Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pope Francis: "Keep the confessional light on"

Pope Francis had lunch with seven Roman priests on Thursday after celebrating the Chrism Mass in the Vatican Basilica. The meal took place in the apartment of Archbishop Angelo Becciu, Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State. Most of the priests work with the poor and under-privileged in the suburbs of Rome.

The Archbishop has held this lunch for several years, and when Pope Francis heard about it, he wanted to attend.

After the lunch, Vatican Radio spoke with two of the priests who attended.
“I don’t believe the Pope wanted to meet me personally, but wanted to meet the poor of Rome through me,” said Msgr. Enrico Feroci, the Director of Caritas Rome. 

He said listening to the Pope is an extraordinary experience, and that he puts you at ease, and makes it feel as if you have been heard. 

“He is not one who listens to you thinking about what to say next,” Msgr. Feroci said. “He listens profoundly; empathetically; richly.”

He recounted how during the lunch, Pope Francis joked, listened, reflected, and gave his perspective. Msgr. Feroci said Pope Francis urged them to be generous in offering confession.

“He said, ‘Open the doors of the Church, and then the people will come in…if you keep the light on in the confessional and are available, then you will see what kind of line there is for confession’…The Pope said he was confident of the need of the people of God for priests to open the doors and allow the people to meet God,” Msgr. Feroci told Vatican Radio.

Father Mario Pasquale, who had served as a worker-priest for 40 years, told Vatican Radio that he felt “heard” during the meal with the Pope, and that he had the “feeling of being understood.”

He said Pope Francis told them he wants to meet the people in the parishes as Bishop of Rome.

“You feel that the Pope has a lot of hope in his heart,” Father Pasquale said. “I had this feeling that this is someone who love the Church and invites you to love the Church, too, to the end – for life – and that it’s worth it.”

How gay marriage's fate was sealed more than 50 years ago

From "The Week" By Damon Linker | The Week – Fri, Mar 29, 2013

How gay marriage's fate was sealed more than 50 years ago
When I returned to the United States in 19 65 after  6 years away, I was astounded at the massive blitz of the media on contraception and the obviously phony imposition of the dangers of overpopulation. We would be standing on each other's shoulders and eating seaweed. It was also evident to me that if contraception took hold of the public consciousness, homosexuality would emerge as logical. If you don't need the complementariness of heterosexuality for mutual self-fulfillment, then homosexuality is a logical conclusion. I concluded that it would have to emerge as a necessary social conclusion. 
   At the time, I did not understand the reasoning of Humanae Vitae, since I was trained in Greek and Thomistic thought  about nature and ends - which stood me in good stead for decades to defend the conclusions as proposed by the Church without grasping the intrinsic reasons of the inseparability of love making and life giving.
   I do now, and have since 1989 when I suddenly grasped the mind of Joseph Ratzinger on the meaning of the divine Persons as constitutively relational, and so we as made in the image and likeness thereof. Without going into that, I offer you this fine piece sent to me by Fr. John Wais. 
    The large point being made here is: the gay culture and the ascendancy of gay "marriage" as legitimate and an "equal right" owe it all to the practice of contraception and the loss of the experience of total gift. Since consciousness is the fundamental noetic of experience, absent the experience, absent the consciousness. In a word, a sea-change of perception has taken place over the last 50 years. More on this on the next post, but here is the article:

"It has to do with the introduction of birth control pills
How will the Supreme Court rule in this week's gay marriage cases? I have no idea. What I do know is that the outcome almost doesn't matter. One way or another, gay marriage will be legal throughout the country before long.
That's not the riskiest prediction. Plenty of pundits have said the same thing based on the stunningly rapid shift of public opinion on the issue. But public opinion can be fickle. How do we know that current trends will continue and that a backlash against gay marriage isn't right around the corner? Because even the best arguments employed by its smartest opponents are utterly unconvincing. 
To be clear, I'm not talking about the explicitly religious case against gay marriage. Arguments based on orthodox Catholic, evangelical Protestant, Orthodox Jewish, or Mormon premises — premises grounded in the revelations, scriptures, and traditions of particular faith communities — are often perfectly valid. It's just that our constitutional order doesn't rest on those premises, and members of those communities lack the numbers to impose their views on the country as a whole through majority vote.
What I mean are the arguments advanced by those opponents of gay marriage who claim to have reason on their side — who wish to persuade citizens of goodwill regardless of their religious commitments (or lack of commitments). Foremost among these opponents is Robert P. George of Princeton University, lead author of an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court. No critic of gay marriage has gone further in claiming that reason alone can tell us to reject gay marriage — and no critic has done more to demonstrate (inadvertently) how deeply confused the case against gay marriage really is.
George and his co-authors Sherif Girgis and Ryan T. Anderson make the following argument: "Our civilization" has univocally defined marriage as a "conjugal union" between one man and one woman — that is, a union between two people that is oriented to the goal of producing children. Whether or not a particular male-female couple can produce a child is irrelevant. In cases of infertility due to medical defect or advanced age on the part of one or both members of the marriage, the union falls short of reaching its goal but remains oriented to that goal nonetheless. (The union would produce a child if the bodies of both members were functioning as they should.) 
Advocates of gay marriage, by contrast, seek to promulgate an alternative — a "revisionist" — definition of marriage, one based not on producing children but on "emotional fulfillment, without any inherent connections to bodily union or procreation and family life." ("Inherent" does a lot of work in that sentence, since gay couples can and do adopt children and devote themselves to family life. But because such couples can't produce the children themselves, their union remains, by George's definition, a non-procreative partnership.) This revisionist, non-procreative form of marriage would detach the institution from ideals of "permanence and exclusivity" that flow from child-rearing. That is, once couples cease viewing their union as oriented to the goal of producing children, divorce and infidelity will become commonplace. And since society has a stake in encouraging stable families, advocates of gay marriage must not be allowed to prevail.
Any number of objections could be raised against this line of argument. (Is it really true, for example, that "our civilization" has affirmed a single definition of marriage?) But I'm primarily interested in focusing on its most decisive weakness — which is that it gets a crucial chain of causality exactly backwards. Permitting gay marriage will not lead Americans to stop thinking of marriage as a conjugal union. Quite the reverse: Gay marriage has come to be widely accepted because our society stopped thinking of marriage as a conjugal union decades ago.
Between five and six decades ago, to be precise. That's when the birth control pill — first made available to consumers for the treatment of menstrual disorders in 1957 and approved by the FDA for contraceptive use three years later — began to transform sexual relationships, and hence marriage, in the United States. Once pregnancy was decoupled from intercourse, pre-marital sex became far more common, which removed one powerful incentive to marry young (or marry at all). It likewise became far more common for newlyweds to give themselves an extended childless honeymoon (with some couples choosing never to have kids).
In all of these ways, and many more, the widespread availability of contraception transformed marriage from a conjugal union into a relationship based to a considerable degree on the emotional and sexual fulfillment of its members — with childrearing often, though not always, a part of the equation. And it is because same-sex couples are obviously just as capable as heterosexual couples of forming relationships based on emotional and sexual fulfillment that gay marriage has come to be accepted so widely and so quickly in our culture. (If marriage were still considered a conjugal union, the idea of gay marriage could never have gained the support it currently enjoys. On the contrary, it would be considered ridiculous — as it remains today among members of religious groups that continue to affirm more traditional, conjugal views of marriage.)
George and his co-authors may well be right that the widespread adoption of a non-conjugal view of marriage leads to negative social consequences, including explosions in rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births. But that's an argument against contraception, not gay marriage.

America's understanding of marriage changed decades ago, the outcome of that change is our settled custom, and though the demand for gay marriage might have been unthinkable before the change, it is hard to see how giving in to that demand will make much of a difference now. Most Americans intuitively understand this. Which is why even the most strenuous efforts of the most intellectually formidable opponents of gay marriage are bound to fail."

Vatican presentation of the spiritual/mystical foundation of the life of Pope Francis which is symbolized in the words “miserando atque eligendo” of his seal

“In fact, on the Feast of St. Matthew [September 21] in the year 1953, the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio experienced at the age of 17 years, in a very special way, the loving presence of God in his life.

“Following a confession, he felt his heart touched and sensed the descent of the mercy of God, who with a look of tender love, called him to the religious life, following the example of St. Ignatius of Loyola.”
In these few, spare words, we are told of an experience which transformed the life of young Jorge.
He felt his heart “touched” and he “sensed” the “descent of the mercy of God.”
He felt, “in a very special way,” the “loving presence of God in his life.”
He felt, we are told, as if God were gazing upon him, “with a look of tender love.”

Friday, March 29, 2013

First General Audience - Holy Week

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

I am pleased to welcome you in this my first General audience. With great gratitude and veneration I gather the "witness" from the hands of my beloved predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. After Easter we will return to the catechesis of the Year of Faith. Today I would like to dwell on Holy Week. With Palm Sunday we have begun this Week – the center of the whole Liturgical Year – in which we accompany Jesus in his Passion, Death and Resurrection.    
But what could living Holy Week mean for us? What does it mean to follow Jesus in his path towards the Cross on Calvary and the Resurrection? In his earthly mission, Jesus walked the streets of the Holy Land; he called twelve simple people to remain with him, to share his journey and to continue his mission; he has chosen them from among the people full of faith in God's promises. He spoke to everyone, without distinction, to the great and the humble, to the rich young man and the poor widow, to the powerful and the weak; he brought the mercy and forgiveness of God; he healed, he consoled, he understood; he gave hope; he brought to all the presence of God who is interested in every man and every woman, as a good father and a good mother is in each of their children. God did not wait for everyone to go to Him, but it was He who moved toward us, without calculating, without measure. God is like this: He always takes the first step, He moves towards us. Jesus lived the daily realities of the most common people: he was moved before the crowd that seemed like a flock without a shepherd; he cried in front of the suffering of Martha and Mary for the death of their brother Lazarus; he called a tax collector to be his disciple; he suffered the betrayal of a friend. In him God gave us the certainty that He is with us, in our midst. "Foxes have holes”, Jesus said, “and the birds of the air their nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head"(Mt 8:20). Jesus has no home because his home is the people, his mission is open to all the doors to God, to be the presence of God's love.
In Holy Week, we live the summit of this journey, of this design of love that runs through the entire history of the relationship between God and humanity. Jesus enters Jerusalem to perform the last step, summarizing his whole existence: he gives himself totally, he doesn't take anything for himself, even his own life. In the Last Supper, with his friends, he shares the bread and distributes the chalice "for us". The Son of God offers us, he delivers into our hands his Body and his Blood to always be with us, to dwell among us. And in the Garden of Olives, as in the trial before Pilate, he offers no resistance, he gives himself; he is the suffering servant foretold by Isaiah that pours himself out to death (cf. Is 53:12).
Jesus doesn't live this love that leads to sacrifice passively or as a fatalistic destiny; he certainly doesn't hide his deep human anguish in the face of violent death, but he entrusts himself with full confidence to the Father. Jesus handed himself over voluntarily to death in order to respond to the love of God the Father, in perfect union with his will, to prove his love for us. On the cross Jesus "loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20), says St. Paul. Each one of us can say: He loved me and he gave himself for me. Each one can say this “for me”.
What does all this mean for us? It means that this is also my, your, our way. To live Holy Week following Jesus not only with the commotion of the heart; to live Holy Week following Jesus means learning to come out of ourselves - as I said on Sunday - to reach out to others, to go to the outskirts of existence, ourselves taking the first step towards our brothers and sisters, especially those farthest away, those who are forgotten, those most in need of understanding, consolation, help. There is much need to bring the living presence of the Jesus, merciful and full of love!
Living Holy Week means entering more and more into God's logic, the logic of the Cross, which is not first of all that of pain and death, but that of love and self-giving that brings life. It is entering into the logic of the Gospel. To follow, to accompany Christ, to stay with him requires a "going out", to go out. To go out of oneself, of a dull or mechanical way of living the faith, of the temptation to close ourselves in our schemes which end up closing the horizon of the creative action of God. God came out himself to come among us, he has placed his tent among us to bring us God's mercy that saves and gives hope. We, too, if we want to follow Him and stay with Him, must not be content with staying in the enclosure of the ninety-nine sheep, we must "come out", to seek out with Him the lost sheep, the farthest. Mark this well: to come out of ourselves, like Jesus, Like God came out of Himself in Jesus and Jesus came out of himself for all of us.
Someone could say to me: "But Father, I don't have time", "I have so many things to do", "it’s hard", "what can I do with my little strength, and with my sins, with so many things?" Often we settle for a few prayers, a distracted and inconstant Sunday Mass, a few acts of charity, but we do not have the courage to "go out" to bring Christ. We are a little like St. Peter. As soon as Jesus speaks of passion, death and resurrection, of self-giving, of love towards all, the Apostle takes him aside and rebukes him. What Jesus says disrupts his plans, it appears unacceptable, it endangers the fixed securities that he had built, his idea of the Messiah. And Jesus looks at the disciples and addresses to Peter one of the toughest words of the Gospels: "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not thinking according to God, but according to men» (Mk 8:33). God always thinks with mercy, never forget this. God always thinks with mercy: He is the merciful Father! God thinks like the father who awaits the return of his son and goes out to meet him, he sees him coming when he's still far off...What does this mean? That every day he went to see whether his son was coming home: this is our merciful Father. It is a sign that He was hoping for his return, with all his heart, from the terrace of his house. God thinks like the Samaritan who does not pass near the victim, feeling sorry for him, or looking the other way, but coming to his aid without asking anything in return; without asking whether he was a Jew, or a pagan, or a Samaritan, if he was rich, if he was poor: he doesn’t ask anything. He comes to his aid: this is God. God thinks like the shepherd who gives his life to defend and save the sheep.
Holy Week is a time of grace that the Lord gives us to open the doors of our hearts, of our lives, of our parishes – what a pity, so many closed parishes! – of the movements, of the associations, and "to go out" towards the other, going out in search of others so as to bring them the light and joy of our faith. To go out always! And this with the love and tenderness of God, with respect and patience, knowing that we offer our hands, our feet, our heart, but then it is God who guides them and makes fruitful every our action.
I wish everyone to live well these days following the Lord with courage, bearing within ourselves a ray of His love to those we encounter.
[Translation by Peter Waymel]
Dear Brothers and Sisters, On Palm Sunday we began Holy Week, the heart of the liturgical year, when we commemorate the great events that express most powerfully God’s loving plan for all men and women. Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to give himself completely. He gives us his body and his blood, and promises to remain with us always. He freely hands himself over to death in obedience to the Father’s will, and in this way shows how much he loves us. We are called to follow in his footsteps. Holy Week challenges us to step outside ourselves so as to attend to the needs of others: those who long for a sympathetic ear, those in need of comfort or help. We should not simply remain in our own secure world, that of the ninety-nine sheep who never strayed from the fold, but we should go out, with Christ, in search of the one lost sheep, however far it may have wandered. Holy Week is not so much a time of sorrow, but rather a time to enter into Christ’s way of thinking and acting. It is a time of grace given us by the Lord so that we can move beyond a dull or mechanical way of living our faith, and instead open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes, our movements or associations, going out in search of others so as to bring them the light and the joy of our faith in Christ.
Pope Francis:
[delivered in Italian] Heartfelt greetings to the English-speaking pilgrims, especially the large group of university students taking part in the international UNIV Congress here in Rome. I extend a warm welcome to the pilgrims from England, Ireland, the Philippines and the United States of America. I invite all of you to enter fully into the spirit of Holy Week, following in the footsteps of Jesus and bringing the light of his love to everyone you meet. Happy Easter!
© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
* * *
I extend a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I salute the university students participating in the international meeting promoted by the Prelature of Opus Dei. Dear friends, you have come to Rome on the occasion of Holy Week for an experience of faith and spiritual enrichment. Thank you for your prayers and for your affection for the Pope. With your presence in the academic world, may every one of you realize what St. Josemaria Escrivá proclaimed: "It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all men" (Conversations, no. 13).
I greet the faithful of the Diocese of Florence and the many students from various schools. I thank you all for this visit, wishing for each that the days of Holy Week may be a favorable opportunity to strengthen your faith and adherence to the Gospel.
My thought goes finally to the young people, the sick and newlyweds. May the contemplation of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, dear young people, make you always more firm in your Christian witness. And you, dear sick people, take from the cross of Christ daily support to overcome moments of trial and discouragement. May you, dear newlyweds, receive from the Paschal mystery, the grace to make your family a place of faithful and fruitful love.
I follow with attention what is happening in these hours in the Central African Republic and I wish to assure my prayers for all those who are suffering, particularly for the relatives of the victims, the injured and those who have lost their homes and have been forced to flee. I appeal to cease immediately the violence and looting, and to find a political solution to the crisis that may restore peace and harmony to that dear country, too long marked by conflict and division.

After Washing the Feet: Straight Into the Eyes With Love

From a cooperator of Opus Dei in Rome:

Forgot to mention that after the Washing of the Feet, the Pope drove off in a car with his window half down so that he could see the people and wave to them.  He had a rapturous send-off!  Both sides of the narrow street were filled with people.

BBC newscaster said this was a Pope for the first in more ways than one ... the latest "first" being, washing the feet of young people in a remand centre, and of women too.

BBC TV can't seem to get enough of our new Pope.  The scene of him washing the feet of young offenders at a remand centre in rome, is shown during the news broadcast, which is every hour.

A lady court judge attending, said that after washing the feet of each young person (there were women's feet washed too), Pope Francis looked straight into the eyes of the person.  The lady judge said it was a look filled with love, that it brought her to tears.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pope Washes Feet of Inmates and Women - Breaking the Rules

Rome: In his most significant break with tradition yet, Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of two young women at a juvenile detention centre - a surprising departure from church rules that restrict the Holy Thursday ritual to men.

No pope has ever washed the feet of a woman before, and Francis' gesture sparked a debate among some conservatives and liturgical purists, who lamented he had set a "questionable example." Liberals welcomed the move as a sign of greater inclusiveness in the church.

Speaking to the young offenders, including Muslims and Orthodox Christians, Francis said that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion in a gesture of love and service.

service," Francis told the group, aged 14 to 21, at the Casal del Marmo detention facility in Rome.

"Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us," the pope said. "This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty. As a priest and bishop, I must be at your service."

In a video released by the Vatican, the 76-year-old Francis was shown kneeling on the stone floor as he poured water from a silver chalice over the feet of a dozen youths: black, white, male, female, even feet with tattoos. Then, after drying each one with a cotton towel, he bent over and kissed it.

Previous popes carried out the Holy Thursday rite in Rome's grand St. John Lateran basilica, choosing 12 priests to represent the 12 apostles whose feet Christ washed during the Last Supper before his crucifixion.

Before he became pope, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio celebrated the ritual foot-washing in jails, hospitals or hospices - part of his ministry to the poorest and most marginalized of society. He often involved women. Photographs show him washing the feet of a woman holding her newborn child in her arms.

That Francis would include women in his inaugural Holy Thursday Mass as pope was remarkable, however, given that current liturgical rules exclude women.

Canon lawyer Edward Peters, who is an adviser to the Holy See's top court, noted in a blog that the Congregation for Divine Worship sent a letter to bishops in 1988 making clear that "the washing of the feet of chosen men ... represents the service and charity of Christ, who came 'not to be served, but to serve.'"

While bishops have successfully petitioned Rome over the years for an exemption to allow women to participate, the rules on the issue are clear, Peters said.

"By disregarding his own law in this matter, Francis violates, of course, no divine directive," Peters wrote. "What he does do, I fear, is set a questionable example."

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said he didn't want to wade into a canonical dispute over the matter. However, he noted that in a "grand solemn celebration" of the rite, only men are included because Christ washed the feet of his 12 apostles, all of whom were male.

"Here, the rite was for a small, unique community made up also of women," Lombardi wrote in an email. "Excluding the girls would have been inopportune in light of the simple aim of communicating a message of love to all, in a group that certainly didn't include experts on liturgical rules."

Others on the more liberal side of the debate welcomed the example Francis set.

"The pope's washing the feet of women is hugely significant because including women in this part of the Holy Thursday Mass has been frowned on - and even banned - in some dioceses," said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of "The Jesuit Guide."

"It shows the all-embracing love of Christ, who ministered to all he met: man or woman, slave or free, Jew or Gentile."

For some, restricting the rite to men is in line with the church's restriction on ordaining women priests. Church teaching holds that only men should be ordained because Christ's apostles were male.

"This is about the ordination of women, not about their feet," wrote the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a traditionalist blogger. Liberals "only care about the washing of the feet of women, because ultimately they want women to do the washing."

Still, Francis has made clear he doesn't favour ordaining women. In his 2011 book, "On Heaven and Earth," then-Cardinal Bergoglio said there were solid theological reasons why the priesthood was reserved to men: "Because Jesus was a man."

On this Holy Thursday, however, Francis had a simple message for the young inmates, whom he greeted one-by-one after the Mass, giving each an Easter egg.

"Don't lose hope," Francis said. "Understand? With hope you can always go on."

One young man then asked why he had come to visit them.

Francis responded that it was to "help me to be humble, as a bishop should be."

The gesture, he said, came "from my heart. Things from the heart don't have an explanation."

Mass For Vatican Employees and Pope Francis' First Words Upon Election

27 March 2013

This morning, at 7:30, Cardinal Angelo Comastri celebrated Mass for the Vatican employees in St. Peter's Basilica. After Mass, Pope Francis greeted those present, starting off with the old story that when asked how many people worked in the Vatican, Pope John XXIII replied "Half". Pope Francis said he was sure those present were "the working half." Pope Francis thanked the Vatican staff for their work, and thanked those who could not be at the Mass because they had work to perform. "I want to thank you for [your work] and ask you to pray for me: I need it because I am a sinner, just like everyone else," said the Holy Father. "And I want to be faithful to the Lord. Pray for me. I wish you a Happy Easter. May the Lord bless you and may Mary keep you, as a good mother. Much thanks." 


“I am a great sinner. Trusting in the mercy and patience of God, in suffering, I accept.” Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, director of the Vatican Television Center (CTV), revealed those words as the first uttered by Pope Francis when accepting his election as the Supreme Roman Pontiff.

Prior to the interview, Cardinal Comastri asked Pope Francis’ permission to reveal the newly elected Pontiff’s first words when asked if he accepted his election.

Pre-Conclave Talk to Cardinals Via Cardinal of Havana

The archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, on Saturday read from a document given him by Pope Francis, outlining the speech he gave during the pre-conclave General Congregation meetings of the Cardinals.

Cardinal Ortega had been so impressed with the speech he asked the then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio for a copy of the intervention.

Cardinal Ortega received permission from Pope Francis to share the information.

Here is an unofficial translation of the text

Evangelizing implies Apostolic Zeal

1. - Evangelizing pre-supposes a desire in the Church to come out of herself. The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents, and of all misery.

2. - When the Church does not come out of herself to evangelize, she becomes self-referential and then gets sick. (cf. The deformed woman of the Gospel). The evils that, over time, happen in ecclesial institutions have their root in self-referentiality and a kind of theological narcissism. In Revelation, Jesus says that he is at the door and knocks. Obviously, the text refers to his knocking from the outside in order to enter but I think about the times in which Jesus knocks from within so that we will let him come out. The self-referential Church keeps Jesus Christ within herself and does not let him out. 

3. - When the Church is self-referential, inadvertently, she believes she has her own light; she ceases to be the mysterium lunae and gives way to that very serious evil, spiritual worldliness (which according to De Lubac, is the worst evil that can befall the Church). It lives to give glory only to one another. 
Put simply, there are two images of the Church: Church which evangelizes and comes out of herself, the Dei Verbum religiose audiens et fidente proclamans; and the worldly Church, living within herself, of herself, for herself. This should shed light on the possible changes and reforms which must be done for the salvation of souls. 

4. - Thinking of the next Pope: He must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the Church to go out to the existential peripheries, that helps her to be the fruitful mother, who gains life from “the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”

Holy Thursday Chrism Mass – Francis 2013.

Blogger Comment: To understand the mind of Francis, it must be understood that the divine Person of Jesus Christ is a pure relation to the Father, who is pure relation to Him. This is the only way God can be One as a communion of Three Persons. The divine Person of the Son has taken an individual human nature to himself – Jesus of Nazareth, which is not a person but an individual human nature of soul, body, intellect and will taken and infused in  the Virgin at her word: “fiat” – “Yes.” The divine Person of Christ is not an individual but pure prayer (as action) and obedience to the Father. The great mystery that must be confronted here is that the very “Being” of Jesus Christ is not a substancial “individual.” Jesus Christ is not an individual as we would see Him before us in the body, but pure self-gift to the Father. He is “individual” in historical-visual reality only by means of the humanity received from the Virgin. This is the reason why the two previous popes have insisted that Christ crucified is the revelation of who Jesus really is. Benedict XVI wrote in his 12th station of the Cross that only when crucified was his kingship proclaimed before all the world. And by Pilate. “Jesus himself had not accepted the title ‘Messiah,’ because it would have suggested a mistaken, human idea of power and deliverance. Yet now the title can remain publicly displayed above the Crucified Christ. He is indeed the king of the world. Now he is truly ‘lifted up.’ (H)e is now revelation of the true God, the God  who is love. Now we know who God is. Now we know what true kingship is.” Christ, the divine Person, lived out who He is by willing (with His human will) to obey the Father to death for love of us. He now reveals His full divinity as relation to the Father. He is showing us His Being. He has lived out Who He is. This is how the divine reality of the divine Person is revealed on our epistemological level.
            As pure self-gift to the Father, He is not an individual but the prototype of the human person who has been created in His image and likeness. He in His humanity, the perfect image and likeness of His divinity. By sacraments of Baptism and Orders, we all share – ontologically – in the priesthood of Christ (Hebr. 9) as God-man. [This priesthood consists in simply being God-man where He subdues His human will as His own and lives out Who He is as relation to the Father. Note: He is Relation.] He mediates between Himself and the Father and is priest as relation]. Consider everything Pope Francis says this morning in the light of this when speaking about priesthood, service, going out of self, the symbolism of the oil flowing down from the head, the beard, the robes to everyone. It is all about being-in-relation. Go back again: God is One. “He” is one not as an individual but as the triple relation of engendering, obeying and mutual loving: the Three Persons that are mutually inclusive, and  therefore “one.” So must it be with us.

Francis: Chrism Mass

Dear Brothers and Sisters, This morning I have the joy of celebrating my first Chrism Mass as the Bishop of Rome. I greet all of you with affection, especially you, dear priests, who, like myself, today recall the day of your ordination.

The readings of our Mass speak of the “anointed ones”: the suffering Servant of Isaiah, King David and Jesus our Lord. All three have this in common: the anointing that they receive is meant in turn to anoint God’s faithful people, whose servants they are; they are anointed for the poor, for prisoners, for the oppressed… A fine image of this “being for” others can be found in the Psalm: “It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down upon the collar of his robe” (Ps 133:2). The image of spreading oil, flowing down from the beard of Aaron upon the collar of his sacred robe, is an image of the priestly anointing which, through Christ, the Anointed One, reaches the ends of the earth, represented by the robe.

The sacred robes of the High Priest are rich in symbolism. One such symbol is that the names of the children of Israel were engraved on the onyx stones mounted on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, the ancestor of our present-day chasuble: six on the stone of the right shoulder-piece and six on that of the left (cf. Ex 28:6-14). The names of the twelve tribes of Israel were also engraved on the breastplate (cf. Es 28:21). This means that the priest celebrates by carrying on his shoulders the people entrusted to his care and bearing their names written in his heart. When we put on our simple chasuble, it might well make us feel, upon our shoulders and in our hearts, the burdens and the faces of our faithful people, our saints and martyrs of whom there are many in these times…

From the beauty of all these liturgical things, which is not so much about trappings and fine fabrics than about the glory of our God resplendent in his people, alive and strengthened, we turn to a consideration of activity, action. The precious oil which anoints the head of Aaron does more than simply lend fragrance to his person; it overflows down to “the edges”. The Lord will say this clearly: his anointing is meant for the poor, prisoners and the sick, for those who are sorrowing and alone. The ointment is not intended just to make us fragrant, much less to be kept in a jar, for then it would become rancid … and the heart bitter.

A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed. This is a clear test. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with “unction”, they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the “outskirts” where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith. People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes. And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: “Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem”, “Bless me”, “Pray for me” – these words are the sign that the anointing has flowed down to the edges of the robe, for it has turned into prayer. The prayers of the people of God. When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and grace passes through us, then we are priests, mediators between God and men. What I want to emphasize is that we need constantly to stir up God’s grace and perceive in every request, even those requests that are inconvenient and at times purely material or downright banal – but only apparently so – the desire of our people to be anointed with fragrant oil, since they know that we have it. To perceive and to sense, even as the Lord sensed the hope-filled anguish of the woman suffering from hemorrhages when she touched the hem of his garment. At that moment, Jesus, surrounded by people on every side, embodies all the beauty of Aaron vested in priestly raiment, with the oil running down upon his robes. It is a hidden beauty, one which shines forth only for those faith-filled eyes of the woman troubled with an issue of blood. But not even the disciples – future priests – see or understand: on the “existential outskirts”, they see only what is on the surface: the crowd pressing in on Jesus from all sides (cf. Lk 8:42). The Lord, on the other hand, feels the power of the divine anointing which runs down to the edge of his cloak.
We need to “go out”, then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live by going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.
A priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, our people take our oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager, “has already received his reward”, and since he doesn’t put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason why some priests grow dissatisfied, become sad priests, lose heart and become in some sense collectors of antiques or novelties – instead of being shepherds living with “the smell of the sheep”, shepherds in the midst of their flock, fishers of men. True enough, the so-called crisis of priestly identity threatens us all and adds to the broader cultural crisis; but if we can resist its onslaught, we will be able to put out in the name of the Lord and cast our nets. It is not a bad thing that reality itself forces us to “put out into the deep”, where what we are by grace is clearly seen as pure grace, out into the deep of the contemporary world, where the only thing that counts is “unction” – not function – and the nets which overflow with fish are those cast solely in the name of the One in whom we have put our trust: Jesus.

Dear lay faithful, be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart.

Dear priests, may God the Father renew in us the Spirit of holiness with whom we have been anointed. May he renew his Spirit in our hearts, that this anointing may spread to everyone, even to those “outskirts” where our faithful people most look for it and most appreciate it. May our people sense that we are the Lord’s disciples; may they feel that their names are written upon our priestly vestments and that we seek no other identity; and may they receive through our words and deeds the oil of gladness which Jesus, the Anointed One, came to bring us. Amen.

Holy Thursday 2013

The Word became flesh. Therefore, Love – as being totally out of self - became flesh. Therefore, Love is not a suggestion of God to man, but a command. “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 13).

The washing of the feet, then, is not just an act that is good example that takes place in a historical moment and is over. Rather, since Christ is not just this historical individual but the prototype of man, then the action of washing the feet of the others is the prototypical act. It is the way man must be. It is a way of being that is out of self.

Francis“On Palm Sunday we began Holy Week, the heart of the liturgical year, when we commemorate the great events that express most powerfully God’s loving plan for all men and women.  Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to give himself completely.  He gives us his body and his blood, and promises to remain with us always.  He freely hands himself over to death in obedience to the Father’s will, and in this way shows how much he loves us.  We are called to follow in his footsteps.  Holy Week challenges us to step outside ourselves so as to attend to the needs of others: those who long for a sympathetic ear, those in need of comfort or help.  We should not simply remain in our own secure world, that of the ninety-nine sheep who never strayed from the fold, but we should go out, with Christ, in search of the one lost sheep, however far it may have wandered.  Holy Week is not so much a time of sorrow, but rather a time to enter into Christ’s way of thinking and acting.  It is a time of grace given us by the Lord so that we can move beyond a dull or mechanical way of living our faith, and instead open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes, our movements or associations, going out in search of others so as to bring them the light and the joy of our faith in Christ” (Wednesday of Holy Week 2013 with Francis).

                Christ institutes the Eucharist so that we can eat Him. That is, we are empowered to live outside of ourselves. Christ is He Who is outside of Himself. To pray always is to live outside of self. Our Father did this by repetitious acts: ejaculations, paying attention to the others, thinking about the others. The spirit of Opus Dei is turning the succession of the ordinary events into deeds of service. Notice Francis does not say much. He says it simply and moves to the act. “He who hears the Word of God and does it is my brother and sister and mother.”  You are the mother and engender Christ in you by turning the ordinary act into washing the feet  - the service to the other. It is as simple as that.

                Hence, the papal phone call to B.A. to the newspaper delivery  man not to send the paper, and if he could, the return of the rubber bands – 30 per month.; the visit to our Lady at St. Mary Major with a bouquet of flowers, paying his hotel bill for the time before the Conclave, the visit to his brother cardinal who had  the stroke prior to the Conclave…

The Pass Word – To Be Out of Self as Gift and the Foundation: The Sacrament of Baptism

The Conference of Latin American Bishops held in 2007 in Aparecida reminded us to proclaim the Gospel by going out to find people, not sitting in the Curia or the presbytery waiting for people to come to us. In the third to last paragraph, the Aparecida document casts back thirty years and returns to the apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi of Paul VI, which described “apostolic zeal” as “the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing”, of “proclaiming with joy a Good News that has been learned through the mercy of the Lord”. But this is expressed not so much by planning initiatives or exceptional events. The Evangelii nuntiandiitself repeated that “if the Son came, it was precisely to reveal, by His words and His life, the ordinary paths of salvation”. It’s the ordinary that one can achieve in missionary fashion. And baptism is paradigmatic in that. I think the parish priests of Buenos Aires are acting in that spirit. 

Do you think that concern to facilitate baptism is tied to specific and local situations, or is a criterion that can be recommended for everyone? 

BERGOGLIO: The concern to encourage in every way the administration of baptism and the other sacraments involves the whole Church. If the Church follows its Lord, it comes out of itself, with courage and compassion: it doesn’t remain locked in its own self. The Lord works a change in those who are faithful to Him, makes them look up away from themselves. That is the mission, that is witness. 

In the handbook on baptism prepared and distributed by the diocese of Buenos Aires answer is given to possible criticism from those who say that the sacraments should not be “a bargain offer” and that the requirements of preparation and readiness should be held to. Is the criticism valid? 

BERGOGLIO: There is no sellout, no exchange. The parish priests are observing the directions given by the bishops of the pastoral region of Buenos Aires, which meet all the conditions required by the Code of Canon Law, according to the basic criterion expressed in the last canon: the supreme law is the salvation of souls. 

In your opinion, are the cases where baptism is denied to children because the parents are not in a canonically regular marital situation justified in some way? 

BERGOGLIO: To us here that would be like closing the doors of the Church. The child has no responsibility for the marital state of its parents. And then, the baptism of children often becomes a new beginning for parents. Usually there is a little catechesis before baptism, about an hour, then a mystagogic catechesis during liturgy. Then, the priests and laity go to visit these families to continue with their post-baptismal pastoral. And it often happens that parents, who were not married in church, maybe ask to come before the altar to celebrate the sacrament of marriage.

It sometimes happens that ministers and pastoral workers assume almost a proprietorial attitude as if the decision to grant the sacraments or not were in their hands. 

BERGOGLIO: The sacraments are signs of the Lord. They are not performances or the conquests of priests or bishops. In our vast country there are many small towns or villages that are difficult to reach, where the priest arrives once or twice a year. But popular piety feels that children should be baptized as soon as possible, and so in those places there is always a layman or woman known by everyone as bautizadores who baptize the children when they are born, awaiting the arrival of the priest. When the priest comes, they bring him the children so he can anoint them with holy oil, completing the ceremony. When I think of it, I’m always surprised by that story of those Christian communities in Japan that were left without a priest for more than two hundred years. When the missionaries returned they found them all baptized, all married validly for the Church and all their dead had been buried in Christian fashion. Those laymen had received only baptism, and by virtue of their baptism they had also lived their apostolic mission.

According to some people unless there is adequate understanding and preparation the sacramental rite is in danger of becoming something “magical” or mechanical. What do you think?
BERGOGLIO: Nobody thinks that we don’t need catechesis, preparing children for confirmation and communion. But we must always look at our people as they are, and see what is needed most. The sacraments are for the life of men and women as they are. Who maybe don’t talk all that much, but their sensus fidei captures the reality of the sacraments with more clarity than that of many specialists. 

Can you give us some incident in your pastoral experience that highlights this sensus fidei

BERGOGLIO: Just a few days ago I baptized seven children of a woman on her own, a poor widow, who works as a maid and she had had them from two different men. I met her last year at the Feast of San Cayetano. She’d said: Father, I’m in mortal sin, I have seven children and I’ve never had them baptized. It had happened because she had no money to bring the godparents from a distance, or to pay for the party, because she always had to work ... I suggested we meet, to talk about it. We spoke on the phone, she came to see me, told me that she could never find all the godparents and get them together ... In the end I said: let’s do everything with only two godparents, representing the others. They all came here and after a little catechesis I baptized them in the chapel of the archbishopric. After the ceremony we had a little refreshment. A coca cola and sandwiches. She told me: Father, I can’t believe it, you make me feel important... I replied, but lady, where do I come in, it’s Jesus who makes you important.