Sunday, March 18, 2018

5th Sunday of Lent Angelus Address with Pope Francis

Angelus Address: On the Need to Gaze at the Crucifix
‘In the Image of Jesus Crucified Is Unveiled the Mystery of the Death of the Son of God as Supreme Act of Love, Source of Life and of Salvation for Humanity of All Times’

Vatican Media Screenshot
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 18, 2018 ( Today’s Gospel (Cf. John 12:20-33) recounts an episode that happened in the last days of Jesus’ life. The scene takes place in Jerusalem, where He was for the feast of the Jewish Passover. Some Greeks also arrived for the ritual celebration. They were men animated by religious sentiments, attracted by the faith of the Jewish people and that, having heard talk of this great prophet, came to Philip, one of the twelve Apostles, and said to him: “We wish to see Jesus” (v. 21). John highlights this phrase, focused on the verb to see, which in the vocabulary of the evangelist means to go beyond the appearances to grasp the mystery of a person. The verb that John uses, “to see,” is to get to the heart, to get to the depth of the person, inside the person, with the sight, and with understanding.
Jesus’ reaction is surprising. He doesn’t answer with a “yes” or a “no,” but He says: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified” (v. 23). These words, which seem at first glance to ignore the question of those Greeks, give, in reality, the true answer, because one who wishes to know Jesus must look within to the cross, where His glory is revealed. To look within to the cross. Today’s Gospel invites us to turn our gaze to the crucifix, which isn’t an ornamental object or an accessory of clothing – sometimes abused! – but is a religious sign to contemplate and understand. In the image of Jesus crucified is unveiled the mystery of the Death of the Son of God as supreme act of love, source of life and of salvation for humanity of all times. We were healed in His wounds.
I can think: “How do I look at the crucifix? As a work of art, to see if it’s beautiful or not beautiful? Or do I look inside, enter in Jesus’ wounds to His heart? Do I look at the mystery of God annihilated to death, as a slave, as a criminal?” Don’t forget this: to look at the crucifix, but to look at it inside. There is this beautiful devotion to pray an Our Father for each one of the five wounds: when we pray that Our Father, we seek to enter through Jesus’ wounds inside, inside, right to His heart. And there we will learn the great wisdom of Christ’s mystery, the great wisdom of the cross.
And to explain the meaning of His Death and Resurrection, Jesus makes use of an image and says: “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (v. 24). He wants to make it understood that His supreme event – namely the cross, Death, and Resurrection – is an act of fecundity – His wounds have healed us —  a fecundity that will bear fruit for many. So He compares Himself to the grain of wheat that, decaying in the earth, generates new life. With the Incarnation, Jesus came on earth, but this isn’t enough. He must also die to ransom men from the slavery of sin and give them a new life reconciled in love. I said: ”to ransom men”, but He paid that price to ransom me, you, all of us, each one of us. This is the mystery of Christ. It goes to His wounds, enters, contemplates, sees Jesus but from inside.
And this dynamism of the grain of wheat, accomplished in Jesus, must be realized also in us His disciples: we are called to make our own the paschal law of losing our life to receive it new and eternal. And what does it mean to lose one’s life? That is, what does it mean to be the grain of wheat? It means to think less of ourselves, of our personal interests, and to be able to “see” and go to meet the needs of our neighbor, especially the last. To carry out with joy works of charity towards all those that suffer in body and mind is the most genuine way to live the Gospel, it is the foundation necessary for our communities to grow in fraternity and mutual hospitality. I want to see Jesus, but to see Him from inside. Enter in His wounds and contemplate that love of His heart for you, for you, for you, for me, for all.
May the Virgin Mary, who always had her heart’s gaze fixed on her Son, from the manger of Bethlehem to the cross on Calvary, help us to meet and know Him as He wishes, so that we can live illuminated by Him, and bring to the world fruits of justice and peace.
[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
After the Angelus
 Dear Brothers and Sisters,
A warm greeting goes to all of you here present, faithful of Rome and from many parts of the world. I greet the pilgrims of Slovakia and those of Madrid; the parish groups from Sant’Agnello, Pescara, Chieti, and Cheremule; the youngsters of the Diocese of Brescia and those of the “Romana-Vittoria” deanship of Milan.
I greet the Italian Folkloric Union, the group of families of Rubiera and the Confirmation candidates of Novi di Modena.
Yesterday I went on a visit to Pietrelcina and to San Giovanni Rotondo. I greet affectionately and thank the communities of the dioceses of Benevento and Manfredonia, the Bishops – Monsignor Accrocca and Monsignor Castoro – the consecrated, the faithful, the Authorities. I’m grateful for the warm welcome and carry all in my heart, but especially the sick of the Home for the Relief of Suffering, the elderly and the young people. I thank those that prepared this visit that I truly won’t forget. May Padre Pio bless you all.
I wish you all a happy Sunday. Please, don’t forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye!

Beginning this weekend you may see this in Churches; why we cover statues and images

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sunday Saint of the Day

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Image of St. Cyril of Jerusalem


Feastday: March 18
Birth: 315
Death: 386

"Make your fold with the sheep; flee from the wolves: depart not from the Church," Cyril admonished catechumens surrounded by heresy. These were prophetic words for Cyril was to be hounded by enemies and heretics for most of his life, and although they could exile him from his diocese he never left his beloved Church.
Cyril's life began a few years before Arianism (the heresy that Jesus was not divine or one in being with the Father) and he lived to see its suppression and condemnation at the end of his life. In between he was the victim of many of the power struggles that took place.
We know little about Cyril's early life. Historians estimate he was born about 315 and that he was brought up in Jerusalem. He speaks about the appearance of the sites of the Nativity and Holy Sepulchre before they were "improved" by human hands as if he were a witness. All we know of his family were that his parents were probably Christians and he seemed to care for them a great deal. He exhorted catechumens to honor parents "for however much we may repay them, yet we can never be to them what they as parents have been to us." We know he also had a sister and a nephew, Gelasius, who became a bishop and a saint.
He speaks as one who belonged to a group called the Solitaries. These were men who lived in their own houses in the cities but practiced a life of complete chastity, ascetism, and service.
After being ordained a deacon and then a priest, his bishop Saint Maximus respected him enough to put him in charge of the instruction of catechumens. We still have these catechetical lectures of Cyril's that were written down by someone in the congregation. When speaking of so many mysteries, Cyril anticipated the question, "But some one will say, If the Divine substance is incomprehensible, why then do you discourse of these things? So then, because I cannot drink up all the river, am I not even to take in moderation what is expedient for me? Because with eyes so constituted as mine I cannot take in all the sun, am I not even to look upon it enough to satisfy my wants? Or again, because I have entered into a great garden, and cannot eat all the supply of fruits, would you have me go away altogether hungry?.. I am attempting now to glorify the Lord, but not to describe him, knowing nevertheless that I shall fall short of glorifying God worthily, yet deeming it a work of piety even to attempt it at all."
When Maximus died, Cyril was consecrated as bishop of Jerusalem. Because he was supported by the Arian bishop of Caesarea, Acacius, the orthodox criticized the appointment and the Arians thought they had a friend. Both factions were wrong, but Cyril wound up in the middle.
When a famine hit Jerusalem, the poor turned to Cyril for help. Cyril, seeing the poor starving to death and having no money, sold some of the goods of the churches. This was something that other saints including Ambrose and Augustine had done and it probably saved many lives. There were rumors, however, that some of the vestments wound up as clothing for actors.
Actually, the initial cause of the falling out between Acacius and Cyril was territory not beliefs. As bishop of Caesarea, Acacia had authority over all the bishops of Palestine. Cyril argued that his authority did not include Jerusalem because Jerusalem was an "apostolic see" -- one of the original sees set up by the apostles. When Cyril did not appear at councils that Acacius called, Acacius accused him of selling church goods to raise money and had him banished.
Cyril stayed in Tarsus while waiting for an appeal. Constantius called a council where the appeal was supposed to take place. The council consisted of orthodox, Arians, and semi-Arian bishops. When Acacius and his faction saw that Cyril and other exiled orthodox bishops were attending, they demanded that the persecuted bishops leave. Acacius walked out when the demand was not met. The other bishops prevailed on Cyril and the others to give in to this point because they didn't want Acacius to have reason to deny the validity of the council. Acacius returned but left again for good when his creed was rejected -- and refused to come back even to give testimony against his enemy Cyril. The result of the council was the Acacius and the other Arian bishops were condemned. There's no final judgment on Cyril's case but it was probably thrown out when Acacius refused to testify and Cyril returned to Jerusalem.
This was not the end of Cyril's troubles because Acacius carried his story to the emperor -- embellishing it with details that it was a gift of the emperor's that was sold to a dancer who died wearing the robe. This brought about a new synod run by Acacius who now had him banished again on the basis of what some bishops of Tarsus had done while Cyril was there.
This exile lasted until Julian became emperor and recalled all exiled bishops, orthodox or Arian. Some said this was to exacerbate tension in the Church and increase his imperial power. So Cyril returned to Jerusalem. When Acacius died, each faction nominated their own replacement for Caesarea. Cyril appointed his nephew Gelasius -- which may seem like nepotism, except that all orthodox sources spoke of Gelasius' holiness. A year later both Cyril and Gelasius were driven out of Palestine again as the new emperor's consul reversed Julian's ruling.
Eleven years later, Cyril was allowed to go back to find a Jerusalem destroyed by heresy and strife. He was never able to put things completely right. He did attend the Council at Constantinople in 381 where the Nicene Creed and orthodoxy triumphed and Arianism was finally condemned. Cyril received justice at the same Council who cleared him of all previous rumors and commended him for fighting "a good fight in various places against the Arians."
Cyril had eight years of peace in Jerusalem before he died in 386, at about seventy years old

Homily 5th Sunday of Lent

I delivered this homily 3 years ago; a few things have changed; there is no more David Letterman Show and now the Church is preparing for the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero.  The core message is still there, 3 years later; we must become a grain of wheat, we must accept suffering, we must die to self and serve God by serving others:

Numerous broken bones throughout his body, 30 in just his right arm.  Shrapnel in both legs.  Both eardrums ruptured.  His carotid artery punctured, his right lung collapsed.  His jaw was obliterated and he lost the vision in his right eye.  He flat-lined three times.  He endured over 40 surgeries and 3 years in the hospital.  He is Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient; a highly decorated Marine.  In 2010, Cpl. Carpenter suffered these debilitating injuries when he literally threw himself in front of a live grenade to save the life of a fellow Marine.  When he appeared recently on the David Letterman show, and the list of his injuries was read, he responded: "I am an overachiever".  His bravery is truly inspiring, his sense of humor endearing.

35 years ago, an Archbishop in a war torn country visited a hospital to offer Mass and preach on this very Gospel we heard proclaimed today.  This Archbishop had endured much suffering because he actively opposed the civil war raging in his country and the social injustice visited upon the poorest and the weakest of his people.  Despite many warnings from the government to cease his opposition, he persevered, in obedience to the Gospel.  He said these words: "that we may give our body and our blood to suffering and to pain --- like Christ, not for self, but to bring about justice and peace for our people.
Let us join together, then, intimately in faith and hope at this moment of prayer"  His words stopped right there because at that very moment a gunmen burst into the chapel and gunned down Archbishop Oscar Romero.  He gave his life for social justice, the poor and the marginalized.  He gave his life for the Gospel and obedience to the Father.  Pope Francis recently announced that Archbishop Romero will be beatified on May 23rd, one step closer to Sainthood.

In both Cpl. Kyle Carpenter and Archbishop Oscar Romero we have extraordinary examples of living out the messages proclaimed in today's readings.  In both of these men, we have extraordinary examples of obedience, faithfulness and concern for others, sacrificing self for the good of the other.

"Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered, and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him."  These words from Hebrews are words of great hope and words that we would do well to know and to live.  Suffering is something that none of us will escape.  Like Cpl. Carpenter and Archbishop Romero, we too will suffer.  In my ministry, many share with me their suffering, from illness, the loss of a loved one, being bullied,  financial concerns, maybe even struggles with faith.  Yet in each of these instances, I hear hope, I hear trust and I hear a desire to be obedient to God's perfect plan.

How can we be faithful, how can we learn obedience, how can we be a people of hope and joy in a world of suffering?  We must become a grain of wheat.  That grain of wheat, Jesus tells us, must fall to the ground and die and produce much fruit.  Yes, we are called over and over again to die to self, to preserve our lives for eternal life, to serve Him and follow Him.  If we can persevere in obedience and faithfulness, listen to His promise: "where I am, there also my servant will be.  The Father will honor whoever serves me." 

There is so much hope, so much promise in today's readings but perhaps someone is hearing this and saying, how can I possibly do this?  How can I really obey Him?  How can I stay hopeful when confronted by suffering?  All good and proper questions.  Since Jesus suffered, and He suffered for us, he can sympathize with us in times of pain and hurting.  Turn to Jesus in prayer, deep intimate prayer, and ask Him to take on your pain as we offer our pain to Him.  When we struggle with obedience and faithfulness, we can turn to the words of Psalm 51, also heard today: "Have mercy on me God in your goodness, in your compassion wipe out my offense."

In the week ahead I plan to do the following as part of my Lenten journey.  I plan to read the entire homily of Archbishop Oscar Romero about that grain of wheat; his final words ever spoken before giving his all for Christ.  I also plan to read about the heroic witness of Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, who gave his body so another would not die.  I will ask myself, can I be more like Archbishop Romero and Cpl. Carpenter?  And I will pray Psalm 51, in it's entirety, at least one morning this week.  And every morning this week, as I rise to face another day I will ask God to create a new heart in me, a heart that will die to self and live to serve Jesus by serving one another.  Will you consider joining me?

If we have died with him, then we shall live with him, if we hold firm we will reign with him.  Unless a grain of wheat shall fall upon the ground and die, it remains but a single grain with no life, with no life.

The Pope brings relief to a house of relief; exhibits charity

Pope Visits House of Relief of Suffering Hospital
Blesses Patients, Greets Clowns

© Vatican Media
It was a poignant moment that included blessing patients and, yes, greeting a few clowns.
Pope Francis made a stop at the House of Relief of Suffering Hospital on March 17, 2018, part of his visit to Pietrelcina and San Giovanni Rotondo, the places most associated with Saint Padre Pio.
From the square in front of the hospital, Pope Francis greeted and blessed the patients. He then visited the 21 young in-patients in the Pediatric Oncology Ward, on the third floor, and the private Hospital School, finally greeting the “Clowntherapy” volunteers.
Padre Pio set up the “cathedral of charity” known as the “House for the Relief of Suffering”, according to the hospital’s website. San Giovanni Rotondo had no hospital facilities as such. Thus Padre Pio had great pleasure when the premises of the former St. Clare’s convent were turned into a small nursing home. “Saint Francis’ civil Hospital” was opened on 25 January 1925 and comprised two wards with seven beds each, as well as two rooms where the poor could be nursed free of charge. However, following major damage caused by an earthquake in 1938, the nursery home was closed down thirteen years later and its premises were subsequently refurbished and used as a kindergarten.
Yet Padre Pio’s idea of charity outlived the destruction caused by the earthquake: on the evening of 9 January 1940, the friar came up with the idea for a “House for the Relief of Suffering”. Padre Pio’s children in faith promptly joined in on the idea and the first stone of what was to become the “cathedral of charity” was laid at the end of the war, on 16h May 1947.
The wards were opened on 26 July 1954 and the blood bank was established on 5 November. The entire complex was officially opened on 5 May 1956 with a live transmission of the blessing by Pope Pious XII.
Padre Pio himself presented the “child of Providence ” to the crowd with these words: “A seed has been sown in the ground which the Lord God shall warm with the rays of His love … What you see before you is only the earliest stage of this undertaking … one stage of our journey through life has been completed. Let us not lose momentum. Let us answer God’s call for the sake of goodness, with all us doing our duty: I myself through the unending prayers of a humble servant of our Lord Jesus Christ; you through the burning desire to hold the whole of suffering humanity close to your breast, to present it through me to the grace of our Heavenly Father.”

A special Papal address at Pietrelcina

Pope Francis Address to Faithful in Pietrelcina (Full Text)
Pastoral Visit of the Holy Father Francis to Pietrelcina and to San Giovanni Rotondo, on the occasion of the centenary of the apparition of the permanent stigmata and the 50th anniversary of the death of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina

© Vatican Media
Holy Father Francis left early on March 17, 2018, by helicopter from the Vatican heliport destined for Pietrelcina, in the diocese of Benevento, and to San Giovanni Rotondo, in the diocese of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo, on the centenary of the apparition of the permanent stigmata and the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina.
Upon arrival, at around 8.00, in the square adjacent to the Liturgical Hall of Piana Romana, the Pope was received by the archbishop of Benevento, H.E. Msgr. Felice Accrocca, and by the mayor of Pietrelcina, Mr. Domenico Masone.
The Holy Father paused briefly in prayer in the Saint Francis Chapel before the elm of the stigmata. Then, at 8.15, in the square in front of the Liturgical Hall, the Pope met with the faithful.
After greetings from the archbishop, Pope Francis gave his address.
At the end, the Holy Father greeted the Capuchin Community and a representation of faithful.
Then, at around 9.00, he left from Piana Romana to transfer to San Giovanni Rotondo.
The following is the Pope’s address to the faithful:
Address of the Holy Father
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
I am glad to be in this town, where Francesco Forgione was born and began his long and fruitful human and spiritual life. In this community he tempered his humanity, he learned to pray and to recognize in the poor the flesh of the Lord, so that he grew in following Christ and requested to be admitted to the Friars Minor Capuchin, becoming in this way Brother Pio of Pietrelcina. Here he began to experience the maternity of the Church, to whom he was always a devoted son. He loved the Church, he loved the Church with all her problems, with all her difficulties, with all her sins. Because we are all sinners, we are ashamed, but the Spirit of God has convoked us in this Church which is holy. And he loved the holy Church and her sons, sinners, all of them. This was Saint Pio. Here he meditated with intensity on the mystery of God Who loved us to the extent of giving Himself for us (cf. Gal 2: 20). Recollecting with esteem and affection this holy disciple of Saint Francis, I cordially greet all of you, his countrymen; your parish priest; and the mayor, along with the Pastor of the diocese, Msgr. Felice Accrocca, the Capuchin community and all those of you who wished to be present.
We find ourselves today on the same land where Father Pio dwelt in September 1911, to “breath a little healthier air”. At that time there were no antibiotics and diseases were treated by returning to one’s hometown, to one’s mother, to eat things that are good for you, to breathe the air well and to pray. This is what he did, like any other man, like a peasant. This was his nobility. He never denied his hometown, he never denied his origins, he never denied is family. Indeed, in that time he resided in the town of his birth for health reasons. That was not, for him, an easy time: he was greatly tormented inwardly and feared to fall prey to sin, feeling he was under assault by the devil. And this did not give him peace because he was restless. But do you believe that the devil exists? … You are not so convinced? … I will tell the bishop to do some catechesis … Does the devil exist or not? [they answer: “Yes!”]. And he goes, he goes everywhere, he gets inside us, he moves us, he torments us, he deceives us. And he [Father Pio] was afraid that the devil would assail him, would drive him to sin. He spoke with few people, either by letter or in the town: only to the Archpriest Don Salvatore Pannullo did he manifest “almost all” his “intent to have some enlightenment” (Letter 57, in Epistolary I, p.250), because he did not understand, he wanted to clarify what was happening in his soul. He was a good boy!
In those terrible moments, Father Pio drew vital lymph from the continuous prayer and the trust he was able to place in the Lord: “All the ugly ghosts – so he said – that the devil is introducing into my mind disappear when I trustfully abandon myself to the arms of Jesus”. Here there is all theology! You have a problem, you are sad, you are sick: abandon yourself to the arms of Jesus. And this is what he did. He loved Jesus and he trusted in Him. Thus he wrote to the provincial minister, asserting that his heartfelt “attracted by a superior force before joining Him in the morning in the Sacrament”. “And this hunger and thirst, instead of remaining satisfied”, after receiving it, “grows [more] more and more” (Letter 31, in Epistolary I, p. 217). Father Pio immersed himself in prayer to adhere ever better to the divine plans. Through the celebration of Holy Mass, which constituted the heart of his day and the fullness of his spirituality, he reached a high level of union with the Lord. During this period, he received special mystical gifts from above, which preceded the manifestation in his flesh of the signs of the Passion of Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters of Pietrelcina and of the diocese of Benevento, you include Saint Pio among the most beautiful and luminous figures of your people. This humble Capuchin friar amazed the world with his life devoted to prayer and patient listening to his brothers, on whose sufferings he poured out the love of Christ as a balm. Imitating his heroic example and his virtues, may you also become instruments of God’s love, of Jesus’ love for the weakest. At the same time, considering his unconditional loyalty to the Church, you will bear witness to communion, because only communion  – that is, always being united, in peace among us, the communion between us – edifies and constructs. A town that quarrels every does not grow, does not build itself up; it scares people. Instead, a town where one seeks peace, where everyone cares for each other – more or less, but they care for each other – they do not wish evil upon each other, this town, even if it is small, grows, grows, grows, it expands and becomes strong. Please, do not waste time, strength, quarreling between yourselves. This does not serve any purpose. It does not make you grow! It does not make you walk onwards. Let us think of a child who cries, cries, cries and does not want to move from his crib, and cries, cries. And when his mother puts him on the floor so that he can start to crawl, he cries, cries … and returns to the crib. I ask you: will that child be able to walk? No, because he is always in the crib! If village quarrels, quarrels, quarrels, will it be able to grow? No. Because all the time, all its strength goes towards quarreling. Please: peace between you, communion between you. And if one of you feels like gossiping about another, bite your tongue. It will do good to your soul, because the tongue will swell up but it will do good, also to the town. Give this witness of communion.
I hope that this territory will be able to draw new life from the teachings of the life of Father Pio in a difficult time like the present, as the population gradually decreases and ages because many young people are forced to go elsewhere to look for work. The internal migration of the young, a problem. Pray to Our Lady to give you the grace that the young may find work here, among you, near to the family, and that they are not compelled to go away and look elsewhere, so that the town declines. The population ages, but this is a treasure, the elderly are a treasure! Please, do not marginalize the elderly. The elderly must not be marginalized, no. The elderly are wisdom. And may the elderly learn to speak with the young and the young learn to speak with the elderly. They have the wisdom of a village, the elderly. When I arrived I had the pleasure of greeting a man of 99 years, and a youngster of 97. Beautiful! These are your wisdom! Speak with them. May they be the protagonists of the growth of this town. May the intercession of your Saint and fellow citizen support the intention of joining forces, so as to offer to the young generations in particular concrete perspectives for a future of hope. Do not miss be lacking in caring attention, full of tenderness, as I said, for the elderly, who are the heritage of our communities. I would like it if the Nobel prize could be awarded once to the elderly who give memory to humanity.
I encourage this land to preserve as a precious treasure the Christian and priestly testimony of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina: it is for each one of you an incentive to live your life in fullness, in the style of the Beatitudes and with the works of mercy. May the Virgin Mary, whom you venerate with the title of Madonna della Libera, help you to walk with joy on the path of holiness. And please, pray for me, because I am in need. Thank you!

A special homily from Pope Francis at San Giovanni Rotondo

Pope Francis Homily at Mass in San Giovanni Rotondo (Full Text)
Visited Children in the House of Relief of Suffering

© Vatican Media
On March 17, 2018, at around 9.30, the helicopter carrying the Holy Father Francis, coming from Pietrelcina, landed in the “Antonio Massa” sports field of San Giovanni Rotondo.
Upon arrival, the Pope was welcomed by the archbishop of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo, H.E. Msgr. Michele Castoro, and by the mayor, Dr. Costanzo Cascavilla.
Before leaving the sports field, the Holy Father blessed a plaque regarding the “Journey” of the pilgrims to the Shrine of Saint Michael, which the mayor wishes to insert in the Via Francigena. He then transferred by car to the House of Relief of SufferingHospital; from the square in front of the hospital, Pope Francis greeted and blessed the patients.
At 10.00 the Pope arrived at the “John Paul II” Hospital where he was received by Dr. Domenico Crupi, director general of the House of Relief of Suffering. He then visited the 21 young in-patients in the Paediatric Oncohaematology Ward, on the third floor, and the private Hospital School, also founded by Father Pio, finally greeting the “Clowntherapy” volunteers.
At the end of the visit, the Holy Father visited the Shrine of Saint Mary of Graces where he was received by the provincial Minister of the Capuchins, Fr. Maurizio Placentino, the guardian Fr. Carlo Laborde, and the rector, Fr. Francis Dileo. In the Shrine the Pope greeted the religious Community of the Capuchins and venerated the body of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina and the Crucifix of the Stigmata, leaving as a gift a stole for the Exposition; he subsequently met with and greeted those Friars who were sick, before finally proceeding to the Saint’s room.
At 11.30, on the parvis of the Church of Saint Pio, the Eucharistic Celebration took place. At the end, after the greeting of the archbishop of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo, H.E. Msgr. Michele Castoro, Pope Francis greeted some of the authorities present and a representation of faithful.
At the end, the Holy Father transferred by car to the “Antonio Massa” sports field of San Giovanni Rotondo, from where he departed at 13.00 to return to Rome. The helicopter carrying the Pope is expected to land at the Vatican heliport at 14.00.
The following is the homily the Pope pronounced during the Mass:

Homily of the Holy Father
From the biblical Readings we have heard, I would like to draw three words: prayer, smallness, wisdom.
Prayer. Today’s Gospel presents us Jesus Who prays. From His heart, these words flow: “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Mt 11: 25). Prayer comes from Jesus spontaneously, but it was not optional: he frequently retreated to deserted places to pray (cf. Mk 1: 35); dialogue with the Father was in first place. And the disciples discovered in this way, naturally, how important prayer was so that one day they asked Him: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11: 1). If we want to imitate Jesus, let us too begin where he started from, that is, from prayer.
We can ask ourselves: do we Christians pray enough? Often, in the moment of prayer, many excuses come to mind, many urgent things to do… At times, then, we set prayer aside because we are caught up in an activism that becomes inconclusive when we forget “what is better” (Lk 10: 42), when one forgets that without Him we cannot do anything (cf. Jn 15: 5), and in this way we abandon prayer. Saint Pio, fifty years after he went to heaven, helps us because he wished to leave us the legacy of prayer. He recommended, “Pray a lot, my children, pray always, never tiring” (Words to the Second International Congress of Prayer Groups, 5 May 1966).
Jesus in the Gospel also shows us how to pray. First of all, he says: “I praise you, Father”; He does not begin by saying, “I need this and that”, but, “I praise you”. One does not know the Father without opening oneself to praise, without devoting time to Him alone, without adoring. How we have forgotten the prayer of adoration, the prayer of praise! We must resume this. Each one of us can ask: how do I worship? When do I worship? When do I praise God? Resume the prayer of adoration and praise. It is the personal context, face to face, staying in silence before the Lord, the secret to entering ever more into communion with Him. Prayer can be born as a request, even for an urgent intervention, but it matures in prayer and adoration. Mature prayer. It then becomes truly personal, as for Jesus, who then engages freely in dialogue with the Father: “Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do” (Mt 11: 26). And the, in free and trustful dialogue, prayer takes on all of life and takes it before God.
And then we ask ourselves: do our prayers resemble that of Jesus, or are they reduced to occasional emergency calls? “I need this”, and so I pray straight away. And when you are not in need, what do you do? Or do we intend them as tranquilizers to take in regular doses, to have a little relief from stress? No, prayer is an act of love, of staying with God and taking to Him the life of the world: it is an indispensable work of spiritual mercy. And if we do not entrust our brothers and situations to the Lord, who will? Who will intercede, who will take care to knock on the heart of God to open the door to humanity in need? For this, Father Pio left us the prayer groups. He said to them, “It is prayer, this joined force of all good souls, that moves the world, that renews consciences … that heals the sick, that sanctifies work, that raises healthcare, that gives moral strength … that spreads God’s smile and blessing on every languor and weakness (ibid). Let us safeguard these words, and ask ourselves again: do I pray? And when I pray, do I know how to praise, do I know how to worship, do I know how to take my life, and that of all people, to God?
Second word: smallness. In the Gospel, Jesus praises the Father because He revealed the mysteries of His Kingdom to the little ones. Who are these little ones, who know how to receive the secrets of God? The little ones are those who are in need of the great, who are not self-sufficient, who do not think that they need only themselves. The little are those who have a humble and open heart, poor and needy, who are aware of the need to pray, to entrust themselves and to let themselves be accompanied. The heart of these little ones is like an antenna: it captures the signal from God, immediately, they understand immediately. Because God seeks contact with all, but those who make themselves great create enormous interference, and the desire for God does not arrive when one is full of oneself, there is no room for God. This is why He prefers the little ones, He reveals Himself to them, and the way to encounter Him is that of stooping low, of shrinking inwardly, of acknowledging oneself as in need. The mystery of Jesus Christ is a mystery of smallness: He lowered Himself, He annihilated Himself. The mystery of Jesus, as we see in the Host at every Mass, is a mystery of smallness, of humble love, and can be grasped only by becoming small and frequenting the little ones.
And now we can ask ourselves: do we know how to look for God where He is? Here there is a special shrine where He is present because there are many little ones preferred by Him. Saint Pio called it “a temple of prayer and science”, where all are called to be “reserves of love” for others (Address for the First Anniversary of the Inauguration, 5 May 1957): it is the House of Relief of Suffering. In the sick one finds Jesus, and in the loving care of those tending to the wounds of the neighbor, there is the way to meet Jesus. Those who take care of the little ones are on the side of God and defeat the culture of waste, which, on the contrary, prefers the powerful and deems the poor useless. Those who prefer the little ones proclaim a prophecy of life against the prophets of death of all time, even today, who discard people, discard children, the elderly, because they are not needed. As a child, at school, they taught us the history of the Spartans. I was always struck by what the teacher told us, that when a baby with malformations was born, they took him to the top of the mountain and threw him down so that these little ones would not exist. We children said: “But what cruelty!”. Brothers and sisters, we do the same, with more cruelty, with more science. What is not needed, what is not productive must be discarded. This is the culture of waste: the little ones are not wanted today. And this is why Jesus is set aside.
Finally the third word, wisdom. In the first Reading, God says: “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom and let not the mighty man boast of his might” (Jer 9: 23). True wisdom does not lie in having great qualities and true strength is not in power. Those who show themselves to be strong and those who respond to evil with evil are not wise. The only wise and invincible weapon is charity inspired by faith, because it has the power to disarm the forces of evil. Saint Pio fought evil throughout his life and fought it wisely, like the Lord: with humility, with obedience, with the cross, offering pain for love. And everyone admired him, but few do likewise. Many speak well, but how many imitate? Many are willing to put a “like” on the page of the great saints, but who does as they do? Because the Christian life is not a “like”, it is a “gift” to me. Life is perfumed when it is offered as a gift; it becomes insipid when it is kept for oneself.
And in the first Reading God also explains where to draw the wisdom of life: “Let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me” (v. 23). To know Him, that is to meet Him, as God Who saves and forgives: this is the way of wisdom. In the Gospel, Jesus reaffirms: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened” (Mt 11:28). Which of us can feel excluded from the invitation? Who can say, “I do not need it”? Saint Pio offered his life and innumerable sufferings to enable his brothers to meet the Lord. And the decisive way of meeting Him was Confession, the sacrament of Reconciliation. There, a wise life begins and starts over, loved and forgiven; there begins the healing of the heart. Father Pio was an apostle of the confessional. Today too he invites us there; and he says to us: “Where are you going? To Jesus or to your sadness? Where do you return? To He Who saves you or, in to your defeats, your regrets, your sins? Come, come, the Lord is waiting for you. Take courage, there is no reason so grave as to exclude you from His mercy”.
The prayer groups, the sick of the House of Relief, the confessional: three visible signs that remind us of three valuable legacies: prayer, smallness and the wisdom of life. Let us ask for the grace to cultivate them every day.

Pope Francis visits birthplace of Padre Pio today

Pope: Like Padre Pio, keep loving the Church ‘despite its problems, sins’

Pope: Like Padre Pio, keep loving the Church ‘despite its problems, sins’
Pope Francis delivers his speech in Pietrelcina, Italy, the birthplace of St. Padre Pio, Saturday, March 17, 2018. Saint Pio who is widely venerated in Italy and abroad is famous for bearing the stigmata, the wounds of crucified Jesus. (Credit: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino.)
Pope Francis reminds faithful to imitate Saint Padre Pio, the famous stigmatic Capuchin, during his visit to his birthlace in southern Italy on the 50th anniversary of his death.
ROME - During a visit Saturday to the southern Italian town of Pietrelcina, the birthplace of Padre Pio, and San Giovanni Rotondo, where the famous Capuchin stigmatic friar lived for more than fifty years, Pope Francis invited the faithful to imitate the saint and continue loving the Church, “despite its problems, its sins.”
The pope broke safety protocol Saturday by walking among the thousands of people, many coming from all over the world, gathered in the town’s main square to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Padre Pio’s death and the 100th anniversary of his receiving the stigmata.
After visiting briefly a chapel containing an elm tree under which Padre Pio would usually pray, the pope spoke to the crowd.
Padre Pio “loved the Church, with all its problems, its sins. We are all sinners, we are ashamed, but God’s Spirit gave us this Church, which is Holy. And Saint Pio loved this Church,” Francis said, adding in an off-the-cuff remark that the saint “never denied his country, remember, he never denied his origins, he never denied his family.”
While Francis did not cite any specific problems or sins, his words come at a time when the pontiff himself is facing mounting criticism for his handling of the clerical sexual abuse scandals in Catholicism, focusing on the case of a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse by the country’s most notorious pedophile priest.
In saying that Padre Pio loved the Church despite its sins, Francis may have had in mind the stigmatic saint’s own troubled history with church authorities during his lifetime.
Between 1916 and 1968, the year he died, Padre Pio was investigated by the Holy Office, the forerunner of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, somewhere between 12 and 25 times, depending on how one counts. At various points, he was forbidden from saying Mass in public, from publishing, from receiving visitors, even from talking to women alone.
Despite that harassment, the eventual judgment of the Church was positive, as Padre Pio was beatified under St. Pope John Paul II in 1999 and canonized in 2002.
In Padre Pio visit, Pope embodies Church’s complex take on suffering
The pope proved to be familiar with the Capuchin saint. During Francis’s time as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina, prayer groups on Padre Pio began surfacing all over the world, including South America, and a statue and relic of the saint can be found in the Cathedral of Buenos Aires.
“This humble Capuchin friar shocked the world with his life, by entirely dedicating himself to prayer and by patiently listening to his brothers, on who’s suffering he would pour the balm of Christ’s charity,” Francis said, inviting faithful to “imitate his heroic example and his virtue” so as to become instruments of Christ’s love for the weakest.
“At the same time, on account of his unconditional loyalty to the Church, you will be a witness to communion, because only communion, that is always being united in peace between us, the communion between us, edifies and builds,” he said March 17.
According to some observers and local media outlets, the pope’s remarks could be seen, in part, as a reflection on the divided and paralyzed political situation that has emerged in Italy after elections in early March.
“A country that fights every day scares people, it’s a sick and sad country… A country where everyone loves one another, more or less, and don’t wish each other harm, grows, grows, grows.”
“It becomes wider and it becomes strong,” he said.
He asked those gathered and watching to “not waste time fighting amongst each other,” which is the only way to move and to walk forward.
“Please, peace among you, communion among you, and if one of you gets the desire to talk ill of another, bite your tongue,” he said, “it will be good for the soul and for the country as well.”
Francis underlined that in September 1911, Padre Pio came to Pietrelcina to “breathe some fresher air” since his body had weakened. He added that “it was not an easy time” for the Capuchin, who was “strongly tormented within” and thought the devil was attacking him.
“The devil doesn’t give peace, because he moves. Do you believe that the devil exists?” Francis asked the crowd in an unscripted remark. “He exists, he comes within us, he tricks us, and Padre Pio feared that the devil would take over him, and push him toward sin,” he said.
Through Mass and prayer, Padre Pio reached “an elevated level of union with the Lord,” Francis said referring to the “the special mystical gifts” that connected the saint with the signs of Christ’s passion.
“I hope this territory will draw from the life teachings of Padre Pio in this difficult moment like the present, while  the population progressively diminishes and ages because many young people are forced to go elsewhere to find work,” he added.
The pope pointed to the “grave problem” of the internal migration of youth, where many university students in the poorer, unemployed South of Italy leave their cities and towns to study or work in the north. He asked that Padre Pio intercede to offer youth “concrete possibilities for a future of hope,” and invited all to offer attention and tenderness to old people.
“I would like it if one day they gave a Nobel Prize to old people, who give memory to humanity,” Francis said off script. “Don’t marginalize old people. No, no, old people are wisdom. May old people learn to speak to youth, and may youth learn to speak to old people. Speak to them!” he added.
After his visit to Pietrelcina, the first time a pontiff had visited the town, Francis took a helicopter ride to San Giovanni Rotondo, site of the hospital and sanctuary “House of Relief of Suffering,” founded by the famous stigmatic saint in 1956 and considered one of the most efficient health care facilities in Italy and Europe.
There the pope spent some time with medical personnel and children in the oncology department, before moving to the sanctuary of “St. Mary of the Graces,” where he met with the Capuchin community of San Giovanni Rotondo and then prayed before the remains of Padre Pio.
The final stop was the Mass, where during the homily, Francis referred to Padre Pio as “an apostle of the confessional” who beckons faithful to engage and communicate with God. He pointed to the “three visible signs” left by the saint in the prayer groups, the sick in the “House of Relief” and the confessional, which remind us of “the three precious heirlooms: prayer, smallness and wisdom of life.”
Concerning prayer, the pope asked whether faithful pray enough, and if they do, if it’s motivated by need or an actual desire to speak to God. “Saint Pio, fifty years after his going to Heaven, helps us, because he left us the heredity of prayer,” he said.
“Do our prayers resemble those of Jesus or are they reduced and saltuary emergency calls? Or do we mean them as tranquillizers to be taken in regular doses, in order to get some stress relief?” the pope asked. “No, payer is an act of love, it’s being with God and bringing him the life of the world: it’s an indispensable work of spiritual mercy.”
The smallness, Francis said, refers to the fact that Jesus privileged the little ones in revealing the mysteries of his Kingdom. “The little ones are those who have a humble and open heart, poor and needy, who feel the need to pray, to give themselves and let themselves be accompanied,” he said.
The pope compared the little ones to “an antenna that captures the signal of God,” whereas those who think themselves to be “big” create “an enormous interference.”
Finally, when is comes to wisdom, the pope said it should not be confused with great abilities or great power. “The only knowing and powerful weapon is charity animated by faith, because it has the power to disarm the forces of evil,” Francis said. “Saint Pio fought evil for his entire life and fought it wisely like the Lord: with humility, obedience, the cross, offering his suffering for love.”
The pope said that while many admire the friar, few follow his example, the same way many “are willing to put a ‘like’ on the [Facebook] page of the great saints,” but few live like them.
“Christian life is not ‘I like,’ but a ‘I give’,” Francis said. “Life perfumes when it’s offered as a gift; it becomes flavorless when it’s kept to oneself.”

A Lenten reminder to help those who have not been to confession in years

How to go to confession when you haven’t gone in years


A practical guide for those hesitant about returning to the sacraments.

Going to confession for the first time in 5, 10, 20, 30 (or more) years can be daunting. We know we should do it, but there is part of us that is still reluctant or even afraid of going back to the sacraments.
Besides feelings of shame, we may simply have forgotten how to go to confession.
For those who are hesitant to receive the mercy of God, here is a practical guide to the various steps of going to confession.
Step 1: Examine your conscience
This is the most necessary part of confession. Before you can confess your sins you need to know them. Typically a person goes to confession and tells the priest the sins they can remember since their last confession. If their last confession was 20 years ago, it might be rather difficult. The key is to tell the priest all mortal sins that you remember (to the best of your ability).
We typically remember those “big” sins, but if you need some help, here is a handy examination of conscience provided by the USCCB. When telling them to the priest, say the sin itself and the number of times you committed it (or at least a general estimation, like, “I didn’t go to Mass for 20 years”).
When thinking of these sins remember that the priest has heard everything before. You are not going to surprise or shock him.
Also, think about confession as going to a doctor. If you don’t tell the doctor your arm hurts, he won’t be able to diagnose it and offer a cure. Similarly, if you don’t tell the priest a sin, he won’t be able to offer absolution for it and help heal that spiritual wound.
Step 2: Look up the local confession times or schedule a time with the priest
Sometimes if it has been a while, it is best to schedule a separate time with the local priest. However, if you don’t know the priest it might be daunting to think about it. Instead, find the nearest parish and inquire about their confession times.
It is also important to go early and try to be near the front of the line.
Step 3: Go into the confessional or Reconciliation room and start your confession
If you haven’t been to confession in many years, you might not know that many parishes no longer use the old-style confessional booths, or may offer them as an option along with one or more Reconciliation rooms. In a room, you still have the option of confessing anonymously behind a movable screen, but you will usually sit in a chair rather than kneel. You may also choose to confess face-to-face. Penitents line up outside the closed door to a Reconciliation room just as they do outside a confessional booth, entering when the person ahead of them leaves.
Wherever confession takes place, the priest typically will start first, saying, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Then it will be your turn to talk. Since it is your first time in a while, it is best to let the priest know that, and say something like, “Father, this is my first confession in x amount of years. These are my sins.”
Then you go ahead and start telling the priest your sins. Do your best to remember them. If you need to, write them on a piece of paper ahead of time.
Step 4: Listen to the priest’s consoling words and say your act of contrition
The priest will respond with words meant to encourage you on your journey of faith. He will then give you a specific “penance,” which could be a number of prayers (like saying 5 Our Fathers), or something related to your sins. After that he will invite you to make an act of contrition, a prayer expressing your sorrow for your sins. If you are worried about that, most confessionals have the act of contrition printed and visible to see. If they don’t, then let the priest know and he will guide you through it.
Alternatively you can print your own copy of the following prayer.
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.
Step 5: Bask in the mercy of God and say your penance
Take a while in the church to thank God for what just happened. God just wiped your sins away! They’re gone. Praise him and allow God’s peace to flood your soul. Then do whatever penance the priest gave you.
Re-commit your life to Jesus Christ, and as you leave the church, start a new chapter in your life. God is always there whenever we fall. Trust in his mercy and allow his grace to permeate every aspect of your life. Plan to head to confession again soon.