Sunday, June 30, 2013

"No money, no honey, no say!"


Note: I am on vacation this week. This homily is from the "archives".

We have a friar in our community named Brother Damian.  Now, if you ever met him, he is one of the most fun, gregarious and outgoing people you could ever be around.  He will laugh at anything and even nothing at all, but once he begins, he has a laugh that is so contagious that I can’t imagine anyone being able to resist laughing along.  I was thinking yesterday about a particular encounter with Brother Damian.  As you know, as a Franciscan, we wear our brown Franciscan robe with a white cord tied around the waist.  On the cord are three knots which represent the three vows that we, as religious, take – the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.  However, in this particular encounter with Brother Damian, he was pointing to the knots asked, “Do you know what these represent?”  “Of course,” I answered, “Poverty, chastity and obedience.” “Wrong,” Brother Damian responded, “They represent No money, No honey and No Say!”

Later this week, we celebrate the Fourth of July, our nation’s independence. And, so with these celebrations in mind, and particularly with the current state of affairs in the world, I think I minds tend to thoughts about freedom. The freedom so bravely declared in that Declaration of Independence in 1776, and the freedom that we try to continue to preserve today.  At this time of year, I always take a few moments to read the Declaration of Independence slowly, word for word.  How can you not be moved by words like, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

How appropriate then that today we have yet another reflection on the nature of freedom from St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians.  But, St. Paul offers an understanding of freedom more comprehensive, profound and challenging than any Fourth of July orator is likely to provide.   St. Paul says, “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.  But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.”  

And this is where it gets interesting. According to St. Paul, through Jesus’ death and resurrection we have been freed from something and for something – freed from the dominion of sin, death and the flesh, and freed for life in the Spirit.   This is the type of freedom that is worth something; this is the type of freedom that makes life worth living.

Too often, we define freedom very narrowly: Freedom means I can do what I want; or anything goes.  Freedom in this way is a freedom from – and while perhaps it is good to not be constrained, it really doesn’t help us discover who we are, what we are called to, what we can be.  St. Paul reminds us that through our Baptism, in Christ, the freedom that He won for us on the cross is not merely a freedom from some sort of oppression, but more powerfully it is a freedom for the world.  It is a freedom that calls us to be something great.

This brings us back to poverty, chastity and obedience – remember, No Money, No Honey, No Say.  In the vows we see exactly the kind of freedom for Christ that St. Paul envisions.  In the vow of poverty, we see the freedom to not be concerned with high paying jobs, acquiring material goods, power, status and instead be completely free to be where Jesus and the Church needs us.  In the vow of chastity, we see the freedom that instead of being a loving presence to one spouse, we embrace the freedom to be God’s loving presence to all of His people.  And in the vow of obedience, we become free to not be preoccupied with our own will and our own desires, but to move with the freedom of the wind in the ways that God calls us through the Church.  

While the way we live out these vows is particular to someone who is a religious or a priest, the idea and the freedom behind them is there for everyone. St. Paul said, “Stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”  We see how heavy and pervasive this yoke of slavery is in our world today.  How many people are yoked so strongly to their desire to make money and acquire material that they ignore their fundamental relationship with God and even with their own families?  How many people are yoked so strongly to the over sexualized culture of today that they worship all things sexual and deny the beauty and sanctity of every created person?  How many people today are yoked so strongly to their own will, their own way that they trample right over those in front of them through lies, deceit, gossip and control?

As we mark our nation’s freedom, let us be reminded that God is calling us to something greater – the most radical freedom ever seen in this world. “For freedom Christ set us free…you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters…serve one another through love.”

You were called for freedom.  Do you want to be free?

May God give you peace and true freedom.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

St. Joseph in the Mass - 50 years (or more!) in the making

Pope Francis this week made his first real liturgical move as Pope by decreeing the addition of the name of St. Joseph into Eucharistic Prayers II, III and IV.  I had the opportunity to be at a wonderful Mass last night celebrating the ministry of a good priest-friend of mine and it was a packed Church with at least 25 concelebrating priests and it was my first time to hear "with blessed Joseph, her spouse," added into the prayer and it was wonderful.  There was a sound, I don't know what to call it, a joyous sigh that emanated in the Church at those words, as though they had been missing all along.  

Now, this may seem like a small change to the Mass - it is five words after all - that isn't much in comparison to the changes in the Mass we all undertook a few years ago (consubstantial anyone?), but these five words have been part of a longer process and a really interesting one at that.  

The desire for the inclusion of St. Joseph's name dates all the way back to at least 1815 when there were many campaigns that culminated in the sending of hundreds of thousands of signatures of bishops, priests and laity to the Vatican. These efforts became intensified around the First Vatican Council in 1868.  The efforts hoped to honor St. Joseph’s by placing his name after the Virgin Mary in the Mass to give recognition to his eminence in sanctity, after Mary, over all other saints.  

By the time we get to the Second Vatican Council, this impulse was still strong and in mid-March 1962, Pope John XXIII was presented with six volumes containing the signed petitions of 30 cardinals, 436 patriarchs, archbishops and bishops, and 60 superiors general. While examining the signatures, Pope John said, “Something will be done for St. Joseph.” These signatures confirmed him in his personal desire to do something special for St. Joseph, whom he had venerated from childhood with a very special devotion.

The Bishops were gathered for the Council in late October 1962 and discussing the reform of the liturgy.  A few bishops, namely Auxiliary Bishop Ildefonso Sansierra of San Juan de Cuyo, Argentina and Bishop Albert Cousineau of Cape Haitien, Haiti, both had made requests to the Council that “the name of Blessed Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, be introduced into the Mass wherever the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary is mentioned.”

Just a few days later, on November 13, the Cardinal Secretary of State announced that the Pope wishing to conform to the desire “expressed by many Council Fathers,” had decided to insert the name of St. Joseph in the Canon of the Mass, immediately after the name of the Most Holy Virgin to serve for all time as a reminder that St. Joseph had been the Patron of the Second Vatican Council.  This would later be described as “a surprise for the Council from the Pope.”    

This is where the story gets really interesting. After all, why would the Pope make such a dramatic move on his own instead of waiting for the Council to decide?  This bit of the story comes from Vatican Council II by Xavier Rynne:
Speaking the same day (November 10th), the aged Bishop Petar Cule (Mostar, Yugoslavia) put in a long plea for the inclusion of the name of St. Joseph in the canon of the mass, but as he talked on, nervously repeating himself, murmurs began to be heard and Cardinal Ruffini was prompted to interject: "Complete your holy and eloquent speech. We all love St. Joseph and we hope there are many saints in Yugoslavia." The next speaker launched into a long and tedious sermon on the Virgin Mary, which also brought forth murmurs. He too had to be cut off by Ruffini, who remarked: "One does not preach to preachers" (Praedicatoribus non praedicatur). Winding up the day's proceedings at 12:45 with the customary Angelus and Gloria Patri, the Cardinal President brought down the house with a loud invocation of the name of St. Joseph.
It was this cutting off of Bishop Cule that prompted Pope John to order the insertion of the name of St. Joseph in the canon of the mass on his own authority (decree announced November 13th, effective Dec. 8, 1962), without waiting for any conciliar recommendation in the matter. This caused great astonishment, but few were aware that the pope, following the debates on closed circuit television in his apartments, knew Bishop Cule personally and also knew that his nervous manner of speaking had a tragic source: he had suffered through one of those long trials made famous by the Communists and was sentenced to four years in a concentration camp in Yugoslavia. He and other prisoners were then put on a train which was deliberately wrecked in an attempt to kill all aboard. The bishop survived, but both his hips were broken. In poor health, he had nevertheless made great effort to attend the Council and speak up for St. Joseph. Thus his wish was fulfilled.
And now that wish is even more greatly expanded as Pope Francis extends this reverence for St. Joseph from the Roman Canon to the other Eucharistic Prayers as well.  Thank you St. Joseph, thank you Pope Francis.  And, as Paul Harvey used to say, now you know the rest of the story.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pope adds name of St. Joseph to Eucharistic Prayers

In the first decree of a liturgical nature of this pontificate, Pope Francis has decided that name of St. Joseph should be added to the Eucharistic Prayers II, II and IV, as they appear in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal, after the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

Below please find the text of the decree issued Wednesday by the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments: 


Exercising his paternal care over Jesus, Saint Joseph of Nazareth, set over the Lord’s family, marvelously fulfilled the office he received by grace. Adhering firmly to the mystery of God’s design of salvation in its very beginnings, he stands as an exemplary model of the kindness and humility that the Christian faith raises to a great destiny, and demonstrates the ordinary and simple virtues necessary for men to be good and genuine followers of Christ. Through these virtues, this Just man, caring most lovingly for the Mother of God and happily dedicating himself to the upbringing of Jesus Christ, was placed as guardian over God the Father’s most precious treasures. Therefore he has been the subject of assiduous devotion on the part of the People of God throughout the centuries, as the support of that mystical body, which is the Church.

The faithful in the Catholic Church have shown continuous devotion to Saint Joseph and have solemnly and constantly honored his memory as the most chaste spouse of the Mother of God and as the heavenly Patron of the universal Church. For this reason Blessed Pope John XXIII, in the days of the Most Holy Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, decreed that Saint Joseph’s name be added to the ancient Roman Canon. In response to petitions received from places throughout the world, the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI deemed them worthy of implementation and graciously approved them. The Supreme Pontiff Francis likewise has recently confirmed them. In this the Pontiffs had before their eyes the full communion of the Saints who, once pilgrims in this world, now lead us to Christ and unite us with him.

Accordingly, mature consideration having been given to all the matters mentioned here above, this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, by virtue of the faculties granted by the Supreme Pontiff Francis, is pleased to decree that the name of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary is henceforth to be added to Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV, as they appear in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal, after the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as follows: in Eucharistic Prayer II: “ut cum beáta Dei Genetríce Vírgine María, beáto Ioseph, eius Sponso, beátis Apóstolis”; in Eucharistic Prayer III: “cum beatíssima Vírgine, Dei Genetríce, María, cum beáto Ioseph, eius Sponso,cum beátis Apóstolis”; and in Eucharistic Prayer IV: “cum beáta Vírgine, Dei Genetríce, María, cum beáto Ioseph, eius Sponso, cum Apóstolis ”.
As regards the Latin text, these formulas are hereby declared typical. The Congregation itself will soon provide vernacular translations in the more widespread western languages; as for other languages, translations are to be prepared by the Bishops’ Conferences, according to the norm of law, to be confirmed by the Holy See through this Dicastery.

All things to the contrary notwithstanding.

From the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 1 May 2013, on the Memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker.

Antonio Card. Cañizares Llovera

X Arthur Roche
Archbishop Secretary

Here is the text in English:


that with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,
with Blessed Joseph, her Spouse,
with the blessed Apostles


with the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,
with blessed Joseph, her Spouse,
with your blessed Apostles and glorious Martyrs


with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God
with blessed Joseph, her Spouse,
and with your Apostles

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Simple is the new chic" | Pope Francis First 100 Days

By John L. Allen Jr. | June 17, 2013 | National Catholic Reporter 

Cognitive dissonance is how psychologists describe the anxiety generated when experience conflicts with one's model of the world. Either the facts have to be recast to fit the model, or the model has to give way in light of the facts, because people just can't live very long in a state of perpetual confusion.
In effect, that's precisely the crossroads at which the Catholic world stands after the first 100 days of the Pope Francis era.
By traditional standards, it's been quiet on the Vatican front. To date, Francis has announced only one truly bold policy move -- the mid-April appointment of a group of eight cardinals from around the world to serve as his kitchen cabinet. Its first meeting, however, isn't until October, and it's still unclear what it might do.
Otherwise, as of this writing, Francis has named 48 new bishops and a handful of second-tier Vatican officials. Most of these appointments were in the works before his election. He's approved a few sainthood causes, erected some new dioceses, and met some heads of state, by no means a departure from business as usual. He's not issued any major teaching documents, nor has he taken any substantive steps toward a much-discussed reform of the Roman Curia.
Because there's been little substantive action, there's been little controversy. Even an April 15 statement that Francis had confirmed a Vatican-mandated shakeup of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States didn't really roil the waters except in narrow activist circles, with the most common reaction being, "Let's wait and see."

At the moment, Francis is preparing for a trip in late July to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day, and afterward the Vatican enters its summer doldrums. It's likely to be September at the earliest before any decisions considered significant will be unveiled, such as the appointment of a new secretary of state.
The usual models would thus say that so far, Francis has been all sizzle and no steak. Yet at the grassroots, there's a palpable sense something seismic is underway.
Crowds for Francis have been enormous, forcing police to close the area around St. Peter's Square to traffic as if Mother Teresa or Padre Pio were being canonized. Vendors across Rome report a boom in sales of papal paraphernalia, always a reliable bellwether of popular enthusiasm.
Around the world, there are anecdotal accounts of spikes in Mass attendance and demand for confession, which many attribute to a "Francis effect." Polls, such as a mid-April survey in the United States by the Pew Forum, show overwhelming approval ratings, and the global media remains fascinated well beyond the customary honeymoon period. All indications are that the trip to Rio will shape up as the biggest blowout Catholic party of the early 21st century.
In other words, Vaticanology and the vox populi are at odds.
Perhaps the key to resolving the conflict boils down to this: Francis seems determined to function as a pastor, at least as much as a primate or politician, so the right model may not be the one used to assess chief executives. Rather, it's how Catholics tend to think about a parish priest. Their basic question usually isn't what his policy positions are, but whether he inspires.
Perhaps the root lesson of Francis' first 100 days is that when it comes to spiritual leadership, sometimes style really is substance.
Bishop Jorge Eduardo Lozano of Gualeguaychú, Argentina, says it's a mistake to wait for the real pope to emerge from beneath the largely symbolic flourishes of his early days. Instead, those flourishes are the real pope, insists Lozano, a close friend of the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio who worked under him as an auxiliary in Buenos Aires for six years.
"They're an expression of his magisterium," Lozano said in mid-April.

"He's sending a message to other cardinals, bishops and priests that this is what we need to do -- to reach out to people, not being content to wait for them to come to us," Lozano said. "More broadly, he's sending the same message to all Catholics everywhere."
That message can be unpacked in terms of four defining features of Francis' leadership style: simplicity, humility, remaining largely apolitical, and being remarkably accessible to ordinary folks.
Before his election, one of the few things the world actually knew about Bergoglio was his penchant for simplicity. This was a prince of the church who took the subway to work rather than using a car and driver, and who lived in a modest apartment rather than the opulent archbishop's mansion.
(His Buenos Aires quarters were so spartan that he had to leave the oven on over weekends during the winter to stay warm, because management turned off the heat.)
Francis has carried that approach into the papacy. He often walks across Vatican grounds rather than hopping into the customary black Mercedes with the "SCV-1" license plate denoting the pope's limo, and he resides in a modest suite in the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence rather than in the cavernous papal apartment.
Simplicity of life often connotes a special concern for poverty and the poor, and that's clearly a cornerstone of Francis' agenda. During a March 16 encounter with journalists in Rome to cover the conclave, Francis expressed his longing for a "poor church for the poor."
Francis has pushed this spirit of solidarity at the level of policy. For instance, during a May 16 audience at which he received the credentials of four ambassadors to the Holy See, he warned that "while the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling."
Vatican communications personnel told reporters that Francis called them before the speech to urge them to pay attention, suggesting the pope thought what he had to say was especially important.
"This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to states, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good," the pope said. "A new, invisible and at times virtual tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules."
A week later, Francis visited a Vatican soup kitchen run by the Missionaries of Charity and spoke out against what he called "a savage capitalism [that] has taught the logic of profit at all cost, of giving to get, of exploitation without looking at the persons ... and we see the results in the crisis we are living!"
As evidence that people are taking notice, the august business journal Forbes felt compelled in a mid-May editorial to admonish the pope. "Profit isn't what drives poverty," the editorial asserted; rather, "profit is what overcomes poverty."
Of course, fervorinos on behalf of the poor have long been a staple of papal rhetoric. What seems to give Francis' appeals punch is the perception they're backed up by personal commitment.
Simplicity also shines through in Francis' reliance on gestures rather than elaborate pronouncements to get his point across. Instead of preaching about the priesthood as service during his Holy Thursday Mass, for instance, he visited the Casa del Marmo youth prison in northwest Rome and washed the feet of 12 inmates, including two young women and two Muslims.

The inclusion of women was technically a violation of a 1988 edict from the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which held that because the rite re-enacts Jesus washing the feet of his apostles, only men should participate. It's telling that Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, justified the decision precisely on the grounds of simplicity.
"This community understands simple and essential things; they were not liturgy scholars," Lombardi said at the time. "Washing feet was important to present the Lord's spirit of service and love."
If Catholics were polled about the virtues they associate with the Jesuit order, they would doubtless tick off many admirable qualities -- brilliance, zeal, a capacity to think outside the box, a drive to stand on the missionary frontiers, and so on. Traditionally, however, "humility" might not finish near the top of the list, based largely on personal experience of Jesuits who often have a fairly strong sense of their own aptitudes.
Ironically, it's the first Jesuit pope who seems to be accenting humility as a defining quality of ecclesiastical leadership.
In his debut on the world stage the evening of March 13, Francis humbly asked the crowd in St. Peter's Square to give him a blessing and bowed to receive it, before he said anything himself. It was a harbinger of things to come.
In ways large and small, Francis has rejected many of the usual modes by which popes separate themselves from the hoi polloi. He makes his own phone calls, usually beginning conversations simply by saying, "It's Jorge." The new pope phoned back to Buenos Aires to cancel his newspaper subscription and to make arrangements with his cobbler for a new pair of shoes.
As in Buenos Aires, Francis has not appointed a priest-secretary to be his key aide, meaning there's no Stanislaw Dziwisz or Georg Gänswein of this papacy -- secretaries to John Paul II and Benedict XVI respectively, who functioned as gatekeepers and interpreters, and who occasionally were viewed almost as deputy popes.
In part, that's a reflection of Francis' hands-on management style, but it's also an expression of humility, of not being above doing his own routine chores.
Whenever Francis now meets a group in the Vatican, he typically doesn't sit on the papal throne and wait for the VIPs to come forward. Instead he steps down off the dais, meeting his visitors at eye level, and greets them as equals -- another humble flourish that veteran Vatican correspondent Andrea Tornielli recently noted has prompted more than a few old-timers to "turn up their noses."
Humility has also become a defining trait of the papacy at the theological and ecclesiological level. For instance, most observers see his decision to empanel a body of cardinals to help him govern as a commitment to a more collegial and collaborative way of exercising authority.
That approach obviously isn't everybody's cup of tea. Italian liturgy writer Mattia Rossi has said that it represents a step toward the "demolition of the papacy," because it replaces the notion of a divinely instituted authority with a fuzzy concept of collegiality -- thereby transforming the papacy, according to Rossi, from first above equals to first among equals. (Rossi derisively asked if the cardinals who are supposed to reform the Curia could even find its bathrooms.)
In a similar vein, Francis prefers to refer to himself not as "pope," but as the "bishop of Rome," which most see as reflecting a less imperial conception of the papacy, closer to its historical roots.
Some ecumenical experts believe that Francis' humility could pave the way for progress toward greater Christian unity, given that resentments over perceived papal arrogance have long been a stumbling block.
"In the feudal era, we developed this notion of bishops as princes," said Capuchin Fr. William Henn, a veteran ecumenist who teaches at Rome's Gregorian University. "With Francis, I think other Christians can see episcopal ministry more clearly as a service to communion, and will become more open to it."
Staying out of politics
Try as they might, even religious leaders least inclined to political activism often find it difficult to stay above the fray. That's especially true for popes, since the Catholic church has a vast body of social teaching with political consequences.
Already, Francis has said plenty of things with obvious political relevance. Aside from his comments on the economy, he's also spoken out about protection of the environment, labeled war the "suicide of humanity," and, addressing a May 12 March for Life in Rome, said that legal protection of every human life must be guaranteed "from the very first moment of its existence."
There's no indication, in other words, that Francis intends to lead the church away from its traditional political concerns. Yet most observers believe this is not a pope who's going to get out of bed in the morning thinking about politics. The evidence of his first 100 days seems to back up that hunch.
No comment from either the pope or his top Vatican aides followed an April 10 vote in Uruguay to legalize gay marriage, despite the fact that it borders the pope's home in Argentina. Uruguay became the third nation in Latin America to embrace same-sex marriage, after Brazil and Argentina, and many analysts styled it as a tipping point that suggests the rest of the continent will eventually follow suit.
The move seemingly amounted to an engraved invitation for history's first Latin American pontiff to speak out, yet Francis didn't bite.
Once again, that tracks with his background. Those who followed Bergoglio in Argentina say he generally preferred to stay out of political tussles, operating mostly behind the scenes. The one time he did wade into a fight was in the run-up to Argentina's legalization of gay marriage in 2010, and observers say it was largely because he was president of the bishops' conference and felt compelled to articulate the hard line of its majority.
Especially in Italy, where people are accustomed to thinking of prelates as political heavyweights, the change in tone has raised eyebrows.
Following a May 23 address by Francis to the Italian bishops' conference, Tornielli styled the event as the "end of an era." In the 12-minute address (the shortest such speech on record, by the way), Francis never referred to politics or to any business before the Italian parliament, which is customarily the meat of these sessions.
Tornielli wrote that the event launched a "Copernican revolution," away from thinking of the church as a political power broker and toward a return to the pastoral essentials.
One noteworthy signal came when Francis told the bishops, "Dialogue with the political institutions [of Italy] is up to you." That was seen as an indirect rebuke of the secretary of state under Benedict, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who had tried to reclaim pride of place on the Italian political scene for the Vatican.
In the wake of the session, Archbishop Luigi Negri of Ferrara-Comacchio summarized what he took away. His comments are especially revealing given that Negri hails from the Communion and Liberation movement, traditionally seen as one of the most politically active players on the Italian scene.
"I don't believe it's necessary to abstain from speaking out when certain values are at stake," Negri said, but in light of the new tone from Francis, "we may have to change the way we do it."
Negri said, "We have to form laity to defend nonnegotiable values. As far as everything else that concerns political life, it would be better for us bishops to keep out of it. The autonomy of the laity has to be respected."
Italian sociologist Luca Diotallevi echoed the assessment.
Francis, he said, represents "a strongly innovative approach with respect to the model of exercising episcopal ministry during the last two decades," one that promises to "reopen an enormous space for the laity" to take the lead on the intersection of faith and politics.
In the early days after Francis' election, the joke in Rome was that the only people not charmed by the new pope were his security personnel, who found themselves scrambling to keep up with a pontiff determined to escape the protective bubble in which major world leaders usually move.
"We hope that after these early days things get back to normal," one of the security officers told the Italian newspaper La Stampa on March 18. "If not, he's going to drive everybody crazy!"
Of all the images from his first week in office, perhaps the most striking came when Francis visited the Vatican's small Church of St. Anne to say Mass on Sunday, March 17, ahead of his first Angelus address. Run by the Augustinian order, St. Anne is where the roughly 400 personnel who live on Vatican grounds have what passes for a normal parish life.
After Mass, Francis stood outside the church and greeted people as they left, patting kids on the head and kissing them, shaking hands and exchanging hugs, with a quick word and a smile for everybody. It's a scene that plays out every Sunday at Catholic parishes across the world, but one rarely sees a pope doing it.
Italian papers immediately dubbed him "the world's parish priest."
That desire not to detach himself from ordinary experience has been a hallmark of Francis' early days. He works the phone with relish, calling friends and sources in various parts of the world to take the temperature of the church in their neighborhoods.
The commitment to accessibility also involves using freewheeling and unscripted language, even if it drives his spin doctors to distraction and causes heart palpitations among theological purists, who typically prefer a pound of verbiage to an ounce of imprecision.
As part of that picture, Francis has adopted the custom of celebrating Mass each day at 7 a.m. at the Domus Sanctae Marthae rather than in one of the private chapels in the Apostolic Palace. A group of roughly 50 people takes part, composed of a mix of whoever happens to be staying at the residence that day, invited guests and Vatican personnel.
As he does in other settings, Francis often relies on homespun language to make his points. On May 10, for instance, he compared overly grim Christians to "pickled peppers." On May 18, he said that gossip in the church is like eating honey -- it tastes sweet at first, but too much gives you a "stomachache."
Because they're not systematic treatises, these homilies are open to widely differing interpretations. Sometimes they seem to function as an ecclesial Rorschach test, revealing the agenda of constituencies eager to put a frame on the new pope.
Liberals, for instance, jumped on an April 16 homily devoted to the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, in which Francis criticized "those who wish to turn the clock back" on the council's reforms. Conservatives celebrate every time he uses traditional argot, such as his strikingly frequent references to the devil. They also applauded an April 5 homily in which Francis warned, "When we start to cut down the faith ... we take the path of apostasy."
The homilies can also trigger theological kerfuffles. On May 22, Francis said that God "has redeemed all of us ... not just Catholics. Everyone, even atheists." The line prompted a spate of headlines and blog posts about whether the pope was, or was not, tweaking established Catholic doctrine about the limits of salvation. (For the record, a lengthy Vatican clarification insisted he wasn't.)
Francis is known as a plugged-in figure, well aware of realities on the ground. Presumably, he knows that his homilies have become a daily source of competing spin. So far, however, he appears determined not to let the risk of misinterpretation deter him from functioning as a pastor.
For now, the Vatican's various spokesmen and key officials seem destined to wake up each morning wondering if today will bring another insta-sensation sparked by this remarkably impromptu pope.
Catching on?
If Francis is trying to shape a new culture for leadership in the church, as Lozano suggests, is there evidence it's catching on?
In the deepest sense, it will undoubtedly take time before the answer becomes clear. The Catholic church is legendary for thinking in centuries, and the Vatican in particular tends to respond to pressure for rapid change the way teetotalers react to an offer of Scotch and soda -- with a mixture of terror and disgust.
In the here and now, however, there are small but telling indications that something may be afoot. A recent vignette from Rome makes the point.
In late April, a veteran Italian cardinal entered a restaurant in the Trastevere neighborhood frequented by Vatican personnel who work in the nearby Piazza San Calisto. Now well over 80, this cardinal generally looks the part of an ecclesiastical heavyweight, wearing crimson-trimmed garments and sporting elaborate insignia of office. On this day, however, he was dressed in modest black clerical clothes without the usual refinements.
Asked about his look, the cardinal delivered an epigrammatic reply.
"Under this pope," he declared, "simple is the new chic!"

[John L. Allen Jr. is NCR senior correspondent. His email address is

Saturday, June 15, 2013

"Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future" | 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

One Saturday afternoon, a group of boys went to confession. This, in itself, was unusual, but more unusual was what the boys confessed.  One by one, each of them ended their confession the same way, “I threw peanuts in the river.”  The priest thought, if that is a sin, it really is a strange one.  The last to come in was the smallest boy of the group. The priest, of course, expected to hear the same sin he heard from the others, but the boy didn’t mention it. So the priest asked, “Is that all?  Did you forget something? Did you throw peanuts in the river?” The boy looked shocked and replied, “Father, I am Peanuts!  They threw me in the river!”

My friends, our Scriptures today want to remind us of a humbling truth – that we are all sinners. No one of us is immune from sin – not even the greatest and holiest among us. In our first reading, we hear of the sin of the great King David. Despite having it all, he still lusted for Bathsheba, and in order to have her, he arranged the death of her husband by sending him to the front lines of battle. David’s sin of adultery was compounded with the crime of murder. And yet, David remained oblivious to the gravity of his sins; blinded by his own power. So God sent the prophet Nathan to shake him out of his spiritual coma and only then did he repent and seek forgiveness.

And, in our Gospel today, we hear of a woman who lived in sin for far too long; likely a prostitute. But, fortunately, she had a personal encounter with the merciful and forgiving heart of Jesus. That unique experience opened her eyes and led her to a profound conversion. Grateful for the forgiveness granted her by Jesus, she went to see Him at dinner in a Pharisee’s house and tearfully showered Him with acts of gratitude and love. Both King David and the woman were sinners. But they were made aware of and had sincere sorrow for their sins. And so, they received forgiveness from God.  

And, God’s message for us about sin today is as simple as that – we must be aware of our sin, sorry for it and turn to Him for forgiveness and when we do, everything will be alright.   The problem is that we know this isn’t the way it usually goes. In our world today, confessionals are among the loneliest places in the world as we tend to either justify our sins, or worse yet, we can be completely unaware of our sinfulness and of our need to seek for God’s forgiveness.  Perhaps the greatest spiritual danger facing us today is not the fact that we fall into sin; but rather, that we lose the sense of sin, that we become insensitive to sin. Because, then we don’t realize the need to seek forgiveness, and so remain unrepentant and unforgiven.

The Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde said, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” I really like this sentiment because I think it gets at the heart of the problem for us today. I think what keeps most people from an awareness of sin today is that we get stuck there; we get stuck on sin.  We think about sin, and we think only about sin.  We let sin stick.  We let sin become the label.  We define others and worse, we define ourselves by our sin.   “You know Joe, he’s a drunk.”  “You know Mary, she cheated.” “You know Bill, he’s such a gossip.” And so on.   And that’s what’s going on with the Pharisee in our gospel today, “He would know what sort of woman this is,” he says of Jesus.  He has defined the woman by her sin.  But Jesus has defined her in a very different way. Jesus has defined her by her goodness and her glory and by what she can be.  Jesus sees not the sum of her sins, but her potential for holiness and goodness and love.  Jesus doesn’t apply labels. He recognizes our failings, our sins, our shortcomings.  But he also sees something more.  He sees beyond those things. He sees not just what we are, but what we can be.  We are more than the sum of our sins. We are better than the sum of our sins. 

One of my favorite blogs, The Deacon’sBench, today put it this way:  “We are the alcoholic determined to stay sober—and attending AA meetings five nights a week to make that happen. We are the husband neglecting his family because of his job, or his ego, or his own selfishness, and deciding to rearrange his priorities so that he can attend his son’s little league game. We are the woman who hasn’t been to confession in 20 years, quietly slipping into the pew on a Saturday morning, waiting for the chance to reconcile with the Church and finally, at long last, come home.  I think it’s telling that we never learn the name of the woman in this gospel. One commentator speculates that Luke did that to protect her dignity. She was somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister, maybe someone’s wife and mother. But I think he also did it to reflect a deeper truth: she could be any of us.  And any of us could be her.”

There is a story about the famous Trappist monk Thomas Merton that took place not long after his conversion to Catholicism. He was walking with a friend of his who asked him a simple question, now that you are a Catholic, “What do you want to be?”  Merton didn’t know how to answer and stumbled and said simply, “I don’t know, I guess what I want is to be a good Catholic.”  His friend was stunned and said, “What do you mean you want to be a good Catholic?  What you should say is that you want to be a saint!”  That thought struck Merton as strange and he said incredulously, “How do you expect me to become a saint?!” His friend responded, “By wanting to.”  Merton backtracked.  “I can’t be a saint. I can’t be a saint. I’m satisfied to save my soul, to keep out of mortal sin.” But, his friend remained firm. “No,” he said. “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one.  Don't you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let Him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”

My friends, God wants us to see our sins – not so that we will beat ourselves up or feel bad or define ourselves by the bad things we’ve done.  We are not the sum of our sins – we are the sum of our Grace; we are the sum of our Salvation purchased with the Blood of Jesus on the Cross.  God wants us to be aware of our sins so that we can seek forgiveness, move beyond them and be the people He has created us to be; and He has created us for greatness.

Every sinner has a future and that future is holiness; that future is sainthood – that future is ours.  God knows what we can be – all we have to do is desire it.  

May the Lord give you peace.

Holy Wager! | Go Bruins!

NOTE: From Cardinal Sean's blog yesterday.  I particularly like the "if for some strange reason" part!  Go Bruins! - FT

I want to begin by letting you know that I have a friendly wager with the Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George.Stanley_IMG_1905
If the Bruins win the Stanley Cup, they will be sending me Chicago pizza. If, by some strange chance, the Blackhawks win, I will be sending Cardinal George clam chowder.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pray boldly! | St. Anthony of Padua (and Lisbon!)

St. Anthony of Padua is right up there probably in the top 10 of most popular Catholic saints. Growing up in the largely-Portuguese city of New Bedford, I feel compelled to remind you that St. Anthony was actually Portuguese and from Lisbon and not Padua, that's just where he died. But, I digress.  Anyway, a very popular saint.  

So popular, in fact, that I remember one year when I was a young student in formation working the big Feast of St. Anthony at our Mother Church in New York City.  This feast spanned several New York city blocks and the Church was active from sun-up until 11 p.m. every day.  One of the jobs that I had was to bless people with a relic of St. Anthony.  People would stream into the Church all day long and I stood in front of a highly decorated statue of the Saint.  Of to the left along the side of the Church, however, was a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order that St. Anthony belonged to.  One person came forward, received their blessing with the relic, and then did a double take.  She look at St. Francis, then at St. Anthony, then at St. Francis and back at St. Anthony again and then with a puzzled look, she pointed and St. Francis and asked me, "Did he belong to St. Anthony's order?"  So, again, a popular saint.

Why so popular?  Well, as with most of the saints, he lived an extraordinary life.  Born to a wealthy and noble Portuguese family, they wanted him to become educated and follow in their noble footsteps.  However, young Fernando (Anthony would be his religious name), was impressed by the Canons Regular who educated him and he was attracted to their holy life and their desire for knowledge and learning. With them, he engaged in the study of theology and became renowed for his knowledge of holy things.  But after his ordination to the priesthood, his life would again change after encountering five men from this very new religious community called the Franciscans in 1219. They were passing through his town on their way to Morocco to preach the Gospel to the Muslims there.  Anthony was attracted to their simple, gospel-centered life.  He would learn a year later that they were martyred during their mission to Morocco and he was inspired by their heroism for the faith, so inspired that he obtained permission to leave the Canons Regular and join the Friars Minor.  

St. Anthony would go on to lead a life renowned for his teaching and preaching among the friars and the legends of the miracles through his life and ministry abound.  He was canonized less than a year after his death.

St. Anthony today is known as the patron saint of lost things.  If you're like me, you grew up hearing simple prayers (almost jingles) that went like this, "St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come down. Something is lost and can't be found." Or, "Dear St. Anthony, to you I pray. Bring it back, without delay."  Or, "Something's lost and can't be found. Please, St. Anthony, look around."

St. Anthony is perhaps most frequently invoked when we can't find our car keys or our cell phone or some other trivial object that we have misplaced.  And, if I'm honest with myself, I have to say, he usually comes through to these simple prayers.  But, if this is when we turn to the Saint and seek his intercession before the very Throne of God, I have to say, what a shame!

Our regional bishop here in Boston's North End, Bishop Robert Hennessey, frequently reminds us of this reality when he visits our parish church.  There are so many more important things that are lost that need to be found that we should be turning to St. Anthony for and asking his help.  What is missing in your life, in your heart, in your family or community that could use the intercession of so great a Saint?  Maybe you can handle the car keys yourself!

How about the great challenge of lost faith in our world today?  Just think about how many of us come to Mass each Sunday and one of our primary prayer intentions are for all of our family members who no longer find room for the Church, for God, for faith in their lives?  Something is most definitely lost!  Ask St. Anthony to intercede and help them find it.

How about the missing peace all around us?  Families are in shambles today.  Divorce is all too common place.  Children are dealing with the fractured results of what happens in too many families.  Our world has descended into a near constant state of war and conflict.  Our public realm lacks any semblance of civility or compromise or desire to come together for the common good.  Perhaps we should be offering novenas to St. Anthony to help us find the peace that is lost in our hearts, in our homes, in our families and in our world.  Your cell phone will find itself!

How about the hope that so many people seem to be lacking today?  I encounter far too many people who don't see a future full of dreams and possibilities, but instead have given up on life; have given up on possibility; have given up on humanity and all that we can accomplish together as a community.  Despair seems to be what rules the hearts of far too many people instead of the love of God that once it fills your heart fills you will hope and dreams and possibilities and limitless futures!  Maybe it's time to ask St. Anthony to intercede for this lost hope in our world to give us a more positive view of God's creation and the possibilities we can achieve together.

So, today, on this feast of St. Anthony, let's think big!  And more importantly, let's PRAY BIG! Pray boldly!  Forget about the keys, and the phones and the other little trinkets that are passing anyway and missing for a moment.  Let's ask the Patron of the Lost to intercede for us for the important things that are lost and must be found - let's pray for lost faith, lost peace and lost hope - that through his intercession, God may renew us once again!

St. Anthony, intercede for us!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

‘Catholic McCarthyism’ threatens bishops’ anti-poverty push | Washington Post

NOTE: I remember fighting some of these same battles in parishes and people would level outrageous claims against the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, of which, I could never find any evidence to support them.  Always leaves me with a fundamental question about so much of the public debate that takes place in our country - both within the church and in society at large - why is it the poor who always take the brunt of these battles?  Why are they the ones who always suffer the most?  Whether it is a discussion of access to health care, or immigration reform, or the economy or so many other critical issues - the ones who will benefit are inevitably the 1% and the ones who will suffer are always the poor.  So glad that we have some bishops willing to step up and speak out. As they meet this week in San Diego, maybe they'd consider a Fortnight for the Poor or for the Immigrant - for some real issue that would actually make a difference?  - FT
Conservative activists are threatening the social justice mission of the Catholic Church just when the country needs it most, a new report charges, by attacking the church’s flagship anti-poverty program with 21st-century style “Catholic McCarthyism.”
The report, released Tuesday (June 11), says the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is hamstrung by conservative purists who make it impossible for the church to join with other programs or agencies to combat the systematic causes of poverty.
“A small but well-financed network has emerged as a relentless opponent of the bishops’ social justice campaign, which has long been recognized as one of the most influential funders of grassroots community organizing,” writes John Gehring, who authored the 24-page report for Faith in Public Life, a Washington-based lobby of religious progressives.
What may be most significant about the report is that it has won strong public backing from prominent bishops and church leaders, including two former presidents of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
With a new pope who has made a priority of championing the poor — even if it means linking arms with nonbelievers — defenders of CCHD and social justice are finding an assertiveness that was missing during the more hardline papacies of Benedict XVI and even John Paul II.
“I’m confident that if Pope Francis knew about the CCHD program he would say, ‘God bless the American bishops!’ for doing what they can to help the poor,” said retired Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, a former USCCB president, before heading to this week’s closed-door meeting of the nation’s bishops.
The CCHD distributed $9 million in grants to community groups and social action initiatives last year, but in recent years the program has drawn renewed fire from church conservatives who say its programs favor liberal economic policies.
Critics also accuse the program of working with non-Catholic groups that undermine battles against abortion and gay rights that they say should dominate the bishops’ agenda.
A number of bishops and some parishes have halted or discouraged CCHD collections in their dioceses after hearing charges — almost all of which have proven unfounded — that the CCHD funds groups that promote same-sex marriage or reproductive rights.
“Using guilt by association and other tactics from the McCarthy-era playbook,” Gehring writes, “these activists are part of an increasingly aggressive movement of Catholic culture warriors who view themselves as fighting for a smaller, ‘purer’ church.”
The decades-long tug of war over the CCHD closely tracks the fissures that are dividing the Catholic Church — splits between political liberals and conservatives; and between those who want to engage the world and those who want to rally a tradition-minded core against a secularizing society.
On a larger scale, the fight over CCHD reflects a longstanding divide over whether a few litmus-test issues — most of which do not include social justice concerns — can or should define what it means to be a Catholic in America.
The two former USCCB heads — Fiorenza and retired Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Wash. — were joined by eight other bishops and a who’s who of more than 30 Catholic social justice activists, including former USCCB officials, two past CCHD executive directors, and several well-known priests and nuns.
“At a time when poverty is growing and people are hurting, we should not withdraw from our commitment to helping the poor,” Fiorenza, who headed the USCCB from 1998-2001, is quoted as saying in the report. “Catholic identity is far broader than opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.”
The bishops’ meeting in San Diego will be the first gathering of the U.S. hierarchy since Francis’ election, and Fiorenza said he hoped that their awareness of the pontiff’s priorities would encourage bishops who have opposed the CCHD “to take another look.”
‘I’m really tired of being defensive’
The CCHD was begun in 1970 and is supported by an annual collection in the nation’s parishes. It was hailed by John Paul II for “removing the causes of poverty and not merely the evil effects of injustice.”
But conservatives always chafed at the program’s liberal-sounding approach and they ramped up their criticism and activism in the wake of the 2008 election of President Obama, who worked with CCHD-backed groups as a community organizer in Chicago.
In 2009, a coalition called “Reform CCHD Now” was formed by the American Life League, one of the most vocal anti-abortion lobbies, and it has spearheaded the opposition by raising questions about groups that receive CCHD grants.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for “Reform CCHD Now” said the group stood by its charges that CCHD continues to fund grantees that are “involved directly in the promotion of contraception, abortion and homosexual activism.”
Rob Gasper also rejected the accusation that the “Reform CCHD Now” coalition is pursuing a “guilt by association” approach. Rather, he said, “if a CCHD grantee joins a coalition that has as one of its operational goals the promotion of items against Catholic teaching, then that grantee is guilty by participation.”
A 2011 memo from two bishops who oversee the CCHD for the hierarchy said all but one of the many accusations against the CCHD were unfounded and they denounced “the repeated accusations of those with clear ideological and ecclesial agendas.”
But the anti-CCHD campaign continued, and it has succeeded in having a number of grants rescinded by arguing that some recipients worked with organizations that do not always endorse or promote the church’s teaching on sexuality.
In 2012, for example, Companeros, a small nonprofit in rural Colorado that helps immigrants, lost CCHD funds amounting to half of its budget because of its association with a statewide immigrant rights coalition that included a gay and lesbian advocacy group. Companeros itself does not work on gay rights.
Also, in the past year alone, five affiliates of the Gamaliel Foundation, one of the nation’s largest faith-based networks, lost CCHD funds because of charges, which it rejects, that Gamaliel is an “organization promoting homosexuality” and supporting abortion rights.
“I’m really tired of being defensive,” David Liners, who heads a Gamaliel affiliate in Wisconsin, says in the report. “Just the act of being defensive gives credence to these people. As a Catholic, I find all of this unspeakably painful.”
The coalition has also gained traction with the growing political conservatism of the U.S. hierarchy and its staff in Washington. Several bishops have halted the annual CCHD fund drives or have raised so many hurdles for funding that only select, church-run groups can qualify.
That has undermined the program’s effectiveness and led some church officials to resign in protest, the report says.
“Many of these critics are bomb throwers who believe that by destroying the credibility of those working for social justice they will somehow enhance the pro-life agenda,” Tom Allio, who retired as Social Action Director for the Diocese of Cleveland, is quoted as saying. “Nothing could be further from the truth. They want to make social justice and faith-based organizing dirty words.”

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Priorities: Countering our culture of waste with solidarity | Pope Francis

NOTE: You know, last night, we were out for a walk and a homeless man approached us. He was a bit of a shocking sight - unkempt as you might imagine and he had a patch where his right eye used to be. He said hello and we said "Hi" back.  He then gave shocked look and said, "Thank you for recognizing that I am a person. My name is Jerry." We shook hands, told our names and we walked along and chatted for about a half of a block together. A simple encounter, but I haven't been able to get Jerry out of my thoughts or prayers this morning.  Today, in his Wednesday audience, the Holy Father issued a wake-up call reminding us that the failure of a bank will be front page news for months, but we can walk past a homeless person, or a hungry person; our society can be rocked by the plight of the poor or the unborn and it is not "news".  When this happens, our priorities our way out of order.  The world can be changed by something as simple as recognizing the other as a person, by recognizing that they are our brother and our sister; that we are connected and responsible for each other - that no one is disposable. The Pope said today, "If in so many parts of the world there are children who have nothing to eat, that's not news, it seems normal. It cannot be this way! Yet these things become the norm: that some homeless people die of cold on the streets is not news. In contrast, a ten point drop on the stock markets of some cities, is a tragedy. A person dying is not news, but if the stock markets drop ten points it is a tragedy! Thus people are disposed of, as if they were trash." - FT

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today I want to focus on the issue of the environment, which I have already spoken of on several occasions. Today we also mark World Environment Day, sponsored by the United Nations, which sends a strong reminder of the need to eliminate the waste and disposal of food.

When we talk about the environment, about creation, my thoughts turn to the first pages of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, which states that God placed man and woman on earth to cultivate and care for it (cf. 2:15). And the question comes to my mind: What does cultivating and caring for the earth mean? Are we truly cultivating and caring for creation? Or are we exploiting and neglecting it? The verb "to cultivate" reminds me of the care that the farmer has for his land so that it bear fruit, and it is shared: how much attention, passion and dedication! Cultivating and caring for creation is God’s indication given to each one of us not only at the beginning of history; it is part of His project; it means nurturing the world with responsibility and transforming it into a garden, a habitable place for everyone. Benedict XVI recalled several times that this task entrusted to us by God the Creator requires us to grasp the rhythm and logic of creation. But we are often driven by pride of domination, of possessions, manipulation, of exploitation; we do not “care” for it, we do not respect it, we do not consider it as a free gift that we must care for. We are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation; thus we are no longer able to read what Benedict XVI calls "the rhythm of the love story of God and man." Why does this happen? Why do we think and live in a horizontal manner, we have moved away from God, we no longer read His signs.

But to "cultivate and care" encompasses not only the relationship between us and the environment, between man and creation, it also regards human relationships. The Popes have spoken of human ecology, closely linked to environmental ecology. We are living in a time of crisis: we see this in the environment, but above all we see this in mankind. The human person is in danger: this is certain, the human person is in danger today, here is the urgency of human ecology! And it is a serious danger because the cause of the problem is not superficial but profound: it is not just a matter of economics, but of ethics and anthropology. The Church has stressed this several times, and many say, yes, that's right, it's true ... but the system continues as before, because it is dominated by the dynamics of an economy and finance that lack ethics. Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules. God our Father did not give the task of caring for the earth to money, but to us, to men and women: we have this task! Instead, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the "culture of waste." If you break a computer it is a tragedy, but poverty, the needs, the dramas of so many people end up becoming the norm. If on a winter’s night, here nearby in Via Ottaviano, for example, a person dies, that is 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 cannot be this way! Yet these things become the norm: that some homeless people die of cold on the streets is not news. In contrast, a ten point drop on the stock markets of some cities, is a tragedy. A person dying is not news, but if the stock markets drop ten points it is a tragedy! Thus people are disposed of, as if they were trash.

This "culture of waste" tends to become the common mentality that infects everyone. Human life, the person is no longer perceived as a primary value to be respected and protected, especially if poor or disabled, if not yet useful - such as the unborn child - or no longer needed - such as the elderly. This culture of waste has made us insensitive even to the waste and disposal of food, which is even more despicable when all over the world, unfortunately, many individuals and families are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Once our grandparents were very careful not to throw away any leftover food. Consumerism has led us to become used to an excess and daily waste of food, to which, at times, we are no longer able to give a just value, which goes well beyond mere economic parameters. We should all remember, however, that throwing food away is like stealing from the tables of the the poor, the hungry! I encourage everyone to reflect on the problem of thrown away and wasted food to identify ways and means that, by seriously addressing this issue, are a vehicle of solidarity and sharing with the needy.

A few days ago, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, we read the story of the miracle of the loaves: Jesus feeds the crowd with five loaves and two fishes. And the conclusion of the piece is important: " They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets" (Lk 9:17). Jesus asks his disciples not to throw anything away: no waste! There is this fact of twelve baskets: Why twelve? What does this mean? Twelve is the number of the tribes of Israel, which symbolically represent all people. And this tells us that when food is shared in a fair way, with solidarity, when no one is deprived, every community can meet the needs of the poorest. Human ecology and environmental ecology walk together.

So I would like us all to make a serious commitment to respect and protect creation, to be attentive to every person, to counter the culture of waste and disposable, to promote a culture of solidarity and of encounter. Thank you. 

Changing the impossible

HOMILY FOR THE 2nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, January 20, 2019: When my parents got married more than 50 years ago, my Mom came from a pract...