While I rarely offer the Holy Father’s homilies delivered at Mass each morning in the Santa Marta residence, they are always available at where many people have formed a daily habit of reading them.

Today’s homily was so special (not to imply that others are not!) that I want to bring you Vatican Radio’s summary. As I’ve mentioned before, the homily is delivered by Pope Francis in Italian, and when the audio arrives at the radio, staff members transcribe and/or summarize what they hear. Those summaries are then posted on the website. Today the Pope spoke of the “dark valleys” in our lives and he asked questions that we all ask about evil and sickness and suffering.

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday spoke of a series of events and situations that shed shadows on our lives and lead us to ask difficult questions.

Speaking during morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, the Pope remembered a homeless man who recently died of the cold here in Rome; he recalled the sisters of Charity who were killed in an attack in Yemen; and his thoughts flew to the many people who continue to fall ill in the so-called “triangle of death” in the southern Italian region of Campania where the illegal burning of toxic waste causes cancer and despair. As we are forced to face these “dark valleys” of our time, he said, the only answer is to trust in God. (photo:


“Even when we do not understand – such as before the illness of a child – let us put ourselves in the hands of the Lord who never abandons His people,” he said.

Reflecting on the reading of the day that tells of Susanna, a just woman who is “soiled” by the “evil desire” of two judges, but chooses to trust in God rather than succumb to their wish, Pope Francis said that that even when we find ourselves walking in a“valley of darkness” we need not fear evil.

How many dark valleys; where are you Lord?

The Lord, the Pope said, always walks with us, loves us and does not abandon us. And he turned his attention to some of the many “dark valleys” of our time:

“When we look at the many dark valleys, at the many misfortunes, at the fact there are so many people dying of hunger, there is war, there are so many children with disabilities… and, asking their parents, we discover they suffer from something called a ‘rare disease’…  And the things we create ourselves: think of the cancers caused by the ‘triangle of death’… When you look at all this you ask: ‘where is the Lord’, ‘where are you?’ ‘Are you walking with me?’ This was Susanna’s sentiment. And it is ours too. Look at those four slain sisters of ours: they were serving with love; they ended up murdered in hatred! When you see that doors are being closed to refugees who are left out in the cold… you say: ‘Lord, where are You?’ “.

Why does a child suffer? I do not know why, but I trust in God

“How can I entrust myself to God,” asked the Pope, “when I see all these things? And when things happen to me, each of us may say: how can I entrust myself to You?” There is an answer to this question, but it cannot be explained.”

“Why does a child suffer? I do not know: it is a mystery to me,” said Pope Francis.

And recalling Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Pope pointed out that, although he is suffering, he trusts in the Father and knows that all will not end with death, with the cross.

Pope Francis, pointing out that Jesus’ last words before dying on the cross were ‘Father into your hands I commend my spirit’,” said: “To trust in God who walks with me, walks with His people, walks with the Church: this is an act of faith. To entrust myself. I cannot explain it, but I place myself in Your hands. You know why”.

Suffering and evil are not final, the Lord is always with us

And this, he said, is the teaching of Jesus: “He who entrusts himself to the Lord our Shepherd, shall lack nothing.”

Even if he finds himself going through the darkest of valleys, Pope Francis said that, “he knows that the suffering is only of the moment and that the Lord is with him: ‘Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me’. This is a grace we must ask for: ‘Lord, teach me to place myself in your hands, to trust in Your guidance, even in bad times, in the darkest moments, in the moment of death’.”

Pope Francis said that, “We would do well today to think about our lives, about the problems we have, and ask for the grace to place ourselves into the hands of the Lord.”

And he invited the faithful to think of the many men and women who do not even receive a last caress before dying.

“Three days ago a homeless person died here, on the street: he died of cold. In the middle of Rome, a city that has all the possibilities of providing assistence.Why, Lord?  Not even a caress … But I entrust myself to You because You never let me down.”

“Lord,” concluded the Pope, “I do not understand you. This is a beautiful prayer. Without understanding, I place myself in Your hands”.


Two of life’s “dark valleys” occurred over the weekend in the Ivory Coast and in Ankara, Turkey where dozens died at the hands of terrorists. Pope Fra cis sent messages to both countries, expressing his condolences  and his spiritual closeness to the victims, their loved ones and to first responders.

In the Ivory Coast, gunmen opened fire on people vacationing at a popular beach resort in Grand-Bassam which is east of the commercial capital of Abidjan. The telegram, sent in the Pope’s name by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to Bishop Raymond Ahoua of Grand Bassam, said,Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said, “Upon hearing the news of the heinous attack in Grand-Bassam, His Holiness Pope Francis presents condolences to the bereaved and assures the injured his spiritual closeness. The Holy Father again condemns violence and hatred in all forms.”

Eighteen people were killed, including 15 civilians, 3 members of the country’s special forces, and 3 of the attackers. An additional 33 were wounded.

A suicide car bombing Sunday evening in Ankara, Turkey, killed at least 37 people and wounded more than 120 when a bomb was detonated near bus stops in Turkey’s capital.

In a telegram to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote that the Pope was “deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life caused by the bombing in Ankara. His Holiness Pope Francis assures the Turkish people of his spiritual closeness and solidarity.  He prays for the eternal rest of those who have died and for all who mourn their loss, as well as for the recovery of those affected by this heinous act of violence.  Mindful of the generous service being rendered by security and emergency personnel, His Holiness invokes the divine blessings of peace, healing and strength upon the nation.”



It was a cool and windy morning Sunday when tens of thousands of us gathered in St. Peter’s Square and the neighboring Pius XII Square to pray the Angelus with Pope Francis and wish him a Happy Anniversary – the third anniversary of his election to the papacy.

As I walked around the left hand colonnade to reach the area where security was screening people, I saw massive numbers of uniformed police – more in the square and I could only imagine the same numbers around the right hand colonnade. I did not make it in time to go through security so I stayed in Pius XII Square, which was jammed, as you see in these photos.



An Italian youth group sang their hearts out on the edge of the square, singing many songs the crowd knew as well.


Huge cheers went up when Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study. We listened as he reflected on the day’s Gospel and then we joined him in the Marian prayer. Afterwards he greeted many groups of faithful present in the square and then announced that he had a gift for us – a small, pocketsize Gospel of St. Luke, which has been called “the Gospel of mercy.”


He urged us to “read it every day. This way, the mercy of the Father will dwell in your heart and you will bring it to everyone you meet.” He also announced that the people handing out the small booklets were volunteers from the ‘Santa Marta’ pediatric dispensary in the Vatican and a number of grandparents. “How deserving are grandfathers and grandmothers who pass on the faith to their grandchildren,” said Francis, again to applause.


He told us that on page 123 we would find a list of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy at the back. “It would be nice if you learned them by heart. This way, it would be easier to perform them. I urge you to take this Gospel because the mercy of God can work for you.”


The Pope then mentioned the huge numbers of people standing in the Pius XII Square and noted that they “could not get into St. Peter’s Square. They too will receive the Gospel.”


Actually that did not happen. The Gospels were distributed in the center of St. Peter’s Square, near the obelisk and never made it out to where we were standing. I had hoped to get a copy for a young friend who is interested in the Church and has a lot of questions for me. The last time such booklets were given out – the Gospel of Matthew – I gave him a copy and he was delighted and read it cover to cover.

Last evening at 6, I went to St. Peter’s Square to pray the rosary with the priests and seminarians of the North American College with the specific intention of praying for the Holy Father on his anniversary.