Thursday, November 28, 2013

Saint Peter's Square
Sunday, 24 November 2013

Today’s solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, also marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith opened by Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thoughts now turn with affection and gratitude for this gift which he has given us. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long. […]
The Scripture readings proclaimed to us have as their common theme the centrality of Christ. Christ is at the centre, Christ is the centre. Christ is the centre of creation, Christ is the centre of his people and Christ is the centre of history.  
1. The apostle Paul, in the second reading, taken from the letter to the Colossians, offers us a profound vision of the centrality of Jesus. He presents Christ to us as the first-born of all creation: in him, through him and for him all things were created. He is the centre of all things, he is the beginning: Jesus Christ, the Lord. God has given him the fullness, the totality, so that in him all things might be reconciled (cf. Col 1:12-20). He is the Lord of creation, he is the Lord of reconciliation.
This image enables to see that Jesus is the centre of creation; and so the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works. And so our thoughts will be Christian thoughts, thoughts of Christ. Our works will be Christian works, works of Christ; and our words will be Christian words, words of Christ. But when this centre is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.  
2. Besides being the centre of creation and the centre of reconciliation, Christ is the centre of the people of God. Today, he is here in our midst. He is here right now in his word, and he will be here on the altar, alive and present amid us, his people. We see this in the first reading which describes the time when the tribes of Israel came to look for David and anointed him king of Israel before the Lord (cf. 2 Sam 5:1-3). […]Christ, the descendant of King David, is really the “brother” around whom God’s people come together. It is he who cares for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life. In him we are all one, one people, united with him and sharing a single journey, a single destiny. Only in him, in him as the centre, do we receive our identity as a people.

3. Finally, Christ is the centre of the history of humanity and also the centre of the history of every individual. To him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles which are part of our lives. When Jesus is the centre, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope, as he does to the good thief in today’s Gospel.  
Whereas all the others treat Jesus with disdain […] the thief who went astray in his life but now repents, clings to the crucified Jesus and begs him: “Remember me, when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42). Jesus promises him: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43), in his kingdom. Jesus speaks only a word of forgiveness, not of condemnation; whenever anyone finds the courage to ask for this forgiveness, the Lord does not let such a petition go unheard. […] We would do well, each one of us, on this day, to think about our own personal history, to look at Jesus and to keep telling him, sincerely and quietly: “Remember me, Lord, now that you are in your kingdom! Jesus, remember me, because I want to be good, but I just don’t have the strength: I am a sinner, I am a sinner. But remember me, Jesus! You can remember me because you are at the centre; you are truly in your kingdom!” […]
Let us ask the Lord to remember us, in the certainty that by his mercy we will be able to share his glory in paradise. Let us go forward together on this road!
Archbishop Rino Fisichella carries the bones of Saint Peter which
Pope Francis venerated and held during the Creed.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Courage and Hope

November 17, 2013

Dear brothers and sisters, hello!

This Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 21:5-19) consists in the first part of one of Jesus’ sermons, that on the last times.  Jesus gives it in Jerusalem, near the temple, and the topic is given to him precisely by the people who were talking about the temple’s beauty, because that temple was beautiful.  So Jesus said: “All that you see here -- the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down" (Luke 21:6).  Naturally, they ask him: When will this happen?  What will the signs be?  But Jesus deflects attention away from these secondary aspects – When will it happen?  What will it be like? – and turns it toward the real issues.  And there are 2. First, do not let yourself be deceived by false messiahs and not let yourself be paralyzed by fear.  Second, live the period of waiting as time of witness and perseverance.  And we are in this of waiting, of waiting for the Lord’s coming.

This sermon of Jesus is always relevant, even for us who live in the 21st century.  He repeats: “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name” (21:8).  It is an invitation to discernment, this Christian virtue of understanding where the spirit of the Lord is and where the evil spirit is.  Today too, in fact, there are false “saviors,” who try to take Jesus’ place: leaders of this world, gurus, even sorcerers, people who want to attract the minds and hearts, especially of young people, to themselves.  Jesus warns us: “Do not follow them!”  “Do not follow them!”

And the Lord helps us not to be afraid too: in the face of wars, revolutions, but also natural calamities, epidemics, Jesus frees us from fatalism and false apocalyptic visions.  The second aspect addresses us precisely as Christians and members of the Church: Jesus foretells painful trials and persecutions that his disciples must undergo for his sake.  Nevertheless, he assures them: “Not one of your heads will be harmed” (21:18). He reminds us that we are totally in God’s hands!  The adversity that we face because of our faith and our adherence to the Gospel are occasions for witness; they need not distance us from the Lord but move us to abandon ourselves all the more to him, to the power of his Spirit and his grace.
I am reflecting in this moment and let all of us reflect.  Let us do it together: let us think about the many brother and sister Christians, who suffer persecution because of their faith.  There are many, perhaps many more than in the first centuries.  Jesus is with them.  We too are united to them by our prayer and our affection.  We also admire their courage and their testimony.  They are our brothers and sisters, who in many parts of the world suffer because of being faithful to Jesus Christ.  We salute them from our hearts and with affection.

In the end, Jesus makes a promise that guarantees victory: “With your perseverance you will save your life” (21:19). How much hope there is in these words!  They are call to hope and patience, to knowing how to wait for the sure fruits of salvation, trusting in the profound meaning of life and of history: trials and difficulties are part of a larger design; the Lord, Lord of history brings everything to fulfillment.  Despite the disorder and disasters that disturb the world, the plan of God’s goodness and mercy will prevail!  And this is our hope: to walk in this way, on this road, in this plan of God that will prevail.  This is our hope.

This message of Jesus makes us reflect on our present moment and gives us the strength to face it with courage and hope, in the company of Our Lady, who always walks with us.

[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those present:]
I greet all of you: families, associations and groups, who have come from Rome, from Italy and from every part of the world: Spain, France, Finland, the low countries.  In particular I greet the pilgrims from Vercelli, Salerno, Lizzanello; the Motoclub Lucania from Potenza, the young people of Montecassino and Caserta.

Today the Eritrean community in Rome celebrates the feast of St. Michael.  We greet you from our heart!  Today is the “Day of Victims of Road Accidents.”  I assure you of my prayers and encourage you to continue in your work for prevention because respect for laws is the primary way of protecting oneself and others.

Today I would also like to suggest a medicine to you.  But someone might think: “The Pope is a pharmacist now?”  It is a special medicine that will make the fruits of the Year of Faith concrete. This year is drawing to its close.  It is a medicine of 59 pills for the heart.  It is a “spiritual medicine” called “Misericordina.”  A little box with 59 pills for the heart.  The medicine is in this little box and some volunteers will hand it out to you as you are leaving the piazza.  Take it! It is a rosary with which you can also pray the “Mercy chaplet,” a spiritual help for our soul and to spread love, forgiveness and fraternity everywhere.  Do not forget to take it because it is good for you, okay?  It is good for your heart, your soul and your whole life!

I offer you all a cordial wish for a good Sunday.  Goodbye and have a good lunch!

Translation of the Angelus from

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Angelus – November 10, 2013

Dear brothers and sisters, hello!
This Sunday’s Gospel presents us Jesus contending with the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection. And it is precisely on this topic that they pose a question to Jesus to give him trouble and ridicule faith in the resurrection of the dead. They propose a hypothetical situation: “A woman had seven husbands, who died one after the other,” and they ask Jesus: “Whose wife will she be after her death?” Jesus, always meek and patient, first of all responds that life after death does not have the same parameters as life on earth. Eternal life is another life, in another dimension, where, among other things, there will be no marriage, which is linked to our existence in this world. The resurrected, Jesus says, will be like angels, and they will live in a different state that we cannot experience or imagine now. And this is how Jesus explains things.
But then Jesus, so to speak, launches a counterattack. And he does this by citing Sacred Scripture with a simplicity and an originality that fills us with admiration for our Master, the only Master! Jesus finds the proof of the resurrection in the episode about Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-6), where God reveals himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The name of God is connected to the men and women to which he binds himself, and this link is stronger than death. And we can also say of God’s relationship with us, with each one of us: He is our God! He is the God of each one of us! It is as if he bore our name. It pleases him to say it, and this is the covenant. This is why Jesus says: “God is not the God of the dead but of the living, because everyone lives for him” (Luke 20:38). And this is the decisive link, the fundamental covenant, the covenant with Jesus: he himself is the Covenant, he himself is the Life and the Resurrection because, with his crucified love, he overcame death. In Jesus, God gives us eternal life, he gives it to everyone, and thanks to him everyone has the hope of a life still more true than this one. The life that God prepares for us is not merely an embellishment of this present life: it transcends our imagination, because God continually awakens wonder in us with his love and with his mercy.
So, what will happen is precisely the contrary of what the Sadducees expected. It is not this life that illuminates eternity, the other life, the one that awaits us, but eternity – that life – that illuminates and gives hope to the earthly life of each one of us! If we look at things only with human eyes, we are brought to say that man’s journey runs from life to death. This is obvious! But this is only the case if we look at things with human eyes. Jesus stands this perspective on its head and says that our pilgrimage runs from death to life: to fullness of life! We are on a journey, on pilgrimage toward the fullness of life, and that life is what enlightens us on our journey! So, death is behind us, at our backs, not in front of us. Before us there is the God of the living, the God of the covenant, the God who bears my name, our name, as he said: “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” also the God with my name, with your name, with your name..., with our name. God of the living! ... Before us is the final defeat of sin and death, the beginning of a new time of joy and of light without end. But already on this earth, in prayer, in the Sacraments, in fraternity, we meet Jesus and his love, and in this way we can have a foretaste of the risen life. Our experience of his love and his fidelity lights a fire in our heart and increases our faith in the resurrection. In fact, if God is faithful and loves, it cannot be for a limited time: fidelity is eternal, it cannot change. God’s love is eternal, it cannot change! It is not for a limited time: it is forever! And to go forward! He is faithful forever and he awaits us, each of us, he accompanies each of us with this eternal fidelity.
[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those present in St. Peter’s Square:]
Today in Paderborn, Germany, Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel will be proclaimed blessed. Foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, she lived in the 19th century. The Eucharist was the source from which she drew spiritual energy to dedicate herself with untiring charity to the weakest. Let us praise the Lord for her witness!

Blessed Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel
I would like again to assure the people of the Philippines and that region, who have been struck by a massive typhoon, of my closeness to them. Unfortunately, there are many victims and enormous damage. Let us pray for a moment in silence and then to Our Lady for these brothers and sisters of ours and let us try also to help them concretely. Let us pray in silence. [And then after a pause:] Hail Mary...
Today is the 75th anniversary of the so-called “Kristallnacht,” the night of violence against Jews, their synagogues, homes and businesses [in Germany and Austria] November 9-10, 1938. It marked a sad step toward the tragedy of the Shoah. Let us renew our nearness and solidarity with the Jewish people, our big brothers. And we pray to God that the memory of the past, the memory of past sins help us to be ever more vigilant against every form of hatred and intolerance.
This Sunday in Italy the Day of Thanksgiving is celebrated. I join my voice to that of the bishops, expressing my nearness to the agricultural world, especially to young people who have chosen to work the land. I encourage those who work to ensure that no one goes without healthy and adequate food.
I greet all the pilgrims, who have come from different countries, the families, the parish groups, the associations; in particular I greet the faithful of the dioceses of Liguria, accompanied by Cardinal Bagnasco and by the other bishops of the region.
I greet the Istituto Secolare Operaie Parrocchiali, the Centro Académico Romano Fundación, the faithful from the United States of America and from Tahiti, along with those from Riccione, Avezzano, Torino, Bertonico e Celano. A special thought goes out to the young people of the Pontifical Missionary Societies, the young people from Pescara and Monte San Savino and the Green Cross of Alessandria.
I wish everyone a good Sunday. Goodbye and have a good lunch!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Baptism: The Beginning of Our Conversion

General audience: November 13, 2013

In the catechesis of this Wednesday's general audience, the Pope continued his reflection on the articles of the Creed. This time he spoke about the only explicit reference to a Sacrament in the profession of faith: “I believe in one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”  In effect, Baptism is the “door” to faith and Christian life, and the mission of the Church, following the mandate of the Risen Christ is “to evangelize and to forgive the sins through Sacramental Baptism.”  To better explain this expression, the Pontiff divided it into three points: “I believe”, “in one Baptism”, and “for the forgiveness of sins.”

By proclaiming “I believe,” said the Holy Father, “we affirm our true identity as sons of God.” At the same time, “Baptism is linked to our faith in the remission of sins. The Sacrament of Penance or Confession is, indeed, like a 'second Baptism', which always refers to the first to consolidate or renew it.  In this sense, the day of our Baptism is the beginning of a path of conversion which lasts throughout our lives, and which is continually supported by the Sacrament of Penance.”  When we go to confess our weaknesses, our sins, we ask Jesus Christ for forgiveness … but we also go to renew our Baptism with this forgiveness. Confession is not a torture chamber, it is a celebration of the day of Baptism.”

The Pope described Baptism as “the act of birth of a Christian in the Church,” and asked the participants in the audience to raise their hands if, alongside their birthday, they remembered the date of their Baptism. Since few hands were raised in St. Peter's Square, he set those present the task of asking their parents or finding out when they returned home, and urged them to celebrate it to commemorate the act of birth into the Church.

The Holy Father then considered the second element: one Baptism, recalling that the word “baptism” literally means “immersion.”  “This sacrament,” he emphasized, “constitutes a true spiritual immersion in the death of Christ, from which we emerge as new creatures. It is a cleansing for regeneration and enlightenment.  Regeneration because it puts into effect the birth from the water and the Spirit without which no one may enter the kingdom of heaven, and enlightenment since, through Baptism, the human person is filled with the grace of Christ, 'the true light that gives light to everyone' and dissipates the shadows of sin. By virtue of this gift, the baptized is himself called to become 'light' to his brothers, especially for those who find themselves in the shadows and do not perceive any glimmer of light on the horizon of their lives.”

Finally, Pope Francis turned to the forgiveness of sins. In the Sacrament of Baptism “all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all forms of punishment for sin. By Baptism we open the door to a new form of life that is not oppressed by the weight of a negative past, but instead already resonates with the beauty and goodness of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a powerful intervention of God's mercy in our lives, for our salvation. But this salvific intervention does not remove the weakness from our human nature; it does not take away our responsibility to ask forgiveness whenever we err.”

“And I cannot be baptized twice, three times, four,” he continued, speaking off the cuff, “but I can go to confession and when I do so, I renew the grace of Baptism.  It is as if it were a second Baptism. The Lord Jesus, Who is so good, and Who never tires of forgiving me. Listen! Baptism opens the door to the Church … but when the door narrows a little because of our weaknesses or our sins, confession helps us to open it because it is like a second Baptism, which forgives us all and enlightens us, helping us to go ahead joyfully in the light of the Lord. Because life is about living in the joy of Jesus Christ and it is a grace from the Lord."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

2 homilies from last week

Vatican Basilica, Altar of the Chair
Monday, 4 November 2013
In the spiritual atmosphere of the month of November, which is marked by the remembrance of the faithful departed, we remember our brother Cardinals and Bishops from around the world who have returned to the Father’s house during this last year. […]
We have listened to the words of St Paul: “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).
The Apostle presents the love of God as the deepest and most compelling reason for Christian trust and hope. He lists the opposing and mysterious forces that can threaten the journey of faith. But immediately he states with confidence that even if our entire life is surrounded by threats, nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love which Christ himself has obtained for us by his total self-gift. […] This reality of the faithful love that God has for each one of us helps us to face life’s daily journey, which sometimes passes quickly and at other times is slow and laborious, with serenity and strength.
Only man’s sin can break this bond, and yet even in this case God will always seek man, he will run after him in order to reestablish a union with him that endures even after death; indeed, a union that reaches its culmination in the final encounter with the Father. This certitude gives new and full meaning to earthly life and opens us to hope for life beyond death.  
In fact, every time we are faced with the death of a loved one or of someone whom we knew well, the question arises within us: “What will become of his life, his work, his service in the Church?” The Book of Wisdom tells us: they are in the hands of God! The hand is a sign of welcome and protection, it is a sign of a personal relationship of respect and faithfulness: to give a hand, to shake someone’s hand. Now, these zealous pastors who have dedicated their lives to the service of God and their brothers, are in the hands of God. […]
Even their sins, our sins, are in the hands of God; those merciful hands, those hands “wounded” by love. It was not by chance that Jesus willed to preserve the wounds in his hands to enable us to know and feel his mercy. And this is our strength, our hope. […]
This is how we want to remember our deceased brother Cardinals and Bishops. As men devoted to their vocation and to their service to the Church, who have loved as one loves a bride. In prayer let us entrust them to the Lord’s mercy, through the intercession of Our Lady and St Joseph, that he may receive them into his Kingdom of light and peace, there where the just and those who were faithful witnesses of the Gospel live eternally. And let us also pray for ourselves, that the Lord may prepare us for this encounter. We do not know the date, but we do know that the encounter will come.

Cited on November 9, 2013 from

Cemetery of Verano
Friday, 1st November 2013
At this hour before sunset, we gather in this cemetery and think about our future, we think of all those who have departed, preceded us in life and are in the Lord.
The vision of Heaven we just have heard described in the First Reading is very beautiful: the Lord God, beauty, goodness, truth, tenderness, love in its fullness. All of this awaits us. Those who have gone before us and who have died in the Lord are there. They proclaim that they have been saved not through their own works, though good works they surely did, but that they have been saved by the Lord: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:10). It is he who save us, it is he who at the end of our lives takes us by the hand like a father, precisely to that Heaven where our ancestors are. […]
We can enter heaven only thanks to the blood of the Lamb, thanks to the blood of Christ. Christ’s own blood has justified us, which has opened for us the gates of heaven. And if today we remember our brothers and sisters who have gone before us in life and are in Heaven, it is because they have been washed in the blood of Christ. This is our hope: the hope of Christ's blood! It is a hope that does not disappoint. If we walk with the Lord in life, he will never disappoint us!   
In the Second Reading, we heard what the Apostle John said to his disciples: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are […]” (1 Jn 3:1-2). To see God, to be like God: this is our hope. And today, on All Saints’ Day and the first day that we commemorate the faithful departed, we need to think a little about this hope: this hope that accompanies us in life. The first Christians depicted hope with an anchor, as though life were an anchor cast on Heaven’s shores and all of us journeying to that shore, clinging to the anchor’s rope. This is a beautiful image of hope: to have our hearts anchored there, where our beloved predecessors are, where the Saints are, where Jesus is, where God is. This is the hope that does not disappoint; today and tomorrow are days of hope.
Hope is a little like leaven that expands our souls. There are difficult moments in life, but with hope the soul goes forward and looks ahead to what awaits us. Today is a day of hope. Our brothers and sisters are in the presence of God and we shall also be there, through the pure grace of the Lord, if we walk along the way of Jesus. The Apostle John concludes: “every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (v. 3). Hope also purifies us, it lightens us; this purification in hope in Jesus Christ makes us go in haste, readily. Today before evening falls each one of us can think of the twilight of life: “What will my passing away be like?” All of us will experience sundown, all of us! Do we look at it with hope? Do we look with that joy at being welcomed by the Lord? This is a Christian thought that gives us hope. Today is a day of joy; however it is serene and tranquil joy, a peaceful joy. […] And let us think about our hearts and ask ourselves: “Where is my heart anchored?”. If it is not firmly anchored, let us anchor it beyond, on that shore, knowing that hope does not disappoint because the Lord Jesus does not disappoint.
Cited on November 9, 2013 from

Thursday, November 7, 2013


General Audience: November 5, 2013

The communion of holy persons who grow through participation in spiritual goods, and above all the Sacraments, charisms and charity, was the theme of Pope Francis' catechesis during yesterday's general audience.

In the Sacraments, each one of us is “incorporated in Christ and united with the entire community of believers. So, on the one hand there is the Church who 'makes' the Sacraments; on the other there are the Sacraments which 'make' the Church, edifying her, generating new sons and daughters, and joining them to the holy people of God.” Furthermore, “the Sacraments offer us the impetus to become missionaries, and the apostolic commitment to taking the faith to all places, even the most hostile.  This is the most authentic fruit of a steadfast sacramental life, inasmuch as it constitutes participation in God's salvific plan, which aims precisely at bringing salvation to all.”

The second aspect of communion in holy things is the communion of charisms. “The Holy Spirit dispenses a multitude of gifts and spiritual graces to the faithful … for the edification of the Church,” explained the Pope. “Therefore, they are not given for the benefit of the recipient, but for use by the people of God. … The charisms are particular graces, given to some for the good of many others,” and “they are born in the conscience and experience of certain persons, called to put their gifts at the service of the community. In particular, these spiritual gifts are are of benefit to the sanctity of the Church and her mission.”

Charity is the third aspect of this communion with spiritual goods. “The charisms are important in the life of the Christian community, but they are always means of growing in charity, which St. Paul places above the charisms. Without love”, Pope Francis emphasised, “even the most extraordinary gifts are in vain, while the smallest of our gestures of love brings good to all. … This brotherly solidarity is not a rhetorical figure, a figure of speech, but rather an integral part of communion between Christians. If we live this solidarity, we are a sign to the world, a 'sacrament' of God's love.”

“This is not that easy charity that we offer between ourselves, but instead something deeper: it is a communion that makes us able to enter into the joy and the pain of others in order to sincerely make them our own. And often we are too arid, indifferent and detached, and instead of transmitting brotherliness, we transmit ill-humour, coldness and selfishness. And with ill-humour, coldness and selfishness, one cannot help the Church to grow; the Church grows only with the love that comes from the Holy Spirit”.

“And I would now like to ask of you an act of charity," said the Holy Father to the tens of thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, and added jokingly, “Don't worry! It's not a collection! Before coming to the Square, I went to see a seriously ill child aged just one and a half. Her mother and father pray and implore the Lord to cure their daughter. She is called Noemi and she smiled, poor girl. Let us carry out an act of love; we do not know her but she is a baptized child, she is one of us, a Christian. Let us ask the Lord to help her in this moment and to give her health: first in silence, and then let us pray the Hail Mary”.

Silence fell over the square for a moment, after which the Pope said, “And now let us pray together to the Virgin for the health of Noemi. … Thank you for this act of charity,” he concluded, after more than fifty thousand people recited the Hail Mary in unison.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Communion of the Holy

General audience October 30, 2013

“The communion of the holy”, one of the most beautiful aspects of our faith, as it was defined by Pope Francis, was the theme of the catechesis of today's general audience, which took place in St. Peter's Square and was attended by more than 80,000 people.

The communion of the holy consists of two related meanings: the communion of holy things and communion between holy people, and the Pope focused on the second, “one of the most consolatory aspects of our faith”. In fact, the term “holy” refers to those who believe in Jesus Christ and who are integrated with him in the Church by baptism”.

The relationship between Jesus and the Father is “the 'matrix' of the link between us as Christians: if we are intimately inserted in this 'matrix', in this ardent fire of love, then we can truly become one heart and one soul, because God's love burns away all our selfishness, our prejudices, our divisions, both internal and external. If we are thus rooted at the source of Love, which is God, we encounter a reciprocal movement: from brothers to God. The experience of fraternal communion leads me to communion with God. God's love burns away our sins”.

Francis moved on to consider the second aspect of the communion of the holy: faith needs the support of others, especially in difficult times, and asked, “Who among us has not experienced insecurity, disorientation, and even doubt along the path of faith? We have all experienced this; I have too, it forms part of the path of faith, the path of our lives. None of this should surprise us, because we are human beings, marked by our frailty and limits. However, in these difficult moments it is necessary to trust in the help of God, through filial prayer and, at the same time, it is important to find the courage and the humility to open ourselves to others. In this communion – because communion means common union – were are a great family, whose members all help and support one another”.

The third aspect of the communion of the holy “goes beyond earthly life, it goes beyond death and lasts forever. It is a spiritual communion, born at baptism, and it is not interrupted by death but, thanks to the risen Christ, is destined to find its full meaning in eternal life. There is a deep and indissoluble bond between those who are still pilgrims in this world, between us, and those blessed who have crossed the threshold of death to enter into eternity. All baptized persons here on earth, the souls in Purgatory and those who are already in paradise form a great and single family. This communion between heaven and earth is achieved above all through intercessory prayer. This communion is ours, it makes us brothers, it accompanies us on our path through life and it means that we meet again in heaven. Let us continue on this path, with joy!” 

(available from VIS)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Saint Peter's Square
Sunday, 27 October 2013

The readings this Sunday invite us to reflect on some basic features of the Christian family.
1. First: the family prays.  The Gospel passage speaks about two ways of praying, one is false – that of the Pharisee – and the other is authentic – that of the tax collector.  The Pharisee embodies an attitude which does not express thanksgiving to God for his blessings and his mercy, but rather self-satisfaction.  […]  The tax collector, on the other hand, does not multiply words.  His prayer is humble, sober, pervaded by a consciousness of his own unworthiness, of his own needs.  Here is a man who truly realizes that he needs God’s forgiveness and his mercy. […]
In the light of God’s word, I would like to ask you, dear families: Do you pray together from time to time as a family?  Some of you do, I know.  But so many people say to me: But how can we? As the tax collector does, it is clear: humbly, before God. […] But in the family how is this done? After all, prayer seems to be something personal, and besides there is never a good time, a moment of peace…  Yes, all that is true enough, but it is also a matter of humility, of realizing that we need God, like the tax collector!  And all families, we need God: all of us! We need his help, his strength, his blessing, his mercy, his forgiveness.  And we need simplicity to pray as a family: simplicity is necessary! Praying the Our Father together, around the table, is not something extraordinary: it’s easy. And praying the Rosary together, as a family, is very beautiful and a source of great strength!  And also praying for one another! The husband for his wife, the wife for her husband, both together for their children, the children for their grandparents….praying for each other.  This is what it means to pray in the family and it is what makes the family strong: prayer.
2. The second reading suggests another thought: the family keeps the faith.  The Apostle Paul, at the end of his life, makes a final reckoning and says: “I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).  But how did he keep the faith?  Not in a strong box!  Nor did he hide it underground, like the somewhat lazy servant.  Saint Paul compares his life to a fight and to a race.  He kept the faith because he didn’t just defend it, but proclaimed it, spread it, brought it to distant lands. […]
Here too, we can ask: How do we keep our faith as a family?  Do we keep it for ourselves, in our families, as a personal treasure like a bank account, or are we able to share it by our witness, by our acceptance of others, by our openness?  We all know that families, especially young families, are often “racing” from one place to another, with lots to do.  But did you ever think that this “racing” could also be the race of faith?  Christian families are missionary families. Yesterday in this square we heard the testimonies of missionary families. They are missionary also in everyday life, in their doing everyday things, as they bring to everything the salt and the leaven of faith!  Keeping the faith in families and bringing to everyday things the salt and the leaven of faith.
3. And one more thought we can take from God’s word: the family experiences joy.  In the responsorial psalm we find these words: “let the humble hear and be glad” (33/34:2).  The entire psalm is a hymn to the Lord who is the source of joy and peace. What is the reason for this gladness?  It  is that the Lord is near, he hears the cry of the lowly and he frees them from evil.  As Saint Paul himself writes: “Rejoice always … The Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5).  I would like to ask you all a question today. But each of you keep it in your heart and take it home. You can regard it as a kind of “homework”.  Only you must answer.  How are things when it comes to joy at home?  Is there joy in your family?   You can answer this question.
Dear families, you know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well...  True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey.  But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God, the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all.  And above all, a love which is patient: patience is a virtue of God and he teaches us how to cultivate it in family life, how to be patient, and lovingly so, with each other. To be patient among ourselves; a patient love.  God alone knows how to create harmony from differences.  But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centeredness prevails and joy fades.  But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally.  That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society as a whole.
Dear families, always live in faith and simplicity, like the Holy Family of Nazareth!  The joy and peace of the Lord be always with you!

Cited on October 27, 2013 from

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mary, Model of the Church
General audience October 23, 2013

Below is a summary of the Holy Father's message from yesterday's audience:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the Church, we now look to the Virgin Mary who, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, is “the model of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ” (Lumen Gentium, 63). As a daughter of Israel, Mary responded in faith to God’s call and became the Mother of his Son. She teaches us to live a life of faith by her obedience to God’s will and by her unfailing devotion to Jesus and his work. Mary also models the Church’s charity, born of faith, which brings the joy and peace of Christ’s presence to others and to our world. Finally, Mary models the Church’s union with Christ through her constant prayer and participation in the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection. As Mother of the Church, may Mary, by her prayers, bring us ever closer to the Lord, open our hearts to share his transforming and redeeming love, and inspire us to put our firm faith in God’s word, trusting in his goodness and his gracious plan for us and for our world.
Turning to our responsibilities as Christians, Pope Francis asked what is the nature of the love we bring to others. “Is it the love of Jesus who shares, who pardons and who accompanies us” or is it “a weak love" that "looks for favours in return?” “A love based on self-interest?” Our love towards others must be a free love. As he has done in the past, the Pope warned the faithful against gossip and “speaking ill of our brothers and sisters in our dealings with those in our community” or in our parish. 

He concluded by urging those present to maintain "a constant relationship and profound friendship with Jesus" and not just remember him "when we have problems and need his help." 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sunday Angelus: The need to pray always

October 20, 2013

At midday yesterday the Pope appeared at the window of his study to recite the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square and, before the Marian prayer, he commented on Sunday's Gospel reading in which Jesus tells a parable on the need to pray, always and incessantly. “The protagonist is a widow who, by pleading with a dishonest judge, manages to obtain justice from him. And Jesus concludes: if the widow manages to convince that judge, do you think that God does not listen to us, if we pray to him insistently? The expression Jesus uses is very powerful: 'And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?'”

"This description of prayer is striking to us. But let us ask: why does God want this? Does He not already know our needs? What's the point of 'insisting' with God?” observed the Pope.

This question allows us to explore in depth an important aspect of faith: “God invites us to pray with insistence not because He does not know what we need, or does not listen to us. On the contrary, He always hears and knows everything about us, with love. In our daily journey, especially in difficulties in the fight against the evil inside and outside us, the Lord is on our side, we fight with Him by our side, and our weapon is prayer, which makes us aware of His presence, His mercy, and also His help. But the fight against evil is hard and long, it requires patience and endurance. … It is a daily battle, but God is our ally, faith in Him is our strength, and prayer is the expression of this faith. Therefore, Jesus assures us of victory, but asks: 'when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?'. If faith is dimmed, prayer is dimmed, and we walk in darkness; we lose our way in our journey through life."

"And so we learn from the widow of the Gospel to pray always and tirelessly. The widow was good! She knew how to fight for her children! And I think of many women who fight for their families, who pray, who never tire. I would like us to take a moment to think today, all of us, for these women, whose attitude gives us a true witness of faith, of courage, a model of prayer. … Always pray! But not to convince the Lord with words! He knows what we need better than us! Rather, perseverance in prayer is an expression of faith in a God who calls us to fight with him, every day, every moment, to overcome evil with good."

(available from VIS)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

An Apostolic Church

General Audience: Wednesday, October 16, 2013


After considering the unity, holiness and catholicity of the Church, as defined by the Creed, the Holy Father today addressed her apostolic nature. During the catechesis of the Pope's general audience in St. Peter's Square, he stated that “to profess that the Church is apostolic means underlining her constitutive bond with the Apostles, with that small group of twelve men whom Jesus called to Him by name one day, to ask them to stay with Him and to send them to preach. Indeed, 'apostle' is a Greek word meaning 'messenger', 'envoy'.

“The Apostles were chosen, called and sent by Jesus in order to continue His work, that is, prayer, the first task of an apostle, and secondly, to proclaim the Gospel”, continued the Pope, recalling that in the first years of the Church, to enable the apostles to have enough time for prayer, they instituted deacons to help them with their evangelizing mission. “And when we think of their successors, of the bishops – including the Pope, because he too is a bishop”, he added, “we have to wonder if this successor of the Apostles prays, first of all, and then proclaims the Gospel. This is what it means to be an apostle, and this is why the Church is apostolic”.

The Church is apostolic “because she is based on the preaching and prayer of the Apostles, on the authority given to them by Christ Himself”, said the Pope, quoting St. Paul who, in his letter to the Christians of Ephesus compared them to “living stones, forming a house that is the Church, and this edifice is based on the Apostles, who are its columns, and the cornerstone of Jesus Himself. Without Jesus there can be no Church – he is the base and foundation. The Apostles lived with Jesus, they listened to His words, they shared in His life and, above all, they witnessed His Death and Resurrection. Our faith, the Church that Christ wanted, is not based on an idea, on a philosophy, but on Christ Himself. And the Church is like a plant that grows throughout the centuries … and has borne fruit, but the roots are planted deeply in Him, and the fundamental experience of the Apostles, chosen and sent by Jesus, reaches us”.

“But”, Pope Francis asked, “how is it possible for us to connect with this testimony of those who lived with and listened to Him?” He responded that it is the Catechism that affirms that the Church is apostolic, since she “keeps and hands on the teaching, the 'good deposit', the salutary words she has heard from the Apostles”; that is, “she conserves over the centuries the valuable treasure of the Sacred Scripture, the doctrine, the sacraments, the ministry of the pastors, so that we can be faithful to Christ and participate in His life. It is like a river flowing through history … but the water that flows is always that which emerges from the source, from Christ Himself. He is the Risen One, the Living One, and His words do not pass away from us. Christ never passes away from us, He is here, among us”.

Addressing the thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father said, “Do we ever think of how it has been precisely the Church who, in her path across these centuries, in spite of difficulties, problems and weakness, who has transmitted Christ's authentic message to us, and who gives us the security that what we believe in is really what Christ communicated to us?”

Finally, the Church is apostolic because “she is sent to bring the Gospel to all the world. She continues, on her path through history, the very mission that Christ entrusted to the Apostles: 'Go and make disciples of all nations. … And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age'. I insist on the missionary aspect of the Church, because Christ invites us all to the encounter with others, He sends us, He asks us to be on our way, to bring the joy of the Gospel to all!”

The Holy Father concluded, “The Church has her roots in the teaching of the Apostles, authentic witnesses of Christ, but looks to the future, and has the fixed awareness of being sent by Christ, of being Christ's missionary, of bringing forth Christ's name by prayer, proclamation and witness. A Church closed in on herself and the past, a Church who focuses only on minor rules and habits, betrays her own identity”.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Many things happening!

Recently, the Holy Father has had a lot on his schedule.  Below are some of his homilies and talks given recently, along with pictures.  Enjoy!

Saint Peter's Square
Sunday, 13 October 2013
In the Psalm we said: “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things” (Ps 98:1).
Today we consider one of the marvelous things which the Lord has done: Mary! A lowly and weak creature like ourselves, she was chosen to be the Mother of God, the Mother of her Creator.
Considering Mary in the light of the readings we have just heard, I would like to reflect with you on three things: first, God surprises us, second, God asks us to be faithful, and third, God is our strength.
1. First: God surprises us. The story of Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, is remarkable. In order to be healed of leprosy, he turns to the prophet of God, Elisha, who does not perform magic or demand anything unusual of him, but asks him simply to trust in God and to wash in the waters of the river. […] There it is: God surprises us. It is precisely in poverty, in weakness and in humility that he reveals himself and grants us his love, which saves us, heals us and gives us strength. He asks us only to obey his word and to trust in him.

This was the experience of the Virgin Mary. At the message of the angel, she does not hide her surprise. […] “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). That was her answer. God constantly surprises us, he bursts our categories, he wreaks havoc with our plans. And he tells us: Trust me, do not be afraid, let yourself be surprised, leave yourself behind and follow me!
Today let us all ask ourselves whether we are afraid of what God might ask, or of what he does ask. Do I let myself be surprised by God, as Mary was, or do I remain caught up in my own safety zone: in forms of material, intellectual or ideological security, taking refuge in my own projects and plans? Do I truly let God into my life? How do I answer him?
2. In the passage from Saint Paul which we have heard, the Apostle tells his disciple Timothy: Remember Jesus Christ; if we persevere with him, we will also reign with him (cf. 2 Tim 2:8-13). This is the second thing: to remember Christ always – to be mindful of Jesus Christ – and thus to persevere in faith. God surprises us with his love, but he demands that we be faithful in following him. We can be unfaithful, but he cannot: he is “the faithful one” and he demands of us that same fidelity. Think of all the times when we were excited about something or other, some initiative, some task, but afterwards, at the first sign of difficulty, we threw in the towel. Sadly, this also happens in the case of fundamental decisions, such as marriage. It is the difficulty of remaining steadfast, faithful to decisions we have made and to commitments we have made. Often it is easy enough to say “yes”, but then we fail to repeat this “yes” each and every day. We fail to be faithful. 
Mary said her “yes” to God: a “yes” which threw her simple life in Nazareth into turmoil, and not only once. Any number of times she had to utter a heartfelt “yes” at moments of joy and sorrow, culminating in the “yes” she spoke at the foot of the Cross. Here today there are many mothers present; think of the full extent of Mary’s faithfulness to God: seeing her only Son hanging on the Cross. The faithful woman, still standing, utterly heartbroken, yet faithful and strong. […] Faith is ultimate fidelity, like that of Mary.

3. The last thing: God is our strength. I think of the ten lepers in the Gospel who were healed by Jesus. They approach him and, keeping their distance, they call out: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Lk 17:13). They are sick, they need love and strength, and they are looking for someone to heal them. Jesus responds by freeing them from their disease. Strikingly, however, only one of them comes back, praising God and thanking him in a loud voice. […] 
Take Mary. After the Annunciation, her first act is one of charity towards her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth. Her first words are: “My soul magnifies the Lord”, in other words, a song of praise and thanksgiving to God not only for what he did for her, but for what he had done throughout the history of salvation. Everything is his gift. If we can realize that everything is God’s gift, how happy will our hearts be! Everything is his gift. He is our strength! Saying “thank you” is such an easy thing, and yet so hard! How often do we say “thank you” to one another in our families? These are essential words for our life in common. “Sorry”, “excuse me”, “thank you”. If families can say these three things, they will be fine. “Sorry”, “excuse me”, “thank you”. How often do we say “thank you” in our families? How often do we say “thank you” to those who help us, those close to us, those at our side throughout life? All too often we take everything for granted! This happens with God too. It is easy to approach the Lord to ask for something, but to go and thank him: “Well, I don’t need to”.

As we continue our celebration of the Eucharist, let us invoke Mary’s intercession. May she help us to be open to God’s surprises, to be faithful to him each and every day, and to praise and thank him, for he is our strength. Amen.

At 5 p.m. on October 12, 2013 in St. Peter’s Square, the Marian Day was celebrated as part of the Year of Faith. The event began with a procession around the square of the original statue of the Virgin of Fatima, which had been transported by air from Portugal and which Pope Francis welcomed at the entrance of the Basilica. More than one hundred thousand people attended the event.

Saint Peter's Square
Saturday, 12 October 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This event of the Year of Faith is devoted to Mary, the Mother of Christ and the Mother of the Church, our Mother. The statue of Our Lady which has come from Fatima helps us to feel her presence in our midst. It is a fact: Mary always brings us to Jesus. She is a woman of faith, a true believer. But we can ask: What was Mary’s faith like?

1. The first aspect of her faith is this: Mary’s faith unties the knot of sin (cf. Lumen Gentium, 56). What does that mean? The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council took up a phrase of Saint Irenaeus, who states that “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; what the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith” (Adversus Haereses, III, 22, 4).

The “knot” of disobedience, the “knot” of unbelief. When children disobey their parents, we can say that a little “knot” is created. This happens if the child acts with an awareness of what he or she is doing, especially if there is a lie involved. At that moment, they break trust with their parents. You know how frequently this happens! Then the relationship with their parents needs to be purified of this fault; the child has to ask forgiveness so that harmony and trust can be restored. Something of the same sort happens in our relationship with God. When we do not listen to him, when we do not follow his will, we do concrete things that demonstrate our lack of trust in him – for that is what sin is – and a kind of knot is created deep within us. These knots take away our peace and serenity. They are dangerous, since many knots can form a tangle which gets more and more painful and difficult to undo.

But we know one thing: nothing is impossible for God’s mercy! Even the most tangled knots are loosened by his grace. And Mary, whose “yes” opened the door for God to undo the knot of the ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that he can untangle the knots of our soul by his fatherly mercy. We all have some of these knots and we can ask in our heart of hearts: What are the knots in my life? “Father, my knots cannot be undone!” It is a mistake to say anything of the sort! All the knots of our heart, every knot of our conscience, can be undone. Do I ask Mary to help me trust in God’s mercy, to undo those knots, to change? She, as a woman of faith, will surely tell you: “Get up, go to the Lord: he understands you”. And she leads us by the hand as a Mother, our Mother, to the embrace of our Father, the Father of mercies.

2. A second aspect is that Mary’s faith gave human flesh to Jesus. As the Council says: “Through her faith and obedience, she gave birth on earth to the very Son of the Father, without knowing man but by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit” (Lumen Gentium, 63). This was a point on which the Fathers of the Church greatly insisted: Mary first conceived Jesus in faith and then in the flesh, when she said “yes” to the message God gave her through the angel. What does this mean? It means that God did not want to become man by bypassing our freedom; he wanted to pass through Mary’s free assent, through her “yes”. He asked her: “Are you prepared to do this?” And she replied: “Yes”.

But what took place most singularly in the Virgin Mary also takes place within us, spiritually, when we receive the word of God with a good and sincere heart and put it into practice. It is as if God takes flesh within us; he comes to dwell in us, for he dwells in all who love him and keep his word. It is not easy to understand this, but really, it is easy to feel it in our heart.

Do we think that Jesus’ incarnation is simply a past event which has nothing to do with us personally? Believing in Jesus means giving him our flesh with the humility and courage of Mary, so that he can continue to dwell in our midst. It means giving him our hands, to caress the little ones and the poor; our feet, to go forth and meet our brothers and sisters; our arms, to hold up the weak and to work in the Lord’s vineyard, our minds, to think and act in the light of the Gospel; and especially to offer our hearts to love and to make choices in accordance with God’s will. All this happens thanks to the working of the Holy Spirit. And in this way we become instruments in God’s hands, so that Jesus can act in the world through us.

3. The third aspect is Mary’s faith as a journey. The Council says that Mary “advanced in her pilgrimage of faith” (ibid., 58). In this way she precedes us on this pilgrimage, she accompanies and sustains us.
How was Mary’s faith a journey? In the sense that her entire life was to follow her Son: he – Jesus – is the way, he is the path! To press forward in faith, to advance in the spiritual pilgrimage which is faith, is nothing other than to follow Jesus; to listen to him and be guided by his words; to see how he acts and to follow in his footsteps; to have his same sentiments. And what are these sentiments of Jesus? Humility, mercy, closeness to others, but also a firm rejection of hypocrisy, duplicity and idolatry. The way of Jesus is the way of a love which is faithful to the end, even unto sacrificing one’s life; it is the way of the cross. The journey of faith thus passes through the cross. Mary understood this from the beginning, when Herod sought to kill the newborn Jesus. But then this experience of the cross became deeper when Jesus was rejected. Mary was always with Jesus, she followed Jesus in the midst of the crowds and she heard all the gossip and the nastiness of those who opposed the Lord. And she carried this cross! Mary’s faith encountered misunderstanding and contempt. When Jesus’ “hour” came, the hour of his passion, when Mary’s faith was a little flame burning in the night, a little light flickering in the darkness. Through the night of Holy Saturday, Mary kept watch. Her flame, small but bright, remained burning until the dawn of the resurrection. And when she received word that the tomb was empty, her heart was filled with the joy of faith: Christian faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Faith always brings us to joy, and Mary is the Mother of joy! May she teach us to take the path of joy, to experience this joy! That was the high point – this joy, this meeting of Jesus and Mary, and we can imagine what it was like. Their meeting was the high point of Mary’s journey of faith, and that of the whole Church. What is our faith like? Like Mary, do we keep it burning even at times of difficulty, in moments of darkness? Do I feel the joy of faith?

This evening, Mother, we thank you for our faith, the faith of a strong and humble woman; we renew our entrustment to you, Mother of our faith. Amen.

A mini translation of last Wednesday's audience (October 9, 2013):

Dear Brothers and Sisters:
In the Creed, we profess that the Church is “catholic”; in other words, she is universal. We can understand this catholicity in three ways. First, the Church is catholic because she proclaims the apostolic faith in its entirety; she is the place where we meet Christ in his sacraments and receive the spiritual gifts needed to grow in holiness together with our brothers and sisters. The Church is also catholic because her communion embraces the whole human race, and she is sent to bring to the entire world the joy of salvation and the truth of the Gospel. Finally, the Church is catholic because she reconciles the wonderful diversity of God’s gifts to build up his People in unity and harmony. Let us ask the Lord to make us more catholic – to enable us, like a great family, to grow together in faith and love, to draw others to Jesus in the communion of the Church, and to welcome the gifts and contributions of everyone, in order to create a joyful symphony of praise to God for his goodness, his grace, and his redemptive love.

Saint Francis Square, Assisi
Friday, 4 October 2013

“I give you thanks, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to babes” (Mt 11:25).
Peace and all good to each and every one of you! With this Franciscan greeting I thank you for being here, in this Square so full of history and faith, to pray together.
Today, I too have come, like countless other pilgrims, to give thanks to the Father for all that he wished to reveal to one of the “little ones” mentioned in today’s Gospel: Francis, the son of a wealthy merchant of Assisi. His encounter with Jesus led him to strip himself of an easy and carefree life in order to espouse “Lady Poverty” and to live as a true son of our heavenly Father. […]
What does Saint Francis’s witness tell us today? What does he have to say to us, not merely with words – that is easy enough – but by his life?

1. The first thing he tells us is this: that being a Christian means having a living relationship with the person of Jesus; it means putting on Christ, being conformed to him.
Where did Francis’s journey to Christ begin? It began with the gaze of the crucified Jesus. With letting Jesus look at us at the very moment that he gives his life for us and draws us to himself. Francis experienced this in a special way in the Church of San Damiano, as he prayed before the cross which I too will have an opportunity to venerate. On that cross, Jesus is depicted not as dead, but alive! Blood is flowing from his wounded hands, feet and side, but that blood speaks of life. Jesus’ eyes are not closed but open, wide open: he looks at us in a way that touches our hearts. The cross does not speak to us about defeat and failure; paradoxically, it speaks to us about a death which is life, a death which gives life, for it speaks to us of love, the love of God incarnate, a love which does not die, but triumphs over evil and death. When we let the crucified Jesus gaze upon us, we are re-created, we become “a new creation”. We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to remain before the cross, to let the crucified Christ gaze upon us, to let ourselves be forgiven, and recreated by his love.
2. In today’s Gospel we heard these words: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Mt 11:28-29).
This is the second witness that Francis gives us: that everyone who follows Christ receives true peace, the peace that Christ alone can give, a peace which the world cannot give. […] It is the peace of Christ, which is born of the greatest love of all, the love of the cross. It is the peace which the Risen Jesus gave to his disciples when he stood in their midst (cf. Jn 20:19-20). […] The peace of Saint Francis is the peace of Christ, and it is found by those who “take up” their “yoke”, namely, Christ’s commandment: Love one another as I have loved you (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12). […] We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to be “instruments of peace”, of that peace which has its source in God, the peace which Jesus has brought us.
3. Francis began the Canticle of the Creatures with these words: “Praised may you be, Most High, All-powerful God, good Lord… by all your creatures (FF, 1820). Love for all creation, for its harmony. Saint Francis of Assisi bears witness to the need to respect all that God has created and as he created it, without manipulating and destroying creation; rather to help it grow, to become more beautiful and more like what God created it to be. And above all, Saint Francis witnesses to respect for everyone, he testifies that each of us is called to protect our neighbour, that the human person is at the centre of creation, at the place where God – our creator – willed that we should be. […]From this City of Peace, I repeat with all the strength and the meekness of love: Let us respect creation, let us not be instruments of destruction! Let us respect each human being. May there be an end to armed conflicts which cover the earth with blood; may the clash of arms be silenced; and everywhere may hatred yield to love, injury to pardon, and discord to unity. Let us listen to the cry of all those who are weeping, who are suffering and who are dying because of violence, terrorism or war, in the Holy Land, so dear to Saint Francis, in Syria, throughout the Middle East and everywhere in the world.
We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Obtain for us God’s gift of harmony, peace and respect for creation! […]
I make my own the prayer of Saint Francis for Assisi, for Italy and for the world: “I pray to you, Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies: Do not look upon our ingratitude, but always keep in mind the surpassing goodness which you have shown to this City. Grant that it may always be the home of men and women who know you in truth and who glorify your most holy and glorious name, now and for all ages. Amen.” (The Mirror of Perfection, 124: FF, 1824).

And, finally, from the general audience on October 2, 2013:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In the Creed, after professing: “I believe in one Church”, we add the adjective “holy”; we affirm the sanctity of the Church, and this is a characteristic that has been present from the beginning in the consciousness of early Christians, who were simply called “the holy people” (cf. Acts 9:13, 32, 41; Rom 8:27; 1 Cor 6:1), because they were certain that it is the action of God, the Holy Spirit that sanctifies the Church.
But in what sense is the Church holy if we see that the historical Church, on her long journey through the centuries, has had so many difficulties, problems, dark moments? How can a Church consisting of human beings, of sinners, be holy? Sinful men, sinful women, sinful priests, sinful sisters, sinful bishops, sinful cardinals, a sinful pope? Everyone. How can such a Church be holy?

1. To respond to this question I would like to be led by a passage from the Letter of St Paul to the Christians of Ephesus. The Apostle, taking as an example family relationships, states that “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her” (5:25-26). Christ loved the Church, by giving himself on the Cross. And this means that the Church is holy because she comes from God who is holy, he is faithful to her and does not abandon her to the power of death and of evil (cf. Mt 16:18). She is holy because Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God (cf. Mk 1:24), is indissolubly united to her (cf. Mt 28:20); She is holy because she is guided by the Holy Spirit who purifies, transforms, renews. She is not holy by her own merits, but because God makes her holy, it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and of his gifts. It is not we who make her holy. It is God, the Holy Spirit, who in his love makes the Church holy.

2. You could say to me: but the Church is made up of sinners, we see them everyday. And this is true: we
are a Church of sinners; and we sinners are called to let ourselves be transformed, renewed, sanctified by God. There has been in history the temptation for some to say: the Church is only the Church of the pure, the perfectly consistent, and expels all the rest. This is not true! This is heresy! The Church, that is holy, does not reject sinners; she does not reject us all; she does not reject because she calls everyone, welcomes them, is open even to those furthest from her, she calls everyone to allow themselves to be enfolded by the mercy, the tenderness and the forgiveness of the Father, who offers everyone the possibility of meeting him, of journeying toward sanctity. “Well! Father, I am a sinner, I have tremendous sins, how can I possibly feel part of the Church? Dear brother, dear sister, this is exactly what the Lord wants, that you say to him: “Lord, here I am, with my sins”. Is one of you here without sin? Anyone? No one, not one of us. We all carry our sins with us. But the Lord wants to hear us say to him: “Forgive me, help me to walk, change my heart!”. And the Lord can change your heart. In the Church, the God we encounter is not a merciless judge, but like the Father in the Gospel parable. You may be like the son who left home, who sank to the depths, farthest from the Gospel. When you have the strength to say: I want to come home, you will find the door open. God
will come to meet you because he is always waiting for you, God is always waiting for you, God embraces you, kisses you and celebrates. That is how the Lord is, that is how the tenderness of our Heavenly Father is. The Lord wants us to belong to a Church that knows how to open her arms and welcome everyone, that is not a house for the few, but a house for everyone, where all can be renewed, transformed, sanctified by his love, the strongest and the weakest, sinners, the indifferent, those who feel discouraged or lost. The Church offers all the possibility of following a path of holiness, that is the path of the Christian: she brings us to encounter Jesus Christ in the Sacraments, especially in Confession and in the Eucharist; she communicates the Word of God to us, she lets us live in charity, in the love of God for all. Let us ask ourselves then, will we let ourselves be sanctified? Are we a Church that calls and welcomes sinners with open arms, that gives courage and hope, or are we a Church closed in on herself? Are we a Church where the love of God dwells, where one cares for the other, where one prays for the others?

3. A final question: what can I, a weak fragile sinner, do? God says to you: do not be afraid of holiness, do not be afraid to aim high, to let yourself be loved and purified by God, do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Let us be infected by the holiness of God. Every Christian is called to sanctity (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, nn. 19-42); and sanctity does not consist especially in doing extraordinary things, but in allowing God to act. It is the meeting of our weakness with the strength of his grace, it is having faith in his action that allows us to live in charity, to do everything with joy and humility, for the glory of God and as a service to our neighbour. There is a celebrated saying by the French writer Léon Bloy, who in the last moments of his life, said: “The only real sadness in life is not becoming a saint”. Let us not lose the hope of holiness, let us follow this path. Do we want to be saints? The Lord awaits us, with open arms; he waits to accompany us on the path to sanctity. Let us live in the joy of our faith, let us allow ourselves to be loved by the Lord... let us ask for this gift from God in prayer, for ourselves and for others.