IN BRIEF

To watch solemn vespers at the end of the January 18 to 25 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in the basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls with Pope Francis, click here at 5:30 pm Rome time: Solemnity of the Conversion of Saint Paul – Celebration of Second Vespers – Activities of the Holy Father Pope Francis | Vatican.va

IN BRIEF

AT GENERAL AUDIENCE, POPE FRANCIS CONTINUES CATECHESES ON APOSTOLIC ZEAL. Pope Francis told the faithful that “each day is a time of grace” and “new opportunity” for those who follow Christ. He explored how Jesus himself chose to present His message, noting that, in the synagogue of Nazareth, at the very beginning of his public ministry, the Lord revealed that, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy, He came to proclaim Good News to the poor and a year of favor from the Lord. The Pope said Jesus communicated with certain essential elements, especially joy, freedom, light, healing and awe.  “One cannot speak of Jesus without joy, because faith is a wonderful love story to be shared…” “The Gospel of Jesus Christ is, as the prophet foretold, a saving message that brings contagious joy, authentic freedom, the promise of spiritual rebirth as God’s beloved sons and daughters, and definitive healing from the oppression of sin and death.” Pope at Audience: Every day is a time of grace – Vatican News

POPE THANKS FAMILIES HOSTING YOUTHS PARTICIPATING IN WYD 2023: Pope Francis sent a video message to Portuguese families who will welcome in their homes the thousands of youths expected at WYD Lisbon 2023, saying their generous hospitality also shows openness to other horizons. Following his video message addressed last week to young people preparing to participate in World Youth Day in Lisbon, Pope Francis has also thanked Portuguese families who will welcome them in their homes during the event. Over 400,000 young people from across the world have already registered to take part in the WYD on 1-6 August 2023. In a video message released Wednesday, the Pope remarked that by welcoming young people in their homes, families not only show generosity, but, most importantly, openness to people of other cultures and to new horizons. Pope thanks families hosting youths participating in WYD 2023 – Vatican News

POPE TO DELEGATION OF THE UKRAINIAN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES AND RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS. Pope Francis thanked members of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) for their work by describing their witness as a “concrete testimony of peace in a country suffering from war.” Addressing a UCCRO delegation before the general audience on Wednesday, the Pope upheld the collaboration of the member groups, whom he said, together support those in need, defend the rights of the faithful of all denominations and advocate for the respect of human rights. “I give thanks to God because this meeting enables me, in some way, to have close contact with the Ukrainian people, who have always been present in my prayers during these months.” Pope upholds Ukrainian interfaith efforts as concrete testimony of peace – Vatican News

PAPAL AUDIENCE FOCUS IS APOSTOLIC ZEAL: POPE ASKS PRAYERS FOR MURDERED NIGERIAN PRIEST AND SUFFERING UKRAINIANS – A CITY GETS A FACELIFT FOR PAPAL VISIT

Something to ponder: An interesting read about the Francis papacy in the post-Benedict XVI era: MondayVatican – Vatican » Pope Francis, what kind of a future has just begun? | MondayVatican

PAPAL AUDIENCE FOCUS IS APOSTOLIC ZEAL: POPE ASKS PRAYERS FOR MURDERED NIGERIAN PRIEST AND SUFFERING UKRAINIANS

Pope Francis began today’s general audience by noting, “In our continuing catechesis on apostolic zeal, the desire to share with others the joy of the Gospel, we now look to its model and source: the example of Jesus himself. As the eternal Word of God, made flesh for our salvation, Jesus’ entire life was devoted to communicating and dialoguing with others, first with his heavenly Father in profound prayer, and then with others, especially the poor, the outcast and sinners.!

Francis explained that Jesus “proclaimed the coming of God’s Kingdom not only by his preaching, but also by his ministry of healing, reconciliation and forgiveness. As the Good Shepherd, the model for all pastors in the Church, Jesus was completely committed to the welfare of his flock, protecting the fold yet also setting out in search of the lost sheep.

“And when we hear that someone has left the Church, what do we want to say? ‘Let them work it out?’ No. Jesus teaches us to have nostalgia for those who have left. Jesus does not feel anger or resentment but pure longing for us. Jesus feels nostalgic for us and this is God’s zeal.

The Holy Father said he wondered “we, do we have similar sentiments? Perhaps we see those who have left the flock as adversaries or enemies. ‘And this person? Hasn’t he gone to the other side? She lost her faith…. They are going to hell…’ and we are serene.!

“When we meet them at school, at work, on the streets of our city,” he continued, “why don’t we think instead that we have a beautiful opportunity to witness to them the joy of a Father who loves them and has never forgotten them? Not to proselytize, no! But that the Word of the Father might reach them so we can walk together. … Because the Word, Jesus, asks this of us – to always draw near to everyone with an open heart because he is like that.”

Pope Francis concluded: “Following his example, may we, in our daily lives, draw joy and strength from our union with the Father in prayer, allow our hearts to be shaped by pastoral zeal for the word of God, and strive, in all our words and actions, to share with others its saving message.”

During greetings to English-language pilgrims the Pope said, “I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims taking part in today’s audience, especially the groups from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Australia and the United States of America. I offer a special greeting to the many student groups present.

“I ask all of you to join me in praying for Father Isaac Achi of the Diocese of Minna in northern Nigeria, who was killed last Sunday in an attack on his rectory. So many Christians continue to be the target of violence: let us remember them in our prayers! Upon all of you, and upon your families, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you!

The terrorists set fire to the rectory and Fr. Achi burned to death. They shot and wounded the assistant priest as he tried to flee.

Francis also highlighted Ukraine, as he has done in every public address for almost a year. He asked everyone to pray for Ukrainians who need “our closeness, consolation, and above all peace.”

CITY GETS A FACELIFT FOR PAPAL VISIT

As you know, Pope Francis leaves on January 31 for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and then South Sudan. We are now learning, via a report from Reuters, that the government in Kinshasa is clearing the city’s streets of vendors so that the Pope sees a sanitized city, much as happened when U.S. President Biden recently visited El Paso, Texas, a city that has been overwhelmed by massive numbers of migrants in the last two years. Biden saw no migrants, no crowded housing facilities, no make-shift tents on El Paso streets.

The January 17 Reuters story starts: “Before dawn, sanitary police armed with crowbars and a bulldozer set about demolishing makeshift trader stalls crowding downtown streets in the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of a four-day visit by Pope Francis starting Jan. 31. Kinshasa has 17 million people. Police demolish trader stalls in Congo capital ahead of Pope visit | Reuters

 

POPE SUGGESTS AIDS THAT CAN HELP US WITH DISCERNMENT – PAPAL APPEAL AT GENERAL AUDIENCE: “UKRAINIAN CHILDREN BEAR THE WEIGHT OF THE TRAGEDY OF WAR” – POPE FRANCIS’ CHRISTMAS SEASON LITURGIES

POPE SUGGESTS AIDS THAT CAN HELP US WITH DISCERNMENT

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.

PAPAL APPEAL AT GENERAL AUDIENCE: “UKRAINIAN CHILDREN BEAR THE WEIGHT OF THE TRAGEDY OF WAR”

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.”

POPE FRANCIS’ CHRISTMAS SEASON LITURGIES

(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.

 

 

POPE AT AUDIENCE: A GOOD DISCIPLE IS VIGILANT

I so enjoyed the theme of today’s general audience, especially a few of the Pope’s remarks in the full audience catechesis. Here is a sample (watch what he calls the devil!): “I consider it necessary to include at this point a reminder of an attitude essential if all the work done to discern for the best and take the good decision is not to be lost, and this would be the attitude of vigilance. We have done discernment, consolation and desolation; we have chosen something … everything is going well, but now, vigilance: the attitude of vigilance. Because in effect there is a risk, and it is that the “spoilsport”, that is, the Evil One, can ruin everything, making us go back to the beginning, indeed, in an even worse condition. And this happens, so we must be attentive and vigilant.”

Lots of good lessons in this papal talk on vigilance.

POPE AT AUDIENCE: A GOOD DISCIPLE IS VIGILANT

Pope Francis comes to “the final phase of catechesis on discernment” at the weekly General Audience, focusing his reflections on the importance of vigilance.

By Christopher Wells (vaticannews)

Over the course of the past few weeks, Pope Francis’ weekly catechesis has focused on different aspects of discernment, from prayer, self-knowledge, desire, and the “book of life”; to desolation and consolation, the matter of discernment; and, most recently, the confirmation that accompanies the choices made.

At Wednesday’s General Audience, Pope Francis began the “final phase of this journey of catechesis,” reflecting on the attitude of vigilance, an attitude essential to ensuring that the work of discernment is not in vain.

There is a genuine risk, the Pope explained, that the Evil One could “ruin everything,” leaving us even worse than we were to start with.

This is why it is indispensable to be vigilant. Therefore, today it seemed appropriate to emphasize this attitude, which we all need for the discernment process to succeed.

The good disciple is vigilant

The Holy Father pointed out that the Lord Himself, in the Gospels, insisted on the fact that “the good disciple is vigilant” and does not slumber, but instead remains “alert and ready to do his duty.” (CNA photo)

He recalled Jesus’ admonition, “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning… blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.” This, the Pope said, “is the frame of mind fo the Christians who await the final coming of the Lord; but can also be seen as the normal attitude to have in the conduct of life.”

Without vigilance, we risk everything

He warned, “If vigilance is lacking, there is a very high risk that all will be lost.” This risk is not primarily psychological, but spiritual, “a real snare of the evil spirit,” who waits till we become complacent in order to ensnare us.

Turning to the Gospel passage chosen for Wednesday’s audience, Pope Francis noted that in the short parable that was proclaimed, the unclean spirit, having been cast out of the house, returns with seven spirits even worse than himself. “How is it possible for them to enter undisturbed?” the Pope asked. He explained that this came about because the homeowner had become complacent, in love with himself, and “had stopped waiting for the Lord.”

When we trust too much in ourselves and not in Gods grace, then the Evil One finds the door open. So, he organizes the expedition and takes possession of that house.

One must remain vigilant

It might seem impossible to fall from a good state to a state even worse than when one started, but it can and does happen, the Pope said. “Everyone can confirm this by thinking back on their own personal history.”

Pope Francis concluded, “It is not enough to carry out good discernment and to make a good choice. One must remain vigilant.”

Vigilance is a sign of wisdom, it is above all a sign of humility, which is the high road of the Christian life.

 

POPE SENDS ALMONER TO ISCHIA TO COMFORT FAMILIES OF VICTIMS OF LANDSLIDE – POPE AT AUDIENCE: INNER PEACE CONFIRMS OUR DECISIONS

Tomorrow, solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, is a big holiday in Italy and I’ll be joining the community at NAC for Mass and a celebratory luncheon. Basically, I will follow Italian tradition and take the day off!

POPE SENDS ALMONER TO ISCHIA TO COMFORT FAMILIES OF VICTIMS OF LANDSLIDE

The Holy See Press Office announced that tomorrow, December 8, solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Francis is sending his almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, to the Italian island of Ischia, to the Municipality of Casamicciola Terme that was “severely and dramatically affected by the flood of last November 26th.

Ischia – AFP photo

The cardinal almoner heads the Dicastery for Charity.

The press office adds that, “in the days when the funerals of the twelve victims (of the massive landslide) are celebrated, Pope Francis hopes many will feel his closeness, through the presence of his envoy. Moreover, he has assigned a rosary crown blessed by him to some family members so that they may feel the comfort of his prayer and entrust themselves with hope to the Virgin Mother.”

POPE AT AUDIENCE: INNER PEACE CONFIRMS OUR DECISIONS

Pope Francis continues his catechesis on discernment at the weekly general audience, and reflects on the need to confirm our decisions with the presence of a long-lasting inner peace.

Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

“We can recognize some important aspects that help to read the time after a decision as a possible confirmation of its goodness.”

Pope Francis made that observation in his continuing catechesis on discernment at the Wednesday general audience.

He focused his reflections on the importance of confirming decisions with signs from our daily lives.

“One of the distinctive signs of the good spirit is the fact that it communicates a peace that lasts in time. A peace that brings harmony, unity, fervour, zeal.”

Good choices improve daily life

The Pope offered the example of someone who decides to dedicate an extra half-hour to prayer.

He said people should ask themselves whether the other moments of their day are more serene or anxious, if they care more or less for their work, or if their relationships with difficult people are more or less tranquil. “The spiritual life is circular. The goodness of a choice benefits all areas of our lives. For it is participation in God’s creativity.”

Alignment of our lives

Pope Francis said one aspect of post-decision discernment is the awareness of “feeling in one’s proper place in life” and a useful part of a larger plan.

He noted that St. Peter’s Square has two points from which the columns of Bernini are perfectly aligned. In the same way, he said, we understand that we have made a good decision when our day becomes more ordered and integrated and we discover renewed energy.

Overcoming desire to possess

Another sign of a good discernment, said the Pope, is when we “remain free” in relation to what we have decided and are “willing to revisit the decision” to find a possible teaching from the Lord.

“This is not because He wants to deprive us of what we hold dear, but in order to live it with freedom, without attachment. Only God knows what is truly good for us.”

Pope Francis added that the desire to possess is the enemy of goodness, pointing to the many cases of domestic violence which he said often are the result of the desire to possess the affection of another person.

“We can only love in freedom, which is why the Lord created us free, free even to say no to Him.”

Courage in fear of the Lord

In conclusion, the Pope said that the “fear of God” or “respect of God” is an indispensable gift of Divine Wisdom that helps us in our discernment.

“It is the fear that casts out all other fears, because it is oriented to Him who is Lord of all things. In His presence, nothing can disquiet us.”

 

SURPRISE ENTERTAINMENT AT THE GENERAL AUDIENCE – POPE: GENUINE CONSOLATION CONFIRMS WE ARE DOING GOD’S WILL

The vaticannews.va website was down for several hours today (as it was yesterday) and the vatican.va website is still down as I write. I am happy the news site is back up so you can open the link I posted below for a bit of entertainment Vatican style!

SURPRISE ENTERTAINMENT AT THE GENERAL AUDIENCE

Today’s general audience, held once again in a sunny but cold St. Peter’s Square, featured a lovely catechesis by Pope Francis on consolation, as you will read below. But minutes before the scheduled final remarks at the audience and the papal blessing, there was a little surprise.

In the following link, fast forward to 56 minutes 10 seconds and you will see the nun who is about to greet Italian pilgrims but the camera switches to the Pope who is being told to wait to give his remarks as there is some entertainment scheduled: Pope: Genuine consolation confirms we are doing God’s will – Vatican News

You’ll probably end up moving with the music or clicking your fingers or at least saying “wow” on a few occasions as the Black Blues Brothers from Kenya perform! Principally acrobats, they entertained non-stop for about 7 minutes and it was quite obvious that Pope Francis enjoyed every second!

Some great pictures by CNA’s Daniel Ibanez

You never know what might happen on an audience Wednesday in the Vatican!

POPE: GENUINE CONSOLATION CONFIRMS WE ARE DOING GOD’S WILL

In his catechesis at Wednesday’s General Audience, Pope Francis says genuine consolation in discernment is “a sort of confirmation that we are doing what God wants of us.”

By Christopher Wells

“How can we recognize authentic consolation?” Pope Francis asked at the beginning of Wednesday’s General Audience.

In his continuing catechesis on discernment, the Holy Father turned to the Spiritual Exercises of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola, who says we must examine our thoughts to see if they are inclined to the good in their beginning, middle, and end. If all are directed towards what is good, “It is a sign of the good Angel,” the Pope said; while if our thoughts and intentions propose something bad, or weaken or distract our soul, it is a sign that such thoughts “proceed from the evil spirit, the enemy of our profit and eternal salvation.”

Examining our thoughts and actions

The Pope gave several examples. An action such as praying is good in its beginning if it inclines us toward love of God and neighbour; and is bad if it is done in order to avoid our duties. Similarly, if praying leads me to pride and disdain of others, even a good action can be bad in the middle.

Finally, we can ask about the end of a thought or action. An action can be bad in its outcome if it distracts me from other goods I should be doing, or if I become aggressive and angry, or focus on myself to the point of losing confidence in God.

Importance of daily examination of conscience

Pope Francis noted that the enemy of the human soul is often devious, searching for a way into our hearts to corrupt our thoughts and actions. So, he continued, a patient examination of the origin and truth of our thoughts is “indispensable. …This is why a daily examination of conscience is so important. It is the valuable effort of rereading experience from a particular point of view.”

“Noticing what happens is important, it is a sign that Gods grace is working in us, helping us to grow in freedom and awareness.”

The Pope added that genuine consolation can serve as a kind of confirmation “that we are doing what God wants of us,” that we are on the right path.

What is good for me here and now

Finally, he reminded us that discernment “is not simply about what is good or about the greatest possible good, but about what is good for me here and now.” Discernment can help us to see what God expects of us at this moment, helping us to choose between different possibilities “in our search for the true good.”

 

POPE FRANCIS ON HOW “DESOLATION” IS PART OF DISCERNMENT

As a follow-up to my reports from Hawaii on Servant of God Joseph Dutton, I’ve received several requests from people asking if there are books on or by Joseph Dutton. Certainly one of the most interesting are Dutton’s own memoirs and you can find that book on the Dutton Guild website: Dutton Memoirs Book | Joseph Dutton Guild     Enjoy!

Following is a summary of today’s general audience catechesis. Click here for some great photos of the gathering: General Audience – Activities of the Holy Father Pope Francis | Vatican.va

POPE FRANCIS ON HOW “DESOLATION” IS PART OF DISCERNMENT

The Holy Father began this week’s general audience by noting that, “in our continuing catechesis on discernment, we have seen the importance of interpreting the movements of our heart, including occasional experiences of ‘desolation’ or interior unrest and dissatisfaction. Such moments are in fact a challenge to our complacency and an incentive to growth in the spiritual life.”

In fact, says Pope Francis, “we have seen how important it is to read what stirs within us, so as not to make hasty decisions, spurred by the emotion of the moment, only to regret them when it is too late. That is, to read what happens and then make decisions.”

Addressing the thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, he said, “we cannot ignore our feelings: we are human and sentiment is a part of our humanity. And without understanding feelings we are inhuman; without living our sentiments we will also be indifferent to the sufferings of others and incapable of accepting our own.” (Vatican photo)

“Not to mention,” Francis continued, that such a ‘perfect serenity’ cannot be reached by this path of indifference. This sterile distance: ‘I won’t get involved in things, I will keep my distance’: this is not life, it is as though we lived in a laboratory, shut away, so as not to have microbes and diseases. For many saints, restlessness was a decisive impetus to turn their lives around. This artificial serenity will not do. Yes, a healthy restlessness is fine, the restless heart, the heart that seeks its way.”

The Pope went on to note that “desolation … offers us the possibility of growth, of initiating a more mature, more beautiful relationship with the Lord and with our loved ones, a relationship that is not reduced to a mere exchange of giving and having.”

In concluding remarks, the Holy Father pointed out that “many of our prayers are also somewhat like this: they are requests for favors addressed to the Lord, without any real interest in him. We go to ask, to ask, to ask the Lord. The Gospel notes that Jesus was often surrounded by many people who sought him out in order to obtain something: healing, material assistance, but not simply to be with him. He was pushed by the crowds, yet he was alone. Some saints, and even some artists, have contemplated this condition of Jesus.

Pope Francis then offered a suggestion: “It may seem strange, unreal, to ask the Lord: “How are you?” Instead, it is a beautiful way to enter into a true, sincere relationship, with his humanity, with his suffering, even with his singular solitude. With him, with the Lord, who wanted to share his life with us to the full.”

 

POPE AT AUDIENCE: SPIRITUAL DESOLATION CAN STRENGTHEN US IF WE LISTEN TO GOD – ALSO THIS….

POPE AT AUDIENCE: SPIRITUAL DESOLATION CAN STRENGTHEN US IF WE LISTEN TO GOD

During his catechesis at the general audience, Pope Francis says desolation and sadness, though considered to be negative experiences, can teach us important things and strengthen us spiritually, if we know how to traverse it with openness and awareness.

By Benedict Mayaki, SJ (Vatican news)

Continuing his cycle of reflections on the theme of discernment, Pope Francis said that discernment, which is not primarily a logical procedure, is “based on actions, and actions have an affective connotation which must be acknowledged, because God speaks to the heart.”

He focused his catechesis during the Wednesday general audience on the first affective mode and an object of discernment: desolation.

Desolation

Recalling the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Pope Francis said desolation can be defined as “darkness of soul, disturbance in it, movement to things low and earthly, the unquiet of different agitations and temptations, moving to want of confidence, without hope, without love, when one finds oneself all lazy, tepid, sad and as if separated from his Creator and Lord.”

He noted that all of us have experienced desolation in some way but the problem we face is how to interpret it, because desolation has something important to tell us and we risk losing it if we are in a hurry to free ourselves of the feeling of emptiness.

He added that inasmuch as we would all like a life that is always joyful, cheerful and fulfilled, this is not always possible and would also not be good for us as “the change from a life oriented towards vice can start from a situation of sadness, of remorse for what one has done.”

Remorse

Explaining further, Pope Francis said that the word “remorse”, from the etymological viewpoint, means “the conscience that bites (in Italian, mordere) that does not permit peace.”

In fact, Alessandro Manzoni in his book “The Betrothed” described remorse as an opportunity to change one’s life in the famous dialogue between Cardinal Federico Borromeo and the Unnamed, who, after a terrible night, presents himself destroyed by the cardinal, who addresses him with surprising words.

Sadness

Pope Francis also stressed the importance of learning to “read” sadness, which is mostly considered negatively, but instead, “can be an indispensable alarm bell for life, inviting us to explore richer and more fertile landscapes that transience and escapism do not permit.”

St. Thomas, in the Summa Theologica, defines sadness as “a pain of the soul” – like the nerves for the body, it redirects our attention to a possible danger, or a disregarded benefit. Hence, sadness is “indispensable for our health; it protects us from harming ourselves and others” and “would be far more serious and dangerous if we did not feel this,” the Pope said.

Moreover, for those who have the desire to do good, sadness is “an obstacle with which the tempter tries to discourage us” and in that case, one must act in a manner exactly contrary to what is suggested, determined to continue what one had set out to do.

The Pope further recalled the Gospels’ reminder that the road to goodness is narrow and uphill, requiring combat and self-conquest. He urged those who wish to serve God not to be led astray by desolation, especially as some people, unfortunately, abandon a life of prayer or choice they have made, driven by desolation, “without first pausing to consider this state of mind, and especially without the help of a guide.”

“A wise rule says not to make changes when you are desolate. It will be the time afterwards, rather than the mood of the moment, that will show the goodness or otherwise of our choices.”

Trials are an important moment

Pope Francis then pointed to the example of Jesus who repelled temptations with an attitude of firm resolution. Trials assailed him from all sides, but Jesus was determined to do the will of the Father and they failed to hinder his path.

In spiritual life, said the Pope, “trial is an important moment” because “when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials” (Sir 2:1). Similarly, a professor only accepts that a student has passed the test after he has examined the student to see if the student knows the essentials of the subject.

“If we know how to traverse loneliness and desolation with openness and awareness, we can emerge strengthened in human and spiritual terms. No trial is beyond our reach.”

Pope Francis concluded by re-echoing St. Paul’s words that no one is tempted beyond his or her ability, because the Lord never abandons us, and with him close by, we can overcome every temptation.

ALSO THIS…

POPE FRANCIS DECRIES “HORROR” CONTINUING TO BLOODY DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO. At the end of the general audience, the Pope condemned the “unacceptable” terror attack against defenseless civilians at a Catholic mission hospital and appealed for peace in the African country battered by ongoing violence. “We watch in horror as events continue to bloody the Democratic Republic of Congo. Let us pray for the victims and their families, as well as for the Christian community and the inhabitants of that region, who have been exhausted by violence for too long.” The Pope said he “strongly deplores the unacceptable assault” that took place in recent days in the village of Maboja in the country’s North-Kivu province. He decried the deaths of the “defenceless,” recalling that among the dead was religious sister, Sister Sylvie Kalima, a healthcare worker. Pope condemns DR Congo attacks: ‘We watch in horror’ – Vatican News

POPE AT SPIRIT OF ASSISI: GOD’S NAME ‘CANNOT BLESS TERROR AND VIOLENCE’; At the Community of Sant’Egidio’s ‘Cry for Peace’ at the colosseum, Pope Francis reiterated that religions cannot be used for war, and called for nations to defuse conflicts with the weapon of dialogue. “Religions cannot be used for war. Only peace is holy and no one is to use the name of God to bless terror and violence. If you see wars around you, do not resign yourselves! The people desire peace.” This was the appeal of Pope Francis, along with religious leaders, during the closing ceremony of the annual ‘Spirit of Assisi’ prayer for peace on Tuesday afternoon at Rome’s iconic colosseum. The Pope recalled that these words he and religious leaders declared together a year ago, … adding “Let us never grow resigned to war. Let us cultivate seeds of reconciliation. Today let us raise to heaven our plea for peace.” Pope at Spirit of Assisi: God’s name ‘cannot bless terror and violence’ – Vatican News

POPE TO TRAVEL TO ASTI, ITALY, TO MEET RELATIVES – GENERAL AUDIENCE: RE-READING OUR LIFE’S STORY TO DISCOVER CHRIST

POPE TO TRAVEL TO ASTI, ITALY, TO MEET RELATIVES 

The director of the Holy See Press Office announced today that, “on the afternoon of Saturday, November 19, Pope Francis will go to Asti, Italy on a private visit to meet family on the occasion of the 90th birthday of a cousin. Sunday November 20, the Solemnity of Christ the King, the Holy Father will preside over the Eucharist at 11:00 am in the Cathedral of Asti, to meet the diocesan community from which his relatives emigrated to Argentina. In the afternoon the Holy Father will return to the Vatican.”

Pope Francis previously met some of his Italian relatives in 2015 on a visit to Turin, as well as during a visit to Genoa in May, 2017.

GENERAL AUDIENCE: RE-READING OUR LIFE’S STORY TO DISCOVER CHRIST

Wednesday at the general audience, in the presence of a large crowd of pilgrims, Pope Francis circled a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square in the papal jeep, giving a ride to five school children.

Rome has been marked by beautiful clear skies and unseasonably warm temperatures in what the Italians call “le ottobrate romane,” the equivalent of the English term “Indian summer.”

In his catechesis in Italian, later summarized in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on discernment, saying, “we now consider the importance of interpreting, in the light of God’s provident care, our own life story. Through prayer and spiritual insight, we can learn to discern the thread of God’s grace running through our lives.”

“Our life is the most precious ‘book’ that is given to us, a book that unfortunately many do not read, or rather they do so too late, before dying.”

He explained that, “taking stock of our personal history in this way can make us aware of negative attitudes harmful for our spiritual growth, but also open our eyes to the often hidden events and encounters that quietly reveal the Lord’s loving plan for our eternal happiness.”

The more we reread our life’s story, he added, the more refined our perception becomes, making it easier to discover God’s action in our lives.

The Holy Father noted that, “the lives of the saints also shed light upon our personal path to holiness. In the Confessions, Saint Augustine shared his gradual understanding of how God mysteriously led him to discover and embrace the truth that alone satisfies the deepest desires of our heart.”

Francis then underlined how “Saint Ignatius Loyola, another great spiritual guide, drew upon his own journey of conversion in order to teach us how to discern God’s voice speaking deep within us, guiding our steps through life, and calling us to ever deeper union with himself.”

Later, in greeting English-speaking pilgrims at the audience, the Pope welcomed pilgrims “from Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Indonesia, Canada and the United States of America, including the priests of the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College.

He then had special words for “pilgrims present from Nigeria. I think of the violent rains that have fallen on their country in these days, causing flooding, numerous deaths and tremendous damage. Let us pray for all who have lost their lives and for everyone affected by this devastating natural disaster. May these, our brothers and sisters, experience our solidarity and the support of the international community.”

DISCERNMENT OFTEN COMES IN UNEXPECTED SIGNS FROM GOD – A PAPAL SALUTE TO MOTHERS AND A PLEA FOR PEACE

Since we learned yesterday that China’s President Xi Jinping will be in Kazakhstan at the same time as Pope Francis (in one week!), it will be interesting to see if diplomats from either side – or both sides – would attempt to arrange a meeting between the two. Usually meetings at such a high level would take months to arrange but stranger things have happened in life. Many are asking: Would such a meeting be wise? Which side would gain – or lose – the most?

Stay tuned….

DISCERNMENT OFTEN COMES IN UNEXPECTED SIGNS FROM GOD

The weekly general audience took place today in St. Peter’s Square that, while hot and sun-splashed, was not enveloped by the scorching heat of weeks past.

Pope Francis took a ride around the piazza in the open papal jeep and was even joined by several children at one point.

Some Vatican media photos of the morning:

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He introduced the second catechesis on his new series on discernment by saying, “in the process of making sound decisions about the meaning and direction of our lives, we now consider the witness of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. As a young soldier, Ignatius was gravely wounded in battle. During his long convalescence, he was unable to read his favorite novels of chivalry and heroic exploits. The only books at hand were the lives of the saints.”

And this is often how the Lord works, said Francis. He works through what we see as “apparent randomness in the events of life.” Ignatius did not have his preferred reading but was instead driven to the unexpected joy of reading about saints, about lives that changed his life, the books that became a turning point.

“Reading them, at first reluctantly,” said the Holy Father, “Ignatius came to realize that the stories of the saints brought him lasting joy and happiness, while the other stories left him ultimately arid and empty. This insight was the origin of the method of prayer and discernment that Ignatius left us in his celebrated Spiritual Exercises.”

Pope Francis explained that Ignatius, in his Spiritual Exercises, “speaks of the importance of distinguishing between worldly and spiritual thoughts, cultivating the latter, and allowing them, by God’s grace, to mature within our hearts. In time, then, we come to discern in prayer the often unexpected signs by which God makes himself known to us, leads us to conversion and shows us his will for our lives.”

A PAPAL SALUTE TO MOTHERS AND A PLEA FOR PEACE

At the end of the catechesis on discernment, Pope Francis pointed out that, “tomorrow we will celebrate the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. Mary experienced God’s tenderness as a daughter, full of grace, and went on to give this tenderness as a mother, through union with the mission of her Son Jesus.”

He then expressed his “closeness to all mothers. In a special way, to those mothers who have children who suffer: those who are sick, those who are marginalized, those who are imprisoned. A special prayer goes to the mothers of young detainees: let hope never be lacking. Unfortunately, in prisons there are many people who take their own life, at times also young people. A mother’s love can save them from this danger. May Our Lady console all mothers distressed by the suffering of their children.”

The Pope also prayed for Ukraine and its people who have undergone a war for over six months. “I do not forget martyred Ukraine,” he said. asking everyone to “be a builder of peace and to pray that thoughts and plans of concord and reconciliation will spread in the world, …Today we are experiencing a world war, let us please stop!”

He entrusted the victims of all ways, especially the “dear people of Ukraine” to the Blessed Virgin Mary.