POPE THANKS LEBANESE PRESIDENT FOR WELCOMING SYRIAN REFUGEES – FRANCIS TO PRESIDE PENITENTIAL SERVICE IN ST. PETER’S BASILICA – U.S. DIOCESES WHERE YOU CAN EAT MEAT ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY

Papal tweet for March 16: The Church wishes to be close to each person with the love, compassion and consolation that come from Christ.

POPE THANKS LEBANESE PRESIDENT FOR WELCOMING SYRIAN REFUGEES

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis held a private audience on Thursday with Mr. Michel Aoun, President of the Republic of Lebanon, and his wife, Nadia.

A communique from the Holy See Press Office said their discussions were “cordial.”

“The Parties focused on the good bilateral relations between the Holy See and Lebanon, underlining the historic and institutional role of the Church in the life of the country. Satisfaction was then expressed for the efforts on the part of all the various political parties in putting an end to the presidential vacancy, emphasising the hope for an increasingly fruitful future collaboration between the members of diverse ethnic and religious communities in favour of the common good and the development of the nation,” the communique read.

Turning to current events on the international stage, the Pope thanked President Aoun for his country’s welcome of Syrian refugees.

“The discussion then turned to Syria, with special attention to international efforts to find a political solution to the conflict. Furthermore, appreciation was expressed at the welcome that Lebanon has extended to many Syrian refugees. Finally, there was a broader exchange of views on the regional context, referring also to other ongoing conflicts and the situation of Christians in the Middle East.”

President Michel Aoun subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

FRANCIS TO PRESIDE PENITENTIAL SERVICE IN ST. PETER’S BASILICA

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will preside over a penitential service at the Vatican in anticipation of the  ’24 Hours for the Lord’ initiative.

The service will take place on Friday March 17, one week before all churches around the world are asked to offer the sacrament of Confession, a request made by the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of the New Evangelization.

The theme of the initiative this year comes from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew: ‘I desire Mercy’ (Mt 9:13).

On Friday March 24, the churches of Santa Maria in Trastevere and Le Stimmate di San Francesco will remain open from 8pm for Confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. On Saturday March 25, a service of thanksgiving will take place at 5pm in the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. Monsignor Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of the New Evangelization, will preside over First Vespers of the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

People around the world can show their support for the initiative by using the #24hoursfortheLord hashtag.

Here’s a link to the booklet if you watch this on EWTN: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/libretti/2017/20170317-libretto-liturgia-penitenziale.pdf

U.S. DIOCESES WHERE YOU CAN EAT MEAT ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY

(churchpop.com) Catholics are not supposed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Everyone knows that. (Catholics are also supposed to do penance on Fridays all year round; read more here.)

But sometimes there are exceptions! This Friday, March 17th 2017, might be one of those exceptions for you, depending on where you live.

It just so happens that this Friday is St. Patrick’s Day. That by itself doesn’t mean you can eat meat, but you can if at least one of these other conditions is met:

First, if St. Patrick is the patron of your diocese (e.g. the Archdiocese of New York), his feast is a solemnity for you and fasting is not required. This is true for all solemnities, such as the feast of St. Joseph (March 20th), which sometimes falls on a Friday during Lent.

Second, a bishop can grant a dispensation to everyone in his diocese from the normal fasting requirement. Dubbed the “Corned Beef Indult” (since corned beef is a customary food for St. Patrick’s Day), Rocco Palmo says the bishops of at least 112 dioceses in the United States have granted permission to their faithful to forego the normal abstinence from meat this Friday to allow for better celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

For complete list, click here: https://churchpop.com/2017/03/15/you-can-eat-meat-in-these-u-s-dioceses-this-friday-st-patricks-day/

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POPE FRANCIS, ROMAN CURIA, START ANNUAL LENTEN RETREAT – A NEW YORK PASTOR ON THE “SPLENDID 40 DAYS OF LENT”

I leave tomorrow morning, God willing, for Krakow, Poland where I’ll be spending time interviewing people who knew St. John Paul II and visiting sites linked to his life. I have set up a number of appointments to talk to priests, prelates, university rectors and lay people for my book on the late Pope, “I Made Cookies for a Saint.” I’ve been to Poland a number of times and especially love Krakow and am looking forward to a marvelous stay and some terrific conversations and insights.

I had an appointment here in Rome last Friday with Polish Ambassador to the Holy See, Janusz Kotansk, and he is immensely enthusiastic about the book and had a lot of suggestions for my visit. He has promised to help me find a qualified translator so the book can also be published in Polish.

I’ll do what I can to write something for this column every day, and will try on a daily basis to publish photos, FB Live, etc. on Facebook. Pope Francis and ranking members of the curia are on retreat this week but I’ll keep you posted on breaking news.

Pope Francis always asks us to remember him in our prayers – I ask the same of you!

Sunday Pope Francis tweeted: I ask, please, for your prayers for me and my collaborators, who until Friday will be on retreat.

Today’s Station Church in Rome is San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter’s in Chains): https://www.pnac.org/station-churches/week-1/monday-san-pietro-in-vincoli/

This is the titular church of Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.

http://www.aviewoncities.com/rome/sanpietroinvincoli.htm

POPE FRANCIS, ROMAN CURIA, START ANNUAL LENTEN RETREAT

Pope Francis and ranking members of the Roman Curia departed the Vatican Sunday afternoon for Ariccia where they will spend the next five days on retreat. These annual spiritual exercises usually start on the Sunday following Ash Wednesday. They are being held in Ariccia, a 20-mile drive south of Rome, at the Casa Divin Maestro (Divine Master House), run by the Pauline Fathers. (photo news.va)

pope-retreat

Click here to see where the Holy Father and other guests are staying (be sure to click on ‘Places and Surroundings” for some lovely additional photos): http://www.casadivinmaestro.it/www/aaa_intestazioni/intestazione.asp?LANGUAGE=ENG

The Pope mentioned the retreat at the Sunday Aneglus and asked the faithful to pray for him and his collaborators. He also tweeted the same request.

Franciscan Friar Giulio Michelini will lead the spiritual exerfcises on the theme of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ according to the Gospel of Matthew.

In this period, all of the Pope’s audiences, including Wednesday’s general audience, are suspended. Retreatants will return to the Vatican on Friday.

The Sunday schedule included Eucharistic adoration at 6 pm, vespers at 6:45 and dinner at 7:30.

The schedule for successive days is as follows:

  • –         7.30 am, lauds and a brief reflection
  • –         8.00 am, breakfast
  • –         9.30 am, first meditation
  • –         11.30 am, Eucharistic concelebration
  • –         12.30 lunch
  • –         4 pm, second meditation
  • –         6 pm, Eucharistic adoration
  • –         6.45 pm, vespers
  • –         7.30 pm, dinner

A NEW YORK PASTOR ON THE “SPLENDID 40 DAYS OF LENT”

From Fr. George W. Rutler – St. Michael’s Church – March 5, 2017
A “psychic reader” near our church has a sign telling what bell to ring for her to open the door. If I ever have the chance, I shall ask why, if she has psychic abilities, does she need a doorbell? Superstition is a sin against holy religion, and one can look for meaning in numbers to the point of excess, which is one form of superstition. But God’s historical involvement with us seems intertwined with certain numerical configurations that can be hard to ignore. Foremost among them, of course, is the number seven, but there is also forty.

In simple physics, negative forty corresponds on the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales, but that is only a curiosity. In Sacred Writ, however, it rained forty days during the Flood, spies scouted Israel for forty days, the Hebrews wandered for forty years, the life of Moses divided into three segments of forty years, and three times he spent forty days on Mount Sinai, not to mention Goliath challenging the Israelites twice a day for forty days. Some of that might be swept aside, but then Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness of Judea, and walked among men for forty days between his Resurrection and Ascension. It is perhaps obtuse to ignore that.

The number forty has something to do with fear. There are two kinds of fear: servile, which is fear of the unknown, and holy, which is the awe instilled by the Holy Spirit. Servile fear may be legitimate, though it can also be irrational. It is reasonable to fear poisonous spiders, but it is irrational to fear all spiders all the time. The ancient Greeks were better psychologists than the less introspective Romans, and so they gave us the term “phobia” for irrational fear. Today, however, ignorant people slur anyone with a rational aversion to false religion or to perversion as “phobic.”

But if Roman culture lacked the psychological sophistication of the Greeks, it was precise about social realities, and Latin has words for different kinds of fear: metus, terror, timor, pavor, formido, trepidatio and, that more-subtle form of fear suffered by sensitive people expecting the worst: praetimeo.

Jesus knew these temptations without succumbing to them. He knew them so well that he sweat actual blood. He warned against irrational fear as sternly as he urged holy fear: we should fear no harm to our bodies as much as we should fear eternal destruction in hell (Luke 12:5, Matthew 10:28). In his glorious resurrection he forbade fear, and the Beloved Apostle took up this theme: “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

In one of P.G. Wodehouse’s books, Jeeves quotes Psalm 30 to the amiable dunce Bertie Wooster: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” For those perplexed by fears worse than the ones Bertie Wooster suffered, that is what the splendid forty days of Lent are about.

A LENTEN PILGRIMAGE IN ROME: SAN GIORGIO IN VELABRO – POPE FRANCIS ADDRESSES ROME’S PASTORS

A LENTEN PILGRIMAGE IN ROME: SAN GIORGIO IN VELABRO

Today’s Lenten Station Church in Rome is San Giorgio in Velabro. For further info, visit the following sites.

https://www.pnac.org/station-churches/week-of-ash-wed/thursday-after-ash-wednesday-san-giorgio/

http://rometour.org/church-san-giorgio-velabro.html

Stephen Weigel, son of author George Weigel, put this video together for the North American College – a video pilgrimage of Rome’s Lenten Station Churches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQa1QwNZ5Yw

POPE FRANCIS ADDRESSES ROME’S PASTORS

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday addressed the parish priests of the Diocese of Rome, reflecting with them on the ‘progress of faith’ in the life of a priest.

He was welcomed to Rome’s Cathedral by his Vicar, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, and heard the confessions of around a dozen priests before delivering his address.

Pope Francis spoke to Rome’s parish priests on Thursday about the progress of faith in the life of a priest in three main points: memory, hope, and discernment of the moment.

In remarks prepared for the event, the Holy Father said, “Memory, as the Catechism says, is rooted in the faith of the Church, in the faith of our fathers; hope is that which sustains our faith; and discernment of the moment I hold present at the moment of acting, of putting into practice that ‘faith which operates through charity’.”

pope-pastors

Growth in faith

He said that “growing in faith” implies a “path of formation and of maturation in the faith”.

Turning to Evangelii Gaudium as a guide, he said, “Taking this seriously means that ‘it would not be right to see this call to growth exclusively or primarily in terms of doctrinal formation.’ (EG, n.161) Growth in faith happens through encounters with the Lord during the course of our lives. These encounters act as a treasure of memory and are our living faith, in a story of personal salvation.”

To illustrate, he gave the example of a basketball player who pivots on a stable foot while remaining flexible with the rest of his body to protect the ball from his opponent. “For us that foot pinned to the ground, around which we pivot, is the cross of Christ.”

Memory is remembering the promise of the Lord

Pope Francis said a faith nourished on memory of past graces “confers on our faith the solidity of the Incarnation”.

“Faith feeds on and is nourished by memory: The memory of the Covenant which the Lord has made with us. He is the God of our fathers and grandfathers. He is not a God of the last moment, a God without a family history, a God which – to respond to each new paradigm – should throw out precedents as if they were old and ridiculous.”

He said faith can even progress “backwards” in a “revolutionary return to the roots”.

“The more lucid the memory of the past, the more clear the future opens up, because it is possible to see the truly new path and distinguish it from the path already taken, which has never led anywhere meaningful.”

Hope is the guiding star which indicates the horizon

The Holy Father went on to speak of hope, which “opens faith to the surprises of God.”

“Faith is sustained and progresses thanks to hope. Hope is the anchor anchored in the Heavens, in the transcendent future, of which the temporal future –considered in a linear form – is only an expression. Hope is that which gives dynamism to the rearwards-looking glance of faith, which conduces one to find new things in the past – in the treasures of the memory – so that one can encounter the same God, which one hopes to see in the future.”

Discernment at every fork in the road to find next step in love

The Pope then examined discernment, which “is what makes faith concrete…, what permits us to give credible witness”.

He said, “The discernment of the opportune time (Kairos) is fundamentally rich in memory and in hope: remembering with love, I aim my gaze with clarity to that which best guides to the Promise.”

He also spoke of two moments in the act of discernment: first, a step back “to better see the panorama”; second, a step forward “when, in the present moment, we discern how to concretize love in the possible good, that is, for the good of the other. The highest good of the other is to grow in faith.”

Pope Francis then examined the figure of Saint Peter who was “sifted like grain” (Luke 22:31).

He said the paradox of Saint Peter is that “he who must confirm us in the faith is the same one whom the Lord often rebukes for his ‘lack of faith’”.

“We see that Saint Peter’s faith has a special character: it is a proven faith, and for this he has the mission to confirm and consolidate the faith of his brothers, our faith.”

 

POPE GRANTS INTERVIEW TO MAGAZINE RUN BY HOMELESS – LENTEN FASTING AND ABSTINENCE

Lent starts tomorrow, need I remind you, and I know there might be some uncertainty or confusion regarding the Church’s rules for fasting and abstinence – fasting and abstinence during Lent as well as the rest of the year.

Below, in a nutshell, are the fasting, etc. rules for Lent. I follow that paragraph with what the Code of Canon Law says about this, and then what the USCCB says.

In the meantime I hope you are having a splendid Mardi Gras as we prepare for leaner days to come!

POPE GRANTS INTERVIEW TO MAGAZINE RUN BY HOMELESS

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has given a wide-ranging interview to an Italian magazine run by homeless persons. The interview was published on 28 February in the online magazine called “Scarp de’ tenis” (“Sneakers”).

The magazine also functions as a social project, as most of the staff is homeless, suffers difficult personal situations or forms of social exclusion. For most contributors, the magazine is an important source of income. “Scarp de’ tenis” entered into partnership with the Italian arm of the Vatican’s charity organization, Caritas, in 2008.

In the interview, Pope Francis was asked to explain his recent initiatives for refugees, such as providing accommodation in the Vatican. In his reply, the Pope explained how the initiative to welcome the homeless had inspired parishes throughout Rome to join the effort.

“Here in the Vatican there are two parishes, and both are housing Syrian families. Many parishes in Rome have also opened their doors and others, which don’t have a house for priests, have offered to pay rent for families in need, for a full year” he said.

Throughout the interview the Pope often referred to the idea of walking in each others shoes. According to the Pope, to walk in the other’s shoes is a way to escape our own egoism: “In the shoes of the other, we learn to have a great capacity for understanding, for getting to know difficult situations.”

The Pope maintains that words alone are not enough, what is needed, he said, is the “Greatness” to walk in the shoes of the other: “How often I have met a person who, after having searched for Christian comfort, be they a layman, a priest, a sister or a bishop, they tell me ‘they listened to me, but didn’t understand me.’”

During the interview, the Pope also joked about people’s attitudes concerning giving money to those who live on the streets. “There are many arguments which justify why we should not give these alms: ‘I give money and he just spends it on a glass of wine!’ A glass of wine is his only happiness in life!” joked Pope Francis.

There was also a lesson in generosity within the interview. The Pope told a story from his time in Buenos Aires, of a mother with five children. While the father was at work and the rest of the family ate lunch, a homeless man called in to ask for food. Rather than letting the children give away their father’s dinner for that evening, the mother taught the children to give away some of their own food: “If we wish to give, we must give what is ours!” insisted the Pope.

Regarding the question of limiting numbers of refugee and migrants who arrive in a particular place, the Pope first reminded his readers that many of those arriving are fleeing from war or hunger. All of us in this world, says the Pope, are part of this situation and need to find ways to help and benefit those around us. According to him, this responsibility is especially true of governments and the Pope used the example of the work of the Saint Egidio community (that has established humanitarian corridors for groups of vulnerable migrants) in order to make his point. Regarding the 13 refugees who arrived from Lesbos, the Pope pointed out that the families have integrated well into society, with the children being enrolled in schools and their parents having found work. This, according to Pope Francis, is an example of immigrants wanting to fit into and contribute to a new country, and achieving that desire.

To further underline his point, the Pope highlighted the case of Sweden, where almost 10% of the population, including the Minister for Culture, are immigrants. During his own life, in the difficult years of the military dictatorship in Argentina, the Pope often looked to the Swedish as a positive example of integration.

LENTEN FASTING AND ABSTINENCE

The basic rules: Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat (and items made with meat) on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays of Lent. Every person between the age of 18 and 59 (beginning of 60th year) must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. (image St Michael Catholic Church, Bedford TX)

lent-image

Here is what the 1983 Code of Canon Law says about fasting and abstinence: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P4O.HTM

Days of Penance

Can.  1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.

Can.  1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

cacon-1250

Can.  1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Can.  1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.

Can.  1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.

(JFL: Note that Canon law in 1251 says: “Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday.” It is my experience that the majority of Catholics do not know this, i.e. abstinence from meat or another food or an act of penance on all Fridays of the year.) Canon 1253, however, gives leeway on this via the Episcopal Conference of a country (see below).

USCCB (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops):  PASTORAL STATEMENT ON FASTING AND ABSTINENCE

A Statement Issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops November 18, 1966

Here is part of that statement:

21.  For these and related reasons, the Catholic bishops of the United States, far from downgrading the traditional penitential observance of Friday, and motivated precisely by the desire to give the spirit of penance greater vitality, especially on Fridays, the day that Jesus died, urge our Catholic people henceforth to be guided by the following norms.

22.  Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance throughout the year, a time when those who seek perfection will be mindful of their personal sins and the sins of mankind which they are called upon to help expiate in union with Christ Crucified.

23. Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.

24. Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday, even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law. Our expectation is based on the following considerations:

  1. We shall thus freely and out of love for Christ Crucified show our solidarity with the generations of believers to whom this practice frequently became,especially in times of persecution and of great poverty, no mean evidence of fidelity to Christ and His Church.
  2. We shall thus also remind ourselves that as Christians, although immersed in the world and sharing its life, we must preserve a saving and necessary difference from the spirit of the world. Our deliberate, personal abstinence from meat, more especially because no longer required by law, will be an outward sign of inward spiritual values that we cherish.
  1. Every Catholic Christian understands that the fast and abstinence regulations admit of change, unlike the commandments and precepts of that unchanging divine moral law which the Church must today and always defend as immutable. This said, we emphasize that our people are henceforth free from the obligation traditionally binding under pain of sin in what pertains to Friday abstinence, except as noted above for Lent. We stress this so that “no” scrupulosity will enter into examinations of conscience, confessions, or personal decisions on this point.

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/us-bishops-pastoral-statement-on-penance-and-abstinence.cfm

 

PAPAL MESSAGE FOR LENT: “I DESIRE MERCY, AND NOT SACRIFICE”

PAPAL MESSAGE FOR LENT: “I DESIRE MERCY, AND NOT SACRIFICE”

The Vatican today published Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2016 – “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice (Mt 9:13). The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee.” It was dated October 4, 2015, Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.

LENT 2016

The heart of the Pope’s Message is in Number 3, The works of mercy, where he quotes Misericordiae vultus, the Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee of Mercy:

“God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever-new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, I expressed my hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” (ibid., 15). For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us” (ibid.). It is the unprecedented and scandalous mystery of the extension in time of the suffering of the Innocent Lamb, the burning bush of gratuitous love. Before this love, we can, like Moses, take off our sandals (cf. Ex 3:5), especially when the poor are our brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith.”

And Francis continues, pointing to the need for conversion, another central point of his Lenten Message:

“In the light of this love, which is strong as death (cf. Song 8:6), the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep (cf. Lk 16:20-21). Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us, and which we may well fail to see. Such blindness is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence, which reflects in a sinister way the diabolical “you will be like God” (Gen 3:5), which is the root of all sin. This illusion can likewise take social and political forms, as shown by the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century, and, in our own day, by the ideologies of monopolizing thought and techno-science, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited. This illusion can also be seen in the sinful structures linked to a model of false development based on the idolatry of money, which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies; they close their doors, refusing even to see the poor.

“For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy….”

The full papal Lenten message is here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/events/event.dir.html/content/vaticanevents/en/2016/1/26/messaggioquaresima.html

THE LENTEN STATION CHURCHS OF ROME: ASH WEDNESDAY, SANTA SABINA – POPE MEETS ITALIAN COAST GUARD AFTER MASSIVE RESCUE OF MIGRANTS – BROTHER, SISTER: TWO WORDS CHRISTIANITY LOVES, ALL CULTURES AND AGES UNDERSTAND – PAPAL APPEALS FOR PEACE IN MIDDLE EAST, NORTH AFRICA, UKRAINE

THE LENTEN STATION CHURCHS OF ROME: ASH WEDNESDAY, SANTA SABINA

There is a centuries-old Roman tradition of celebrating Mass at what are known as Lenten station or stational churches. The practice of station churches had its origins in the first centuries of Christianity when most of the early Popes celebrated the liturgy on special days at special churches in the Eternal City. This eventually became principally a Lenten devotion. In his liturgical reform, Pope St. Gregory the Great, who reigned from 590 to 604, established a station church for each day of Lent, thus making the whole season a pilgrimage on the path to conversion while preparing for Easter. The first Station Church every year is always St. Sabina where the Pope celebrates Ash Wednesday Mass.

The word ‘station’ is associated with two Latin words: stare, meaning “to stand” and statio, meaning “standing still,” or a “stationary place.”

I will try to bring you on each day of Lent some information and photos about the station church of the day and a link to the church’s official website or another website about the church.

Pope Francis processed this afternoon, Ash Wednesday, from Sant’Anselmo on Rome’s Aventine Hill to nearby Santa Sabina, the first stational church. Joining the Pope in the procession are cardinals, archbishops, bishops, the Benedictine monks of San Anselmo, the Dominican Fathers of Santa Sabina and the lay faithful.
Click here to visit Santa Sabina: http://www.italyguides.it/us/roma/rome/aventine/basilica-santa-sabina.htm

POPE MEETS ITALIAN COAST GUARD AFTER MASSIVE RESCUE OF MIGRANTS

Pope Francis welcomed a delegation from the Italian Coast Guard to the Santa Marta residence on Tuesday evening, two days after a massive operation in which they rescued a record 2,000 migrants and refugees from the sea between Italy and Libya.

The Pope met with the group of nine people for forty-five minutes. Holy See Press Office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said that during the meeting the members of the Coast Guard told the Pope about their concrete experiences in a dialogue which Fr. Lombardi described as ‘moving and inspiring.’ (Photos:news.va)

POPE FRANCIS - COAST GUARD

Pope Francis in turn expressed his heartfelt appreciation and thanks to the men and women for their courageous service and dedication in favor of people in dire need. Francis said, ““I truly admire you, and I feel small before the work that you do, risking your lives, and I offer my heartfelt thanks to you for this. But I support you in the best way I can: with prayer, praise and affection.”

Just two days before the meeting with the Holy Father, the Italian coastguard rescued more than 2,000 migrants in difficulty between the Italian island of Lampedusa and the Libyan coast. The worsening security situation in the North African nation has led to a new wave of men, women and children seeking to get to Europe, despite the dangers of placing themselves at the mercy of traffickers.

In fact, during the rescue operation the Italian transport ministry reported that the Coast Guards was threatened at gunpoint by four men who approached them by speedboat from the Libyan coast.

Only a week earlier, an estimated 300 people were feared to have died when four dinghies, each carrying about 100 people, overturned during stormy weather as they attempted to make the crossing from the Libyan coast.  The youngest victim was just 12 years of age. (Vatican Radio: VIS)

BROTHER, SISTER: TWO WORDS CHRISTIANITY LOVES, ALL CULTURES AND AGES UNDERSTAND

In this period he is focusing on the family in the Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis today told the pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square that, “after considering the role of mother, father, children, today it is the turn of brothers and sisters. ‘Brother’ and ‘sister’ are words that Christianity loves very much. And, thanks to the family experience, they are words that all cultures and all ages understand.” And, he said, it is “in families that we learn how to be good brothers and sisters; what we learn at home then becomes a source of enrichment for society as a whole.”

POPE FRANCIS - ASH WEDNESDAY AUDIENCE

Quoting the psalmist who said, “How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers dwell together as one!” the Pope said, “This is true; being brothers and sisters is beautiful.”

However, he said, speaking off-the-cuff, “When the bond between brothers is broken, it leads to something that is truly ugly, that is bad for humanity.  Even in families, how many brothers and sisters have fought even over little things…over an inheritance… then they stop speaking to each other, they no longer greet each other…this is an awful thing.  Brotherhood is such a great thing. Just think, brothers and sisters, they all dwelt in the womb of the same mother for nine months, they come from their mother’s flesh.  We cannot break the bonds of brotherhood.

Continuing extemporaneously, Francis said, “We all know families where brothers and sisters are divided; where they have fallen out, maybe in our own families we have cases like these.  Let’s ask the Lord to help us to reunite these families, to rebuild these families. The bonds of brotherhood should not be broken, because when they are broken, things happen like with Cain and Abel, when the Lord asks Cain, he responds I am not my brother’s keeper, this is awful, really terrible to hear.”

The Pope explained that, while we may not always be aware of it, “it is the family that introduces brotherhood into the world! From this first experience of brotherhood, nourished by affection and by family education, style of fraternity radiates like a promise throughout society and relations between peoples.”

The Holy Father exclaimed, “Just think of what this bond between men, even very different from each other, becomes when they can say to another: “He is like a brother to me, she is like a sister to me”! This is beautiful! History has shown enough, moreover, that freedom and equality, without brotherhood, become full of individualism and conformity and personal interest too.”

He pointed out that, “brotherhood in the family is particularly illuminating when we see the care, patience and affection with which the weaker, sick, or disabled brother or sister are surrounded. World over there are many brothers and sisters who do this, and maybe we do not appreciate their generosity enough. And when there are many brothers and sisters in a family…today I greeted a family here who has nine children…the oldest helps the mother and father to take care of the younger ones, this work of helping each other as brothers and sisters, this is beautiful!”

“Having a brother, a sister who loves you is a powerful, priceless, irreplaceable experience,” said Francis. He noted that, “the little ones, the weak, the poor … are our brothers and sisters and we love them and treat them as such. When this happens, when the poor are like a part of our family, our own Christian brotherhood comes back to life.”

Pope Francis then suggested a moment of silent prayer,  “thinking of our brothers and sisters; in the silence of our hearts let us pray for them.” And the square was audibly silent for several minutes.

PAPAL APPEALS FOR PEACE IN MIDDLE EAST, NORTH AFRICA, UKRAINE

After the audience catechesis, Pope Francis urged the international community to find peaceful solutions to the difficult situation in Libya. He asked for prayers for “our Egyptian brothers who were killed in Libya three days ago for the mere fact of being Christians.” He prayed that the Lord may receive them in heaven and give comfort to their families and communities.

POPE FRANCIS - ASH WEDNESDAY - PEACE APPEALS

Remembering “all those who have died, those who have been wounded and all the refugees,” the Holy Father prayed for peace in the Middle East and in North Africa, urging the intervention of the international community to work to find peaceful solutions to the crisis in Libya.

He also had special words for the situation in Ukraine, noting that the bishops of that troubled country are in Rome on their “ad limina” visit. He began by saying, “Слава Ісусу Христу! Praise be to Jesus Christ!” in Ukrainian. “I know that among the many intentions you bring to the Tombs of the Apostles there is the plea for peace in Ukraine. I carry the same wish in my heart and join in your prayer that lasting peace may come soon to your homeland.”