Italian March for Life 2014 – Roma


On Sunday 4th May, 2014 approximately 50,000 people from all over Italy and the world took to the streets of Rome to celebrate the gift of life and say “no” to abortion.

Some of the Family Life International NZ team were at the March for Life after attending the inaugural Rome Life Forum the previous day.  The Forum attracted pro-life leaders from all over the world.  Cardinal Burke, who gives immense encouragement to pro-lifer’s everywhere was a keynote speaker at the Forum.  He also attended the March for Life.

The March was a joyful experience with lots of singing, whistle blowing, chants and laughter.  However, the banners carried very serious messages, explaining to all those whom were passed by the March that abortion is a serious matter that takes the lives of precious unborn children, and hurts mothers and fathers too.

Participants excitedly gathered in St Peter’s Square as the March concluded in order to hear Pope Francis’ Angelus address which he gives every Sunday at noon.  After praying the Regina Caeli (being Easter), Pope Francis welcomed those on the March saying “Many congratulations, Go, and go forward — and work on this.”


March for Life Rome 2014 - Family Life International attendees
Some of the Family Life International team attended the Rome March for Life.


Students from Emmanuel Mission School
In among the crowds we find a Kiwi from Wellington, Ruth (2nd from left), and her friends. All are studying at the the Emmanuel Mission School.


St Gianna Beretta Molla
A girl holds up a banner of St Gianna Beretta Molla – a mother who refused an abortion when it was discovered she had a tumor.
Nun speaking to children
A nun talks to some children before the March for Life begins.


Enjoying the Rome March for Life
Family Life International NZ’s National Director Colleen Bayer enjoys participating in the March for Life with Fr Clovis (FLI’s Spiritual Director) and her son Ben Bayer.


March for Life Rome 2014
50,000 people are estimated to have participated in the 2014 Rome March for Life.

St John Paul II, Pope of the family

ImageThis last weekend was historic. It has been described as the day of 4 Popes. Pope Francis canonised two of his predecessors, Pope John XXIII and John Paul II, while Pope emeritus Benedict XVI was present.

For us in the pro-life movement, the canonisation of Pope Saint John Paul II is particularly special. He was a fearless defender of human dignity, human life, and the family. And his insights into human interpersonal relations, including sexual relations was profound, and has been described as one of the Church’s best kept secrets.

Pope Francis in his Regina Coeli address after told the pilgrims of Bergamo and Krakow “Dear ones, honour the memory of these two holy Popes by following their teachings faithfully.”

St John Paul II’s life was remarkable.

He grew up in the town of Wadowice, Poland. A town with a large Jewish population, some of which he counted as his close friends.

It’s ironic, but the “Pope of the Family” lost all of his family by the time he was twenty. An elder sister died before he was born. His mother died when he was eight years old. His older brother when he was twelve, and finally his father died when he was twenty, leave the future Pope as the only surviving member of his family.

At the time of his father’s death, Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany. He had to take manual labouring work at a mine, and then a chemical factory to avoid being deported. He is also credited with protecting many Jews from the Nazi authorities. It was at this time that he began to feel the call to the priesthood. He started his studies for the priesthood in an underground seminary and eventually had to go into hiding from the Nazi authorities until the end of the war.

As a priest he became popular with young people and as Pope he started World Youth Day, which he and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta are now the patrons. As a bishop, he was involved in Vatican II, and had a role in preparing influential documents for the council. He also published his important book “Love and Responsibility”. As Archbishop he was influential in the writing of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

He was a walker, runner, kayaker and skier. As a cardinal he was asked if it was becoming for a cardinal to ski, his reply was, “It is unbecoming for a cardinal to ski badly”. He continued to run and weight train in the Vatican during the first few years of his pontificate.

His election as Pope was a surprise. He was the first non-Italian Pope in over 460 years. His energy and achievements as a Pope were outstanding. He travelled to 129 countries and fearlessly preached to all who would listen. Dictatorships fell after his visits, notably in Chile and Haiti and Paraguay. His support for the solidarity movement in Poland was the catalyst that brought down communism in Poland, which started a chain reaction in the eastern bloc countries.

St John Paul II sent out a call to defend life, faith and family before the Cairo conference on Population and Development, and as a result the attempt the make abortion a “human right” failed.

Wherever he went he attracted large crowds, as many as 5 million attended the 1995 world youth day in Manila, the Philippines. His funeral attracted 4 million to Rome, with over 250 000 within the Vatican.

Defence of life, faith and family was his personal mission. His weekly angelus audiences for the first years as Pope were devoted to the “theology of the body”. It’s a teaching that is slowly gaining popularity within the Catholic Church, and recently within other Christian Churches too.

St John Paul II was a priest, Pope, theologian, writer, poet, actor and sportsman. He wrote 14 encyclicals, beatified 1340, canonised 483 and improved relations with Judaism, Islam and other Christian denominations. He was shot and critically injured, but survived, then meet and forgave his attacker.

But he will be remembered as Pope Francis said, “the Pope of the family”.

No, the Pope is not diluting the anti-abortion focus of the Church

Pope Francis blesses unborn child.

The following is commentary by Fr Frank Pavone of Priests for Life on that interview Pope Francis gave which has caused a stir.  The text of the interview appeared in a number of Jesuit publications all around the world simultaneously.  The English version was published in the magazine “America”.

As the Director of Priests for Life, known worldwide as a ministry within the Catholic Church that urges more preaching, teaching, and action against abortion, I was asked by many alarmed and confused people these past few days about the reported comments of the Pope that the Church should not be “obsessed” with this issue, and that there should be “balance” and “context.

Is the pope saying we should talk less about abortion? Is he saying that the emphasis the Church has placed on this issue has been a mistaken emphasis?

When I first received these inquiries via emails and text messages, I was actually in the presence of Pope Francis, in the dining room of his residence. I had spoken just hours earlier, at the invitation of the Vatican, about the Church’s defense of the unborn child, and about the clear and strong position of the Church, expressed in many documents, that the right to life is our first right and the foundation and condition for all the others.

So the news came to me with more than a little irony, and I immediately began to tell worried pro-life warriors that they had no reason to think that the Pope no longer wanted the Church to focus on abortion.

Pope Francis preaches on pro-life in a very integral way. He gives strong and clear messages that derive from the very substance of the Faith and a very broad vision of the demands that Faith places upon us. The conclusions and applications for the pro-life movement are undeniable, even if he does not use the specific words “pro-life movement” and “unborn.”

This was very clear in his homily at his installation on March 19, when he spoke of the need to protect every person, especially children, from the “Herods” of our day who plot death.

And it was clear again in his Palm Sunday homily, which contained the very strong message to have confidence in the victory of life over death.

He said it this way:

“Let us look around: how many wounds are inflicted upon humanity by evil! Wars, violence, economic conflicts that hit the weakest, greed for money, power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation!

“Jesus on the Cross feels the whole weight of the evil, and with the force of God’s love he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection.

“Dear friends, we can all conquer the evil that is in us and in the world: with Christ, with the force of good!”

He mentions “crimes against human life,” using the same word the Second Vatican Council used in Gaudium et Spes to describe abortion (an “unspeakable crime”). He urges us to see evil for what it is, and then never to lose confidence in the victory we have over evil, thanks to the death and Resurrection of Christ.

In his recent interview, he made it clear that the Church should put opposition to abortion “in context.” This is neither new nor unwelcome. The Pope wants to see the renunciation of abortion put in the context of mercy toward the mother, and this is consistent with the pro-life movement’s emphasis on “loving them both.” In fact, in my personal conversations with the Pope, he particularly urged me to go forward with the work of Rachel’s Vineyard, the largest ministry in the world for healing after abortion. He called it an “excellent work.”

The Pope wants the teaching against abortion not to stand alone, as if it were a negotiable moral prohibition, but rather to stand in the context of our teaching about who God is. He made this clear in his June 16 homily at the worldwide “Day of the Gospel of Life” when he declared,

“The Scriptures everywhere tell us that God is the Living one, the one who bestows life and points the way to the fullness of life…The commandments are not a litany of prohibitions — you must not do this, you must not do that, you must not do the other; on the contrary, they are a great “Yes!”: a yes to God, to Love, to life.”

“All too often, as we know from experience, people do not choose life, they do not accept the “Gospel of Life” but let themselves be led by ideologies and ways of thinking that block life, that do not respect life, because they are dictated by selfishness, self-interest, profit, power, and pleasure, and not by love…As a result, the Living God is replaced by fleeting human idols which offer the intoxication of a flash of freedom, but in the end bring new forms of slavery and death.”

This approach radically strengthens the Church’s opposition to abortion, because the Pope is saying not simply that it breaks the Fifth Commandment (“You shall not kill”), but that more fundamentally it breaks the First Commandment (“You shall not have other gods besides me”) and that to disrespect life is to abandon God himself.

Nobody should worry or think that the Pope is in any way diluting the Church’s strong and unchangeable stance against abortion, or contradicting all that has already been said and written, in documents like The Gospel of Life, about the urgent priority that this issue deserves. Some 50 million children are killed by abortion around the world each year. If we want to know how much we should focus on it, we only have to use human reason and ask what our response would be if 50 million adults throughout the world were killed each year by terrorism.

Long live the pro-life movement, and long live the Pope!

Have courage, go forward and make noise: Pope Francis to youth

Pope Francis meets Youth in St Peter's, August 29 2013.Pope Francis recently met with 500 young people in St Peter’s Basillica. There he spoke to them from the heart, asking them to have courage to go forward against the current culture, and to make noise all the while holding on to the values of goodness, beauty and truth.  The following text is cross-posted from Zenit.

Pope Francis’ Address to Youth – August 29 2013

Thank you for this visit!

The bishop said that I made a great gesture in coming here. But I did it out of selfishness. Do you know why? Because I like being with you! So this is a selfishness.

Why do I like being with the youth? Because you all have inside your heart a promise of hope. You are bearers of hope. You all, it’s true, live in the present, but looking towards the future…you are  authors of the future, craftsmen of the future.  Then – and this is your joy – it is a beautiful thing to go towards the future, with dreams, with so many beautiful things – and it is also your responsibility. To become craftsmen of the future.

When someone tells me: “But, Father, these are horrible times…Look, we can do nothing!” What do you mean nothing can be done? And I explain that many things can be done! But when a young person tells me: “What horrible times these are, Father, we can do nothing!” Please! I’ll send him to a psychiatrist! Because, truly, one can’t understand, one can’t understood a young man or a young woman who doesn’t want to set his or her sights on a grand ideal, grand [plans] for the future. Afterward, they end up doing whatever they can, but their longing is for great and beautiful things. And you all are craftsmen of the future. Why? Because inside of you all you have three desires: the desire of beauty.

You like beauty, and when you make music, do theatre, make paintings – things of beauty – you are searching for that beauty, you are researchers of beauty. First. Second:  you are prophets of goodness. You all like goodness, to be good. And this goodness is contagious, it helps all others. And also – third-, you are thirsty for truth: to search for the truth. “But, Father, I have the truth!” But you are mistaken, because you can’t have truth, we don’t carry it, it is found. It is an encounter with the truth, that is God, but it must be looked for. And these three desires that you have in your heart, you should bring them forward, to the future, and make a future with beauty, with goodness and with truth.

Do you understand? This is the challenge: your challenge. But if you are lazy, if you are sad  – and this is something ugly, a sad young person – if you are sad…that beauty will not be beauty, that goodness will not be goodness and that truth will be something or other… Think about this: setting your sights on a great ideal, the ideal of making a world of goodness, beauty and truth. This, you can do, you have the power to do it. If you do not do it, it’s because of laziness. This is what I wanted to tell you, this is what I wanted to tell you.

I wanted to tell you this, to tell you: courage, go forward, make noise. Where there is youth, there should be noise. Then, we’ll adjust things, but the dreams of a young person always make noise. Go forward! In life there will always be people with proposals to curb, to block your way. Please, go against the current. Be courageous, courageous: go against the current. And that there will be someone who says: “No, but this… I drink a bit of alcohol, take some drugs and I’m getting ahead.” No! Go against the current of this civilization that is doing so much harm. Do you understand this? To go against the current; and this means to make noise, to go forward, but with the values of beauty, of goodness and of truth. This is what I wanted to tell you. I want to wish you all well, a good work, joy in the heart: joyful youth!

And for this I would like to give you the Blessing. But first, all together, we will pray to Our Lady who is the Mother of beauty, the Mother of goodness and the Mother of truth, that she gives us this grace of courage because Our Lady was courageous, she had courage, this woman! She was good, good, good! Let us ask her, who is in Heaven, who is our Mother, that she give us the grace of courage to go forward and against the current. All together, as you are, we pray a Hail Mary to Our Lady.

For more go to Zenit.

Quotes from Pope Francis’ encyclical Lumen Fidei

Pope Francis the Light of FaithThe following are a few selected quotes from Pope Francis’ first encyclical Lumen Fidei – The Light of Faith.  I urge you to read the full text, as these few quotes are only snippets of wisdom from so much more.

“Those who believe, see; they see with a light that illumines their entire journey, for it comes from the risen Christ, the morning star which never sets.” (#1)

“Yet in the absence of light everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere.” (#3)

“In God’s gift of faith, a supernatural infused virtue, we realize that a great love has been offered us, a good word has been spoken to us, and that when we welcome that word, Jesus Christ the Word made flesh, the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future and enables us joyfully to advance along that way on wings of hope.  Thus wonderfully interwoven, faith, hope and charity are the driving force of the Christian life as it advances towards full communion with God.” (#7)

“The man of faith gains strength by putting himself in the hands of the God who is faithful.” (#10)

“God ties his promise to that aspect of human life which has always appeared most “full of promise”, namely, parenthood, the begetting of new life… The God who asks Abraham for complete trust reveals himself to be the source of all life.  Faith is thus linked to God’s fatherhood, which gives rise to all creation; the God who calls Abraham is the Creator, the one who ‘calls into existence the things that do not exist (Rom 4:17), the one who “chose us before the foundation of the world… and destined us for adoption as his children.’ (Eph 1:4-5)” (#11)

“Faith is God’s free gift, which calls for humility and the courage to trust and to entrust; it enables us to see the luminous path leading to the encounter of God and humanity:  the history of salvation.” (#14)

“Christian faith is thus faith in a perfect love, in its decisive power, in its ability to transform the world and to unfold its history.” (#15)

“Faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion or a personal opinion:  it comes from hearing, and it is meant to find expression in words and to be proclaimed.” (#22)

“Today more than ever, we need to be reminded of this bond between faith and truth, given the crisis of truth in our age.  In contemporary culture, we often tend to consider the only real truth to be that of technology:  truth is what we succeed in building and measuring by our scientific know-how, truth is what works and what makes life easier and more comfortable.  Nowadays this appears as the only truth that is certain, the only truth that can be shared, the only truth that can serve as a basis for discussion or for common undertakings.  Yet at the other end of the scale we are willing to allow for subjective truths of the individual, which consist in fidelity to his or her deepest convictions, yet these are  truths valid only for that individual and not capable of being proposed to others in an effort to serve the common good.  But Truth itself, the truth which would comprehensively explain our life as individuals and in society, is regarded with suspicion… In the end what we are left with is relativism, in which the question of universal truth – and ultimately this means the question of God – is no longer relevant.” (#25)

“Love cannot be reduced to an ephemeral emotion.  True, it engages our affectivity, but in order to open it to the beloved and thus to blaze a trail leading away from self-centredness and towards another person, in order to build a lasting relationship; love aims at union with the beloved.  Here we begin to see how love requires truth.  Only to the extent that love is grounded in truth can it endure over time, can it transcend the passing moment and be sufficiently solid to sustain a shared journey.  If love is not tied to truth, it falls prey to fickle emotions and cannot stand the test of time.  True love, on the other hand, unifies all the elements of our person and becomes a new light pointing the way to a great and fulfilled life.  Without truth, love is incapable of establishing a firm bond; it cannot liberate our isolated ego or redeem it from the fleeting moment in order to create life and bear fruit.” (#27)

“Each of us comes to the light because of love, and each of us is called to love in order to remain in the light.” (#32)

“But if truth is a truth of love, if it is a truth disclosed in personal encounter with the Other and with others, then it can be set fee from its enclosure in individuals and become part of the common good.  As a truth of love, it is not one that can be imposed by force; it is not a truth that stifles the individual.  Since it is born of love, it can penetrate to the heart, to the personal core of each man and woman.  Clearly, then, faith is not intransigent, but grows in respectful coexistence with others.  One who believes may not be presumptuous; on the contrary, truth leads to humility, since believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing truth, it is truth which embraces and possesses us.  Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables witness and dialogue with all.” (#34)

“The gaze of science thus benefits from faith: faith encourages the scientist to remain constantly open to reality in all its inexhaustible richness. Faith awakens the critical sense by preventing research from being satisfied with its own formulae and helps it to realize that nature is always greater.  By stimulating wonder before the profound mystery of creation, faith broadens the horizons of reason to shed greater light on the world which discloses itself to scientific investigation.”  (#34)

“The Decalogue is not a set of negative commands, but concrete directions for emerging from the desert of the selfish and self-enclosed ego in order to enter into dialogue with God, to be embraced by his mercy and then to bring that mercy to others.  Faith thus professes the love of God, origin and upholder of all things and lets itself be guided by this love in order to journey towards the fullness of communion with God.”  (#46)

“Genuine love, after the fashion of God’s love, ultimately requires truth, and the shared contemplation of the truth which is Jesus Christ enables love to become deep and enduring.” (#47)

“Faith does not draw us away from the world or prove irrelevant to the concrete concerns of the men and women of our time… Faith makes us appreciate the architecture of human relationships because it grasps their ultimate foundation and definitive destiny in God, in his love, and thus sheds light on the art of building; as such it becomes a service to the common good… it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope.” (#51)

“The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family.  I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage.  This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan.” (#52)

“Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love.  Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person.”  (#52)

“Young people want to live life to the fullest.  Encountering Christ, letting themselves be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives it a firm hope which will not disappoint.  Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives.  It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love.  It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God’s faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness.” (#53)

“Faith teaches us to see that every man and woman represents a blessing for me, that the light of God’s face shines on me through the faces of my brothers and sisters.” (#54)

“Thanks to faith we have come to understand the unique dignity of each person.” (#54)

“At the heart of biblical faith is God’s love, his concrete concern for every person, and his plan of salvation which embraces all of humanity and all creation, culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Without insight into these realities, there is no criterion for discerning what makes human life precious and unique. Man loses his place in the universe, he is cast adrift in nature, either renouncing his proper moral responsibility or else presuming to be a sort of absolute judge, endowed with an unlimited power to manipulate the world around him. (#54)

“…it is in weakness and suffering that we discover God’s power which triumphs over our weakness and suffering.” (#56)

“Christians know that suffering cannot be eliminated, yet it can have meaning and become an act of love and entrustment into the hands of God who does not abandon us; in this way it can serve as a moment of growth in faith and love.  By contemplating Christ’s union with the Father even at the height of his sufferings on the cross (cf. Mk 15:34), Christians learn to share in the same gaze of Jesus.” (#56)

“Nor does the light of faith make us forget the sufferings of this world.  How many men and women of faith have found mediators of light in those who suffer!  So it was with saint Francis of Assisi and the leper, or with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her poor.  They understood the mystery at work in them.  In drawing near to the suffering, they were certainly not able to eliminate  all their pain or to explain every evil.  Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.  To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light.” (#57)

“Suffering reminds us that faith’s service to the common good is always one of hope.” (#57)

“In union with faith and charity, hope propels us towards a sure future, set against a different horizon with regard to the illusory enticements of the idols of this world yet granting new momentum and strength to our daily lives.  Let us refuse to be robbed of hope, or to allow our hope to be dimmed by facile answers and solutions which block our progress, ‘fragmenting’ time and changing it into space.  Time is always much greater than space.  Space hardens processes, whereas time propels towards the future and encourages us to go forward in hope.” (#57)

“At the centre of our faith is the confession of Jesus, the Son of God, born of a woman, who brings us, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, to adoption as sons and daughters.” (#59)

Let us say “yes” to life and not death: Pope Francis at the Mass for Evangelium Vitae Day

Pope Francis compassion for the sick“Let us say “Yes” to life and not death. Let us say “Yes” to freedom and not enslavement to the many idols of our time. In a word, let us say “Yes” to the God who is love, life and freedom, and who never disappoints.”

These were the words that Pope Francis spoke in his homily to the pilgrims gathered at St Peter’s Square yesterday for the Mass for Evangelium Vitae Day.

Getting to the heart of the attacks on life today, Francis explained

…all too often, people do not choose life, they do not accept the “Gospel of Life” but let themselves be led by ideologies and ways of thinking that block life, that do not respect life, because they are dictated by selfishness, self-interest, profit, power and pleasure, and not by love, by concern for the good of others.

He pointed out that many today see the rejection of Christ “will somehow lead to freedom, to complete human fulfilment”, but ultimately what is found is “new forms of slavery and death”.

The Mass and preceding activities were part of the Church’s Year of Faith.  As such, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, Archbishop Fisichella addressed Pope Francis explaining that

in the Year of Faith it was important that a moment of reflection and prayer be dedicated to those who are witnesses to Evangelium vitae. Their daily passion clearly shows a commitment to the full promotion of human life and for its defense. From the very beginning in the womb of a woman, until the very last moment when a person speaks of his or her presence in this world, this life is human – even if it develops into an immense array of conditions of weakness, suffering and demands help. Believers in Christ cannot remain indifferent to this.

Pro-life leaders, “united by a commitment that goes beyond the boundaries of nations” attended the celebrations for Evangelium Vitae Day.  They came from Italy, the United States, France, Germany, Spain, Poland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Malta, Slovakia, Singapore, Hungary, Costa Rica, Japan, Ireland, Argentina, Mexico and Colombia to witness to the sacredness of all human life from conception through to natural death.

Archbishop Fisichella clearly established the duty of all people of good will to stand up for life saying:

Holy Father, in the Year of Faith, the day dedicated to Evangelium vitae is a renewed call for everyone to respect, protect, love and serve human life. It is not a prerogative of us Christians. It is a common path shared with so many men and women who do not have our faith, but who share our proclamation and commitment. Thank you for your support and the strength of your witness testimony. May the Lord indicate to us all, once again, the path of life.

Following the greeting of Priests, pro-life pilgrims and families, Pope Francis spent time speaking with, and blessing the many sick and disabled who attended the Mass.  In this day the lives of the sick and disabled, both born and unborn, are threatened by policies and ideologies throughout the world, that see them as burdens on society.  Pope Francis consistently shows us how to serve the sick and disabled with compassion, love and dignity.

The Mass for Evangelium Vitae was preceded by a variety of activities including catechisis in various languages, a pilgrimage to the tomb of St Peter, Eucharistic Adoration, the Sacrament of Penance, as well as a candlelight procession and prayer vigil.

“If, at the end of the last century, the Church could not be silent about the injustices of those times, still less can she be silent today, when the social injustices of the past, unfortunately not yet overcome, are being compounded in many regions of the world by still more grievous forms of injustice and oppression, even if these are being presented as elements of progress in view of a new world order.”
~ Blessed John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae #5

Pope Francis’ First Homily

Take up your cross and follow meAs more information is gleaned about our new Holy Father, Francis, it seems that this Papacy might be a little different from previous ones.  So far, Pope Francis has gone to the hotel to pick up his bags and pay the bill, rode in a bus with his fellow Cardinals, had an early morning trip to the Basilica of St Mary Major (to pray that Our Lady will protect Rome), and headed off to the hospital to visit his friend and fellow Argentinian, Jorge Cardinal Mejia.

It looks like it is going to be a difficult job for security as Francis is sure to choose to go out and be amongst the people whom he serves, emulating his namesake St Francis of Assisi, but more importantly doing just as Jesus did, being friends to the outcasts of society.  The famous quote attributed to St Francis “Preach the Gospel always; if necessary use words” is likely to be how Pope Francis lives his Petrine Ministry.  Certainly, his priestly ministry to date has been one of action.  It is quite possible that he will lead us on this journey together showing us how to be Christ-like through actions first.

It is exciting too that he understands that the need for the Church to be “rebuilt”.  He will do so with great humility, but with a strong and clear understanding of how the Church should be, getting rid of the rot that exists within.  Francis knows that the cross of Christ is essential to the Christian life, to the rebuilding of the Church.  He will take it up with great courage, and he has asked each one of us to walk with him on this journey, each of us embracing our own crosses.

Pope Francis is calling us to live each moment of our lives ad majorem Dei gloriam, for the greater glory of God.

Let us with courage walk this journey with him, as he, like a gentle father, leads us to know, love and serve God, our Father.

Pope Francis’ First Homily
In these three readings I see that there is something in common: it is movement. In the first reading, movement is the journey [itself]; in the second reading, movement is in the up-building of the Church. In the third, in the Gospel, the movement is in [the act of] profession: walking, building, professing.

Walking: the House of Jacob. “O house of Jacob, Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” This is the first thing God said to Abraham: “Walk in my presence and be blameless.” Walking: our life is a journey and when we stop, there is something wrong. Walking always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that blamelessness, which God asks of Abraham, in his promise.
Building: to build the Church. There is talk of stones: stones have consistency, but [the stones spoken of are] living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Build up the Church, the Bride of Christ, the cornerstone of which is the same Lord. With [every] movement in our lives, let us build!

Third, professing: we can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not built on solid rocks, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses, it is without consistency. When one does not profess Jesus Christ – I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.

Walking, building-constructing, professing: the thing, however, is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in professing, there are sometimes shake-ups – there are movements that are not part of the path: there are movements that pull us back.

This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it.” He says, “I’ll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross.” When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.

My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it.