Monday, April 29, 2013

Confessional not a 'dry cleaner,' says Pope
By Estefania Aguirre
.- Pope Francis said the Sacrament of Confession does not work like a dry cleaner but is a moment in which Jesus imparts his peace.

“Jesus in the confessional is not a dry cleaner, it is an encounter with Jesus but with this Jesus who waits for us just as we are,” said Pope Francis.

“Many times we think that going to confession is like going to the dry cleaner to clean the dirt from our clothes,” he observed during his April 29 homily.

But what really happens is that Jesus “donates to us the peace that only he gives,” he said.

The Pope usually invites different groups to attend his daily Mass in the chapel of Saint Martha’s residence, where he lives.

Today, the personnel from the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See were among the congregation.

“We are often ashamed to tell the truth, but shame is a true Christian virtue, and even human,” he commented.

“I do not know if there is a similar saying in Italian, but in our country those who are never ashamed are called ‘sin vergüenza,’” he said in his April 29 homily.

“This means ‘the unashamed’ because they are people who do not have the ability to be ashamed. And to be ashamed is a virtue of men and the women who are humble,” he added.

Pope Francis taught that being ashamed of sins is “not only natural, it’s a virtue that helps prepare us for God's forgiveness.”

He underscored that confession is not “a torture session” and that God is not waiting “to beat,” but is instead “always waiting for us, with tenderness to forgive.”

“It is going to praise God, because I, a sinner, have been saved by Him,” said Pope Francis.

“And if tomorrow I do the same?” he asked. “Go again, and go and go and go.”

The Pope encouraged the congregation to “never masquerade before God.”

“Jesus Christ is the righteous (one) and supports us before the Father," he said.

“He defends us in front of our weaknesses, but you need to stand in front of the Lord with our truth of (being) sinners, with confidence, even with joy, without masquerading,” he remarked.

The Holy Father also noted that walking in darkness means being “overly pleased with ourselves and believing that we do not need salvation.”

“That is darkness!” he exclaimed. “When we continue on this road of darkness, it is not easy to turn back.”

“We all have darkness in our lives, moments where everything, even our consciousness, is in the dark, but this does not mean we walk in darkness,” said the Pope.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pope Francis prepares sandwich for Swiss Guard outside his bedroom | Pino Corrias

NOTE: I feel I need to make mention that although this story is absolutely wonderful and receiving a lot of attention on my blog, I keep searching to find some official confirmation that this did actually take place and so far have not been able to locate anything online. This recounting has gone viral since what seems to be first appearing online around April 3, but I've yet to track down the original news source.  That doesn't change what a great story it is and it is certainly in line with the actions of our Holy Father, but the former journalist in me felt the need to offer that clarification.  I'll keep looking!  - FT

by Pino Corrias 

The surprising greatness of this new Pope Francis is in the small things. For example, the ability to say, “Brothers and sisters, good evening,” instead of appealing to the centuries, the Scriptures or the universe to present himself to the world. To wear an iron cross of instead of a golden one. To wash the feet of the prisoners. 

Or yet, to care for the Swiss Guard who guards the door of his apartment in Casa Santa Marta every night until dawn.

A few days ago, at dawn, the time the Pope wakes up, he came out to the corridor, and he found in front of his door the sentry, a Swiss Guard standing with his halberd at attention.

He asked him: “And what are you doing here? Have you been up all night?”

"Yes," replied the guard with deference and a bit surprised.

"On your feet?"

"Your Holiness, my duty since I took over from my companion."

"And aren’t you tired?"

"It’s my duty Your Holiness; I should watch for your safety."

Pope Francis looked at him again with kindness, went back to his suite and after a minute he came out carrying a chair: "At least sit down and rest."

The guard rolled his eyes and answered: “Santo Padre, forgive me, but I cannot! The regulations do not allow that."

"The regulations?"

"Orders from my captain, Your Holiness."

The Pope smiled, "Oh, really? Well, I'm the Pope and I order you to sit down."

So, caught between the regulations and the Pope, the Swiss Guard (so much for the halberd) chose the chair.

The Pope returned to his apartment.

After a couple of minutes, the Pope came back to the Swiss Guard, still obediently seated on the chair, carrying “panino con marmellata” (Italian bread with jam) which he had prepared. Before the soldier could say anything, the Holy Father, exhibiting his Argentinean smile, told the Swiss Guard, “With all the hours spent standing on guard you must be a bit hungry.” The Swiss Guard had no time to object because the Pope right away wished him a good bite: "Bon appetit, brother."

May God preserve him for many years.

One cannot follow Jesus, love Jesus without the church, pope says

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican April 23, the feast of St. George, the martyr. The feast is the pope's name day; he was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio. (CNS/L'Ossevatore Romano via Reuters)
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Following Jesus means belonging to the church, the community that gives Christians their identity, Pope Francis said.

"It is not possible to find Jesus outside the church," he said in his Mass homily April 23. "The great Paul VI said it is 'an absurd dichotomy' to want to live with Jesus without the church, to follow Jesus outside the church, to love Jesus without the church."

Dozens of cardinals living in Rome or visiting the Vatican joined the pope in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace for the Mass on the feast of St. George, the martyr. The feast is the pope's name day; he was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, told the pope the cardinals had wanted to join him for the Mass "to thank our Father in heaven for the gifts he has given you thus far and to request abundant graces upon your Petrine ministry."

The cardinal asked God to give them and the pope "the strength with which the Holy Spirit infused St. George and the martyrs of every age" to face difficulties, serve the poor and spread the Gospel.

Adding to the festivities, after the Mass, in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, the Swiss Guard band played for the pope and the cardinals.

In his homily, Pope Francis spoke about the persecution of the first Christian communities and how opposition did not stop them from sharing their faith in Christ, but went hand in hand with even greater missionary activity.

"Precisely at the moment persecution erupted, the missionary activity of the church erupted as well," the pope said.

When the first Christians began sharing the Gospel with "the Greeks," and not just other Jews, it was something completely new and made some of the Apostles "a bit nervous," the pope said. They sent Barnabas to Antioch to check on the situation, a kind of "apostolic visitation," he said. "With a bit of a sense of humor, we can say this was the theological beginning of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

Barnabas saw that the church was growing, he said. The church was becoming "the mother of more and more children," a mother that not only generates sons and daughters, but gives them faith and an identity.

Christian identity is not a bureaucratic status, it is "belonging to the church ... the mother church, because it is not possible to find Jesus outside the church," Pope Francis said. "It is the mother church who gives us Jesus, gives us identity."

Pope Francis said that when Barnabas witnessed the crowds of new believers he rejoiced with "the joy of an evangelizer."

The growth of the church, the pope said, "begins with persecution -- a great sadness -- and ends with joy. This is how the church moves forward -- as I saint, I don't recall which right now, said -- between the persecution of the world and the consolation of the Lord. The life of the church is this way."

"If we want to take the path of the mundane, negotiating with the world," the pope said, "we will never have the consolation of the Lord. If we seek only consolation, it will be superficial."

The life of the church is a path that always alternates between "persecution and consolation, between the Cross and the Resurrection," he said.

Pope Francis asked the cardinals to join him in praying that they, too, would have the "fervor to move forward -- as brothers, all of us -- forward, forward, carrying the name of Jesus in the heart of holy mother church, which is -- as St. Ignatius said -- hierarchical and catholic."


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pope Francis: Where Calumny is, There is the Devil

 Monday, April 15, 2013 3:54 PM Comments (11)
– EP
For the third time in as many weeks, Pope Francis has warned not to speak ill of others, and again mentioned the devil in another striking homily this morning in the chapel of the Vatican's Santa Martha residence.

Calumny, he said, is worse than sin and is the direct expression of Satan. "We are all sinners; all of us. We all commit sins. But calumny is something else. It is of course a sin, too, but it is something more,” he said, according to a Vatican Radio report.

“Calumny aims to destroy the work of God, and calumny comes from a very evil thing: it is born of hatred. And hate is the work of Satan. Calumny destroys the work of God in people, in their souls. Calumny uses lies to get ahead.” Be in no doubt, he said: “Where there is calumny, there is Satan himself."

He then gave the example of St. Stephen, who was a victim of calumny, wrongly accused of bearing false witness, and was martyred because of it. The Church’s first martyr, the Pope said, does not repay falsehood with falsehood. Instead, he “looks to the Lord and obeys the law", being in the peace and truth of Christ. It’s the way of martyrdom, he said, and there have been  numerous examples of those who have witnessed to the Gospel with great courage.

But he added – and later repeated – that the age of martyrs “is not yet over” and that “even today we can say, in truth, that the Church has more martyrs now than during the first centuries.”

“The Church has many men and women who are maligned through calumny, who are persecuted, who are killed in hatred of Jesus, in hatred of the faith,” the Holy Father continued. “Some are killed because they teach the catechism, others are killed because they wear the cross ... Today, in many countries, they are maligned, they are persecuted ... they are our brothers and sisters who are suffering today, in this age of the martyrs".

This age of “such great spiritual turmoil” reminded the Pope of an ancient Russian icon that depicts Our Lady covering the people of God with her mantle: "We pray to Our Lady to protect us, and in times of spiritual turbulence the safest place is under the mantle of Our Lady. She is the mother who takes care of the Church. And in this time of martyrs, she is the protagonist, the protagonist of protection: She is the Mother. (...) Let us state with faith: Mother, the Church is under your protection: Care for the Church.”

This is the third time at these early morning Masses that the Pope has warned against speaking poorly of others. Last month he said it was the equivalent of selling someone “like a commodity,” not unlike Judas, who sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. A few days later, he warned against gossip, saying that complaining behind each other's backs is a temptation that comes “from the Evil One, who does not want the Spirit to dwell among us and give peace.”

Since his election last month, the Pope has also made frequent references to the devil. Observers have noted this emphasis with interest, especially as explicit mentions of the devil largely fell into disuse in the years following the Second Vatican Council. With his disappearance from Church texts, exorcists complained that the rite of exorcism had become useless against demons.
Pope Francis’s frequent allusions to “Satan” and the “Evil One” may well be part of an effort —one that Benedict XVI had already begun — to cast out the presence of evil and so bring back healing and harmony to the Church, and to parts of the Vatican in particular.

Read more:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pope Francis: Hypocrisy 'undermines Church's credibility'

Claudio Peri / Pool via EPA
Pope Francis (L) seen during his first mass in St Paul's Outside the Walls, Rome, Italy, 14 April 2013.
ROME — Pope Francis on Sunday said clergy and Christians must not betray the word of God with their actions or they undermine the credibility of the Catholic Church.
Francis, elected a month ago, inherited a Church struggling to restore credibility after a series of scandals, including the sexual abuse of children by priests.
The pope spoke at the Papal Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls, where he celebrated Mass. He also greeted pilgrims and local Church members earlier in St. Peter's square.
"Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church's credibility," the pontiff said in his homily

"Those who listen to us and observe us must be able to see in our actions what they hear from our lips, and so give glory to God!"
In his first major decision on Saturday, Francis set up an advisory board of cardinals to help him govern the Church and reform its troubled central administration, which was riddled by infighting and alleged corruption under Pope Benedict.

Benedict left a secret report for Francis on the problems in the administration, known as the Curia, which came to light when sensitive documents were stolen from the pope's desk and leaked by his butler in what became known as the "Vatileaks" scandal.

Since his election as the first non-European pope in nearly 1,300 years, Francis has been laying out a clear moral path for the 1.2-billion-member Church. He has favored humility and simplicity over pomp and grandeur.

Francis has preferred to live in simple quarters in the Vatican instead of moving into the regal papal apartments, and he has said he wants "a poor Church, and for the poor".

In the Sunday afternoon service at St. Paul's, Francis said that each Christian can be a saint, which he defined as "middle class holiness."

"There are the saints of every day, the 'hidden' saints, a sort of 'middle class of holiness'... to which we can all belong."

The pope celebrated Mass together with the Benedictine monks to whom the basilica and the adjoining monastery are entrusted. St. Paul's is one of Rome's four major basilicas and the second largest after St. Peter's.

Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters

Pope Francis: Learning to take life as it comes, the good with the bad

2013-04-13 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) When things go badly, we should not masquerade them. We should learn to have faith in God, and how to accept what happens in life, the good with the bad, always knowing that Christ is with us. 

This was the focus of Pope Francis’ homily Saturday morning during Mass in Domus Sanctae Marta with Vatican security guards and firemen. Also present were the religious sisters of the Daughters of charity.

Reflecting on the liturgy of the Word on the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the Pope drew a lesson from an episode in the life of the early Christian community. The passage describes the Greeks and Jews arguing over practical necessities: in particular, the aid to be given to widows. 

Pope Francis commented that, rather than openly address the problem, their first reaction is one of whispered criticism and gossip. 

“But this does lead to any solution, this does not give solutions. The Apostles, with the help of the Holy Spirit, responded well: they summoned the group of disciples and spoke to them. And this is the first step: when there are difficulties, we need to look closely at them, and confront them and speak about them. But never hide them”.

Pope Francis noted this is what the Apostles did: they did not hide the problem, but assessed it, made a decision without equivocating. Having understood that their first duty “was prayer and ministry of the Word”, they appointed deacons who would assist them in the ministry of service. 

The Holy Father continued this theme, referring to the Gospel of the day in which Jesus rescues the disciples from the stormy lake: 

“We must not be afraid of problems: Jesus himself said to his disciples: ‘It is I. Do not be afraid’. In life’s difficulties, with problems, with new things that we must face: the Lord is always with us. We may make mistakes, certainly, but he is always with us and says: ‘You made a mistake, now get back on the right path (…) Masquerading life, disguising life, is not a very good way to behave: no no. Life is what it is, that’s the reality. It’s exactly as God wants it to be, or as God allows it to be, it is what it is, and we have to accept it as it is. And the Spirit of the Lord will give us the solution to our problems.”

Pope Francis repeated the words of Jesus to his disciples: “It is I, do not be afraid!” In our darkest moments, when we don’t know what to do, we must always remember these words of Jesus. Thus, concluded Pope Francis, we should learn to take life as it comes with the help of the Holy Spirit. “In this way we can move forward, certain of being on the right path”:

“We ask the Lord for this grace: to not be afraid, to not falsify life, to take life as it comes and look to resolve problems as the Apostles did, and also seek out the encounter with Jesus who always at our side, even in the darkest moments of life”.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Pope names new Vatican reform committee

The Vatican Secretariat of State announced April 13 that Pope Francis has named a committee of eight cardinals to assist him in reforming the Vatican bureaucracy, something that was recommended during the cardinals’ meetings that preceded the papal election last month.
The list of eight names is notable for the high representation of the Americas (three members, including Boston’s Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley) and English-speaking countries (also three, counting India). The role of coordinator has been given to Cardinal Oscar A. Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras.
Five continents are represented. Only two members come from Europe, the church’s traditional heartland, and only one shares the Italian nationality of the majority of Vatican officials.
The Vatican statement follows.
Vatican City, 13 April 2013 (VIS) – Following is the full text of a communique issued today by the Secretariat of State.
“The Holy Father Francis, taking up a suggestion that emerged during the General Congregations preceding the Conclave, has established a group of cardinals to advise him in the government of the universal Church and to study a plan for revising the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, ‘Pastor Bonus’.
The group consists of:
Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State;
Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, archbishop emeritus of Santiago de Chile, Chile;
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India;
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany;
Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo;
Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley O.F.M., archbishop of Boston, USA;
Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia;
Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, S.D.B., archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in the role of coordinator; and
Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, in the role of secretary.
The group’s first meeting has been scheduled for 1-3 October 2013. His Holiness is, however, currently in contact with the aforementioned cardinals.”

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

'It was a sign': Lapsed Catholics lured back by Pope Francis

By Tracy Connor, Staff Writer, NBC News

Twenty million Americans consider themselves lapsed Catholics, but Pope Francis is convincing many to test the holy waters again with his bold gestures and common touch.
After years of disenchantment with the church's hierarchy and teachings, former members of the flock say they are willing to give the Vatican a second chance under new leadership.
Dallas teacher Marilyn Rosa is one of them.

"It was a sign," Rosa, 57, said of the Argentine Jesuit's election as pontiff last month. "It was like a miracle."

Born and raised Catholic, Rosa attended parochial schools and had a church wedding for her first marriage. Over the years, she drifted away from the religion that had been such an integral part of her Puerto Rican family's life.

She questioned the relevance of church policies in the modern world. As a divorced woman, she felt cast out. The pedophile-priest scandals disgusted her.
Three years ago, she quit going to Mass and joined an evangelical church. But she didn't feel at home and she started to wonder how she could fill the void.

"The day the pope got elected, I turned on the TV and when I learned he was Latin, I went crazy at home," said Rosa.

"When they started to talk about how he lived by himself and didn't move into the archbishop's residence, how he took the bus to work, I said, 'I know God is talking to me. This is the man we needed.'"

On Palm Sunday, she and her second husband "reverted," attending services at Dallas' St. Pius X Catholic Church.

"It was packed. I had to stand up the whole time. But I felt so happy. It was like a revival," she said.

Rosa has kept going to back to St. Pius, encouraged by what she's seen of the pope: from the simple white robe he wears to his rejection of the opulent papal apartment in favor of a spartan guest house.
"He's not letting himself be controlled by the rest of the church," Rosa said. "He's his own man."

Embrace of poor, emphasis on service
It's unknown how many others have joined Rosa around the country and globe and the vast majority of lapsed Catholics have not been enticed back. In the U.S., that's a huge pool of potential "new" members for an institution challenged by secularism and rival religions.
A 2009 report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life estimated one in 10 adults in the U.S. was raised Catholic but has broken with the church. Its teachings on abortion, homosexuality, birth control and treatment of women were often cited as reasons.
Pope Francis hasn't given any hint of radical change on those issues, but his man-of-the-people persona is appealing to some of the unfaithful.
Tom Peterson, president of Catholics Come Home, which airs ads aimed at the lapsed, said his websitetraffic tripled the day of the election, adding several thousand visitors. It's been double ever since.
Some interest could stem from the hubbub surrounding the selection of any pontiff, but Peterson thinks Francis' "love for the poor and his humility is exciting people to a great extent."
Father Peter Mussett, pastor of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center, which serves the University of Colorado at Boulder, agrees.

"I had five people in a week who were saying, 'Pope Francis has inspired me to return to my faith,'" he said. "It's pretty remarkable."

Brian O'Neill, 48, an Irish-American cop from Washington State, went to Catholic elementary school and a Jesuit high school but hasn't practiced since graduating from a secular college. He says that could change soon.
The Vatican's stance on social issues, along with the gilded lifestyle of some higher-ups previously drove O'Neill away. Francis' embrace of the poor and his background as a service-minded Jesuit might bring the father of two back.

"I was shocked and amazed when he started doing those things -- you know, 'No Popemobile for me,'" said O'Neill, who wrote a column for his local newspaper about possibly returning to Catholicism.

He said that while Francis' views on church teachings might still be far from his own, his election heralds change.

"When the church says that's the guy we're going to put on St. Peter's throne, that says enough about where the church wants to go," O'Neill said. "Will I go back? I'm planning on it -- if I can find a good service."

'He's another retro pope'
Last weekend, when he was formally installed as bishop of Rome, the pope used the opportunity to appeal to defectors, urging them to come back to the fold.

It will take more than an invitation for Kathy Budreski, though. The 70-year-old left Catholicism after the abuse scandal and has been attending a Unitarian church in Cape Cod.
She was heartened to see the cardinals pick a pope from South America, and loved seeing Francis hug a little boy with cerebral palsy after Easter Mass but says he's not a progressive.

"He has a big heart and he loves the poor people, but he's not going to do anything to change the stance of the church on birth control and gay rights," she said.  "I don't see him as a mover and shaker. He has some wonderful qualities but he's another retro pope."

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Pope Francis's Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

It is with joy that I am celebrating the Eucharist for the first time in this Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. I greet all of you with great affection: the Cardinal Vicar, the auxiliary bishops, the diocesan presbyterate, the deacons, the men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. Together let us walk in the light of the risen Lord.

Today we are celebrating the Second Sunday of Easter, also known as “Divine Mercy Sunday”. What a beautiful truth of faith this is for our lives: the mercy of God! God’s love for us is so great, so deep; it is an unfailing love, one which always takes us by the hand and supports us, lifts us up and leads us on.

In today’s Gospel, the Apostle Thomas personally experiences this mercy of God, which has a concrete face, the face of Jesus, the risen Jesus. Thomas does not believe it when the other Apostles tell him: “We have seen the Lord”. It isn’t enough for him that Jesus had foretold it, promised it: “On the third day I will rise”. He wants to see, he wants to put his hand in the place of the nails and in Jesus’ side. And how does Jesus react? With patience: Jesus does not abandon Thomas in his stubborn unbelief; he gives him a week’s time, he does not close the door, he waits. And Thomas acknowledges his own poverty, his little faith. “My Lord and my God!” with this simple yet faith-filled invocation, he responds to Jesus’ patience. He lets himself be enveloped by divine mercy; he sees it before his eyes, in the wounds of Christ’s hands and feet and in his open side, and he discovers trust: he is a new man, no longer an unbeliever, but a believer.

Let us also remember Peter: three times he denied Jesus, precisely when he should have been closest to him; and when he hits bottom he meets the gaze of Jesus who patiently, wordlessly, says to him: “Peter, don’t be afraid of your weakness, trust in me”. Peter understands, he feels the loving gaze of Jesus, and he weeps. How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus – how much tenderness is there! Brothers and sisters let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God!

Let us think too of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus: their sad faces, their barren journey, their despair. But Jesus does not abandon them: he walks beside them, and not only that! Patiently he explains the Scriptures which spoke of him, and he stays to share a meal with them. This is God’s way of doing things: he is not impatient like us, who often want everything all at once, even in our dealings with other people. God is patient with us because he loves us, and those who love are able to understand, to hope, to inspire confidence; they do not give up, they do not burn bridges, they are able to forgive. Let us remember this in our lives as Christians: God always waits for us, even when we have left him behind! He is never far from us, and if we return to him, he is ready to embrace us.

I am always struck when I reread the parable of the merciful Father; it impresses me because it always gives me great hope. Think of that younger son who was in the Father’s house, who was loved; and yet he wants his part of the inheritance; he goes off, spends everything, hits rock bottom, where he could not be more distant from the Father, yet when he is at his lowest, he misses the warmth of the Father’s house and he goes back. And the Father? Had he forgotten the son? No, never. He is there, he sees the son from afar, he was waiting for him every hour of every day, the son was always in his father’s heart, even though he had left him, even though he had squandered his whole inheritance, his freedom. The Father, with patience, love, hope and mercy, had never for a second stopped thinking about him, and as soon as he sees him still far off, he runs out to meet him and embraces him with tenderness, the tenderness of God, without a word of reproach: he is back! And that’s the joy of a father. And in the father’s embrace of his son there is all this joy. He has come back. God is always waiting for us, he never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence, hope – always! The German theologian Romano Guardini said that God responds to our weakness by his patience, and this is the reason for our confidence, our hope (cf. Glaubenserkenntnis, Würzburg, 1949, p. 28).

It’s like a dialogue between our weakness and God’s patience. A dialogue … when we have this dialogue it gives us hope.

I would like to emphasize one other thing: God’s patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life. Jesus tells Thomas to put his hand in the wounds of his hands and his feet, and in his side. We too can enter into the wounds of Jesus, we can actually touch him. [The Gospel does not say that Thomas actually did what Jesus said, but it is certainly an acceptable reading.] This happens every time that we receive the sacraments with faith. Saint Bernard, in a fine homily, says: “Through the wounds of Jesus I can suck honey from the rock and oil from the flinty rock (cf. Deut 32:13), I can taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (On the Song of Songs, 61:4). It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart. Thomas understood this. Saint Bernard goes on to ask: What can I count on? On my own merits? No, “My merit is God’s mercy. I am by no means lacking merits as long as he is rich in mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are manifold, I too will abound in merits” (ibid., 5). This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, to trust in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love. Saint Bernard even states: “So what if my conscience gnaws at me for my many sins? ‘Where sin has abounded, there grace has abounded all the more’ (Rom 5:20)” (ibid.). Someone may think: my sin is so great, I am as far from God as the younger son in the parable, my unbelief is like that of Thomas; I don’t have the courage to go back, to believe that God can welcome me and that he is waiting for me, of all people. But God is indeed waiting for you; he asks of you only the courage to go to him. How many times in my pastoral ministry have I heard it said: “Father, I have many sins”; and I have always pleaded: “Don’t be afraid, go to him, he is waiting for you, he will take care of everything”. [Go to confession!] We hear many offers from the world around us; but let us take up God’s offer instead: his is a caress of love. For God, we are not numbers, we are important, indeed we are the most important thing to him; even if we are sinners, we are what is closest to his heart.

Adam, after his sin, experiences shame, he feels naked, he senses the weight of what he has done; and yet God does not abandon him: if that moment of sin marks the beginning of his exile from God, there is already a promise of return, a possibility of return. God immediately asks: “Adam, where are you?” He seeks him out. Jesus took on our nakedness, he took upon himself the shame of Adam, the nakedness of his sin, in order to wash away our sin: by his wounds we have been healed. Remember what Saint Paul says: “What shall I boast of, if not my weakness, my poverty? Precisely in feeling my sinfulness, in looking at my sins, I can see and encounter God’s mercy, his love, and go to him to receive forgiveness.

In my own life, I have so often seen God’s merciful countenance, his patience; I have also seen so many people find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him: Lord, I am here, accept my poverty,, hide my sin in your wounds, wash it away with your blood. And I have always seen that God did just this – he accepted them, consoled them, cleansed them, loved them.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us be enveloped by the mercy of God; let us trust in his patience, which always gives us more time. Let us find the courage to return to his house, to dwell in his loving wounds, allowing ourselves be loved by him and to encounter his mercy in the sacraments. We will feel his tenderness – so beautiful – we will feel his embrace, and we too will become more capable of mercy, patience, forgiveness and love.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Kresta In The Afternoon: The #1 Reason the Catholic Church Won’t Support Sa...

Kresta In The Afternoon: The #1 Reason the Catholic Church Won’t Support Sa...: April 3, 2013 By Frank Weathers , Why I am Catholic   It’s quite simple, actually. Oh, you won’t see the reason talked about by folks...

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Reform We Need

Benedict Waves
Amidst of all the joys of a new pope and my continuing wonder at the smooth transition effected by cardinals who pray deeply and follow a centuries-old tradition, there was one deep sorrow about the papal transition: being forced to read the repeated slanders in the press about my beloved Pope Benedict XVI.  Media outlets such as The New York Times used the occasion of Benedict’s humble resignation to open up their pages to literally dozens of the worst anti-Catholic bigots in the country, most of them ostensibly “Catholic,” to spew their hate-filled bile.  And beyond the editorials, there were the ostensibly “neutral” news articles, with their odious, unsupported accusations of a “failed” papacy.
Consider, if you will, this small example from a New York Times article that appeared on the morning after Pope Francis’s election: “By choosing the first pope from the New World, the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church sent a strong message of change.”  This reporter had no evidence to back-up that assertion of course, because by the time she filed this piece with her editors, none of the cardinals had yet had time to make any comments about the process.  Indeed, she quotes not one single Church official to back up her little meta-narrative.  But the tall tale she has decided to tell only gets more inventive as she proceeds.
“It was not yet clear,” she suggests, “whether Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio … will display the mettle to tackle the organizational dysfunction and corruption that plagued the eight-year papacy of Pope Benedict XVI.”  Organizational dysfunction and corruption that plagued his papacy?  What was her source or evidence for that assertion?  There was none.  It’s clear that, like the theater critic who writes his review on the way to the theater, our reporter made her story-line up in advance, and she was going to stick to it no matter what she found.
All of us who have been interviewed by the press know how this goes: they come to you with their story looking for quotes to fill in the narrative they’ve already crafted, and nothing you can say will dislodge it.  I’ve done a number of interviews during the past several weeks, for both print and television, related to the papal election, and in every one, the meta-narrative was always the same: “Will the new pope make the Church more open?”  My students experienced the same problem.  The press interviewed our students a dozen times, asking them each time about “change” and “up-dating the Church” for “the younger generation.”  And each time, our students spoke passionately and articulately about their love for Benedict and their desire for the Church to be faithful to the Gospel and its own traditions.  Never once did any of this ever make it into print or on the evening news. It didn’t fit the grand narrative.
But all of our New York Times reporter’s comments up to this point were just the usual media “boilerplate.”  The sentence where she really went for the jugular was this: “In many ways, Cardinal Bergoglio … seems to be the anti-Benedict. He is a warm, pastoral figure known as a good communicator, one who might have more success reversing the church’s sagging fortunes than did Benedict ….” Francis is the “anti-Benedict” because he is a “warm, pastoral figure”?  I’ve never met Pope Benedict, but I’ve talked to many people who have, and all of them were immensely impressed by his warmth and gentleness. It is a warmth and wisdom that I have felt in every one of his written works.
But to our Times reporter, in electing Francis: “It seemed almost as if the cardinals were trying again.”  Seemed to whom?  To any of the cardinals?  No.  It “seemed” that way to, well, one man, as it turns out: Alberto Melloni, notorious critic of the Vatican, who said this:
“The reign of the doctors is over, and this is the kingdom of pastors, a move away from theologian pope,” said Alberto Melloni, the author of many books on the Vatican and the Second Vatican Council. “The fact is that he was a minority candidate in the 2005 election, and it was like saying, ‘Last time we went wrong, so let’s pick it up before it’s too late.’”
First of all, to say that with Cardinal Bergoglio “the reign of the doctors is over” is just offensive, since Bergoglio is a Jesuit with very extensive educational credentials and a doctorate from—of all places—a German university. (A bit like Pope Benedict.)  And second, although this Mr. Melloni thinks that the “last time,” the cardinals “went wrong”—a personal opinion he’s entitled to, I suppose, for what it’s worth—there’s absolutely no evidence that the cardinals felt that way.  The lack of any evidence to support the narrative she was creating didn’t stop our intrepid Times reporter, though; she went ahead and found a puppet willing to repeat back to her the words she wanted to hear.  If the issue isreform, how about starting with The New York Times, its high school-level reporters, and their sophomoric sourcing.
As for Pope Benedict: What a mensch!:  a truly amazing, humble man with profound depths of scholarly understanding and pastoral wisdom.  He served the Church selflessly in taking on the papacy when he clearly wished to retire, always living in the shadow of his rock-star predecessor and close, personal friend.  And what a papacy it was!  Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”) and Spes Salvi(“Saved in Hope”): two intellectually profound encyclicals, both of which draw us back to the source of the Christian mystery—not to mention Caritas in Veritate, his remarkable addition to the modern social justice tradition.  And then, there is his masterful three volumes on the life of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, in which he attempted to teach the Church once again how to engage in a theologicalreading of the Scriptures as the authentic word of God, one that while not avoiding the insights of the modern historical-critical methods, would not entirely adopt their philosophical presuppositions either.
Like his predecessor before him, Benedict effectively carried on the authentic reforms of the Second Vatican Council, as opposed to the false “reforms” that so often led the Church astray in the post-conciliar period.  A cardinal archbishop told an audience recently that the liturgy was so abused in the early seventies when he was in seminary that the faithful seminarians would say about the ersatz masses being done by their elders: “Everything in them changes but the bread and wine.” Benedict, by contrast, did a great deal to help realize the original intentions of the liturgical reformers.  Given that the lex orandi (the law of praying) is intimately intertwined with the lex credendi (the law of believing)—which is another way of saying that what we pray is what we believe—reforming the liturgy has always been an absolutely essential way of helping re-form the Church (in the sense of renewing its essence) and helping to re-inform the faithful who are its “living stones.”
Benedict did other things as well, largely unnoticed.  People in the media talk a lot about “reforming the curia,” although most of them have no idea who “the curia” are or what they do. I’m not opposed to reforming the curia, but the truth is that most lay Catholics don’t suffer much from the arcane difficulties in “the curia.” What every Catholic does need, however, is a solid, faithful bishop in his or her diocese, and Benedict has done a remarkably consistent job of elevating good men to these positions.  The “reform” of the Church has begun: we’re rid of a whole slew of ineffective and sometimes scandalous bishops in whose places we have many men of real faith.
What about the priest-pedophile scandals?  Am I missing something, or has no one else noticed that nearly all these cases happened during the “false reform” period after the Second Vatican Council?   Current bishops are simply trying to deal as best they can with horrors that occurred decades ago, before some of them were even priests. As for “reform” in this area, it began when the Vatican started replacing the previous crop of irresponsible, unfaithful bishops who did so much to destroy the credibility of the Church by eschewing the centuries-old spiritual wisdom of their Church about sin (not to mention some very explicit canon laws about disciplining priests) in favor of an O-so-cutting-edge-but-disastrously-wrongheaded model of psychological “therapy.”  These crimes weren’t caused by living faithfully in accord with the Church’s teachings, but by acting in ways totally contrary to them—indeed, at a time when unfaithfulness to the hierarchy was often taken to be a badge of honor and during an age of so-called “sexual liberation” when breaking previously-established “boundaries” was taken to be an act of heroic un-discipline.
As for the reform we need now, Cardinal Dolan got it just about right when he told an interviewer: “I have no doubt the Holy Father will call each and every Catholic to reform his or her life.”  The Church is certainly in need of reform.  And as “progressives” never tire of saying: “We are the Church.”  If so, then reform of the Church means reform of ourselves.
The Church is always in need of reform because she is made up of sinners who are all—every last one of them—in need of Christ’s redeeming love and forgiveness.  There will be no “perfect” Church until Christ returns.  As for popes, none has been quite as bad as the first one, Peter, who when Christ was at his lowest point and in deepest need, denies three times that he even knew the Lord.  Could there be any more grievous sin?  Whatever crimes some later popes have committed, they will never quite measure up to that one.  Indeed none of the Twelve remained faithful in Christ’s hour of need.  Who among them was at the trial to defend him?  Not one.  And yet, oddly enough, in spite of that, the Church has continued to grow for over two thousand years.  A very faithful Dominican friar once suggested to me that the quality of the Church’s leadership over the centuries was evidence for the divine guidance of the Church:  given the sort of people who were often in charge, the Church certainly wouldn’t have survived if God hadn’t been protecting it.
The authentic reform movements in Church history have always had at least these two distinctive characteristics:  The first is that they always involved a call to renewed fidelity to Christ, while rejecting the illusions offered by “the world.”  The second was that “reform” couldn’t just be just about my will and my desires.  Indeed, one finds constant warnings within each major reform movement—whether it was Benedictine, Cistercian, Franciscan, or indeed Jesuit—against “willfulness,” along with frequent exhortations to “humility” and “obedience.”  Why?  Because the “reform” of the Church isn’t primarily about what I want or what I’d like to see done.  Nor is it about what every Tom, Dick, and Harry the press gets ahold of thinks should be done.  We all know howthat will turn out:  the reforms I and my friends zealously support are not necessarily the ones you and your friends support.  And when the new pope doesn’t obey the Gospel According to Us, we’ll turn on him, and he’ll become just another hated “obstructionist.”  True reform can’t be achieved that way; it’s merely an extension of the current strife.
Reform is about each of us living the Gospel more faithfully.   And the place for that sort of reform to begin is within me, within my heart; and within you and your heart. Because here’s one thing you can be absolutely certain of no matter who is pope or what name he takes or what policies he sets: there can be no “reform” of the Church without the reform of human hearts.  Fortunately, that can beginright hereright now.  Unfortunately, it’s hard.  If it weren’t, everybody would be doing it.