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Pope Francis: overcome temptation to be "Christians without Jesus
Christians must never forget that the centre of their life is Jesus Christ. That was the message of Pope Francis at Mass this morning at the Casa Santa Marta. The Pope emphasised that we must overcome the temptation to be “Christians without Jesus” or Christians that seek only devotions, without Jesus.
Pope Francis dedicated his whole homily to the centrality of Jesus in the life of the Christian. “Jesus,” he said, “is the centre. Jesus is the Lord." And yet, he maintained, this is not always understood well, “it is not easily understood.” Jesus is not a lord of this or that, but is “the Lord, the only Lord.” He is the centre that “regenerates us, grounds us”: this is the Lord, “the centre.” The Pharisees of today’s Gospel, Pope Francis noted, “make so many commandments the centre of their religiosity.” Even today, “if Jesus is not at the centre, there will be many other things,” so that “we meet many Christians without Christ, without Jesus:
“For example, those who have the sickness of the Pharisees and are Christians that put their faith, their religiosity in so many commandments, so many. ‘Ah, I have to do this, I have to do this, I have to do this. Christians of this attitude . . . ‘But why do you do this?’ – ‘No, it must be done!’ – ‘But why?’ – ‘Ah, I don’t know, but it must be done.’ And Jesus – where is He? A commandment is valid if it comes from Jesus: I do this because the Lord wants me to do this. But if I am a Christian without Christ, I do this and I don’t know why I have to do it.”
There are, he added, “other Christians without Christ: those who only seek devotions . . . But Jesus is not there. If your devotions bring you to Christ, that works. But if you remain there, something’s wrong.” There’s another kind of Christian without Christ, he continued, “those who seek things that are a little uncommon, a little special, that go back to private revelations,” while the Revelation concluded with the New Testament. Pope Francis warned about the desire of these Christians to go to “a spectacle of revelation, to hear new things.” But, the Pope exhorted them, “take the Gospel!”:
“‘But Father, what is the rule for being a Christian with Christ, and not becoming a Christian without Christ. What is the sign of a person that is a Christian with Christ?’ The rule is simple: only that which brings you to Jesus is valid, and only that is valid that comes from Jesus. Jesus is the centre, the Lord, as He Himself says. Does this bring you to Jesus? Go ahead. Does this commandment, this attitude, come from Jesus? Go ahead. But if it doesn’t bring you to Jesus, and if it doesn’t come from Jesus, but . . . if you don’t know, it’s a bit dangerous.”
And again the Pope asks, “What is the sign that I am a Christian with Jesus?” The sign, he said, is simple. It is the sign of the one born blind that prostrated himself before Jesus to adore Him:
“But if you aren’t able to adore Jesus, you’re missing something. A rule, a sign. The sign is: I am a good Christian, I am on the path of a good Christian if I do that which comes from Jesus and if I do that which leads me to Jesus, because He is the centre. The sign is: I am capable of adoring, the adoration. This prayer of adoration of Jesus. The Lord makes us understand that He alone is the Lord, the unique Lord. And He gives us, too, the grace of loving Him so much, of following Him, of going along the path that He has shown us.
Pope at daily mass: Christian hope is Jesus personified
2013-09-09 - Vatican Radio
The virtue of hope, perhaps less understood than those of faith and charity, should never be confused with human optimism which is more a state of mind. For a Christian, hope is Jesus personified in the Eucharist and in the Word. That’s the essence of what Pope Francis said at this morning’s daily mass at the Vatican guesthouse Santa Marta.
Tracey McClure reports…
Hope is a gift from Jesus; hope is Jesus himself and bears his name, Pope Francis said in his homily. But it’s not the kind of hope that you find in a person who usually looks at “a half full glass” – that’s simply “optimism” and “optimism is a human attitude that depends on many things.”
Recalling the Gospel reading in which Jesus heals a man with a paralyzed hand and is criticized by the scribes and Pharisees, Pope Francis observed that through his miracle, Jesus shows them how their’s “is not the way of liberty.” “Liberty and hope,” the Pope said, “go together: where there is no hope, there can be no liberty.” And, the Pope said that with that gesture, Jesus shows us the power of renewal through Him.
“Jesus, hope, renews everything. He’s a constant miracle." Christ, the Pope said, embodies this “miracle of renewal” in the Church, “in my life, your life, in our life.” “Christ is the reason for our hope,” he said, “and this hope does not delude.”
The Holy Father also had a word for his fellow clergy. Noting that it’s “a little sad” when “one finds a priest without hope,” Pope Francis said it is beautiful to find one who arrives at the end of life “not with optimism, but with hope.” “This priest, he continued, is linked to Jesus Christ and the people of God need us priests to give them this sign of hope, living this hope in Jesus who renews all.”
And he pointed to the Madonna’s great hope in her son, as an example for all to follow. Even in her darkest hour, he said, she had “That hope: She had it. It’s that hope that renews all.”
Pope: No to triumphalism in the Church, proclaim Jesus without fear and embarrassment
2013-09-10 - Vatican Radio
Christians are called to proclaim Jesus without fear , without shame and without triumphalism . Those were the words of Pope Francis at Mass this Tuesday morning at the Casa Santa Marta. The Pope also stressed the risk of becoming a Christian without the Resurrection and reiterated that Christ is always at the center of our life and hope .
Listen to Lydia O'Kane's report
Jesus is the Winner who has won over sin and death.” Those were the words of Pope Francis on Tuesday morning during his Homily at morning Mass. He was referring to the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians in which the Saint recommends we walk with Jesus " because he has won, and we walk with him in his victory “firm in the faith."
This is the key point, the Pope stressed: "Jesus is risen .
" But, the Holy Father continued, it is not always easy to understand . The Pope then recalled that when St. Paul spoke to the Greeks in Athens he was listened to with interest up to when he spoke of the resurrection. "This makes us afraid , it best to leave it as is." Pope Francis said.
Continuing his Homily the Pope recalled the Apostles, who closed themselves up in the Upper Room for fear of the Jews, even Mary Magdalene is weeping because they have taken away the Lord's Body . " …they are afraid to think about the Resurrection." The Pope noted that “there are also the Christians who are embarrassed. They are embarrassed to "confess that Christ is risen.
Finally, said Pope Francis there is the group of Christians who " in their hearts do not believe in the Risen Lord and want to make theirs a more majestic resurrection than that of the real one . These, he said are the “triumphalist” Christians.
" They do not know the meaning of the word ' triumph ' the Pope continued, so they just say “triumphalism”, because they have such an inferiority complex and want to do this ...
When we look at these Christians , with their many triumphalist attitudes , in their lives, in their speeches and in their pastoral theology, liturgy , so many things , it is because they do not believe deep down in the Risen One . He is the Winner, the Risen One. He won.
"This, the Holy Father added, is the message that Paul gives to us " Christ "is everything," he is totality and hope , "because he is the Bridegroom , the Winner " .
Pope Francis: contemplate the “suffering humanity” of Jesus and the sweetness of Mary
In order to live the message of the Gospel, a Christian must contemplate the “two poles” of “the suffering humanity” of Jesus and the “sweetness” of Mary. That was Pope Francis’ message in his homily Thursday morning at Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.
The Gospel, he said, is demanding, it requires “strong things” from a Christian: the ability to forgive, magnanimity, love for enemies… There is only one way to be able to put it into practice: “to contemplate the Passion, the humanity of Jesus” and to imitate the behaviour of His Mother. It is precisely to Mary, whose Holy Name is celebrated in today’s Feast, that the Pope dedicated the first part of his homily. At one time, he said, today’s feast was known as the feast of the “Sweet Name of Mary.” Later this title was changed — but in the prayer, he observed, this “sweetness of her name” remains:
“Even today, we stand in need of this sweetness of the Madonna, in order to understand the things that Jesus requests of us, no? Because this list [of things] is not easy to live. Love the enemy, do good, lend without hoping for anything… to those who strike you on the cheek, offer the other; to those who rip your cloak, don’t refuse the tunic… But these are tough things, no? But the Madonna, in her own way, lived all these things: it is the grace of meekness, the grace of mildness.”
Saint Paul, too, in the letter to the Colossians in the day’s liturgy, invites Christians to “put on . . . heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness . . . bearing with one another and forgiving one another.” And here, Pope Francis said, we immediately ask: “But how can I do this? How can I prepare myself to do this? What must I learn in order to do this?” The answer, the Pope said, is clear: “We cannot do this through our own effort. We cannot do this! Only a grace can accomplish this in us.” And this grace, he added, comes along a definite path:
“Fix your thoughts on Jesus alone. If our heart, if our mind is with Jesus, the Victor who has conquered death, sin, the devil, all things, we can do what Jesus Himself asks of us, and what the Apostle asks of us: meekness, humility, kindness, heartfelt compassion, gentleness, magnanimity. If we do not look to Jesus, if we are not with Jesus, we cannot do this. It is a grace: it is the grace that comes from the contemplation of Jesus.”
In particular, Pope Francis continued, there is a specific aspect of the life of Jesus to which the Christian’s contemplation must always return: His Passion, His “suffering humanity.” And, he insisted, it is through this contemplation “of Jesus, of our life hidden with Jesus in God, that we are able to go forward with this attitude, these virtues that the Lord asks of us. There is no other path”:
“To think about His meek silence: this will be your endeavour. He will do the rest. He will do everything that is lacking. But you must do that: hiding your life in God with Christ. This is done through contemplation of the humanity of Jesus, of the suffering humanity. There is no other path – there’s none. It is the only way. To be good Christians, contemplating the humanity of Jesus, the suffering humanity. In order to witness, in order to be able to give this witness. In order not to hate the neighbour, contemplate Jesus suffering. To not gossip against the neighbour, contemplate Jesus suffering. It is the only way. Hide your life with Christ in God: this is the counsel the Apostle gives. It is the counsel to become humble, meek and good, magnanimous, kind.”
Listen to Christopher Wells' report
Pope: there is no such thing as innocent gossip
(2013-09-13 Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) He who speaks ill of his neighbor is a hypocrite who lacks the courage to look to his own shortcomings. Speaking during his homily at morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope Francis focused on the fact that gossip has a “criminal” side to it, because every time we speak ill of our brothers, we imitate Caine’s homicidal gesture.
The seed of Pope Francis’ homily on Friday was Jesus’s thought provoking query when he asked: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” After having spoken about humility – he said – Jesus speaks to us of its opposite: “of that hateful attitude towards one’s neighbor when one becomes a “judge” of his brother”. In this context – the Pope points out – Jesus uses a strong word: “hypocrite”.
“Those who live judging their neighbor, speaking ill of their neighbor, are hypocrites, because they lack the strength and the courage to look to their own shortcomings. The Lord does not waste many words on this concept. Further on he says that he who has hatred in his heart for his brother is a murderer. In his first letter, John the Apostle also says it clearly: anyone who has hatred for his brother is a murderer, he walks in darkness, he who judges his brother walks in darkness”.
And so – Pope Francis continued – every time we judge our brothers in our hearts – or worse still when we speak ill of them with others, we are Christian murderers:
“A Christian murderer…. It’s not me saying this, it’s the Lord. And there is no place for nuances. If you speak ill of your brother, you kill your brother. And every time we do this, we are imitating that gesture of Caine, the first murderer in History”:
And the Pope added that in this time in history when there is much talk of war and so many pleas for peace, “a gesture of conversion on our own behalf is necessary”. “Gossip – he warned – always has a criminal side to it. There is no such thing as innocent gossip”. And quoting St. James the Apostle, the Pope said the tongue is to be used to praise God, “but when we use our tongue to speak ill of our brother or sister, we are using it to kill God”, “the image of God in our brother”. Some may say – the Pope commented – that there are persons who deserve being gossiped about. But it is not so:
“Go and pray for him! Go and do penance for her! And then, if it is necessary, speak to that person who may be able to seek remedy for the problem. But don’t tell everyone! Paul had been a sinner, and he says of himself: I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, a violent man. But I have been mercifully treated”. Perhaps none of us are blasphemer – perhaps… But if we ever gossip we are certainly persecutors and violent. We ask for grace so that we and the entire Church may convert from the crime of gossip to love, to humility, to meekness, to docility, to the generosity of love towards our neighbor”.
Listen to Linda Bordoni's report
2013-09-14. Pope Francis: Approach mystery of the Cross with prayer and tears
(Vatican Radio) At the Mass for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Pope Francis said the mystery of the Cross is a great mystery for mankind, a mystery that can only be approached in prayer and in tears.
In his homily, the Pope said that it is in the mystery of the Cross that we find the story of mankind and the story of God, synthesised by the Fathers of the Church in the comparison between the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in Paradise, and the tree of the Cross:
“The one tree has wrought so much evil, the other tree has brought us to salvation, to health. This is the course of the humanity’s story: a journey to find Jesus Christ the Redeemer, who gives His life for love. God, in fact, has not sent the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. This tree of the Cross save us, all of us, from the consequences of that other tree, where self-sufficiency, arrogance, the pride of us wanting to know all things according to our own mentality, according to our own criteria, and also according to that presumption of being and becoming the only judges of the world. This is the story of mankind: from one tree to the other.”
In the Cross there is the “story of God,” the Pope continued, because we can say that God has a story.” In fact, “He has chosen to take up our story and to journey with us,” becoming man, assuming the condition of a slave and making Himself obedient even to death on a Cross:
“God takes this course for love! There’s no other explanation: love alone does this. Today we look upon the Cross, the story of mankind and the story of God. We look upon this Cross, where you can try that honey of aloe, that bitter honey, that bitter sweetness of the sacrifice of Jesus. But this mystery is so great, and we cannot by ourselves look well upon this mystery, not so much to understand – yes, to understand – but to feel deeply the salvation of this mystery. First of all the mystery of the Cross. It can only be understood, a little bit, by kneeling, in prayer, but also through tears: they are the tears that bring us close to this mystery.”
“Without weeping, heartfelt weeping,” Pope Francis emphasized, we can never understand this mystery. It is “the cry of the penitent, the cry of the brother and the sister who are looking upon so much human misery” and looking on Jesus, but “kneeling and weeping” and “never alone, never alone!”
“In order to enter into this mystery, which is not a labyrinth but resembles one a little bit, we need the Mother, the mother’s hand. That she, Mary, will make us understand how great and humble this mystery is; how sweet as honey and how bitter as aloe. That she will be the one who accompanies us on this journey, which no one can take if not ourselves. Each one of us must take it! With the mother, weeping and on our knees.”
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
2013-09-16. Pope Francis: Christians must pray for their leaders
(Vatican Radio) Humility and love are indispensable traits of those who govern, while citizens, especially if they are Catholic, cannot be indifferent to politics. That was Pope Francis’ message this morning during his daily Mass at Santa Marta, as he called for prayers for those in authority.
The Gospel of the centurion who, with humility and confidence, asks for the healing of his servant; and the letter of Saint Paul to Timothy with the invitation to pray for those who govern, inspired the Pope to “reflect on the service of authority.” Those who govern, Pope Francis said, “have to love their people,” because “a leader who doesn’t love, cannot govern – at best they can discipline, they can give a little bit of order, but they can’t govern.” The Pope considered David, “how he loved his people,” so much that after the sin of the census he asked the Lord not to punish the people, but [to punish] him. These, then, are “the two virtues of a leader”: love for the people and humility.
“You can’t govern without loving the people and without humility! And every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path.’ If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good. The man or woman who governs – who loves his people is a humble man or woman.”
From another point of view, Saint Paul exhorts those who are governed to lift up prayers for those who have authority, so that they might be able to lead a calm and peaceful life. Citizens cannot be indifferent to politics:
“None of us can say, ‘I have nothing to do with this, they govern. . . .’ No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I have to do the best so that they govern well, and I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability. Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good. I cannot wash my hands, eh? We all have to give something!”
There is a tendency, the Pope observed, to only speak ill of leaders, and to mutter about “things that don’t go well.” “You listen to the television and they’re beating [them] up, beating [them] up; you read the papers and their beating [them] up. . . .” He continued, “Yes, maybe the leader is a sinner, as David was, but I have to work with my opinions, with my words, even with my corrections” because we all have to participate for the common good. It is not true that Catholics should not meddle in politics:
“‘A good Catholic doesn’t meddle in politics.’ That’s not true. That is not a good path. A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern. But what is the best that we can offer to those who govern? Prayer! That’s what Paul says: “Pray for all people, and for the king and for all in authority.” “But Father, that person is wicked, he should go to hell. . . .” Pray for him, pray for her, that they can govern well, that they can love their people, that they can serve their people, that they can be humble.” A Christian who does not pray for those who govern is not a good Christian! “But Father, how will I pray for that person, a person who has problems. . . .” “Pray that that person might convert!”
So, the Pope concluded, we give the best of ourselves, our ideas, suggestions, the best, but above all the best is prayer. Let us pray for our leaders, that they might govern well, that they might advance our homeland, might lead our nation and even our world forward, for the sake of peace and of the common good.
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
2013-09-17. Pope Francis at Tuesday Mass: reflecting on our Mother Church
Vatican Radio) The Church has the courage of a woman who defends her children, in order to bring them to encounter her Spouse. This was one of the main focal points of Pope Francis’ remarks following the readings at Mass on Tuesday morning in the chapel of the Domus sanctae Marthae in the Vatican. The Pope also reflected on the encounter between Jesus and the widow of Naim, saying that the Church herself is, in history, walking in search of her Lord. Listen
Jesus has, “the capacity to suffer with us, to be close to our sufferings and make them His own,” said Pope Francis, who began his reflections with the encounter between Jesus and the widow of Naim, of which Tuesday’s Gospel reading tells. He pointed out that Jesus, “had great compassion” for this widow who had now lost her son. Jesus, he went on to say, “knew what it meant to be a widow at that time,” and noted that the Lord has a special love for widows, He cares for them.” Reading this passage of the Gospel, he then said, that the widow is, “an icon of the Church , because the Church is in a sense widow”:
“The Bridegroom is gone and she walks in history, hoping to find him, to meet with Him – and she will be His true bride. In the meantime she - the Church - is alone! The Lord is nowhere to be seen. She has a certain dimension of widowhood ... and that makes me makes me think of the widowhood of the Church. This courageous Church, which defends her children, like the widow who went to the corrupt judge to [press her rights] and eventually won. Our Mother Church is courageous! She has the courage of a woman who knows that her children are her own, and must defend them and bring them to the meeting with her Spouse.”
The Pope reflected on some figures of widows in the Bible, in particular the courageous Maccabean widow with seven sons who are martyred for not renouncing God. The Bible, he stressed, says this woman who spoke to her sons “in the local dialect, in their first language,” and, he noted, our Mother Church speaks to us in dialect, in “that language of true orthodoxy, which we all understand, the language of catechism,” that, “gives us the strength to go forward in the fight against evil”:
“This dimension of widowhood of the Church, who is journeying through history, hoping to meet, to find her Husband… Our Mother the Church is thus! She is a Church that, when she is faithful, knows how to cry. When the Church does not cry, something is not right. She weeps for her children, and prays! A Church that goes forward and does rear her children, gives them strength and accompanies them until the final farewell in order to leave them in the hands of her Spouse, who at the end will come to encounter her. This is our Mother Church! I see her in this weeping widow. And what does the Lord say to the Church? “Do not cry. I am with you, I’ll take you, I’ll wait for you there, in the wedding, the last nuptials, those of the Lamb. Stop [your tears]: this son of yours was dead, now he lives.”
And this , he continued, “is the dialogue of the Lord with the Church.” She, “defends the children, but when she sees that the children are dead, she crys, and the Lord says to her: ‘I am with you and your son is with me.’” As he told the boy at Naim to get up from his deathbed, the Pope added, many times Jesus also tells us to get up, “when we are dead because of sin and we are going to ask for forgiveness.” And then what does Jesus “when He forgives us, when He gives us back our life?” He Returns us to our mother:
“Our reconciliation with the Lord end in the dialogue ‘You, me and the priest who gives me pardon’; it ends when He restores us to our mother. There ends reconciliation, because there is no path of life, there is no forgiveness, there is no reconciliation outside of Mother Church. So, seeing this poor widow, all these things come to me somewhat randomly - But I see in this widow the icon of the widowhood of the Church who is on a journey to find her Bridegroom. I get the urge to ask the Lord for the grace to be always confident of this “mommy” who defends us, teaches us, helps us grow and [teaches] us to speak the dialect.”
2013-09-19. Pope Francis gives personal interview to Jesuit magazines
Vatican Radio) In a lengthy personal interview, published in Jesuit magazines around the world on Thursday, Pope Francis talks frankly about himself, his Jesuit background and his vision for a more open, inclusive and welcoming Church.
The publication is the result of three private meetings that the Pope held with the head of the Italian Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, Fr Antonio Spadaro, in August at the Santa Martha guesthouse in the Vatican.
Philippa Hitchen takes a closer look.....
In the first part of the interview, the Pope shares personal insights and difficult moments from his past, including a fear of being seen as ‘ultraconservative’ on account of his ‘authoritarian way’ of making quick decisions. Recalling problems he encountered as a Church leader in Argentina, the Pope speaks of lessons learnt, especially the importance of consultation and a more effective form of Synodal governance. This, he says, will also bring a breath of fresh air to the ecumenical movement.
Pope Francis also discusses the importance of his Jesuit training for the challenges he faces today, especially the process of discernment and the belief that grand principles must always be ‘incarnated’ in specific times, places and people.
Speaking of his favourite image of the Church, the Pope chooses the expression found in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, ‘Sentire cum Ecclesia’ or ‘feeling with the Church’ – not just the hierarchy, he stresses, but the whole people of God.
Asked what the Church needs most at the moment, Pope Francis focuses on the importance of healing wounds, warming hearts and sharing the dark nights of pain that people suffer. The first reform we need, he says, is that of attitudes, to learn how to become ministers of mercy.
Even regarding the complex moral questions of homosexuality and remarriage for divorcees, the Pope says it’s vital to find a new balance between pastoral attention to the individual and the transmission of the moral teachings of the Church.
Finally the Pope returns to one of his favourite ideas – that of a constant journey towards a God of surprises. Rather than closing ourselves in to a paralysing past, we must walk with trust, confidence and courage to find new spaces of encounter with God.
The full text of the interview with Pope Francis can be found in the U.S. publication American Magazine (www.americamagazine.org) and in the UK based online journal Thnking Faith (www.thinkingfaith.org)
A Big Heart Open to God S eptember 30, 2013 Antonio Spadaro, S.J.
The exclusive interview with Pope Francis
Editor’s Note: This interview with Pope Francis took place over the course of three meetings during August 2013 in Rome. The interview was conducted in person by Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal. Father Spadaro conducted the interview on behalf of La Civiltà Cattolica,America and several other major Jesuit journals around the world. The editorial teams at each of the journals prepared questions and sent them to Father Spadaro, who then consolidated and organized them. The interview was conducted in Italian. After the Italian text was officially approved, America commissioned a team of five independent experts to translate it into English. America is solely responsible for the accuracy of this translation. This interview is copyrighted by America Press and cannot be used, except for brief quotations, without written permission.
Father Spadaro met the pope at the Vatican in the pope’s apartments in the Casa Santa Marta, where he has chosen to live since his election. Father Spadaro begins his account of the interview with a description of the pope’s living quarters.
The setting is simple, austere. The workspace occupied by the desk is small. I am impressed not only by the simplicity of the furniture, but also by the objects in the room. There are only a few. These include an icon of St. Francis, a statue of Our Lady of Luján, patron saint of Argentina, a crucifix and a statue of St. Joseph sleeping. The spirituality of Jorge Mario Bergoglio is not made of “harmonized energies,” as he would call them, but of human faces: Christ, St. Francis, St. Joseph and Mary.
The pope speaks of his trip to Brazil. He considers it a true grace, that World Youth Day was for him a “mystery.” He says that he is not used to talking to so many people: “I can look at individual persons, one at a time, to come into contact in a personal way with the person I have before me. I am not used to the masses,” the pope remarks. He also speaks about the moment during the conclave when he began to realize that he might be elected pope. At lunch on Wednesday, March 13, he felt a deep and inexplicable inner peace and comfort come over him, he said, along with a great darkness. And those feelings accompanied him until his election later that day.
The pope had spoken earlier about his great difficulty in giving interviews. He said that he prefers to think rather than provide answers on the spot in interviews. In this interview the pope interrupted what he was saying in response to a question several times, in order to add something to an earlier response. Talking with Pope Francis is a kind of volcanic flow of ideas that are bound up with each other. Even taking notes gives me an uncomfortable feeling, as if I were trying to suppress a surging spring of dialogue.
Who Is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?
I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.I ask Pope Francis point-blank: “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” He stares at me in silence. I ask him if I may ask him this question. He nods and replies: “I do not know what might be the most fitting description.... I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”
The pope continues to reflect and concentrate, as if he did not expect this question, as if he were forced to reflect further. “Yes, perhaps I can say that I am a bit astute, that I can adapt to circumstances, but it is also true that I am a bit naïve. Yes, but the best summary, the one that comes more from the inside and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” And he repeats: “I am one who is looked upon by the Lord. I always felt my motto, Miserando atque Eligendo [By Having Mercy and by Choosing Him], was very true for me.”
The motto is taken from the Homilies of Bede the Venerable, who writes in his comments on the Gospel story of the calling of Matthew: “Jesus saw a publican, and since he looked at him with feelings of love and chose him, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” The pope adds: “I think the Latin gerund miserando is impossible to translate in both Italian and Spanish. I like to translate it with another gerund that does not exist: misericordiando[“mercy-ing”].
"The Calling of Saint Matthew," Caravaggio
Pope Francis continues his reflection and says, jumping to another topic: “I do not know Rome well. I know a few things. These include the Basilica of St. Mary Major; I always used to go there. I know St. Mary Major, St. Peter’s...but when I had to come to Rome, I always stayed in [the neighborhood of] Via della Scrofa. From there I often visited the Church of St. Louis of France, and I went there to contemplate the painting of ‘The Calling of St. Matthew,’ by Caravaggio.
“That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew.” Here the pope becomes determined, as if he had finally found the image he was looking for: “It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff.” Then the pope whispers in Latin: “I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.”
Why Did You Become a Jesuit?
I continue: “Holy Father, what made you choose to enter the Society of Jesus? What struck you about the Jesuit order?”
“I wanted something more. But I did not know what. I entered the diocesan seminary. I liked the Dominicans and I had Dominican friends. But then I chose the Society of Jesus, which I knew well because the seminary was entrusted to the Jesuits. Three things in particular struck me about the Society: the missionary spirit, community and discipline. And this is strange, because I am a really, really undisciplined person. But their discipline, the way they manage their time—these things struck me so much.
“And then a thing that is really important for me: community. I was always looking for a community. I did not see myself as a priest on my own. I need a community. And you can tell this by the fact that I am here in Santa Marta. At the time of the conclave I lived in Room 207. (The rooms were assigned by drawing lots.) This room where we are now was a guest room. I chose to live here, in Room 201, because when I took possession of the papal apartment, inside myself I distinctly heard a ‘no.’ The papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace is not luxurious. It is old, tastefully decorated and large, but not luxurious. But in the end it is like an inverted funnel. It is big and spacious, but the entrance is really tight. People can come only in dribs and drabs, and I cannot live without people. I need to live my life with others.”
What Does It Mean for a Jesuit to Be Bishop of Rome?
I ask Pope Francis about the fact that he is the first Jesuit to be elected bishop of Rome: “How do you understand the role of service to the universal church that you have been called to play in the light of Ignatian spirituality? What does it mean for a Jesuit to be elected pope? What element of Ignatian spirituality helps you live your ministry?”
“Discernment,” he replies. “Discernment is one of the things that worked inside St. Ignatius. For him it is an instrument of struggle in order to know the Lord and follow him more closely. I was always struck by a saying that describes the vision of Ignatius: non coerceri a maximo, sed contineri a minimo divinum est (“not to be limited by the greatest and yet to be contained in the tiniest—this is the divine”). I thought a lot about this phrase in connection with the issue of different roles in the government of the church, about becoming the superior of somebody else: it is important not to be restricted by a larger space, and it is important to be able to stay in restricted spaces. This virtue of the large and small is magnanimity. Thanks to magnanimity, we can always look at the horizon from the position where we are. That means being able to do the little things of every day with a big heart open to God and to others. That means being able to appreciate the small things inside large horizons, those of the kingdom of God.
“This motto,” the pope continues, “offers parameters to assume a correct position for discernment, in order to hear the things of God from God’s ‘point of view.’ According to St. Ignatius, great principles must be embodied in the circumstances of place, time and people. In his own way, John XXIII adopted this attitude with regard to the government of the church, when he repeated the motto, ‘See everything; turn a blind eye to much; correct a little.’ John XXIII saw all things, the maximum dimension, but he chose to correct a few, the minimum dimension. You can have large projects and implement them by means of a few of the smallest things. Or you can use weak means that are more effective than strong ones, as Paul also said in his First Letter to the Corinthians.
I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change.“This discernment takes time. For example, many think that changes and reforms can take place in a short time. I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change. And this is the time of discernment. Sometimes discernment instead urges us to do precisely what you had at first thought you would do later. And that is what has happened to me in recent months. Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor. My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times. Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing.
“But I am always wary of decisions made hastily. I am always wary of the first decision, that is, the first thing that comes to my mind if I have to make a decision. This is usually the wrong thing. I have to wait and assess, looking deep into myself, taking the necessary time. The wisdom of discernment redeems the necessary ambiguity of life and helps us find the most appropriate means, which do not always coincide with what looks great and strong.”
The Society of Jesus
Discernment is therefore a pillar of the spirituality of Pope Francis. It expresses in a particular manner his Jesuit identity. I ask him then how the Society of Jesus can be of service to the church today, what are its characteristics, but also the possible challenges facing the Society of Jesus.
The Society of Jesus is an institution in tension,” the pope replied, “always fundamentally in tension. A Jesuit is a person who is not centered in himself. The Society itself also looks to a center outside itself; its center is Christ and his church.“The Society of Jesus is an institution in tension,” the pope replied, “always fundamentally in tension. A Jesuit is a person who is not centered in himself. The Society itself also looks to a center outside itself; its center is Christ and his church. So if the Society centers itself in Christ and the church, it has two fundamental points of reference for its balance and for being able to live on the margins, on the frontier. If it looks too much in upon itself, it puts itself at the center as a very solid, very well ‘armed’ structure, but then it runs the risk of feeling safe and self-sufficient. The Society must always have before itself the Deus semper maior, the always-greater God, and the pursuit of the ever greater glory of God, the church as true bride of Christ our Lord, Christ the king who conquers us and to whom we offer our whole person and all our hard work, even if we are clay pots, inadequate. This tension takes us out of ourselves continuously. The tool that makes the Society of Jesus not centered in itself, really strong, is, then, the account of conscience, which is at the same time paternal and fraternal, because it helps the Society to fulfill its mission better.”
The pope is referring to the requirement in the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus that the Jesuit must “manifest his conscience,” that is, his inner spiritual situation, so that the superior can be more conscious and knowledgeable about sending a person on mission.
“But it is difficult to speak of the Society,” continues Pope Francis. “When you express too much, you run the risk of being misunderstood. The Society of Jesus can be described only in narrative form. Only in narrative form do you discern, not in a philosophical or theological explanation, which allows you rather to discuss. The style of the Society is not shaped by discussion, but by discernment, which of course presupposes discussion as part of the process. The mystical dimension of discernment never defines its edges and does not complete the thought. The Jesuit must be a person whose thought is incomplete, in the sense of open-ended thinking. There have been periods in the Society in which Jesuits have lived in an environment of closed and rigid thought, more instructive-ascetic than mystical: this distortion of Jesuit life gave birth to the Epitome Instituti.”
The pope is referring to a compendium, made for practical purposes, that came to be seen as a replacement for the Constitutions. The formation of Jesuits for some time was shaped by this text, to the extent that some never read the Constitutions, the foundational text. During this period, in the pope’s view, the rules threatened to overwhelm the spirit, and the Society yielded to the temptation to explicate and define its charism too narrowly.
Pope Francis continues: “No, the Jesuit always thinks, again and again, looking at the horizon toward which he must go, with Christ at the center. This is his real strength. And that pushes the Society to be searching, creative and generous. So now, more than ever, the Society of Jesus must be contemplative in action, must live a profound closeness to the whole church as both the ‘people of God’ and ‘holy mother the hierarchical church.’ This requires much humility, sacrifice and courage, especially when you are misunderstood or you are the subject of misunderstandings and slanders, but that is the most fruitful attitude. Let us think of the tensions of the past history, in the previous centuries, about the Chinese rites controversy, the Malabar rites and the Reductions in Paraguay.
“I am a witness myself to the misunderstandings and problems that the Society has recently experienced. Among those there were tough times, especially when it came to the issue of extending to all Jesuits the fourth vow of obedience to the pope. What gave me confidence at the time of Father Arrupe [superior general of the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983] was the fact that he was a man of prayer, a man who spent much time in prayer. I remember him when he prayed sitting on the ground in the Japanese style. For this he had the right attitude and made the right decisions.”
The Model: Peter Faber, ‘Reformed Priest’
I am wondering if there are figures among the Jesuits, from the origins of the Society to the present date, that have affected him in a particular way, so I ask the pope who they are and why. He begins by mentioning Ignatius Loyola [founder of the Jesuits] and Francis Xavier, but then focuses on a figure who is not as well known to the general public: Peter Faber (1506-46), from Savoy. He was one of the first companions of St. Ignatius, in fact the first, with whom he shared a room when the two were students at the University of Paris. The third roommate was Francis Xavier. Pius IX declared Faber blessed on Sept. 5, 1872, and the cause for his canonization is still open.
The pope cites an edition of Faber’s works, which he asked two Jesuit scholars, Miguel A. Fiorito and Jaime H. Amadeo, to edit and publish when he was provincial superior of the Jesuits in Argentina. An edition that he particularly likes is the one by Michel de Certeau. I ask the pope why he is so impressed by Faber.
“[His] dialogue with all,” the pope says, “even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naïveté perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving.”
Michel de Certeau characterized Faber simply as “the reformed priest,” for whom interior experience, dogmatic expression and structural reform are inseparable. The pope then continues with a reflection on the true face of the founder of the Society.
“Ignatius is a mystic, not an ascetic,” he says. “It irritates me when I hear that the Spiritual Exercises are ‘Ignatian’ only because they are done in silence. In fact, the Exercises can be perfectly Ignatian also in daily life and without the silence. An interpretation of the Spiritual Exercises that emphasizes asceticism, silence and penance is a distorted one that became widespread even in the Society, especially in the Society of Jesus in Spain. I am rather close to the mystical movement, that of Louis Lallement and Jean-Joseph Surin. And Faber was a mystic.”
Experience in Church Government
What kind of experience in church government, as a Jesuit superior and then as superior of a province of the Society of Jesus, helped to fully form Father Bergoglio? The style of governance of the Society of Jesus involves decisions made by the superior, but also extensive consultation with his official advisors. So I ask: “Do you think that your past government experience can serve you in governing the universal church?” After a brief pause for reflection, he responds:
“In my experience as superior in the Society, to be honest, I have not always behaved in that way—that is, I did not always do the necessary consultation. And this was not a good thing. My style of government as a Jesuit at the beginning had many faults. That was a difficult time for the Society: an entire generation of Jesuits had disappeared. Because of this I found myself provincial when I was still very young. I was only 36 years old. That was crazy. I had to deal with difficult situations, and I made my decisions abruptly and by myself. Yes, but I must add one thing: when I entrust something to someone, I totally trust that person. He or she must make a really big mistake before I rebuke that person. But despite this, eventually people get tired of authoritarianism.
To be sure, I have never been like Blessed Imelda [a goody-goody], but I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems“My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative. I lived a time of great interior crisis when I was in Cordova. To be sure, I have never been like Blessed Imelda [a goody-goody], but I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.
“I say these things from life experience and because I want to make clear what the dangers are. Over time I learned many things. The Lord has allowed this growth in knowledge of government through my faults and my sins. So as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, I had a meeting with the six auxiliary bishops every two weeks, and several times a year with the council of priests. They asked questions and we opened the floor for discussion. This greatly helped me to make the best decisions. But now I hear some people tell me: ‘Do not consult too much, and decide by yourself.’ Instead, I believe that consultation is very important.
I do not want token consultations, but real consultations.“The consistories [of cardinals], the synods [of bishops] are, for example, important places to make real and active this consultation. We must, however, give them a less rigid form. I do not want token consultations, but real consultations. The consultation group of eight cardinals, this ‘outsider’ advisory group, is not only my decision, but it is the result of the will of the cardinals, as it was expressed in the general congregations before the conclave. And I want to see that this is a real, not ceremonial consultation.”
Thinking With the Church
I ask Pope Francis what it means exactly for him to “think with the church,” a notion St. Ignatius writes about in the Spiritual Exercises. He replies using an image.
“The image of the church I like is that of the holy, faithful people of God. This is the definition I often use, and then there is that image from the Second Vatican Council’s ‘Dogmatic Constitution on the Church’ (No. 12). Belonging to a people has a strong theological value. In the history of salvation, God has saved a people. There is no full identity without belonging to a people. No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community. God enters into this dynamic, this participation in the web of human relationships.
“The people itself constitutes a subject. And the church is the people of God on the journey through history, with joys and sorrows. Thinking with the church, therefore, is my way of being a part of this people. And all the faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief, and the people display this infallibilitas in credendo, this infallibility in believing, through a supernatural sense of the faith of all the people walking together. This is what I understand today as the ‘thinking with the church’ of which St. Ignatius speaks. When the dialogue among the people and the bishops and the pope goes down this road and is genuine, then it is assisted by the Holy Spirit. So this thinking with the church does not concern theologians only.
We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.“This is how it is with Mary: If you want to know who she is, you ask theologians; if you want to know how to love her, you have to ask the people. In turn, Mary loved Jesus with the heart of the people, as we read in the Magnificat. We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.”
After a brief pause, Pope Francis emphasizes the following point, in order to avoid misunderstandings: “And, of course, we must be very careful not to think that this infallibilitas of all the faithful I am talking about in the light of Vatican II is a form of populism. No; it is the experience of ‘holy mother the hierarchical church,’ as St. Ignatius called it, the church as the people of God, pastors and people together. The church is the totality of God’s people.
“I see the sanctity of God’s people, this daily sanctity,” the pope continues. “There is a ‘holy middle class,’ which we can all be part of, the holiness Malègue wrote about.” The pope is referring to Joseph Malègue, a French writer (1876–1940), particularly to the unfinished trilogy Black Stones: The Middle Classes of Salvation.
“I see the holiness,” the pope continues, “in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity. I often associate sanctity with patience: not only patience as hypomoné [the New Testament Greek word], taking charge of the events and circumstances of life, but also as a constancy in going forward, day by day. This is the sanctity of the militant church also mentioned by St. Ignatius. This was the sanctity of my parents: my dad, my mom, my grandmother Rosa who loved me so much. In my breviary I have the last will of my grandmother Rosa, and I read it often. For me it is like a prayer. She is a saint who has suffered so much, also spiritually, and yet always went forward with courage.
“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful. It must be. You see, when I perceive negative behavior in ministers of the church or in consecrated men or women, the first thing that comes to mind is: ‘Here’s an unfruitful bachelor’ or ‘Here’s a spinster.’ They are neither fathers nor mothers, in the sense that they have not been able to give spiritual life. Instead, for example, when I read the life of the Salesian missionaries who went to Patagonia, I read a story of the fullness of life, of fruitfulness.
“Another example from recent days that I saw got the attention of newspapers: the phone call I made to a young man who wrote me a letter. I called him because that letter was so beautiful, so simple. For me this was an act of generativity. I realized that he was a young man who is growing, that he saw in me a father, and that the letter tells something of his life to that father. The father cannot say, ‘I do not care.’ This type of fruitfulness is so good for me.”
Young Churches and Ancient Churches
Remaining with the subject of the church, I ask the pope a question in light of the recent World Youth Day. This great event has turned the spotlight on young people, but also on those “spiritual lungs” that are the Catholic churches founded in historically recent times. “What,” I ask, “are your hopes for the universal church that come from these churches?”
The pope replies: “The young Catholic churches, as they grow, develop a synthesis of faith, culture and life, and so it is a synthesis different from the one developed by the ancient churches. For me, the relationship between the ancient Catholic churches and the young ones is similar to the relationship between young and elderly people in a society. They build the future, the young ones with their strength and the others with their wisdom. You always run some risks, of course. The younger churches are likely to feel self-sufficient; the ancient ones are likely to want to impose on the younger churches their cultural models. But we build the future together.”
The Church as Field Hospital
Pope Benedict XVI, in announcing his resignation, said that the contemporary world is subject to rapid change and is grappling with issues of great importance for the life of faith. Dealing with these issues requires strength of body and soul, Pope Benedict said. I ask Pope Francis: “What does the church need most at this historic moment? Do we need reforms? What are your wishes for the church in the coming years? What kind of church do you dream of?”
Pope Francis begins by showing great affection and immense respect for his predecessor: “Pope Benedict has done an act of holiness, greatness, humility. He is a man of God.
the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up.
“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.
“How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.
“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”
I mention to Pope Francis that there are Christians who live in situations that are irregular for the church or in complex situations that represent open wounds. I mention the divorced and remarried, same-sex couples and other difficult situations. What kind of pastoral work can we do in these cases? What kinds of tools can we use?
“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.
A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.
“This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better. I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.
The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.
“I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”
A Religious Order Pope
Pope Francis is the first pontiff from a religious order since the Camaldolese monk Gregory XVI, who was elected in 1831. I ask: “What is the specific place of religious men and women in the church of today?”
“Religious men and women are prophets,” says the pope. “They are those who have chosen a following of Jesus that imitates his life in obedience to the Father, poverty, community life and chastity. In this sense, the vows cannot end up being caricatures; otherwise, for example, community life becomes hell, and chastity becomes a way of life for unfruitful bachelors. The vow of chastity must be a vow of fruitfulness. In the church, the religious are called to be prophets in particular by demonstrating how Jesus lived on this earth, and to proclaim how the kingdom of God will be in its perfection. A religious must never give up prophecy. This does not mean opposing the hierarchical part of the church, although the prophetic function and the hierarchical structure do not coincide. I am talking about a proposal that is always positive, but it should not cause timidity. Let us think about what so many great saints, monks and religious men and women have done, from St. Anthony the Abbot onward. Being prophets may sometimes imply making waves. I do not know how to put it.... Prophecy makes noise, uproar, some say ‘a mess.’ But in reality, the charism of religious people is like yeast: prophecy announces the spirit of the Gospel.”
The Roman Curia
I ask the pope what he thinks of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the various departments that assist the pope in his mission.
It is amazing to see the denunciations for lack of orthodoxy that come to Rome. I think the cases should be investigated by the local bishops’ conferences, which can get valuable assistance from Rome. These cases, in fact, are much better dealt with locally.“The dicasteries of the Roman Curia are at the service of the pope and the bishops,” he says. “They must help both the particular churches and the bishops’ conferences. They are instruments of help. In some cases, however, when they are not functioning well, they run the risk of becoming institutions of censorship. It is amazing to see the denunciations for lack of orthodoxy that come to Rome. I think the cases should be investigated by the local bishops’ conferences, which can get valuable assistance from Rome. These cases, in fact, are much better dealt with locally. The Roman congregations are mediators; they are not middlemen or managers.”
On June 29, during the ceremony of the blessing and imposition of the pallium on 34 metropolitan archbishops, Pope Francis spoke about “the path of collegiality” as the road that can lead the church to “grow in harmony with the service of primacy.” So I ask: “How can we reconcile in harmony Petrine primacy and collegiality? Which roads are feasible also from an ecumenical perspective?”
The pope responds, “We must walk together: the people, the bishops and the pope. Synodality should be lived at various levels. Maybe it is time to change the methods of the Synod of Bishops, because it seems to me that the current method is not dynamic. This will also have ecumenical value, especially with our Orthodox brethren. From them we can learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality. The joint effort of reflection, looking at how the church was governed in the early centuries, before the breakup between East and West, will bear fruit in due time. In ecumenical relations it is important not only to know each other better, but also to recognize what the Spirit has sown in the other as a gift for us. I want to continue the discussion that was begun in 2007 by the joint [Catholic–Orthodox] commission on how to exercise the Petrine primacy, which led to the signing of the Ravenna Document. We must continue on this path.”
I ask how Pope Francis envisions the future unity of the church in light of this response. He answers: “We must walk united with our differences: there is no other way to become one. This is the way of Jesus.”
Women in the Life of the Church
And what about the role of women in the church? The pope has made reference to this issue on several occasions. He took up the matter during the return trip from Rio de Janeiro, claiming that the church still lacks a profound theology of women. I ask: “What should be the role of women in the church? How do we make their role more visible today?”
We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church.He answers: “I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man. But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired by an ideology of machismo. Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.”
The Second Vatican Council
“What did the Second Vatican Council accomplish?” I ask.
“Vatican II was a re-reading of the Gospel in light of contemporary culture,” says the pope. “Vatican II produced a renewal movement that simply comes from the same Gospel. Its fruits are enormous. Just recall the liturgy. The work of liturgical reform has been a service to the people as a re-reading of the Gospel from a concrete historical situation. Yes, there are hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity, but one thing is clear: the dynamic of reading the Gospel, actualizing its message for today—which was typical of Vatican II—is absolutely irreversible. Then there are particular issues, like the liturgy according to the Vetus Ordo. I think the decision of Pope Benedict [his decision of July 7, 2007, to allow a wider use of the Tridentine Mass] was prudent and motivated by the desire to help people who have this sensitivity. What is worrying, though, is the risk of the ideologization of the Vetus Ordo, its exploitation.”
To Seek and Find God in All Things
At the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis repeatedly declared: “God is real. He manifests himself today. God is everywhere.” These are phrases that echo the Ignatian expression “to seek and find God in all things.” So I ask the pope: “How do you seek and find God in all things?”
“What I said in Rio referred to the time in which we seek God,” he answers. “In fact, there is a temptation to seek God in the past or in a possible future. God is certainly in the past because we can see the footprints. And God is also in the future as a promise. But the ‘concrete’ God, so to speak, is today. For this reason, complaining never helps us find God. The complaints of today about how ‘barbaric’ the world is—these complaints sometimes end up giving birth within the church to desires to establish order in the sense of pure conservation, as a defense. No: God is to be encountered in the world of today.
“God manifests himself in historical revelation, in history. Time initiates processes, and space crystallizes them. God is in history, in the processes.
“We must not focus on occupying the spaces where power is exercised, but rather on starting long-run historical processes. We must initiate processes rather than occupy spaces. God manifests himself in time and is present in the processes of history. This gives priority to actions that give birth to new historical dynamics. And it requires patience, waiting.
“Finding God in all things is not an ‘empirical eureka.’ When we desire to encounter God, we would like to verify him immediately by an empirical method. But you cannot meet God this way. God is found in the gentle breeze perceived by Elijah. The senses that find God are the ones St. Ignatius called spiritual senses. Ignatius asks us to open our spiritual sensitivity to encounter God beyond a purely empirical approach. A contemplative attitude is necessary: it is the feeling that you are moving along the good path of understanding and affection toward things and situations. Profound peace, spiritual consolation, love of God and love of all things in God—this is the sign that you are on this right path.”
Certitude and Mistakes
I ask, “So if the encounter with God is not an ‘empirical eureka,’ and if it is a journey that sees with the eyes of history, then we can also make mistakes?”
The pope replies: “Yes, in this quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation.
“The risk in seeking and finding God in all things, then, is the willingness to explain too much, to say with human certainty and arrogance: ‘God is here.’ We will find only a god that fits our measure. The correct attitude is that of St. Augustine: seek God to find him, and find God to keep searching for God forever. Often we seek as if we were blind, as one often reads in the Bible. And this is the experience of the great fathers of the faith, who are our models. We have to re-read the Letter to the Hebrews, Chapter 11. Abraham leaves his home without knowing where he was going, by faith. All of our ancestors in the faith died seeing the good that was promised, but from a distance.... Our life is not given to us like an opera libretto, in which all is written down; but it means going, walking, doing, searching, seeing.... We must enter into the adventure of the quest for meeting God; we must let God search and encounter us.
“Because God is first; God is always first and makes the first move. God is a bit like the almond flower of your Sicily, Antonio, which always blooms first. We read it in the Prophets. God is encountered walking, along the path. At this juncture, someone might say that this is relativism. Is it relativism? Yes, if it is misunderstood as a kind of indistinct pantheism. It is not relativism if it is understood in the biblical sense, that God is always a surprise, so you never know where and how you will find him. You are not setting the time and place of the encounter with him. You must, therefore, discern the encounter. Discernment is essential.
If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing.“If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”
Must We Be Optimistic?
The pope’s words remind me of some of his past reflections, in which as a cardinal he wrote that God is already living in the city, in the midst of all and united to each. It is another way, in my opinion, to say what St. Ignatius wrote in the Spiritual Exercises, that God “labors and works” in our world. So I ask: “Do we have to be optimistic? What are the signs of hope in today’s world? How can I be optimistic in a world in crisis?”
“I do not like to use the word optimism because that is about a psychological attitude,” the pope says. “I like to use the word hope instead, according to what we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, Chapter 11, that I mentioned before. The fathers of the faith kept walking, facing difficulties. And hope does not disappoint, as we read in the Letter to the Romans. Think instead of the first riddle of Puccini’s opera ‘Turandot,’” the pope suggests.
At that moment I recalled more or less by heart the verses of the riddle of the princess in that opera, to which the solution is hope: “In the gloomy night flies an iridescent ghost./ It rises and opens its wings/ on the infinite black humanity./ The whole world invokes it/ and the whole world implores it./ But the ghost disappears with the dawn/ to be reborn in the heart./ And every night it is born/ and every day it dies!”
“See,” says Pope Francis, “Christian hope is not a ghost and it does not deceive. It is a theological virtue and therefore, ultimately, a gift from God that cannot be reduced to optimism, which is only human. God does not mislead hope; God cannot deny himself. God is all promise.”
Art and Creativity
I am struck by the reference the pope just made to Puccini’s “Turandot” while speaking of the mystery of hope. I would like to understand better his artistic and literary references. I remind him that in 2006 he said that great artists know how to present the tragic and painful realities of life with beauty. So I ask who are the artists and writers he prefers, and if they have something in common.
“I have really loved a diverse array of authors. I love very much Dostoevsky and Hölderlin. I remember Hölderlin for that poem written for the birthday of his grandmother that is very beautiful and was spiritually very enriching for me. The poem ends with the verse, ‘May the man hold fast to what the child has promised.’ I was also impressed because I loved my grandmother Rosa, and in that poem Hölderlin compares his grandmother to the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, the friend of the earth who did not consider anybody a foreigner.
“I have read The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni, three times, and I have it now on my table because I want to read it again. Manzoni gave me so much. When I was a child, my grandmother taught me by heart the beginning of The Betrothed: ‘That branch of Lake Como that turns off to the south between two unbroken chains of mountains....’ I also liked Gerard Manley Hopkins very much.
“Among the great painters, I admire Caravaggio; his paintings speak to me. But also Chagall, with his ‘White Crucifixion.’ Among musicians I love Mozart, of course. The ‘Et incarnatus est’ from his Mass in C minor is matchless; it lifts you to God! I love Mozart performed by Clara Haskil. Mozart fulfills me. But I cannot think about his music; I have to listen to it. I like listening to Beethoven, but in a Promethean way, and the most Promethean interpreter for me is Furtwängler. And then Bach’s Passions. The piece by Bach that I love so much is the ‘Erbarme Dich,’ the tears of Peter in the ‘St. Matthew Passion.’ Sublime. Then, at a different level, not intimate in the same way, I love Wagner. I like to listen to him, but not all the time. The performance of Wagner’s ‘Ring’ by Furtwängler at La Scala in Milan in 1950 is for me the best. But also the ‘Parsifal’ by Knappertsbusch in 1962.
“We should also talk about the cinema. ‘La Strada,’ by Fellini, is the movie that perhaps I loved the most. I identify with this movie, in which there is an implicit reference to St. Francis. I also believe that I watched all of the Italian movies with Anna Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi when I was between 10 and 12 years old. Another film that I loved is ‘Rome, Open City.’ I owe my film culture especially to my parents who used to take us to the movies quite often.
“Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones. There is a nice definition that Cervantes puts on the lips of the bachelor Carrasco to praise the story of Don Quixote: ‘Children have it in their hands, young people read it, adults understand it, the elderly praise it.’ For me this can be a good definition of the classics.”
I ask the pope about teaching literature to his secondary school students.
“It was a bit risky,” he answers. “I had to make sure that my students read El Cid. But the boys did not like it. They wanted to read Garcia Lorca. Then I decided that they would study El Cid at home and that in class I would teach the authors the boys liked the most. Of course, young people wanted to read more ‘racy’ literary works, like the contemporary La Casada Infiel or classics like La Celestina, by Fernando de Rojas. But by reading these things they acquired a taste in literature, poetry, and we went on to other authors. And that was for me a great experience. I completed the program, but in an unstructured way—that is, not ordered according to what we expected in the beginning, but in an order that came naturally by reading these authors. And this mode befitted me: I did not like to have a rigid schedule, but rather I liked to know where we had to go with the readings, with a rough sense of where we were headed. Then I also started to get them to write. In the end I decided to send Borges two stories written by my boys. I knew his secretary, who had been my piano teacher. And Borges liked those stories very much. And then he set out to write the introduction to a collection of these writings.”
“Then, Holy Father, creativity is important for the life of a person?” I ask. He laughs and replies: “For a Jesuit it is extremely important! A Jesuit must be creative.”
Frontiers and Laboratories
During a visit by the fathers and staff of La Civiltà Cattolica, the pope had spoken about the importance of the triad “dialogue, discernment, frontier.” And he insisted particularly on the last point, citing Paul VI and what he had said in a famous speech about the Jesuits: “Wherever in the church—even in the most difficult and extreme fields, in the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches—there has been and is now conversation between the deepest desires of human beings and the perennial message of the Gospel, Jesuits have been and are there.” I ask Pope Francis what should be the priorities of journals published by the Society of Jesus.
Ours is not a ‘lab faith,’ but a ‘journey faith,’ a historical faith.“The three key words that I commended to La Civiltà Cattolica can be extended to all the journals of the Society, perhaps with different emphases according to their natures and their objectives. When I insist on the frontier, I am referring in a particular way to the need for those who work in the world of culture to be inserted into the context in which they operate and on which they reflect. There is always the lurking danger of living in a laboratory. Ours is not a ‘lab faith,’ but a ‘journey faith,’ a historical faith. God has revealed himself as history, not as a compendium of abstract truths. I am afraid of laboratories because in the laboratory you take the problems and then you bring them home to tame them, to paint them, out of their context. You cannot bring home the frontier, but you have to live on the border and be audacious.”
I ask for examples from his personal experience.
“When it comes to social issues, it is one thing to have a meeting to study the problem of drugs in a slum neighborhood and quite another thing to go there, live there and understand the problem from the inside and study it. There is a brilliant letter by Father Arrupe to the Centers for Social Research and Action on poverty, in which he says clearly that one cannot speak of poverty if one does not experience poverty, with a direct connection to the places in which there is poverty. The word insertion is dangerous because some religious have taken it as a fad, and disasters have occurred because of a lack of discernment. But it is truly important.”
“The frontiers are many. Let us think of the religious sisters living in hospitals. They live on the frontier. I am alive because of one of them. When I went through my lung disease at the hospital, the doctor gave me penicillin and streptomycin in certain doses. The sister who was on duty tripled my doses because she was daringly astute; she knew what to do because she was with ill people all day. The doctor, who really was a good one, lived in his laboratory; the sister lived on the frontier and was in dialogue with it every day. Domesticating the frontier means just talking from a remote location, locking yourself up in a laboratory. Laboratories are useful, but reflection for us must always start from experience.”
I ask Pope Francis about the enormous changes occurring in society and the way human beings are reinterpreting themselves. At this point he gets up and goes to get the breviary from his desk. It is in Latin, now worn from use. He opens to the Office of Readings for Friday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time and reads me a passage from the Commonitorium Primum of St. Vincent of Lerins: “Even the dogma of the Christian religion must follow these laws, consolidating over the years, developing over time, deepening with age.”
The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong.The pope comments: “St. Vincent of Lerins makes a comparison between the biological development of man and the transmission from one era to another of the deposit of faith, which grows and is strengthened with time. Here, human self-understanding changes with time and so also human consciousness deepens. Let us think of when slavery was accepted or the death penalty was allowed without any problem. So we grow in the understanding of the truth. Exegetes and theologians help the church to mature in her own judgment. Even the other sciences and their development help the church in its growth in understanding. There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost value or meaning. The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong.
“After all, in every age of history, humans try to understand and express themselves better. So human beings in time change the way they perceive themselves. It’s one thing for a man who expresses himself by carving the ‘Winged Victory of Samothrace,’ yet another for Caravaggio, Chagall and yet another still for Dalí. Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning.
“Humans are in search of themselves, and, of course, in this search they can also make mistakes. The church has experienced times of brilliance, like that of Thomas Aquinas. But the church has lived also times of decline in its ability to think. For example, we must not confuse the genius of Thomas Aquinas with the age of decadent Thomist commentaries. Unfortunately, I studied philosophy from textbooks that came from decadent or largely bankrupt Thomism. In thinking of the human being, therefore, the church should strive for genius and not for decadence.
“When does a formulation of thought cease to be valid? When it loses sight of the human or even when it is afraid of the human or deluded about itself. The deceived thought can be depicted as Ulysses encountering the song of the Siren, or as Tannhäuser in an orgy surrounded by satyrs and bacchantes, or as Parsifal, in the second act of Wagner’s opera, in the palace of Klingsor. The thinking of the church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today, in order to develop and deepen the church’s teaching.”
I ask Pope Francis about his preferred way to pray.
“I pray the breviary every morning. I like to pray with the psalms. Then, later, I celebrate Mass. I pray the Rosary. What I really prefer is adoration in the evening, even when I get distracted and think of other things, or even fall asleep praying. In the evening then, between seven and eight o’clock, I stay in front of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour in adoration. But I pray mentally even when I am waiting at the dentist or at other times of the day.
“Prayer for me is always a prayer full of memory, of recollection, even the memory of my own history or what the Lord has done in his church or in a particular parish. For me it is the memory of which St. Ignatius speaks in the First Week of the Exercises in the encounter with the merciful Christ crucified. And I ask myself: ‘What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What should I do for Christ?’ It is the memory of which Ignatius speaks in the ‘Contemplation for Experiencing Divine Love,’ when he asks us to recall the gifts we have received. But above all, I also know that the Lord remembers me. I can forget about him, but I know that he never, ever forgets me. Memory has a fundamental role for the heart of a Jesuit: memory of grace, the memory mentioned in Deuteronomy, the memory of God’s works that are the basis of the covenant between God and the people. It is this memory that makes me his son and that makes me a father, too.”
Editor in Chief Matt Malone, S.J.,
Copyright © 2013 America Press Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Pope warns love of money is root of all evil
(2013-09-20 Vatican Radio)
The love of money is the root of all evil: that stark warning contained in St Paul’s first letter to Timothy was at the heart of Pope Francis’ homily at his morning Mass in Santa Marta on Friday.
Reflecting on the way in which greed can corrupt our hearts and weaken our faith, the Pope stressed we can never serve God and money at the same time. Money, the Pope went on, sickens our minds, poisons our thoughts, even poisons our faith, leading us down the path of jealousy, quarrels, suspicion and conflict. While money begins by offering a sense of wellbeing, if we are not careful wealth can quickly lead to vanity, self-importance and the sin of pride.
Pope Francis noted many people may object that the Ten Commandments say nothing about the evils of money. Yet when we worship money, he said, we are sinning against the first Commandment and making money our idol in place of God. The early Fathers of the Church, he said, put it in a very blunt way, calling money the dung of the devil which corrupts and leads us away from our faith.
Instead of focusing on money, the Pope said, we should strive for justice, piety, faith and charity, as well as the gifts of patience and meekness which are the ways of the Lord. Pope Francis concluded with the wish that God will help each one of us to avoid falling into the trap of making money our idol.
Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report:
2013-09-21. Pope Francis at Mass: the merciful gaze of Jesus
(Vatican Radio) Allowing ourselves to be looked upon by Jesus, whose gaze changes our lives: this was the focus of Pope Francis’ remarks after the readings at Mass on Saturday morning, the Feast of St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, whose conversion story is told in the Gospel passage of the day.
Jesus looks Matthew – a tax collector, a public sinner whose whole life was money, which he idolized – right in the eye. Then, said Pope Fraancis, “[Matthew feels] in his heart the gaze of the Lord who looked upon him.”:
“That gaze overtook him completely, it changed his life. We say he was converted. He Changed his life. ‘As soon as he felt that gaze in his heart, he got up and followed him.’ This is true: Jesus’ gaze always lifts us up. It is a look that always lifts us up, and never leaves you in your place, never lets us down, never humiliates. It invites you to get up - a look that brings you to grow, to move forward, that encourages you, because [the One who looks upon you] loves you. The gaze makes you feel that He loves you. This gives the courage to follow Him: ‘And he got up and followed him.’”
“The gaze of Jesus,” said Pope Francis, “[is not something] magical: Jesus was not a specialist in hypnosis.” Jesus looked on everyone, and everyone felt His gaze upon him, as if Jesus had called each person by name … and this look would change the lives of everyone.” So did Peter change, who, after denying his Lord then met His gaze and wept bitterly. Then there is the final gaze, from the Cross. “He looked on His mother, looked at the [beloved] disciple and said, with that look, he told us that His mother was our mother and that the Church is mother - with a look. Then he looked at the Good Thief, and once again to Peter, “[who was] afraid, after the Resurrection, with those three questions: ‘Do you love me?’ - a look that shamed him. The Pope said it will do us well to think and pray about this gaze of Jesus, and to let ourselves be looked on by Him. “Jesus goes to the house of Matthew as he was sitting at the table many sinners arrive. “Word had spread, and all of society - but not the [respectable folks] - felt invited to lunch,” as it happened in the parable of the king who ordered the servants to go to the main crossroads to invite to his son’s wedding as many people as they met, both good and bad:
“And sinners, tax collectors and sinners, they felt that Jesus had looked on them and that gaze of Jesus upon them – I believe – was like a breath on embers, and they felt that there was fire in the belly, again, and that Jesus made lifted them up, gave them back their dignity. The gaze of Jesus always makes us worthy, gives us dignity. It is a generous look. ‘But behold, what a teacher: dining with the dregs of the city!’: But beneath that dirt there were the embers of desire for God, the embers of God's image that wanted someone who could help them be kindled anew. This is what the gaze of Jesus does.”
“All of us, in our lives,” concluded Pope Francis, “have felt this gaze, and not once only: many times! Perhaps the person of a priest, who taught us doctrine or forgave our sins, perhaps in the help of friends.”:
“But all of us find ourselves before that gaze, that marvelous gaze, and we go forward in life, in the certainty that He looks upon us. He too, however, awaits us, in order to look on us definitively – and that final gaze of Jesus upon our lives will be forever, it will be eternal. I ask all the saints upon whom Jesus has looked, to prepare us to let ourselves be looked upon in life, and that they prepare us also for that final – and first! – gaze of Jesus!”
2013-09-22 Pope Francis: "Mary, look upon us"
(Vatican Radio) The Pope on Sunday celebrated Holy Mass at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria, in Cagliari on the island of Sardinia.
Below, please find the Vatican Radio’s translation of the Holy Father’s homily at the Mass:
[In Sardinian:] The grace of our Lord be with you always.
[In Italian:] Today is realised that desire that I announced in St. Peter's Square, before the summer, to be able to visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Bonaria.
1. I come here to share with you the joys and hopes, efforts and commitments, ideals and aspirations of your island, and to confirm you in the Faith. Even here in Cagliari, as in the whole of Sardinia, there are difficulties — there are so many! — problems and concerns: I think, in particular, of the lack of work and its precariousness, and therefore the uncertainty for the future. Sardinia, your beautiful region, suffers many situations of poverty, exacerbated by its condition as an island. The loyal cooperation of everyone is necessary, with the commitment of institutional leaders — even in the Church — to ensure the fundamental rights of persons and families, and to grow more fraternal and united. To ensure the right to work, to bring home bread, bread earned by work! I am close to you, I remember you in prayer, and I encourage you to persevere in your witness of the human and Christian values so deeply rooted in the faith and history of this land and the people. Always keep alight the light of hope!
2. I come among you to place myself, with you, at the feet of the Madonna, who gives us his Son. I know that Mary, our Mother, is in your heart, as evidenced by the Shrine, where many generations of Sardinians have come - and continue to come! - To invoke the protection of Our Lady of Bonaria, the Great Patroness of the Island. Here you bring the joys and sufferings of this land, of its families, and even of those children who live far away, many of whom went away with great sorrow and nostalgia to find a job and a future for themselves and their loved ones. Today, all of us gathered here want to thank Mary because she is always close to us; we want to renew our trust in her, and our love for her.
The first reading which we heard shows us Mary in prayer in the Upper Room together with the Apostles. Mary prays, prays together with the community of disciples, and teaches us to have full confidence in God, in His mercy. This is the power of prayer! We must not tire of knocking on the God’s door. Let us bring our whole life, every day, to the heart of God through Mary! Knock at the door of the heart of God.
In the Gospel we grasp especially the last look of Jesus upon His Mother (cf. Jn 19:25-27). From the Cross Jesus looks at His Mother and entrusted the apostle John to her, saying, “This is your son.” In John we're all here, too, and Jesus’ look of love entrusts us to the maternal guardianship of the mother. Mary will have remembered another look of love, when she was a young girl: the gaze of God the Father, who had looked upon her humility, her littleness. Mary teaches us that God does not abandon us, [that God] can do great things even with our weakness. Let us have faith in Him! Let us knock at the door of His heart!
3. And the third thought: today I have come among you, indeed we have all come together, to meet the gaze of Mary, because there, there is something like a reflection of the gaze of the Father, which made her the Mother of God, and the look of the Son on the Cross, which made her our Mother. And with that gaze Mary is looking upon us today. We need her tender look, her maternal gaze that knows us better than anyone else, her gaze full of compassion and care. Mary, today we want to say to you: Mother, look upon us! Your gaze leads us to God, your look is a good gift from the Father, who awaits us at every turn of our journey; it is a gift from Jesus Christ on the Cross, who takes upon Himself our suffering, our struggles, our sin. And in order to meet this loving Father, today we say: Mother, look upon us! Let us all say it together: Mother, look upon us! Mother, look upon us!
On the journey, which is often difficult, we are not alone, we are so many, we are one people, and the gaze of Our Lady helps us to look around us in a brotherly manner. Let's look at ourselves in a more fraternal way! Mary teaches us to have that look that seeks to welcome, to guide, to protect. We learn to look at each other under the maternal gaze of Mary! There are people who we instinctively give less attention to, people who instead have most need of it: the most abandoned, the sick, those who have nothing to live on, those who do not know Jesus, young people who are in trouble, the young who can’t find work. We should not be afraid to go out and look at our brothers and sisters through the eyes of Our Lady, She invites us to be true brothers. And we do not allow anything or anyone to come between us and the gaze of the Madonna. Mother, look upon us! No one hide from it! Our childlike heart knows to defend it from so many windbags who promise illusions; from those who have a greedy look for easy life, from the promises of those who can’t fulfil them. They can’t steal Mary’s gaze from us, which is full of tenderness, which gives us strength, makes us united in solidarity among ourselves. Let us all say, “Mother, look upon us! Mother, look upon us! Mother, look upon us!”
[In Sardinian:] May Our Lady of Bonaria accompany you always in your life
2013-09-24 Pope at Mass: Fthe Lord is our companion in good and bad times, forgiving
Jesus is always by our side, accompanying us in the good and the bad times. That’s what Pope Francis told those gathered in the Vatican guest house, Santa Marta Tuesday for a private early morning liturgy.
Tracey McClure reports.
In his homily, Pope Francis drew from this morning’s reading from the passage in Psalms: “We will go with joy to the House of the Lord,” saying the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is not a “magic rite” but an encounter with Jesus, our companion in life.
Throughout the history of the People of God, the Pope said, there have been “beautiful moments which bring joy” but also ugly moments “of pain, martyrdom and sin.”
“God, who has no History because He is eternal,” the Pope said, “desired to make History by walking alongside His people.” But even more than that, Pope Francis said “He decided to become one of us, and as one of us, to walk with us through Jesus.”
This shows us God’s greatness, he noted, but at the same time, it also illustrates His humility. And when his People strayed from Him “in sin and idolatry,” the Pope continued, “He was there” waiting. And Jesus shows the same humility: “he walks with the People of God, walks with the sinners; walks also with the arrogant.” The Lord, said Pope Francis, did much to “help these arrogant hearts of the Pharisees.”
The Church, the Pope said, rejoices in God’s humility, that humility which accompanies us as “We go with joy to the House of the Lord.” “We go with joy,” the Holy Father said, “because He accompanies us, He is with us… and the Lord Jesus, even in our personal lives, accompanies us with the Sacraments. The Sacrament is not a magic rite: it is an encounter with Jesus Christ; we encounter the Lord – it is He who is beside us and accompanies us.”
2013-09-25. Pope at Mass: Pregare incessantemente per la pace in Siria, Libano e Medio Oriente: così il Papa a Santa Marta
(Vatican Radio) La vergogna dinanzi a Dio, la preghiera per implorare la misericordia divina e la piena fiducia nel Signore. Sono questi i cardini della riflessione proposta da Papa Francesco mercoledì mattina, durante la Messa nella cappella di Santa Marta concelebrata con i cardinali Leonardo Sandri, prefetto della Congregazione per le Chiese Orientali, e Béchara Boutros Raï, patriarca di Antiochia dei Maroniti, insieme a un gruppo di vescovi maroniti venuti dal Libano, dalla Siria, dalla Terra Santa e da diversi altri Paesi di ogni continente.
Nel commentare le letture della liturgia (Esdra 9,5-9; Luca 9, 1-6), il Santo Padre ha detto che, in particolare, il brano tratto dal libro di Esdra gli ha fatto pensare ai vescovi maroniti e, come di consueto, ha riassunto il suo pensiero intorno a tre concetti. Innanzitutto, l’atteggiamento di vergogna e confusione di Esdra davanti a Dio, fino al punto da non poter alzare gli occhi verso di lui. Vergogna e confusione di tutti noi per i peccati commessi, che ci hanno portato alla schiavitù poiché abbiamo servito idoli che non sono Dio.
La preghiera è il secondo concetto. Seguendo l’esempio di Esdra, che in ginocchio alza le mani verso Dio implorando misericordia, così dobbiamo fare noi per i nostri innumerevoli peccati. Una preghiera che, ha detto il Papa, bisogna elevare anche per la pace in Libano, in Siria e in tutto il Medio Oriente. È la preghiera sempre e comunque, ha precisato, la strada che dobbiamo percorrere per affrontare i momenti difficili, come le prove più drammatiche e il buio che talora ci avvolge in situazioni imprevedibili. Per trovare la via di uscita da tutto ciò, ha sottolineato il Pontefice, bisogna incessantemente pregare.
Infine, fiducia assoluta in Dio che mai ci abbandona. È il terzo concetto proposto dal Santo Padre. Siamo certi, ha detto, che il Signore è con noi e, pertanto, il nostro camminare deve farsi perseverante grazie alla speranza che infonde fortezza. La parola dei pastori diventerà rassicurante per i fedeli: il Signore non ci abbandonerà mai.
Dopo la comunione, il cardinale Bechara Raï ha rivolto al Santo Padre un ringraziamento e un saluto molto cordiali a nome dei vescovi partecipanti, di tutti i maroniti e dell’intero Libano, confermando la loro fedeltà a Pietro e al suo successore «che ci sostiene nel nostro cammino spesso spinoso». In particolare ha ringraziato il Papa per il forte impulso che ha dato alla ricerca della pace: «La sua preghiera e esortazione per la pace in Siria e nel Medio Oriente ha seminato speranza e conforto».
2013-09-26. Pope Francis at Thursday Mass: the languages of knowing Jesus:
(Vatican Radio)To know Jesus, you have to get involved with Him, as pointed out by Pope Francis at Mass this morning in the Casa Santa Marta. The Pope said that Jesus is to be encountered in everyday life. He indicated the three languages needed to know Jesus: that of the mind, that of the heart, and that of action. Listen to our report:
Who is He? where does He come from? In remarks after the readings at Mass on Thursday morning in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence in the Vatican, Pope Francis focused on the question that Herod posed about Jesus – a question that all those who encounter Jesus eventually ask. The Pope said that the question is one, which, “one can ask out of curiosity,” or “that one might ask for safety.” He noted that, reading the Gospel, we see that “some people begin to feel afraid of this man, because he could have led them to a political conflict with the Romans.” One wonders, “Who is this man, who makes so many problems?” Because, the Pope said, “Jesus [really does cause trouble]”:
“You cannot know Jesus without having problems. And I dare say, ‘But if you want to have a problem, go to the street to know Jesus – you’ll end up having not one, but many!’ But that is the way to get to know Jesus! You cannot know Jesus in first class! One gets to know Jesus in going out [into] every day [life]. You cannot get to know Jesus in peace and quiet, nor even in the library: Know Jesus.”
Certainly, he added, “we can know Jesus in the Catechism,” for, “the Catechism teaches us many things about Jesus.” He said, "we have to study it, we have to learn it.” Thus, “We know the Son of God, who came to save us, we understand the beauty of the history of salvation, of the love of the Father, studying the Catechism.” Nevertheless, he asked, how many people have read the Catechism of the Catholic Church since it was published over 20 years ago?
Yes, you have to come to know Jesus in the Catechism – but it is not enough to know Him with the mind: it is a step. However, it is necessary to get to know Jesus in dialogue with Him, talking with Him in prayer, kneeling. If you do not pray, if you do not talk with Jesus, you do not know Him. You know things about Jesus, but you do not go with that knowledge, which He gives your heart in prayer. Know Jesus with the mind - the study of the Catechism: know Jesus with the heart - in prayer, in dialogue with Him. This helps us a good bit, but it is not enough. There is a third way to know Jesus: it is by following Him. Go with Him, walk with Him.”
It is necessary, “to go, to walk along the streets, journeying.” It is necessary, said Pope Francis, “to know Jesus in the language of action.” Here, then, is how you can really know Jesus: with these “three languages - of the mind, heart and action.” If, then, “I know Jesus in these ways,” he said in conclusion, “I involve myself with Him”
“One cannot know Jesus without getting oneself involved with Him, without betting your life [on] Him. When so many people - including us – pose this question: ‘But, who is He?’, The Word of God responds, ‘You want to know who He is? Read what the Church tells you about Him, talk to Him in prayer and walk the street with him. Thus, will you know who this man is.’ This is the way! Everyone must make his choice.”
Pope Francis: A true Christian has to endure humiliations with joy and patience
(Pope Francis said on Friday the proof of whether we are true Christians is shown by our ability to endure humiliations with joy and patience. Speaking at his morning mass in the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse, the Pope stressed this need for sacrifice in the Christian’s life of faith.
Listen to the report by Susy Hodges:
In his homily at the mass, the Pope began with the Gospel account from St. Luke where Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was to illustrate his reflections on what is demanded of a Christian who follows the Lord. It was after this question and Peter’s correct answer, the Pope continued, that Jesus revealed to the disciples his Passion, his death and his resurrection and he recalled Peter’s horrified reaction to this news in the gospel account from St. Matthew. He said “Peter was frightened and scandalized just like many Christians” who declare “this will never happen to you, I will follow you up to this point.”
Pope Francis said “this is the temptation of a spiritual wellbeing.” Like the young rich man in the gospel “who wanted to follow Jesus but only up to a certain point.” He said “the scandal of the Cross continues to block many Christians” who rather than following this path of the Cross complain about the wrongs and insults they’ve had to ensure.
The Pope said “the proof if somebody is a true Christian is his or her ability to endure humiliations with joy and patience.” This, he concluded, is our choice, “whether to be a Christian of wellbeing or a Christian close to Jesus” who walks along the path of the Cross.
2013-09-28. Pope Francis: Saturday morning Mass in Santa Marta
(Vatican Radio) Ask for the grace you need in order not to flee the Cross: this was the message of Pope Francis to the faithful at Mass on Saturday morning in the Domus Sanctae Marthae chapel in the Vatican. His remarks following the daily readings focused on the Gospel passage of the day, in which Jesus announces His Passion to the disciples
Listen to our report:
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.” Pope Francis said that these words of Jesus were chilling to the disciples, who expected a triumphal journey. They were words that, “remained for [the disciples] so mysterious that they did not grasp their meaning.” The Pope said, “[The disciples] were afraid to ask him about the matter.” For them, it was “better not to talk about it,” it was, “better not to understand, than to understand the truth,” that Jesus had proclaimed:
“They were afraid of the Cross – they were afraid of the Cross. Peter himself, after that solemn confession in the region of Caesarea Philippi, when Jesus again said the same thing, reproaches the Lord: ‘No, Lord! Never! Not this!” [said Peter]. He was afraid of the Cross. Not only the disciples, however, not only Peter: Jesus Himself was afraid of the Cross! He could not fool Himself, He knew. So great was Jesus’ own fear that, on that Thursday evening He did sweat blood. So great was Jesus’ fear that He almost said the same as Peter – almost: ‘Father, take this chalice from me. Thy will be done!’ This was the difference.”
The Cross causes fear even in the work of evangelization, though, Pope Francis observes, there is the “rule” according to which, “the disciple is not greater than the Master. There is the rule according to which there is no redemption without the effusion of blood,” there is no fruitful apostolic work without the Cross:
“Perhaps we think – each one of us can wonder: ‘And to me, what shall happen? How will my Cross be?’ We do not know. We do not know, but there will be one. We must pray for the grace not to fly from the Cross when it comes: with fear, eh! That is true. That scares us. Nevertheless, that is where following Jesus leads. The last words that Jesus spoke to Peter come to mind – in that Pontifical incoronation at Tiberias: ‘Do you love me? Peace! Do you love me? Peace!’…but the final words were these: ‘They shall take you where you do not want to go!’ The promise of the Cross.”
Pope Francis concluded with a prayer to the Virgin Mary:
“Nearest to Jesus, on the Cross, was His mother – His dear mother. Perhaps today, this day in which we pray to her, it would be good to ask her not for the grace to take away our fear – that must come, that fear of the Cross… but the grace we need not to fly from the Cross in fear. She was there and she knows how to be near the Cross.”
2013-09-29. Pope Francis: homily at Mass for Catechists
Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday morning in St Peter's Square to mark the International Day for Catechists organised by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation in the context of the Year of Faith. The dangers of complacency and the need for catechists to have the core and essence of the Gospel at the centre of their lives and work were the themes of the Holy Father's remarks. Below, please find the official English translation of the Holy Father's homily. Listen to our report:
1. “Woe to the complacent in Zion, to those who feel secure … lying upon beds of ivory!” (Am 6:1,4). They eat, they drink, they sing, they play and they care nothing about other people’s troubles.
These are harsh words which the prophet Amos speaks, yet they warn us about a danger that all of us face. What is it that this messenger of God denounces; what does he want his contemporaries, and ourselves, to realize? The danger of complacency, comfort, worldliness in our lifestyles and in our hearts, of making our well-being the most important thing in our lives. This was the case of the rich man in the Gospel, who dressed in fine garments and daily indulged in sumptuous banquets; this was what was important for him. And the poor man at his doorstep who had nothing to relieve his hunger? That was none of his business, it didn’t concern him. Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the centre of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings. The rich man in the Gospel has no name, he is simply “a rich man”. Material things, his possessions, are his face; he has nothing else.
Let’s try to think: How does something like this happen? How do some people, perhaps ourselves included, end up becoming self-absorbed and finding security in material things which ultimately rob us of our face, our human face? This is what happens when we no longer remember God. If we don’t think about God, everything ends up being about “me” and my own comfort. Life, the world, other people, all of these become unreal, they no longer matter, everything boils down to one thing: having. When we no longer remember God, we too become unreal, we too become empty; like the rich man in the Gospel, we no longer have a face! Those who run after nothing become nothing – as another great prophet Jeremiah, observed (cf. Jer 2:5). We are made in God’s image and likeness, not that of material objects, not that of idols!
2. So, as I look out at you, I think: Who are catechists? They are people who keep the memory of God alive; they keep it alive in themselves and they are able to revive it in others. This is something beautiful: to remember God, like the Virgin Mary, who sees God’s wondrous works in her life but doesn’t think about honour, prestige or wealth; she doesn’t become self-absorbed. Instead, after receiving the message of the angel and conceiving the Son of God, what does she do? She sets out, she goes to assist her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. And the first thing she does upon meeting Elizabeth is to recall God’s work, God’s fidelity, in her own life, in the history of her people, in our history: “My soul magnifies the Lord … For he has looked on the lowliness of his servant … His mercy is from generation to generation” (Lk 1:46, 48, 50).
This canticle of Mary also contains the remembrance of her personal history, God’s history with her, her own experience of faith. And this is true too for each one of us and for every Christian: faith contains our own memory of God’s history with us, the memory of our encountering God who always takes the first step, who creates, saves and transforms us. Faith is remembrance of his word which warms our heart, and of his saving work which gives life, purifies us, cares for and nourishes us. A catechist is a Christian who puts this remembrance at the service of proclamation, not to be important, not to talk about himself or herself, but to talk about God, about his love and his fidelity - to speak and to transmit all that God has revealed, i.e. the teaching of Christ and His Church in its totality, neither adding nor subtracting anything.
Saint Paul recommends one thing in particular to his disciple and co-worker Timothy: Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, whom I proclaim and for whom I suffer (cf. 2 Tim 2:8-9). The Apostle can say this because he too remembered Christ, who called him when he was persecuting Christians, who touched him and transformed him by his grace.
The catechist, then, is a Christian who is mindful of God, who is guided by the memory of God in his or her entire life and who is able to awaken that memory in the hearts of others. This is not easy! It engages our entire existence! What is the Catechism itself, if not the memory of God, the memory of his works in history and his drawing near to us in Christ present in his word, in the sacraments, in his Church, in his love? Dear catechists, I ask you: Are we in fact the memory of God? Are we really like sentinels who awaken in others the memory of God which warms the heart?
3. “Woe to the complacent in Zion!”. What must we do in order not to be “complacent” – people who find their security in themselves and in material things – but men and woman of the memory of God? In the second reading, Saint Paul, once more writing to Timothy, gives some indications which can also be guideposts for us in our work as catechists: pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness (cf. 1 Tim 6:11).
Catechists are men and women of the memory of God if they have a constant, living relationship with him and with their neighbour; if they are men and women of faith who truly trust in God and put their security in him; if they are men and women of charity, love, who see others as brothers and sisters; if they are men and women of “hypomoné”, endurance and perseverance, able to face difficulties, trials and failures with serenity and hope in the Lord; if they are gentle, capable of understanding and mercy.
Let us ask the Lord that we may all be men and women who keep the memory of God alive in ourselves, and are able to awaken it in the hearts of others. Amen.
2013-09-30. Pope Francis: Long faces cannot proclaim Jesus
(Vatican Radio) “Peace and joy” are the true signs of God’s presence in the Church – not perfection in its organization and planning. That’s what Pope Francis told the faithful gathered early Monday for the private daily mass in the Vatican guest house Santa Marta.
Tracey McClure reports:
The disciples were enthusiastic, making plans for the future and discussing how the new-born Church should be organized. They debated who was the greatest amongst them and restricted to themselves the number of people wishing to do good in Jesus’ name. But Jesus, explains the Pope, surprises them – turning the focus of the discussion from “organization” to “children:”“He in fact, who is the smallest among all of you…is great!”
Drawing on the reading from the Prophet Zecharia, the Pope spoke in his homily of the signs of God’s presence: not in “fine organization” nor in “ a government that moves ahead, all clean and perfect,” but in the elderly sitting in the squares and in children playing .
“The future of a people is right here…in the elderly and in the children,” he said. “A people who does not take care of the elderly and children has no future because it will have no memory and it will have no promise! The elderly and children are the future of a people!”
Pope Francis warned that it is all too easy to shoo a child away or make them calm down with a candy or a game – or to tune out the elderly and ignore their advice with the excuse that “they’re old, poor people.”
And the disciples didn’t understand this either, stressed the Pope.
“The disciples wanted efficacy; they wanted the Church to go forward without problems and this can become a temptation for the Church: the Church of functionalism! The well-organized Church! Everything in its place, but without memory and without promise! This Church, in this way, cannot move ahead. It will be the Church of the fight for power; it will be the Church of jealousies between the baptized and many other things that occur when there is no memory and no promise.”
The “vitality of the Church,” then, does not come through documents and planning meetings- these are necessary, yes, but they are not “the sign of God’s presence.”
“The sign of God’s presence is this, so says the Lord: ‘Old men and old women will sit again in the squares of Jerusalem, each with a cane in hand for their age. And the squares of the city will swarm with young boys and girls playing…Playing makes us think of joy: it is the Lord’s joy. And these elderly people sitting with a cane in hand, calm: they make us think of peace. Peace and joy. This is the air of the Church!”
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