Holiness in the Modern Age

As published in the November 06 issue of the Parish Bulletin.

As we all strive for sanctity in this day and age, Pope Francis gives some practical help in reimaging the Beatitudes for our modern times.

— “Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart.

— “Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness.

— “Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.

— “Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.

— “Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.

— “Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.”

Pope Francis is reminding us to be sensitive to different situations continuously. We must see the signs of the times. In the face of many challenges to wholeness and unity- whether it is division, pollution, marginalization or injustice, we are all tasked to be disciples in the world. This short list of “Beatitudes” is a way of acting lovingly and mercifully in our world today.

Source: https://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2016/pope-offers-new-beatitudes-for-saints-of-a-new-age.cfm

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A Pentecost Sunday Reflection on Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11 By Fr. Reu Jose C. Galoy

An excerpt of the thoughts of Pope Francis on the working of the Holy Spirit: newness, harmony and mission.
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First thought: Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, programme and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences. This is also the case when it comes to God. Often we follow him, we accept him, but only up to a certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves to him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives in our every decision. We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. Yet throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness and change, and demands our complete trust: Noah, mocked by all, builds an ark and is saved; Abram leaves his land with only a promise in hand; Moses stands up to the might of Pharaoh and leads his people to freedom; the apostles, huddled fearfully in the Upper Room, go forth with courage to proclaim the Gospel. This is not a question of novelty for novelty’s sake, the search for something new to relieve our boredom, as is so often the case in our own day. The newness which God brings into our life is something that actually brings fulfillment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and desires only our good.

Let us ask ourselves: Are we open to “God’s surprises?” Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which God’s newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new?

Second thought: the Holy Spirit would appear to create disorder in the Church, since he brings the diversity of charisms and gifts; yet all this, by his working, is a great source of wealth, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which does not mean uniformity, but which leads everything back to harmony. In the Church, it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony. One of Fathers of the Church has an expression which I love: the Holy Spirit himself is harmony – “Ipse harmonia est.” Only the Spirit can awaken diversity, plurality and multiplicity, while at the same time building unity. Here too, when we are the ones who try to create diversity and close ourselves up in what makes us different and other, we bring division. When we are the ones who want to build unity in accordance with our human plans, we end up creating uniformity, standardization. But if instead we let ourselve be guided by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity never become a source of conflict, because he impels us to experience variety within the communion of the Church. Journeying together in the Church, under the guidance of her pastors who possess a special charism and ministry, is a sign of the working of the Holy Spirit. Having a sense of the Church is something fundamental for every Christian, every community and every movement. It is the Church which brings Christ to me, and me to Christ; parallel journeys are dangerous! When we venture beyond (proagon) the Church’s teaching and community, and do not remain in them, we are not one with the God of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Jn 9).

So let us ask ourselves: Am I open to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, overcoming every form of exclusivity? Do I let myself be guided by him, living in the Church and with the Church?

3. A final point. The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone. As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever.” (Jn 14:16) It is the Paraclete Spirit, the “Comforter,” who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel! The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ.

Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission?

Source: http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2013/05/for-pentecost-three-words-newness.html

About Fr. Reu and his other reflections…

Pope tells priests not to live for their ‘own pleasure’ or act ‘like a peacock’

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Francis urges new priests to nourish congregations with homilies, while making sure they are not bored

Nineteen men lie prostrate for their ordination as priests for the Diocese of Rome on Sunday Pope Francis presided over the ordination of nearly twenty men to the priesthood on Sunday, where he warned them against being vain priests who live first for their own pleasure rather than for God’s.

“A priest is ugly who lives for his own pleasure,” the pope said, adding that such a priest “acts like a peacock”.

Pope Francis presided over the Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, during which he, as the bishop of Rome, ordained 19 men for the Roman diocese.

During the ordination Mass, the pope delivered the standard homily based on the Italian edition of the Pontificale Romanum for the ordination of priests, but digressed from the text several times to offer advice to the men about to be ordained.

In these remarks, he said priests should nourish God’s people with their homilies, while making sure they are not bored.

Ensure “that your homilies are not boring; that your homilies reach the heart of the people, because they come from your hearts,” he said. “What you say to them is what you have in your heart.”

The pope also warned against proclaiming God’s Word without giving a good example.
“Words without example are empty words,” he said. “They are ideas that do not reach the heart, and may even cause injury.”

Pope Francis gave the men further advice in executing their responsibilities as priests.
In presiding over Mass, he told them not to “rush” through the celebration. Rather: “Imitate that which you celebrate,” because “it is not an artificial rite.”

Speaking of their responsibilities as priests in distributing the Sacraments, the pope said to “never refuse Baptism to whoever asks for it”.

With regard to the sacrament of Penance, he told the new priests the confessional is a place where they are called “to forgive, not to condemn.”

“Imitate the Father who never tires of forgiving”.

After the Mass, Pope Francis delivered his Regina Caeli address from the Papal Palace overlooking Saint Peter’s Square, explaining that the newly ordained priests are called to have a pastoral life based upon the Good Shepherd.

Recalling how the Fourth Sunday of Easter is also known as “Good Shepherd Sunday,” the pope said this day is an occasion to reflect on Jesus’ gift of Self, through His passion, death, and resurrection.

The Good Shepherd, he said, “gives life, has offered his life in sacrifice for all of us”.

Original story: Pope to new priests: Don’t be a peacock
Source: Catholic News Agency
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“Are We Afraid To Touch the Poor?” The ABC’s of Catholic Doctrine By Lianne Tiu

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Last February, Pope Francis asked pilgrims at St. Peter’s Square to reflect on how to help the needy. It is true we have dropped a few coins for the poor; we have given baskets to them during Christmas season; we have donated food and clothes during disasters; and some of us have organized foundations to alleviate poverty.

Pope Francis said that those of us who help the poor cannot be afraid to touch them. He said, “If we are to be imitators of Christ before the poor or the sick, we should not be afraid to look the afflicted person in the eye, and be close to the suffering person with tenderness and compassion.”
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It is possible we have been giving without loving the poor. We give out of obligation. We give to obtain peace. We give to feel good. Let’s be honest, we often think that we are superior, and we look down on them simply because they are poor and weak. We shudder at their external appearances for we are afraid to catch some contagious germs, to get dirty, or to be robbed. We are disturbed by their smell or their unrefined manners.

To love and imitate God, we have to learn to embrace and welcome the poor with compassion. “Contact is the true language of communication,” Pope Francis said, “How many healings can we perform if only we learn this language!”
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One day St. Francis was riding his horse near Assisi, when he met a leper. He had always felt an overpowering horror of lepers, but he realized that if he was going to devote his life to the poor he had to welcome him as a brother. So he dismounted from the horse, gave him a coin, and kissed him. This encounter with the leper was the turning point of Francis’ life as he became a champion of the poor.

Blessed Mother Teresa wrote, “To serve the poor, we must love them.” Yet we know it is not easy to love them when we are bothered by their distressing outward appearances. Mother Teresa advised us that we have to look into their hearts and see human beings in need of love and understanding. We have to see the face of the crucified Jesus in those who are suffering: the poor, the sick, the prisoners, the abandoned, including the sinners. We will be able to do this only when we look through the eyes of faith and through the eyes of love.
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Jesus said: “For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was naked, and you clothed me.” (Matt 25:35,36)

May our whole lives be a concern for others especially the poor. May we fearlessly reach out to help them; for when we look into their eyes, we can only exclaim, “It is You, Lord!”

(Reference: Pope Francis: When you help the sick, are you afraid to touch them? (Feb.16, 2015); Catholic News Story: Pope tells new cardinals to evangelize fearlessly (Feb. 16, 2015); Mother Teresa’s Lessons of Love & Secrets of Sanctity by Susan Conroy; ChristianHistory.net ”Meet St. Francis (Aug. 8, 2008))

POPE FRANCIS’ LENTEN MESSAGE 2015 Part 3

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(Previously: And since we are united in God, we can do something for those who are far distant, those whom we could never reach on our own, because with them and for them, we ask God that all of us may be open to his plan of salvation.)

2. “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9) – Parishes and Communities

All that we have been saying about the universal Church must now be applied to the life of our parishes and communities. Do these ecclesial structures enable us to experience being part of one body? A body which receives and shares what God wishes to give? A body which acknowledges and cares for its weakest, poorest and most insignificant members? Or do we take refuge in a universal love that would embrace the whole world, while failing to see the Lazarus sitting before our closed doors (Lk 16:19-31)?

In order to receive what God gives us and to make it bear abundant fruit, we need to press beyond the boundaries of the visible Church in two ways.

In the first place, by uniting ourselves in prayer with the Church in heaven. The prayers of the Church on earth establish a communion of mutual service and goodness which reaches up into the sight of God. Together with the saints who have found their fulfillment in God, we form part of that communion in which indifference is conquered by love. The Church in heaven is not triumphant because she has turned her back on the sufferings of the world and rejoices in splendid isolation. Rather, the saints already joyfully contemplate the fact that, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, they have triumphed once and for all over indifference, hardness of heart and hatred. Until this victory of love penetrates the whole world, the saints continue to accompany us on our pilgrim way.

Saint Therese of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church, expressed her conviction that the joy in heaven for the victory of crucified love remains incomplete as long as there is still a single man or woman on earth who suffers and cries out in pain: “I trust fully that I shall not remain idle in heaven; my desire is to continue to work for the Church and for souls” (Letter 254, July 14, 1897).

We share in the merits and joy of the saints, even as they share in our struggles and our longing for peace and reconciliation. Their joy in the victory of the Risen Christ gives us strength as we strive to overcome our indifference and hardness of heart.

In the second place, every Christian community is called to go out of itself and to be engaged in the life of the greater society of which it is a part, especially with the poor and those who are far away. The Church is missionary by her very nature; she is not self-enclosed but sent out to every nation and people.

Her mission is to bear patient witness to the One who desires to draw all creation and every man and woman to the Father. Her mission is to bring to all a love which cannot remain silent. The Church follows Jesus Christ along the paths that lead to every man and woman, to the very ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8). In each of our neighbours, then, we must see a brother or sister for whom Christ died and rose again. What we ourselves have received, we have received for them as well. Similarly, all that our brothers and sisters possess is a gift for the Church and for all humanity.

Dear brothers and sisters, how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!

Conclusion next week…

The Grace of Tears By Javier Luis Gomez

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Everyone has their own story about how Pope Francis has moved them this weekend. For me this was when I heard what Pope Francis said to Iris Palomar, one of the street children at UST. In tears she asked the pope, “Why is God allowing bad things to happen, even if it is not the fault of children? Why are there so few people helping us?” Iris and many street children suffer from drugs, sexual abuse, hunger, prostitution, theft – numerous and daily injustices.

Pope Francis had no words to say, and the only answer he could give was a compassionate embrace for a child who had suffered so much. Then he told everyone gathered that “Only when we too can cry about the things you said can we come close to answering that question: why do children suffer so much?” Today’s world doesn’t know how to cry.

“If you don’t learn to cry”, the Pope said, “you cannot be a good Christian… Be courageous: don’t be afraid to cry.”

Tears will not remove world hunger. Tears will not protect children from abuse. But tears will let us suffer with them. To feel what they feel – in a mysterious but also real way.

On his flight back, Pope Francis recalled an ancient prayer begging the Lord for the grace of tears. And so we can pray with Pope Francis, “Lord, you who have made it so that Moses with his cane could make water flow from a stone, make it so that from the rock that is my heart, the water of tears may flow.”

Photos by Rocky Chan, Crissy Castillo, Shelli Manuel-Tomacruz,
Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ.