Pope Francis Washes Feet of Young Inmates, Including Two Young Women

I would guess that the feet washing controversy is settled now.

It appears that Jesus meant the priesthood is to serve all human beings. Or, at least, that’s the message I take away from the simple act that Pope Francis performed at the Casal del Marmo today.

After delivering what sounds like a very clear homily in which he explained the meaning of what he was about to do, he washed the feet of 12 young inmates, two of them female and two Muslims. “I do this with my heart,” he told them before washing their feet.

This reminds me of a line from the movie The Quiet Man in which the bride asked one of her friends, “What manner of man have I married?”

“I’m thinking a far better man than you know, Mary Kate,” the friend answered.

I believe that Pope Francis is a far better man than many of us know.

As for the inclusion of women in today’s foot washing, all I can say is Thank you Papa. 

I. Am. So. Glad. 

From NBC News, (emphases mine):

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ROME – Since he was elected leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis has proved many times over that he wants to break away from clerical privilege, come down from St. Peter’s throne and act as a humble servant of the faithful.

And on Holy Thursday he reinforced the idea that he will champion social outcasts and the poor by washing the feet of a dozen young inmates in a juvenile detention center …

… The group of 12 young people who had their feet washed and kissed by the pope included two young women – the first time a pope included females in the rite. The ceremony has traditionally been limited to men, since all of Jesus’ apostles were men.

The young people were aged between 16 and 21 and chosen from different nationalities and religious backgrounds – including two Muslims, according to a Vatican spokesman.   

“It is a gesture of humility and service,” Father Tom Rosica, a Vatican Press Office spokesperson, said before the ceremony.

It teaches that liberation and new life are won not in presiding over multitudes from royal thrones nor by the quantity of bloody sacrifices offered on temple altars, but by walking with the lowly and poor and serving them as a foot-washer along the journey,” he added …

…Speaking to about 1,600 priests who packed St. Peter’s Basilica for Mass on Thursday morning, Francis talked about the need to concentrate on the people they are ministering to.

“We need to go out, then, in order to experience our own anointing (as priests)… to the outskirts where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters,” he said. (Read the rest here.)

Pope Francis, Holy Thursday and Us

For I was in prison, and you visited me.

Pope Francis will wash the feet of incarcerated young people tonight. Some of them have no faith. Others are Muslim. Many of them did not even know who the Pope was when they first heard he was coming.

Many Catholics, particularly those in prison ministry, are overjoyed by this act. But there are others who find it off-putting, even a bit scandalous. They expect the Pope to wash the feet of other priests, or at least other men, who are Catholic, Christian and probably important. I’ve read comments emphasizing that the young people whose feet the Holy Father will wash are nondescript boys and girls, many of whom are of no faith or Muslim.  They are people who won’t even appreciate the honor they are receiving.

But the Pope is only doing what Jesus did. He is seeking out those who are lost. It appears that this deep equality of all humanity that Our Lord lived and taught is as scandalous to some of us today as it was 2,000 years ago. But a failure to live this will kill the Church. We are not meant to be a closed-off, self-congratulatory faith that despises rather than serves those Jesus died to save.

People didn’t “appreciate” the honor of having God made flesh walking among them 2,000 years ago. The drama of Holy Week is a re-enactement of just how profoundly they didn’t appreciate it. Not even His own disciples really appreciated the honor they were receiving. No one, except His mother, understood what was happening.

Holy Thursday drives us back to the night when He was taken, to the moment when He gave us the Eucharist and instituted the priesthood. But He did not give us a priesthood created for palaces and fine things. It was and is and will always be a servant priesthood. It is priesthood of the kind that goes to prisons and washes the feet of young people who do not understand the meaning of what is happening any more than Peter did on that night in the Upper Room. When it ceases to be that, it ceases to be a priesthood of Christ and becomes a priesthood for itself.

The foot washing is a sign signifying that these young people — and all of us along with them — are children of the living God. It is a living memorial of the servant priesthood Jesus instituted in the upper room 2,000 years ago. If Christ The Lord could go down on his knees before a group of itinerant fishermen and tax collectors and wash their feet, why shouldn’t the Pope do the same for a group of incarcerated young people?

If the Son of God can submit to betrayal, false arrest, verbal abuse, beating, mockery, and a hideously painful, lingering death, then what makes us think that we’re so special?

When Jesus was asked questions similar to the ones that have been raised by those who oppose the Holy Father’s plans to go to the prison tonight, He answered them with a simple statement. The Son of Man came to save and seek the lost. I think He’s saying the same thing to us today and that Pope Francis is His voice.

At last, I get to meet someone who says he is my father!

One of the young people said that when they heard of the Pope’s plans. That statement, speaking as it does of a young person who has most likely led an unloved life, breaks my heart. It also fills me with gratitude that he or she can feel that way about our Holy Father. I am in awe of a Church whose leader can wield the power of a Pope yet move to touch and heal ones such as these. Only a Church whose true head is Christ Jesus could do that.

Two thousand years and counting, and the Gospel message of love, forgiveness and hope marches on to the ends of the earth.

Waiting for the Father

“At last, I shall get to meet someone who says he is my father!” 

The Holy Father is teaching us evangelization by doing it. That was the opinion of a virtual friend of mine after reading this press release. I couldn’t agree more.

From the Vatican website:

2013-03-27 L’Osservatore Romano

Forty-nine young people, the inmates of the Roman borstal, Casal del Marmo, are preparing to receive an extraordinary gift. Pope Francis will go there in the afternoon of Holy Thursday, 28 March, to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. A joyful atmosphere of expectation pervades the institute. Such an important visit had certainly not been on the cards. Above all, there had been no expectation of so suddenly touching the heart of the Pope whom they do not yet know. “The young people’s enthusiasm”, Liana Giambartolomei, the principal, told us, “must be linked to the very fact that they feel they will be playing the lead on a historic day. Moreover, this is exactly what Pope Francis wanted. He expressly asked us to make sure that there were no other young people here. He wants to be certain that they know he is coming solely for them, because he loves them, he carries them in his heart and considers them important, very important”. A Caritas worker in the penal institute says that one of them, having heard the news, exclaimed: “At last I shall get to meet someone who says he is my father!”.

Fr Greco, the chaplain, does not conceal the fact that he was somewhat perplexed, at least to start with, “because”, he told our paper, “only eight of our residents are Italian: six boys and two girls. The others are all foreigners. And most of them are Muslim. Then there are some who have no religious belief at all. Therefore many of them don’t even know who the Pope is. For this reason too, it was far from easy to explain to them the importance of the Pope’s visit”. “A young Neapolitan”, the chaplain confided, “who has been here for a while came to my help. He gathered them all together, to try to make them understand above all what the Pope’s act, which is an act of love for them, actually meant. I was upset for a moment by the first looks, that were either blank or only faintly curious about my enthusiasm. Then our friend broke the silence with that most classic of Neapolitan expressions: “Maronna mia, o Papa accà!” [good heavens! The Pope here!] and he ran his hand through his hair, his face betraying emotions mingled with happiness. At that very instant all the others, seeing his amazement, realized that it must really be something very special and began to question me. Little by little, I saw their enthusiasm growing.

Chaput: Pope Francis is the Medicine the Church Needs

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Is Pope Francis God’s instrument for leading us away from “tepid Christianity” and “mediocrity in our faith?”


Archbishop Charles Chaput thinks so.


Overwhelming percentages of practicing Catholics are like me — delighted with our new pope. However, there is disquiet in some quarters, mostly from people who loved the symbols of high office which Pope Francis has eschewed. The people I know who feel this way are certainly not “tepid” Catholics. They are far better Catholics than I am or ever will be. They are also people who loved the pomp and feel the loss of it keenly. 


Painful as it is for them, I think that Pope Francis is teaching us a necessary lesson. He is teaching us what the symbols mean. He is pulling back the curtain on the symbolism to show us the reality behind it, and that reality is Christ. “I didn’t come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.” Jesus said. In the same way His vicar on earth is not destroying the richness of the Church, he is teaching us what it means.

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We are faced with virulent secularism and aggressively marketed moral and social destruction in the West; violent persecution and death-dealing exploitation, poverty and war in much of the rest of the world.


We need a pope who will preach Christ. I don’t know how to say it more directly than that. This world needs Christ and Him crucified. 


The Church is a church of metaphor and symbol. In some ways, the Church itself is a metaphor. I get that. But, if people focus on the metaphor to the point that they begin to take it literally, then that becomes a kind of idolatry. The symbols and the metaphor all point to the living Christ Who was crucified for our sins and Who offers us the gift of eternal life.

Pope Francis is not only pulling away the curtain to show us what lies behind the symbols, he is talking to us about the realities of the devil and hell. I will write about this more later, but our new pope is not afraid to refer to the “evil one” as the father of lies and the machinator behind many of our worst impulses. 

Archbishop Chaput talks about the “tepid Christianity we find in the northern hemisphere.” I couldn’t agree more. The purpose of this blog is to offer whatever assistance I can in equipping Christians to stand for Jesus. As a catechism-following, Jesus-loving, pro-life Democratic office holder, I have the unique perspective of often having been the much-maligned tip of the sword on social issues. I also have the perspective of one who has seen and experienced the almost militant indifference of Christians to what is happening in the world.

“Tepid” is too kind. Snoozing in our beds and refusing to be wakened is more to the point. I love the liturgy and the mass, not because of the vestments and the beautiful Church, but because it is an hour-long (or 30 minutes long for daily mass) prayer. I love the mass because it re-enacts Calvary, because it takes us to the foot of the cross and then beyond it to our redemption. I love the mass because the healing touch of Jesus is there in the Eucharist.

Holy eucharist

For far too many people, the form has become more important than the reality. People who focus on the form rather than the substance are too often substituting the form for the substance.

All we have to do to turn this world around is follow Christ. To do that, we need a pope, bishops and priests who preach Christ. Pope Francis is doing exactly that. I thank God for him.

Excerpts from Archbishop Chaput’s interview with Vatican Insider are below.


When he was elected Pope, Francis said that he comes from the “end of the world”. What did he mean?

“In our day and age the Gospel is preached in every corner of the Earth. God’s family of faith is one body, one people, intimately connected by the love of Jesus Christ, no matter where in the world we come from. The new Pope is living proof of this. He comes quite literally from the other side of world.”


What is the importance of him being from Argentina? Will the hispanic community play a central role in the Church of the XXI century? What changes will this imply for the U.S. Catholic Church

“Maybe God is telling us that the kind of tepid Christianity we find in the northern hemisphere is no longer vigorous enough to face the challenges the Church is faced with.”


Cardinal Bergoglio is very atypical, in that he never held a position in the Roman Curia, he has never wanted a car or a chef and he takes the bus…What does all this mean in your opinion?
 

“Less is more. Simplicity and humility, when they’re combined with intelligence and courage, make a very powerful medicine for the soul. I think this Pope is just the medicine we need as a Church.”


Why did Bergoglio choose the name Francis? Was it because St. Francis rebuilt the Church of Jesus? Does this mean that the Curia acknowledges that the Church needs to be rebuilt in some way?

“”Repair my house” were the words Jesus addressed to St. Francis from the cross of St. Damian. The issues of reform, renewal and repair: All of these things probably figured into the new Pope’s choice of a name … people have a mistaken image of Francis of Assisi … He was certainly “counter-cultural” - but only in his radical poverty; his radical obedience to the Church; and his radical insistence on living the Gospel fully, including all of its uncomfortable demands. That’s the kind of purity that leads to a genuine rebuilding of Church life …


Liberal groups, particularly here in the U.S., are really concerned about the cardinals’ choice of Pope. Even Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said that his position is reminiscent of medieval times. What you think?

“Words like “liberal” and “conservative” are hopelessly misleading when we speak about Catholic belief. There’s no way of separating love for the poor from love for an unborn child. Defense of the oppressed and marginalized and defense of the family, the nature of marriage and the unborn child spring from exactly the same Catholic commitment to human dignity. There is nothing “progressive” about killing an unborn human child in the womb. And there is nothing redeemably “orthodox” or “conservative” about ignoring the cries of the poor.”

(Read the rest here.) 



Pope Francis: Preaching the Gospel Through Word and Deed

Pope Francis new coat of arms Courtesy of the Vatican Press Office CNA US Catholic News 3 18 13

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.- Pope Francis will celebrate a full schedule this Holy Week, including washing the feet of youth detainees and leading the Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum.

His six main events are: Chrism Mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica on Holy Thursday morning, followed by Mass at a youth detention center that evening, a Communion service and Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening and Easter Mass on Sunday morning.

Pope Francis will start the week by celebrating Chrism Mass on March 28 with cardinals and other clergy from Rome at Saint Peter’s Basilica. During the Mass, the Pope will consecrate the oils that will be used throughout the year for Baptism, Confirmation and Anointing of the Sick.

In keeping with his practice in Buenos Aires, he will celebrate Holy Thursday Mass at Casal del Marmo youth detention center, instead of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran.

When he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Bergoglio celebrated the Mass in a prison, a hospital or a hospice for the poor and marginalized people. This time around he will be with youth offenders and will wash their feet.

On Good Friday, March 29, he will preside over a Communion service and the Veneration of the Cross in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5:00 p.m. local time.

The pontiff will then go to the Coliseum to lead the Stations of the Cross at 9:15 p.m. The prayers for the 14 stations were written by two Lebanese youths with the help of Cardinal Bechara Rai.

The Vatican chose the young Arabs to highlight the suffering of Christians in the Middle East and the growing urgency of their situation.

After the procession around the Coliseum, Pope Francis will give a speech to people gathered there and impart his apostolic blessing.

On Holy Saturday, the Pope will celebrate the first of two Easter Masses when he holds the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica.

He will bless a fire in the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica and enter in a procession with the Paschal candle singing the Easter Proclamation.

The Pope will then concelebrate Mass at 8:30 p.m. local time with the cardinals and impart the sacrament of Baptism, which is traditionally done in churches worldwide at this time of year.

On Sunday at 10:15 a.m. Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at St. Peter’s Square, which will finish with his “Urbi et Orbi” greeting and blessing from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. (Read the rest here.) 

Christian Persecution and Blood Red Shoes

Pope Francis is the Pope. If he decides to go for all the pomp his office allows ….

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That’s fine with me.

Because he’s the Pope.

If on the other hand, he decides to wear sandals and walk rather than ride – or some black-shoed something in between the two extremes — that, too, would be ok with me.

Because he’s the pope.

It appears that most Catholics are like me: Over the moon about our new papa. But, you can’t please everyone. Human beings are too contrary for that to ever happen in this world. In their displeasure with our Holy Father, some of these displeased ones have fixated on one thing: The color of his shoes.

The red of the red shoes refers to the blood of the martyrs they tell us.

I’ve been thinking about this for days, largely because I don’t understand why we need to see red shoes to think about the blood of the martyrs. The blood of people dying for Christ is not an ancient artifact from a long ago history that has passed. The blood of the martyrs is soaking into the ground in a hundred places around the world as I type this.

This is the blood of the marytrs:

Nigeria

 

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India

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North Korea

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I have interviewed survivors of Christian persecution in Uganda and Nigeria. They are different from us. Their faith has been through the fire and this fire burned away the impurities of trivial concerns.

One of the many things about these people that impressed me is their gentleness; that, and their absolute faith in heaven. I never heard anything from them about the people who persecuted them being damned to hell. The harshest thing I heard was from an Anglican bishop who called them “ignorant.” Their focus is on Jesus. It is not on the ones who attacked them. They see past the persecution to heaven and the gift of eternal life.

More than once when I asked them how they got through it, they said two words: The cross.

They are different from you and me, these people who have been purified by the fires of persecution for the name of Jesus. I never asked any of them about red shoes. But if I had, I imagine that the response would have been incomprehension.

What Jesus Told Us

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Holy Week, March for Marriage and Two Days with the Supremes

Priests processing for chrism mass

Priests processing for Chrism Mass

This is Holy Week.

It is also the week in which the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments on Proposition 8 and DOMA. The potential is there for a major change in the way American law defines marriage. This could have far-reaching effects which none of us can predict for foresee.

What better week to issue a call to prayer than Holy Week? Tuesday is the day we have the Chrism Mass. Priests renew their vows at this mass and the holy oils which will be used throughout the upcoming year are blessed. It’s a beautiful mass and I urge anyone who can to attend.

Blessing of the oil

Blessing the oil

History is coming at us so fast it’s hard to keep up. But we need to remember that this week, above all weeks, is a time for extra prayer and penance. I don’t want to make too much of it, but it seems poignant that so many points of history are converging on this one week. Proponents of traditional marriage are also staging a march in Washington, DC on Tuesday. 

The cross, which defines this week and the life of the world, is not just a point of history. It is history. The cross is the fulcrum of all history. There was the world before the cross and the world after it, which is to say that there was the world without hope and the world without despair.  Despair is impossible to anyone who understands the power of the cross.

We suffer in this life. We experience loss, setbacks, pain, loneliness, failure and grief. But we are never without hope because our hope is in the One who died for us on Calvary.

We need to pray this week, and not just for ourselves and our families, but for all the world that this light of Christ will shine in the darkness of the human heart everywhere.

This article, by our brothers and sisters at The Baptist Press, has details of the upcoming arguments before the Supreme Court:

NASHVILLE (BP) — On Tuesday and Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases regarding the issue of same-sex marriage. Few issues rise to this level of importance. 

These two cases will do much to answer the question for how marriage is going to be viewed in the United States for the foreseeable future. On Tuesday, the court will hear arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop. 8). In this case, the court is being asked to decide the fate of Proposition 8 in California. At stake is whether or not the people of California can define marriage in their constitution as only the union of one man and one woman. In a worst-case scenario in deciding Hollingsworth, the court could rule unconstitutional the definition of marriage as only the union of one man and one woman, repudiating two and a quarter centuries of American jurisprudence in which marriage has been defined and regulated by each state, not the federal courts. Every state that has passed such laws would be affected. It would also be going against several millennia of the Judeo-Christian definition of marriage.

On Wednesday, the court will hear arguments in United States v. Windsor. That case deals with the constitutionality of section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Windsor case creates the possibility that the court could overturn DOMA in its entirety. DOMA is important at many levels. For one, it protects states that do not support same-sex marriage from being required to recognize same-sex marriages that have been performed in states where the practice is legal. For another, it provides a standard definition of marriage for all federal programs, assuring that only heterosexual marriage is recognized across all federal government programs. It also provides protections for federal workers from being forced to violate their consciences regarding marriage. If DOMA is overturned, military chaplains will be especially vulnerable to pressures to accommodate an expanded definition of marriage in their ministries. (Read the rest here.) 

Palm Sunday: The Road to the Cross Begins

Holy Week begins; time to begin our annual journey to the foot of the cross, where we stand in solidarity with all humankind, convicted of our sins.
This is an excerpt of an article from CNA:
Pope Francis urges Christians to have joy over Cross
By David Uebbing
Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass on March 24 2013 in St. Peter’s Square. Credit: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images.

.- Pope Francis declared on Palm Sunday that Christians must not be sad or discouraged but filled with joy because Jesus conquered evil and every sin “with the force of God’s love.”

“Jesus on the Cross feels the whole weight of the evil, and with the force of God’s love he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection,” he said March 24.

“Dear friends,” Pope Francis told the thousands of pilgrims filling St. Peter’s Square and the street leading to it, “we can all conquer the evil that is in us and in the world: with Christ, with the force of good!”

The liturgy began with the Pope touring through the crowd in the open-air popemobile and finishing at the obelisk that stands in the middle of St. Peter’s Square.

Accompanied by cardinals, bishops and laity holding palms, he listened as the readings were proclaimed. The group of clergy and faithful then made their way to the altar in front of the basilica and heard the reading of the Passion of Christ from Matthew’s Gospel.

Pope Francis reflected on three elements in his Palm Sunday homily: the joy that comes from meeting and knowing Christ; the fact that Jesus entered Jerusalem to redeem the world with his loving sacrifice on the Cross; and that young people can teach everyone to embrace the Cross with joy and to live lives of self-sacrifice.

The first word that came to the Pope’s mind as he reflected on the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem was joy.

“Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement!

“Ours is not a joy that comes from having many possessions, but from having encountered a Person: Jesus, from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable,” he said.

The Pope then turned to his second point of reflection – the way Jesus entered Jerusalem, as a king who was received “by humble people, simple folk.”

But even more, he entered “to receive a crown of thorns, a staff, a purple robe: his kingship becomes an object of derision.

“And this brings us to the second word: Cross. Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to die on the Cross.

“And it is here that his kingship shines forth in godly fashion: his royal throne is the wood of the Cross,” he underscored. (Read the rest here.) 


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