Allow me to wish all of you who follow me – my blog readers, radio listeners and TV viewers – a happy, healthy, fulfilling, peaceful and joy-filled New Year!. May it be better in every way possible than the year we are leaving!

I’ll be back on this page – save for breaking news – on January 2, 2023! So, see you next year!


Welcome to Vatican Insider on this Christmas and New Year’s weekend. After all, don’t forget that it is still the Christmas season! In what is usually the interview segment after the News, I have prepared what I hope is a fascinating Christmas story, a Special in which I bring you to Italy to learn how the Vatican and Rome and Italians celebrate Christmas and New Year’s. Christmastide is as wonderful here as you can imagine, and I think you’ll want to invite family members, especially children, to sit around and listen!


The Director of the Holy See Press Office on Friday said Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s health condition remains stable.

By Vatican News

In a response to questions from journalists, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, on Friday confirmed that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s health condition remains stable at this time. He added that yesterday evening Benedict XVI was able to have a good rest, and earlier in the afternoon he participated in the celebration of Mass in his room.

Vatican news file photo of Benedict XVI and his personal secretary, Abp. Georg Gaenswein –

In related news, at 5:30 pm Rome time on today, Mass was celebrated at the basilica of St. John Lateran, remembering in prayer Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and his health. Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar of the Diocese of Rome, presided over the celebration.

The Diocese of Rome encouraged “parish communities, chaplaincies, religious men and women, all the faithful of the diocese and all the men and women of good will who live in Rome,” to gather in prayer for Benedict XVI,  “remembering with gratitude the road travelled together with our bishop emeritus,” and accompanying him now “in this time of suffering and hardship, praying to the Lord that He may console him and sustain him in his witness of love for the Church until the end.”




There’s “Joan’s Rome” and there’s Joan’s home! A home in which I love to welcome visitors and have guests for dinner or even a happy hour with some great prosecco! My dining room table is always set for 4 people – I mean, you never know!

I love the seasons, and try to set the table so you know when you see it that we are in summer, fall, winter, spring but especially Christmas and Easter.

Two choices for Christmas…

Welcome to Christmas!   It starts at my front door…

And continues in my entryway with the nativity set from Bethlehem…

Let’s walk down the hall to my office….

And the stockings are hung by Joan’s bar with great care….

There’s always an Advent calendar….

In the dining room, you’ll find Jingle Bear, sitting on a small rocking chair my paternal grandmother gave me when I was 3….

The living room features my Lladro nativity scene (up all year)….

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…And my tree and many of my favorite ornaments! The pink baby rattle is mine – my Mom hung it as an ornament on our Christmas tree every year, starting with my first Christmas. It still goes on my tree!  I love tradition!

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Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni, in early afternoon, issued the following statement, answering questions from journalists about the condition of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI: “The pope emeritus was able to rest well last night. He is absolutely lucid and alert and today, notwithstanding the gravity of his condition, the situation at the moment is stable. Pope Francis renews his invitation to pray for him and to accompany him in these difficult hours.”


In his Apostolic Letter, The Holy Father quotes St. Francis de Sales innumerable times but this one sounds like it could be for us today: “Towards the end of his life, this is how he saw his time: “The world is becoming so delicate that, in a little while, no one will dare any longer to touch it except with velvet gloves, or tend its wounds except with perfumed bandages; yet what does it matter, if only men and women are healed and finally saved?  Charity, our queen, does everything for her children.”


Pope Francis at the end of the general audience: “I would like to ask you all for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict, who is supporting the Church in silence. Remember him – he is very ill – asking the Lord to console him and to sustain him in this witness of love for the Church, until the end.”

Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni issued the following communique this morning: “Regarding the health conditions of the Pope Emeritus, for whom Pope Francis asked for prayers at the end of this morning’s general audience, I can confirm that in the last few hours there has been an aggravation due to advancing age. The situation at the moment remains under control, followed constantly by the doctors. At the end of the general audience, Pope Francis went to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery to visit Benedict XVI. We join him in praying for the Pope Emeritus.” (Vatican photo)


During the general audience today in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis reflected on the birth of Christ as seen in some of the thoughts of St. Francis de Sales who died 400 years ago today. He also announced that he had written an Apostolic Letter on the saintly patron of journalists, ‘Totum amoris est’ (‘Everything Pertains to Love’), that the Vatican published today.

“In this Christmas season,” began the Holy Father, our reflections on Jesus’ birth can be enhanced by some thoughts of the great Doctor of the Church, Saint Francis de Sales. Today, on the fourth centenary of his death, I have published a new Apostolic Letter to recall some of the richness of his teaching.

“For Francis de Sales,” continued the Pope, “the mystery of Christmas directs our gaze to the poverty and simplicity of the manger as the sign of Christ’s true identity as God among us. God, who knows our weaknesses, our sins and our hardness of heart, chose to draw us to himself by bonds of love, coming into our world as a newborn child. The birth of Jesus thus reveals God’s utterly free, gracious and indeed ‘disarming’ love.”

“We see this mystery concretely in the focal point of the crib, namely in the Child lying in a manger. This is ‘the sign’ that God gives us at Christmas: it was at the time for the shepherds in Bethlehem (cf. Lk 2:12), it is today, and it will always be so. When the angels announce the birth of Jesus, [they say,] ‘Go and you will find Him’; and the sign is: You will find a child in a manger. That is the sign. The throne of Jesus is the manger or the street, during His life, preaching; or the Cross at the end of His life. This is the throne of our King.”

“This sign, continues Pope Francis, “shows us the “style’ of God. And what is the style of God? Don’t forget, never forget: the style of God is closeness, compassion, and tenderness. Our God is close, compassionate, and tender. This style of God is seen in Jesus. With this style of His, God draws us to Himself. He does not take us by force. He does not impose His truth and justice on us. He does not proselytize us, no! He wants to draw us with love, with tenderness, with compassion.”

The Pope underscored how “Saint Francis teaches us to welcome the Lord into our hearts by joyfully imitating his detachment from worldly wealth and power, and, like the infant Jesus, by learning ‘to desire nothing and to refuse nothing, to accept everything that God sends us’, with complete confidence in his loving providence.”

In conclusion, the Holy Father said, “May the lowly manger of Bethlehem inspire us to imitate that boundless love of God, made flesh in the Child of Bethlehem, the Savior of the world.”

Click here to read a summary of Totum Amoris est: Pope: St. Francis de Sales was ‘great reader of Signs of the Times’ – Vatican News

Click here for entire Apostolic Letter: Apostolic Letter <i>Totum amoris est</i> of the Holy Father Francis on the Fourth Centenary of the Death of Saint Francis de Sales – Activities of the Holy Father Pope Francis |




Thirty years ago today, December 27, my beloved Dad died, the first real tsunami emotional experience of my life! The man I adored, who had been there for me for 52 years, who was always larger than life (and funnier), who always had answers to my questions, who as both a mechanical and electrical engineer could make or repair anything, who was a terrific listener and even better dispenser of advice, would no longer fill such moments in my life. Half of the seamless tunic that was my parent’s marriage, was now gone.

I was there when he died in the peace and beauty of his home, surrounded by Mom, my brother Bill, my sister Gail and brother-in-law and their children and by a neighbor, Fr. Eugene Flatley, a retired priest. My brother Dick had been trapped in snow in Oregon and did not make it for the 27th. Bill had arrived only 12 hours earlier from Illinois in what had to be a Holy Spirit-inspired moment. He told us that when he phoned Dad on Christmas Day and asked how he was (Dad had been in failing health after multiple surgeries), for the first time, Dad did not answer that question with “I’m hanging in there.” And Bill knew to come to California.

I flew home from Rome on December 24th. When I spoke to Dad on Thanksgiving, he sounded upbeat and I only learned when I got home on the 24th that he was not supposed to live beyond the first week of December. Fr. Flatley told me, “He was waiting till you got here.”

My Dad had saved me from drowning when I was five. I only learned this in my 20s and this explained why I always felt that Dad had a special love for me. He probably saved me on a lot of other occasions in life with his advice. And, he does not know it but the many prayer books he owned have made indelible marks on my soul.

Sixty years ago this very Christmas – December 25, 1962 – Dad gave this prayer book to Mom. As you will see in the following story I wrote for the 2017 book “When Women Pray,” I inherited Dad’s prayer books after he died.

So Christmas and my Dad and prayer books have always had a special place in my heart and my life.

By the way, Dad died on Sunday, December 27th, 1992. It was the feast of the Holy Family and a perfect day for an outstanding family man to be called to Heaven.

And now, if you want to learn about one woman’s prayer life – and how easy it is to pray, read on…..

Depending on the time of day, you might want to fill a cup with hot coffee or hot chocolate, or perhaps sit down to a chilled glass of prosecco!  Just relax and enjoy!


Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen

This is the first prayer I remember ever saying. I’m not sure how old I was but I remember learning this from my parents as they put me to bed at night.

Looking back, I now think, “well, that’s kind of a scary thing to say to children, ‘If I die before I wake…..’.” But, at a young age I’d not yet had the experience of losing a loved one, of someone dying.

To be honest, I can’t think of a time when prayer was not a part of my life. I was the oldest of four siblings and my prayer memories, if you wish, include saying grace before meals, reciting the family rosary in May and very often also in October, the month of the rosary (thus the Hail Mary, Our Father and Glory Be were a great part of our lives). Sunday Mass was of course a family affair and I remember having colorful prayer books when I was small and beautiful missals as I grew older.

Families with children always brought the kids to Mass and I’m sure that part of the time spent in prayer was praying that the kids would behave! I remember the Brennan family with 13 children – everyone always at Mass. As children, we were taught that church was God’s home and therefore a very special place, and Sunday Mass, the Eucharist, was God’s big gift to us each week and therefore we must show our respect by being quiet or – in a word I learned later – “recollect.”

Some families had babies and they, of course, did what babies do – they cried, they were fed and most then slept blissfully. Older children had prayer books with pictures, coloring books, etc. Everything was geared to church and Mass. After a while, children associate Sunday Mass and church with reverence and silence – and sometimes with deprivation! After all, Sunday was the day you could not sleep in or be outside playing with friends.

Sounds idyllic, right? In many ways it was, Families were always together in church. Businesses were closed on Sundays and that surely contributed to church attendance and to families staying – and praying – together – for a day. Because of work schedules today, families will often go to church in shifts, Dad and some kids at the 9 o’clock Mass and Mom and the others at the 10:30. Crying rooms now seem to be common in many churches (in the U.S. at least) and that is to be applauded because it encourages the whole family to come to Mass, including a noisy or fitful baby

One tradition that we had for years was our family May altar. Mom and Dad helped a bit but it was the four of us who would build this altar to Mary, often using orange crates (my grandparents sent us crates of fruit every year from their winter home in Florida) and any remnants of blue or white fabric that we could find. One of my Mom’s treasures, a beautiful porcelain bust of a praying Blessed Mother, was always the centerpiece, around which we could place small vases of flowers from our garden and, on occasion, we “borrowed” lilacs from our neighbor, Mr. Emerson. And, of course, we prayed the rosary here.

Speaking of rosaries: When I was very young, I remember winning a rosary because I had memorized the most number of chapters in the Baltimore catechism (I personally think we should reprise this simple and lovely explanation of the faith for children).

I well remember watching Bishop Fulton Sheen on television, when television was fairly new and not every home had one (believe it or not!). We were not always thrilled to be taken from playing games or whatever we were doing after dinner but about five minutes into every show we were riveted by what we heard and learned from this powerful speaker and holy man. In addition to what he taught us, Bishop Sheen made me feel proud and happy to be a Catholic.

My prayer memories also include daily Mass during Lent with my Dad. I loved going to morning Mass at St. Edmund’s in Oak Park, Illinois and the special moments continued when we had breakfast at a diner just down the street.

My prayer life today is linked to my Dad in many ways, not just those memories I’ve written about but the many prayer books I own.

Mom told me a wonderful story about six months after Dad had died and I was helping her go through some of his things, including items in his desk.

Dad was the idea man, the project man, the builder and the repairman in the family. In fact, I have no recollection of a repairman ever entering our home as I was growing up because Dad could always fix what was broken. He often worked late into the night after dinner, fixing, adjusting or inventing something in his special workshop.

One night, when he seemed to be working later than usual, and things were quieter than usual, Mom, instead of calling down to him, went downstairs and found him, not in his workshop but in our den, reading one of the many prayer books he had in his desk, books from his youth or ones he had acquired over the years.

Mom told me that the talk they always had every night in their bedroom to discuss family issues, raising children, finances and even the world’s problems, was held that night in Dad’s office. They talked about faith and about all the books he had and about how important it was to have quiet time to pray.

Mom gave me those books after telling that story, and they have given me many hours of joy over the years, the joy of inspirational reading and the joy of wonderful memories of a family for whom living the faith was as natural as breathing.

At this point I’d love to share some beautiful words on mothers and motherhood that Pope Francis spoke at the January 7, 2015 weekly general audience in a year when he was dedicating the weekly catecheses to the family:

A society without mothers would be a dehumanized society, for mothers are always, even in the worst moments, witnesses of tenderness, dedication and moral strength. They pass on the deepest sense of religious practice – the first prayers, the first acts of devotion that a child learns. … Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth.”

 Another prayer memory: In high school I always signed up to spend 15 minutes of a study hour period in the chapel, praying the rosary with a fellow student. At Trinity High school, the rosary was said daily, throughout the day, from first bell to the dismissal bell. Sometimes we did double duty if someone’s prayer partner was absent.

In my sophomore year at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, I lived in Regina Hall, a very small residence hall. We had our own chapel and for that entire year I was the official sacristan, setting up the vestments and preparing the Missal the night before Mass and readying the chalice, wine and hosts the morning of Mass. I naturally had to know the liturgical seasons and feast days to get the right colors for vestments and I also had to know my Latin to prepare the Missal for the readings (the Epistle and Gospel) as this was immediately prior to Vatican Council II and the eventual “novelty” of Masses being said in the vernacular.

All of our residence halls had chapels and daily Mass (several in fact) but Regina Hall was the only place where I was the sacristan. To this day, I remember how, with a sense of awe, I placed the unconsecrated hosts in the ciborium, knowing that the next morning the priest, with the power vested in him through ordination, would change them into the Body of Christ – as he would change wine into the Precious Blood. As a child I had learned what Transubstantiation meant – and each evening in the chapel I felt so near to that miraculous act.

Up to this point I have focused on my personal prayer memories, my family, my youth – and that is for a reason. When you build a house, you want to start with the strongest possible foundation so that the house will last forever, or nearly.   Wouldn’t that be true for prayer life? If a strong foundation for prayer life is set within the family and in the early years of life, aren’t the chances better that that prayer life will remain – even if storms come along and shake it up a bit?!

When I entered the more secular world of work after college, new schedules and demands in time led to somewhat diminished prayer habits except, of course, for Mass on Sundays (it has never occurred to me, in my decades on this planet, not to go to Mass on Sundays), holidays and the great feasts of Holy Week, etc. Rosaries were less frequent as I tried to manage days where most waking hours were dedicated to work and getting to and from work.

I never married or had a family so I cannot even speak to how a busy, multi-faceted, time-consuming family life might impact prayer life. I have, of course, spent quality time with married nieces and nephews and have seen that those for whom a strong foundation was laid in childhood are building strong foundations for their own children – Mass, grace before meals, family faith celebrations like First Communions, etc.

And that is probably where most of us struggle now with our time vis-à-vis prayer life – or should I say ‘juggle our time’? Trying to find time for daily Mass where the parish schedule fits ours, especially where there may be only one morning Mass. Trying to find break time during the work day, or at the end of a long day, for even a decade of the rosary.

I do not have a car in Rome so I walk a great deal or use public transportation. Often the wait for a bus is longer than need be and I have developed the habit of saying one or more Hail Marys as I wait – you know, don’t curse the darkness, turn the lights on!

Several years ago I had a Life’s Little Instruction Calendar on my desk and each day a single, tear-off page had a saying that usually made you sit up and think or, at times, laugh right out loud. One day, I read this: “When you wish there were more hours in a day, just remember you have the same number of hours as Thomas Jefferson, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, and Thomas Edison.”

Well, of course, that made me think: I really can plan, I really can find time for a more structured prayer life.

(My favorite “laugh out loud” phrase, by the way: “When you don’t know what you’re talking about, keep it to yourself!” (I’m guessing that applies to writers as well!)

For most of us, then, it is a question of time management: daily Mass (or at least as often as possible), daily rosary (even a decade or two at a time), spiritual reading (even small amounts, as that quite likely will lead to longer amounts) and so on.

Where there’s a will, there’s usually a way, even in the midst of a crushing work or family schedule. For example, we don’t have to read our emails on the way to work, we can use our cell phone or tablet to read a breviary, a few pages from the Bible app, a few lines from the life of a saint or some inspiring e-book we’ve downloaded.

Did I ever experience a particular breakthrough in prayer, a Eureka moment?

Yes, indeed! At age 45, following a particularly traumatic experience that I got through because of faith, family and friends, I remember wondering what was next in my life. Suddenly one day – I don’t remember time or place – without actually planning it, I turned heavenward (because that’s where we always think God is, even when He is next to us), and said, “Lord, my life from now on is in Your hands!”

I felt a calm I had not felt in a long time and in my mind’s eye I saw Jesus make a thumbs up gesture and say, “Yes! Finally!” In ensuing days I felt my heart was more open to receiving, my mind was more open to listening to the Lord’s voice, not mine. Before, I’d been talking to and asking the Lord for favors, but now I was having “conversations” with Him. No, nothing mystical, nothing beyond comprehension, no booming voice coming out of the sky to speak to me, just talking to Jesus as a friend, the friend the nuns and priests and my parents had always told me about as a child.

If the Baltimore Catechism taught us that, “Prayer is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God, to adore Him, to thank Him for His benefits, to ask His forgiveness,” that is what I was now trying to do in earnest. My conversation with God, with Jesus, became a “new and improved” conversation after the age of 45.

As a child, I remember being filled with wonder – and a few questions – when the nuns tried to explain the Trinity to us. I mean, how could there be Three Persons in One?

I somewhat understood God the Father (because after all I did have a father) and I really did not understand the Holy Spirit (and the nuns said a lot of people had problems with the Holy Spirit (or, as we called him then, the Holy Ghost) but I did understand the Son, Jesus.

After all, Jesus was one of us. He lived eons ago but he was a living, breathing person who had a Mom and Dad and grandparents and friends. He experienced hot and cold and hunger and rain and sunshine and great joys and probably laughed a lot, like we did in my family. Jesus also lived difficult moments, experienced pain and loss and the betrayal of friends and insults and humiliation. But he could also work miracles and that had to be hugely satisfying. That is what I thought of my friend Jesus as a child. I knew he was my friend because that’s what Mom and Dad told me, and what the nuns had taught me (probably the same nuns that taught Mom and Dad!).

Thus, talking to Jesus became my way of praying, my “informal” way of praying when formal prayer, Mass, the rosary, etc. was not possible.

What has worried me most about my prayer life has been what I see as my inability to pray like the saints, like the Popes, like the mystics. I’ve often felt unworthy and unable to express my love for God after reading the soaring prose of the Psalms, the love letters of saints like Teresa of Avila, Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, St. John Paul II and so many others.

On several occasions I was blessed to be at Mass in John Paul’s private chapel and I can only say I will not live long enough to ever again encounter a person who prayed like John Paul did. He was always at prayer when we entered the chapel and you felt instantly that he was unaware of our presence because he was totally aware of another Presence. I sensed something mystical as I watched him pray. I could almost hear the conversation he was having with God or, quite likely, his Blessed Mother whom he loved so much! Those images were seared into my soul!

Then I realized that I am not Teresa or Thérèse or John Paul or a Psalmist, those to whom God had given greater graces. I am Joan, created in His image and likeness and with my own gifts. Those gifts did not include soaring, powerful love phrases. Perhaps my “gift” is being able to talk – and sometimes cry and laugh – with childlike simplicity with my friend Jesus.

And I can do this without setting aside extra time. In the morning offering, I give Him my “prayers, works, joys and suffering.”

One thing I always do is thank God after I pray. Not just the phrase “Thank God” that so easily trips off the lips. But a true, heartfelt, “Thank You, Lord.” I say ‘thank you’ even before I know He will answer my petition or how He will answer it, if He does.

I actually find myself saying, “Thank You, Lord” dozens of times during the day. I thank God in the morning for giving me another day, for the sun that comes out after a tremendous storm, for the leaves that turn magical colors in the autumn, for being able to share a meal or a coffee with friends and colleagues, for finding a seat on a crowded bus, for learning some new and interesting fact, for being asked to help someone in need, for being able to offer up physical pain or discomfort, for completing a writing or project deadline, for the unexpected phone call or email from an old friend, for making an especially delicious dinner with a new recipe. And on and on goes the list.

And the more you do it, the easier it becomes, the more natural it becomes. Just like a Hail Mary at a bus stop.


Chapter 7, “A Heart To Heart With God,” by Joan Lewis, in “When Women Pray, Eleven Catholic Women on the Power of Prayer,” edited by Kathleen Beckman for Sophia Institute Press (2017)




New Year’s Eve in Rome: a quick guide – Wanted in Rome

Rome’s Pantheon set to charge visitors entry fee – Wanted in Rome

New Luxury Hotels Give Rome A High-End Sheen – Wanted in Rome

Panettone or pandoro: Which is the best Italian Christmas cake? (


Greccio: home of the world’s first Nativity scene – Wanted in Rome

A complete guide on where to ski near Rome – Wanted in Rome

In Italy, Assisi lights up at Christmas with Giotto frescoes (




This powerful Christmas column by late columnist Jimmy Bishop will surely leave you speechless for its beauty, simplicity and yet depth of understanding. I heard this for the first time a number of years ago when Andy Williams recited this in one of his Christmas albums:

“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’.”




EWTN will feature a Christmas Special in the time slot normally dedicated to Vatican Insider so I’ll see you all next weekend (unless there is a New Year Special!). We have tomorrow, December 23rd and Monday, the 26th, as holidays so Joan’s Rome might be a bit lite those days. However, if you have time, stay tuned because you know me – there’s often some kind of surprise!

The reason for the season –

Before I go, however, I’d like to wish all my radio listeners, TV viewers and blog readers a blessed, beautiful and holy Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year filled with many special moments and people. God sit on your shoulder!



In his annual Christmas greeting to Officials of the Curia, Pope Francis asks them to always be grateful for the graces God grants us, to never think they are no longer in need of conversion, and to contribute to peace in every way.

Exchanging traditional Christmas greetings with members of the Roman Curia on Thursday, Pope Francis delivered a seven-point speech in which he asked them to never take the Lord’s graces for granted, to always walk a path of conversion, and to be peacemakers at a time in which we have never “felt so great a desire for peace.”

Reflecting on how Jesus’ birth in a simple and poor manger is a lesson in seeing things as they really are, he said “each of us is called to return to what is essential in our own lives, to discard all that is superfluous and a potential hindrance on the path of holiness.” To continue: Pope to Curia: ‘Be vigilant, evil comes back under new guises’ – Vatican News


Pope Francis greets Vatican employees and their families in the Paul VI Audience Hall for the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings, and urges them to build peace in their homes and workplaces.

Addressing Vatican employees with their families during his annual Christmas greetings on Thursday, Pope Francis encouraged them to face the difficulties of life with faith, and to be artisans of peace starting from their own family and workplaces within the Holy See.

The Pope started his speech, delivered in the Paul VI Audience Hall, by remarking that we should all show gratefulness to God because, with His help, we have overcome the critical phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that as soon as things improve, we tend to forget to even thank the Lord. “This is not Christian and not even human,” he said.

Pope Francis noted that, although this critical phase has passed, the pandemic has left its marks: not only in material and economic terms, but also on people’s lives and relationships. He, therefore, wished all families first of all “serenity” which, he said, “does not mean that all is well”, but peace of mind in facing problems or difficulties. To continue: Pope to Vatican employees: Always confide in the Lord and build peace – Vatican News





At the general audience held in the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father began the catechesis by stating, “Today we conclude our series of catecheses on spiritual discernment by considering some aids that can help us rightly to discern God’s will for our lives and our happiness.

Pope Francis began by noting that anyone who may have followed these catecheses until this point might be thinking, “what a complicated practice discernment is!”

And he responded to this possible confusion by saying that “in reality, it is life that is complicated and, if we do not learn how to read it, we risk wasting our lives, living it with strategies that end up disheartening us.”

As to the aids that can help us in discernment,” said the Holy Father, “We begin, naturally, with an encounter with the word of God and with the Church’s teaching. Quiet prayer with the Scriptures also helps us to sense the Lord’s presence, to hear his voice, and to become conscious of the deepest desires of our heart. In this way, we grow in love and closeness to Jesus, who assures us of the Father’s merciful love and, by his death on the Cross, reveals God’s power to bring life out of death and good out of evil.

In particular, said the Pope, we must development a personal relationship with Jesus as “friendship with Jesus and trust in God’s guidance of our lives is a great gift of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts and inspires our discernment at every stage. In the Church’s daily prayer, each canonical hour begins by asking God to come to our assistance. Trusting in that help, may we learn to discern wisely the paths that lead us to the Father and to respond each day to his loving offer of salvation.

Francis also explained that, “we can often have a distorted idea about God, thinking of him as a sullen, harsh judge, ready to catch us in the act. “On the contrary, Jesus reveals a God who is full of compassion and tenderness for us, ready to sacrifice himself for us.”

He stressed that, “we have a tender, affectionate Father who loves us, who has always loved us. When we experience this, our heart melts and doubts, fears, feelings of unworthiness are dissolved. This love is irresistible.”

In closing, Pope Francis noted that the Liturgy of the Hours opens the main moments of daily prayer with this invocation: “O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me.”

At the conclusion of the general audience, Pope Francis greeted a Ukrainian woman whose husband is a prisoner of war and their son. They came bearing gifts for the Pope, including a calendar showing the devastation of the Azovstal steelworks plant.


Pope Francis once again recalled the suffering of children in Ukraine due to Russia’s ongoing invasion, saying he has noticed that many of them find it difficult even to smile.

By Edoardo Giribaldi (vaticannews)

“When a child loses the ability to smile, it is serious.” With these words, speaking at the end of the Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis expressed his concern for the children of Ukraine “who are suffering, suffering so much, from this war.”

Tragedy of the war

“In the feast of God becoming a child, let us think about the Ukrainian children,” he said, Pope, underlining the burden that they are forced to carry in the tragedy “of that war, that is so inhuman, so harsh.”

He encouraged everyone to offer their prayers for the children of Ukraine, who are enduring the bitter cold and lack of basic necessities.

“Let us think about the Ukrainian people this Christmas. They are without heating, without the main things to survive. Let us pray that the Lord may bring them peace as soon as possible.”

Solidarity of Poland

Greeting the faithful people of Poland, the Pope recalled a national tradition according to which, on Christmas Eve, they “leave an empty place at the table for an unexpected guest.”

“This year,” Pope Francis said, “that place will be occupied by the multitude of refugees from Ukraine to whom you have opened the doors of your homes with great generosity.”

“May the child of God born in Bethlehem fill each of you, your families and those you help with love.”


(CNA) – The Vatican has published Pope Francis’ Christmas schedule for this year, which includes five special liturgies and prayers between Christmas Eve and the Solemnity of the Epiphany.

During the Christmas Octave, the pope is also scheduled to give an Angelus address on St. Stephen’s Day on Dec. 26 and hold a Wednesday General Audience on Dec. 29.

Papal Christmas Mass – Dec. 24: Pope Francis will offer Mass for the Nativity of the Lord in St. Peter’s Basilica on Dec. 24. This “Midnight Mass” will begin at 7:30 p.m. Rome time (1:30 p.m. EST) with the traditional Kalenda Proclamation of the Birth of Christ and will be broadcast live on EWTN.

Christmas Day Blessing – Dec. 25: On Christmas Day, Pope Francis will give a traditional papal blessing at noon called the “Urbi et Orbi,” which in Latin means, “To the City and the World.” Along with the blessing, the pope gives an address that highlights humanitarian crises, war-stricken countries, and other situations around the world in need of prayer.

The pope typically gives this blessing from the central loggia of the basilica overlooking St. Peter’s Square (the same balcony from which a new pope is introduced), but last year Pope Francis gave the blessing from inside the Apostolic Palace to avoid a large gathering of people due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vespers on New Year’s Eve – Dec. 31: Pope Francis will pray the First Vespers for the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5 p.m. on Dec. 31. After vespers, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for Eucharistic Adoration and the “Te Deum” will be sung in thanksgiving for the past year.

Solemnity of Mary Holy Mother of God – Jan. 1: The pope’s first liturgy of 2022 will be in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Francis will offer Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God in St. Peter’s Basilica at 10 a.m. On this day, Pope Francis will also mark the 55th World Day of Peace.

Mass for the Epiphany of the Lord – Jan. 6: Pope Francis will offer Mass on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord in St. Peter’s Basilica at 10 a.m. The Epiphany celebrates the revelation that Jesus was the Son of God. It focuses primarily on this revelation to the Three Wise Men.





Following the confirmed but devastating story of celebrated Jesuit artist Fr. Mark Rupnik’s physical and psychological abuse of nuns in his native Slovenia, his eventual excommunication for having absolved one of his victims in confession, the eventual lifting of the excommunication but other sanctions imposed by the Jesuits, the religious order has set up an email “hotline” for the reporting of abuse cases by Fr. Rupnik or other Jesuits.

In November 2019, Jesuit superior general Arturo Sosa named Father Johan Verschueren, S.J. as General Counsellor and his delegate for the Interprovincial Houses and Works of the Society of Jesus in Rome (DIR).

Sunday, on the website Home (, Fr. Verschueren wrote that the Rupnik case was behind the decision to set up a structure to handle complaints and he invited anyone who has suffered abuse to contact them.

He said, “for some months now we have created a team of people, women and men, from various disciplines and with different skills to deal with these situations. They are available, and have been, to listen, support and help. The contact email is:

There is a separate email address in the UK from the website: Email:


Each year Becket Law (Religious Liberty for All) reflects on the most absurd affronts to the Christmas and Hanukah season, producing a list of outrageous offenders and handing the most scandalous holiday season transgressor a present worse than coal itself: The Ebenezer Award.

The 2022 Ebenezer Award Winner is KING COUNTY, WASHINGTON!

Why? It’s a kind of Ripley’s Believe It or Not story! Ebenezer Award – Becket (