From the Vatican

Pope Angelus: Invitation to Joy on “Bambinelli Sunday”

Pope 121618December 16, 2018 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis at the Sunday Angelus blesses the “Bambinelli” and says this third Sunday of Advent invites us to be joyful.

The Third Sunday of Advent has for many years been the day when the children of Rome bring the Baby Jesus statues from their Nativity Scenes to St. Peter’s Square to be blessed by the Pope during the Angelus. The day is affectionately known as “Bambinelli Sunday.”

Bambinelli Sunday

The theme chosen by the Roman Oratory Centre for this traditional appointment with Pope Francis on Sunday was "All the joy in a manger".

Speaking from the window of his studio in the Apostolic Palace, the Pope told the children wrapped up against the winter chill, that “when you gather in your homes in prayer before the manger, looking at the Child Jesus, you will feel amazement at the great mystery of God made man; and the Holy Spirit will give your heart the humility, tenderness and goodness of Jesus. This is the true Christmas! May this be so for you and for your families.”

Invitation to Joy

Before the recitation of the Marian Prayer, Pope Francis said the liturgy on this third Sunday of Advent invites us to be joyful. The inhabitants of Jerusalem are called to rejoice because the Lord has lifted his condemnation. The Pope continued, “consequently, there is no longer any reason for sadness or discouragement for the people, but everything leads to joyful gratitude to God, who always wants to redeem and save those he loves.”

Delving into the readings of the day, the Pope noted that the appeal of the prophet Zephaniah who says, 'He will rejoice for you, he will renew you with his love, he will exult for you with cries of joy',  "is particularly appropriate at this time as we prepare for Christmas”, because, the Pontiff added,  “it applies to Jesus, the Emmanuel, the God who is with us: his presence is the source of joy.”

Saint Paul, Pope Francis commented, “also exhorts us today not to be anxious for anything, but in every circumstance to present to God our requests, our needs, our concerns with prayers and supplications. The awareness that in difficulties we can always turn to the Lord, and that He never rejects our invocations, is a great reason for joy”, the Pope said. “No worry, no fear will ever be able to take away from us the serenity that comes from knowing that God guides our lives lovingly, always. Even in the midst of problems and suffering, this certainty nourishes hope and courage.”

Pope Francis stressed this season of Advent is one of conversion, and in order to accept the Lord’s invitation to joy, he said,  we need to be asking ourselves at this time “what should I do”.

Global Compact

Following the Angelus, the Pope recalled the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Ordered and Regular Migration which took place in Marrakech, Morocco, during the week. Pope Francis expressed the hope that this instrument, “will be able to work with responsibility, solidarity and compassion towards those who, for various reasons, have left their country...”

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Fr Cantalamessa: Contemplating Trinity Helps Overcome Division

Pope 121418December 14, 2018 (Vatican Media) In his second Sermon for Advent 2018, the Preacher to the Pontifical Household continued his reflection on the Holy Trinity. The Sermon was delivered in the “Redemptoris Mater” Chapel in the Apostolic Palace, in the presence of Pope Francis.

“The Trinity is like one of those musical triangles that vibrates and gives forth the same sound from whatever side it is struck.” This was one of the key notes of the Sermon by Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, the Preacher of the Pontifical Household. In this “triumvirate,” he said, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are always “engaged in glorifying each other.” Fr Cantalamessa’s sermon revolved around the idea of this Trinitarian symphony. “There is only one ‘place’ in the world where the rule of ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ is perfectly put into practice, and it is in the Trinity!”

Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity

Father Cantalamessa recalled that “the model for all representations of the Trinity” is the icon of Andrei Rublev, written in 1425, and reproduced in mosaic in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel. The dogma of the Trinity, he observed, is expressed by the fact “that the three Persons represented are distinct but closely resemble each other.” And they “are ideally positioned within a circle that highlights their unity.” From the icon, he said, comes forth “a silent cry”: “Be one as we are one.”

Trinity and unity

The Trinity, Fr Cantalamessa said, shows us “the true path to unity”: “the three Persons are united but without being confused; each Person ‘identifies’ with the other, gives Himself to the other, and sustains the existence of the other.” All people want unity, he said, and “desire it from the bottom of their hearts.” So why is it so difficult to achieve unity? Fr Cantalamessa asked. “It is because we want unity of course, but . . . unity around our point of view.” The problem, he explained, “is that the person before me is doing exactly the same thing with me. No unity will ever be achieved if we go about it this way; unity requires the opposite path.”

Overcoming division

The Trinity is “a living and vibrant reality,” the papal preacher continued. It is the absolute manifestation of love: “Every divine Person loves the others exactly as himself.” Fr Cantalamessa said that “contemplating the Trinity truly helps us to overcome ‘the hateful divisions of the world.’” He explained, “We can be divided on our thinking—on doctrinal or pastoral questions that are still legitimately debated in the Church—but we should never be divided in heart: In dubiis libertas, in omnibus vero caritas (‘liberty in doubtful things, charity in all things’).” This, he said, “specifically means imitating the unity in the Trinity, which is, in fact, ‘unity in diversity.’”

Entering into the Trinity

Finally, Fr Cantalamessa said, “There is something that is more blessed that we can do with regard to the Trinity than contemplate and imitate it. And that is to enter into it!” Christ, he explained, “has left us a concrete way to do that: the Eucharist.” Father Cantalamessa said that at “the moment of Communion” the words of Christ, “I in them and you in me” (Jn 17:23) are “actualized… in a strict sense.” In the Eucharist, he concluded, we are offered the grace to be “table guests of the Trinity.”

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Pope Francis Celebrates Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe

Pope 121318December 13, 2018 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday evening to mark the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas. A working translation of the Pope's homily is below:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness” (Lk 1,46-48). Thus begins the hymn, the Magnificat. Through it, Mary becomes the first “teacher of the Gospel” (CELAM, Puebla, 290): she reminds us of the promises made to our fathers and invites us to sing the mercy of the Lord.

Mary teaches us that, regarding the art of mission and hope, lots of words and programs are not necessary. Her method is very simple: she walked and she sang.

Mary walked

This is how the Gospel presents her to us after the annunciation of the Angel. In haste – but not anxiously – she walked toward Elizabeth's house to accompany her in the last trimester of her pregnancy; she walked in haste toward Jesus when there was no wine at the wedding feast; and with hair already greying with the passing of years, she walked toward Golgotha to stand at the foot of the cross: on that threshold of darkness and pain, she did not evade it nor did she run away, she walked in order to be there.

She walked to Tepeyac to accompany Juan Diego and she continues walking the Continent when, by means of an image or holy card, of a candle or a medal, of a rosary or a Hail Mary, she enters a house, a prison cell, a hospital room, an old age home, a school, a rehabilitation clinic... to say: “Am I not here, who am your mother?” (Nican Mopohua, 119) She more than anyone knows how to draw near. She is a woman who walks with the delicateness and tenderness of a mother; she feels at home in family life; she unties one knot or another of the many wrongs we manage to generate; and she teaches us to remain on our feet in the midst of the storm.

In Mary’s school we learn to keep walking to reach places where we need to be: on our feet, standing beside so many lives that have been lost or have been robbed of hope.

In Mary’s school we learn to walk through the neighborhood and the city, not with slippers delivering magical solutions, immediate answers and instantaneous results; not with the power of fantastic promises of a pseudo-progress which, little by little, succeeds only in usurping cultural and family identities, destroying the vital fabric that has sustained our people, with the pretentious intention of establishing uniformity of thought.

In Mary’s school we learn to walk the city and nourish our heart with the multicultural richness that dwells on the Continent; when we are able to listen to that hidden heart which beats in our peoples and which guards—like a smoldering fire under what appear to be ashes—a sense of God and His transcendence, the sacredness of life, respect for creation, the bonds of solidarity, the joy of the art of good living, the capacity of being happy and to celebrate without conditions—this is how we understand what America is at its roots (cf. Encuentro con el Comité Directivo del CELAM, Colombia, 7 septiembre 2017).

Mary walked and Mary sang

Mary walks bearing the joy of someone who sings of the wonders that God has done in his lowly servant. As she passes, like a good mother, she rouses the song giving voice to so many who, for one reason or another, felt that they could not sing. She gives the word to John—who leaps in his mother’s womb. She gives the word to Elizabeth—who begins to bless; to elderly Simeon—and makes him prophesy and dream, she teaches the Word to gibber his first words.

In Mary’s school we learn that her life was marked not by protgonism but by the capacity of making others be the protagonists. She offers courage, teaches how to speak, and above all encourages the living of the audacity of faith and hope. In this way, she manifests the transparent face of the Lord who shows His power inviting participation and calling us to construct His living temple. This is exactly what He did with the lowly Juan Diego and with many others to whom, removing them from anonymity, gave them a voice, made known their face and story and made them protagonists of that story, the history of salvation. The Lord does not seek self-centered applause or worldly admiration. His glory is in making His children protagonists of creation. With a motherly heart, Mary seeks to raise up and dignify all those who, for different reasons and circumstances, were immersed in abandonment and oblivion.

In Mary’s school we learn the protagonism that does not need to humiliate, mistreat, despise or mock others in order to feel valuable or important; that physical or psychological violence do not need to be resorted to in order to feel safe and protected. It is a protagonism that does not fear tenderness or signs of affection, and which knows that its best face is service. In her school we learn authentic protagonism, to dignify all who have fallen, doing so with the omnipotent power of divine love which is the irresistible power of His promise of mercy.

In Mary, the Lord silenced the temptation to give protagonism the strength of intimidation and power, to those who scream the loudest or who assert themselves on the basis of lies or manipulation. With Mary, the Lord watches over believers so that their hearts do not harden and that they might constantly know the renewed and renewing power of solidarity, capable of hearing God’s pulse in the hearts of the men and women of our peoples.

Mary, “teacher of the gospel”, walked and sang on our Continent and thus, the Guadalupana is not only remembered as indigenous, Spanish, Hispanic or African-American. She is simply Latin American: Mother of a fertile and generous land in which everyone, in one way or another, can be found playing a leading role in the building of the holy Temple of the Family of God.

Latin American son or daughter, brother or sister, without fear, sing and walk, as your Mother did.

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Pope at Audience: ‘Our Father Turns Suffering into Dialogue’

Pope 121218By Devin Watkins

December 12, 2018 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis continued his reflection on the Our Father during the Wednesday General Audience, calling it “a bold prayer”.  The Pope says the Our Father invites us to turn every pain and disturbance into a dialogue with God.

“I say bold because, if Christ had not suggested it, none of us would probably have dared to pray to God in this way,” he said.

The Holy Father noted that there are no prefaces to the prayer. Jesus, he said, invites us to pray directly to the Lord without the barriers of subjection or fear. “He doesn’t tell us to call God ‘Omnipotent’ or ‘Most High’ or ‘You, who are so distant from us...’ but simply to use the word ‘Father’… expressing closeness and filial trust.”

7 questions for daily life

Pope Francis said the Our Father is made up of seven questions, saying the number seven represents fullness in the Bible.

He said each of the seven supplications are rooted in the our experience of daily life and its basic needs. We ask for bread, said the Pope, to remind us that “prayer starts with life itself.”

“Prayer – Jesus teaches us – begins not when the stomach is full but wherever any person hungers, cries, fights, suffers, and asks themselves ‘why’.”

Pope Francis said our first prayer “was the cry that accompanied our original breath as a new-born child, for it announced our life’s destiny: our continual hunger and thirst and search for happiness.”

Suffering becomes dialogue

Jesus’ prayer, the Holy Father said, turns every pain and disturbance into a dialogue with God, rather than snuffing out our humanity or anesthetizing our suffering.

“Faith,” the Pope said, “is a habit of shouting.”

He gave the example of the Blind Bartimaeus (Mk 10:46-52), who cries out to Jesus, despite the scolding of those around him, and is healed. Jesus, Pope Francis said, seems to say that “the decisive factor in his healing was his prayer – his invocation shouted out in faith – that was stronger than the good sense of those who would have had him be quiet.”

An authentic prayer

Finally, Pope Francis warned against embracing the theory that the prayer of supplication – or asking something for oneself – is a weak form of faith. “No!” he said, “A faith that asks is authentic. It is spontaneous and an act of faith in God who is Father”.

“God is truly a Father who has an immense compassion for us and wants his children to address him directly and without fear.”

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Pope at Mass: Let Us Allow Ourselves to be Consoled by God

Pope 121118December 11, 2018 (Vatican Media) At the Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis speaks about consolation, which he says should be the normal state for Christians. But in today’s world, he says, the word “tenderness” has effectively been removed from the dictionary.

The Lord comforts us with tenderness, like mothers who caress their children when they cry. Pope Francis encouraged us to allow ourselves to be comforted by God, and not to put up resistance.

Don’t resist consolation

The first reading, taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (40,1-11), is an invitation to consolation: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God,” because “her guilt is expiated.” This, the Pope explained, refers to the “consolation of salvation,” to the good news that “we are saved.” The Risen Christ, in those forty days after His Resurrection, did just that with His disciples: He consoled them. But, Pope Francis continued, we tend to resist consolation, as if “we were safer in the turbulent waters of our problems.” “We bet on desolation, on problems, on defeat;” the Lord works very hard to console us, but encounters resistance. This can be seen even with the disciples on the morning of Easter, who needed to be reassured, because they were afraid of another defeat.

Tenderness: a word that has been struck from the dictionary

“We are attached to this spiritual pessimism,” Pope Francis said. He described how children who approach him during his public audiences sometimes “see me and scream, they begin to cry, because seeing someone in white, they think of the doctor and the nurse, who give them a shot for their vaccines; and [the children] think, ‘No, no, not another one!’” “And we are a little like that,” the Pope continued, but the Lord says, “Comfort, comfort my people.”

And how does the Lord give comfort? With tenderness. It is a language that the prophets of doom do not recognize: tenderness. It is a word that is cancelled by all the vices that drive us away from the Lord: clerical vices, the vices of some Christians who don’t want to move, of the lukewarm… Tenderness scares them. “See, the Lord has His reward with Him, His recompense goes before Him” – this is how the passage from Isaiah concludes. “Like a shepherd He feeds His flock; in His arms He gathers the lambs, carrying them in His bosom, and leading the ewes with care.” This is the way the Lord comforts: with tenderness. Tenderness consoles. When a child cries, a mom will caress them and calm them with tenderness: a word that the world today has practically removed from the dictionary.”

Consolation in times of martyrdom

The Lord invites us to allow ourselves to be consoled by Him; and this is also helpful in our preparation for Christmas. And today, the Pope said, in the opening prayer from the Mass, we asked for the grace of a sincere joyfulness, of this simple but sincere joy:

And indeed, I would say that the habitual state of the Christian should be consolation. Even in bad moments: The martyrs entered the Colosseum singing; [and] the martyrs of today – I think of the good Coptic workers on the beach in Libya, whose throats were cut – died saying “Jesus, Jesus!” There is a consolation within: a joy even in the moment of martyrdom. The habitual state of the Christian should be consolation, which is not the same as optimism, no. Optimism is something else. But consolation, that positive base… We’re talking about radiant, positive people: the positivity, the radiance of the Christian is the consolation.

The Lord knocks at the door with caresses

When we suffer, we might not feel that consolation; but a Christian will not lose interior peace “because it is a gift from the Lord,” who offers it to all, even in the darkest moments. And so, Pope Francis said, in these weeks leading up to Christmas, we should ask the Lord for the grace to not be afraid to allow ourselves to be consoled by Him. Referring back to the Gospel of the day (Mt 18,12-14), he said we should pray:

“That I too might prepare myself for Christmas at least with peace: peace of heart, the peace of Your presence, the peace given by Your caresses.” But [you might say] “I am a great sinner.” – Ok, but what does today’s Gospel tell us? That the Lord consoles like the shepherd who, if he loses one of his sheep, goes in search of it; like that man who has a hundred sheep, and one of them is lost: he goes in search of it. The Lord does just that with each one of us. [But] I don’t want peace, I resist peace, I resist consolation… But He is at the door. He knocks so that we might open our heart in order to allow ourselves to be consoled, and to allow ourselves to be set at peace. And He does it with gentleness. He knocks with caresses.

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Pope at Mass: ‘Prepare for Christmas with the Courage of Faith’

Pope 121018By Linda Bordoni 

December 10, 2018 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis on Monday shone the spotlight on the second week of Advent urging believers to ask for the grace to prepare themselves with faith to celebrate Christmas.

Speaking during the homily at Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, the Pope said “it’s not easy to keep the faith, to defend the faith”.

Reflecting on the Gospel reading of the day that tells the story of a paralyzed man healed by Jesus, the Pope said faith gives us courage and shows us the way to touch the heart of the Lord.

He noted how, in the parable, the Lord “saw the faith” of those who brought the man and set him in His presence. “It took courage,“ he said, to go up on the roof and lower him on the stretcher through the tiles…. “Those people had faith: “They knew that if the sick man was put in front of Jesus, he would be healed”.

Celebrate Christmas with faith

The Pope also recalled other episodes in which Jesus expressed admiration for people’s faith. Like in the case of the centurion who asked  for the healing of his servant,  of the Syrophoenician woman who interceded for her daughter who was possessed by the devil, and of the woman afflicted with hemorrhages  who was healed after having touched the hem of Jesus’  cloak. “Jesus, the Pope said, reproaches people of little faith”, like Peter who doubts, but he said; “with faith everything is possible”.

In this second week of Advent, Pope Francis continued, “we ask for the grace to prepare ourselves with faith to celebrate Christmas”.

He noted that Christmas is often marked in a worldly or pagan fashion, but reiterating the Lord’s request that we do so with faith, the Pope said “it's not easy to keep the faith, it's not easy to defend the faith… it's not easy!”

Act of faith

Pope Francis wrapped up his reflection commenting on the episode narrated in the Gospel of John in which a boy who was blind is healed: “It will do us good today, and also tomorrow, during the week, to take chapter 9 of the Gospel of John and read this beautiful story of the boy who was blind from birth”.

“From the bottom of our hearts” he concluded “utter an act of faith and say: I believe Lord. Help me in my faith. Defend my faith from worldliness, from superstitions, from all that is not faith. Keep it from being reduced to theory, be it theological or moral…  Faith in You, Lord”.

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Pope at Angelus: Conversion is the Way to Wait for the Lord

Pope 120918By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

December 9, 2018 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis drew inspiration for his Angelus reflection from St John the Baptizer as presented in the Gospel of Luke on the Second Sunday of Advent. The Baptizer, the Pope said, teaches us that conversion is the way to wait for the Lord’s coming.

Guide for conversion

Pope Francis called John the Baptizer “a guide” for our conversion journey. Luke’s Gospel presents him going throughout the “region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). Luke understands that John was the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy of paths being made straight, valleys filled in and mountains being brought low.

Valleys and hills

Pope Francis explained that the Baptizer’s call is essentially the awareness of “the need of conversion”. It is the valley of coldness and indifference that we need to fill in by “opening ourselves to others” like Jesus did, being attentive to our neighbour’s needs. It is the mountain of “pride and haughtiness” that needs to be brought low. This is done, the Pope said, through “concrete gestures of reconciliation with our brothers and sisters, asking forgiveness for our faults”. Conversion is only complete, he said, with the “humble recognition of our errors, infidelities, and failures”.

Awaiting the Messiah

John the Baptizer’s invitation to conversion was strong, vigorous and severe, yet tempered by actions that communicated tenderness and pardon. Thus he reawakened the expectation for the Messiah in the multitudes of people who came to him for his baptism of repentance. The believer lives with Jesus at the centre of their lives, Pope Francis continued. With “His word of light, love and consolation” we who are Jesus’ disciples today “are called to be his humble and courageous witnesses to rekindle hope, to make it understood that, notwithstanding everything, the kingdom of God continues to be built day by day by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

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