Although we are all sinners, we are called to give witness to the Church, which is Holy. This was the central theme of Pope Francis’ homily this morning at Casa Santa Marta. The Holy Father reflected on the first reading which recalls the conversion of St. Paul in Damascus. Despite persecuting Christians, Christ chooses Paul to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles. Despite his sins, the Pope said, St. Paul is called to proclaim the holiness of the Church. “But how can it be holy if we are all in it?” the Pope asked. “We are all sinners, here. And the Church is holy! We are sinners, but She is holy. She is the Spouse of Jesus Christ and He loves Her, He sanctifies Her, He sanctifies her every day with His Eucharistic sacrifice, because He loves Her so much.” “And we are sinners, but in a Holy Church. And we also sanctify ourselves with this belonging to the Church: we are children of the Church and the Mother Church sanctifies us, with its loves, with the Sacraments of her Spouse.” The Holy Father explained that God chooses sinners to show that it is He who sanctifies. No one can sanctify themselves, nor is there a course or a requirement to live a life of extreme asceticism. Holiness,“ he said, “is a gift from Jesus to His Church and to show this He chooses people in which his work to sanctify is clearly seen.” This is exemplified, he continued, in the Gospels where saints such as Matthew, who was considered “a traitor to his people”, Mary Magdalene, who Jesus freed from seven demons, and Zacchaeus, a corrupt tax collector. These and many others, the Pope said, followed the rule of sanctity: “our humiliation, so that the Lord may grow.” This humiliation, he went on to say, changes St. Paul’s heart and he becomes like a child: “he obeys.” However, the Pope noted, St. Paul cannot be defined as a hero. St. Paul, who was known for preaching the Gospel, in the end is captured, imprisoned and beheaded. “The difference between heroes and saints is the witness, the imitation of Jesus Christ,” he said. Many saints, especially the great saints, end their days humbly. The Pope recalled the final days of St. John Paul II, who was recently canonized. “He could not speak, the great athlete of God, the great warrior of God ends this way: overcome by sickness, humbled like Jesus,” the Pope said. “This is the route of holiness of the greats. It is also the route of our sanctity. If we do not let our hearts be converted on this path of Jesus - to carry the cross every day, the ordinary cross, the simple cross - and let Jesus grow; if we do not go on this path, we will not be saints.” Concluding his homily, Pope Francis told the faithful that in giving witness to Christ, we also give witness to His love for us. Although we are sinners, he said, “the Church is holy. It is the Spouse of Jesus.”
Pope Francis has said those in the Church called to administer the sacraments must leave room for the grace of God and not place bureaucratic obstacles in the way. This was one of the key points stressed by the Pope in his homily on Thursday at the Santa Marta residence. Pope Francis reflected on the three things necessary for an effective evangelization, saying it requires docility, dialogue with people, and trusting in the grace of God which is more important than bureaucracy. For the first requirement, he pointed to Philip the apostle as an example of docility. “He, Philip, obeys, he’s docile and accepts the calling from the Lord. Certainly he left behind many things that he ought to have done, because the Apostles in that period were very busy evangelizing. He leaves everything and sets off. And this makes us see that, without this docility or meekness before the voice of God, nobody can evangelize, nobody can announce Jesus Christ. At the very most he will be announcing himself. It’s God who calls us, it’s God who starts Philip on that road. And Philip follows. He’s docile.” Turning to the second element, Pope Francis noted how Philip uses dialogue in order to announce the gospel to the Ethiopian minister. “You can’t evangelize without dialogue. It’s impossible because you must begin from where the person who is to evangelized comes from. And this is so important. ‘But father, we waste so much time because every person has his or her own story, he or she comes with their own ideas…’ And, time is wasted. More time than God wasted when he created the world and He did it well. Dialogue. Spend time with that person because that person is who God wants you to evangelize. It’s more important to give him or her the news about Jesus, but according to who he or she is -- not how it should be, but how he or she is right now.” Continuing his reflection on the story of Philip, Pope Francis points out that the Apostle baptizes the Ethiopian and this places him in the hands of God and of his grace. “Let’s think about these three moments of evangelization: the docility to evangelize, to do what God is requesting; secondly, a dialogue with the people, but during this dialogue, you begin from where these people come from; and thirdly, trusting in grace. Grace is more important than all the bureaucracy. ‘What prevents this?’ Remember this. So many times we people of the Church are a factory to create obstacles so people can’t arrive at grace. May the Lord help us to understand this.”
My good friend, Fr. Joseph Girzone, writes a daily post (blog) for his Joshua Mountain Ministries ( http://joshuamountain.org/postings/ ) Yesterday he shared a delightful story about how God communicates with us......
Jesus' presence in our lives is very real..... Intimacy with Jesus is open to all of us who are ready to welcome him into our lives. Jesus’ love is not dependent on whether we are good or whether we are sinners. He loves us as he finds us. This past Saturday as I was driving to Saratoga for my grandnephew’s First Communion, I started to think of Jesus, and immediately I had a profound sense of His Presence within me. It was an experience that stayed with me for a good part of the drive. Nothing was said, no thoughts were exchanged but the presence was so real, I did not want it to leave. When I came home later on I stopped off at my godson’s house for him to drop of some papers for his father. As he and his wife were ready to go to a movie, he asked if I would drop off his five year old son Athanasius at his grandparents’ house so he could stay with them overnight. On the way there, I shared my Jesus experience with the little fellow, and when I finished, he told me about his times with Jesus. “Fahd, let me tell you about me and Jesus. When I talk to Jesus he doesn’t talk back and it made me feel bad, but, I think of Jesus a lot during the day, and when I think of Jesus, I have this nice warm feeling in my heart, and I realize now that Jesus is talking to my heart, so now I understand him. Is that what you were feeling, Fahd?” “I just felt his presence, Athen. But, he seems to talk with you without using words.” This experience is not extraordinary. It is an experience that is open to all of us, though I don’t think many people have been introduced to this kind of prayer. Jesus once promised us that if we accept him as a friend, he and his Father will come and live within us. Once you have that experience you will never doubt the reality of Jesus in your life, and you don’t have to solve all the manufactured questions about the accuracy of all the things that are written about Jesus. Your intimacy with him is all that is important. It is good to meet him in this life, so we won’t be ashamed when we finally encounter him later on.
Pope Francis has continued his catechesis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, this week discussing the third gift, counsel. During today’s General audience, the Pontiff told those gathered in St. Peter’s Square how prayer is needed for counsel. Relating to those present, he said, “We know how important it is, in the most difficult moments, to be able to count on the suggestions of wise persons who love us.” Yet, the Pope added how the faithful must not forget that we can count on the one who is wisest. Through the gift of counsel, he said, “it is God Himself, with his Spirit, who illumines our heart, to make us understand the right way to speak and to behave and the way to follow.” Counsel, therefore, is the gift with which the “Holy Spirit renders our conscience capable of making a concrete choice in communion with God, according to the logic of Jesus and of his Gospel,” said Pope Francis. Francis explained that the Spirit helps us “not to fall prey to egoism or our own way of seeing things” since he “makes us grow interiorly … grow positively ... and grow in the community.” In short, he said he “helps us to grow” and “to live in community.” The essential condition to preserve this gift is prayer, the Pontiff stressed. “We always come back to the same subject: prayer! But prayer is so important. To pray with the prayers that we all know from childhood, but also to pray with our own words. To pray to the Lord: ‘Lord, help me, counsel me, what must I do now?’" With prayer, he said, “we make room for the Spirit to come to help us at that moment. To counsel us on what we must all do. Prayer, never forget prayer! Never!” Inviting those present to pray whenever you can ‘squeeze it in,’ the Pontiff reminded them that, “No one, no one is aware when we pray on the bus, on the street: we pray in silence with our heart.” Therefore, “let us take advantage of these moments to pray, to pray that the Spirit will give us this gift of counsel,” he said. “But," he asked, "how does this gift act in us?” Giving the response, he explained: “The moment we receive him and host him in our heart, the Holy Spirit begins immediately to make us sensitive to his voice and to direct our thoughts, sentiments and intentions according to God’s heart.” This “intimacy” with God and listening to his Word, he said, “little by little,” allows us to “put aside our personal logic, dictated most often by our closures, our prejudices and our ambitions,” adding that we instead “learn to ask the Lord: what is your desire? What is your will? What pleases you?” Stating the effect of asking these questions, he said it's “a profound attunement [which] matures in us.” When we ask, we can start to see the truth of the words in Matthew’s Gospel: “‘When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.’” “Although the Spirit is the one who counsels us, we must make room for the Spirit, so he can counsel us," said Francis, adding that “to make room is to pray, to pray so that He will come and help us always.” Closing, the 77-year-old Pontiff invited the faithful to pray these words from Psalm 16: “‘I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.'" “May the Spirit always be able to infuse this certainty in our heart and thus fill us with his consolation and his peace! Ask always for the gift of counsel.”
The Christian who does not witness to the faith becomes sterile. This was the focus of Pope Francis’ homily at morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta. The Pope drew inspiration from the martyrdom of St. Stephen, narrated in the Acts of the Apostles. The Church, he said, is "not a university of religion", but rather it's the people who follow Jesus. Only in this way, he added, is the Church both “fruitful and mother". In his homily, Pope Francis traced the path that led to the death of the first martyr of the Church, a death that was the exact replica of Christ’s. He, too, like Jesus, had encountered “the jealousy of the leaders who were trying" to eliminate him. He, too, had "false witnesses", and suffered "rash judgment”. Stephen warns his persecutors they are resisting the Holy Spirit, as Jesus had said, but these people "were uneasy, were not at peace in their hearts", the Pope said. These people, he added, had " hatred" in their heart. That is why, on hearing Stephen’s words, they were furious. "This hatred was sown in their hearts by the devil", the Pope added. "This is the devil’s hatred of Christ”. The devil "who did what he wanted with Jesus Christ in his Passion now does the same" with Stephen. This "struggle between God and the devil" is clearly seen in martyrdom. “On the other hand, Jesus had told his disciples that they had to rejoice to be persecuted in his name: "To be persecuted, to be a martyr, to gives one's life for Jesus, is one of the Beatitudes". That is why, the Pope added, "the devil cannot stand seeing the sanctity of a church or the sanctity of a person, without trying to do something". This is what he does with Stephen, but "he died like Jesus, forgiving". "Martyrdom is the translation of a Greek word that also means witness," the Pope continued. "And so we can say that for a Christian the path follows in the footsteps of this witness, Christ’s footsteps, to bear witness to Him and, many times, this witness ends up in laying down one’s life . You cannot understand a Christian without witness. We are not a 'religion' of ideas, of pure theology, beautiful things, of commandments. No, we are a people who follow Jesus Christ and bear witness – who want to bear witness to Jesus Christ - and sometimes this witness leads to laying down our lives”. On Stephen’s death, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, "a severe persecution began against the Church in Jerusalem". These people, the Pope observed, "felt strong and the devil provoked them to do this" and so "Christians scattered to the regions of Judea and Samaria". This persecution, the Pope noted, means that "the people spread far and wide" and wherever they went they explained the Gospel, gave testimony of Jesus, and so "mission of the Church" began. "So many converted, on hearing these people," the Pope said. One of the Fathers of the Church explained this by saying : "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians". With "their witness, they preach the faith". "Witness, be it in everyday life, in difficulties, and even in persecution and death, always bears fruit," he said. "The Church is fruitful and a mother when she witnesses to Jesus Christ. Instead, when the Church closes in on itself, when it thinks of itself as a - so to speak - 'school of religion', with so many great ideas, with many beautiful temples, with many fine museums, with many beautiful things, but does not give witness, it becomes sterile. The Christian is the same. The Christian who does not bear witness is sterile, without giving the life he has received from Jesus Christ". The Pope continued: "Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit", and "we cannot bear witness without the presence of the Holy Spirit in us". Pope Francis advised those present that in difficult times, where we have to choose the right path, where we have to say 'no' to a lot of things that maybe try to seduce us, "there is prayer to the Holy Spirit, and He makes us strong enough to take this path of witness". "Today thinking about these two icons - Stephen, who dies, and the people, the Christians, fleeing, scattering far and wide because of the violent persecution - let us ask: How is my witness? Am I a Christian who witnesses to Jesus or am I a simple numerary in this sect? Am I fruitful because I bear witness, or sterile because unable to let the Holy Spirit lead me forward in my Christian vocation?"
Vanity, thirst for power and for wealth - three attitudes Pope Francis has said one must avoid when following Christ. This was the subject of reflection for the Holy Father during his homily today at Casa Santa Marta. Today’s Gospel from St. John recalled a group of people who were searching for Jesus after the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled,” Jesus said to the people when they found Him. The Pope said that the Gospel calls us to reflect on whether we are following the Lord out of love or personal gain. “We are all sinners, and we need to make an effort and look into ourselves in the way we live our Faith,” he said. The Holy Father highlighted three particular attitudes that one must avoid in order to follow God,the first of which is vanity. “This is not the right attitude. Vanity is not good, vanity causes us to slip on our pride and everything ends there. So I ask myself the question: and I? How do I follow Jesus? When I do good, do I do it under the public eye, or do I do it in private?” “I also think of pastors, because a pastor who is vain does not do good to the people of God: even if he is a priest or a bishop, he does not follow Jesus if he is besotted by vanity”. The second attitude that one must avoid is a thirst for power. The 77 year old Pontiff told those present that there are some who follow Jesus and are in a search of power. Some, perhaps, even do so unknowingly. “A clear example of this is to be found in John and James, the sons of Zebedee who asked Jesus to seat them in places of honour, one on His right and one on His left in his Kingdom,” the Pope explained. “And in the Church there are climbers, people driven by ambition! There are many of them! But if you like climbing, go to the mountains and climb them: it is healthier! Do not come to Church to climb! And Jesus scolds people with this kind of ambitious attitude in the Church.” The Holy Father noted that the disciples attitude changed only when the Holy Spirit descended upon them. However, he went on to say, they must continually ask themselves: in what way do they follow Christ? The final attitude that must be avoided is the lust for wealth or money. Some today, he said, follow Jesus yet try “to take economic advantage of the parish, of the diocese, of their Christian community, of the hospital, or the college.” “Let us think of the first Christian community that was swayed by this intention: Simon, Ananias and Sapphira… this has been a temptation right from the beginning,” he said. “And since, we have heard of so many good Catholics, good Christians, friends and benefactors of the Church that – it has been revealed - acted for personal profit. They presented themselves as benefactors of the Church and made money on the side…” Concluding his homily, Pope Francis invited the faithful to ask God for the grace to follow Christ with good intentions and not with those three attitudes that stray from the path to Him.
Pope Francis has said he wept at the news that some Christians were crucified recently in Syria. In his morning homily at Mass in Casa Santa Martha Friday, the Holy Father also lamented that in today’s world there are still "masters of conscience" – thought police - and in some countries you can still go to jail for possessing a Gospel or wearing a Crucifix. The Pope's homily drew from the Gospel of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which Christ’s disciples are flogged by the Sanhedrin. Pope Francis proposed three icons: the first is Jesus’ love for people, his attention to peoples’ problems. He said the Lord is not concerned with how many people follow him, he would “never even think of taking a census" to see if "the Church has grown” “No!,” the Pope said. “He speaks, preaches, loves, accompanies, travels on the path with people, meek and humble". He speaks with authority, that is, with "the power of love". The second icon is the "jealousy" of the religious authorities of the time: "They couldn’t stand the fact that people followed Jesus! They couldn’t stand it! They were jealous,” the Pope said. “This is a really bad attitude to have. Jealousy and envy, and we know that the father of envy is the devil. It was through his envy that evil came into the world". Pope Francis continued: "These people knew who Jesus was, they knew! These people were the same who had paid the guard to say that the disciples had stolen Christ’s body!" "They had paid to silence the truth. People can be really evil sometimes! Because when we pay to hide the truth, we are [committing] a very great evil. And that's why people knew who they were. They would not follow them, but they had to tolerate them because they had authority: the authority of the cult, the authority of the ecclesiastical discipline at that time, the authority of the people ... and the people followed. Jesus said that they weighed people down with oppressive weights and made them carry them on their shoulders. These people cannot tolerate the meekness of Jesus, they cannot tolerate the meekness of the Gospel, they cannot tolerate love. And they pay out of envy, out of hate". During the gathering of the Sanhedrin there is a "wise man", Gamaliel, who asks the religious leaders to free the apostles. Thus, the Pope insists, there are these first two icons: Jesus who is moved to see people "without a shepherd" and the religious authorities ... "These, with their political maneuvering, with their ecclesiastical maneuvers to continue to dominate the people ... And so, they bring forth the apostles, after this wise man had spoken, they called the apostles and had them flogged and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus. Then they freed them. ‘We have to do something, we will give them a sound hiding and send them on their way! . Unjust! but they did it. They were the masters of conscience [thought police], and felt they had the power to do so. Masters of conscience ... Even in today's world , there are so many". Then Pope Francis confessed: “I cried when I saw reports on the news of Christians crucified in a certain country, that is not Christian. Still today,” he pointed out, “there are these people who kill and persecute, in the name of God”, those who, like the apostles, “rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor in Christ’s name". This is the “third icon today,” he said, “the Joy of witness". "First icon: Jesus with people, his love, the path that He has taught us, which we should follow. The second icon: the hypocrisy of these religious leaders of the people, who had people imprisoned with these many commandments, with this cold, hard legality, and who also paid to hide the truth. Third icon: the joy of the Christian martyrs, the joy of so many of our brothers and sisters who have felt this joy in history, this joy that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Christ’s name. And today there are still so many! “Just think that in some countries, you can go to jail for just carrying a Gospel. You may not wear a crucifix or you will be fined,” the Pope said. “But the heart rejoices. The three icons: let us look at them today. This is part of our history of salvation".
In his first appearance in St. Peter’s Square since the canonization of two saints this weekend, Pope Francis used today's general audience to deliver his catechesis on the second gift of the Holy Spirit. After discussing the gift of wisdom in the first catechesis of this new series, this week he turned to the Spirit's gift of understanding. “So we can all understand things as God understands them, with God’s understanding,” is why Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit, said Francis. “It is a beautiful gift that the Lord has given all of us. It is the gift with which the Holy Spirit introduces us into intimacy with God and renders us participants in his plan of love for us.” Turning to what the Holy Spirit does, the Pontiff said, “He opens our mind, he opens us to understand better, to understand better the things of God, human things, situations, everything.” Clarifying understanding’s meaning, he said: “It is not about human understanding, about an intellectual capacity with which we can be more or less gifted.” Rather, “it is a grace which only the Holy Spirit can infuse, and which arouses in the Christian the ability to go beyond the external aspect of reality and scrutinize the depth of God’s thought.” Discussing its effects, Pope Francis said that the community of Corinth knew well what this gift “does in us.” Paul had explained to them: “‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him, God has revealed to us through the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).’” Francis said "obviously" this “does not mean that a Christian can understand everything and have full knowledge of God’s plans: all this remains to be manifested.” Noting that it’s “ok” to understand a situation with human understanding, with prudence, he stressed that to understand a situation in depth, how God does, is an effect of the grace of understanding, which is “closely connected to faith.” The Pope added, “When the Holy Spirit dwells in our heart and illumines our mind, He makes us grow day after day in understanding what the Lord has said and has fulfilled.” Addressing the English-speaking present, he invited them to implore the gift of understanding, as it will create a “new light, with fresh spiritual insight,” and through it “the Holy Spirit dispels the darkness of our minds and hearts, strengthens us in faith and enables us to savor the richness of God’s word and its promise of salvation.”
During the homily of his morning Mass at his residence today, Pope Francis proposed three marks of a "people reborn," which characterized the early Christian community. At Casa Santa Marta, the Holy Father said the Christian community should be characterized by interior unity, witness of Christ, and care of its members. He spoke of the "rebirth from on high" in the Holy Spirit, who gave life to the first group of "new Christians" when "they still didn’t have that name." "They had one heart and mind," the Pope said. "Peace. A community in peace. This means that in this community there was no room for gossip, envy, calumnies, defamation. Peace. Forgiveness: 'Love covered everything.'" Francis stressed the importance of Christians' attitudes: "Are they meek, humble? Do they vie for power between each other in that community? Are there envious quarrels? Is there gossip? [Then] they are not on the path of Jesus Christ. This feature is so important, so important, because the devil always tries to divide us. He is the father of division." Pope Francis recognized that problems existed even for the first Christians. He recalled "the infighting, the doctrinal struggles, power struggles." As an example of this he pointed to the widows who complained of a lack of assistance so that the Apostles "had to create deacons." Pope Francis proposed a reflection for today's Christian communities: "Does this community give witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Does this parish, this community, this diocese really believe that Jesus Christ is Risen?" The Bishop of Rome said the third characteristic from which we can measure the life of a Christian community is "the poor." "First, what's your attitude or the attitude of this community toward the poor?" he asked. "Second, is this community poor? Poor in heart, poor in spirit? Or does it place its trust in riches? In power?" "Harmony, witness, poverty and care for the poor. This is what Jesus explained to Nicodemus: This comes from above. Because the only one who can do this is the Holy Spirit," the Pope concluded. "This is the work of the Spirit. The Church is built up by the Spirit. The Spirit creates unity. The Spirit leads us to witness. The Spirit makes us poor, because He is our wealth and leads us to care for the poor."
On Divine Mercy Sunday, in the presence of Pope Francis, his living predecessor Benedict XVI, and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world, the Church celebrated the canonization of Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II. In the weeks leading up to Sunday's event, the faithful were invited to recall the examples of holiness demonstrated by these 20th century leaders of the Church, as well as their significant historical legacies. Fr. Robert Barron is the rector of the Chicago Archdiocese's Mundelein Seminary, and the founder of the online initiative Word On Fire Catholic Ministries. While he was in Rome for the canonizations, he sat down with ZENIT to speak about these two newly-declared saints. ZENIT: What can we learn from John XXIII and John Paul II about sainthood? Obviously, they had extraordinary lives insofar that they were both popes. At the same time, not all popes are saints… Fr. Barron: …and not all saints are popes. To be a saint is to be a person of heroic virtue. These are world historical figures, but if that was the qualification for sainthood, then the Little Flower [St. Therese] wouldn’t be a saint, for example. That’s a good point of meditation. What makes them saints is that they are people of heroic virtue. You’re looking at the cardinal virtues of justice, and prudence, and temperance and courage. The theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. The Church says these men exemplify those virtues in a heroic way. A couple of examples: think of John XXIII saving upwards of, they think, 24,000 or 25,000 Jews during the Nazi period, all at great risk to himself. Justice and courage are both on pretty strong display there. [Look at] John Paul’s commitment to justice: he’s one of the great spokespersons of the 20th century. He displayed extraordinary courage: as a young kid dealing with the Nazi occupation, as a young priest, dealing with the communists, going to Poland as Pope and speaking truth in the midst of this oppression. For John XXIII, too, hope is so important. I think calling the council was a great act of hope. He was a Church historian, which means he understood the dark side of the Church’s history very clearly, but he also knew it was guided by the Holy Spirit. He said Vatican II should be a "new Pentecost." I think his calling forth the Holy Spirit, with great confidence in 1962, was a sign of his tremendous virtue of hope. Think of John Paul II and love. I think in a thousand years they’ll tell the story of John Paul forgiving the man who tried to kill him. Can there be any more extraordinary act of love than that? You reach out in forgiveness to the man who tried to kill you. In all these ways, these Popes exemplify this heroic virtue. ZENIT: Do you think that it’s significant that they are being canonized together? Fr. Barron: I think it is significant, their being canonized together. I think it has a lot to do with Vatican II. John XXIII calls Vatican II. It’s the great event of the last century for the Catholic Church. John Paul is there as a young bishop, and then archbishop. He helps to write some of the documents. Then as Pope, gives clearly the definitive interpretation of Vatican II. I don’t know Pope Francis’ mind, but I’m guessing he’s seeing these two figures as the great conciliar figures. ZENIT: We have hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who have come to Rome to witness the canonization of these two Popes. There have been some who have criticized what is the “celebrity” treatment of the Popes, and of John Paul II in particular. From what you’ve seen of these pilgrims here in Rome, would you say this is what’s happening? Are they reacting to him as a celebrity, or is there something deeper? Fr. Barron: I think it’s deeper. He was a celebrity, and so was John XXIII in his own time. That’s not necessarily bad in itself, being a celebrity. They were well known. They were charismatic – especially John Paul. He was a theatrical person. He knew how to galvanize a crowd. But I do think people are responding to much more than that. Sanctity is such a need in the world. The world is such a dark place in many ways, and the saints are just beams of light. I think people are drawn to that. It was neat to see the pictures [of John XXIII and John Paul II] with the halos on them. That’s what always strikes me about a halo: it’s light. It’s a beacon. It’s a sign. They are light in the darkness, and that’s what’s moving to people. ZENIT: A question that was often posed in the lead up to the canonization was the fact that the Church was declaring John Paul II a saint, even though he had committed certain errors during his pontificate – most notably with regard to his handling of the sex abuse crisis. How can we reconcile this declaration of sainthood within the context of these mistakes? Fr. Barron: To canonize someone is not to say that every particular judgment they made was the correct judgment. I think you can remark that there was a dark side of John Paul’s papacy, a certain inaction, let’s say, with regard to the sex abuse crisis – certainly in regard to Fr. Maciel and the slowness in responding to it. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that’s a negative feature of his papacy. But to say someone is a saint doesn’t mean that every move they made was correct, that they were flawless, or that every prudential judgment they made was [the right one]. It’s to look at an overall pattern of heroic virtue. That’s what we’re noticing. I think it’s kind of a red herring to say there was a mistake the Pope made, and therefore he shouldn’t be a saint. I can’t think of any saint, outside the Blessed Mother, who didn’t make some mistakes or have some shadow on their record. ZENIT: Turning now to John XXIII: In the years following Vatican II, there has been a lot of development, but also a lot of confusion. Where are we right now with regard to how the fruits of the council have developed? Fr. Barron: I think we’re at the point now of coming to a consolidated understanding of Vatican II. It took a long time, but that’s typical after a council. Especially a council as big as Vatican II – I mean, big in terms of the bishops who were there, but also the size of the documents. Compare Vatican II, for example, to Trent or Vatican I or Chalcedon or Nicea. The documentation is far more extensive. Then, of course, the implementation was accompanied by a certain cultural revolution, and that affected the way it was received. I think it took the long pontificate of John Paul II, and the eight-year pontificate of Benedict XVI, to get us to the point to where we could really reach a consolidated understanding of what Vatican II is about. When you read [the documents as examples of] left, or right, it’s a distorted sort of reading – the “left-wing” Vatican II, followed by an even more radical implementation, followed by a conservative pull-back. That, to me, is a superficial reading. I think it just took a long time to assess and interpret these documents properly. That’s where we are now. We’re just now taking it in. ZENIT: There was a period of time following Vatican II when there was a huge drop in vocations, but now we’re seeing an upsurge. How would you assess the decline and subsequent rise in vocations that took place in the post-conciliar period? Fr Barron: The fall-off in vocations, and priests and nuns leaving their ministry, was a phenomenon of what immediately followed the post-conciliar period. In the United States – in the late 60s to the late 70s, maybe – there was a time when a lot of people left the priesthood, left the convent. I would not subscribe that to Vatican II. I don’t think you can point to anything in the conciliar documents that would lead to that sort of fall-off. I think it was that whole cultural revolution after the council. Then you see John Paul II, this heroic figure who began to attract young people in a big way. World Youth Day had a huge impact on vocations worldwide. I think John Paul’s heroic example is what revived vocations. It’s still true that people in seminaries now would identify themselves as John Paul II people, even though a lot of them were quite young when he died. It’s his vision, his articulation of what the council meant, his charismatic embrace of evangelization, that really grabbed the attention of young people. I think this counts for this upswing in vocations. It’s not a huge upswing, but it’s there. It’s real. ZENIT: Would you say that we’ve been comparatively fortunate with regard to the popes we’ve had over the past century or so? Fr. Barron: If you look at the grand sweep of the Church for the first 2,000 years, we’re going through a “Golden Age” of the papacy. Go back to the middle of the 19th century with Pius IX who’s now beatified, followed by Leo XIII who’s a massively important figure. He’s followed by Pius X, who’s a saint. Benedict XV is a very important player. The two Pius – XI and XII – very important figures, spiritually. Then Saint John XXIII, Paul VI with all of his spiritual power, and Saint John Paul II. Then there’s Benedict [XVI] who’s at the level of a Church Father, it seems to me. I don’t think since the first century of the Church’s life have we seen such a concentration of really powerful, saintly figures in the papacy. So, even as we bemoan some of the dark things in the Church, I think we should celebrate the fact that this is a Golden Age of the papacy.
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