Vocation Blog

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegramme of condolence on the death of Cardinal Francis George who has died at the age of 78. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin also sent his sympathies on hearing the news.

To the Most Reverend Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago

Saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal Francis E. George, Archbishop Emeritus of Chicago, I offer heartfelt condolences to you and to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese. With gratitude for Cardinal George’s witness of consecrated life as an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, his service to the Church’s educational apostolate and his years of episcopal ministry in the Churches of Yakima, Portland and Chicago, I join you in commending the soul of this wise and gentle pastor to the merciful love of God our heavenly Father. To all who mourn the late Cardinal in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord.

FRANCIS PP.

 

Please accept my condolences at the passing of Cardinal George and the assurance of my prayers that the merciful Lord will grant him the reward of his faith and his tireless labors for the Church.                                              Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/04/18/pope_francis_sends_his_condolences_on_the_death_of_cardinal_/1137904

“At some point, Christ will question me: ‘What have you done with my people? Are they holier because of your ministry? Are they more generous, more loving toward others?’ In short, you are my legacy”.

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(2015-04-13 Vatican Radio) The Church is a place of "openness" where people should say things with frankness. That’s what Pope Francis said at the morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican on Monday. The Pontiff added that only the Holy Spirit is able to change our attitude, the story of our lives, and to give us courage – just as the Apostles were inspired by Christ’s Resurrection.

Read this report by Tracey McClure:

"We cannot keep silent [about] what we have seen and heard," Pope Francis said in his homily, alluding to the day’s First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles where Peter and John ask the Lord to enable them to speak freely and openly.

Speak frankly without fear

The Pontiff recalled that Peter and John, having performed a miracle, had been jailed and threatened by the priests not to speak in the name of Jesus. But they continue to do so and when they return to the others, they encourage them to proclaim the Word of God “with frankness." They entreat the Lord “to take note of their threats” and enable His “servants” “to not flee” but to proclaim His Word “boldly.”

"And today too, the Church's message is the message of the path of openness, the path of Christian courage,” the Pope said. “These two simple [men]- as the Bible says – with no education, had courage. A word that can be translated as 'courage,' 'straightforwardness,' 'freedom to speak,' ‘not being afraid to say things' ... It’s a word that has many meanings, in its original form. Parrésia, that frankness ... and their fear gave way to 'openness,’ to saying things with freedom. "

Francis then reflected on the Gospel passage today that recounts the somewhat “mysterious” dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus," regarding "second birth” and "having a new life, different from the first."

Proclaiming Christ, without "advertising"

The Pope pointed out that in this story too, "on this journey of openness," the "true protagonist" is "precisely the Holy Spirit", "because He is the only one able to give us this grace of courage to proclaim Jesus Christ":

"And this courage of proclamation is what distinguishes us from simple proselytism. We do not advertise Jesus Christ, to have more 'members’ in our 'spiritual society', no? This is not necessary. There’s no need; it’s not Christian. What the Christian does is to announce with courage, and the proclamation of Jesus Christ causes, through the Holy Spirit, that astonishment that keeps us going. "

The real protagonist of all this, the Pope resumed, is the Holy Spirit. When Jesus talks about being ‘born again,’ he said, He makes us understand that it is "the Spirit that changes us, that comes from anywhere, like the wind: we hear his voice." And, he added, "only the Spirit is able to change our attitude", to "change the story of our lives, to change our being."

Courage, a grace that comes from the Holy Spirit

It is the Spirit, the Pope affirmed, which gives Peter and John, “these simple, uneducated men…this strength to proclaim Jesus Christ up until the final witness: martyrdom":

"The path of Christian courage is a grace given by the Holy Spirit. There are so many paths that we can take that also give us a certain amount of courage. 'But look at that brave decision he has taken! And look at this one: look how he laid out this plan well, organized things, [bravo]!’ This helps, but it is an instrument of something bigger: the Spirit. If there is no Spirit, we can do many things, much work, but it is not of any use.”

After Easter, added Francis, the Church "prepares us to receive the Holy Spirit." In the “celebration of the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus,” he prayed, may we remember “the whole history of salvation" and "ask for the grace to receive the Spirit to give us the true courage to announce Jesus Christ ".

(from Vatican Radio)

http://www.news.va/en/news/francis-evangelize-dont-advertise-speak-frankly

2015-04-11 Vatican Radio

Pope Francis on Saturday afternoon proceeded with the presentation of the official Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, set to begin December 8.

The bull is the fundamental document for the Holy Year that outlines the overall spirit and intentions for the Jubilee, as well as the spiritual fruits that are hoped for.

It was read by Fr Leonardo Sapienza, Regent of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, in a ceremony by the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis then moved into the basilica to preside Vespers for Divine Mercy Sunday.

The 28-page bull, titled “Misericordiae Vultus” or “The Face of Mercy” opens with the declaration, “Jesus is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith.”

Read report by Laura Ieraci:

In the document, Pope Francis says the Holy Year is “dedicated to living out in our daily lives the mercy” which God “constantly extends to all of us.”

He explains the year will begin on December 8 to commemorate both the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, which called the Church to proclaim the Gospel to the world in new ways, bringing God’s mercy to everyone.

After the Holy Door of St Peter’s is open on December 8, the Holy Doors of the other papal basilicas will be opened in subsequent days. As well, as a sign of communion of the whole Church, the pope has requested that every diocese in the world open a similar “Door of Mercy” for the local celebrations of the Jubilee.

The document develops three main themes.

First, Pope Francis elaborates the theological understanding of God’s mercy, explaining the role of mercy in the life of people and of the Church, who are both the beneficiaries and the witnesses to God’s mercy in the world.

“The mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality through which he reveals his love as that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child,” the Pope writes.

“Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life,” he continues. “The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.”

He recalls that the motto of the Holy Year is “Merciful like the Father.”

“Wherever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident,” he writes. “Wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.”

(Vatican Radio) 5 April 2015

EASTER URBI ET ORBI MESSAGE to the City and to the World
 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Jesus Christ is risen!

Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness!

Out of love for us, Jesus Christ stripped himself of his divine glory, emptied himself, took on the form of a slave and humbled himself even to death, death on a cross. For this reason God exalted him and made him Lord of the universe. Jesus is Lord!

By his death and resurrection, Jesus shows everyone the way to life and happiness: this way is humility, which involves humiliation. This is the path which leads to glory. Only those who humble themselves can go towards the “things that are above”, towards God (cf. Col 3:1-4). The proud look “down from above”; the humble look “up from below”.

On Easter morning, alerted by the women, Peter and John ran to the tomb. They found it open and empty. Then they drew near and “bent down” in order to enter it. To enter into the mystery, we need to “bend down”, to abase ourselves. Only those who abase themselves understand the glorification of Jesus and are able to follow him on his way.

The world proposes that we put ourselves forward at all costs, that we compete, that we prevail… But Christians, by the grace of Christ, dead and risen, are the seeds of another humanity, in which we seek to live in service to one another, not to be arrogant, but rather respectful and ready to help.

This is not weakness, but true strength! Those who bear within them God’s power, his love and his justice, do not need to employ violence; they speak and act with the power of truth, beauty and love.

From the risen Lord we ask the grace not to succumb to the pride which fuels violence and war, but to have the humble courage of pardon and peace. We ask Jesus, the Victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence.

2015-04-02, Thursday, Vatican Radio. Official English translation

Homily of Pope Francis, Holy Thursday Chrism Mass , 2 April 2015

“My hand shall ever abide with him, my arms also shall strengthen him” (Ps 89:21).

This is what the Lord means when he says: “I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him” (v. 20). It is also what our Father thinks whenever he “encounters” a priest. And he goes on to say: “My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him… He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God and the rock of my salvation”’ (vv. 24, 26).

It is good to enter with the Psalmist into this monologue of our God. He is talking about us, his priests, his pastors. But it is not really a monologue, since he is not the only one speaking. The Father says to Jesus: “Your friends, those who love you, can say to me in a particular way: ‘You are my Father’” (cf. Jn 14:21). If the Lord is so concerned about helping us, it is because he knows that the task of anointing his faithful people is demanding; it can tire us. We experience this in so many ways: from the ordinary fatigue brought on by our daily apostolate to the weariness of sickness, death and even martyrdom.

The tiredness of priests! Do you know how often I think about this weariness which all of you experience? I think about it and I pray about it, often, especially when I am tired myself. I pray for you as you labour amid the people of God entrusted to your care, many of you in lonely and dangerous places. Our weariness, dear priests, is like incense which silently rises up to heaven (cf. Ps 141:2; Rev 8:3-4). Our weariness goes straight to the heart of the Father.

Know that the Blessed Virgin Mary is well aware of this tiredness and she brings it straight to the Lord. As our Mother, she knows when her children are weary, and this is her greatest concern. “Welcome! Rest, my child. We will speak afterwards…”. “Whenever we draw near to her, she says to us: “Am I not here with you, I who am your Mother?” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 286). And to her Son she will say, as she did at Cana, “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3).

It can also happen that, whenever we feel weighed down by pastoral work, we can be tempted to rest however we please, as if rest were not itself a gift of God. We must not fall into this temptation. Our weariness is precious in the eyes of Jesus who embraces us and lifts us up. “Come to me, all who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Whenever a priest feels dead tired, yet is able to bow down in adoration and say: “Enough for today Lord”, and entrust himself to the Father, he knows that he will not fall but be renewed. The one who anoints God’s faithful people with oil is also himself anointed by the Lord: “He gives you a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit” (cf. Is 61:3).

Let us never forget that a key to fruitful priestly ministry lies in how we rest and in how we look at the way the Lord deals with our weariness. How difficult it is to learn how to rest! This says much about our trust and our ability to realize that that we too are sheep. A few questions can help us in this regard.

Do I know how to rest by accepting the love, gratitude and affection which I receive from God’s faithful people? Or, once my pastoral work is done, do I seek more refined relaxations, not those of the poor but those provided by a consumerist society? Is the Holy Spirit truly “rest in times of weariness” for me, or is he just someone who keeps me busy? Do I know how to seek help from a wise priest? Do I know how to take a break from myself, from the demands I make on myself, from my self-seeking and from my self-absorption? Do I know how to spend time with Jesus, with the Father, with the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, with my patron saints, and to find rest in their demands, which are easy and light, and in their pleasures, for they delight to be in my company, and in their concerns and standards, which have only to do with the greater glory of God? Do I know how to rest from my enemies under the Lord’s protection? Am I preoccupied with how I should speak and act, or do I entrust myself to the Holy Spirit, who will teach me what I need to say in every situation? Do I worry needlessly, or, like Paul, do I find repose by saying: “I know him in whom I have placed my trust” (2 Tim 1:12)?

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged the faithful to see the signs of the Risen Lord and open their hearts to a "present that is full of the future".

Report by Linda Bordoni

Speaking on Wednesday during the weekly General Audience, the Pope reflected at length on the celebration of the Sacred Triduum which begins on Holy Thursday, and during which we commemorate Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.

The Easter Triduum – the Pope said – is the apex of our liturgical year and it is also the apex of our lives as Christians.

We begin the Triduum – he continued - by celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, as we recall Christ’s offering of his body and blood to the Father, which he gave to the Apostles as food for their nourishment, with the command that they perpetually celebrate these mysteries in his memory.

He said we also recall the Lord washing the Apostles’ feet, through which he showed that the “purpose of his life and passion was to serve God and neighbour, a service which we are called to imitate by loving one another as he loved us”.

This purpose – Pope Francis explained – is expressed also during our Baptism, when the Lord’s grace cleansed us from sin and we “put on the new self” in the image of Christ (Col 3, 10). And it happens each time we partake in the Eucharist and enter into Communion with Christ to obey his commandment to love Him as he loved us. If we take Communion without being sincerely ready to wash each other’s feet – Francis said – we do not acknowledge the Lord’s Body: “Jesus’ service is to give of himself, totally”.

On Good Friday – the Pope continued - we will meditate on the mystery of Christ’s death and we will adore the Cross.

During the last instants of his life, “before handing over the spirit” – he said – Jesus said “it is finished” (John 19, 30), meaning – the Pope explained – that Salvation has taken place; “that with his sacrifice Jesus has transformed the greatest injustice into the greatest love.”

By his sacrifice – Francis said - sin has been overcome through love, an immense love which we are called to live and transmit.

Throughout the centuries – he continued – many men and women have borne witness to this perfect, uncontaminated love, with their very existence.

“I like to remember a heroic witness of our days, Fr Andrea Santoro, a priest of the Diocese of Rome and a missionary in Turkey” the Pope said.

Just a couple of days before being assassinated in Trebizond he wrote: ‘I am here to live amongst the people and to allow Jesus to be here lending him my flesh (…) One becomes capable of salvation only when offering one’s flesh. The evils of the world must be carried and shared, one must allow them to be absorbed into one’s flesh, as Jesus did’.

Pope Francis said that Fr Santoro is a man of our time, and he said there are many other true martyrs today “who offer their lives with Jesus to confess their faith”.

How beautiful it will be – the Pope said – if at the end of our lives, with all of our errors and our sins as well as our works of charity and our love for our neighbour, we will be able to say: ‘it is finished’. And not with the perfection with which Jesus said it, but knowing that we did what we could.

Let us ask the Lord for the grace – the Pope said – to be able to say: “Father, I did what I could. It is finished”.

On Holy Saturday – he continued - we will contemplate Jesus’ lying in the tomb, and with Mary, the Church will keep alive the flame of faith, hoping against every hope in Christ’s resurrection.

Then, at the Easter Vigil, when the Alleluia resounds again, we will celebrate the Risen Christ, the centre and fulfilment of the universe and history.

And pointing out that “at times the darkness of the night seems to penetrate into our souls; and that at times we think ‘there is nothing left to do’ and our heart seems to have lost the strength to love…”, Pope Francis said that it is in that very darkness that “Christ lights up the fire of God’s love: a flash of light breaks the darkness and announces a new beginning”.

It is in that darkness – he said – that Christ wins and lights the flame of love.

And urging the faithful to open their hearts to a “present which is full of future”, the Pope said “our life does not end before a tomb stone, our life continues with the hope of Christ who arose from the tomb”.

In these days - Pope Francis continued - may we not only observe the Lord’s Passion, but truly enter into its mystery, making our own the sentiments of Christ. In this way, our Easter will indeed be blessed.

Holy Thursday Reflection

The world proposes selfishness as the path to happiness. God proposes generosity as the path to happiness. Look at what happens in the next few days. God does not hold anything back from us. From Holy Thursday to Good Friday to Easter Sunday, we see the unbounded generosity of God.

The Church calls these three days the Triduum. They mark the end of Lent and lead us into the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

The Triduum begins tonight with Jesus humbly washing the disciples’ feet. This may not sound like much, but think about the times. The disciples’ feet likely were caked with dirt from the road. Not a pleasant task by any means, but Jesus poured himself out nonetheless.

Even more astounding, Jesus institutes the Eucharist. He gives his very body, blood, soul, and divinity to not only the disciples at the Last Supper, but also all of us to receive regularly at Mass. It is an unfathomable gift. Embrace the gift.

God invites us to a life of gratitude while the world fosters discontent. God proposes trust; the world arouses fear. God promotes giving; the world promotes getting. God invites us to cooperate with his Providence while the world rallies behind self-determinism. God appoints us in stewardship while the world touts ownership. The world encourages entitlement when in reality everything is a gift from God. God invites us to look out for our neighbor; the world tells us to look out for ourselves. God operates from abundance; the world operates from a place of scarcity. God created us out of generosity to live generous lives; the world encourages us to live a small, selfish life.

What kind of life will you live?

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2015-03-28 L’Osservatore Romano

Do you like being Pope? Do you like living in Santa Marta? Do you feel alone? These are some of the questions that Pope Francis answered on 6 March – on the occasion of the second anniversary of his election as the Supreme Pontiff – for the Mexican journalist and writer Valentina Alazraki, correspondent for Televisa. In their friendly conversation, the two were seated in front of a large picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The technical aspects of the interview were handled by the Vatican Television Center and Vatican Radio. The transcript was then translated from the Spanish and edited by L'Osservatore Romano.

Pope Francis, above all, thanks a million. Although I’ve been in Rome for many years, this is the first time that I’ve sat down with a pope to do a formal interview.

How frightening!

I am quite intimidated. With John Paul II, I used to hide behind the plants, sneaking in here or there, but there was never an interview like this: seated, formal. So, the truth is, I am very moved, but, above all, very very grateful. And the first thing that I am going to ask you is what all Mexicans or many, or the majority of Mexicans, are asking themselves: knowing that there’s no place like Mexico, how is it possible that you are not visiting us this year? There were great expectations that you would come in September…

I was thinking about doing it, because I wanted to enter the United States through the Mexican border. But, if I went to Ciudad Juárez, for example, and entered from there, or to Morelia, and entered from there, it would cause a bit of a fuss: why is he going there and not coming to see Our Lady, the Virgin Mother? What’s more, you can’t visit Mexico in little bits. Mexico takes a week. I promise to make a trip to Mexico of the sort that Mexico deserves – not in a hurry or just passing through. That’s why I decided not to enter through Mexico.

Pope Francis, you have chosen this room where I know that you also have very important meetings. This is where you decide the future of your Church, of the Church. Under the “supervision” of the Morenita (the little brown Virgin), Our Lady of Guadalupe. What does the Virgin of Guadalupe mean to you?

Well, here you’ve touched on a theme that’s very close to me. How do you define the historical moment of Mexico, when she visits Mexico, and the heritage she left behind? Speaking to St Juan Diego, there in the field, MOMPUA she says, “Madre”two times. “I am the Mother of God through whom one lives.” And later, when he is a little bit fearful, she says, “What are you afraid of? Am I not here – I who am your mother?” In other words, she is a mother.

There was a lot of sinning. But there were also a lot of saints. Yes, we have those saints: St Rose of Lima, we recall; the “negrito” St Martin of Porres…. Now when I go to the United States I am going to canonize the holy man who evangelized California, Junipero Serra, who, before going on the mission to California, went to her, to ask for her blessing. In a way, she opened up this current of holiness. There are many Mexican saints, American saints.

Afterwards, we have called her the Queen, the little Queen, just as Juan Diego did. The Empress of America. But she defines herself as a mother. At a moment when America was being reborn. And she is the mother who brings the Good News to us in Mexico. She is a mother who is expecting a child. And during that tragic moment of the “conquista” - because there was a bit of everything there – she brings salvation. She shows that she is bringing a child. But how does she show it? In what way does she show it, aside from being pregnant? She appears“mestiza” – of mixed race. It is all a prophecy, our American mixing of the races. A prophecy of our culture. That’s why she transcends Mexico; she goes far beyond it and represents the unity of all the American people. She is the mother. America is not an orphan. It has a mother. A mother who brings us to Jesus. In other words, the salvation that is Christ comes through a woman, and she wanted to demonstrate this through her mixed race, which she brought to Mexico in a special way. And she chooses to appear to a son of that culture. She doesn’t pick a Spanish boy, or a colonizer, or a vain lady. No. A simple, humble married man.

So, for me, she is a mother. She is the mother of mixed race. And I would dare to say something else. She is the beginning of something that we don’t talk about much in America, which is the trigger mechanism of holiness. In other words, in the colonization of American, in the conquest of America, there was a lot of sin. For me, she is all that I have said: the mother, the source of cultural unity, the gateway to holiness. In the middle of so much sin and so much injustice, and so much exploitation and death, she is the mother, no? So, this is what I feel when I see her.

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(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said the life of St Teresa of Avila, characterized by “total self-giving to God,” is a “great treasure” that can help to renew consecrated life today.

The pope spoke of the witness of St Teresa in a letter, issued Saturday, to the Superior General of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, Fr Xavier Cannistrà, to mark the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the saint’s birth.

St Teresa of Avila, a Spanish nun and mystic and a reformer of the Carmelite Order, was born 28 March 1515.

Also known as St Teresa of Jesus, her writings are among the classics of Christian spirituality and mysticism. Her most known spiritual work is The Interior Castle. Pope Paul VI named her a Doctor of the Church in 1970.

In his letter to the Carmelite Superior General, the Pope said St Teresa left “a great treasure to renew consecrated life today, full of concrete proposals, ways and methods to pray” that always lead one back to Jesus and “constitute a genuine school to grow in love for God and neighbour.”

The Pope described St Teresa as “primarily a teacher of prayer.”

“Teresa’s prayer was not reserved only to one space or to one time of day; it arose spontaneously in the most diverse occasions,” he said. “She was convinced of the value of continuous prayer, even if it was not always perfect.”

“The saint asks us to be steadfast, faithful, even in times of dryness, personal difficulties or urgent needs that call us,” he continued.

The Pope added that St Teresa knew the importance of authentic community life and that “neither prayer nor mission” can be sustained without it.

Consequently, she built monasteries characterized by fraternity and warned her sisters of the danger of individualism, as well as gossip, jealousy and criticism “which severely damage relationships with others,” the Pope said.

“With these noble roots, Teresian communities are called to become houses of communion,” said the pope, “capable of witnessing to fraternal love and to the motherhood of the Church, presenting to the Lord the needs of the world, torn by divisions and wars.”

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2015-03-13 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization has produced this explanatory note for the upcoming Holy Year, the Jubilee of Mercy.

In St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis announced today, March 13, 2015, the celebration of an “extraordinary Holy Year”. This “Jubilee of Mercy” will commence with the opening of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 2015, and will conclude on November 20, 2016 with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. At the start of the new year, the Holy Father had stated: “This is the time of mercy. It is important that the lay faithful live it and bring it into different social environments. Go forth!”

The Jubilee announcement had been made on the second anniversary of the election of Pope Francis, during his homily for the penitential liturgy with which the Holy Father opened the “24 Hours for the Lord”. This initiative, proposed by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, promotes throughout the world the opening of churches for an extended period of time for the purpose of inviting people to the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The theme for this year has been taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, “God rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4).

The opening of this next Jubilee will take place on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. This is of great significance, for it impels the Church to continue the work begun at Vatican II.

During the Jubilee, the Sunday readings for Ordinary Time will be taken from the Gospel of Luke, the one referred to as “the evangelist of mercy”. Dante Alighieri describes him as “scriba mansuetudinis Christi”, “narrator of the meekness of Christ”. There are many well-known parables of mercy presented in the Gospel of Luke: the lost sheep, the lost coin, the merciful father.

The official and solemn announcement of the Holy Year will take place with the public proclamation of the Bolla in front of the Holy Door on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Feast instituted by Saint John Paul II and celebrated on the Sunday after Easter.

In the ancient Hebrew tradition, the Jubilee Year, which was celebrated every 50 years, was meant to restore equality among all of the children of Israel, offering new possibilities to families which had lost their property and even their personal freedom. In addition, the Jubilee Year was a reminder to the rich that a time would come when their Israelite slaves would once again become their equals and would be able to reclaim their rights. “Justice, according to the Law of Israel, consisted above all in the protection of the weak” (St. John Paul II, Tertio millenio adveniente 13).

The Catholic tradition of the Holy Year began with Pope Boniface VIII in 1300. Boniface VIII had envisioned a Jubilee every century. From 1475 onwards – in order to allow each generation to experience at least one Holy Year – the ordinary Jubilee was to be celebrated every 25 years. However, an extraordinary Jubilee may be announced on the occasion of an event of particular importance.

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2015-03-13 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis presided over a penance service in St. Peter's Basilica on Friday afternoon, during which he announced an extraordinary Jubilee dedicated to Divine Mercy. Below, please find Vatican Radio's English translation of the Holy Father's homily, in which he made the announcement.

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This year as last, as we head into of the Fourth Sunday of Lent, we are gathered to celebrate the penitential liturgy. We are united with so many Christians, who, in every part of the world, have accepted the invitation to live this moment as a sign of the goodness of the Lord. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, in fact, allows us with confidence to draw near to the Father, in order to be certain of His pardon. He really is “rich in mercy” and extends His mercy with abundance over those who turn to Him with a sincere heart.

To be here in order to experience His love, however, is first of all the fruit of His grace. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, God never ceases to show the richness of His mercy throughout the ages. The transformation of the heart that leads us to confess our sins is “God's gift”, it is “His work” (cf. Eph 2:8-10). To be touched with tenderness by His hand and shaped by His grace allows us, therefore, to approach the priest without fear for our sins, but with the certainty of being welcomed by him in the name of God, and understood notwithstanding our miseries. Coming out of the confessional, we will feel God’s strength, which restores life and returns the enthusiasm of faith.

The Gospel we have heard (cf. Lk 7:36-50) opens for us a path of hope and comfort. It is good that we should feel that same compassionate gaze of Jesus upon us, as when he perceived the sinful woman in the house of the Pharisee. In this passage two words return before us with great insistence: love and judgment.

There is the love of the sinful woman, who humbles herself before the Lord; but first there is the merciful love of Jesus for her, which pushes her to approach. Her cry of repentance and joy washes the feet of the Master, and her hair dries them with gratitude; her kisses are pure expression of her affection; and the fragrant ointment poured out with abundance attests how precious He is to her eyes. This woman’s every gesture speaks of love and expresses her desire to have an unshakeable certainty in her life: that of being forgiven. And Jesus gives this assurance: welcoming her, He demonstrates God’s love for her, just for her! Love and forgiveness are simultaneous: God forgives her much, everything, because “she loved much” (Luke 7:47); and she adores Jesus because she feels that in Him there is mercy and not condemnation. Thanks to Jesus, God casts her many sins away behind Him, He remembers them no more (cf. Is 43:25). For her, a new season now begins; she is reborn in love, to a new life.

Brian Backe is a senior director at Catholic Relief Services. CRS Rice Bowl begins on Ash Wednesday, February 18. The views expressed in this column belong to Backe.

(CNN)Starting on Ash Wednesday, more than 1 billion Christians around the world will enter the season of Lent, a time of solemn spiritual preparation for Easter, the culmination of the church's calendar.

Despite its ancient history (Lent became standardized in the Catholic Church around the year 325) myths about Lenten traditions abound. Here are five of the most common, as well as one fact that may surprise you.

Myth 1: Lent is 40 days - Counting from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, there are 46 days. Then why do we always refer to the 40 days of Lent? The 40 days of fasting during Lent do not include Sundays. Every Sunday Christians commemorate the day of Christ's resurrection, thus, Sunday by its nature is a day of joy and celebration. The Sundays during Lent are not prescribed days of fasting and abstinence, so meat is permitted.

Myth 2: Lent ends on Easter Sunday - Lent ends on Holy Thursday. The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 18 this year, and ends on Holy Thursday, April 2, which commemorates Jesus' last supper with his disciples. As stated in the Catholic Church's "General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar," the Easter triduum (Latin for "three days") begins with the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, and includes Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.

Myth 3: Catholics abstain from meat during Lent - Only on Fridays during Lent are Catholics required to abstain from meat in remembrance of the sacrifice Jesus made on Good Friday. According to abstinence laws, meat includes warm-blooded animals and birds. Fish and other cold-blooded animals are not prohibited. Local Catholic bishops may determine specific prescripts about what foods are included in abstinence. This can lead to interesting exceptions. For instance, in the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, eating muskrat is allowable on Fridays during Lent. Puffin, beaver and alligator are permissible in some places, too -- provided your local butcher has good connections!

Myth 4: The Pope decides the date of Easter - Thanks in part to astronomers who figured out when all full moons would occur, for nearly 1,700 years Easter has fallen on the first Sunday after the Paschal, or Passover, full moon. The earliest possible date of Easter is March 22, and the latest is April 25.This year Easter is on April 5. The way to calculate the date of Easter was determined at a meeting of church bishops and others called the Council of Nicea in 325 near Constantinople in what is now modern day Turkey.

Myth 5: Jesus went into the desert for 40 days before he was put to death - Actually, Jesus spent 40 days in the desert before beginning his public ministry, several years before he was crucified. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke -- individual, yet similar, interpretations of Christ's message -- each tell of Jesus spending 40 days in the desert, where he fasted, prayed and was tempted by the devil. After this he went to Galilee where he called his first disciples and began his public ministry.  The 40 days of Lent are a time to remember and imitate the life and ministry of Jesus as Christians prepare to commemorate his death and resurrection at Easter.

Fact: Since 1975, American Catholics have donated $250 million during Lent to feed the hungry around the world - Catholic Relief Service's Rice Bowl project began in Allentown, Pennsylvania, 40 years ago, when Americans began to take up a collection to help a famine in West Africa. More than 13,000 faith communities participated in CRS Rice Bowl last Lent.

Fr. Robert Barron's Sign Up: http://LentReflections.com

Matthew Kelly's Sign Up: http://dynamiccatholic.com/bestlentever/

2015-02-05 Vatican Radio

Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, celebrated to mark the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life, in the context of the Year dedicated to the same..

Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord 2/2/ 2015

Before our eyes we can picture Mother Mary as she walks, carrying the Baby Jesus in her arms. She brings him to the Temple; she presents him to the people; she brings him to meet his people.

The arms of Mother Mary are like the “ladder” on which the Son of God comes down to us, the ladder of God’s condescension. This is what we heard in the first reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews: Christ became “like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest” (Heb 2:17). This is the twofold path taken by Jesus: he descended, he became like us, in order then to ascend with us to the Father, making us like himself.

In our heart we can contemplate this double movement by imagining the Gospel scene of Mary who enters the Temple holding the Child in her arms. The Mother walks, yet it is the Child who goes before her. She carries him, yet he is leading her along the path of the God who comes to us so that we might go to him.

Jesus walked the same path as we do, and showed us a new way, the “new and living way” (cf. Heb 10:20) which is himself. For us too, as consecrated men and women, he opened a path.

Fully five times the Gospel speaks to us of Mary and Joseph’s obedience to the “law of the Lord” (cf. Lk 2:22-24,27,39). Jesus came not to do his own will, but the will of the Father. This way, he tells us, was his “food” (cf. Jn 4:34). In the same way, all those who follow Jesus must set out on the path of obedience, imitating as it were the Lord’s “condescension” by humbling themselves and making their own the will of the Father, even to self-emptying and abasement (cf. Phil 2:7-8). For a religious person, to progress is to lower oneself in service. A path like that of Jesus, who “did not count equality with God something to be grasped.”: to lower oneself, making oneself a servant, in order to serve.

This path, then, takes the form of the rule, marked by the charism of the founder. For all of us, the essential rule remains the Gospel, this abasement of Christ, yet the Holy Spirit, in his infinite creativity, also gives it expression in the various rules of the consecrated life, though all of these are born of that sequela Christi, from this path of self-abasement in service.

Through this “law” consecrated persons are able to attain wisdom, which is not an abstract attitude, but a work and a gift of the Holy Spirit, the sign and proof of which is joy. Yes, the mirth of the religious is a consequence of this journey of abasement with Jesus: and when we are sad, it would do us well to ask how we are living this kenotic dimension.

Exploring Priesthood Weekend

A retreat designed to help men who are, college age and older, discern God’s call to priesthood. Throughout a weekend of prayer, discussion, and group interaction, men begin to understand God’s movement in their life.

Presentations on

Practical steps for discerning a vocation

Values of priesthood

Vocational journeys of priests and seminarians and how they came to understand God’s call

Seminary life, academics, and formation

Where

Mundelein Seminary -1000 East Maple Avenue, Mundelein, IL.  Located about 30 miles north of Chicago and is easily accessible by car or train.

http://www.chicagopriest.com/exploring-priesthood-weekend

You can obtain further information or make a reservation by contacting Fr. Francis Bitterman at 312-534-8298, fbitterman@archchicago.org.

Mundelein Seminarian, Chip Chipman is on the radio with host, Fr. Francis, discussing being a seminarian and why more and more young men are responding to God's call to the priesthood.

Friday, Jan. 2 at 9am on Relevant Radio (950-AM in Chicago and suburbs, 930-AM in far western suburbs, 1270-AM in Gary, IN.)

http://www.archchicago.org/radioTV/programs/Vocations/

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