Pope Francis had a very busy Friday in Manila as the overwhelmingly enthusiastic, almost rapturous, welcome continues in the Philippine capital amidst very tight security, so much so the Holy Father has been prevented many times from leaving the Popemobile, a modified jeepney, to go into the crowd for a meet and greet. I’m sure you’ve seen much of this on television and read the news reports, especially on ewtn.com/news
Today the Pope spoke to bishops, priests, religious and seminarians at Mass in the morning, afterwards making an unscheduled stop at a center for street children in Manila. His meeting with families took place in the late afternoon in one of the city’s many sports arenas. He reaffirmed for the nth time the value and importance of families for society, for civilization itself and, in fact, he tweeted this today in English and Tagalog: “The family is the greatest treasure of any country. Let us all work to protect and strengthen this, the cornerstone of society.” He repeated the Church’s ban on contraception, citing Pope Paul VI whose encyclical “Humanae vitae” set the rule for Catholics on contraception. And much more! You will love what he does with the statue of St. Joseph on his desk!
I have a lot on my agenda this weekend and will not be writing a column but I will be sure to post important news and interesting stories on my facebook page (www.facebook.com/joansrome). And then there’s always EWTN – TV, radio and news. EWTN is everywhere!
As you will see, I quote the Pope at length. He said so many beautiful, wonderful, meaningful things, things that all of us can ponder and pray about as they apply in almost all instances to all of us in the Church, not just Filipinos.
THE “BEST OF” ON “VATICAN INSIDER” THIS WEEK
Belonging to the “incredible facts” file is the fact that I possess three hand-held recorders and none of the three work as I write these words! It was therefore impossible to tape an interview, a Q&A or the news segment for this week’s “Vatican Insider,” thus, my producer will put together a “Best of” show for this weekend.
My very first recorder simply died of old mechanical age (or so it seemed) and EWTN supplied me with another one that, until the middle of the October synod, worked just fine and then it too stopped recording. I had put the first one in a drawer in my office and, in desperation, took it out and once again it worked!
Just last Friday, as I prepared this program, I taped the news segment, edited it and uploaded it. A half hour later I started to record a Q&A and the recorder stopped working. I could not turn it off, so I removed the batteries. I replaced the batteries but then I could not turn it on. And that is how it remained.
In the meantime, the third recorder that was sent to me by EWTN after my October problems will not, for some reason, record for more than 4 or 5 seconds. I found an instruction book online and followed everything to the letter of the law but to no end. I’m waiting for a techie friend to come and assist me but what this is means is what I said at the outset – 3 recorders, none usable, no Vatican Insider. (This is not really surprising as this follows a few weeks of issues with mechanical/electrical items and having to replace a washer, fridge, hot water heater and TV satellite box. I now have a leak under the kitchen sink and a plumber will be here any minute!)
POPE TO BISHOPS, PRIESTS, RELIGIOUS, SEMINARIANS: BE JOYFUL PROCLAIMERS OF THE GOSPEL
In a land comprised of over 7,000 islands, inhabited by 98.5 million people who speak English and Tagalog as well as 120 to 170 distinct indigenous Philippine languages, the overwhelming majority of whom are Catholic, there are 131 bishops (active and retired), 9,000 plus priests, 1,500 men religious and over 12,500 women religious belonging to dozens of different orders and congregations.
Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Manila’s cathedral on Friday with a very small representatiuve of the workers in the Lord’s vineyard, urging therm to proclaim the Good News, the Gospel, of God’s infinite love, mercy and compassion.
Pope Francis began by quoting Jesus’ words to Peter in the day’s Gospel, “Do you love me?” Before he could go on, the enthusiastic crowd shouted “Yes, we do!” and the Pope laughed, and said, “Thank you very much!”
He then finished the quote from Peter, “… Tend my sheep,” noting that “Jesus’ words to Peter in today’s Gospel are the first words I speak to you, dear brother bishops and priests, men and women religious, and young seminarians. These words remind us of something essential. All pastoral ministry is born of love. All consecrated life is a sign of Christ’s reconciling love.”
He asked those present to bring his “affection to all your elderly and infirm brothers and sisters, and to all those who cannot join us today.”
Francis spoke of the “work of love” of the first misionaries as the Church in the Philippines looks to the fifth centenary of its evangelization. He said they helped “forge a society inspired by the Gospel message of charity, forgiveness and solidarity in the service of the common good. Today you carry on that work of love,” building bridges and preparing “fresh paths for the Gospel in Asia at the dawn of a new age.”
“We are called,” said the Pope, “to be ‘ambassadors for Christ’. Ours is a ministry of reconciliation,” proclaiming “God’s infinite love, mercy and compassion” and “joy of the Gospel,” But, he added, “the Gospel is also a summons to conversion, to an examination of our consciences, as individuals and as a people. As the Bishops of the Philippines have rightly taught, the Church in the Philippines is called to acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society, plainly contradicting the teaching of Christ. The Gospel calls individual Christians to live lives of honesty, integrity and concern for the common good. But it also calls Christian communities to create ‘circles of integrity’, networks of solidarity which can expand to embrace and transform society by their prophetic witness. The poor… The poor are at the center of the Gospel, are at the heart of the Gospel. If we take away the poor from the Gospel, we cannot understand the whole message of Jesus Christ.”
“As ambassadors for Christ,” the Holy Father continued, “we, bishops, priests and religious, … (must) be the first to examine our consciences, to acknowledge our failings and sins, and to embrace the path of constant conversion. Constant conversion, everyday conversion. How can we proclaim the newness and liberating power of the Cross to others, if we ourselves refuse to allow the word of God to shake our complacency, our fear of change, our petty compromises with the ways of this world, our ‘spiritual worldliness’.”
Prayer is the source of apostolic zeal and for all of us priests and consecrated persons, “it means living lives that reflect the poverty of Christ, whose entire life was focused on doing the will of the Father and serving others. The great danger to this, of course, is a certain materialism which can creep into our lives and compromise the witness we offer. Only by becoming poor ourselves, by stripping away our complacency, will we be able to identify with the least of our brothers and sisters.”
Pope Francis asked young priests, religious and seminarians “to share the joy and enthusiasm of your love for Christ and the Church with everyone, but especially with your peers. Be present to young people who may be confused and despondent, yet continue to see the Church as their friend on the journey and a source of hope. Be present to those who, living in the midst of a society burdened by poverty and corruption, are broken in spirit, tempted to give up, to leave school and to live on the streets. Proclaim the beauty and truth of the Christian message to a society which is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family. As you know, these realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.”
Francis pointed out that “Filipinos everywhere are known for their love of God, their fervent piety and their warm devotion to Our Lady and her rosary. This great heritage contains a powerful missionary potential. … In your efforts to prepare for the fifth evangelization, build on this foundation.”
HOLY FATHER STOPS AT CENTER FOR STREET CHILDREN
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop at a center for street children in Manila Friday shortly after celebrating mass in the Filipino capital. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi confirmed that the Pope visited a home for street children run by the Anak-Tnk charitable foundation. Fr. Lombardi said the Pope spent almost a half an hour with some 320 children who celebrated his visit at the center with songs and dance, hugs and an exchange of brief words.
Fr. Lombardi said the children were gathered in the center’s courtyard for their meeting with Pope Francis. “It was a very moving moment,” he said. The children had prepared small gifts for the Holy Father, including a wooden image of Our Lady – a copy of the one displayed in the center’s chapel, a photo of the Holy Sacrament amid rubbish for the adoration of group of scavengers, and a mosaic made by a child out of bits of colored paper.
The centre is run by Fr. Mathieu, a French priest, and is home to 20 children while many of the others gathered to greet the Pope are assisted by the foundation in other homes.
ANAK-Tnk launched the letter-writing campaign “Even us?” last September requesting a visit from the Pope. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, brought 1,000 letters from the children, plus a video about the lives of street children, to Pope Francis in Rome at the beginning of October last year.
Concluding his visit with the children with a blessing, Pope Francis went on to have lunch at the nunciature in Manila before an afternoon meeting with families.
POPE TO FAMILIES: REST IN THE LORD, PRAY, BE EXAMPLES OF HOLINESS
The Holy Father Friday spoke about the importance of family Friday afternoon when he addressed tens of thousands of people gathered in Manila’s Mall of Asia Arena, the largest of the city’s sports arenas. He was addressed by Bishop Reyes, Chairman of the Bishops’ Commission on Family and Life, and heard the testimonies from three families, one of which had four generations present. One hundred people from each of the country’s dioceses were chosen to come to the Friday gathering.
Pope Francis told his listeners that the world “needs good and strong families” to fight and overcome threats of poverty, materialism, destructive lifestyles, and those caused by separation due to migration. An estimated 8 million Filippinos work abroad, with at least 1.5 million just in Saudi Arabia. Work here creates a huge problem for Catholic Filippinos as no churches are allowed in the country, only mosques.
The Pope began his talk, which included many heartfelt off-the-cuff remarks, by saying, “This evening I would like to rest in the Lord with all of you, and to reflect with you on the gift of the family.” Earlier in the day he had tweeted, “The family is the greatest treasure of any country. Let us all work to protect and strengthen this, the cornerstone of society.
“It is important to dream in the family,” he said. “All mothers and fathers dream of their sons and daughters in the womb for nine months. They dream of how they will be. It isn’t possible to have a family without such dreams. When you lose this capacity to dream you lose the capacity to love, the capacity to love is lost. I recommend that at night when you examine your consciences, ask yourself if you dreamed of the future of your sons and daughters. Did you dream of your husband or wife? Did you dream today of your parents, your grandparents who carried forward the family to me? It is so important to dream and especially to dream in the family. Please don’t lose the ability to dream in this way. How many solutions are found to family problems if we take time to reflect, if we think of a husband or wife, and we dream about the good qualities they have. Don’t ever lose the memory of when you were boyfriend or girlfriend. That is very important.”
The Pope spoke of prayer, of “resting in the Lord.” He said, “Rest is so necessary for the health of our minds and bodies, and often so difficult to achieve due to the many demands placed on us. But rest is also essential for our spiritual health, so that we can hear God’s voice and understand what he asks of us. Joseph was chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. As Christians, you too are called, like Joseph, to make a home for Jesus. You make a home for him in your hearts, your families, your parishes and your communities.”
Francis said that, “to make a home for Jesus, you must be able to rest in the Lord. You must make time each day for prayer. But you may say to me: Holy Father, I want to pray, but there is so much work to do! I must care for my children; I have chores in the home; I am too tired even to sleep well. This may be true, but if we do not pray, we will not know the most important thing of all: God’s will for us. And for all our activity, our busy-ness, without prayer we will accomplish very little.”
He pointed put that, “It is in the family that we first learn how to pray. And don’t forget when the family prays together, it remains together. This is important. There we come to know God, to grow into men and women of faith, to see ourselves as members of God’s greater family, the Church.”
The Holy Father then recounted “something very personal. I like St Joseph very much. He is a strong man of silence. On my desk I have a statue of St Joseph sleeping. While sleeping he looks after the Church. Yes, he can do it! We know that. When I have a problem or a difficulty, I write on a piece of paper and I put it under his statue so he can dream about it. This means please pray to St Joseph for this problem.”
Pope Francis said, “Just as the gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to Saint Joseph, so the gift of the family and its place in God’s plan is entrusted to us so we can carry it forward. To each one of you and us because I too am the son of a family.”
Francis then spoke of the dangers facing families in today’s world, including “ideolgical colonization,” that is, forming families not according to tradition or God’s law but according to popular ideas and ideologies.
“The angel of the Lord revealed to Joseph the dangers which threatened Jesus and Mary, forcing them to flee to Egypt and then to settle in Nazareth. So too, in our time, God calls upon us to recognize the dangers threatening our own families and to protect them from harm. We must be attentive to the new ideological colonization.”
He warned: “Beware of the new ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family. It’s not born of the dream that we have from God and prayer – it comes from outside and that’s why I call it a colonization. Let us not lose the freedom to take forward the mission God has given us, the mission of the family. And just as our peoples were able to say in the past ‘No’ to the period of colonization, as families we have to be very wise and strong to say ‘No’ to any attempted ideological colonization that could destroy the family. And to ask the intercession of St Joseph to know when to say ‘Yes’ and when to say ‘No’.”
The Pope spoke of the many pressures on family life in the Philippines, such as the ongoing effects of natural disasters, a dire economic situation, families separated because of migration, the search for employment, and poverty. He also noted the “materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality. The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life.”
He highlighed Blessed Paul VI who, “in the moment of (a) challenge of population growth, had the strength to defend openness to life. He knew the difficulties families experience and that’s why in his encyclical (Humanae Vitae) he expressed compassion for specific cases and he taught professors to be particularly compassionate for particular cases. … Paul VI was courageous, a good pastor and he warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching. And from the heavens he blesses us today.”
“Our world needs good and strong families to overcome these threats!,” exclaimed Francis. “The Philippines needs holy and loving families to protect the beauty and truth of the family in God’s plan and to be a support and example for other families. Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself. The future of humanity, as Saint John Paul II often said, passes through the family. So protect your families! See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments. Families will always have their trials, but may you never add to them! Instead, be living examples of love, forgiveness and care. Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death. What a gift this would be to society, if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation! So rise with Jesus and Mary, and set out on the path the Lord traces for each of you.”
The Holy Father asked Filipinos “to show concern for those who do not have a family of their own, in particular those who are elderly and children without parents. Never let them feel isolated, alone and abandoned, but help them to know that God has not forgotten them.” He added that he was “very moved after the Mass today when I visited that shelter for children with no parents. How many people in the Church work so that that house is a home, family? This is what it means to take forward, prophetically, the meaning of family.”