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.”

LENT, A PILGRIMAGE OF EXPECTATION AND HOPE – ABUSE SURVIVOR RESIGNS FROM VATICAN COMMISSION TO PROTECT MINORS – COMMISSION MEMBER EXPLAINS HER REASONS FOR LEAVING

Pope Francis tweeted today: Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death.

A bit of trivia about Ash Wednesday from an Aleteia article by Gerith Gardner: This year, Ash Wednesday falls on the March 1 feast day of Saint David, and there couldn’t be a more fitting saint to share this day with. David founded a monastery in Wales, where both he and his monks drank no beer or wine, as he practiced extreme asceticism—abstaining from all forms of indulgence.

Today’s Station Church in Rome – Santa Sabina: https://www.pnac.org/station-churches/week-of-ash-wed/ash-wednesday-santa-sabina/

santa-sabina-1

santa-sabina-2

santa-sabina-3

LENT, A PILGRIMAGE OF EXPECTATION AND HOPE

Pope Francis marked Ash Wednesday by presiding at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square and, later in the afternoon, by processing from the Benedictine church of Sant’Anselmo to the nearby Dominican basilica of Santa Sabina where he celebrated Mass and received ashes. (file photo: Ash Wednesday)

francis-ashes

His catechesis at the audience focused on Lent and he opened his weekly lesson by noting that “today, Ash Wednesday, we begin our Lenten journey towards Easter.  Lent is essentially a pilgrimage of hope, a season of penance and spiritual renewal that prepares us to share more fully in the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.”

Francis said, “We relive the experience of the Exodus, in which the Chosen People journeyed towards the Promised Land and, through spiritual discipline and the gift of the Law, learned the love of God and neighbor.”  The Scriptures tell of a tormented journey that symbolically lasted forty years, the time span of a generation, and difficulties and obstacles represented continuous temptations to regret Egypt and to turn back. But the Lord stayed close to the people who finally arrived in the Promised Land guided by Moses.

“Easter is Jesus’ own exodus, his passover from death to life, in which we participate through our rebirth in Baptism.”

Francis explained that in order to open this passage for us, Jesus had to cast off his glory, he had to humble himself, he had to be obedient until death on the cross. “This doesn’t mean that he did everything and we don’t have to do anything… it doesn’t mean he went through the cross and we will go to heaven in a carriage. That is not how it works.”

He stated that “our salvation is Jesus’ gift, but it is part of a love story and requires our ‘yes’ and our participation.”

“By following Christ along the way of the Cross,” continud the Holy Father, “we share in his victory over sin and death; by living the new life bestowed by the Holy Spirit in the communion of the Church, we are united more fully to the Lord in the sacraments, prayer and adoration.

ABUSE SURVIVOR RESIGNS FROM VATICAN COMMISSION TO PROTECT MINORS

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) issued the following statement after the resignatiuon of commission member and abuse survivor, Mrs. Marie Collins:

On Monday, February 13, 2017, Mrs. Marie Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] advised Cardinal Sean O’Malley, President of the PCPM, of her intent to resign from the Commission effective March 1, 2017.

Mrs. Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission since its inception in 2014 is a survivor of clerical abuse, and consistently and tirelessly championed for the voices of the victims/survivors to be heard, and for the healing of victims/survivors to be a priority of the Church.  In discussing with the Cardinal, and in her resignation letter to the Holy Father, Mrs. Collins cited her frustration at the lack of cooperation with the Commission by other offices in the Roman Curia.

Mrs. Collins accepted an invitation from Cardinal O’Malley to continue to work with the Commission in an educational role in recognition of her exceptional teaching skills and impact of her testimony as a survivor.

The Holy Father accepted Mrs. Collins resignation with deep appreciation for her work on behalf of the victims/survivors of clergy abuse.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was established by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis states specifically, “The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”

At the bottom of the letter on Commission letterhead, they listed two contacts: info@tutelaminorum.va and www.protectionofminors.va

The Holy See Press Office released the following Statement from PCPM President, Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, OFM Cap.

“On behalf of the Members of the Commission I have expressed to Marie Collins our most sincere thanks for the extraordinary contributions she has made as a founding member of the Commission.  We will certainly listen carefully to all that Marie wishes to share with us about her concerns and we will greatly miss her important contributions as a member of the Commission.  As the Commission gathers for the plenary meeting next month we will have an opportunity to discuss these matters.  With the members of the Commission I am deeply grateful for Marie’s willingness to continue to work with us in the education of church leaders, including the upcoming programs for new bishops and for the dicasteries of the Holy See.  Our prayers will remain with Marie and with all victims and survivors of sexual abuse.”

COMMISSION MEMBER EXPLAINS HER REASONS FOR LEAVING

Marie Collins, in a piece she wrote for ncronline, said she intended “to respect the confidentiality of my former colleagues on the Commission and the work they are doing,” although some has already been made public.

She outlined some of the stumbling blocks the commission has run into: “lack of resources, inadequate structures around support staff, slowness of forward movement and cultural resistance. The most significant problem has been reluctance of some members of the Vatican Curia to implement the recommendations of the Commission despite their approval by the pope.”

She said she could “no longer be sustained by hope. As a survivor I have watched events unfold with dismay.”

Collins wrote: “The Commission’s recommendation for a Tribunal to be put in place whereby negligent bishops could be held accountable was approved by Pope Francis and announced in June 2015. Yet it was found by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as Baroness Sheila Hollins stated to the Royal Commission, to have unspecified “legal” difficulties, and so was never implemented.”

Marie Collins, who was harsh in her criticism of various Vatican offices, wrote: “When I accepted my appointment to the Commission in 2014, I said publicly that if I found what was happening behind closed doors was in conflict with what was being said to the public I would not remain. This point has come. I feel I have no choice but to resign if I am to retain my integrity.”

“In the past three years,” the former commission member wrote, “I have never had the opportunity to sit and talk to the pope but if I had I would ask him to do three things:

  1. Give the Commission the responsibility and the power to oversee implementation of the recommendations when they are approved. No matter how much work is put into the recommendations given to the Holy Father and no matter how much he supports them they must be properly implemented to have any effect.
  2. Give the Commission an adequate, independent budget to do its work without having each item of expenditure go through the internal Vatican approval process.
  3. Remove the restriction on the recruitment of professional staff from outside the Vatican.

She did write that, “Despite everything I have said, I do believe there is value in the Commission continuing its work. The members are sincerely putting every effort into very important projects with the intention of moving things forward.”

ASH WEDNESDAY AND THE MISSIONARIES OF MERCY – A JUBILEE, A TIME TO CANCEL DEBTS, RELEASE SLAVES, PARDON

ASH WEDNESDAY AND THE MISSIONARIES OF MERCY

As I write, it is Ash Wednesday and Pope Francis is presiding at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica during which there will be a penitential act and the imposition of ashes. This is a rite that normally takes place every year on Rome’s Aventine Hill, following a procession by the Holy Father, cardinals and bishops, priests and lay faithful from Saint Anselm to the basilica of Saint Sabina.

This Ash Wednesday, however, is a bit different as takes place in the Year of Mercy, and tonight the Pope will give the mandate to 1,000 Missionaries of Mercy who will be asked, when they return to their home countries, to be holy confessors, having received the special faculty, the authority, today to pardon sins normally reserved to the Holy See. Bishops around the world may give this faculty to priests in their dioceses, and have done so in many cases. Today is significant in that Pope Francis has singled out these 1000 missionaries – chosen by their bishops – to receive this special faculty during the Jubilee of Mercy.

ASH WEDNESDAY

The Pope received the Missionaries in a special audience last night and reminded them that, “in this ministry you are called to express the maternal nature of the Church. The Church is a Mother because she always creates new children in faith; the Church is a Mother because she nourishes this faith; and the Church is a Mother because she offers the forgiveness of God, regenerating to a new life, the fruit of conversion,” he continued.

“You must know,” he said, “how to look into the desire of the heart of the penitent,” as this, through grace, is the beginning of conversion. “The heart turns to God acknowledging the evil which has been done, but with the hope of obtaining pardon. This desire is reinforced when the person decides in his heart to change his life and does not want to sin again. It is the moment when we trust the mercy of God, and you have complete confidence you will be understood, forgiven and supported by Him.”

The Holy Father closed his remarks by commenting on an aspect “not often spoken about, that is, shame. It is not easy to accuse yourself before another man, knowing that he represents God, and to confess your sin. A person feels shame both for what he has done, and for having to confess it to another person.”

Francis asked confessors to have “an attitude of respect and encouragement. … Do not forget: in front of us there is no sin, just the repentant sinner, a person who feels the desire to be accepted and forgiven… Therefore, we are not called to judge, with a sense of superiority, as if we were immune from sin; on the contrary, we are called to act as Shem and Japheth, the sons of Noah, who took a blanket and put it over their father and hid his shame.”

The Pope emphasized that “it is, therefore, not with the club of judgment that we will bring back the lost sheep to the fold, but with the holiness of life which is the principle of renewal and reform in the Church.”

A JUBILEE, A TIME TO CANCEL DEBTS, RELEASE SLAVES, PARDON

At this week’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis focused his catechesis on the significance of a Jubilee Year, an ancient institution that calls on us to practice pardon, combat poverty and inequality, promote an equitable distribution of the earth’s goods for all.

He began by saying, “It is fitting and meaningful to hold this Audience on Ash Wednesday. We begin the Lenten journey, and today we stop to consider the ancient institution of the ‘jubilee’, an ancient custom attested to in Sacred Scripture. We find it in particular in the Book of Leviticus, who presents it as a culminating moment in the religious and social life of the people of Israel.

Recalling that according to the Book of Leviticus, a Jubilee Year is a heightened moment of religious and social life, a time of “general pardon” for all people to return to their original state – the freedom proper to the holy people of God – the Pope pointed out that the earth belongs to God and has been entrusted to us.

He said that as stewards of the Lord we are called to render the world we have received human and habitable, and that “no one should claim exclusive possession creating situations of inequality.

“May each of us look into our hearts and ask himself whether he has too many things. Why not give some to those who have none? Ten percent, fifty percent… may the Holy Spirit inspire each of you” he said, in off the cuff remarks.

He added that he recently heard that some eighty percent of the world’s wealth is in the hands of only twenty percent of the world’s population, and said, “if the Jubilee does not come out of your pockets it’s not a true Jubilee.”

“This in the Bible. It’s not this Pope inventing it. In the Bible the scope of a Jubilee was to create a society based on equality and solidarity, where freedom, land and money would benefit all and not just a few” he said. We can say – he continued – that the Biblical Jubilee was a ‘Jubilee of Mercy’ because it was to be lived for the good of our needy brothers and sisters.

In this context, Pope Francis mentioned the phenomenon of loansharking and of how so many desperate people have ended up taking their own lives because they don’t find a helping hand, but only the hand that demands the payment of interests.

“The Lord blesses he who opens his hand with generosity. He will give you twice as much back, perhaps not in money, but in other things”.

And telling those present that if they want to receive mercy from God, they must start by being merciful to those close to them, thus contributing to building a society based on solidarity, fraternity and justice.

Before the General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis met with the Prime Minister of Iraq, Haydar al-Abadi. The meeting took place in the studio of the Paul VI Audience Hall. Afterwards, the Prime Minister met with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was accompanied by the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher. A statement from the Holy See Press Office called the talks “cordial,” adding that reference was made to the good state of bilateral relations between Iraq and the Holy See, the life of the Church in the country, as well as the situation of Christians and ethnic and religious minorities living in Iraq, with particular reference to the importance of their presence and the need to protect their rights. (Vatican Radio)

After the audience, Pope Francis asked for prayers for his meeting with his “dear brother,” the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, Head of the Russian Orthodox Church. They will meet Friday, February 12 at Cuba’s international airport as the Pope travels to Mexico for an apostolic journey.

Francis also asked for prayers for the sick before tomorrow’s celebration of the World Day of the Sick. He recalled that this Day takes place annually on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, and this year will be celebrated in Nazareth. Francis mentioned his Message for this World Day where he reflected on the irreplaceable role of Mary at the wedding in Cana and said that Mary’s concern and attention reflects the tenderness of God and the immense mercy of Jesus. “May that same tenderness be present in the life of so many people who are close to the sick and help them to be attentive to all of their needs, even the most imperceptible ones, because they look at them with eyes full of love.”   (Press office, Vatican Radio, L’Osservatore Romano)

LENTEN STATION CHURCHES: THURSDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY, SAN GIORGIO IN VELABRO – LENT: “RECONCILE WITH GOD THROUGH FASTING, CHARITY AND PRAYERFUL TEARS” – POPE FRANCIS MEETS WITH CLERGY OF ROME

LENTEN STATION CHURCHES: THURSDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY, SAN GIORGIO IN VELABRO

The featured Lenten station church today is San Giorgio in Velabro. (photo wiki en)

San Giorgio in Velabro (wiki)

Here are two links that offer some history, anecdotes and photos:

http://www.revealedrome.com/2010/11/st-george-in-velabro-medieval-church-rome-forum-boarium-aventine.html

http://www.gcatholic.org/churches/rome/813.htm

LENT: “RECONCILE WITH GOD THROUGH  FASTING, CHARITY AND PRAYERFUL TEARS”

(Vatican Radio) Ash Wednesday, after processing from Sant’Anselmo on Rome’s Aventine Hill to the nearby basilica of Santa Sabina, Pope Francis delivered the homily at Mass, received ashes and placed them on the heads of bishops priests and some of the faithful present.

ASH WEDNESDAY PROCESSION - Reuters

Following is the Holy Father’s homily which focused on Lent being “a call to leave hypocrisy behind and reconcile with God through fasting, charity and prayerful tears before our merciful Father. He underscored the idea of “weeping in prayer.”

As God’s people today we begin the journey of Lent, a time in which we try to unite ourselves more closely to the Lord Jesus Christ, to share the mystery of His passion and resurrection.

The Ash Wednesday liturgy offers us, first of all, the passage from the prophet Joel, sent by God to call the people to repentance and conversion, due to a calamity (an invasion of locusts) that devastates Judea. Only the Lord can save from the scourge, and so there is need of supplication, with prayer and fasting, each confessing his sin.

The prophet insists on inner conversion: “Return to me with all your heart” (2:12). To return to the Lord “with all [one’s] heart,” means taking the path of a conversion that is neither superficial nor transient, but is a spiritual journey that reaches the deepest place of our self. The heart, in fact, is the seat of our sentiments, the center in which our decisions and our attitudes mature.

That, “Return to me with all your heart,” does not involve only individuals, but extends to the community, is a summons addressed to all: “Gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. (2:16)”

The prophet dwells particularly on the prayers of priests, noting that their prayer should be accompanied by tears. We will do well to ask, at the beginning of this Lent, for the gift of tears, so as to make our prayer and our journey of conversion ever more authentic and without hypocrisy.

This is precisely the message of today’s Gospel. In the passage from Matthew, Jesus rereads the three works of mercy prescribed by the Mosaic law: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. Over time, these prescriptions had been scored by the rust of external formalism, or even mutated into a sign of social superiority. Jesus highlights a common temptation in these three works, which can be described summarily as hypocrisy (He names it as such three times): “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them … Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do … And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men … And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites. (Mt 6:1, 2, 5, 16)”

When you do something good, almost instinctively born in us is the desire to be respected and admired for this good deed, to obtain a satisfaction. Jesus invites us to do these works without any ostentation, and to trust only in the reward of the Father “who sees in secret” (Mt 6,4.6.18).

Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord never ceases to have mercy on us, and desires to offer us His forgiveness yet again, inviting us to return to Him with a new heart, purified from evil, to take part in His joy. How to accept this invitation? St. Paul makes a suggestion to us in the second reading today: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:20)” This work of conversion is not just a human endeavor. Reconciliation between us and God is possible thanks to the mercy of the Father who, out of love for us, did not hesitate to sacrifice his only Son. In fact, the Christ, who was righteous and without sin was made sin for us (v. 21) when on the cross He was burdened with our sins, and so redeemed us and justified before God. In Him we can become righteous, in him we can change, if we accept the grace of God and do not let the “acceptable time (6:2)” pass in vain.

With this awareness, trusting and joyful, let us begin our Lenten journey. May Mary Immaculate sustain our spiritual battle against sin, accompany us in this acceptable time, so that we might come together to sing the exultation of victory in Easter.

Soon we will make the gesture of the imposition of ashes on the head. The celebrant says these words: “You are dust and to dust you shall return, (cf. Gen 3:19)” or repeats Jesus’ exhortation: “Repent and believe the gospel. (Mk 1:15)” Both formulae are a reminder of the truth of human existence: we are limited creatures, sinners ever in need of repentance and conversion. How important is it to listen and to welcome this reminder in our time! The call to conversion is then a push to return, as did the son of the parable, to the arms of God, tender and merciful Father, to trust Him and to entrust ourselves to Him.

POPE FRANCIS MEETS WITH CLERGY OF ROME

(VIS) – The traditional Lenten meeting of the Bishop of Rome and “his” priests – between the Pope and the parish priests of the diocese – took place this morning in the Paul VI Hall. As announced by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar of His Holiness for the diocese of Rome, the theme this year was the homily. After Cardinal Vallini’s greetings, the Pope introduced the meeting by referring to his 2005 address to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Saints on the theme of the “Ars celebrandi”, the test of which was distributed to the participants in advance. The meeting then proceeded in dialogue with the priests present. (No transcript has yet been provided)