POPE FRANCIS’ ADVICE FOR LENT: PAUSE, SEE, RETURN

POPE FRANCIS’ ADVICE FOR LENT: PAUSE, SEE, RETURN

The afternoon of February 14, 2018, Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent, Pope Francis processed from the church of San Anselmo to the basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill, thus renewing a centuries-old Roman tradition of celebrating Mass at what are known in Rome as Lenten station churches.

There was a moment of prayer at San Anselmo, and then the penitential procession to the basilica of Santa Sabina, the first of the 40 Lenten station churhes. Cardinals, archbishops, bishops, the Benedictine monks of San Anselmo, the Dominican Fathers of Santa Sabina and the lay faithful processed with the Holy Father.

Fortunately for all involved, the very cold rainy morning had dissipated and there was some sunshine for the start of the procession.

The Holy Father received ashes during Mass at Santa Sabina and delivered the following homily, which I offer in its entirety for its thought-provoking content. Francis offers us little jewels to think about – ways we must pause, ways and things we should see and suggestions for places to return to. Little nuggets we can think about every day of Lent: (photo vaticannews)

The season of Lent is a favourable time to remedy the dissonant chords of our Christian life and to receive the ever new, joyful and hope-filled proclamation of the Lord’s Passover.

The Church in her maternal wisdom invites us to pay special attention to anything that could dampen or even corrode our believing heart. We are subject to numerous temptations. Each of us knows the difficulties we have to face. And it is sad to note that, when faced with the ever-varying circumstances of our daily lives, there are voices raised that take advantage of pain and uncertainty; the only thing they aim to do is sow distrust.

If the fruit of faith is charity – as Mother Teresa often used to say – then the fruit of distrust is apathy and resignation. Distrust, apathy and resignation: these are demons that deaden and paralyze the soul of a believing people. Lent is the ideal time to unmask these and other temptations, to allow our hearts to beat once more in tune with the vibrant heart of Jesus. The whole of the Lenten season is imbued with this conviction, which we could say is echoed by three words offered to us in order to rekindle the heart of the believer: pause, see and return.

Pause a little, leave behind the unrest and commotion that fill the soul with bitter feelings which never get us anywhere.
Pause from this compulsion to a fast-paced life that scatters, divides and ultimately destroys time with family, with friends, with children, with grandparents, and time as a gift… time with God.
Pause for a little while, refrain from the need to show off and be seen by all, to continually appear on the “notice board” that makes us forget the value of intimacy and recollection.
Pause for a little while, refrain from haughty looks, from fleeting and pejorative comments that arise from forgetting tenderness, compassion and reverence for the encounter with others, particularly those who are vulnerable, hurt and even immersed in sin and error.
Pause for a little while, refrain from the urge to want to control everything, know everything, destroy everything; this comes from overlooking gratitude for the gift of life and all the good we receive.
Pause for a little while, refrain from the deafening noise that weakens and confuses our hearing, that makes us forget the fruitful and creative power of silence.
Pause for a little while, refrain from the attitude which promotes sterile and unproductive thoughts that arise from isolation and self-pity, and that cause us to forget going out to encounter others to share their burdens and suffering.
Pause for a little while, refrain from the emptiness of everything that is instantaneous, momentary and fleeting, that deprives us of our roots, our ties, of the value of continuity and the awareness of our ongoing journey.
Pause in order to look and contemplate!

See the gestures that prevent the extinguishing of charity, that keep the flame of faith and hope alive. Look at faces alive with God’s tenderness and goodness working in our midst.
See the face of our families who continue striving, day by day, with great effort, in order to move forward in life, and who, despite many concerns and much hardship, are committed to making their homes a school of love.
See the faces of our children and young people filled with yearning for the future and hope, filled with “tomorrows” and opportunities that demand dedication and protection. Living shoots of love and life that always open up a path in the midst of our selfish and meagre calculations.
See our elderly whose faces are marked by the passage of time, faces that reveal the living memory of our people. Faces that reflect God’s wisdom at work.
See the faces of our sick people and the many who take care of them; faces which in their vulnerability and service remind us that the value of each person can never be reduced to a question of calculation or utility.
See the remorseful faces of so many who try to repair their errors and mistakes, and who from their misfortune and suffering fight to transform their situations and move forward.
See and contemplate the face of Crucified Love, who today from the cross continues to bring us hope, his hand held out to those who feel crucified, who experience in their lives the burden of failure, disappointment and heartbreak.
See and contemplate the real face of Christ crucified out of love for everyone, without exception. For everyone? Yes, for everyone. To see his face is an invitation filled with hope for this Lenten time, in order to defeat the demons of distrust, apathy and resignation. The face that invites us to cry out: “The Kingdom of God is possible!”.

Pause, see and return.
Return to the house of your Father. Return without fear to those outstretched, eager arms of your Father, who is rich in mercy (cf. Eph 2:4), who awaits you.
Return without fear, for this is the favourable time to come home, to the home of my Father and your Father (cf. Jn 20:17). It is the time for allowing one’s heart to be touched… Persisting on the path of evil only gives rise to disappointment and sadness. True life is something quite distinct and our heart indeed knows this. God does not tire, nor will he tire, of holding out his hand (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 19). Return without fear, to join in the celebration of those who are forgiven.
Return without fear, to experience the healing and reconciling tenderness of God. Let the Lord heal the wounds of sin and fulfil the prophecy made to our fathers: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put with in you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek 36: 26).
Pause, see and return!

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POPE FRANCIS: THERE IS A SPIRITUAL RIGHT TO WORD OF GOD – VALENTINE’S DAY: A BAN FOR MUSLIMS, DIVISIONS AMONG CHRISTIANS

Last year on February 14, I visited the church where the head of St. Valentine can be seen, and I posted the following blog with some photos – hope you can enjoy those photos again. https://joansrome.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/irish-bishop-blesses-engaged-couple-at-shrine-of-st-valentine/

As I write Pope Francis is about to start the traditional Ash Wednesday procession from the basilica of Sant’Anselmo to the basilica of Santa Sabina where he will celebrate Mass, receive ashes and deliver a homily. There is an embargo for that homily – it may be published the moment he gives it and not before.

Given that I’ll be gone when the Holy Father gives his homily, I will post that story when I return home from the evening Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Patrick’s church in downtown Rome, followed by a meeting of the Parish Council’s Finance Committee..

POPE FRANCIS: THERE IS A SPIRITUAL RIGHT TO WORD OF GOD

Today’s general audience took place in a rainy and very cold St. Peter’s Square but precisely because of that bad weather, Pope Francis first went to the Paul VI Hall where a group of sick people was waiting for his greeting and a blessing.

The Holy Father was in the square outside by about 9:45 and he did comment on the weather, saying “it is ugly.”

It seems that the Pope, however, did brighten up the day for two youngsters, giving them a lift in the papal vehicle –

Christopher Wells of Vatican Radio did this report for Vatican News:

“If the soul is always joyful, it is a good day.” The weather was “a little ugly,” as Pope Francis said Wednesday, but the Holy Father found a way to brighten everyone’s spirit at the weekly General Audience in St Peter’s Square.

He began his audience with a small group of sick people gathered in the Paul VI Hall, and then ventured out into the wind and rain, where he delivered his catechesis to a small crowd of pilgrims who braved the inclement Roman winter weather.

The teaching at Wednesday’s general audience was focused once again on the Mass, as Pope Francis reflected on the end of the Liturgy of the Word.

Hearing the Word of God, with the explanation in the homily that follows, is a right, “the spiritual right of the people of God to receive the treasure of the Word of God in abundance.” Everyone who goes to Mass, said the Pope, “has the right to receive abundantly the Word of God, read well, proclaimed well, and then explained well in the homily. It’s a right!”

After the homily, the Pope spoke about the moment of silence, which gives people time to reflect on what they have heard.

Pope Francis then spoke about the communal recitation of the Creed at the Mass, saying it “manifests the common response to what was heard by the community in the Word of God. He emphasized the “vital connection” between hearing and faith, recalling the words of Saint Paul, that is, “faith comes from hearing.” Faith then leads to the Sacrament, so that the Creed becomes a link between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. After the Creed, the Mass continues with the Prayer of the Faithful, or the Universal Prayer – so called, the Pope said, because it embraces all of the needs of the Church and of the world. The Prayer of the Faithful, he said, echoing the General Instruction of the Missal, is an exercise of their baptismal priesthood by the People of God.

Reflecting on the words of Jesus – “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you” – Pope Francis said we don’t believe this, “because we have little faith.” He encouraged us to have great faith when we pray together during the Mass.

“The intention for which the faithful are invited to pray should give voice to the concrete needs of the ecclesial community and of the world, avoiding having recourse to conventional and short-sighted formulas,” he said. “The Universal Prayer, which concludes the Liturgy of the Word, exhorts us to make our own the loving gaze of God, who cares for all His children.”

VALENTINE’S DAY: A BAN FOR MUSLIMS, DIVISIONS AMONG CHRISTIANS

A story to help you appreciate the freedoms we have:

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has banned TV channels from promoting Valentine’s Day-related activities, which falls tomorrow.

For most practising Muslims, the event known all over the world as the festival of romantic love is contrary to Islamic doctrine. Speaking to AsiaNews, Church leaders expressed conflicting opinions on the matter.

According to Rev Irfan Jamil, Anglican bishop of Lahore, the anniversary has no connection to Christianity. “The ban doesn’t matter. Love should not be celebrated one day a year only.”

Fr Nasir Williams, director of the Social Communications Commission of the diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, has other ideas. “The ban is the ultimate [form of] of ignorance. Freedom of thought is already limited in our country.”
“What is next?” he wonders, “Confiscating mobile phones or banning TV dramas based on love stories? Nobody is forcing people to buy these gifts. The attempts to control people or blackout one part of media will make no difference,” he said.

Valentine’s Day is named after a Christian martyr of the 3rd century. The celebration has proven divisive among Muslims. Every year, groups of Islamic radicals organise protests and hand out leaflets urging people not to celebrate the day.

This is the second year of a ban imposed on social media as well as online and print media. Last year, the Islamabad High Court ruled that “No event shall be held at official level and at any public place.”

PEMRA General Manager Operations Muhammad Tahir PEMRA said that all broadcast media and distribution services must “desist from promoting Valentine’s Day through their respective channels and networks.”

Yet, despite the ban, it is still very common to find stands in malls and shops selling heart-shaped stuffed toys and teddy bears, balloons and other red-coloured gadgets

This year, the Pauline Books and Media communications centre in Lahore is not selling Valentine’s Day greeting cards. “The tradition of exchanging cards is dead,” said Sister Irshad Maqsood. “Usually we order stock, but now people have turned to digital media.”