Pope Francis celebrates morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta reminding believers that the Lord’s gifts are free and it is not Christian to seek favours in order to grow in ecclesiastical careers.
To be a Christian, a priest or a bishop is a free gift from the Lord, Pope Francis said during his homily, and holiness consists in “guarding” this gift which we received gratuitously, and not thanks to our own merits.
The Pope was reflecting on the Responsorial Psalm and from the First Reading of today’s liturgy.
He explained that the Psalm recalls the election of David as king of Israel, after the Lord had rejected Saul for not obeying.
In the Reading, the Lord sends Samuel to anoint as king one of the sons of Jesse of Bethlehem. The anointment, he said, indicates God’s choice, and today it is used today to consecrate priests and bishops.
Noting that we Christians are anointed with oil during Baptism, the Pope explained that God urges Samuel to look beyond appearances because, “it does not matter what man sees: in fact, man sees the appearance but the Lord sees the heart.”
The Pope recalled how David’s brothers fought against the Philistines to defend the kingdom of Israel saying “they had merits”, but he noted, God chose the last of them.
He described him as “a restless boy,” who grazed the flock and said the Scriptures tell us he was called David and was a handsome youth “making a splendid appearance.” After the anointment, he continued, “the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.”
The Lord’s gifts are free
Pope Francis said it is a story that prompts one to reflect and wonder why the Lord chose a “normal” boy, who perhaps sometimes behaved in a silly way as many youngsters do. He was not even a pious boy, “who prayed every day”, he said, and he had seven good brothers “who had more merits than him.”
And yet, the Pope pointed out, the smallest, “the most limited, the one who had no titles”, who had not fought the war, was the one to be chosen. This, he said, shows us “the gratuitousness of God’s choice.”
He invited those present to reflect on their own presence at Mass saying “why did the Lord choose us?” Not because, he come from a Christian family or a Christian culture,” in fact, he said, many such people end up rejecting the Lord.
And highlighting the gratuitousness of God’s choice, the Pope spoke also of how priests and bishops have received their anointment for free.
“There are, yes, those who want to go ahead in the so-called ecclesiastical careers, who behave in a simonical way, seeking influences, becoming climbers,” he said, but he pointed out that that is not the Christian way.
“Being Christian, being baptized, being ordained priests and bishops is pure gratuitousness. You can’t buy the Lord’s gifts,” he said.
Preserving the gift
The Pope went on to speak about what we can do “to be holy” and said that Christian holiness is “to preserve the Lord’s gift, nothing more”, behaving in such a way that the Lord always remains with us.
He decried that attitude of some that aim to climb the ladder of a career in the Church and said that to be anointed a bishop is a gift.
He urged Christians to live with humility, thus guarding God’s gift of having chosen us. And he spoke of the great gift of the Holy Spirit saying: “When the Lord elected us, He gave us the Holy Spirit. And that’s pure grace.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily warning Christians never to forget the people of God.
“If we priests forget our flock, if we bishops forget this and feel more important than others, we deny God’s gift, he said.
“It’s like telling the Holy Spirit we can manage on our own, (…) and that’s not Christian. That’s not guarding the gift.”
Let us ask the Lord today, he prayed, to give us the grace to give thanks for the great and beautiful gift He has given us, and to preserve it with faithfulness.
By Prof. Michael Ogunu
The World Apostolate of Fatima International in conjunction with the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal is convoking all of the faithful to join the great celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the death of St. Jacinta Marto of Fatima on the 20th of February, 2020. On this day, the Church celebrates the liturgical feast of St. Francisco and St. Jacinta Marto, the Little Shepherds of Fatima, canonised on May 13th, 2017.
The programme begins with a Vigil of Adoration and Reparation to the Blessed Sacrament in company of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the eve, Wednesday, 19th of February, 2020, offered for the intention of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in our days. It includes recitation of the Holy Rosary with meditation on the mysteries, procession with candles as the Rosary is being prayed, where possible, veneration of the relics of the saints (Sts Francisco and Jacinta) if possible, Fatima prayers, prayers of reparation and blessing of the faithful.
On the 20th of February, 2020, we offer in our places at the most convenient time, a solemn meditated Rosary for the conversion of many sinners, procession with the icon or statues of Our Lady of Fatima (and of Sts Francisco and Jacinta, if available) for the families, the youth and children of the world, and, above all, a Holy Votive Mass of the Little Shepherds (Sts Francisco and Jacinta) for the unity and strength of the Church.
The youngest among the seven children of Manuel Pedro Marto and Olympia Jesus dos Santos, Jacinta was born on March 11, 1910, in the village of Aljustrel near Fatima in Portugal.
She was a pretty child, with a sweet singing voice and a gift for dancing the folkloric music of Portugal. At a First Communion, she was among the little “angels” spreading petals before the Blessed Sacrament. She had a marked love for Our Lord, and at the age of five she shed tears on hearing the account of His Passion, vowing that she would never sin or offend Him anymore.
In the Spring of 1916, as Jacinta with her brother, Francisco and their cousin, Lucia watched their sheep, an Angel appeared to them in an olive grove. He asked the children to pray with him. He appeared again in mid-summer at a well in Lucia’s garden, urging them to offer sacrifice to God in reparation for sinners. In a final appearance, at the end of the Summer, the Angel held a bleeding Host over a chalice, from which he gave communion to the children. This experience separated them from their playmates and prepared them for Our Lady’s apparitions to come.
The Angel of Peace taught the three shepherd children of Fatima the prayers to initiate them as adorers of the Most Holy Trinity. The Apparitions of the Angel of Peace imposed secrecy on the children. Kneeling on the ground, the Angel bowed down until his forehead touched the earth. Led by a supernatural impulse, the three children did the same, and repeated the words which they heard the Angel say: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee! I beg pardon of Thee for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee!”
On 13th May, 1917, Our Lady appeared to the three shepherd children and asked if they were willing to offer sacrifices to God for the conversion of sinners, and to pray the Rosary daily. They said ‘yes’.
Jacinta was deeply affected by the terrible vision of hell shown to them by Our Lady in the third apparition. She therefore was deeply convinced of the need to save poor sinners through penance and sacrifice as Our Lady had told the children to do. All three children practiced penance, but Jacinta had a special call, for as the Congregation for the Causes of Saints reported about Jacinta Marto in her beatification decree, Jacinta had “an insatiable hunger for immolation”.
As observed by Prof. Americo Lopez Ortiz, the International President of the World Apostolate of Fatima, “Jacinta was a missionary who evangelised people by preaching to them the Good news of salvation, … the message of Fatima, a need to convert and do penance, to save many souls from going to hell”.
“The glory of God, the salvation of souls, the importance of the Holy Father and priests, the necessity and love for the sacraments, all these took first priority in her life. She lived the Fatima messages for the salvation of souls around the world, demonstrating a great missionary spirit”.
Jacinta had a profound devotion that took her very near to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This love always led her in a profound way to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Jacinta attended daily Mass with a great desire of receiving Jesus in Holy Communion in reparation for poor sinners. Nothing was more attractive to her than to be in the Real Presence of the Eucharistic Jesus. She said frequently, “I love to be here so much. I have so much to say to Jesus”.
With immense zeal, Jacinta separated herself from the things of the world to focus her attention on the things of heaven. She searched for silence and solitude to be in contemplation. “I love the Lord so much,” she said to Lucia.
The siblings, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, were victims of the great 1918 influenza epidemic that swept through Europe that year. In October 1918, Jacinta told Lucia that Our Lady had appeared to her and promised to take her and Francisco to heaven soon.
Jacinta was moved from one hospital to another in an attempt to save her life, which she insisted was futile. She developed purulent pleurisy and endured an operation in which two of her ribs were removed. She could not be fully anesthetized, and suffered terrible pain, which she offered to God for the conversion of many sinners.
On 19th February 1920, she asked the hospital chaplain who heard her confession to bring her Holy Communion and administer Extreme Unction because she was going to die “the next night”. He told her that her condition was not that serious and that he would return the next day. The next day Jacinta was dead; she had died, as Our Lady told her, “alone” in order to convert more sinners.
Jacinta, before her death at age nine, told Lucia, then a twelve-year-old girl: “When you are to say this, don’t hide. Tell everybody that God grants us graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,that people are to ask her for them; and that the Heart of Jesus wants the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be venerated at his side. Tell them also to pray to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for peace, since God entrusted it to her”.
In 1937 Pope Pius XI decided that causes of canonization for minors should not be accepted as they could not fully understand heroic virtue or practice it repeatedly, both of which are essential for canonization. For the next four decades, no sainthood processes for children were pursued. In 1979, the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, Don Alberto Cosme do Amaral, asked all the world Bishops to write to the Pope, petitioning him to make an exception for Francisco, who had died at age 10, and Jacinta, who had died at age 9. More than 300 bishops sent letters to the Pope, writing that “the children were known, admired and attracted people to the way of sanctity. Favours were received through their intercession.” The bishops also said that the canonization of Francisco and Jacinta was a pastoral necessity for the children and teenagers of the day.”
In 1979 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints convened a General Assembly. Cardinals, bishops, theologians and other experts debated whether it was possible for children to display heroic virtue. They decided that, like the very few children who have a genius for music ormathematics, “in some supernatural way, some children could be spiritual prodigies.”
Francisco and Jacinta were declared venerable by Pope John Paul II in 1989. On 13th May 2000, the siblings were declared “blessed” in a decree from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Pope Francis solemnly canonized Francisco and Jacinta on 13th May 2017 during the centennial of the first apparition of Our Lady in Fatima. They are the Catholic Church’s youngest saints who did not die as martyrs, with Jacinta the youngest.
Before her death, Jacinta revealed some little-known statements made by Our Lady:
- “The sin which leads most people to hell is the sin of impurity”.
- “Tell everybody … that the heart of Jesus wishes the heart of Mary to be venerated at His side. Let them ask for peace through the Immaculate of Mary, for God has given it to her”.
- “War is a punishment for sin”.
- “Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much”.
- “Many marriages are not good, they do not please Our Lord and are not of God”.
- “Priests must be pure, very pure. They should not busy themselves with anything except what concerns the Church and souls. The disobedience of priests to their superiors and to the Holy Father is very displeasing to Our Lord”.
Let us put into practice the Message of Fatima explained to us by Our Lady in 1917 while there is still time before it is too late. Let us transform our hearts by daily recitation of the Rosary, meditating on the mysteries, Penance, Eucharistic Adoration and Communion of Reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the First Saturdays of the month and consecrating ourselves to God through the Immaculate Heart of Mary in this time of grace and mercy that we have been granted from heaven following in the footsteps of St. Francisco and St. Jacinta Marto of Fatima.
Prof. Michael Ogunu is the Coordinator of the World Apostolate of Fatima in Africa
Pope Francis on Monday met a delegation of young boys and girls Children’s Catholic Action, a wing of Italy’s lay Catholic organization, Azione Cattolica.
By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis is inviting children to look to the Child Jesus with amazement and, like Him, be little “bridges” where they live.
He made the invitation to a group of some 64 boys and girls of the Italian organization called Azione Cattolicadei Ragazzi (ACR), or Children’s Catholic Action.
50 years of ACR
Comprising youngsters between 4 and 14 years of age, ACR is the children’s wing of the Catholic Action of Italy (AC), a lay organization founded in 1922 for the spiritual and moral renewal of society through the education and formation of young people.
The children’s wing was started in 1969.
Pope Francis expressed appreciation for the various initiatives that ACR has carried out marking its 50th anniversary this year. “Your formation programme,” the Pope said, “outlines a path that helps you to become aware of your vocation as missionary disciples.”
Marking their 50 years, some 1,000 boys and girls from all over Italy gathered together in Rome from October 31 to November 2, in what they called, “Children in Synod”. Expressing appreciation for this initiative, the Pope said he was curious to know about their observations and resolutions.
However, he gave the boys and girls homework to do. “On Christmas Day, gather together in prayer and, with the same amazement of the shepherds, look at the Child Jesus, who came into the world to bring the love of God, who makes all things new,” the Pope said.
“With His birth,” he explained, “Jesus made Himself a bridge between God and mankind, reconciled earth and sky, recomposed the whole human race into unity.” Today, the Pope said, the Child Jesus also asks them to be little “bridges” where they live.
When the Pope asked them whether it is better to build bridges or walls, the youngsters together answered “Bridges”. He noted they must have already realized the need for it. At times, he pointed out, it is not easy “but if we are united with Jesus we can do it”.
In conclusion, the Holy Father urged the children to learn the true meaning of Christmas from Mary. “She and Saint Joseph”, he said, “can truly teach us how to accept Jesus, how to adore him and how to follow Him day by day.”
Pope Francis on Thursday met some 400 members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Vatican Dicastery. In a discourse, the Pope exhorted them in the spirit with which the Congregation is asked to carry out its activities in examining the lives of candidates to beatification and canonization.
By Robin Gomes
The tasks of what are today called the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Congregation for Divine Worship, had been carried out earlier by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, instituted over 4 centuries ago in 1588. Pope Saint Paul VI in 1969, Pope Francis said, split the Congregation into two dicasteries that have “two large areas that are clearly distinct”.
In the latest development, Pope Francis on Wednesday authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate 10 decrees regarding 33 candidates for beatification.
Holiness next door
Addressing the members of the congregation, Pope Francis said that the many beatifications and canonizations that have been celebrated in recent decades mean that saints are models and guides of Christian life, but they are not unreachable human beings.
In fact, he said, “they are people who have experienced the daily toil of existence with its successes and failures, finding in the Lord the strength to always get up and continue the journey.” He stressed the importance of measuring “our evangelical coherence with different types of holiness, since ‘each saint is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel’”.
The witness of the Blesseds and Saints, the Pope said, enlightens, attracts and also questions us because it is the “Word of God” embodied in history and close to us. However, we must learn to “see holiness in the patient people of God”, because it is often hidden and almost imperceptible. In this regard, he spoke about parents who bring up their children with so much love, in the men and women who work to bring bread home, in the sick, in the elderly religious who continue to smile. “This is so often the holiness ‘of the next door’, of those who live close to us and are a reflection of the presence of God.”
The Pope exhorted the Congregation in its task of carrying out with scrupulousness and accuracy its investigative research into the martyrdom, heroic virtues, the offering of life and miracles of men and women candidates, in order clear the field of any ambiguity or doubt and achieve full certainty in the proclamation of their holiness.
Consultors, in the historical, theological and medical fields, are called to carry out their work with the full freedom of conscience and formulate the relevant judgments with mature reflection, impartially and without taking into account any conditioning, from whatever side they may come from. The Pope reminded them that the specific aims of the Causes are the glory of God and the spiritual good of the Church, which are closely linked to the search for truth and evangelical perfection.
Regarding postulators (promoters of candidates), the Pope said, they should not allow themselves to be guided by material visions and economic interests. They should not seek their personal affirmation and, above all, should avoid all that which is in contradiction with the meaning of the ecclesial work which they carry out. The postulators, he said, should never fail to be aware that the Causes of beatification and canonization are realities of a spiritual nature and not just procedural. “Therefore, they must be treated with great evangelical sensitivity and moral rigor,” the Pope said.
ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM JAPAN — Questions about Vatican finances, especially those involving a real estate deal in London, are serious, but they also are a sign that reforms begun by Pope Benedict XVI are working, Pope Francis said.
“This is the first time the lids have been taken off the pots by someone inside and not outside” the Vatican, the pope told reporters on his return flight to Rome Nov. 26.
Francis spent about an hour with reporters at the end of his weeklong trip to Thailand and Japan. He spoke in general about the two countries and answered eight questions, including two about the recent Vatican finance scandal involving a large loan to develop a London property.
The pope also spoke about nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, nonviolence and the just-war theory and about political unrest in Hong Kong, Chile and several other Latin American countries.
Francis said no one should be bothered by the fact that the Vatican invests the money it collects from Catholics around the world. “The sum of Peter’s Pence arrives and what do I do? Put it in a drawer? No, that’s bad administration. I try to make an investment.”
Peter’s Pence is a papal fund used for charity, but also to support the running of the Roman Curia and Vatican embassies around the world. The collection for the fund occurs each year around June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
When handling Vatican funds, the pope said it is best to follow what some people describe as a “widow’s investment,” which is putting money into a variety of investments, so that if one fails, the entire amount is not lost. And, of course, he said, all of the investments must be moral.
“If you make an investment with Peter’s Pence in a weapons factory, the offering is no longer an offering,” he said.
“And, yes, you can buy a building and rent it and then sell it,” but only when the investment is sound and one is certain that the people who will benefit from it are those Peter’s Pence is intended to help, the pope said.
The London deal, though, seems to have involved “things that don’t seem ‘clean,’ but the report did not come from outside.” Instead, under finance reform procedures begun by Pope Benedict XVI and continuing under Pope Francis, “it was the internal auditor general, who said, ‘Look, here is something that doesn’t add up.’ He came to me.”
When the auditor asked the pope what he should do, the pope said that he told him to go to the Vatican prosecutor with the information. “For that, I am content, because it shows the Vatican administration has the resources” to report and investigate suspicious activity.
The Vatican prosecutor, the pope continued, did a preliminary study and thought some form of “corruption” might be involved, so he asked permission to search several Vatican offices, including in the Vatican Secretariat of State.
“I signed the authorizations myself,” Francis told reporters.
One thing he has not signed or even begun to work on, he said, is a proposed encyclical letter on nonviolence.
Asked about the idea of such a letter, Francis said, “The plan exists, but the next pope will do it.”
The encyclical is one of many “projects in the drawer” that are “maturing there,” waiting until the time is right, he said.
Francis was asked specifically if believed there could be such a thing as a “just war.” Catholic tradition has long held that a nation attacked by an enemy could respond morally to that attack under certain conditions, including that the measures taken were proportionate to the damage inflicted and that civilians were not targeted.
“The hypothesis of legitimate defense remains always,” the pope said. But in Catholic moral teaching, responding with violence must be “the last resort; the last resort is with weapons.” First a nation must try “legitimate defense with diplomacy, with mediation.”
As an aside, Francis said he likes the fact that Catholic moral teaching continues to develop. “We are making progress in ethics and I like questioning all these things. It means that humanity is moving forward positively and not only negatively.”
Speaking of diplomacy and mediation, the pope praised the United Nations for its peacemaking efforts, but he raised questions about the U.N. Security Council giving a veto power to its permanent members: United States, Russia, China, France and Great Britain.
For example, he said, if “there is a problem with weapons and everyone agrees on resolving the problem” to avoid war, “one with veto power can say no and everything stops.”
Francis said he was not an expert on the United Nations, but he thought it would be a good idea if all the members were equal.
He also noted existence of “armaments hypocrisy,” which involves “Christian countries, or at least countries with a Christian culture (and) European countries that speak of peace and live by (selling) weapons. This is called hypocrisy.”
As for nuclear weapons, the pope reminded reporters that visiting Nagasaki and Hiroshima Nov. 24, “I said again that the use of nuclear weapons is immoral; this must go in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And not only the use, but also the possession, because if there is an accident or a crazed government, one’s madness can destroy humanity. Think about what Einstein said: the fourth World War will be fought with sticks and stones.”
As for nuclear power plants, the pope in Tokyo simply pointed out that the country’s bishops have called for the abolition of the plants after the meltdown and radiation release in 2011 at the power plant in Fukushima.
Reporters asked for more.
“This is my personal opinion,” he said: “I would not use nuclear energy until it is totally safe.”
As the pope’s plane flew from Thailand to Japan Nov. 23, it crossed the airspace of China and Hong Kong. The pope sent telegrams to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, wishing their people peace.
Given the ongoing political unrest in Hong Kong, the pope was asked the meaning of the telegrams. Sending the telegrams is “automatic,” he said. It is “a courteous way to ask permission to fly over their territory.”
“This has no value in the sense of your question,” he told the reporter. “It has only a value of courtesy.”
As for the unrest in Hong Kong, Francis said he does not know enough about the situation to comment in detail, but he noted that Hong Kong is not the only country with political tensions leading to large-scale demonstrations. Chile, France, Nicaragua, Brazil and other countries of Latin America also are in turmoil.
“What does the Holy See do with this?” he asked. “It calls for dialogue, for peace.”
Asked when a papal plane might fly to Beijing, Francis responded, “I’d like to go to Beijing; I love China.”
A Roman Catholic bishop named by Pope Francis to investigate the church’s response to clergy sexual abuse in Buffalo, New York, has himself been accused of sexual abuse of a child, an attorney for the alleged victim notified the church this week.
The attorney informed Catholic officials in New Jersey that he is preparing a lawsuit on behalf of a client who says he was molested by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio in the mid-1970s, when DiMarzio was a parish priest in Jersey City.
DiMarzio said there is no truth to the accusation.
“I am just learning about this allegation,” he said in a statement Tuesday to The Associated Press. “In my nearly 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never engaged in unlawful or inappropriate behaviour and I emphatically deny this allegation. I am confident I will be fully vindicated.”
In a letter sent Monday to the church’s Newark, New Jersey, archdiocese, Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian said 56-year-old Mark Matzek alleges he was repeatedly abused by DiMarzio and a second priest, the late Rev. Albert Mark, when he was an altar boy at St. Nicholas Church and a student at St. Nicholas School.
Last month, Pope Francis tapped DiMarzio to investigate the church’s Buffalo Diocese, where Bishop Joseph Malone has come under fire for his handling of a burgeoning clergy abuse scandal that has roiled the diocese and prompted calls for his resignation.
“The investigation of the diocese of Buffalo by Bishop DiMarzio is tainted because of these allegations,” Garabedian said in an interview with the AP. “There needs to be a truly neutral investigator to determine whether Bishop Malone should resign,” adding that the investigation should be led by a law enforcement agency.
Adriana Rodriguez, press secretary for the Brooklyn Diocese, said DiMarzio has completed his report on the Buffalo Diocese and has submitted it to the Vatican. DiMarzio and Malone are in Rome this week for a previously scheduled visit of New York bishops to the Holy See.
Garabedian said the notice he sent to the Newark Archdiocese briefly describes Matzek’s allegations and the damage he has allegedly suffered, while demanding $20 million in compensation.
Maria Margiotta, the spokeswoman for the Newark Archdiocese, said it has received Garabedian’s letter and reported Matzek’s allegations to law enforcement.
Garabedian told the AP he plans to file the lawsuit on Matzek’s behalf next month, after New Jersey opens a two-year “look back” period in which sex abuse victims will be permitted to file lawsuits without regard to the statute of limitations, which typically limits the amount of time in which an alleged victim may file suit.
DiMarzio completed his review of the Buffalo Diocese, known as an “apostolic visitation,” last month. He said he made three trips to the diocese over seven days and interviewed nearly 80 clergymen and parishioners.