I laughed out loud today when I realized the focus of the Pope’s catechesis on perseverance in prayer came from the Gospel story in Luke 18 that Francis described as “the parable of the unjust judge and the widow (Lk 18:1-8)…. (where) even an unscrupulous judge will finally render justice to a poor woman because of her persistence.”
Here are verses 1-8: “Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, 2 There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. 3And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ 4For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, 5 because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’” 6 The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. 7 Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? 8 I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Why did I laugh? Because Luke 18 was my defender in July 2004 when, for nth time I visited the Vatican office at APSA (Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See) in charge of rental apartments to inquire how my application for a Vatican-owned apartment was proceeding.
To back up a bit: I arrived in Rome in August of 1990 to take up the position I had been offered at the Vatican Information Service the preceding May when I was in Rome on vacation. I had arranged temporary lodgings starting in late August but had to look for something more permanent.
The head of the Holy See Press Office at the time, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, told me I should put in an application at APSA for one of the apartments they owned, many of which were set aside at somewhat subsidized rents for Vatican employees whose salaries were notoriously low. Private Rome rents were usually so high as to be prohibitive on a Vatican salary.
In January 1991 I filled out an APSA application for rental. I well remember the gentleman who accepted that application, telling me “it will be at least five years before you may be called.” Astonished, I replied, somewhat jokingly, that I hoped to still be alive then.
If you want to know what perseverance is – the perseverance that St. Luke and Pope Francis spoke about – mine was biblical in breadth and depth.
By July of 2004, having moved several times in Rome, I had seen so many Vatican-owned apartments that my head was spinning. Only one met my requirements and the monthly rent was well above my monthly salary. With one exception, all the rest were in terrible shape and required work that went well beyond what I could have afforded. The very first one shown to me was in a sub-basement and so small that it almost defied description.
My house-hunting adventures became the stuff of lore. Friends were constantly asking, “What’s the latest?” and they couldn’t wait for the story.
I know the Vatican had reasonable apartments because I saw the homes of my friends. However, they had also put a lot of money into them as most were fixer-uppers. The really beautiful homes – already fixed up – were priced beyond our salaries.
July 2004: I made yet another appointment to see about an apartment. The night before the appointment I thought of the Gospel story of the widow but could not remember where to find it. I did a Google search and found Luke 18 and that was my sole weapon when I went to APSA.
I told the monsignor that, notwithstanding the amazingly long time that had passed since my application and notwithstanding the fact I had to say ‘no’ to a number of apartments, “I will be exactly like the widow in Luke 18 and will persevere until the very end.”
Two weeks later I was shown the apartment that I live in today!
GOD LISTENS TO, ANSWERS THOSE WHO PERSEVERE IN PRAYER
In what was another first for Pope Francis, he began his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday by greeting people in sign language, according to Vatican Radio.
The message of greeting – which involves raising one’s arms, and then turning your hand with the palms out – was for a pilgrimage group from the National Board for the Deaf, which is based in Florence. There was also a group of pilgrims from the Italian Union of the Blind, based in Latina.
Pope Francis’ catechesis today focuse on perseverance in prayer.
“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” he began. “In our continuing catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now turn to the parable of the unjust judge and the widow (Lk 18:1-8). In telling us that even an unscrupulous judge will finally render justice to a poor woman because of her persistence, Jesus encourages us to persevere in prayer to our heavenly Father, who is infinitely just and loving. He also assures us that God will not only hear our prayers, but will not delay in answering them (vv. 7-8).
The Pope noted that, “the Gospels tell us that Jesus himself prayed constantly. His own intense prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is a model for our own: it teaches us to present our petitions with complete trust in Father’s gracious will. The parable of the unjust judge and the widow ends with a pointed question: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth”? (v. 8).
“Perseverance in prayer,” concluded Francis, “keeps our faith alive and strong. For in that prayer, we experience the compassion of God who, like a Father filled with love and mercy, is ever ready to come to the aid of his children. (photo: news.va)
At the end of the general audience, the Holy Father prayed for the victims of the atrocious coordinated terrorist attacks that took place in the Syrian cities of Jableh and Tartus on Monday, killing over 160 people.
“I exhort everyone to pray to the merciful Father, to pray to the Madonna, that [God] might give eternal rest to the victims, and consolation to their families, and might convert the hearts of those who sow death and destruction.” The Pope and pilgrims then prayed the Hail Mary together.
Funerals for the victims began on Tuesday in Syria.
Francis also noted that today is International Missing Children’s Day at his General Audience on Wednesday. This day was established by U.S. President Ronalòd Reagan in 1983, following the disappearance four years earlier of 6-year-old Etan Patz in New York City. He was last seen on May 25, 1979 and that day was chosen for the annual commemoration, which is now also celebrated internationally.
The Pope said, “It is everyone’s duty to protect children, especially those exposed to elevated risk of exploitation, trafficking, and deviant conduct.” He also expressed the hope that “civil and religious authorities might stir consciences and raise awareness, in order to avoid indifference in the face of children on their own, exploited children, and children far from their families and their social context, children who cannot grow-up peacefully or look with hope to the future. … Pray that each of them might be restored to the affection of their loved ones.”
In special words for the sick and suffering, Francis noted that Wednesday was the feast of Pope St. Gregory VII. “May he encourage you, dear sick people, to confront your moments of suffering with faith.”
HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE ON IOR BOARD RESIGNATIONS
“With the recent approval and publication of the Annual Report of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR) having been completed in a positive manner, two members of the Board of Superintendence, Clemens Börsig and Carlo Salvatori, in accordance with current rules, recently presented their resignations to the President of the Cardinals’ Commission of the IOR. The decision can be seen in light of legitimate reflections and opinions concerning the management of an Institute whose nature and purpose are as particular as those of the IOR.
“The two board members made a competent and qualified contribution in this important phase for the stability and integrity of the Institute, and its conformity not only to internal Vatican regulations, but also obligations taken by the Holy See on a European level.
“The President of the Cardinals’ Commission thanked the two members of the board, and accepted the resignations. A phase now begins, fully respecting the procedures in place, to find and evaluate new candidates suitable to fill the positions on the Board of Superintendence.”
IOR ACCOUNTS OF ITALIAN ENTREPRENEUR SEIZED
From the Holy See Press Office today: With regard to reports that have appeared in the Italian press in recent days on the bankruptcy of the company “Edil Ars” and the proceedings against the entrepreneur Mr. Angelo Proietti, it is to be noted that:
1) The competent Authorities of the Holy See and the Vatican City State initiated the investigation established by the Vatican legislation in 2013, taking action on the basis of Suspicious Transaction Reports relating to Mr. Proietti, seizing all the relevant financial resources.
2) Since the start of the investigation the competent Authorities of the Holy See and the Vatican City State requested the cooperation and exchanged information with the competent Italian Authorities, as required by the respective legislation and the Memoranda of Understanding in force.
3) A criminal investigation is currently going on in the Vatican City State and the competent Authorities are assessing the existence of potential offences against entities of the Holy See and the Vatican City State.