The Church and Women

I love this photo. Why? Because it shows our new pope washing the feet of both women and men on Holy Thursday. 

Catholics of a certain stripe look for holiness in anything that diminishes women. Righteousness is wanting to do away with altar girls, ending the service of women readers and extraordinary eucharistic ministers. These same folk are adamant that only people with y chromosomes should have their feet washed by a priest on Holy Thursday.

In each of these cases, they will insist that no, absolutely not, misogyny has nothing to do with their insistence that women’s participation in the life of the Church be diminished to spectator and held there. No. They are only making these claims because their liturgical/doctrinal/moral purity commands that they, “in charity,” do so.

After all, they tell you, we have a priest shortage, and the precipitous drop in vocations correlates to the use of female altar servers. Ergo, the presence of girls near the altar is what’s causing the priest shortage. As for women readers and female extraordinary eucharistic ministers … well … women, reading Scripture? Out Loud? Near the Altar? And women, touching the Host. Ewwwww. Then there’s the ugliness over foot washing on Holy Thursday. Everyone knows that when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He did it as part of instituting the priesthood, and the priesthood is all male. Sooooo … no foot washing of female feet on Holy Thursday.

Notice how these various excuses seek to sidestep the fact that every single one of them is aimed at women? Notice also, that every single one of them is an I-am-more-Catholic-than-the-popism?

 

Let’s take these arguments one at a time, starting with everybody’s favorite; altar girls = falling vocations. There is a historical correlation between the time that girls were allowed to be altar servers and the beginning of the drop in vocations to the priesthood. However, correlations are always a bogus argument for cause. Here’s why. A correlation simply shows that two events occur near one another. The Encyclical Humanae Vitae also correlates historically to the fall in vocations. By this logic, I could claim that it was the cause. Or, for that matter, Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency correlates. Maybe that did it.

Correlations do not signify cause.

One possible cause of falling vocations that I can think of is linked to that 400 pound gorilla in the room that unwritten rules say we shouldn’t talk about. The percentage of homosexual men in the priesthood appears to have risen during these years. Homosexuals are a much smaller pool of possible applicants from which to draw vocations than the entire male Catholic population. In addition to that, as the stigma against homosexuality goes away, homosexual men have lots of other options. I am not writing this to start an attack on homosexual priests. I am writing it to explain why blaming the priest shortage on altar girls is nonsense.

Let’s look at the next argument against women actively taking part in the life of the Church: Women near the altar, or touching the host = something unclean. I hardly know how to address this argument. It is so obviously misogynist and, well, crude, that it baffles me how people who believe it can convince themselves to believe it. A woman reading the scriptures is bad? A woman extraordinary eucharistic minister defiles the Host? Did Jesus despise half the people He made? I think not.

Next, let’s go to the question of washing women’s feet on Holy Thursday. You know: Washing women’s feet on Holy Thursday = heresy or some such. To talk about this intelligently, we need to pause for a moment and consider where the custom of Holy Thursday foot washing came from. It began when Jesus washed the disciples feet at the Last Supper.

 

“Do you know what I have done to you?” Jesus asked the apostles after he washed their feet. “I have given you an example to follow.” 

He said this to men who, not so long before, were arguing about who was going to be greatest in His coming Kingdom. They didn’t get it. After three years of watching Him talk to the woman at the well, refuse to condemn the woman taken in adultery, teaching Mary and Martha and obeying His Mother at the wedding at Cana, they still didn’t get it.

He came for the least of these. And in all the world, no one is more consistently the least of these than women. Every society has it’s discriminated against. But no matter who else falls to the bottom of things, in every society, there is also always women who are beaten, raped, murdered, bought, sold and belittled from birth to death.

“Do you know what I have done to you?”  He instituted the priesthood that night, and by washing their feet, he was teaching them to be priests. “I have given you an example to follow,” He told them. 

The people who are so adamant that no woman’s foot should be washed base their argument on the fact that Jesus instituted the priesthood that night. In some translations, the Scriptures say, “… now you should wash one another’s feet.” These folks try to take that literally, without taking it too literally. It means, they say, no women. But, if you really want to be literal about it, it means only the Apostles. Taken that far, we would probably have bishops, washing each other’s feet in a room by themselves and that would be Holy Thursday.

Does anybody think that’s what Jesus intended?

I think that if you want to follow the spirit of the act, you should probably go out on the streets and bring in homeless people, drug addicts and prostitutes and wash their feet. I think what Jesus was trying to tell the apostles — and us — is that they were wrong when they argued over who would be greatest in His Kingdom. They were wrong when they thought that they were following a Teacher Who would give them the power to lord it over all the rest of humanity. He wasn’t making them kings. He was making them servants.

He was also teaching us, all of us who take His name, that we should be servants. Washing feet on Holy Thursday is a testament of humility on the part of the priesthood of Christ. it is an action of profound meaning that tells all of us what the priesthood is and who it serves. When your parish priest goes down on his knees and washes and kisses the feet of twelve of his parishioners, he is acting out the meaning of the priesthood itself. He is demonstrating what in persona Christi means.

“Feed my sheep,” Jesus told Peter. He didn’t say feed my rams. He also didn’t say feed my ewes. He said feed them all, male and female, young and old, weak and strong, without discrimination or turning any of them away.

Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of all people, everywhere. In my humble and theologically ignorant opinion, if you don’t “get” that, then you don’t “get” Jesus. If you don’t understand that to your core, then you have never met the Lord I encountered on that day long ago when I said, “Forgive me.”

Do you know what I have done to you, he asked. I have given you an example to follow. 

I Think This is Wonderful!

 

I don’t have a lot to say about this for now — I’ll probably get around to saying quite a lot later — but I think it’s wonderful.

I love our Pope!

From Vatican Information Service:

FRANCIS WILL SAY HOLY THURSDAY MASS IN A ROMAN PRISON

Vatican City, 21 March 2013 (VIS) – On Holy Thursday, 28 March, the Holy Father Francis will celebrate the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning and then, at 5:30pm in the afternoon, will go to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Casal del Marmo youth detention centre instead of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, where it had been traditionally held in past years.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is characterized by the announcement of the commandment of love and the gesture of washing the feet. In his ministry as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio used to celebrate the Mass in a prison or hospital or hospice for the poor and marginalized. With this celebration at Casal del Marmo, Pope Francis will continue his custom, which is characterized by its humble context. (Read the rest here.)

You’re Pope Francis? Well, then, I’m Napoleon!

Andreas, the Jesuit receptionist must have a short fuse.

At least it appears he does considering his quick response to what he thought was a crank caller. It was an understandable mistake. After all, everybody knows that popes don’t dial their own phones. According to a Vatican official, “When the pope wants to call someone, an official usually calls a secretary who places the call.”

That’s the way things have always been.

Until now.

Francis, the black-shoe-wearing-hotel-bill-paying Pope is also a telephone-call-making Pope. He phoned a Jesuit residence in Rome last Friday wanting to speak to the superior general of his old Jesuit order.

The man who answered the phone, who has been identified only as Andreas, wasn’t about to be pranked. “Oh yes?” he said to the Pope. “And I’m Napoleon.”

Then he asked, “Who is it?”

When the Holy Father answered, “I really am Pope Francis. Do not worry Andreas, just connect me with the Father General. I would like to thank him for the charming letter.” Andreas seemed to figure things out. After all, who else talks like that? He apologized, and according to an article in the Mail, is now “extremely distraught” over his mistake.

After watching Pope Francis in action this past week, I doubt that Andreas has anything to worry about. I would guess that a black-shoe-wearing-hotel-bill-paying-phone-call-making Pope is not all that easily offended.

How Do You Do Lent in a Time of Feasting?

It’s still Lent.

We’ve got a week and a half of the deepest, darkest passage in human history to relive. Jesus arrested, betrayed, beaten, tortured, shamed and murdered; that’s what lies ahead of us in these next days.

We are approaching the depths of Lent; the remembrance of humanity’s greatest crime against innocence in the flesh. And we are almost there.

But how do you do lent in a time of feasting? 

Last week, the Papal Conclave elected the first non-European pope in 1200 years, the first American pope and the first Jesuit pope in history. That conclave turned the Catholic world upside down … and left it unchanged.

Pope Francis is the continuation of an unbroken line of popes going back to the moment when Jesus said “I will call you Peter.” The Church as a conduit of grace, a connection to the divine and a highway to heaven is untouched, unchanged and unchangeable. Despite the rancorous demands from some quarters that the Church re-write 2,000 years of Christian teaching to excuse the fashionable sins of our day, it will never do that. It has never done that; not for kings and princes, not for tanks and guns.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His Church, despite its human failings, is like Him in that. Nothing that matters, nothing that’s central to what the Church is, changes, has changed, or will change.

Last week, we elected a pope. Yesterday, he celebrated his inaugural mass. It has been a week of spiritual feasting, a time to get drunk on the Spirit and wave flags, cheer and experience the jubilation of this proof of His continued presence in our lives.

How do we come down from that to Passion Week and the awful reality of the crucifixion? 

Perhaps, we do it the same way Peter, James and John did when they came down from the mount of Transfiguration. They saw something that no one had ever seen before or since, at least not in this life. They saw the transfigured Christ in His glory, conversing with Moses and Elijah — the law and the prophets. They saw the promise of what is to come, of the meaning on the other side of the cross that they were to preach for the rest of their days.

We saw a glimpse of that same promise in this election and inauguration. Not the transfiguration, of course, but the promise of what it meant when Jesus told us “I am with you until the end of the world.” He was promising us that when we are lost, He will call us without ceasing. When we are found, He will walk with us through whatever we must face. He will speak to us through the Holy Spirit in our deepest hearts. He will come to us in the Eucharist and forgive us in confession. In all the years of our lives, he will never leave us without a shepherd to guide us and teach us and show us the way to Him.

This past week of two living popes and one unchanging church has not been the same mountain-top view of the Transfiguration that the three chosen Apostles experienced. But it has been the Transfiguration that the whole wide world needed at this time in history.

Now, we must, as the Apostles had to, come down from the mountaintop and turn our faces toward Jerusalem. It is Lent, and the way we do Lent in a time of feasting is to face the magnitude of our sins and the unbelievable mercy that God has shown us.

This year, like no other, we have been given our own view of Transfiguration.

 

The Malarky About St Malachy

But about that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Jesus Christ

Your personal end of time is coming right at you.

Maybe that’s why people are so fascinated with any “end of time” prophecy they hear about. They know that their end of time will occur on that unknown but absolutely certain day when they die. They’d rather not have to face that day alone. They want the whole wide world to go with them.

My advice to people is to stop worrying about end of time prophecies and make sure that you are right with God today and every day. No end of time prophecy will be accurate. Jesus said so. He told us that no one knows the day or the hour. If you believe Jesus, then believe that. No. One. Knows.

The latest end of time babble centers around the supposed prophecies of St Malachy. Supposedly, St Malachy made a prophecy almost 1,000 years ago in which he detailed every pope up until now. He further said that “the last pope” would be — you guessed it — the one we just elected. This supposed prophesy is enough to send chills of delight up and down the spines of the oogidy-boogidy crowd. It also sets the typing fingers working on every pundit who’s looking for a story.

St Malachy was a real person and he is a real saint. But these so-called prophecies are, like every other end-of-time, the-anti-christ-is-coming fad we latch onto, malarky. 

We have enough problems — real ones — to deal with as Christians. Let’s get to work on them.

Here’s a brief summary of the life of St Malachy from The Catholic Encyclopedia. Notice that it says the real St Malachy had the “gift of prophecy.” I don’t know what the means exactly, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean soothsayer.

St. Malachy, whose family name was O’Morgair, was born in Armagh n 1094. St. Bernard describes him as of noble birth.

He was baptized Maelmhaedhoc (a name which has been Latinized as Malachy) and was trained under Imhar O’Hagan, subsequently Armagh. After a long course of studies/ by St. Cellach (Celsus) in 1119. In order to perfect himself in sacred liturgy and theology, he proceeded to Lismore, where he spent nearly two years under St. Malchus. He was then chosen Abbot of Bangor, in 1123. A year later, he was consecrated Bishop of Connor, and, in 1132, he was promoted to Armagh. St. Bernard gives us many interesting anecdotes regarding St. Malachy, and highly praises his zeal for religion both in Connor and Armagh. In 1127 he paid a second visit to Lismore and acted for a time as confessor to Cormac MacCarthy, Prince of Desmond. While Bishop, he continued to reside at Bangor, and when some of the native princes sacked Connor, he brought the Bangor monks to Iveragh, County Kerry, where they were welcomed by King Cormac. On the death of St. Celsus 1129, St. Malachy was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in 1132, which dignity he accepted with great reluctance. Owing to intrigues, he was unable to take possession of his see for two years; even then he had to purchase the Bachal Isu (Staff of Jesus) from Niall, the usurping lay primate.

During three years at Armagh, as St. Bernard writes, St. Malachy restored the discipline of the Church, grown lax during the intruded rule of a series of lay-abbots, and had the Roman Liturgy adopted.

St. Bernard continues: Having extirpated barbarism and re-established Christian morals, seeing all things tranquil he began to think of his own peace. He therefore resigned Armagh, in 1138, and returned to Connor, dividing the see into Down and Connor, retaining the former. He founded a priory of Austin Canons at Downpatrick, and was unceasing in his episcopal labours.

Early in 1139 he journeyed to Rome, Scotland, England,and France, visiting St. Bernard at Clairvaux. He petitioned Pope Innocent for palliums for the Sees of Armagh and Cashel, and was appointed legate for Ireland. On his return visit to Clairvaux he obtained five monks for a foundation in Ireland, under Christian, an Irishman, as superior: thus arose the great Abbey of Mellifont in 1142. St. Malachy set out on a second journey to Rome in 1148, but on arriving at Clairvaux he fell sick, and died in the arms of St. Bernard, on 2 November. Numerous miracles are recorded of him, and he was also endowed with the gift prophecy. St. Malachy was canonized by Pope Clement (III) on 6 July, 1199, and his feast is celebrated on 3 November.Here from The Bible Probe, is a short list of some of St Malachy’s “prophecies” about “the last pope.” This stuff has people who enjoy speculation about “the end days” enthralled. But from what I see here, you could make anybody fit these prophecies, including me, my Aunt Mattie and my cat. All we’d have to do is be elected pope, then you could rummage around in our lives and situations for something that might be stretched to the point that we could claim it “fulfilled” the “prophecy.”

St Malachy’s Prophecies – The Last 10 Popes The Burning Fire. PIUS X. 1903-1914. This Pope showed a burning passion for spiritual renewal in the Church./p> <Religion Laid Waste (Religio Depopulata). BENEDICT XV. 1914-1922. Unfortunately, this was true.  During this Pope’s reign saw Communism move into Russia where religious life was laid waste, and World War I with the death of millions of Christians who were carnage in Flanders Field and elsewhere. Unshaken Faith. >PIUS XI. 1922-1939. This Pope faced tremendous pressure from fascist and sinister powers in Germany and Italy, but he was an outspoken critic of Communism and Fascism which enraged Hitler. An Angelic Shepherd. PIUS XII. 1939-1958. This Pope had an affinity for the spiritual world and received visions which have not been made public. Peter Bander says Pius XII “has emerged as one of the great Popes of all time,” and he “was in the truest sense of the word an Angelic Pastor to the flock…” Pastor and Mariner. JOHN XXIII. 1958-1963. ” Pastor et Nauta” or “Pastor and sailor”. John was a pastor to the world, much beloved, and the Patriarch of Venice. The connection to “mariner” is thus remarkable. According to Peter Bander in The Prophecies of Malachy (TAN Books and Publisher, 1969 during the conclave which was to elect John XXIII in 1958, a certain Cardinal from the United States, (Cardinal Spellman of New York) evidently having taken Malachy’s forecast that the next pope would be “pastor and mariner” literally, rented a boat, filled it with sheep and sailed up and down the Tiber.6.  Flower of Flowers. “Flos Florum” AUL VI. 1963-1978. Paul’s coat-of-arms depicts three fleurs-de-lis, corresponding to Malachy’s prophecy. His coat of arms included three fleurs-de-lis (iris blossoms).  At the popular and controversial site of Garabandal in Spain, a seer named Conchita Gonzalez once noted: “The Blessed Virgin said in 1962 that there will only be two more popes after Paul VI.” Of the Half Moon. “De Medietate Lanae,” or “from the half moon” JOHN PAUL I. 1978-1978. John Paul I was elected Pope on August 26, 1978, when there was a half moon. He reigned 33 days, that is, about one month, when he died, although many think he was murdered. He was the 109th Pope – is “De Medietate Lunae” (Of the Half Moon). The corresponding pope was John Paul I (1978-78), who was born in the diocese of Belluno (beautiful moon) and was baptized Albino Luciani which means white light, such as that given off by the half-moon in Malachy s prophecy. He became pope on August 26, 1978, when the moon appeared exactly half full. It was in its waning phase. He died the following month, soon after an eclipse of the moon. The Labor of the Son. “De Medietate Lunae” JOHN PAUL II. 1978-2005  Amazingly, Pope John Paul II was the only pope who was both born the day of an eclipse of the sun, and entombed the day the sun was eclipsed. The Glory of the Olive. The Order of St. Benedict has said this Pope will come from their order. It is interesting that Jesus gave his apocalyptic prophecy about the end of time from the Mount of Olives.    PETER THE ROMAN - The 112th prophesy states: “In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Petrus Romanus, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations; after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people. The End.” The last pope may just cut Catholics loose from unity and the papacy, causing total disruption and confusion. See Saint Francis of Assissi’s 13th century prophecy below.  It is believed the next pope will be the last pope.

A Wee Bit About the Papal Ring

My most cherished piece of jewelry is my wedding ring. 

It’s a wide, gold band and I’ve worn it for decades now. I like the symbolism of a band, without jewels, because (to me at least) it signifies my love unbroken love for my wonderful husband.

The Papal Ring is a powerful symbol of love, also. It signifies the love and leadership of Christ in our lives, reflected in the person of the pope.

This video gives a few details about papal rings. It’s also humorous, coming as it does from the days immediately before Pope Francis was elected.

Enjoy.

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The Lord Loves Us So Much, He Gave Us This Immense Gift

“The Lord loves us so much, He gave us this immense gift.”

That’s how retired Cardinal Estanisiao Karlic of Argentina describes the election of his friend, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to the Papacy.

Cardinal Karlic says that Pope Francis “carries in his heart the message of the Gospel so that it be spread throughout the world and received by all men and women, that it may infuse in us a missionary and evangelical spirit, to the ends of the earth, such that there be no place in the world where the name of Jesus is not heard.”

 

The Holy Father “is a very simple man” who is “capable of confronting the simplest and also the most complex of issues,” Cardinal Karlic continued.

“He is a man of reflection who puts his wisdom into action. He did so first in leading the Jesuits, later in the Diocese of Buenos Aires, and now in leading the Church as the Supreme Pontiff.”

.- The retired cardinal of Parana, Argentina, described his friend Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio – now Pope Francis – as an able pastor with the heart of a missionary.

In an interview with CNA, Cardinal Estanislao Esteban Karlic said it was a “huge surprise” to see his friend appear on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica dressed in white.

“The Lord loves us so much, he gave us this immense gift.”

“I pray to God that I will not forget that moment so that I can thank him and so that I can pray for our beloved brother Jorge whom we will now call Francis,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Karlic said Pope Francis will help everyone “understand once again that we all have something to give to others, we all have something to receive from others.”

This is true, he said, “because the truth of God, of the Church, of humanity, is communion among those who love each other as brothers and sisters, as individuals, as families, as nations.”

The Holy Father “is a very simple man” who is “capable of confronting the simplest and also the most complex of issues,” Cardinal Karlic continued.

“He is a man of reflection who puts his wisdom into action. He did so first in leading the Jesuits, later in the Diocese of Buenos Aires, and now in leading the Church as the Supreme Pontiff.” (Read the rest here.)

Holy Father’s Inauguration: Videos of the Day

It was a historic day in Rome!

Once again, I wish so much that I could have been there. It’s hard, being tied down with a job, isn’t it? But then, jobs that pay the bills and provide meaningful work are blessings in themselves.

Since I couldn’t be there and film with my own camera, I trolled for videos that would capture the day for all of us. My personal favorite is when the Holy Father stopped the procession and got out of the Popemobile to bless a disabled man. Look at the expression on that man’s face. It says it all.

Here, for your enjoyment, are a few videos that I hope help you feel as if you were there.

Pope Francis receives the Papal Ring. 

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Pope Francis delivers Inaugural Mass homily.

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Pope Francis greets pilgrims after Inaugural Mass.

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Festive atmosphere at St Peter’s 

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Pope leaves popemobile to bless disabled man before Inaugural Mass

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Pope’s Inaugural Homily Calls the World to the Vocation of Protector


Pope Francis was inaugurated today with a simple mass the reflected what we have already begun to realize is his way of doing things.

As many as 200,000 people attended the mass. Meanwhile, millions of others watched around the globe, including an enthusiastic crowd who watched on giant tv screens in the Plaza di Mayo in Buenos Aires.

“I want to ask you a favor. I want to ask you to walk together and to take care of one another. And don’t forget that this bishop who is very far away loves you very much. Pray for me.” the Holy Father told them in a phone call that was transmitted over loud speakers to the crowd.

During his homily today, Pope Francis spoke about Joseph, drawing a touching parallel between Joseph’s role as protector of the Mary and the child Jesus and his own role as Pope. It also extends this role to all of us, as well.

Here are a few excerpts:

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own.

The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; …

 … It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.

It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness.

In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.

The full text of his homily, from Vatican radio, is below.

Read it and rejoice! Habemus paper — Francisco!

(Vatican Radio) Homily of the Holy Father at the Inauguration of his Papal Ministry 19 March 2013:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.

I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.

In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1)

How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!

The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!

Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!

In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.

To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!

I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.

Sources for this post are here, here.

Pope Francis: Is This Seat Taken?

Tomorrow is inauguration day for Pope Francis. The ceremony will take place amid the pomp and splendor of a 2,000-year-old Church. The whole world will watch.

What sort of person is this man who will wear the shoes of Peter?

Evidently, some people are flummoxed because Pope Francis has been photographed wearing ordinary black shoes, and rather worn ones at that. Where, they ask, are the red shoes that signify the Apostolic succession? When I read the — to me — stunning amount of verbiage they are churning out over the shoes, I start feeling flummoxed myself.

The Pope’s shoes??? 

Of course, I’m only a convert. My sensibilities are different from those of cradle Catholics. I’ve learned on this blog that my sensibilities are also different from East Coast Catholics. I’m an Oklahoman. We have a more informal culture here. People here consider it a compliment when they tell someone not to “stand on ceremony.” We also have a vestigial frontier attitude toward those that do “stand on ceremony.” In Oklahoma, extreme formality is rudeness. It’s dissing, or as they used to say, “cutting” the other person.

So I’m having a little trouble processing this shoe thing. 

I certainly don’t want to disrespect someone else’s deeply-held feelings, but the only way the shoe thing matters to me is that I can’t figure it out. This man is the Pope. He could wear flip-flops, and he’d still be the Pope. Actually, flip-flops are probably a lot closer to what our first pope had on his feet than hand-crafted red leather shoes. I would guess that St Peter wore homemade sandals all his days.

It’s the spirit of the law that matters. We know that because Jesus told us so. Pope Francis stands in the shoes of Peter, even when he’s barefoot.

This video may give us clues to the kind of person this man the Holy Spirit has gifted us with really is.

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