On Divine Mercy Sunday, the Church celebrated the canonization John XXIII and John Paul II, two of the most influential figures of the 20th century. Two tapestries, each bearing the image of the newly-declared saints, hung from the façade of Saint Peter’s basilica, overlooking the hundreds of thousands of people who had filled Saint Peter’s Square for the occasion. Thousands more poured into the streets around the Vatican, took part in the Mass by watching it on giant screens. Most notable was the vast number of pilgrims from Poland who have travelled to Rome – by bus, plane, and even on foot – to witness the canonization of the first Polish pope. One of the special guests attending the Mass was Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who himself had beatified John Paul II, his predecessor and friend. Opening his homily, Pope Francis noted that the canonizations coincide with Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast instituted by John Paul II. To mark this feast, the Holy Father reflected on “the glorious wounds of the risen Jesus”. In the Gospel reading for the day, he spoke of how Christ had already appeared to the Apostles, with the exception of Thomas, who said he would not believe Jesus had Risen until he placed his finger in His wounds. It was not until Jesus appeared to them again that he believed, proclaiming “My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20:28). “The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith,” the Holy Father said. “That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us. They areessential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness.” John XXIII and John Paul II, however, were men who “were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross,” seeing Jesus in all those who suffer and struggle. These courageous men, he said, were “filled with the parrhesia of the Holy Spirit,” bearing “witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.” John XXIII and John Paul II, he said, were “priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century”: they “lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful – faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds, was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother”. In their willingness to look “upon the wounds of Christ” and bear “witness to his mercy,” there dwelt within them “a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy” (1 Pet 1:3,8). Pope Francis also recalled how “John XXIII and John Paul II cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the Church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries”. “In convening the Council, John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader. This was his great service to the Church”.
For his part, the Holy Father continued, “John Paul II was the pope of the family,” recalling the upcoming Synod on the family. “From his place in heaven,” he said, “he guides and sustains” in the journey toward the Synod.
Pope Francis called on the faithful to look to these saints to learn how “not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves”.
In his short Regina Caeli address following Mass, the Pope greeted all those who had traveled to Rome for the event, and thanked all those who had contributed to its success. He made special mention of those pilgrims from Bergamo and Krakow – the cities where John XXIII and John Paul II came from, respectively. “You honor the memory of the two holy Popes, faithfully following their teachings”.
He also welcomed those representing the many countries around the world, who had come to “give tribute to the two pontiffs who had contributed in an indelible way to the development of peoples, and to peace.
Without Christian joy, there can be no foundation to the Church which needs an “apostolic joy” to irradiate and expand, Pope Francis said Thursday evening. Celebrating Mass in the Roman church of St. Ignatius of Loyola to give thanks for the canonisation of the 16th century Jesuit St. Jose de Anchieta, Francis referred in his homily to the Gospel story of the disciples of Emmaus. “The disciples cannot believe their joy,” the Pope said. “They cannot believe because of their joy” on meeting the risen Jesus after his death, he explained. “It is a moment of wonder, of encounter with Jesus Christ, in which there seems to be too much joy to be true. Indeed, to assume the joy and wonder of that moment seems risky to us and we are tempted to take refuge in scepticism, in 'not exaggerating'. “It is easier to believe in a spirit than in the living Christ!,” the Pope added. “It is easier to go to a necromancer who predicts the future, who reads cards, than to trust in the hope of a triumphant Christ, a Christ who vanquishes death! “An idea or imagination is easier to believe than the docility of this Lord who rises again from death, and what he invites us to!,” the Pope continued. “This process of relativising faith ends up distancing us from the encounter, distancing us from God's caress. It is as if we 'distilled' the reality of the encounter with Jesus Christ in the still of fear, in the still of excessive security, of wanting to control the encounter ourselves. The disciples were afraid of joy … and so are we”. The Holy Father went on to speak about the reading from the Acts of the Apostles which narrates the healing of the paralytic, prostrate at the door of the Temple, begging. Peter and John were unable to give him anything he sought: neither gold nor silver, but they cure him by offering him what they have: the name of Jesus. The crippled man's joy is contagious and, in the midst of the hubbub Peter announces the message. “The joy of the encounter with Jesus Christ, which it is so frightening for us to accept, is infectious and cries out the message: and this is how the Church grows!,” the Pope said. “The paralytic believes, because 'the Church does not grow by proselytism, but by attraction'; the testimonial attraction of this joy that proclaims Jesus Christ. “It is a witness born of joy, accepted and then transformed into proclamation. It is the foundational joy … without this joy, a Church cannot be founded! A Christian community cannot be established! It is an apostolic joy that irradiates and expands”. Known as the “Apostle of Brazil,” Father Jose was Brazil's third saint. Born on the Canary Islands, he came to Brazil from Portugal in 1553 as a missionary priest. Although he was a highly influential figure in Brazil’s history, as a founder of Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro, as well as proponent of education, promoter of human rights, and convertor of Indians to Catholicism, he is widely recognized for his Jesuit role and values. The Pope noted that St. Jose de Anchieta knew how to communicate what he had experienced with the Lord, what he had seen and heard from Him. St Jose was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, and Pope Francis extended his liturgical cult to the universal Church on 3 April, a process equivalent to canonisation. St. Jose, the Pope recalled, was one of the first Jesuits Ignatius sent to America, aged just nineteen. “He had so much joy that he was able to found a nation: he put in place the cultural foundations of a nation, in Jesus Christ,” Francis said. “He had not studied theology, and he had not studied philosophy; he was a boy! But he had felt the gaze of Jesus Christ, and he had let himself be filled with joy, and chose light. This was and is his holiness. He was not afraid of joy”. Pope Francis concluded by saying that St. Jose de Anchieta had a beautiful hymn to the Virgin Mary, to whom he compared the message of peace, that proclaims the joy of the Good News. “May she, who in that Sunday dawn, sleepless with hope, was not afraid of joy, accompany us on our pilgrimage, inviting us all to rise, to set our paralyses aside, to enter together into the peace and joy that Jesus, the Risen Lord, promises us,” he said.
Pope Francis decided, for the second year in a row, to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which begins the Easter Triduum, with the marginalized. This year he chose St. Mary of Providence of the Don Gnocchi Foundation in Rome, a center for the elderly and disabled. His choice shows continuity with last year's ceremony at a sister centre since again this year the Pontiff visited this Casal del Marmo area of Rome, where he celebrated Mass last Holy Thursday at a youth detention center, with its young inmates. Recalling the institution of the Eucharist and Christ’s words to the apostles to be at the service of God’s people, the Mass of our Lord’s Supper symbolizes service in washing the feet of twelve individuals. Director of the Vatican press office, Father Federico Lombardi, confirmed nine Italians, one Muslim from Libya, an Ethiopian woman, and a young man from Cape Verde constituted the 12 whose feet will be washed. Each of the individuals suffer with some form of illness. A Vatican Radio interview in which Linda Bordoni, of Vatican Radio, spoke to expert physicist Dr. Furio Grammatica, chair of the Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer (CITT) at the Don Gnocchi Foundation, emphasized that the foundation, which has 30 centres throughout Italy dedicated to healthcare and research, epitomizes Pope Francis’ repeated message, namely that of “moving out to the margins” to find and help those who often are “forgotten” or “discarded.” During the interview, Dr. Furio Grammatica acknowledged that although she and the foundation, which has been providing help for more than 60 years, always realized Francis was a “supporter” of their cause, “Once they realized ‘the Pope really decided to visit us in a so important and symbolic occasion – we all thought ‘too fantastic to be true.’” Dr. Grammatica clarified that although some thought their guests “cannot fully catch the meaning of the visit,” this is “definitely not true.” She attributed this to a “clear ‘sixth sense’” guests have about “how much they are loved." She noted the sentiment of those guests for Pope Francis as “not only a Pope, but a icon of the tenderness and strength at the same time, so they are really excited in view of meeting the Pope.” The foundation spokeswoman noted that Lent “reminds us the meaning of solitude, weakness, doubts, being tired or confused. Let me say, to see the Pope coming at our workplace means anticipating a bit the Easter for us!” Legacy When Francis gave his homily at the foundation today, he spoke of the Lord and how, “although He is God,” he “became a servant, our servant.” This gesture, he said, left the faithful with an inheritance that we “ought to be servants of one another.” “He has made this road for love, you also ought to love and be servants and love. This is the legacy that Jesus leaves us," said the Pope. The Holy Father stated the Jesus wanted us to live in this way and emphasized that the act of washing the feet is a symbolic gesture. He explained the act was done by the slaves, the servants of those who came to dine, the people who came to lunch due to the fact that, at that time, walking on the streets of dirt and earth created this issue that when guests "entered into the house, it was necessary to wash their feet." The entire homily focused on the reflection of Jesus doing the "service of a slave" and the legacy he left. Emphasizing how Jesus’ example then ties into our present Eucharistic tradition Francis said: "And for this reason, the Church, today, we commemorate the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist, is also in the ceremony, this act of washing the feet, which reminds us that we must be servants to each other." Inviting the faithful to think of others and to remember the love that Jesus tells us to have for others, he urged the faithful to think of how they can serve others better, for this is what Jesus wanted us to do. Pope Francis, during the rite this evening, knelt in front of the 12 disabled. Just as Jesus did for his disciples, Francis washed, dried, and kissed their feet.
Pope Francis began his catechesis at this Wednesday’s general audience discussing the liturgy of the day, which recounts Judas' betrayal of Jesus. Reflecting on the sad episode, Francis underscored themes of how Jesus was killed, the seemingly contradictory nature of God's actions, and how faithful should express their gratitude to Jesus daily. Emphasizing that Jesus was completely selfless, Francis reiterated Jesus’ words: “‘I lay down my life … No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.’” Recalling the common death that the Son of Man would take on for our sins, Francis added that death on a cross is “the worst death -- that reserved for slaves and criminals.” He continued, “Jesus was considered a prophet, but he died as a criminal.” For this, Francis highlighted several times during his address how and why faithful should express gratitude to Jesus: “We think so much of Jesus’ grief this week and we say to ourselves: this is for me. Even if I were the only person in the world, he would have done it. He did it for me. We kiss the crucifix and we say: for me, thank you Jesus, for me.” Highlighting later a characteristic of God which seems almost to be a contradiction, the Pontiff said, “God shows us a humble victory which humanly seems a failure. We can say that God conquers in failure!” “When all seems lost,” said Francis, “it is then that God intervenes with the power of the Resurrection." Pope Francis stressed that the Resurrection was not "the happy ending of a beautiful fable" nor was it "the happy end of a film." He stated, it was "the intervention of God the Father when human hope is shattered. In the moment in which everything seems to be lost.” He added, “The night becomes darker in fact, before the morning begins, before the light begins. God intervenes in the darkest moment and resuscitates.” Turning to how we can relate to this truth, he said: “In certain moments of life, we find some way to come out of our difficulties, when we sink into the thickest darkness ... the moment of our humiliation and total stripping, the hour in which we experience that we are fragile and sinners." Noting how faithful should react to this condition, he continued, "It is in fact then, in that moment, that we must not mask our failure, but open ourselves confidently to hope in God, as Jesus did.” Francis closed directing those in St. Peter's Square, during this Holy Week, to “take the cross in hand and kiss it a lot, a lot and to say: thank you, Jesus, thank you, Lord.”
The “dictatorship of a narrow line of thought” kills “people’s freedom, their freedom of conscience." This was the central point of Pope Francis’ homily during today's morning Mass at the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican.
The Holy Father’s homily recalled the first reading of the day, explaining the end of Christ’s words to the Pharisees. Their mistake was detaching “the commandments from the heart of God", believing it was enough to keep the commandments. These commandments, said the Pope, “are not just a cold law,” but stem from a relationship of love, helping the faithful in their journey toward Christ. The Pharisees, he continued, do not understand “the path of hope”.
"This is the drama of the closed heart, the drama of the closed mind,” Pope Francis said, “and when the heart is closed, this heart closes the mind, and when the heart and mind are closed there is no place for God", but only a place for what we believe ought to be done.
"It is a closed way of thinking that is not open to dialogue,” the Pope continued, “to the possibility that there is something else, the possibility that God speaks to us, tells us about His journey, as he did to the prophets. These people did not listen to the prophets and did not listen to Jesus. It is something greater than a mere stubbornness. No, it is more: it is the idolatry of their own way of thinking. 'I think this, it has to be this way, and nothing more'. These people had a narrow line of thought and wanted to impose this way of thinking on the people of God, Jesus rebukes them for this: 'You burden the people with many commandments and you do not touch them with your finger'".
The theology of such people, the Pope continued, “becomes a slave to this pattern, this pattern of thought: a narrow line of thought".
"There is no possibility of dialogue, there is no possibility to open up to new things which God brings with the prophets. They killed the prophets, these people; they close the door to the promise of God. When this phenomenon of narrow thinking enters human history, how many misfortunes. We all saw in the last century, the dictatorships of narrow thought , which ended up killing a lot of people, but when they believed they were the overlords, no other form of though was allowed. This is the way they think”.
"Even today,” he said, “there is the idolatry of a narrow line of thought".
"Today we have to think in this way and if you do not think in this way, you are not modern, you're not open or worse. Often rulers say : 'I have asked for aid, financial support for this' , ' But if you want this help, you have to think in this way and you have to pass this law, and this other law and this other law…' Even today there is a dictatorship of a narrow line of thought and this dictatorship is the same as these people: it takes up stones to stone the freedom of the people, the freedom of the people, their freedom of conscience, the relationship of the people with God. Today Jesus is Crucified once again”.
"Faced with this dictatorship,” said the Pope, the Lord’s exhortation “is always the same: be vigilant and pray.” He says not to be buy things that are not needed, but rather: “be humble and pray, that the Lord always gives us the freedom of an open heart, to receive his Word which is joy and promise and covenant! And with this covenant move forward!"
Pope Francis has started a new cycle of general audience catecheses on the the gifts of the Holy Spirit. At the audience this morning, he discussed what is traditionally numbered as the first gift of the Holy Spirit, wisdom. The Holy Father started by discussing the Holy Spirit, saying he “is the soul, the lifeblood of the Church and of every Christian: He is God’s love, who makes our hearts his home and enters into communion with us. The Holy Spirit is always with us, always in us, in our hearts.” Francis explained that the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are traditionally: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of God. The Holy Father told the faithful not to confuse “merely” human wisdom with the wisdom of God. The wisdom of God, the wisdom that Solomon had asked for, is different. “This is wisdom: It is the grace of being able to see everything with the eyes of God," he explained. This means seeing the world, situations and problems with God’s eyes, rather than as “we want to see them.” The Pope emphasized that wisdom’s source is "intimacy with God": Our intimate relationship as children of the Father gives us wisdom. The Holy Father explained that when we are in communion with God, the Holy Spirit “transfigures our heart.” The Holy Spirit makes us wise. Pope Francis added that a wise person can discern when something is of God and when something is not. “If we listen to the Holy Spirit, it teaches us this path of wisdom, he gifts us wisdom which is seeing with God’s eyes, hearing with God’s ears, loving with God’s heart, judging things with God’s judgment. These are the things that the Holy Spirit gifts us and we can all have this. We just have to ask the Holy Spirit.” Daily life The Holy Father gave two examples to clarify what is and what is not wisdom. In the first example he described a mother communicating how to behave to her children. He asked: “When the mother is tired and shouts at her children, is that wisdom? I ask you is that wisdom -- what do you say? No! Instead when the mother takes her child to one side and gently rebukes him.” Francis said this, instead, is God’s wisdom. In the next example, Pope Francis described a married couple who argue, won’t look at each other, and, if they do, it is with anger. Francis asked those present whether that is God’s wisdom. “No!” responded the Pope. He then volunteers that wisdom rather is when they say: “Let the storm pass. Let’s make peace!” The Holy Father continued by inviting the faithful to ask the Lord to give them the Holy Spirit and the gift of wisdom, noting it specifically as “the gift of wisdom that teaches us to see with God’s eyes, to feel with God’s heart, to speak with God’s words.” He continued by saying “with this wisdom, we can move forward, build the family, the Church and we can all be sanctified.” He said that today we should ask Our Lady, the Seat of Wisdom, for this gift.
Tonight our Diocese gathers for a vespers service at St. Pius X, Loudonville and will pray for our Bishop-Elect Edward Scharfenberger. We invite you to join in prayer this day for the shepherd who will guide us in the years ahead:
Prayer for Bishop – Elect Edward Scharfenberger Most generous God, we thank you and praise you for your many gifts. You have always blessed your Church of Albany with dedicated and prayerful pastors who have provided us with solid direction. We are especially grateful to you for the many years of faithful, loving service we have received from Bishop Howard Hubbard who has been our stalwart shepherd, in times of trouble and times of joy.
Now we are preparing to receive our new bishop, Edward Scharfenberger. In your goodness, we ask your blessing upon Bishop-elect Scharfenberger. May his prayerfulness inspire us to seek a deeper relationship with you.
Conscious of your justice, may his teaching guide us to loving concern for all people. Through his leadership, may our parishes, schools and institutions be a home for all who seek you so that your Church may thrive and grow in this young century and for ages to come. We ask this is the name of Jesus, the Lord, in the grace of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
On Thursday, April 10th, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger will be ordained and installed as the 10th Bishop of Albany in the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. As the representative of Our Holy Father, Francis, Archbishop Vigano was instrumental in recommending candidates to serve as Bishop of our Diocese. Pope Francis selected Monsignor Edward Scharfenberger from these recommendations and this Thursday all of us celebrate the joyful occasion of his ordination/installation. Who is Archbishop Vigano? Listen to the insightful words he offered to our bishops as he encouraged them to be pastors in the manner of Pope Francis.
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