Resolutions for the New Year?

FrancisI thought it a good idea to say something about resolutions – it is the New Year and it is a bit of a tradition.  Short of ideas? Here are some suggestions from Pope Francis.

  • “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.”
  • “Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention and love.”
  • “Take care of your relationships with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy.”
  • “Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity and worldly decadence.”
  • “Heal wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forgiving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused others.”
  • “Look after your work, doing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion and with a spirit that knows how to thank the Lord.”
  • “Be careful of envy, lust, hatred and negative feelings that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people.”
  • “Watch out for anger that can lead to vengeance; for laziness that leads to existential euthanasia; for pointing the finger at others, which leads to pride; and for complaining continually, which leads to desperation.”
  • “Take care of brothers and sisters who are weaker … the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and strangers, because we will be judged on this.”

Continue reading

Pope Francis and Pets in Heaven?

Pope-FrancisPope Francis is a magnet for myths and urban legends – remember the one about him going out incognito at night to feed the homeless? – and he may have been the object of another one this week, with reports that he told a young boy that animals will go to heaven.

According to David Gibson of the Religion News Service, there’s no evidence Francis ever said that, despite the fact that it managed to wind up on the front page of the New York Times.

Pope-Paul-VIYes, a pope did once say that paradise is open to animals, but it was Pope Paul VI, not Francis. In the 1970s, Pope Paul VI said, “one day we’ll see our animals again in the eternity of Christ.”

According to Gibson’s reconstruction, the confusion began when Corriere della Sera, Italy’s main daily, ran a piece about some remarks by Francis on the renewal of creation, and the correspondent quoted the line from Paul VI. From there, it became conflated with what Francis had said, and it was off to the races.

Given that Francis has shown himself to be remarkably open to taking questions from the media, perhaps one day soon we’ll have the chance to ask what he actually believes about the salvation of pets.

For now, the first lesson is this: Beware of every breathless report you hear about Francis.

by John Allen Jr., Boston Globe – one part of article
December 13, 2014

A Continuing Dialog

PrintIn February 2014, Bishop Lynch published the results of a Vatican survey on the family.  Unlike the vast majority of the US bishops, Bishop Lynch had opened up the survey to broad participation by the faithful of our dioceses.  More than 7,000 people responded to the survey’s questions about matters that are important to family life in our modern day.  I reported on the Bishop’s summary of our responses earlier in the year, but a short summary would perhaps be helpful.   Continue reading

Urbi et Orbi

The 2014 Easter Message of Pope Francis

PFrancis-on-loggiaDear Brothers and Sisters, a Happy and Holy Easter!

The Church throughout the world echoes the angel’s message to the women: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised… Come, see the place where he lay” ( Mt 28:5-6).

This is the culmination of the Gospel, it is the Good News par excellence: Jesus, who was crucified, is risen! This event is the basis of our faith and our hope. If Christ were not raised, Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew. The message which Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death. Continue reading

Didn’t say it was easy

Not-So-Easy-ButtonIn a recent issue of American Magazine, Mark Neilsen wrote a wonderful piece called “Asking for Change: The challenge of giving without grudges.” He tells of his ongoing and frequent encounters with a poor woman named Donna. She appears in his life when there is need in her life. What was especially wonderful about the article was his own ongoing reflection on his reactions and emotions surrounding each encounter: “Like the time she asked me to loan her $20 for an emergency, and I came to learn that it really was not a loan at all…” Be you pastor or parishioner, in modern life almost everyone has encountered their own “Donna.” Perhaps the first time we might actually expect they will repay the loan. After that how many of us realize it isn’t a loan, but as Mark describes: “a gift, minus the generosity.”  I think there are also other descriptions: “a gift, with the warning – ‘don’t let me catch you using it for any foolishness.'”  Or perhaps, “a gift minus the glance” – as in never making eye contact and just hoping the moment passes as soon as possible. Continue reading

Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel

EVANGELII_GAUDIUM3.inddPope Francis has issues an apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel.”  You can find the full text of the document here.  I am in the midst of reading it, but I suspect other such as Fr. James Martin, SJ, will have far more insightful thoughts.  So far here is one of my favorite lines: “The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open.”

Here are preliminary thoughts from Fr. Martin’s Facebook page. I think he will publish later on the “American Magazine” website Continue reading

Undressing at the Crossroads

Back in March, we all rejoiced as the white smoke billowed and jubilation erupted in St. Peter’s Square and around the world –habemus papem!  We have a pope.  When the name of the new pope was announced, given that he was a Jesuit, I assumed it was in honor of St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary and saint.  That would have been a great choice to tap the tradition of his own order for a new evangelization.  But from the beginning, it was clear that there was something different here – “See I am doing something new.”  Even the first appearance on the loggia of St. Peter’s was different. Here was our new pope – and instantly I was struck by his appearance.  It was as though he was wearing the minimally acceptable papal wardrobe – and the pectoral cross seemed plain – and his demeanor unassuming. Continue reading

Prodigal, dishonest, and desperately clutching

In Jesus’ time, large agricultural operations such as the one described in our gospel parable were rarely run by the owner or the family, such things were left to the steward to oversee. The steward had the full faith and backing of the owner to operate the business. The steward would sell the oil and wheat production for cash, trade, or  in exchange for promissory notes. The bartering that preceded the execution of the promissory note was classic commodity bargaining:  I will give you so many measure of oil now, and at this future date you will repay with a higher measure of oil.  There were two thing buried in the difference between the higher amount and the original amount: profit for the owner and commission for the steward. That was the way things worked. Continue reading

Opening the doors…

PopeFrancisThis past week, at a daily Mass, Pope Francis shared some wonderful thoughts that I thought would be good to share here on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.  He said, “I remember once, coming out of the city of Salta, on the patronal feast, there was a humble lady who asked for a priest’s blessing.  The priest said, ‘All right, but you were at the Mass’ and explained the whole theology of blessing in the church.  ‘Ah, thank you father, yes father,’ said the woman.  When the priest had gone, the woman turned to another priest:  ‘Give me your blessing!’  All these words [of the first priest] did not register with her, because she had another necessity:  the need to be touched by the Lord.  That is the faith that we always look for, this is the faith that brings the Holy Spirit.  We must facilitate it, make it grow, help it grow.”

The question he raised is do we as Church, as pastors, as priests, and as the faithful help other people’s faith to grow?

The Pope also mentioned the story of the blind man of Jericho, who was rebuked by the disciples because he cried to the Lord, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  The Pope said, “The Gospel says that they didn’t want him to shout, they wanted him not to shout but he wanted to shout more, why?  Because he had faith in Jesus!  The Holy Spirit had put faith in his heart.  And they said, ‘No, you cannot do this!  You don’t shout to the Lord.  Protocol does not allow it.’”

This weekend past, someone mentioned that after my homily she wanted to stand up and give out an “Amen” and applause.  Over the particular quality or delivery of the homily?  No, I think because she was moved by the Spirit… but our “protocol” does not allow such things in the church – just not done in the Catholic Church, don’t you know?

Maybe it is that we try to control the Holy Spirit – or as the Pope remarked, “try and take possession of the Lord.”  It can become very dangerous if we try to overly bind the Sacraments in rules that blind us to the movements of the Spirit in a person.  The Pope remarked:  “Think about a single mother who goes to church, in the parish and to the secretary she says:  ‘I want my child baptized.’  And then this Christian, this Christian says:  ‘No, you cannot because you’re not married!’  But look, this girl who had the courage to carry her pregnancy and not to return her son to the sender, what is it [that she faces]?  A closed door!  This is not zeal!  It is far from the Lord!  It does not open doors!’”

As Christians we have a choice:  we can be “the controllers of faith, or the facilitators of the faith of the people…[or] We think today of Jesus, who always wants us all to be closer to Him, we think of the Holy People of God, a simple people, who want to get closer to Jesus, and we think of so many Christians of goodwill who are wrong and that instead of opening a door they close the door of goodwill … So we ask the Lord that all those who come to the Church find the doors open, find the doors open, open to meet this love of Jesus.  We ask this grace.”