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Changes in the Pallium Ceremony on June 29 encourage greater participation of the faithful

 

Pallia tray June 29

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

In the past on June 29, Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, newly appointed Metropolitan Archbishops took part in an ancient liturgical ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and received the pallium directly from the Pope.

Pope Francis has made changes to the public ceremony of investiture of the Pallium on Metropolitan Archbishops emphasizing that the investiture is an ecclesial event of the whole diocese, and not merely a juridical or ceremonial event. Beginning on June 29 of this year, the ceremony of investiture of the Pallium will take place in the Metropolitan Archbishops’ home dioceses and not in the Vatican.

From now on, the ceremony will be celebrated in two significant moments: the first during which the pallium will be blessed by the Pope during the Mass on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul in the Vatican; the second when it will be placed on the Metropolitan Archbishop in his own diocese, by his representative, the Apostolic Nuncio in that particular country.

It is the responsibility of the Nuncio to determine with the Metropolitan Archbishops the most opportune date, circumstances and manner to publicly and officially invest him with the pallium by mandate of the Holy Father, and with the participation of the Suffragan Bishops of that particular Province (ecclesiastically geographic area).

The pallium ceremony will continue to symbolize communion between the See of Peter and the Successor of the Apostle and those who are chosen to carry out the episcopal ministry as Metropolitan Archbishop of an Ecclesiastical Province, and it will encourage the participation of the local Church in an important moment of its life and history.

Pallium photo

The pallium is a circle of wool that hangs around the neck and shoulders with two long pieces draping one over the chest and the other along the back. It is decorated with six black crosses and weighed with pieces of lead. The wool for the pallium comes from two lambs offered every year to the Pope on January 21, Feast of St. Agnes. They are first taken to the Church of St. Agnes to be blessed. The lambs arrive wearing floral crowns, one white and one red. These represent the purity of Agnes, which the archbishops should emulate, and the martyrdom of Agnes, which the archbishops should be prepared to follow.

The lambs are then shorn and the pallia (plural of pallium) are made. On the eve of the feast of the great apostles Peter and Paul, (June 28) the pallia are stored overnight in the silver casket above Peter’s tomb in the Vatican crypt.  The following day (June 29) the pallia are given to the newly appointed metropolitan bishops, the only occasion in which more than one bishop can be seen wearing the pallium at the same time.

Symbolically, the Pope is sharing his mission to “Feed my sheep and lambs” with the archbishops. The wool over the shoulders evokes the lamb over the shoulders of the Good Shepherd.  It also reminds the archbishops of the burdens of their office.  By investing each new Archbishop with the pallium, the Holy Father confers some of his own weight and responsibilities upon him.

At his own inauguration of Petrine Ministry as Bishop of Rome on April 24, 2005, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI spoke moving words about the pallium he had received during that ceremony:

“The symbolism of the Pallium is even more concrete: the lamb’s wool is meant to represent the lost, sick or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders and carries to the waters of life. …Hence the Pallium becomes a symbol of the shepherd’s mission. …The pastor must be inspired by Christ’s holy zeal: for him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert.  And there are so many kinds of desert.  There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love.  There is the desert of God’s darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast.

Therefore the earth’s treasures no longer serve to build God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction. The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.”

Watch S+L TV Special – The Ecology Encyclical: Care for Our Common Home

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The highly anticipated teaching document of Pope Francis on ecology has arrived. How does it build on the teachings of Popes John Paul II and Benedict the XVI? What does it say about climate change? What does it say about poverty and those most affected by ecological destruction around the world?

Join host Sebastian Gomes for a panel discussion on the major themes and reactions to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si. Guests include: Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, English language assistant to the Director of the Holy See Press Office; Mardi Tindal, immediate past moderator of the United Church of Canada; Alicia Ambrosio, producer and journalist for S+L TV.

Watch the full video of the show below.

Waiting for Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the Environment

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Many people have contacted us about the forthcoming Papal Encyclical on the environment.  The reflections below, especially in answer to the third question, simply flow from an attentive reading of teachings on the environment in the works of both Popes Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.  Popes write encyclicals formulated on the foundations of what has already been stated by their predecessors.

The questions are:

  1. What is an encyclical?
  2. Is this Pope Francis’ first encyclical?
  3. Why is an encyclical on the environment necessary at this moment in history?

1. What is an encyclical?

A Papal Encyclical is the name typically given to a letter written by a Pope.  It can be addressed to the bishops and priests of a particular region or of the entire world, to specific groups in the Church or to the entire Catholic faithful. It can also be addressed to all people of good will. The word encyclical comes from the Greek ‘egkyklios’, ‘kyklos’ meaning a circle. It may be considered to be a ‘circular letter’. Encyclicals are used primarily for teaching.  The first encyclical was released by Pope Benedict XIV on December 3, 1740. Since then, the Popes have written over 300 encyclicals.

2. Is this Pope Francis’ first encyclical?

Lumen Fidei (English: “The Light of Faith”) is the name of the first encyclical of Pope Francis, signed on June 29, 2013, on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, and promulgated (published) on July 5, 2013, four months after his election to the papacy. The encyclical focuses its theme on faith, and completes what his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI had previously written about charity and hope, the other two theological virtues, in his encyclicals Deus caritas est(God is love) and Spe Salvi (By hope we were saved.)

Lumen Fidei was a unique document in that it is the work of two Popes. Francis took the work of Benedict, who before his resignation from the papacy had completed a first draft of the text, and added his own reflections to the document. Pope Francis expressed this collaboration in paragraph 7 of the encyclical: “These considerations on faith — in continuity with all that the Church’s magisterium has pronounced on this theological virtue — are meant to supplement what Benedict XVI had written in his encyclical letters on charity and hope. He himself had almost completed a first draft of an encyclical on faith. For this I am deeply grateful to him, and as his brother in Christ I have taken up his fine work and added a few contributions of my own.”

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3. Why is an encyclical on the environment necessary at this moment in history?

Since his election in March 2013, Pope Francis has very frequently shown concern for the environment, following the example of Benedict XVI who was sometimes labeled the first “Green Pope.” Benedict consistently called for the safeguarding of creation, arguing that respect for the human being and nature are one.  Ours is the world that God so loved, the world that was to receive his only Son, Jesus. We must show love and care toward the world, a gift of God’s creation.

-From the beginning of his Petrine Ministry, Pope Francis made it clear that his choice of his papal name after St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology was indicative of his concern for the environment. In his inaugural Mass homily, he called on everyone to be “protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.”

-On World Environment Day, June 5, 2013, Francis stressed the need to “cultivate and care” for the environment, saying it is part of God’s plan that man “nurture[s] the world with responsibility,” transforming it into a “garden, a habitable place for everyone.”

-In his June 5, 2013 address Francis said: “We are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation. The implications of living in a horizontal manner is that we have moved away from God, we no longer read His signs.”

-Pope Francis has issued to the Church and the world a profound challenge to rethink the culture of waste and to contemplate seriously and act with conviction against the dynamics of an economy and finance that lack ethics. “Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules.”

-As Benedict had often done, Francis links human ecology with environmental ecology, issuing a strong challenge to rethink the culture of waste and to oppose a lack of ethics in economy and finance. “I would like us all to make a serious commitment to respect and protect creation,” he said, “to be attentive to every person, to counter the culture of waste and disposable [mentality], to promote a culture of solidarity” and of living alongside others, especially on the margins, as opposed to individualism.

-In an address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See on January 13, 2014, Pope Francis noted the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in November 2013 and warned against “greedy exploitation of environmental resources.” He quoted the popular adage: “God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature – creation – is mistreated, she never forgives.”

-Ecologies that seemingly begin with the program of saving our environment quickly run their logic to the point where the environment takes absolute priority over human beings. When taken to the extreme, many make the erroneous claim that the human person is simply one of a very large number of species, all equally valuable and enjoying the same rights.

-To recover the integrity of creation, we need a renewed Christian culture.

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Recalling Pope Benedict’s contribution in ‘Caritas in veritate’

-For Benedict, human ecology is an imperative. Adopting a lifestyle that respects our environment and supports the research and use of clean energies that preserve the patrimony of creation and that are safe for human beings should be given political and economic priority.

-In his encyclical letter Caritas in veritate, and in subsequent writings, Pope Benedict XVI has called for the development of a “human ecology” grounded in the idea of creation as gift. “The human being will be capable of respecting other creatures only if he keeps the full meaning of life in his own heart. Without a clear defense of human life from conception until natural death; without a defense of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman; without an authentic defense of those excluded and marginalized by society, we will never be able to speak of authentic protection of the environment.”

-Benedict called for a “change in mentality” in order to “quickly arrive at a global lifestyle that respects the covenant between humanity and nature, without which the human family risks disappearing.” He said that “every government must commit themselves to protecting nature and assisting it to carry out its essential role in the survival of humanity.”

-In his 2010 World Day of Peace Message entitled “If You Want to Cultivate Peace, protect creation”, Pope Benedict XVI used the term “human ecology.” Benedict reaffirmed the Catholic understanding of our relationship with the goods of the earth and our call to stewardship of the planet which has been given to us by the Creator as a gift.

-Benedict has called for an “integral human development” which recognizes the centrality of the human person and the primacy of our relationships with one another in family and society. He underscored the truth that creation is a gift, given to human persons by a God of love who entrusts us with responsibility for one another – and therefore for the goods which promote our human flourishing. We all have a responsibility for one another. We need to live together as good stewards of creation, recognizing the need first for a “human ecology”.

-“If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation. The quest for peace by people of good will surely would become easier if all acknowledge the indivisible relationship between God, human beings and the whole of creation. In the light of divine Revelation and in fidelity to the Church’s Tradition, Christians have their own contribution to make.”

-Pope Benedict articulated a Catholic Environmental vision which is pro-life, pro-family, pro-poor, pro-peace, pro-justice and fundamentally relational.We are to receive one another as gifts. We must never use human persons as objects. We should receive creation as a gift, our common home, to be shared with one another, and not as an object of use. Pope Benedict articulated a vision for a «human ecology» which can promote a path to authentic peace.

In addition to being the CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, Fr. Rosica is also the English language assistant to the Holy See Press Office.

The development equation: church teaching on the New Evangelization

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When we talk about a development in church tradition or teaching, we are talking about a phenomenon that has taken place within Christianity from the very beginning. Even the varying articulations of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that we find in the four Gospels represent a development as such: the written narratives were built on the oral tradition of the first Christian communities that was built on the witness of the Apostles that was built on the experience and teachings of Jesus. (The 1964 instruction by the Pontifical Biblical Commission on The Historical Truth of the Gospels is an excellent tool for understanding this three-stage development.)

More recently, since the election of Pope Francis, there has been much discussion about possible development in the areas of the church’s pastoral response to divorced and remarried Catholics and its teaching on the environment.  The Pope’s forthcoming encyclical and the October general Synod of Bishops on the family will serve to clarify these heated discussions.

There is another area of the church’s teaching that may be less “juicy” then the above mentioned but still provokes this discussion of development. It is the church’s contemporary tagline, “the New Evangelization.” Everyone in the Catholic world has heard about it and a lot of great work is being done at the grassroots level to put it into action.

It is a decidedly modern initiative, based on the church’s experience of the realities of our present time. It can be traced back to Vatican Council II, but Pope John Paul II conceived of it, Pope Benedict XVI refined and promoted it—especially through the 2012 Synod—and now Pope Francis has effectively put it into action.

Interestingly, Pope Francis has not spoken much about “the New Evangelization,” though anyone who listened to what Pope Benedict said about it can see the obvious parallels between the words of one pope and the actions of another.

But last week Pope Francis met with the staff of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and shared his thoughts on the subject:

            “This is what people today expect from the Church: that she be able to walk with them offering the company of the witness of faith, which renders one in solidarity with all, in particular with those most alone and marginalized. How many poor—also poor in the faith—await the Gospel that liberates! How many men and women, in the existential peripheries generated by the consumer, atheist society, await our closeness and our solidarity! The Gospel is the proclamation of the love of God that, in Jesus Christ, calls us to participate in his life. Hence, the New Evangelization is this: to be aware of the merciful love of the Father so that we also become instruments of salvation for our brothers.

This rich description of the New Evangelization represents a deepening of previously articulated magisterial teachings. We can clearly see the “Francis” accents: emphasis on the poor, on accompanying people and on the mercy of God.  These are matters of emphasis, yes, but also of development. And taken together with the reflections of Pope Benedict and JPII, a clearer picture of this thing we call “the New Evangelization” takes shape.

It was JPII who recognized the need for a re-articulation of the fundamentals of the faith in a rapidly changing modern world. It was Benedict who explicitly linked the content of the New Evangelization with the documents of the Second Vatican Council.  Now Francis has put his finger—as he often does—on the heart of the matter, namely, an experience of God’s mercy.

We can say that all the pieces seem to have come together. Back in 1962 Pope John XXIII opened the Vatican Council by shifting the emphasis from an attitude of condemnation to one of mercy, saying nowadays, “The Bride of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.” Francis has said essentially the same thing.

 In all of this we can see an organic development in the church’s teaching on evangelization in the world today.  As pieces fall into place a more complete picture emerges. There is a pattern within this process of development that always considers these three variables: 1) how the truth of the Gospel can be 2) interpreted in light of the particular historical moment 3) over a period of time. This is the “equation” for development in the church and it is a fascinating thing to watch at this particular historical moment.


SebastianGOn Further Reflection

In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice of dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and correspondent for S+L TV.

The Vatican and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: peace trumps politics

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The enormous amount of media attention that Pope Francis attracts has highlighted the Church’s influence in the world of global politics. The Pope, whoever he is, is a spiritual leader, but one with a permanent seat at the political table. Hardly a week goes by in which Francis doesn’t meet with some head of state or foreign diplomat to discuss religion and politics in the respective country.

This past week it was the Palestinians’ turn. On May 13 the Vatican announced that the Bilateral Commission of the Holy See and the State of Palestine had finalized the draft text of an agreement on essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine.

Then on May 16, on the eve of a canonization Mass in which two Palestinian nuns were proclaimed saints, Pope Francis met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The two men expressed their hope that peace talks would resume with Israel and that interreligious dialogue be promoted across the region.

Predictably, the three events—the bilateral agreement, the meeting with Abbas and the canonization of two Palestinians—reignited the discussion over the Vatican’s recognition of the “state of Palestine,” a recognition Israel categorically denies.

Israeli officials suggested that such recognition from third parties discourages the Palestinians from returning to the negotiating table, and some pro-Israeli voices even raised concern over what this could mean for Catholic-Jewish relations.

For the sake of clarification, it is helpful to review the Vatican’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reiterate the rationale behind it.

When last Wednesday’s announcement came from the Bilateral Commission, some credible voices in the media rightly pointed out that it wasn’t the first time the Vatican officially recognized the “state of Palestine.” It has been using this language since the 2012 United Nations vote to grant Palestine “non-member observer status,” a status shared by only one other state at the UN: the Holy See.

Far from going out-on-a-limb with its language, the Vatican simply recognizes what the vast majority of other nations recognize (the UN vote carried 138 in favor and 9 against with 41 abstentions).

And beyond this, it should be pointed out that the Vatican has long supported a “two-state” solution to the conflict. Upon his arrival in Tel Aviv last year, Pope Francis said:

“I renew the appeal made in this place by Pope Benedict XVI: the right of the State of Israel to exist and to flourish in peace and security within internationally recognized borders must be universally recognized.  At the same time, there must also be a recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign homeland and their right to live with dignity and with freedom of movement. The “Two State Solution” must become reality and not remain merely a dream.” (Welcome Ceremony)

Pope Benedict said as much during his visit to the Holy Land in 2009, and John Paul II on many occasions insisted on a peaceful solution to the conflict. He also sought solidarity with the Palestinian people by fostering a relationship with then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Upon hearing of Arafat’s death in 2004, the Vatican issued a statement saying the Pope, “feels particularly close to the family of the departed, the Palestinian authorities and the Palestinian people,” and that he has “called upon the Prince of Peace to let the Star of Harmony shine over the Holy Land so that the two peoples who dwell in it may reconcile as two independent and sovereign states.”

Suffice it to say, no ground-breaking language was used over the past week by the Vatican regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation. The Church’s position has been clear for years: a peaceful two-state solution whereby both parties respect the right and legitimacy of the other, with absolutely no recourse to violence. In recognizing the “state of Palestine” since 2012, the Vatican is adhering to the legitimate decision of the United Nations.

The Church always insists on peace over politics. Its support for a realized Palestinian state and a peaceful coexistence built on respect and mutuality is not exclusionary or one-sided, as some voices are suggesting. The Church equally supports the right and security of an Israeli state. But when it comes to conflict, especially violent conflict, the Church raises the bar beyond petty politics to the greater good, that is, justice and peace. As Pope Benedict XVI said in an address to the President of Israel in Jerusalem in 2009, “A nation’s true interest is always served by the pursuit of justice for all.”

SebastianGOn Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice of dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and correspondent for S+L TV.

Behind Vatican Walls: Papal Photographer

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It’s March 11, 1956 like many other young men at the time, a 16-year-old was getting ready to start his first day of work. This young man was born and raised in Rome’s Borgo neighbourhood. He really hadn’t had much chance to ever leave that neighbourhood. What’s more, his new job would only take him around the corner. His new job was at the L’Osservatore Romano Photo Service, just inside the Vatican walls he walked by every day. This young man could never have imagined that his new job would eventually take him around the world, camera in hand, to photograph six popes.

That 16-year-old boy was Arturo Mari. Today he is known as “the pope’s photographer” even though he gave up that job in 2007.

Mari learned the art and skill of photography as a young boy. At the age of six he would follow his father – and amater photographer – into the darkroom and help develop photos. He honed his skill and his eye at the Vatican newspaper’s photo desk. His first assignment: capturing an image of Pope Pius XII being carried on the “sedia gestatoria”, wearing the papal tiara, during a beatification ceremony. He took the photo and – as per protocol – quickly stepped back into the shadows.

He must have done well because he lasted through the rest of Pius XII’s papacy. He was still around when John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council. When Paul VI started making trips abroad, Mari was right there documenting his voyages. By the time Karol Wojtyla was elected pope, Mari was the official papal photographer.

“I lived side by side with that man from the first day [of his pontificate] to the last,” Mari told Salt and Light in a recent interview. Never was there a dull moment.

The long hours with nary a sick day or day off taken, meant Mari was witness to some of the moments that defined the papacy of John Paul II: in 1981 when the pope was shot in St. Peter’s Square, Mari kept snapping away. Some years later, in Italian media interviews, he said “I don’t remember how I took those photos.” In fact, the only time Mari attended a Vatican event without his camera in hand was in 2007 when his son, Juan Carlos, was ordained a priest by Pope Benedict XVI.

It was that same year Mari finally retired passing on the job of Papal Photographer to his nephew, Francesco Sforza who learned the craft acting as his uncle’s shadow.

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections here:

Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connection. Already watched the program? come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issues, headline or person.

Vatican Connection: March 20

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On Saturday, March 21, Pope Francis is set to spend a day visiting Pompeii and Naples. Though short, this trip is yet another reminder of the pontiff’s preferential option for the poor and marginalized.

Aside from a visit to a sanctuary in Pompeii and a meeting with the sick at Basilica of Gesu Nuovo, the pope is visiting Scampia, a bedroom suburb best known as the setting of the film Gomorrah; Poggioreale, an overcrowded prison; and meeting with youth at an iconic seaside promenade.

The suburb of Scampia is best known today as the setting of the film “Gomorrah” and home to what is considered an example of failed civic architecture. The “Vele di Scampia” or the “Sails of Scampia” is concrete house complex designed and built from 1962 to 1975. The sail shaped concrete buildings with outdoor staircases were part of a larger complex of buildings. The project incorporated large outdoor spaces between buildings that were meant to serve as piazzas and soccer fields.

The reaction to the completed complex was less than enthusiastic. Maintenance was not a priority and living conditions soon deteriorated. Instead of becoming a mini-city bursting with life, Scampia became the only place that disadvantaged families could afford to live. The mafia also moved in.

While not all residents are involved with organized crime, Scampia is not an easy place to live and residents don’t have many opportunities available to improve their situation. Given his past declaration about Mafia members being “excommunicated” or removed from God’s love, expect strong words from Pope Francis during his meeting with residents in St. John Paul II Square.

The next stop on his itinerary is scheduled to be Poggioreale Prison, home to 1900 inmates. Pope Francis will greet inmates, many of whom probably lived in Scampia at some point in their lives. The pope is scheduled to have lunch with a group of inmates at Poggioreale and give a speech.

Following his visit to the prison, Pope Francis will stop at the cathedral where he will venerate the relic of St. Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples. That relic is a vial of the saint’s coagulated blood. Three times a year the dark grains of dried blood become liquid once again and take on bright red colour. The miracle usually occurs on the first Saturday of May, the 19 of September, and the 16 of December. Studies conducted in 1988 determined that the substance contained in the two vials housed in the reliquary is indeed blood. The miracle doesn’t work like clockwork. There have been times when the blood did not liquify on those dates, or liquified just before or just after the usual days.

In a recently published book the Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Crecenzio Seppe, recounted the story of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Naples and the St. Gennaro’s relics. Cardinal Seppe recounts that although it seemed as though the pontiff could not pull himself away from the reliquary, the saint’s blood did not liquify. Even though there is no reason to expect the saint’s blood to become liquid before the pope, this will be a point of interest for some Neapolitans now that their expectations have been raised.

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The Scottish cardinal who resigned in 2013 after allegations of sexual misconduct were brought against him, has now given up the “rights and privilleges” of being a Cardinal. Pope Francis has accepted Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s resignation.  Cardinal O’Brien will no longer serve on any pontifical councils or committees, nor will take part in consistory or an eventual conclave to elect a new pope. In a statement, the Catholic Church in Scotland said Cardinal O’Brien will be reduced to a strictly private life.

Cardinal Wuerl: “We have succeeded in electing a pastor.”

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Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect is a S+L series that goes deeper into the important questions surrounding the person and pontificate of Pope Francis.  The series consists of a selection of the full interviews from S+L’s original documentary The Francis Effect.

This week: Cardinal Donald Wuerl

On the evening of February 28th, 2013, the world watched the historic departure and official resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. The atmosphere in Rome was somber, and everyone felt a little empty and anxious. As part of our coverage that night I had the opportunity to interview Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, who had generously made himself available to the media.

I asked him, “How do you feel?! Having witnessed all of this, knowing Pope Benedict well, and now turning to the daunting task of electing his successor?” To my surprise, he looked at me and smiled and said confidently, “I have so much hope at this moment! What Pope Benedict has taught us through this incredibly humble gesture, is that we can and should do things differently—that we don’t have to be afraid, because the Lord is with us.”

The next time I saw Cardinal Wuerl he was doing an interview with Scott Pelley of CBS, minutes after Pope Francis had appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s for the first time. It was cold and late on March 13th; the Cardinal was in a satellite studio at the North American College and I was watching Scott conduct the live interview from their studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square. Scott, knowing that he couldn’t get a detailed play-by-play of the election, asked the Cardinal what he and the others had accomplished. The Cardinal, who looked exhausted yet relieved, smiled enthusiastically and said, “We have succeeded in electing a pastor.”

The Church and the world have experienced the “Francis effect” for two years now, and there’s no sign of the Pope slowing down anytime soon. There are many Catholics around the world who have come alive or found a second wind because of his ministry. One of them is Cardinal Wuerl, the pastor and teacher who, as you will see, speaks with conviction and clarity; a shepherd who is close to the people and equally close to Francis; a witness to the joy of the Gospel.

Evangelization and Families

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On February 24-25, 2015 in Victoria, British Columbia, Fr. Thomas Rosica addressed the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Western Canada on the themes of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family and on Evangelization and Families. The text of his address on “Evangelization and Families” is found below:

Your Excellencies,

In his homily at the Canonization Mass for Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II last April, Pope Francis described John Paul II with these words:

“In his own service to the People of God, Saint John Paul II was the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.”

Reflecting on the legacy of St. John Paul II, there is no question that he was a preeminent champion of marriage and family life. He believed that the family would play a vital role in the new springtime of evangelization and was much more than mere bystander in the Church’s evangelizing mission. He presented a deeply positive and bold view of marriage and family life. He was confident that no ideology, however daunting, can extinguish what God has set in motion. While the family finds itself in the midst of an eroding cultural crisis, facing militant attempts to redefine marriage contrary to reason and the Gospel, John Paul II reoriented our gaze to the truth of Christian marriage as a fruit of the redemption of Christ. How many times did he say: “The future of humanity passes through the family!”

John Paul II’s writings on this topic “Original Unity of Man and Woman”Familiaris Consortio” and “Letter to Families,” presented the family as rooted in the economy of salvation: God’s act of creating the world and offering salvation through Christ—with an important role to play in the order of redemption. The family, as such, must continue the work of Christ and this work must begin first within itself, within each individual family before flowing outward to the extended community.

John Paul wished for us to understand the truth about ourselves and not settle for reductions of our personhood. Marriage faces the same reductionist onslaught which assails us, and this is the reason, in an era of anthropological confusion—who and what is a man and a woman? – that marriage between the two is under attack. Without a proper understanding of who we are, the purpose and meaning of marriage cannot be understood in its fullness.

Holy Family 2The Evangelizing Mission of the Family

The “future of evangelization,” insisted St. John Paul, “depends in great part on the Church of the home” (Familiaris Consortio 52). In Redemptor Hominis, he wrote that “the missionary attitude always begins with a feeling of deep esteem for what is in man” (RH 12). In a seemingly radical statement John Paul proclaimed that “Man is the primary and fundamental way for the Church, the way traced out by Christ Himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption” (RH 14). In his 1994 “Letter to Families”, he repeated this theme, stating that “Christ entrusted man to the Church; he entrusted man to her as the way of her mission and ministry.

The lingering question for John Paul II was this: How can the family begin to evangelize and build a civilization of love? He notes that in order for the family to be a sign of Christ’s presence in the world and to take up its mission as evangelizing community, each member of the family, particularly the spouses, must end the reign of sin in their lives (cf. FC 63). You cannot bear fruit if you are severed from the vine, you cannot give what you do not have. In order for the family to participate in this task it has to be constantly nourished and sustained at the wellspring of grace in the Liturgy. Furthermore “the little domestic Church, like the greater Church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized: hence its duty regarding permanent education in faith” (FC 51).

John Paul II left us with a rich, impressive, profound and lofty theology of marriage and family life. His vision flowed from the inherent dignity of every man and woman, of every human being. Some people may be intimidated by John Paul’s reflections, seeing them as daunting, too philosophical and overly academic. Yet, despite the scholarship and depth of his writing, Pope John Paul II had no intention of having his teachings about the human person remain only on the academic level. I think you will agree that his reflections are deeply Christological and Trinitarian, and they are meant to change lives.

Pope Benedict XVI

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI turned attention on many occasions to the sacrament of marriage and family life. The transmission of the faith from one generation to the next has always found a natural home in the family. In a May 2009 homily in Nazareth, he suggested that children need the benefits of a “human ecology,” need to be raised in “a milieu” where they learn: “To love and to cherish others. To be honest and respectful to all. To practice the virtues of mercy and forgiveness.”

At the Milan World Meeting of Families in 2012, Pope Benedict XVI said: “Falling in love is a wonderful thing.” However, the pope described falling in love as the start of a couple’s journey, not its highest point. Something “more wonderful still” awaits the couple, he said. Responding to a question asked during a June 2, 2012 “evening of witness” in Milan by an engaged couple from Madagascar, the pope said: “I often think of the wedding feast of Cana. The first wine is very fine: This is falling in love. But it does not last until the end: A second wine has to come later, it has to ferment and grow, to mature…The definitive love that can truly become this ‘second wine is more wonderful still; it is better than the first wine. And this is what we must seek.”

“Discover the greatness and beauty of marriage,” Pope Benedict said to young people participating in the March 2010 International Youth Forum south of Rome. In a message to the forum, he wrote: “The relationship between the man and the woman reflects divine love in a quite special way; therefore the conjugal bond acquires an immense dignity.”

Because “human beings are made for love,” the pope said, “their lives are completely fulfilled only if they are lived in love.” He explained that “the vocation to love takes different forms according to the state of life,” one being marriage.

Over the years, at different times and speaking from different perspectives, Pope Benedict directed attention both to marriage’s “greatness and beauty” and to family life’s essential roles. Viewing the family as evangelization’s natural home, Pope Benedict began the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization with the words: “a new evangelization is unthinkable without acknowledging a specific responsibility to proclaim the Gospel to families and to sustain them in their task of education.”

In his 2012 Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in the Middle East, he wrote: “Called to live a Christlike love each day, the Christian family is a privileged expression of the church’s presence and mission in the world.”

The Challenge of Evangelii Gaudium

Let us consider how Pope Francis is opening up the theological vision of his two immediate predecessors. In his first apostolic exhortation, on “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis takes the magnificent theology of John Paul II and Benedict XVI and shows us how to apply it in the trenches, in the peripheries of ordinary, daily life. This application is not without immense challenges. “The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to sphere of the private and personal. Furthermore, by completely rejecting the transcendent, it has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin, and a steady increase in relativism” (64).

66. (EG) The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.

LETTER OF POPE FRANCIS TO FAMILIES
From the Vatican, February 2, 2014
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Dear families,

I am writing this letter to you on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. The evangelist Luke tells us that the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, in keeping with the Law of Moses, took the Baby Jesus to the temple to offer him to the Lord, and that an elderly man and woman, Simeon and Anna, moved by the Holy Spirit, went to meet them and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Lk 2:22-38). Simeon took him in his arms and thanked God that he had finally “seen” salvation. Anna, despite her advanced age, found new vigour and began to speak to everyone about the Baby. It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations! He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support… Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the Bread of life which sustains us on our journey.”

In Rio de Janeiro during the mega-World Youth Day of 2013, Francis offered us five key elements of marriage and family life:

  • Thursday, July 25 Address to Community of Varginha (Manguinhos): There is neither real promotion of the common good nor real human development when there is ignorance of the fundamental pillars that govern a nation, its non-material goods: life, which is a gift of God, a value always to be protected and promoted; the family, the foundation of coexistence and a remedy against social fragmentation; integral education, which cannot be reduced to the mere transmission of information for the purposes of generating profit; health, which must seek the integral well-being of the person, including the spiritual dimension, essential for human balance and healthy coexistence; security, in the conviction that violence can be overcome only by changing human hearts.”
  • Friday, July 26 Angelus:How precious is the family as the privileged place for transmitting the faith! Speaking about family life, I would like to say one thing: today, as Brazil and the Church around the world celebrate this feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, Grandparents Day is also being celebrated. How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society! How important it is to have intergenerational exchanges and dialogues, especially within the context of the family.”

  • Saturday, July 27 Interview on Radio Catedral (radio broadcasting station of the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro): “Not only would I say that the family is important for the evangelization of the new world. The family is important, and it is necessary for the survival of humanity. Without the family, the cultural survival of the human race would be at risk. The family, whether we like it or not, is the foundation.

  • Sunday, July 28 Address to the World Youth Day Volunteers: “God calls you to make definitive choices, and he has a plan for each of you: to discover that plan and to respond to your vocation is to move forward toward personal fulfillment. God calls each of us to be holy, to live his life, but he has a particular path for each one of us. Some are called to holiness through family life in the sacrament of Marriage. Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion. Is it out of fashion? In a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘for ever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage ‘to swim against the tide’. And also have the courage to be happy.”

  •  Sunday, July 28 Address to the Bishops of Brazil: “In mission, also on a continental level, it is very important to reaffirm the family, which remains the essential cell of society and the Church; young people, who are the face of the Church’s future; women, who play a fundamental role in passing on the faith and who are a daily source of strength in a society that carries this faith forward and renews it.”

Last November 2014, Pope Francis addressed a Colloquium being held at the Vatican on the theme “The Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage.” Contrary to some thoughts circulating about this meeting, the colloquium was not called to serve as a corrective to October’s Synod. Francis began his address by dwelling on the word “complementarity”: “a previous word, with multiple meanings.” Although complementarity can refer “situations where one of two things adds to, completes, or fulfills a lack in the other” it also means much more than that. Christians, he said, “find its deepest meaning in the first Letter to the Corinthians where Saint Paul tells us that the Spirit has endowed each of us with different gifts so that-just as the human body’s members work together for the good of the whole-everyone’s gifts can work together for the benefit of each.”

“Complementarity is at the root of marriage and family.” Although there are tensions in families, the family also provides the framework in which those tensions can be resolved.” He said that complementarity should not be confused with a simplistic notion that “all the roles and relations of the sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern.” Rather, “complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children.”

Pope Francis said that the crisis in the family has produced a crisis “of human ecology,” similar to the crisis that affects the natural environment. “Although the human race has come to understand the need to address conditions that menace our natural environments, we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in our Catholic Church. It is therefore essential that we foster a new human ecology and advance it.”

To do that, the Pope said, “It is necessary first to promote the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods.” He noted that the family is the foundation of society, and that children have the right to grow up in a family with a mother and a father “capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.”

He also called on participants in the Colloquium “to lift up yet another truth about marriage: that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity, and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart.” This is especially important for young people “who represent our future.” Finally, Pope Francis said the family is not an ideological concept, but an “anthropological fact.” That is, the family is not a “conservative” or a “progressive” notion, but is a reality that transcends ideological labels.

During his recent trip to Manila, Francis held a meeting with 20,000 Filipino families in which he blasted the “ideological colonization” of the family. It refers to the strongly held belief among many Catholics in places such as Africa, Latin America, and Asia that Western governments and NGOs, as well as international bodies such as the United Nations, are using their control over development aid to impose their agendas. That same night in Manila, Francis again departed from his prepared text to offer a strong defense of Pope Paul VI and his controversial 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae that upheld the contraception ban.

“He (Paul VI) had the strength to defend openness to life at a time when many people were worried about population growth.”

On the return flight from Manila to Rome, Francis gave a long answer to a question asked of him about the meaning of ideological colonization. He told a story from his time as an Argentinian bishop about a government education minister needing a loan to build schools for the poor, and getting an offer on the condition that textbooks in these schools contain references to “gender theory.” This phrase refers to the idea that sexual identity is a social construct, not part of any natural law, and thus all types of sexual orientations and behaviors are perfectly acceptable. Francis described this colonization as an assault on the right of peoples to make their own choices and to preserve their own identity.

Some headlines from that in-flight news conference focused on the pope’s green light to limit the size of Catholic families, in part because he served up an irresistible sound-bite: “To be good Catholics, we don’t have to breed like rabbits.” Yet as insiders parse the pope’s words, they’ll discover that he was in no way talking about contraception, since he once again praised Paul VI and even said that Pope Paul was trying to ward off a “neo-Malthusian” ideology of population control.

Holy Family 4Family as Domestic Church

The family functions as a small “domestic church” that can be a privileged route to evangelization. Cardinal Kasper has spoken and written about the rediscovery of the “gospel of the family,” the vision of the family in the Book of Genesis and in God’s plan. Kasper reflects on the structures of sin within the family, including family problems, tensions between men and women, and the suffering of women and mothers. But Cardinal Kasper also said that the main purpose of his now well-known address to the cardinals in consistory in February 2014 was to deepen the theological understanding of challenges facing the family, ahead of the first synod on that subject to be held in the Vatican last October. While the Church must remain faithful to its teaching on the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage, it is vital to “help, support, encourage” those experiencing difficulties in their family life. “The Church has to be close to them, to help, support and encourage them, to find a way between ‘rigorism’ (strictness) – which cannot be the way of normal Christians – and a pure ‘laxism’ (leniency) …I think this can be the only approach of the Church today…”

Pope Francis and Cardinal Kasper maintain the full teaching of the Church but the teaching has to be applied to concrete situations, as Jesus did and as Pope Francis does very often. The doctrine of the Church is not an ideology in the clouds. It’s about a God who wishes to be present and close to his people. Since the topic of this presentation is about challenges facing marriage and family life. I would like to propose to you several Scripture passages for your consideration. Passages which remind us that though we should strive for the highest ideals, we must also recognize and accept people where they are at.

Emmanuel, the Prayer and the Promise

Matthew’s infancy narrative (1:1-25), provides a wide-angle view of the Incarnation event, against a rich, biblical panorama. More than Mark and Luke, Matthew stresses the Jewish origin of Jesus: the genealogy presents him as “son of David, son of Abraham” (1:1) and goes back no further. Matthew is concerned with 14 generations, probably because 14 is the numerical value of the Hebrew letters forming the name of David.

While the genealogy shows the continuity of God’s providential plan from Abraham on, discontinuity and irregularity are also present. The women Tamar (1:3), Rahab and Ruth (1:5), and the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba (1:6), bore their sons through unions that were in varying degrees strange and unexpected.

These “irregularities” culminate in the great “irregularity” of the Messiah’s birth of a young virgin. Matthew has drawn our attention to the peculiarities of these biblical women of the Old Testament, perhaps in order to warn us that something even stranger is coming, or perhaps to enable us, when the news is announced, to connect it with God’s strange way of operating in the past. Our God writes straight with crooked lines, and Jesus’ genealogy is living proof of that fact!

From Joseph’s perspective

Matthew’s story is told from Joseph’s point of view, while the more familiar account from Luke is told from the perspective of Mary. Joseph, a righteous man, is presented as a devout observer of the Mosaic Law (1:19). His betrothal to Mary was the first part of the marriage, constituting a man and woman as husband and wife. Subsequent infidelity was considered adultery. Some months after the betrothal, the husband would take his wife into his home, at which time normal married life began. Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary is overcome by the heavenly command that he take her into his home and accept the child as his own. The natural genealogical line is broken, but the promises to David are fulfilled; through Joseph’s adoption the child belongs to the family of David.

Joseph protected and provided for Jesus and Mary. He named Jesus, taught him how to pray, how to work, how to be a man. While no words or texts are attributed to him, we can be sure that Joseph pronounced two of the most important words that could ever be spoken, when he named his son “Jesus” and called him “Emmanuel.” At Christmas Eve each year, it becomes clear to us that the story of the birth of a baby in Bethlehem was no idyllic country folk tale. It was the true fulfillment of the hopes and longings, dreams and desires of the people of ancient Israel.

What do we learn from this powerful story of Jesus’ origins? God never abandons humanity, but rather enters into all that frequently makes life on earth so difficult. In the name “Emmanuel,” we find the answer to humanity’s deepest longings for God throughout the ages. Emmanuel is both a prayer and plea on our behalf, and a promise and declaration on God’s. When we pronounce the word, we are really praying and pleading: “God, be with us!” And when God speaks it, the Almighty, Eternal, Omnipresent Creator of the world is telling us: “I am with you” in this Child. The name Emmanuel is also alluded to at the end of Matthew’s Gospel where the Risen Jesus assures his disciples of his continued presence: “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (28:20).

The Future of Humanity Passes Through the Family
Reflection on the Holy Family

There is a Gospel story unique to Luke (2:41-52) that relates an incident from Jesus’ youth. Luke’s infancy narrative, however scarce in details concerning the first part of Jesus’ life, mentions that “his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover” (2:41), an indication of their piety, and of their fidelity to the law and to the tradition of Israel.

“When Jesus was 12 years old, they went up according to custom. When they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, without his parents knowing it” (2:42-43). After searching for three days, “they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (2:46). Jesus’ mysterious words to his parents seem to subdue their joy at finding him: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (2:49) The later question can also be translated, “Did you not know that I must be immersed in my Father’s work?” In either case, Jesus refers to God as his Father. His divine sonship, and his obedience to his heavenly Father’s will, take precedence over his ties to his family.

Apart from this event, the whole period of the infancy and youth of Jesus is passed over in silence in the Gospel. It is the time of his “hidden life,” summarized by Luke in two simple statements: Jesus “went down with [Mary and Joseph] and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them” (Luke 2:51); and “He progressed steadily in wisdom and age and grace before God and men” (Luke 2:52). With this episode, the infancy narrative ends just as it began, in the setting of the Jerusalem Temple. We learn from the Gospels that Jesus lived in his own family, in the house of Joseph, who took the place of a father in regard to Mary’s Son by assisting and protecting him, and gradually training him in his own trade of carpentry. Indeed, the people of the town of Nazareth regarded him as “the carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13:55), asking with surprise: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” (Mark 6:3).

Besides his mother, they mentioned also his “brothers” and his “sisters,” who lived at Nazareth. It was they who, as the evangelist Mark mentions, sought to dissuade Jesus from his activity of teaching (Mark 3:21). Evidently, they did not find in him anything to justify the beginning of a public ministry. They thought that Jesus was just like any other Israelite, and should remain such.

Does the story sound familiar? The anxiety and misunderstanding experienced by the Holy Family should not be hidden from families today that experience similar situations. We have often presented the Holy Family of Nazareth as the picture perfect snapshot of family life, without any blemish or difficulty. When we connect people with the real, daily life situations of the Holy Family, and allow the utter humanity of Mary, Joseph and Jesus to shine through, contemporary families will look to them for inspiration, intercession and hope.

In the midst of last October’s Extraordinary Synod, Peter Manseauoct wrote an article for the New York Times in which he asked the fundamental question: What is a Catholic Family?” (NYT October 17, 2014), He concluded his article with these words:

“…a woman who conceived a child before she was married, a chaste stepfather who nearly divorced her as a result, and that original sign of contradiction, the human son of God. A church that claims to descend from this most untraditional of domestic arrangements might ask itself: Was any family ever more irregular than that?”

It was through the irregularity at the beginning, ordinary daily living, and daily acts of faithfulness, kindness, generosity and love that surrounded Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, that provided for him a beautiful environment in which to grow and mature. Holiness flows from wholeness and goodness.

School of Nazareth

The moving words of Pope Paul VI spoken in Nazareth on January 5, 1964, are a beautiful reflection on the mystery of Nazareth and of the Holy Family. His words inspire all of us to imitate God’s family in their beautiful values of silence, family life, and work. He said:

Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ’s life was like and even to understand his Gospel. Here we can observe and ponder the simple appeal of the way God’s Son came to be known, profound yet full of hidden meaning.

First we learn from its silence. If only we could once again appreciate its great value. We need this wonderful state of mind, beset, as we are, by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times. The silence of Nazareth should teach us how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual, and to be open to the voice of God’s inner wisdom and the counsel of his true teachers. Nazareth can teach us the value of study and preparation, of meditation, of a well-ordered personal spiritual life, and of silent prayer that is known only to God.

Second, we learn about family life. May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplifying its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings – in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children – and for this there is no substitute. 

Finally, in Nazareth, the home of a craftsman’s son, we learn about work and the discipline it entails. I would especially like to recognize its value – demanding yet redeeming – and to give it proper respect. I would remind everyone that work has its own dignity. On the other hand, it is not an end in itself. Its value and free character, however, derive not only from its place in the economic system, as they say, but rather from the purpose it serves.

Holy Family 3Contemporary Challenges for Marriage and Family Life

As bishops, priests and the entire Christian community, and as society in general, we must do more to encourage the committed relationship of man and woman that remains so basic to all civilizations, and has proven to be the best support for the rights and needs of children. The Christian family is no longer capable of singularly transmitting the faith to the next generation, and neither is the parish, even though it continues to be the indispensable structure for the Church’s pastoral mission in any given place. As the keystone of society, the family is the most favorable environment in which to welcome children.

We must reflect carefully on the social consequences involved in the redefinition of marriage, examining all that is entailed if society no longer gives a privileged place and fundamental value to the lifelong union of a man and a woman in matrimony. Care must be taken with the language we use to describe these consequences. Parishes, dioceses, and lay movements that do not have creative pastoral strategies and vocational programs about marriage for young people leave the door open to tremendous moral confusion and misunderstanding, misinformation, emptiness.

At the same time, we cannot forget that other bonds of love and interdependency, of commitment and mutual responsibility exist in society. They may be good; they may even be recognized in law. They are not the same as marriage: they are something else. No extension of terminology for legal purposes will change the observable reality that only the committed union of a man and a woman carries not only the bond of interdependency between the two adults, but the inherent capacity to bring forth children.

“The future of humanity passes through the family,” as Saint John Paul II would say so often. The foundation of society is the family. And the foundation of the family is marriage. The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman. The family is the most favorable environment in which children can be born and raised. We need young adults to say “I do” with joy, conviction, faith, and hope. They are our future and our hope. Without married people, we cannot build the future of society and the Church. Without committed, married people, our world will not give rise to the holy families of today.

The recently published Directory for Homilies includes two sections on marriage and family life:

From the Directory for Homilies

  1. The institution of the family faces great challenges in various parts of the world today, and it is entirely appropriate for the homilist to speak about these. However, rather than simply giving a moral exhortation on family values, the preacher should take his cue from the Scripture readings of this day to speak of the Christian family as a school of discipleship. Christ, whose birth we are celebrating, came into the world to do the will of his Father, such an obedience that is docile towards the movements of the Holy Spirit has a place in the life of every Christian family. Joseph obeys the angel and takes the Child and his Mother into Egypt (Year A); Mary and Joseph obey the Law by presenting their Baby in the Temple (Year B) and going on pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover (Year C); Jesus for his part is obedient to his earthly parents, but his desire to be in his Father’s house is even greater (Year C). As Christians, we are also members of another family, which gathers around the family table of the altar to be fed on the sacrifice that came about because Christ was obedient unto death. We should see our own families as a domestic Church in which we put into practice the pattern of self-sacrificing love we encounter in the Eucharist. Thus all Christian families open outward to become part of Jesus’ new and larger family: “For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mk 3:35).
  1. This understanding of the Christian meaning of family life assists the preacher in speaking about the reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. The Apostle’s instruction that wives should be subordinate to their husbands can be disturbing to people of our day; if the homilist does not plan to speak about this directive, it might be more prudent to use the shorter version of the reading. However, the difficult passages of Scripture often have the most to teach us, and this reading provides an opportunity for the homilist to address a theme that may be uncongenial to modern ears, but which in fact does make a valuable and necessary point when properly understood. We can gain insight into the meaning of this text by consulting a similar one, Eph 5:21-6:4. There also Paul is speaking about the mutual responsibilities of family life. The key sentence is this: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21). The originality of the Apostle’s teaching is not that wives should be submissive to their husbands; that was simply presumed in the culture of his day. What is new, and distinctively Christian, is, first, that such submission should be mutual: if the wife is to obey her husband, the husband in turn should, like Christ, lay down his very life for his wife. Secondly, the motive for this mutual subordination is not simply for the sake of harmony in the family or the good of society: no, it is made out of reverence for Christ. In other words, mutual submission in the family is an expression of Christian discipleship; the family home is, or should be, a place where we manifest our love for God by laying down our lives for one another. The homilist can challenge his hearers to make real in their own relationships that self-sacrificial love which is at the heart of Christ’s life and mission, and which we celebrate in our “family meal” of the Eucharist.

Conclusion

We need new strategies, new language, and creative pastoral outreach to encourage young adults to consider sacramental marriage and family life. We must develop better methods of evangelization and catechesis to convince young adults that marriage is good, beautiful and worthwhile! We must discover new avenues of communication and outreach to those recently married. What do we provide for them? How do we thank the thousands of couples who, day in and day out, before our very eyes, lay down their lives for others and serve the Lord and their families with great generosity. And let us never forget those who have loved and lost, and those who have suffered the pain of separation, divorce and alienation. May our field hospitals provide for them healing, consolation and loving welcome.

Pope Francis reminds us each day in word and by his actions of the importance of being close to people and accompanying them along the way. In Evangelii Gaudium, Francis devotes much attention to the homily at mass. I consider this a brilliant pastoral strategy to reach people today and let them know of the beauty of marriage and family life.

“The homily joins the living hearts of the Lord and his people. The people are silent and listen as God speaks.”

“The preacher is called to recognize in the people the living water of their faith and culture; where the desire for God is ardent and alive, as well as where the dialogue with God has broken down.”

“The Church preaches as a mother. There is trust in children when their mother speaks. Both mother and child listen to each other. Their conversation can lead to learning and correction.”

“Our preaching is to be maternal: close to the people, with a warm tone of voice, unpretentious and joyful.”

“When Jesus preached he looked beyond the weaknesses and failings of the people. He preached with mercy and kindness. He was filled with the joy of the spirit. He preached the truth with the beauty of images.”

“Our challenge as preachers is to communicate the truth of God’s love and to encourage the joyful living of good lives.”

“Our task is to help our people desire the joy of God’s embrace.”

Archbishop Oscar Romero: Blessed and Defender of the Poor and Justice

RomeroParade
RomeroPortraitVatican City, 4 February 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family and postulator of the cause for the beatification of Oscar Arnulfo Romero, presented the figure of the Salvadoran archbishop assassinated in 1980 while celebrating Mass and whose martyrdom was acknowledged yesterday with the signing of the necessary decree by Pope Francis. Historian Roberto Morozzo della Rocca, professor of modern history at the University of Rome III and author of a biography of Oscar Romero, also participated in the conference. Extensive extracts of Archbishop Paglia’s presentation are published below.
“It is an extraordinary gift for all of the Church at the beginning of this millennium to see rise to the altar a pastor who gave his life for his people; and this is true for all Christians. This can be seen in the attention of the Anglican Church, which has placed a statue of Romero in the facade of Westminster Abbey alongside those of Martin Luther King and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and for all of society that regards him as a defender of the poor and of peace. Gratitude is also due to Benedict XVI, who followed the cause from the very beginning and on 20 December 2012 – just over a month before his resignation – decided to unblock the process to enable it to follow the regular itinerary”.
“The work of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, with Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., has been careful and attentive. The unanimity of both the commission of cardinals and the commission of theologians confirmed his martyrdom in odium fidei. … The martyrdom of Romero has given meaning and strength to many Salvadoran families who lost relatives and friends during the civil war. His memory immediately became the memory of other victims, perhaps less illustrious, of the violence”.
“Following a lengthy procedure that encountered many difficulties, on account of opposition due to both the archbishop’s thought and pastoral action, and the situation of conflict that developed in relation to him, the itinerary finally reached its conclusion. Romero becomes, as it were, the first of a long line of contemporary New Martyrs. 24 March – the day of his death – became, by decision of the Italian Episcopal Conference, the “Day for Prayer for Missionary Martyrs”. The United Nations have proclaimed that day “International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims”.
Romero mural wall
The world has changed greatly since 1980, but that pastor from a small Central American country speaks powerfully. It is not without significance that his beatification will take place precisely when there is for the first time in history a Latin American Pope who wants a ‘poor Church, for the poor’. It is a providential coincidence”.
Romero the pastor
“Romero believed in his role as a bishop and primate of his country, and he considered himself responsible for the population, especially the poorest. Therefore, he took upon himself the bloodshed, pain and violence, denouncing their causes in his charismatic Sunday preaching that was listened to on the radio by the entire nation. We might say that it was a ‘pastoral conversion’, with the assumption by Romero of a strength that was indispensable in the crisis that beset the country. He transformed himself into a defensor civitatis following the tradition of the ancient Fathers of the Church, defending the persecuted clergy, protecting the poor, and affirming human rights”.
“The climate of persecution was palpable. However, Romero clearly became the defender of the poor in the face of cruel repression. After two years as archbishop of San Salvador, Romero counted thirty lost priests – killed, expelled or forced to flee from death. The death squads killed scores of catechists from the base communities, and many faithful disappeared from these communities. The Church was the main target of accusation and therefore the hardest hit. Romero resisted and accepted giving his life to defend his people”.
RomeroDeathAssassinated at the altar during Mass
“He was killed at the altar. Killing him was intended to strike at the Church that flowed from Vatican Council II. His death – as the detailed documentary examination clearly showed – was not only politically motivated, but due also to hatred for a faith that, combined with charity, would not stay silent when faced with the injustices that implacably and cruelly afflicted the poor and their defenders. His assassination at the altar – without doubt a more uncertain death as it meant shooting from a distance of thirty metres rather than an attempt from a shorter range – had a symbolic nature that resounded as as terrible warning for whoever wished to follow the same route. John Paul II himself – who was well aware of the other two saints killed at the altar, St. Stanislaus of Krakow and St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury – noted effectively, ‘they killed him precisely at the most sacred moment, during the highest and most divine act. … A bishop of God’s Church was assassinated while he exercised his sanctifying mission, offering the Eucharist’. On a number of occasions he repeated forcefully, ‘Romero is ours, Romero is of the Church!’”.
Romero and the poor
“Romero had always loved the poor. As a very young priest in San Miguel he was accused of communism because he asked the rich to give a fair salary to the peasant coffee cultivators. He told them that not only did they act against justice, but also that they themselves opened the doors to communism”.
“Romero understood increasingly clearly that being a pastor to all meant starting with the poor. Placing the poor at the centre of the pastoral concerns of the Church and therefore of all Christians, including the rich, was the new pastoral way. His preferential love for the poor not only did not attenuate his love for his country, but on the contrary supported it. In this sense, Romero was not partisan, although to some he appeared that way; rather, he was a pastor who sought the common good of all, starting however with the poor. He never ceased to seek out the way for the pacification of the country.
Romero, man of God and of the Church
Romero was a man of God, a man of prayer, of obedience and love for the people. He prayed a lot … and he was harsh on himself, a severity linked to an old-fashioned spirituality made up of sacrifices. He had a ‘linear’ spiritual life, in spite of having a character that was not always easy – rigorous with himself, intransigent, tormented. But in prayer he found rest, peace and strength. When he had to make complicated or difficult decisions, he withdrew in prayer”.
“He was a bishop faithful to the magisterium. From his papers there clearly emerges his familiarity with the documents of Vatican Council II, Medellin, Puebla, the social doctrine of the Church and other pontifical texts in general. … It has often been said that Romero was suborned by liberation theology. Once, a journalist asked him, ‘Do you agree with liberation theology?’. He answered, ‘Yes, of course. But there are two forms of liberation theology. There is the one that sees liberation solely as material liberation. The other is that of Paul VI. I am with Paul VI’”.