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‘Black mass’ outcry leads to cancellation at Harvard, prayers


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A Harvard University student group’s plan to conduct a satanic ritual “black mass” May 12 on campus brought a public outcry, leading to its formal cancellation and an apparently impromptu off-campus version of the event, as well as a well-attended alternative Catholic holy hour.

Harvard University President Drew Faust, center, listens to remarks by Boston Auxiliary Bishop Arthur L. Kennedy during a May 12 holy hour at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, Mass. The service was held in reaction to plans for a satanic ritual “black mass” to take place in a pub on the Harvard campus. The student group organizing the satanic event ultimately cancelled it. (CNS photo/Gregory L. Tracy, Pilot)

The planned event had drawn wide criticism from religious leaders as well as students, alumni and faculty at Harvard. University President Drew Faust said earlier that she would attend the holy hour “to join others in reaffirming our respect for the Catholic faith at Harvard and to demonstrate that the most powerful response to offensive speech is not censorship, but reasoned discourse and robust dissent.”

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley told reporters May 12 that the archdiocese and the Catholic community took offense to the planned black mass but that “we have no way to prevent it other than to try and explain to people how evil this is,” he said.

The cardinal said one could find out why it offends Catholics simply by looking up the phrase “black mass” on Wikipedia.

“A black mass is a ritual performed as a sacrilegious parody of the Roman Catholic Mass,” the first sentence of the Wikipedia entry read.

“That says it all,” the cardinal said. He added that he was disappointed in Faust’s statement, saying he hoped she would ask the group not to perform the ritual on university property.

Faust’s statement called the club’s decision to sponsor such an enactment “abhorrent; it represents a fundamental affront to the values of inclusion, belonging and mutual respect that must define our community. But she said she would not cancel or ban the black mass.

“The decision to proceed is and will remain theirs,” she said of the student group. Faust added, “It is deeply regrettable that the organizers of this event, well aware of the offense they are causing so many others, have chosen to proceed with a form of expression that is so flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory.”

Harvard’s student newspaper, The Crimson, reported late May 12 that the Harvard Extension School Cultural Studies Club dropped its sponsorship of the re-enactment of the satanic ritual shortly before it was scheduled to take place in the on-campus Cambridge Queens Head Pub. The club first announced that afternoon that the event would be held off campus, then that it was canceled altogether.

The newspaper quoted an email from the club saying “misinterpretations about the nature of the event were harming perceptions about Harvard and adversely impacting the student community,” and led to the decision to move it off campus. The paper said negotiations with the alternative venue subsequently fell through. The 50 or so people who had gathered for the event then organized a scaled-down version at a nearby restaurant and lounge.

Meanwhile, The Pilot, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, reported that about 2,000 people attended a eucharistic procession to St. Paul’s Catholic Church and a holy hour organized by Catholics.

Father Michael E. Drea, the senior Catholic chaplain at Harvard, had condemned the event, saying it mocks the “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the center of our faith and worship.”

“As the university attempts to veil this ‘presentation’ under the guise of ‘academic freedom and expression,’ people of good will recognize it for what it truly is: an act of hatred and ridicule toward the Catholic Church and her faithful,” Father Drea said.

Faust’s statement said she would attend the holy hour “to join others in reaffirming our respect for the Catholic faith at Harvard and to demonstrate that the most powerful response to offensive speech is not censorship, but reasoned discourse and robust dissent.”

In a letter published May 12 in the Crimson, the Rev. Luther Zeigler, president of the Harvard chaplains, said: “We do not think the issue presented here is primarily one of academic freedom. Just because something may be permissible does not make it right or good. Whether or not these students are entitled to express themselves through the ceremony of a black mass as a matter of law or university policy is a distinct question from whether this is a healthy form of intellectual discourse or community life. We submit it is not.”

Rev. Zeigler, an Episcopal priest, added: “We urge the student organizers of the black mass to reconsider going forward with this event. If the event does go forward as planned, we would urge the rest of the community not to dignify it with your presence.”

The Harvard student group promoting the black mass, said to be an “inverted” re-enactment of the Catholic Mass, was working with the New York-based Satanic Temple, a group known for promoting controversy such as pushing to have a Satan statue built outside the Oklahoma Capitol.

While one of the concerns raised about the event was that participants would desecrate a consecrated host, Boston newspapers quoted representatives of the Satanic Temple saying it had not obtained one.

The Boston Globe said nearly 60,000 students, alumni and faculty members signed a petition opposed to holding the event on campus.

The Globe said the sponsoring club had said the event “was meant to be educational, not offensive.” The paper quoted a spokesperson for the group as asserting that many satanists are animal rights activists, vegetarians and artists with a strong sense of community.


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Morning homily: Be open to joy, newness offered by the Holy Spirit, pope says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians who are too serious and gloomy have the Holy Spirit missing from their lives, Pope Francis said.

Be meek and open to the Spirit and don’t fight the joy and unexpected newness he brings, the pope said May 13 during his early morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Pope Francis . (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

People who think they can and do know everything won’t be able to understand God, he said in his homily, according to a report by Vatican Radio.

Jesus always had trouble with the kind of religious intellectuals who “believed that religion was only about texts and laws,” the pope said. For them, all that was necessary was “to fulfill the commandments and nothing more. They didn’t imagine the Holy Spirit existed.”

As a result, all they did was demand explanations from Jesus, he said. “They wanted to debate. Everything was in the head, everything was about the intellect,” and there was no “heart, no love, no beauty, no harmony.”

“When there is lots of seriousness, there is no Spirit of God,” he said.

It never mattered what Jesus said and did, he said. Even raising Lazarus from the dead “right in front of them” could not convince them because they refused to “open their heart to the Holy Spirit.”

Belief for them was based on “ideas, their own ideas. They are full of pride. They think they know it all,” he said.

But, Jesus had “something very strong” to say to these people, Pope Francis said. According to the day’s reading from the Gospel of John (10:22-30), Jesus told them, “You do not believe because you are not among my sheep.”

Jesus told them they had turned their backs on and separated themselves from the people of God, the pope said. They “built up a whole system of commandments that banished people” and drove them out of the church.

These “aristocrats of the intellect” weren’t stubborn; it was worse and “more dangerous,” the pope said. They had hearts that were closed and hardened against the Holy Spirit, which is “the sin of resisting” him.

God wants people to have hearts that are meek and open to the Spirit, like many of the early pagan converts who received the Gospel, as told in the day’s first reading, Acts 11:19-26.

Those preaching the Gospel far from Jerusalem let the Spirit do its work, bringing the word and opening “the doors to the Greeks, the pagans,” communities considered “impure” and unworthy of God.

But the Holy Spirit acts on those who are “mild, kind, humble and open to the Spirit,” he said. Even though people may not be able to see it with their own eyes, “the Holy Spirit is acting in the church today, acting in our lives.”

Pope Francis asked people to pray for the grace of being open to the Holy Spirit so that they can move forward, “being creative, being joyous.”

Let the “grace of meekness and the Holy Spirit help us defend ourselves from that other, evil spirit of being self-sufficient, proud, arrogant” and having a heart hardened against God.


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Letters to priest reveal Jackie Kennedy’s struggles with faith after JFK’s assassination


Catholic News Service

DUBLIN — Newly released letters between former U.S. first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and a Dublin-based priest reveal Kennedy’s struggles to keep her faith after her husband’s assassination.

The letters exchanged by Kennedy and Vincentian Father Joseph Leonard, who died in 1964, are set to be auctioned in Dublin in June. Excerpts were published in The Irish Times newspaper.

Caroline Kennedy, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr. are seen leaving the U.S. Capitol Nov. 24, 1963, after a ceremony there for the slain president Kennedy. The following day a funeral Mass was celebrated for U.S. President John F. Kennedy at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. (CNS photo/Abbie Rowe, National Parks Service, courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)

One letter, dated January 1964, just weeks after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, revealed how the tragedy left Kennedy struggling with her Catholic faith. “I am so bitter against God,” she wrote, but added “only he and you and I know that.”

She explained that she did not want to be bitter “or bring up my children in a bitter way” and was “trying to make my peace with God.”

She wrote: “I think God must have taken Jack to show the world how lost we would be without him — but that is a strange way of thinking to me.”

Kennedy wrote in the same letter that “God will have a bit of explaining to do to me if I ever see him.”

She asked Father Leonard to pray for her and said she would pray too in an effort to overcome her bitterness against God. “I have to think there is a God — or I have no hope of finding Jack again,” she wrote.

Father Leonard taught at All Hallows College, the Vincentian seminary in Dublin, and first met a young Jacqueline Lee Bouvier in 1950 when she visited Dublin. The two struck up an immediate friendship and corresponded regularly.

The letters reveal that Kennedy often turned to Father Leonard at times of darkness. In 1956, she wrote to the priest after the birth of a stillborn daughter, Arabella, and said: “Don’t think I would ever be bitter at God.” She observed that she could “see so many good things that come out of this — how sadness shared brings married people closer together.”

The letters reveal that Father Leonard rekindled Kennedy’s interest in her Catholic faith. In early 1952, she wrote: “I terribly want to be a good Catholic now and I know it’s all because of you. I suppose I realized in the back of my mind you wanted that — you gave me the rosary as I left Ireland.”

She was 22 and told the priest: “I suddenly realized this Christmas when my sister and I decided — after not going to church for a year — that we desperately wanted to change and get close to God again — that it must have been your little prayers that worked — all the way across the ocean.”


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Pope Francis to beatify Pope Paul VI on Oct. 19


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will beatify Pope Paul VI Oct. 19 during the closing Mass of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family.

Pope Francis signed a decree May 9 recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope Paul, who led the church from 1963 to 1978, and authorized publication of the Oct. 19 beatification date, according to a Vatican statement May 10.

Pope Francis will beatify Pope Paul Oct. 19 during the closing Mass of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. The miracle needed for Pope Paul’s beatification involved the birth of a healthy baby to a mother in California after doctors had said both lives were at risk. (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

The miracle involved the birth of a baby in California in the 1990s. The family’s name and city have not been released, but according to news reports, a pregnant woman whose life was at risk along with the life of her baby was advised by doctors to terminate the pregnancy. Instead she sought prayers from an Italian nun who was a family friend. The nun placed a holy card with Pope Paul’s photograph and a piece of his vestment on the woman’s belly.

The baby was born healthy. For Pope Paul’s sainthood cause, physicians continued monitoring the child’s health up to the age of 12 and everything was normal.

Pope Paul’s connection with the themes expected to be raised at the synod on the family Oct. 5-19 include the encyclical for which is he is most known, “Humanae Vitae.” The 1968 encyclical, usually described as a document affirming the church’s prohibition against artificial contraception, places that conclusion in the context of Catholic teaching on the beauty and purpose of marriage, married love and procreation.

When St. John XXIII died in 1963, Pope Paul reconvened the Second Vatican Council, presided over the final three of its four sessions and oversaw the promulgation of all of the council’s documents. He also led the process of implementing the council’s reforms.

Pope Paul VI was the first pope in the modern area to travel abroad, visiting: Jordan and Israel in January 1964; Lebanon and India in December 1964; the United Nations and New York in October 1965; the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugual in May 1967; Turkey in July 1967; Colombia and Bermuda in August 1968; Switzerland in June 1969; Uganda in July-August 1969; and Iran, Pakistan, the Philippines, Samoan Islands, Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka in November-December 1970.

Born Giovanni Battista Montini in 1897 in the northern Italian province of Brescia, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1920 and was named archbishop of Milan in 1954. Elected pope in 1963, he died at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo Aug. 6, 1978.


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Pope tells students he loves school because of his first-grade teacher


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis told about 300,000 Italian students that he loved school as a boy, as a teacher and as a bishop because it was a place where he met different people and where he was challenged to try to understand reality.

Pope Francis looks on as young people dance during an encounter with Italian students, teachers and parents in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 10. About 300,000 attended the event. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Meeting with the students May 10 in St. Peter’s Squareand along the wide boulevard leading to it, the pope said he has never forgotten his first-grade teacher. “I love school because that woman taught me to love it.”

“Going to school means opening your mind and heart to reality in all its richness and various dimensions,” he said. “If one learns how to learn, this is the secret, learning to learn, this will stay with you forever.”

The pope, who taught high school literature and psychology as a young Jesuit in Argentina, warned teachers that their students would be able “to smell” it if a teacher lacked the enthusiasm to keep learning.

The evening celebration of “the world of Italian schools,” an event sponsored by the Italian bishops’ conference, was designed to promote collaboration between the Italian church, its schools and the government and its schools. Italian comedians, actors, singers and students entertained the crowd in between speeches from the pope, teachers and Stefania Giannini, Italy’s education minister.

Giannini began her speech voicing the crowd’s prayers for the more than 250 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria in mid-April by the Boko Haram terrorist group. Pope Francis the same day Tweeted his concern for the girls: “Let us all join in prayer for the immediate release of the schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria.” The Tweet included the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, which is part of the international campaign to rally support for their release.

Addressing the students, teachers and Italian bishops, Pope Francis said a school is not “a parking garage,” where parents simply drop off their children. “It is a place of encounter along our journey.”

While parents are the first educators of their children and the family is the first place people learn to get along with others and value differences, he said, “at school we are socialized. We meet people who are different from us, different in age, culture, origin and ability.”

“Families and schools should never be in opposition,” he said, but they must work together for the good of the child. “This makes me think of a beautiful African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’”

The pope said he also loves schools because “they educate us about truth, goodness and beauty, which all go together. Education cannot be neutral, either it is positive or it is negative; it enriches or impoverishes; it helps the person grow or it suppresses or even corrupts them.”

In the end, he said, a mature person will graduate speaking “three languages: the language of the mind, the language of the heart and the language of the hands,” making sure their actions are well thought out and are motivated by what is true, good and beautiful.


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Pope asks priests to show mercy; wants faithful to ‘pester’ priests for guidance


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Always be merciful, just like Jesus, who came to forgive, not condemn, Pope Francis told new priests.

“Always have in front of your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who didn’t come to be served, but to serve and to look for and save those who were lost,” he said in his homily May 11, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

Pope Francis lays his hands on a newly ordained priest during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican May 11. The pope ordained 13 men to the priesthood during the Mass. (CNS photo/Andreas Solaro pool Reuters)

The pope’s remarks came during an ordination Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, where the pope ordained 13 new priests.

Most of the new priests, six Italians, four Latin Americans and one Korean, will serve in the Diocese of Rome. A 36-year-old new priest from Vietnam will serve the Diocese of Vinh in his home country and a new priest from Pakistan is part of the Order of Discalced Augustinians.

Pope Francis reminded the men that they were called by Jesus to continue his mission as teacher, priest and shepherd, and to serve the church and the people of God.

He urged them to read, reflect on and teach the word of God and to be a living example of what they preach.

Nourish God’s people with his word and doctrine, “which isn’t yours. You do not own the doctrine (of the faith). It is the doctrine of the Lord and you must be faithful to the Lord’s doctrine,” the pope said.

In their new role of administering the sacraments, including reconciliation, he asked them to “never tire of being merciful. Please! Have the same ability to forgive that the Lord has, who didn’t come to condemn, but to forgive! Have lots of mercy.”

He said it pains him terribly “when I see people who don’t go to confession anymore because they had been clobbered, yelled at. They felt that the doors of the church had been closed in their face. Please, don’t do this.”

He also encouraged the priests to show mercy.

A good priest “comes in through the door and the doors of mercy are the wounds of the Lord. If you do not enter into your ministry through the Lord’s wounds, you will not be good pastors,” he said.

Later in the day, the pope told those gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the “Regina Coeli” to pray that God “help us pastors always be faithful” to God and to guide his children with wisdom and love.

With Christ as their model, priests must lead their people by showing them the way ahead, they must walk with their flock by showing mercy and friendship, and walk behind their people to help those who are struggling to keep up or who have lost their way, he said.

But often the faithful need to poke and prod their priest to remind him to give them God’s guidance and support, he added.

“Pester your priests.” he said, much like a baby calf pesters its mother for milk and nourishment.

Pope Francis highlighted a metaphor used by St. Caesarius of Arles of the sixth century in which priests graze the fields of Scriptures, nourishing themselves on the rich teachings in order to, in turn, provide spiritual nourishment for their children.

The saint explained how the people of God have to fuss and nudge their priest to give them the “milk” of the Word of God, much like a calf nudges and “pushes its nose against the cow’s udder to get the milk flowing. It’s a beautiful image.” the pope said.

“This saint says that’s how you must be with priests: always knocking on their door, on their heart so that they give you the milk of doctrine, the milk of grace and the milk of guidance.”

“Bother them, all of us priests,” he said, like the calf “pesters the mother to give it something to eat.”

The pope also asked people gathered in the square to pray for vocations.

“Let us pray so that, even today, lots of young people hear the Lord’s voice, which always risks being drowned out by so many other voices.”

He also wished the world’s mothers a happy Mother’s Day. He led people in praying the “Hail Mary,” asking that all mothers be entrusted to Mary.


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Pope tells United Nations that respect for life, solidarity needed for development


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Meeting top officials of the United Nations, Pope Francis called for a “worldwide ethical mobilization” that would push technical programs for justice, peace and development further by promoting respect for human life, “fraternity and solidarity.”

“An important part of humanity does not share in the benefits of progress and is, in fact, relegated to the status of second-class citizens,” the pope said May 9 during a meeting at the Vatican with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and members of the U.N. System Chief Executives Board for Coordination.

Pope Francis shakes hands with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during a meeting at the Vatican May 9. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

The board includes the directors of 29 specialized agencies and U.N. departments. The Vatican and Catholic organizations around the world work closely with many of them, such as the World Food Program and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. However, tensions also have arisen with some of the departments and agencies, particularly concerning population control programs and efforts to broaden access to legalized abortion.

While Pope Francis did not dwell on the tensions or mention any of them specifically, he insisted that the promotion of human dignity include a recognition that “life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death.”

The pope’s meeting with the board came just days after Vatican representatives were questioned by the U.N. Committee Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, particularly regarding the church’s handling of the clerical sexual abuse scandal, but also about the church’s opposition to abortion in all cases.

During the May 5-6 hearing, Felice Gaer, vice chair of the committee, had said that “laws that criminalize the termination of pregnancy in all circumstances can violate the terms” of the international treaty against torture and inhuman or cruel treatment. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, responded that the Catholic Church “condemns torture, including for those who are tortured and killed before they are born.”

At the May 9 meeting with the U.N. board members, Pope Francis said improving the lives and health of all the world’s people “involves challenging all forms of injustice and resisting the ‘economy of exclusion,’ the ‘throwaway culture’ and the ‘culture of death,’ which nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted.”

The U.N.-coordinated Millennium Development Goals made significant progress in decreasing extreme poverty and improving education levels in many countries, the pope said, but “it must be kept in mind that the world’s peoples deserve and expect even greater results.”

The key to continued improvement, he said, is to address “the structural causes of poverty and hunger, attain more substantial results in protecting the environment, ensure dignified and productive labor for all and provide appropriate protection for the family, which is an essential element in sustainable human and social development.”

Progress requires the cooperation of governments, international agencies, scientists and technicians, he said, but it will not occur without a broad commitment of individuals to solidarity.

“The gaze, often silent, of that part of the human family which is cast off, left behind, ought to awaken the conscience of political and economic agents and lead them to generous and courageous decisions,” he said.

People also must recognize that the spiritual, intellectual and material goods “which God’s providence has placed in our hands” are meant to be shared, including through charitable aid and “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state.”


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Christian unity can honor common witness of martyrdom, pope says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — To honor the sacrifice of those killed for their faith in the 20th century, Christians today must renew their commitment to reconciliation and full Christian unity, Pope Francis said.

“Just as in the ancient church the blood of the martyrs became the seed of new Christians, so in our day the blood of many Christians has become the seed of unity,” the pope told Catholicos Karekin II of Etchmiadzin, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Pope Francis embraces Catholicos Karekin II of Etchmiadzin, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, during a meeting at the Vatican May 8. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis welcomed the catholicos to the Vatican May 8, paying homage to the fidelity and sacrifice of Armenian Christians during decades of persecution and oppression. He also praised the Armenian Apostolic Church’s commitment to ecumenical dialogue.

“The number of disciples who have shed their blood for Christ in the tragic events of the last century is certainly greater than the number of martyrs in the first centuries” of Christianity, the pope said. “In this martyrology, sons and daughters of the Armenian nation have a place of honor.”

Pope Francis did not use the term “genocide,” although his remarks were an obvious reference to the estimated 1.5 million Armenians, more than half the Armenian population at the time, who died in a forced evacuation by Ottoman Turks in 1915-18.

The suffering of Christians from every church and denomination under the Nazis, the communists and various dictatorships in the 1900s has made “an invaluable contribution to the cause of unity among Christ’s disciples,” the pope said.

The unity of Christians in “suffering and martyrdom and blood,” he said, “is a powerful call to continue walking the path of reconciliation among churches with decisiveness and trusting abandonment to the work of the Spirit.”

“We have an obligation to travel this road of brotherhood, including out of a debt of gratitude toward the suffering of so many of our brothers and sisters, a suffering that is salvific because it is united to the passion of Christ,” Pope Francis said.

The pope prayed that the Holy Spirit would “enlighten us and guide us to that deeply desired day when we can share at the eucharistic table.”

After their formal meeting and remarks in the papal library, Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin, along with members of his entourage, went to the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace for a brief prayer service.

During the service, a prayer was offered “for our pontiffs, His Holiness Francis and His Holiness Karekin” and for their ministry. At the end of the service, both leaders offered their solemn blessings to the small congregation.


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Never forget to pray from the heart, Pope Francis says at Wednesday audience


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Never forget to pray, even while commuting, taking a walk or when waiting in line, Pope Francis said.

And don’t just stick to prayers memorized from childhood, but include heartfelt requests and pleas for help, advice and guidance, he said.

An elderly woman becomes emotional as Pope Francis greets her as he arrives for his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 7. Members of the pope’s security lifted the woman in her wheelchair so she could meet the pontiff. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

During his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square May 7, the pope continued a series of audience talks on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

Looking at the gift of counsel, Pope Francis said people know how important it is to go to the right person, to “people who are wise and who love us,” to get the best advice, especially concerning difficult or “thorny” situations.

Through the Holy Spirit, God is there to enlighten people’s hearts and “help us understand the right things to say, the right way to act and the right road to take” when it comes to an important decision, the pope said.

By opening one’s heart to God, “the Holy Spirit immediately begins to help us perceive his voice and guide our thoughts, our feelings and our intentions” to be in harmony with God’s will.

Jesus becomes the reference point for modeling one’s behavior and finding the right way to interact with God and other people, he said.

The Holy Spirit helps people to grow in the virtues, to stop being “at the mercy of egoism” and to see the world and its difficulties with “the eyes of Christ,” he said.

The Holy Spirit “enables our conscience to be able to make a concrete choice that’s in communion with God, and according to the logic of Jesus and his Gospel.”

But how can people make sure God is the one speaking to them and not their own biases, fears, limitations and ambitions? he asked.

The right counsel comes through prayer, he said.

“We have to give room to the Holy Spirit so that he can counsel us. And giving him room means praying, praying that he come and always help us.”

“Prayer is very important,” he said, and “never forget to pray, never!”

“Nobody can tell when we are praying on the bus, on the road, we pray in silence, with the heart, so let’s take advantage of these opportunities to pray.”

Don’t just recite the prayers “that we all know from childhood, but also pray with our own words, pray to the Lord: ‘Lord, help me, advise me, help me right now, let me know what we should do.’”

This gift of counsel can also come through other men and women of faith, who can help those in need recognize God’s will, he said.

To give an example, the pope told a story of an event, before he was pope, when he was hearing confessions at the sanctuary of Our Lady of Lujan in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“There was a huge line,” he said, and up next was “a big guy, all modern with an earring, tattoos, the whole nine yards, and he came to tell me something that had happened.”

The pope said the man had been going through something very serious and had asked his mother for help.

“That humble, simple woman gave her son the best advice that was spot-on,” the pope said, because she told her son to turn to Mary, who would tell him what to do.

The mother “had the gift of counsel,” he said, because she didn’t try to steer him with her own opinions, but pointed him in “the right direction.”

The man explained how he had prayed to Our Lady, who told him exactly what to do. “I didn’t have to say a word,” the pope said. “It was all the mother, Our Lady and the boy. This is the gift of counsel.”

The pope urged mothers in the audience: “You, moms, who have this gift, ask for this gift for your children, the gift of advising your children. It’s a gift from God.”

At the end of his catechesis, Pope Francis addressed several groups and associations in the crowd, including family members of young people living at the San Patrignano rehabilitation center in Italy, a home for those tackling substance abuse.

The pope said he joined their call for an end to illegal drug use. He said the audience was a good opportunity to “tell everyone simply: No to every kind of drug, OK? You can do it.”


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Cardinal Kasper calls sacraments a sign of God’s mercy and grace


Catholic News Service

NEW YORK — Mercy, the “most central attribute of God,” has been criminally neglected as a topic in the church. And mercy without justice is “cheap grace,” according to German Cardinal Walter Kasper, a theologian and retired president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

German Cardinal Walter Kasper (CNS file)

Cardinal Kasper spoke May 5 at Jesuit-run Fordham University in a wide-ranging conversation on “Practicing Mercy, Seeking Justice: Living a Gospel Life.” In front of a capacity crowd of 200 people, he addressed questions posed by legal scholar and moral theologian Cathleen Kaveny. She is the Darald and Juliet Libby professor at Boston College, serving both the law school and the department of theology.

God’s mercy is a mirror of his love to people coming from a dark 20th century with two world wars that destroyed millions of humans, into a new century that began with the Sept. 11 attacks, Cardinal Kasper said.

Humans are the mediators of God’s mercy, he said. “Mercy is not contraposed to justice. Mercy is the maximum we can do. Justice is the minimum,” Cardinal Kasper said.

Mercy opens people’s eyes to situations where they can engage the rules of justice. “There is no choice between justice and mercy. It would be very cheap mercy, which is not also justice,” he said.

Those who oppose public support for welfare programs reject mercy, he said, adding, “I cannot understand such people,” Cardinal Kasper said.

Mercy is a creative activity and God’s faithfulness to his love, Cardinal Kasper said. It is expressed in the way God gives a new chance to humans and does not “let them fall into a hole with no way out.”

Although God wants salvation for every person, God respects the freedom of human beings and does not impose salvation, the cardinal said. “We can go astray and miss the final goal of existence, yet we have reason to hope God may reach the heart of every person,” he said.

“When Jesus speaks of hell, it is a strong warning,” Cardinal Kasper said. He stressed the importance of praying for the souls of all people, even those thought to be beyond redemption.

“We are responsible not only for ourselves, but for others, by prayers, deeds and missionary work,” he said. Their salvation depends on the prayers and good works of others. “It’s a beautiful part of Catholic tradition that we are upheld by the communion of saints, even people who have no one to pray for them,” he said.

Cardinal Kasper said atonement for sins is misunderstood as a punishment, when it is actually an opportunity to mature in the love of God and cleanse the soul. “There is no culture without sacrifice because culture needs to be oriented to higher values.”

If mercy was rendered as a sculpture, it would be the good Samaritan bent over in a dirty street to care for the set-upon traveler, he said. Alternatively, it might be the Prodigal Son’s father, whose outstretched arms are “a wonderful image of what’s expected of us,” Cardinal Kasper said.

Cardinal Kasper said he learned a lot about being a bishop by visiting gravely ill people as a young priest, meeting people at weekly parish Masses and conducting synods of laity and clergy. A bishop doesn’t just teach, he has to listen and get the “sensus fidelium,” the sense of the faithful, he said.

Cardinal Kasper said it is inconsistent for the church to teach that every sin can be forgiven, yet withhold access to Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics who seek absolution. “We have to interpret the word of Jesus in the context of God’s mercy,” he said. “Sacraments are signs of God’s grace and mercy.”

Cardinal Kasper said when he raised the issue with the consistory of cardinals preparing for the fall 2014 Synod on the Family, Pope Francis was in favor of discussing it at the synod.

The cardinal said the current tension between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is a reminder that the church is not a monolithic entity and there is an opportunity for communion and dialogue. “Perhaps CDF and LCWR both have to change a little,” he said.

The cardinal’s lecture was sponsored by the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture.


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