I am taking a few days off during the Christmas season so this column will be sporadic – but always feel free to check in, as well as to visit my Facebook page (facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420) where I will be posting photos of Christmas in Roman, the nativity scenes around the city, etc. Tomorrow, this column will not appear but I will be working to prepare my weekend radio show, “Vatican Insider,” and will also be live at 9:39 (ET) with Teresa Tomeo on our weekly get-together on “Catholic Connection” (but coming to you a day earlier than our usual Wednesday appointment. I’ll also be off Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!
Although things have improved immmensely, I am still being treated for phlebitis and my doctor cautioned against air travel, especially a long trip to California. I missed Christmas with family last year as well because of eye surgery. However, when God gives you a lemon, you make limoncello! I am determined to make this a beautiful, memorable Christmas – my house is decorated and I have put up a wonderful tree, including ornaments from my grandmother, ones Mom and Dad bought over the years as we were growing up and many beautiful ones I have collected on travels or received as gifts. It took longer than usual to decorate the tree, simply because I was lost in the flood of memories of beautiful Christmases past as I unwrapped each ornament!
I am excited about hosting friends for turkey dinner on Christmas Day, and have put gifts under the tree for them. My biggest gifts are my friends, those who will be with me Christmas day and the many others I will see or host at my home over the Christmas seasons.
In lieu of sending Christmas cards to family and friends around the word, I am making some special purchases to bring to Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner who is in charge of the papal blessings office and the Pope’s point man for distributing papal charity. You may have seen the news that the Vatican is building three showers for the homeless in space that is adjacent to the public bathrooms, just off the right hand colonnade of St. Peter’s Square. Bit by bit, I am buying quantities of underwear and socks to bring to the archbishop as these items, along with towels, will be needed when a homeless person showers. This is, in a way, a Christmas gift to Pope Francis whose idea this was!
I will miss everyone in my family, of course, especially the little ones, two of whom I have not met: Charlotte, 14 months old and Harry, 2 months old! He is Number 20 of my great nieces and nephews!
Here they are, in all their splendor. I have several photos of Harry but seem unable to process them for this column.
For important Vatican and papal news, you can always access news.va for updates. The Roman Curia holdays are December 24 through the 27, then December 31 and January 1. Many officials and staff members take advantage of those six days, and add a few to create a 10-day or two week vacation period but, as you will see, many of my colleagues in the Vatican media will be working to keep you posted on all events.
Today, I offer you a nutshell version of Pope Francis’ talk to officials of the Roman Curia, a link to his entire, surprising speech, and also a link to his words to employees of Vatican City and the Roman Curia and their family members.
I’ve been so involved in work and in plans for my own holidays that I did not realize that I could have (should have) attended this audience as “retired” Vatican employees were more than welcome! I discovered when I went to Vatican City this morning that the post offices, grocery store, and health services were all closed (the bank was open) so that employees could participate. The errands I intended to run this morning are now on my agenda for tomorrow morning.
Do you want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans for the day!
I have some gifts for you, as you will see: The first is the must-read “ONE SOLITARY LIFE,” and I follow that with several stories that truly reflect the spirit and beauty of the Christmas Season – all this after the Vatican stories!
P.S: Only 5,000 more hits and my video of the dancing seminarians will hit 2 million views!
Before I close this special Christmas column, I’d like to wish all my readers and radio listeners and TV viewers a blessed, beautiful and holy Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year filled with many special moments and people. God sit on your shoulder!
POPE FRANCIS’ CHRISTMAS TALK TO ROMAN CURIA (IN A NUTSHELL)
Not many smiling faces this morning after the first few minutes of Pope Francis’ Christmas greetings to the top officials of the Roman Curia, those who head the congregations, councils, commissions, tribunals, etc, Below is a nutshell account of the papal talk by Vatican radio, a talk that several media defined as “a blistering critique” of the Curia. After his meeting with Curia officials, the Holy Father greeted employees of Vatican City and the Roman Curia.
For more on those talks, please click here:
Pope Francis received the heads and other senior officials of the departments of the Roman Curia on Monday, in their traditional exchange of Christmas greetings. In remarks prepared for the occasion and delivered Monday morning, the Holy Father focused on the need for those who serve in the curia – especially those in positions of power and authority – to remember and cultivate an attitude and a spirit of service.
“Sometimes,” said Pope Francis, “[Officials of the Curia] feel themselves ‘lords of the manor’ [It. padroni] – superior to everyone and everything,” forgetting that the spirit, which should animate them in their lives of service to the universal Church, is one of humility and generosity, especially in view of the fact that none of us will live forever on this earth.
This “disease” of feeling “immortal” or “essential” – irreplaceable – was one of fifteen maladies, which Pope Francis identified during the course of his address: from a tendency to prefer Martha’s portion over Mary’s, to over-planning (and micromanaging), to wearing being a perpetual downer and wearing a “funeral face” all the day long.
“These and other maladies and temptations,” said Pope Francis, “are a danger for every Christian and for any administrative organization, community, congregation, parish, ecclesial movement, etc., and can strike at both the individual and the corporate level.”
“It is the Holy Spirit,” continued the Holy Father, “who sustains every sincere effort at purification and every authentic desire for conversion. He is the one, who makes us understand that every member participates in the sanctification of the [mystical] body [of Christ, which is the Church], and to its corruption.”
“Therefore,” said Pope Francis, “we are called in this Christmas season and for the whole period of our service – for so long as we exist – to live, ‘[according to] truth in charity, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and up-builds itself in love’(Eph. 4:15-16).”
CARDINAL TAURAN IS NEW CAMERLENGO OF HOLY ROMAN CHURCH
Pope Francis on Saturday, December 20, named Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran as Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church, replacing Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who turned 80 on December 2 and therefore cannot participate in a conclave. The much-admired and highly respected French cardinal was for years under John Paul II the extraordinarily able Secretary for Relations with States.
As Camerlengo (chamberlain) he is the administrator of the property and revenues of the Holy See during the Sede Vacante (vacant see – from which we get our word ‘vacancy’) or during the absence of the Pope, doing so without taking extraordinary initiatives. Upon the death of a Pope, the camerlengo’s task is to certify the death and inform the cardinal vicar of Rome, who is entrusted with the task of revealing the news to the people. The camerlengo takes possession of the Ring of the Fisherman and destroys it and all other papal seals. He seals off the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, in the Lateran Palace and in Castelgandolfo.
This marks the beginning of the sede vacante, a period when the camerlengo prepares the papal funeral and subsequent nine days of mourning, the ”novendialis.” The camerlengo also starts to prepare the pre-conclave General Congregations, which are chaired by the cardinal-deacon of the College of Cradinals. Today, that is Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 87. During the sede vacante, the camerlengo’s coat of arms, composed of 30 red ribbons like all cardinals, is also topped with the banner of the Pope and two crossed keys that are surmounted by the papal tiara.
During the sede vacante, the camerlengo can also mint new coins that, even if they have legal tender, will never be put in circulation as they are exclusively intended for collectors. The coins portray his coat of arms, with the words “Sede Vacante” and the year of issue.
Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, has been a close collaborator of Pope Francis in his reform of the Roman Curia and IOR, the Vatican bank. (some background from AGI)
MY CHRISTMAS GIFT TO YOU: “ONE SOLITARY LIFE”
This powerful Christmas column by late columnist Jimmy Bishop will surely leave you speechless for its beauty, simplicity and yet depth of understanding. Here is the Christ of Christmas! Andy Williams recited this in one of his Christmas albums (which is where I first heard it) and you can listen to it online.
“He was born in an obscure village, the Child of a peasant teen who knew not man. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never married or owned a home. He never held a job, yet paid taxes. He never set foot inside a metropolis. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never wrote a book, or held an office. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He received no awards, no medals, no prizes from His peers.
“While He was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends deserted Him. He was turned over to His enemies, and went through the mockery of a trial. He had no lawyers, no friendly juries, no fair hearing. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had – His cloak. After He died, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave. Those who stood watch could not explain His disappearance.
“And yet two thousand years have come and gone, and today He is still the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched and al the navies that ever sailed and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this ‘One Solitary Life’.”
THE BEAUTY AND SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS ARE ALIVE AND WELL
Here are three smaller gifts for you, three heartwarming stories that reflect the beauty and spirit of Christmas. The video, “Mary, Did You know?” is a must see, truly. It has had 14 million views and you find that you drop whatever you are doing just to listen!
POPE DONATES SLEEPING BAGS TO HOMELESS: Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, supervised the distribution of hundreds of sleeping bags to the homeless of Rome, as a gift from Pope Francis, on December 18. Swiss Guards drove a minibus around the city on Wednesday evening, stopping at sites where homeless people are known the gather, handing out the sleeping bags—which were decorated with the papal insignia. Nearly 400 were distributed.
STUDENT RAISES THOUSANDS FOR HOMELESS MAN WHO OFFERED HER TAXI MONEY (The Guardian – Abby Young-Powell): An art student living in Preston has raised over £21,000 for a homeless man after she says he offered her his last £3 so that she could get a taxi home safely.
Dominique Harrison-Bentzen, who studies at the University of Central Lancashire, says she had lost her bank card and needed to get home after a night out when the homeless man, known only as Robbie, offered money to help. The 22-year-old says she declined the offer, but was so moved by his gesture that she started a campaign to raise enough money to help him get a flat. She set up a donation page and asked people to each donate £3 for her fundraiser, which involved spending the night on the street, along with supporters who had heard about her story through social media.
Harrison-Bentzen says: “I suddenly realised that I had no money and a homeless man approached me with his only change of £3. He insisted I took it to pay for a taxi to make sure I got home safe. I was touched by such a kind gesture from a man who faces ignorance every day, so I set on a mission to find this man. The more I spoke about him the more kind gestures I learned about him, such as him returning wallets untouched to pedestrians and offering his scarf to keep people warm.
“He has been homeless for 7 months through no fault of his own and needs to get back on his feet but cannot get work due to having no address. So that’s when I decided to change Robbie’s life and help him, as he has helped many others.” The campaign has received global attention, going viral on social media. Since the donation page was set up, it has frequently reported technical difficulties due to “an unusually high number of visitors”. Many have tweeted their support, including Ian Brown of the Stone Roses.
A CAPPELLA GROUP OFFERS INCREDIBLE CHRISTMAS TRIBUTE TO MARY: The a cappella group Pentatonix has released an incredible rendition of the hymn “Mary, Did You Know?“, set in a candlelit cave with no instruments but their voices. It currently has over 14 million views on YouTube. What a beautiful Christmas tribute to Mary! With only five members, the group Pentatonix is one of the most popular musical acts of this Christmas season. Pentatonix was formed in 2011 when they competed and became the victors of the TV show “The Sing-Off,” before rising to global fame.