Tag Archives: Pope Francis

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
Brazil

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

Jesus is not an isolated missionary, nor are we

missionary 101.jpg

“Go and make Christ known to all nations.” The missionary spirit is once again coming to the table. As Christians, we are baptized to come into communion with God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to live as adopted children of God faithful to the life of the Church. The sacrament of Baptism makes us disciples of the Lord. We can’t forget, nor can we neglect, to make the Lord known to all people by the witness of our lives. Our call is the same as the Prophet Isaiah’s, “Here am I; send me” (Is 6:8). The preaching of the Lord’s Kingdom is not reserved to few; no, the mission to proclaim the presence of the Kingdom is given to all the baptized in all places. Hence, we work doing the new evangelization. Catholics as missionaries in this country needs renewal. We Catholics can’t leave the missionary work to the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Evangelicals or the Muslims. If we truly believe that the Lord has given us Himself as the way, the truth and the life, then we ought to share this experience. Moreover, in living the Gospel, following the teaching of the Church, the reception of the sacraments, we care for those live on the margins (think of the corporal works of mercy).


I see in Pope Francis calling us to be attentive to the missionary impulse again as fundamental to our faith and life in the Church. The Pope comes as this missionary notion from his own spiritual formation received as a member of the Society of Jesus. No doubt he thinks of the early founders of the Jesuits, and he likely recalls the Jesuit saint Francis Borgia, the third Jesuit Superior General who spent much energy on missionary vocation of the Jesuits, of translating the faith and the Exercises of Loyola into a more concrete expression. We can say that Pope, like Borgia, knows that the missionary work we are called to perform is a ministry that takes on a variety of aspects: preaching, teaching, sanctifying, interceding, healing, guiding others in the spiritual life, administering and governance.


Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus address needs to be studied and prayed about. Think about the points highlighted.


This Sunday’s Gospel (Lk 10:1-12.17-20) speaks to us precisely of this: of the fact that Jesus is not an isolated missionary, does not want to fulfill his mission alone, but involves his disciples. Today we see that, in addition to the Twelve Apostles, He calls seventy-two others, and sends them into the villages, two by two, to announce that the Kingdom of God is near. This is very beautiful! Jesus does not want to act alone, He has come to bring to the world the love of God and wants to spread that love with a style of communion and fraternity. For this reason, he forms immediately a community of disciples, which is a missionary community. Iright from the start, He trains them for the mission, to go [on the mission].


Beware, however: the purpose is not to socialize, to spend time together – no, the purpose is to proclaim the Kingdom of God, and this is urgent! There is no time to waste in small talk, no need to wait for the consent of all – there is need only of going out and proclaiming. The peace of Christ is to be brought to everyone, and if some do not receive it, then you go on. To the sick is to be brought healing, because God wants to heal man from all evil. How many missionaries do this! They sow life, health, comfort to the peripheries of the world.


These seventy-two disciples, whom Jesus sent ahead of him, who are they? Whom do they represent? If the Twelve are the Apostles, and therefore also represent the Bishops, their successors, these may represent seventy-two other ordained ministers – priests and deacons – but in a wider sense we can think of other ministries in the Church, catechists and lay faithful who engage in parish missions, those who work with the sick, with the various forms of discomfort and alienation, but always as missionaries of the Gospel, with the urgency of the Kingdom that is at hand.

The Gospel says that those seventy-two returned from their mission full of joy, because they had experienced the power of the Name of Christ against evil. Jesus confirms this: to these disciples He gives the strength to defeat the evil one. He adds, though: “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20)” We should not boast as if we were the protagonists: the protagonist is the Lord [and] His grace. Our joy is only this: [in] being His disciples, His friends. 


May Our Lady help us to be good servants of the Gospel.

Pope Francis

Sunday Angelus Address

8 July 20013

Lumen Fidei (“The Light of Faith”)

Francis arms Foppoli.jpeg

Pope Francis published his first encyclical today. Lumen Fidei (“The Light of Faith”), comes in the middle of the Year of Faith. The Pope told bishops,  “It’s an encyclical written with four hands, so to speak, because Pope Benedict began writing it and he gave it to me. It’s a strong document. I will say in it that I received it and most of the work was done by him and I completed it.”


The full text is here: Lumen Fidei.pdf


Pope Benedict set out to write encyclicals on the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. Two have been done and Lumen Fidei completes the course of study.


Thus Deus Caritas Est on charity in 2005 and Spe Salvi on hope in 2007. 


Pope Benedict’s, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), published in 2009 focused on Catholic social teachings of the Church.


Lumen Fidei was presented Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. Their presentation is here in various languages.

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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