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Just reminding erryone of my current location #rio #papafrancis #skyline #beautiful

Posted by on 7-22-13

El Jueves salgo para Puerto Rico y estare participando del JMJ en PR. Un Evento unido al JMJ de Brasil. Seran dias de mucha gracia, poder y misericordia. Contamos con sus oraciones! Para mas info porfavor visiten www.jmj2013pr.com #jmj #jmj2013pr #brasil #puertorico #unasolaiglesia #jovenes #catholic #catolico #papafrancis

Posted by on 7-22-13

“Não tenho ouro nem prata.. Vim aqui transmitir o maior presente que recebi nessa vida: Jesus Cristo” – Papa Francisco, no Palácio Guanabara, na sua chegada no Rio de Janeiro

Posted by on 7-22-13

Nada mejor que coger cosas de los hoteles y encontrartelas un tiempo mas tarde #recuerdoson #abril2013 #antequera #campeonatoespañaporescuelas #catalunya #buenequipo #genialrelevo #granada #bocadecaballo #dientesdeleon #mojopicon #bananas #pasajeros #titofrancis #papafrancis #yayofrancis #quierovolver

Posted by on 7-22-13

El papa Francisco acaba de recitar: “Necesitamos santos sin velo, sin sotana. Necesitamos santos de jeans y zapatillas. Necesitamos santos que vayan al cine, escuchen musica y paseen con sus amigos. Necesitamos santos que coloquen a Dios en primer lugar y que sobresalgan en la Universidad. Necesitamos santos que busquen tiempo cada dia para rezar y que sepan enamorar en la pureza y castidad, o que consagren su castidad. Necesitamos santos modernos, santos del siglo XXI con una espiritualidad insertada en nuestro tiempo. Necesitamos santos comprometidos con los pobres y los necesarios cambios sociales. Necesitamos santos que vivan en el mundo, se santifiquen en el mundo y que no tengan miedo de vivir en el mundo. Necesitamos santos que tomen Coca Cola y coman hot-dogs, que sean internautas, que escuchen iPod. Necesitamos santos que amen la Eucaristia y que no tengan vergüenza de tomar una cerveza o comer pizza el fin de semana con los amigos. Necesitamos santos a los que les guste el cine, el teatro, la musica, la danza, el deporte. Necesitamos santos sociables, abiertos, normales, amigos, alegres, compañeros. Necesitamos santos que esten en el mundo y que sepan saborear las cosas puras y buenas del mundo, pero sin ser mundanos”. Amen!!!!!!! (Esta parte la dije yo) :) #santidadenjeans #santidad #PapaFrancis #Iglesia #yes #holiness

Posted by on 7-21-13

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St. Francis and the Eucharist...

Posted on Mar 31, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

We have two versions of St. Francis’ “Exhortation to the Clergy.” The earlier text was probably written before 1219; the other text dates from 1220. The first version reflects the concerns of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 that all priests show more reverence for the Eucharist, especially by making sure that churches are kept clean and that altar linens and vessels are worthy of the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. Proper care is also needed for books containing the Scriptures.

The second version of Francis’ text shows the influence of a decree that Pope Honorius III issued on November 22, 1219, urging greater attention to the cleanliness of churches, reserving the Eucharist in a worthy and secure place, and teaching their people to bow when the consecrated host is elevated during Mass.

The bishops at the Fourth Lateran Council felt the need to require Catholics to receive the Eucharist at least once a year and to confess mortal sins at least yearly. Francis of Assisi did his best to encourage reverence for the Eucharist. May we follow his example.

This blog was taken from Pat McCloskey’s “Dear Reader” column in St. Anthony Messenger.

To subscribe to this award-winning publication and to support the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province, click here.

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Image: Basílica de São Francisco das Chagas – Casa dos Milagres/Wikiemdia Commons

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St. Francis and the Eucharist...

Posted on Mar 31, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

We have two versions of St. Francis’ “Exhortation to the Clergy.” The earlier text was probably written before 1219; the other text dates from 1220. The first version reflects the concerns of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 that all priests show more reverence for the Eucharist, especially by making sure that churches are kept clean and that altar linens and vessels are worthy of the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. Proper care is also needed for books containing the Scriptures.

The second version of Francis’ text shows the influence of a decree that Pope Honorius III issued on November 22, 1219, urging greater attention to the cleanliness of churches, reserving the Eucharist in a worthy and secure place, and teaching their people to bow when the consecrated host is elevated during Mass.

The bishops at the Fourth Lateran Council felt the need to require Catholics to receive the Eucharist at least once a year and to confess mortal sins at least yearly. Francis of Assisi did his best to encourage reverence for the Eucharist. May we follow his example.

This blog was taken from Pat McCloskey’s “Dear Reader” column in St. Anthony Messenger.

To subscribe to this award-winning publication and to support the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province, click here.

*****
Image: Basílica de São Francisco das Chagas – Casa dos Milagres/Wikiemdia Commons

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True Discipleship...

Posted on Mar 26, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

What makes a disciple a disciple? And what does the word disciple mean?  If someone asked if you were a disciple, what would your response be?

I think disciple is a word that probably brings to mind different things to different people. Some associate it only with people from Jesus’ time. Others associate it with really holy people or people who work for the Church. According to Webster’s Dictionary, a disciple is “someone who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another.” I like that definition because it points to the fact that we’re all called to be disciples. We shouldn’t shy away from that.

And we have a truly great example of this in our current spiritual leader, Pope Francis. He obviously accepts the doctrines of Jesus and he’s aggressively spreading the doctrines of the Church. Pope Francis is embracing technology and reaching out on video, radio, on-line, and through whatever media he can to preach the Good News.

 “Faith is not something decorative or for show. To have faith means to put Christ truly at the center of our lives.”  -Pope Francis (via Twitter)

As we near the end of the Lenten season, let us continue to be shining, spiritual examples of discipleship by putting Christ at the center of our lives and in all our actions.

*****

Image courtesy of Bruce Rolff/Shutterstock.com

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A Grain of Wheat...

Posted on Mar 25, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Yesterday was the 35th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Last Sunday, Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles preached a powerful homily honoring Oscar Romero.

“One must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us. … But whoever out of love for Christ gives themselves to the service of others will live, like the grain of wheat that dies. … Only in dying does it produce the harvest. … Whoever offers their life out of love for Christ, and in service to others, will live like the seed that dies.”ii
Just a few minutes after he spoke those words, Monseñor Romero was dead. Shot through the heart by an assassin’s bullet as he offered the gifts of bread and wine for the holy Eucharist.

Pope Francis has many of the same qualities as well as the deep faith we saw in Oscar Romero. It’s not surprising that he will beatify Romero in May. They come from the same people, and they are remarkable for being one with the people they pastor. Pope Francis has demonstrated countless times the courage to speak the truth, to call for mercy but also for justice, to follow the way of Christ wherever it leads.

I recall that when I came to Franciscan Media, then St. Anthony Messenger Press, in 1992, we had just published Romero’s diary, and I was proud to be associated with the company that was doing such good work. I am thrilled that we’re now publishing a series of books spotlighting the best of the writings and homilies of Pope Francis.

Photo courtesy of Catholic News Service/Octavio Duran

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Keep God Close, Pope Francis Says...

Posted on Mar 24, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Our guest blogger is Teresa Tomeo, syndicated talk show host, motivational speaker, and author of Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag: On-the-Go Devotions from Servant Books

It’s definitely not a coincidence, but what I like to call a “God-cidence.” The whole idea behind my new book Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag; On-the-Go Devotions is to help women get in the habit of carrying the Lord with them every day and everywhere; to find Him in the big and small events of our lives. The book includes a daily reflection on the many areas in the lives of today’s busy women, along with a Scripture verse and a prayer. It’s my hope that women will literally keep this devotional—and Jesus—with them at work, in the car, or in the grocery store line, and peek at it when they need a spiritual pick-me-up. It’s a book designed for those who are just getting to know Jesus and those who also want to get to know Him on a deeper level.

So imagine my delight when I went to read the Holy Father’s Angelus message yesterday morning—as I try to do every Monday morning—and saw that Pope Francis is once again encouraging all believers to do just what Walk Softly intends: to help Christians carry our faith and our Lord with them and take Him into all areas of not only our lives, but the lives of others.

Two days ago, reflecting the Mass readings for the 5th Sunday of Lent, the Holy Father told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s square that if we’re like the Jews and Greeks in John’s Gospel who “want to see Jesus,” then we need to do a better job of keeping Him close. A great way to do that,  according to the pope, is to carry the Word of God with us. Then, from the window of the papal apartment in the Apostolic palace, the pope held up a booklet of the Gospels letting the faithful know that the booklet, some 50 thousand copies of it, were being distributed in the square by members of Rome’s homeless community.

“This is a beautiful gesture that Jesus approves. Those who are most needy are the ones who are giving us the Word of God. Take it. Keep it in your pocket or in your handbag and read a passage a day. God’s word lights up our path. It will do you good,” he said.

Keeping God and His Word close by and carrying Him with us in our bag and in our pocket:  I couldn’t have said it better myself!

 

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Keep God Close, Pope Francis Says...

Posted on Mar 24, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Our guest blogger is Teresa Tomeo, syndicated talk show host, motivational speaker, and author of Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag: On-the-Go Devotions from Servant Books

It’s definitely not a coincidence, but what I like to call a “God-cidence.” The whole idea behind my new book Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag; On-the-Go Devotions is to help women get in the habit of carrying the Lord with them every day and everywhere; to find Him in the big and small events of our lives. The book includes a daily reflection on the many areas in the lives of today’s busy women, along with a Scripture verse and a prayer. It’s my hope that women will literally keep this devotional—and Jesus—with them at work, in the car, or in the grocery store line, and peek at it when they need a spiritual pick-me-up. It’s a book designed for those who are just getting to know Jesus and those who also want to get to know Him on a deeper level.

So imagine my delight when I went to read the Holy Father’s Angelus message yesterday morning—as I try to do every Monday morning—and saw that Pope Francis is once again encouraging all believers to do just what Walk Softly intends: to help Christians carry our faith and our Lord with them and take Him into all areas of not only our lives, but the lives of others.

Two days ago, reflecting the Mass readings for the 5th Sunday of Lent, the Holy Father told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s square that if we’re like the Jews and Greeks in John’s Gospel who “want to see Jesus,” then we need to do a better job of keeping Him close. A great way to do that,  according to the pope, is to carry the Word of God with us. Then, from the window of the papal apartment in the Apostolic palace, the pope held up a booklet of the Gospels letting the faithful know that the booklet, some 50 thousand copies of it, were being distributed in the square by members of Rome’s homeless community.

“This is a beautiful gesture that Jesus approves. Those who are most needy are the ones who are giving us the Word of God. Take it. Keep it in your pocket or in your handbag and read a passage a day. God’s word lights up our path. It will do you good,” he said.

Keeping God and His Word close by and carrying Him with us in our bag and in our pocket:  I couldn’t have said it better myself!

 

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Discerning with an Open Heart...

Posted on Mar 19, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Today’s guest blogger is Nick Luken, a second-year student at The Ohio State University, majoring in English and minoring in professional writing. Nick graduated from Roger Bacon, a Franciscan high school in Cincinnati, in 2012.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had thoughts of the priesthood in the back of my mind. My reverent demeanor often made people at my parish and my high school wonder if I might have a call to the priesthood. Sometimes these people would bring it up every month or so. Even now, every once in awhile someone will approach me, after seeing me nicely dressed at Mass or after noticing the San Damiano crucifix that I wear around my neck, to ask me if I’m on the road to the priesthood. One man even assumed that I was already ordained a deacon!

Despite all these recommendations, questions, and fleeting thoughts, I don’t think that I’m really called to the priesthood, at least not right now. I don’t know how I know that–I just get the feeling that marriage is more for me. But even though I think I have a good idea of what my long-term vocation is, I can’t even pretend to know exactly what God has in store for me over the next several years, months, or even days. As a result, I’m trying my hardest to keep my heart open to whatever God might be calling me to do.

I think that this open-heartedness is a good thing to have, no matter what your vocation is. Even if you’re already married, ordained, or consecrated, being open-minded is crucial to discerning what God wants us to do.

Image: http://ift.tt/1B4DJjA

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Pope Francis and “doctors of the law”...

Posted on Mar 18, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Here is an interesting contrast.

First, a snip from an off-the-cuff, non-Magisterial remark of Pope Francis during a daily homily.  Note his disparaging words about “doctors of the law”.

Hmmm… it seems to me that there is something missing.  Of course these are only off-the-cuff remarks that have no magisterial weight whatsoever and no preacher can be expected in a short time to hit every possible point.   But it seems to me that he has set up a straw man: who the heck are these “doctors of the law” whom he has been disparaging with some frequency?  I think he means those who argue that people who are divorced and civilly remarried should not be admitted to Holy Communion because they are objectively living in a state that is inconsistent with our understanding of the Eucharist.

Next, let’s review Benedict XVI’s Post-Synodal Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, which has teaching about the Eucharist and marriage.

The Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage

29. If the Eucharist expresses the irrevocable nature of God’s love in Christ for his Church, we can then understand why it implies, with regard to the sacrament of Matrimony, that indissolubility to which all true love necessarily aspires. There was good reason for the pastoral attention that the Synod gave to the painful situations experienced by some of the faithful who, having celebrated the sacrament of Matrimony, then divorced and remarried. This represents a complex and troubling pastoral problem, a real scourge for contemporary society, and one which increasingly affects the Catholic community as well. The Church’s pastors, out of love for the truth, are obliged to discern different situations carefully, in order to be able to offer appropriate spiritual guidance to the faithful involved. [NB] The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church’s practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist. Yet [here we go] the divorced and remarried continue to belong to the Church, which accompanies them with special concern and encourages them to live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving communion, [and] listening to the word of God, eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children.

You see?  It doesn’t have to be a choice between “come to Mass and receive Communion anyway” and “don’t come to Mass if you can’t receive Communion”.   Another option, and one that Francis didn’t choose to mention when attacking “doctors of the law”, is as described, above, by his predecessor Benedict in what clearly is a magisterial document.

We have to ask ourselves the questions:

Is it nothing to go to Holy Mass and not receive Communion?

Do we get nothing out of Mass unless we receive Holy Communion?

It seems to me that the near mania to have everyone receive at every possible opportunity has created an unhealthy expectation that, in turn, has fogged our understanding of what the Eucharist is.

People who are not properly disposed to receive Communion (because, for example, they are living in an ongoing adulterous relationship) nevertheless still can participate in the life of the Church in many ways, as Benedict XVI (and that previous Synod) pointed out.

Comment moderation is ON.

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St. Cyril and RCIA...

Posted on Mar 18, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Years ago Catholic parishes offered “information classes” for adults considering conversion to the Catholic faith. But the Second Vatican Council called for a restoration of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Today RCIA programs have become a standard for the season of Lent. Those seeking to enter the church are enrolled in RCIA programs which provide religious formation for adults in a series of ritualized steps.

Since today is the feast of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) I suggest taking time to examine the training that Bishop Cyril prepared for “would be” Christians in fourth century Jerusalem. The texts are available on the internet just by clicking here. In my opinion Cyril was adept at providing down to earth lessons and common sense analogies to explain the Catholic faith to all those seeking understanding. He also practiced what he preached.

Cyril was a pastor in an era when some disagreements rocked local churches. He was twice exiled from Jerusalem simply because of the political winds of his time.

What is impressive is that Cyril maintained his composer and peaceful character all through the disgrace and pain of twice being removed from the Jerusalem community of believers. Cyril never reacted with counter attacks in his writing or in his preaching.

Cyril prepared lessons to help people understand the church’s beliefs, whether they were already baptized or were still on the road to faith. But he also prepared lessons for those who had received the sacraments of initiation and were trying to grow their faith through prayer and participation in the liturgy of their local communities.

If you have the opportunity read more about Cyril in our Saint of the Day feature or read his lessons in faith available on line. There are treasures to be found.

Image:  Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock

 

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Untying the Pope Francis “knot”. Some analysis...

Posted on Mar 17, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

“Looking at a short, partially improvised homily as if its words were the equivalent of an encyclical of Paul VI is simply ridiculous, and is an offense against the pope’s own intentions.”

This is a quote from this good piece at Crisis by my friend of many years Msgr. Hans Feichtinger, who was until recently a long-time official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Demystifying the Pope Francis Enigma

Every modern pope has had his own style. Paul VI was personally like a global student chaplain, intellectually sensitive and pained by the fact that so many were falling away from the Church. John Paul II was the international pastor, constantly on the move, proclaiming the truths of the faith and exhorting us to heroic virtues. Benedict XVI was the universal professor, who carefully thought about the most pressing intellectual issues facing the world today. Pope Francis? In true Jesuit fashion, he may be best characterized as the world’s spiritual director.

Consider the talk Francis gave to the cardinals and the staff of his curia with the long list of spiritual maladies that he wants them to address (December 22, 2014). [He basically beat the tar out of them.] Or look at some buzz lines from recent homilies at Santa Marta: the Church is a mother, not an entrepreneur; rigidity is the sign of a weak heart; theology is done on your knees; keep the temple clean—and do not scandalize the faithful by posting liturgical price lists; do not be afraid of surprises and of conversion. Think about how the pope repeatedly has likened modern forms of Christianity to ancient heresies. [Who can forget the unbeatable “self-referential Promethean Neo-Pelagian” line?] His homilies are like wake-up calls, at times hyperbolic, [at time?  often!] often provocative, reminders about the basic message of the gospel. Not to mention the pope’s unprotected speech in interviews, both in the air and on the ground. This is how the pope preaches his theology and spirituality.

Many of Francis’ pronouncements do not have the binding authority of obligatory teaching; i.e., they are not “magisterium” in the proper sense of the term—people are free to listen and pay attention or not, free to let themselves be challenged, motivated, or convinced. The Holy Father’s language touches the hearts of many, perhaps more than their minds—and presumably this is precisely the pope’s intention. He does not offer refined analysis, carefully weighing all aspects in order to arrive at affirmations that are beyond criticism. What he wants to do is surprise, challenge, provoke, or reassure, console, and support. [This is so.  Alas, what happens when he says things like “Who am I to judge?” is that swaths of people, mislead by the MSM and catholic sources, get the notion that Francis thinks homosexual acts are are not to be judged as intrinsically evil.]

To appreciate the words of Pope Francis, it helps to remember the essential distinction between doctrine and theology. No theology can claim for itself the authority of the magisterium. Conversely, the magisterium cannot act as a substitute for theology. The distinction between doctrine and theology, however, is not clear to many who represent the pope’s pronouncements to the public. This is a problem, whether we and the pope like it or not, mostly because we are not used to making this distinction when reading papal pronouncements. [Good point.]

John Paul II and Benedict XVI worked hard composing the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Now Francis tells us: the Catechism is not enough. This is certainly true, but people make it sound as if he intends to abolish the Catechism altogether. All Christians, and the Church as a whole, are called to proclaim the faith truthfully and to live it authentically. We all know that there is never a perfect harmony between the precepts of the faith and how the Church and its members act; the solution to this problem is not to formulate a compromise [did you see that “not”?] —repentance and true reform has the aim of bringing our practice closer to the demands of the faith. This is where Francis puts his focus.

All popes need to be allowed the space to exercise their ministry as they see fit. But even more importantly, Catholics need to appreciate the enduring and radical difference between Christ and his deputy: The pope is here in order to ensure that no one and nothing else takes the place of Christ until the Lord himself returns. The pope, more than anyone else, is bound by the example of Christ, and needs to rely on his special assistance (what we call “grace of state”); he is the first of “all those who, holding to the truth, hand on the catholic and apostolic faith” (Missal, Roman Canon).

At the same time, [… this is where things get tricky…] the pope represents the Church before the world and before God. Pope Francis does not seem inclined to cover up disagreements within the Church. In many respects, he wants to be more in the Church than over it. When Pope Benedict declared his resignation, he did so acknowledging that he no longer had the strength to be pope. [Quaeritur…] Did he have to step down because we failed to help him carry the heavy burden of the Petrine ministry? And are we now ready to step up and support Pope Francis in the way and to the degree he needs it? We need a pope in order to be Catholic. But conversely, he needs us. An Italian journalist once put it very succinctly: “Dobbiamo amare il Papa—we must love the Pope.” According to the Bible, this love must be “without dissimulation,” literally “unhypocritical” (see the Greek of Rom 12:9). It is this spiritual authenticity that Francis wants us to acquire.

Pope Francis has made his choice about how he would like to exercise his office. Catholics respect his choice by taking his pronouncements and gestures for what they are, which includes not treating them as expressions of the primacy of teaching when they are not. Francis does not want to—and in fact he cannot—challenge the teaching authority of his predecessors; rather, he wants to help us “consider how to provoke one another to love and good works” (Heb 10:24). [NB:] Looking at a short, partially improvised homily as if its words were the equivalent of an encyclical of Paul VI is simply ridiculous, and is an offense against the pope’s own intentions. The pope is part of the living tradition of the Church, which is a tradition in the making. The Supreme Pontiff is affected by our inconsistencies, confusions, errors and doctrinal defects, in a double sense: his ministry cannot overlook these issues, and he is himself touched by them. To believe that all popes must be perfect and saints, theologically, is donatism, [Donatism] and historically, madness.

So what does it mean to look at Pope Francis SJ as the universal spiritual director? First of all, it does not mean doubting whether he really is the pope. [Some, amazingly, do.  And they have played games of intellectual Twister.] Surprisingly, perhaps, it is Benedict XVI who can help us find an answer. Already as cardinal, and even more explicitly as pope, he underlined the difference between Church doctrine and his own theology and exegesis: “Everyone is free to contradict me.” [cf his comments about his books Jesus of Nazareth.] Compared to a theological teacher and his student, a spiritual director generally has even more authority over the individual who entrusts himself to his care; at the same time, it remains even more up to the directee what to do with his director’s advice or whether indeed to seek it in the first place. In many cases, this is how Pope Francis seems to understand his own approach. Whether this is the best way of “being pope” remains to be seen, but it is certainly not without its merits. In any case, it comes with a price and has limitations. Indeed, we can be sure the pope himself is aware of these limitations, and we can trust that as a good spiritual director he also lets himself be challenged by others, resisting his own tendency to moralize and spiritualize issues that are in fact doctrinal. [Time will tell.]

Saint Paul reports the famous episode when he had to point out to Saint Peter how some of Peter’s practices were incoherent (Gal 2:11-21)—not that Paul would not have suffered from similar inconsistencies (Acts 16:3). The way Pope Francis acts seems to invite a similar kind of criticism, at least from people who can offer it sincerely and seriously. He is an approachable pope, thus Catholics need to drop the fear of approaching him, even if they approach with something other than praise for his actions. He speaks in his own way to the faithful, very different from his predecessors. Thus, lay Catholics, bishops and clergy will need to change how they relate to his words and gestures and distinguish more accurately with what kind of authority he acts and speaks. If Francis does not want to be as august as some of his predecessors, we should stop trying to force him.  [I sure hope to see a shift in his liturgical style and also in decorum in matters of audiences, etc.  But, who am I to judge?]

As we learn from Benedict XVI, we are often free to contradict the pope, because there is no such thing as an obligatory theology or spirituality, even if it is the pope’s theology or spirituality. We even may not be impressed by his personal style, preferring to wait and see whether his disarmament of papal ceremonies is the best way. Or in Francis’ language: Do not “divinize your leaders!” What is binding on the conscience of all Catholics, clergy and popes included, is the faith, its doctrine and tradition. Authenticity and truth are not the same thing, but certainly they are related, and the Church needs both in order to be truthful and credible: “Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Cor 4:1-2). This pope is different, and therefore papists can and need to be different, too.

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Untying the Pope Francis “knot”. Some analysis...

Posted on Mar 17, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

“Looking at a short, partially improvised homily as if its words were the equivalent of an encyclical of Paul VI is simply ridiculous, and is an offense against the pope’s own intentions.”

This is a quote from this good piece at Crisis by my friend of many years Msgr. Hans Feichtinger, who was until recently a long-time official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Demystifying the Pope Francis Enigma

Every modern pope has had his own style. Paul VI was personally like a global student chaplain, intellectually sensitive and pained by the fact that so many were falling away from the Church. John Paul II was the international pastor, constantly on the move, proclaiming the truths of the faith and exhorting us to heroic virtues. Benedict XVI was the universal professor, who carefully thought about the most pressing intellectual issues facing the world today. Pope Francis? In true Jesuit fashion, he may be best characterized as the world’s spiritual director.

Consider the talk Francis gave to the cardinals and the staff of his curia with the long list of spiritual maladies that he wants them to address (December 22, 2014). [He basically beat the tar out of them.] Or look at some buzz lines from recent homilies at Santa Marta: the Church is a mother, not an entrepreneur; rigidity is the sign of a weak heart; theology is done on your knees; keep the temple clean—and do not scandalize the faithful by posting liturgical price lists; do not be afraid of surprises and of conversion. Think about how the pope repeatedly has likened modern forms of Christianity to ancient heresies. [Who can forget the unbeatable “self-referential Promethean Neo-Pelagian” line?] His homilies are like wake-up calls, at times hyperbolic, [at time?  often!] often provocative, reminders about the basic message of the gospel. Not to mention the pope’s unprotected speech in interviews, both in the air and on the ground. This is how the pope preaches his theology and spirituality.

Many of Francis’ pronouncements do not have the binding authority of obligatory teaching; i.e., they are not “magisterium” in the proper sense of the term—people are free to listen and pay attention or not, free to let themselves be challenged, motivated, or convinced. The Holy Father’s language touches the hearts of many, perhaps more than their minds—and presumably this is precisely the pope’s intention. He does not offer refined analysis, carefully weighing all aspects in order to arrive at affirmations that are beyond criticism. What he wants to do is surprise, challenge, provoke, or reassure, console, and support. [This is so.  Alas, what happens when he says things like “Who am I to judge?” is that swaths of people, mislead by the MSM and catholic sources, get the notion that Francis thinks homosexual acts are are not to be judged as intrinsically evil.]

To appreciate the words of Pope Francis, it helps to remember the essential distinction between doctrine and theology. No theology can claim for itself the authority of the magisterium. Conversely, the magisterium cannot act as a substitute for theology. The distinction between doctrine and theology, however, is not clear to many who represent the pope’s pronouncements to the public. This is a problem, whether we and the pope like it or not, mostly because we are not used to making this distinction when reading papal pronouncements. [Good point.]

John Paul II and Benedict XVI worked hard composing the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Now Francis tells us: the Catechism is not enough. This is certainly true, but people make it sound as if he intends to abolish the Catechism altogether. All Christians, and the Church as a whole, are called to proclaim the faith truthfully and to live it authentically. We all know that there is never a perfect harmony between the precepts of the faith and how the Church and its members act; the solution to this problem is not to formulate a compromise [did you see that “not”?] —repentance and true reform has the aim of bringing our practice closer to the demands of the faith. This is where Francis puts his focus.

All popes need to be allowed the space to exercise their ministry as they see fit. But even more importantly, Catholics need to appreciate the enduring and radical difference between Christ and his deputy: The pope is here in order to ensure that no one and nothing else takes the place of Christ until the Lord himself returns. The pope, more than anyone else, is bound by the example of Christ, and needs to rely on his special assistance (what we call “grace of state”); he is the first of “all those who, holding to the truth, hand on the catholic and apostolic faith” (Missal, Roman Canon).

At the same time, [… this is where things get tricky…] the pope represents the Church before the world and before God. Pope Francis does not seem inclined to cover up disagreements within the Church. In many respects, he wants to be more in the Church than over it. When Pope Benedict declared his resignation, he did so acknowledging that he no longer had the strength to be pope. [Quaeritur…] Did he have to step down because we failed to help him carry the heavy burden of the Petrine ministry? And are we now ready to step up and support Pope Francis in the way and to the degree he needs it? We need a pope in order to be Catholic. But conversely, he needs us. An Italian journalist once put it very succinctly: “Dobbiamo amare il Papa—we must love the Pope.” According to the Bible, this love must be “without dissimulation,” literally “unhypocritical” (see the Greek of Rom 12:9). It is this spiritual authenticity that Francis wants us to acquire.

Pope Francis has made his choice about how he would like to exercise his office. Catholics respect his choice by taking his pronouncements and gestures for what they are, which includes not treating them as expressions of the primacy of teaching when they are not. Francis does not want to—and in fact he cannot—challenge the teaching authority of his predecessors; rather, he wants to help us “consider how to provoke one another to love and good works” (Heb 10:24). [NB:] Looking at a short, partially improvised homily as if its words were the equivalent of an encyclical of Paul VI is simply ridiculous, and is an offense against the pope’s own intentions. The pope is part of the living tradition of the Church, which is a tradition in the making. The Supreme Pontiff is affected by our inconsistencies, confusions, errors and doctrinal defects, in a double sense: his ministry cannot overlook these issues, and he is himself touched by them. To believe that all popes must be perfect and saints, theologically, is donatism, [Donatism] and historically, madness.

So what does it mean to look at Pope Francis SJ as the universal spiritual director? First of all, it does not mean doubting whether he really is the pope. [Some, amazingly, do.  And they have played games of intellectual Twister.] Surprisingly, perhaps, it is Benedict XVI who can help us find an answer. Already as cardinal, and even more explicitly as pope, he underlined the difference between Church doctrine and his own theology and exegesis: “Everyone is free to contradict me.” [cf his comments about his books Jesus of Nazareth.] Compared to a theological teacher and his student, a spiritual director generally has even more authority over the individual who entrusts himself to his care; at the same time, it remains even more up to the directee what to do with his director’s advice or whether indeed to seek it in the first place. In many cases, this is how Pope Francis seems to understand his own approach. Whether this is the best way of “being pope” remains to be seen, but it is certainly not without its merits. In any case, it comes with a price and has limitations. Indeed, we can be sure the pope himself is aware of these limitations, and we can trust that as a good spiritual director he also lets himself be challenged by others, resisting his own tendency to moralize and spiritualize issues that are in fact doctrinal. [Time will tell.]

Saint Paul reports the famous episode when he had to point out to Saint Peter how some of Peter’s practices were incoherent (Gal 2:11-21)—not that Paul would not have suffered from similar inconsistencies (Acts 16:3). The way Pope Francis acts seems to invite a similar kind of criticism, at least from people who can offer it sincerely and seriously. He is an approachable pope, thus Catholics need to drop the fear of approaching him, even if they approach with something other than praise for his actions. He speaks in his own way to the faithful, very different from his predecessors. Thus, lay Catholics, bishops and clergy will need to change how they relate to his words and gestures and distinguish more accurately with what kind of authority he acts and speaks. If Francis does not want to be as august as some of his predecessors, we should stop trying to force him.  [I sure hope to see a shift in his liturgical style and also in decorum in matters of audiences, etc.  But, who am I to judge?]

As we learn from Benedict XVI, we are often free to contradict the pope, because there is no such thing as an obligatory theology or spirituality, even if it is the pope’s theology or spirituality. We even may not be impressed by his personal style, preferring to wait and see whether his disarmament of papal ceremonies is the best way. Or in Francis’ language: Do not “divinize your leaders!” What is binding on the conscience of all Catholics, clergy and popes included, is the faith, its doctrine and tradition. Authenticity and truth are not the same thing, but certainly they are related, and the Church needs both in order to be truthful and credible: “Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Cor 4:1-2). This pope is different, and therefore papists can and need to be different, too.

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NRO: Pope Francis Enters His Third Year of Scoldin...

Posted on Mar 13, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

At NRO, Nicholas Frankovich, a deputy managing editor, has some sharp comments on Pope Francis as he begins the third year of his pontificate. You can sense the frustration in his commentary, along with his hope.

There is a lot to chew over in this piece.   Some people are going to hate this while others should avoid precipitous high fives.  THINK as you read.

Pope Francis Enters His Third Year of Scolding Introverts

He preaches mercy for everyone except them, when the Church needs them more than ever.

‘I want the Church to go out into the streets,” Pope Francis told a cheering crowd gathered for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July 2013, four months after he was elected pope. “¡Hágan lío!” he exhorted them, in the spirit of creative destruction: Make a mess! Take care, he added, not to become “closed in on” yourselves. [It is interesting that, by contrast, Benedict XVI all through his writings, before and after becoming Pope, explores the theme of “self-sufficiency”.  But he does it in an entirely different way.] On other occasions, he has urged priests to leave “the stale air of closed rooms” and has characterized traditional Catholics as “self-absorbed.” An extrovert, Francis attaches a positive moral value to extroversion — and, as if it followed by some logical necessity, a negative moral value to extroversion’s complement, introversion.

“Pope Francis has said that he does not want a church that is introverted,” Monsignor M. Francis Mannion, describing the pope’s “achievements,” explained bluntly last July in an article for the Catholic News Agency. Two weeks later in the Los Angeles Times, an admiring Amy Hubbard included in her list of lessons that we should take from Francis: “Do not be an introvert. That’s just putrid.”

“This is no century for introverts,” Kathleen Parker remarked on the occasion of Francis’s elevation to the papacy two years ago today. In our age, yes, “introversion — along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness — is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology,” as Susan Cain writes in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. To “disappointment” and “pathology” we should add, if we follow Pope Francis on this question, “character flaw” and “moral failing.”

More grandly than any other figure on the world stage today, Francis, entering the third year of his pontificate, exemplifies what Cain calls “the Extrovert Ideal”:

We like to believe that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual — the kind who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.” . . . Talkative people, for example, are rated as smarter, better-looking, more interesting, and more desirable as friends. Velocity of speech counts as well as volume: we rank fast talkers as more competent and likable than slow ones. The same dynamics apply in groups, where research shows that the voluble are considered smarter than the reticent — even though there’s zero correlation between the gift of gab and good ideas.

In fairness to Pope Francis, we should remember that, though he is quick to chastise introverts, they have been quick to reciprocate. The primary reason that he disappoints many Catholics who delight in cultivating their interior life is not that he leans left in his politics and theology but that he’s shallow or at least presents himself as such. He has little apparent interest in the life of the mind. He lacks the patience to think slowly. Cain quotes a venture capitalist telling her, “I worry that there are people who are put in positions of authority because they’re good talkers, but they don’t have good ideas.” Bingo.

Francis tends to speak in platitudes, sometimes strung together rhetorically when they don’t cohere logically. Consider more closely his “Make a mess” speech at World Youth Day in 2013:

I want the Church to go out into the streets. I want us to defend ourselves against all worldliness, opposition to progress, from what is comfortable, from what is clericalism, from all that means being closed in on ourselves. Parishes, schools, institutions are made in order to go out. . . . If they do not do this, they become a non-governmental organization, and the Church must not be an NGO.

What a brain-bruising knot of contradictions: Go out into the streets — that is, the world — to defend yourself against worldliness. Church institutions must go out into the world! Many already do, such as Catholic Relief Services, arguably the Church’s premier NGO. If other Church institutions don’t do likewise, they’ll become NGOs. They must not become NGOs!

In the original Spanish, [NB] the key word in Francis’s phrase “what is comfortable” is “instalación,” derived from medieval Latin. A “stall” was a fixed place, and “installation” was, and remains, an ecclesiastical term for the assignment of a prelate to his place — of a bishop, for example, to his “cathedra,” or “chair.” A bishop should be stable, like a tree, rooted in the soil of his diocese. Episcopal “absenteeism” (a bishop’s failure to reside in the diocese where he has his chair) was once common, but the Church has condemned it since the Council of Trent in the 16th century. Francis himself has disparaged “airport bishops,” although in doing so he seems to contradict his message that the Church’s missionary (Latin: “sent out”) or apostolic (Greek: “sent out”) character is preeminent. [I wonder if a distinction must be made between the mission call of clerics and of lay people.]

The word “missionary,” of course, is now associated with colonialism and has fallen out of fashion. And “apostolic” sounds churchy and formal. In contemporary Catholicism, the new word for the Extrovert Ideal is “evangelical,” as in “the New Evangelization.” You know the drill: Leave the fortress and sally forth into town. Drop that sourpuss, Counter-Reformation stance contra mundum. Engage the world with a smile. Let’s dialogue.

That’s the music, from circa 1965, to which the lyrics of the New Evangelization have been set. The term originated during the pontificate of John Paul II, and Benedict XVI formally recognized the concept in 2010, when he created the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. Benedict charged it with “the specific task of promoting a renewed evangelization in countries where the first proclamation of the faith already resounded, and where Churches are present of ancient foundation, but which are going through a progressive secularization of society and a sort of ‘eclipse of the sense of God.’” It was a serious objective nobly articulated.

In the Francis era, sadly, the New Evangelization is sometimes made to sound like a program for shaming introverted Catholics into leaving their conversation with the Lord so they can go help in the kitchen. [And here is a serious concern – one of my most serious concerns, even fears…] Concern with liturgy, for example, the public prayer of the Church, is dismissed as “the Church . . . being obsessed with itself.”  [For the thousandth time, unless we have a revitalization of our sacred liturgical worship, no initiative we undertake in the Church will bear lasting fruits.  A revitalization of our worship is a good in itself and needs no further justification.  However, if we want any sort of New Evangelization to work, we had better find our knees again, and silence, and the transforming, unsettling encounter with mystery which is found only in sacred liturgy.]

Martha, Martha.

Remember, Mary chose “the better part” and “the one thing necessary.” Jesus’ teaching in Bethany stands in obvious creative tension, however, with his instruction to his disciples to go forth, teach all nations, and baptize them. All Christians are called to contribute to the Great Commission, but the nature of the contribution will vary from individual to individual, as the body of Christ has many members, each with a different function. “Are all apostles?” Saint Paul asks rhetorically (1 Cor. 12:29).

[… CUTTING A BIG CHUNK…]

In our drive to conform to the Extrovert Ideal, the spiritual fruits of their labor have become invisible to us, inaudible, unintelligible. Godspeed to Pope Francis in his mission to draw people to the Church — but not in his attempt to discourage those who are only laboring to keep the oil burning in the sanctuary lamp. [Good image, and situated well.  The sanctuary is the place we need to revitalize before we can hit the streets.] The flame is guttering.

I am going to turn on the moderation queue and let some of your comments pile up before releasing them.  That way you are engaging the material first, rather than reacting to each other first.

Also, you will want to read the whole piece before jumping in.

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Russ Douthat: three groups of Pope Francis’ crit...

Posted on Mar 13, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

The insightful Russ Douthat of, remarkably, Hell’s Bible (aka New York Times) has some comments about Pope Francis’ critics on the right.  This is worth your time.  It is long, so we’ll have just a taste here.  Keep in mind that he doesn’t go into Francis’ critics on the other end of the spectrum, and they are growing in number as their disatisfaction with him grows.

My usual black and red treatment:

Who Are Pope Francis’s Critics?

The latest cover of the new New Republic features Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig taking on conservative anxieties about Pope Francis’s possible “radicalism.” The essay isn’t just about the pope; it offers a larger critique of the way that conservatives, Catholic and otherwise, relate to and interpret the human/Western/Christian past. I have a few disagreements with this depiction, and a few critical generalizations I’d make about the liberal tendency in Catholic thinking and debate right now. But I’ll save those for another post; for now I think it would be helpful for the discussion of Catholicism in the Francis era to spend some time distinguishing between the different groups who have doubts, or flirt with having doubts, about this pontificate, because in Bruenig’s account they run together a bit and I think the distinctions are actually enormously important.

A preliminary point to make is that Francis’s genuinely strident critics — as opposed to skeptics or fretters or unsettled observers — are quite few in number. “The differences in opinion between Francis and the movement collectively known as the ‘American right’ appear especially numerous,” Bruenig writes, “and unusually bitter.” She has examples — I’m one of them — and they do add up to a current (or currents) of criticism, but not all of them/us are obviously “bitter,” the American right is a lot bigger than a few pundits and bloggers, and it’s worth noting that the divide she sees opening up is largely invisible in public polling. In the latest Pew survey, for instance, the pope is just as popular (and he is very popular) among Catholics who vote Republican as among Catholics who vote Democratic, and he has slightly higher net favorables among self-described “conservative” Catholics than among self-described “moderates” and “liberals.” To the extent that the anxieties Bruenig identifies are visible in polling at all, they may show up in the somewhat elevated number of conservative Catholics who say their views of Francis are “mostly favorable” rather than “very favorable,” or the pope’s slightly higher net-unfavorables among Catholic Republicans — but that “higher” means a net of 10 percent, compared to 7 percent for Catholic Democrats, which is hardly the stuff of deep, bitter divides. (Pew’s old polling on Benedict XVI didn’t break things down by party or ideology, but I’d lay odds that his unfavorable numbers among Catholics who self-identify as liberal were much higher than than Francis’s currently are among any definition of the American Catholic right.)

So what we’re talking about here, what Bruenig is analyzing, is for now more a tendency within the intelligentsia (and the world of comment threads, but perhaps I repeat myself) than a large-scale phenomenon. And its various elements don’t all fit easily under a single label or description. Instead, I would divide them into three groups:

1. Traditionalists. These are Catholics defined by their preference/zeal for the Tridentine Rite Mass and their rejection of (or at least doubts about) various reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Some attend mainstream parishes that offer the mass in Latin, others are affiliated with orders specifically organized around the old rite, others are connected to parishes run by the (arguably; it’s a long argument) schismatic [sic] Society of Saint Pius X. [There is loose terminology here.  For example, SSPX can’t have parishes, since parishes must erected by proper authority (which the SSPX lacks).] There’s lots of variation within traditionalist ranks (my friend Michael Brendan Dougherty, cited by Bruenig, is a “trad” of a different sort than, say, this fellow), [Michael Voris] but the important things to emphasize are first, that their numbers (in the American context and otherwise) are quite small; second, that their concerns are not usually the same as those of the typical John Paul II-admiring conservative Catholic (traditionalists were often not admirers of the Polish pope); and third, that their skepticism of Pope Francis was probably inevitable and pretty clearly mutual. [Douthat seems to be painting this group as the fringe of the intelligensia.]

For instance, Bruenig notes that Rorate Caeli, a traditionalist site, greeted Jorge Bergoglio’s election by describing him as “a sworn enemy of the traditional Mass.” But what she doesn’t mention is that as Francis, he has often vindicated those fears: He has demoted the traditional mass’s most prominent champion within the Vatican, cracked down on a prominent traditionalist order, and frequently singled out traditionalist tendencies and practices for criticism in his remarks. Traditionalism has, it’s fair to say, a paranoid streak and then some, but even paranoids have enemies, and since the Tridentine mass was essentially suppressed in much of the church for a generation and more, Francis’s moves have not exactly been calculated to reassure Catholics of this persuasion about their place within the church.

This doesn’t mean traditionalists are “right” and the pope is “wrong.” (If you want to understand where Francis might be coming from, consider that the SSPX seminary in Argentina during his years as archbishop of Buenos Aires was run by this charmer.) [He is referring to former SSPX bishop Williamson.  This has been my thesis.] But it means that the conflict here has very specific contours, and the stakes involved are distinctive and not particularly influenced by, say, Francis’s social and economic vision (which some traditionalists find entirely congenial; see this Rorate Caeli post for an example). Which makes it very different from my second case study … [While this gives Rorate far too much ink, it does situate that site well in this set of three groups.]

2. Catholics who are economic conservatives or libertarians. […]

[Remember that the catholic Left such as the Fishwrap has been trying to paint anyone who doesn’t want redistribution of wealth or who doesn’t embrace the zero-sum game view, or who sees free markets as a way to raise more people out of poverty more effectively and more quickly as a “liberatarian”, which for them is a cuss word.  They’ve created a straw-man, chimeric “libertarian”.  Again, a true laissez-faire libertarian is a pretty rare bird.]

3. Doctrinal conservatives. These are conservative American Catholics whose Francis-era anxieties center around the issues raised during last fall’s synod on the family, and particularly around Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to admit Catholics in second marriages (which the church does not recognize as marriages at all) to communion — an issue I may have written aboutfrom time to time.

[…]

That picture — coming around to the point of this rambling taxonomy — is simply this. A future in which Francis’s “radicalism” (a term that would require yet another post to unpack, so I won’t) is defined by his approach to the social gospel, globalization and the poor is one in which the tension with traditionalists will remain intense but not high-profile, in which the tension with free-marketeers and libertarians will percolate in interesting ways, and in which conservative doubts about this pontificate will remain a particularly American phenomenon and a mostly elite-level tendency overall. [Again, with the small in number theme.  However, I think this group is growing in size and awareness, as are the other two, above.] And it’s a future, at this point, that I would welcome, since I’d be very happy to spend more time arguing with Bruenig about the church’s historical relationship to the welfare state and less time arguing about German cardinals and divorce.

But a future in which this pope’s “radicalism” extends to moves that look like an implicit change of doctrine around communion and/or marriage … in which it’s not just Hannity but the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that’s in conflict with the throne of Peter … well, in that future the economic issues would become a sideshow, and the pope’s existing conflict with traditionalists would become the template for a doctrinal conflict that’s wider, global, and essentially unknowable in its results. And it’s that future, for reasons that I believe are more Christian than “conservative”, that I’d very much prefer the Catholic faith be spared.

Me too.

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JUBILEE YEAR ANNOUNCED – OF MERCY!...

Posted on Mar 13, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

On the 2nd anniversary of his election to the See of Peter, Pope Francis announced a Jubilee Year “of Mercy”.

The Jubilee will begin with the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica on the 8 December 2015, Feast of the Immaculate Conception and 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. The Jubilee will conclude on 20 November 2016, Christ the King (in the Novus Ordo calendar).

He will promulgate the Bull proclaiming the Jubilee on the Sunday after Easter, “Divine Mercy”.

The last major Jubilee was announced by St. John Paul II for the Year 2000. Generally Jubilees come every 25 years or so, but there have been special Jubilees, such as that of 1983.

Francis made the announcement in the context of a penance service with individual confessions.

Pope Francis has spoken often and with great warmth about the need for the Sacrament of Penance. He gave a magnificent testimony to how important making a good confession is when, last year, again in the context of a penance service, he made his own confession at one of the confessionals in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The theme of “mercy” has been strong in this pontificate.

However, we must always remember that mercy cannot be separated from the truth. We cannot set aside the truth of Catholic doctrine in the name of mercy, because that would falsify mercy. Similarly, we cannot approach God seeking mercy without first discerning the truth about ourselves, our state of soul, our sins, the harm we have done to ourselves, to neighbors and to God’s love. Furthermore, mercy is not the enemy of justice. God’s justice we will receive whether we want it or not. God cannot be other than just. However, mercy is always there for the asking, provided that we do so with honesty and humility.

A Year of Mercy is an inspired idea. It reminds me strongly of something that Benedict XVI might have implemented. That said, there is no question that the theme of mercy has resonated constantly during the Pope Francis’ pontificate, even in his choice of motto, Miserando atque eligendo.

francis confession

 

UPDATE:

Yes, the Holy Father made his own confession also this evening.  This time, however, he was not in his own surplice and stole, just his house cassock.

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Lent: A Season for Sacrifice...

Posted on Mar 12, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Our guest blogger today is Kyle Kramer, the executive director of the Passionist Earth and Spirit Center in Louisville, Kentucky..

Years ago, as Lent approached, I asked a trusted spiritual counselor what he was going to give up. He gave me a sly grin and said, “I’m giving up giving things up for Lent.”

He was no spiritual sloth. Looking back, I imagine he was probably trying to correct my overzealous understanding of Lent as a time to flex my spiritual muscles and hone my ascetic self-denial to a razor-sharp edge. For (too) many years I had a no pain, no gain, “if it hurts, it’s holy” understanding of spirituality. For me, faith was pretty much the same thing as moral willpower. So when Lent came around, I was eager for the chance to gird up my loins, deprive myself, and grit my teeth for 40 days.

With this kind of mindset, I suppose it was no coincidence that I was also a raging environmentalist. After all, if I liked the deprivations of Lent so much, why not deny myself creature comforts year-round, in the name of saving the Earth? Middle age, raising children, and some spiritual maturing have helped me understand that such a gung-ho approach to Lent and environmentalism was as much ego as it was youthful, high-minded idealism. But I don’t think realizing that means I should simply “give up giving things up.”

We follow a savior who, out of love, gave his very life for others. And we live on a planet that cannot sustain seven billion people if everyone consumes like the average American; many of us will have to live more simply so others can simply live.

But how do we give things up in a way that’s spiritually fruitful, without being dour and resentful, and not inflating our own ego with a martyr complex? I can think of three ways.

First, become self-aware. Take a hard look at your own motivations—not judging them, but just paying careful attention to why you do what you do. Second, practice gratitude. The more grateful you are for the blessings in your life, the easier it is to make sacrifices.

Finally, cultivate compassion. Acting out of empathy and concern for others is the most life-giving motivation of all. This kind of love is what moved Jesus to heal the sick and to carry his cross to Golgotha. And it’s what Lenten sacrifice is really all about.

This blog is from Kyle Kramer’s “At Home on Earth” column in St. Anthony Messenger. To learn more or two subscribe, click here.

*****

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"And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood.

I will now give my blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will."

-Papa Francis quote

He does not know you, yet he prays for you.
He will most likely never meet you, yet he loves you.

This is your chance to show your love, for as the Bible teaches, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."