Pope Francis: April 2013 Archives

The Spirit changes us

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At the Sacrifice of the Mass in St Peter's Square, Pope Francis also celebrated the Rite of Confirmation with 44 people from around the world. As we approach Pentecost, this excerpt from his short homily is very instructive. Pay attention. Don't forget to daily ask, no beg, for the Holy Spirit to have a special grace to embrace the day. May the Spirit be with these 44 newly confirmed in the Faith, indeed, all those around the world who are receiving the sacrament of Confirmation these days.

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This is the work of the Holy Spirit: he brings us the new things of God. He comes to us and makes all things new; he changes us. The Spirit changes us! And Saint John's vision reminds us that all of us are journeying towards the heavenly Jerusalem, the ultimate newness which awaits us and all reality, the happy day when we will see the Lord's face - that marvelous face, the most beautiful face of the Lord Jesus - and be with him for ever, in his love.

You see, the new things of God are not like the novelties of this world, all of which are temporary; they come and go, and we keep looking for more. The new things which God gives to our lives are lasting, not only in the future, when we will be with him, but today as well. God is even now making all things new; the Holy Spirit is truly transforming us, and through us he also wants to transform the world in which we live. Let us open the doors to the Spirit, let ourselves be guided by him, and allow God's constant help to make us new men and women, inspired by the love of God which the Holy Spirit bestows on us! How beautiful it would be if each of you, every evening, could say: Today at school, at home, at work, guided by God, I showed a sign of love towards one of my friends, my parents, an older person!

In the Pauline Chapel in Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis offered Mass with some of the cardinals on the feast of Saint George, the name day of the Pope, Saint George. There are several stellar points made the Pope noted below with my emphasis. In these days when one's identity as a Christian is questioned, or even rejected for superficial reasons, I think that if you consider what the Church teaches, especially through the eyes of Pope Benedict and now through Pope Francis, you will notice the truth, not ideology, joy, not grumpiness. The Pope uses another previous pope to help him and us to understand the work of the Church --her mission-- under the power of the Holy Spirit.

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter ...
The [first] reading today makes me think that the missionary expansion of the Church began precisely at a time of persecution, and these Christians went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, and proclaimed the Word. They had this apostolic fervor within them, and that is how the faith spread! Some, people of Cyprus and Cyrene - not these, but others who had become Christians - went to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks too. It was a further step. And this is how the Church moved forward. Whose was this initiative to speak to the Greeks? This was not clear to anyone but the Jews. But ... it was the Holy Spirit, the One who prompted them ever forward ... But some in Jerusalem, when they heard this, became 'nervous and sent Barnabas on an "apostolic visitation": perhaps, with a little sense of humor we could say that this was the theological beginning of the Doctrine of the Faith: this apostolic visit by Barnabas. He saw, and he saw that things were going well.

And so the Church was a Mother, the Mother of more children, of many children. It became more and more of a Mother. A Mother who gives us the faith, a Mother who gives us an identity. But the Christian identity is not an identity card: Christian identity is belonging to the Church, because all of these belonged to the Church, the Mother Church. Because it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church. The great Paul VI said: "Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy." And the Mother Church that gives us Jesus gives us our identity that is not only a seal, it is a belonging. Identity means belonging. This belonging to the Church is beautiful.

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Earlier today in Rome Pope Francis ordained 10 men to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. He showed up early to the sacristy to spend time in prayer with each of the men to be ordained. For bishops, ordinations are their way of being generative; the newly ordained are often referred to as spiritual sons of the bishop. The Pope ordained pastors, not functionaries; he ordained shepherds of souls, not church babysitters. Below is his homily.

Beloved brothers and sisters: because these our sons, who are your relatives and friends, are now to be advanced to the Order of priests, consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which they are about to be raised.

It is true that God has made his entire holy people a royal priesthood in Christ. Nevertheless, our great Priest himself, Jesus Christ, chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in his name, and on behalf of mankind, a priestly office in the Church. For Christ was sent by the Father and he in turn sent the Apostles into the world, so that through them and their successors, the Bishops, he might continue to exercise his office of Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd. Indeed, priests are established co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God.

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Good Shepherd Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter, was observed in Rome with the ordination of 10 men to the priesthood by Pope Francis. Following the ordination the Pope delivered the weekly Regina Caeli address. Here's an excerpt:

The voice of Jesus is unique! If we learn to distinguish it, He guides us on the path of life, a path that goes beyond the abyss of death.

But at a certain point Jesus, referring to his sheep, says: "My Father, who has given them to me..." (Jn 10,29). This is very important, it is a profound mystery, that is not easy to understand: if I feel attracted to Jesus, if his voice warms my heart, it is thanks to God the Father, who has put in me the desire of love, of truth, life, beauty ... and Jesus is all this to the full! This helps us to understand the mystery of vocation, particularly the call to a special consecration. Sometimes Jesus calls us, invites us to follow him, but maybe we don't realize that it is Him, just like young Samuel.

Pope Francis

Regina Caeli address, 21 April 2013

Fourth Sunday of Easter

World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Many, nor all, but many, women religious in the USA have been feeling under pressure to address their lack of unity with Scripture and Tradition (read: Magisterium) over the last few decades. Of course, let me emphasize, not all women religious, but there are enough that have been living lives that are inconsistent with the charism of their orders, and who have taught their own theology especially on moral matters. Some have set up their own teaching authority over and against that of the Holy See. But this is not a matter of who has the right to make decisions, but it is about how all members of the baptized live in communio with the Jesus Christ and His sacrament, the Church. Their justification may very well be explained that women religious believed they are doing what the Council decreed. Will the US sisters now offer spin on what said and done in Rome today? How will they support the shepherding of Pope Francis? Will the US sisters now reassess their place as members of the Mystical Body of Christ? 

Here is the press release of the Holy See:


Today the Superiors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith met with the Presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the United States of America. Most Rev. J. Peter Sartain, Archbishop of Seattle and the Holy See's Delegate for the Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR, also participated in the meeting.

As this was his first opportunity to meet with the Presidency of the LCWR, the Prefect of the Congregation, Most Rev. Gerhard Ludwig Müller, expressed his gratitude for the great contribution of women Religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years.

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The homily of Pope Francis at St Paul outside the Walls.

It is a joy for me to celebrate Mass with you in this Basilica. I greet the Archpriest, Cardinal James Harvey, and I thank him for the words that he has addressed to me. Along with him, I greet and thank the various institutions that form part of this Basilica, and all of you. We are at the tomb of Saint Paul, a great yet humble Apostle of the Lord, who proclaimed him by word, bore witness to him by martyrdom and worshipped him with all his heart. These are the three key ideas on which I would like to reflect in the light of the word of God that we have heard: proclamation, witness, worship.

In the First Reading, what strikes us is the strength of Peter and the other Apostles. In response to the order to be silent, no longer to teach in the name of Jesus, no longer to proclaim his message, they respond clearly: "We must obey God, rather than men". And they remain undeterred even when flogged, ill-treated and imprisoned. Peter and the Apostles proclaim courageously, fearlessly, what they have received: the Gospel of Jesus. And we? Are we capable of bringing the word of God into the environment in which we live? Do we know how to speak of Christ, of what he represents for us, in our families, among the people who form part of our daily lives? Faith is born from listening, and is strengthened by proclamation.

Apse mosaic of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outs...
At the Mass offered by Pope Francis at the Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls today reminded us that "we must obey God"!  Francis asked, do we know how to speak of Christ today? 

Faith is born from listening and strengthened by proclamation.

The teaching gained from today's papal homily as the Pope took possession of the this basilica that is close the Petrine ministry, he gave yet another way of looking at being in relationship with the Lord Jesus in concrete ways. He was not abstract, he did give us a direction. In typical Benedictine terms, that God be glorified in all things (the Jesuits say, adapting the phrase just quoted: "to the greater glory of God). We need to be carried by God's will under all circumstances, even if it costs our lives. Every detail matters in speaking of the grace given by God. We all, no matter to rank, experience, education, socio-economic class, are in relationship with Jesus Christ. The tangible witness of our lives is crucial. Inconsistencies by pastors and ministers betray Christ and undermine the Good News. We need to be close the Lord as the 12 were, as the 72 were, as those who heard and saw Him as described in the Acts of the Apostles. 

Do we worship the Lord? Do only turn the Lord ask of Him things, or do we turn to Him to worship Him?

Worshiping God means learning to be with Him, stop dialogue, but sensing his presence is the most true and most important of all. It means striping ourselves of our idols (e.g., money, power, and fame) and placing God in the center of our lives. Does God have the first place in our lives, that we are convinced that God is the God of our lives and our history? 

The Pope's three key ideas spoken: proclamation, witness, worship.
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Yesterday, the Holy Father met with the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission (PBC) led by German Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The theme the PBC's annual plenary assembly was "Inspiration and Truth in the Bible." On the personal and parish level, this theme is revisited year-in and year-out. Catholics (and the Orthodox) have a particular way of praying, reading, studying and living the sacred Scripture that is very different from the Protestant ecclesial communities: from WITHIN the context of the living community of faith, i.e., the Liturgy.

Pope Francis paid close attention to this year's work of the PBC by saying it "affects not only the individual believer but the whole Church, for the Church's life and mission are founded on the Word of God, which is the soul of theology as well as the inspiration of all of Christian existence."

He noted that in Dei Verbum the emphasis of what the nature of Scripture is, how the Church interprets Scripture, what is conserved by the Church, and by whose authority is at work. I  think one of the "money quotes" is when Francis reminded us that "The interpretation of Sacred Scriptures cannot be just an individual academic effort, but must always be compared to, inserted within, and authenticated by the living tradition of the Church." 

The point we Catholics have to come to understand and to work on is that we are a biblically based religion, like none other, established by Jesus Christ, and preaching Him since 33 AD. We can't get away from the Scriptures and that's why bible study AND lectio divina are crucial every day. The Scriptures are testimony of how God works and humanity responds to God's invitation.

Here is the Pope's text:

I am pleased to welcome you at the end of your annual Plenary Assembly. I thank the President, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, for his greeting and summary of the topic that has been the subject of careful consideration in the course of your work. You have gathered again to study a very important topic: the inspiration and truth of the Bible. It is a matter that affects not only the individual believer, but the whole Church, for the life and mission of the Church is founded on the Word of God, which is the soul of theology and the inspiration of all Christian life .

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Last Sunday, Pope Francis, as the bishop of Rome, took possession of his cathedral church, Saint John Lateran. This coming Sunday, 14 April, Pope Francis will take possession of the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul's outside the Walls in Rome.

A concelebrated Mass will be offered by the Pope, the archpriest, James Cardinal Harvey and the Benedictine monks to whom the pastoral care of the Basilica and the adjoining Monastery are entrusted. The monks are led by Abbot Edmund Power, OSB. He gives an interview to Vatican Radio (be aware, some of the abbot's facts are wrong).

There is a historical connection between the Benedictines and the Jesuits. True the Benedictines about 1000 years old than the Jesuits but the historical part goes a bit deeper. The Pilgrim, as he was known, went to the Benedictine abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat in Spain, to make a general confession, keep an all-night in vigil before Our Lady's altar, and to observe the rites of chivalry in preparation for his new life of being a converted sinner. There Ignatius left his sword and knife at the altar of the Black Madonna, he disposed of his fine clothes to a poor man, and adopted rough clothes with sandals and a staff of a pilgrim.

Understanding Pope Francis

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In order to understand we try to place persons on the map by locating the coordinates of geo-location, intellectual interests, published statements, behavior, friendships, and religious devotion. In some circles your going to see people wanting to know about a person's marriage status, financial assets, and how they have concern for others. It is true that the use of liberal and conservative labels are misleading and are generally meaningless outside the secular political context. With the March election of the new bishop of Rome, the Roman Pontiff, Francis, many of us crave to know more about the man who we follow. He is Christ's representative; he is not a politician. Without exaggeration, the man who is Christ's vicar points Catholics in a direction: to perfect communion with the Triune God. 

John Allen's article likely gives the best precís of Jorge Bergoglio as an archbishop of Buenos Aires. The past helps to indicate the future. But we believe in surprises. People change; the priorities of the work changes; life is different.

I look forward to the forthcoming biographies of Francis to see if they analyze the facts similarly. Now, as Pope Francis, he appears to be orthodox in theology with a genuine concern of those who live on the margins. He is not terribly different on this plane from John Paul and Benedict. The critics thus far of Francis' papacy ought to remember that Pope Pius IX in the 19th century was considered a "liberal and a reformer." We have to temper the temptation to be negative, judgmental, prone to anxiety and dismissive. The Law of Charity ought to be lived and applied.
Abp Gerhard Ludwig Mueller & Francis.jpgThe Pope is meeting with all the heads of the various departments of the Holy See. 

Today, there was a meeting with the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, 65, to discuss the work of the Congregation and its competence in handling cases of sexual abuse.

Archbishop Müller is the bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Regensburg; he was appointed to his present work on 2 July 2012.

No surprise in that Pope Francis will continue the good work of Pope Benedict in acting quickly and decisively, in excising justice and compassion, and being close to the victims and their families. The unsaid part of this is being attentive to the needs of the people falsely accused. Sin and criminal behavior will not be tolerated in the Church.

No formal message was issued but several news agencies have carried their own analysis of the meeting. Read about the meeting here and the CNS story by Carol Glatz here.
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Francis Apr 3.jpgGet to know the Pope.... How well do you know Francis, bishop of Rome?

Carol Glatz's CNS' article yesterday pulls together some of his favorite things.

Glatz's "Homebody, soccer fan, tango-lover --some papal pastimes revealed" does make me smile, and encourage...

He has a humanity...as all popes have.

It is true that women have had a better sense in recognizing the risen Jesus than men:  "the women were the first witnesses" of Jesus' resurrected existence. The teaching of the resurrection from the dead of Jesus and our own future resurrection is undeniably hard teaching to grasp. Yesterday, we heard in the account of the Marys at the tomb. One of the Marys, that of Magdala, is known as the Apostle to the Apostles. Below are three paragraphs on the subject from today's Wednesday General Audience of Pope Francis. I am sure some will raise the issue that the Pope is not going far enough by denying the ministerial priesthood to women. Of course, we are not talking about ministerial priesthood here; the Pope's point here is to draw our attention that God's ways, God's criteria in selecting those who called to serve Him is not same as human ways of judging AND the identification and verification of the Lord's truth as the Son of God, alive and present to each of us. As Francis says, "In our journey of faith it is important to know and feel that God loves us, do not be afraid to love: faith is professed with the mouth and heart, with the word and love."

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I would like to dwell the second, on testimony in the form of the accounts that we find in the Gospels. First, we note that the first witnesses to this event were the women. At dawn, they go to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, and find the first sign: the empty tomb (Mk 16:1). This is followed by an encounter with a Messenger of God who proclaims: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, he is not here, he is risen (cf. vv. 5-6). The women are driven by love and know how to accept this proclamation with faith: they believe, and immediately transmit it, they do not keep it for themselves. They cannot contain the joy of knowing that Jesus is alive, the hope that fills their heart. This should also be the same in our lives. Let us feel the joy of being Christian! We believe in the Risen One who has conquered evil and death! Let us also have the courage to "go out" to bring this joy and light to all the places of our lives! The Resurrection of Christ is our greatest certainty, it is our most precious treasure! How can we not share this treasure, this beautiful certainty with others! It's not just for us it's to be transmitted, shared with others this is our testimony!

Breaking of the bread. Español: Fracción del p...
As the "new man" on the block I am trying to figure what the new Roman Pontiff's taught prior to his move to Rome. In 2008, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio now Pope Francis, was invited to give a teaching on the Holy Eucharist to International Eucharistic Congress, Quebec City, Canada. The title of his talk was "The Eucharist: Gift of God for the Life of the World."

I would say that his controlling idea is based on the Aparecida document where it is written, "The Eucharist is the vital center of the universe, able to satisfy our hunger for life and happiness. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood in this happy banquet participates in eternal life, and thus our daily existence is transformed into an extension of the Mass." He then develops the theme of the Eucharist as gift and mission in light of the Church's enduring self-understanding as covenant. He appeals to tradition, some saints and the Mother of God to demonstrate that evangelization is about Eucharistic Presence, sacrifice, and communion. He argues in the key of communio theology.

Much of what we've heard in the last two weeks in his papal addresses and homilies given here.

The text: Bergoglio Eucharist Gift of God for the Life of the World.pdf

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Pope Francis makes direct connections between what believe and how we live the sacred Liturgy and the sacraments. It is the consistent teaching of Scripture and the Church that the practice of prayer, personal and liturgical (that is, what makes for a vital relationship with God) necessarily spills over to being an alive Catholic. The connection he's making is consistent with what say in liturgical theology about the "lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi" tradition: the law of prayer (and sacraments) tells us what we believe and how we live.

For the 50 days of Easter when the pope gives a teaching it is called the "Regina Coeli Address" but during the rest of the year it is called "Angelus Address" because during Eastertide we pray the Regina Coeli. The Address:

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Happy Easter to you all! Thank you for coming today, in such large numbers, to share the joy of Easter, the central mystery of our faith. Let us pray that the power of the resurrection of Christ might reach everyone - especially those who suffer - and every place that is in need of trust and hope.

Christ has conquered evil fully and finally, but it is up to us, to people in every age, to embrace this victory in our lives and in the realities of history and society. For this reason it seems important to point out that today we ask God in the liturgy: "O God, who give constant increase to your Church by new offspring, grant that your servants may hold fast in their lives to the Sacrament they have received in faith." (Collect for Monday in the Octave of Easter).

Indeed, the Baptism that makes us children of God, and the Eucharist that unites us to Christ, must become life. That is to say: they must be reflected in attitudes, behaviors, actions and choices. The grace contained in the Sacraments Easter is an enormous source of strength for renewal in personal and family life, as well as for social relations. Nevertheless, everything passes through the human heart: if I allow myself to be reached by the grace of the risen Christ, if I let that grace change for the better whatever is not good in me, [to change whatever] might do harm to me and to others, then I allow the victory of Christ to affirm itself in in my life, to broaden its beneficial action. This is the power of grace! Without grace we can do nothing - without grace we can do nothing! And with the grace of Baptism and Holy Communion can become an instrument of God's mercy - that beautiful mercy of God.

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April's papal prayer intentions has, for the first time the monthly intentions, Pope Francis' ministry as the focus of our attention. Being in prayerful solidarity with the successor of Saint Peter is a hallmark of communio ecclesiology.

While the Apostleship of Prayer formed the papal intentions prior to the papal resignation and papal election, our prayer continued through the sede vacante because of the Office of the Bishop of Rome never ceases. The needs of the Church remains.

The general intention

That the public, prayerful celebration of faith [the sacred Liturgy] may give life to the faithful.

The mission intention

That mission churches may be signs and instruments of hope and resurrection.

Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:23-32 that the community of believers are anchored in the Eucharist. As you know, this is the earliest recorded Christian understanding of what the Lord did on the day before He died on the cross.  In fact, Saint Paul's letter to the Corinthians has the famous line, "Do this in remembrance of me,"  which keeps our attention on what's essential. Pope Benedict's good example and teaching tells us that real renewal of our faith rests in our living what the Eucharist means. Consider what the bishops of the Second Vatican Council said about the Eucharist: it is "the memorial of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross." Hence, our prayer intention for April not only echoes a key teaching of Scripture but also the magisterium that teaches us that "the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed." The Liturgy, most particularly the Eucharist, is the fount of our faith in the Risen Lord, and from which the Church's pastoral power flows.

The mission intention speaks to the virtue of hope. It is the Christian hope in our eternal destiny. Again, appealing to the teaching of Saint Paul's letter,  2 Corinthians 5:16-20, pinpoints what we believe about faith in Christ: we live with a new humanity, that is, we have a new creation. The Year of Faith proclamation says, "Through faith, we can recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love."

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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