Agent of the Gospel of Joy

Christian Riesbeck was born in Montreal on February 7, 1970. He grew up in Ottawa, specialized in Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa, and pursued studies for the priesthood in the Companions of the Cross. Ordained to the priesthood in 1996, he did pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Kingston as well as in the Archdiocese of Ottawa and the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston (USA). After obtaining his degrees in Canon Law in December 2010, Fr. Christian was appointed Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Ottawa in January 2011. In early 2014 he was named Auxiliary Bishop of Ottawa by Pope Francis. In this WITNESS interview, you will meet one of the youngest bishops in North America, a great ambassador of the Gospel of Joy, and an articulate, convincing agent of the new evangelization in the Canadian Church.

JP II, We Love You – Pope John Paul II scans crowd at WYD Denver, 1993

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POPE SCANS CROWD GATHERED FOR WORLD YOUTH DAY MASS IN 1993With rosary in hand, Pope John Paul II scans the crowd as his helicopter circles Colorado’s Cherry Creek State Park before the closing Mass for World Youth Day Aug. 15, 1993. “Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your fortitude at the service of life,” the pope told the hundreds of thousands of people gathered there. (CNS file photo by W. H. Keeler) 

JP II, We Love You – People light candles in Warsaw, Poland

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PEOPLE LIGHT CANDLES IN MEMORY OF POPE JOHN PAUL IIPeople light candles in Warsaw, Poland, to pay tribute to Pope John Paul II on the second anniversary of his death April 2, 2007. (CNS photo/Katarina Stoltz, Reuters) 

 

Between the Sadness of the Cross and the Joy of Easter — Biblical Reflection for Holy Saturday

holy-saturdayHoly Saturday is a day of grief and mourning, of patient waiting and hoping. With Mary and the disciples, we grieve the death of the most important member of our Christian community. The faith of Mary and the disciples was strongly challenged on that first Holy Saturday as they awaited the resurrection.

When the full impact of the death of friends and loved ones fully hits us, it has the potential to stun, dull, and crush the human heart. It can immobilize us from action and thought. If we are people without faith and hope, the experience of confusion, grief and loss has the potential to kill us.

Today we reflect on that period of confusion and silence, between the sadness of the cross and the joy of Easter. From the bewilderment of Jesus’ disciples to the great faith of Mary, we examine our own lives in light of the great “Sabbath of Time” and draw courage from Mary’s example to face the future with deep hope, patience, love and interior peace.

At the end of this long day of waiting, we celebrate the mother of all liturgies, a true feast for the senses. The Church gathers in darkness and lights a new fire and a great candle that will make this night bright for us. We listen to our ancient Scriptures: stories of creation, Abraham and Isaac, Moses and Miriam and the crossing of the sea, poems of promise and rejoicing, and the story of the empty tomb. We see, hear, taste, feel the newness of God in Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. In the “Mother of all liturgies” the past and present meet, death and life embrace and life is triumphant; we reject evil and renew our baptismal promises to God.

On Holy Saturday, many of us are far too busy with Easter preparations than reflecting on the significance of this day. We do not take the necessary time to grieve, ponder and enter into the mind and heart of Mary and the disciples on that first Holy Saturday.

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Fr. Thomas Rosica Talks to CBC Radio About Holy Week, Easter & Upcoming Canonizations

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Père Rosica parle avec Radio Canada Windsor vendredi 18 avril 2014 au sujet de la Semaine Sainte, Pâques, les Canonisations et son nouveau livre sur St. Jean-Paul II

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WAY OF THE CROSS AT THE COLOSSEUM LED BY POPE FRANCIS

way of the cross

 

Below you will find the English translation of the Stations of the Cross from Rome’s Colosseum this evening. Pope Francis will preside at the ceremony. There is no homily by the Pope at the conclusion of the ceremony.

WAY OF THE CROSS AT THE COLOSSEUM LED BY THE HOLY FATHER POPE FRANCIS

GOOD FRIDAY
Rome, April 18, 2014

“The Face of Christ, the Face of Man”

MEDITATIONS by H.E. Msgr. Giancarlo Maria Bregantini, Archbishop of Campobasso-Boiano

INTRODUCTION

He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth. These things occurred so that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “None of his bones shall be broken”. And again another passage of Scripture says: “They will look on the one whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:35-37).

Loving Jesus,
you went up to Golgotha without hesitation, in utter love,
and let yourself be crucified without complaint.
Lowly Son of Mary,
you shouldered the burden of our night
to show us the immense light
with which you wanted to fill our hearts.
In your suffering is our redemption;
in your tears we see “the hour”
when God’s gracious love is revealed.
In your final breath, as a man among men,
you lead us back, seven times forgiven,
to the heart of the Father,
and you show us, in your last words,
the path to the redemption of all our sorrows.
You, the Incarnate All, empty yourself on the cross,
understood only by her, your Mother,
who stood faithfully beneath that gibbet.
Your thirst is a wellspring of hope,
a hand extended even to the repentant thief,
who this day, thanks to you, enters paradise.
To all of us, crucified Lord Jesus,
grant your infinite mercy,
a fragrance of Bethany upon the world,
a cry of life for all humanity.
And at last, as we commend ourselves into the hands of your Father,
open unto us the doors of undying Life! Amen.

FIRST STATION

Jesus is condemned to death
Fingers pointed in accusation

Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting: “Crucify him, crucify him!” A third time he said to them: “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him”. But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished (Lk 23:21-25).

Pilate, timid and afraid of the truth, fingers pointed in accusation, and the growing clamour of the raging crowd: these are the first stages in Jesus’ death. Innocent, like a lamb, whose blood saves his people. Jesus, who walked among us bringing healing and blessing, is now sentenced to capital punishment. Not a word of gratitude from the crowd, which instead chooses Barabbas. For Pilate, the case is an embarrassment. He hands it over to the crowd and washes his hands of it, concerned only for his own power. He delivers Jesus to be crucified. He wants to know nothing more of him. For Pilate, the case is closed.

Jesus’ hasty condemnation thus embraces the easy accusations, the superficial judgements of the crowd, the insinuations and the prejudices which harden hearts and create a culture of racism and exclusion, a throw-away culture of anonymous letters and vicious slanders. Once we are accused, our name is immediately splayed across the front page; once acquitted, it ends up on the last!

And what about us? Will we have a clear, upright and responsible conscience, one which never forsakes the innocent but courageously takes the side of the weak, resisting injustice and defending truth whenever it is violated?

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
there are hands which give support and hands which sign wrongful sentences.
Grant that, sustained by your grace, we may cast no one aside.
Save us from slanders and lies.
Help us always to seek your truth,
to take the side of the weak,
and to accompany them on their journey.
Grant your light to all those appointed as judges in our courts,
that they may always render sentences that are just and true. Amen.

SECOND STATION

Jesus takes up his cross
The heavy wood of the cross

Jesus himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls (1 Pet 2:24-25).

The wood of the cross is heavy, for on it Jesus bears the sins of us all. He staggers under that burden, too great for one man alone (Jn 19:17).

It is also the burden of all those wrongs which created the economic crisis and its grave social consequences: job insecurity, unemployment, dismissals, an economy that rules rather than serves, financial speculation, suicide among business owners, corruption and usury, the loss of local industry.

This is the cross which weighs upon the world of labour, the injustice shouldered by workers. Jesus shoulders it himself and teaches us to reject injustice and to learn, with his help, to build bridges of solidarity and of hope, lest we be like sheep who have lost our way amid this crisis.

Let us return, then, to Christ, the shepherd and guardian of our souls. Let us strive, side by side, to provide work, to overcome our fears and our isolation, to recover a respect for political life and to work to resolve our problems together.

The cross will become lighter if carried with Jesus, and if all of us lift it together, for “by his wounds – which are now windows opening to his heart – we have been healed” (cf. 1 Pet 2:24).

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
our night grows ever darker!
Poverty increases and becomes destitution.
We have no bread to give our children and our nets are empty.
Our future is uncertain. Provide the work we need.
Awaken in us a burning thirst for justice,
that our lives may not be a constant burden,
but lived in dignity! Amen.

THIRD STATION

Jesus falls for the first time
Weakness opening to acceptance

He has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole. (Is 53:4-5)

It is a frail, utterly human Jesus whom we contemplate in wonder in this most sorrowful station. Yet it is precisely by falling that he shows ever more fully his infinite love. He is hemmed in by the crowd, dazed by the screaming of the soldiers, smarting from the wounds inflicted at his flogging, grief-stricken at the depths of human ingratitude. And so he falls. He falls to the ground.

But in this fall, crushed by the weight of the cross and sheer fatigue, Jesus once more becomes the Teacher of life. He teaches us to accept our weaknesses, not to be disheartened by our failures, and frankly to acknowledge our limits: I can will what is right – says Saint Paul – but I cannot do it (Rom 7:18).

With the inner strength which comes to him from the Father, Jesus also helps us to accept the failings of others; to show mercy to the fallen and concern for those who are wavering. And he gives us the strength not to shut the door to those who knock and ask us for asylum, dignity and a homeland. In the awareness of our own weakness, we will embrace the vulnerability of immigrants, and help them to find security and hope.

For it is in the dirty water of the basin in the Upper Room, that is, in our own weakness, that we see reflected the true face of our God! For “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 Jn 4:2).

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
you humbled yourself to redeem our weaknesses.
Help us to enter into true fellowship
with the poorest of our brothers and sisters.
Uproot from our hearts the fear, complacency and indifference,
which prevent us from seeing you in immigrants,
and from testifying that your Church has no borders,
for she is truly the mother of all! Amen.

FOURTH STATION

Jesus meets his Mother
Tears of solidarity

Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary: “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed – and a sword will pierce your own soul also” (Lk 2:34-35). Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another” (Rom 12:15-16).

This encounter of Jesus and Mary his mother is poignant and tearful. It expresses the invincible strength of that maternal love which overcomes all obstacles and always finds a way. But even more powerful is Mary’s gaze of compassion as she sympathizes with and comforts her Son. Our own hearts are full of wonder as we contemplate the grandeur of Mary, who, although a creature, becomes a “neighbour” to her God and Lord.

Mary’s gaze gathers up the tears shed by every mother for her distant children, for young people condemned to death, slaughtered or sent off to war, especially child soldiers. We hear in it the grief-stricken lament of mothers for their children who are dying of tumours caused by the burning of toxic waste.

Tears of bitterness! Tears of solidarity with the suffering of their children! Mothers keeping watch by night, their lamps lit, anxious and worried for their young who lack prospects or who fall into the abyss of drugs or alcohol, especially on Saturday nights!

At Mary’s side, we will never be a people of orphans! As with Juan Diego, Mary also offers us the caress of her maternal comfort and she tells us: Let not your heart be troubled… Am I not here who am your Mother?” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 286).

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PRAYER

Hail Mary, dear Mother,
grant me your holy blessing.
Bless me and all my family.
Deign to offer God all that I accomplish and endure this day,
in union with your merits and those of your most holy Son.
To your service I offer and devote myself and all that I have,
placing it under your mantle.
Obtain for me, my Lady, purity of mind and body
and grant that today
I may do nothing displeasing to God.
I ask you this through your Immaculate Conception
and your untainted virginity. Amen
(Saint Gaspare Bertoni)

FIFTH STATION

Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross
A friendly, supportive hand

They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mk 15:21).

Simon of Cyrene just happened to be passing by. But it becomes a decisive moment in his life. He was returning from the fields. A working man, a strong man. And so he was forced to carry the cross of Jesus, condemned to a shameful death (cf. Phil 2:8).

But this casual encounter leads to a life-changing decision to follow Jesus and to take up his cross each day in self-denial (cf. Mt 16:24-25). Mark tells us that Simon was the father of two Christians known to the community of Rome, Alexander and Rufus. A father who clearly impressed upon the hearts of his children the power of Jesus’ cross. Life, if you grasp it too tightly, decays and turns to dust. But if you give it away, it blossoms and bears fruit, for you and for the entire community!

Here is the real cure for that selfishness of ours which always lurks beneath the surface. Our relationship with others brings us healing and creates a mystic, contemplative fraternity capable of seeing the sacred grandeur of our neighbour, capable of finding God in everyone, capable too of putting up with life’s troubles by holding fast to the love of God. Only by opening my heart to divine love am I drawn to seek the happiness of others through the practice of charity: a night spent in hospital, an interest-free loan, a tear wiped away in the family, heartfelt generosity, farsighted commitment to the common good, a sharing of our bread and labour, the rejection of all jealousy and envy.

Jesus himself tells us: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
in the Cyrenean, your friend, throbs the heart of your Church,
a shelter of love for all who thirst for you.
Helping our brothers and sisters is the key to the door of Life.
May our selfishness not make us pass by others;
help us instead to pour the balm of consolation on their wounds,
and thus become faithful companions along the way,
tirelessly persevering in our commitment to fraternity. Amen.

SIXTH STATION

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
A woman’s tender love

“Come”, my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face; Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help (Ps 27:8-9).

Jesus drags himself along, gasping. Yet the radiance of his countenance is undiminished. No amount of abuse can dim his beauty. The spittle and the blows were unable to obscure it. His face appears as a burning bush which, the more it is buffeted, the more it radiates salvation. Silent tears fall from the Master’s eyes. He bears the burden of one forsaken. And yet Jesus advances, he does not stop, he does not turn back. He confronts affliction. He is distressed by the cruelty all around him, yet he knows that his dying will not be in vain!

Jesus then halts before a woman who resolutely approaches him. It is Veronica, a true image of a woman’s tender love.

Here the Lord embodies our need for love freely given, for the knowledge that we are loved and kept safe by acts of kindness and concern. Veronica’s gesture is bathed in the precious blood of Jesus; it seems to wipe away the acts of irreverence which he endured in those hours of torture. Veronica is able to touch the gentle Jesus, to feel something of his radiance. Not only to alleviate his pain, but to share in his suffering. In Jesus, she sees all our neighbours who need to be consoled with a tender touch, and comes to hear the cries of pain of all those who, in our own day, receive neither practical assistance nor the warmth of compassion. Who die of loneliness…

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
how burdensome it is, when we are separated from all those
we thought would stand by us on the day of our desolation!
Cloak us in that cloth,
stained by your precious blood
shed along the path of abandonment,
which you too unjustly endured.
Without you, we do not have,
nor can we give, a modicum of solace. Amen.

SEVENTH STATION

Jesus falls for the second time
The anguish of imprisonment and torture

They surrounded me … They surrounded me like bees, they blazed like a fire of thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. The Lord has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death (Ps 118:11,12-13,18).

Truly we see fulfilled in Jesus the ancient prophecies of the lowly and obedient Servant who takes upon himself all our history of sorrows. And so Jesus, prodded by the soldiers, stumbles, overcome by fatigue, surrounded by violence, utterly exhausted. Increasingly alone, amid the encircling gloom! His flesh is torn, his bones are weary.

In him we glimpse the bitter experience of those locked in prisons of every sort, with all their inhumane contradictions. Confined and surrounded, “pushed hard” and “falling”. Prisons today continue to be set apart, overlooked, rejected by society. Marked by bureaucratic nightmares and justice delayed. Punishment is doubled by overcrowding: an aggravated penalty, an unjust affliction, one which consumes flesh and bone. Some – too many! – do not survive… And when one of our brothers and sisters is released, we still see them as “ex-convicts”, and we bar before them the doors of social and economic redemption.

More serious is the practice of torture, which tragically is still practiced in different ways throughout our world. As it was in the case of Jesus, beaten, reviled by the soldiers, tortured with a crown of thorns, cruelly flogged.

Today, as we contemplate this second fall, how truly do those words of Jesus ring: “I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:36). In every prison, at the side of each person being tortured, Christ is always there, Christ who suffers, is imprisoned and tortured. Even in our greatest suffering, he helps us not to yield to fear. Only with help can those who fall rise again, aided by skilled personnel, sustained by the fraternal support of volunteers, and put on their feet by a society which takes responsibility for the many injustices which occur within the walls of our prisons.

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
boundless compassion grips me
as I see you fall to the ground for my sake.
I have no merit, and so many sins, inconsistencies and failures,
yet you respond with such immense love!
Cast off by society, put to death by judicial sentence,
you have blessed us for ever.
Blessed are we if today we join you in your fall, delivered from condemnation.
Help us not to flee from our responsibilities,
grant that we may abide in your abasement, safe from all pretense of omnipotence,
and be reborn to new life as creatures destined for heaven. Amen.

EIGHTH STATION

Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
Solidarity and compassion

Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children” (Lk 23:28).

Like so many tapers of light, we see women lining the path of pain. Women of fidelity and courage, neither intimidated by the soldiers nor cringing before the wounds of the Good Master. They are prepared to approach him and to comfort him. Jesus stands there before them. Others trample on him as he falls exhausted to the ground. But the women are there, ready to give him the warmth of a loving heart. First they gaze at him from afar, but then they draw near, as would any friend, any brother or sister, who realizes that someone whom they love is in trouble.

Jesus is moved by their bitter lament, yet he tells them not to be disheartened by his sufferings; he tells them to be women not of grief but of faith! He asks for their solidarity in suffering, not merely a barren and plaintive sympathy. No more wailing, but a resolve to be reborn, to look to the future, to advance with faith and hope towards that dawn which will break even more radiantly upon those who journey with their eyes fixed on God. Let us weep for ourselves if we do not yet believe in Jesus, who proclaimed the kingdom of salvation. Let us weep for the sins we have not confessed.

Then too, let us weep for those men who vent on women all their pent-up violence. Let us weep for women enslaved by fear and exploitation. But it is not enough to beat our breast and to feel compassion. Jesus demands more. Women need to be given reassurance, following his example; they need to be cherished as an inviolable gift for all humanity. So that our children may grow in dignity and hope.

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
stay the hand of those who strike women!
Lift women’s hearts from the abyss of despair
when they are victims of violence.
Look upon their tears of loneliness and abandonment,
and open our hearts to share their every sorrow,
fully and faithfully,
above and beyond mere compassion.
Make us a means of true liberation. Amen.

NINTH STATION

Jesus falls for the third time
Leaving behind unhealthy nostalgia

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us!” (Rom 8:35,37).

Saint Paul lists all his sufferings, yet he knows that Jesus was there before him: Jesus, who on the way to Golgotha fell once, twice, three times. Overwhelmed by hardship, persecution, the sword; weighed down by the wood of the cross. Drained! He seems to say, as we do, in our darkest moments: I can’t take it any more!

It is the cry of those persecuted, the dying, the terminally ill, those who strain under the yoke.

But in Jesus we also see strength: “Although he causes grief, he will have compassion” (Lam 3:32). He shows us that in affliction, his consolation is always present, a “surplus” to be glimpsed in hope. Like the pruning which the heavenly Father, in his wisdom, performs on the branches that will bear fruit (cf. Jn 15:8). Not to lop them off, but to make them bloom anew. Like a mother in labour: in pain, she cries out, she endures the pangs of childbirth. Yet she knows that they are the pangs of new life, of spring flowers blossoming on branches recently pruned.

May our contemplation of Jesus, who falls yet rises once more, help us to overcome the kinds of narrowness which fear of the future impresses on our hearts, especially at this time of crisis. Let us leave behind our unhealthy nostalgia for the past, our complacency and our refusal to change, and the attitude that says: “But we’ve always done it this way!”. Jesus who stumbles and falls, but then rises, points us to a sure hope which, nourished by intense prayer, is born precisely at the moment of trial, not after or apart from it!

We will be more than conquerors, because of his love!

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
Lift up, we pray, the unfortunate from the ground,
Raise the poor from the dust, set them with the princes of the people,
and grant them a seat of glory.
Shatter the bow of the strong and revive the strength of the weak,
for you alone enrich us by your poverty (cf. 1 Sam 2:4-8; 2 Cor 8:9). Amen.

TENTH STATION

Jesus is stripped of his garments
Unity and dignity

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another: “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it”. This was to fulfil what the Scripture says: “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my tunic they cast lots”. And that is what the soldiers did (Jn 19:23-24).

They didn’t leave even a patch of cloth to cover Jesus’ body. They stripped him naked. He was without his cloak, his tunic, any garment whatsoever. They stripped him as an act of utter humiliation. He was covered only by the blood which flowed from his gaping wounds.

The tunic remained intact, a symbol of the Church’s unity, a unity found in patient journeying, in a peace that is crafted, in a tapestry woven with the golden threads of fraternity, in reconciliation and in mutual forgiveness.

In Jesus, innocent, stripped and tortured, we see the outraged dignity of all the innocent, especially the little ones. God did not prevent his naked body from being exposed on the cross. He did this in order to redeem every abuse wrongly concealed, and to show that he, God, is irrevocably and unreservedly on the side of victims.

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
we want to return to childlike innocence,
in order to enter the kingdom of heaven;
cleanse us of our uncleanness and our idols.
Take away our stony hearts which create divisions,
which damage the credibility of your Church.
Give us a new heart and a new spirit,
that we may live in accordance with your commands
and readily observe your laws. Amen.

ELEVENTH STATION

Jesus is crucified
At the bedside of the sick

And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read: “The King of the Jews”. And with him they crucified two thieves, one on his right and one on his left. And the Scripture was fulfilled that says: “And he was counted among the lawless” (Mk 15:24-28).

And they crucified him! The punishment reserved for the despicable, for traitors and rebellious slaves. This is the punishment meted out to our Lord Jesus: coarse nails, spasms of pain, the anguish of his mother, the shame of being associated with two thieves, his garments divided like spoils among the soldiers, the cruel jeers of passers-by: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him!” (Mt 27:42).

And they crucified him! Jesus does not come down, he does not leave the cross. He stays there, obedient to the Father’s will to the very end. He loves and he forgives.

Today many of our brothers and sisters, like Jesus, are nailed to a bed of pain, at hospital, in homes for the elderly, in our families. It is a time of hardship, with bitter days of solitude and even despair: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46).

May we never use our hands to inflict harm, but only to draw near, to comfort and to accompany the sick, raising them from their bed of pain. Sickness does not ask permission. It always comes unannounced. At times it upsets us, it narrows our horizons, it tests our hope. It is a bitter gall. Only if we find at our side someone able to listen to us, to remain close to us, to sit at our bedside… can sickness become a great school of wisdom, an encounter with God, who is ever patient. Whenever someone shares our infirmities out of love, even in the night of pain there dawns the paschal light of Christ, crucified and risen. What, in human terms, is a chastisement can become a redemptive oblation, for the good of our communities and our families. So it was for the saints.

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PRAYER

Lord Jesus,
never leave my side,
sit beside my bed of pain and keep me company.
Do not leave me alone, stretch out your hand and lift me up!
I believe that you are Love,
and I believe that your will is the expression of your Love;
so I abandon myself to your will,
for I put my trust in your Love. Amen.

TWELFTH STATION

Jesus dies on the cross
The seven last words

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the Scripture): “I am thirsty”. A jar full of vinegar was standing there. So they put a sponge full of wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said: “It is finished”. Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn 19:28-30).

Jesus’ seven last words on the cross are the perfection of hope. Slowly, with steps that are also our own, Jesus traverses all the darkness of night and abandons himself trustingly into the arms of his Father. It is the cry of the dying, the groan of the despairing, the entreaty of the lost. It is Jesus!

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). It is the cry of Job, of everyone struck by misfortune. And God is silent. He is silent because his response is there, on the cross: Jesus himself, the eternal Word who out of love became man; he is God’s answer.

“Remember me…” (Lk 23:42). The fraternal plea of the thief who became his companion in suffering, pierces Jesus’ heart; it is an echo of his own pain. And Jesus grants that request: “Today you will be with me in paradise” The pain of others always redeems us, since it draws us out of ourselves.

“Woman, here is your son! …” (Jn 19:26). But it is his mother, Mary, who stood with John at the foot of the cross, who dispels all fear. She fills that scene with tenderness and hope. Jesus no longer feels alone. So it is with us, if beside our bed of pain there is someone who loves us! Faithfully. To the end.

“I am thirsty” (Jn 19:28). Like the child who asks his mother for drink, like the patient burning with fever… Jesus’ thirst is the thirst of all those who yearn for life, freedom and justice. And it is the thirst of the one who is thirstiest of all: God, who, infinitely more than ourselves, thirsts for our salvation.

“It is finished” (Jn 19:30). Everything: every word, every action, every prophecy, every moment of Jesus’ life. The tapestry is complete. The thousand colours of love now shine forth in beauty. Nothing is wasted. Nothing thrown away. Everything has become love. Everything completed for me and for you! And so, even dying becomes meaningful!

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). Now, heroically, Jesus emerges from the fear of death. For if we live freely in love, everything is life. Forgiveness renews, heals, transforms and comforts! It creates a new people. It ends wars.

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46). No longer emptiness and anguish. But complete trust in the Father’s hands, complete repose in his heart. For in God, all the fragments at last come together to form a whole!

==========

PRAYER

O God, who in the passion of Christ our Lord
have set us free from death, the wages of our ancient sin,
inherited by the whole human race:
renew us in the image of your Son;
and as we have borne in ourselves, from birth,
the image of the earthly man,
grant that, by the working of your Spirit,
we may bear the image of the heavenly man.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

THIRTEENTH STATION

Jesus is taken down from the cross
Love is stronger than death

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him” (Mt 27:57-58).

Before burial, Jesus is at last given back to his mother. She is the icon of a broken hearted, yet she tells us that death does not forbid a mother’s final kiss to her son. Bent over Jesus’ body, Mary is bound to him in a total embrace. This icon is known simply as Pietà – pity. It is heartrending, but it shows that death does not break the bond of love. For love is stronger than death! Pure love is the love that lasts. Evening has come. The battle is won. The bond of love has not been broken. Those who are prepared to sacrifice their life for Christ will find it. Transfigured, on the other side of death.

Tears and blood mingle in this tragic embrace. So it is in the lives of our families whenever we suffer an unexpected and grievous loss, an emptiness and a pain which cannot be soothed, especially at the death of a child.

“Pity” means being a neighbour to our brothers and sisters who grieve and cannot be consoled. It is great act of charity to care for those suffering from bodily wounds, from mental depression, from a despairing heart. To love to the very end is the supreme teaching which Jesus and Mary have left us. It is the daily fraternal mission of consolation which is entrusted to us in this faithful embrace of the dead Jesus and his sorrowful Mother.

==========

PRAYER

Virgin of Sorrows,
at our altars you show us your radiant face;
with eyes lifted up to heaven
and open hands,
you offer the Father, in a sign of priestly oblation,
the saving victim of your Son Jesus.
Show us the sweetness of that last faithful embrace
and grant us your maternal consolation,
that the sorrows of our daily lives
may never dim our hope of life beyond death. Amen.

FOURTEENTH STATION

Jesus is laid in the tomb

The new garden

Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. They laid Jesus there (Jn 19:41-42).

That garden, with the tomb in which Jesus was buried, makes us think of another garden: the garden of Eden. A garden which through disobedience lost its beauty and became a wilderness, a place of death where once there was life.

The overgrown branches which block us from savouring the fragrance of God’s will – our attachment to money, our pride, our squandering of human lives – must now be trimmed back and grafted onto the wood of the Cross. This is the new garden: the cross planted upon the earth!

From on high, Jesus will now bring everything back to life. After his return from the pit of hell, where Satan had imprisoned so many souls, the renewal of all things will begin. His tomb represents the end of the old man. With as Jesus, God has not allowed his children to be punished by a relentless death. In the death of Christ all the thrones of evil, built on greed and hardness of heart, are toppled.

Death disarms us; it makes us realize that we are subject here on earth to a life that will come to an end. And yet, before the body of Jesus, laid in the tomb, we come to realize who we really are. Creatures who, in order to escape death, need their Creator.

The silence which fills that garden enables us to hear the whisper of a gentle breeze: “I am the Living One and I am with you” (cf. Ex 3:14). The curtain of the temple is torn in two. At last we see our Lord’s face. And we know fully his name: mercy and faithfulness. We will never be confounded, even in the face of death, for the Son of God was free among the dead (cf. Ps 88:6 Vg.).

==========

PRAYER

Protect me, God: for in you I take refuge.
You are my portion and cup,
my life is in your hands.
I keep you ever before me, for you are my God.
You stand at my right hand; I shall not waver.
And so my heart is glad and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
For you do not leave my life among the dead,
or let your servant go down into the pit.
You will show me the path of life,
fullness of joy in your presence,
happiness for ever at your right hand. Amen. (cf. Ps 15)

***********************

Individuals or Groups Carrying Cross During Ceremony

Station I     Cardinal Vallini, Vicar of Rome
Station II    Workers and businessmen                                  
Station III   Foreigners                        
Station IV    People in a recovery community                                   
Station V     Homeless people                          
Station VI    A Family                         
Station VII   Prisoners                                
Station VIII  Women                                    
Station IX    Children                                 
Station XI    Elderly people                                   
Station XII   Franciscans for the Custody of the Holy Land             
Station XIII  Women Religious                                  
Station XIV   Cardinal Vallini
                       
************************

Link to full booklet:
http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/libretti/2014/20140418-libretto-via-crucis.pdf

ENGLISH 
http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2014/documents/ns_lit_doc_20140418_via-crucis_en.html

FRENCH
http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2014/documents/ns_lit_doc_20140418_via-crucis_fr.html

SPANISH 
http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2014/documents/ns_lit_doc_20140418_via-crucis_sp.html

PORTUGHESE 
http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2014/documents/ns_lit_doc_20140418_via-crucis_po.html

GERMAN 
http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2014/documents/ns_lit_doc_20140418_via-crucis_ge.html

JUDAS WAS STANDING WITH THEM

Pope Francis Food Friday 2014

“JUDAS WAS STANDING WITH THEM” (JN 18:5)

Following the tradition, the homily for this afternoon’s Good Friday Service for the Passion of the Lord is preached by Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa.

In the divine-human history of the passion of Jesus, there are many minor stories about men and women who entered into the ray of its light or its shadow. The most tragic one is that of Judas Iscariot. It is one of the few events attested with equal emphasis by each of the four Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. The early Christian community reflected a great deal on this incident and we would be remiss to do otherwise. It has much to tell us.

Judas was chosen from the very beginning to be one of the Twelve. In inserting his name in the list of apostles, the gospel-writer Luke says, “Judas Iscariot, who became (egeneto) a traitor” (Lk 6:16). Judas was thus not born a traitor and was not a traitor at the time Jesus chose him; he became a traitor! We are before one of the darkest dramas of human freedom.

Why did he become a traitor? Not so long ago, when the thesis of a “revolutionary Jesus” was in fashion, people tried to ascribe idealistic motivations to Judas’ action. Someone saw in his name “Iscariot” a corruption of sicariot, meaning that he belonged to a group of extremist zealots who used a kind of dagger (sica) against the Romans; others thought that Judas was disappointed in the way that Jesus was putting forward his concept of “the kingdom of God” and wanted to force his hand to act against the pagans on the political level as well. This is the Judas of the famous musical Jesus Christ Superstar and of other recent films and novels—a Judas who resembles another famous traitor to his benefactor, Brutus, who killed Julius Caesar to save the RomanRepublic!

These are reconstructions to be respected when they have some literary or artistic value, but they have no historical basis whatsoever. The Gospels—the only reliable sources that we have about Judas’ character—speak of a more down-to-earth motive: money. Judas was entrusted with the group’s common purse; on the occasion of Jesus’ anointing in Bethany, Judas had protested against the waste of the precious perfumed ointment that Mary poured on Jesus’ feet, not because he was interested in the poor but, as John notes, “because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it” (Jn 12:6). His proposal to the chief priests is explicit: “‘What will you give me if I deliver him to you?’ And they paid him thirty pieces of silver” (Mt 26:15).

*    *   *

But why are people surprised at this explanation, finding it too banal? Has it not always been this way in history and is still this way today? Mammon, money, is not just one idol among many: it is the idol par excellence, literally “a molten god” (see Ex 34:17). And we know why that is the case. Who is objectively, if not subjectively (in fact, not in intentions), the true enemy, the rival to God, in this world? Satan? But no one decides to serve Satan without a motive. Whoever does it does so because they believe they will obtain some kind of power or temporal benefit from him. Jesus tells us clearly who the other master, the anti-God, is: “No one can serve two masters. . . . You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:24). Money is the “visible god”[1] in contrast to the true God who is invisible.

Mammon is the anti-God because it creates an alternative spiritual universe; it shifts the purpose of the theological virtues. Faith, hope, and charity are no longer placed in God but in money. A sinister inversion of all values occurs. Scripture says, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23), but the world says, “All things are possible to him who has money.” And on a certain level, all the facts seem to bear that out.

“The love of money,” Scripture says, “is the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10). Behind every evil in our society is money, or at least money is also included there. It is the Molech we recall from the Bible to whom young boys and girls were sacrificed (see Jer 32:35) or the Aztec god for whom the daily sacrifice of a certain number of human hearts was required. What lies behind the drug enterprise that destroys so many human lives, behind the phenomenon of the mafia, behind political corruption, behind the manufacturing and sale of weapons, and even behind—what a horrible thing to mention—the sale of human organs removed from children? And the financial crisis that the world has gone through and that this country is still going through, is it not in large part due to the “cursed hunger for gold,” the auri sacra fames,[2] on the part of some people? Judas began with taking money out of the common purse. Does this say anything to certain administrators of public funds?

But apart from these criminal ways of acquiring money, is it not also a scandal that some people earn salaries and collect pensions that are sometimes 100 times higher than those of the people who work for them and that they raise their voices to object when a proposal is put forward to reduce their salary for the sake of greater social justice?

In the 1970s and 1980s in Italy, in order to explain unexpected political reversals, hidden exercises of power, terrorism, and all kinds of mysteries that were troubling civilian life, people began to point to the quasi-mythical idea of the existence of “a big Old Man,” a shrewd and powerful figure who was pulling all the strings behind the curtain for goals known only to himself. This powerful “Old Man” really exists and is not a myth; his name is Money!

Like all idols, money is deceitful and lying: it promises security and instead takes it away; it promises freedom and instead destroys it. St. Francis of Assisi, with a severity that is untypical for him, describes the end of life of a person who has lived only to increase his “capital.” Death draws near, and the priest is summoned. He asks the dying man, “Do you want forgiveness for all your sins?” and he answers, “Yes.” The priest then asks, “Are you ready to make right the wrongs you did, restoring things you have defrauded others of?” The dying man responds, “I can’t.” “Why can’t you?” “Because I have already left everything in the hands of my relatives and friends.” And so he dies without repentance, and his body is barely cold when his relatives and friends say, “Damn him! He could have earned more money to leave us, but he didn’t.”[3]

How many times these days have we had to think back again to the cry Jesus addressed to the rich man in the parable who had stored up endless riches and thought he was secure for the rest of his life: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Lk 12:20)!

Men placed in positions of responsibility who no longer knew in what bank or monetary paradise to hoard the proceeds of their corruption have found themselves on trial in court or in a prison cell just when they were about to say to themselves, “Have a good time now, my soul.” For whom did they do it? Was it worth it? Did they work for the good of their children and family, or their party, if that is really what they were seeking? Have they not instead ruined themselves and others?

*    *   *

The betrayal of Judas continues throughout history, and the one betrayed is always Jesus. Judas sold the head, while his imitators sell body, because the poor are members of the body of Christ, whether they know it or not. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). However, Judas’ betrayal does not continue only in the high-profile kinds of cases that I have mentioned. It would be comfortable for us to think so, but that is not the case. The homily that Father Primo Mazzolari gave on Holy Thursday 1958 about “Our Brother Judas” is still famous. “Let me,” he said to the few parishioners before him, “think about the Judas who is within me for a moment, about the Judas who perhaps is also within you.”

One can betray Jesus for other kinds of compensation than thirty pieces of silver. A man who betrays his wife, or a wife her husband, betrays Christ. The minister of God who is unfaithful to his state in life, or instead of feeding the sheep entrusted to him feeds himself, betrays Jesus. Whoever betrays their conscience betrays Jesus. Even I can betray him at this very moment—and it makes me tremble—if while preaching about Judas I am more concerned about the audience’s approval than about participating in the immense sorrow of the Savior. There was a mitigating circumstance in Judas’ case that that I do not have. He did not know who Jesus was and considered him to be only “a righteous man”; he did not know, as we do, that he was the Son of God.

As Easter approaches every year, I have wanted to listen to Bach’s “Passion According to St. Matthew” again. It includes a detail that makes me flinch every time. At the announcement of Judas’ betrayal, all the apostles ask Jesus, “Is it I, Lord?” (“Herr, bin ich’s?”) Before having us hear Christ’s answer, the composer—erasing the distance between the event and its commemoration—inserts a chorale that begins this way: “It is I; I am the traitor! I need to make amends for my sins.” (“Ich bin’s, ich sollte bü?en.”). Like all the chorales in this musical piece, it expresses the sentiments of the people who are listening. It is also an invitation for us to make a confession of our sin.

*    *   *

The Gospel describes Judas’ horrendous end: “When Judas, his betrayer, saw that he was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, ‘I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ And throwing down the pieces of silver, he departed; and he went and hanged himself” (Mt 27:3-5).  But let us not pass a hasty judgment here. Jesus never abandoned Judas, and no one knows, after he hung himself from a tree with a rope around his neck, where he ended up: in Satan’s hands or in God’s hands. Who can say what transpired in his soul during those final moments? “Friend” was the last word that Jesus addressed to him, and he could not have forgotten it, just as he could not have forgotten Jesus’ gaze.

It is true that in speaking to the Father about his disciples Jesus had said about Judas, “None of them is lost but the son of perdition” (Jn 17:12), but here, as in so many other instances, he is speaking from the perspective of time and not of eternity. The enormity of this betrayal is enough by itself alone, without needing to consider a failure that is eternal, to explain the other terrifying statement said about Judas: “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Mk 14:21). The eternal destiny of a human being is an inviolable secret kept by God. The Church assures us that a man or a woman who is proclaimed a saint is experiencing eternal blessedness, but she does not herself know for certain that any particular person is in hell.

Dante Alighieri, who places Judas in the deepest part of hell in his Divine Comedy, tells of the last-minute conversion of Manfred, the son of Frederick II and the king of Sicily whom everyone at the time considered damned because he died as an excommunicated. Having been mortally wounded in battle, he confides to the poet that in the very last moment of his life, “…weeping, I gave my soul / to Him who grants forgiveness willingly” and he sends a message from Purgatory to earth that is still relevant for us:

Horrible was the nature of my sins,

but boundless mercy stretches out its arms

to any man who comes in search of it.[4]

*    *   *

Here is what the story of our brother Judas should move us to do: to surrender ourselves to the one who freely forgives, to throw ourselves likewise into the outstretched arms of the Crucified One. The most important thing in the story of Judas is not his betrayal but Jesus’ response to it. He knew well what was growing in his disciple’s heart, but he does not expose it; he wants to give Judas the opportunity right up until the last minute to turn back, and is almost shielding him. He knows why Judas came to the garden of olives, but he does not refuse his cold kiss and even calls him “friend” (see Mt 26:50). He sought out Peter after his denial to give him forgiveness, so who knows how he might have sought out Judas at some point in his way to Calavary! When Jesus prays from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34), he certainly does not exclude Judas from those he prays for.

So what will we do? Who will we follow, Judas or Peter? Peter had remorse for what he did, but Judas was also remorseful to the point of crying out, “I have betrayed innocent blood!” and he gave back the thirty pieces of silver. Where is the difference then? Only in one thing: Peter had confidence in the mercy of Christ, and Judas did not! Judas’ greatest sin was not in having betrayed Christ but in having doubted his mercy.

If we have imitated Judas in his betrayal, some of us more and some less, let us not imitate him in his lack of confidence in forgiveness. There is a sacrament through which it is possible to have a sure experience of Christ’s mercy: the sacrament of reconciliation. How wonderful this sacrament is! It is sweet to experience Jesus as Teacher, as Lord, but even sweeter to experience him as Redeemer, as the one who draws you out of the abyss, like he drew Peter out of the sea, as the one who touches you and, like he did with the leper, says to you, “ I will; be clean” (Mt 8:3).

Confession allows us to experience about ourselves what the Church says of Adam’s sin on Easter night in the “Exultet”: “O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!” Jesus knows how to take all our sins, once we have repented, and make them “happy faults,” faults that would no longer be remembered if it were not for the experience of mercy and divine tenderness that they occasioned.

I have a wish for myself and for all of you, Venerable Fathers, brothers, and sisters: on Easter morning, may we awaken and let the words of a great convert in modern times, Paul Claudel, resonate in our hearts:

My God, I have been revived, and I am with You again!

I was sleeping, stretched out like a dead man in the night.

You said, “Let there be light!” and I awoke the way a cry is shouted out! 

My Father, You who have given me life before the Dawn, I place myself in Your Presence.

My heart is free and my mouth is cleansed; my body and spirit are fasting.

I have been absolved of all my sins, which I confessed one by one.

The wedding ring is on my finger and my face is washed.

I am like an innocent being in the grace that You have bestowed on me.[5]

 

This is what Christ’s Passover can do for us.




[1] William Shakespeare, The Life of Timon of Athens, Act IV, sc. 3, l. 386.

[2] Virgil, The Aeneid, 3.57.

[3] See Francis of Assisi, “Letter to All the Faithful,” 12.

[4] Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio 3.118-120: English trans. Mark Musa (Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press, 1985), 32.

[5] Paul Claudel, Prière pour le dimanche matin [Prayer for a Sunday Morning], in Œuvres poétiques (Paris: Gallimard, 1967), 377.

 

JP II, We Love You – Pope John Paul II looks on during Via Crucis

jpii_weloveyou_blog_610x138

FILE PHOTO OF POPE JOHN PAUL IIPope John Paul II looks at the faithful gathered at the Colosseum during the traditional Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) Good Friday service in Rome, 2003. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters) 

Perspectives Daily – Thurs. April 17, 2014

Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis celebrates Mass of Chrism and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

Pope Francis Teaches Us the Meaning of Humble, Loving Service

Pope Francis kisses a foot of a disabled person Our Lady of Providence Center in Rome

For the second year in a row Pope Francis chose to celebrate the Mass of Our Lord’s Supper among people often pushed to the margins of society. This evening visited the Don Gnocchi centre in Rome’s Casal del Marmo area, close to the Youth Detention Center where he celebrated Mass among young prison inmates last year. This year he visited a sister center for the elderly and disabled.

In a gesture of humility and service, and in imitation of Christ, Pope Francis put on an apron and knelt down to wash the feet of 12 residents during the the Mass of the Lord’s Supper: nine Italians, one Muslim from Libya, a young man from Cape Verde and an Ethiopian woman. These individuals are suffering with physical, neurological and oncological illnesses.

Visibly fatigued and requiring assistance to kneel and stand up again as he came close to the end of the rite, Pope Francis conveyed tenderness and concern for each person, pouring water on each person’s foot, then drying it and kissing it, before offering a loving gaze, sometimes reciprocated, depending on each person’s state of health.

Here are brief biographies of those whose feet Pope Francis washed during the ceremony:

-Oswaldinho, 16 yr old young man from Cape Verde who had a diving accident last summer and is now completely paralyzed

-Orietta, 51 yr old woman from Rome who has suffered from illness that has affected her brain

-Samuel, 66 yr old man who has had polio from his youth

-Marco, 19 yr old man, high school student and leader of his parish Youth Group who was diagnosed with a cerebral palsy last year

-Angelica, 86 yr old woman from Maenza, former president of Catholic Action in Italy, who had a double hip replacement

-Daria, 39 yr old woman who has suffered with cerebral palsy from her childhood

-Pietro, 86 yr old who has been a resident at the Centre for a year, struggling with serious mobility and muscular deficiency

-Gianluca, 36 yr old man who from the age of 14 has had numerous operations as a result of meningitis

-Stefano, 49 yr old man who suffers with serious cerebral and motor disorder and has been a resident at the centre for the past two years

-Hamed, 75 yr old Muslim man originally from Libya worked for the Italian-Arab Chamber of Commerce before suffering a traffic accident that caused serious neurological impairment

-Giordana, 27 yr old woman from Ethiopia suffering from cerebral palsy and epilepsy

-Walter, 59 yr old man suffering from Down’s Syndrome

Each of these persons has received help and support from the Don Gnocchi Foundation to overcome the difficulties, marginalization and isolation they often face on account of their age or disability.

The Pope’s selection of the location and his gesture of washing the feet of 12 people with disability was intended to underline the forms of fragility, in which the Christian community is called to recognize the suffering Christ and to which it must devote attention, solidarity and charity.

Here is the full text of the Pope’s extemporaneous homily which he delivered during the mass. Francis reflected on the Lord’s loving act of service, an act which he himself imitated later in the mass, kneeling down to wash the feet of twelve patients and residents of the centre.

“We have heard what Jesus did at the Last Supper: It is a gesture of farewell. He is God and he makes himself a servant, our servant. It is like an inheritance. You also must be servants of one another. He crossed this path by love. Also you must love each other and be servants in Love. This is the inheritance that Jesus leaves us. And he makes this gesture of washing feet, which is a symbolic act. The slaves performed this, the servants at the meals for the people who came to dine because at that time the streets were made of dirt and when they entered in a house it was necessary to wash one’s feet. And Jesus made performed this action, a work, a service of a slave, of a servant. And this he leaves like an inheritance amongst us. We must be servants of each other.

And for this, the church, today, commemorates the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he also—in the ceremony—performs the action of the washing of the feet, which reminds us that we must be servants of one another. Now I will perform this act, but all of us, in our hearts, let us think of others and think in the love that Jesus tells us that we have to have for the others and let us consider also how we can serve better, other people. Because Jesus wanted it this way among us.”

At the end of the Mass, the Pope carried the Blessed Sacrament to an Altar of Repose. He remained there in prayer until the end of the “Pange Lingua” hymn, after which he processed out of the chapel in the usual silence with which the Holy Thursday evening liturgy concludes.

This is the second year the Pope celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper among a group of people usually marginalized by society. Last year, the Pope celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper at a youth detention centre in Rome.

Photo description: Pope Francis kisses the foot of a disabled person at Our Lady of Providence Center during Holy Thursday Mass in Rome April 17. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)