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Church is House, School of Prayer – Pope Francis

… Approves Early Ordination For Sick Seminarian

… Explains Why We Must Always Show Mercy 

Continuing his catechesis on Christian prayer at the weekly General Audience in the Vatican, Pope Francis explains that prayer belongs to the very essence of the Church, without which she cannot carry out her evangelising mission and service to others.

In his Catechesis at Wednesday’s General Audience, the Pope explained how the Church is a great school of prayer. As children, he said, we learn our first prayers on the laps of grandparents and parents, who also give their advice inspired by the Gospel. Later, the experience of faith and prayer is deepened through encounters with other witnesses and teachers of prayer, such as in the life of a parish and every Christian community which is marked by liturgical and community prayer.

Prayer and difficulties of life

“The garment of faith,” the Pope said, “is not starched, but develops with us.” It is not rigid, it grows, even through moments of crisis and resurrection. And “you cannot grow without moments of crisis, because crisis makes you grow.”

He continued, “And the breath of faith is prayer: we grow in faith inasmuch as we learn to pray.” After certain moments in life, we become aware that without faith we could not have made it through and that our strength was prayer. We realize that not only personal prayer, but also that of our brothers, sisters and the community, whom we requested, also accompanied and supported us.”

Community and prayer

The Pope explained, “This is also why communities and groups dedicated to prayer flourish in the Church. Monasteries, convents, hermitages often become centres of spiritual light, small oases in which intense prayer is shared and fraternal communion is constructed day by day.” The Pope said, “They are cells that are vital not only for the ecclesial fabric, but that of society itself.” In this regard, he recalled the role of monasticism in the birth and growth of European civilization as well as other cultures. “Praying and working in community keeps the world going. It is a motor.”

“Everything in the Church,” the Pope continued, “originates in prayer and everything grows thanks to prayer.” He pointed out that certain groups while carrying out reforms and changes in the Church, put great effort in terms of organization and the media but prayer is sometimes missing. “Prayer,” the Pope said, “is what opens the door to the Holy Spirit, which is what inspires us to go forward.” He continued, “Changes in the Church without prayer are not Church changes, they are group changes. And when the Enemy wants to fight the Church, he does so, first of all, by trying to dry up its sources, by preventing it from praying, and [inducing it to] make these other proposals.” When prayer ceases,  he said, “the Church realizes it has become like an empty shell, lost its bearings and no longer has its source of warmth and love.”

Prayer – oil for the lamp of faith

The Pope pointed out that holy women and men also have problems in their lives, and often face opposition. “But their strength is prayer” through which they nourish the flame of their faith, like oil used for lamps. Thus, they move ahead walking in faith and hope, “not with the weapons of money and power, or of the media and the like, but with the weapon of prayer.”

Evangelization and service

“In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus poses a dramatic question that always makes us reflect,” the Pope said: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” Or, the Pope asked, “will He only find organizations, like a group of ‘faith entrepreneurs,’ all well organized, doing charity and many things?” That, he said, is why Jesus insists on the “need to pray with perseverance without getting tired.” Hence, “the lamp of faith will always be lit on earth as long as there is the oil of prayer.”   

The Pope said it is prayer that carries forward our prayer and our poor, weak, sinful life with certainty. Therefore, Christians should ask themselves whether they pray and how they pray. “Do I pray like a parrot or from the heart? Do I pray feeling part of the Church and praying for its needs, or do I pray a little according to my needs, letting my ideas become prayer,” the Pope asked. “This is pagan prayer, not Christian prayer,” he said.

The essential task of the Church, then, is to pray and to teach how to pray, transmitting “the lamp of faith and the oil of prayer from generation to generation.” Without the light of this lamp, he said evangelization would not be possible and we would not be able to draw near and serve our brothers and sisters. “For this reason,” the Pope said, “the Church, as the house and school of communion, is the house and school of prayer.” 

Pope approves early ordination for seminarian sick with Leukemia

A young Nigerian religious, Livinius Nnamani, was ordained a priest on 1 April in Rome, after Pope Francis gave his approval for the seminarian’s early ordination. The recently-ordained priest suffers from Leukemia, a cancer of blood cells.

A Nigerian religious, Livinius Esomchi Nnamani, who suffers from Leukemia, has been ordained to the Catholic priesthood with the approval of Pope Francis.

The 31-year-old had written to the Holy Father requesting to move forward his ordination, and was granted his wish on 1 April. Bishop Daniele Libanori, an Auxiliary bishop of Rome, ordained Livinius a priest at the Presidio Sanitario Medica Group Casilino Hospital in Rome.

Fr. Livinius’ story

Recently-ordained Fr. Livinius began his vocation journey in Owerri, Imo state, in Southeastern Nigeria, when he entered the Order of the Mother of God, aged 20.

Shortly after his first vows, Livinius was diagnosed with Leukemia, setting off a challenging period of therapies and treatments for the young religious. Two years ago, he was sent to Italy in search of better healthcare and to continue his studies.

Notwithstanding the grueling transfusions and targeted treatments, Livinius continued his studies at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, better known as the Angelicum, and pronounced his final vows last September.

However, as the illness progressed, he started to spend longer periods in hospital, and his desire to complete his formation to the priesthood began to look more uncertain.

Consequently, Livinius made the decision to write to Pope Francis, asking him to bring forward his ordination. The reply came quickly on 31 March: Pope Francis gave his permission. The following day, Livinius was ordained a priest.

The gift of priesthood

“With this gift,” Bishop Libanori said during his homily, “God the Father wants to sustain you so that you can fully live the trial to which he called you.”

“As a priest, you will be joined with Jesus to make your body an offering pleasing to God. Our priesthood, indeed, reaches its peak when together with the bread and wine, we know how to offer all of ourselves, the things the Lord has given us, and our very lives.”

Presently, Fr. Livinius has begun his priestly ministry at the Casilino hospital, where he gives his blessing to the doctors and nurses who care for him and other patients on a daily basis.

 

Pope: “Having Received Mercy, Let Us Now Become Merciful”

On the feast of Divine Mercy on Sunday, Pope Francis urges Christians to open themselves to Christ’s mercy, which He grants through peace, forgiveness, and His wounds. In turn, they are asked to share this mercy with others.

“Let us be renewed by the peace, forgiveness, and wounds of the merciful Jesus. Let us ask for the grace to become witnesses of mercy. Only in this way will our faith be alive and our lives unified. Only in this way will we proclaim the Gospel of God, which is the Gospel of mercy.” This is the exhortation that Pope Francis offered in his homily at Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday, which is celebrated on the second Sunday of Easter. 

“For if love is only about us, faith becomes arid, barren and sentimental. Without others, faith becomes disembodied. Without works of mercy, it dies,” the Pope said. He celebrated the Mass at the 16th century Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, close to the Vatican, which St. Pope John Paul II in 1994 designated as the official Divine Mercy church in Rome. 

In keeping with Covid-19 health protocols, only some 80 people were permitted within the Church for the Mass. They included male and female prison inmates, nurses, disabled persons, refugees, a migrant family, and some ‘Missionaries of Mercy’ priests concelebrating with the Pope at the altar. However, the Mass was telecast and streamed live on social media to allow wider participation.

Pope Francis began his homily by recalling how the risen Jesus brings about “the resurrection of the disciples” by raising their spirits and changing their lives. He does this with mercy. “Having received that mercy, they become merciful in turn,” the Pope said. They receive mercy from Him through three gifts: peace, the Spirit, and His wounds.

Peace

After the death of Jesus, the Pope explained, the disciples were huddled in a room, trapped in futility and full of remorse for having abandoned and denied their Lord. But Jesus arrives and greets them with, “Peace be with you!” The Pope said Jesus “does not bring a peace that removes the problems without, but one that infuses trust within. It is no outward peace, but peace of heart.” He explained, “The peace of Jesus made them pass from remorse to mission.” The peace of Jesus that awakens mission, the Pope continued, “entails not ease and comfort, but the challenge to break out of ourselves,” from the self-absorption that paralyzes, and from the bonds that keep the heart imprisoned. The disciples realized that God did not condemn or demean them, but instead believed in them; as St. John Henry Newman put it, “He loves us better than we love ourselves.”

Forgiveness through Holy Spirit 

The second way Jesus shows mercy, the Pope said, is by bestowing the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. By ourselves, he said, we cannot remove sin and its guilt. “Only God takes it away, only He by His mercy can make us emerge from the depths of our misery.” Hence, “we need to let ourselves be forgiven.”

“Forgiveness in the Holy Spirit is the Easter gift that enables our interior resurrection,” the Pope said, urging Christians to ask for the grace to “embrace the Sacrament of forgiveness.” “Confession,” he said, “is not about ourselves and our sins, but about God and His mercy.” “Confession is the Sacrament of resurrection, pure mercy,” the Pope said, urging all those who hear confessions to convey the sweetness of mercy.

Wounds of Jesus

Lastly, Jesus heals us with mercy by making our wounds His own and by bearing our weaknesses in His own body, Pope Francis said. The wounds of Jesus are “open channels between Him and us, shedding mercy upon our misery.” “They are pathways that God has opened up for us to enter into His tender love and actually ‘touch’ who He is.” “This,” the Pope said, happens at every Mass, where Jesus offers us His wounded and risen Body.” As the day’s Gospel episode of the doubting Thomas points out, “we discover God; we realize how close He is to us and we are moved to exclaim, ‘My Lord and my God!’” The grace of receiving mercy, he said, is the starting-point of our Christian journey. “Only if we accept the love of God, will we be able to offer something new to the world.”

Receiving and giving mercy

And this is what the disciples did, the Pope said pointing to the Acts of the Apostles. “Receiving mercy, they, in turn, became merciful.” No one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common, which the Pope stressed is pure Christianity, not Communism. Their fears had been dispelled by touching the Lord’s wounds, and now they are unafraid to heal the wounds of those in need.

The Pope concluded, urging all not to remain indifferent. “Having received mercy, let us now become merciful,” he said.

Divine Mercy Sunday in the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia

The feast of Divine Mercy has come into the liturgical calendar recently. A Polish nun, Saint Faustina Kowalska, who died in 1938, was an apostle of the devotion to Divine Mercy. During the course of revelations to her, Jesus asked on numerous occasions that a feast day be dedicated to Divine Mercy, and that this feast be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. 

The liturgical texts of the Second Sunday of Easter already concern the institution of the Sacrament of Penance, the Tribunal of the Divine Mercy, and thus are already suited the request of Jesus.  This feast, which had previously been granted to the nation of Poland and been celebrated within Vatican City, was extended to the Universal Church by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the canonization of St Faustina on 30 April 2000. Later, in a decree dated 23 May 2000, the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments stated that “throughout the world, the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday.”

 

Pope: St Teresa of Ávila Shows Importance Of Women in Church and Society

Pope Francis marks the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of Saint Teresa of Ávila as a Doctor of the Church, and stresses her importance even today, especially in highlighting the role of women in the Church and in society.

Opening his message to Archbishop Gil Tamayo of Ávila, Spain, Pope Francis noted that St Teresa was the first woman to become a Doctor of the Church.

He said the title was a recognition of the “precious teaching that God has transmitted to us through her writings and the testimony of her life.” 

Fifty years ago, on 27 September 1970, Pope St Paul VI conferred the title of Doctor of the Church on St. Teresa of Ávila.

The Catholic University of Ávila, which is dedicated to the Spanish mystic, is celebrating this historic anniversary with an international congress entitled “Exceptional woman,” as Pope Paul VI described her himself. It runs until 15 April. 

Courageous witness, able to break down walls

Saint Teresa was born in 1515 and died in 1582. Pope Francis wrote in his message that even now, nearly half a millenium since her death, wrote that “the flame that Jesus lit in Teresa continues to shine in this world, always in need of courageous witnesses, capable of breaking down any wall, whether physical, existential or cultural.” 

He also cited her intelligence and tenacity, which she joined to “a sensitivity to beauty and a spiritual motherhood toward all those who approached her work.”

The Pope added that she was an example of the “extraordinary role that women have played throughout history in the Church and in society.”

A message for those seeking purification

Saint Teresa of Ávila still speaks to us today, thanks to her writings.

Pope Francis noted that her message and example are for everyone, “for those who feel the call to religious life,” but also “for all those who wish to progress on the path of purification from all worldliness, which leads to union with God, to the lofty abodes of the interior castle.”

“Having her as a friend companion and guide in our earthly pilgrimage confers security and tranquility,” he said. 

The Pope concluded his message by recalling Teresa’s great devotion to St. Joseph and by encouraging all the faithful to continue to look deeper into her message and teachings.

 

Pope Returns To His Window Overlooking the Square for Regina Coeli

From Sunday, 18 April, Pope Francis will be back at his window overlooking St Peter’s Square for the recitation of the Regina Coeli.

Sunday, 18 April, will see Pope Francis,  once again, after various closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, reappearing at the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square, to lead the recitation of the Regina Coeli prayer with the faithful gathered in the Square.

The fluctuating course of the pandemic and the precautionary measures taken by the Italian government to curb the spread of the virus, have resulted in the Pope connecting in many occasions with the faithful exclusively through the media, from the Library of the Apostolic Palace.

In recent weeks, the window stayed closed on 21 March and on 5 April, while the Pope chose to recite the Angelus at the conclusion of Palm Sunday Mass on 28 March inside St. Peter’s Basilica, and last Sunday’s Regina Caeli in the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, on the Feast of Divine Mercy.

Last year’s first lockdown kept the faithful away from Bernini’s colonnade between 8 March and 24 May, with the Pope leading Sunday prayers via live streaming from the Library of the Apostolic Palace. After that, Francis reappeared at the window for a few months until 20 December, when a new closure was ordered until 7 February. This was followed by a brief reopening until 14 March and finally, yet another closure until 21 March.

Pope Francis leads the faithful in the recitation of the Regina Coeli, following Mass in the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. 

‘Mercy Made Tangible’: Pope Greets Faithful at Regina Coeli

Following the Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis led the faithful in the recitation of the Regina Coeli.

Ahead of the Marian prayer, he greeted those taking part in the Mass through the various forms of media.

The Holy Father also offered special greetings to those present in the Church, including the regular faithful, nurses, inmates, people with disabilities, refugees and migrants, civil protection volunteers, and Hospitaller Sisters of Mercy.

“You represent some of the situations in which mercy is made tangible,” the Pope said. “It becomes closeness, service, care for those in difficulty.”

Returning to a theme introduced in his homily during the Mass, Pope Francis said, “I hope that you will always feel you have been granted mercy so as to be merciful to other in turn.” He concluded his brief remarks with the prayer, “May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, obtain this grace for us all.


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