Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Seeing Christ in others

Charity, as St Paul writes, is the greatest of the virtues (cf. 1 Cor 13: 13) but it is also one of the hardest to live. A big help in being more kind and generous is to see Christ in everyone around us. In this meditation we consider how:

  • Christ taught us that whatever we do to the least of our brethren we do to him (cf. Mt 25:40).
  • Our Lord showed us by his example how to love others and he gave us the New Commandment to love others as he has loved us (John 13:34).
  • We love others because God first loved us (cf. 1 John 4:19).
  • St Mother Teresa of Calcutta was truly exemplary in seeing Christ in the poorest of the poor.
  • Those closest to us have the first claim on our love.

Pope Francis four years on

Pope Francis is the current pope

Pope Francis is now on his fifth year of his papacy. He replaced Benedict XVI four years ago.

Pope Francis recently celebrated the fourth anniversary of his election. What are we to make of his pontificate, which has been marked by both notable achievements and considerable controversy? I offer here a few thoughts which can help to focus our thoughts on this “pope of surprises”. It was sent recently to Catholic newspapers in answer to a question.

In the four years that Pope Francis been in office, I have heard all sorts of things about him: that he is a great pope, a liberal, a heretic or even that his election was not valid. What should I think about him and how should I react to all this?

 I too have heard all these remarks and I can understand how many people are confused over this pope, who has been described as a “pope of surprises”. How should we react?

First, we cannot question the validity of his election. Everything was handled according to the norms for papal elections, no one questioned the validity of the election at the time and we should not do so now. The Holy Spirit inspired the cardinals to give us the pope God wants for us.

Second, Pope Francis has done the world of good for the Church. From the beginning he endeared himself to the Church and the world by his smile, his outgoing manner, his simple lifestyle, his choosing to live in the Domus Sanctae Marthae in the Vatican rather than in the papal apartments so that he could be closer to the people, his obvious love for the poor and marginalised, his appeal to mercy rather than the strict enforcement of rules, and so much more.

He is truly popular, not only with Catholics but also with many non-Catholics. When he became the first pope to open an Instagram account in March 2016 he broke all records, gaining over one million followers in under twelve hours. He was Time magazines man of the year in 2013 and many other publications have featured him on their front cover.

Pope Francis has given us some memorable teaching. His first encyclical, Lumen Fidei on the important virtue of faith, came out in June 2013 only a few months after his election. His Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium came in November 2013 and gave great impetus and practical indications for spreading the Gospel more effectively in today’s world, particularly through the joy of our life. Evangelisation, which is central to the mission of the Church – “the Church exists to evangelise”, wrote Pope Paul VI – is vital for the Church at the present time and Pope Francis has made it a central theme of his pontificate.

His second encyclical Laudato si’ on care for the environment, our common home, came in June 2015. It was widely acclaimed and pointed to our need to be responsible stewards of the planet God gave us. This issue too is important at the present time, but many critics seized on certain opinionable statements on which we are free to disagree with the pope in any case, and overlooked the core perennial teaching.

One of the biggest targets for the pope’s critics was his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetita on the family, which came in April 2016. The critics focussed on one particular footnote and a few other statements in Chapter 8, which seemed to open the door to giving Communion to the divorced and remarried civilly, and which have indeed given rise to great divisions among cardinals and bishops. But leaving those statements aside, Amoris Laetitia is a marvellous document on marriage, full of practical hints on how to help couples and families stay together and grow in love in these challenging times. Everyone should read it.

And what to say about the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which helped us experience God’s mercy particularly through the sacrament of Penance and to show more mercy to others?

Is the pope a liberal? You cannot apply political terms like this to any pope. They simply don’t apply. If to be a liberal is to be concerned for the poor, the sick, the elderly, the refugees, the marginalised and the environment, then yes the pope is liberal. But what could be more conservative or traditional than Pope Francis’ repeated references to the devil, to the need for confession, to devotion to St Joseph, Our Lady and the Eucharist, to upholding Catholic teaching on birth control, abortion and the impossibility of ordaining women to the priesthood?

And Pope Francis is certainly not a heretic. There is nothing to suggest that. He might be unclear at times but he is not a heretic.

What we should all do is heed his constant petition: “Pray for me”. If someone is worried about the direction the pope is taking on a particular issue, or is happy with what he is doing, we can all pray for him. That is the best way to help him.

Unity in the Church

St Peter's Basilica

St Peter’s Basilica

In the Last Supper Christ prayed that all might be one. He wants all in his Church to be united with the hierarchy and with one another. Sometimes this unity can be lacking. In this meditation  we make use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and writings of the Fathers of the Church, to pray about:

  • The three bonds that unite all in the Church: our common faith, worship and government
  • How we can live each of these bonds better
  • How important it is to foster unity in the Church

Lessons from the manger: detachment

Christ is born in Bethlehem

The birth of Christ is a special time in the Church’s calendar. It is a joyful event that marks the beginning of our salvation.

From the manger in Bethlehem Jesus teaches us many lessons. In this meditation we consider the lesson of detachment from material things and comforts, which abound especially at Christmas but throughout the year as well. We consider that:

  • Jesus wants us to be happy but we will not find true happiness in material things
  • We were made for God and will be truly happy when our heart rests in him
  • Jesus teaches us much about detachment in the Sermon on the Mount
  • Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si teaches us how to be happy with a simpler way of life
  • St Teresa of Calcutta shows us how detachment from goods is freedom
  • We can follow some very practical suggestions to find the happiness we seek

Called to holiness

Christ calling the apostles

We are all called to sanctity

Many  think only a few extraordinary people are called to sanctity and that it is sufficient for the rest to limit themselves to being good. But God has loved everyone and he wants all to love him with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength. All are called to sanctity and sanctity is within the reach of all. In this meditation we will consider how:

  • God has called each and everyone from all eternity to fulfill a mission
  • Christ loves everyone and he wants all to love him in return
  • To bear fruit we must be branches very united to the vine who is Christ
  • We are united to Christ through prayer, penance, the sacraments and fulfilling his will

The Prodigal Son

Prodigal Son 2

 

One of the most beloved parables is that of the Prodigal Son, who leaves his father’s home for a life of sin, then repents and returns to a warm embrace and a big celebration. Jesus gives us the parable to tell us that if we are sorry for our sins, God our merciful Father will always forgive us, no matter what we have done. In this meditation we consider:

  • The story of the Prodigal Son
  • Why Christ gave us the sacrament of Penance
  • Why telling our sins to a priest corresponds to our human nature
  • Ten benefits of going to confession
  • How regular confession helps us grow in holiness
  • What Pope Francis says about the importance of confession
  • How we should help others make use of this sacrament

Lent in the Year of Mercy

lent-prayer-fasting-giving-works-of-love

Now that we are in Lent in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we pray in this meditation about how to live Lent well so as to derive the maximum benefit from this great season of grace.  We will consider:

  • the importance of Lent
  • the meaning of Lent and especially how we might live the three main areas of
  • Prayer
  • Fasting
  • Almsgiving