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Pope Francis receives John XXIII Community

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received nearly 8 thousand members and associates of the Pope St. John XXIII Community on Saturday. Now recognized as an Association of Lay Faithful, the  Pope John XXIII Community was founded by Fr. Oreste Benzi of the clergy of the Diocese of Rimini in 1968, on the basis of his decade of experience with young people – mostly teenagers – who had accepted his invitation and participated in his initiatives encouraging what he called, “A friendly encounter with Christ,” especially through service to and with the disabled, marginalized, the excluded, and forgotten.

Click below to hear our report

The work of the foundation has involved numberless teens who had drifted away from the Church, offering them the chance to have a truly liberating experience and choose to live the way Christ calls them to live. In remarks prepared for the participants in the audience in Paul VI Hall on Saturday, Pope Francis said, "Providence has made you grow, proving the vitality of the charism of your Founder, who liked to say, 'In order to stand on your feet, you must get on your knees.'"

Indeed, the centrality of prayer to the life of Christian service has been a keystone of the Community’s ethos from the beginning.

The vocation of the members of the Community is to shape their lives in the image of Christ who constantly does the will of the Father. Prompted by the spirit to follow Jesus in his poverty and service, they undertake to share the lives of the least of their brothers and sisters by sharing their experiences and helping them to bear their plight. They place their shoulders under the Cross borne by others. Love for their poor brothers and sisters must urge them to try to eliminate the causes of need, and lead the Community to make a commitment to build up a more just world, and to speak out for those without a voice. This vocation requires space for prayer and contemplation, living the life of the poor, being led by obedience, and practicing fellowship according to the Gospel.

The John XXIII Community officially became an association of the faithful of Pontifical right in 1998, and is now present in 34 countries around the globe.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: at Christmas Jesus knocks at the doors of your heart

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday invited the faithful to listen carefully when God knocks at their door. “Too often – he said – Jesus passes by in our lives, he sends an angel and we are so caught up in our thoughts and concerns we do not even notice”.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni

Speaking to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus Prayer, the Pope reflected on the liturgy of the last Sunday of Advent that tells of the  Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary and on how she simply, and humbly – with an attitude of total faith in the Lord – said “yes”. She said “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1, 38).

Mary – Pope Francis said - did not know what had been laid out for her in the future, she did not know what pains and what risks she would be called to face. But she was aware that the Lord had asked something of her and she trusted in him completely. This – he said – is the faith of Mary!

Another aspect to take note of – Francis continued – is this capacity of Mary to “recognize the time of God”. Thanks to her the Incarnation of the Son of God was possible. 

Mary teaches us – the Pope said – to be aware of the favorable moment in which Jesus passes in our lives asking for a ready and generous answer.

And Jesus – he said – does pass in our lives. At Christmas he knocks at the heart of every Christian and each of us is called to respond, like Mary, with a sincere and personal “yes”, putting ourselves at the disposal of God and of his mercy.

How often – the Pope pointed out – we so caught up in our own thoughts and concerns, perhaps in these very days in our preparations for Christmas, that we do not even notice that he is knocking at the doors of our hearts, asking for a welcome, asking for a “yes”.

And recalling the words of a Saint who used to say “I am afraid that the Lord will pass me by” the Pope explained that he was really afraid that he would not notice the Lord’s presence and would not be ready to respond. This attitude – Francis said – and this fear that we feel in our hearts “is really the Lord knocking” and it makes us want to be better, to be close to others and to God. 

“If this is what you feel, stop” - the Pope said – “the Lord is there! Pray, go to confession, do some cleaning up… this is good. But remember: if you feel this wish to be better, it is He who is knocking. Don’t let him pass you by!”

And Pope Francis concluded his reflection recalling the silent, prayerful figure of Joseph, as he is portrayed in every nativity scene.

The example of Mary and Joseph – he said – is an invitation to all of us to welcome Jesus openly; he comes to bring the gift of peace: “peace on earth to those on whom his favor rests” ((Luke 2, 14).

Just as the angels said to the shepherds – Pope Francis said – the precious gift of Christmas is peace, and Christ is our true peace: “Christ is knocking at the doors of our hearts go give us His peace. Let us open those doors to Christ!”

       

   

(from Vatican Radio)

Daily Scriptures: December 21, 2014 – January 18, 2015

Sunday, Dec. 21 Fourth Sunday of Advent 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16 Romans 16:25-27 Luke 1:26-38

Pope: at Christmas Jesus knocks at the doors of your heart

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday invited the faithful to listen carefully when God knocks at their door. “Too often – he said – Jesus passes by in our lives, he sends an angel and we are so caught up in our thoughts and concerns we do not even notice”.

Speaking to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus Prayer, the Pope reflected on the liturgy of the last Sunday of Advent that tells of the  Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary and on how she simply, and humbly – with an attitude of total faith in the Lord – said “yes”. She said “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1, 38).

Mary – Pope Francis said - did not know what had been laid out for her in the future, she did not know what pains and what risks she would be called to face. But she was aware that the Lord had asked something of her and she trusted in him completely. This – he said – is the faith of Mary!

Another aspect to take note of – Francis continued – is this capacity of Mary to “recognize the time of God”. Thanks to her the Incarnation of the Son of God was possible. 

Mary teaches us – the Pope said – to be aware of the favorable moment in which Jesus passes in our lives asking for a ready and generous answer.

And Jesus – he said – does pass in our lives. At Christmas he knocks at the heart of every Christian and each of us is called to respond, like Mary, with a sincere and personal “yes”, putting ourselves at the disposal of God and of his mercy.

How often – the Pope pointed out – we so caught up in our own thoughts and concerns, perhaps in these very days in our preparations for Christmas, that we do not even notice that he is knocking at the doors of our hearts, asking for a welcome, asking for a “yes”.

And recalling the words of a Saint who used to say “I am afraid that the Lord will pass me by” the Pope explained that he was really afraid that he would not notice the Lord’s presence and would not be ready to respond. This attitude – Francis said – and this fear that we feel in our hearts “is really the Lord knocking” and it makes us want to be better, to be close to others and to God. 

“If this is what you feel, stop” - the Pope said – “the Lord is there! Pray, go to confession, do some cleaning up… this is good. But remember: if you feel this wish to be better, it is He who is knocking. Don’t let him pass you by!”

And Pope Francis concluded his reflection recalling the silent, prayerful figure of Joseph, as he is portrayed in every nativity scene.

The example of Mary and Joseph – he said – is an invitation to all of us to welcome Jesus openly; he comes to bring the gift of peace: “peace on earth to those on whom his favor rests” ((Luke 2, 14).

Just as the angels said to the shepherds – Pope Francis said – the precious gift of Christmas is peace, and Christ is our true peace: “Christ is knocking at the doors of our hearts go give us His peace. Let us open those doors to Christ!”

       

   

(from Vatican Radio)

New Ambassador of Netherlands presents credentials to Pope

(Vatican Radio) His Royal Highness Jaime de Bourbon de Parme is the new Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Holy See.

He presented his Letters of Credence to Pope Francis on Saturday morning in the Vatican and spent time discussing a series of issues of mutual concern including peace, the environment and Cuba.

Speaking to Vatican Radio’s Sean-Patrick Lovett straight after that encounter, the Ambassador highlighted his wish to continue his work in building peace economies.

Listen to the interview: 

His Highness explains that diplomacy and conflict management have been very much part of his life up until this moment. 

He tells of his work in conflict zones doing peace negotiations in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in African countries like Congo.

Conflict management, he says, is also in his genes. His grandfather, Xavier Bourbon de Parme, fought in the 1st World War, the Spanish civil war, and for the Resistance during World War II. He was confined in a concentration camp - and survived. 

For generations his family has been marked by a history of war and a longing for peace, a longing he carries with him today

“Coming to the Vatican is a culmination of my experience”, he says. The Ambassador has a wealth of  field experience which includes international work with aid organizations, think tanks and businesses, always within the perspective of finding solutions and creating peace economies. Which is why he values the opportunites offered by his new role: "I have never worked with value-based organizations", he says. "The biggest value-based organization in the world is the Holy See, and that is what brings me here today”.

His Highness also talks about a series of documentaries he made called “Africa: War is Business" which took him to the Congo, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Experiencing conflict close up left an indelible impression on him: “I lost 22 colleagues in a bomb attack in Iraq. First you feel incredible anger and only months later, sorrow. So just imagine what the people who live in war zones feel… What if you live in Iraq and your own family is under fire? The experience created a sense of compassion and comprehension for what happens in war zones”.

In Congo he saw first-hand the relationship between economy and conflict: “There are specific mines in Kivu that provide the war lords with an income and the money to buy weapons. But who buys these minerals? We all do. Indirectly we all contribute to the war in Congo. Once I realized that, with a group of industry, we managed to create a peace economy in Eastern Congo”.

The Ambassador also describes his meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican. He says they spoke at length in Spanish, his father’s language, about peace and the latest developments regarding Cuba.

“One of the things I asked the Pope was why it was possible now. He said: ‘Well, they wanted peace but they couldn’t find each other so they needed a bridge'. And so the Pope played the role of a bridge in the peace talks in Cuba…”

And that, in synthesis, is how His Highness Jaime de Bourbon de Parme sees his own role as the Netherland's new Ambassador: a bridge between the government and people of his country and the "value-based, faith-based organization" that is the Holy See.

 

            
  

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis receives John XXIII Community

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received nearly 8 thousand members and associates of the Pope St. John XXIII Community on Saturday. Now recognized as an Association of Lay Faithful, the  Pope John XXIII Community was founded by Fr. Oreste Benzi of the clergy of the Diocese of Rimini in 1968, on the basis of his decade of experience with young people – mostly teenagers – who had accepted his invitation and participated in his initiatives encouraging what he called, “A friendly encounter with Christ,” especially through service to and with the disabled, marginalized, the excluded, and forgotten.

Click below to hear our report

The work of the foundation has involved numberless teens who had drifted away from the Church, offering them the chance to have a truly liberating experience and choose to live the way Christ calls them to live. In remarks prepared for the participants in the audience in Paul VI Hall on Saturday, Pope Francis said, "Providence has made you grow, proving the vitality of the charism of your Founder, who liked to say, 'In order to stand on your feet, you must get on your knees.'"

Indeed, the centrality of prayer to the life of Christian service has been a keystone of the Community’s ethos from the beginning.

The vocation of the members of the Community is to shape their lives in the image of Christ who constantly does the will of the Father. Prompted by the spirit to follow Jesus in his poverty and service, they undertake to share the lives of the least of their brothers and sisters by sharing their experiences and helping them to bear their plight. They place their shoulders under the Cross borne by others. Love for their poor brothers and sisters must urge them to try to eliminate the causes of need, and lead the Community to make a commitment to build up a more just world, and to speak out for those without a voice. This vocation requires space for prayer and contemplation, living the life of the poor, being led by obedience, and practicing fellowship according to the Gospel.

The John XXIII Community officially became an association of the faithful of Pontifical right in 1998, and is now present in 34 countries around the globe.

(from Vatican Radio)

Father Raniero Cantalamessa's Third Advent Reflection

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday attended the Third Advent Reflection by the Preacher of the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa. The theme was “Let the Peace of Christ rule in you hearts”, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians.

 

The Full text is below.

 

Father Raniero Cantalamessa

Third Advent Reflection

“LET THE PEACE OF CHRIST RULE IN YOUR HEARTS”

(Colossians 3:15)

Peace, Fruit of the Spirit

 

1. Peace Fruit of the Spirit

After having reflected on peace as a gift of God in Christ Jesus to the whole of humanity, and peace as a task to work for, it remains to speak of peace as fruit of the Spirit. Saint Paul puts peace in the third place among the fruits of the Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22).

We discover what “the fruits of the Spirit” are in fact, by analyzing the context in which this idea recurs. The context is that of the struggle between the flesh and the spirit, that is, between the principle that regulates the old man’s life, full of concupiscence and earthly wishes, and that which regulates the life of the new man, led by the Spirit of Christ. In the expression “fruits of the spirit,” “spirit” does not indicate the Holy Spirit in himself, but the principle of the new life, or also “the man who lets himself be guided by the Spirit.”

As opposed to charisms, which are the exclusive work of the Spirit that He gives to whomever He wills when He wills, the fruits are the result of collaboration between grace and liberty. Therefore, they are what today we understand as virtue, if we give this word the biblical meaning of habitual acting “according to Christ,” or “according to the Spirit,” rather than the Aristotelian philosophical meaning of habitual acting “according to right reason.” Again, as opposed to the gifts of the Spirit, which are different from person to person, the fruits of the Spirit are identical for all. Not all in the Church can be Apostles, prophets, Evangelists; however, all indistinctly, from the first to the last, can and must be charitable, patient, humble, peaceful.

Peace that is fruit of the Spirit is, therefore, different from peace as gift of God and peace as a task for which to work. It indicates the habitual condition (habitus), the state of mind and style of life of one who, through effort and vigilance, has attained a certain interior pacification. Peace fruit of the Spirit is peace of heart. And it is of this very beautiful and very desired thing of which we shall speak today. It is, yes, different from the task to be peacemakers, but it also serves wonderfully to this end. The title of Pope John Paul II’s message for the 1984 World Day of Peace was: “Peace Is Born of a New Heart,” and Francis of Assisi, on sending his friars around the world, recommended to them: “The peace that you proclaim with your mouth, you must have first of all in your hearts.”

2. Interior Peace in the Spiritual Tradition of the Church

In the course of the centuries, the attainment of interior peace or peace of the heart has committed all the great seekers of God. In the East, beginning with the desert Fathers, it was concretized in the ideal of hesychia, hesychasm, or stillness, rest, quiet, silence. One dared to propose to oneself or to others a very lofty, if not, in fact, superhuman, aim: to remove every thought from the mind, every desire from the will, every remembrance from the memory, to leave in the mind only the thought of God, in the will only the desire of God and in the memory only the remembrance of God and of Christ (the mneme Theou) -- a titanic struggle against thoughts (logismoi), not only evil ones but also good ones. An extreme example of this peace, obtained with a fierce war, has remained in the monastic tradition of monk Arsenius who, to the question “what must I do to be saved?” -- heard God respond: “Arsenius, flee, be silent and keep yourself in stillness”(literally, practice the hesychia) .

Later this spiritual current gave place to the practice of the prayer of the heart, or uninterrupted prayer, still largely practiced in Eastern Christianity and of which “The Tales of a Russian Pilgrim” are the most fascinating expression. In the beginning, however, it was not identified with this. It was a way to attain perfect tranquillity of heart; not an empty tranquillity as an end in itself, but a full tranquillity, similar to that of the Blessed, a beginning to live on earth the conditions of the Saints in Heaven.

The Western Tradition has pursued the same ideal but through other ways, accessible both to those who practice the contemplative life, and those who practice an active life. Reflection begins with Augustine. He dedicated a whole book of his work The City of God to reflect on the different forms of peace, giving for each a definition which has been a school up to now, among which is that of peace as “tranquillitas ordinis,” the tranquillity of order. However, it is above all what he says in the Confessions that has influenced in delineating the ideal of peace of heart.

At the beginning of the book, he addresses to God, almost in passing, a word destined to have immense resonance in all subsequent thought: “You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”  Further on he illustrates this affirmation with the example of gravity.

“Our peace is in the good will [of God]. Every body, because of its weight, tends to the place that is proper to it. A weight does not only drag down, but it does so to the place that is proper to it. Fire tends to go up, stone to go down, both pushed by their weight to seek their place …My weight is my love; it takes me wherever I go.”

As long as we are on this earth the place of our rest is the will of God, abandonment to His wishes. “Rest is not found if one does not consent to the will of God without resistance.”  Dante Alighieri summarized this Augustinian thought in his famous verse: “ And in his will is our trnquility”.”

Only in Heaven will the place of rest be God Himself. Therefore, Augustine ends his treatment of the subject of peace with an impassioned praise of the peace of the heavenly Jerusalem, which it is worthwhile for us to hear, in order to also be inflamed with the desire for it:

“Then there is the final peace […] In that peace it is not necessary for reason to control impulses because they will not be, but God will control man, the spiritual soul the body and so great will be the serenity and the willingness to submission, as great will be the delight of living and dominating. And then, this condition will be eternal in each and all, and there will be the certainty that it is eternal and, therefore, the peace of such happiness, namely the happiness of such peace will be the supreme good.”

The hope of this eternal peace has marked the whole liturgy of the dead. Expressions such as “In the peace of Christ”(“In pace Christi”) or “May he rest in peace”  (“Requiescat in pace”) are the most frequent on the tombs of Christians and in the prayers of the Church. The heavenly Jerusalem, with allusion to the etymology of the name, is described  as “ a blessed vision of peace (“beata pacis visio”).

3. The Way of Peace

Augustine’s concept of interior peace as adherence to the will of God finds a confirmation and deepening in the mystics. Meister Eckhart wrote: “Our Lord says: ‘In me you may have peace’ (cf. John 16:33). The more one penetrates in God, the more one penetrates in peace. Whoever now has his I in God has peace; whoever has his I outside of God does not have peace.”  Therefore, it is not only a question of adhering to the will of God, but about not having any other will than that of God, to die altogether to one’s will. The same thing is read, under the form of a lived experience, in Saint Angela of Foligno: “Successively the divine will makes of two wills one will, so that one cannot will other than as God wills. […] I do not find myself any longer in the usual condition, but I have been led to a peace, in which I am with Him and I am happy with everything.”

A different development, ascetic more than mystic, is that of Saint Ignatius of Loyola with his doctrine of “holy indifference.”  It consists in placing oneself in a state of total willingness to accept the will of God, renouncing, giving up all personal preference, as a scale ready to incline to the side where the greatest weight is. The experience of interior peace thus becomes the main criterion in all discernment. The choice must be retained that, after long pondering and prayer, is accompanied by the greatest peace of heart.

However, no healthy spiritual current, either in the East or in the West, has ever thought that peace of heart is peace at a low price and without effort. In the Medieval Age the sect “of the free Spirit” and the Quietist Movement in the 17th century tried to hold the contrary, but both were condemned by the hierarchy and by the conscience of the Church. To maintain and increase peace of heart one must put down, moment by moment, especially in the beginning, a revolt: that of the flesh against the spirit.

Jesus said it in a thousand ways: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself,” “whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will save it” (Mark 8:34 f.). There is a false peace that Jesus said He came to take away, not to bring to earth (cf. Matthew 10:34). Paul would translate all this in a sort of fundamental law of the Christian life:

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God … for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live” (Romans 8:5-13).

The last phrase contains a very important teaching. The Holy Spirit is not the recompense for our efforts of mortification, but what makes them possible and fruitful; it is not only at the end but also at the beginning of the process: “If, through the Spirit, you make the works of the flesh die, you will live.” In this sense it is said that peace is the fruit of the Spirit; it is the result of our effort, rendered possible by the Spirit of Christ. A voluntaristic and too confident mortification of oneself can become (and has often become) also a work of the flesh.

Outstanding for his concreteness and realism, among those who in the course of the centuries have illustrated this way of peace of heart, is the author of the Imitation of Christ. He imagines a sort of dialogue between the Divine Teacher and the disciple, as between a father and his son:

                Teacher: “My son, now I will teach you the way of peace and of liberty.”

                Disciple: “Do, O Lord, as you say: I am pleased to hear your teaching.”

Teacher: “Study, O son, to do the will of others, rather than your own. Always choose to have less than more. Always seek the lowest place and to be inferior to all. Always desire and pray that the will of God be done entirely in you. See, a man who does such things enters in the kingdom of peace and tranquillity.”

Another means suggested to the disciple is to avoid vain curiosity:

“Son, do not be curious; do not take on useless worries. What do you care about this or that? “You follow me” (John 21:22). Why do you care if that person is of this type or different, or that another acts and says this or that? You must not answer for others; on the contrary, you will render an account of yourself. Of what, then, are you encumbering yourself? Behold, I know all, I see everything that happens under the sun and I know everyone’s condition: what one thinks, what one desires, and to what one’s intention is directed. Therefore, everything should be placed in my hands. And you remain in sure peace letting others act as they believe, surrounded by agitation: what this one has done and what he has said will fall back on him because, as for me, he cannot deceive me.”

4. “Peace because He Trusts in You”

Without pretending to substitute these traditional ascetic means, modern spirituality puts the accent on other more positive means to preserve interior peace. The first is trust and abandonment in God. “Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee,” one reads in Isaiah (26-3). In the Gospel, Jesus motivates his invitation not to fear and to be anxious about tomorrow, with the fact that our heavenly Father knows what we need, He who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field (Cf. Matthew 6:25 ff).

This is the peace of which Therese of the Child Jesus becomes teacher and model. A heroic example of this peace, which also comes from trust in God, is the martyr of Nazism Dietrich Bonhoffer. While he was in prison awaiting capital punishment, he wrote some verses that became a liturgical hymn in many Anglo-Saxon countries.

While all the powers of Good aid and attend us,

boldly we’ll face the future, be it what may.

At even, and at morn, God will befriend us,

And oh, most surely on each new year’s day!

In his book The Wisdom of a Poor Man, Eloi Leclerc, a Franciscan scholar, recounts how Francis of Assisi rediscovered peace at a moment of profound disturbance. He was saddened by the resistance of some to his ideal and felt the weight of the responsibility of the numerous family that God had entrusted to him. He left La Verna and went to San Damiano to find Clare. Clare listened to him and to encourage him, gave him an example.

“Let’s suppose that one of our Sisters came to me to apologize for having broken an object. Well, without a doubt I would make an observation to her and, as usual, I would inflict a punishment on her. However, if she came to tell me that she set the convent on fire and that everything was burnt or almost so, I believe that in such a case I would have nothing to rebut. I would be astonished and overwhelmed by an event greater than myself. The destruction of the convent is too great an event for me to be profoundly disturbed. What God himself has built cannot be founded on the will or whim of a human creature. God’s edifice is founded on far more solid bases.”

Francis understood the lesson and answered:

“The future of this great religious family that the Lord has entrusted to my care constitutes too important an event for me to depend on myself alone and on my weak strength, for me to be disturbed. This is an event of God. You said it well. But pray that this word blossom in me as a seed of peace.”

The Poverello returned to his own in better spirits, repeating to himself along the way: “God exists, and that’s enough! God exists and that’s enough!” It is not a historically documented episode, but it interprets well, in the style of the “Fioretti”, a moment of Francis’ life.

We are approaching Christmas and I would like to bring to light what I believe is the most effective way for all to keep peace of heart, namely, the certainty of being loved by God. “Peace on earth to men that God loves,” to the letter: “Peace on earth among men with whom He is pleased (eudokia)” (Luke 2:14). The Vulgate translated this term as “good will” (bonae voluntatis), intending with it the good will of men, or men of good will. However, it is an erroneous interpretation, recognized by all today as such, even if out of respect for the tradition, in the Gloria of the Mass, we continue to say “and peace on earth to men of good will.” The Qumran discoveries contributed the definitive proof. “Men, or children of benevolence” were called at Qumran, children of light, the elect of the sect.  Therefore it is about men who are the object of divine benevolence.

With the Essenians of Qumran, “the divine consent” discriminates; it is only for the adept of the sect. In the Gospel “peace on earth to men with whom He is pleased,” the “divine benevolence” is for all men, without exception. It is as when one says “the men born of woman”; one does not understand it said that some are born of woman and others not, but only to characterize all men on the basis of the way they came to the world. If peace was accorded to men for their “good will,” then it would be limited to a few, to those who merit it; but as it is accorded by the good will of God, by grace, it is offered to all.

“Assueta vilescunt,” the Latins said; things that are repeated often are debased, biting forgiveness, and this, unfortunately, also happens with God’s words. We must see to it that it does not happen also this Christmas. God’s words are like electric wires. If current passes through them, if touched one gets a shock; if no current passes, or if one has isolating gloves on, they can be managed as much as one wishes, they do not give a shock. The power and light of the Spirit is always acting, but it depends on us to receive it, through faith, desire and prayer. What force, what novelty those words contained: “Peace on earth among men with whom He is pleased,” when they were pronounced for the first time! We must remake for ourselves a virgin ear, the ear of the shepherds who heard for the first time and “without delay” went on the road.

Saint Paul indicates a method for us to overcome all our anxieties and rediscover peace of heart every time, through the certainty of being loved by God. He writes:

“If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? […] Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? […] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:31-37).

Persecution, dangers, the sword: it is not an abstract or imaginary list; they are, in fact, reasons for anguish, which he experienced in his life. He describes them at length in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23 ff). The Apostle reviews them now in his mind and sees that no one of them is so strong as to hold a confrontation with the thought of the love of God. The Apostle invites us implicitly to do the same: to look at our life, as it presents itself, and to bring to light the fears and motives for sadness that nest themselves therein and that do not allow us to accept ourselves serenely: that complex, that physical or moral defect, that failure, that painful memory. Expose everything to the light of the thought that God loves us and conclude with the Apostle: “In all these things, I can be more than a conqueror through him who loved me.”

From his personal life, the Apostle passes immediately after to consider the world that surrounds him. He writes:

“For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

He observes his world, with the powers that rendered it threatening: death with its mystery, the present life with its allurements, the astral or infernal powers that instilled so much terror in ancient man. We are invited to do the same also here: to look, in the light of the love of God, at the world that surrounds us and that makes us fear. What Paul calls the “height” and the “depth,” are for us infinitely great up there and infinitely small down here, the universe and the atom. Everything is ready to crush us; man is weak and alone in a universe that is so much greater than himself and that has become, in addition, even more threatening, following its scientific discoveries, not to mention wars, incurable illnesses, terrorism today… However, nothing of all this can separate us from the love of God. God has created the universe and has it firmly in hand! God is, and that is enough!

Saint Teresa of Avila left us a sort of testament, which it is useful to repeat to ourselves every time we are in need of finding peace of heart again: “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing affright you; all things are passing, God never changes; patient endurance attains all things; whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices.”

May the Lord’s Birth, Holy Father, Venerable Fathers, brothers and sisters, be truly for us, as Saint Leo the Great said, “the birth of peace” !  -- of all three dimensions of peace: that between heaven and earth, that between all peoples and that in our hearts.

____________________________

Translated by Zenit

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: The Church is not an entrepreneur but a mother

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis said on Friday that there is much sterility within the Church and the people of God, a sterility that comes from power and egoism.  The Church, he stressed, is a mother and not an entrepreneur. His remarks came during his homily at morning Mass celebrated at the Santa Marta residence.  

Listen to this report by Susy Hodges that includes clips of the Pope's voice:   

 

The Pope’s reflections on the themes of sterility and motherhood were taken from the biblical account of two miraculous births, those of Samson and John the Baptist, both born to women who were formerly sterile. He said this symbol of sterility as recounted in the Bible is seen as the sign of a human person incapable of moving forward. Therefore the Church, he said, wants to make us reflect on the issue of human sterility. 

 

Sterility and new Creation

“From sterility, the Lord is able to restart a new lineage, a new life.  And that is the message of today.  When humanity is exhausted and can no longer go forward, grace comes, the Son comes and Salvation comes. And that exhausted Creation gives way to a new creation.”

Today’s message, the Pope continued, is this second Creation that comes when the earth is exhausted.  We are awaiting the newness of God and that’s what Christmas is about. He pointed out that the mothers of Samson and John the Baptist were able to give birth thanks to the action of the Spirit of the Lord and asked what is the message of these biblical accounts?  The reply, he said, is that we must open ourselves to the Spirit of God because we cannot do it by ourselves. 

 

Openess to the newness of God

“This too makes me think of our mother Church and of so much sterility within our Mother Church: when because of the weight of the hope in the Commandments, that pelagianism that all of us carry within our bones, she becomes sterile.  She believes she is capable of giving birth… no, she can’t!  The Church is a mother and only becomes a mother when she opens to the newness of God, to the strength of the Spirit.  When she says to herself: “I do everything, but I’ve finished, I can’t go forward!”, the Spirit comes.”

 

A mother and not an entrepreneur

Pope Francis then went on to reflect on the sterility within the Church and her openness to becoming a mother through her faith.

“And today is also a day to pray for our Mother Church, because of so much sterility within the people of God.  A sterility arising from egoism, from power … when the Church believes she can do everything, that she can take charge of the consciences of the people, walk along the road of the Pharisees, of the Sadducees, along the road of hypocrisy, yes, the Church is sterile. Let’s pray. That this Christmas our Church may be open to the gift of God, that she may allow herself to be surprised by the Holy Spirit and be a Church that gives birth, a mother Church. Many times I think that in some places the Church is more like an entrepreneur than a mother.”

The Pope concluded his homily by imploring the Lord for the grace of fertility and motherhood within our Church so that above all the Church is a mother, just like Mary.   

(from Vatican Radio)

Vatican shuts down scrollmakers

(AFP) Rino Pensa and son have been making papal parchments for decades, crafting hand-painted blessing scrolls in Italy which are purchased by the faithful around the world to celebrate marriages, baptisms and anniversaries. But with the Vatican cracking down on […]

The post Vatican shuts down scrollmakers appeared first on CathNewsUSA.

Pope meets Italy’s National Olympic Committee

(Vatican Radio) “Sports are at home in the Church” – that’s what Pope Francis told managers and athletes of Italy’s National Olympic Committee Friday.  In a meeting in the Vatican, the Pope congratulated them on Rome’s candidacy as a possible venue for the 2024 Olympics, but quipped; “I won’t be here!”

He observed that Italy’s National Olympic Committee celebrates its first centenary this year and recalled that it draws inspiration from the fundamental values laid out in the Olympic Charter, which places at the forefront the “centrality of the person and the harmonious development of humankind, the defence of human dignity.”  He remarked that the Charter stipulates that sport can contribute to the building of a better world, without wars and tensions, educating young people through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind ... in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and loyalty.

“Sport has always favoured a universalism characterized by brotherhood and friendship among peoples, peace and harmony among nations; by respect, tolerance, harmony of diversity,” said the Pope. Sporting events, especially the Olympics, bring together representatives of nations with different histories, cultures, traditions, beliefs and values, he said.  They can open “new routes, sometimes unexpected,”  in overcoming conflicts caused by the violation of human rights.

“The Olympic motto - "Citius, Altius, Fortius" - is not an incitement to the supremacy of one nation over another, of one people over another people,” he continued.  It is a challenge we are all called to – not just athletes, he added: “to make the effort, the sacrifice, to achieve important goals in life, accepting one’s own limitations without being hampered by them but trying to overcome them.”

The Pope encouraged the Committee for its educational work to make sports accessible to everyone, including the weakest and the poorest sections of society - inclusive of people with different disabilities, foreigners, and those who live in the outskirts.  “Sport is not intended to profit, but to further the development of the human person,” added the Pope.

He remarked that the Committee was among the first to welcome an Olympic chaplain: “a friendly presence” expressing the closeness of the Church and to stimulate in athletes a strong sense of “professional spirituality.” He pointed to the Saints who similarly demonstrated “passion, enthusiasm, perseverance, determination” in meeting the challenge of faith. Pope Francis said St. Paul invites us to train 'in the true faith, because physical exercise is useful for a little, while true faith is useful for all, bringing with it the promise of life – both present and future.”

(from Vatican Radio)