There is a lot of nonsense talked about Pope Francis in the secular press and among liberals who do not really understand Catholicism; and there are a lot of fears from people who have come to believe that we can only meet the modern world and Catholics who are confused by it by harping on our differences - orthodoxy with a snarl; and many are disappointed by his different attitude towards liturgy.
One clue to help explain him is that South America is still Catholic, in spite of the reverses it has suffered and is suffering as governments and some people rush to imitate the West. He is neither defensive nor sectarian in his Catholicism and believes in embracing everyone, just as in Buenos Aires. I believe people would understand his liturgical priorities if their pastoral experience included celebrating Mass among the South American poor, among people with a very strong sense of the holy which, nevertheless, is very different from that of people who attend Brompton Oratory.
However, the key to many of his off the cuff remarks can be understood if it is borne in mind that he is what George Weigel calls a "Catholic Evangelical". Perhaps one of the people who would have understood his remarks about continuing to harp on abortion, same sex marriage and women priests,, would have been the late David Wilkerson of "The Cross and the Switchblade" fame, if he could have got over the fact that the Pope is a Catholic . In that book, he wrote:
"You win over people just like you win over a dog. You see a dog passing down the street with an old bone in his mouth. You don't grab the bone from him and tell him it's not good for him. He'll growl at you. It's the only thing he has. But you throw a big fat lamb chop in front of him, and he's going to drop that bone and pick up the lamb chop, his tail wagging to beat the band. And you've got a friend. Instead of going around grabbing bones from people... I'm going to throw them some lamb chops. Something with real meat and life in it. I'm going to tell them about New Beginnings.”
― David Wilkerson, The Cross and the Switchblade
Let us tell people that the Lord is Risen! Let them absorb all that this means for them. Let them savour it. Let them rejoice in it. Bring them to a point where they are happy to respond, where they are eager to do what the Lord wants. Let them reach a point when whatever God wants them to do is the most important thing in their lives. THEN they will see the prohibitions within the only context in which they make sense.
The world around us is not like in the past. It is not a Christian world that has heard the Gospel but only needs to be kept on the straight and narrow. It is a secular world that has not heard the Gospel; but, too often, only hears of obligations and prohibitions. This is the preoccupation of the Pope. The message that the Church has to give is Jesus - nothing less and nothing more. Everything flows from that.
"I Am a Son of the Church": A Big Heart Open to God, the Papal Interview Which Confounded the Media:
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - Fr. Antonio Spadaro is one of a growing number of people who have received unexpected phone calls from Pope Francis. He was not in the office so the Jesuit Pope called his cell phone. He told the Jesuit priest that he wanted to give him an exclusive interview.
Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit Journal edited by Fr. Spadaro, released the 10,000 word interview on September 19, 2013 in sixteen Jesuit Journals and magazines. It is appropriately entitled "A Big Heart Open to God".
The entire interview is available in English (in the United Kingdom) in the Jesuit publication entitled Thinking Faith They also offer it here in PDF format. In the United States, the interview is available in the Jesuit magazine America. However, for reasons I do not understand, they have restricted the use of their translation.
Like most things Francis, this wide ranging, honest and open interview has the Media confounded and abuzz with reporting which ranges from surprise to sincere confusion and some misguided analysis. However, the fact that so many members of the media are truly rife with interest in the message of this Pope and the Church is truly exciting.
I believe he knew this would happen and that is why he gave the interview. He is a missionary Pope with a big pastoral heart. Though there are misinterpretations in the media fueled by political and cultural agendas - just as there were when he gave his interview on the plane coming back from World Youth Day - the numbers are beginning to decline.
The interview must be read in its entirety in order to understand the profundity and simplicity of its message- as well as to experience the soul of the man who gave these responses to some excellent questions posed by Fr Antonio Spadaro.
I invite all readers of Catholic Online to take the time and read this interview for yourself right here. Please, as a Catholic or other Christian reading this article, do not accept the media reports as accurate. Read the interview for yourself!
These responses were given by a very human Pope named Francis. They are warm, lively, honest, pastoral, compassionate, candid, evangelical, big hearted, and faithful to the teaching of the Church and the unbroken, ancient but ever new, Catholic Christian faith.
What the interview confirms to me is that Pope Francis is an evangelical Catholic in the best sense of the adjective, wanting all men and women to come to know Jesus, the Evangel, and to find a home in His Body, the Church. He calls the whole Church, and her Bishops, priests, and deacons, to a proclamation of the Gospel in word and deed, in what he refers to as having a missionary style. How appropriate, given the fact that we are living in a new missionary age.
This Pope has a big heart open to God and open to all of those whom God loves. That means all men and women, at every stage of their journey through life. He is encouraging all of us who bear the name Christian to open our own hearts to God - and to all men and women in the love of God - realizing the magnitude of God's mercy. God always allows us to begin and begin again.
When the interview was released, Fr. Spadaro told the Press it was "one of the most beautiful spiritual experiences of my life." After reading it several times, I can understand why.
For any readers who may worry, perhaps because they have read or heard some media reports which suggested wrongly that Pope Francis is veering away from the truth as taught by the Catholic Faith on major matters of profound moral importance, nothing could be further from the truth.
He is, in his own words, a "son of the Church." He cannot change her teaching and he does not seek to do so. He fully embraces this teaching precisely because he knows it is true. It also informs his compassionate, pastoral outreach to a world in need of hearing its liberating and saving message. As for its practices, some of its disciplines and applications, that may be a different matter.
In a response touching upon this topic of the major moral issues so often discussed when the Catholic Church is discussed, he told Father Spadaro that "when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."
I have decided that the best thing I can do as Editor in Chief of Catholic Online is to expose our readers to this extraordinary interview in order to pique their interest so that they will go here and read it completely, from beginning to end.
In the excerpts which I offer below I begin about half way through the interview. Pope Francis is speaking of the holiness of ordinary folks. He offers some of his own life experience and insights.
Following that, I offer only two of the questions posed by Fr Antonio Spadaro and the response of this Pope who is so appropriately named after the little poor man of Assisi named Francis.
EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW WITH POPE FRANCIS
A Big Heart Open to God
I see the holiness," the pope continues, "in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity.
"I often associate sanctity with patience: not only patience as hypomoné [the New Testament Greek word], taking charge of the events and circumstances of life, but also as a constancy in going forward, day by day. This is the sanctity of the militant church also mentioned by St. Ignatius.
This was the sanctity of my parents: my dad, my mom, my grandmother Rosa who loved me so much. In my breviary I have the last will of my grandmother Rosa, and I read it often. For me it is like a prayer. She is a saint who has suffered so much, also spiritually, and yet always went forward with courage.
"This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful. It must be.
You see, when I perceive negative behavior in ministers of the church or in consecrated men or women, the first thing that comes to mind is: 'Here's an unfruitful bachelor' or 'Here's a spinster.' They are neither fathers nor mothers, in the sense that they have not been able to give spiritual life. Instead, for example, when I read the life of the Salesian missionaries who went to Patagonia, I read a story of the fullness of life, of fruitfulness.
"Another example from recent days that I saw got the attention of newspapers: the phone call I made to a young man who wrote me a letter. I called him because that letter was so beautiful, so simple. For me this was an act of generativity. I realized that he was a young man who is growing, that he saw in me a father, and that the letter tells something of his life to that father. The father cannot say, 'I do not care.' This type of fruitfulness is so good for me."
Pope Benedict XVI, in announcing his resignation, said that the contemporary world is subject to rapid change and is grappling with issues of great importance for the life of faith. Dealing with these issues requires strength of body and soul, Pope Benedict said. I ask Pope Francis: "What does the church need most at this historic moment? Do we need reforms? What are your wishes for the church in the coming years? What kind of church do you dream of?"
Pope Francis begins by showing great affection and immense respect for his predecessor:
"Pope Benedict has done an act of holiness, greatness, humility. He is a man of God.
"I see clearly," the pope continues, "that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up.
"The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person.
The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, 'This is not a sin' or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.
"How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherd. The church's ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary¬ - that is, they come afterward.
The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people's night, into the darkness, but without getting lost.
The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.
"Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage."
I mention to Pope Francis that there are Christians who live in situations that are irregular for the church or in complex situations that represent open wounds. I mention the divorced and remarried, same-sex couples and other difficult situations. What kind of pastoral work can we do in these cases? What kinds of tools can we use?
"We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner," the pope says, "preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are 'socially wounded' because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this.
During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.
"A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: 'Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?' We must always consider the person.
Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.
"This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord's mercy motivates us to do better.
I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?
"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.
"The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.
Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.
The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.
"I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation.
Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence.
But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing.
The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor's proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ."
-The Jesuit Who Humiliated the GeneralsThe story never told before of the clandestine network with which the young Bergoglio saved dozens of "subversives" from the ferocity of the Argentine dictators
by Sandro Magister
ROME, September 27, 2013 – In his interview with “La Civiltà Cattolica" that has gone all around the world, Pope Francis describes the Church as “a field hospital after battle,” where the very first thing to do is “heal wounds.”
But what changes when the battle is fully underway?
In his Argentina, between 1976 and 1983, Jorge Mario Bergoglio lived through the 'years of lead' of the military dictatorship. Kidnappings, torture, massacres, 30,000 disappeared, 500 mothers killed after giving birth in prison to children who were taken away from them.
What the young provincial of the Argentine Jesuits at the time did during those years long remained a mystery. So dense as to prompt the suspicion that he had passively witnessed the horror, or worse, had exposed to greater danger some of his confrères, those most committed among the resistance.
Last spring, immediately after his election as pope, these accusations were issued again.
They were also immediately contradicted by authoritative voices, albeit highly critical of the overall role of the Argentine Church in those years: the mothers of Plaza de Mayo, Nobel peace laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Amnesty International. The Argentine magistracy itself had exonerated Bergoglio of all accusations, after having subjected him to questioning in a proceeding between 2010 and 2011.
But if at this point it was established that the current pope had done nothing worthy of condemnation, it was still unknown what good he might have done during those terrible years, to “heal wounds.”
Unknown until yesterday. Because to lift the veil from this hidden face of the past of Pope Francis for the first time a book has now been published by EMI, small in its dimensions but explosive in its content. It will be in Italian bookstores as of October 3, and then gradually in eight other countries of the world where translations are already underway. “Bergoglio's List" is its title. And one thinks immediately of “Schindler's list” immortalized by the film of Steven Spielberg. Because the substance is the same, as the subtitle of the book says: “Those saved by Francis during the dictatorship. The story never told.”
There is in the final part of the book the complete transcription of the questioning to which the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires was subjected on November 8, 2010.
In front of three judges, Bergoglio was hammered for three hours and forty-five minutes with insidious questions, above all by the attorney Luis Zamora, the lawyer for the victims. A key passage of the questioning comes when Bergoglio is asked to justify his meetings with the generals Jorge Videla and Emilio Massera, in 1977.
Two priests very close to him, Frs. Franz Yalics and Orlando Yorio, had been abducted and confined in a secret location. The first had been for two years his spiritual director, and the second his professor of theology, before they dedicated themselves to working with the poor of the "villas miseria" of Buenos Aires, which had made them a target of the repression. When they were captured, the then-provincial of the Jesuits found out where they were being kept. He learned that they were at the infamous Escuela Superior de Medicina of the naval officers, from which few came out alive.
To ask for their liberation, Bergoglio wanted to meet above all with General Videla, who at the time was the first in command of the junta. And he was able to do so twice, the second time convincing the priest who said Mass at the home of the general to pretend to be sick so that he could replace him. From his conversation with the general he received definitive confirmation that the two Jesuits were in the prisons of the navy.
So there was nothing else to do than to go to Admiral Massera, an irascible and vindictive personage. Again there were two meetings. The second was very brief. "I told him: Look, Massera, I want them back alive. I got up and left,” Bergoglio stated during the questioning of 2010.
The following night fathers Yalics and Yorio were drugged, loaded onto a helicopter, and unloaded in the middle of a swamp.
But the two priests, during six months of imprisonment and torture, had been made to believe that they had been informed on by their father provincial. And in a file of the secret service someone wrote: "In spite of the good will of father Bergoglio, the Society of Jesus in Argentina has not cleaned itself up," insinuating complicity with the repression.
"A dirty trick" was the dismissive comment on this insinuation from the prosecutor of the 1985 trial that sentenced to life in prison both Videla and Massera.
As for Frs. Yalics and Yorio, both of them acknowledged the falsity of the accusations against their superior, with whom they were publicly reconciled.
The provincial of the Jesuits at the time had succeeded in giving the generals the idea that he had taken refuge at his Colegio Máximo of San Miguel, waiting for better days. But what the book reveals for the first time is a great deal more.
Nello Scavo, a legal affairs reporter for "Avvenire" and the author of the investigation, discovered by tracking down numerous escapees and putting their testimonies together like a puzzle that Bergoglio had silently stitched together a clandestine network that succeeded in saving many dozens if not hundreds of persons in danger of their lives.
While General Videla was hatching his bloody plans from the great halls of the Casa Rosada, a few steps away, down the alley that leads to the quarter of Monserrat, there was the church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, with an adjoining Jesuit residence and school. And there the provincial of the Jesuits met with the targets of persecution for their last instructions before they clandestinely boarded boats that were carrying fruit and merchandise from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, in Uruguay, an hour away by water. The military officers could never have imagined that this priest would defy them from so nearby.
The success of every operation was tied to the secrecy that held even among those who conducted them or benefited from them. The persons who entered the network of protection organized by Bergoglio did not know about the others who were in the same condition as themselves.
At the college of San Miguel there arrived and departed, apparently in order to study or for a spiritual retreat or the discernment of a vocation, men and women who in reality were wanted as “subversives.” To get them to safety the destination was often Brazil, where there was an analogous network of protection organized by the local Jesuits.
But Bergoglio was the only one who held all the strings. The elderly Jesuit Juan Manuel Scannone, who is today the most important theologian of Argentina and the one most esteemed by the current pope, was also at San Miguel at the time. But he didn't have a clue. Only after many years did he and others begin to confide in each other and understand. "If one of us had known and had been abducted and subjected to torture, the whole network of protection would have fallen apart. Father Bergoglio was aware of this risk, and for this reason he kept everything secret. A secret that he maintained even afterward, because he never wanted to boast about that exceptional mission of his.”
The "list" of Bergoglio is a collection of highly diverse personal stories, which make for exhilarating reading, whose common characteristic is that the people in them were saved by him.
There is Alicia Oliveira, the first woman to become a judge in the criminal courts in Argentina and also the first to be dismissed after the military coup, non-Catholic and not even baptized, who went underground and was taken by Bergoglio, in the trunk of his car, to the college of San Miguel, to see her three children.
There are the three seminarians of the bishop of La Rioja, Enrique Angelelli, who was killed in 1976 by members of the military in a staged auto accident, after he had discovered who was truly responsible for numerous assassinations.
There is Alfredo Somoza, the scholar saved without his knowledge.
There are Sergio and Ana Gobulin, who worked in the slums and were married by Father Bergoglio, he arrested and she wanted, both saved and expatriated with the help of the Italian vice-consul in Argentina at the time, Enrico Calamai, another hero of the story.
As pope, but first as a man, Francis does not cease to amaze.
The book, on sale as of October 3:
Nello Scavo, "La lista di Bergoglio. I salvati da Francesco durante la dittatura," preface by Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Editrice Missionaria Italiana, Bologna, 2013, pp. 192, euro 11.90.
Sept. 27th: The Feast &Spiritual Insights from St. Vincent de Paul
“No matter what others say or do, even if the wicked succeed, do not be troubled: commit everything to God and put your trust in him.”
“Extend mercy towards others, so that there can be no one in need whom you meet without helping. For what hope is there for us if God should withdraw His mercy from us?”
"You have been chosen to be at the disposition of Divine Providence and, if you do not fully submit ot It, you will lose much."
"But do you know what it is to labor in charity? It is to labor in God, for God is charity, and it is to labor for God purely and entirely; it is to do so in the grace of God."
"Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times and under all circumstances."
"We must love our neighbor as being made in the image of God and as an object of His love."
"Free your mind from all that troubles you; God will take care of things. You will be unable to make haste in this (choice) without, so to speak, grieving the heart of God, because he sees that you do not honor him sufficiently with holy trust. Trust in him, I beg you, and you will have the fulfillment of what your heart desires."
"It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible. If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer.... Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity."
"Perfection consists in one thing alone, which is doing the will of God. For, according to Our Lord's words, it suffices for perfection to deny self, to take up the cross and to follow Him. Now who denies himself and takes up his cross and follows Christ better than he who seeks not to do his own will, but always that of God? Behold, now, how little is needed to become as Saint? Nothing more than to acquire the habit of willing, on every occasion, what God wills."
"He who allows himself to be ruled or guided by the lower and animal part of his nature, deserves to be called a beast rather than a man."
"Whoever wishes to make progress in perfection should use particular diligence in not allowing himself to be led away by his passions, which destroy with one hand the spiritual edifice which is rising by the labors of the other. But to succeed well in this, resistance should be begun while the passions are yet weak; for after they are thoroughly rooted and grown up, there is scarcely any remedy."
"We ought to deal kindly with all, and to manifest those qualities which spring naturally from a heart tender and full of Christian charity; such as affability, love and humility. These virtues serve wonderfully to gain the hearts of men, and to encourage them to embrace things that are more repugnant to nature."
"It ought to be considered a great misfortune, not only for individuals, but also for Houses and Congregations, to have everything in conformity with their wishes; to go on quietly, and to suffer nothing for the love of God. Yes, consider it certain that a person or a Congregation that does not suffer and is applauded by all the world is near a fall."
"Humility and charity are the two master-chords: one, the lowest; the other, the highest; all the others are dependent on them. Therefore it is necessary, above all, to maintain ourselves in these two virtues; for observe well that the preservation of the whole edifice depends on the foundation and the roof. "