Happy Feast Day, Pope Francis!

Aside

St. GeorgeHappy Feast Day, Pope Francis!  Today is the feast of St. George the Martyr, patron saint of Jorge Bergoglio.

Faithful servant of God and invincible martyr, Saint George;
favored by God with the gift of faith, and inflamed with an ardent love of Christ, thou didst fight valiantly against the dragon of pride, falsehood, and deceit. Neither pain nor torture, sword nor death could part thee from the love of Christ. I fervently implore thee, for the sake of this love, to help Our Holy Father Pope Francis, by thy intercession, to overcome the temptations that surround him, and to bear bravely the trials that oppress him, so that he may patiently carry the cross which is placed upon him, and govern with fidelity those entrusted to his care; and let neither distress nor difficulties separate him from the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that he may build Your church into a sacrament of unity, love, and peace for all the world.  Valiant champion of the Faith, assist him in the combat against evil, that he may win the crown promised to them that persevere unto the end. 

 

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Wednesday Audience: The Church as the Temple

This morning the Holy Father’s Wednesday Audience focused on the image of the Church as the temple.  Below is  Vatican Radio’s English translation of his general audience catechesis.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like briefly to refer to one more picture that helps us to illustrate the mystery of the Church: that of the temple (cf. Lumen Gentium, 6).

What does the word, ‘temple’ call to mind? It makes us think of a building, a construction. In particular, it recalls to many minds the history of the People of Israel narrated in the Old Testament. In Jerusalem, the great Temple of Solomon was the locus of the encounter with God in prayer. Within the Temple was the Ark of the Covenant, a sign of God’s presence among the people, and inside the Ark were the Tablets of the Law, the manna and the rod of Aaron, a reminder that God had always been in the history of his people, had always been with them on their journey, always directed their stride – and the Temple recalls this story. We, too, when we go to the temple, must remember this story – my story – the story of each one of us – of how Jesus encountered me, of how he walked with me, how Jesus loves and blesses me.

That, which was prefigured in the ancient Temple, is realized in the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit: the Church is the “house of God”, the place of His presence, where we can find and meet the Lord, the Church is the temple in which dwells the Holy Spirit, who animates, guides and sustains her. If we ask ourselves, “Where we can meet God? Where can we enter into communion with Him through Christ? Where can we find the light of the Holy Spirit to enlighten our lives?” the answer is, “in the People of God, among us, for we are Church – among us, within the People of God, in the Church – there we shall meet Jesus, we shall meet the Holy Spirit, we shall meet the Father.

The ancient temple was built by the hands of men: they wanted to “give a home” to God, to have a visible sign of His presence among the people. With the Incarnation of the Son of God, the prophecy of Nathan to King David is fulfilled (cf. 2 Sam 7.1 to 29): it is not the king, it is not we, who are to “give a home to God,” but God Himself who “builds his house” to come and dwell among us, as St. John writes in the Prologue of his Gospel (cf. 1:14). Christ is the living Temple of the Father, and Christ himself builds His “spiritual home”, the Church, made not of stone materials, but of “living stones” – of us, our very selves. The Apostle Paul says to the Christians of Ephesus: you are “Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone: in whom all the building, being framed together, groweth up into an holy temple in the Lord.(Eph 2:20-22)” How beautiful this is! We are the living stones of God, profoundly united to Christ, who is the rock of support, and among ourselves. What then, does this mean? It means that we are the Temple – the Church, but, us, living – we are Church, we are [the] living temple, and within us, when we are together, there is the Holy Spirit, who helps us grow as Church. We are not isolated, we are People of God – and this is the Church: People of God.

It is, moreover, the Holy Spirit with His gifts, who designs the variety – and this is important – what does the Holy Spirit do in our midst? He designs the variety – the variety, which is the richness of the Church and unites everything and everyone, so as to constitute a spiritual temple, in which we offer not material sacrifices, but us ourselves, our life (cf. 1 Pt 2:4-5). The Church is not a weave of things and interests, it is rather the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Temple in which God works, the Temple in which each of us with the gift of Baptism is living stone. This tells us that no one is useless in the Church – no on is useless in the Church! – and should anyone chance to say, some one of you, “Get home with you, you’re useless!” that is not true. No one is useless in the Church. We are all needed in order to build this temple. No one is secondary: “Ah, I am the most important one in the Church!” No! We are all equal in the eyes of God. But, one of you might say, “Mr. Pope, sir, you are not equal to us.” But I am just like each of you. We are all equal. We are all brothers and sisters. No one is anonymous: all form and build the Church. Nevertheless, it also invites us to reflect on the fact that the Temple wants the brick of our Christian life, that something is wanting in the beauty of the Church.

So I would like for us to ask ourselves: how do we live our being Church? We are living stones? Are we rather, so to speak, tired stones, bored, indifferent? Have any of you ever noticed how ugly a tired, bored, indifferent Christian is? It’s an ugly sight. A Christian has to be lively, joyous, he has to live this beautiful thing that is the People of God, the Church. Do we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, so as to be an active part of our communities, or do we close in on ourselves, saying, “I have so many things to do, that’s not my job.”?

May the Lord grant us His grace, His strength, so that we can be deeply united to Christ, the cornerstone, stone of support for all of our lives and the life of the Church. Let us pray that, animated by His Spirit, we might always be living stones of the Church.

Wednesday Audience: Unity beyond conflicts

Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

Today I will focus upon another expression with which the Second Vatican Council indicates the nature of the Church: that of the body, the Council says that the Church is the Body of Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium, 7).

I would like to start from a text of the Acts of the Apostles which we know well: the conversion of Saul, who will then be called Paul, one of the greatest evangelists (cf. Acts 9:4-5). Saul was a persecutor of Christians, but while he is on the road leading to the city of Damascus, suddenly a light envelops him, he falls to the ground and hears a voice saying “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? ‘. He asks: “Who are you, Lord?”, And the voice answers: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (v. 3-5). This experience of St. Paul tells us how deep the union between we Christians and Christ Himself. When Jesus ascended into heaven he did not leave us orphans, but with the gift of the Holy Spirit, our union with Him has become even more intense. The Second Vatican Council says that Jesus “communicating His Spirit, Christ made His brothers, called together from all nations, mystically the components of His own Body” (Dogmatic Constitution. Lumen Gentium, 7).

The image of the body helps us to understand this deep Church-Christ bond, which St. Paul has developed especially in the First Letter to the Corinthians (cf. chap. 12). First, the body brings our attention to a living reality. The Church is not an charitable, cultural or political association, but a living body, that walks and acts in history. And this body has a head, Jesus, who guides, feeds and supports it. This is a point I want to emphasize: if the head is separated from the rest of the body, the whole person cannot survive. So it is in the Church, we must remain bound ever more deeply to Jesus. But not only that: just as the body needs the lifeblood to keep it alive, so we must allow Jesus to work in us, that His Word guide us, that His presence in the Eucharist nourish us, animate us, that His love gives strength to our love of neighbor. And this always! Dear brothers and sisters, let us remain united to Jesus, let us trust in Him, direct our life according to His Gospel, nourish ourselves with daily prayer, listening to the Word of God, participation in the Sacraments.

And here I come to a second aspect of the Church as the Body of Christ. St Paul says that as members of the human body, although different and many, we form one body, as we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-13). In the Church, therefore, there is a variety, a diversity of tasks and functions, there is no dull uniformity, but the richness of the gifts that the Holy Spirit distributes. But there is communion and unity: we are all in a relation to each other and we all come together to form one living body, deeply connected to Christ. Let us remember this well: being part of the Church means being united to Christ and receiving from Him the divine life that makes us live as Christians; it means remaining united to the Pope and the Bishops who are instruments of unity and communion, and also means overcoming personal interests and divisions, in order to understand each other better, to harmonize the variety and richness of each member; in a word, to love God and the people who are next to us more, in the family, in the parish, in the associations. In order to live a Body and its limbs must be united! Unity is beyond all conflict. Always! Conflicts, when they don’t end well, separate us from each other, they separate us from God. Conflict can help us to grow but can also divide us. We must not travel the path of division, of conflict among us, no we must all be united – with our differences – but united because that is the path of Jesus!

Unity is beyond all conflict. Unity is a grace that we must ask of the Lord so he may save us from the temptations of the division, from internal struggles and selfishness, from gossip. How much damage gossip does! How much damage! Never gossip about others, never!. How much damage divisions among Christians, being partisan, narrow interests causes to the Church! Divisions among us, but also divisions among the communities: evangelical Christians, orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, but why divided? We must try to bring about unity. Let me tell you something, today, before leaving home, I spent 40 minutes more or less, half an hour, with an evangelical pastor. And we prayed together, seeking unity. But we Catholics must pray with each other and other Christians. Pray that the Lord gift us unity! Unity among ourselves! How will we ever have unity among Christians if we are not capable of having it among us Catholics,…in the family, how many families fight and split up? Seek unity, unity builds the Church and comes from Jesus Christ. He sends us the Holy Spirit to build unity!

Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask God to help us to be members of the Body of the Church always deeply united to Christ, help us not to hurt the Body of the Church with our conflicts, our divisions, selfishness: help us to be living members bound to each other by a single power, that of love, which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5).

 

What does it mean to be the People of God?

Continuing the new series of his weekly general audience catechesis, based on the documents of Vatican II, Pope Francis spoke today about what it means to call the Church the ‘People of God.’  Below is Vatican Radio’s English translation:

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today I would like to touch briefly on another of the terms with which the Second Vatican Council defined the Church, that of “People of God” (cf. Dogmatic Constitution. Lumen Gentium, 9; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 782). I shall do so with a few questions upon which we can all reflect.

1. What does it mean to be “People of God”? First of all, it means that God does not really belong to any people; for it is He who calls us, who summons us, who invites us to be part of his people, and this invitation is open to all, without distinction, because God’s mercy “desires all people to be saved”(1 Tim 2:4). Jesus does not tell the Apostles and us to form an exclusive group, an elite group. Jesus says: Go and make disciples of all nations (cf. Mt 28:19). St Paul says that within the people of God, in the Church, “there is neither Jew nor Gentile … for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). I would like to say to those who feel far from God and the Church, to those who are fearful or indifferent, to those who think they can no longer change: the Lord is calling you too to be part of his people and he does it with great respect and love! He invites us to be a part of this people, the people of God

2. How do you become a member of this people? It is not through physical birth, but through a new birth. In the Gospel, Jesus tells Nicodemus that one must be born from above, of water and of spirit to enter the Kingdom of God (cf. John 3:3-5). It is through Baptism that we are introduced to this people, through faith in Christ, the gift of God which must be nurtured and tended to throughout our whole life. Let us ask ourselves: how can I grow in the faith that I received in my Baptism? How do tend to this faith that I have received and that the people of God has? How do I make it grow? And another question.

3. What is the law of the People of God? It is the law of love, love for God and love for our neighbor according to the new commandment that the Lord left us (cf. Jn 13:34). It is a love, however, that is not sterile sentimentality or something vague, it is recognizing God as the only Lord of life and, at the same time, accepting the other as a true brother, overcoming divisions, rivalry, misunderstandings, selfishness; the two things go together. We have still so far to go to be able to live concretely according to this new law, the law of the Holy Spirit working within us, the law of charity, of love! When we see in the many wars between Christians in the newspapers or on TV, how can the people of God understand this? Within the people of God there are so many wars! And in neighborhoods, in workplaces, so many wars due to envy, jealousy. Even within the same family, there are so many internal wars. We must ask the Lord to help us understand this law of love. How good, how nice it is to love each other as true brothers. How nice that is! Let’s do something today: perhaps we all have our likes and dislikes, and perhaps many of us are angry with others. But at least let’s say to the Lord: “Lord, I am angry with him or with her. I pray for him and for her. I pray to you”. To pray for those with whom we are angry. It’s a big step in this law of love. Let’s do it today!

4. What mission does this people have? To bring to the world the hope and the salvation of God: to be a sign of the love of God who calls all to be friends of His; to be the yeast that ferments the dough, the salt that gives flavour and preserves from decay, the light that brightens. Just as I said, it is enough to open a newspaper, and we see that around us there is the presence of evil, the Devil is at work. But I would like to say in a loud voice: God is stronger! Do you believe this? That God is stronger? Let’s say it in a loud voice: God is stronger! Do you believe this? That God is stronger? Let’s say it all together. God is stronger! All of us! And you know why He is stronger? Because He is the Lord, the only Lord. God is stronger! Good! And I would like to add that reality which is sometimes dark and marked by evil can change, if we are the first to bring the light of the Gospel especially with our lives. If in a stadium, let’s think of the Olympic Stadium in Rome, or that of San Lorenzo in Buenos Aires, if on a dark night one person lights up a lamp, you can barely see it, but if each of over seventy thousand spectators switches on his own light, the whole Stadium lights up. Let’s make our lives a light of Christ; and together we will bring the light of the Gospel to the whole world.

5. What is the goal of this people? Its end is the kingdom of God, which has been begun by God Himself on earth, and which is to be further extended until it is brought to perfection by Him at the end of time, when Christ, our life, shall appear (cf. Lumen Gentium, 9). The goal then is full communion with the Lord; it’s to enter into his divine life where we will live the joy of his love without measure. That full joy.

Dear brothers and sisters, to be Church, is to be God’s people, according to the Father’s great plan of love, it means to be the yeast of God in this humanity of ours, it means to proclaim and to bring God’s salvation into this world, which is often lost, in need of encouraging answers, answers that give hope, that give new vigour in the journey. May the Church be a place of mercy and of hope in God, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel. And to feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, encouraged, the Church’s doors must be open, so that all may come and that we can go out of those doors and proclaim the Gospel. Thank you so much.

Pope Francis: We must cultivate and care for human relationships, too

A kiss from Pope Francis!

Below is the Vatican Radio translation of Pope Francis’ Wednesday Audience Catechesis:

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today I want to focus on the issue of the environment, which I have already spoken of on several occasions. Today we also mark World Environment Day, sponsored by the United Nations, which sends a strong reminder of the need to eliminate the waste and disposal of food.

When we talk about the environment, about creation, my thoughts turn to the first pages of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, which states that God placed man and woman on earth to cultivate and care for it (cf. 2:15). And the question comes to my mind: What does cultivating and caring for the earth mean? Are we truly cultivating and caring for creation? Or are we exploiting and neglecting it? The verb “to cultivate” reminds me of the care that the farmer has for his land so that it bear fruit, and it is shared: how much attention, passion and dedication! Cultivating and caring for creation is God’s indication given to each one of us not only at the beginning of history; it is part of His project; it means nurturing the world with responsibility and transforming it into a garden, a habitable place for everyone. Benedict XVI recalled several times that this task entrusted to us by God the Creator requires us to grasp the rhythm and logic of creation. But we are often driven by pride of domination, of possessions, manipulation, of exploitation; we do not “care” for it, we do not respect it, we do not consider it as a free gift that we must care for. We are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation; thus we are no longer able to read what Benedict XVI calls “the rhythm of the love story of God and man.” Why does this happen? Why do we think and live in a horizontal manner, we have moved away from God, we no longer read His signs.

But to “cultivate and care” encompasses not only the relationship between us and the environment, between man and creation, it also regards human relationships. The Popes have spoken of human ecology, closely linked to environmental ecology. We are living in a time of crisis: we see this in the environment, but above all we see this in mankind. The human person is in danger: this is certain, the human person is in danger today, here is the urgency of human ecology! And it is a serious danger because the cause of the problem is not superficial but profound: it is not just a matter of economics, but of ethics and anthropology. The Church has stressed this several times, and many say, yes, that’s right, it’s true … but the system continues as before, because it is dominated by the dynamics of an economy and finance that lack ethics. Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules. God our Father did not give the task of caring for the earth to money, but to us, to men and women: we have this task! Instead, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the “culture of waste.” If you break a computer it is a tragedy, but poverty, the needs, the dramas of so many people end up becoming the norm. If on a winter’s night, here nearby in Via Ottaviano, for example, a person dies, that is not news. If in so many parts of the world there are children who have nothing to eat, that’s not news, it seems normal. It cannot be this way! Yet these things become the norm: that some homeless people die of cold on the streets is not news. In contrast, a ten point drop on the stock markets of some cities, is a tragedy. A person dying is not news, but if the stock markets drop ten points it is a tragedy! Thus people are disposed of, as if they were trash.

This “culture of waste” tends to become the common mentality that infects everyone. Human life, the person is no longer perceived as a primary value to be respected and protected, especially if poor or disabled, if not yet useful – such as the unborn child – or no longer needed – such as the elderly. This culture of waste has made us insensitive even to the waste and disposal of food, which is even more despicable when all over the world, unfortunately, many individuals and families are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Once our grandparents were very careful not to throw away any leftover food. Consumerism has led us to become used to an excess and daily waste of food, to which, at times, we are no longer able to give a just value, which goes well beyond mere economic parameters. We should all remember, however, that throwing food away is like stealing from the tables of the the poor, the hungry! I encourage everyone to reflect on the problem of thrown away and wasted food to identify ways and means that, by seriously addressing this issue, are a vehicle of solidarity and sharing with the needy.

A few days ago, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, we read the story of the miracle of the loaves: Jesus feeds the crowd with five loaves and two fishes. And the conclusion of the piece is important: ” They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets” (Lk 9:17). Jesus asks his disciples not to throw anything away: no waste! There is this fact of twelve baskets: Why twelve? What does this mean? Twelve is the number of the tribes of Israel, which symbolically represent all people. And this tells us that when food is shared in a fair way, with solidarity, when no one is deprived, every community can meet the needs of the poorest. Human ecology and environmental ecology walk together.

So I would like us all to make a serious commitment to respect and protect creation, to be attentive to every person, to counter the culture of waste and disposable, to promote a culture of solidarity and of encounter. Thank you.

In the Church God calls us to be part of His family

 This week Pope Francis began a new series in his weekly General Audience catechesis: reflections on the mystery of the Church based on the Vatican II documents.  Below is the Vatican Radio translation:

Dear brothers and sisters,

Last Wednesday I stressed the deep connection between the Holy Spirit and the Church. Today I would like to start some reflections on the mystery of the Church, a mystery that we all live and of which we are part. I would like to do this, using some well-known phrases taken from the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

Today the first: the Church as Family of God.

In recent months, more than once I have made reference to the parable of the prodigal son, or rather of the merciful father (cf. Lk 15:11-32). The youngest son leaves the house of his father, squanders everything, and decides to return because he realizes he made a mistake, though he no longer considers himself worthy of sonship. He thinks he might be welcomed back as a servant. Instead, the father runs to meet him, embraces him, gives him back his dignity as a son, and celebrates. This parable, like others in the Gospel, shows well the design of God for humanity.

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The Holy Spirit, source of God’s life in us

Pope Francis’ Wednesday audience began with a trip around St. Peter’s Square, greeting the faithful, including this young girl.  It’s probably safe to say she’s the happiest kid in Italy after this double blessing from the Holy Father – she gets to meet him and take home his zucchetto (aka skull cap)!

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Below is the Vatican Radio translation of Pope Francis’ Wednesday General Audience:

Dear brothers and sisters, good day.
The season of Easter that we are living with joy, guided by the liturgy of the Church, is par excellence the time of the Holy Spirit, given to us “not by measure” (cf. John 3:34) by the crucified and risen Jesus. This time of grace ends with the feast of Pentecost, when the Church relives the outpouring of the Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles gathered in prayer in the Upper Room.

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