Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Does the flock space in the bishop’s heart?

Yesterday (27 Feb 2014), the Holy Father met with the Congregation for Bishops for a what think sets a significant direction how the Church receives new bishops and how existing bishops live their vocation. One aspect the Pope’s talk addressed was the presence of a bishop in the diocese to which he is married. Far too often bishops find themselves doing much-too-much traveling for committee work in other places.  The Holy Father said,

The Second Vatican Council states that to the Bishops “is fully entrusted the pastoral office, that is the habitual and daily care of their flock” (Lumen Gentium, 27). We must dwell more on these two descriptions of the care of the flock: habitual and daily. In our time assiduity and habituality are often associated with daily routine and boredom. So often we try to escape to a permanent “elsewhere.” This is a temptation for Shepherds, for all pastors! The spiritual fathers must explain it well, so that we understand it and will not fall. Even in the Church, unfortunately, we are not exempt from this risk. Therefore, it is important to reiterate that the mission of the Bishop requires habituality and daily dedication. I think that in this age of meetings and conferences the decree of the Council of Trent on residency is so up-to-date: it is so up-to-date and it would be nice if the Congregation for Bishops wrote something about this. The flock need to find space in the heart of the Shepherd. If he is not firmly anchored within himself, in Christ and in his Church, he will be constantly buffeted by the waves in search of ephemeral compensation and will not offer any shelter to the flock.

Address to the Congregation for Bishops, excerpt
February 27, 2014

Several things Pope Francis said in his address to the Congregation for Bishops bears knowing and reflecting upon for the laity as well as the clergy. For the record the Pope speaks from personal experience as a former auxiliary and residential bishop. He knows the first hand the tensions of serving the greater Church and the one he’s been ordained to serve.

His Holiness is drawing our attention back to the Council of Trent which required a diocesan bishop to spend 11 of the 12 months a year in their diocese. While the Pope is right he is also helping some diocesan bishops to spend lots of time in Rome—namely the Council of Cardinals are a good example of spending lots of time away from their habitual and daily duties. Another great example of bishops wasting time is the ungodly amount of time is the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.  The USCCB is generally speaking, too expensive to justify and it is an organization that basically is a bureaucracy: endless committee meetings which distract too many bishops from doing what they’ve been called to do in their dioceses. The work of a bishop teaching, sanctify and pastoring souls requires their concrete presence. They ought to stay home. But there are times being outside the diocese is a good thing for a greater good yet knowing when and for what is key. For example, it would be a shame if Cardinal George did not teach in various places. Recently, however, the local ordinary was not present for the annual Pro Life Mass because he was attending to a committee meeting. Too often the faithful have to suffer with communication for the vice chancellor versus having direct communication from the bishop. We do not want third ad fourth tier leaders, we expect the first tier because that is what Christ expects, and what Mother Church demands.

One line that sticks out in my mind: “The flock need to find space in the heart of the Shepherd.” I hope the bishops keep this their mind, too. Thus far, it is hard to see that really happening soon.

Pope to Notre Dame: give unambiguous testimony to the Christ

Earlier today Pope Francis spoke to a large delegation from the University of Notre Dame. I think my alma mater can follow what the Pope is aiming at… don’t you think? In reading this address I am thinking and hoping that the UND does not explain away what the Pope really means.

UND campusI am pleased to greet the Trustees of Notre Dame University on the occasion of your meeting in Rome, which coincides with the inauguration of the University’s Rome Center. I am confident that the new Center will contribute to the University’s mission by exposing students to the unique historical, cultural and spiritual riches of the Eternal City, and by opening their minds and hearts to the impressive continuity between the faith of Saints Peter and Paul, and the confessors and martyrs of every age, and the Catholic faith passed down to them in their families, schools and parishes. From its founding, Notre Dame University has made an outstanding contribution to the Church in your country through its commitment to the religious education of the young and to serious scholarship inspired by confidence in the harmony of faith and reason in the pursuit of truth and virtue. Conscious of the critical importance of this apostolate for the new evangelization, I express my gratitude for the commitment which Notre Dame University has shown over the years to supporting and strengthening Catholic elementary and secondary school education throughout the United States.

The vision which guided Father Edward Sorin and the first religious of the Congregation of Holy Cross in establishing the University of Notre Dame du Lac remains, in the changed circumstances of the twenty-first century, central to the University’s distinctive identity and its service to the Church and American society. In my Exhortation on the Joy of the Gospel, I stressed the missionary dimension of Christian discipleship, which needs to be evident in the lives of individuals and in the workings of each of the Church’s institutions. This commitment to “missionary discipleship” ought to be reflected in a special way in Catholic universities (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 132-134), which by their very nature are committed to demonstrating the harmony of faith and reason and the relevance of the Christian message for a full and authentically human life. Essential in this regard is the uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the Church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors. It is my hope that the University of Notre Dame will continue to offer unambiguous testimony to this aspect of its foundational Catholic identity, especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness. And this is important: its identity, as it was intended from the beginning. To defend it, to preserve it and to advance it!

Dear friends, I ask you to pray for me as I strive to carry out the ministry which I have received in service to the Gospel, and I assure you of my prayers for you and for all associated with the educational mission of Notre Dame University. Upon you and your families, and in a particular way, upon the students, faculty and staff of this beloved University, I invoke the Lord’s gifts of wisdom, joy and peace, and cordially impart my Blessing.

Papa Francesco a rock star?

Papa Francesco made the cover of Rolling Stone. Here is Mark Binelli’e article, “Pope Francis: The Times They Are A-Changin’

As a priest friend said, the Pope is a rock star…

The symphony (or cacophony?) about the papacy of Francis thus far is rather interesting to my way thinking. Too many like the perceived liberal stances of the pontiff and few have really taken the time to do the hard work to know what he says, means and hopes. Most of what we read is predictable, even fatuous.

In the wake of Benedict’s abdication almost a year ago, there’s still an inadequate assessment of the person and work of Benedict as the Father of the Catholic Church. I actually, I am beginning to resent the these commenters who raise up one pope and degrade another in the same breadth without knowing much. But the media people are not the only ones who have a problem with Benedict,  some closely connected with the Catholic Church, laity and clergy alike, still feel the need to take gratuitous swipes at the former pontiff, having not paid too much attention to what he did and taught, how he did it, and why he did it. I really wonder how much of Benedict these people have personally read.

Francis needs to be read in the context of a parish priest, not as a scholar-pastor Benedict was.

Christ cannot be divided, Pope urges

At Solemn Vespers for the Solemnity of the Conversion of Saint Paul this evening, Pope Francis preached the following homily at the Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls.

“Has Christ been divided?” (1 Cor 1:13). The urgent appeal which Saint Paul makes at the beginning of his First Letter to the Corinthians, and which has been proclaimed at this evening’s liturgy, was chosen by a group of our fellow Christians in Canada as the theme for our meditation during this year’s Week of Prayer.

The Apostle was grieved to learn that the Christians of Corinth had split into different factions. Some claimed: “I belong to Paul”; while others claimed: “I belong to Apollos” or “I belong to Cephas”, and others yet claimed: “I belong to Christ” (cf. v. 12). Paul could not even praise those who claimed to belong to Christ, since they were using the name of the one Savior to set themselves apart from their other brothers and sisters within the community. In other words, the particular experience of each individual, or an attachment to certain significant persons in the community, had become a yardstick for judging the faith of others.

Amid this divisiveness, Paul appeals to the Christians of Corinth “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” to be in agreement, so that divisions will not reign among them, but rather a perfect union of mind and purpose (cf. v. 10). The communion for which the Apostle pleads, however, cannot be the fruit of human strategies. Perfect union among brothers and sisters can only come from looking to the mind and heart of Christ Jesus (cf. Phil 2:5). This evening, as we gather here in prayer, may we realize that Christ, who cannot be divided, wants to draw us to himself, to the sentiments of his heart, to his complete and confident surrender into the hands of the Father, to his radical self-emptying for love of humanity. Christ alone can be the principle, the cause and the driving force behind our unity.

As we find ourselves in his presence, we realize all the more that we may not regard divisions in the Church as something natural, inevitable in any form of human association. Our divisions wound Christ’s body, they impair the witness which we are called to give to him before the world. The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism, appealing to the text of Saint Paul which we have reflected on, significantly states: “Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communities present themselves to people as the true inheritance of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but they differ in outlook and go their different ways, as if Christ were divided”. And the Council continues: “Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the sacred cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 1).

Christ, dear friends, cannot be divided! This conviction must sustain and encourage us to persevere with humility and trust on the way to the restoration of full visible unity among all believers in Christ. Tonight I think of the work of two great Popes: Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II. In the course of their own lives, both came to realize the urgency of the cause of unity and, once elected to the See of Peter, they guided the entire Catholic flock decisively on the paths of ecumenism. Pope John blazed new trails which earlier would have been almost unthinkable. Pope John Paul held up ecumenical dialogue as an ordinary and indispensable aspect of the life of each Particular Church. With them, I think too of Pope Paul VI, another great promoter of dialogue; in these very days we are commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of his historic embrace with the Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople.

The work of these, my predecessors, enabled ecumenical dialogue to become an essential dimension of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, so that today the Petrine ministry cannot be fully understood without this openness to dialogue with all believers in Christ. We can say also that the journey of ecumenism has allowed us to come to a deeper understanding of the ministry of the Successor of Peter, and we must be confident that it will continue to do so in the future. As we look with gratitude to the progress which the Lord has enabled us to make, and without ignoring the difficulties which ecumenical dialogue is presently experiencing, let us all pray that we may put on the mind of Christ and thus progress towards the unity which he wills.

In this climate of prayer for the gift of unity, I address a cordial and fraternal greeting to His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and to His Grace David Moxon, the personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to all the representatives of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities gathered here this evening.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask the Lord Jesus, who has made us living members of his body, to keep us deeply united to him, to help us overcome our conflicts, our divisions and our self-seeking, and to be united to one another by one force, by the power of love which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5). Amen.

Pope to priests: hear confessions

Pope hears confessionsThe human face of Jesus Christ, the mercy of God and the love of Holy Mother Church is only going to be known if the priest gets back into the confessional (on a daily basis?). The Pope of Mercy is calling priests to act like priests and not as bureaucrats by getting into the confessional more often.

Robert Moynihan, Editor-in-Chief of Inside the Vatican, writes today, “Out of the Curia into the Confessional,” that a recent papal decision in asking the priests (which includes the bishops and cardinals) of the Roman Curia to hear confessions on a regular basis. Why? “Because he [Pope Francis] wishes to emphasize the importance of confession, and of God’s great goodness in forgiving human sin.”

Confession of sin opens all of us up to what is a living Catholicism (evangelization and faith formation): to living a mature form of Christianity.

What a great idea! Actually, the Pope is expanding the ministry started at one of the churches in Rome devoted to promoting God’s unfailing mercy through the inspiration of Saint Faustina. Oddly enough, the building next to the church where the confessions are heard, is the Jesuit Roman Curia. You might remember that the Jesuits, from the days of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, had a special ministry in hearing confessions for people of all walks of life. The good Jesuit would stop everything to reconcile someone to God and the Church! A delight that is no longer frequently practiced by the Jesuits of their own Curia. Leave it to the Jesuit pope to re-invigorate this venerable aspect of Jesuit priestly ministry… I hope the Jesuits get the hint.

What the Pope has proposed the Curia is not meant for them alone; it is meant as an invitation to all priests about the world to reclaim the ministry of reconciliation today. There are no reasonable excuses to be made but I can hear the priests complaining now: “I already sit in the confessional once a week for 20 min.” OR, “The people know where to find me.” OR “We’ve lost the battle already, why bother?” OR “There are plenty of other priests hearing confessions in this city, I don’t have to spend more time in that box!” OR my favorite, “I am too busy.” The priest who holds this attitude needs some re-education.

In the City of New Haven, CT, there two Catholic parishes, both run by religious orders, the Order of Preachers and the Vincentian Fathers, St Mary’s Church and St Stanislaus Church (respectively), who make their priests available for confessions six days a week. I frequently see people going into the box a sinner only to emerge freed from sin and given sanctifying grace.

The Dominican Friars have a tendency to preach about the need for repentance and the beauty of being in the merciful embrace of the Good Shepherd through the ministry of the confession box. I think the Holy Father got his ideas in the Elm City, no?

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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