Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Connecting St. Francis with Pope Francis

September 25, 2014

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When Saint Francis saved the ChurchTake a refresher course in what it means to be Catholic.

Read John M. Sweeney’s new book, “When Saint Francis Saved the Church.”

Sweeney packs reminders about what faith, saintliness and the life of a Christian are all about into just 156 pages of this small Ave Maria Press book (not counting acknowledgements and notes). There are highlighter-worthy phrases, sentences and paragraphs galore, great food for thought and a bounty for discussion.

Sweeney’s hook, of course, is the connection between St. Francis of Assisi and the newest Francis on the Catholic scene, Pope Francis.

Throughout he links the revolution that St. Francis started to the hope that many in the Church today, what — entertain? predict? — with the pope who chose to be the first to adapt Francis is his papal name.

Sweeney writes about Francis of Assisi, “His spiritual vision from eight centuries ago is already familiar to anyone paying attention to Pope Francis and the changing atmosphere in the Catholic Church today.” And he adds:

“Many of us are watching carefully, and participating willingly, as that edifice softens into something less predictable, more godly. If something monumental happened 800 years ago to revive the Church, then it can happen again today; and the spirit that animated the earlier conversion may be quite similar to the spirit at work in the Church today. Much depends on what we ourselves will do.”

In sharing the historical background and development of Franciscan spirituality, the book points out dozens of interesting details of Francis’ thinking, including:

  • Faith is not something done only inside the walls of the church. Instead, “Faith today is readily seen as concerned with many things other than what you believe — it includes hope, passion, family, love, story, virtue, commitment, and identity, all of which may seem more important than matters of creed.”
  • St. Francis was relatively uninterested in theological debates and creedal statements. “When he states his beliefs in his writings it is most often regarding how one is supposed to behave toward others and the created world, not a matter of pure doctrine.”
  • The Gospel is not something to believe as much as it is a vocation to a changed life.
  • For Francis  there were no “others.” He responded to each person he met as if he were already a friend, developing a simple kindness, openness, neighborliness and looking out for their needs, an approach that is part and parcel of gospel living.
  • Francis befriended without judging, noticed and responded to people’s needs and expressed love for them simply because that person had been created by a God who says that every created thing is good.
  • Contrary to the prevailing thought of his time, he didn’t see the world as evil but instead embraced it.

Not a dissenter, a nonconformist

Sweeney writes that Francis of Assisi “rebranded” the idea of sanctity. He was never a disobedient son of the Church, although he was as nonconformist who had his own priorities.

He advocated for humble dress, fasting as part of one’s regular diet, grace before meals, nonviolence, hospitality and prayer. Sweeney notes:

“He placed such a priority on personal prayer, contemplation, charity and loving-kindness because the habits of the heart are important to God, as well as to the faithful who want to know God better.”

And all these things we not just for the friars of his community but for ordinary believers. That was revolutionary during Francis’ era, when the Church felt threatened by individual expressions of faith and priests were taught that they were the primary mediators between God and their parishioners. Along with forming the Order of Friars Minor that we know as Franciscans, Francis wrote a Rule for laity — Third Order Franciscans — that included many of the principles of his Rule for the friars, plus gathering together as community, aiding the sick and caring for those who die. These practices all became to be known as spiritual acts.

Francis lived during the height of the Gothic era, when it was believed that religious people should turn away from the coarseness of the world and lift eyes and minds upward, toward the rising height of steeples and images of angels and saints, the world to come. Francis found beauty in the ordinary things of the world.

Sweeney connects St. Francis with Pope Francis in the way that both seems to be advocates of a Church that is at times unpredictable, threatening to some, a Church listening to the Spirit. Francis the pope “meets people face-to-face as equals. He touches people who might seem untouchable. He loves to laugh. He is not afraid of change.” Pope Francis, Sweeney posits, “has begun to return the Church to a Franciscan understanding of friendship, relating to the other, poverty, spirituality, care and death,” and is “leading the Church toward greater humility; revaluing poverty, especial by his own example; and preaching as a last resort to explain the values that he wants to uphold as most important for Catholics and for all people.”

Pope Francis, in Sweeney’s mind, “is calling us to recreate God’s Church to better foster the art of true gospel living.” And he writes:

“Who knows what the next few years will bring. As a Catholic who is interested in the positive role the Catholic Church can play in sanctifying the world, I’m anxious to be part of the vision that Francis realized long ago and conscious that we live in a world ready for our making today.”

 

 

 

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The Pope’s Top 10!

July 29, 2014

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Finally – a “Top Ten” I can really use!

David Letterman of the Late Show often used a fake and funny top ten list to get a good laugh but Pope Francis’ Top Ten should be printed out and placed on everyone’s refrigerator.

In an interview published in part in the Argentine weekly “Viva” July 27, the pope listed his Top 10 tips for bringing greater joy to one’s life. Although listed one to ten in the Catholic Register, I am going to list them David Letterman style with my own commentary going  from number ten  to number one!

The number one tip for bringing joy into your life is....

The number one tip for bringing joy into your life is….

 

10. Work for peace. I am reminded that this doesn’t just go for peace in the Middle East, but for peace in my home, parish, community and work place.  Pray and work for world peace but demonstrate it at home.

 

9. Don’t proselytize; respect others’ beliefs. I love my Catholic faith and occasionally my friends and family get sick of me harping on the “Catholic ” teaching of things.  I have an obligation to live and teach my faith but I want others to recognize the beauty of the faith in me. If I am not living and radiating  joy – who would want to be Catholic like me. It may be an odd comparison but,  I think of a great line in the movie When Harry Met Sally –  in the restaurant scene the neighboring customer leans over to the waitress and says “I’ll have what she’s having.”  I want people to see me and say, “I’ll have what she’s having!”

 

8. Stop being negative. Oh, this one is so hard for me because misery loves company! I find the best way to get rid of the crabbiness is to talk to a trusted friend (or in my case my spouse) and get it out.  We have a saying in our house that we used when our kids were little. We say, “Over, done with, gone!”

 

7. Respect and take care of nature. This seemed easier when my children were little.  They would bring me a rock or (heaven forbid) lizard and marvel at how beautiful it was.  I remember one time when driving to visit my mother when my children were in the back seat.  My son pointed and yelled to look out the window at a rainbow and said, “Mom, look what God made for us!” Out of the mouths of babes…

 

6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. I found this an interesting thing to be on the Pope’s list.  I have , however always loved being with and working with young people.  The whole world is ahead of them and a little encouragement can bring them so far, but I have to say when I spend time with youth it is me who benefits from their enthusiasm.

 

5. Sundays should be holidays. We have sort of lost Sundays in this country.  It becomes yet another day to do chores or in this digital age catch up on work.  My parents used to talk about “Sunday go to visiting day” and we would visit family and friends and build that community that you just cannot get with virtual facebook friends.

 

4. “A healthy sense of leisure. Father Patrick Peyton used to say “The family that prays together stays together.”  While that may be true, I also believe the family that plays together enjoys each others company while they stay together. Have fun!

 

3. “Proceed calmly” in life.  I am sure you have seen the facebook memes that say “Keep calm and XXXX” With the X’s being one of many things.  Maybe facebook is catching on to the Pope! Maybe I’ll make a meme that says ‘Keep calm and listen to the Pope!”

 

 

2. “Be giving of yourself to others. Being stingy of my time or resources only leads me to misery.  The number one way to break out of a depression is to get involved and give to others.  It is like God’s very own Prozac!

 

And the number one way to bring greater Joy to ones life is: (Drum roll please!)

 

1. “Live and let live. When I find myself getting tied up in someone elses drama I need to remember this one.   The Pope said their is a similar expression in Rome with the saying, “Move forward and let others do the same.”  I prefer a Polish saying I saw recently. I even posted near my desk at work. It says, “Nie mój cyrk, nie moje ma?pe”  Translates into “Not my circus, not my monkey.”

 

Thank you Pope Francis, for reminding us once again how to live!

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When Eucharistic Adoration feels like the library, try more Fear of the Lord

January 6, 2014

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The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of fear of the Lord which enables us to approach Him with awe and reverence. Photo/ElectricDisk Licensed under Creative Commons

The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of fear of the Lord which enables us to approach Him with awe and reverence. Photo/ElectricDisk. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Vitamin D is harder to come by naturally during this cold, dark season. My spirit’s also been lacking another nutrient lately: Fear of the Lord.

I walk into the Perpetual Adoration chapel, kneel before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and sit down without giving Him much more thought sometimes than if I were walking into the library and he were the librarian.

Sadly, some of my Holy Hours can seem like a trip to the library. I get busy with prayer, reading and writing not thinking too much about the Lord in front of me until it’s time to “check out.” At times seeing Him doesn’t move me into rapturous prayer or even hold my attention very long.

More than the season

Winter blahs? Maybe but it goes beyond the season. Our faith isn’t based on feelings but without them life can start to resemble the winter tundra.

Saying I lack fear of the Lord doesn’t mean I feel more bold and brave before Him. It doesn’t mean we’re supposed to live in terror of God, either. As I see it, I’m  missing the awe and reverence I might feel before any king or even Pope Francis.

Fear of the Lord is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that are increased in us at confirmation. (CCC1303)

As Mark Shea writes,  “We who have received his Divine life in baptism and confirmation are to walk in that same spirit of filial, not servile, fear and to likewise offer ourselves in love and not in self-contempt.”

Having some real fear of God mixed in with awe and reverence isn’t a bad thing. After all, even though Christ is with us so humbly in the form of a small disc of bread, He is King of the Universe.

Respect for God

According to the Catechism, “Respect for his name is an expression of the respect owed to the mystery of God himself and to the whole sacred reality it evokes. The sense of the sacred is part of the virtue of religion.

It goes on to quote Bl. Cardinal John Henry Newman:

Are these feelings of fear and awe Christian feelings or not?… I say this, then, which I think no one can reasonably dispute. They are the class of feelings we should have — yes, have to an intense degree — if we literally had the sight of Almighty God; therefore they are the class of feelings which we shall have, if we realize His presence. In proportion as we believe that He is present, we shall have them; and not to have them, is not to realized, not to believe that He is present. (CCC2144)

I think the only cure for my deficiency is to pray that I may believe and become more aware that the Lord is present. Controlling feelings may not always be in our power but it is possible to make an act of the will.

A prayer

I will pray that I don’t take the Lord for granted, as I do the quiet presence of the librarian. Someone suggested saying a prayer modeled after the one priests say before Mass:

Enter this Holy Hour as though it were your first Hour, your last Hour, your only Hour. 

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Boy joins Pope Francis on stage, steals the show

November 1, 2013

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This story was all over the internet. Here are a couple of videos:

A child walks near Pope Francis as he addresses pilgrims in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 26. The pope addressed an estimated 100,000 people taking part in a Year of Faith celebration of family life. CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters

A child walks near Pope Francis as he addresses pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 26. The pope addressed an estimated 100,000 people taking part in a Year of Faith celebration of family life. CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters

 

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Women’s roles change, not inherent worth and dignity

September 24, 2013

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For many women changing roles means changing outfits. But the feminine genius about who women are as well as what they do. Photo/Steve A Johnson. Licensed under Creative Commons.

If changing clothes is part of changing roles, I think women wear a lot of hats—and outfits–in a day. From mom-in-sweats to workplace wear to work out to soccer match casual.  I’m not a mom but I’m used to changing clothes often for different roles in life.

Beyond the roles women find themselves in, there is much to be said about their inherent importance and dignity.

In the much publicized interview released last week in America magazine, Pope Francis again brought up the issue of women’s role in the Church and called for a new theology of women.

The pope said that deep questions need to be answered. But he distinguished between women’s importance as persons and their roles when he talked about the Blessed Mother:

Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity.

He echoed Bl. Pope John Paul II’s 25-year-old apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem in which Bl. John Paul writes that women represent a particular value because they’re human persons and at the same time, that they’re particular persons because of their femininity. This he calls the “feminine genius”, notwithstanding capabilities, accomplishments—or roles:

“…The Church gives thanks for each and every woman: for mothers, for sisters, for wives; for women consecrated to God in virginity; for women dedicated to the many human beings who await the gratuitous love of another person; for women who watch over the human persons in the family, which is the fundamental sign of the human community; for women who work professionally, and who at times are burdened by a great social responsibility; for “perfect” women and for “weak” women…for all women as they have come forth from the heart of God in all the beauty and richness of their femininity; as they have been embraced by his eternal love…”

As strong and beautiful as the feminine genius is, it reaches its fullness together with the masculine genius, as the two are complementary, John Paul II writes.

 …together with men, they are pilgrims on this earth, which is the temporal “homeland” of all people and is transformed sometimes into a “valley of tears”; as they assume, together with men, a common responsibility for the destiny of humanity according to daily necessities and according to that definitive destiny which the human family has in God himself, in the bosom of the ineffable Trinity.

Whatever women are doing, they offer their being to help the Church and the world, according to Deborah Savage, theology and philosophy professor at St. Paul Seminary who spoke recently in St. Paul on Mulieris Dignitatem at an event sponsored by the Siena Symposium, an interdisciplinary faculty group at the University of St. Thomas dedicated to rebuilding families and culture through scholarship and insights of the Catholic faith.

Are we, you and I, at the center of the salvific work that could be and should be taking place in our homes, our workplaces, our culture? Are we reflections of the supernatural reality that is the full expression of the feminine genius?

Even in this era of androgyny, not all outfits fit everyone, and some roles are suited for feminine or masculine genius. But there are many roles and the Church needs women’s unique gifts for this salvific work. According to Pope Francis:

 “The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. …We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.”

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2 things Pope Francis told Catholic gynecologists

September 21, 2013

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Photo by Naomi O'Leary

Photo by Naomi O’Leary

On Thursday, September 19, an article was released in  Jesuit publications. In this interview Pope Francis discussed the church’s emphasis on controversial social topics. He suggested instead a merciful and less judgmental church.

The next day The Holy Father met with a group of Catholic gynecologists. Here are two strong anti-abortion things he told them:

1. Abortion is a symptom of our “throwaway culture.” He urged them to refuse to perform the procedure.

2. “Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord.”

Way to go, Papa!

(Compiled by a New York Times article that ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Saturday, September 21, 2013.)

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U.S. air strikes and Church teaching on war, peace

September 13, 2013

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 St. Joan of Arc followed God's direction as she entered battle. Photo/dbking. Licensed under Creative Commons

Whether or not she studied just war theory, St. Joan of Arc followed God’s direction as she entered battle. Photo/dbking. Licensed under Creative Commons

God only knows if the U.S. will launch a military strike against Syria, but it looks like the threat has been averted for now.

As negotiations aimed at convincing Syria to surrender its chemical weapons continue, Catholics may be asking what the Church teaches about an attack. Would it be justified?

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has spoken quite a bit on the subject of war. At last week’s prayer vigil for peace in Syria, he said:

  …look upon your brother’s sorrow, and do not add to it, stay your hand, rebuild the harmony that has been shattered; and all this not by conflict but by encounter! May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: ‘No more one against the other, no more, never! … war never again, never again war!’

‘Never again war’ probably would be most people’s desire, but are there times when an armed conflict is morally permissible such as in the case of self-defense or to avoid a greater evil?

Conditions for Just War

The Church holds that there are strict conditions requiring rigorous consideration for legitimate defense by military force. The Catechism states, “the gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy.” (CCC 2309)

The conditions are laid out in the Catechism as part of just war theory, developed by St. Augustine and later by St. Thomas Aquinas. According to this theory about acts of war, at one and the same time:

  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of        nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be          impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition. (CCC 2309)

According to the Catechism, those with responsibility for the common good in their “prudential judgment” are to evaluate these conditions.

Resolve conflicts together

Since the US government’s potential action would not be for its own defense and because it could act together with other nations, the Church says that such international or regional organizations “should be in a position to work together to resolve conflicts and promote peace, re-establishing relationships of mutual trust that make recourse to war unthinkable,” according to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. 

The best outcome of this crisis would be for our leaders to continue their current talks and reach a peaceful solution. If they exhaust that possibility, hopefully they will follow the tenets of just war theory in making any decision on the matter.

At Vatican II the Church Fathers left no doubt about their hopes regarding war:

 Insofar as men are sinners, the threat of war hangs over them and will so continue until the coming of Christ; but insofar as they can vanquish sin by coming together in charity, violence itself will be vanquished and they will make these words come true: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Gaudium et Spes 78)

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Pope Francis, line one

August 27, 2013

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Apparently Pope Francis is calling people in Italy. He’s not having his people make the call mind you. He’s just picking up the phone and making a personal call.

‘Hello, it’s Pope Francis’: Italian teenager gets surprise phone call  (Telegraph)

So what do you say if you get the call?
Telephone etiquette for ‘the cold-call pope’ (NCR)

 

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Children become pro-life by example and instruction

August 26, 2013

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Licensed under Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons

How are children supposed to learn about respect for human life if no one teaches them by role modeling and giving instruction? Oftentimes, I hear parents say, “I don’t want little junior to know about abortion or euthanasia. The thought of killing sweet babies and the elderly would disturb them too much!”

Of course, we want to respect the age of innocence, but there comes a time when parents have a moral responsibility to encourage their children to promote life. To make this possible, parents need to “walk the walk,” and  kids need to be taught that we live in a culture of death. The goal is to give them the truth sprinkled with hope and mercy. Eventually, as the young ones grow up, they can expand on the knowledge that Mommy and Daddy gave them, and use these tools in order to teach others.

But to do this, they need to know about some yucky things that are plaguing our world today.

What’s a good age for kids to learn about the atrocities out there?

Well, given the stuff they see by means of the media, I think that children can handle information about the evils of abortion and euthanasia–and heck, we’d better throw pornography and genocide into the mix as well–by the time they enter junior high. Kids’ bodies are changing around that time and they are curious about everything. They appreciate and deserve the truth, and they crave adults being level with them. They want to be guided along the right path, and they start to develop leadership skills. And boy, we need this next generation to be our leaders for the marginalized! If  right and wrong is not ingrained in their heads by the time they hit puberty, they are more apt to be led astray by peer pressure as they get older, and not carry the torch for life.

My husband and I started discussing respect for human life with our nine children when they were in the stroller (See my blog called, My Prolife Running Stroller). They’d be strapped into the contraption when I took their big brothers and sisters outside Planned Parenthood to pray. As they got more mature this practice fueled many good questions:

“Why are people going in that naughty building?”

“Why are the police letting them go in there?”

“How can we help?”

The other aspects of life were taught as the subjects arose. When they read a book about Anne Frank or see a presentation on The Lost Boys of Sudan we discuss genocide. I tell them to look the other way as we stroll past Victoria’s Secret, and I tell them why pictures with women falling out of their tops are bad. And appreciation of the elderly was learned by spending time with older family friends and grandparents.

It’s not that hard, and it must be done.

 Pope to parents: Teach your children to respect, defend life

The Catholic News Service wrote this article (Printed in The Catholic Spirit’s August 15, 2013 issue):

Respect for human life from conception until natural death is something children must be taught, not mainly with words, but by the example of their parents, Pope Francis said.

“Parents are called to pass on to their children the awareness that life must always be defended,” Pope Francis wrote in a message to people joining in the Brazilian Catholic Church’s celebration of Family Week, which began Aug. 11.

The pope returned to his condemnation of the “throwaway culture,” something he spoke against several times during his July 22-28 visit to Brazil. He had said that modern cultures tend to treat even human lives as disposable, pointing to the way people, societies and even governments tend to treat both the young and the old.

In his message for Family Week, he said parents have a responsibility to fight that disposable culture by teaching their children that human life, “from the womb,” is a gift from God. New life ensures the future of humanity, he said, while older people — especially grandparents — “are the living memory of a people, and transmit the wisdom of life.”

The pope also charged married Catholic couples and their children with the task of recognizing they must be “the most convincing heralds” of the beauty and grace of Christian marriage.

I think Pope Francis is spot on! Don’t you?

 

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The animated Pope Francis

July 1, 2013

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Something cool from the folks over at Catholic Link.

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