Do good to fight indifference, apathy, pope tells young people

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Being a Christian isn’t just about not doing evil, but it is a daily exercise in loving others through good works and deeds, Pope Francis said.
Many times, Christians can be tempted to “think they are saints” and justify themselves by saying, “I don’t harm anyone,” the pope told thousands of Italian young adults Aug. 12.
“How many people do not do evil, but also do not do good, and their lives flow into indifference, apathy and tepidity! This attitude is contrary to the Gospel and is also contrary to the character of you young people who, by your very nature, are dynamic, passionate and courageous,” he said.
According to the Vatican, an estimated 90,000 people were in St. Peter’s Square for the pope’s address and Angelus prayer after an outdoor Mass celebrated by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia-Citta della Pieve, president of the Italian bishops’ conference.
Filling the square and the main street leading to St. Peter’s, the weary pilgrims braved the scorching summer temperatures of Rome and were cooled off by the cascading spray of water from Vatican fire department hoses.
After the Mass, the pope arrived in his popemobile and greeted the crowd, occasionally catching items that young people would throw toward the moving vehicle or stopping to bless babies and young children.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims as he arrives in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Aug. 12, after an outdoor Mass celebrated by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia-Citta della Pieve, president of the Italian bishops’ conference. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

The Italian pilgrimage, which included an evening meeting in Rome with the pope Aug. 11, was part of the Italian church’s preparation for October’s Synod of Bishops on young people and vocational discernment.
In his talk before the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis reminded the young men and women to live their lives “in a coherent way, not with hypocrisy” by renouncing evil and doing good.
“To renounce evil means saying ‘no’ to temptation, to sin, to Satan,” the pope said. “More concretely, it means saying ‘no’ to a culture of death that manifests itself in escaping from reality toward a false happiness that expresses itself in lies, fraud, injustice and in contempt of others.”
Pope Francis invited the youths to repeat the words of St. Alberto Hurtado as a reminder of their baptismal call to action: “It is good to not do evil, but it is evil to not do good.”
He also urged them to be “protagonists of good” and to not be satisfied with simply not doing bad things.
“It isn’t enough to not hate, you need to forgive; it isn’t enough to not hold a grudge, you need to pray for your enemies; it isn’t enough to not be the cause of division, you need to bring peace where there is none; it isn’t enough to not speak ill of others, you need to interrupt when you hear someone bad-mouthing another,” the pope said.

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju)

At pallium Mass: Jesus wants disciples unafraid to aid others

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – God wants his disciples to bring his mercy and love to everyone, everywhere on earth, which means it may cost them their “good name,” comfort and their life, Pope Francis said on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Following Christ requires “that we open our hearts to the Father and to all those with whom he has wished to identify,” particularly the downtrodden, the lost and the wounded, “in the sure knowledge that he will never abandon his people,” he said during a Mass in St. Peter’s Square June 29.
“Jesus wants to liberate his disciples, his church, from empty forms of triumphalism: forms empty of love, empty of service, empty of compassion, empty of people,” he said. The Mass was celebrated the day after Pope Francis created 14 new cardinals from 11 different nations.
Both new and old cardinals as well as 30 archbishops appointed over the course of the past year were invited to be in Rome to concelebrate the feast day Mass with Pope Francis. The archbishops came from 18 countries, the majority coming from Latin America and others from Africa, Asia and Europe.
As has become standard practice, Pope Francis did not confer the pallium on new archbishops during the liturgy, but rather, blessed the palliums after they had been brought up from the crypt above the tomb of St. Peter. As each archbishop approached him by the altar, the pope handed each one a small wooden box tied with a thin gold ribbon. The actual imposition of the woolen band was to take place in the archbishop’s archdiocese in the presence of his faithful and bishops from neighboring dioceses.
The pallium is a woolen band that symbolizes an archbishop’s unity with the pope and his authority and responsibility to care for the flock the pope entrusted to him.
Addressing the cardinals and archbishops during his homily, the pope spoke about what Peter teaches them about the life and risks of being Christ’s disciple.
It was Peter who recognized Jesus as “the Christ, the son of the living God,” and it was Peter whom Jesus turned to, saying “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.”
But, when Jesus showed his disciples he must go to Jerusalem, be killed and be risen, it was Peter who protested.
Jesus “kept bringing the father’s love and mercy to the very end. This merciful love demands that we, too, go forth to every corner of life, to reach out to everyone, even though this may cost us our ‘good name,’ our comforts, our status … even martyrdom.”
Peter reacts to this mandate of martyrdom by saying, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you,” which makes him become “a stumbling stone in the Messiah’s path,” the pope said.
“Thinking that he is defending God’s rights, Peter, without realizing it, becomes the Lord’s enemy; Jesus calls him ‘Satan.’” he said.
“Like Peter, we as a church will always be tempted to hear those ‘whisperings’ of the evil one, which will become a stumbling stone for the mission,” the pope said.
Sharing in Christ’s mission, which is to anoint the people, the sick, the wounded, the lost and the repentant sinner, so that they may feel “a beloved part of God’s family,” means sharing Christ’s cross, which is his glory.
“When we turn our back on the cross, even though we may attain the heights of glory, we will be fooling ourselves, since it will not be God’s glory, but the snare of the enemy,” he said.
Do not be Christians who keep “a prudent distance from the Lord’s wounds,” because Jesus touches human misery and “he asks us to join him in touching the suffering flesh of others,” the pope told those assembled.

Value contributions refugees can make

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis called on nations working to develop a global compact on refugees to make sure they help ensure migration is safe, legal and humane.
While nations work to forge proper policies, every individual, “each of us, is called to draw near to refugees and find with them moments of encounter, to value their contribution so that they, too, can be better included in the communities that receive them,” the pope said June 17.
“It is by these encounters and with this mutual respect and support that there is an answer many problems,” he said.
The pope’s remarks came at the end of his Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square.
He reminded people of World Refugee Day June 20, which the United Nations promotes, he said, as a way to “call attention to the experience – often lived with great anxiety and suffering – of our brothers and sisters who are forced to flee their homeland because of conflict and persecution.”
The pope noted the ongoing effort by many nations in creating and adopting a global compact on refugees, which would promote “a migration that is safe, orderly and legal.”
“I hope that the states involved in this process may reach an understanding to assure, with responsibility and humanity, assistance to and the protection of those who are forced to flee their own country,” he said.
Pope Francis also led people in a Hail Mary for the people of Yemen and prayed that international leaders would ensure “the already tragic humanitarian situation does not get worse.” CAFOD, the overseas aid agency of the bishops of England and Wales, has warned that a Saudi-led coalition’s assault on Hodeida, Yemen’s main port city, will have a “catastrophic impact” on the ability of relief groups to get food, medicine and other aid to vulnerable Yemeni families in urgent need of assistance.

Pope ‘ashamed’ by church’s failure to listen to abuse survivors

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In a letter to Catholics in Chile, Pope Francis expressed shame for the church’s failure to listen and defend survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy.
Released by the Chilean bishops’ conference May 31, the letter from the pope said that the time of “revision and purification” in the church was possible through the efforts of abuse survivors “who, against all hope or painted as discredited, did not tire of looking for the truth.”
They are “victims whose cries reached to heaven. I would like to once again publicly thank all of them for the courage and perseverance,” the pope wrote.
The Vatican announced earlier in the day that “the pope will send the president of the Chilean bishops’ conference a letter written personally by him and addressed to all the people of God, as he had promised the bishops.”
The Vatican also announced that Pope Francis will send Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Father Jordi Bertomeu Farnos back to Chile and visit the Diocese of Osorno “with the aim of advancing the process of reparation and healing of abuse victims.”
Shortly after, Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez Errazuriz of San Bernardo, president of the Chilean bishops’ commission for abuse prevention, and Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, secretary-general of the Chilean bishops’ conference, held a news conference in Santiago to release the eight-page letter.
In his message, the pope said it has been a “time of listening and discernment” for the church to get to the root of the sexual abuse crisis in the Chilean church and to find concrete solutions and not “mere strategies of containment.”
He also acknowledged the church’s shortcomings in not listening to survivors of abuse.
“Here, I believe, lies one our principal faults and omissions: to not know how to listen to victims. Thus, partial conclusions were built that lacked crucial elements for a healthy and clear discernment. I must say with shame that we did not know how to listen and react in time,” the pope wrote.
In January, the pope sent Archbishop Scicluna and Father Bertomeu to Chile to listen to people with information about Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who, according to survivors, had allegedly witnessed their abuse by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima.
Pope Francis said their visit was made after “verifying the existence of situations that we did not know how to see and listen.”
“As a church, we cannot continue walking while ignoring the pain of our brothers and sisters,” he said.
The church, he continued, must say “never again” to a culture that not only allowed sexual abuses to occur but also “considered a critical and questioning attitude as betrayal.”
“The culture of abuse and cover up is incompatible with the logic of the Gospel given that the salvation offered by Christ is always an offering, a gift that demands and requires freedom,” the pope said.
The pope also encouraged Chilean Catholics to continue their devotion to popular piety which is “one of the few areas where the people of God is above the influence of that clericalism that seeks to control and restrain the anointment of God upon the people.”
Like Christ, who did not hide his wounds after his resurrection but rather showed them to his disciples, the church must also be willing to show its own wounds to “be able to understand and be moved by the wounds of the world today.”
“A church with wounds doesn’t place itself at the center, it doesn’t think itself perfect, it doesn’t look to cover up and conceal its evil, but instead places them before the only one who can heal wounds and he has a name: Jesus Christ.
After the letter’s release, Juan Carlos Cruz, one of three survivors who met with Pope Francis April 27-29, said he was moved by the pope’s letter.
“There are phrases in the letter that are things that we spoke about with the pope, such as the culture of cover-ups. It is an emotional feeling to know that he was listening to us and it wasn’t just a salute,” Cruz said May 31 in an interview with Chilean radio station Tele 13.

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.)

Parishes grow only when people are welcomed, heard

By Cindy Wooden
ROME (CNS) – After months of study and discussion, the parishes of the Diocese of Rome have recognized “a general and healthy exhaustion” with doing the same things over and over, touching the lives of fewer and fewer people as time goes on, Pope Francis said.
Changing the way parishes – and their priests and involved laity – operate will not be easy, the pope said, but members of the diocese must set out to follow the Lord more closely, deal with the reality in their neighborhoods and learn how to show everyone living within the parish boundaries that they are recognized and loved.
Pope Francis addressed some 1,700 diocesan leaders, both clergy and laity, May 14 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the diocese of Rome.
In the process of identifying the “spiritual illnesses” of the diocese, the pope said, the priests and parish leaders made it clear that they are tired of being content with what they have been doing for years.
A renewed outreach, the pope said, must begin by “learning to discern where God already is present in very ordinary forms of holiness and communion with him.”
There are people in the parishes, he said, who might not know their catechism, but they see the basic interactions in their lives through a lens of faith and hope. Calling for a “revolution of tenderness” in parishes and the diocese, Pope Francis said that while “guiding a Christian community is the specific task of the ordained minister – the pastor – pastoral care is based in baptism and blossoms from brotherhood and is not the task only of the pastor and priests, but of all the baptized.”
The pope’s speech marked his formal reception of a diocesan report on “spiritual illnesses” afflicting the city. Through a process that began in Lent, parishes identified the main challenges as “the economy of exclusion, selfish laziness, comfortable individualism, wars among us, sterile pessimism and spiritual worldliness,” according to a statement from the diocese.
The priest who summarized the findings at the evening meeting told the pope that a lack of education in the faith was identified by many of the groups; that lack was seen regarding basic church teachings but also regarding how the Gospel and its values could be brought to bear on modern problems.
Pope Francis told them the process of identifying the problems had two benefits: a recognition of “the truth about our condition as being in need, sick,” but, at the same time, a recognition that even if people have failed, God is still present and is calling his people to come together and to move forward.
“Our parishes,” he said, “must be capable of generating a people, that is, of offering and creating relationships where people feel that they are known, recognized, welcomed, listened to, loved – in other words, not anonymous parts of a whole.”
To move forward, he said, Catholic communities must look at “the slaveries – the illnesses – that have ended up making us sterile.”
Often, he said, parishes are slaves to doing things the ways they always have been done and to investing time and energy in projects and programs that no longer meet the needs of the people.
“We must listen without fear to the thirst for God and to the cry that rises from the people of Rome, asking ourselves how that cry expresses the need for salvation, for God,” he said. “How many of the things that emerged from your studies express that cry, the invocation that God show himself and help us escape the impression that our life is useless and almost robbed by the frenzy of things that must be done and by time that keeps slipping through out hands?”
Too often, he said, evangelization also is stifled by “faith understood only as things to do and not as a liberation that renews us at every step.”
Pope Francis asked the diocesan leaders to dedicate the next year to “a sort of preparation of your backpacks” for setting off on a multiyear process that would lead to a “new land,” a place marked by new pastoral action that is “more responsive to the mission and needs of Romans today, but also more creative and liberating for priests and those who directly collaborate in their mission and in the building up of the Christian community.”

Catholic media must not fall behind in digital age, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In an age when technology is ever-evolving, Catholic news organizations must be willing to adapt to effectively proclaim the Gospel to all, Pope Francis said.
Speaking to directors and employees of Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, the pope said that the use of new digital platforms not only requires significant technological updates but also a willingness to accept that “the attachment to the past may prove to be a dangerous temptation.”
“Authentic servants of tradition are those who, while keeping memory alive, know how to discern the signs of the times and open new paths,” he said May 1.
Marking the feast of St. Joseph the Worker and International Workers’ Day, which is a public holiday in Italy and many other countries, Pope Francis noted that Jesus’ foster father was a “man of silence,” which at first “may seem the opposite of a communicator.”
But, he said, Catholic journalists and news organizations must realize that “only by shutting down the noise of the world and our own gossip will it be possible to listen, which remains the first condition of every communication.”
Particularly in today’s world where “the speed of information surpasses our capacity of reflection,” he said, church members are exposed “to the impact and influence of a culture of haste and superficiality” and risk reducing the church’s mission to a “pastoral ministry of applause, to a dumbing down of thought and to a widespread disorientation of opinions that are not in agreement.”
The example set forth by St. Joseph, he added, is a reminder for all Christians working in the field of communications to “recover a sense of healthy slowness, tranquility and patience.”
“With his silence, he reminds us that everything begins from listening, from transcending oneself in order to be open to another person’s word and history,” the pope said.
Recalling the words of Blessed Paul VI, Pope Francis said that Catholic newspapers shouldn’t just report news to “make an impression or gain clients” but rather to educate their readers “to think, to judge” for themselves.
“Catholic communicators avoid rigidities that stifle or imprison,” he said. “They do not cage the Holy Spirit, but seek to let it fly, to let it breathe within the soul. They never allow reality to give way to appearances, beauty to vulgarity, social friendship to conflict. They cultivate and strengthen every sprout of life and goodness.”
Pope Francis encouraged Avvenire’s directors, journalists and employees to be heralds of the Gospel and, like St. Joseph, be true guardians who protect society’s well-being and dignity.

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.)

Pope calls German cardinal to Rome to discuss eucharistic sharing

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis has asked the president of the German bishops’ conference to come to Rome to discuss pastoral guidelines for possibly allowing some non-Catholics married to Catholics to receive the Eucharist, the conference spokesman said.
Reports that “the document was rejected in the Vatican by the Holy Father or by the dicasteries are false,” said Matthias Kopp, the conference spokesman.
For one thing, Kopp said April 19, the guidelines still have not been finalized and, therefore, they have not been reviewed by the Vatican. Members of the German bishops’ conference were asked to submit proposed amendments to the draft document by Easter; the heads of the conference’s doctrinal and ecumenical committees and the president of the conference were to formulate a final draft and present it to the conference’s permanent council April 23.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, conference president, had announced Feb. 22 at the end of their plenary meeting that three-quarters of the German bishops approved the development of pastoral guidelines for determining situations in which a non-Catholic spouse married to a Catholic could receive Communion.

Photo courtesy of Bigstock

The cardinal said that “the background is the high proportion of mixed marriages and families in Germany, where we recognize a challenging and urgent pastoral task” to determine if and under what circumstances couples of different denominations who regularly go to church together can receive the Eucharist together.
The possibility, he had said, would require a discussion with the pastor or a designated member of the parish staff to ensure that the non-Catholic receiving Communion “could confess the eucharistic faith of the Catholic Church.”
“This assistance will give help in concrete cases of mixed-denomination marriages and create a greater clarity and security for pastors and married people,” the cardinal had said.
About a month later, however, seven German bishops, including Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, sent a letter to Archbishop Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, asking for confirmation of their belief that a bishops’ conference does not have the authority to expand permissions for non-Catholics to receive Communion.
In general, Catholic teaching insists that sharing the sacrament of Communion will be a sign that Christian churches have reconciled fully with one another, although in some pastoral situations, guests may be invited to the Eucharist.
During Pope Francis’ visit to Sweden in 2016, Cardinal Koch, the Vatican’s chief ecumenist, was asked about the situations in which such sharing would be permitted. In reply, he said a distinction must be made between “eucharistic hospitality for individual people and eucharistic communion.”
The term hospitality is used to refer to welcoming guests to the Eucharist on special occasions or under special circumstances, as long as they recognize the sacrament as the real presence of Christ. Eucharistic communion, on the other hand, refers to a more regular situation of the reception of Communion by people recognized as belonging to the same church family, he had said.

Easter hope breaks routine, unleashes creativity, pope says

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Truly celebrating Easter means allowing Jesus to triumph over personal fears and give life to hope, creativity and care for others, Pope Francis said.
Easter is “an invitation to break out of our routines and to renew our lives, our decisions and our existence,” the pope said during the Easter Vigil March 31 in St. Peter’s Basilica.
“Do we want to share in this message of life,” he asked in his homily, “or do we prefer simply to continue standing speechless before events as they happen?”
During the liturgy, Pope Francis baptized eight adults, who were between the ages of 28 and 52. The Vatican said Nathan Potter, who was born in 1988 and comes from the United States, was one of the eight. Four of the other catechumens were from Italy and one each came from Albania, Peru and Nigeria.
The Nigerian, 31-year-old John Ogah, became a hero last year in Centocelle, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Rome. Ogah, who had been begging outside a grocery store, stopped a machete-wielding thief who had just robbed the store. Once the police arrived, Ogah left because he did not have legal permission to be in Italy.
Police tracked Ogah down to thank him and ended up helping him get his Italian residency permit. Capt. Nunzio Carbone, the officer in charge, was Ogah’s godfather and sponsor at the papal liturgy.
Pope Francis also confirmed the eight and give them their first Communion during the Mass.
The Mass, on a very rainy night, began in the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica with the blessing of the fire and of the Easter candle. With most of the lights in the basilica turned off, Pope Francis and the concelebrating cardinals, bishops and priests processed in darkness toward the altar, stopping first to light the pope’s candle and then those of the concelebrants and faithful.
“We began this celebration outside, plunged in the darkness of the night and the cold,” the pope said in his homily. “We felt an oppressive silence at the death of the Lord, a silence with which each of us can identify, a silence that penetrates to the depths of the heart of every disciple, who stands wordless before the cross.”
Transitioning from the Good Friday commemoration of Jesus’ death and commenting on the silence of Holy Saturday, the pope spoke of the hours when Jesus’ followers are left speechless in pain at his death, but also speechless at the injustice of his condemnation and at their own cowardice in the face of the lies and false testimony he endure.
“It is the silent night of the disciples who remained numb, paralyzed and uncertain of what to do amid so many painful and disheartening situations,” the pope said. “It is also that of today’s disciples, speechless in the face of situations we cannot control, that make us feel and, even worse, believe that nothing can be done to reverse all the injustices that our brothers and sisters are experiencing in their flesh.”
But in the midst of silence, he said, the stone is rolled away from Jesus’ tomb and there comes “the greatest message that history has ever heard: ‘He is not here, for he has been raised.’”
Jesus’ empty tomb should fill Christians with trust in God and should assure them that God’s light “can shine in the least expected and most hidden corners of our lives.”
“’He is not here … he is risen!’ This is the message that sustains our hope and turns it into concrete gestures of charity,” the pope said. It is a call to revive faith, broaden one’s horizons and know that no one walks alone.
“To celebrate Easter is to believe once more that God constantly breaks into our personal histories, challenging our conventions, those fixed ways of thinking and acting that end up paralyzing us,” he said.

Jesus never abandons people in times of trial

By Carol Glatz
ROME (CNS) – If people listen to Jesus and do as he urges them, they can be certain that he will see them through even the darkest times, Pope Francis told members of a Rome parish.
“Jesus always prepares us for our trials and he never leaves us alone. Never,” the pope said Feb. 25 during Mass in the Church of St. Gelasius on Rome’s northeast edge.
Following his usual pattern for Sunday parish visits, Pope Francis reached the church in the early afternoon. After shaking hundreds of hands, blessing dozens of babies and posing for a handful of selfies with young people, the pope went to the parish soccer field to meet the children and teens involved in the parish catechism and sports programs.
After morning sunshine, the skies turned gray and cold, and a heavy rain began to fall.
“You’re soaked!” the pope told the youngsters.
“Life is like this,” he said, explaining that some days will be sunny, some rainy and sometimes storms unexpectedly blow in.
“What’s a Christian to do? Go forward with courage,” knowing that Jesus always is near and is always willing to forgive, he told them.
Moving indoors, the pope met with the elderly members of the parish and greeted each of them individually. He asked couples how long they had been married and asked others how they were feeling. One woman told him that she had a cold she just could not shake. He suggested she try some grappa, a strong grape-based alcoholic drink.
Pope Francis thanked the group of elders for all they do for the church and the world. Even if they do not feel like they are accomplishing great things, he said, they have been charged with “keeping the embers of faith alive” with their prayers and their witness.
After hearing confessions, the pope celebrated Mass in the parish church and gave a brief, extemporaneous homily focused on the day’s Gospel account of the transfiguration of Jesus.
By allowing the disciples to see him transfigured, Jesus gave them a preview of the glory that would be his after the crucifixion and resurrection, the pope said. It was a way to fortify and prepare the disciples for the trials and tribulations that were about to begin.
Remembering that vision, he said, the disciples would be able to “bear the weight of the humiliation” of seeing Jesus condemned and crucified.
In the same way, the pope said, Jesus gives all believers the assurance that he will triumph in the end. And, even in the darkest times, “he is always with us. He never leaves us alone. Never.”
In the Gospel account, he said, after the disciples see Jesus transfigured, they hear God’s voice telling them, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Listening to Jesus is key, the pope said. “In our daily lives, maybe we have problems or have many things to resolve. Let’s ask ourselves this: ‘What is Jesus saying to me today?’ And let’s try to listen to Jesus’ voice, how he inspires us. And that way we will follow the advice of the Father: ‘This is my beloved son. Listen to him.’”
But listening is only the first step, the pope said. Christians then must do what Mary told the servants to do at the wedding feast of Cana when the wine ran out: Listen to Jesus, then “do what he tells you.”

Pope to religious: Your hearts must be open 24-7

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Lift up your eyes from your smartphones and see your brothers and sisters, those who share your journey of faith and those who are longing for the Word of life, Pope Francis told consecrated men and women.
“Today’s frantic pace leads us to close many doors to encounter, often for fear of others,” the pope said in his homily for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life. “Only shopping malls and internet connections are always open.” Yet believers’ hearts must be open as well, because every believer receives the faith from someone and is called to share it with others, the pope said at the Mass Feb. 2 in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The feast day commemorates the 40th day after Jesus’ birth when, in accordance with ancient Jewish practice, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple and presented him to the Lord. The feast’s Gospel reading from St. Luke recounts how the aged Simeon and Anna, who were praying in the temple, recognized Jesus as the Messiah.
The Mass, attended by thousands of women and men belonging to religious orders, began with the traditional blessing of candles and a prayer that God would guide people toward his son, “the light that has no end.” In his homily, Pope Francis focused on a series of encounters: between people and Jesus; between the young Mary and Joseph and the elderly Simeon and Anna; and between individuals and members of their religious communities or their neighborhoods.
“In the Christian East,” the pope explained, “this feast is called the ‘feast of Encounter’: It is the encounter between God, who became a child to bring newness to our world, and an expectant humanity.”
The pope told the religious that their own journeys were “born of an encounter and a call” which, while highly personal, took place in the context of a family, a parish or a community.
Members of religious orders must realize that they need each other – young and old – to renew and strengthen their knowledge of the Lord, he said. They must never “toss aside” the elderly members because “if the young are called to open new doors, the elderly have the keys.”
One’s brothers or sisters in the community are a gift to be cherished, he said before adding a plea: “May we never look at the screen of our cellphone more than the eyes of our brothers or sisters, or focus more on our software than on the Lord.” Pope Francis said strengthening the intergenerational bonds in a religious community also is an antidote to “the barren rhetoric of ‘the good old days’” and the only way “to silence those who believe that ‘everything is going wrong here.’”
Religious life, with its vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, always has been countercultural, he said. And yet it is the source of true freedom because while “the life of this world pursues selfish pleasures and desires, the consecrated life frees our affections of every possession in order fully to love God and other people.”