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Don’t be a ‘bat Christian,’ live with joy in Christ’s light, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Don’t live the faith as if it were a “nonstop funeral,” Pope Francis said.

Because Jesus isn’t “up there,” faraway, but is close by, don’t be afraid of reaching out to him and experiencing his joy, the pope said April 24 during his homily at Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives.

Batman appears at night in the video game “Batman: Arkham City.” CNS file

Some Christians are afraid of basking in Christ’s light and joy, preferring to dwell like bats in the darkness, frightened of believing Christ is by their side, he said.

Jesus wants to bring humanity the “joy of the resurrection, the joy of his presence,” he said.

The pope’s homily reflected on the day’s reading from the Gospel of St. Luke (24:35-48), in which the risen Christ appears before the disciples, who react “startled and terrified,” thinking they are seeing a ghost. Jesus invites them to touch him, overcome their fears and believe he is really alive and in their midst.

The disciples’ fear reflects “an illness” affecting some Christians today, the pope said, according to a report by Vatican Radio.

“We’re afraid of joy. It’s better thinking: ‘Yeah, yeah, God exists, but he’s up there; Jesus is risen, he’s there”’ (at) a bit of distance,” he said.

“We’re afraid of Jesus’ closeness,” which is a source of Christian joy, he said.

This fear explains why there are “so many funeral Christians, right? Whose life seems like a nonstop funeral. They prefer sadness and not joy. They get around more easily in the dark, not in the light of joy,” like nocturnal creatures, who only come out and see at night.

“There are ‘bat Christians,’ who prefer darkness over the light of the Lord’s presence,” who are afraid of joy, afraid of believing Christ is near, he said.

But with his resurrection, Jesus “brings us joy, the joy of being Christian, the joy of following him closely, the joy of taking the path of the beatitudes, the joy of being with him.”

Pope Francis cautioned people against being “defeated” by the cross, thinking everything ended there, that Jesus went his own way and is far away in heaven.

“Many times we are troubled when this joy comes to us, or full of fear, or we think we’re seeing a ghost, or we think that Jesus is just about how to behave: ‘Well, we’re Christians and we have to do it this way,’” he said.

Instead, Christian life must be “a dialogue with Jesus because, this is true, Jesus is always with us, he is always near our problems, our difficulties and our good works.”

He asked people to pray for God’s grace to not be afraid of joy, and that God help them, like he helped the disciples, to open their minds to understand the Scriptures; “to let us understand that he is a living reality; that he has a body; that he is with us; that he accompanies us; and that he is victorious.”

 

Catholic education is everyone’s task, says Cardinal Wuerl at NCEA convention

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PITTSBURGH — Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington told Catholic educators in Pittsburgh for the National Catholic Educational Association’s annual convention that “education is the task of all of us.”

The April 22-24 convention and expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center was expected to draw more than 6,000 participants, including teachers, administrators, catechists, priests and professors.

Catholic educators from across the U.S. April 22 walk through the exhibition area at the National Catholic Educational Association’s annual convention in Pittsburgh April 22-24. (CNS photo/Chuck Fazio, courtesy NCEA)

Speaking on the new evangelization in the opening day’s keynote, the cardinal highlighted the importance of the Catholic Church’s educational ministry and the need for church leaders and educators to working together to ensure Catholic education will help future generations learn about the Gospel and encounter Jesuit Christ.

“In our structured, organized religious education efforts, Christ’s voice is heard today and his Gospel announced,” he said.

In welcoming Cardinal Wuerl, the attendees were welcoming a local boy home.

A Pittsburgh native, he was bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years before being named to head the Washington Archdiocese in 2006. He became a cardinal in November 2010.

As a boy, he attended St. Mary of the Mount Catholic School in the city’s Mount Washington neighborhood. After his ordination as a priest of the diocese in 1966, he was the pastor of St. Rosalie Parish in the Greenfield district. As Pittsburgh bishop, he reached thousands of Catholics via his TV program, “The Teaching of Christ.”

Cardinal Wuerl concelebrated the convention’s opening Mass with Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik, who welcomed the congregation and noted the city is called the “City of Bridges.” In a letter of greeting in the program, the bishop also thanked the participants for being “a bridge of the church in all its diversity and universality.”

To commemorate the association’s 110th anniversary, the general session ended with a tribute video that took a look back over the decades.

 

The risen Jesus, not money or power, is the source of life, pope says

April 23rd, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags:

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Too often people are fixated on material things, money, power or status — none of which can give life and joy, Pope Francis said.

Christians need to examine their lives with the question the angel asked the women who went to the tomb to anoint the body of the buried Jesus: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” the pope said.

At his weekly general audience April 23, Pope Francis had the tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square repeat the angel’s Easter question three times. Read more »

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City parishes celebrate Easter Vigil together

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Parishioners from four Wilmington parishes gathered at St. Elizabeth Church April 19 for the Easter Vigil Mass.

Bishop Malooly prepares the Paschal Candle as Deacon Ken Pullium assists during the Service of Light at the start of the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Elizabeth Church,April 19. At left are Father Leonard Klein, Cathedral of St. Peter administrator and pastor of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception and St. Patrick Churches’ and Father Norman Carroll pastor of St. Elizabeth’s..Christ Our King Parish was also represented by Father Joseph T. Brennan, who joined with his fellow city pastors in concelebrating the Mass. wwwDonBlakePhotography.com

Bishop Malooly was the main celebrant for the Easter liturgy for Cathedral of St. Peter, St. Elizabeth, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception and St. Patrick parishes. Concelebrants included Father Norman Carroll, St. Elizabeth’s pastor; as well as Father Leonrd Klein, administrator of Cathedral of St. Peter and pastor of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception and St. Patrick, and Oblate Father Joseph T. Brennan, pastor of Christ Our King Church.

 

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Pope Francis leads thousands in prayer at Rome’s Via Crucis

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Catholic News Service

ROME — Seated atop a hillside overlooking Rome’s Colosseum, Pope Francis presided over the nighttime Way of the Cross, joining thousands of people gathered in prayer.

The solemn torch-lit service April 18 gave powerful voice to the many social and spiritual problems facing the world and to the redeeming power of Christ’s sacrifice for humanity.

Thousands gather outside the Colosseum in Rome April 18 for a nighttime Way of the Cross. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By passing a bare wooden cross from one group of people to the next in succession, those chosen to lead the Way of the Cross acted as visible representatives of the often-hidden injustices still wounding the world.

Two children held the cross as a reflection was read about the plight of sexually abused minors, and two inmates carried the cross during a reflection on the anguish of imprisonment and torture.

As he did last year, Pope Francis remained on the hillside terrace in silent reflection and prayer as thousands of people, many holding candles, attended the ceremony, which was broadcast by more than 50 television networks around the world.

While he offered a very brief impromptu reflection last year at the end of the ceremony, the pope was not scheduled to speak this year.

Each year, the pope chooses a different person or group of people to write the series of prayers and reflections that are read aloud for each of the 14 stations, which commemorate Christ’s condemnation, his carrying the cross to Golgotha, his crucifixion and his burial.

This year the pope picked Italian Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini of Campobasso-Boiano, a former factory worker, longtime prison chaplain, champion of the unemployed and fiercely outspoken critic of the Italian mafia.

In the meditations, the archbishop, who belongs to Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata, looked at how the wounds and suffering of Christ are found in the wounds and suffering of one’s neighbors, family, children and world.

For the second station, Jesus takes up his cross, the archbishop criticized the global economic crisis’ grave consequences, like job insecurity, unemployment, suicide among owners of failing businesses and corruption.

A laborer and a business leader carried the cross, “which weighs upon the world of labor, the injustice shouldered by workers,” said the reflection, which was followed by a call for people to respect political life and resolve problems together.

For the fourth station, Jesus meets his mother, two former addicts carried the cross as people meditated on the tears mothers shed for their children sent off to war, dying of cancer from toxic wastelands or lost in “the abyss of drugs or alcohol, especially on Saturday nights.”

For the fifth station, Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross, two people living on the street carried the cross as a reflection was read about “finding God in everyone” and sharing “our bread and labor” with others.

For the eighth station, Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, two women carried the cross, as the meditation deplored domestic violence, “Let us weep for those men who vent on women all their pent-up violence” and to weep for women who are “enslaved by fear and exploitation.”

But compassion is not enough, the archbishop wrote: “Jesus demands more.” Follow his example of offering reassurance and support “so that our children may grow in dignity and hope.”

The archbishop’s meditations had equally strong words about the sexual abuse of children and its cover-up.

Two children carried the cross for the 10th station, Jesus is stripped of his garments, as the reflection crafted an image of the utter humiliation of Jesus being stripped naked, “covered only by the blood which flowed from his gaping wounds.”

“In Jesus, innocent, stripped and tortured, we see the outraged dignity of all the innocent, especially the little ones,” the meditation said.

A family held the cross for a reflection on the need for kindness and shared suffering; two older people carried the cross during a reflection on how age and infirmity can become “a great school of wisdom, an encounter with God who is ever patient.”

Two Franciscan friars from the Holy Land carried the cross during a meditation on Christ emerging from the fear of death as a sign how forgiveness “renews, heals, transforms and comforts” and ends wars.

 

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Jesus wants everyone to serve others with love, pope says

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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.

Pope Francis kisses the foot of a disabled person at Our Lady of Providence Center during Holy Thursday Mass in Rome April 17. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

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.

Ranging in ages from 16 to 86, nine of the 12 patients were Italian, one was a Muslim from Libya, one was a woman from Ethiopia and one young man was from Cape Verde.

Two sisters helped patients, all of them with limited mobility, remove their shoes and socks.

The pope then knelt on both knees on a small cushion before each person. He poured water from a small silver pitcher over each person’s foot; some feet were greatly swollen due to the individual’s medical condition.

With a white towel, he dried each foot and kissed it, often having to bend onto the floor to reach the feet of those who were completely paralyzed.

Two aides assisted the pope in kneeling and standing back up, which proved increasingly difficult as the 77-year-old pope made his way across the chapel to serve all 12 patients. Yet, before rising, he gave each one of them a long and loving gaze and broad smile.

Jesus’ gesture was like a parting gift and “an inheritance” that he left out of love, the pope said during the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper held at the Father Carlo Gnocchi Foundation’s Our Lady of Providence Center April 17.

“You, too, must love each other, be servants in love,” he said in a brief homily, which he delivered off the cuff.

He asked people to think of ways “how we can serve others better — that’s what Jesus wanted from us.”

Held in the center’s large chapel, which was dotted with bright stained-glass windows, the Mass was the second of two Holy Thursday liturgies over which the pope presided. The first was a morning chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

A large number of patients, their relatives as well as the facility’s religious and lay staff, directors and volunteers attended the evening Mass.

Medical personnel and other staff members did the readings while staff and patients, some seated in wheelchairs, provided the singing and music: One person played acoustic guitar, another marked the beat with a triangle.

Msgr. Angelo Bazzarri, president of the Father Gnocchi Foundation, told Vatican Radio April 17 that the pope’s decision to wash the feet of patients with different abilities, ages and religious convictions was meant to reflect the “universal gesture of a God who became man, who serves all of humanity.”

By choosing to visit the rehabilitation center, the pope was showing the kind of “evangelical mercy that he wants to embrace the entire world of suffering,” he said.

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Pope to world’s priests: Go out into world and serve with God’s joy and love

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Priests extend their arms in prayer as Pope Francis celebrates Holy Thursday chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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.”

 

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More than 70 diocesan priests concelebrate Chrism Mass with Bishop Malooly at Holy Cross Church

April 17th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Our Diocese

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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 »

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Thank God for salvation, kiss a crucifix during Holy Week, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Jesus’ resurrection “isn’t the happy ending of a beautiful fairytale, it isn’t the happy ending of a film,” but is the result of the loving intervention of God, who wanted to give humanity hope and salvation, Pope Francis said.

In the middle of Holy Week, Pope Francis encouraged people to pick up a crucifix, kiss it and recite the simple prayer, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord.”

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

At his weekly general audience April 16, the pope said Jesus willingly endured the most humiliating, most painful path to death: betrayal, mocking, being nailed to a cross “like the worst criminal.”

Watching Jesus suffer and die, the pope said, “we see the suffering of all humanity and we find the divine response to the mystery of evil, suffering and death. We often feel horror because of the evil and pain around us and we ask, ‘Why does God allow this?’ It hurts deeply when we see suffering and death, especially when it involves the innocent. When we see children suffering, it wounds our hearts.”

“This week it would do all of us good to look upon a crucifix, kiss the wounds of Jesus,” he said. “He took upon himself all human suffering.”

“We want God, in his omnipotence, to defeat all injustice, evil, sin and suffering with a triumphant victory,” the pope said. “But instead, he shows a humble victory. Humanly speaking, it seems to be a failure, but God is victorious precisely in that failure.”

Jesus’ death “is not an accident,” the pope said. “His death — that death — was already written. Really, we don’t have a full explanation; it is a bewildering mystery, the mystery of the great humility of God.”

During Holy Week, the pope said, Christians should meditate on the suffering of Jesus and recognize, “this is for me. Even if I was the only person in the world, he would have done it. He did it for me.”

“When everything seems lost,” the pope said, that is the moment that God intervenes “with the power of the resurrection,” restoring hope to humanity with a father’s love.

God does the same thing in the lives of everyone who suffers, he said. When suffering seems unbearable and everything is dark, “that is the moment closest to the resurrection.”

“Jesus, who chose to live this life, calls us to follow the same path of humiliation,” Pope Francis said. “At the times in our lives when we cannot seem to find any way out of our difficulties, when we find ourselves in the deepest darkness … at the hour when we experience that we are fragile and sinful, it is precisely then, at that moment, that we should not mask our failure, but open ourselves to God with trust, just as Jesus did.”

Riding around St. Peter’s Square before the audience, Pope Francis picked up two young passengers and allowed the boys to ride in the back of the popemobile until he was ready to begin his catechesis.

A related video has been posted at http://youtu.be/HR5lZ7cw4bI.

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One year later: Boston still strong

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Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley joins the family of Boston Marathon bombing victim Martin Richard at the finish line for a wreath-laying ceremony in Boston April 15. Martin’s sister, Jane, wipes her face as she stands with her mother, father and another brother. The ceremony was one of many events marking the first anniversary of the bombing. Young Martin was killed in the attack, just a few days shy of his ninth birthday.

(CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters )


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