This year marks the 751st anniversary of the universal institution of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ. This beautiful image is of Pope Urban IV adoring the Eucharistic Miracle of Bolsena and later Orvieto. Even now, grand processions in Orvieto on that day by thousands and thousands are still witnessing the faith of the real presence of the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist.
– Speaking to vowed religious, Pope Francis said Christianity must be festive. He praised the special nourishing power of a nun’s smile.
“The feast is a theological category of life. And you cannot live the consecrated life without this festive dimension. It’s a party. But partying is not the same as making noise,” he said May 16.
This festive dimension to life is “one of the things that we Christians forget,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.
For Pope Francis, the way to have a party is described in Deuteronomy Chapter 26. The believer brings his “first fruits” in sacrifice to God, thanking him for his kindness. He then goes home and celebrates by sharing his wealth with those who have no family, with neighbors and with slaves.
The Pope noted this Bible chapter has a prayer about “the joy of remembering all that God has done for us.”
The Pope’s remarks were for an audience of vowed religious men and women of the Diocese of Rome on Saturday in Paul VI Hall in Vatican City.
“One of the things that you must never, ever miss is a time to hear people! Even in the hours of contemplation, of silence,” he told the audience.
He noted that some monasteries have voice mail and people call to ask prayers.
“This link is important to the world,” he said.
While monastic religious should leave behind “media chatterers,” they should never leave behind knowledge of the world like “news of wars, diseases, of how much people suffer.”
The Pope said there are “many graces form the Lord” in the “tension” between the cloistered life of prayer and considering the situation of others. He noted that some monasteries dedicate time each day to give food to those who ask for it. This does not contradict the monastic’s “hiddenness in God,” he said. Rather, this is “a service” and a “smile.”
“The smile of the nuns open their hearts! The smile of the nuns feeds more than the bread that came.”
He told the vowed religious their vocation is not a “refuge.” Rather, their vocation is “to go into the field of battle and fight and knock at the heart of the Lord for that city.
Consecration has a spousal dimension both for men and women.
He stressed the “motherhood” of consecrated women and the qualities of “perseverance, loyalty, unity, heart.” Religious sisters are “the icon of the Church of Our Lady,” he said.
“Do not forget that the Church is feminine,” he continued, adding that the Church is the “bride of Jesus.”
The love and fidelity of consecrated women must “reflect the loyalty, the love, the tenderness of the Mother Church and mother Mary.”
Pope Francis said that the Church must help explain the “feminine genius,” noting his previous calls for women to be department heads in the Church.
“When we treat a problem among men we arrive at a conclusion, but if we treat the same problem among women, the conclusion will be different: it will go on the same road, but it will be richer, stronger, more intuitive.”
He encouraged consecrated religious to look to the concrete action Jesus Christ described in the Beatitudes and in Chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew. He said “the whole program is there.”
The Pope reflected on the virtue of fruitful obedience, connecting this to the “mystery of Christ” in which Jesus became incarnate “through obedience, up to the cross and death.”
While he warned against the temptation to take a “disciplinary attitude” towards obedience, he said that obedience is “the icon of the road of Jesus.”
Pope Francis also warned that monastic life can give rise to vices like jealousy, envy, and criticism of superiors. He cautioned against a wrongly competitive spirit between the diocese and congregations or between monastic congregations.
He stressed the need for collaboration and unity, despite self-interest and sin.
“The bishop should not use the religious as a stopgap, but the religious ought not use the bishop as if he owned a company that gives you a job,” the Pope explained.
Pope Francis announced plans to update the 1978 document “Mutuae Relationes,” which addresses relations between vowed religious and the local bishop. The bishops’ synod of 1994 had asked for a reform, but this request was never fulfilled.
In a recent catechesis on “the family”, Pope Francis saluted motherhood:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning. Today we continue with catecheses on the Church and we will reflect on Mother Church. The Church is mother. Our Holy Mother Church.
In these days the Church’s liturgy sets before our eyes the icon of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. The first day of the year is the Feast of the Mother of God, followed by the Epiphany, commemorating the visit of the Magi. The Evangelist Matthew writes: “going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Mt 2:11). It is the Mother who, after giving birth to him, presents the Son to the world. She gives us Jesus, she shows us Jesus, she lets us see Jesus.
Let us continue with the catecheses on the family, and in the family there is the mother. Every human person owes his or her life to a mother, and almost always owes much of what follows in life, both human and spiritual formation, to her. Yet, despite being highly lauded from a symbolic point of view — many poems, many beautiful things said poetically of her — the mother is rarely listened to or helped in daily life, rarely considered central to society in her role. Rather, often the readiness of mothers to make sacrifices for their children is taken advantage of so as to “save” on social spending.
It also happens that in Christian communities the mother is not always held in the right regard, she is barely heard. Yet the center of the life of the Church is the Mother of Jesus. Perhaps mothers, ready to sacrifice so much for their children and often for others as well, ought to be listened to more. We should understand more about their daily struggle to be efficient at work and attentive and affectionate in the family; we should better grasp what they aspire to in order to express the best and most authentic fruits of their emancipation. A mother with her children always has problems, always work. I remember there were five of us children at home, and while one was doing one thing, the other wanted to do another, and our poor mama went back and forth from one’s side to another, but she was happy. She gave us so much.
Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centered individualism. “Individual” means “what cannot be divided”. Mothers, instead, “divide” themselves, from the moment they bear a child to give him to the world and help him grow. It is they, mothers, who most hate war, which kills their children. Many times I have thought of those mothers who receive the letter: “I inform you that your son has fallen in defense of his homeland…”. The poor women! How a mother suffers! It is they who testify to the beauty of life. Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero said that mothers experience a “martyrdom of motherhood”. In the homily for the funeral of a priest assassinated by death squads, he said, recalling the Second Vatican Council: “We must be ready to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not grant us this honor…. Giving one’s life does not only mean being killed; giving one’s life, having the spirit of a martyr, it is in giving in duty, in silence, in prayer, in honest fulfillment of his duty; in that silence of daily life; giving one’s life little by little. Yes, like it is given by a mother, who without fear and with the simplicity of the martyrdom of motherhood, conceives a child in her womb, gives birth to him, nurses him, helps them grow and cares for them with affection. She gives her life. That’s martyrdom”. End quote. Yes, being a mother doesn’t only mean bringing a child to the world, but it is also a life choice. What does a mother choose, what is the life choice of a mother? The life choice of a mother is the choice to give life. And this is great, this is beautiful.
A society without mothers would be a dehumanized society, for mothers are always, even in the worst moments, witnesses of tenderness, dedication and moral strength. Mothers often pass on the deepest sense of religious practice: in a human being’s life, the value of faith is inscribed in the first prayers, the first acts of devotion that a child learns. It is a message that believing mothers are able to pass on without much explanation: these come later, but the seed of faith is those early precious moments. Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth. And the Church is mother, with all of this, she is our mother! We are not orphans, we have a mother! Our Lady, mother Church, is our mom. We are not orphans, we are children of the Church, we are children of Our Lady, and we are children of our mothers.
Dearest mothers, thank you, thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world. And to you, beloved Church, thank you, thank you for being mother. And to you, Mary, Mother of God, thank you for letting us see Jesus. And thank you for all the mammas present here: let us salute them with a round of applause!
Bishop Scharfenberger has asked all of the faithful to assist with the recovery efforts of the Nepalese who have suffered an horrendous earthquake last week. Throughout the month of May, we will be accepting donations–both monetary and prayerful–to be forwarded to Catholic Relief Services. Simply write your check to our parish and put “Nepal Earthquake” in the memo section and drop it in any collection basket (or in the mail). At the end of the month, we will forward a check from our parish to assist the recovery efforts aimed at serving the people of Nepal in this time of great need.
We pray for all those affected by the earthquake in Nepal as we offer the words of the psalmist, “Be strong and take heart, all who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:25).
May those who are paralyzed by fear …Be strong and take heart
May those who have lost or are still searching for loved ones …Be strong and take heart
May those who remain trapped under rubble …Be strong and take heart
May those rescue workers who provide relief and recovery …Be strong and take heart
May those who are moved with compassion to help …Be strong and take heart
God, whose love knows no bounds, fill all those who suffer with your comfort and peace. We ask all this through Christ, our Lord.
(click HERE for a downloadable prayer card)
Our own Caroline Cleveland is featured in the May 4, 2015 issue of People magazine for her courageous service in the US Army and her work with Special Ops in Afghanistan. Home safe now, click HERE to read about some of her experiences.
And Caroline, thanks so much for your service to all of us and our country!