Over the years, among the many special things my Dad kept in a big black, loose-leaf binder on his desk, were pieces of paper on which he had copied items he had read and especially liked – sayings, poems, little seeds of wisdom from a newspaper or a calendar, even special phrases from greetings cards or letters he had received. When he died, I was going through his various files and, among the countless pages that made me smile, laugh out loud or cry, were these thoughts on saints. It seemed right to share these with you the day after the beatification of Pope Paul Paul VI:(The Internet was brand new when Dad died so I never searched the author at the time. I did so today and have found various attributions, from names to unknown):

“Why were the saints, saints? Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful, patient when it was difficult to be patient; and because they pushed on when they wanted to stand still, and kept silent when they wanted to talk, and were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable. That was all. It was quite simple and always will be.”

Yesterday and today, I posted photos on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/joansrome) that I took at the beatification celebration. I also published the English text of Pope Francis’ amazing words Saturday evening at the end of the synod and after the vote on the final relatio, and the Message (NOT to be confused with final report) from the Synod Fathers. I hope and believe you will be edified by the Pope’s words and by the Message, especially the papal remarks if you want a “read” on Francis’ appraisal of the synod.

How well were Francis’ words received in the synod hall? He received a five-minute standing ovation!


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis convened a Consistory of Cardinals on Monday morning in the Vatican. Originally scheduled in order to proceed with the causes of candidates for beatification, the Holy Father expanded the agenda of the meeting to include discussion of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. In remarks to the gathered Cardinals at the morning session of the gathering, the Holy Father focused on the need for constant prayer and effective advocacy in favor of peace, and for specific attention to the plight of Christians there.

Describing the notion of a Mideast region devoid of Christians as literally unthinkable, Pope Francis went on to mention Iraq and Syria as two countries in which Christians – who have made their homes there since Apostolic times – are facing unprecedented threats. “We cannot resign ourselves to thinking about the Middle East without Christians, who for two thousand years have confessed the name of Jesus [there].”

“Recent events,” the Pope continued, “especially in Iraq and Syria, are very worrying. We are witnessing a phenomenon of terrorism of previously unimaginable dimensions. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have [been constrained] leave their homes in a brutal way.” Saying that the situation appears to be one in which people no longer appreciate the value of human life, Pope Francis decried the spirit of indifference that seems to dominate, making the sacrifice of the human person to other interests a matter of course. “This unfair situation,” he said, “requires an adequate response by the international community, as well as and in addition to our constant prayer.”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “I am sure that, with the help of the Lord, genuinely worthwhile reflection and suggestions will emerge, in order to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering, and also to face the drama of the reduction of the Christian presence in the land where He was born and from which Christianity spread.”

Later in the morning, there was a briefing by press office director Fr. Federico Lombardi who reported on the talk by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State. The cardinal, said Vatican Radio, presented a summary view of the meeting of Apostolic Nuncios to the countries of the region that took place at the beginning of October. Articulated in six points, the speech stressed that the present situation – broadly speaking and in particular as it regards the Christian communities present in the region – is unacceptable. “Fundamental principles, such as the value of [human] life, human dignity, religious liberty, and peaceful coexistence among peoples and individuals are at stake.”

To read Cardinal Parolin’s well-received talk, click here: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/10/20/card_parolin_on_me_rights_threatened,_risk_of_genocide_/1109019


Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis celebrated the closing Mass for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, during which he beatified his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, calling him a “great Pope,” a “courageous Christian” and a “tireless apostle.”


“We have just heard one of the most famous phrases in the entire Gospel,” began Francis, “’Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Some of the 70,000 present.20141019_114554

He noted that Jesus was “goaded by the Pharisees who wanted, as it were, to give him an exam in religion and catch him in error, Jesus gives this ironic and brilliant reply. It is a striking phrase which the Lord has bequeathed to all those who experience qualms of conscience, particularly when their comfort, their wealth, their prestige, their power and their reputation are in question. This happens all the time; it always has.

The altar and some of the many hundreds of priests. 20141019_114649

But, said the Pope, Jesus stresses the second part of the phrase: “[render] to God the things that are God’s’. This calls for acknowledging and professing – in the face of any sort of power – that God alone is the Lord of mankind, that there is no other. This is the perennial newness to be discovered each day, and it requires mastering the fear that we often feel at God’s surprises.”

Close-up of the altar: 20141019_114820

The Holy Father explained to the 70,000 faithful present that, “’rendering to God the things that are God’s’ means being docile to his will, devoting our lives to him and working for his kingdom of mercy, love and peace.” And, he added, “Here is where our true strength is found; here is the leaven that makes it grow and the salt that gives flavor to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us. Here too is where our hope is found, for when we put our hope in God we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi: instead, we are striving to render to God what is God’s.”

Priests descending to give communion. 20141019_115305 20141019_115844

Pope Francis then spoke of the synod on the family that ended with Sunday’s Mass, saying, “ It has been a great experience, in which we lived synodality and collegiality, and felt the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the Church. For the Church is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope.”

“May the Holy Spirit, who during these busy days has enabled us to work generously, in true freedom and humble creativity, continue to guide the journey that, in the churches throughout the world, is bringing us to the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015.”

Altar 20141019_115514

Then, Pope Francis spoke beautifully and movingly about his predecessor, especially for a new generation that would not have known this Pope who reigned from 1963 to 1978:

“On this day of the beatification of Pope Paul VI, I think of the words with which he established the Synod of Bishops: ‘by carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods… to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society’.

Pope Francis 20141019_120625_2

”When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!

Archbishop Rino Fisichella gives interview after Mass. 20141019_123213

”In his personal journal,” concluded Pope Francis, “the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: ‘Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that He, and no other, is her guide and savior’. In this humility the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.”

Greeting the faithful in St. Peter’s Square 20141019_123732


Pope Francis began his remarks to the synod participants on Saturday, at the end of two weeks of work, with words of thanks to the organizers, the Synod of Bishops, to participants and to all who guided the two-week long assembly on the family.

“It has been ‘a journey’,” said the Pope in the heart of his message, “and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say ‘enough’; other moments of enthusiasm and ardor. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

– The temptation to a destructive tendency to be do-gooders [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called ‘progressives and liberals’.

– The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

– The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

– The temptation to neglect the ‘depositum fide’” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them ‘byzantinisms’, I think, these things…”

The Holy Father said, ”Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).”

“And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

“The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err:…”

He reminded those “commentators” who would see “a disputatious Church where one part is against the other,” that the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

“We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.”

Quoting a lengthy passage by Benedict XVI on service, he said, in part: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority that is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is He who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply.”

Francis said, “The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the ‘servant of the servants of God’; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the ‘supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful’and despite enjoying ‘supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church’.”

“Dear brothers and sisters,” said the Pope in closing, “now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.”

After the Te Deum was sung and the papal blessing imparted, Francis said, “Thank you, and rest well, eh?”


Judging from the headlines that have described the just-completed work of the synod of bishops, one could easily be pardoned for thinking that the Vatican had dedicated the last two weeks to a lengthy discussion on homosexuals, same sex unions, and communion for the divorced and remarried.

The theme of the 2014 extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops was “‎Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of ‎evangelization.” And the several hundred synod fathers, delegates and invited guests did talk for two weeks – first in the larger assembly and then in smaller language groups – about those issues but also about the myriad challenges that married couples and families face today. They spoke of families that fully respond to their Christian vocation, families that are faithful to the teaching of Christ on marriage, and of those families that are “wounded.” single parent homes, divorced and separated couples, homes where there is abuse of some sort, where families have been abanadoned by one parent or there are otherwise fragile relations, families hit by economic hard times and unemployment.

The synod looked at the “lights and shadows” of family life, but did not overlook any of the tough issues or what have been called “hot button” issues such as same sex unions. Participants emphasized the duty of pastors and shepherds to listen to their flock and to accompany them, to be there in times of joy and times of trial and need.

Emphasis was put on marriage preparation and accompaniment in the first years of marriage. It was placed on the pastoral care for those who cohabit and those in civil marriages. Emphasis was placed on pastoral caring for the “wounded” families – the separated, divorced but not remarried, divorced and remarried, single family homes. The final report spoke of pastoral attention for “those persons with homosexual orientation.”

The document re-affirmed marriage as a sacramental union between a man and a woman, emphasizing fidelity, unity and, above all, indissolubility. In no way, said the document can a same sex union be equated with or likened to marriage as taught by the Church although persons with homosexual tendencies “must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity.”

On Saturday afternoon, when the “Relatio synodi” was released and voted upon, Pope Francis authorized the immediate publication of the full text, This document (only in Italian for now) will provide the focus for reflection by episcopal conferences throughout the world this year in preparation for the 2015 synod on the family. The Pope also authorized the publication of the number of votes for each point. The paragraphs on gays and the divorced and remarried did not receive two-thirds of the vote by the 183 bishops in attendance, but rather a simply majority.

In the end, the final document, an 8,300-word treatise (so far only in Italian) of 62 paragraphs reiterated Catholic teachings on marriage and the family.

I will take a closer look at some parts of this lengthy document in coming days.

One interesting takeaway for me: Late Saturday night, hours after the “Relatio synodi” was released, I read a number of early media reports and was struck by one thing immediately: the relative absence of the word “family” in articles describing the conclusion of a synod on the family.

I looked at 8 media stories totalling 6,185 words: 4 were wire services, 3 were newspaper stories and one was a CRUX article by well known vaticanista, John Allen. I did a computer count and an eye count of the words “family” and “families”: they were used 14 times!