in the words of the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us and to grant us the grace to forgive others. The Holy Father began his address recalling the recent Synod of Bishops, which reflected on the vocation and mission of the family, calling it a moment of grace. He noted it was not the time to examine its conclusions, saying all of us, himself included, need time to meditate on them. But he said he did want to underline how the synod revived hope in the family's vocation to mutual forgiveness and giving of self. Speaking on the family as a "gym," the Pope explained, "Without giving of oneself and without pardoning, love does not remain, it does not last!" The Holy Father went on to recall how the Our Father speaks about forgiving trespasses, and then stated: "One cannot live without pardoning, or at least one cannot live well, especially in the family," he said. Can't end day at war Because we have egos and are fragile, sometimes we make mistakes, the Pope admitted. However, he stressed, we therefore are required to heal these wounds and not wait too long to do so. Before the day is over, he exhorted, peace must be made between husband and wife, between parents and children, and also with in-laws. When we learn to apologize, the wounds are healed, the marriage is strengthened, and the family becomes more solid. Francis also mentioned that a long speech is not required to express this apology, but even a caress can start things over. The important thing, the Pope stressed is, "Do not end the day at war! Understand?!" As difficult as forgiveness may be, the Holy Father pointed out, it is essential for our personal growth, our capacity to acknowledge our failures and to mend broken relationships. He noted we first learn the virtue of forgiveness in the family. Christian families help society "Practicing forgiveness not only saves families from division," the Pope said, "but enables them to help society be less bad and less cruel." The Holy Father underscored that forgiveness strengthens families in love and suggested that this virtue is "a soli
Pope Francis has prayed for his departed predecessors and all the deceased Last night, the Holy Father visited the crypt under St. Peter's Basilica and prayed privately for the repose of the souls of his predecessors who have passed away, reported Vatican Radio. The Pope's moment of prayer has become a custom in commemoration of the faithful departed. Yesterday, the universal Church celebrated All Souls' Day. Several popes are buried beneath St. Peter's, including Benedict XV, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and of course, St. Peter. Archeologists identify the site of the Apostle St. Peter's tomb as under the basilica's main altar. One of the most visited tombs is Pope John Paul II's. His remains rest where Blessed Pope John XXIII was buried for 30 years. Not long after his beatification, John XXIII's remains were moved to St. Jerome's altar to enable a greater number of faithful to visit it. Not all pontiffs are laid to rest in the Vatican Grotto. For example, Pope Leo XIII, who passed away in 1903, asked he be buried in the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The first two days of November mark the Solemnities of All Saints and All Souls, respectively, and the whole month gives special attention to our care and concern for the dead.
We are all children of God! Are we aware of this great gift? On the Solemnity of All Saints, Pope Francis asked this during his Angelus address at noon in St. Peter's Square, as he reflected on the saints who watch over us, those in our midst, and those we are meant to become.
Recalling that the day's reading from the Book of Revelation recalls that saints are persons that, in "bearing His seal," belong totally to God in a full and exclusive way, and are His property, the Pontiff posed the following question to the thousands gathered in the Square: "What does it mean to bear the seal of God in one’s life and in one’s person?" The Apostle John, the Pontiff observed, says it means that, in Jesus Christ, we have become truly children of God. "Are we aware of this great gift? We are all children of God!" the Pope said, adding, "Do we remember that in Baptism we received the “seal” of our Heavenly Father and became His children? To say it simply: we bear God’s surname, our surname is God, because we are children of God." "Here is the root of the vocation to holiness! And the saints we remember today are precisely those who lived in the grace of their Baptism, they kept the “seal” intact, behaving as children of God, seeking to imitate Jesus, and now they have reached their goal because they finally “see God as he really is.” A second characteristic proper to the saints, the Holy Father continued, is that they are examples to imitate. Here, he pointed out, we do not only refer to canonized saints, but also to those who are or who have been in our midst, making the effort to live out the Gospel in their ordinary lives. The Pope stressed that we have met these saints, perhaps in our family, or among our friends and acquaintances, and that we must be thankful to them and, above all, to God who has given them to us, put them close to us, "as living and infectious examples of the way of living and of dying in fidelity to the Lord Jesus and to His Gospel." "How many good people we have known and know, and we say: 'But this person is a Saint!,' we say it, it comes spontaneously. These are the 'next door saints,' those not canonized but who live with us," Francis said. The Argentine Pope highlighted that when we imitate their gestures of love and mercy, it is somewhat like perpetuating their presence in this world, and that these acts are the only ones "that resist the destruction of death." Gestures such as an act of tenderness, a generous help, time spent listening, a visit, a good word, or even a smile, might seem insignificant to our eyes, the Holy Father said, "but in God’s eyes they are eternal, because love and compassion are stronger than death." Before reciting the midday prayer, the Pope prayed, "May that the Virgin Mary, Queen of All Saints, help us to trust more in God’s grace, to walk with speed on the way of holiness. We entrust to our Mother our daily endeavor, and we pray to her also for our dead in the profound hope of meeting again one day, all together, in the glorious communion of Heaven."
On Friday morning, Pope Francis surprised the faithful in St. Peter’s Square when he showed up at the Altar of St. Pius X to pray. It was the saint’s feast day. According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father came to pray at the altar and participated in the 7 a.m. Mass that was celebrated there by Monsignor Lucio Bonora, an official of the Vatican’s Secretary of State, who was unaware the Pope planned on being there. “When [Pope Francis] saw me, he told me he came to pray because he had already said Mass earlier in the Casa Santa Marta, and he wanted to pay his respects to St. Pius X,” Msgr. Bonora told Vatican Radio. Msgr. Bonora said Pope Francis greeted the faithful during the sign of peace. “It was very moving for me, and for the faithful, to see the Pope as a humble member of the faithful, going to pray at the tomb of St. Pius X,” the priest said. Msgr. Bonora said Pope Francis told him he has a strong devotion to Pius X, and that he prayed especially for catechists, since in Buenos Aires the feast serves as the Day of Catechists. St. Pius X (June 2, 1835 - Aug. 20, 1914) was Pope from Aug. 4, 1903, to his death in 1914. He was canonized in 1954.
I just read a very interesting article online about a student questionnaire prepared by some German students and adapting the language of the "official" questionnaire on the Synod on Marriage and Family in order to be a bit more clear and inviting. What I found to be uplifting and hopeful was the enthusiasm and upbeat nature of the participation and the fascinating insights of the thousand of respondents. Perhaps you'd like to read it in its entirety - click on the link:
'Who is Jesus to you?' This is the question Pope Francis called on the faithful to ask themselves during his weekly Angelus address today at noon in St. Peter's Square. The Holy Father recalled the day's reading from the Gospel of John in which Jesus, one day after His miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish, proclaims His discourse on the "Bread of Life," in which He had said He was the Bread which came down from Heaven and very clearly alluded to the sacrifice of His own life. Those words, the Pope noted, provoked disappointment in the people, "who considered them unworthy of the Messiah, not 'winning.'" Francis noted how people wanted to hear about a mission that Jesus would accomplish right away and how, in this sense, they failed to understand the Messiah's mission. "The words of Jesus always make us uncomfortable. They make us uncomfortable, for example, with regard to the spirit of the world, of worldliness," Francis said, noting that Jesus' divine origin, the action of the Holy Spirit, and faith are the three elements of the 'key' Jesus offers us to be able to understand Him and His mission. Despite lack of belief and some disciples deserting him, Francis observed, Jesus does not take back or soften His words. "In fact," Francis said, "He forces us to make a clear choice: either to be with Him or separated from Him." Loyalty to God, the Pontiff stressed, is a matter of loyalty to a person: Jesus. "All that we have in the world does not satisfy our hunger for the infinite. We need Jesus: to be with Him, to nourish ourselves at His table, His words of eternal life! Believing in Jesus means to make Him the center, the meaning of our life." Christ, the Pope said, "is not an 'accessory element': He is the 'living bread,' the indispensable nourishment. Attaching ourselves to Him, in a real relationship of faith and love, does not mean being chained, but being profoundly free, always on a journey." Pope Francis continued, calling on all faithful to ask themselves certain questions: “Who is Jesus for me?” A name? An idea? Only some historic person, or ... Someone who loves me, who gave His life for me, and walks with me?" "Who is Jesus for you? Do you try to get to know Him? Do you remain with His word? … Do you bring your pocket-Gospel with you to read it in whatever place you are in?" Francis underscored how the more time we spend with the Lord, the greater our desire is to be with Him.
Following his Angelus address, the Holy Father renewed his appeal for peace in Ukraine. "With deep concern, I follow the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which accelerated again in recent weeks," he said. "I renew my heartfelt appeal for the commitments undertaken to achieve peace might be respected; and that, with the help of organizations and persons of good will, there might be a response to the humanitarian emergency in the country.”
“May the Lord grant peace to Ukraine," the Pope prayed, noting the nation is preparing to celebrate its Independence Day tomorrow. "May the Virgin Mary intercede for us!" he said.
In his subsequent greetings to Roman pilgrims and those from various countries, Francis gave a special shout out to the new seminarians of the Pontifical North American College in Rome as they embark upon their theological studies.
Pope Francis concluded, wishing all those gathered a good Sunday, lunch and telling them to pray for him as well as stop for a little bit each day to ask themselves the question: 'Who is Jesus for me?'
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