Tuesday, December 31, 2013

JANUARY CALENDAR

For a more readable version ,please click the image

Monday, December 30, 2013

Pope Francis "THE WORLD'S PARISH PRIEST"

Telegraph UK.website 
In case you missed the ABC "Game Changer" piece about Pope Francis, you can see it here
(You will have to endure a 30 second commercial before the video with George Stephanoplis, Cokie Roberts and Cardinal Dolan and clips of Pope Francis starts)

Francis Reminds Us of the Plight of Refugees

Vatican City, 29 December 2013 (VIS) - The  Feast of the Holy Family  is celebrated on the first Sunday after Christmas.
Pope Francis reminded thousands of the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus prayer at midday  that the Gospel for that Sunday  tells the story of the Holy Family's painful flight to Egypt in search of exile.  Pope Francis said. "Joseph, Mary and Jesus experienced the dramatic condition of life as refugees, full of fear, uncertainty, and discomfort. Unfortunately, in our times, millions of families can identify with this sad reality. Nearly every day, television and newspapers provide news about refugees fleeing hunger, war, and other serious dangers in search of security and a decent life for themselves and their families. In distant lands, even when they find work, refugees and immigrants are not always welcomed, nor do they find respect and appreciation for the values they bring. Their legitimate expectations clash with complex situations and problems that at times appear insurmountable".

The Holy Father urged those present to contemplate the Holy Family of Nazareth  forced to seek refuge, and to consider "the tragedy of migrants and refugees who are victims of rejection and exploitation ... of human trafficking and forced labor", as well as "those who are exiled within families: the elderly, for example, who are sometimes treated as a cumbersome presence".

POPE FRANCIS' PRAYER INTENTIONS FOR JANUARY 2014

The Pope's universal prayer intention for January 2014 is "that all may promote authentic economic development that respects the dignity of all peoples" .

His prayer intention for evangelization is "that Christians of diverse denominations may walk toward the unity desired by Christ".
Vatican Information Service, 30 December 2013 



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Saint Bridget's Chapel in the Field Christmas 2013


Our Church was decorated for Christmas  after the noon Mass on Monday. The age range of the volunteers was impressive -- from five year olds to a couple of octogenarians, Maura Rhodes and her sons took over the ladder monkey duties for the higher level decorating chores much to the relief of the spouses of the men who performed that duty in past years.
The Maluccis the Drakes and the Kellys did their usual great job.





Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas in Rome



Orbiscatholicussecundus.blogspot.com
During the final days of Advent, the Holy Father traditionally meets with the cardinals, superiors and officials of the Roman Curia to exchange Christmas greetings.On Saturday, this took place for the first time during the pontificate of Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome, who warmly thanked all his collaborators and in particular Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who recently began his service as Secretary of State, and who needs our prayers.

The Holy Father thanked the Curia for “the work which you do each day: for the care, diligence and creativity which you display; and for your effort – I know it is not always easy – to work together in the office, both to listen to and challenge one another, and to bring out the best in all your different personalities and gifts, in a spirit of mutual respect”. He also expressed his particular gratitude those now concluding their service and approaching retirement.

“Dear brothers and sisters”, let us feel close to one another on this final stretch of the road to Bethlehem. We would do well to meditate on Saint Joseph, who was so silent yet so necessary at the side of Our Lady. Let us think about him and his loving concern for his Spouse and for the Baby Jesus. This can tell us a lot about our own service to the Church! So let us experience this Christmas in spiritual closeness to Saint Joseph. I thank you most heartily for your work and especially for your prayers. Truly I feel 'borne aloft' by your prayers and I ask you to continue to support me in this way. I too remember you before the Lord, and I impart my blessing as I offer my best wishes for a Christmas filled with light and peace for each of you and for all your dear ones”.


Here is a link to a  lengthy YouTube video of the ceremony.
(The sound track is not in English)

Friday, December 20, 2013

"Francis: The Pope From the New World available on DVD

The DVD version of the TV documentary Francis: the Pope from the New World has become a best seller on Amazon. In fact, the DVD which sells for $14.95 is temporarily out of stock at Amazon but can be ordered now for delivery when the stock is replenished.
On December 17th, Carl Anderson, an executive producer of the documentary, said “This documentary arrives as the world realizes that a very special man has assumed the leadership of the Catholic Church, and this begins — but does not end — with his gestures of humility and care for everyone,” . Anderson said many of the details of the Pope’s life “remain largely unknown to the public,” including “the ways in which he has defended the voiceless and Catholic principles.”

As mentioned in our post of November 1st, the program, which was produced by the Knights of Columbus, originally appeared on CNBC on November 3rd. If you missed the telecast, this is your second chance to see this remarkable documentary.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

CONSERVATION EASEMENT AT HOLY CROSS ABBEY



December 8 2013 Post by James:
This post is a mere announcement to be followed by further posts, in depth, considering the impact of Conservation Easement. As readers of this website probably realize, Holy Cross Abbey had put some 200 acres of the northwest end of the property into Conservation Easement through Clarke County channels and the agency of her officials.
This past Wednesday, Abbot Robert Barnes, acting on behalf of the monastic community, signed the contract to put some 900 acres of our land, the Battlefield of Cool Spring Battle (18 July, 1864), into easement with the Civil War Trust. By this act, the land is guaranteed as green space as well as preserving its historic resources in perpetuity. This step has involved the sacrifice of a significant number of building rights on the property and any industrial development of the land or its resources.
Given Shenandoah University’s Easement of the land across the River, also with the Civil War Trust, almost the entire site of the Battlefield will be preserved and a significant swath of land along the Shenandoah can be healed to permit biodiversity to flourish again. This is a significant contribution to the ecological balance of the Shenandoah River and of green space in Clarke County.

Each aspect of the data here, and the implications and challenges to each of us, will be explored in future posts.

Conservation Easement at Holy Cross: Part Two
DECEMBER 14, 2013 BY JAMES 

Mike Hobart, the Chairman of Clarke County’s Board of Supervisors writes:
The Shenandoah River and Blue Ridge Mountain border Clarke County making it truly one of the most interesting and beautiful places on earth. The residents of the County share a common vision resulting in comprehensive action to promote preservation of our land and natural resources for now and into the future.
Our citizens have worked together conscientiously to study lands worthy of conservation easements. Not only do conservation easements preserve the beauty of the land, they are of value for the protection of the ecosystem and biodiversity of the land.
The Monastery easement is of special value not only for recognition of the historical significance of the site, but also for the continuing protection of Clarke County’s most valuable asset, the Shenandoah River. Further, the easement provides continuing wild places for animals displaced by development.

The cooperative support and partnership among local, state, federal governments and private citizens ensures that environmental, sustainable practices and agricultural objectives are met for our community. It is not just preserving the beauty and access to the land, rivers and mountains, but it is an investment in the natural infrastructure of a place now and into the future.




Happy Birthday Pope Francis!

THE POPE CELEBRATES HIS 77TH BIRTHDAY

http://metro.co.uk/
Today Pope Francis celebrates his 77th birthday, and congratulations have arrived in the Vatican from all over the world. The birthday celebrations will not end today. On Friday, 20 December, the Roman Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs will offer a concert in honour of the Pope,. The repertory will include the “Misa Criolla”, by the Argentine composer Ariel Ramirez, one of the Pope's favourite works, which will be performed by the Basilica's Schola Cantorum choir using popular Argentine instruments, and with the participation of the Chilean soprano Macarena Valenzuela.
Vatican City, 17 December 2013 (VIS)

Monday, December 16, 2013

YOUTH WORKCAMP 2014 June 21 - June 27, 2014 Shenandoah County, VA

On June 21-27 2014, youth from St. Bridget's will join approximately 700 other youths from throughout the diocese of Arlington in a week  long service project in Shenandoah county, VA.  The youth will be home based out of a high school and middle school complex for the duration of the project where they will set out each day to make necessary repair to the homes of those in need, build wheelchair accessible entrances to enable residents to remain independent as well as provide fellowship to those who may be home-bound by their current circumstances.

The video below captures the the work and fellowship at the 2013 event


More information from the Diocesean Office of Youth Ministry HERE

In order to make this year's work camp a success our youth will be calling upon the members of our Faith Community to support them in various ways:

WHAT IS NEEDED
1)  A lead contractor to provide direction in the many projects that will take place during the week.
2) Adult team leaders to chaperone the youth as well as transport them to and from the job site each day.
3) Security volunteers  to monitor the home base area each day and evening.
4) Vans to transport the youth..
5) Bag lunches  made and delivered.
6) Tools  donated, marked and sorted.
7) The cost per child and adult participant will be approx. $500  which includes purchasing all the materials that will be necessary for  the projects the youth will be completing.   Each child has been given an individual fundraising goal but, there will also be many joint fundraising efforts before camp begins.  Please prayerfully consider how you might be able to assist the youth of St. Bridget's in this endeavor.

If you can help in any capacity, please contact Rob Barnhill any Sunday after Mass or email him at robotechx20@gmail.com








Saturday, December 14, 2013

First Trappist monk brewery outside Europe to open in Massuchetts

Fox News.com
Fox News reports:
"At a meeting yesterday of the International Trappist Association in Brussels, the Spencer Trappist Ale was awarded the ‘Authentic Trappist Product’ designation,” François de Harenne, Commercial Director of the Orval Trappist brewery, told the Belgian Beer Specialist on Dec. 11.'The decision was made after several controls made on the premises during the last weeks…We also were lucky enough to taste the beer'.”
The beer will be labeled “The Spencer Trappist Ale,” and will be brewed exclusively within the walls of Saint Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Mass. Founded in 1950, the Abbey has roots that reach far back to monks who fled France during the revolution at the end of 18th century.

Trappist beers are one of the most well-known products which Trappist monasteries produce and sell commercially. A “Trappist”  beer must satisfy a number of strict criteria before it may bear the coveted  logo:
The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture.  The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds.  Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.
Eight beers now carry "Authentic Trappist Product"  label : the beers of Achel, Chimay, La Trappe, Orval, Rochefort, Westvleteren, Westmalle, and the beers of Stift Engelszell (Gregorius and Benno)

Perhaps Father Robert might consider emulating the Saint Joseph's Abbey venture at Holy Cross Abbey with a venture befitting our Shenandoah Valley heritage -- a cider mill producing a variety of ciders , sparkling , non sparkling, alcoholic and non-alcoholic

Christmas Tree Lights in St. Peter's Square reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world


Washington Post
Vatican Christmas tree: Pope Francis continues a custom originated by  Pope John Paul II   


The Catholic News News Service reported on the Tree Lighting Ceremony complete with Video Here

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pope Francis: TIMES Person of the Year

"With a focus on compassion, the leader of the Catholic Church has become a new voice of conscience." Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs explains why Francis is TIME's choice for Person of the Year 2013  
Read more (with sound and  links to Spanish and Portuguese language version)

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Hobert Hall Calendar Enhances Saint Bridget Website

Jodi Bonett has designed and placed on the Saint Bridget Website a very user friendly calendar showing the date and times of events scheduled for Hobert Hall. The calendar informs Saint Bridget's communicants about events scheduled  for the Hall  by groups such as  CCD, Women's Club etc. The calendar also is a useful planning tool for individuals contemplating using Hobert Hall for celebrations such as wedding receptions.  In that regard, the Calendar includes a link to set of standards and provisions applicable to those wishing to use the Hall  for private functions.
To obtain the full benefit of the calendar, and to avoid conflicts, each Saint Bridget's group contemplating  an event in the Hall should inform Jodi (bonett@castlemancarpentry.com 540 247 2130)  as soon as it decides the date and time.

Here is a peek at the calendar

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Cardinals Consider a New Constitution for the Curia



(CNS photo/Reuters via pool)
The Council of Cardinals announced by the Holy Father on 28 September to assist him in the governance of the universal Church and to draw up a plan for the revision of  the Roman Curia,  began its second round of meetings on December 3. The Council is composed of eight cardinals from the five continents and includes Sean Patrick O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, U.S.A..

 The cardinals met in the Santa Marta guesthouse in the morning and will hold the afternoon sessions from 4 to 7 p.m. The morning began with the holy Mass concelebrated with Pope Francis in the chapel.

In a mid-day press briefing, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., said “The Pope was present at the meeting and will probably also attend this afternoon. However, tomorrow he will not attend the morning session as he will hold the general audience in St. Peter's Square."

He continued, "During the intervening months between one session and another, the cardinals have continued their work, both personally and in contact with each other; they have also gathered opinions and suggestions on the situation of the Church based on the events in which they have participated; for example, Cardinal Gracias has attended numerous meetings in Asia, while Cardinal Marx has held his own in Europe”.

“This morning work began immediately on the examination of the Roman Curia and in particular on the dicastery of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; or rather, they entered fully into what, as has already been stated, will be an in-depth task, not limited to retouches or minor improvements. The revision of Pastor bonus is substantial, to the extent that it may be considered as a new constitution for the Curia”.

Fr. Lombardi said that in this round the cardinals will not discuss matters regarding the economic and administrative sectors which,  he opined, will be considered in the  meeting in February, shortly before the consistory for the creation of new cardinals, which will be followed by the meeting of the Synod council.
He also referred to the Cardinals' working method, in which tasks are distributed so as to permit specific themes to be studied, but “everything will be brought before the Council and there is common responsibility in relation to all themes”.

Finally, Fr. Lombardi noted that the Council has invited the new secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, to greet him and in order to make first contacts with him.
(VIS Dec 3)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Parking at Saint Bridget's Chapel in the Field

The small  area to the right of the Church is reserved Handicapped Parking.  Members of the Saint Bridget's Community are requested to respect that designation.and  afford those with restricted mobility to safely attend services at the church. With the onset of winter weather, this simple act of caring for other members of the faith community is particularly important.
Thank you.

Book Study Group December 3 Meeting:Jesus of Nazereth: the Infancy Narratives

 On Tuesday, 3 December, the St. Bridget's Book Study Club will meet to discuss Pope Benedict XVI's book Jesus of Nazareth:  The Infancy Narratives .  We will cover the first two chapters of the book at that session.  If you would like to join us or receive more information on the Book Club please contact Jackie Coppenhaver at 955-3060 or Chet Lewandowski at 955-0381.

This is Benedict’s third book on the life of Christ, with the first, issued in 2007, focusing on the baptism to the transfiguration, and the second, released in 2011, treating Holy Week. In the prologue, Benedict says this entry isn’t so much a third volume as an “antechamber”.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Pope Francis' Prayer Intentions for December


from Catholic on line
Pope Francis' general prayer intention for December is: "That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need".

His mission intention is: "That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming"
Vatican City, 29 November 2013 (VIS) 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Evangelii Gaudium The Joy of the Gospel


Vatican Radio Announced today:
"Pope Francis has issued his first Apostolic Exhortation on Tuesday, Evangelii Gaudium, translated into English as The Joy of the Gospel. The 224-page document outlines the Pope’s vision for a missionary Church, whose “doors should always be open”. The Pope speaks on numerous themes, including evangelization, peace, homiletics, social justice, the family, respect for creation, faith and politics, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and the role of women and of the laity in the Church."

Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio reports:
The Joy of the Gospel is the title Pope Francis has chosen for this first major document of his pontificate, putting down in print the joyous spirit of encounter with Christ that characterizes every public appearance he has made so far. The man who has constantly kept the media’s attention with his desire to embrace and share his faith with everyone he meets, now urges us to do exactly the same. To “recover the original freshness of the Gospel”, as he puts it, through a thorough renewal of the Church’s structures and vision. Including what he calls “a conversion of the papacy” to make it better able to serve the mission of evangelization in the modern world. The Church, he says, should not be afraid to re-examine “customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel” even if they may have deep historical roots.

In strikingly direct and personal language, the Pope appeals to all Christians to bring about a “revolution of tenderness” by opening their hearts each day to God’s unfailing love and forgiveness. The great danger in today’s consumer society, he says, is “the desolation and anguish” that comes from a “covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.” Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests , he warns, “there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor.”As we open our hearts, the Pope goes on, so the doors of our churches must always be open and the sacraments available to all. The Eucharist, he says pointedly, “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” And he repeats his ideal of a Church that is “bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets” rather than a Church that is caught up in a slavish preoccupation with liturgy and doctrine, procedure and prestige. “God save us,” he exclaims, “from a worldly Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trappings!” Urging a greater role for the laity, the Pope warns of “excessive clericalism” and calls for “a more incisive female presence in the Church”, especially “where important decisions are made.”

Looking beyond the Church, Pope Francis denounces the current economic system as “unjust at its root”, based on a tyranny of the marketplace, in which financial speculation, widespread corruption and tax evasion reign supreme. He also denounces attacks on religious freedom and new persecutions directed against Christians. Noting that secularization has eroded ethical values, producing a sense of disorientation and superficiality, the Pope highlights the importance of marriage and stable family relationships. Returning to his vision of a Church that is poor and for the poor, the Pope urges us to pay particular attention to those on the margins of society, including the homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly, migrants, victims of trafficking and unborn children. While it is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life, he says, it’s also true that “we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish.”

Finally the new papal document also focuses on the themes of promoting peace, justice and fraternity, through patient and respectful dialogue with all people of all faiths and none. Better relations with other Christians, with Jews and with Muslims are all seen as indispensable ways of promoting peace and combatting fundamentalism. While urging Christians to “avoid hateful generalisations” about Islam, the Pope also calls “humbly” on Islamic countries to guarantee full religious freedom to Christians”

The full text of the new Apostolic Exhortation can be found on the Vatican website, while the main points are outlined in a lengthy synopsis by Ms Hitchen:

Saint Bridget's December Calendar


Click the image to enlarge view

Pope issues first Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has issued his first Apostolic Exhortation on Tuesday, Evangelii Gaudium, translated into English as The Joy of the Gospel. The 224-page document outlines the Pope’s vision for a missionary Church, whose “doors should always be open”. The Pope speaks on numerous themes, including evangelization, peace, homiletics, social justice, the family, respect for creation, faith and politics, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and the role of women and of the laity in the Church.

The Joy of the Gospel is the title Pope Francis has chosen for this first major document of his pontificate, putting down in print the joyous spirit of encounter with Christ that characterizes every public appearance he has made so far. The man who has constantly kept the media’s attention with his desire to embrace and share his faith with everyone he meets, now urges us to do exactly the same. To “recover the original freshness of the Gospel”, as he puts it, through a thorough renewal of the Church’s structures and vision. Including what he calls “a conversion of the papacy” to make it better able to serve the mission of evangelization in the modern world. The Church, he says, should not be afraid to re-examine “customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel” even if they may have deep historical roots.
In strikingly direct and personal language, the Pope appeals to all Christians to bring about a “revolution of tenderness” by opening their hearts each day to God’s unfailing love and forgiveness. The great danger in today’s consumer society, he says, is “the desolation and anguish” that comes from a “covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.” Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests , he warns, “there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor.”
As we open our hearts, the Pope goes on, so the doors of our churches must always be open and the sacraments available to all. The Eucharist, he says pointedly, “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” And he repeats his ideal of a Church that is “bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets” rather than a Church that is caught up in a slavish preoccupation with liturgy and doctrine, procedure and prestige. “God save us,” he exclaims, “from a worldly Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trappings!” Urging a greater role for the laity, the Pope warns of “excessive clericalism” and calls for “a more incisive female presence in the Church”, especially “where important decisions are made.”
Looking beyond the Church, Pope Francis denounces the current economic system as “unjust at its root”, based on a tyranny of the marketplace, in which financial speculation, widespread corruption and tax evasion reign supreme. He also denounces attacks on religious freedom and new persecutions directed against Christians. Noting that secularization has eroded ethical values, producing a sense of disorientation and superficiality, the Pope highlights the importance of marriage and stable family relationships.
Returning to his vision of a Church that is poor and for the poor, the Pope urges us to pay particular attention to those on the margins of society, including the homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly, migrants, victims of trafficking and unborn children. While it is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life, he says, it’s also true that “we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish.”
Finally the new papal document also focuses on the themes of promoting peace, justice and fraternity, through patient and respectful dialogue with all people of all faiths and none. Better relations with other Christians, with Jews and with Muslims are all seen as indispensable ways of promoting peace and combatting fundamentalism. While urging Christians to “avoid hateful generalisations” about Islam, the Pope also calls “humbly” on Islamic countries to guarantee full religious freedom to Christians”


The full text of the new Apostolic Exhortation can be found on the Vatican website, while the main points are outlined in the synopsis below:

“The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” Thus begins the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, by which Pope Francis develops the theme of the proclamation of the Gospel in the contemporary world, drawn from, among other sources, the contribution of the work of the Synod held in the Vatican, from 7 to 28 October 2012, on the theme “The new evangelization for the transmission of the faith”. “I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come” (1). It is a heartfelt appeal to all baptized persons to bring Christ’s love to others, “permanently in a state of mission” (25), conquering “the great danger in today’s world”, that of an individualist “desolation and anguish” (2).


The Pope invites the reader to “recover the original freshness of the Gospel”, finding “new avenues” and “new paths of creativity”, without enclosing Jesus in “dull categories” (11). There is a need for a “pastoral and missionary conversion, which cannot leave things as they presently are” (25) and a “renewal” of ecclesiastical structures to enable them to become “more mission-oriented” (27). The Pontiff also considers “a conversion of the papacy” to help make this ministry “more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization”. The hope that the Episcopal Conferences might contribute to “the concrete realization of the collegial spirit”, he states, “has not been fully realized” (32). A “sound decentralization” is necessary (16). In this renewal, the Church should not be afraid to re-examine “certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some of which have deep historical roots” (43).


A sign of God’s openness is “that our church doors should always be open” so that those who seek God “will not find a closed door”; “nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason”. The Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness” (47). He repeats that he prefers “a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church … concerned with being at the centre and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us … it is the fact that many of our brothers and sisters are living without … the friendship of Jesus Christ” (49).


The Pope indicates the “temptations which affect pastoral workers” (77): “individualism, a crisis of identity and a cooling of fervour” (78). The greatest threat of all is “the grey pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, which in reality faith is wearing down” (83). He warns against “defeatism” (84), urging Christians to be signs of hope (86), bringing about a “revolution of tenderness” (88). It is necessary to seek refuge from the “spirituality of well-being … detached from responsibility for our brothers and sisters” (90) and to vanquish the “spiritual worldliness” that consists of “seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and well-being” (93). The Pope speaks of the many who “feel superior to others” because “they remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past” whereby “instead of evangelizing, one analyses and classifies others” (94). And those who have “an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact” on the needs of the people (95). This is “a tremendous corruption disguised as a good … God save us from a worldly Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trappings!” (97).


He appeals to ecclesial communities not to fall prey to envy and jealousy: “How many wars take place within the people of God and in our different communities!” (98). “Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?” (100). He highlights the need to promote the growth of the responsibility of the laity, often kept “away from decision-making” by “an excessive clericalism” (102). He adds that there is a need for “still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church”, in particular “in the various settings where important decisions are made” (103). “Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected … cannot be lightly evaded” (104). The young should “exercise greater leadership” (106). With regard to the scarcity of vocations in many places, he emphasizes that “seminaries cannot accept candidates on the basis of any motivation whatsoever” (107).


With regard to the theme of inculturation, he remarks that “Christianity does not have simply one cultural expression” and that the face of the Church is “varied” (116). “We cannot demand that peoples of every continent, in expressing their Christian faith, imitate modes of expression which European nations developed at a particular moment of their history” (118). The Pope reiterates that “underlying popular piety … is an active evangelizing power” (126) and encourages the research of theologians, reminding them however that “the Church and theology exist to evangelize” and urges them not to be “content with a desk-bound theology” (133).


He focuses “somewhat meticulously, on the homily”, since “many concerns have been expressed about this important ministry and we cannot simply ignore them” (135). The homily “should be brief and avoid taking on the semblance of a speech or a lecture” (138); it should be a “heart-to-heart communication” and avoid “purely moralistic or doctrinaire” preaching (142). He highlights the importance of preparation: “a preacher who does not prepare is not ‘spiritual’; he is dishonest and irresponsible” (145). Preaching should always be positive in order always to “offer hope” and “does not leave us trapped in negativity” (159). The approach to the proclamation of the Gospel should have positive characteristics: “approachability, readiness for dialogue, patience, a warmth and welcome, which is non-judgmental” (165).


In relation to the challenges of the contemporary world, the Pope denounces the current economic system as “unjust at its root” (59). “Such an economy kills” because the law of “the survival of the fittest” prevails. The current culture of the “disposable” has created “something new”: “the excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers’” (53). “A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual”, of an “autonomy of the market” in which “financial speculation” and “widespread corruption” and “self-serving tax-evasion reign” (56). He also denounces “attacks on religious freedom” and the “new persecutions directed against Christians. … In many places the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism” (61). The family, the Pope continues, “is experiencing a profound cultural crisis”. Reiterating the indispensable contribution of marriage to society” (66), he underlines that “the individualism of our postmodern and globalized era favours a lifestyle which … distorts family bonds” (67).


He re-emphasizes “the profound connection between evangelization and human advancement” (178) and the right of pastors “to offer opinions on all that affects people’s lives” (182). “No one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society”. He quotes John Paul II, who said that the Church “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice” (183). “For the Church, the option for the poor is primarily a theological category” rather than a sociological one. “This is why I want a Church that is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us” (198). “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved … no solution will be found for this world’s problems” (202). “Politics, although often denigrated”, he affirms, “remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity”. I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by … the lives of the poor!” (205). He adds an admonition: “Any Church community”, if it believes it can forget about the poor, runs the risk of “breaking down”.


The Pope urges care for the weakest members of society: “the homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly isolated and abandoned” and migrants, for whom the Pope exhorts “a generous openness” (210). He speaks about the victims of trafficking and new forms of slavery: “This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity” (211). “Doubly poor are those women who endure situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence” (212). “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenceless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity” (213). “The Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question … it is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life” (214). The Pope makes an appeal for respect for all creation: we “are called to watch over and protect the fragile world in which we live” (216).


With regard to the theme of peace, the Pope affirms that “a prophetic voice must be raised” against attempts at false reconciliation to “silence or appease” the poor, while others “refuse to renounce their privileges” (218). For the construction of a society “in peace, justice and fraternity” he indicates four principles (221): “Time is greater than space” (222) means working “slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results” (223). “Unity prevails over conflict” (226) means “a diversified and life-giving unity” (228). “Realities are more important than ideas” (231) means avoiding “reducing politics or faith to rhetoric” (232). “The whole is greater than the part” means bringing together “globalization and localization” (234).


“Evangelization also involves the path of dialogue,” the Pope continues, which opens the Church to collaboration with all political, social, religious and cultural spheres (238). Ecumenism is “an indispensable path to evangelization”. Mutual enrichment is important: “we can learn so much from one another!” For example “in the dialogue with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, we Catholics have the opportunity to learn more about the meaning of Episcopal collegiality and their experience of synodality” (246); “dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus’ disciples” (248); “interreligious dialogue”, which must be conducted “clear and joyful in one’s own identity”, is “a necessary condition for peace in the world” and does not obscure evangelization (250-251); in our times, “our relationship with the followers of Islam has taken on great importance” (252). The Pope “humbly” entreats those countries of Islamic tradition to guarantee religious freedom to Christians, also “in light of the freedom which followers of Islam enjoy in Western countries!” “Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism” he urges us to “avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence” (253). And against the attempt to private religions in some contexts, he affirms that “the respect due to the agnostic or non-believing minority should not be arbitrarily imposed in a way that silences the convictions of the believing majority or ignores the wealth of religious traditions” (255). He then repeats the importance of dialogue and alliance between believers and non-believers (257).


The final chapter is dedicated to “spirit-filled evangelizers”, who are those who are “fearlessly open to the working of the Holy Spirit” and who have “the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel with boldness (parrhesía) in every time and place, even when it meets with opposition” (259). These are “evangelizers who pray and work” (262), in the knowledge that “mission is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people” (268): “Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others” (270). He explains: “In our dealings with the world, we are told to give reasons for our hope, but not as an enemy who critiques and condemns” (271). “Only the person who feels happiness in seeking the good of others, in desiring their happiness, can be a missionary” (272); “if I can help at least one person to have a better life, that already justifies the offering of my life” (274). The Pope urges us not to be discouraged before failure or scarce results, since “fruitfulness is often invisible, elusive and unquantifiable”; we must know “only that our commitment is necessary” (279). The exhortation concludes with a prayer to Mary, “Mother of Evangelization”. “There is a Marian ‘style’ to the Church’s work of evangelization. Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness” (288).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Francis Closes Year of Faith


Photo: The Guardian
Pope Francis presided at  Mass in St. Peter's Square on the occasion of the closing of the Year of Faith. His homily , as reported by the Vatican Information Service follows.

,“The solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, also marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith opened by Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thoughts now turn with affection and gratitude for this gift which he has given us. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.

“I offer a cordial and fraternal greeting to the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches present. The exchange of peace which I will share with them is above all a sign of the appreciation of the Bishop of Rome for these communities which have confessed the name of Christ with exemplary faithfulness, often at a high price.

“With this gesture, through them, I would like to reach all those Christians living in the Holy Land, in Syria and in the entire East, and obtain for them the gift of peace and concord.

“The Scripture readings proclaimed to us have as their common theme the centrality of Christ. Christ is at the center, Christ is the center. Christ is the center of creation, Christ is the center of his people and Christ is the center of history.

“The apostle Paul, in the second reading, taken from the letter to the Colossians, offers us a profound vision of the centrality of Jesus. He presents Christ to us as the first-born of all creation: in him, through him and for him all things were created. He is the center of all things, he is the beginning: Jesus Christ, the Lord. God has given him the fullness, the totality, so that in him all things might be reconciled. He is the Lord of creation, he is the Lord of reconciliation.

“This image enables to see that Jesus is the centre of creation; and so the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works. And so our thoughts will be Christian thoughts, thoughts of Christ. Our works will be Christian works, works of Christ; and our words will be Christian words, words of Christ. But when this centre is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.

“Besides being the centre of creation and the centre of reconciliation, Christ is the centre of the people of God. Today, he is here in our midst. He is here right now in his word, and he will be here on the altar, alive and present amid us, his people. We see this in the first reading which describes the time when the tribes of Israel came to look for David and anointed him king of Israel before the Lord. In searching for an ideal king, the people were seeking God himself: a God who would be close to them, who would accompany them on their journey, who would be a brother to them.

“Christ, the descendant of King David, is really the 'brother' around whom God’s people come together. It is he who cares for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life. In him we are all one, one people, united with him and sharing a single journey, a single destiny. Only in him, in him as the centre, do we receive our identity as a people.

 Finally, Christ is the center of the history of humanity and also the centre of the history of every individual. To him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles which are part of our lives. When Jesus is the centre, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope, as he does to the good thief in today’s Gospel.

“Whereas all the others treat Jesus with disdain – 'If you are the Christ, the Messiah King, save yourself by coming down from the cross!' – the thief who went astray in his life but now repents, clings to the crucified Jesus and begs him: 'Remember me, when you come into your kingdom'. Jesus promises him: 'Today you will be with me in paradise', in his kingdom. Jesus speaks only a word of forgiveness, not of condemnation; whenever anyone finds the courage to ask for this forgiveness, the Lord does not let such a petition go unheard. Today we can all think of our own history, our own journey. Each of us has his or her own history: we think of our mistakes, our sins, our good times and our bleak times. We would do well, each one of us, on this day, to think about our own personal history, to look at Jesus and to keep telling him, sincerely and quietly: 'Remember me, Lord, now that you are in your kingdom! Jesus, remember me, because I want to be good, but I just don’t have the strength: I am a sinner, I am a sinner. But remember me, Jesus! You can remember me because you are at the center, you are truly in your kingdom!' How beautiful this is! Let us all do this today, each one of us in his or her own heart, again and again. 'Remember me, Lord, you who are at the center, you who are in your kingdom'.

“Jesus’ promise to the good thief gives us great hope: it tells us that God’s grace is always greater than the prayer which sought it. The Lord always grants more, he is so generous, he always gives more than what he has been asked: you ask him to remember you, and he brings you into his kingdom! Let us go forward together on this road!”.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Google Maps Offers Virtual Tour of the Catacombs of Rome

The Catholic News Agency reports that Google has created a digital map of two large catacombs in Rome, hoping to expose users to the historical sites' beauty and spark curiosity to learn more about them.
Georgio Albetino, the head of Google's public policy team in Italy, and was present for the Nov. 19 press conference announcing the new project, held in the Catacomb of Pricilla. Inspiration for the new map system detailing the catabombs, Albetino noted, came from “a big idea that google has, that is try to put in the web as much cultural contents as possible.”
The Catacomb of Pricilla was used for Christian burials from late in the second century up through the fourth, and is filled with numerous wall paintings of Saints and Christian symbols, some of which are currently undergoing restoration.
The complete CNA story is here.
 It has a link to the Google Catacomb Map  But you need Google Maps installed on your computer to view that Map and explore the catacomb.  You can download it from the Google Map Page after you link to that page.

The Christmas Candle: a family film about the real meaning of Christmas

Former U.S. senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum is producing and distributing family-friendly movies as the new CEO of EchoLight Studios, an inspirational film company headquartered in Dallas.

This Advent, the company is bringing The Christmas Candle to theaters. The film, based on bestselling author Max Lucado’s book of the same name, focuses on the Advent season and  is a beautiful  story about the real gift of Christmas, which is not what is under the tree, but about Jesus being with us.

Set in the heart of the 1890s’ English countryside, in the village of Gladbury, and filmed on location in the Cotswolds the movie dramatizes what happens when an age-old Christmas miracle and cherished traditions confront progressive thinking.
The actors and behind-the-scenes crew have major movies to their credit. British singing sensation Susan Boyle makes her film debut in a supporting role.

Before The Christmas Candle opened in theaters on Nov. 22, Santorum spoke with the National Catholic Regester's Joseph Pronechen about this film and the need for quality family entertainment.

Read the entire article here.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Year of Faith Concludes November 24th

Today, the Holy See Press Office announced the Day for Contemplative Life, a Year of Faith initiative, which will take place on 21 November. It will be followed by celebrations marking the end of the Year of Faith: a meeting of catechumens with the Pope (23 November) and the closing Holy Mass (24 November).
The theme of the meeting of catechumens will be “Ready to cross the theshold of faith”. More than five hundred catechumens will be present, accompanied by their catechists, from 47 different countries from all five continents. The Pope will receive 35 of them at the entrance of St. Peter's Basilica and will ask them the traditional questions that form the rite.
The Year of Faith will conclude with a Holy Mass on Sunday 24 November in St. Peter's Square at 10.30 a.m., and will be marked by three signs intended to highlight the importance of the moment: the exposition of the relics of St. Peter, the delivery by Pope Francis of his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii gaudium”, and a gesture of charity towards the Philippine population. During the Eucharist, a collection will be carried out as a contribution by the Year of Faith pilgrims to those affected by the catastrophic typhoon in the Philippines.
During the year of Faith more than eight million pilgrims visited the tomb of St. Peter to profess their faith.
More information here

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Pope shares his vision, reform of Church with Italian daily

2013-10-01 Vatican Radio
(Vatican Radio) In an exclusive interview with the Italian national daily, La Repubblica, Pope Francis said he is seeking to change the Church so that it once again becomes “a community of God’s people”, where “priests, pastors and bishops, who have the care of souls, are at the service of the people of God”.
The interview, conducted by the newspaper’s founder, Eugenio Scalfari, and printed in the edition of 1 October, runs three pages long. Scalfari had conducted the interview at the Pope’s residence Sept. 24.
The Pope told Scalfari that the Church’s objective is not to proselytize, which he said is “solemn nonsense”, but to “listen to the needs, desires, disappointments, despair and hope” of the people.
The ideal of a missionary and poor Church, incarnated by Saint Francis 800 years ago, remains more than valid today, in order “to restore hope to the young, to help the elderly, to be open toward the future, and to spread love,” he said.
The Church must “be poor among the poor… (and) include the excluded and preach peace.”
The Pope responded to questions on the concepts of good and evil, personal conscience, love of neighbour, the common good, and narcissism among people in power.
Even the “leaders of the Church were narcissistic, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy,” the Pope said.
When asked if the court referred to the Curia, he replied: "No, there are sometimes courtiers in the Curia, but the Curia as a whole is another thing. … But it has one defect: it is Vatican-centric. It sees and looks after the interests of the Vatican, which are still, for the most part, temporal interests. This Vatican-centric view neglects the world around us.
“I do not share this view,” he continued, “and I'll do everything I can to change it. The Church is, or should go back to being, a community of God's people, and priests, pastors and bishops, who have the care of souls, are at the service of the people of God.”
When asked his perspective on the issue of Christianity being a minority worldwide, the Pope replied: "We always have been but the issue today is not that. Personally, I think that being a minority is actually a strength.”
Christians, he said “have to be a leavening of life and love, and the leavening is infinitely smaller than the mass of fruits, flowers and trees that are born out of it.
“I believe I have already said that our goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope. We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace,” he stated.
He recalled that the Second Vatican Council “decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to be open to modern culture.”
“The Council Fathers knew that being open to modern culture meant religious ecumenism and dialogue with non-believers. But afterwards very little was done in that direction,” he lamented. “I have the humility and ambition to want to do something."

The full interview follows:

The light we bear in our souls

Interview with Pope Francis as it appeared in ‘La Repubblica’ on 1 October.

By Eugenio Scalfari

Pope Francis said to me: “The most serious evils currently afflicting the world are unemployment among the young and the solitude in which the elderly are left. The elderly need care and companionship; the young need work and hope. However, they have neither the one nor the other, and the trouble is that they are no longer seeking for them. They have been crushed by the present. Tell me: can one live crushed by the present? Without any memory of the past or any desire to look to the future by building a project, a future, a family? Is it possible to continue in this way? This, in my opinion, is the most urgent problem facing the Church”.

Your Holiness, I said, it is primarily a political and economic problem that concerns States, governments, parties and trade union associations.

“Of course you are right, but it also concerns the Church; indeed, it especially concerns the Church because this situation doesn’t wound only the body, it also wounds the soul. The Church should feel responsible for both soul and body”.

Your Holiness, you said that the Church should feel responsible. Am I to deduce from this that the Church is unaware of this problem and that you are encouraging her in this direction?

“The awareness is largely there but it isn’t sufficient. I want there to be more. This is not the only problem that we have to confront but it is the most urgent and the most dramatic”.

My meeting with Pope Francis took place last Tuesday at his residence in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, in a small sparsely furnished room with only a table and five or six chairs and a painting on the wall. It had been preceded by a telephone call that I shall never forget as long as I live.

It was half past two in the afternoon. My telephone rang and the somewhat agitated voice of my secretary said: “I have the Pope on the line. I’ll connect you with him immediately”. I was flabbergasted when I heard the Holy Father’s voice at the other end: “Good morning, this is Pope Francis”. Good morning, Your Holiness — I said, followed by — I’m quite taken aback, I didn’t expect you to telephone me. “Why are taken aback? You wrote me a letter asking if you could meet me in person. I had the same idea and so here I am to arrange an appointment. Let’s have a look at my agenda. Wednesday I can’t, nor Monday. Would Tuesday suit you?”

To which I answered: that would be good.

“The time is a little inconvenient, but is 3 p.m. alright with you? Otherwise we can change the day”. Your Holiness, the time is fine too. “Alright, then, we are agreed: Tuesday the 24th at 3 p.m. at Santa Marta. You have to enter through the Holy Office gate”.

I didn’t know quite how to end this telephone call and so, relaxing a bit, I said to him: may I give you a hug over the phone? “Of course, I’ll give you a hug too. Later we can do so in person, goodbye”.

Then I was there. The Pope entered and extended his hand to me, then we sat down. The Pope smiled and said to me: “One of my collaborators who knows you told me that you will try to convert me”.

It was a joke, I replied. My friends think that it will be you who will try convert me.

He smiled again and responded: “Proselytism is downright nonsense; it doesn’t make any sense. We need to learn to understand each other, listen to one another, and increase our knowledge about the world around us. It often happens that after one meeting I want to have another one because new ideas emerge and new needs are discovered. This is what is important: to know one another, to listen to one another, broaden the range of thought. The world is full of streets that converge and diverge; the important thing is that they lead to the Good”.

Your Holiness, is there only one vision of the Good? And who determines what it is?

“Each one of us has his own vision of the Good and also of Evil. We have to urge it [the vision] to move towards what one perceives as the Good”.

Your Holiness, you wrote this in the letter you sent me. Conscience is autonomous, you said, and each person must obey his own conscience. I think that this is one of the most courageous statements a Pope has ever made.

“And now I repeat it. Everyone has his own idea of Good and Evil and he has to choose to follow the Good and to fight Evil as he understands it. This would be enough to improve the world”.

Is the Church doing this?

“Yes, our missions have this objective: to identify the material and spiritual needs of people and to try to meet them as far as we are able. Do you know what agape is?”.

Yes, I do.

“It is love for others, as our Lord preached. It is not proselytism, it is love. Love for one’s neighbour, the leaven which serves the common good”.

Love your neighbour as yourself.

“Exactly, that’s it”.

In his preaching, Jesus said that agape, love for others, is the only way to love God. Please correct me if I’m mistaken.

“You are not mistaken. The Son of God took on flesh in order to pour a spirit of fraternity into the souls of men. All brothers and all the children of God. Abba, as he called the Father. I will show you the way, he said. Follow me and you will find the Father and all of you will be his children and he will be well pleased with you. Agape, our love for one another — from those who are closest to us to those who are furthest away — is in fact the only way that Jesus indicated to us to find the way of salvation and of the Beatitudes”.

Yet Jesus’ exhortation that we just spoke about is that the love for one’s neighbour be equal to the love we have for ourselves. Therefore, what many call narcissism is acknowledged as valid, positive, in the same measure as the other. We have discussed this aspect at length.

“I don’t like the word narcissism,” the Pope said, “it indicates an immoderate love for oneself and this isn’t good, it can cause serious damage not only in the soul of the one concerned, but also in his relationship with others and with the society in which he lives. Unfortunately those who are most affected, by what in reality is a kind of mental disorder, are individuals who have great power. Often it’s the leaders who are narcissists”.

Even many leaders of the Church have been this way.

“Do you know what I think about this point? The leaders of the Church have often been narcissistic, flattered and wrongly incited by their courtiers. The court is the plague of the papacy”.

“The plague of the papacy”, this is exactly what you said. But which court? Are you perhaps alluding to the Curia? I asked.

“No, at times there are courtiers in the Curia, but the Curia as a whole is something else. It’s what in the army is called the intendancy; it manages the entities that serve the Holy See. However, it has one defect: it is Vatican-centred. It looks after and cares for the Vatican’s interests, which are still to a great extent temporal. This Vatican-centred vision ignores the world around it. I do not share this vision and I will do all I can to change it. The Church is and must become again a community of the People of God and the clergy, parishes, the bishops who are charged with the care of souls, are at the service of the People of God. This is what the Church is. It’s not without reason that the word is different from the Holy See. The latter has its own important role but it stands at the service of the Church. I could not have had full faith in God and in his Son had I not been formed in the Church and also had the good fortune in Argentina to be a member of a community without which I would not have come to know myself and my faith”.

Were you aware you had a vocation from the time you were young?

“No, not very young. My family wanted me to choose another profession, to work, to earn a little money. I went to university. There I had a teacher for whom I developed a respect and friendship; she was a fervent communist. Often she would read me texts from the Communist Party or give them to me to read. In this way, I also became acquainted with a very materialistic conception of things. I remember that she also let me read the American communists’ communique defending the Rosenbergs, who had been condemned to death. The woman I am telling you about was subsequently arrested, tortured and killed by the dictatorial regime then governing Argentina”.

Did communism seduce you?

“Its materialism had no hold on me. But it was useful to me to become acquainted with it through a courageous and honest person. I understood some things, such as an aspect of its social teaching which I then found in the social doctrine of the Church”.

Liberation theology, which Pope Wojtyła condemned, was quite widespread in Latin America.

“Yes, many of its exponents were Argentinian”.

Do you think the Pope was right to combat it?

“Certainly they gave a political bent to their theology, but many of them were believers with a high concept of humanity”.

Your Holiness, may I also tell you something about my cultural formation? I was raised by a very Catholic mother. At the age of 12, in fact, I won a catechism contest organized among all the parishes in Rome and I received first prize from the Vicariate. I received Holy Communion on the first Friday of every month; in short, I participated in the liturgy and I believed. But it all changed when I went to secondary school. There, among other philosophical texts we studied Descartes’ Discourse on Method and I was struck by the sentence which by now has become iconic, “I think, therefore I am”. Thus the “I” became the foundation of human existence, the seat autonomous thought.

“And yet Descartes never denied faith in the transcendent God”.

It’s true, but he laid the foundation for a different vision of the whole and I began walking down a path that was then corroborated by further reading which led me to completely different shores.

“However, I gather you are a nonbeliever but you are not anticlerical. These are two very different things”.

It’s true, I am not anticlerical, although I become so when a meet a clericalist.

He smiled and said to me: “It also happens to me. When I have a clericalist in front of me I suddenly become anticlerical. Clericalism shouldn’t have any part in Christianity. St Paul, who was the first to preach to the Gentiles, pagans and believers in other religious was the first to teach us this”.

May I ask you, Your Holiness, who are the saints to whom you feel the closest and on whom you formed your religious experience?

“St Paul is the one who put the hinges on our religion and our creed. You can’t be conscious Christians without St Paul. He translated Christ’s preaching into a doctrinal structure which, through the contributions made by an immense number of thinkers, theologians and pastors of souls, has withstood and still withstands after two thousand years. And then there’s Augustine, Benedict and Thomas and Ignatius. And naturally Francis. Shall I explain why?”

Francis — at this point I took the liberty to call the Pope by his name because he himself suggested it by the way he spoke, the way he smiled, his exclamations of surprise or common ideas — is looking at me as if to encourage me to put even the most awkward and embarrassing questions to the man who guides the Church. So I asked him: you explained the importance of Paul and the role he carried out, but I would like to know to whom among those you named you feel closest?

“You’re asking me for a ranking, but you can only make rankings in sports and other similar things. I could tell you the names of the best soccer players in Argentina. But the saints…”.

There is a saying in Italian: “scherza coi fanti [e lascia stare i santi — don’t mix the sacred with the profane], do you know it?

“Exactly. And yet I don’t want to evade your question since you didn’t ask me for a ranking of their cultural and religious importance but rather about the ones to whom I feel the greatest affinity. So I will tell you: Augustine and Francis”.

Not Ignatius, to whose Order you belong?

“Ignatius, for quite understandable reasons, is the one I know better than the others. He founded our Order. Remember that Carlo Maria Martini, who was very dear to you and to me, belonged to the Order. The Jesuits were and still are a leaven — not the only one but perhaps the most effective — of catholicity: through culture, teaching, missionary witness, loyalty to the Pope. But Ignatius, who founded the Society, was also a reformer and a mystic, especially a mystic”.

And do you think the mystics were important for the Church?

“They were fundamental. Religion without mystics is philosophy”.

Do you have a vocation to be a mystic?

“What do you think?”

I would think not.

“You are probably right. I cherish the mystics. Francis, too, was a mystic in many respects, but I don’t think I have that vocation, and then one needs to understand the deep meaning of the word. The mystic succeeds in stripping himself of actions, of events, of goals and even of missionary work and rises to communion with the Beatitudes. These are brief moments that fill a lifetime”.

Has this ever happened to you?

“Rarely. For example, when the Conclave elected me as Pope. Before accepting, I asked to be allowed to retire for a few moments into the room just next to the one with the balcony which looks over the square. My mind was completely blank and a great anxiety came over me. In order to make it pass, and to relax, I closed my eyes and every thought vanished from my mind, including the thought of refusing to accept the office, as indeed the liturgical procedure allows. I closed my eyes and no longer had any anxiety or emotion. Then a great light flooded me; it lasted only a moment but it seemed so long. Then the light dissolved; I sprang up and headed to the room where the cardinals and the table on which the act of acceptance was placed were waiting for me. I signed it, the Cardinal Camerlengo countersigned it and then, on the balcony followed the “Habemus Papam”.

We remained in silence for a time, and then I said: we were talking about the saints to whom you feel closest and we were speaking of Augustine. Would you like to tell me why you feel that he is very close to you?

“Augustine was also a point of reference for my Predecessor. That saint went through many events in his life and changed his doctrinal position several times. He also had very harsh things to say about the Jews; these I have never shared. He wrote many books, and the book which seems to best reveal his intellectual and spiritual inner life is theConfessions. They too contain some evidence of mysticism. However, he is not, as many would argue, the successor of Paul. In fact, he saw the Church and the faith in a profoundly different way from Paul, perhaps in part because four centuries had passed between the one and the other”.

What difference is there between them, Your Holiness?

“It seems to me there are two essential aspects. First, Augustine felt powerless before the immensity of God and the tasks which a Christian and a bishop has to fulfil. He was by no means powerless, and yet his soul always felt it fell short of what he should and would have liked. Secondly, the grace bestowed by the Lord is a basic element of faith, of life and of the meaning of life. Whoever is not touched by grace may be a blameless and fearless person, as they say, but he will never be like a person who has been touched by grace. This was Augustine’s intuition”.

Do you feel that you have been touched by grace?

“This is something that no one can know. Grace does not belong to consciousness. It is how much light there is in the soul, not in knowledge or reason. You, too, completely unknowingly, could be touched by grace”

Without faith? As an unbeliever?

“Grace concerns the soul”.

I don’t believe in the soul.

“You don’t believe in it, but you have one”.

Your Holiness, you said that you had no intention of converting me and I don’t think that you would succeed.

“One never knows, in any case, I have no intention of doing so”.

And Francis?

“He is so great because he is everything. He is a man who wants to act, who wants to build, he founded an Order and gave it its rules. He is an itinerant and a missionary, a poet and a prophet, he is a mystic. He experienced evil in himself and he left it behind. He loved nature, animals, a blade of grass in the field and the birds that fly in the air, but he especially loved people, children, the elderly and women. He is the most shining example of that agape about which we were speaking earlier”.

You are right, Your Holiness. The description is perfect. But why didn’t any of your Predecessors ever choose the name? And it seems to me that, after you, no one else will ever choose it?

“We don’t know this; let’s not speculate about the future. It is true that no one before me ever chose it. Here we face the problem of problems. Would you like something to drink?

Thank you, perhaps a glass of water.

He got up, opened the door and asked a collaborator who was at the entrance to bring two glasses of water. He asked me if I would like a coffee, which I declined. The water came. At the end of our conversation my glass was empty and his still full. He cleared his throat and began to speak again.

“Francis wanted a mendicant and itinerant Order. He wanted missionaries in search of an encounter, seeking to listen, to dialogue, to help, to spread faith and love. Especially love. And he longed for a poor Church that took care of others, that received material help and used it in order to support others, with no thought for herself. Eight hundred years have passed and times have greatly changed, but the ideal of a poor and missionary Church still holds. This is, in any case, the Church that Jesus and his disciples preached”.

Christians are now a minority. Even in Italy, which is called the Pope’s garden, according to some polls practicing Catholics number only between 8 and 15 percent. Catholics who profess to be Catholic but who in fact are hardly so, number 20 percent. There are a billion or more Catholics in the world; with the other Christian churches you surpass 1.5 billion, and there are 6-7 billion people on the planet. You are certainly numerous, especially in Africa and Latin America, but you are still a minority.

“We always have been, but this is not our topic today. Personally I think that being a minority is actually a strength. We must be a leaven of life and love, and leaven is of an infinitely smaller quantity than the mass of fruit, flowers and trees that are born from that leaven. I think I said before that our objective is not to proselytise but to listen to needs, aspirations, disappointments, desperation and hopes. We must restore hope to the young, help the elderly, open up to the future and spread love. To be poor among the poor. We must include the excluded and preach peace. Vatican II, inspired by John XXIII and Paul VI, decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to open up to modern culture. The Council Fathers knew that opening up to modern culture would mean religious ecumenism and dialogue with non-believers. Subsequently, however, little was done in that regard. I have the humility and ambition to want to do it”.

Also allow me to add, it is because all over the planet modern society is going through a profound crisis, not only economic crisis but a social and spiritual one as well. At the beginning of our meeting, you described this generation as crushed by the present. We who are non-believers also feel this quasi anthropological unease. This is why we want to dialogue with believers and with those who represent them best.

“I don’t know if I am their best representative, but Providence has placed me at the helm of the Church and the Diocese of Peter. I will do all in my power to fulfil the mandate that has been entrusted to me”.

You recalled what Jesus said: love your neighbour as yourself. Does it seem to you that this has happened?

“Unfortunately not. Egoism has increased and love for others has lessened”.

This, then, is the goal we share in common: at least to balance the intensity of these two types of love. Is your Church ready and equipped to carry out this task?

“What do you think?”

I think that love for temporal power is still very strong inside the walls of the Vatican and throughout the institutional structure of the Church. I think that the institution predominates over the poor and missionary Church you would like.

“That’s in fact the way things are, and you can’t expect miracles. Remember that even in his own time Francis had to negotiate at length with the Roman hierarchy and with the Pope in order to have the Rule of his Order approved. He eventually received the approval but only along with profound changes and compromises”.

Will you have to follow the same path?

“I certainly am not Francis of Assisi and I have neither his strength nor his sanctity. But I am the Bishop of Rome and the Pope of the Catholic world. I decided that the first thing to do was to appoint a group of eight cardinals to be my advisors. They are not courtiers but rather wise men who share my intentions. This is the beginning of a Church whose organization is not only vertical but also horizontal. When Cardinal Martini spoke about this and emphasized the role of the Councils and Synods, he knew only too well how long and difficult the road ahead in that direction would be. It must be taken with prudence, but also firmness and tenacity”.

And politics?

“Why do you ask me this? I already said that the Church doesn’t get involved in politics”.

But just the other day you made an appeal to Catholics to get involved civilly and politically.

“I didn’t address myself only to Catholics but to all men of good will. I said that politics has pride of place among civil activities and that it has its own field of action which is not that of religion. Political institutions are secular by definition and they operate in independent spheres. This is what all of my Predecessors have said, at least for many years now, albeit with varying emphases. I think that Catholics involved in politics hold religious values but exercise their mature conscience and expertise to implement them. The Church will never go beyond the task of expressing and spreading her values, at least as long as I’m here”.

But hasn’t the Church always been this way.

“It has almost never been this way. Very often, the Church as an institution was dominated by temporalism and many members and high-ranking Catholic leaders still hold these sentiments. But now allow me ask you a question: you, as a secular layman who doesn’t believe in God, what do you believe in? You are a writer and a man of thought. Surely you believe in something; you must have some overarching value. Don’t answer me with words like honesty, searching, or the vision of the common good; these are all important principles and values, but this is not what I am asking you. I am asking you what you think about the essence of the world, and indeed of the universe. Surely you ask yourself, as everyone does, who are we, where do we come from, where are we going. Even a child asks himself these questions. And you?”.

I thank you for this question. The answer is: I believe in Being, i.e. in the fabric from which the forms, Beings, emerge.

“And I believe in God. Not in a Catholic God; a Catholic God doesn’t exist. God exists. And I believe in Jesus Christ, in his Incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my shepherd, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator. This is my Being. Does it seem to you that we are so far apart?”.

We are far apart in our thinking but similar as human beings, who are unconsciously animated by our instincts which are then transformed into impulses, feelings, desires, thought and reason. In this we are similar.

“But would you like to explain what you mean by what you call Being?”

Being is the fabric of energy. Energy is chaotic but indestructible and in eternal chaos. From that energy forms emerge when energy reaches the point of explosion. Forms have their laws, magnetic fields and chemical elements which randomly combine, evolve and finally are dissolve, but their energy is not destroyed. Man is probably the only animal endowed with reason, at least on our planet and in this solar system. I said that he is animated by instincts and desires but I would add that he also holds within himself a resonance, an echo, a vocation to chaos.

“Alright. I didn’t want you to give me a compendium of your philosophy and what you’ve told me suffices. For my part, I would observe that God is the light that illumines the darkness even if he does not dispel it, and that a spark of that divine light is within each one of us. In the letter I wrote to you I recall having said that our species, too, will end but that the light of God will never end. At that point, this light will flood all souls and all will be in all”.

Yes, I remember it well, you said, “all the light will be in all souls” which — if I may say so, it gives me more the impression of imminence than of transcendence.

“Transcendence remains because that light, the all in all, transcends the universe and the species that will then inhabit it. But let’s return to the present. We’ve taken a step forward in our dialogue. We have noted that in the society and the world in which we live selfishness has increased far more than love for others has and that people of good will must work, each according to his own strength and expertise, to make love for others increase until it equals and possibly surpasses love of self.

Here, too, politics is called into question.

“Of course. Personally I think that the so-called unbridled liberalism does nothing but make the strong stronger, the weak weaker and the excluded more excluded. What’s needed is great freedom, no discrimination, no demagoguery and much love. We need rules of conduct and even, if necessary, direct intervention by the State to correct the most intolerable inequalities”.

Your Holiness, you are certainly a person of great faith, touched by grace, animated by the desire to restore a pastoral, missionary, regenerated and unwordly Church. Yet from everything you have said and from what I have understood, you are and will be a revolutionary Pope. Half Jesuit, half Franciscan, perhaps a union never seen before. And you like Manzoni’s “The Betrothed”, Holderlin, Leopardi and especially Dostoevsky, as well as the films “The Road” and “Orchestra Rehearsal” by Fellini, “Roma, Open City” by Rossellini and the films produced by Aldo Fabrizi.

“I like them because I saw them with my parents as a boy”.

I see. May I suggest you go to see two recently released films? “Viva la libertà” and the film on Fellini by Ettore Scola. I’m sure you will like them. Regarding power I would say: did you know that at the age of twenty I spent a month and a half on retreat with the Jesuits? Nazis were occupying Rome at the time and I had deserted military service. We could have been sentenced to death. The Jesuits hosted us on the condition that we spend the entire time we were in hiding doing the Spiritual Exercises, and that’s just what happened.

“But it’s impossible to withstand a month and a half of doing the Spiritual Exercises”, he said, both astonished and amused. I will tell him the rest the next time we meet.

We embraced. We went up the short flight of stairs to the main door. I asked the Pope not to accompany me but he waved that aside. “We will also talk about the role of women in the Church. Remember the Church is feminine. And if you like we shall speak of Pascal. I should like to know what you think of that great soul”.

“Take my blessing to your family and loved ones, and ask them to pray for me. Think of me, think of me often”.

We shook hands and he remained there with two fingers raised in a sign of blessing. I said goodbye from the car window.

This is Pope Francis. If the Church becomes what he imagines and desires, it will mean the changing of an era.