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Obituary: Father Mark Connelly, 63

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LEWES — Father Mark Connelly, who had served as a part-time associate pastor at St. Jude the Apostle Church in Lewes since 2008, died suddenly on Dec. 1. He was 63.

Father Connelly was ordained for the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1987 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore. During his career in academics, he served at Wheeling (W.Va.) College, Strayer College in Washington, D.C., and Harvard, St. Joseph’s, Fairfield and Salisbury (Md.) universities. He also held memberships in many academic societies, presented at many conferences and co-authored several books. Read more »

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Movie of the week: Vatican Museums get 3-D treatment in theatrical film showing Dec. 10

December 4th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

For those who have never been inside any of the Vatican Museums, seeing a documentary about them done with a 3-D effect on the big screen could be a real treat.

“The Vatican Museums 3D” begins a theatrical release on hundreds of screens around the country in December.

In the Diocese of Wilmington, the movie will be shown Dec. 10 at Brandywine Town Center 16 in Wilmington and at the Cinemark Christiana at Christiana Mall. Call the theatres for times. Additional showings around the country are listed at http://www.fathomevents.com/event/the-vatican-museums-3d.

A Vatican worker cleans the Baldacchino over the main altar in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican(. This image isn't in the movie playing on Dec. 10 around the country, "The Vatican Museums 3D." CNS file photo/Paul Haring)

A Vatican worker cleans the Baldacchino over the main altar in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican(. This image isn’t in the movie playing on Dec. 10 around the country, “The Vatican Museums 3D.” CNS file photo/Paul Haring)

Even for those lucky enough to have traveled to Rome, “The Vatican Museums” distills eight days of around-the-clock filming into 80 minutes showcasing some of the world’s most treasured works of art, a tour no visitor could pull off singlehandedly.

“It was a lovely experience to see the museums and the treasures collected in them,” said Cosetta Lagani, the producer of “The Vatican Museums 3D,” who also supervised the editing of all that footage.

Lagani spoke of the pain of having to leave so much material on the cutting-room floor. “Of course, we had to do some choices because the Vatican’s museums are so big and there are so many works inside the museum,” she said. “It’s a one-hour documentary. … You have to show some of the Sistine Chapel, Caravaggio, Raphael, frescoes and paintings, but also discovering all the treasures that really everyone could value.”

Lagani, speaking to Catholic News Service from Rome, said she met with the director of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci, in March. “I sent them this new project that was an unprecedented project, that was the possibility to film with ultra-HD (high definition) 3-D technology with the aim to spread the Vatican film experience throughout the world to all the people who were not able to come to Rome and visit.”

Her pitch met with receptive ears. “They entered into a co-production with us,” Lagani said of the Vatican. “They believed in this project. They believed in the opportunity to do this project to bring the museum experience throughout the world.”

The process used is called Ultra HD 4K/3D. It’s the same process director James Cameron used to make a 3-D version of his 1997 movie smash “Titanic.” Even looking at the trailer of “The Vatican Museums 3D” on a computer screen, one can take stock of the enhanced presence of the selected art object without it looking hokey.

The movie includes 15 minutes of behind-the-scenes features exclusive to theatrical audiences, as the Vatican Museums’ director Paolucci, documentary director Marco Pianigiani, and the film’s director of photography as they recall both the challenges and triumphs involved in the making the movie.

Lagani said she is most pleased with “the dimensionalization of the frescoes” in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel masterpiece. “It is very long work,” but gratifying in the end, she added, noting that it took four months of post-production work to get the film in its final state.

“The Vatican Museums 3D” bows on most U.S. screens Dec. 10, although a handful planned to debut it earlier. Other opening dates are later in December, with a few in January. Before the theatrical run is finished, the movie will have played on 2,000 screens in 55 countries, according to Lagani.

 

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Vatican to release final report on five-year study of religious communities of women in the United States

December 4th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The final report of a five-year, Vatican-ordered study of communities of women religious in the United States will be released by the Vatican Dec. 16.

The top two officials of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and three leaders of women’s congregations were to take part in the presentation, according to Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, head of Canada’s Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and assistant to the Vatican spokesman. Read more »

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Commentary — A Christmas gift for those suffering in South Sudan

December 4th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized

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The world’s newest nation is in big trouble.

After more than 20 years of civil war between the southern and northern areas of Sudan, the southern part of that country on July 9, 2011, became the independent nation of the Republic of South Sudan.

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Pope Francis suggests the graces to pray for during Advent

December 4th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — As Advent got under way, Pope Francis included in his morning Mass homilies specific graces Catholics should pray for as they prepare for Christmas.

In the chapel of his residence Dec. 2, Pope Francis ended his homily by telling the small congregation, “Let us ask the Lord during this Advent time to draw us closer, closer to his mystery and do so on the path that he wants us to take: the path of humility, the path of meekness, the path of poverty, the path of recognizing we are sinners.” Read more »

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The world will end with peace, not annihilation, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Believing in eternity and in the final establishment of the kingdom of God, Christians throughout history, starting with the disciples, were filled with questions such as when the end will come and what will happen to the created world, Pope Francis said.

No one knows the answer to those questions, the pope said Nov. 26 at his weekly general audience, but Catholics are convinced that the end of time will not bring the “annihilation of the cosmos and of everything around us.”

An usher holds a baby after Pope Francis kissed her as he left the general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

An usher holds a baby after Pope Francis kissed her as he left the general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

God’s plan, he said, is to renew everything in Christ and “bring everything to its fullness of being, truth and beauty.”

A few thousand people gathered under umbrellas in St. Peter’s Square for the rainy Wednesday audience; Pope Francis thanked them for braving the weather and promised, “we will pray together.”

Continuing a series of audience talks about the church, Pope Francis spoke about the place of the church in the world to come, and how Christians can make sure they and their loved ones will be part of it.

While the human imagination struggles to picture what the kingdom of God will be like, he said, people can be sure that everything “deformed by sin” will pass away. Quoting the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, he said, “God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide, and whose blessedness will answer and surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart.”

“This is where the church is heading,” he said. “More than a place, it is a state of the soul where our deepest aspirations will be fulfilled with abundance.”

At the end of time, he said, “we will be face to face” with God. “It’s beautiful to think about this, isn’t it, to think about heaven. All of us will be there, all of us. It’s beautiful and gives us strength.”

The communion of the church cannot be broken by death and will only be stronger at the end of time, he said. “It is a deep communion between the church in heaven and that still journeying on earth. Those who already are living in the presence of God, in fact, can support, intercede and pray for us.”

And, Christians on earth, he said, “are called to offer good works, prayers and the (celebration of the) Eucharist to alleviate the tribulation of the souls still awaiting blessedness without end.”

The prayers for those in purgatory, the pope said, make sense because from a Catholic point of view, “the distinction is not between those who have died and those who have not yet, but between those who are in Christ and those who are not. This is the decisive element for our salvation and happiness.”

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis told people he would be making a trip to Turkey Nov. 28-30 to meet government officials, Muslim leaders and, especially, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. The meeting with the patriarch takes place on the feast of St. Andrew, the patron of the patriarchate.

“I ask you all to pray that this visit of Peter to his brother Andrew will bring fruits of peace, sincere dialogue among religions and harmony in the Turkish nation,” the pope said.

 

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Photo of the week: Reunion at the border

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U.S.-Mexico border Mass marked by painful reunion through the fence

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. — The 18-car Union Pacific train blew its horn about 50 feet from the U.S.-Mexico divide.

There, in a dusty one-acre lot, an American road ends — literally. And it was where 12-year-old Yoryet Lara hoped to get a glimpse of her mother.

Jocelyn Lara, on the New Mexico side of the U.S.-Mexico border, kisses her mother, Trinidad Acahua, before Mass Nov. 22 in Sunland Park, N.M. Jocelyn and her sister, Yoryet, were separated from their mother after Acahua was deported seven years ago for being unable to show that she worked in the United States legally. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Jocelyn Lara, on the New Mexico side of the U.S.-Mexico border, kisses her mother, Trinidad Acahua, before Mass Nov. 22 in Sunland Park, N.M. Jocelyn and her sister, Yoryet, were separated from their mother after Acahua was deported seven years ago for being unable to show that she worked in the United States legally. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

“It’s been so long, I need to see her,” Yoryet said. “Other children get to see their moms on special occasions like Mother’s Day. I don’t. It’s not fair,” she said as she wiped away tears.

Yorye’s mother, Trinidad Acahua, once lived in the U.S. illegally, in El Paso, Texas. She had a job, paid her rent, stayed out of trouble. She had two children here, making them both U.S. citizens. But one day she ran a stop sign on her way to work and was pulled over. When she couldn’t produce paperwork for insurance or proof of car ownership, she was taken into custody and eventually deported. That was seven years ago.

Just as the 16th annual Border Mass, hosted by the area’s three dioceses was set to begin, the girls rushed the international fence, calling out for their mother, who was joining them at the Mass from the Mexican side of the fence.

“Don’t cry my queens, don’t cry,” Acahua sobbed. “I love you all very much my daughters.” The family’s lone embrace was an interlocking of fingers in the chain link fence that divided them.

“Mommy, I miss you,” said Jocelyn Lara, 10. “Ay Mommy!”

Their mother brought Emmanuel, the girls’ 3-year-old brother, to the fence as well.

“Hi little one, I’m your aunt,” the girls’ aunt, Ines Zepahua, said in greeting her nephew. She has never been able to hold him.

That was the backdrop for the annual Border Mass celebrated by bishops of the dioceses of El Paso, Texas, Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Juarez, Mexico.

“We have a prayerful purpose,” said Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso. “This Mass started as a remembrance of the thousands of people who have died in their desperate trek to come to the U.S. We pray for them as well as those immigrants who are here now but who live in fear of exploitation and deportation daily.”

The Mass was a cross-border experience. A lector read the first reading from Juarez in Mexico, while the second reading was read on the American side. The responsorial psalm was recited together, and Communion was shared on both sides. Because the border is marked there by a chain-link fence, every part of the Mass was visible from both countries. Bishop Seitz said the three communities came together in the liturgy, just as they do daily in responding to the needs of immigrants.

“They’re not coming here looking to get a new car or a new house,” he said. “Often, they come here out of fear of the lives they have back home. The life of the immigrant is not easy.”

That desperation was evident when, during Mass, 10 to 15 people cut through a seam in the border fence to cross illegally into New Mexico, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.

“It looks like we had about eight breach points,” said Joe Romero, acting Special Operations supervisor of the El Paso sector of the Border Patrol.

Romero said many of those who tried to cross got spooked and turned back. At least three were apprehended on the U.S. side. Tension ran high when a Border Patrol agent approached a young man in the crowd during Mass.

Ultimately, the agent walked away from the man, although it wasn’t clear whether the man was one of those eventually arrested.

Despite the attempts to take advantage of the Mass and sneak into the country, Romero said it won’t be an obstacle to future such events.

“We understand the purpose of the Mass and will not let this first-time breach prevent us from being supportive of it in the future,” he said.

“This was unprecedented,” said Bishop Seitz. “We’ve always known about the desperation of those who are attempting to come to the U.S. in search of safety. What happened (at Mass) shows that, in spite of President Obama’s recent executive action regarding immigrants who are already here, the need, the desperation to flee to safety, remains.”

As the liturgy came to a close, the celebrants’ words, “Mass has ended. Let us go in peace,” rang out. Yoryet and Jocelyn reluctantly said goodbye to their mom.

“I love you Mom! I miss you!” they said.

The two siblings walked toward their aunt’s SUV to leave. And another Union Pacific train blew its whistle in the background.

— By Elizabeth O’Hara

 

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Pope urges Europe to nurture religious roots, sow peace in its borders

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Catholic News Service

STRASBOURG, France — The project of European unity and cooperation, ensuring peace on the continent and helping others find peace as well, requires a real commitment to dialogue and respect for others, Pope Francis said.

While the pope did not specifically mention the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia, both members of the Council of Europe, he told council members that a “great toll of suffering and death is still being enacted on this continent.”

Pope Francis speaks during a visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Nov. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis speaks during a visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Nov. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Visiting European institutions in Strasbourg Nov. 25, the pope marked the 65th anniversary of the 47-member Council of Europe, which was formed to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law on the continent in the wake of the destruction and division sown by the World War II.

Where is Europe’s energy, idealism and constant search for truth, he asked members of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, ambassadors from the 47 member states, the 47 judges of the European Court of Human Rights and other guests, including representatives of the religions present in member countries.

“Europe should reflect on whether its immense human, artistic, technical, social, political, economic and religious patrimony is simply an artifact of the past or whether it is still capable of inspiring culture and displaying its treasures to mankind as a whole,” he said.

“In a world more prone to make demands than to serve,” he said, helping one another and promoting a peaceful resolution of conflicts must be at the heart of the Council of Europe’s agenda.

“The royal road to peace , and to avoiding a repetition of what occurred in the two world wars of the last century, is to see others not as enemies to be opposed, but as brothers and sisters to be embraced,” the pope said.

Pope Francis told the Council of Europe, as he had told the European Parliament earlier in the day, he realizes members of the Catholic Church in Europe have not always been blameless, but that the church constantly commits itself to serving others better, a commitment that government and international organizations must make as well.

He pleaded with the European institutions to be more serious and creative about increasing employment, particularly for the young. The high rate of unemployment among young people, averaging 20 percent across the 28 member countries of the European Union, is “a veritable mortgage on the future,” he said.

“Achieving the good of peace,” he said, “first calls for educating to peace, banishing a culture of conflict aimed at fear of others, marginalizing those who think or live differently than ourselves.”

Using the international forum of the Council of Europe, Pope Francis condemned “religious and international terrorism, which displays deep disdain for human life and indiscriminately reaps innocent victims.”

“This phenomenon,” he said, “is unfortunately bankrolled by a frequently unchecked traffic in weapons.”

The call to peace, Pope Francis said, first involves stopping violence, but it goes deeper and the Council of Europe project is to sow peace through the promotion and protection of human rights.

Using the image of a tree, growing tall but firmly rooted in the earth, the pope insisted that the European project cannot succeed if it does not maintain and nourish its roots of Judeo-Christian values, beginning with the sacredness of human life and the pursuit of truth and the common good.

People with a purely “scientific mentality” have trouble understanding how such growth works, he said. “In order to progress toward the future we need the past; we need profound roots.”

Without those roots, the pope said, people think only of themselves and their rights and needs, feeling free to “throw away” anything or anyone they do not find useful.

“We have a surfeit of unnecessary things, but we no longer have the capacity to build authentic human relationships marked by truth and mutual respect,” the pope said. The lack of solid relationships has wounded Europe, sapping it of the vitality it once had and tempting it to close in on itself instead of helping others.

European institutions and the continent’s citizens must stop speaking only to those they already agree with completely, he said. Dialogue with others actually strengthens one’s identity while also making one more sensitive to the gifts and needs of others.

As he did earlier in the morning, the pope called special attention to the needs of migrants who arrive on Europe’s shores needing material aid, “but more importantly a recognition of their dignity as persons.”

 

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Sainthood cause for a native of the Eastern Shore endorsed by U.S. bishops

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Catholic News Service

Two years ago, the U.S. bishops endorsed the sainthood cause of Dorothy Day, who was born an Episcopalian but later became a Catholic and co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement that still flourishes today.

Father Paul Wattson, who co-founded the Society of the Atonement in Graymoor, N.Y., is pictured in an undated photo. The U.S. bishops Nov. 11 endorsed the sainthood cause of the onetime Episcopal priest who joined the Catholic Church more than a century ago along with the members of the Society of the Atonement. The bishops' support for his cause came on the second day of their annual fall general assembly in Baltimore. (CNS photo/courtesy Society of the Atonement, Graymoor)

Father Paul Wattson, who co-founded the Society of the Atonement in Graymoor, N.Y., is pictured in an undated photo. The U.S. bishops Nov. 11 endorsed the sainthood cause of the onetime Episcopal priest who joined the Catholic Church more than a century ago along with the members of the Society of the Atonement. The bishops’ support for his cause came on the second day of their annual fall general assembly in Baltimore. (CNS photo/courtesy Society of the Atonement, Graymoor)

This year, the bishops endorsed the cause of another former Episcopalian: Father Paul Wattson, who was ordained an Anglican priest but became a Catholic and whose legacy includes the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, observed each January.

Support for his cause came on a voice vote Nov. 11, the second day of the bishops’ annual fall general assembly in Baltimore.

Father Wattson was born Lewis Thomas Wattson on January 16, 1863, in Millington, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, now in the Diocese of Wilmington. His parents were Rev. Joseph Wattson and his wife Mary Electa Wattson.

Eleven years after he was ordained an Episcopal priest, Rev. Paul Wattson was in ministry in Omaha, Nebraska, in the spring of 1897 when he received a letter from a novice in an Episcopal convent in Albany, N.Y.

Lurana White, though, was not content at her convent. In the letter, she expressed her frustration in finding a religious community whose members publicly professed the vow of poverty and lived according to the Franciscan tradition. Rev. Wattson knew of no such community, but he responded to White his vision of establishing a religious community of his own.

Rev. Wattson and White, through their correspondence, concluded they shared a similar dream. When they met face to face in October 1898, they established the Society of the Atonement, with separate orders for men and for women: the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement and the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement.

The society’s members would live according to the Franciscan tradition, and have as its charism the promotion of Christian unity and mission.

White, who by this time was home in Warwick, N.Y., suggested as a home base for the society a relatively secluded spot in present-day Garrison, N.Y., that some people called Graymoor. Before the winter set in, White had settled into an old farmhouse on the land; there was also a small chapel on the property called St.-John’s-in-the-Wilderness.

Rev. Wattson lived in an old painted shack on the land, which he called the “Palace of Lady Poverty.”

They decided early on to take as their cause convincing Episcopalians to join the Catholic Church. This did not sit too well with the Episcopalians and Anglicans they knew. Rev. Wattson, who took the religious name Paul, found pulpits closed to him and donations drying up.

White, now known as Sister Lurana and later Mother Lurana, would take her fellow sisters with her to New York City to beg at subway turnstiles.

Things came to a head following a 1907 decision at the Episcopal Church’s convention to permit other Christian preachers to speak at Episcopal pulpits with the approval of the local bishop. Seeing how much more closely linked Anglicans were to Catholics than to other Christian denominations, Rev. Wattson and Mother Lurana decide to leave the Episcopal Church and become Catholics themselves.

In October 1909, they and a few companions were received into the Roman Catholic Church. It is believed to be the first time since the days of the Reformation the members of an entire religious community had become Roman Catholics on a corporate, rather than individual basis. Father Wattson was ordained a Catholic priest in 1910.

At first, they were as unpopular within the Catholic Church as they had been in the Episcopal Church. Many Catholics thought them to be “secret Protestants,” a label that took several years for them to overcome.

Father Wattson “really did reach out to people of other denominations at a time when it was not popular,” said Sister Nancy Conboy, who is minister general of the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement.

“I think his emphasis on Christian reconciliation and ecumenism in this day in age when there is so much so division could be a real catalyst for helping people to say we can we talk about what we have in common,” she told Catholic News Service in a phone interview in early November.

Despite suspicions about their ministry, Father Wattson and Mother Lurana’s projects took on new impetus.

The Lamp, a magazine devoted to Christian unity and mission, was published monthly for a much wider audience. The Union-That-Nothing-Be Lost, an organization which aided missionaries, grew larger and more enthusiastic. St. Christopher’s Inn, an expression of the Society of the Atonement’s commitment to Franciscan ideals, continued to receive thousands of homeless, needy men each year, providing them with hospitality in the spirit of St. Francis.

Father Wattson married a theological perspective with “very practical things,” said Father Jim Gardiner. A Franciscan Friar of the Atonement for more than 54 years, he oversees special projects at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington.

On one hand, Father Wattson very much wanted to see the “reunion of Rome and Canterbury,” the Anglican Church, Father Gardiner said, and at the same time he cared for wayfarers with St. Christopher’s Inn, emphasized the role of prayer and “took the Gospel very seriously.”

Father Wattson also co-founded the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and among other things organized Graymoor Press and the “Ave Maria Hour” on radio.

In 1903, Father Wattson started the annual Church Unity Octave, now known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is observed from Jan. 18, the feast of St. Peter’s Chair in Rome, to Jan. 25, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

Father Wattson wanted Christians to understand Christian unity as a realistic goal for churches and not some pie-in-the-sky dream. The Society for the Atonement now publishes a monthly journal called Ecumenical Trends, which collects speeches and documents written by ecumenists and interreligious figures worldwide.

Both the men’s and women’s branches of the society continued to grow through the Jazz Age and the Great Depression. Mother Lurana died in 1935, and Father Wattson in 1940.

 

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Pope Francis warns against ‘spirituality of ease’ that he calls a ‘state of sin’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians must guard against a “spirituality of ease” and putting up appearances, and respond to the constant call of Jesus to conversion, said Pope Francis.

Pope Francis prays during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov.19. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis prays during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov.19. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

The pope described the thinking behind a spirituality of ease: “I do things as I can, but I am at peace as long as no one comes to disturb me with strange things. I lack nothing. I go to Mass on Sundays. I pray sometimes. I feel good. I’m in the grace of God. I’m rich. I don’t need anything. I’m fine.”

But this spiritual state “is a state of sin,” he said in his homily Nov. 18 at morning Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Casa Santa Marta.

Reflecting on the day’s first reading, the pope said Jesus reprimands Christians who have a “lukewarm” spirit, calling them to “dress themselves” because “they are naked.”

Jesus also calls to conversion those Christians who are “putting up appearances.” These Christians believe they are living, but they are not, said the pope.

“The appearances they put up are their shroud; they are dead,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.

The pope urged Christians to examine their faith life: “Am I among these Christians who put up appearances? Am I alive within? Do I have a spiritual life? Do I feel the Holy Spirit? Do I listen to the Holy Spirit?”

Some will answer, “but everything seems fine. I have nothing for which to reproach myself. I have a good family. People do not speak ill of me. I have everything I need. I was married in church. I’m in the grace of God. I’m calm,” he said. But these are “appearances. Christians of appearances, they are (spiritually) dead.”

The pope said Christians must seek to reinvigorate their interior lives and he urged them to convert “from appearances to reality, from tepidness to fervor.”

Reflecting on the day’s Gospel (Lk 19:1-10), the Pope said Zacchaeus, the tax collector, was “like many managers we know, corrupt, those who, instead of serving the people, exploit the people to serve themselves.”

Zacchaeus was neither tepid nor dead, he continued. “He was in a state of putrefaction, truly corrupt” but impelled by curiosity to see Jesus. The Holy Spirit sowed the seed of curiosity into Zacchaeus’ heart and, unrestrained by shame, he did something “a little ridiculous” to see Jesus; he climbed a tree. The pope said the Holy Spirit worked within Zacchaeus, who received the gift of joy upon accepting the Word of God in his heart, and promised to pay back four times the amount he had stolen.

“When conversion hits the pockets, then it is definite,” the pope said. “Christians at heart? Yes, everyone. Christians in spirit? Everyone. But Christians with pockets? Few, eh?” Despite Zacchaeus’ instant conversion, there were others who refused to convert and who criticized Jesus for entering his house, the pope continued.

The pope then offered a reflection on the importance of the Word of God in the life of the Christian. The Word, he said, “is able to change everything,” but “we do not always have the courage to believe in the Word of God, to receive this Word, which heals us interiorly.”

In the final weeks of the liturgical year, he said, the church is urging Christians to think very seriously about conversion and to recall the Word of God and to obey it, in order to move forward in the Christian life.

— By Laura Ieraci

 

 

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