Spirit Promptings

Dear brothers and sisters,Pope Francis



This Sunday’s Gospel (Lk 9:51-62) shows a very important step in the life of Christ: the moment in which, as St Luke writes, “[Jesus] steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. (9:51 )”

Jerusalem is the final destination, where Jesus, in his last Passover, must die and rise again, and so to fulfill His mission of salvation.

From that time, forth, after the steadfast decision, Jesus aims straight for the finish line, and even to the people he meets and who ask to [be allowed to] follow Him, He says clearly what are the conditions: not having a permanent abode; knowing how to detach oneself from familiar affections; not succumbing to nostalgia for the past.

Jesus also said to his disciples, charged with preceding Him on the way to Jerusalem to announce His coming, not to impose anything: if they do not find willing welcome, they are [simply] to proceed further, to move on. Jesus never imposes. Jesus is humble. Jesus extends invitations: “If you want, come.” The humility of Jesus is like this: He always invites us. He does not impose.

All this makes us think. It tells us, for example, the importance, even for Jesus, of conscience: listening in his heart to the Father’s voice, and following it. Jesus, in his earthly life, was not, so to speak, “remote-controlled”: He was the Word made flesh, the Son of God made man, and at one point he made a firm decision to go up to Jerusalem for the last time – a decision taken in His conscience, but not on His own: with the Father, in full union with Him!

He decided in obedience to the Father, in profound intimate attunement to the Father’s will. For this reason, then, was the decision was steadfast: because it was taken together with the Father.

In the Father, then, Jesus found the strength and the light for His journey. Jesus was free. His decision was a free one. Jesus wants us Christians to be free as he is: with that liberty, which comes from this dialogue with the Father, this dialogue with God.

Jesus wants neither selfish Christians, who follow their egos and do not speak with God, nor weak Christians, without will: “remote-controlled” Christians, incapable of creativity, who seek ever to connect with the will of another, and are not free.

Jesus wants us free, and this freedom – where is it found? It is to be found in the inner dialogue with God in conscience. If a Christian does not know how to talk with God, does not know how to listen to God, in his own conscience, then he is not free – he is not free.

So we also must learn to listen more to our conscience. Be careful, however: this does not mean we ought to follow our ego, do whatever interests us, whatever suits us, whatever pleases us. That is not conscience.

Conscience is the interior space in which we can listen to and hear the truth, the good, the voice of God. It is the inner place of our relationship with Him, who speaks to our heart and helps us to discern, to understand the path we ought to take, and once the decision is made, to move forward, to remain faithful.

Pope Benedict XVI has given us a great example in this sense. When the Lord had made it clear, in prayer, what was the step he had to take, he followed, with a great sense of discernment and courage, his conscience, that is, the will of God that spoke to his heart – and this example of our father does much good to all of us, as an example to follow.

Our Lady, with great simplicity, listened to and meditated deep within herself upon the Word of God and what was happening to Jesus. She followed her Son with deep conviction, with steadfast hope.

May Mary help us to become more and more men and women of conscience – free in our conscience, because it is in conscience that the dialogue with God is given – men and women able to hear the voice of God and follow it with decision.



Vatican City, 5 June 2013 (VIS) – Pope Francis dedicated the catechesis of today’s Wednesday morning general audience to the environment, noting that today marks the World Environment Day promoted by the United Nations.

“When we speak of the environment, of creation, my thoughts go to the first pages of the Bible, to the Book of Genesis, where it is affirms that God puts man and woman on earth ‘to cultivate and care for it’. And the question comes to me:” the Pope said to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, “What does it mean to cultivate and care for the earth? Are we truly cultivating and caring for creation? Or are we exploiting and neglecting it?”

“Cultivating and caring for creation,” explained the Holy Father, “is God’s indication, given not only at the beginning of history, but to each one of us. It is part of his plan. It means responsibly making the world grow, transforming it so that it becomes a garden, a place that all can inhabit.”

“Benedict XVI recalled many times that this tasked entrusted to us by God the Creator requires that we understand the rhythm and logic of creation. Instead, we are often guided by the arrogance of dominating, possessing, manipulating, and exploiting. We don’t ‘take care’ of it; we don’t respect it; we don’t consider it as a freely-given gift to be cared for. We are losing the attitude of wonder, of contemplation, of listening to creation. Thus we are no longer able to read in it what Benedict XVI called ‘the rhythm of the story of God’s love for humanity’. Why is this happening? Because are we thinking and living ‘horizontally’; we are drawing away from God; we are not reading his signs.”

“But cultivating and caring for doesn’t just refer to our relationship with the environment, the relationship between humanity and creation. It also concern human relationships. … We are living a moment of crisis. We see it in the environment but above all we see it in humanity. The human person is in danger. … This is the urgency of human ecology! The danger is serious because the root of the problem is profound, not superficial. It isn’t just a question of economics but of ethics and anthropology. … The dynamics of an economy and finance that lack ethics are dominating.”

Speaking off the cuff, the pontiff added: “What is in charge today isn’t the human person but money. Money is in command. And God our Father has given us the task of caring for the earth not for the money, but for us: for men and women. This is our charge. Instead, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption. It is a ‘culture of waste’.“

“If, for example, on a winter’s night,” he continued, “a person dies here in [nearby] Via Ottaviano, that’s not news. If in so many parts of the world there are children who have nothing to eat, that’s not news. It seems normal. It must not be this way! And yet these things come to be normal … On the other hand, a drop of ten points on the stock exchange constitutes a tragedy. If someone dies that isn’t news but a ten point drop in the markets is a tragedy! Thus people are discarded, as if they were garbage.”

“Human life, the person, is no longer felt to be the primary value to respect and care for … This culture of waste has also made us insensitive to a squandering and wastefulness of food … Consumerism has caused us to get used to the daily excess and waste of food, which we are no longer capable of seeing for its true worth, which goes well beyond mere economic parameters. Remember, however, that the food that is thrown away is as if we had stolen it from the table of the poor, from those who are hungry!”

“I invite you all to reflect on the problem of the loss and the waste of food … Let us all make the serious commitment to respect and care for creation, to be attentive to every person, to oppose the culture of wastefulness and waste, and to promote a culture of solidarity and encounter.”

Pope Francis: the corrupt harm the Church; the saints are a light for all

Sinners, the corrupt, and saints: Pope Francis focused on these three groups in his homily for Mass Monday morning in at the Casa Santa Marta. The Pope said the corrupt do great harm to the Church because they are worshipers of themselves; the saints, on the other hand, do great good, they are lights in the Church.

What happens when we want to become the owners of the vineyard? The parable of the wicked tenants in Monday’s Gospel reading provided the starting point for Pope Francis’ homily, which focused on “the three models of Christians in the Church: sinners, corrupt persons; and the saints.” The Pope noted that “there is no need to talk too much about sinners, because we are all sinners.” “We recognize this from the inside,” he continued, “and we know what a sinner is. If any one of us does not feel that way, he should make a visit to a spiritual doctor” because “something is wrong.” The parable, however, presents us with another figure, the figure of those who want “to take possession of the vineyard, and who have lost the relationship with the Master of the vineyard,” a Master who, “has called us with love, who protects us, but who then gives us freedom.” Those who would take possession of the vineyard, “think they are strong, they think they are independent of God”:

“These, slowly, slipped on that autonomy, that independence in their relationship with God: ‘We don’t need that Master, who shouldn’t come and disturb us!’ And we go forward with this. These are the corrupt! These were sinners like all of us, but they have taken a step beyond that, as if they were confirmed in their sin: they don’t need God! But it only seems so, for in their genetic code there is this relationship with God. And since they can’t deny this, they make a special god: they themselves are god. They are corrupt.”

“This is a danger for us, too,” he added. In the “Christian communities,” he said, the corrupt think only of their own group: “Good, good. It’s about us – they think – but, in fact, ‘they are only out for themselves”:

Judas [was the first]from a greedy sinner, he ended in corruption. The road of autonomy is a dangerous road: the corrupt are very forgetful, have forgotten this love, with which the Lord made the vineyard, has made them! They severed the relationship with this loveAnd they become worshipers of themselves. How bad are the corrupt in the Christian communityMay the Lord deliver usfrom sliding down this road of corruption.”

The Pope spoke also of the saints, remembering that today is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Bd Pope John XXIII, “a model of holiness.” In the day’s Gospel, he added, the saints are those who “go to collect the rent” on the vineyard. “They know what is expected of them, but they must do it, and they do their duty”:

“The saints are those who obey the Lord, those who worship the Lord, those who have not lost the memory of the love with which the Lord has made the vineyard: the saints in the Church. Just as the corrupt do so much harm to the Church, the saints do so much good. The apostle John says of the corrupt that they are the antichrist, that they are among us, but they are not of us. About the saints, the Word of God tells us they are like light, ‘that they will be before the throne of God in adoration.’ Today we ask the Lord for the grace to understand that we are sinners, but truly sinners, not sinners broadly, but sinners with regard to this, that, and the other thing, concrete sins, with the concreteness of sin. The grace to not become corrupt: sinners, yes; corrupt, no! And the grace to walk in the paths of holiness. So be it.”

Cardinal Angelo Amato, the head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, concelebrated the Mass, which was attended by a group of priests and collaborators from the Congregation, as well as a group of Gentlemen of His Holiness.

Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/articolo.asp?c=698006
of the Vatican Radio website


Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Vatican City, 22 May 2013 (VIS) – Pope Francis dedicated his Wednesday general audience catechesis to the Holy Spirit, without whom, “the Church could not live or carry out the mission that Jesus has entrusted us with, of going out and making disciples of all nations. Evangelisation is the Church’s mission, not just of a few, but my, your, our mission. … To evangelize, then, it is necessary to open ourselves once again to the action of God’s Spirit, without fear of what He might ask us or where He might lead us. Let us entrust ourselves to him. He will enable us to live and to bear witness to our faith. He will illuminate the hearts of those we meet. This was the experience of Pentecost: of the Apostles gathered with Mary in the Upper Room.”

“The Holy Spirit, descending upon the Apostles, makes them go out of the room in which they had locked themselves out of fear. He makes them go out of themselves and transforms them into heralds and witnesses ‘ of the mighty acts of God’. This transformation, wrought by the Holy Spirit, is reflected in the crowd that rushed to the scene, coming ‘from every nation under heaven’ so that each might hear the Apostles’ words as if they were proclaimed in their own language.”

“This is the first important effect of the Holy Spirit … unity, communion.” … At Pentecost, these divisions [the confusion of languages as in the Biblical story of the tower of Babel] are overcome. …A new language, that of the love that the Holy Spirit ‘pours out into our hearts’ [is established]. … We must all ask ourselves: how am I letting myself be guided by the Holy Spirit so that my life and my witness to the faith might be of unity and communion? … What am I doing with my life?” Pope Francis asked, raising his voice. “Am I creating unity? Or am I dividing, with my gossip, criticism, and jealousies? What am I doing? Let’s think about this.”

A second effect of the Holy Spirit’s action, the pontiff continued, “is the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel of Jesus to all, frankly and out loud, in every time and in every place. … Let us never close ourselves to this action! Let us live the Gospel with humility and courage. … Evangelising, proclaiming Jesus give us joy.”

“I will just mention a third element, which is particularly important, however: a new evangelisation, a Church that evangelises must always begin from prayer, from asking, as did the Apostles in the Upper Room, for the fire of the Holy Spirit. Only a faithful and intense relationship with God allows us to go out of our own closures and announce the Gospel with ‘parrhesia’ (boldly).”

Before concluding, Pope Francis recalled the words of Benedict XVI: “Today the Church ‘feels the wind of the Holy Spirit who helps us, who shows us the right road; and so, we are on our way … with new enthusiasm’ … Let us renew each day our trust in the Holy Spirit’s action. Let us let ourselves be guided by him. Let us be men and women of prayer who witness to the Gospel with courage, becoming instruments of God’s unity and communion in our world.”

At the end of his catechesis the Holy Father greeted the nearly 50,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square. He particularly encouraged everyone to pray for the victims, especially the children, of the disaster that occurred in Oklahoma, USA.

Published by VISarchive 02 – Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Holy Spirit’s ‘Surprises’ Pave the Way to Happiness, Pope Francis Says (2594)

God brings true fulfillment and true joy that we can’t find anywhere else, the Holy Father tells the throng gathered for Pentecost Mass.

CNA/Stephen DriscollPope Francis greets some of the cardinals who concelebrated Pentecost Mass with him.– CNA/Stephen Driscoll

VATICAN CITY — Around 200,000 pilgrims packed St. Peter’s Square to celebrate Pentecost with Pope Francis, who called on them to be open to “God’s surprises” because they bring true happiness.

“This is not a question of novelty for novelty’s sake, the search for something new to relieve our boredom, as is so often the case in our own day,” the Pope said May 19.

“The newness which God brings into our life is something that actually brings fulfillment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and desires only our good,” he stated.

Pope Francis gave his homily during a 10:30am Mass with Church movements and associations from Europe, Asia and Africa in St. Peter’s Square.

They arrived in Rome for a series of weekend events centered on the Year of Faith, which included a pilgrimage to St. Peter’s tomb, music and testimonies. Their encounter with the Pope began the afternoon on May 18, when he held a prayer vigil with them, and it finished with May 19 Mass.

The Holy Father dedicated his homily to three ways that the Holy Spirit works in the lives of Christians: “newness, harmony and mission.”

Speaking about the “newness” the Holy Spirit brings, he explained that it requires letting him be the soul and guide of our lives in our every decision.

But the newness and change he brings lasts because it is truly fulfilling and creates joy, the Pope said.

He then posed a series of questions to the crowd:

“Are we open to ‘God’s surprises?’ Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which God’s newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new?”

The second aspect of the Spirit’s work is that he gives different gifts to people, creating diversity in the Church that ends up all being united in harmony by him.

“One of Fathers of the Church has an expression which I love: ‘The Holy Spirit himself is harmony’ — Ipse harmonia est,” the Pope said.

He warned that when “we are the ones who try to create diversity and close ourselves up in what makes us different and other, we bring division.”

The key, Pope Francis taught, is to “let ourselves be guided by the Spirit” and live in and with the Church.

“It is the Church which brings Christ to me and me to Christ; parallel journeys are dangerous!” he said.

“When we venture beyond (proagon) the Church’s teaching and community, and do not remain in them, we are not one with the God of Jesus Christ,” the Pope told the communities.

“So let us ask ourselves: Am I open to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, overcoming every form of exclusivity? Do I let myself be guided by him, living in the Church and with the Church?”

Pope Francis’ final point centered on how the “Holy Spirit is the soul of mission.”

“The older theologians,” he recalled, “used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind that fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward.”

He explained that the Holy Spirit “draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church that is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself.”

Instead, the Spirit “impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ,” the Pope preached.

Although the events of Pentecost took place “almost 2,000 years ago,” they are not “something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us.”

“The Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis noted, “makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ.

“Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission?”

He closed his homily by asking God the Father to pour out the Holy Spirit again, using the Latin invocation, “Veni, Sancte Spiritus!” (Come, Holy Spirit!).

After Mass, Pope Francis recited the Regina Coeli prayer with the assembly, thanking them for their presence and saying that the Holy Spirit renewed Pentecost and changed St. Peter’s Square into an open-air Upper Room.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/holy-spirits-surprises-pave-the-way-to-happiness-pope-francis-says#ixzz2Tvq0hDCK


“A life which belongs totally to the work of God”

“I will no longer bear the authority of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer rest, so to speak, in the yard of St. Peter. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example for me in this. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.” (“Non porto più la potestà dell’officio per il governo della Chiesa, ma nel servizio della preghiera resto, per così dire, nel recinto di san Pietro. San Benedetto, il cui nome porto da Papa, mi sarà di grande esempio in questo. Egli ci ha mostrato la via per una vita, che, attiva o passiva, appartiene totalmente all’opera di Dio.”) —Pope Benedict XVI today in St. Peter’s Square, in his final public audience as Pope

Last General Audience

Today was the next-to-last day of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy.

Today he gave his final public address as Pope before an estimated 200,000 people in a packed St. Peter’s Square, under an unusually warm February sun.

It was a beautiful day.

One of the signs held up in the piazza said, “Elect Benedict again!”

The cardinals may not be willing to do this, but the sign expressed a widespread feeling that there isn’t a better choice right now, among the cardinals or in the whole world, to be the Bishop of Rome and successor of Peter.

And yet, the central point of the Pope’s remarks today was that he himself — the reigning pontiff, the one who holds the power of the keys to “bind and loose,” the one who wears “the ring of the fisherman” and wields its authority — has decided differently.

He has decided that someone else can be, or can function, as a better Pope, in the particular circumstances that now exist, given his age, his health, and given everything he knows about his own condition and the needs of the Church.

And so, tomorrow evening, after a morning meeting in Rome with his cardinals, who are gathering from around the world — only 65 of them were present this morning — Pope Benedict will fly by helicopter to Castel Gandolfo, a short distance outside of Rome, and the cardinals will undertake to meet in conclave and elect a new Pope.

(Note: The word “conclave” means “with a key” — “con” is the Italian for the Latin “cum,” “with,” and “clave” is from the Latin word “clavis,” “a key”; in the ablative form “clavis” becomes “clave,” and that form is carried over directly into English; so “conclave” means “a gathering in a room locked with a key,” or, “a gathering in secret, with no outsiders present to influence those who are meeting, all outsiders being kept outside a door locked with a key, until those who are meeting end their deliberations.”)

Uncharted waters
All of this puts the Roman Catholic Church in uncharted waters, of course.

Everyone is aware of the questions:

Will the cardinals choose as the next Pope someone “in line” with Pope Benedict, or someone who will be dramatically different?

Then, will the two men speak together? Rarely? Often? Daily? Will the new Pope ask the old Pope for advice?

And then, does Benedict’s decision to resign weaken the idea, and the reality, of the papal office? Until a few days ago, the papacy has always been considered an office (but also more than an office, a charism, a special service accompanied by a special grace, the grace of infallibility) to be held until the moment of death. Was that thinking incorrect? Was it incomplete?

And, does the resignation decision have ecumenical implications? Does it open the way to better relations with the Orthodox, and with some Protestants, for whom the Roman papacy, both in its theological claims and in its historical manner of functioning, has been seen as a “stumbling block” on the path toward possible Christian unity?

And, will the new Pope make dramatic changes in the Roman Curia, changes Pope Benedict might have made, or might have wished to have made, but was too old or tired to make, or for some other reason impeded from making?

Many questions… and there are many more.
But today was not a time for questions.

Today was time for a morning of peace, in the warm February sun.

The Pope drove into the Square in his Popemobile, accompanied by his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein (photo).

It took nearly half an hour for the Pope to reach the front of the Square and take his chair on the sagrato, that consecrated area of the piazza which is raised above the level of the main square, just in front of the facade of the basilica.

On one side sat cardinals and archbishops — as I said, I counted 65 cardinals present. On the other side, the diplomatic corps, representatives of governments from around the world.

The Pope then spoke, gave his teaching in Italian, and at the end of his speaking, after greeting the crowd in several foreign languages, all that vast throng prayed the Our Father, singing the prayer in Latin.

The Pope then rode in his popemobile out of the square, and the 348th, and last, papal general office of this nearly 8-year pontificate, was over.

A “double helix” linking Peter to Peter…

There was no dramatic announcement. The Pope did not say anything that from a “news” perspective was extraordinary.

Or did he?

Upon reflection, what Benedict said today had quite profound importance: what he said seemed to render his decision to resign, in some way, “irreversible.”

That is, he seemed to make the idea of a pontiff resigning part of the ordinary landscape of the papacy.

This is a remarkable shift, considering that 16 days ago, on February 11, when he announced his decision to resign, the idea of a papal resignation was almost unthinkable — had not in fact been thought for 700 years, and had not been thought in this precise way ever. (The circumstances of previous papal resignations were all quite different.)

In this sense, what Benedict did by resigning on February 11, and what he did today during his General Audience by “codifying” that decision, together make up the greatest single revolutionary act of his pontificate, and of his life.

Here is the relevant part of the talk today, which I will try to analyze paragraph by paragraph.

“In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God earnestly in prayer to enlighten me with his light to make me take the right decision not for my sake, but for the good of the Church.” (“In questi ultimi mesi, ho sentito che le mie forze erano diminuite, e ho chiesto a Dio con insistenza, nella preghiera, di illuminarmi con la sua luce per farmi prendere la decisione più giusta non per il mio bene, ma per il bene della Chiesa.”)

Here the Pope introduces the subject of his resignation.

He sets it against the background of his declining strength. He does not say it, but this includes his fall in the night where he hit his head causing bleeding last March in Mexico; his declining sight in one eye; his inability to sleep at night; his exhaustion at the end of a long day of appearances; the looming burden of the multiple, long liturgies at Easter; and the looming burden of World Youth Day this summer in Brazil, though his doctor a few months ago told him that he should not take any more international flights for health reasons.

But despite all of this, he is not interested in his own health, his own life, but in what would be good for the Church.

“I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also newness, but with a deep peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult choices, suffering (in the process of deciding), having always before one the good of the Church and not oneself.” (“Ho fatto questo passo nella piena consapevolezza della sua gravità e anche novità, ma con una profonda serenità d’animo. Amare la Chiesa significa anche avere il coraggio di fare scelte difficili, sofferte, avendo sempre davanti il bene della Chiesa e non se stessi.”)
“Allow me to return once again to April 19, 2005. The severity of the decision was precisely in the fact that from that moment on I had been given my task to carry out always and forever by the Lord.” (“Qui permettetemi di tornare ancora una volta al 19 aprile 2005. La gravità della decisione è stata proprio anche nel fatto che da quel momento in poi ero impegnato sempre e per sempre dal Signore.”)

Here is the place where Benedict states that his election to the papacy was something, “always” and “forever.” And “forever” would seem to exclude any sort of resignation.

“Always – he who assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy…” (“Sempre – chi assume il ministero petrino non ha più alcuna privacy...”)

He is repeating the word “always.” This is clearly what was on his mind as he wrestled with his decision. He is letting us see inside his decision-making process. We can almost see him saying to himself: “Always… but I am too weak… always… but I am unable to do what I must do, for the Church’s good… Yet I am committed, and made a commitment, to continue always…”

“He always and totally belongs to everyone, the entire Church. His life is, so to speak, totally deprived of the private sphere. I experienced, and I am experiencing it right now, that one receives life precisely when one gives it. I said before that a lot of people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and are very fond of him. I’ve said before that the Pope has truly brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world, and that he feels in the embrace of their communion, because it no longer belongs to himself, instead he belongs to everyone, everywhere. (“Appartiene sempre e totalmente a tutti, a tutta la Chiesa. Alla sua vita viene, per così dire, totalmente tolta la dimensione privata. Ho potuto sperimentare, e lo sperimento precisamente ora, che uno riceve la vita proprio quando la dona. Prima ho detto che molte persone che amano il Signore amano anche il Successore di san Pietro e sono affezionate a lui; che il Papa ha veramente fratelli e sorelle, figli e figlie in tutto il mondo, e che si sente al sicuro nell’abbraccio della loro comunione; perché non appartiene più a se stesso, appartiene a tutti e tutti appartengono a lui.”)

Here the Pope is speaking about how it is to be Pope, how one loses one’s private life, gives it up entirely, but then receives back much in return.

Then he comes back to the question of the resignation:
“The ‘always’ is also a ‘forever’ – there is no return to the private [life]. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry does not revoke this fact. I am not returning to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences, and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but I am remaining at the foot of the Crucified Lord.” (“Il ‘sempre’ è anche un ‘per sempre’ — non c’è più un ritornare nel privato. La mia decisione di rinunciare all’esercizio attivo del ministero, non revoca questo. Non ritorno alla vita privata, a una vita di viaggi, incontri, ricevimenti, conferenze eccetera. Non abbandono la croce, ma resto in modo nuovo presso il Signore Crocifisso.”)

Here the Pope is emphasizing that his resignation does not contradict the “always,” meaning, this resignation is not a normal one, it isn’t a stepping down from a public office to a private life.

Nor is it a “coming down off of the cross,” as one cardinal from Poland who had been close to Pope John Paul II at first said he was doing. Benedict flatly denies this is the case.

So we know from these lines that he is not simply “resigning” as we would think in the ordinary course of things. Something else is happening here. But what?

“I will no longer bear the authority of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I stay, so to speak, in the yard of St. Peter.” (“Non porto più la potestà dell’officio per il governo della Chiesa, ma nel servizio della preghiera resto, per così dire, nel recinto di san Pietro.”)

This is the phrase I find fascinating. Clearly, he says he will no longer “bear the authority of the office” but then he adds “for the government of the Church.”

And then he adds a “but” — “but in the service of prayer, I stay…”

He is leaving, but he is staying.

He is leaving the authority of government.

He is staying in the service of prayer.

The word “recinto” is a bit strange and hard to translate. It means “enclosure,” “paddock,” “pen,” “surrounding wall.” A “recinto” is therefore a closed-in area, an area quite defined, an area created to enclose things and keep them safe.

So he is saying he is staying within the area etablished and closed in by St. Peter.

Though it is not entirely clear, it certainly means he continues to have some sort of connection to St. Peter and to Peter’s ministry, to “care for the flock,” to “love the lambs” the Lord asked Peter, and Benedict, to care for.

“St. Benedict, whose name I carry as Pope, will be for me a great example in this. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.” (“San Benedetto, il cui nome porto da Papa, mi sarà di grande esempio in questo. Egli ci ha mostrato la via per una vita, che, attiva o passiva, appartiene totalmente all’opera di Dio.”)

This is a key phrase. Benedict is named “Benedict.” As an old man, at age 85, faced with infirmities and many problems requiring great energy to resolve, he is trying to understand his role, his path. He thinks back to St. Benedict, his namesake. St. Benedict committed “all” to the Lord, to the work of the Lord. But that “all” had two parts: to pray, and to work. Orare, e laborare. First, pray, then, work. Ora, et labora.

Pope Benedict feels he is too weak to work. Yet he can still pray.

So, in this motto of St. Benedict, he finds that he can do one half of his task, while being unable to do the other.

So, he will do one part, even if he cannot do the other.

In this sense, he will continue… And that is what he says in these next lines…

“I thank each and everyone for your respect and understanding with which you have welcomed this important decision. I will continue to accompany the journey of the Church through prayer and reflection, with that dedication to the Lord and to his Spouse with which I have tried to live until now every day and which I want to live always. I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to such an important task, and the new Successor of Peter: may the Lord accompany him with the light and the power of his Spirit.” (“Ringrazio tutti e ciascuno anche per il rispetto e la comprensione con cui avete accolto questa decisione così importante. Io continuerò ad accompagnare il cammino della Chiesa con la preghiera e la riflessione, con quella dedizione al Signore e alla sua Sposa che ho cercato di vivere fino ad ora ogni giorno e che voglio vivere sempre. Vi chiedo di ricordarmi davanti a Dio, e soprattutto di pregare per i Cardinali, chiamati ad un compito così rilevante, e per il nuovo Successore dell’Apostolo Pietro: il Signore lo accompagni con la luce e la forza del suo Spirito.”)

Thus, Benedict today said his decision to resign was arrived at in deep prayer, was desired by God, was decided “for the good of the Church.” Implicitly, this means the decision that may again be taken in the future by another Pope.

Pope Benedict has, in this way, made a radical, dramatic change in one of the world’s oldest, most unchanging, global institutions, a change both in how it functions, and also in how its leadership is conceived.

In these words today, the Pope is explaining what an “Emeritus Pope” is, theologically and ecclesially, and what the role of such a Pope is, or may be, in the Church.

And he did this calmly, without fanfare, as if it were something completely normal.

Have even the cardinals understood the magnitude of the change the Pope’s decision has brought?

From the perspective of Church history, and from the perspective of Catholic theology on the Petrine office, the Pope’s decision goes far beyond anything connected to administrative decisions, or to “lobbies” in the Roman Curia (of whatever sort…), or to struggles for power and influence in Rome or throughout the world.

These there have always been.

The Pope’s decision is new.

Vacant and not vacant…

We are now less than 24 hours away from a “sede vacante,” an empty See of Peter.

A vacant papal throne.

And yet, if Benedict’s words of this morning mean anything — and I acknowledge that my way of interpreting the situation may seem quite mysterious and strange — they also mean that the See is not totally vacant.

They mean that, in some mysterious way, since Pope Benedict is still alive, and still committed to the office he was called to in 2005, and still committed to living inside Vatican City, though entirely hidden from the world, there is a sort of continuity, there is something of the papal office that continues, a strand of vibrant, spiritual continuity, even as he publicly sets the main part of that office down.

I hesitate to formulate it in this way, as it may seem that I am proposing that there are two Popes, or soon could be. This is not the case.

Rather, there are emerging two ways of exercising the Petrine office, one of action, the other of prayer and contemplation.

In this interpretation, the new Pope will take up the active office, while the “emeritus Pope” continues that aspect of the office which is of prayer and contemplation.

This is what Benedict seems to be saying — disconcerting, perplexing, confusing as it may seem.

Joseph Ratzinger made clear this morning that he will never again be simply Joseph Ratzinger, a private citizien. That is excluded. He made that quite clear today.

He will not be a like a president who resigns and moves out of the White House and takes up writing his memoirs, as an ordinary citizen again.

So, he will, in some sense — in some sense that may require some heavy lifting by theologians to clarify — remain “Peter.” Peter living a hidden life in the gardens of the Vatican, in the city of Rome. Petrus Romanus.

On the day he was elected, April 19, 2009, he took the new name, Benedict, leaving behind his baptismal name, Joseph.

And on the day of his crowning as Pope, he took on the name “Peter,” promising at that moment to be “Pope forever” (“Papa per sempre“).

And he said this morning that he will not go back on that “forever,” even though he is resigning: “I am not returning to private life, I am remaining in the yard of St. Peter” (“Non ritorno alla vita privata, resto nel recinto di San Pietro“).

Instead, he said he plans to emulate St. Benedict — again, his papal name is Benedict — in leading a life dedicated completely to God.
This space, this yard, this “recinto” where Benedict will remain, is not simply a physical space, the former nun’s convent in Vatican City, in the gardens.

It is actually a spiritual space in the structure of the Church herself, a place “near Peter,” a space in which an emeritus Pope, even if “hidden from the world,” continues to live and have a role, like one more link in the chain of apostolic succession.

One might almost say it like this: (1) the new Pope, who will be elected in two or three or four weeks time, will be linked to all previous Popes who have died, and this is shown by the many tombs of Popes found in St. Peter’s Basilica, and by St. Peter’s tomb (which is directly under the high altar, and directly under the massive cupola of Mchelangelo); but (2) the new Pope will also be linked to one previous Pope who has not physically died, but has, in a sense, been buried “to the world,” and yet lives “in prayer,” in a convent near the basilica, though “dead to the world.”

It will be up to Pope Benedict’s successor to decide how to use this resource, how to relate to the still living Pope who has nevertheless died to the world.

Will he consult with him? Will he not see him at all? We do not know.

On Sunday, the Pope spoke in his homily about the Transfiguration of the Lord.

Today, Benedict was, in a manner of speaking, “transfigured.”

His figure is no longer that of a reigning Pope.
Nor is it that of a citizen who has stepped down from a high office. That is not at all what has happened.

Benedict has become a unique figure, not one, and not the other, not a Pope, and not a non-Pope.

He is an “emeritus Pope” who has finished his active service, but not laid down the burden of a life of service which he took upon his shoulders on the day of his election to the See of Peter.

This is something new in Church history, and like all new things, there will be a period of time before we really begin to comprehend fully what it means.

The Pope’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, seemed to sense this when he spoke about this morning’s events to the press corps.

There was a climate of “profound emotion and serenity,” Lombardi said.

Then he added: “I don’t know if you were able to see, on the television monitor, the last moments of the Vatican television feed that showed a face of the Pope that was very beautiful and extremely serene, with a radiant smile.”

That “beautiful face,” that “radiant smile” suggests that Pope Benedict has “moved on.”

He is in a new place.

The old descriptions no longer suffice to descrive where he is.

It will take us time to understand better what it means.

After the audience, the Pope returned to the Apostolic Palace and received privately the president of Slovakia, Ivan Gasparovic, and the president of Bavaria, Germany, Horst Seehofer, as well as the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, and the ruling captains of the Republic of San Marino, Teodoro Lonferini e Denis Bronzetti.

Early this afternoon, Lombardi said the Pope’s serenity and joy were due to his consciousness “of having finished a good work and of having taken this decision before God and in complete accord with what the will of God was asking of him.”

Lombardi then went over a few passages from the Pope’s teaching.

Lombardi said the passage on the work of God, where the Pope referred to St. Benedict, was very important.

“Opus Dei, the work of God, what he has tried to do and what he will continue to do,” Lombardi said. “He showed us a way for a life that, active or passive, belongs totally to the work of God. Thus (the Pope was saying) my work is in the work of God.” (“Opus Dei, l’opera di Dio, quello che lui ha cercato di fare e che lui continuerà a fare. Ci ha mostrato la via per una vita che, attiva o passiva, appartiene totalmente all’opera di Dio. Quindi la mia opera è nell’opera di Dio.”)
Lombardi also told journalists that the stove to burn the ballots after each vote during the conclave has not yet been installed in the Sistine Chapel.

Tomorrow the College of Cardinals — those who are already in Rome — will meet with the Pope in the large Sala Clementina.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 85 (the same age as the Pope), who is the dean of the College, will give a talk of farewell to the Pope. The Pope will then have a moment to speak with each cardinal, one by one, privately.

The Pope will then leave from Vatican City by helicopter at 5 p.m. sharp.

A few minutes later, at Castel Gandolfo, Benedict will enter the papal summer palace, then come to the window and say a few words to the people of that small town. Those will be the Pope’s last public words ever.

(to be continued…)

Christmas Quotes – Thoughts about God

The Son of God became a man to
enable men to become the sons of God.  
(Mere Christianity)

~~~~~What are we to of make of
Jesus Christ? . . .
The real question is not what
we are to make of Christ,
but what is He to make of us?  

~~~~~~ God’s gifts
put man’s best dreams
to shame.    -Elizabeth Barrett Browning

~~~~~~ Best of all, Christmas means a spirit of love,
a time when the love of God and love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and
bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives
manifest the presence of God.  
-George F. McDougall

~~~~~~ Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
Star and angels gave the sign.  
-Christina Rossetti

~~~~~~ JOY

Somehow, not only for Christmas,
but all the long year through,
The joy that you give to others,
Is the joy that comes back to you.  
-John Greenleaf Whittier

~~~~~~ God sent a star to light the night for
The Way, The Truth, The Life–His Son.
He sent the Light of Life to prove His heart
so we would invite His Son into our own.
God has given us all the light we’ll ever
need to find peace on earth,
goodwill to men.  
-Pamela F.Dowd

PEACE IS . . .

~ gazing at the stars with the knowledge
that you know their Creator.

~ closing your eyes in sleep without fear
of tomorrow.

~ the stillness in your heart when trouble swirls
around you.

~ a quiet mind in a raging world.   – unknown

~~~~~~ Where there is faith, there is love;
Where there is love, there is peace;
Where there is peace, there is God;
And where there is God; there is no need.  
-Leo Tolstoy

~~~~~~ The flow of
blessings in our
life is directly
related to
our passing
blessings along
to someone else.  
-Thomas Kinkaid

~~~~~~ The giving of gifts is not something man invented. God started the giving spree when he gave a gift beyond words, the unspeakable gift of His Son. – Robert Flatt

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Blessed is
The season which
Engages the whole
World in a
Conspiracy of love.  
-Hamilton Wright Mabie

How many observe
Christ’s birthday!
How few, his precepts!
O!  ’tis easier to keep
Holidays than
-Benjamin Franklin

~~~~~~ This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ.   – Frank McKibben


To your enemy . . .forgiveness,
To your opponent . . .tolerance.
To a friend . . . your heart.
To a customer . . . service.
To all men . . .charity.
To every child . . . a good example
To yourself . . .respect

-Author Unknown




 Wisdom is quiet listening as the wind floats through the trees,

sensing the Spirit in its gentle breeze.

Wisdom is gathering in the rainbow of birdsong,

knowing that I belong in its color.

Wisdom is piercing the depth of trees centuries old,

learning endurance and perseverance bold.

Wisdom is gazing awe-filled at the wonders of creation,

marveling with gratitude and elation.

Wisdom is the heart child-like simplicity,

Embraced by God in all I see!



Our Savior weeps,

weeps over our hardness.

Weeps over our closure.

Precious tears of God

Longing to gather us

As a mother hen

Her chicks,

Safe under her welcoming wings.


But we would not,

Arrogant and self-righteous;

Choosing to crawl

When He would have us soar!

Grovelling in the grime,

When He would clothe us in Light!


Awake!  Awake!

He lingers still,

Withdraws not His love,

This Holy Hound of Heaven!

Turn to Him,

Forgiving our many refusals,

Atoning our numerous transgressions;

Casting behind His back

Our waywardness.


We’ve but to enter those arms

Outstretched for us.

Enfolded to His Heart,

Our reckless seeking ended.

At last at Home in Him,

Font of all Good.


Weep no more, dear Lord.

Your errant ones return,

Never again to leave.


                                                                           (Meditation on Luke 9, 41-44)






House of Prayer!

Temple all pure!

No trace of aught

but God in You!


Living Ark,

enfleshing the Promise,

the Hope of Humanity!


attentive to the Word,

pondering Him in Your heart;

living Him in Your life.

Virgin, Wife, Mother,

your roles fulfilled in every detail,

palpitating Love.


Oh teach us, Mother,

to welcome the cleansing

Jesus brings,

as He casts out

all that is not Him,

purifying us

that we too may be

Living Temples

where prayerfulness abides,

breaks out in songs of praise.

There His Word takes root

deep within,

transforming us into Him;

vibrant members of His Body!

(Reflection on Mark 3, 31-35 & Luke 19, 45-48)




LUKE 1, 26-38

What is this wedding,

divine and human —-

This meshing of

Heaven and earth?

What allure drew down the Creator

to the creature?

What force could so exert,

that Omnipotence

fit in Mary’s Womb?

Insufficient the vast cosmos

to contain so great a Love.

Yet space abundant

in this woman’s heart!

Mystery to sublime to fathom…

too elusive to grasp.

Faith alone can delve


in awed wonderment,

this God

in human form

that we might become




He’s come!

In the hushed silence

of the starry night,

All peace and calm,

Into that stable cavern bare,

Paradise came to earth,

 a fragile Babe.

No fanfare.

No trumpet blasts.

No court in attendance.

Just an ox and a donkey,

and two human hearts

to receive Him,

to dry His first tears,

to give Him comfort.

Only Mary’s breast

to sate His hunger.

Sufficient this

for Omnipotence!




Come to see!                                                     martha-mary

Not some secret

            This revelation,

To be held jealously

   To oneself.

The finding must be shared.



Like a bubbling fountain

                        Rising up,


A discovery burning within

            Setting afire all it touches.


                        Finding Jesus,

                                   I find myself

                                               My goal

                                                           My raison d’etre

Existence takes on meaning.

                        Life lights up with purpose.


                                               Now contagious,

                                                           Joyfully I infect others

                        With Jesus’ vibrant virus,

                                               Fraught with holiness

                                                           To create the perfect human,

God’s dream enfleshed anew

                        In the Jesus captivated soul!

                                                                           (reflection on John 1, 35-42)






     Are YOU, O LORD!         

This Your nature,

     Omnipotent Creator!

Slow to anger, rich in mercy,                                                                       light

patiently pardoning our many misdeeds.

Made in Your IMAGE,

To shine forth Your LIKENESS

with our compassion and forgiveness.


              Alas!  Filled with dross,

               our failings smear Your image.

                Incapable of that gratuitous love

                 with which You love us.


Wipe us clean, dear Lord!

Renew us in the ceaseless Fountain of mercy

flowing from Your Son’s open side.

Let us not abide

in evil’s darkness.

Birth us into Your LIGHT,


at work in us!


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