Every so often on my weekend radio show, “Vatican Insider,” I offer a Special Report in what is normally the interview segment, in particular when events assume an importance that can overshadow the content of an otherwise great interview. Much of the background information I researched for the Special I did last weekend about upcoming events in the Vatican, led to the blog that I posted yesterday, “Four Days in the Vatican: An August Surprise? If you want to listen to the full Special Report – which has even more info than I posted on my blog – click here: EWTN Audio & Radio Library Archive – Search & Listen Now | EWTN
Another thing I could have mentioned in my list of signs that could point to a resignation were all of Pope Francis’ recent general audience catecheses on the value and beauty of old age.
There had been 14 catecheses on this theme when, at the final weekly audience on June 22 (the 15th catechesi)s – and just before his July break and a pause in general audiences – the Pope announced the end of these catecheses.
However, he did resume talking about old age this month, with his 16th catechesis on this topic on August 10, then August 17 and now today, the 18th and final catechesis. The recent catecheses have been about old age and death and life after death, as you will see below in my summary of the general audience.
If old age is a diamond, even a diamond in the rough, the Holy Father looked at all the myriad, mesmerizing facets of this diamond, of this period of life, including himself in many of his reflections, often saying “we elderly.”
I could ask: Have these catecheses been an underpinning for Francis’ life and legacy, a solid foundation built to support, even strengthen, that legacy? We will all be there some day – old age – or we are now or we are on our way. Has Francis spent all these months giving the elderly a positive way to frame old age, a way to balance joys and sufferings without losing one’s balance?
Is he looking back at life and yet looking to the future at the same time?
He tweeted today: As we approach the end of our lives, the essentials of life that we hold most dear become definitively clear to us. Our whole life appears like a seed that will have to be buried so that its flower and its fruit can be born.
LIFE AFTER DEATH: JESUS IS EXPECTING US. JUST ONE PASSAGE, AND THEN THE PARTY!
Pope Francis, at today’s general audience in the Paul VI Hall, began his remarks by noting that, “We recently celebrated the Assumption into heaven of the Mother of Jesus. This mystery illuminates the fulfilment of the grace that shaped Mary’s destiny, and it also illuminates our destination, doesn’t it? The destination is heaven. With this image of the Virgin assumed into heaven, I would like to conclude the cycle of catecheses on old age.”
He emphasized that, “Our Lady’s assumption, body and soul, into heaven is intimately bound to the resurrection of Jesus her Son and to its promise of our own bodily resurrection at the end of time. … In the divine act of reuniting Mary with the Risen Christ, the normal bodily corruption of human death …is not simply transcended, the bodily assumption of the life of God is anticipated. … This is our destiny: to rise again.”
“Just as, in the moment we come out of our mother’s womb, we are still ourselves,” said the Pope, “the same human being that was in the womb; so, after death, we are born to heaven, to God’s space, and we are still ourselves, who walked on this earth.”
Francis explained that, “When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God, he describes it as a wedding feast; as a party, that is, like a party, a party with friends awaits us; as the work that makes the house perfect, and the surprise that makes the harvest richer than the sowing.” (Photos by EWTN-CNA’s Pablo Esparza)
The Holy Father, addressing “my dear contemporaries,” pointed out that “in our old age, the importance of the many ‘details’ of which life is made — a caress, a smile, a gesture, an appreciated effort, an unexpected surprise, a hospitable cheerfulness, a faithful bond — becomes more acute. The essentials of life, which we hold most dear as we approach our farewell, become definitively clear to us. …. And the life of the risen body will be a hundred and a thousand times more alive than we have tasted it on this earth.”
Francis then told the story of how “the Risen Lord, not by chance, while waiting for the Apostles by the lake, roasts some fish and then offers it to them. This gesture of caring love gives us a glimpse of what awaits us as we cross to the other shore. Yes, dear brothers and sisters, especially you elderly, the best of life is yet to come. ‘But we are old, what more is yet to come?’ The best, because the best of life is yet to come. Let us hope, let us hope for this fullness of life that awaits us all, when the Lord calls us.”
Pope Francis recognized that there is “a little bit of fear, because I don’t know what this passage means, and passing through that door causes a little fear – but there is always the hand of the Lord that carries us forward, and beyond the door there is the party.”
So, concluded Pope Francis, “Let us be attentive, dear old people, contemporaries, let us be attentive. He is expecting us. Just one passage, and then the party!”