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.”
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 — 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.”
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.
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 )
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — Preceded by young people and clergy waving tall palm branches, Pope Francis began his Holy Week liturgies by encouraging people to ask themselves which personality in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection they resemble most.
“Where is my heart? Which of these people do I resemble most?” Pope Francis asked April 13 as he celebrated the Palm Sunday Mass of the Lord’s Passion.
Joined by thousands of young people for the local celebration of World Youth Day, the pope set aside his prepared homily and instead urged people to adopt an exercise recommended by St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits: imagining themselves as one of the characters in the Gospel story.
Throughout the Holy Week liturgies — Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter vigil and Easter morning Mass — “it would do us good to ask one question: Who am I? Who am I before my Lord?” the pope said.
“Am I able to express my joy, to praise him?” the pope asked. “Or do I keep my distance? Who am I before Jesus who is suffering?”
Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. “Am I like Judas?” the pope asked. “Am I a traitor?”
“The disciples didn’t understand anything and they fell asleep while the Lord suffered,” he said. “Is my life one of sleeping?”
When Jesus was about to be arrested, one of the disciples cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant; “am I like that disciple who wanted to resolve everything with the sword?” the pope asked.
“Am I like those courageous women and like Jesus’ mom, who were there suffering in silence?” he asked.
Pope Francis did not offer explanations but asked people to let “these questions accompany us throughout the week.”
Prisoners from a jail in Sanremo, Italy, sent Pope Francis a new pastoral staff, which he used during the Mass. Carved out of olive wood, it featured a simple cross on top and elements from Pope Francis’ coat of arms: the official seal of the Society of Jesus, an eight-pointed star symbolizing Mary and the spikenard flower, a symbol of St. Joseph.
At the end of Mass, turning his attention to the young people, Pope Francis presided over the transfer of the World Youth Day cross from young representatives of the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, site of World Youth Day 2013, to youths from the Archdiocese of Krakow, Poland, where the next international gathering with the pope will be held July 25-Aug. 1, 2016.
The hand-off of the cross marked the 30th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s entrusting it to Catholic youths, asking them to “carry it throughout the world as a sign of Christ’s love for humanity,” Pope Francis said. Noting that he would declare Pope John Paul a saint April 27, the pope repeated an announcement made in February that St. John Paul, who began the World Youth Day celebrations, would become the gatherings’ “great patron.”
After the Mass and the recitation of the Angelus, the pope waded into the crowd, blessing many of the young people and posing for photographs with some of them.
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — A lot of people, even Catholics, think that talking about the devil is completely old-fashioned, but anyone who wants to follow Jesus needs to know that Satan exists and will keep putting up obstacles to faith, Pope Francis said.
“The prince of this world, the devil, doesn’t want our holiness, he doesn’t want us to follow Christ,” the pope said April 11 during his homily at Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives.
“Maybe some of you might say: ‘But, Father, you’re so old-fashioned speaking of the devil in the 21st century.’” the pope said. “But, look, the devil exists. The devil exists even in the 21st century. And we shouldn’t be naive, should we?”
The devil tempted Jesus and he will tempt those who try to follow Jesus, the pope said. “We, too, are objects of the demon’s attacks because the evil spirit doesn’t want our holiness, he doesn’t want Christian witness, he doesn’t want us to be disciples of Jesus.”
Pope Francis said the devil’s form of tempting people has three phases, “and we must know what they are in order to avoid falling into his trap.”
“Temptation begins small, but it grows,” the pope said. Then it “infects another, it is transmitted to another” and, finally, it includes self-justification so the person who gives in to temptation and sin doesn’t feel so bad about it.
When Jesus preached in the synagogue, the pope said, “immediately his enemies belittle him, saying, ‘But this is the son of Joseph, the carpenter, the son of Mary. He never went to university. What authority does he have? He never studied.’”
The temptation of belittling Jesus began to spread and more and more people expressed opposition to Jesus, the pope said. Then, to justify their attitudes, the priest says, “Don’t you know that it’s better that one man die to save the people?”
Pope Francis told those at the morning Mass that the sin of gossip follows the same pattern. One is jealous of another and feels a need to share it, and then that person shares the gossip with another and it goes on. “And we’re all tempted to gossip. Well, maybe one of you is a saint and isn’t tempted, but I have been tempted to gossip. It’s a daily temptation.”
The only way to overcome temptation is to follow Jesus more closely because he defeated the devil, Pope Francis said.
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — “I feel called to take responsibility for all the evil some priests —large in number, but not in proportion to the total — have committed and to ask forgiveness for the damage they’ve done with the sexual abuse of children,” Pope Francis said.
“The church is aware of this damage” and is committed to strengthening child protection programs and punishing offenders, he told members of the International Catholic Child Bureau during a meeting April 11 at the Vatican.
The remarks appeared to be the pope’s first apology for the sex abuse scandal, following earlier statements affirming the Vatican’s work investigating and punishing perpetrators, and encouraging bishops to support abuse victims. The pope also has said the church deserves to be forced to make monetary settlements to victims.
In December, Pope Francis established a Vatican commission to promote improved child protections policies throughout the church.
Meeting with leaders of the International Catholic Child Bureau, an organization based in France and dedicated to defending children’s rights, Pope Francis said it was hard to believe “men of the church” would commit such horrors.
“We don’t want to take a step backward in dealing with this problem and with the sanctions that must be imposed,” the pope said. “On the contrary, I believe we must be very strong. You don’t play with children’s lives!”
Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of defending children’s right “to grow in a family with a mother and father able to create a healthy environment for their growth and affective maturity,” which includes “maturing in relationship to the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother.”
Parents have a right to determine the appropriate “moral and religious education” of their children, he said, and should not be subject to school curriculums that are thinly veiled courses of indoctrination into whatever ideology is strongest at the moment.
The pope said he wonders sometimes whether parents are “sending a child to school or to a re-education camp” like those run by dictatorial governments.
Obviously, he said, children need help in responding to the problems and challenges contemporary culture and the media raise. Young people can’t be kept in “glass jars,” but must be given the values that will help them evaluate what cultural trends respect their dignity and freedom and the dignity and freedom of others.
75 years of broadcasting the Good News: Diocese’s ‘Catholic Forum’ on WDEL was a U.S. pioneer in church radio
Radio was the church’s new evangelization medium 75 years ago, and lay people in the Diocese of Wilmington were pioneers on the airwaves when they launched the “Catholic Forum of the Air” on WDEL on April 9, 1939.
The broadcasting trail they blazed back then has continued for some 3,900 shows, becoming one of the longest broadcast religious shows in the world. Read more »