Thursday, May 30, 2013

"Do We Let God Lead Us... To Not Be Afraid To Give?" – On Corpus Christi, Francis Calls Church Beyond Its "Fence"

In his first turn at the traditional outdoor rites celebrating the Lord's Body and Blood, here below is the Pope's homily – with Vatican Radio's English real-time audio translation dubbed in – given earlier tonight on the steps of St John Lateran for Corpus Christi:

Even if the text of the preach is making the rounds, again, remember well that this Pope wishes to be heard as opposed to merely being read.

*   *   *
While the feast is always marked by the pontiffs on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday – its traditional setting, which recalls the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday – where the weekday isn't a holy day of obligation, the observance is now transferred to Sunday, which is the case across the lion's share of the global church. 

For the first time in two decades, Francis walked 
the traditional mile-long procession from Rome's cathedral to St Mary Major behind the flatbed truck that carried the exposed Blessed Sacrament, instead of riding on the vehicle and spending the route on his knees before the monstrance.

While the choice surprised some, it bears recalling that, as cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio led an annual walking procession from the city to the shrine of Argentina's patroness, Our Lady of Luján, located some 40 miles outside the capital.

Said Marian devotion already well in evidence over his two months on Peter's chair, tomorrow night will see Francis close out Mary's month by leading a public recitation of the Rosary in St Peter's Square. 

Then, as previously noted, on Sunday afternoon – 5pm Rome time; 11am Eastern, 8am Pacific – the Pope will lead a global hour of Eucharistic adoration in the Vatican basilica for the following intentions written by him....

First: “For the Church spread throughout the world and united today in the adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist as a sign of unity. May the Lord make her ever more obedient to hearing his Word in order to stand before the world ‘ever more beautiful, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless.’ That through her faithful announcement, the Word that saves may still resonate as the bearer of mercy and may increase love to give full meaning to pain and suffering, giving back joy and serenity.”

Second: “For those around the world who still suffer slavery and who are victims of war, human trafficking, drug running, and slave labour. For the children and women who are suffering from every type of violence. May their silent scream for help be heard by a vigilant Church so that, gazing upon the crucified Christ, she may not forget the many brothers and sisters who are left at the mercy of violence. Also, for all those who find themselves in economically precarious situations, above all for the unemployed, the elderly, migrants, the homeless, prisoners, and those who experience marginalization. That the Church’s prayer and its active nearness give them comfort and assistance in hope and strength and courage in defending human dignity.”

RIP Greeley

One of the more irrepressible characters in the modern history of the American church, word from Chicago this morning is that Fr Andrew Greeley – the celebrated novelist and legendary columnist at the Sun-Timesdied last night at 85.

In tribute, well, we can't do better than White Smoke....

For all the accolades that came with a half-century in the academy, on best-seller lists and in big-city newsprint, as the great scribe's longtime outlet put it as the news emerged, "he bristled at any identification other than one: 'a loud-mouthed Irish priest.'"

Andy Greeley may have gone to his reward... but thanks to his pen, Blackie Ryan will live forever.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"I Want To Do For Oakland What Francis Is Doing For the Church" – For the "Barber Shop," A Grand Opening

For the post-Communion address at the close of his Ordination Mass, the rubrics say that a new bishop is to wear the miter on his head and hold the crozier in hand as he gives his first message to the flock.

When his turn came Saturday, however, Bishop Michael Barber did neither.

The move can ostensibly be chalked up to one of two things: either the Jesuit head of Oakland's 600,000-member church – Pope Francis' first US pick to take office – knew the optic would freak out at least some of the natives... or, coming all of 22 days after his appointment from the other side of the country, the 58 year-old nominee (a longtime Navy chaplain) simply didn't have time to check the books in the unusual rush toward the rites.

Along the same lines, whether the ordinand's omission of the violet cassock under his alb was a matter of style – or that the choir robes just aren't done yet – likewise remains unknown.

In any event, the first priest to be directly handed the reins of a large US diocese since 2005 – and one who, notably, has spent most of his ministry not in administration, but as a teacher and spiritual director – delivered a rather exceptional opening word, going well beyond the usual pleasantries to touch on the widely-pondered matters of what his "style of collaboration" will be and the East Bay's significant debt (some $115 million of it remaining on the construction of the Cathedral of Christ the Light), all while joking with another, albeit former, Jesuit in attendance: the liberal Democrat Jerry Brown, once-and-present governor of California, who served as Oakland's mayor before returning for a second tour in Sacramento.

Seated in a front pew in the semi-circular nave of the six year-old "Space Egg," Brown received the Eucharist from Barber at the liturgy.

Likewise on that score, as the new bishop's mention of the cleric who baptized him – Fr John Cummins, later Oakland's shepherd for half the diocese's 50-year history – scored a raucous standing ovation, it was rather conspicuous that the fifth ordinary made scant to no reference to his other two living predecessors, both seated at the fore of the sanctuary – namely, the current, distinguished archbishops of Detroit and San Francisco (the latter believed by many to have been the architect of this appointment) – while paying a wavering-voiced tribute to the prelate who ordained him a priest: John Raphael Quinn, a figure both revered and reviled as the very embodiment of progressive Catholicism by the Bay, his latest renaissance spurred amid reports that his writings on the papacy have influenced Papa Bergoglio's thought on reforming the Vatican.

Given the mix of issues at hand and a start of this sort, it'll be rather interesting to see what transpires over time. For now, backed up by spontaneous "Amens" from the Gospel choir in the wings, here's fullvideo of Barber's talk:

Looking ahead, tomorrow brings the installation of Francis' first senior US appointee, the Lincoln-formed Michael Jackels, as archbishop of Dubuque. 

A protege of the now Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI as one of Joseph Ratzinger's CDF staff, the new head of the church in Iowa will receive his pallium a month from today from the new pontiff alongside the aforementioned Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco, Archbishops Joseph Tobin CSSR of Indianapolis, Alexander Sample of Portland in Oregon and all the metropolitans named worldwide over the last year.

Going into the home stretch of the Curial cycle – the Vatican offices largely being in shutdown mode through July and August – seven Stateside dioceses currently stand vacant, with another seven led by (arch)bishops serving past the retirement age of 75.

PHOTOS: Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group


In the Square, Pope Soaks With the Flock

In what'll likely become another enduring image of the new Pope, Francis made his usual "tour" of St Peter's Square before this Wednesday's audience amid a rainstorm to greet the crowd estimated at 90,000.

Since his election, the new pontiff's spins in the open-topped Popemobile have come to run increasingly longer as he's adjusted into the role. On a couple occasions when the crowds have extended beyond the Piazza, the passenger's taken his jeep outside the Vatican's front yard into the Via della Conciliazione. While one of these came as a surprise on the day of Rome's annual pro-life march, an extended drive before the Pentecost Vigil shaped up as a security force's nightmare when some in the "outskirts" of the 200,000 person throng threw gifts at Francis, several of which hit their target as he went around the unsecured area beyond the Colonnade. Not until today, however, has the weather been an issue.

Having completed the series of Wednesday talks on the Creed begun by his predecessor, the Pope started with a fresh topic, below in its 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.

What is this God’s plan? It is to make us all the one family of his children, in which each of you feels close to Him and feels loved by Him – feels, as in the Gospel parable, the warmth of being the family of God. In this great design, the Church finds its source. [The Church is] is not an organization founded by an agreement among [a group of] persons, but - as we were reminded many times by Pope Benedict XVI - is the work of God: it was born out of the plan of love, which realises itself progressively in history. The Church is born from the desire of God to call all people into communion with Him, to His friendship, and indeed, as His children, to partake of His own divine life. The very word “Church”, from the Greek ekklesia, means “convocation”.

God calls us, urges us to escape from individualism, [from] the tendency to withdraw into ourselves, and calls us – convokes us – to be a part of His family. This convocation has its origin in creation itself. God created us in order that we might live in a relationship of deep friendship with Him, and even when sin had broken this relationship with God, with others and with creation, God did not abandon us.

The whole history of salvation is the story of God seeking man, offer[ing] humanity His love, embracing mankind. He called Abraham to be the father of a multitude, chose the people of Israel to forge an alliance that embraces all nations, and sent, in the fullness of time, His Son, that His plan of love and salvation be realised in a new and everlasting covenant with humanity. When we read the Gospels, we see that Jesus gathers around him a small community that receives His word, follows Him, shares His journey, becomes His family – and with this community, He prepares and builds His Church.

Whence, then, is the Church born? It is born from the supreme act of love on the Cross, from the pierced side of Jesus from which flow blood and water, a symbol of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. In the family of God, the Church, the lifeblood is the love of God that is realised in loving Him and others, loving all without distinction, without measure. The Church is a family that loves and is loved.

When does the Church manifest itself? We celebrated [the Church’s manifestation] two Sundays ago: the Church manifests itself when the gift of the Holy Spirit fills the hearts of the Apostles and pushes them to go out and start the journey to proclaim the Gospel, to spread the love of God.

Even today, some say, “Christ yes, the Church no,” like those who say, “I believe in God, but in priests, no.” They say, “Christ: yes. Church: no.” Nevertheless, it is the Church that brings us Christ and that brings us to God. The Church is the great family of God's children. Of course it also has the human aspects: in those who compose it, pastors and faithful, there are flaws, imperfections, sins – the Pope has his, as well: he has lots of them; but the beautiful thing is that, when we become aware that we are sinners, we find the mercy of God. God always forgives: do not forget this. God always forgives, and He receives us in His love of forgiveness and mercy. Some people say – this is beautiful – that sin is an offence against God, but it is also an opportunity: the humiliation of realising [that one is a sinner] and that there is something [exceedingly] beautiful: the mercy of God. Let us think about this.

Let us ask ourselves today: how much do I love the Church? Do I pray for her? Do I feel myself a part of the family of the Church? What do I do to make the Church a community in which everyone feels welcomed and understood, [in which] everyone feels the mercy and love of God who renews life? Faith is a gift and an act that affects us personally, but God calls us to live our faith together, as a family: as the Church.

We ask the Lord, in a special way in this Year of the faith, that our communities, the whole Church be ever more true families that live and carry the warmth of God.

* * *
Keeping the annual tradition in the center of Rome, the Popemobile will head out into the streets again tomorrow afternoon for the Corpus Christi Mass on the steps outside St John Lateran, followed by the evening procession of the Blessed Sacrament down Via Merulana to St Mary Major.

Like Ascension, while the holy day of obligation is still observed on its original Thursday in the Vatican, cross the city-state's border into Italy and – as with most of the rest of the global church – the feast doesn't take place til Sunday. To facilitate the widest possible participation, then, the Pope will lead a Eucharistic Holy Hour inside St Peter's on Sunday's transferred feast from 5-6pm Rome time (11am Eastern, 8am Pacific).

At yesterday's press conference on the event, the cathedrals and parishes of the world were asked to "synchronize" prayers at home with the time of the Vatican event, which is set to focus on two intercessions penned by Francis:

First: “For the Church spread throughout the world and united today in the adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist as a sign of unity. May the Lord make her ever more obedient to hearing his Word in order to stand before the world ‘ever more beautiful, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless.’ That through her faithful announcement, the Word that saves may still resonate as the bearer of mercy and may increase love to give full meaning to pain and suffering, giving back joy and serenity.”

Second: “For those around the world who still suffer slavery and who are victims of war, human trafficking, drug running, and slave labour. For the children and women who are suffering from every type of violence. May their silent scream for help be heard by a vigilant Church so that, gazing upon the crucified Christ, she may not forget the many brothers and sisters who are left at the mercy of violence. Also, for all those who find themselves in economically precarious situations, above all for the unemployed, the elderly, migrants, the homeless, prisoners, and those who experience marginalization. That the Church’s prayer and its active nearness give them comfort and assistance in hope and strength and courage in defending human dignity.”
PHOTOS: AP(1); Reuters(2)


Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Our Grateful and Charitable Remembrance"

Upon the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior of the Revolution are inscribed these indelible words....
Beneath this stone rests
a soldier of Washington's Army
who died to give you liberty
Yet since most of us on these shores mark this weekend with barbeques and travel, the essence of Memorial Day is best captured by the supposed vanquished of that fight....

Sure, this holiday might formally be dedicated to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield. Even so, may we all take a moment to recall the many souls – known and unknown – who've given their lives to make the dream and promise of freedom a reality for us, both in this land and in this church. And to everyone who's on the road, safe travels and have a beautiful one.
*   *   *
Meanwhile, as the largest, wealthiest and most influential parish he oversaw marks its 250th anniversary over these days, per house custom for the great civic feasts, here again is the Prayer for the Nation written and first delivered in 1791 by Stateside Catholicism's Founding Father, John Carroll, the Jesuit bishop of Baltimore....
We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope Francis, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his[/her] excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal. 
Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Next November 6th marks the 225th anniversary of Carroll's appointment as the first head of the nation's mother-diocese, which at its establishment comprised all 25,000 Catholics in the 13 original states, and the 22 priests who served them across the vast turf.


"The Sacrament of Pastoral Customs" – Pope: When Church Closes Doors, "Jesus is Indignant"

Per the Vatican Radio summary, this Saturday morning's Francis-preach:
Today's Gospel tells us that Jesus rebukes the disciples who seek to remove children that people bring to the Lord to bless. "Jesus embraces them, kisses them, touches them, all of them. It tires Jesus and his disciples "want it to stop”. Jesus is indignant: "Jesus got angry, sometimes." And he says: "Let them come to me, do not hinder them. For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these." 
"The faith of the People of God – observes the Pope - is a simple faith, a faith that is perhaps without much theology, but it has an inward theology that is not wrong, because the Spirit is behind it." 
The Pope mentions Vatican I and Vatican II, where it is said that "the holy people of God ... cannot err in matters of belief" (Lumen Gentium). And to explain this theological formulation he adds: "If you want to know who Mary is go to the theologian and he will tell you exactly who Mary is. But if you want to know how to love Mary go to the People of God who teach it better. " 
"The people of God are always asking for something closer to Jesus, they are sometimes a bit 'insistent in this. But it is the insistence of those who believe ":

"I remember once, coming out of the city of Salta, on the patronal feast, there was a humble lady who asked for a priest's blessing. The priest said, 'All right, but you were at the Mass' and explained the whole theology of blessing in the church. You did well: 'Ah, thank you father, yes father,' said the woman. When the priest had gone, the woman turned to another priest: 'Give me your blessing!'. All these words did not register with her, because she had another necessity: the need to be touched by the Lord. That is the faith that we always look for , this is the faith that brings the Holy Spirit. We must facilitate it, make it grow, help it grow. "

The Pope also mentioned the story of the blind man of Jericho, who was rebuked by the disciples because he cried to the Lord, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

"The Gospel says that they didn’t want him to shout, they wanted him not to shout but he wanted to shout more, why? Because he had faith in Jesus! The Holy Spirit had put faith in his heart. And they said, 'No, you cannot do this! You don’t shout to the Lord. Protocol does not allow it. And 'the second Person of the Trinity! Look what you do... 'as if they were saying that, right?"

"Think of the good Christians, with good will, we think about the parish secretary, a secretary of the parish ... 'Good evening, good morning, the two of us - boyfriend and girlfriend - we want to get married'. And instead of saying, 'That's great!'. They say, 'Oh, well, have a seat. If you want the Mass, it costs a lot ... '. This, instead of receiving a good welcome- It is a good thing to get married! '- But instead they get this response:' Do you have the certificate of baptism, all right ... '. And they find a closed door. When this Christian and that Christian has the ability to open a door, thanking God for this fact of a new marriage ... We are many times controllers of faith, instead of becoming facilitators of the faith of the people."

And "there is always a temptation to try and take possession of the Lord.

"Think about a single mother who goes to church, in the parish and to the secretary she says: 'I want my child baptized'. And then this Christian, this Christian says: 'No, you cannot because you're not married!'. But look, this girl who had the courage to carry her pregnancy and not to return her son to the sender [i.e. didn't have an abortion], what is it? A closed door! This is not zeal! It is far from the Lord! It does not open doors! And so when we are on this street, have this attitude, we do not do good to people, the people, the People of God, but Jesus instituted the seven sacraments with this attitude and we are establishing the eighth: the sacrament of pastoral customs!"

"Jesus is indignant when he sees these things" - said the Pope - because those who suffer are "his faithful people, the people that he loves so much"

"We think today of Jesus, who always wants us all to be closer to Him, we think of the Holy People of God, a simple people, who want to get closer to Jesus and we think of so many Christians of goodwill who are wrong and that instead of opening a door they close the door of goodwill ... So we ask the Lord that all those who come to the Church find the doors open, find the doors open, open to meet this love of Jesus. We ask this grace."
*   *   *
For purposes of context, lest anyone sees those lines as hard-edged, in reality, the papacy is apparently mellowing Jorge Bergoglio out... at least, somewhat.

Delivering several of the points above at a September 2011 Mass for one of his pastoral regions in Buenos Aires, while lamenting pastoral inaccessibility and litmus tests, the now-pontiff publicly rapped his priests who were given to such practices (several of them in attendance) as "hypocrites." 

In response, the congregation erupted with a mid-sermon round of applause.


Friday, May 24, 2013

"Someone Was Waiting For Me... And Something Changed In Me" – Francis Gives Witness... and A Manifesto to the Church

Lest anyone missed this earlier in the week, given the ongoing festival of bread and circuses – read: "atheists and 'exorcisms'" – elsewhere, those who take the time to read and listen with a degree of depth will find that the substance of these days is a good bit more interesting... and it's actual news, to boot.

* * *
On the Vigil of Pentecost, before a crowd of more than 200,000 in St Peter's Square and halfway down the Via della Conciliazione, the 266th Pope gave the Church what, in essence, would prove to be his first encyclical.

For close readers, a good number of the points are already well-familiar – Papa Francesco tends to recycle content far more eagerly and often than his predecessors, but does so that the message might be unmistakable and impossible to avoid. Still, in a 38-minute, mostly off-the-cuff response to several questions put to him – a nod to the teaching format in which his predecessor famously shone – starting from his own conversion story, Jorge Bergoglio laid out the full spread of his impressions on the state of the church, and his vision for the road ahead, tying together in the process the threads which have marked his two months on Peter's chair.

Even if English summaries of the talk are around, these last ten weeks should've already made more than clear that the magic or "secret" of Francis isn't something that can be fully, nor even duly, communicated in the printed word. Instead, it lies in a humanity which fuels a delivery, one whose gestures, cadences, emblematic lines and emphases – irrespective of language – have spoken to and touched a far deeper and more universal nerve.

Given the significance of the address and the way it was given, it's best to hear this straight from the horse's mouth... ergo, here's fullvideo of the message, layered over with audio of its real-time English translation by Vatican Radio:


Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Who Are We Before God? What Are Our Challenges?" – Francis Meets the Bishops

At the close of the Italian bishops' plenary this week in Rome, the home-bench – led by its primate, the Pope – gathered in St Peter's tonight to make a communal Profession of Faith as part of the ongoing Year of Faith.

The event marked Francis' first full encounter with the powerful Italian conference, known as the CEI.

While the event ranked as a liturgical occasion – and the Sistine Choir and ceremonies crew all donned choir dress – Papa Francesco and the prelates wore the simple "house cassock," which has been the new pontiff's invariable daily wardrobe since his election for everything but Masses. Following the rite, meanwhile, instead of the long-standing custom of prelates queueing up to pay their respects to the Pope at his throne, Francis spent well over a half-hour snaking through the multiple rows of seats in front of the main altar alone, warmly greeting the bishops one by one at their places.

While the bishop of Rome enjoys the status of primate of Italy, the CEI is led by a president appointed by the pontiff – currently Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, who was said to be a compromise choice on his selection in 2007. In what would be a significant change to the custom, early speculation shortly after the March Conclave indicated that the new Pope was leaning toward letting the bishops choose their own chief, but no movement in that direction has since emerged.

Himself a two-term president of the Argentine bishops, before the Creed was assented to in the Q&A form usually kept for the renewal of baptismal promises at Easter, Francis delivered the following allocutio, here in its Vatican Radio translation.

* * *

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

The readings we have heard make us think. They have made me think a great deal. I have made something like a meditation. For us bishops, and first of all for me, a bishop like you, I share it with you.

It is significant - and I am particularly happy - that our first meeting should be held right here in the place that preserves not only the tomb of Peter, but also the living memory of his witness of faith, of his service to the truth, and of the gift he gave of himself – to the point of martyrdom – for the Gospel and for the Church.

This evening this altar of the Confession becomes our Lake of Tiberias, on the shores of which we listen to the wonderful dialogue between Jesus and Peter, with the question addressed to the Apostle, but which should resound in our own hearts, the hearts of bishops.

“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?” (Cf. Jn 21:15 ff)

The question is addressed to a man who, despite his solemn declaration, was overcome by fear and went back on his word.

“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?”

The question is addressed to me and to each one of you, to all of us: if we avoid reacting too hastily and superficially, it encourages us to look within, to enter into ourselves.

“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?”

He who searches hearts (cf. Rom 8:27) makes himself a beggar of love, and questions us on the only really essential question, the premise and condition for pastoring his sheep, his lambs, his Church. Every ministry is based on this intimacy with the Lord; to live in him is the measure of our ecclesial service, which is expressed in an openness to obedience, to emptying of self, as we heard in the Letter to the Philippians, to total giving (cf. Phil 2:6-11).

Moreover, the consequence of loving the Lord is giving everything - absolutely everything, even one’s very life - for Him: this is what must distinguish our pastoral ministry; it is the litmus test that shows how profoundly we have embraced the gift received in response to the call of Jesus, and how we are joined to the people and the communities that have been entrusted to us. We are not expressions of a structure or an organizational need: even with the service of our authority we are called to be a sign of the presence and action of the Risen Lord, and so, to build up the community in fraternal charity.

Not that this is taken for granted: even the greatest love, in fact, when it is not continuously fed, fades and goes out. Not without reason the Apostle Paul warns: “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the Church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son”(Acts 20:28).

The lack of vigilance - we know – makes the Pastor lukewarm; he becomes distracted, forgetful and even impatient; it seduces him with the prospect of a career, the lure of money, and the compromises with the spirit of the world; it makes him lazy, turning him into a functionary, a government clerk worried more about himself, about organisations and structures, than about the true good of the People of God. He runs the risk, then, like the Apostle Peter, of denying the Lord, even if he is present to us and speaks in His name; the holiness of the hierarchy of Mother Church is obscured, making it less fertile.

Who are we, Brothers, before God? What are our challenges? We all have so many, each one of us knows his own. What is God saying to us through them? What are we relying on to overcome them?

As it was for Peter, the insistent and heartfelt question of Jesus can leave us saddened and may leave us more aware of the weakness of our freedom, beset as it is by a thousand internal and external constraints, which often cause confusion, frustration, even disbelief.

These are certainly not the feelings and attitudes that the Lord intends to arouse; rather, the Enemy, the Devil, takes advantage of them to isolate us in bitterness, in complaints, and in discouragement.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does not humiliate us or abandon us to remorse: in Him, the tenderness of the Father speaks, He who comforts and raises up; He who makes us pass from the disintegration of shame – because shame surely causes us to disintegrate – to the fabric of trust; who restores courage, recommits responsibility, and consigns us to the mission.

Peter, purified by the fire of forgiveness, can humbly say, “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17). I am sure we can all say this from the heart. In this Peter, purified, in his first letter exhorts us to feed “the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock”(1 Peter 5,2-3).

Yes, to be pastors means to believe every day in the grace and strength that comes to us from the Lord, despite our weakness, and to fully assume the responsibility of walking in front of the flock, freed from the burdens that hinder a healthy apostolic swiftness, and without hesitation in leading, to make our voice recognizable both to those who have embraced the faith, but also to those who are “not of this fold” (John 10:16): we are called to make our own the dream of God, whose house knows no exclusion of persons or nations, as Isaiah prophetically announced in the First Reading (cf. Is 2:2-5).

Therefore, being pastors also means to be ready to walk in the midst of and behind the flock: capable of listening to the silent story of the suffering and bearing up the steps of those who are afraid of not succeeding; careful to raise up, to reassure, and inspire hope. By sharing with the humble our faith always comes out strengthened: let us put aside, therefore, any form of arrogance, to incline ourselves toward those the Lord has entrusted to our care. Among these, a special place is reserved for our priests: especially for them, may our hearts, our hands, and our doors remain open at all times. They are the first faithful we bishops have, our priests. Let us love them! Let us love them from the heart! They are our sons and our brothers.

Dear brothers, the profession of faith that we now renew together is not a formal act, but is a renewal of our response to the “Follow Me” with which the Gospel of John concludes (21:19): allow your own life to unfold according to the project of God, committing your whole self to the Lord Jesus. From here springs that discernment that recognises and takes on the thoughts, the expectations, and the needs of the men of our time.

With this in mind, I sincerely thank each of you for your service, for your love for the Church and the Mother, and here, I place you, and I place myself, too, under the mantle of Mary, Our Mother.

Mother of the silence that preserves the mystery of God, deliver us from the idolatry of the present, to which those who forget are condemned. Purify the eyes of pastors with the balm of memory:
that we might return to the freshness of the beginning, for a praying and penitent Church.

Mother of the beauty that blossoms from fidelity to daily work, remove us from the torpor of laziness, of pettiness, and defeatism. Cloak Pastors with that compassion that unifies and integrates: that we might discover the joy of a humble and fraternal servant Church.

Mother of the tenderness which enfolds in patience and mercy, help us burn away the sadness, impatience, and rigidity of those who have not known what it means to belong.

Intercede with your Son that our hands, our feet and our hearts may be swift: that we may build the Church with the truth in charity. And [that] we will be the People of God, on pilgrimage towards the Kingdom. Amen.

* * *

As a coda to the above, in the days following his election to Rome, Jorge Bergoglio sent a personal note to the Argentine bishops' autumn plenary in late March, firstly to apologize for not being able to make it, but likewise reinforcing what've become some of the key emphases of his pontificate:
Dear Brothers:

I am sending these lines of greeting and also to excuse myself for being unable to attend due to "commitments assumed recently" (sound good?). I am spiritually with you and ask the Lord to accompany you very much during these days.

I express to you a desire. I would like the Assembly’s works to have as a frame of reference the Document of Aparecida and “Go into the Deep.” The guidelines are there that we need for this moment of history. Above all I ask you to have the special concern to grow in the continental mission in all its aspects: programmatic mission and paradigmatic mission. May the whole of ministry be in a missionary key. We must come out of ourselves to all the existential peripheries and grow in boldness.

A Church that does not go out, sooner or later gets sick in the vitiated atmosphere of her enclosure. It is true also that to a Church that goes out something can happen, as it can to any person who goes out to the street: to have an accident. Given this alternative, I wish to say to you frankly that I prefer a thousand times an injured Church than a sick Church. The typical illness of the shut-in Church is self-reference; to look at herself, to be bent over herself like the woman in the Gospel. It is a kind of narcissism that leads us to spiritual worldliness and to sophisticated clericalism, and then it impedes our experiencing “the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”

I wish all of you this joy, which so many times is united to the Cross, but which saves us from resentment, sadness and clerical [solitude]. This joy helps us to be each day more fruitful, spending ourselves and unraveling ourselves in the service of the holy faithful people of God. This joy will grow increasingly to the degree that we take seriously the pastoral conversion that the Church asks of us.

Thank you for all that you do and for all that you are going to do. May the Lord free us from making up our episcopate with the tinsel of worldliness, of money and of “market clericalism.” The Virgin will show us the way of humility and that silent and courageous work that carries apostolic zeal forward.

I ask you, please, to pray for me, [so that I won’t be puffed up] and so that I will be able to hear what God wants and not what I want. I pray for you.

A brother’s embrace and a special greeting to the faithful people of God that you have in your care. I wish you a holy and happy Eastertide.

May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin look after you.

Speaking of plenaries, the US bishops' spring meeting begins on June 10th in San Diego.

Keeping with the conference's longtime schedule, the plenary's sole agenda will be the bench's three-yearly communal retreat, its focus on the new evangelization. No formal conference business will take place.

In November, the body will elect Cardinal Timothy Dolan's successor as its president... and more on that later.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A PopeTrip To the "'School' of Charity"

For everything he's placed aside, apparently the Pope's settled on a new piece of regalia....

Just kidding, of course – the garland seen above was a welcoming gift from the Missionaries of Charity, whose shelter and soup-kitchen within the Vatican walls got a Francis-visit last night (and, perhaps, some take-home food for a pontiff suddenly deprived of a place where he can cook).

During his stop at the "Gift of Mary" house, the pontiff gave his now-trademark "three words," taking aim yet again at "a wild capitalism [which] has taught the logic of profit at all cost, of giving to get, of exploitation without looking at the persons... and we see the results in the crisis we are living!"

By contrast, "an open hospitality is lived here, without distinctions of nationality or religion, according to the teaching of Jesus," Francis said.

"We must recover the whole sense of gift, of gratuitousness, of solidarity."

Currently marking 25 years since John Paul II called the community founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to establish it, the house feeds 60 people a day in addition to providing overnight space for 25 women in need.


On Rita's Day, The Pope's Tribute

Good Italian grandson that he is, Papa Bergoglio closed out his morning homily with an unusually keen plug for today's patroness....

"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.

"Today is [the feast of] Santa Rita, Patron Saint of impossible things – but this seems impossible: let us ask of her this grace, this grace that all, all, all people would do good and that we would encounter one another in this work, which is a work of creation, like the creation of the Father. A work of the family, because we are all children of God, all of us, all of us! And God loves us, all of us! May Santa Rita grant us this grace, which seems almost impossible. Amen."
As veterans 'round these parts know, that's a scribe-whistle if ever there were one – after all, the national shrine to the mother-peacemaker turned Augustinian mystic is right here at home.

Even if it's held every Wednesday through the year, the main Novena (prayers) at St Rita's on Broad Street comes over the week leading up to today's feast, its observances culminating in dawn-to-dusk rounds of Masses and confessions, the patroness' trademark roses all over the place and cars strewn everywhere outside, yet left unticketed out of deference to religious freedom... and, this River City being what it is, the high municipal official among the devotees who keeps the Parking Wars people down.

Much as Francis' tribute is a special thing for everyone who's kept up Rita's cult through the years, that it's remained the case here is a reminder of this town's particular debt to the venerable Fr Michael DiGregorio, who rebuilt the shrine with such great dedication and care before his election as vicar-general of the Augustinian Curia in Rome. To him, the whole dear family of the Friars, and everyone celebrating today – a group which, so it seems, now includes the Pope – tanti auguri per una buona festa.


The Burke Report

In his first major speech since boarding the Curia train as "communications adviser" in the Secretariat of State last June, Greg Burke delivered the latest edition of the annual World Communications Day talk sponsored by the bishops of England and Wales, during which the Time and Fox News veteran detailed both the papal transition and the ongoing challenges and breakthroughs in guiding "The Vatican" into this media age.

36 minutes in all, here's the fullvid:

Tip to @lukecoppen, editor of London's Catholic Herald.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

For Pentecost, Three Words: "Newness, Harmony, and Mission"

19 MAY 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we contemplate and re-live in the liturgy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit sent by the risen Christ upon his Church; an event of grace which filled the Upper Room in Jerusalem and then spread throughout the world.

But what happened on that day, so distant from us and yet so close as to touch the very depths of our hearts? Luke gives us the answer in the passage of the Acts of the Apostles which we have heard (2:1-11). The evangelist brings us back to Jerusalem, to the Upper Room where the apostles were gathered. The first element which draws our attention is the sound which suddenly came from heaven “like the rush of a violent wind”, and filled the house; then the “tongues as of fire” which divided and came to rest on each of the apostles. Sound and tongues of fire: these are clear, concrete signs which touch the apostles not only from without but also within: deep in their minds and hearts. As a result, “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”, who unleashed his irresistible power with amazing consequences: they all “began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability”. A completely unexpected scene opens up before our eyes: a great crowd gathers, astonished because each one heard the apostles speaking in his own language. They all experience something new, something which had never happened before: “We hear them, each of us, speaking our own language”. And what is it that they are they speaking about? “God’s deeds of power”.

In the light of this passage from Acts, I would like to reflect on three words linked to the working of the Holy Spirit: newness, harmony and mission.

1. Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, programme and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences. This is also the case when it comes to God. Often we follow him, we accept him, but only up to a certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves to him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives in our every decision. We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. Yet throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness and change, and demands our complete trust: Noah, mocked by all, builds an ark and is saved; Abram leaves his land with only a promise in hand; Moses stands up to the might of Pharaoh and leads his people to freedom; the apostles, huddled fearfully in the Upper Room, go forth with courage to proclaim the Gospel. This is not a question of novelty for novelty’s sake, the search for something new to relieve our boredom, as is so often the case in our own day. The newness which God brings into our life is something that actually brings fulfilment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and desires only our good. Let us ask ourselves: Are we open to “God’s surprises”? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which God’s newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new?

2. A second thought: the Holy Spirit would appear to create disorder in the Church, since he brings the diversity of charisms and gifts; yet all this, by his working, is a great source of wealth, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which does not mean uniformity, but which leads everything back to harmony. In the Church, it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony. One of Fathers of the Church has an expression which I love: the Holy Spirit himself is harmony – “Ipse harmonia est”. Only the Spirit can awaken diversity, plurality and multiplicity, while at the same time building unity. Here too, when we are the ones who try to create diversity and close ourselves up in what makes us different and other, we bring division. When we are the ones who want to build unity in accordance with our human plans, we end up creating uniformity, standardization. But if instead we let ourselve be guided by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity never become a source of conflict, because he impels us to experience variety within the communion of the Church. Journeying together in the Church, under the guidance of her pastors who possess a special charism and ministry, is a sign of the working of the Holy Spirit. Having a sense of the Church is something fundamental for every Christian, every community and every movement. It is the Church which brings Christ to me, and me to Christ; parallel journeys are dangerous! When we venture beyond (proagon) the Church’s teaching and community, and do not remain in them, we are not one with the God of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Jn 9). So let us ask ourselves: Am I open to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, overcoming every form of exclusivity? Do I let myself be guided by him, living in the Church and with the Church?

3. A final point. The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone. As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever” (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the “Comforter”, who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel! The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission?

Today’s liturgy is a great prayer which the Church, in union with Jesus, raises up to the Father, asking him to renew the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. May each of us, and every group and movement, in the harmony of the Church, cry out to the Father and implore this gift. Today too, as at her origins, the Church, in union with Mary, cries out:“Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love!” Amen.

*    *    *
The preceding homily was given at the closing Mass of a weekend-long congress for the new ecclesial movements – a long-planned event to mark the global church's Year of Faith, which runs through late November.

While projections for the meeting's attendance were initially tipped at around 70,000 people, Vatican officials said last week that, by the gathering's eve, nearly double that figure would be coming. By the time the Pope emerged to start last night's outdoor vigil for the groups, the crowd reportedly stood in excess of 200,000.

The weekend event was the last of four major celebrations held in St Peter's Square on the Sundays of the last month. Next weekend, Francis makes his first pastoral visit to a Roman parish as the city's 266th bishop.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

"We've Returned to the Golden Calf" – Francis on Money

Earlier today, the Pope received a group of four new ambassadors to the Holy See for the presentation of their credentials.

Per custom for the pontiffs, Francis gave an address on issues of geopolitical concern. Yet while his predecessors would tailor their remarks to issues in the home-countries of the diplomat(s) being welcomed, the new Pope targeted what's long been one of his key focus-areas – the poor, and their treatment in the economic system.

Packing a punch – and unusually for Francis, referring to himself as "the Pope" (as opposed to his normally-preferred "bishop of Rome") to add full weight to some of his statements – here's the bulk of the address' English translation:

Ladies and Gentlemen, our human family is presently experiencing something of a turning point in its own history, if we consider the advances made in various areas. We can only praise the positive achievements which contribute to the authentic welfare of mankind, in fields such as those of health, education and communications. At the same time, we must also acknowledge that the majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences. Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences; fear and desperation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so-called rich countries; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident. People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way. One cause of this situation, in my opinion, is in the our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society. Consequently the financial crisis which we are experiencing makes us forget that its ultimate origin is to be found in a profound human crisis. In the denial of the primacy of human beings! We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old (cf. Ex 32:15-34) has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.
The worldwide financial and economic crisis seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces man to one of his needs alone, namely, consumption. Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have begun a throw away culture. This tendency is seen on the level of individuals and whole societies; and it is being promoted! In circumstances like these, solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy. While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good. A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules. Moreover, indebtedness and credit distance countries from their real economy and citizens from their real buying power. Added to this, as if it were needed, is widespread corruption and selfish fiscal evasion which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The will to power and of possession has become limitless. 
Concealed behind this attitude is a rejection of ethics, a rejection of God. Ethics, like solidarity, is a nuisance! It is regarded as counterproductive: as something too human, because it relativizes money and power; as a threat, because it rejects manipulation and subjection of people: because ethics leads to God, who is situated outside the categories of the market. These financiers, economists and politicians consider God to be unmanageable, unmanageable even dangerous, because he calls man to his full realization and to independence from any kind of slavery. Ethics – naturally, not the ethics of ideology – makes it possible, in my view, to create a balanced social order that is more humane. In this sense, I encourage the financial experts and the political leaders of your countries to consider the words of Saint John Chrysostom: “Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs” (Homily on Lazarus, 1:6 – PG 48, 992D). 
Dear Ambassadors, there is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone. This would nevertheless require a courageous change of attitude on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and farsightedness, taking account, naturally, of their particular situations. Money has to serve, not to rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ’s name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them. The Pope appeals for disinterested solidarity and for a return to person-centred ethics in the world of finance and economics. 
For her part, the Church always works for the integral development of every person. In this sense, she reiterates that the common good should not be simply an extra, simply a conceptual scheme of inferior quality tacked onto political programmes. The Church encourages those in power to be truly at the service of the common good of their peoples. She urges financial leaders to take account of ethics and solidarity. And why should they not turn to God to draw inspiration from his designs? In this way, a new political and economic mindset would arise that would help to transform the absolute dichotomy between the economic and social spheres into a healthy symbiosis.
On a related note, it's worth recalling that Villa Richardson – the seat of the US' ambassador to the Holy See – remains vacant following Miguel Diaz's departure early this year for a professorship at the University of Dayton.


Schönborn as "Alpha Male" – At HTB, A Clasp of the Titans

His hair still apparently electrified from a Conclave experience roundly described as intense in prayer and its outcome a shock even to the electors, earlier this week – in what's become a rare English-language turn – Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schönborn OP gave some colorful testimony on the election, Popes Benedict and Francis, the situation of the church and much more at the annual leadership conference of the vaunted "HTB": Holy Trinity Brompton, the evangelical London Anglican parish best known for birthing the Alpha Course of evangelization and catechesis... and, now, for being the ecclesial "cradle" of an archbishop of Canterbury.

The general editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church – released in 1992, the first universal text of its kind since Trent – the Dominican cardinal (a longtime B16 protege) was interviewed in a sold-out Royal Albert Hall by HTB's vicar, Fr Nicky Gumbel, whose 1990s transformation of Alpha toward spiritual seekers instead of the already evangelized launched the course's global spread across denominations, its reach now said to have extended to some 20 million people in over 100 languages.

Staffed by 24 clerics who lead 11 weekly services at four sites (in a national church whose decades-long decline in attendance only recently stabilized), HTB bills itself as the UK’s largest parish. 

Before his death in 2000, Cardinal Basil Hume of Westminster led a push for Alpha to be adapted for Catholics. While the #2 official of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, Colombian Archbishop Octavio Ruiz, has called the course "a providential tool because it precisely tries to reach out to those who are far from the church" – and two French Alpha teachers (a married couple) were named to last year's Synod on the re-proposal of the faith by Benedict – a Detroit-based effort to bring the program into American Catholic life remains fledgling.

All that said, here's Schönborn – one of the Catholic world's most fluent, yet oft-controversial top figures – in a clip that's as long as it's worthwhile....

Beyond Gumbel's plug for the Catechism, the vicar's introduction even more exceptionally worked in high praise for Loving the Church – the book of Schönborn's talks at the 1996 Lenten retreat to John Paul II and the Papal Household.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The News, As It Happens

Lest anybody forgot – or for newcomers 'round these parts – even when things aren't moving on these pages' centerpiece, you'll find the up-to-the-minute ticker either just down the right sidebar here, or directly via this link.

Even if that's already become obvious for some (hopefully most) here, the metrics and mail seem to say the reminder's in order. In any event, as some 20 stories tend to flit by daily, suffice it to say that: 1. like it or not, a movement toward the rapid succinct (with the option for a fuller treatment) is the way the medium – and, with it, the news-cycle – is going... and 2. to be well-informed these days would seem to mean wanting to keep up with the pace of things as they develop.

Accordingly, the freshest bit in the live-feed is a notable one: the just released Vatican announcement that, "in agreement" with the Pope, the disgraced Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien – who resigned as archbishop of Edinburgh and recused himself from the Conclave in late February amid reports that he instigated multiple instances of sexual misconduct with priests and seminarians over several decades – "will be leaving Scotland for several months for the purpose of spiritual renewal, prayer and penance."

For the rest, well, now you know... from here, it's just a matter of choosing to not be left out.


"Let's Ask Ourselves: Are We Open to the Holy Spirit?"

Fittingly in the spirit of these days, the Vatican's preliminary English translation of this morning's Francis-talk at the Wednesday Audience:
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!

Today, I want to focus on the action that the Holy Spirit accomplishes in guiding the Church and each one of us to the Truth. Jesus says to his disciples: the Holy Spirit, “he will guide you to all truth" (Jn 16:13), he himself being "the Spirit of truth" (cf. Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).

We live in an age rather skeptical of truth. Benedict XVI has spoken many times of relativism, that is, the tendency to believe that nothing is definitive, and think that the truth is given by consent or by what we want. The question arises: does "the" truth really exist? What is "the" truth? Can we know it? Can we find it? Here I am reminded of the question of the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate when Jesus reveals the profound meaning of his mission: "What is truth?" (Jn 18,37.38). Pilate does not understand that "the" Truth is in front of him, he cannot see in Jesus the face of the truth, which is the face of God yet, Jesus is just that: the Truth, which, in the fullness of time, "became flesh" (Jn 1,1.14), came among us so that we may know it. You cannot grab the truth as if it were an object, you encounter it. It is not a possession, is an encounter with a Person.

But who helps us recognize that Jesus is "the" Word of truth, the only begotten Son of God the Father? St. Paul teaches that "no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3). It is the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen Christ, that helps us recognize the Truth. Jesus calls him the "Paraclete", meaning "the one who comes to our aid," who is by our side to support us in this journey of knowledge, and at the Last Supper, Jesus assures his disciples that the Holy Spirit will teach them all things , reminding them of his words (cf. Jn 14:26).

What is then the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of the Church to guide us to the truth? First of all, remind and imprint on the hearts of believers the words that Jesus said, and precisely through these words, God’s law - as the prophets of the Old Testament had announced - is inscribed in our hearts and becomes within us a principle of evaluation in our choices and of guidance in our daily actions, it becomes a principle of life. Ezekiel’s great prophecy is realized: "I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. …I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them"(36:25-27). Indeed, our actions are born from deep within: it is the heart that needs to be converted to God, and the Holy Spirit transforms it if we open ourselves to Him

The Holy Spirit, then, as Jesus promises, guides us "into all truth" (Jn 16:13) he leads us not only to an encounter with Jesus, the fullness of Truth, but guides us "into" the Truth, that is, he helps us enter into a deeper communion with Jesus himself, gifting us knowledge of the things of God. We cannot achieve this on our own strengths. If God does not enlightens us interiorly, our being Christians will be superficial. The Tradition of the Church affirms that the Spirit of truth acts in our hearts, provoking that "sense of faith" (sensus fidei), through which, as the Second Vatican Council affirms, the People of God, under the guidance of the Magisterium, adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints,(113) penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life (cf. Dogmatic Constitution. Lumen gentium, 12). Let's ask ourselves: are we open to the Holy Spirit, do I pray to him to enlighten me, to make me more sensitive to the things of God? And this is a prayer we need to pray every day, every day: Holy Spirit may my heart be open to the Word of God, may my heart be open to good, may my heart be open to the beauty of God, every day. But I would like to ask a question to all of you: How many of you pray every day to the Holy Spirit? Eh, a few of you I bet, eh! Well, a few, few, a few, but we realise this wish of Jesus, pray every day for the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to Jesus

We think of Mary who "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Lk 2,19.51). The reception of the words and the truths of faith so that they become life, is realized and grows under the action of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, we must learn from Mary, reliving her "yes", her total availability to receive the Son of God in her life, and who from that moment was transformed. Through the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son come to dwell in us: do we live in God and of God, is our life really animated by God? How many things do I put before God?

Dear brothers and sisters, we need to let ourselves be imbued with the light of the Holy Spirit, so that He introduces us into the Truth of God, who is the only Lord of our lives. In this Year of Faith let us ask ourselves if we have actually taken a few steps to get to know Christ and the truths of faith more, by reading and meditating on the Scriptures, studying the Catechism, steadily approaching the Sacraments. But at the same time let us ask ourselves what steps we are taking so that the faith directs our whole existence.

Do not be a ‘part-time” Christian, at certain moments, in certain circumstances, in certain choices – be Christian at all times! The truth of Christ, that the Holy Spirit teaches us and gives us, always and forever involves our daily lives. Let us invoke him more often, to guide us on the path of Christ's disciples.
SVILUPPO: Understandable as it'd be for the 266th Bishop of Rome to take to lamenting the new, daunting job in a new city a continent away from home – and, indeed, having been made to leave his beloved Argentina at age 76 with little warning and a suitcase – with the traditional exhortation to new bishops figuring in today's readings, Father Francis struck a conspicuously different note at this morning's workers' Mass....
"In the end, a bishop is not a bishop for himself. He is for the people, and a priest is not a priest for himself. He, [too], is for the people: to serve [them], to nurture them, to shepherd them, that are his flock – in order to defend them from the wolves. It is beautiful to think this! When the bishop does this, there is a good relationship with the people, such as Paul the bishop did with his people, no? And when the priest [builds] that good relationship with the people, it gives us a love: a love [unites] them, a true love, and the Church becomes united.”

Pope Francis went on to describe the relationship of the bishop and the priest with the people as a existential and sacramental. “We [bishops and priests] need your prayers,” he said, “for, even the bishop and the priest may be tempted.” Bishops and priests should pray much, proclaim Jesus Christ Risen, and “boldly preach the message of salvation.” However, he said, “We are men and we are sinners,” and, “we are tempted.”:

"St. Augustine, commenting on the prophet Ezekiel, speaks of two [temptations]: wealth, which can become greed, and vanity. He says, ‘When the bishop, the priest takes advantage of the sheep for himself, the dynamic changes: it is not the priest, the bishop, for the people - but the priest and the bishop who take from the people.’ St. Augustine says, ‘He takes the meat from the sheep to eat [it], he takes advantage; he makes deals and is attached to money; he becomes greedy and even sometimes practices simony. Perhaps he takes advantage of the wool for vanity, in order to vaunt himself.’”

So , the Pope observes, “when a priest, a bishop goes after money, the people do not love him – and that's a sign. But he ends badly.” St. Paul reminds us that he worked with his hands. “He did not have a bank account, he worked, and when a bishop, a priest goes on the road to vanity, he enters into the spirit of careerism – and this hurts the Church very much – [and] ends up being ridiculous: he boasts, he is pleased to be seen, all powerful – and the people do not like that!” 
“Pray for us,” the Pope repeated, “that we might be poor, that we might be humble, meek, in the service of the people.” Finally, he suggested to the faithful that they read Acts 20:28-30, where Paul says, “Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. I know that, after my departure, ravening wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. And of your own selves shall arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.":

“Read this fine passage, and while reading it, pray, pray for us bishops and priests. We have such need in order to stay faithful, to be men who watch over the flock and also over ourselves, who make the vigil their own, that their heart be always turned to [the Lord’s] flock. [Pray] also that the Lord might defend us from temptation, because if we go on the road to riches, if we go on the road to vanity, we become wolves and not shepherds. Pray for this, read this and pray. So be it.”
And yet again, there it is: que así sea... Così sia. Amen.

Speaking of the preaching Francis on ministries in the church, the English translation of a retreat then-Cardinal Bergoglio gave to the bishops of Spain prior to his election is soon to be released by Ignatius Press under the title In Him Is Our Only Hope.

PHOTO: Reuters(1); Vatican Radio(2)