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Papal preacher: Victory belongs to one who triumphs over self, not others

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Jesus came to the world not just to teach, but to radically change human hearts that have hardened from sin, the preacher of the papal household said during a service commemorating Christ’s death on the cross.

“A heart of stone is a heart that is closed to God’s will and to the suffering of brothers and sisters,” but God, through the son, offers the world “a heart of flesh,” Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said in the homily.

Pope Francis venerates the crucifix as he leads the Good Friday service in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis venerates the crucifix as he leads the Good Friday service in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis presided over the Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion April 14 in St. Peter’s Basilica, which began with a silent procession down the central nave under dim lighting to emphasize the solemnity of the ceremony.

The pope then lay prostrate on the floor before the main altar of the basilica, his head resting upon his clasped hands on a red pillow, in silent prayer, in a sign of adoration and penance. As is customary, the papal household’s preacher gave the homily.

Father Cantalamessa said the motto of the Carthusian monks, “Stat crux dum volvitur orbis” (The cross is steady while the world is turning), represents Christ and his cross standing firm, not against the world, which is always in flux, “but for the world, to give meaning to all the suffering that has been, that is and that will be in human history.”

Jesus came not to condemn sinners, who “are creatures of God and preserve their dignity,” but to admonish the sin, which is the “result of one’s passions and of the ‘devil’s envy,’” he said.

Today’s world seems especially “fluid,” he continued, with no fixed moorings, no undisputed values, where “everything is in flux, even the distinction between sexes.”

The cross standing in and over the world as represented in the monks’ coat of arms, he said, is the “mainmast that holds the boat afloat in the undulation of the world” and marks the “definitive and irreversible ‘no’ of God to violence, injustice, hate, lies — to all that we call ‘evil,’ and at the same it is equally the irreversible ‘yes’ to love, truth, and goodness.”

No one should ever give up hope, he said, because “the cross is the living proclamation that the final victory does not belong to the one who triumphs over others but to the one who triumphs over self; not to the one who causes suffering but to the one who is suffering.”

Father Cantalamessa said, “Christ did not come to explain things, but to change human beings,” who each possess some varying degree of “a heart of darkness,” a heart hardened by sin.

The Bible calls it a heart of stone, he said, which is the heart of those who ignore God’s will and others’ pain; it is someone, for example, who “accumulates unlimited sums of money and remains indifferent to the desperation of the person who does not have a glass of water to give to his or her own child; it is also the heart of someone who lets himself or herself be completely dominated by the instincts of the flesh and is ready to kill or to lead a double life.”

It is also the heart of the church’s ministers and practicing Christians who “still live fundamentally ‘for ourselves’ and not ‘for the Lord,’” he said.

When Christ died, the earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs were opened. These signs also indicate, the papal preacher said, “what should happen in the heart of a person who reads and meditates on the Passion of Christ.”

Quoting St. Leo the Great, the preacher said people’s earthly nature should tremble at the suffering of the savior, “the rocks — the hearts of unbelievers — should burst asunder. The dead, imprisoned in the tombs of their mortality, should come forth, the massive stones now ripped apart.”

The heart of flesh God promised “is now present in the world” and in receiving the Eucharist, “we firmly believe his very heart comes to beat inside of us as well.”

He asked the assembly to gaze upon the cross and implore, like the tax collector in the temple, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” so “we too, like he did, will return home ‘justified, that is, reconciled with God, and if it’s necessary, with our cross.’”

After the homily, the assembly venerated the cross, which was carried down the central nave and held before the pope, who kissed and caressed it.

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Pope Francis hears confessions during Lenten penance service

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY —A few hours after urging priests to be generously available for the sacrament of penance, Pope Francis went to confession, then offered the sacrament to seven Catholics.

Presiding over the annual Lenten penance service March 17 in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis was one of 95 priests and

Pope Francis kneels before a priest to confess during a Lenten prayer service in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 17. (CNS photo/Evandro Inetti, pool) See POPE-LENT March 17, 2017.

Pope Francis kneels before a priest to confess during a Lenten prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican March 17. (CNS photo/Evandro Inetti, pool) See POPE-LENT March 17, 2017.

bishops listening to confessions and granting absolution.

After the reading of a Gospel passage, the pope did not give a homily. Instead, he and the thousands of people gathered in the basilica prayed in absolute silence for 10 minutes.

Pope Francis spent about four minutes kneeling before a priest in one of the wooden confessionals before he walked to one nearby, put on a purple stole and waited for the first penitent to approach.

As people were preparing, confessing and praying, the Sistine Chapel Choir alternated with the organist and a harpist in ensuring an atmosphere of peace.

The pope spent 50 minutes administering the sacrament before leading the congregation in prayers of thanksgiving for the experience of the “goodness and sweetness of God’s love for us.”

The Vatican press office said Pope Francis heard the confessions of three men and four women, all laypeople.

The small service booklets distributed to the congregation included a guide for an examination of conscience. The 28 questions began with a review of one’s motivation for going to confession in the first place: “Do I approach the sacrament of penance out of a sincere desire for purification, conversion, renewal of life and a closer friendship with God, or do I consider it a burden that I am only rarely willing to take on?”

Other questions involved how often one prays, Mass attendance, keeping the Ten Commandments, giving generously to the poor, not gossiping and keeping the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and abstinence and almsgiving.

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Magi’s hearts were open to something new, pope says on Epiphany

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Magi had the courage to set out on a journey in the hope of finding something new, unlike Herod who was full of himself and unwilling to change his ways, Pope Francis said.

The Wise Men who set out from the East in search of Jesus personify all those who long for God and reflect “all those who in their lives have let their hearts be anesthetized,” the pope said Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany.

People in traditional attire endure cold weather during the annual parade marking the feast of the Epiphany in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Jan. 6. (CNS/Paul Haring)

People in traditional attire endure cold weather during the annual parade marking the feast of the Epiphany in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Jan. 6. (CNS/Paul Haring)

“The Magi experienced longing; they were tired of the usual fare. They were all too familiar with, and weary of, the Herods of their own day. But there, in Bethlehem, was a promise of newness, of gratuity,” he said.

Thousands of people were gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica as the pope entered to the sounds of the choir singing “Angels we have heard on high” in Latin. Before taking his place in front of the altar, the pope stood in front of a statue of baby Jesus, spending several minutes in veneration before kissing it.

The pope said that the Magi adoring the newborn king highlight two specific actions: seeing and worshipping.

Seeing the star of Bethlehem did not prompt them to embark on their journey but rather, “they saw the star because they had already set out,” he said.

“Their hearts were open to the horizon and they could see what the heavens were showing them, for they were guided by an inner restlessness. They were open to something new,” the pope said.

This restlessness, he continued, awakens a longing for God that exists in the hearts of all believers who know “that the Gospel is not an event of the past but of the present.”

It is holy longing for God “that helps us keep alert in the face of every attempt to reduce and impoverish our life. A holy longing for God is the memory of faith, which rebels before all prophets of doom,” the pope said.

Recalling the biblical figures of Simeon, the prodigal son, and Mary Magdalene, the pope said this longing for God “draws us out of our iron-clad isolation, which makes us think that nothing can change,” and helps us seek Christ.

However, the figure of King Herod presents a different attitude of bewilderment and fear that, when confronted with something new, “closes in on itself and its own achievements, its knowledge, its successes.”

The quest of the Magi led them first to Herod’s palace that, although it befits the birth of king, is only a sign of “power, outward appearances and superiority. Idols that promise only sorrow and enslavement,” he said.

“There, in the palace, they did not see the star guiding them to discover a God who wants to be loved. For only under the banner of freedom, not tyranny, is it possible to realize that the gaze of this unknown but desired king does not abase, enslave, or imprison us,” the pope said.

Unlike the Magi, the pope added, Herod is unable to worship the newborn king because he was unwilling to change his way of thinking and “did not want to stop worshiping himself, believing that everything revolved around him.”

Christians are called to imitate the wise men who, “weary of the Herods of their own day,” set out in search of the promise of something new.

“The Magi were able to worship, because they had the courage to set out. And as they fell to their knees before the small, poor and vulnerable infant, the unexpected and unknown child of Bethlehem, they discovered the glory of God,” the pope said.

After the Mass, Pope Francis greeted tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany.

A colorful parade led by the sounds of trumpets and drums, people dressed in traditional and festive clothing contributed to the cheerful atmosphere despite the chilly weather.

Explaining the significance of the Wise Men who presented their gifts to Christ after adoring him, the pope gave the crowds a gift: a small booklet of reflections on mercy.

The book, entitled “Icons of Mercy,” presents “six Gospel episodes that recall the experience of people transformed by Jesus’ love: the sinful woman, Zacchaeus, Matthew, the publican, the Samaritan, the good thief and the apostle Peter. Six icons of mercy,” the papal almoner’s office said.

Together with the homeless, poor men and women and refugees, religious men and women distributed the books to the crowd. As a thank you, Pope also offered more than 300 homeless men and women sandwiches and drinks.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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New Year calls for courage, hope; no more hatred, selfishness, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Whether the new year will be good or not depends on us choosing to do good each day, Pope Francis said.

“That is how one builds peace, saying ‘no’ to hatred and violence, with action, and ‘yes’ to fraternity and reconciliation,” he said Jan. 1, which the church marks as the feast of Mary, Mother of God and as World Peace Day.

Pope Francis kisses a figurine of the baby Jesus at the start of a Mass marking the feast of Mary, Mother of God, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis kisses a figurine of the baby Jesus at the start of a Mass marking the feast of Mary, Mother of God, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Speaking to the some 50,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the first noon Angelus of 2017, the pope referred to his peace day message in which he asked people to adopt the style of nonviolence for building a politics for peace.

Lamenting the brutal act of terrorism that struck during a night of “well-wishes and hope” in Istanbul, the pope offered his prayers for the entire nation of Turkey as well as those hurt and killed. A gunman opened fire during a New Year’s Eve celebration at a popular nightclub early Jan. 1, killing at least 39 people and wounding at least 70 more.

“I ask the Lord to support all people of good will who courageously roll up their sleeves in order to confront the scourge of terrorism and this bloodstain that is enveloping the world with the shadow of fear and confusion,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the pope spoke of how maternal tenderness, hope and self-sacrifice were the “strongest antidote” to the selfishness, indifference and “lack of openness” in the world today.

Celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, which was decorated with bright red anthuriums, evergreen boughs, white flowers and pinecones brushed with gold paint, the pope said that a community without mothers would be cold and heartless with “room only for calculation and speculation.”

The pope said he learned so much about unconditional love, hope and belonging from seeing mothers who never stop embracing, supporting and fighting for what is best for their children incarcerated in prisons, ill in hospitals, enslaved by drugs or suffering from war.

“Where there is a mother, there is unity, there is belonging, belonging as children,” he said.

Just like all mothers of the world, Mary, Mother of God, “protects us from the corrosive disease of being ‘spiritual orphans,’” that is when the soul feels “motherless and lacking the tenderness of God, when the sense of belonging to a family, a people, a land, to our God, grows dim.”

“This attitude of spiritual orphanhood is a cancer that silently eats away at and debases the soul,” which soon “forgets that life is a gift we have received and owe to others a gift we are called to share in this common home,” he said.

A “fragmented and divided culture” makes things worse, he said, leading to feelings of emptiness and loneliness.

“The lack of physical and not virtual contact is cauterizing our hearts and making us lose the capacity for tenderness and wonder, for pity and compassion,” he said, as well as making us “forget the importance of playing, of singing, of a smile, of rest, of gratitude.”

Remembering that Jesus handed his mother over to us “makes us smile once more as we realize that we are a people, that we belong” and can grow, that we are not just mere objects to “consume and be consumed,” that we are not “merchandise” to be exchanged or inert receptacles for information. “We are children, we are family, we are God’s people.”

Mary shows that humility and tenderness aren’t virtues of the weak, but of the strong, and that we don’t have to mistreat others in order to feel important, he said.

The pope also presided over an evening prayer service with eucharistic adoration and the singing of a special hymn of thanksgiving to God Dec. 31 in St. Peter’s Basilica.

As the year ends, he said in his homily, he asked people to reflect on how God has been present in their lives and to thank the Lord for all signs of his generosity, “seen in countless way through the witness of those people who quietly took a risk.”

Gazing upon the manger, we remember how Jesus “wanted to be close to all those who felt lost, demeaned, hurt, discouraged, inconsolable and frightened. Close to all those who in their bodies carry the burden of separation and loneliness, so that sin, shame, hurt, despair and exclusion would not have the final word in the lives of his sons and daughters.”

His sacrifice and love challenges people “not to give up on anything or anyone,” and to find the strength to forge ahead “without complaining or being resentful, without closing in on ourselves or seeking a means of escape, looking for shortcuts in our own interest.”

“Looking at the manger means recognizing that the times ahead call for bold and hope-filled initiatives, as well as the renunciation of vain self-promotion and endless concern with appearances.”

He urged everyone to help make room for young people, who are often marginalized and forced to migrate or beg for undignified jobs. Everyone has a duty to help them grow and fulfill “the dreams of their ancestors” in their own nation and community.

After the prayer service, the pope walked into St. Peter’s Square instead of using the popemobile. He walked the entire periphery of the square, stopping to shake hands, receive cards and notes, offer happy New Year’s greetings, bless babies and chat with people lining the barricades.

In the center of the square, the pope prayed silently before the Vatican Nativity scene, which was created by a Maltese artist. He also stood before the twisted and crumbled spire from the St. Benedict Basilica in Norcia, which like dozens of villages and towns, was damaged in a series of earthquakes in central Italy.

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Pope calls new cardinals to be agents of unity in divisive world

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church’s 17 new cardinals must dedicate their lives to being ministers of forgiveness and reconciliation in a world, and sometimes a church, often marked by hostility and division, Pope Francis said.

New Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis gives a thumbs up as he arrives for a consistory in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Nov. 19. Cardinal Tobin was among 17 new cardinals created by Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

New Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis, who has been named by the pope to lead the Newark, NJ, archdiocese,  gives a thumbs up as he arrives for a consistory in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Nov. 19. Cardinal Tobin was among 17 new cardinals created by Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Even Catholics are not immune from “the virus of polarization and animosity,” the pope told the new cardinals, and “we need to take care lest such attitudes find a place in our hearts.”

Creating 17 new cardinals from 14 nations Nov. 19, the pope said the College of Cardinals and the Catholic Church itself must be a sign for the world that differences of nationality, skin color, language and social class do not make people enemies, but brothers and sisters with different gifts to offer.

Three of the new cardinals created during the prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica were from the United States: Cardinals Blase J. Cupich of Chicago; Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the new Vatican office for laity, family and life; and Joseph W. Tobin, whom the pope asked to move from being archbishop of Indianapolis to archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.

Only 16 of the new cardinals were present for the ceremony. The Vatican said 87-year-old Cardinal Sebastian Koto Khoarai, the retired bishop of Mohale’s Hoek, Lesotho, was created a cardinal although he was unable to travel to Rome.

After reciting the Creed and taking an oath of fidelity to Pope Francis and his successors, each cardinal went up to Pope Francis and knelt before him. The pope gave them each a cardinal’s ring, a three-cornered red hat and a scroll attesting to their appointment as cardinals and containing their “titular church” in Rome. The assignment of a church is a sign they now are members of the clergy of the pope’s diocese.

After the consistory, Pope Francis and the new cardinals hopped in vans for a short ride to visit retired Pope Benedict XVI in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, his residence in the Vatican gardens. The retired pope greeted each cardinal, thanked them for stopping by and assured them, “My prayers will accompany you always.”

Cardinal Mario Zenari, the pope’s ambassador to Syria, spoke on behalf of the new cardinals, promising Pope Francis that they and the entire church would continue to be envoys of God’s mercy, bending down to help those “left half dead on the side of the road, wounded in body and spirit.”

The Gospel reading at the consistory was St. Luke’s version of Jesus’ discourse to his disciples: ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

“They are four things we can easily do for our friends and for those more or less close to us, people we like, people whose tastes and habits are similar to our own,” Pope Francis said. But Jesus, not mincing his words, calls his followers to more.

“With people we consider our opponents or enemies,” the pope said, “our first instinctive reaction … is to dismiss, discredit or curse them. Often we try to ‘demonize’ them, so as to have a ‘sacred’ justification for dismissing them.”

In God, he said, there are no enemies. There are only brothers and sisters to love.

All people are embraced by God’s love, he said. “We are the ones who raise walls, build barriers and label people.”

Just as God loves and forgives the pope and the cardinals for their sinfulness, he said, so they must love and forgive others, undergoing “the conversion of our pitiful hearts that tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn.”

Looking around the modern world, Pope Francis said, “We live at a time in which polarization and exclusion are burgeoning.”

“We see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant or a refugee” are seen as threats, he said. They are presumed to be an enemy because they come from a different country, “because of the color of their skin, their language or their social class. An enemy because they think differently or even have a different faith.”

The “growing animosity between peoples” is found even “among us, within our communities, our priests, our meetings,” the pope said.

“We need to take care lest such attitudes find a place in our hearts, because this would be contrary to the richness and universality of the church, which is tangibly evident in the College of Cardinals,” he said. The cardinals come from different countries, “we think differently and we celebrate our faith in a variety of rites. None of this makes us enemies; instead, it is one of our greatest riches.”

Speaking to Catholic News Service after the consistory, Cardinal Tobin said the pope’s homily was “very timely” and the cardinals, as well as all Catholics, should “examine ourselves and the church to see whether we have unconsciously appropriated this ‘virus’” of polarization and animosity. It may hide under “the name of truth or the name of orthodoxy or something, when it actually serves to divide. I think probably that is resistance to the acts of the Holy Spirit.”

Pope Francis and new cardinals visit with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the retired pope's residence after a consistory at the Vatican Nov. 19. Pope Francis created 17 new cardinals at the consistory. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout)

Pope Francis and new cardinals visit with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the retired pope’s residence after a consistory at the Vatican Nov. 19. Pope Francis created 17 new cardinals at the consistory. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

“In this year of mercy,” Cardinal Farrell told CNS, “we all need to be a little more concerned about and merciful and compassionate to each of our brothers and sisters. And I think that’s the great message that the Holy Father wished to convey.

“We all need to learn how to respect each other. We can disagree on many points, but we need to enter into dialogue and conversation with each other. I believe that is what the Holy Father wanted and what the year of mercy is all about,” the cardinal said. People can discuss and debate theological problems, “but if they don’t do it with charity, as St. Paul would say, what good is it?”

Cardinal Cupich said Pope Francis “hit the nail on the head because a virus can be contagious and it can spread like wildfire, and he wanted to make sure that every individual took responsibility for making sure that whoever the person is who we disagree with, we do not make an enemy out of them, that we remember that we are all sons and daughters of the same God and that we are brothers and sisters to each other.”

“We have to break that cycle of violence and hatred and bigotry, otherwise it will be contagious like a virus,” Cardinal Cupich said.

As the Year of Mercy was ending, Pope Francis called on the new cardinals and everyone present in the basilica to continue to proclaim “the Gospel of mercy,” going out to where people live, giving them hope and helping them become signs of reconciliation.

At the end of the consistory, the College of Cardinals had 228 members, 121 of whom are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a pope.

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New portrait of Mother Teresa unveiled in Washington

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — On the eve of her canonization as a saint, Mother Teresa of Kolkata, who famously disliked being photographed, was immortalized with the unveiling of a dramatic portrait at the St. John Paul II National Shrine.

Artist Chas Fagan, assisted by two members of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity congregation, unveiled his oil painting, “St. Teresa of Calcutta: Carrier of God’s Love,” Sept. 1.

Sisters from the Missionaries of Charity admire the official canonization portrait of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata just after its unveiling Sept. 1 at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington. The image will be displayed during her canonization at the Vatican Sept. 4. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

Sisters from the Missionaries of Charity admire the official canonization portrait of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata just after its unveiling Sept. 1 at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington. The image will be displayed during her canonization at the Vatican Sept. 4. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

The painting was chosen as the official canonization portrait. It was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus.

A reproduction of the portrait was unfurled earlier the same day as a large tapestry on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. It was to serve as a backdrop for Pope Francis’ Sept. 4 canonization Mass for Mother Teresa.

In Washington the sight of the portrait drew excited gasps and smiles from the 17 members of the Missionaries of Charity attending the ceremony.

“She’s our mother. Now she’s the mother of the whole world. She’s a saint for the church. She’s not just our own. We’ve given her to the world,” said Sister Tanya, superior of the Gift of Peace home in Washington, where the Missionaries of Charity serve elderly, poor, sick and homeless people.

The Knights of Columbus printed more than 1 million prayer cards with the official portrait. They will be distributed at the canonization Mass and given to Missionaries of Charity and the people they serve around the world.

Fagan smiled and said artists dream of seeing a positive reaction to their work like the sisters offered, but that he thought “the credit lies more with the subject than the painting.”

The artist said that he, like millions of people around the world, admired Mother Teresa for her loving service of the poor and her humility. Fagan, who has painted and sculpted portraits of U.S. presidents, said capturing the essence of the nun known around the world was a daunting task.

He explained that he found his “hook” with a simple quote of the saint-to-be that someone shared: “Joy is strength.” He said the phrase helped him feel like he knew Mother Teresa and guided the composition and the expression that he painted on her face.

“Every time I lifted up the brush, that quote was going through my head. Mother Teresa lived that. She was a diminutive, yet earthshaking figure,” the artist said.

Fagan said he spent about a month on preparatory sketches before beginning the portrait, which took about six weeks to complete. “Mother Teresa brought joy to my studio, to my home. Now I will miss her company,” he said.

The painting shows Mother Teresa smiling warmly and looking to the side, with a subtle halo over her head. She is wearing her community’s trademark white sari-styled habit with blue trim. A member of the Missionaries of Charity serving in Charlotte, North Carolina, posed for the artist so he could capture the folds of their distinctive habit accurately.

The painting was to be displayed at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, Connecticut, for several weeks except for events in New York Sept. 8-9, and a Sept. 10 Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Patrick’s Cathedral celebrating the canonization. It eventually will be given to the Missionaries of Charity.

A second painting depicting Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II also was unveiled at the shrine Sept. 1.

The painting by Russian-born artist Igor Babailov, depicts St. John Paul II and Mother Teresa standing together in front of 22 young children of different races and cultural backgrounds. The girls are wearing white first Communion dresses and the boys also are in white. A toddler is similarly attired.

The pope offers a blessing and Mother Teresa’s hands are folded in prayer. The painting, donated to the shrine by the artist, is called “Credo,” the Latin word meaning to believe and follow.

The unveiling followed a Mass of thanksgiving for the canonization of Mother Teresa celebrated by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, at the shrine’s Redemptor Hominis Church.

 

Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Year of Mercy brings more people (including non-Catholics) to confessionals in St. Peter’s Basilica

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The number of people going to confession in St. Peter’s Basilica increased noticeably in the first months of Year of Mercy, but not among English-speakers, who apparently are staying away from Europe out of fear of terrorism, said the rector of the basilica’s team of confessors.

Conventual Franciscan Father Rocco Rizzo, the rector, told the Vatican newspaper that from the opening of the Holy Year Dec. 8 and through February, he heard about 2,000 confessions in St. Peter’s. Read more »

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Seek out signs God offers for finding Jesus, pope says on feast of the Epiphany

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Go out and seek the signs God is offering everyone today that will lead to Christ, Pope Francis said.

The thirst for God is present in everyone, and it’s the church’s task to help those with “a restless heart” by pointing them to the true light of Christ, the pope said Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany, which marks the manifestation of Jesus as savior to the world.

Men dressed as the Three Kings ride on horses in an Epiphany parade in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Jan. 6. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Men dressed as the Three Kings ride on horses in an Epiphany parade in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Jan. 6. (CNS/Paul Haring)

In his homily during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope said the church’s mission is to help people “know the face of the father” by first receiving “God’s light and then to reflect it. This is her duty.”

The church must always remember, however, that the light it shares is the glory of the Lord. “The church cannot deceive herself into thinking that she shines with her own light. She cannot,” he said.

“Christ is the true light shining in the darkness. To the extent that the church remains anchored in him, to the extent she lets herself be illuminated by him, she is able to bring light into the lives of individuals and peoples,” he said.

It is only by receiving this divine light that Christians can be true to their vocation of proclaiming the Gospel, which is not proselytism, not a mere profession and “not simply one option among many,” but an obligation, he said.

The Three Wise Men who come from afar seeking the promised king show that “the seeds of truth are present everywhere, for they are the gift of the creator, who calls all people to recognize him as the good and faithful father,” the pope said.

“The church has the task of recognizing and bringing forth more clearly the desire for God, which is present in the heart of every man and woman,” he said.

“Like the Wise Men, countless people, even in our own day, have a restless heart, which continues to seek without finding sure answers,” he said. “They, too, are looking for a star to show them the path to Bethlehem.”

But Christians must also keep asking and looking for the Christ child as well, especially in today’s age, and “to seek the signs which God offers us, realizing that they require our diligence in order to interpret them and, therefore, understand his will.”

“And once we have found him, let us worship him with all our heart, and present him with our gifts: our freedom, our intelligence, and our love,” the pope said.

As people follow the light that “streams from the face of Christ full of mercy and fidelity,” he said, do not forget that this light is also “very small,” coming from a tiny, humble child in a manger.

“True wisdom lies concealed in the face of this child. It is here, in the simplicity of Bethlehem, that the life of the church is summed up.”

While Pope Francis and thousands of people were at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, thousands more lined the main boulevard leading to St. Peter’s Square for the traditional, folkloric Epiphany celebration. Marching bands, Roman gladiators and hundreds of people in Renaissance costumes paraded up the street along with the Three Kings and real camels.

At the Angelus at midday, the pope said the revelation of Jesus to the shepherds and the Three Wise Men “teaches us that in order to encounter Jesus it is necessary to know to look up to heaven, to not be withdrawn into oneself, but to have a heart and mind open to the horizon of God, who always surprises us, to know to welcome his message and respond quickly and generously.”

The Three Wise Men also compel “us to not be satisfied with mediocrity, to not just stumble along in life, but to seek out the meaning of things and to look deeply at the great mystery of life with passion. And they teach us to not be scandalized by smallness and poverty but to recognize the majesty in humility and know how to kneel before it.”

Finding that star, such as the Gospel, is a source of great joy and consolation, he said, because one feels “guided and not abandoned to our fate.”

“Without listening to the Gospel, it is not possible to encounter” Jesus, he said.

The pope asked people to pray that the Virgin Mary “help us turn our gaze away from ourselves, to let ourselves be guided by the star of the Gospel in order to encounter Jesus, and to know how to lower ourselves in order to adore him.”

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Pope Francis greets Pope Benedict

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(CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)

(CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)

Pope Francis greets retired Pope Benedict XVI prior to the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 8. Pope Francis opened the Holy Door to inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy. (CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)

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God never shuts the door on mercy; Christian hearts must never be closed to others, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Because God always keeps open the door of his mercy and offer of salvation to everyone, the doors of every church and every Christian heart must never be closed to others, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis talks with a woman during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis talks with a woman during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

All over the world, individual Christians and the whole church must be seen as “the hospitality of a God who never shuts the door in your face with the excuse that you’re not part of the family,” he said during his weekly general audience Nov. 18.

The pope dedicated his catechesis to the symbol of the Holy Door, which will be opened at St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 8 to mark the start of the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy.

Holy doors around the world represent the “great door of God’s mercy” and are generously opened to receive people’s repentance and offer the grace of God’s forgiveness, he said.

The recent Synod of Bishops on the family was an occasion to encourage the church and all Catholics to meet God at this open door and to open their own doors to others, “to go out with the Lord” to encounter his children who are journeying, who are perhaps uncertain, perhaps lost, “in these difficult times,” he said.

“If the door of God’s mercy is always open, the doors of our churches, our love, our communities, our parishes, our institutions, our dioceses also must be open so that we all can go out to bring God’s mercy” to others, he said.

The jubilee year also represents the need to open the many small doors in everyone’s life so that “the Lord can come in or, many times, to let out the Lord imprisoned by our structures, our selfishness,” the pope said. “The jubilee means to let the Lord come in and go out.”

Don’t let the fact that so many homes and businesses deadbolt their doors for security reasons influence one’s personal approach to life, he said.

“We must not succumb to the idea of having to apply this system to our whole life, to family life,” to life in the city and community and much less to church life, he said.

“It would be terrible. An inhospitable church, just like a family closed inside itself, mortifies the Gospel and parches dry the world. No bolted doors in the church. None. Everything open,” he said to applause.

The symbolism of how a door is opened, how Jesus always knocks and asks permission to come in, “he never forces open the door” of one’s heart, is crucial, the pope said. The door is watched over and safeguarded by a custodian, but it is never slammed shut on anyone.

“The door is opened frequently in order to see if there is anyone outside waiting and perhaps doesn’t have the courage, perhaps not even the strength, to knock,” he said.

“These people have lost trust, they don’t have the courage to knock on the doors of our Christian hearts, the doors of our churches, and there they are — they don’t have the courage, we took away their trust,” Pope Francis said. “Please, this must never happen anymore.”

How people watch over this door says a lot about the church and the community, he said, so how one cares for “the doorway” calls for great discernment and must inspire confidence and trust in people on the outside.

Pope Francis said people can learn from concierges, porters and doormen around the world, who always smile and make people feel welcome and at home. Thanking them for their work, he said the astuteness and politeness they display right at the entrance set the tone for the whole building.

Jesus is the door and the good shepherd whose sheep hear, recognize and follow him, the pope said referring to chapter 10 of the Gospel of St. John.

Like the sheepfold, where God’s people are gathered, the pope said, “the house of God is a shelter, not a prison.” Jesus is the gate that lets people go in “without fear and go out without danger.”

The role of the gatekeeper is to listen to the shepherd, to open the door and to let in all the sheep, “all of them, including the ones that were lost in the wilderness that the good shepherd went to bring back. The gatekeeper does not choose the sheep, the parish secretary doesn’t choose them,” the pope said. “All the sheep are invited. They are chosen by the good shepherd.”

The gatekeeper, that is, everyone in the church, must obey the voice of God and remember “the church is the custodian of the Lord’s house, not the master of the Lord’s house.”

The pope also said that it takes courage to “cross the threshold” and accept God’s invitation.

“Each one of us has something that weighs on us inside, right? We are all sinners,” he said. “Let us take advantage of this moment that is coming and cross the threshold of this mercy of God who never tires of forgiving, who never tires of waiting for us, who looks upon us and is always by our side. Courage! Let’s enter through this door.”

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