Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — In the humble act of washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus is showing all Christians how he wants them to serve others with love, Pope Francis said.
“This is the legacy that Jesus leaves us,” and he wants it to be passed down through people’s loving service to others, he said.
During the evening Mass at a rehabilitation facility on the outskirts of Rome, Pope Francis washed the feet of four women and eight men who are living with disabilities. Read more »
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — A priest is called to be in the midst of his flock, protecting his people, searching for those who are lost and always serving those in need, Pope Francis told the world’s priests.
If a priest wants to overcome those inevitable moments of sadness, exhaustion and boredom as well as discover his true identity, he must head for the exit sign, going outside himself to be with God and his people, he said April 17 during the chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
He must also be a dutiful servant who listens to people’s need and builds a church whose doors are wide open, offering refuge for sinners, a home for the homeless, comfort for the sick and God’s word and joy for the young, he said.
Presiding over the first of two Holy Thursday liturgies, Pope Francis blessed the oils that will be used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, ordination and the anointing of the sick.
Deacons carried the sacramental oils in large silver urns to the main altar to be blessed by the pope.
Joined by more than 1,500 priests, bishops and cardinals, Pope Francis led them in a renewal of their priestly vows and a reflection on what it means to be a priest, in a homily that was lengthier than usual.
He focused on the meaning of being anointed through ordination, emphasizing that Holy Thursday was the day Jesus shared his priesthood with the apostles by anointing them with “the oil of gladness.”
“Priestly joy is a priceless treasure, not only for the priest himself but for the entire faithful people of God,” the pope said.
He said it’s not an exaggeration, given the “grandeur of the gift granted us” to minister and serve, to say the priest is a very small person.
While “in that littleness we find our joy,” he said, being “little” without God spells danger.
“No one is more ‘little’ than a priest left to his own devices.”
Priestly joy must be sought and rooted in God’s love and it can find protection from evil in prayer to Mary, he said.
Otherwise a priest risks becoming “the poorest of men unless Jesus enriches him by his poverty, the most useless of servants unless Jesus calls him his friend, the most ignorant of men unless Jesus patiently teaches him as he did Peter, the frailest of Christians,” unless Jesus gives him strength in the midst of his flock, he said.
Self-denial, forsaking earthly happiness and giving oneself to others mean the priest “has to seek his joy from the Lord and from God’s faithful people. He doesn’t need to try to create it for himself.”
Nor should the priest be trying to carve out his own identity because “there is no identity and consequently joy of life without an active and unwavering sense of belonging to God’s faithful people,” he said.
“The priest who tries to find his priestly identity by soul-searching and introspection may well encounter nothing more than exit signs, signs that say: Exit from yourself, exit to seek God in adoration, go out and give your people what was entrusted to you.”
The people of God “will make you feel and taste who you are,” he said.
They will also be able “to protect you, to embrace you and to help you open your heart to find renewed joy” during those moments a priest finds himself feeling isolated, gloomy, listless and bored, “which at times overcome us in our priestly life and which I too have experienced,” the pope said.
With his infinite compassion “for all the little ones and the outcasts of this earth, wearied and oppressed like sheep without a shepherd,” Jesus calls people to his ministry, so that he can be present and work “in the person of his priests, for the good of his people.”
Like an attentive servant, the priest “makes the church a house with open doors, a refuge for sinners, a home for people living on the street, a place of loving care for the sick, a camp for the young, a classroom for catechizing children,” he said.
The priest must be wherever there are people in need or searching; he needs to know how to listen, and feel driven by Christ to lift burdens with mercy and encourage hope with charity.
He asked that people pray for vocations so that when young people hear the call to religious life, they have “the stroke of boldness to respond willingly.”
He asked for prayers for the recently ordained, that they never lose the “joy sparkling” in their eyes as they “go forth to devour the world.”
He also prayed for elderly priests and those who have served many years, that they may “gather their strength and rearm themselves, get a second wind.”
WILMINGTON – John Fiorelli, who has coached girls basketball at St. Mark’s High School on two occasions for a total of 20 years, has retired from that position, a school official told The Dialog, the newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington. Fiorelli will remain at the school, where he has been since 1980, as an English teacher.
According to the school, as of Feb. 9 Fiorelli had a record of 349-125. His team went 1-4 the rest of the season, which would give him a final record of 350-129 for a winning percentage of .731. He returned as coach in 2006-07 after a short break.
The Spartans won six state titles under his guidance – in 1991, 1996, 1997 and three straight from 2000-02. This year, they finished 7-14, defeating William Penn in the first round of the state playoffs before being eliminated by Ursuline Academy.
He also serves as the school’s golf coach, winning a state title in 2009, and he previously coached the boys’ junior varsity basketball team.
St. Mark’s will begin looking for a replacement very soon, the official said.
Journey to the faith: St. Polycarp parishioner had been baptized but never became a practicing Catholic until now
Alecia Bedwell remembers as a child asking if she could attend CCD classes like the other kids she knew, but, although she was baptized Catholic, religion was never a focal point in her home. Now, decades later, she has returned to the faith and will be received fully into the Catholic Church this Saturday at St. Polycarp in Smyrna.
Bedwell is one of six people who completed the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults at St. Polycarp this year. Another is her daughter, Alexandra Orfetel. Both have been baptized and will receive first Communion and be confirmed at the Easter Vigil. Read more »
For The Dialog
DOVER – A joyous atmosphere reminiscent of a family reunion surrounded the Chrism Mass at Holy Cross Church on Monday, April 14, as Bishop Malooly blessed the oils, which will be used to baptize and confirm people in the faith and to anoint the sick in the coming year.
Toward the end of Mass Bishop Malooly commissioned delegates from each parish before dispatching them to receive a portion of the blessed oil to take back to their local church.
The Mass is always held in the diocese the Monday of Holy Week, between Palm Sunday and the Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. Read more »
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — After nearly half a century, the Vatican has dropped its veto on the writings of a popular Italian priest, and his role in the church is being re-evaluated, said the archbishop of Florence.
Father Lorenzo Milani was a heroic figure to many Italians for decades. Born in 1923 to a family of nonbelievers in the central region of Tuscany, he was converted to Catholicism in his late teens and then served as a parish priest in a small town of poor farmers and factory workers. When his book “Esperienze pastorali” (“Pastoral Experiences”) was published in 1958, its progressive tone scandalized many.
Don Milani wrote that the modernization of Italy was bringing “development but not progress,” and that the church had become less important to ordinary people “than the cut of a pair of trousers, a good snooze, making money, having a good time.” The church itself, he wrote, had become more involved in “ritual” than faith.
In December 1958, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith judged the book “inopportune” and ordered it “withdrawn from commerce and not to be reprinted or translated.”
This action has been re-evaluated as based on “contingent situations,” said Cardinal Giuseppe Betori of Florence in an extensive interview with the Catholic weekly Toscana Oggi. Father Milani’s book is being reprinted in recognition of its contribution to the Italian Catholic heritage, “and in particular the heritage of the Florentine church,” said the cardinal, who sent a copy of the book to Pope Francis last November.
“Today the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith tells me that circumstances have changed, and that there is no reason for that intervention to continue,” Cardinal Betori said.
“The book contained no doctrinal deviation, but it was considered too socially advanced to be read by Catholics,” Michele Gesualdi, president of the Don Milani Foundation and former president of the province of Florence, told the online magazine Firenze Post.
Don Milani died in 1967 at age 44. His role in the church is expected be honored at a 2015 national ecclesiastical conference in Florence, which Pope Francis is expected to attend.
WILMINGTON – Students at St. Elizabeth High School have spent some time during Holy Week combining their 21st-century technology with an ancient method of prayer.
Theology teacher and parish youth minister Melissa Pollio introduced the prayer labyrinth to the Wilmington school. It is a path that leads to the center of an intricate design and back out again. Along the way, the labyrinth at St. Elizabeth had 11 stations where the students would stop and listen to an accompanying audio track that had been uploaded to their iPads. Read more »
Catholic News Service
“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength.” Those words, addressed to God in Psalm 8 of the King James Bible, might serve as the tagline for the fact-based drama “Heaven Is for Real.”
Audiences of almost any age will benefit from this intriguing, child-guided glimpse into the afterlife.
As readers of Todd Burpo’s best-selling book (written with Lynn Vincent) will know, this is the story of his young son, Colton. After coming close to death during an operation, the 4-year-old (Connor Corum) startled his Wesleyan minister father (Greg Kinnear) and choir-director mother, Sonja (Kelly Reilly), by announcing that he had visited heaven and met Jesus.
His subsequent description of two deceased relatives, the existence of one of whom was previously unknown to him, lent remarkable credibility to the lad’s claim.
Perhaps because they seemed too literal to be readily accepted, however, Colton’s matter-of-fact statements about paradise stirred controversy in his family’s small-town community of Imperial, Neb. Ironically, they also provoked a crisis of faith for Todd, who was forced to ask himself how genuinely he believed what he had long been preaching.
Director and co-writer (with Christopher Parker) Randall Wallace’s adaptation of Burpo’s account is substantial and moving, thanks in large part to the mature way in which it grapples with fundamental issues of religious belief and doubt. What could have been a hokey, feel-good exercise in Christian cheerleading instead comes across as a sober, though far from humorless, meditation on the reality of death and the virtue of hope.
Those themes are ably personified by Margo Martindale in the role of Burpo family friend Nancy Rawling. A stalwart member of Todd’s congregation, Nancy nonetheless suffers deep, ongoing grief over the loss in combat of her Marine son.
Along with its faith-affirming revelations about the beyond, “Heaven Is for Real” also showcases a tenacious marital bond. Beset by money troubles, illnesses and other worries, Todd and Sonja occasionally quarrel. Yet their underlying commitment to each other is unwavering.
Scenes portraying the medical difficulties the Burpos endure, including a painful baseball injury for Todd, might not be suitable for the littlest moviegoers.
Viewers will particularly appreciate Colton’s takeaway from his celestial journey, a message so simple and liberating that those around him, including believers, were hesitant to accept it: Thanks to the existence of heaven he says, “We don’t ever have to be afraid.”
The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG.