Pope Francis gave a beautiful homily this morning during his daily Mass in the Santa Marta Chapel and focussed on the indispensable role of women in the tranmission of the faith. The Vatican Radio translation into English (which they do daily for the papal Masses) is the third news story today.
FOCUS OF A PAPAL WEEKEND: CONSECRATED LIFE AND CHRISTIAN UNITY
It was a busy weekend for Pope Francis who met with a number of groups on Saturday, including participants in a three-day seminar on consecrated life and the search for Christian unity, and then on Sunday not only prayed the Angelus with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square but later that afternoon presided at vespers in the basilica of St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls to end the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The Pope Saturday highlighted the vital role played by men and women religious of different Christian Churches in the ecumenical journey, saying “men and women religious who pray for unity are like ‘an invisible monastery’ bringing together Christians of different denominations from different countries around the world.” (photos from news.va)
Participants in this three-day meeting concluded each day with Vespers in the Orthodox, Anglican and Catholic traditions, and participated Sunday in the liturgy presided over by Pope Francis in St Paul’s.
Quoing from the Vatican Council II document “Unitatis Redintegratio” that stressed that spiritual ecumenism is the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, Francis said, “consecrated people like yourselves therefore have a particular vocation in this work of promoting unity.”
He then named three conditions at the core of the search for Christian unity : 1. no unity without conversion of heart, which includes forgiving and asking for forgiveness; 2. no unity without prayer and 3. “no unity without holiness of daily life. so the more we put our search for unity into practise in our relations with others, the more we will be modelling our lives on the message of the Gospel.”
Sunday evening at St. Paul’s, the Pope presided at the second Vespers on the solemnity of the conversion of St. Paul, bringing to a close the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, whose theme this year was “Give me to drink” (John, 4.7). Present at the liturgy were representatives from other Churches and ecclesial communities in Rome.
The focus of the Holy Father’s homily was the Gospel pasage about the Samaritan woman. He explains that, “On his way from Judea to Galilee, Jesus passes through Samaria. He has no problem dealing with Samaritans, who were considered by the Jews to be heretics, schismatics, separate. His attitude tells us that encounter with those who are different from ourselves can make us grow.”
“Jesus is patient, respectful of the person before him, and gradually reveals himself to her. His example encourages us to seek a serene encounter with others. To understand one another, and to grow in charity and truth, we need to pause, to accept and listen to one another. In this way, we already begin to experience unity. Unity grows along the way; it never stands still. Unity happens when we walk together.
Francis said, “So many past controversies between Christians can be overcome when we put aside all polemical or apologetic approaches, and seek instead to grasp more fully what unites us, namely, our call to share in the mystery of the Father’s love revealed to us by the Son through the Holy Spirit. Christian unity, we are convinced, will not be the fruit of subtle theoretical discussions in which each party tries to convince the other of the soundness of their opinions. When the Son of Man comes, he will find us still discussing! We need to realise that, to plumb the depths of the mystery of God, we need one another, we need to encounter one another and to challenge one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who harmonizes diversities and overcomes conflicts, reconciles differences.”
“In the call to be evangelizers,” stated Pope Francis, “all the Churches and ecclesial communities discover a privileged setting for closer cooperation. For this to be effective, we need to stop being self-enclosed, exclusive, and bent on imposing a uniformity based on merely human calculations. Our shared commitment to proclaiming the Gospel enables us to overcome proselytism and competition in all their forms. All of us are at the service of the one Gospel.”
“In this moment of prayer for unity, I would also like to remember our martyrs, the martyrs of today. They are witnesses to Jesus Christ, and they are persecuted and killed because they are Christians. Those who persecute them make no distinction between the religious communities to which they belong. They are Christians and for that they are persecuted. This, brothers and sisters, is the ecumenism of blood’.”
He noted the presence at vespers of the group he met Saturday, “men and women religious from various Churches and ecclesial communities who have taken part in an ecumenical meeting organized by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, in conjunction with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to mark the Year for Consecrated Life.” He said, “the pursuit of Christian unity cannot be the sole prerogative of individuals or religious communities particularly concerned with this issue. A shared knowledge of the different traditions of consecrated life, and a fruitful exchange of experiences, can prove beneficial for the vitality of all forms of religious life in the different Churches and ecclesial communities”.
BALLOONS, NOT DOVES, RELEASED BY CATHOLIC ACTION AT VATICAN
At the end of Sunday’s Angelus prayer, the Pope was joined at his study window by a two young people from Italian Catholic Action of the diocese of Rome as the group concludes its traditional January journey of the “Caravan of Peace.” The youth were from two Roman parishes and the girl read a message of peace from ACI. In the past, each young person released a dove – the symbol of peace – after words by the Holy Father. However, last year two bigger birds – a crow and a seagull – attacked the smaller birds and, though captured on film, it was never known whether they survived the attack.
This year, the young people of Catholic Action in St. Peter’s Square released a mini hotair balloon containing messages of peace, as well as smaller balloons. (If you have visited the Vatican’s news.va website, you can be excused for thinking that doves were released this year. The photo of Pope Francis and the two ACI youngsters releasing doves is from last year, albeit the two young people this year look like twins to last year’s boy and girl!)
In earlier remarks, Francis had noted “with deep concern the escalation of the clashes in east Ukraine, which continue to claim many victims among the civilian population. While I assure my prayers to those who suffer, I renew my heartfelt appeal for the resumption of attempts at dialogue in order to bring an end to the hostilities.”
He also mentioned that Sunday marked World Leprosy Day, and expressed his closeness to “all those who suffer from this disease, as well as those who care for them and those who fight to eradicate the causes of contagion, that is, living conditions that are not worthy of mankind. Let us renew our commitment to solidarity with these brothers and sisters.”
Finally, the Pope addressed the large contingent in St. Peter’s Square fom the Filipino community in Rome. “The Filipino people are wonderful for their strong and joyful faith. May the Lord also support those of you who live far from your homeland. Many thanks for your witness, and thank you for all the good you do for us, as you sow faith among us and offer a beautiful witness of faith.”
POPE ON INDISPENSABLE ROLE OF WOMEN IN TRANSMITTING THE FAITH
(Vatican Radio) The primary and indispensable role of women in transmitting the faith to new generations: this was the focus of Pope Francis’ remarks to the faithful following the readings of the day at Mass on Monday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican. On the day when the Church celebrates the memory of Saints Timothy and Titus – bishops and disciples of St Paul the Apostle – Pope Francis commented in particular on the second letter of Paul to Timothy.
Mothers and Grandmothers transmit the faith
Paul reminds Timothy, said the Pope, that his “sincere faith” comes from the Holy Spirit, “through his mother and grandmother.” Pope Francis went on to say, “Mothers and grandmothers are the ones who, in the first place [in primis] transmit the faith.” The Holy Father went on to say:
It is one thing to pass on the faith, and another to teach the matters of faith. Faith is a gift: it is not possible to study Faith. We study the things of faith, yes, to understand it better, but with study [alone] one never comes to Faith. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, which surpasses all [“academic”] formation.
Faith, moreover, is a gift that passes from generation to generation, through the “beautiful work of mothers and grandmothers, the fine work of the women who play those roles,” in a family, “whether they be maids or aunts,” who transmit the faith:
It occurs to me: why is it mainly women, who to pass on the faith? Simply because the one who brought us Jesus is a woman. It is the path chosen by Jesus. He wanted to have a mother: the gift of faith comes to us through women, as Jesus came to us through Mary.
Cherish the gift of faith – don’t let it become watered down
“We need,” said Pope Francis, “in our own day to consider whether women really are aware of the duty they have to transmit the faith.” Paul invites Timothy to guard the Faith, the deposit of Faith, avoiding “empty pagan chatter, empty chatter of the world.” He went on to say, “We have – all of us – received the gift of faith: we have to keep it, at least in order that it not become watered down, so that it remains strong, with the power of the Holy Spirit who gave it to us.” We keep the faith by cherishing and nurturing it every day:
If we do not have this care, every day, to revive this gift of God which is Faith, but rather let faith weaken, become diluted, Faith ends up being a culture: ‘Yes, but, yes, yes, I am a Christian, yes yes,’ – a mere culture – or a gnosis, [a specialized kind of] knowledge: ‘Yes, I know well all the matters of Faith, I know the catechism’. But how do you live your faith? This, then, is the importance of reviving every day this gift: to bring it to life.”
Timidity and shame do not increase the faith
Saint Paul says that there are two things in particular that contrast with a living Faith: “the spirits of timidity and of shame”:
God has not given us a spirit of timidity. The spirit of timidity goes against the gift of faith: it does not let faith grow, advance, be great. Shame, in turn, is the following sin, [which says]: ‘Yes, I have faith, but I cover it up, that it not be seen too much’. It’s a little bit here, a little bit there – it is, as our forebears called it, a “rosewater” faith – because I am ashamed to live it powerfully. No: this is not the faith: [Faith knows] neither timidity nor shame. What is it, then? It is a spirit of power and of love and of prudence: that is what faith is This is the faith.”
Faith is not negotiable
Pope Francis explained that the spirit of prudence is knowing that we cannot do everything we want: it means looking for the ways, the path, the manners by which to carry the faith forward, cautiously. “We ask the Lord’s grace,” he concluded, “that we might have a sincere faith, a faith that is not negotiable depending on the opportunities that come, a faith that every day I try to revive or at least ask the Holy Spirit to revive it, and make it bear much fruit.”