From the Vatican
Pope at Audience: Thy Will Be Done
March 20, 2019 (Vatican Media) During the General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the "Our Father". This is the official English-language summary:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the “Our Father”, we now turn to the third invocation, “Thy will be done”. We see God’s will revealed in the Person of Jesus: to seek out and to save that which is lost. If we do not appreciate this we risk misunderstanding the meaning of the third aspect of the “Our Father”. We can affirm, however, without a doubt, that God’s will is indeed for the salvation of all mankind. Our prayer, then, is offered by children who know their Father’s heart and are certain of His loving plan. This prayer, moreover, inspires in us the same desire for the Father’s will as we see in Jesus, especially when, in the garden of Gethsemane, He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this chalice from me; nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done” (Lk 22:42). Jesus is crushed by the world’s wickedness, yet He abandons Himself faithfully to the Father’s will. We can do likewise, for the conviction that God will never abandon us is more than a hope. It is a certainty!
Pope Francis at Mass: Imitate the Mercy of the Lord
March 19, 2019 (Vatican Media) During the Mass celebrated in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta, the Pope speaks about the mercy of God and offers some suggestions for living the time of Lent to its fullness.
Do not judge others; do not condemn; forgive: in this way you imitate the mercy of the Father. In the Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis reminds us that in order not “to not go astray” in life, we need “to imitate God”, “walk in the sight of the Father”. Beginning with the Gospel from St Luke, the Pope spoke especially about the mercy of God, capable of forgiving even the “worst” actions:
The mercy of God is such a great thing, very great. We must not forget this. How many people [say]: “I have done such terrible things. I have purchased my place in hell, I can’t turn back”. But do they think about the mercy of God? Let us remember that story about the poor widow lady who went to confess to the Curé of Ars. Her husband had committed suicide; he jumped from the bridge into the river. And she wept. She said, “But I am a sinner, a poor woman. But my poor husband! He is in hell. He committed suicide, and suicide is a mortal sin. He is in hell”. And the Curé of Ars said, “But wait a moment, ma’am, because between the bridge and the river, there is the mercy of God”. But to the very end, to the very end, there is the mercy of God.
Good habits for Lent
Pope Francis said that Jesus gives three practical suggestions to help us get in the habit of being merciful. First: to not “judge”. We should refrain from judging, especially in this time of Lent:
Also, it is a habit that gets mixed up in our life even without us realizing it. Always! Even by beginning a conversation: “Did you see what he did?” Judgement of others. Let us think about how many times each day we judge. All of us. But always through beginning a conversation, a comment about someone else: “But look, that person had plastic surgery! They’re uglier than before”.
Keeping our pockets open
In his homily, Pope Francis invited everyone to learn the wisdom of generosity, the main way to overcome “gossiping”. When we gossip about others, he said, “we are continually judging, continually condemning, and hardly forgiving:
The Lord teaches us: “Give and it will be given to you”: be generous in giving. Don’t be “closed pockets”; be generous in giving to the poor, to those who are in need, and also in giving many things: in giving counsel, in giving a smile to people, in smiling. “Give and it will be given to you. And it will be given to you in good measure, flowing over, pressed down, running over”, because the Lord will be generous: We give one, and He gives us one hundred of all that we have given. And this is the attitude that provides armor for not judging, not condemning; for forgiving. The importance of giving alms, but not only material alms, but spiritual alms too: spending time with someone in need, visiting someone who is sick, offering a smile.
Pope at Angelus: Let Us Fix Our Gaze on the Light of Christ
By Lydia O'Kane
March 17, 2019 (Vatican Media) Before the recitation of the Marian prayer, the Pope contemplates the events of the Transfiguration on this second Sunday of Lent.
Reflecting on the Gospel of St Luke, in which the Evangelist vividly recounts Jesus transfigured on the mountain, the Pope said, that this was ”a place of light, a fascinating symbol of the unique experience reserved for the three disciples”, Peter, James and John.
The Transfiguration, explained the Pope, “takes place at a very precise moment of Christ's mission, that is, after he confided to his disciples that he "must suffer much, [...] be killed and rise again on the third day" (v. 21).
From suffering to joy of Easter
He went on to say that “the Transfiguration of Christ shows us the Christian perspective of suffering: it is a necessary but transitory passage. The point of arrival to which we are called is as luminous as the face of the transfigured Christ.”
By showing his glory, noted the Pope, “Jesus assures us that the cross, the trials, the difficulties with which we are struggling will be overcome and resolved with Easter. Therefore, this Lent, he continued, “let us also climb the mountain with Jesus. In what way? With prayer. Let us remain for a few moments in recollection, fix our inner gaze on his face and let his light pervade us and radiate into our lives.”
The Pope also pointed out that the Evangelist Luke insists that Jesus transfigured himself "while he was praying" . “He had immersed himself in an intimate conversation with the Father,” said Pope Francis “…and while he was adhering with all of himself to the Father's will of salvation, including the cross, the glory of God invaded him, shining forth also from the outside.”
The Pope concluded by saying that, “prayer in Christ and in the Holy Spirit transforms the person from within and can enlighten others and the surrounding world.”
Prayer for New Zealand Victims
Pope Francis during the Sunday Angelus appeals for renewed gestures of peace and prayer to combat hatred and violence following the massacres at two mosques in New Zealand.
Speaking to the faithful in St Peter’s Square the Pope said, “In these days, in addition to the pain of wars and conflicts that do not cease to afflict humanity, there have been the victims of the horrible attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. I pray for the dead and injured and their families. I am close to that religious and civil community, and I renew my invitation for prayer and gestures of peace to combat hatred and violence.”
Following Pope Francis’ words, both he and everyone in the square observed a moment of silence for the victims.
The death toll on Sunday had risen to 50 following the worst terrorist attack in the country's modern history. Authorities believe the man charged with the attacks, Australian Brenton Tarrant, acted alone. He appeared in court Saturday amid strict security, while the judge read him one murder charge and said more would likely follow.
Grief stricken relatives on Sunday were anxiously waiting for authorities to release the remains of those who were killed. Thirty-four injured victims remained at a Christchurch Hospital, where officials said 12 were in critical condition. A 4-year-old girl at a children's hospital in Auckland was also listed as critical.
Pope’s Spiritual Exercises: Uprooting Indifference
By Robin Gomes
March 13, 2019 (Vatican Media) Retreat preacher, Italian Benedictine Abbot, Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni, reflected on the need to uproot indifference that shields us from our responsibility towards others by seeking the beauty and balance that come from being loved by God and loving Him in return.
Preaching his 4th reflection on the theme, “Today’s infamy, disgrace and indifference,” the abbot said that we are called to look at the wounds of cities that are complex and marked by injustices of all kinds. To do so, we need to let reality prevail over ideas, and not vice versa, as Pope Francis says.
The preacher spoke about indifference, one of the three signs of evil that often paralyzes our hearts in a subtle way and blurs our eyes. Indifference, he said, acts as a shield, preventing us from our responsibility of others. It is against the evangelical passion that the Lord wants to ignite with the power of His Holy Spirit in our hearts.
The action of the Church and of men and women of good will, the abbot explained, really becomes this fruitfulness generated by the obedient and passionate listening to the Gospel of life of Jesus. With the holiness of the present times, those embers can truly set ablaze the light of hope in the night of the cities of our world.
The temptation of indifference, that affects also churchmen, the abbot noted, can be overcome by bringing and incarnating the Word of God in our cities at every cost.
Beauty and proportion
For this, the preacher proposed the medicines of beauty and proportion. One needs to seek a balance between man and himself, and between man and things. This means renouncing our illusion of being at the center and opening our eyes to reality to see the light and listen to the true silence.
It is not we but Christ who is the center of history and space, to whom we must conform ourselves, which gives pleasure to the Father. The result of a good Lenten journey, the abbot said, is to let the hand of God restore our beauty, which is mere clay, fragile and poor, needing God's breathe. If you entrust yourselves to God totally, Abbot Gianni said, you will become His perfect artwork.
Pope’s Spiritual Exercises: Cities as Spaces for Reconciliation, Peace and Encounter
By Robin Gomes
March 12, 2019 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis and 65 of his collaborators from the Roman Curia who are on their Lenten spiritual exercises, March 10-15, at the Casa Divin Maestro in the town of Arricia, just outside Rome, heard a meditation Monday morning on the need to make our cities symbols of peace, fraternity and hospitality.
Heavenly Jerusalem on earth
The retreat preacher, Italian Benedictine Abbot Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni, delivered the meditation drawing much from the saintly mayor of the Italian city of Florence, Giorgio La Pira, who believed in God’s dream that a city modeled on the heavenly Jerusalem was possible on earth.
This dream or plan, Abbot Gianni explained, concerns not just the city of Florence of La Pira but all the cities of the world understood as a "space for reconciliation, peace and encounter", in contrast to a world that is too often condemned to despair, resignation and darkness that are deemed invincible.
The Benedictine monk also spoke about the "universal mystery" that leads each city to rediscover its true vocation and to reflect the heavenly Jerusalem, where people live cohesively, animated by ardent desires and great hopes.
Far from being an irrational, dreamlike and meaningless digression, he explained, this dream is so concrete that it opens the horizon to the action of God. Revisiting and renewing cities top-down, as La Pira wrote, thus becomes fundamental for the good of the people and of political, technical and economic structures.
This is the contemplative outlook of faith, that seeks to implement the history of Christ in the world, despite every effort to break the harmony, beauty and splendor of the city of God.
Recalling Giorgio La Pira and the Italian poet Mario Luzi, the Benedictine monk said that this extraordinary dream calls for the involvement of not only of civil structures but also and primarily the action of the Church so that the God’s dream for all men may be triumphant and concrete.
God’s dream, the retreat preacher pointed out, has already had admirable achievements in past centuries and it will have even more admirable achievements in the course of future centuries. This is because the design of the Holy Spirit never remains a distant and ineffective model or an ideal but works in the lives of men as a “transfiguring yeast”.
Abbot Gianni said that this is a call to witness to the Holy Spirit whose flame is the only thing that can stop the “devastating fire of the world”. Through prayer, progress, beauty, work, and peace and testimonies such as concrete gestures, trust in God and dialogue of love, can restore to every city its universal mission without destruction and war.
Gaze of faith
In conclusion, the retreat preacher talked about the need to behold the city with a gaze of faith that discovers God who dwells in its homes, streets and squares. God lives among the citizens promoting solidarity, brotherhood, the desire for goodness, truth and justice, Abbot Gianni said, adding that He does not hide Himself from those who seek Him with a sincere heart.
Pope’s Spiritual Exercises: Caring for the Heart to Recognize God’s Presence
By Robin Gomes
March 11, 2019 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis and 65 of his collaborators from the Roman Curia began their annual spiritual exercises Sunday evening at the Casa Divin Maestro in the town of Arricia, just outside Rome.
Benedictine Abbot Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni, head of the Olivetan Abbey of San Miniato al Monte, is preaching the March 10-15 Lenten spiritual retreat on the theme “The City of Ardent Desires: For Paschal Looks and Gestures in the Life of the World”.
Pope Francis sat on the 4th row Sunday evening, to listen to the first meditation of Fr. Gianni on a 1997 poem by Italian poet Mario Luzi entitled: "We are here for this". The abbot's reflection started from the perspective of his abbey overlooking the Italian city of Florence, which Giorgio La Pira, the saintly mayor of Florence after World War II, now a “Venerable” on the way to sainthood, described as "a place of the geography of grace".
The Pope and his collaborators were invited to look at Florence and find clues about “how God lives the city”.
Gaze from above
The abbot spoke about the need to gaze from above in order not to fall into the temptation of the evil one who would almost have us own, dominate and condition the things of this world. On the contrary, he said, one needs to have a gaze aroused by the Holy Spirit and the Word of the Lord - a gaze of contemplation, of gratitude, of vigilance if necessary and of prophecy. It is a gaze that easily recognizes that our cities are a desert.
Desert into a garden
The Benedictine monk explained that the gaze from above is also an incentive to rekindle a fire in order to restore true life in Christ and the Gospel.
He earnestly urged his listeners to have what he called the “gaze of mystery towards Florence”, so that their pastoral actions and care of the people and humanity entrusted to them by the Lord, may truly be a "new living flame of ardent desire" that transforms the desert into a garden of beauty, peace, justice and harmony.
Citing the words of the Medieval Scottish mystic, Richard of Saint Victor - “where there is love, there is a look" - Abbot Gianni spoke of the need to recognize the traces and clues that the Lord leaves behind as He passes through our history and life. It is in this love that one must read the gaze of La Pira on Florence, of Jesus on Jerusalem and on all those the Lord met. The abbot said, it is a perspective that introduces "a dynamic Easter", making us aware of a weakened brotherhood. The strength of brotherhood, the preacher stressed, is the new frontier of Christianity.
The gaze of Christ
Recalling that humanism starts from Christ, the abbot invited the retreat participants to have a glimpse of the merciful face of the dead and risen Jesus who recreates our humanity that is fragmented by the struggles of life or marked by sin.
“Let us allow Jesus to gaze at us,” the retreat preacher urged, so that “we learn to see as He saw,” just as He did with the rich young man and Zacchaeus.
Abbot Gianni described Christ’s gaze as one that sweeps away the fear of not recognizing the Lord, but one which already has changed the heart.
The abbot recalled the words of St. Augustine - "If you are not attentive to your heart, you will never know if Jesus is visiting you or not" – and stressed on the conversion of the heart so that it recognizes the presence of God in our history and opens itself to a burning hope that is new and unheard of.
The Benedictine monk thus urged the consecrated persons to a simple and prophetic life, where the Lord is before their eyes and in the hands, and nothing else is required.
"Consecrated life,” he said, “is this prophetic vision in the Church.” “It is the gaze that sees God present in the world, even if many do not realize it". “He is life, He is the hope and the future,” the abbot said.
Pope at Angelus: Jesus Shows Us the Remedies for Temptations
By Christopher Wells
March 10, 2019 (Vatican Media) On the First Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis reflects on the day’s Gospel, which tells how Jesus was led into the desert, where He was tempted by the devil. In his Angelus address, Pope Francis said the three temptations Jesus faced “indicate three paths that the world always proposes, promising great success”.
The greed of possession
After Jesus had fasted for forty days, the devil tempted Him to turn stones to bread. This, the Pope said, is “the path of the greed of possession”. The devil always begins with our natural and legitimate needs, he explained, “in order to push us to believe” that we can find fulfillment “without God, and even contrary to Him”. Jesus, however, responds by quoting Scripture: “Man shall not live by bread alone”.
The path of human glory
The second temptation is “the prospect of becoming a powerful and glorious Messiah”, which Pope Francis describes as “the path of human glory”. Bowing down before the “idols of money, of success, of power” can corrupt us. This leads to “the intoxication of an empty joy that soon fades away” – and this, the Pope says, is why Jesus responds, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve”.
Finally, the devil leads Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem, and “invites Him to cast Himself down” in order to demonstrate His divine power. Pope Francis calls this the path of “instrumentalizing God for one’s own advantage”. Jesus rejects the devil’s temptation, “with the firm decision to remain humble and confident before the Father”. Once again, the Lord quotes Scripture: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God”. In this way, the Pope said, Jesus “rejects perhaps the most subtle temptation: wanting ‘to bring God over to our own side’, by asking Him for graces that only serve to satisfy our own pride”.
All these temptations, the Pope said, are really “illusions” that promise “success and happiness”, but in reality “are all completely foreign to God’s way of acting”. In fact, he said, “they actually separate us from God, because they are the work of Satan”.
Remedies for temptation
Jesus overcomes these three temptations by personally facing them, “in order fully to adhere to the Father’s plan”. In doing so, Pope Francis said, Jesus shows us the remedies for temptations – namely, “the interior life, faith in God, the certainty of His love.” With the certainty that God is Father, and that He loves us, "we will overcome every temptation".
So, Pope Francis said in conclusion, “let us take advantage of Lent, as a privileged time to purify ourselves, in order to experience the consoling presence of God in our life”.
Pope: Lent is an Opportunity to Be Simple and True
By Linda Bordoni
March 9, 2019 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Friday highlighting the need for believers to be true Christians and shun appearances. Taking his cue from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, Pope Francis condemned all forms of hypocrisy and explained the difference there is between objective and formal reality.
Formal reality, the Pope said, is an expression of objective reality, but the two must proceed together, or else we end up living an existence of “appearances”, a life “without truth”.
Show joy while doing penance
The simplicity of appearances, he continued, should be rediscovered especially in this Lenten period, as we practice fasting, almsgiving and prayer.
Christians, the Pope said, should show joy while doing penance. They should be generous with those in need without “blasting their trumpets”; they should address the Father in an intimate manner, without seeking the admiration of others.
During Jesus’s time, he explained, this was evident in the behavior of the Pharisee and the publican; today Catholics feel they are “just” because they belong to such an “association” or because they go to Mass every Sunday, they feel they are better than others.
“Those who seek appearances never recognize themselves as sinners, and if you say to them: ‘you too are a sinner! We are all sinners’ they become righteous”, the Pope said, and try to show themselves “as a perfect little picture, all appearances”. When there is this difference between reality and appearances, he added, “the Lord uses the adjective: Hypocrite”.
The hypocrisy of everyday life
Each individual is tempted by hypocrisy, Pope Francis said, and the period that leads us to Easter can be an opportunity to recognize our inconsistencies, to identify the layers of make-up we may have applied to “hide reality”.
“Young people”, he said, “are not impressed by those who put on appearances and then do not behave accordingly, especially when this hypocrisy is worn by whom he described as “religion professionals”. The Lord, he said, asks for coherence.
“Many Christians, even Catholics, who call themselves practicing Catholics, exploit people!” he said.
So often, the Pope continued, they humiliate and exploit their workers sending them home at the beginning of summer and taking them back at the end so they are not entitled to a pension.
“Many of them call themselves Catholics, they go to Mass on Sundays... but this is what they do”. This kind of behavior, he said, is a mortal sin!
A simple soul
The Pope concluded his homily inviting the faithful to rediscover the beauty of simplicity, of reality that “must be one with appearance” during this time of Lent.
“Ask the Lord for strength and go forward with humility, doing what you can. But don't put make-up on your soul, because the Lord won't recognize you. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to be consistent, not to be vain, not to want to appear more worthy than we are. Let us ask for this grace, during this Lent: the coherence between formality and the reality, between who we are and how we want to appear”.