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Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has a rich history of journalistic professionalism and is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media. With headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the church today. Website URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/

Pope wants year of Mercy to tenderly transform the world

When Pope Francis planned the Year of Mercy and the opening of the Holy Door, he did not mean to give the starting signal for a frenzied wave of pilgrims to Rome.

More than call to sign up for an Eternal City package tour, the pope is inviting people to strike out on a yearlong spiritual journey to recognize a loving God who's already knocking on their door.

He says he wants the Year of Mercy to usher in a "revolution of tenderness."

Once people realize "I'm wretched, but God loves me the way I am," then "I, too, have to love others the same way," the pope said in an interview published just a few days before the Dec. 8 start of the jubilee year.

Discovering God's generous love kick-starts a virtuous circle, which "leads us to acting in a way that's more tolerant, patient, tender" and just, he said.

Speaking with "Credere," an Italian weekly magazine run by the Pauline Fathers, the pope gave an in-depth look at why he sees such an urgent need to highlight God's mercy.

"The world needs to discover that God is father, that there is mercy, that cruelty is not the path, that condemnation is not the path," he said. "Because the Church herself sometimes follows a hard line, she falls into the temptation of following a hard line, into the temptation of underlining only moral norms, but so many people remain on the outside," he said.

The pope said the thought of all those people – sinners, the doubtful, the wounded and disenfranchised – conjured up that iconic image of seeing the Church "as a field hospital after the battle."

"The wounded are to be treated, helped to heal, not subjected to cholesterol tests," he said, meaning a too narrow scrutiny of minutiae delays staving off the broader disease of conflict and indifference. He once illustrated the same concept by painting a visual image of pastors who prefer to coif and comb the wool of the tiny flock in the pews rather than seek the sheep that are outside in danger or lost.

"I believe this is the time for mercy. We are all sinners, we all carry burdens within us. I felt Jesus wants to open the door of his heart," he said in the magazine interview.

The opening of the holy doors in Rome and around the world are a symbol of how Jesus is opening the door of his heart.

In fact, dioceses have been asked to designate and open their own "Door of Mercy" in a cathedral, an important church or sanctuary. The pope also will send out from Rome "missionaries of mercy" – priests mandated to the world's peripheries to show patience and compassion in their ministry.

Such gestures suggest the pope still wants people to avoid the expense of travel – like his post-election suggestion to fans back home in Argentina to give to the poor the money they would have spent for a trip.

To help people at home feel "just like being there" in Rome, the Vatican television center will start broad-casting major papal events during the Holy Year in latest generation "Ultra HD 4K" resolution as well as HD, 3D and standard definition.

From the very start of his pontificate, Pope Francis has been showing what the way of mercy means.

The pope's very first Angelus address and homily in 2013 centered on mercy, as he explained God always waits for that day of awakening and conversion, then forgives everything. The real problem is people – not God – who give up on forgiveness, he said.

But mercy changes everything, he said; it "makes the world a little less cold and more just."

The pope's own religious vocation is rooted in that concrete experience of mercy, when he – as a 17-yearold student – walked out of a confessional "different, changed." It was the feast of St. Matthew, and like St. Matthew, he was overcome, feeling "God looked at me with mercy" and said, "Follow me."

Realizing God knows he's a sinner, but embraces him anyway lies at the heart of Pope Francis' ministry and his motto: "By showing mercy, by choosing," based on "The Call of St. Matthew."

He said in the magazine interview that one Friday of every month during the Year of Mercy "I will make a different gesture" that shows God's mercy. He had asked the world's young people to rediscover the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, like feeding the hungry and counsel the doubtful, and choose one to practice each month as they prepare for World Youth Day in July. (CNS)

 
  • Published in Vatican

Finding peace of mind during Lent

Each time I see a baby sleeping peacefully, it reminds me of peace of mind at its best. Unfortunately, as that child grows, he or she will experience a life filled with anxieties that are forever disrupting its serenity.

Thanks to Lent, we have the opportunity to reflect on peace of mind and how to best maintain it. Throughout the Gospels, Christ repeatedly says the heart is the primary place for finding peace. He is forever asking, "Is your heart in the right place and do you listen to it when it isn't?"

Unfortunately, listening to the heart is usually not the first place we go to when disturbed. Why is this? It is because we tend to look "out there" for the disturbance. That disturbance may be coming from a spouse, job, neighbor or some other aspect of our anxious world.

Christ, however, reminds us to look inward, to call our soul, even as it finds itself stretched among desires, plans and intentions. Often, however, we find ourselves in a world that has lost its ability to contemplate, to employ the power of meditation to sort through and gain control over life's anxieties.

We live in a world of heightened distractions that hinder us from shutting off the things that disrupt us.

What might be the vices that most sicken the heart? Christ gives us the answer in Mark 7:21-23:

"From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile."

Here Christ connects defilement with our conscience. When we are in sync with the conscience, a wholesome, peaceful order follows. When we are at odds with it, it defiles us with shame, guilt and sleepless nights.

But why do these feelings arise? It is because we haven't been true to the person we truly are. We aren't the person we desire to be. We don't truly have love of self because we have forfeited God's love in us. In telling us to love "your neighbor as yourself," Christ tells us that we must first truly love what we stand for in order to love another person. This love puts the mind at peace.

Lent is often pictured as a time to "get in shape," or to fast and abstain as a means for improving the spiritual life. But it's also equally true that it is an opportunity to work on and improve peace of mind.

By Father Eugene Hemrick

Catholic News Service

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne will distribute Ashes on February 10 during the 12:05 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 20 Pine Street, Burlington, and at the Catholic Center on UVM's Redstone Campus, 390 So. Prospect St., Burlington at 7 p.m.

The faithful are welcome and invited to attend.

Lent Begins

Ash Wednesday, February 10

Days of fast and abstinence: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday

Days of Abstinence

All Friday's through Friday, March 25

For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may also be taken, but not to equal a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.

 

Renewed hope in role of laity in Church

The Catholic Church needs laypeople who look to the future, take risks and aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, Pope Francis said.

While laypeople must be "well-formed, animated by a straightforward and clear faith" and have lives truly touched by Christ's merciful love, they also need to be able to go out and play a major role in the life and mission of the Church, he said.

The pope met recently with members, consultors and employees and their family members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity

Established by Blessed Paul VI after the Second Vatican Council, the office was meant to encourage and support laypeople's involvement in the life and mission of the church, Pope Francis said, underlining the Italian word "incitare," meaning to spur, urge or encourage.

"The mandate you received from the council was exactly that of 'pushing' the lay faithful to get ever more and better involved in the evangelizing mission of the church," he said.

Lay involvement was in no way meant to be a "proxy" of the hierarchy, he said, but to participate in the saving mission of the church as baptized members.

People enter into the church and its mission, through the "door" of baptism, he said, not through priestly or episcopal ordination. "You come in through baptism and we have all come in through the same door," he added.

Through baptism, every Christian becomes "a missionary disciple of the Lord, salt of the earth, light of the world, leaven that transforms reality from within."

Thanking the pontifical council for all that it accomplished over the decades, Pope Francis said it was time to look to the future with hope and "to plan a renewed presence at the service of the laity," which is always "in ferment" and marked by new problems.

The council for the laity will be merged with two other dicasteries – creating a new Vatican office for laity, family and life, which will begin functioning Sept. 1.

Much more needs to be done, he said, to open up new horizons and tackle new challenges.

"From this stems the project of reform of the Curia," he said. The creation of a new office for laity, family and life, he said, is a sign of how much their work is valued and esteemed and of renewed faith in the role of laypeople in the life of the Church.

The pope asked the outgoing council members and staff to keep as their point of reference the image of a Church and a laity "on the move" and reaching for the peripheries.

"Lift up your gaze and look 'outside,' look toward the many people who are 'far' from our world, to the many families in difficulty and needing mercy," he said.

Many laypeople, the pope said, would generously and gladly dedicate their effort, talents and time to serving the Gospel "if they were included, valued and accompanied with affection and dedication" by priests and church institutions.

After underlining the importance of well-formed laypeople, the pope spoke off-the-cuff, saying, "We need laypeople who take risks, who get their hands dirty, who are not afraid of making mistakes, who go forward. We need laypeople with a vision of the future, not closed up in the trivial things in life."

Young people need lay adults, especially the elderly, who can offer them their experience, wisdom and dreams, he said. The young "need the dreams of the elderly," who – instead of being disposed of – should be "pushed" and encouraged to revitalize their dreams and "give us the power of new apostolic points of view," he said. (CNS)

  • Published in Vatican

Review needed to set up diocesan religious order

Diocesan bishops must consult with the Vatican before establishing a diocesan religious order, Pope Francis ruled.

The consultation "is to be understood as necessary for the validity of the erection of a diocesan institute of consecrated life," said the rescript or ruling approved by Pope Francis April 4 and published by the Vatican May 20.

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life said in a statement that the consultation is necessary because "every new institute of consecrated life, even if it comes into the light and develops within a particular church, is a gift given to the entire Church."

The congregation said it is necessary "to avoid new institutes being erected on the diocesan level without sufficient discernment of the originality of the charism," which determines the way the members will live out the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Sister Sharon Holland, a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and a canon lawyer who worked at the congregation, said there had been "much discussion" for years over whether consultation with the Vatican was necessary.

The U.S.-based Sisters of Life, founded by the late Cardinal John J. O'Connor of New York in 1991, "is a good example of a group that went through the proper channels in the right way" before being officially approved as a religious institute of diocesan right in 2004, Sister Holland said. (CNS)

  • Published in Vatican
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