Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis meets with the priests of the Diocese of Rome, a miracle attributed to the late great Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Quebec goes to the polls and a new mobile app to help Catholics during lent.
By. Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton (Canadian Council of Churches)
Given that the focus country of the 2014 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was, for only the third time in the Week’s one hundred year history, Canada, it was no surprise that I should be invited to preach in a number of places.
It was a great honour to preach in Calgary on January 19th. Twice actually as I was invited to preach in an Anglican parish in the morning and then for the Week of Prayer service sponsored by the Calgary Council of Churches in the afternoon. Ecumenism abounded! And it abounded the next day as well as at a Calgary press conference we launched the new CCC resource on Human Trafficking in Canada and around the world. A dire subject. A calling for all of us who believe that all people are made in the image of God to eradicate this form of modern-day slavery. The resource is available on the CCC website.
Please educate, please act, please pray.
It was also a great honour to be invited to preach at the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity English language service in Rome. Yes, that Rome!
His Holiness Pope Francis was, of course, giving the homily at the Italian Week of Prayer service held in St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. I was invited to preach at the English Week of Prayer service, January 26th in San Silvestro. What an awesome privilege it was to be there with brothers and sisters of all Christian denominations – Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Church of Scotland, Evangelical as we prayed, sang, lit candles and heard and experienced the Word calling us forward in our unity in diversity, in our witness to the world. We reminded each other that the Church exists for the sake of the world, God’s world and we strive for unity in order to better manifest Christ, in order to better serve God’s people. The sermon I preached is posted on my Facebook page and is available to all.
As the General Secretary of the focus country for the Week of Prayer, I was invited to be a special ecumenical guest at Pope Francis’ service as well. Ecumenism abounded there as His Holiness prayed at the tomb of St. Paul together with the representatives of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch. There were many Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican sisters and brothers there in prayer. We sang together, we lifted our hearts together.
And at the end of the service Pope Francis came to greet the ecumenical guests. I was able to tell him who I was, my position and my country. He asked me, as he does, simply and directly, to pray for him and so I have every day since.
After both services, after being special guest for the 125th anniversary celebration of the Pontifical Canadian College, which was where I was most graciously hosted, I was asked by a number of people what colour the Pope’s eyes are. Of course, we could all just look that up. It must be on Google somewhere, if not just evident from pictures. But my answer to the question was my experience – his eyes sparkled and shone with the love of Christ, with the love of the World.
May ours do the same every day, whether preaching in Rome or serving soup in an out-of-the-cold programme or holding the hand of a friend struggling with depression.
Pray for the Pope, Act in unity for the World.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Karen Hamilton
Today on Perspectives: Pope Francis celebrates the start of Advent with the university students of Rome. Deacon Pedro reports from Maracaibo, Venezuela where the 4th Missionary Congress for the Americas has just wrapped up.
Tonight on perspectives pope Francis meets with the clergy of Rome and Benin Will hold a symposium about the books of pope emeritus Benedict.
Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis’ daily homily, implementing the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Pastoral Plan and Pope Francis attends Italy’s March for Life.
Following a historic conclave, Pope Francis was publicly installed as the 266th Bishop of Rome earlier today in St. Peter’s Square. Published below is an unofficial translation of the Holy Father’s homily. Note: S+L will rebroadcast the mass at 1:30 pm ET/10:30 am PT, 8:00 pm ET/5:00 pm PT and 12:00 am ET/9:00 pm PT. For more programming information, visit S+L’s Habemus Papam webpage.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the Inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.
I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.
In the Gospel, we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).
How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.
How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!
The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!
Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.
Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!
Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!
Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!
In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.
To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!
I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.