Pope Francis continues to puncture the vast blog-o-sphere with his direct, challenging and fresh way of expressing Church truths. In an address earlier today to the plenary assembly of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), the Holy Father spoke to the sisters about obedience, poverty, and chastity. His reflections are not just for religious but for all people.
Poverty: “Is also expressed in a soberness and joy of the essential, to put us on guard against the material idols that obscure the true meaning of life. …. Theoretical poverty doesn’t do anything. Poverty is learned by touching the flesh of the poor Christ in the humble, the poor, the sick, and in children.”
Chastity: “Please, [make it] a ‘fertile’ chastity, which generates spiritual children in the Church. The consecrated are mothers: they must be mothers and not ‘spinsters’! Forgive me if I talk like this but this maternity of consecrated life, this fruitfulness is important! May this joy of spiritual fruitfulness animate your existence. Be mothers, like the images of the Mother Mary and the Mother Church. You cannot understand Mary without her motherhood; you cannot understand the Church without her motherhood, and you are icons of Mary and of the Church.”
Obedience: “It isn’t possible that a consecrated woman or man might ‘feel’ themselves not to be with the Church. A ‘feeling’ with the Church that has generated us in Baptism; a ‘feeling’ with the Church that finds its filial expression in fidelity to the Magisterium, in communion with the Bishops and the Successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, a visible sign of that unity….It is an absurd dichotomy to think of living with Jesus but without the Church, of following Jesus outside of the Church, of loving Jesus without loving the Church.”
This is a call to all Christian people—to physically be with the poor, to actively evangelize and beget spiritual children, to be united in all things with the Rock of Peter.
Pope Francis has chosen to retain his episcopal motto, Miserando atque eligendo, for his Papal coat-of-arms. In English it means: Because He saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him. Taken from a homily by the Venerable Bede, the phrase comes from the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 9:9-13) who wrote about Jesus’ calling of Matthew, the tax collector. Jesus tells him, “Follow me.”
St. Matthew has a special significance for Pope Francis for it was on the Feast of Saint Matthew in 1953 that the seventeen-year-old Jorge Bergoglio was “touched by the mercy of God and felt the call to religious life in the footsteps of Saint Ignatius of Loyola,” as reported by Vatican Radio.
The Venerable Bede (d. 735) wrote the classic treatise: “Ecclesiastical History of the English People” which outlines the history of Christianity in Britain from its beginnings up to his present time. Long after his death, he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1899. I had the good fortune of stumbling across the Ven. Bede’s grave in northern England while on vacation. It is located in beautiful Durham Cathedral, a Romanesque Church which was once Catholic. On the Cathedral website it says : It is the only cathedral in England to retain almost all of its Norman craftsmanship, and one of few to preserve the unity and integrity of its original design. The Cathedral was built as a place of worship, specifically to house the shrine of the North’s best-loved saint, Cuthbert, in whose honour pilgrims came to Durham from all over England. It was also the home of a Benedictine monastic community. In fact, the Ven. Bede was a Benedictine monk.
The Venerable Bede said, “(Jesus) saw the tax collector and, because He saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, He said to him, ‘Follow me.’ This following meant imitating the pattern of His life – not just walking after Him…This conversion of one tax collector gave many men, those from his own profession and other sinners, an example of repentance and pardon….Matthew drew after him a whole crowd of sinners along the same road to salvation.”
Before Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, he agreed to allow a viewing of the Shroud of Turin to be broadcast live across the world on RAI, the state television channel, on March 30 in commemoration of Holy Saturday for the Year of Faith.
Now, I read today, Pope Francis has recorded a voice-over introduction for the broadcast. There is also an app called “Shroud 2.0” which enables people to explore the holy relic in detail on their smart phones and tablets.
Even more interesting is the release of a new book called The Mystery of the Shroud by Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Padua University, and Saverio Gaeta, a journalist. According to their tests, the shroud dates from between the years 300 BC and 400 AD.
Holy Saturday is a day of anticipation. We ponder with gratitude the sacrifice of Our Lord who bore our sins on the Cross to redeem us from sin and death. And we await with joy and hope the Resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday. Forever will this day be linked in my mind to the image of the Shroud of Turin.
“The shroud, of course, reminds us of the passion, death and burial of the Lord, and then to Holy Friday, the day in which the Church remembers and celebrates the passion of Christ,” reflected Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin. “Holy Saturday is a day of silent prayer and meditation on the Lord’s death, but it is also a day of joyful waiting of the light of the Resurrection that will explode in the great celebration of the Easter vigil.” The shroud, he noted, “is a witness of this double mystery: It brings us back to the darkness of the tomb, but it also opens the way to receive the light that from it will emerge, in the event of the Resurrection.”
Pope Benedict gave a beautiful homily about Holy Saturday while on a visit to the Shroud in 2010. Here is an excerpt:
Holy Saturday is a “no man’s land” between the death and the Resurrection, but this “no man’s land” was entered by One, the Only One, who passed through it with the signs of His Passion for man’s sake: Passio Christi. Passio hominis (the Passion of Christ, the suffering of man).
….In this “time-beyond-time,” Jesus Christ “descended to the dead”. What do these words mean? They mean that God, having made Himself man, reached the point of entering man’s most extreme and absolute solitude, where not a ray of love enters, where total abandonment reigns without any word of comfort: “hell.”
Jesus Christ, by remaining in death, passed beyond the door of this ultimate solitude to lead us too to cross it with Him. We have all, at some point, felt the frightening sensation of abandonment, and that is what we fear most about death, just as when we were children we were afraid to be alone in the dark and could only be reassured by the presence of a person who loved us. Well, this is exactly what happened on Holy Saturday: the voice of God resounded in the realm of death. The unimaginable occurred: namely, Love penetrated “hell.” Even in the extreme darkness of the most absolute human loneliness we may hear a voice that calls us and find a hand that takes ours and leads us out.
Human beings live because they are loved and can love; and if love even penetrated the realm of death, then life also even reached there. In the hour of supreme solitude we shall never be alone: Passio Christi. Passio hominis.
Pope Benedict’s legacy will be felt for generations to come.
The National Catholic Register has an article about Pope Benedict XVI’s impact on priestly vocations. Under his watch, the number of priests ministering to the Church worldwide has risen by 6000 men. The Archdiocese of Washington’s new seminary is almost filled to capacity. Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Md. has more vocations than they have seen in years.
When Pope Benedict assumed the papacy in 2005, Michael Roche was working at an accounting firm. These words from the Holy Father gave him the courage he needed to pursue his priestly vocation: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. … Open wide the doors to Christ — and you will find true life. “That was pivotal in my life,” the now-Father Roche told the Register. “I can’t say I had been afraid of Christ, but I was not convinced that a vocation to the diocesan priesthood could be lived in this day and age.” It could and it is.
To see Pope Benedict’s final Apostolic blessing on the crowd in St. Peter’s square (and I can’t write these words without a lump in my throat), click here.
“There were also times when the water was rough and the wind against us,as in the whole history of the Church, and the Lord seemed to sleep. But I always knew that the Lord is in the boat, and I always knew that the boat of the Church is not mine, not ours, but it is His. And He will not let her sink, it is He who leads it, certainly also through the men he has chosen, because so He has willed it. This was and is a certainty, that nothing can obscure. And that is why today my heart is filled with gratitude to God because He has never left me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.”
Dear friends, I’m happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of creation and your well-wishes which do me such good. Thank you for your friendship, and your affection. You know this day is different for me than the preceding ones: I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, or I will be until 8 o’clock this evening and then no more.
I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth. But I would still … thank you … I would still with my heart, with my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, and with all my inner strength, like to work for the common good and the good of the church and of humanity. I feel very supported by your sympathy.
Let us go forward with the Lord for the good of the church and the world. Thank you, I now wholeheartedly impart my blessing. Blessed be God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Good night! Thank you all!”
It is 1:11 PM on Thursday, February 28, 2013. The doors at Castel Gandolfo have just closed, the papal flag has been taken down. Pope Benedict XVI’s life of prayer has begun.
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has a way of succinctly expressing profound truths that really resonate with me. On October 15, a film entitled Bells of Europe (Campane d’Europa) was shown in a special screening for the Synod of Bishops. In it, Pope Benedict expresses the 3 reasons why he is hopeful about the Christian future of Europe:
- The first reason for my hope consists in the fact that the desire for God, the search for God, is profoundly inscribed into each human soul and cannot disappear.
- The second reason for my hope lies in the fact that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, faith in Jesus Christ, is quite simply true; and the truth never ages.
- A third reason is evident in the fact that this sense of restlessness today exists among the young who are beginning their journey making new discoveries of the beauty of Christianity; not a cut-price or watered-down version, but Christianity in all its radicalism and profundity.
He goes on to say that Christianity in Europe has deep foundations. That is Christianity; it is true and the truth always has a future.
On June 3, 2012, in case you missed it, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in Milan in front of one million people!! As a You Tube audio put it- WOW!
At the conclusion of his address, the Holy Father said, Family, work, celebration: three of God’s gifts, three dimensions of our lives that must be brought into a harmonious balance. Harmonizing work schedules with family demands, professional life with fatherhood and motherhood, work with celebration, is important for building up a society with a human face. In this regard, always give priority to the logic of being over that of having: the first builds up, the second ends up destroying. We must learn to believe first of all in the family, in authentic love, the kind that comes from God and unites us to him, the kind that therefore “makes us a ‘we’ which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28)” (Deus Caritas Est, 18). Amen.