Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Pope speaks to journalists on his way home: divorced and remarried, women, and homosexuals

On his way back to the Eternal City from Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis spoke with journalists for an hour and 20 minutes. Unscripted prior to the flight and a bit provocative if you don’t know how to “read” Pope Francis viz. the Church’s teaching and his pastoral sensitivities.

The news agencies latched onto Francis’s comments in such a reductionist way. They got lost in the weeds. Even the Catholic news people could find themselves out their quagmire of silly thinking and partial reporting. Do you get tired of part-time journalists who pander to the audience? I do.

Father Tom Rosica, CSB, head of Salt+Light TV who was on flight and took note of the question and he gives the Pope’s answer in full. In English with the original Italian. Read what the Holy Father said for yourself. Father Rosica gave the Catechism’s answer on homosexuality.

Here is the video from Rome Reports.

When you take things out of context, or don’t have a full grasp of the teaching of the Church, even the willingness to dig deeply into what is taught, the result you get is a reduction. AND we don’t live in reductions very well. As Rosica says, “His [the Pope’s] comments on the plane, particularly about the divorced and remarried, women, and homosexuals must be read and understood through the lenses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the outreach and concern of the Church for those on the fringes, and the mercy, tenderness and forgiveness of a pastor who walks among his people.”

Remember mercy is still a hallmark of our Christian faith!!!!

Pope Francis programmatic AND paradigmatic essay: Pay attention

The Address of Pope Francis to the Coordinating Committee of CELAM
Sumare Study Center
28 July 2013

1. Introduction

Pope Francis and CELAMI thank the Lord for this opportunity to speak with you, my brother bishops, the leadership of CELAM for the four-year period from 2011 to 2015. For 57 years CELAM has served the 22 Episcopal Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean, working in a spirit of solidarity and subsidiarity to promote, encourage and improve collegiality among the bishops and communion between the region’s Churches and their pastors.

Like yourselves, I too witnessed the powerful working of the Spirit in the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate in Aparecida, in May 2007, which continues to inspire the efforts of CELAM for the desired renewal of the Particular Churches. In many of them, this renewal is clearly taking place. I would like to focus this conversation on the legacy of that fraternal encounter, which all of us have chosen to call a Continental Mission.

2. Particular characteristics of Aparecida

There are four hallmarks of the Fifth Conference. They are like four pillars for the implementation of Aparecida, and they are what make it distinctive.

1) Starting without a document

Medellín, Puebla and Santo Domingo began their work with a process of preparation which culminated in a sort of Instrumentum Laboris which then served as a basis for discussion, reflection and the approval of the final document. Aparecida, on the other hand, encouraged the participation of the Particular Churches as a process of preparation culminating in a document of synthesis. This document, while serving as a point of reference throughout the Fifth General Conference, was not taken as a starting point. The initial work consisted in pooling the concerns expressed by the bishops as they considered the new period of history we are living and the need to recover the life of discipleship and mission with which Christ founded the Church.

2) A setting of prayer with the people of God

It is important to remember the prayerful setting created by the daily sharing of the Eucharist and other liturgical moments, in which we were always accompanied by the People of God. On the other hand, since the deliberations took place in the undercroft of the Shrine, the music which accompanied them were the songs and the prayers of the faithful.

3) A document which continues in commitment, with the Continental Mission

This context of prayer and the life of faith gave rise to a desire for a new Pentecost for the Church and the commitment to undertake a Continental Mission. Aparecida did not end with a document; it continues in the Continental Mission.

4) The presence of Our Lady, Mother of America

It was the first conference of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean to be held in a Marian shrine.

3. Dimensions of the Continental Mission

The Continental Mission is planned along two lines: the programmatic and the paradigmatic. The programmatic mission, as its name indicates, consists in a series of missionary activities. The paradigmatic mission, on the other hand, involves setting in a missionary key all the day-to-day activities of the Particular Churches. Clearly this entails a whole process of reforming ecclesial structures. The “change of structures” (from obsolete ones to new ones) will not be the result of reviewing an organizational flow chart, which would lead to a static reorganization; rather it will result from the very dynamics of mission. What makes obsolete structures pass away, what leads to a change of heart in Christians, is precisely missionary spirit. Hence the importance of the paradigmatic mission.

The Continental Mission, both programmatic and paradigmatic, calls for creating a sense of a Church which is organized to serve all the baptized, and men and women of goodwill. Christ’s followers are not individuals caught up in a privatized spirituality, but persons in community, devoting themselves to others. The Continental Mission thus implies membership in the Church.

An approach like this, which begins with missionary discipleship and involves understanding Christian identity as membership in the Church, demands that we clearly articulate the real challenges facing missionary discipleship. Here I will mention only two: the Church’s inner renewal and dialogue with the world around us.

The Church’s inner renewal

Aparecida considered Pastoral Conversion to be a necessity. This conversion involves believing in the Good News, believing in Jesus Christ as the bearer of God’s Kingdom as it breaks into the world and in his victorious presence over evil, believing in the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, believing in the Church, the Body of Christ and the prolonging of the dynamism of the incarnation.

Consequently, we, as pastors, need to ask questions about the actual state of the Churches which we lead. These questions can serve as a guide in examining where the dioceses stand in taking up the spirit of Aparecida; they are questions which we need to keep asking as an examination of conscience.

1. Do we see to it that our work, and that of our priests, is more pastoral than administrative? Who primarily benefits from our efforts, the Church as an organization or the People of God as a whole?

2. Do we fight the temptation simply to react to complex problems as they arise? Are we creating a proactive mindset? Do we promote opportunities and possibilities to manifest God’s mercy? Are we conscious of our responsibility for refocusing pastoral approaches and the functioning of Church structures for the benefit of the faithful and society?

3. In practice, do we make the lay faithful sharers in the Mission? Do we offer them the word of God and the sacraments with a clear awareness and conviction that the Holy Spirit makes himself manifest in them?

4. Is pastoral discernment a habitual criterion, through the use of Diocesan Councils? Do such Councils and Parish Councils, whether pastoral or financial, provide real opportunities for lay people to participate in pastoral consultation, organization and planning? The good functioning of these Councils is critical. I believe that on this score, we are far behind.

5. As pastors, bishops and priests, are we conscious and convinced of the mission of the lay faithful and do we give them the freedom to continue discerning, in a way befitting their growth as disciples, the mission which the Lord has entrusted to them? Do we support them and accompany them, overcoming the temptation to manipulate them or infantilize them? Are we constantly open to letting ourselves be challenged in our efforts to advance the good of the Church and her mission in the world?

6. Do pastoral agents and the faithful in general feel part of the Church, do they identify with her and bring her closer to the baptized who are distant and alienated?

As can be appreciated, what is at stake here are attitudes. Pastoral Conversion is chiefly concerned with attitudes and reforming our lives. A change of attitudes is necessarily something ongoing: “it is a process”, and it can only be kept on track with the help of guidance and discernment. It is important always to keep in mind that the compass preventing us from going astray is that of Catholic identity, understood as membership in the Church.

Dialogue with the world around us

We do well to recall the words of the Second Vatican Council: “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well” (Gaudium et Spes, 1). Here we find the basis for our dialogue with the contemporary world.

Responding to the existential issues of people today, especially the young, listening to the language they speak, can lead to a fruitful change, which must take place with the help of the Gospel, the magisterium, and the Church’s social doctrine. The scenarios and the areopagi involved are quite varied. For example, a single city can contain various collective imaginations which create “different cities”. If we remain within the parameters of our “traditional culture”, which was essentially rural, we will end up nullifying the power of the Holy Spirit. God is everywhere: we have to know how to find him in order to be able to proclaim him in the language of each and every culture; every reality, every language, has its own rhythm.

4. Some temptations against missionary discipleship

The decision for missionary discipleship will encounter temptation. It is important to know where the evil spirit is afoot in order to aid our discernment. It is not a matter of chasing after demons, but simply one of clear-sightedness and evangelical astuteness. I will mention only a few attitudes which are evidence of a Church which is “tempted”. It has to do with recognizing certain contemporary proposals which can parody the process of missionary discipleship and hold back, even bring to a halt, the process of Pastoral Conversion.

1. Making the Gospel message an ideology. This is a temptation which has been present in the Church from the beginning: the attempt to interpret the Gospel apart from the Gospel itself and apart from the Church. An example: Aparecida, at one particular moment, felt this temptation. It employed, and rightly so, the method of “see, judge and act” (cf. No. 19). The temptation, though, was to opt for a way of “seeing” which was completely “antiseptic”, detached and unengaged, which is impossible. The way we “see” is always affected by the way we direct our gaze. There is no such thing as an “antiseptic” hermeneutics. The question was, rather: How are we going to look at reality in order to see it? Aparecida replied: With the eyes of discipleship. This is the way Nos. 20-32 are to be understood. There are other ways of making the message an ideology, and at present proposals of this sort are appearing in Latin America and the Caribbean. I mention only a few:

a) Sociological reductionism. This is the most readily available means of making the message an ideology. At certain times it has proved extremely influential. It involves an interpretative claim based on a hermeneutics drawn from the social sciences. It extends to the most varied fields, from market liberalism to Marxist categorization.

b) Psychologizing. Here we have to do with an elitist hermeneutics which ultimately reduces the “encounter with Jesus Christ” and its development to a process of growing self- awareness. It is ordinarily to be found in spirituality courses, spiritual retreats, etc. It ends up being an immanent, self-centred approach. It has nothing to do with transcendence and consequently, with missionary spirit.

c) The Gnostic solution. Closely linked to the previous temptation, it is ordinarily found in elite groups offering a higher spirituality, generally disembodied, which ends up in a preoccupation with certain pastoral “quaestiones disputatae”. It was the first deviation in the early community and it reappears throughout the Church’s history in ever new and revised versions. Generally its adherents are known as “enlightened Catholics” (since they are in fact rooted in the culture of the Enlightenment).

d) The Pelagian solution. This basically appears as a form of restorationism. In dealing with the Church’s problems, a purely disciplinary solution is sought, through the restoration of outdated manners and forms which, even on the cultural level, are no longer meaningful. In Latin America it is usually to be found in small groups, in some new religious congregations, in tendencies to doctrinal or disciplinary “safety”. Basically it is static, although it is capable of inversion, in a process of regression. It seeks to “recover” the lost past.

2. Functionalism. Its effect on the Church is paralyzing. More than being interested in the road itself, it is concerned with fixing holes in the road. A functionalist approach has no room for mystery; it aims at efficiency. It reduces the reality of the Church to the structure of an NGO. What counts are quantifiable results and statistics. The Church ends up being run like any other business organization. It applies a sort of “theology of prosperity” to the organization of pastoral work.

3. Clericalism is also a temptation very present in Latin America. Curiously, in the majority of cases, it has to do with a sinful complicity: the priest clericalizes the lay person and the lay person kindly asks to be clericalized, because deep down it is easier. The phenomenon of clericalism explains, in great part, the lack of maturity and Christian freedom in a good part of the Latin American laity. Either they simply do not grow (the majority), or else they take refuge in forms of ideology like those we have just seen, or in partial and limited ways of belonging. Yet in our countries there does exist a form of freedom of the laity which finds expression in communal experiences: Catholic as community. Here one sees a greater autonomy, which on the whole is a healthy thing, basically expressed through popular piety. The chapter of the Aparecida document on popular piety describes this dimension in detail. The spread of bible study groups, of ecclesial basic communities and of Pastoral Councils is in fact helping to overcome clericalism and to increase lay responsibility.

We could continue by describing other temptations against missionary discipleship, but I consider these to be the most important and influential at present for Latin America and the Caribbean.

5. Some ecclesiological guidelines

1. The missionary discipleship which Aparecida proposed to the Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean is the journey which God desires for the present “today”. Every utopian (future-oriented) or restorationist (past-oriented) impulse is spiritually unhealthy. God is real and he shows himself in the “today”. With regard to the past, his presence is given to us as “memory” of his saving work, both in his people and in each of us as individuals; with regard to the future, he gives himself to us as “promise” and hope. In the past God was present and left his mark: memory helps us to encounter him; in the future is promise alone… he is not in the thousand and one “futuribles”. The “today” is closest to eternity; even more: the “today” is a flash of eternity. In the “today”, eternal life is in play.

Missionary discipleship is a vocation: a call and an invitation. It is given in the “today”, but also “in tension”. There is no such thing as static missionary discipleship. A missionary disciple cannot be his own master, his immanence is in tension towards the transcendence of discipleship and towards the transcendence of mission. It does not allow for self-absorption: either it points to Jesus Christ or it points to the people to whom he must be proclaimed. The missionary disciple is a self-transcending subject, a subject projected towards encounter: an encounter with the Master (who anoints us as his disciples) and an encounter with men and women who await the message.

That is why I like saying that the position of missionary disciples is not in the centre but at the periphery: they live poised towards the peripheries… including the peripheries of eternity, in the encounter with Jesus Christ. In the preaching of the Gospel, to speak of “existential peripheries” decentralizes things; as a rule, we are afraid to leave the centre. The missionary disciple is someone “off centre”: the centre is Jesus Christ, who calls us and sends us forth. The disciple is sent to the existential peripheries.

2. The Church is an institution, but when she makes herself a “centre”, she becomes merely functional, and slowly but surely turns into a kind of NGO. The Church then claims to have a light of her own, and she stops being that “mysterium lunae” of which the Church Fathers spoke. She becomes increasingly self-referential and loses her need to be missionary. From an “institution” she becomes a “enterprise”. She stops being a bride and ends up being an administrator; from being a servant, she becomes an “inspector”. Aparecida wanted a Church which is bride, mother and servant, a facilitator of faith and not an inspector of faith.

3. In Aparecida, two pastoral categories stand out; they arise from the uniqueness of the Gospel, and we can employ them as guidelines for assessing how we are living missionary discipleship in the Church: nearness and encounter. Neither of these two categories is new; rather, they are the way God has revealed himself to us in history. He is the “God who is near” to his people, a nearness which culminates in the incarnation. He is the God who goes forth to meet his people. In Latin America and the Caribbean there are pastoral plans which are “distant”, disciplinary pastoral plans which give priority to principles, forms of conduct, organizational procedures… and clearly lack nearness, tenderness, a warm touch. They do not take into account the “revolution of tenderness” brought by the incarnation of the Word. There are pastoral plans designed with such a dose of distance that they are incapable of sparking an encounter: an encounter with Jesus Christ, an encounter with our brothers and sisters. Such pastoral plans can at best provide a dimension of proselytism, but they can never inspire people to feel part of or belong to the Church. Nearness creates communion and belonging; it makes room for encounter. Nearness takes the form of dialogue and creates a culture of encounter. One touchstone for measuring whether a pastoral plan embodies nearness and a capacity for encounter is the homily. What are our homilies like? Do we imitate the example of our Lord, who spoke “as one with authority”, or are they simply moralizing, detached, abstract?

4. Those who direct pastoral work, the Continental Mission (both programmatic and paradigmatic) are the bishops. Bishops must lead, which is not the same thing as being authoritarian. As well as pointing to the great figures of the Latin American episcopate, which we all know, I would like to add a few things about the profile of the bishop, which I already presented to the Nuncios at our meeting in Rome. Bishops must be pastors, close to people, fathers and brothers, and gentle, patient and merciful. Men who love poverty, both interior poverty, as freedom before the Lord, and exterior poverty, as simplicity and austerity of life. Men who do not think and behave like “princes”. Men who are not ambitious, who are married to one church without having their eyes on another. Men capable of watching over the flock entrusted to them and protecting everything that keeps it together: guarding their people out of concern for the dangers which could threaten them, but above all instilling hope: so that light will shine in people’s hearts. Men capable of supporting with love and patience God’s dealings with his people. The Bishop has to be among his people in three ways: in front of them, pointing the way; among them, keeping them together and preventing them from being scattered; and behind them, ensuring that no one is left behind, but also, and primarily, so that the flock itself can sniff out new paths.

I do not wish to go into further detail about the person of the Bishop, but simply to add, including myself in this statement, that we are lagging somewhat as far as Pastoral Conversion is concerned. We need to help one another a bit more in taking the steps that the Lord asks of us in the “today” of Latin America and the Caribbean. And this is a good place to start.

I thank you for your patience in listening to me. Pardon me if my remarks have been somewhat disjointed and please, I beg that we take seriously our calling as servants of the holy and faithful people of God, for this is where authority is exercised and demonstrated: in the ability to serve. Many thanks.

The Suffering Body of Christ includes those living with addictions

Pope Francis’ talk strikes a significant cord with me and he’s forcing me examen my own behavior, my own capacity and willingness “to look upon one another with the loving eyes of Christ.” This is a good thing. And I have to admit, after a series of disappointments and lies, the person living in addiction makes a personal relationship harder and harder to cherish. In this last year I have had to live my faith a lot differently with a person close to me dealing with her addiction to alcohol and depression concomitant wrong healthcare and interpersonal decisions. Many trips to the hospital, many encounters with lying and avoiding, many ugly things said are seeming hallmarks of what is given due to the paralyzation of addiction. Some of you know that addiction of any kind does require what the Pope indicates, an embrace that feels close, affectionate and loving. Addiction destroys; addiction is the work of the devil; it closes off the horizon of hope; it is allows for one to abandon personal freedom and to live a life of isolation.

And while addictions are often thought of as chemical imbalances or problems of the will, I do sometimes think those without such are addicted in other ways: the use of the words, rigidly holding to our opinions, being angry, arrogance, a lack of humility and the like.

The Christian manner of living is about freedom, joy, about truth, about the journey. Christ gives us a new humanity. Addiction is just the opposite.

Read Pope Francis’ address very closely. But use what he says to open a new horizon in yourself: does what the Pope say open a new door to see another way of living? Of being a coherent Christian?

Pope Francis at HospitalGod has willed that my journey, after the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, should take me to a particular shrine of human suffering – the Saint Francis of Assisi Hospital. The conversion of your patron saint is well known: the young Francis abandoned the riches and comfort of the world in order to become a poor man among the poor. He understood that true joy and riches do not come from the idols of this world – material things and the possession of them – but are to be found only in following Christ and serving others. Less well known, perhaps, is the moment when this understanding took concrete form in his own life. It was when Francis embraced a leper. This brother, suffering and an outcast, was the “mediator of light … for Saint Francis of Assisi” (Lumen Fidei, 57), because in every suffering brother and sister that we embrace, we embrace the suffering Body of Christ. Today, in this place where people struggle with drug addiction, I wish to embrace each and every one of you, who are the flesh of Christ, and to ask God to renew your journey, and also mine, with purpose and steadfast hope.

To embrace – we all have to learn to embrace the one in need, as Saint Francis did. There are so many situations in Brazil, and throughout the world, that require attention, care and love, like the fight against chemical dependency. Often, instead, it is selfishness that prevails in our society. How many “dealers of death” there are that follow the logic of power and money at any cost! The scourge of drug-trafficking, that favors violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage. A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America. Rather, it is necessary to confront the problems underlying the use of these drugs, by promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in society, accompanying those in difficulty and giving them hope for the future. We all need to look upon one another with the loving eyes of Christ, and to learn to embrace those in need, in order to show our closeness, affection and love.

To embrace someone is not enough, however. We must hold the hand of the one in need, of the one who has fallen into the darkness of dependency perhaps without even knowing how, and we must say to him or her: You can get up, you can stand up. It is difficult, but it is possible if you want to. Dear friends, I wish to say to each of you, but especially to all those others who have not had the courage to embark on our journey: You have to want to stand up; this is the indispensible condition! You will find an outstretched hand ready to help you, but no one is able to stand up in your place. But you are never alone! The Church and so many people are close to you. Look ahead with confidence. Yours is a long and difficult journey, but look ahead, there is “a sure future, set against a different horizon with regard to the illusory enticements of the idols of this world, yet granting new momentum and strength to our daily lives” (Lumen Fidei, 57). To all of you, I repeat: Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! And not only that, but I say to us all: let us not rob others of hope, let us become bearers of hope!

In the Gospel, we read the parable of the Good Samaritan, that speaks of a man assaulted by robbers and left half dead at the side of the road. People pass by him and look at him. But they do not stop, they just continue on their journey, indifferent to him: it is none of their business! Only a Samaritan, a stranger, sees him, stops, lifts him up, takes him by the hand, and cares for him (cf. Lk 10:29-35). Dear friends, I believe that here, in this hospital, the parable of the Good Samaritan is made tangible. Here there is no indifference, but concern. There is no apathy, but love. The Saint Francis Association and the Network for the Treatment of Drug Addiction show how to reach out to those in difficulty because in them we see the face of Christ, because in these persons, the flesh of Christ suffers. Thanks are due to all the medical professionals and their associates who work here. Your service is precious; undertake it always with love. It is a service given to Christ present in our brothers and sisters. As Jesus says to us: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).

And I wish to repeat to all of you who struggle against drug addiction, and to those family members who share in your difficulties: the Church is not distant from your troubles, but accompanies you with affection. The Lord is near you and he takes you by the hand. Look to him in your most difficult moments and he will give you consolation and hope. And trust in the maternal love of his Mother Mary. This morning, in the Shrine of Aparecida, I entrusted each of you to her heart. Where there is a cross to carry, she, our Mother, is always there with us. I leave you in her hands, while with great affection I bless all of you.

Pope Francis
Saint Francis of Assisi Hospital

Francis has now contradicted Benedict XVI???

St Michael's Day 027To date, this is the first example of the current pope contradicting the immediate past pope. Of course, the previous pope is still living in the back year of the Vatican City State. According to Sandro Magister, a noted journalist on matters pertaining to the politics of the Church, the Congregation of Religious, said, with Pope Francis’ approval, has restricted the praying of the Missal of Blessed John XXIII (the 1962 Missal) for the Franciscans of the Immaculate (FI). In relation to the Franciscans, this pontifical act contravenes Benedict XVI for the purposes of clarifying internal matters.

The form of the Mass known as the Extraordinary Form was liberated from its shackles by Pope Benedict in 2007 with the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

From what Magister writes, there is internal division in the Franciscans of the Immaculate. Plus, the scatterbrained Prefect of the Congregation of Religious (not my term, Magister’s) seems all-too-willing to clamp down on this matter with regards to the Liturgy in a public manner. So, on the surface this is not good news in some people’s minds, and it seems to be another example of some in authority to be out of control by being carried along by ideology. It will seem that such a draconian manner of dealing with an internal matter seems to be a bit over the top. May be yes, may be no.  We don’t all the facts yet. Let me stress: the directive of the Congregation is being applied to the FIs and not the whole Church. With the liturgical restriction comes a special representative of the Holy See, a Capuchin, to deal with the internal matters. As you can tell, even in good communities like the FI liturgical differences do exist and can cause division among the brothers thus breaking unity.

The full story, “For the First Time, Francis Contradicts Benedict.”

Hopefulness, openness to God, living in joy: three simple attitudes for us to have

Three paragraphs excerpted from the Pope’s homily earlier today bear our reflection if we desire to be true disciples of the Lord Jesus. He sets up for us a structure of holiness that unites a totality of life: faith, work, learning, culture. Francis’ homily is clearly Jesuit and clearly marked by an integrated spiritual life. He echoes what we’ve come to appreciate about the guidance in the spiritual life through the Servant of God Father Luigi Giussani. Of course, you can say Francis is showing us anew what the Church believes to be true. Consider His Holiness’ three points:

1. Hopefulness. The second reading of the Mass presents a dramatic scene: a woman – an image of Mary and the Church – is being pursued by a Dragon – the devil – who wants to devour her child. But the scene is not one of death but of life, because God intervenes and saves the child (cf. Rev 12:13a, 15-16a). How many difficulties are present in the life of every individual, among our people, in our communities; yet as great as these may seem, God never allows us to be overwhelmed by them. In the face of those moments of discouragement we experience in life, in our efforts to evangelize or to embody our faith as parents within the family, I would like to say forcefully: Always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you! Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts! The “dragon”, evil, is present in our history, but it does not have the upper hand. The one with the upper hand is God, and God is our hope! It is true that nowadays, to some extent, everyone, including our young people, feels attracted by the many idols which take the place of God and appear to offer hope: money, success, power, pleasure. Often a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols. Dear brothers and sisters, let us be lights of hope! Let us maintain a positive outlook on reality. Let us encourage the generosity which is typical of the young and help them to work actively in building a better world. Young people are a powerful engine for the Church and for society. They do not need material things alone; also and above all, they need to have held up to them those non-material values which are the spiritual heart of a people, the memory of a people. In this Shrine, which is part of the memory of Brazil, we can almost read those values: spirituality, generosity, solidarity, perseverance, fraternity, joy; they are values whose deepest root is in the Christian faith.

2. The second attitude: openness to being surprised by God. Anyone who is a man or a woman of hope – the great hope which faith gives us – knows that even in the midst of difficulties God acts and he surprises us. The history of this Shrine is a good example: three fishermen, after a day of catching no fish, found something unexpected in the waters of the Parnaíba River: an image of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Whoever would have thought that the site of a fruitless fishing expedition would become the place where all Brazilians can feel that they are children of one Mother? God always surprises us, like the new wine in the Gospel we have just heard. God always saves the best for us. But he asks us to let ourselves be surprised by his love, to accept his surprises. Let us trust God! Cut off from him, the wine of joy, the wine of hope, runs out. If we draw near to him, if we stay with him, what seems to be cold water, difficulty, sin, is changed into the new wine of friendship with him.

3. The third attitude: living in joy. Dear friends, if we walk in hope, allowing ourselves to be surprised by the new wine which Jesus offers us, we have joy in our hearts and we cannot fail to be witnesses of this joy. Christians are joyful, they are never gloomy. God is at our side. We have a Mother who always intercedes for the life of her children, for us, as Queen Esther did in the first reading (cf Est 5:3). Jesus has shown us that the face of God is that of a loving Father. Sin and death have been defeated. Christians cannot be pessimists! They do not look like someone in constant mourning. If we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our heart will “light up” with a joy that spreads to everyone around us. As Benedict XVI said here, in this Shrine: “the disciple knows that without Christ, there is no light, no hope, no love, no future” (Inaugural Address, Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, Aparecida, 13 May 2007, 3).

Pope Francis
The Shrine of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of Aparecida
24 July 2013

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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