Saturday, March 30, 2013

God always surprises us! | Pope Francis | Easter Vigil

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. In the Gospel of this radiant night of the Easter Vigil, we first meet the women who go the tomb of Jesus with spices to anoint his body (cf. Lk 24:1-3). They go to perform an act of compassion, a traditional act of affection and love for a dear departed person, just as we would. They had followed Jesus, they had listened to his words, they had felt understood by him in their dignity and they had accompanied him to the very end, to Calvary and to the moment when he was taken down from the cross. We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb. But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf. Lk 24:4). Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises; we are afraid of God’s surprises! He always surprises us!
Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him.
2. But let us return to the Gospel, to the women, and take one step further. They find the tomb empty, the body of Jesus is not there, something new has happened, but all this still doesn’t tell them anything certain: it raises questions; it leaves them confused, without offering an answer. And suddenly there are two men in dazzling clothes who say: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6). What was a simple act, done surely out of love – going to the tomb – has now turned into an event, a truly life-changing event. Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our own lives and in the history of mankind. Jesus is not dead, he has risen, he is alive! He does not simply return to life; rather, he is life itself, because he is the Son of God, the living God (cf. Num 14:21-28; Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10). Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future; he is the everlasting “today” of God. This is how the newness of God appears to the women, the disciples and all of us: as victory over sin, evil and death, over everything that crushes life and makes it seem less human. And this is a message meant for me and for you, dear sister, dear brother. How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness… and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive!
Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.
3. There is one last little element that I would like to emphasize in the Gospel for this Easter Vigil. The women encounter the newness of God. Jesus has risen, he is alive! But faced with empty tomb and the two men in brilliant clothes, their first reaction is one of fear: “they were terrified and bowed their faced to the ground”, Saint Luke tells us – they didn’t even have courage to look. But when they hear the message of the Resurrection, they accept it in faith. And the two men in dazzling clothes tell them something of crucial importance: “Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee… And they remembered his words” (Lk 24:6,8). They are asked to remember their encounter with Jesus, to remember his words, his actions, his life; and it is precisely this loving remembrance of their experience with the Master that enables the women to master their fear and to bring the message of the Resurrection to the Apostles and all the others (cf. Lk 24:9). To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have travelled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives.
On this radiant night, let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who treasured all these events in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19,51) and ask the Lord to give us a share in his Resurrection. May he open us to the newness that transforms. May he make us men and women capable of remembering all that he has done in our own lives and in the history of our world. May he help us to feel his presence as the one who is alive and at work in our midst. And may he teach us each day not to look among the dead for the Living One. Amen.

Solemn Vigil of the Lord's Ressurection
Pope Francis
March 30, 2013

Today, let us rise with the Son! | Homily for the Easter Vigil


A young woman was flying home from college from Chicago to Providence at Eastertime.  As she stared out of the window down at the countryside below, her heart was heavy and tears were in her eyes.  Her first year of college was nearly over and it had been a disaster. She felt lost and was uncertain of what direction her life should take; if it even had any meaning.  Her only ray of happiness lay in the fact that she’d soon see the ocean again, which she missed and loved so dearly.  The plane touched down and her grandmother met her at the gate.  The two of them drove home in complete silence. As they pulled into the driveway her only thought was to get into her car and drive to the ocean. It was well after midnight when she arrived at the beach. What happened next is best described in her own words. She writes, “I just sat there in the moonlight watching the waves roll up on the beach. Slowly my disastrous first year passed before my eyes day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month. But, then all of a sudden the whole experience fell into place. I realized something profound: It was over and past and if I chose, I could forget about it forever and let it simply be in the past.  And there was a great freedom and relief in that realization. And, then, the next thing I knew, the sun was coming up in the east. As it rose gloriously breaking the darkness of the horizon, I sensed my feelings starting to peak, just as a wave peaks before it breaks.  It was as though my mind, heart, and body were drawing strength from the rising sun and from the ocean. All my old goals and enthusiasm came rushing back stronger than ever.  In that moment, I rose with the sun.  Renewed, I got into my car, and headed for home.”

After her Easter vacation the young woman returned to school, picked up the broken pieces of her year, and fitted them back together again. In the short span of an Easter vacation, she lived and died and rose again. And for the first time in her life she understood the meaning of Easter; she understood the meaning of Resurrection.

My friends, we gather on this holy night to celebrate the most amazing event in the history of the world – not only that God became one of us; but that after being put to death – the violent death of crucifixion – Jesus did something that defies the senses; that defies nature – He rose from the dead.  Death has no power over Him.  “Death where is your victory? Where is your sting?”  We are so used to this mystery of our faith that it can lose its punch for us; but we are challenged tonight to remember just how extraordinary this is – Jesus, who was dead, returned to life and life in the full.  And, through the grace of our Baptism, He invites us into the same life with Him.  We know about the Resurrection, but tonight we need to ask, does this central reality of our faith have a real meaning, a practical meaning in our own lives?

Now, we know we will be raised on the Last Day, but what about experiencing Resurrection today?  Think about the disciples.  Before the tragedy of Good Friday, Jesus was the person who gave meaning to their lives.  They had pledged their lives to Him. They had put their dreams in Him. They had pinned all their hopes on Him. But, then came Good Friday. All those pledges, all those dreams, all those hopes were smashed into a million little pieces. With one terrible thrust of a soldier’s spear, all those pledges, dreams, and hopes died on the cross with Jesus.  With one terrible thrust of a soldier’s spear, their very lives died on the cross with Jesus. When the sun went down on Good Friday, they, too, were buried in the tomb with Him. To them, surely, it seemed as though it was all over. 

But, then it happened! As the sun rose on Easter Sunday morning, Jesus rose with it and appeared to His disciples. He was more radiant and more fully alive than they had ever seen Him before. And at that moment, the power of Easter, the power of Resurrection, began to work in the lives of the disciples. Suddenly they were transformed from a band of despairing men, into a brigade of daring missionaries. At the command of Jesus, they set out to carry the news of Resurrection to the farthest corners of the earth. And everywhere they preached this good news, the power of Resurrection began to work in people’s lives, just as it had in their own lives. Beautiful things began to happen. Despair gave way to hope; darkness gave way to light; hatred gave way to love; sorrow gave way to joy.

In short, everywhere they preached, the power of Resurrection – of new life - began to work miracles in people’s lives. And, my friends, those miracles haven’t stopped yet. They continue
to happen in our time. Easter is a broken-hearted college girl wiping away her tears and beginning again renewed. Easter is a band of defeated disciples transformed into an army of daring missionaries. Easter is a world in darkness throwing off its chains of despair and walking in the light of a new hope. And that brings us to this gathering, in this church, on this Holy Night.  So, what is the power of this Resurrection for us today, in our lives now?  How can we experience the Resurrection that Christ invites us into? Where do we see it in our lives? 

The answer is simple.  Every time we love again after having our love rejected, we share in the power of Resurrection. Every time we trust again after having our trust betrayed, is a moment of being Raised. Each time we fail at something and still pick ourselves up and try again, Easter is born in us.  When we hope again after having our hopes and dreams smashed into pieces, new life is restored in us. Each time we wipe away the tears running down our cheeks, face the sun, and start again, we share in the power of the Risen Lord.  When we dare see something good in others, especially those we struggle with, we are in the Light of New Life.  Every time we forgive others or receive their forgiveness; every time we go out of our way and help those who are poor and in need, we embrace the liberating power of the Crucified and Risen Lord.

The message of Easter is simply and powerfully this: nothing can destroy us anymore - not pain, not sorrow, not sin, not rejection, not even death itself. The revelation coming from Easter is that Christ has conquered all, and that we too can conquer all, if we unite ourselves with Him. It is the Good News that every Good Friday in our lives now has an Easter Sunday.  It is Good News that we don't have to wait until death to share in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus; we can experience new life in this life!

And we can begin to do it right now, in this life, at this moment, in this Holy Mass. All we have to do is open our hearts to the grace that Jesus won for us on that first Easter Sunday more than 2,000 years ago.

This is what Easter is all about. This is what we celebrate as we now prepare to break bread together on this great day of our Christian faith. My friends, Jesus has risen and as we celebrate the Resurrection of the Son of God again He invites us to rise with Him.  Will we rise again with Him?

Happy Easter and may the Risen Lord give you peace.

Humble Gestures Are New Pope's Symbol Of Service | NPR

NOTE: From NPR's Morning Edition Saturday today. - FT

by  | March 29, 2013 5:46 PM

Pope Francis washes the feet of a prisoner at the Casal Del Marmo Youth Detention Center during the mass of the Lord's Supper on Thursday in Rome.
Pope Francis washes the feet of a prisoner at the Casal Del Marmo Youth Detention Center during the mass of the Lord's Supper on Thursday in Rome.
L'Osservatore Romano/Getty Images
Sometimes great change can be revealed in small gestures. This week Pope Francis knelt on the stone floor of a detention facility in Rome to wash and kiss the feet of 12 young inmates.
Other popes have carried out this rite on Holy Thursday. It is a ceremony to emulate the way Jesus washed the feet of his 12 apostles at the Last Supper, just before he was tried and crucified.
But previous popes have washed the feet of priests in Rome's grand, golden St. John Lateran Basilica. Pope Francis went to a penitentiary to wash the feet of prisoners.
They ranged in age from 14 to 21; many have had rough lives of struggle on the streets of Rome. The young offenders wore prison-issue jeans, and you could see tattoos on the ankles of a few when they inched up their pants so their feet could be washed by the pope, and dried with a plain towel before he kissed them.
"This is a symbol, it is a sign," Pope Francis told them. "Washing your feet means I am at your service."
A few of the inmates were reportedly Roma. A few were Muslim. And two were women, which attracted attention because it seems to violate what are called "liturgical norms."
But when Francis was the archbishop of Buenos Aires, he often washed the feet of prison inmates and patients in hospitals, including women. It would have been possible for Pope Francis to undertake some study to eventually issue a liturgical decree to announce a change in ritual. But instead, as Father Charles Faso, a Franciscan friar in Chicago told us, "Pope Francis just did it. As Jesus 'just did it' touching people and talking with people who were excluded by law from human touch and care."
Before it was regarded as a ritual, foot washing was a civility in many cultures. Gracious hosts would give their guests water to rinse their feet from the rigors of the road, even where water could be rare. But unwashed feet could be unlovely and rough; the job was often delegated to slaves and servants.
So it was not just ritual for Jesus to wash feet — or care for those who were ailing, imprisoned or infirm — but a real act of comfort and mercy that had poetic strength.
Father James Martin, the Jesuit priest, told us that Pope Francis kneeling to wash and kiss the feet of young inmates, including women, "speaks volumes about his priorities ... there was another person who was critiqued for setting aside rules," he says, "to extend compassion to others. And that person is the man whose death and resurrection we remember this weekend."

Dear Pope Francis, thank you that you have not given up on us.

NOTE: Inspired by the action of Pope Francis washing the feet of juvenile prisoners on Holy Thursday, youth offenders in Los Angeles County, part of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative, wanted to be united with the action taking place between the Pope and their counterparts in the Casal del Marmo prison in Rome.  To this end many of them wrote letters to Pope Francis.  They are letters of thanks to the Holy Father, letters offering prayer to him and asking for their prayers from him.  They are a moving reflection of the power of simple, humble service and how we can begin to connect with the new life offered to us through these saving days of the Triduum.  A fitting reflection for this day of Holy Saturday. - FT

Here are their letters to Pope Francis:

Dear Pope Francis,
Thank you for washing the feet of youth like us in Italy.
We also are young and made mistakes.
Society has given up on us, thank you
that you have not given up on us.

Dear Pope Francis,
I think you are a humble man.
When you read this letter you will have washed the feet of other kids like.
I am writing this letter because you give me hope.
I know one day with people like you us kids
won't be given sentences that will keep us in prison
for the rest of our lives.
I pray for you. Dont forget us. 

Dear Pope Francis,
I don't know if you have ever been to where I live.
I have grown up in a jungle of gangs and drugs and violence.
I have seen people killed. I have been hurt.
We have been victims of violence.
It is hard to be young and surrounded by darkness.
Pray for me that one day I will be free
and be able to help other youth like you do.

Dear Pope Francis,
Tonight we pray for all victims of violence.
The families of people we have hurt need healing.
Our families need healing.
We are all in pain.
Let us feel Jesus' healing tonight.

Dear Pope Francis,
I know the same youth feet that you wash
are like me.
Drugs have been part of me life for so long.
We all struggle to be sober.
But you inspire me and I promise to be sober
and help others with the cruel addiction of crystal meth.

Dear Pope Francis,
My many friends are in two different maximum security
prisons in one of our states 33 state prisons.Calif. I am writing to tell you that I feel bad
that more youth of color are in prison in our state
than any other place in the world. I am inviting you to come
here next year to wash our feet, many of who have been sentences to die in prison.
God bless you.

Dear Pope Francis, 
I read that the harshest sentence that a youth
can receive in Italy is 20 years. I wish this was true here.
I hope I hear back from you. I have been catholic and glad I am catholic
because I have a pope like you.
I will pray for you every day because we need examples of God like you are
in this violent world. 

Dear Pope Francis,
I am glad you picked the name Francis. When I was little I read about St.Francis. He is a cool saint. He was a man of peace and simplicity. I am praying to you that you pray that we have peace in our gang filled neighborhoods.

Dear Pope Francis,
When Jesus washed the feet of his friends he gave an example of humility. I have been raised to believe that it is only with respect in hurting your enemy that you are a man. Tonight you and Jesus show me something in this washing of the feet something very different. I hope we kids learn from this.

Dear Pope Francis,
I have never been to Rome. I do not know if it is near Los Angeles
because all my youth I have only known my neighborhood. I hope one
day I will be given a second chance and receive a blessing from you
and maybe even have my feet washed on Holy Thursday.

Dear Pope Francis,
I know you have a good family. I am writing this letter to you because I know
that my family is suffering because of me. I know have done some bad things but I am not a bad kid and when last year in our big state we not a new law called SB9 this made me family happy because this is a beautiful message that we kids deserve a second chance.

Dear Pope Francis,
From reading I know that us kids are capable of making decisions like older people do. I have seen pictures of brains of kids and adults. I am asking you as Pope to help us and 
help other people understand we can change and want to change.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Putting on the Apron of Service | Holy Thursday Homily

A woman accompanied her husband to the doctor's office. After his checkup, concerned, the doctor called the wife into his office alone.  He said, “Your husband is suffering from very severe stress. If you don't do the following, your husband will most definitely die.”  The woman quickly said, “Tell me, doctor, what I need to do.”  The doctor said, “Every morning, fix him a healthy breakfast. Be pleasant at all times. Make him something nutritious for lunch. At dinnertime prepare an especially nice meal. Don't burden him and don't discuss your problems with him, it will only make his stress worse. Most importantly, never nag him. If you can do this for the next 10 months to a year, your husband will regain his health completely.”  On the way home, the husband saw how distressed his wife was and asked, “What did the doctor say?” The woman looked at her husband and said, “Honey, the doctor said you're going to die.”

This humorous story points out the reality of what we celebrate tonight – if love isn’t paired with service, we cannot truly live. We gather tonight and begin the Sacred Triduum – three days which really serve as one singular feast.  Tonight’s feast is in itself a mini-Triduum recalling three things in particular – the institution of the Eucharist, the mandate to service, and the establishment priesthood – but ultimately I think tonight focuses on God’s bounty; God’s goodness to us.  On this holy night, our God wants to spoil us.   

These Holy Days seek nothing less than to inspire us; to remind us who we are as children of God and members of the Church; and most profoundly to remind us through dramatic moments of ritual and sacrament and prayer of one powerful reality – that Jesus Christ is real.  We do not merely gather here tonight to tell a very old story. We gather here tonight to meet a very real person – our Savior Jesus Christ, who – although He walked the earth some 2,000 years ago – is still living and active and in our midst today.

In the history of the Church, Lent and Holy Week were originally established for those preparing to enter the Church as new members.  Originally, new members entered only once a year, at the Easter Vigil.  Just as today, in the early centuries of the Church, there was tremendous drama in these rituals.  For example, in the 4th Century, St. Ambrose, in a Holy Week homily instructed catechumens on the awesome power of the Eucharist. He wrote, “Perhaps you say, ‘The bread I have here is ordinary bread.’  Yes, before the sacramental words are uttered this bread is nothing but bread.  But at the consecration this bread becomes the body of Christ…When the moment comes for bringing the most holy sacrament into being, the priest does not use his own words any longer: he uses the words of Christ.  Therefore it is Christ’s words that bring this sacrament into being.  What is this word of Christ?  It is the word by which all things were made. The Lord commanded and the heavens were made, the Lord commanded and the earth was made, the Lord commanded and all creatures came into being.  See, then, how efficacious the word of Christ is. There was no heaven, there was no sea, there was no earth.  And yet, as David says, ‘He spoke and it was made; he commanded and it was created.’  To answer your question, then, before the consecration it was not the body of Christ, but after the consecration I tell you that it is now the body of Christ.  He spoke and it was made, he commanded and it was created…You see from all this, surely, the power that is contained in the heavenly word.”   What is St. Ambrose’s point? Quite simply and quite powerfully – that Jesus is real! 

Likewise, a modern example.  This one from Blessed Pope John Paul II in a letter he wrote for Holy Week 2002.  He said, “Before this extraordinary Eucharistic reality we find ourselves amazed and overwhelmed, so deep is the humility by which God ‘stoops’ in order to unite himself with us! If we feel moved before the Christmas crib, when we contemplate the Incarnation of the Word, what must we feel before the altar where, by the poor hands of the priest, Christ makes his Sacrifice present in time? We can only fall to our knees and silently adore this supreme mystery of faith.”  My brothers and sisters, the profound question that God places in your heart tonight is this: Do you believe that Jesus is real? Do you believe that He is present in our midst?  If the answer is “yes” then we’ve got to be like the early Christians and that belief has got to be translated through the example of our lives into so much more than words – it must be lived in action; in service!

Our Gospel proclaimed tonight, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”  Have you ever wondered why it is that on this night that commemorates the institution of both the priesthood and the Eucharist, our Gospel is about foot washing?  We would expect perhaps to have a passage from Matthew, Mark or Luke related to the bread and wine of the Last Supper.  Instead, we’re given the washing of the feet.  John gives us an example where Jesus turns things upside down through a tremendous act of humility.  The Master washes the feet of the servant.  Peter is stunned, “You will never wash my feet!”  But Jesus shows that the transformative power of His love is most effective when turned into humble service. 

In the washing of the feet, Jesus turns the Mantle of Privilege that comes from being the Son of God into an Apron of Service transforming the world with humble love. Jesus shows us that when we recognize Him in the Eucharist; when we have  internalized Him in our lives; we most powerfully make Him truly present to our world by the simple act of washing feet; simple acts of service that make Jesus real.  

We have been blessed in these recent days to have such a profound example of exactly this type of humble service in our new Holy Father, Pope Francis,  haven’t we?  Certainly, as Pope, as leader of more than a billion Catholics throughout the world, he has assumed a Mantle of Privilege as well – one that comes with tremendous authority, power and the trappings of a such a position.  But, we know that in the few weeks that he has been Pope, he has set the Church and the world on its head with his simple form of humble leadership.  From the moment of his election, he has chosen the Apron of Service as the hallmark of his leadership of the Church.  Like Christ, he is giving us an example that we too should do.  He wears the simplest clothing available to the Pope; he has chosen not to live in the vast Papal Apartments available to him instead living in community with others who work at the Vatican; he wears simple black shoes and no cufflinks; a simple silver cross instead of one clad in gold.  He is a Pope who in his very first moments as our leader did not stand triumphantly on the balcony of St. Peter’s but instead bowed down before the world and humbly asked us for our prayers, for our blessing.  And perhaps, most profoundly, earlier today, he did not preside over a lavish celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at St. Peter’s Basilica washing the feet of the chosen; instead he went to a juvenile prison and washed the feet of youth prisoners, one of whom exclaimed, “At last I get to meet someone who says that he is my father.”

I have given you an example, so that as I have done for you, you also should do.  Why is the Holy Father doing this?   I think the answer is in the name he has chosen – Francis.  He has been inspired by the Saint of the Poor, Saint Francis of Assisi.  St. Francis lived in a time much like our own – there was scandal in the Church and people were far from the faith.  Today, though, we remember his times for the great period of holiness that it gave birth to.  We remember the luminary saints who were born in response to that sin – St. Francis and St. Clare; St. Bonaventure and St. Anthony; St. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas and so many more.  And so much of it began with Francis.

St. Francis changed the Church and changed the world with one simple proposition – that the Gospel is meant to be lived; that the Gospel can be lived. And that we live the Gospel by being men and women of loving service to one another; loving service to those in need. “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary use words.” Eight hundred years later, this new Francis, our Holy Father Pope Francis, I think, wants to propose it to us again – and if we follow where he wants to lead us – not in word, but in action – we will again change the Church and change the world.

Pope Francis kissed the foot of a juvenile prisoner on Holy Thursday.
So, the question tonight is this: are we willing to take off our outer garment?  Are we willing to lay down our own Mantles? For us it may not be a Mantle of Privilege, it might instead be a Mantle of pride or jealousy, anger or selfishness, laziness or greed.  Whatever our Mantle is, can we lay it down and replace it with the Apron of Service? Because when we take off our outer garments then all things are possible for us – in and through God.  Someone said, “When we are young we think we can change the world by sheer force of will.  We march for our causes, speak out to be heard, we protest and write letters.  But, as we grow in spiritual maturity we may realize that the way to change the world is to put down our placards and pick up a towel and basin.”

My friends, on this Holy Night, look into the mirror that is Jesus Christ in His Sacred Body and Blood.  Look there until you see your own image reflected in the face of Jesus.  Then, become that mirror for the world, reflecting the face of Christ to all who see your face.  Reflect Christ through your own humble, simple acts of service to one another.   Put on the Apron of Service and follow the example that Jesus has given us; the example that St. Francis followed; the example that Pope Francis now witnesses to; the example that we are all called to follow.

My friends Jesus is real!  Let us be filled once again with the Real and Abiding Presence of Christ here tonight and let us become his Real and Abiding Presence in our world.  Let us become like Him, washers of feet.

“‘Do you realize what I have done for you?...I have given you a model to follow,  so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

May God give you peace.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

"A good priest can be recognized in his people" | Pope Francis

NOTE: More inspiring words from our Holy Father Pope Francis. Below is his homily for the Chrism Mass held this morning at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.  Speaking to priests he said, "From the beauty of all these liturgical things, which is not so much about trappings and fine fabrics than about the glory of our God resplendent in his people, alive and strengthened, we turn now to a consideration of activity, action. The precious oil which anoints the head of Aaron does more than simply lend fragrance to his person; it overflows down to “the edges”. The Lord will say this clearly: his anointing is meant for the poor, prisoners and the sick, for those who are sorrowing and alone. My dear brothers, the ointment is not intended just to make us fragrant, much less to be kept in a jar, for then it would become rancid … and the heart bitter. A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed: this is a clear proof. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news." Everyone should read this homily.  Every priest MUST read this homily!  Later today, he will celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper in a juvenile prison and give us another example of humble action.  What a beautiful start to the Sacred Triduum!  - FT 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This morning I have the joy of celebrating my first Chrism Mass as the Bishop of Rome. I greet all of you with affection, especially you, dear priests, who, like myself, today recall the day of your ordination.

The readings and the Psalm of our Mass speak of God’s “anointed ones”: the suffering Servant of Isaiah, King David and Jesus our Lord. All three have this in common: the anointing that they receive is meant in turn to anoint God’s faithful people, whose servants they are; they are anointed for the poor, for prisoners, for the oppressed… A fine image of this “being for” others can be found in the Psalm 133: “It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down upon the collar of his robe” (v. 2). The image of spreading oil, flowing down from the beard of Aaron upon the collar of his sacred robe, is an image of the priestly anointing which, through Christ, the Anointed One, reaches the ends of the earth, represented by the robe.

The sacred robes of the High Priest are rich in symbolism. One such symbol is that the names of the children of Israel were engraved on the onyx stones mounted on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, the ancestor of our present-day chasuble: six on the stone of the right shoulder-piece and six on that of the left (cf. Ex 28:6-14). The names of the twelve tribes of Israel were also engraved on the breastplate (cf. Es 28:21). This means that the priest celebrates by carrying on his shoulders the people entrusted to his care and bearing their names written in his heart. When we put on our simple chasuble, it might well make us feel, upon our shoulders and in our hearts, the burdens and the faces of our faithful people, our saints and martyrs who are numerous in these times.

From the beauty of all these liturgical things, which is not so much about trappings and fine fabrics than about the glory of our God resplendent in his people, alive and strengthened, we turn now to a consideration of activity, action. The precious oil which anoints the head of Aaron does more than simply lend fragrance to his person; it overflows down to “the edges”. The Lord will say this clearly: his anointing is meant for the poor, prisoners and the sick, for those who are sorrowing and alone. My dear brothers, the ointment is not intended just to make us fragrant, much less to be kept in a jar, for then it would become rancid … and the heart bitter.

A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed: this is a clear proof. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with “unction”, they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the “outskirts” where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith. People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes. And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: “Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem”, “Bless me Father”, “Pray for me” – these words are the sign that the anointing has flowed down to the edges of the robe, for it has turned into a prayer of supplication, the supplication of the People of God. When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and grace passes through us, then we are priests, mediators between God and men. What I want to emphasize is that we need constantly to stir up God’s grace and perceive in every request, even those requests that are inconvenient and at times purely material or downright banal – but only apparently so – the desire of our people to be anointed with fragrant oil, since they know that we have it. To perceive and to sense, even as the Lord sensed the hope-filled anguish of the woman suffering from hemorrhages when she touched the hem of his garment. At that moment, Jesus, surrounded by people on every side, embodies all the beauty of Aaron vested in priestly raiment, with the oil running down upon his robes. It is a hidden beauty, one which shines forth only for those faith-filled eyes of the woman troubled with an issue of blood. But not even the disciples – future priests – see or understand: on the “existential outskirts”, they see only what is on the surface: the crowd pressing in on Jesus from all sides (cf. Lk 8:42). The Lord, on the other hand, feels the power of the divine anointing which runs down to the edge of his cloak.

We need to “go out”, then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live our priestly life going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.

The priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, the people take the oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager, “has already received his reward”, and since he doesn’t put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason for the dissatisfaction of some, who end up sad – sad priests - in some sense becoming collectors of antiques or novelties, instead of being shepherds living with “the odour of the sheep”. This I ask you: be shepherds, with the “odour of the sheep”, make it real, as shepherds among your flock, fishers of men. True enough, the so-called crisis of priestly identity threatens us all and adds to the broader cultural crisis; but if we can resist its onslaught, we will be able to put out in the name of the Lord and cast our nets. It is not a bad thing that reality itself forces us to “put out into the deep”, where what we are by grace is clearly seen as pure grace, out into the deep of the contemporary world, where the only thing that counts is “unction” – not function – and the nets which overflow with fish are those cast solely in the name of the One in whom we have put our trust: Jesus.

Dear lay faithful, be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart.

Dear priests, may God the Father renew in us the Spirit of holiness with whom we have been anointed. May he renew his Spirit in our hearts, that this anointing may spread to everyone, even to those “outskirts” where our faithful people most look for it and most appreciate it. May our people sense that we are the Lord’s disciples; may they feel that their names are written upon our priestly vestments and that we seek no other identity; and may they receive through our words and deeds the oil of gladness which Jesus, the Anointed One, came to bring us. Amen.

Homily for the Chrism Mass
St. Peter's Basilica
March 28, 2013

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"At last I shall get to meet someone who says he is my father!"

NOTE: This is a wonderful story about the preparations taking place at the Casal del Marmo where Pope Francis will go tomorrow to celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper for Holy Thursday.  This is a prison for juvenile offenders and the Holy Father will wash the feet of youth offenders.  Holy Thursday is one of those days where our actions speak so much louder than our words. Jesus said in the Gospel we will hear, "I have given you a model to follow,so that as I have done for you, you should also do." How moving that the head of our Church will make that sign crystal clear tomorrow by being what we are all in the end called to be each and every day - nothing more than feet washers.  I was so moved in this story by the young person who understanding what the visit of the Holy Father meant said, "At last I shall get to meet someone who says he is my father!"  - FT

From L'Osservatore Romano:

Forty-nine young people, the inmates of the Roman borstal, Casal del Marmo, are preparing to receive an extraordinary gift. Pope Francis will go there in the afternoon of Holy Thursday, 28 March, to celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper. A joyful atmosphere of expectation pervades the institute.  Such an important visit had certainly not been on the cards. Above all, there had been no expectation of so suddenly touching the heart of the Pope whom they do not yet know. “The young people's enthusiasm”, Liana Giambartolomei, the principal, told us, “must be linked to the very fact that they feel they will be playing the lead on a historic day. Moreover, this is exactly what Pope Francis wanted. He expressly asked us to make sure that there were no other young people here. He wants to be certain that they know he is coming solely for them, because he loves them, he carries them in his heart and considers them important, very important”. A Caritas worker in the penal institute says that one of them, having heard the news, exclaimed: “At last I shall get to meet someone who says he is my father!”.
Fr Greco, the chaplain, does not conceal the fact that he was somewhat perplexed, at least to start with, “because”, he told our paper, “only eight of our residents are Italian: six boys and two girls. The others are all foreigners. And most of them are Muslim. Then there are some who have no religious belief at all. Therefore many of them don't even know who the Pope is. For this reason too, it was far from easy to explain to them the importance of the Pope's visit”. “A young Neapolitan”, the chaplain confided, “who has been here for a while came to my help. He gathered them all together, to try to make them understand above all what the Pope's act, which is an act of love for them, actually meant. I was upset for a moment by the first looks, that were either blank or only faintly curious about my enthusiasm. Then our friend broke the silence with that most classic of Neapolitan expressions: “Maronna mia, o Papa accĂ !” [good heavens! The Pope here!] and he ran his hand through his hair, his face betraying emotions mingled with happiness. At that very instant all the others, seeing his amazement, realized that it must really be something very special and began to question me. Little by little, I saw their enthusiasm growing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Our love for the poor is never just philanthrophy" | Cardinal Sean O'Malley

NOTE: Cardinal Sean gave a wonderful homily this morning at the Chrism Mass.  It felt like there were more priests in attendance then I ever remember seeing which was wonderful; and the Cardinal was exuding a great joy which was contagious.  I was so grateful for his sharing of memories from his time in Rome at the Conclave and Inauguration Mass of Pope Francis.  Below is the text of his homily.  Have a great Holy Week! - FT

I was very sorry to miss St. Patrick’s Day last week here in Boston.  I did manage to get to the Pontifical Irish College in Rome for a great meal with the Irish community there.  No corned beef, our normal Seder meal here in Boston.  The food, though, was green, orange and white. 
Cardinal Sean O'Malley delivering the homily at the Chrism Mass
The whole pre-Conclave atmosphere where I was leading in the Italian polls was quite surrealistic.  I thought of St. Patrick who was of a Roman family living in Britain.  Patrick was an Irish wanabee, he was actually an Italian kidnapped by Irish pirates.  I was worried that the Italians were trying to get even. Actually, I was very touched by the Italian people’s enthusiasm for your Archbishop.
Needless to say, I am very happy and relieved to be back home in Boston.  The whole experience of the Conclave was extraordinary.  I felt very close to all of you.  I knew that we were united in prayer, praying that the Holy Spirit guide our Church in this important decision.  Like the first Christians praying intensely before choosing St. Matthias to be an apostle, to fill the vacancy and to pass on the office of Apostle.
We were all delighted that, for the first time in history, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople was present for the inaugural Mass.  Patriarch Bartholomew has even invited Pope Francis to come with him to the Holy Land to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic visit of Pope Paul VI and the Patriarch Athanagoras.  By the same token, the presence of His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios here today is one more sign of the growing hope for our Churches to be reunited.
Myself, Fr. Mike MacInnis, OFM, and Fr. Rick Martignetti, OFM, right in the middle along with our brother priests. Can you spot us?
One of my favorite books in the New Testament is St. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, which has been called the Gospel of the Spirit.   Acts highlights the ministries of Saint Peter and Saint Paul but the real protagonists of this book are the Holy Spirit and the community of faith.  It is a book of frenetic action amid a constantly shifting scene: Conspiracy and intrigue and ambush; hostile confrontations and fierce conflicts, rioting lynch mobs and incessant missionary journeys all over the Mediterranean world, complete with shipwrecks and venomous serpents, chains and imprisonments and at least two successful prison breaks; famine and earthquake; crime and punishment; and powerful sermons, all guided by the Holy Spirit who was poured out on those first Christians at Pentecost. 
In our Greek classes, the old German friar who taught us stressed how St. Luke used classical literary forms and the most elevated style for the Acts of the Apostles, but that the way Acts ends so abruptly is quite a departure from the literary construction of the rest of the book.  There are several plausible explanations:  Luke may have died, leaving the work unfinished; Amazon may have cancelled his contract, or, as I like to believe, he meant that the Acts of the Apostles never really ended, that now we are the new cast of characters and the Holy Spirit is leading us in these turbulent times. 
Certainly for me the Conclave was a Pentecost experience right out of the Acts of the Apostles.  Catholics all over the world were praying for the Church, the Cardinals and for the Conclave, so that the Holy Spirit would guide us.  I have no doubt that all our prayers were answered.  In the Gospels, Jesus is always seeking those at the periphery and bringing them center stage.  By having a Pope from the Southern Hemisphere the Church is doing that.  The strongest growth and vitality among our over one billion Catholics in the world is in the South Hemisphere.  I am sure that Pope Francis will be a great stimulus and an encouragement to our brothers and sisters in those parts of the world.  Soon half the Catholics in our own country as well will be Hispanics as well. 
I am also convinced that Pope Francis’ unswerving devotion to the poor and the social Gospel of the Church will also touch the hearts of many in the secularized countries of Europe and North America and help them to see the Church in a new light. 

Here in Boston, we must see ourselves as the continuation of the Church of the Acts of the Apostles, with so many dramatic challenges, we must cultivate a deep trust in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit to guide and unite us.
As we work to implement the Pastoral Plan, it cannot be just about strategy or techniques, but about our own deep awareness of God’s loving presence in our Church.  All of our discussions and planning, like the work of the pre-Conclave Congregations and the Conclave itself, needs to take place in that atmosphere of prayer and trust in God’s love for us.
Likewise here in the Archdiocese our thrust toward the New Evangelization and the pastoral plan, Disciples in Mission, must be realized in an atmosphere of prayer and discernment and with a profound trust in the presence of the Spirit to guide the Church.  The Spirit acts where there is prayer and unity, and the Spirit enables us to pray and to overcome all of our differences so that like at Pentecost, we can all hear the wonderful things of God, each in his or her own language.
I am so grateful to all the Pastors of the parishes of Phase One, who with great faith and generosity, have entered into the planning process, making sacrifices for the sake of the greater good. 
As my brother Cardinals and I entered the Conclave, we did not know what the outcome would be or what the future would hold.  We were called to make ourselves available for the mission of the Church.  Our pastors in the first phase of pastoral planning have likewise been called to make themselves available for mission, without knowing what the outcome would be as once again they responded, “adsum”.   The Archdiocese is greatly blessed by their dedication, commitment and example of selfless service as we embark on the journey of rebuilding our parishes and welcoming the faithful back to active participation in the life of our Church. We want our Pastoral Planning, like the Conclave in Rome, to be a Pentecost moment in this Year of Faith. 
In this context, I would like to reflect for a moment on the Catholic priest as a man of faith.  Today we come together as a presbyterate who have a special connection to Christ and to one another.
Pope Benedict, our Pope Emeritus and an extraordinary teacher of the faith, has given us this Year of Faith.  Pope Benedict always relates faith and joy.  The deeper our faith the more we will experience the joy of being Christ’s disciple and friend.  Pope Paul VI used to say that more than teachers the world needs witnesses. The Church needs us to be joyful teachers and witnesses of the Catholic faith.  The fact that the Year of Faith marks the anniversary of two great events: The Second Vatican Council and the publication of the Catechism, underscores the importance of the content of faith.  It is of great importance that we be able to understand the rich teachings of Second Vatican Council in the context on an hermeneutic of continuity that can help the Church teach the Gospel to the contemporary world without being cut off from the tap root of tradition.  The Catechism is also a very valuable tool to teach the doctrines of the faith and demonstrate how they are interrelated, and to present a coherent vision that forms a pattern for a way of life.
Understanding the content of the faith is important in order to have the vision that allows us to lead a life of faithful discipleship.   The priest as a man of faith must be a student.  Our ongoing formation is a crucial aspect of our priestly life.  There is a direct correlation between neglecting ongoing formation and pastoral burn out.  Our ability to preach with confidence and enthusiasm, our capacity to help our people understand complex ethical issues, our creativity in organizing the pastoral life of our parishes, our appreciation for the liturgy and its execution are all affected by our commitment to ongoing formation or the lack of it. 
Once again, the success of our pastoral planning is conditioned by our commitment as priests to our ongoing formation.  We cannot tell ourselves or each other that we do not have time.   Neglecting our ongoing formation will cause great detriment to the pastoral life of our Church and to our life and to our own lives as priests and ministers. 
In the first instance, for a priest to be a man of faith means that Christ is the priest’s best friend.  In the Gospels, the Greeks go to the Apostles and say, “We want to see Jesus”.  Our people want to see Jesus in us; they want to know that Jesus is our best friend.  In our compassion, understanding and self-sacrifice, in our lives of obedience, of chastity, and of generosity, they want to glimpse the Good Shepherd who has laid down their life for them.
To be such a man of faith means having a real interior life.  Prayer, reflection on the Scriptures, and an annual retreat that is a serious time of introspection are all essential for our life and ministry.  It also means acts of penance, making sacrifices out of love for God and a desire to make reparations for our own sins. It means making use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a means of ongoing personal conversion.
Our friendship with Christ in inexorably bound to our vocation to be men of the Eucharist.  Archbishop Sartain wrote a very moving letter to his priests urging them to say Mass each day.  He says, “as a husband kisses his wife with affection each morning, so a priest should kiss the altar every day.”  This is a very public gesture made in the presence of those gathered for the Eucharist; but it is at the same time an intensely private gesture, an act of affection and surrender, an act of love and trust.  Even more to the point, the priest’s kissing the altar is an act of identification: he is proclaiming to Christ, to himself and to his parishioners that it is Christ the High Priest who makes him who he is.  We kiss the altar as a sign of the Lord himself, the sacrifice of Calvary, and the table of the Last Supper.  Everything we do flows from the altar and back to it.  The kiss symbolizes our daily embrace of the sacrifice of Christ as our way of life, for on the day of our ordination, we were totally and irrevocably joined to Christ our High Priest.
In the Latin rite we begin the Eucharist by kissing the altar; at the end of every celebration of the Eucharist, Maronite priests pray a beautiful prayer that is a farewell to the altar.  They pray:
“Remain in peace, O holy altar of God, I hope to return to you in peace.  May the offering I have received from you forgive my sins and prepare me to stand blameless before the throne of Christ.  I know not whether I will be able to return to you again to offer sacrifice.  Guard me O Lord, and protect your holy Church, that she may be the way to salvation and the light of the world.”
I was once at the funeral of a Maronite priest.  His brother priests carried his body around the altar, reciting this prayer of farewell to the altar. It is a very moving sight, and a reminder to celebrate each Mass as if it were our last Mass.
As priests, our love for the Mass and Eucharistic devotion are what nurture our friendship with Christ and our priestly identity as men of faith and best friends with Christ.
The priest as a man of faith is to be a teacher of the faith.  There is so much religious illiteracy in today’s world.  Our service as preachers and teachers of the Catholic faith is crucial for the life of the Church.  In today’s secularized culture, we must prepare ourselves to be able to explain the faith.  The book I sent you at Christmas, Defending the Faith Without Raising Your Voice, is a wonderful primer on a new way to broach the difficult topics that confront us and at time cause people to become estranged from the Church.  In our parishes we are head catechists, and need to prepare and encourage those who help us in the responsibility of teaching the faith.
We must know that the questions left unanswered can lead to doubts.  Our people do have a desire to know the faith and to understand the Eucharist.  I often comment on how our young couples attending the marriage preparation programs have consistently said that their favorite part of the weekend was “the teaching Mass”.  An important part of the New Evangelization is teaching the faith.  For us, that begins with the Sunday experience.  We must make the Sunday Eucharist central in our efforts to grow our parishes.  In his book, Rebuilt, Fr. Michael White describes his frustrating efforts to revitalize Nativity parish in Baltimore, where all of the surveys revealed what the parishioners liked most was that it had great parking.
Fr. White tried a hundred different programs, greatly overburdening himself and his staff, with very little results.  He finally became very angry, later describing this his “Popeye moment.” That allowed him to break out of the doldrums.  His cry became, “It’s the weekend, stupid”, and he began to concentrate on the Sunday liturgy, the music, the children’s liturgy, and the preaching, and then things really began to turn around.  The Eucharist is our best resource to teach the faith and build a community.  If the Eucharist is the core of our own identity we will be able to kindle the Eucharistic amazement in the hearts of our people.
The priest is a man of faith when he witnesses to the faith.  Our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, has underscored for us the Church’s preferential option for the poor.  The priest must be a father to his people, but in a very special way, a father to the poor.
In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable, the old bishop, Msgr. Bienvenue, refuses to denounce Jean Valjean who had just abused the his hospitality by stealing the Bishop’s silver candle sticks.  When the police drag Jean Valjean back to the Bishop’s house, the old bishop rather than denounce the thief, gives the convict the rest of his silver.  That act of mercy causes a conversion in the hardened convict’s heart.   In the film “Ryan’s Daughter,” the pastor in the Irish village is the constant companion of a mentally retarded man treated as the village idiot.  The same pastor bravely protects a woman accused of collaborating with the enemy for falling in love with a British officer.
But we don’t have to turn to the world of art to see in our priests God’s love for the poor.  It was a great moment for all of us on that Monday morning last December when the front page of the Boston Globe featured one of our own priests, Fr. Doc Conway, a Catholic priest reaching out to the people entrusted to his care.  In our inner cities, in our neighborhoods, in our suburban communities where families’ lives have been upended by the protracted recession, in outreach to missions to Haiti and throughout the world, and responding to the homeless and the hungry at our doors, every day the priests of the Archdiocese of Boston witness Christ’s presence to people in need.
Our love for the poor is never just philanthropy, it is rather the Evangelical Poverty that inspired St. Francis to kiss the leper, to give all his wealth to the poor, to see Lady Poverty as freedom from the shackles of wealth.  In the context of faith, embracing the spirit of poverty is an expression of humility, seeking the last place at table in order to be near to Christ who has come to wash our feet.  As priests we are called to a simplicity of lifestyle that allows us to be free, unencumbered by expensive toys and hobbies.  We are called to the detachment that allows us to recognize the poor and the suffering as an icon of the crucified Lord, as a manifestation of His presence in the world.
I am confident that Pope Francis’ love for the poor and his passion for the social Gospel will help galvanize the Church to a greater fidelity to the Gospel and a renewed commitment to building a civilization of love.
In the mission statements of our collaboratives and parishes, we must show our living faith by our commitment to serve the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the immigrant and the stranger.  St. James tells us, “Faith without works is dead.”  The priest as teacher of the faith and father of the poor, must show our people that the Eucharist is the source of our strength for our mission.  Our service to the poor must be humble, not self-congratulatory.  It must be the normal outgrowth and expression of a faith community.
We do these works of mercy, caring for the poor and needy, because we are Catholics and it is what we are supposed to do.  I often reflect on the occasion in the Gospel when Jesus takes his disciples to the temple to point out to them that poor widow who drops her last penny in the collection basket.  Jesus doesn’t say anything to the woman, he doesn’t give her the money back. He simply wants his disciples to see and appreciate the faith and generosity of the poor widow.
Once as a young priest I was unvesting in the sacristy after Mass when a young Bolivian lad came in and handed me a hundred dollar bill.  This is the first time this happened in that parish.  I said, “What is this?” and he explained that he had found it in the parking lot.  I was surprised that anyone who would have been in that lot would have had a hundred dollar bill.  I knew the boy and his family.  I had just recently baptized his little sister Shirley who had Down Syndrome.  Their father had recently abandoned the mother and five children who were undocumented immigrants and were living in deplorable conditions.  I went and spoke with the mom, Anita, who was waiting with the other children.  I said, “Anita, do you have any money?” She said, “No, Father”, and then, “actually I had five dollars I was going to use to buy food, but then I heard today’s Gospel about the widow’s mite.  So, I decided to put it in the collection.”  I gave Anita the $100 bill and said, “I think God wants you to have this.  If anyone shows up looking for their hundred dollars, I’ll take care of it.”  Needless to say, no one ever came.
So many good people in our midst, in our parishes and in our communities, live hand to mouth.  Many people who but a few years ago never thought they would be faced with shortfalls in providing the basic needs for their families, including many living in the leafy suburbs, are on the verge of insolvency following years of unemployment and discouragement.  We are called to grow in our awareness of our brothers and sisters needs and determine how we, as a faith community, can help them.  The little ones and those in need are the protagonists of the Good Shepherd’s Gospel of Mercy.
Finally, the priest is a man of faith in a community of faith that is built on relationships.  First and foremost is our relationship with Christ, which is both friendship and of a sacramental character. Our priesthood also connects us with each other. The very ordination rite ritualizes the bond that unites us as priests.  After the Bishop imposes hands on the ordinand, all the priests present come forward to impose hands and likewise the priests come forward to extend the greeting of peace to the newly ordained.  This was done for each of us, and each of us has done this for other priests. Likewise, the vow of respect and obedience binds the priest not only to the Bishop but also binds him through the Bishop to his fellow priests.  Today, in the Chrism Mass, we are united in the blessing of the oils that become our tools in our shared administration of the sacraments.
The task of evangelization is advanced by or unity or hindered by the lack of it.  As we renew our priestly promises today, let us ask the Good Shepherd to make us one in our priesthood.  Let us be joined in an intentional presbyterate that will allow us to be of one heart and one mind as we strive together to be men of faith, priests of Jesus Christ.
May Mary, the Mother of the Divine Shepherd, help us all to be priests after Christ’s own heart and give us a very special love for the poor, the suffering, the sinner, the outcast, the forgotten.  May they see in us a father, a brother, a Catholic priest.

For more pictures of the Chrism Mass, visit: Chrism Mass Photo Gallery

Pope Francis will not move into Papal Apartments | Catholic News Service

NOTE: Continuing the simplicity of his Papal style thus far, Pope Francis announced this morning that he will not move into the large Papal Apartment where Popes have resided for over 100 years and instead will stay where he is - in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.  The Holy Father has been there since the Conclave began, it is where all the Cardinals resided during the Conclave. It is the residence of the staff and bishops who work at the Vatican. He takes his meals in common with everyone else at celebrates Mass with the staff in the house Chapel at 7 a.m. each day.  As a religious, I can understand his motivation. I couldn't imagine being called to a ministry that took me away from my common life.  It seems that even the Pope needs it too!  Another great move by our Holy Father - FT

By Cindy Wooden  | March 26, 2013 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has decided not to move into the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace, but to live in a suite in the Vatican guesthouse where he has been since the beginning of the conclave that elected him, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.

"He is experimenting with this type of living arrangement, which is simple," but allows him "to live in community with others," both the permanent residents -- priests and bishops who work at the Vatican -- as well as guests coming to the Vatican for meetings and conferences, Father Lombardi said March 26.

The bedroom of the suite at the Domus Sanctae Marthae where Pope Francis is living.
 (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

The spokesman said Pope Francis has moved out of the room he drew by lot before the conclave and into Suite 201, a room that has slightly more elegant furnishings and a larger living room where he can receive guests.

The Domus Sanctae Marthae, the official name of the guesthouse, was built in 1996 specifically to house cardinals during a conclave.

Celebrating Mass March 26 with the residents and guests, Pope Francis told them he intended to stay, Father Lombardi said. The permanent residents, who had to move out during the conclave, had just returned to their old rooms.

Pope Francis has been there since his election March 13, taking his meals in the common dining room downstairs and celebrating a 7 a.m. Mass with Vatican employees in the main chapel of the residence.

He will be the first pope in 110 years not to live in the papal apartments on the third floor of the Apostolic Palace.

In 1903, St. Pius X became the first pope to live in the apartments overlooking St. Peter's Square. The apartments were completely remodeled by Pope Paul VI in 1964 and have undergone smaller modifications by each pope since, according to "Mondo Vaticano," a Vatican-published mini-encyclopedia about Vatican buildings, offices and tradition.

The large living room or salon of the apartment is located directly above the papal library where official audiences with visiting bishops and heads of state are held.

Pope Francis will continue to use the library for official audiences and to recite the Angelus prayer on Sundays and holy days from the apartment window overlooking St. Peter's Square, Father Lombardi said.

The apartments contain a chapel, an office for the pope and a separate office for his secretaries, the pope's bedroom, a dining room, kitchen and rooms for two secretaries and for the household staff.

When Pope Francis returned to the guesthouse after his election, Father Lombardi had said the move was intended to be short-term while a few small work projects were completed in the papal apartments. He said March 26 that all the work had been completed, but at least for the foreseeable future, Pope Francis would not move in.

The Domus Sanctae Marthae, named after St. Martha, is a five-story building on the edge of Vatican City.

While offering relative comfort, the residence is not a luxury hotel. The building has 105 two-room suites and 26 singles; about half of the rooms are occupied by the permanent residents. Each suite has a sitting room with a desk, three chairs, a cabinet and large closet; a bedroom with dresser, night table and clothes stand; and a private bathroom with a shower.

The rooms all have telephones and access to an international satellite television system.

The building also has a large meeting room and a variety of small sitting rooms. In addition to the dining room and the main chapel, it also has four private chapels, located at the end of hallways on the third and fifth floors of each of the building's two wings.

Changing the impossible

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