Saturday, April 19, 2014

On Easter Night, "For Each of Us, There Is A 'Galilee'"

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
THE EASTER VIGIL
ST PETER'S BASILICA
19 APRIL 2014

The Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ begins with the journey of the women to the tomb at dawn on the day after the Sabbath. They go to the tomb to honour the body of the Lord, but they find it open and empty. A mighty angel says to them: “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28:5) and orders them to go and tell the disciples: “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee” (v. 7). The women quickly depart and on the way Jesus himself meets them and says: “Do not fear; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (v. 10).

After the death of the Master, the disciples had scattered; their faith had been utterly shaken, everything seemed over, all their certainties had crumbled and their hopes had died. But now that message of the women, incredible as it was, came to them like a ray of light in the darkness. The news spread: Jesus is risen as he said. And then there was his command to go to Galilee; the women had heard it twice, first from the angel and then from Jesus himself: “Let them go to Galilee; there they will see me”.

Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began! To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called. Jesus had walked along the shores of the lake as the fishermen were casting their nets. He had called them, and they left everything and followed him (cf. Mt 4:18-22).

To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory. To re-read everything – Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal – to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of love.


For each of us, too, there is a “Galilee” at the origin of our journey with Jesus. “To go to Galilee” means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience. To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey. From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters. That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.

In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also a more existential “Galilee”: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him. It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.

Today, tonight, each of us can ask: What is my Galilee? Where is my Galilee? Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it? Lord, help me: tell me what my Galilee is; for you know that I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy.

The Gospel of Easter is very clear: we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection. This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia. It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth.

“Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt 4:15; Is 8:23)! Horizon of the Risen Lord, horizon of the Church; intense desire of encounter.... Let us be on our way!

[Ed. Note: Vatican translation; emphases original... e Buona Pasqua a tutti!]

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi./

Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

From the Gospel according to Mark. 15:33-34, 37, 39

And when the sixth hour had come
there was darkness over the whole land
until the ninth hour.
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice:
"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?",
which means:
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.
When the centurion, who stood facing him,
saw that he thus breathed his last, he said:
"Truly this man was the Son of God".
Here we have the greatest, the most sublime work of the Son in union with the Father. Yes: in union, in the most perfect union possible, precisely at the moment when he cries: "Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani" - "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mk 15:34; Mt 27:46).

This work finds expression in the verticality of his body stretched against the perpendicular beam of the Cross and in the horizontality of his arms stretched along the transverse beam. To gaze upon those arms one would think that in the effort they expend they embrace all humanity and all the world.

They do indeed embrace it.

Here is the man. Here is God himself. "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). In him: in those arms outstretched along the transverse beam of the Cross. The mystery of the Redemption.

Nailed to the Cross, pinned in that terrible position, Jesus calls on the Father (cf. Mk 15:34; Mt 27:46; Lk 23:46). All his words bear witness that he is one with the Father. "I and the Father are one" (Jn 10:30); "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (Jn 14:9); "My Father is working still, and I am working" (Jn 5:17).

Son of God, remember us,
at the hour of death.
R. Kyrie, eleison.

Son of the Father, remember us,
and by your Spirit renew the face of the earth.
R. Kyrie, eleison.

–Pope John Paul II
Meditations for the Via Crucis
Good Friday 2003
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Adoramus Te, Christe et Benedicumus Tibi....

Set to begin just after 9pm in Rome (3pm ET, Noon Pacific), below is a live-feed of this Good Friday's traditional torch-lit Way of the Cross at the Colosseum in the presence of the Pope:



The meditations for this year's Via Crucis were written by Giancarlo Maria Bregantini, a Stigmatine Father who's served since 2007 as archbishop of Campobasso in Calabria.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

In Supremae Nocte Coenae....


Let us pray.

Grant, almighty God,
that, just as we are renewed
by the Supper of your Son in this present age,
so may we enjoy his banquet for all eternity,
Who lives and reigns forever and ever....
Even if this night's onetime last rubric isn't as clear as it used to be, at least its spirit remains the same.

Until tomorrow, Church, "All depart in silence.
"

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For Rehab Patients, Francis Makes "The Act of A Slave"

Continuing the custom he began as archbishop of Buenos Aires, on this Holy Thursday night the Pope began the Paschal Triduum with the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper in a facility of "pastoral need" – this time around, a house of the Don Gnocchi Foundation, a skilled-care center in Rome's Casal del Marmo section, not far from the juvenile detention house which Francis chose for this night last year, to the enduring shock of many in the Vatican and beyond.

Contrary to last year's rites, this time around saw a complete live broadcast of the Mass by Vatican television. Until the Bergoglio change-up, for roughly a millennium the Popes celebrated the Holy Thursday liturgy at Rome's cathedral, St John Lateran, which had been the papal residence until the move to the Vatican in the 1400s.

Given off-the-cuff, homily to come... but for now, here's video of the moment likely to garner the most interest – as a contemporary setting of the Ubi Caritas strummed in the background, the washing (and, per tradition, kissing) of the feet of 12 patients, aged 16 to 86, women and men alike:


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"How Did We Get This Way? And How Do We Turn Back?"

As American Catholicism's "Last Great China Shop" continues on the road of a historic renewal – and plans for a PopeStop on Francis' expected US tour in September 2015 continue apace – Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. of Philadelphia delivered the following homily (fullaudio) at this Holy Thursday's Chrism Mass in the Cathedral-Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul:


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For Priests, "A Joy Which Anoints Us... Not One Which 'Greases' Us"

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
HOLY THURSDAY MASS OF THE CHRISM
ST PETER'S BASILICA
17 APRIL 2014

Dear Brother Priests,

In the eternal “today” of Holy Thursday, when Christ showed his love for us to the end (cf. Jn 13:1), we recall the happy day of the institution of the priesthood, as well as the day of our own priestly ordination. The Lord anointed us in Christ with the oil of gladness, and this anointing invites us to accept and appreciate this great gift: the gladness, the joy of being a priest. Priestly joy is a priceless treasure, not only for the priest himself but for the entire faithful people of God: that faithful people from which he is called to be anointed and which he, in turn, is sent to anoint.

Anointed with the oil of gladness so as to anoint others with the oil of gladness. Priestly joy has its source in the Father’s love, and the Lord wishes the joy of this Love to be “ours” and to be “complete” (Jn 15:11). I like to reflect on joy by contemplating Our Lady, for Mary, the “Mother of the living Gospel, is a wellspring of joy for God’s little ones” (Evangelii Gaudium, 288). I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that priest is very little indeed: the incomparable grandeur of the gift granted us for the ministry sets us among the least of men. The priest is the poorest of men unless Jesus enriches him by his poverty, the most useless of servants unless Jesus calls him his friend, the most ignorant of men unless Jesus patiently teaches him as he did Peter, the frailest of Christians unless the Good Shepherd strengthens him in the midst of the flock. No one is more “little” than a priest left to his own devices; and so our prayer of protection against every snare of the Evil One is the prayer of our Mother: I am a priest because he has regarded my littleness (cf. Lk 1:48). And in that littleness we find our joy.

For me, there are three significant features of our priestly joy. It is a joy which anoints us (not one which “greases” us, making us unctuous, sumptuous and presumptuous), it is a joy which is imperishable and it is a missionary joy which spreads and attracts, starting backwards – with those farthest away from us.

A joy which anoints us. In a word: it has penetrated deep within our hearts, it has shaped them and strengthened them sacramentally. The signs of the ordination liturgy speak to us of the Church’s maternal desire to pass on and share with others all that the Lord has given us: the laying on of hands, the anointing with sacred chrism, the clothing with sacred vestments, the first consecration which immediately follows… Grace fills us to the brim and overflows, fully, abundantly and entirely in each priest. We are anointed down to our very bones… and our joy, which wells up from deep within, is the echo of this anointing.

An imperishable joy. The fullness of the Gift, which no one can take away or increase, is an unfailing source of joy: an imperishable joy which the Lord has promised no one can take from us (Jn 16:22). It can lie dormant, or be clogged by sin or by life’s troubles, yet deep down it remains intact, like the embers of a burnt log beneath the ashes, and it can always be renewed. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy remains ever timely: I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands (cf. 2 Tim 1:6).

A missionary joy. I would like especially to share with you and to stress this third feature: priestly joy is deeply bound up with God’s holy and faithful people, for it is an eminently missionary joy. Our anointing is meant for anointing God’s holy and faithful people: for baptizing and confirming them, healing and sanctifying them, blessing, comforting and evangelizing them.

And since this joy is one which only springs up when the shepherd is in the midst of his flock (for even in the silence of his prayer, the shepherd who worships the Father is with his sheep), it is a “guarded joy”, watched over by the flock itself. Even in those gloomy moments when everything looks dark and a feeling of isolation takes hold of us, in those moments of listlessness and boredom which at times overcome us in our priestly life (and which I too have experienced), even in those moments God’s people are able to “guard” that joy; they are able to protect you, to embrace you and to help you open your heart to find renewed joy.

A “guarded joy”: one guarded by the flock but also guarded by three sisters who surround it, tend it and defend it: sister poverty, sister fidelity and sister obedience.

Priestly joy is a joy which is sister to poverty. The priest is poor in terms of purely human joy. He has given up so much! And because he is poor, he, who gives so much to others, has to seek his joy from the Lord and from God’s faithful people. He doesn’t need to try to create it for himself. We know that our people are very generous in thanking priests for their slightest blessing and especially for the sacraments. Many people, in speaking of the crisis of priestly identity, fail to realize that identity presupposes belonging. There is no identity – and consequently joy of life – without an active and unwavering sense of belonging to God’s faithful people (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 268). The priest who tries to find his priestly identity by soul-searching and introspection may well encounter nothing more than “exit” signs, signs that say: exit from yourself, exit to seek God in adoration, go out and give your people what was entrusted to you, for your people will make you feel and taste who you are, what your name is, what your identity is, and they will make you rejoice in that hundredfold which the Lord has promised to those who serve him. Unless you “exit” from yourself, the oil grows rancid and the anointing cannot be fruitful. Going out from ourselves presupposes self-denial; it means poverty.

Priestly joy is a joy which is sister to fidelity. Not primarily in the sense that we are all “immaculate” (would that by God’s grace we were!), for we are sinners, but in the sense of an ever renewed fidelity to the one Bride, to the Church. Here fruitfulness is key. The spiritual children which the Lord gives each priest, the children he has baptized, the families he has blessed and helped on their way, the sick he has comforted, the young people he catechizes and helps to grow, the poor he assists… all these are the “Bride” whom he rejoices to treat as his supreme and only love and to whom he is constantly faithful. It is the living Church, with a first name and a last name, which the priest shepherds in his parish or in the mission entrusted to him. That mission brings him joy whenever he is faithful to it, whenever he does all that he has to do and lets go of everything that he has to let go of, as long as he stands firm amid the flock which the Lord has entrusted to him: Feed my sheep (cf. Jn 21:16,17).

Priestly joy is a joy which is sister to obedience. An obedience to the Church in the hierarchy which gives us, as it were, not simply the external framework for our obedience: the parish to which I am sent, my ministerial assignments, my particular work … but also union with God the Father, the source of all fatherhood. It is likewise an obedience to the Church in service: in availability and readiness to serve everyone, always and as best I can, following the example of “Our Lady of Promptness” (cf. Lk 1:39, meta spoudes), who hastens to serve Elizabeth her kinswoman and is concerned for the kitchen of Cana when the wine runs out. The availability of her priests makes the Church a house with open doors, a refuge for sinners, a home for people living on the streets, a place of loving care for the sick, a camp for the young, a classroom for catechizing children about to make their First Communion… Wherever God’s people have desires or needs, there is the priest, who knows how to listen (ob-audire) and feels a loving mandate from Christ who sends him to relieve that need with mercy or to encourage those good desires with resourceful charity.

All who are called should know that genuine and complete joy does exist in this world: it is the joy of being taken from the people we love and then being sent back to them as dispensers of the gifts and counsels of Jesus, the one Good Shepherd who, with deep compassion for all the little ones and the outcasts of this earth, wearied and oppressed like sheep without a shepherd, wants to associate many others to his ministry, so as himself to remain with us and to work, in the person of his priests, for the good of his people.

On this priestly Thursday I ask the Lord Jesus to enable many young people to discover that burning zeal which joy kindles in our hearts as soon as we have the stroke of boldness needed to respond willingly to his call.

On this priestly Thursday I ask the Lord Jesus to preserve the joy sparkling in the eyes of the recently ordained who go forth to devour the world, to spend themselves fully in the midst of God's faithful people, rejoicing as they prepare their first homily, their first Mass, their first Baptism, their first confession… It is the joy of being able to share with wonder, and for the first time as God’s anointed, the treasure of the Gospel and to feel the faithful people anointing you again and in yet another way: by their requests, by bowing their heads for your blessing, by taking your hands, by bringing you their children, by pleading for their sick… Preserve, Lord, in your young priests the joy of going forth, of doing everything as if for the first time, the joy of spending their lives fully for you.

On this priestly Thursday I ask the Lord Jesus to confirm the priestly joy of those who have already ministered for some years. The joy which, without leaving their eyes, is also found on the shoulders of those who bear the burden of the ministry, those priests who, having experienced the labours of the apostolate, gather their strength and rearm themselves: “get a second wind”, as the athletes say. Lord, preserve the depth, wisdom and maturity of the joy felt by these older priests. May they be able to pray with Nehemiah: “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (cf. Neh 8:10).

Finally, on this priestly Thursday I ask the Lord Jesus to make better known the joy of elderly priests, whether healthy or infirm. It is the joy of the Cross, which springs from the knowledge that we possess an imperishable treasure in perishable earthen vessels. May these priests find happiness wherever they are; may they experience already, in the passage of the years, a taste of eternity (Guardini). May they know the joy of handing on the torch, the joy of seeing new generations of their spiritual children, and of hailing the promises from afar, smiling and at peace, in that hope which does not disappoint.

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On Holy Thursday, The Priesthood, Past and Future

Even if the overwhelming bulk of Chrism Masses have already come and gone, only now have we arrived at the moment they celebrate: Holy Thursday, the "birthday" of the ministerial priesthood.

Nowadays, just a handful of US dioceses – among them Detroit, Philadelphia, St Louis, Arlington, Gary, Greensburg, Lansing, Pittsburgh and Rockville Centre – continue to hold their edition of the rite in its traditional time-slot this morning. In any case, wherever you are, let the brothers take a bow – today and always, thank you for your "yes" and all that it's allowed you to be, do and give all year... and please, please, keep it up.

In the spirit of the observance, meanwhile, it feels worthwhile to call up a unique experience over recent months, especially given the anchor reflections which might be useful for at least some out there today.

Back in mid-September, this scribe had the immense treat of taking the podium at American Catholicism's lone province-wide convocation of priests: the triennial assembly in New Orleans arranged by the dioceses of Louisiana, which has become a tradition there since 1989.

While watching it all unfold, one couldn't help but think it'd take most other provinces three years of "discernment" – read: fighting – over whether to have a gathering like it, and another three to decide the agenda, but so it goes. In any case, beyond the wonderful company, the moment and the setting provided an especially keen glimpse both of the ever-increasing challenges facing presbyterates among us, and the sense of a turning page in ecclesial life writ large.

On the latter front, a couple threads particular to the place are only set to become more widespread over the coming years: to start, with the first prominent abuse outbreak having occurred in Lafayette in 1985, Louisiana is the Stateside church's closest thing to a fully "post-abuse" reality, while its historic template of a French-Cajun dominant culture that allowed for broad contributions from others foreshadows the new future elsewhere of an institutional framework divorced from the "Irish model," whose 150-year dominance over most of the rest of the national landscape is only now reaching its end. And, indeed, another aspect that marked the days is a new one across the map, but one only set to grow – the new pontificate and, with it, the sense of a pendulum shift both in the trenches of ministry and on the hierarchical plane.

Much more could be said, but on this "feast" of the priesthood, it's best to leave the talking to the clerics. Ergo, springing from the Lousiana convention's theme of "Treasuring the past, Celebrating the present, Envisioning the future," below is the opening keynote on things past given by Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta....



(To re-clarify, the talk above was given long before the fiasco of a new, $2.2 million residence – now being sold in the wake of a firestorm that went viral – embroiled the revered Hotlanta chief in a week's worth of news-cycles over this Lent... an episode which, even now, has left no shortage of ad intra folk still scratching their heads.)

And here, the closing vision of the priesthood's future in mission as seen by Louisiana's first-ever native-son metropolitan, the Crescent City's Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who – before becoming the USCCB's most acclaimed operators and, arguably, the most beloved shepherd in his diocese of any American bishop – formed much of the state's presbyterate over his 14 years as rector of Notre Dame Seminary:




As the Roman Synod of Bishops continues to consolidate its new place at the center of Francis' governing vision, at its Chrism Mass on Tuesday, New Orleans inaugurated an Archdiocesan Synod, which is slated to run through Pentecost 2015. At present, the only other local assembly underway on these shores is in Washington, whose first-ever Synod – timed to coincide with the archdiocese's 75th anniversary as a stand-alone church – will close in June.

Back to the morning's Main Event, meanwhile, again, all good wishes and thanks to the many heroes who make up "the long black line" among us – even for all the chaos and needed prep of these days, may your Triduum be a rich, brilliant and meaningful experience.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Amid the "Oil Change and Tune-Up," A Warning Light: "Francis Is Calling Us"

Merry Chrismas to all... and to all, well, start your engines.

As this Tuesday of Holy Week brings the largest batch of Chrism Masses on these shores, this is always an especially graced moment. Still, one prelate who faced delivering his most important message of the year ahead of the Pope's word to Rome probably echoed the mind of many others on musing that "I just wish I knew what Francis was going to say" come Thursday morning.

For what it's worth, guessing ain't much use – we'll see in 36 hours, and we'll all see it together.

Whatever happens, it bears recalling that as the last papal Holy Thursday made for two of the most evocative moments of this new journey to date – the almost exhaustively-quoted call for pastors to bear the "smell of the sheep"... and the video of the evening's Mandatum in a juvenile prison – this second round brings a high bar to match, let alone clear. Yet even before the Big Man gets his turn, the deck of reflections is already filling up.

Along those lines, below is the Chrism homily given this morning in Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross by Francis' "regional assistant" for North America, Cardinal Seán O'Malley, OFM Cap.:


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Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Who Am I? Where Is My Heart?"


HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION
ST PETER'S SQUARE
13 APRIL 2014
This week begins with the festive procession with olive branches: all the people welcome Jesus. The children, the young people sing, praising Jesus.

But this week proceeds into the mystery of Jesus' death and his resurrection. We've heard the Passion of the Lord. So it'll do us well to ask ourselves one question: Who am I? Who am I before my Lord? Who am I before the Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid celebration? Am I able to express my joy, to praise him? Or do I keep a distance? Who am I before the Jesus who suffers?

We've heard many names, many names. The group of rulers, some priests, some Pharisees, the teachers of the law, who decided to kill him. They waited for the chance to apprehend him. Am I one of them?

We've likewise heard another name: Judas. Thirty pieces of silver. Am I like Judas? We've heard other names: the disciples who couldn't understand any of it, who fell asleep while Jesus suffered. Has my life fallen asleep? Or am I like the disciples, who didn't understand what betraying Jesus meant? Like that other disciple who wanted to settle everything with the sword: am I like them? Am I like Judas, who made a show of loving and kissing Jesus, only to hand him over, to betray him? Am I a traitor? Am I like those rulers who rushed to hold the tribunal and seek false witnesses: am I like them? And when I do these things, if I do them, do I believe that I save people with this?

Am I like Pilate? When I see that the situation's tough, I wash my hands and don't know to take my responsibility and I let them condemn – or do I condemn – people?

Am I like that crowd which didn't know whether it was taking part in a religious gathering, a trial or a circus, and chooses Barabbas? For them it's all the same: it was more fun to humiliate Jesus.

Am I like the soldiers who strike the Lord, spit on him, insult him, enjoying themselves by humiliating the Lord?

Am I like the Cyrenian who was coming home from work, was tired, but had the goodwill to help the Lord carry the cross?

Am I like those who went before the Cross and taunted Jesus: "If only he had more courage! Come down from the cross, and we'll believe in Him!" They taunted Jesus....

Am I like those courageous women, and like Jesus' Mamma, who were there, suffering in silence?

Am I like Joseph, the hidden disciple, who carries the body of Jesus with love to give it a tomb?

Am I like the two Marys who remain before the Tomb crying, praying?

Am I like those leaders who went to Pilate the following day to say: "Be on guard – this one said he would rise, so don't let them be fooled again!" and blocked his life, blocked the tomb to defend doctrine, so that life could not come out?

Where is my heart? Which of these people am I like? May this question accompany us all through this week.

[Ed. Note: Homily delivered unscripted – house translation.]

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This Holy Week, "Let Us Be Drawn Toward Him... Let Us Be Healed By Him"

Yet again, the journey begins in triumph....



...and as ever, how quickly it changes. Still, it's only a shadow of the other side of this Week – and lest anybody forgot, the days now upon us are what all the rest is all about.

To one and all, every blessing, grace and goodness of this Holy Week – here's to the richest and most beautiful one you've ever known.

*  *  *
As it begins, two reflections do well to set the scene.

First, from last Tuesday at the Domus, the Pope's preach....

It is impossible for us to free ourselves from sin on our own. It’s impossible. These doctors of the law, these people who taught the law, didn’t have a clear idea on this. They believed, yes, in the forgiveness of God but considered themselves strong, self-sufficient and that they knew everything. And in the end they transformed religion, their adoration of God, into a culture with values, reflections, certain commandments of conduct to be polite and they believed, yes, that the Lord can pardon them, they knew this but they were far removed from all this.

Christianity is not a philosophical doctrine, it’s not a program for life survival or education, or for peacemaking. These are consequences. Christianity is a person, a person raised on the Cross, a person who annihilated himself to save us, who became sin. Just as sin was raised up in the desert, here God who was made man and made sin for us was raised up. All our sins were there. You cannot understand Christianity without understanding this profound humiliation of the Son of God who humbled himself and became a servant unto death, even death on a cross, in order to serve us.

The Cross is not an ornament that we must always put in the churches, there on the altar. It is not a symbol that distinguishes us from others. The Cross is mystery, the mystery of God who humbles himself, he becomes "nothing." He becomes sin. Where is your sin? "I don’t know, I have so many here." No, your sin is there, in the Cross. Go and find it there, in the wounds of the Lord and your sins will be healed, your wounds will be healed, your sins will be forgiven. The forgiveness that God gives us is not the same as cancelling a debt that we have with Him, the forgiveness that God gives us are the wounds of his Son on the Cross, raised up on the Cross. May he draw us towards Him and may we allow ourselves to be healed by him.
...and here, 25 years after she delivered the most thorough analysis you'll find of the new Rule of Francis happening only now in our midst, keeping with long tradition 'round these parts, the final call of Sr Thea Bowman at the end of her struggle with bone cancer, given days before her death at 52 on 30 March 1990:
Let us resolve to make this week holy by claiming Christ’s redemptive grace and by living holy lives. The Word became flesh and redeemed us by his holy life and holy death. This week especially, let us accept redemption by living grateful, faithful, prayerful, generous, just and holy lives.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by reading and meditating Holy Scripture. So often, we get caught up in the hurry of daily living. As individuals and as families, reserve prime time to be with Jesus, to hear the cries of the children waving palm branches, to see the Son of Man riding on an ass' colt, to feel the press of the crowd, to be caught up in the "Hosannas” and to realize how the cries of acclamation will yield to the garden of suffering, to be there and watch as Jesus is sentenced by Pilate to Calvary, to see him rejected, mocked, spat upon, beaten and forced to carry a heavy cross, to hear the echo of the hammer, to feel the agony of the torn flesh and strained muscles, to know Mary’s anguish as he hung three hours before he died.

We recoil before the atrocities of war, gang crime, domestic violence and catastrophic illness. Unless we personally and immediately are touched by suffering, it is easy to read Scripture and to walk away without contacting the redemptive suffering that makes us holy. The reality of the Word falls on deaf ears. Let us take time this week to be present to someone who suffers. Sharing the pain of a fellow human will enliven Scripture and help us enter into the holy mystery of the redemptive suffering of Christ.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by participating in the Holy Week services of the Church, not just by attending, but also by preparing, by studying the readings, entering into the Spirit, offering our services as ministers of the Word or Eucharist, decorating the church or preparing the environment for worship.

Let us sing, "Lord, have mercy," and "Hosanna." Let us praise the Lord with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength, uniting with the suffering Church throughout the world -- in Rome and Northern Ireland, in Syria and Lebanon, in South Africa and Angola, India and China, Nicaragua and El Salvador, in Washington, D.C., and Jackson, Mississippi.

Let us break bread together; let us relive the holy and redemptive mystery. Let us do it in memory of him, acknowledging in faith his real presence upon our altars.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy within our families, sharing family prayer on a regular basis, making every meal a holy meal where loving conversations bond family members in unity, sharing family work without grumbling, making love not war, asking forgiveness for past hurts and forgiving one another from the heart, seeking to go all the way for love as Jesus went all the way for love.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy with the needy, the alienated, the lonely, the sick and afflicted, the untouchable. Let us unite our sufferings, inconveniences and annoyances with the suffering of Jesus. Let us stretch ourselves, going beyond our comfort zones to unite ourselves with Christ's redemptive work.

We unite ourselves with Christ's redemptive work when we reconcile, when we make peace, when we share the good news that God is in our lives, when we reflect to our brothers and sisters God's healing, God's forgiveness, God's unconditional love.

Let us be practical, reaching out across the boundaries of race and class and status to help somebody, to encourage and affirm somebody, offering to the young an incentive to learn and grow, offering to the downtrodden resources to help themselves.

May our fasting be the kind that saves and shares with the poor, that actually contacts the needy, that gives heart to heart, that touches and nourishes and heals.

During this Holy Week when Jesus gave his life for love, let us truly love one another.
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Friday, April 11, 2014

Francis: On Abuse, "We Have To Be Even Stronger"

Meeting this morning with the Paris-based International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE), the Pope set aside his prepared text to make the following comment:
I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children. The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children.
According to Vatican Radio, the off-script was one of several spontaneous additions to what had been a brief, fairly perfunctory draft. Despite BICE's French base, Francis unusually departed from his preference for Italian to give the talk in his native Spanish.

The Pope's most direct statement yet on the clergy sex-abuse scandals which have roiled broad swaths of the Catholic world for nearly three decades, Francis' message comes three weeks after his appointment of the first eight members of a new Pontifical Commission intended to aid the church's efforts for the protection of children. Led by Cardinal Seán O'Malley OFM Cap. of Boston, the group – proposed by the "Gang of Eight" to Francis and given the go-ahead at their December meeting – includes three women, among them the prominent Irish survivor Marie Collins.

Unlike prior Vatican bodies chartered to tackle the issue, the new organ answers directly to the Pope. While the members were expected to begin contact by phone or email, the timetable of the commission's initial meeting in Rome has yet to emerge.

Since the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was granted oversight of the church's "purification" of credibly accused clergy in 2001, the office has processed the removal of over 3,000 priests from ministry, whether through dismissal from the clerical state or a sentence to a restricted life of prayer and penance.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

"You Bring the Best Outta Me, And I'll Bring the Best Outta You" – In Albany, Post-Hubbard 101

Up the Hudson from Gotham, in the capital church of the Empire State, there are middle aged pastors who, all their lives, have only ever known, walked with, lived and served under one bishop....

That is, until today.

On the flip-side, meanwhile, for the one tasked with following the longest episcopal reign modern American Catholicism is ever likely to know – a titanic 37-year tenure in the chair first held by the nation's founding cardinal – expectations were naturally just as high that this Opening Day would make a splash... and in his maiden turn before the crowd in Albany, Bishop Ed Scharfenberger did just that.

As starts go, it was, in a word, impressive – deeply so. (And while we're at it, an unusually live mic that let the principal consecrator's animated off-script commentary make the rounds deserves a very grateful honorable mention.)

The talk beginning with the beloved last Nuncio's famous first words to many of his appointees, here's something no one's been able to say since 1977 – Church, meet the new bishop of Albany:



More to come.

PHOTO: Skip Dickstein/Albany Times-Union

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