Category Archives: National News

From the Pope: General Audience: Live with Strength of Life

from Vatican Information Services

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!June 13 is the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua. Who among you is called Anthony? An applause to all the “Anthonies.” Today we will begin a new itinerary of catechesis. It will be on the theme of the Commandments. The Commandments of the law of God. To introduce it, let us take as a starting point the passage we have just heard: the encounter between Jesus and a man, he is a young man, who, on his knees, asks Him how he can inherit eternal life (cf. Mk 10: 17-21). And in that question there is the challenge of every existence: ours too: the desire for a full, infinite life. But how can we arrive at this? What path should we take? To live truly, to live a noble existence. How many young people seek to “live” and then destroy themselves in the pursuit of ephemeral things.

Some think that it is better to extinguish this impulse, the impulse to live, because it is dangerous. I would like to say, especially to the young: our worst enemy is not concrete problems, however serious and dramatic they may be: the greatest danger in life is a poor spirit of adaptation that is not meekness or humility, but rather mediocrity, pusillanimity.

Is a mediocre young person a young person with a future, or not? No! He stays there, he doesn’t grow, he will not be successful. Mediocrity or timidity. Those young people are afraid of everything: “No, I am this way…” These young people will not go ahead. Meekness, strength and no timidity, no mediocrity. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati – who was a young man – used to say that it is necessary to live, not to get by. The mediocre get by. Live with the strength of life. We must ask the heavenly Father, for the young people of today, the gift of a healthy restlessness. But at home, in your houses, in every family, when you see a young person who stays seated all day, at times the mother and father think, “But he is ill, he has something,” and they take him to the doctor. The life of the young person is about going ahead, being restless, healthy restlessness, the capacity not to settle for a life without beauty, without color. If young people are not hungry for authentic life, I wonder, where will humanity end up? Where will humanity end up with quiet young people who are not restless?

The question of that man in the Gospel passage we have heard is within each one of us: how do we find life, life in abundance, happiness? Jesus answers: “You know the Commandments,” and cites a part of the Decalogue. It is a pedagogical process, by which Jesus wishes to lead to a precise place: indeed it is already clear from his question that the man does not have a full life, he seeks more and he is restless. What must he therefore understand? He says: “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy” (v. 20).

How do we pass from youth to maturity? When we begin to accept our own limits. One becomes an adult when one becomes relative and aware of what is missing (cf. v. 21). This man is compelled to acknowledge that everything he can “do” does not go beyond a roof, it does not go beyond a margin.

How good it is to be men and women! How precious our existence is! And yet there is a truth in the history of recent centuries that man has often refused, with tragic consequences: the truth of his limits.

Jesus, in the Gospel, says something that can help us: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them” (Mt. 5: 17). The Lord Jesus gives fulfilment, He came for this. That man had to arrive at the threshold of taking a leap, where there opens up the possibility of stopping living for oneself, one’s own works, one’s own goods and, precisely because full life is lacking, leave all to follow the Lord.

Seemingly in Jesus’ final invitation – immense, wonderful – there is not the offer of poverty, but of wealth, of the true kind: “One thing you lack… Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (v. 21).

Who, given the choice between the original and a copy, would choose the copy? Here is the challenge: to find the original of life, not the copy. Jesus does not offer surrogates, but true life, true love, true wealth! How can the young follow us in faith if they do not see us choose the original, if they see us addicted to half measures? It is bad to find Christians of half measures, if I may permit myself the word, “dwarf” Christians; they grow up to a certain point and no further; Christians with a shrunken, closed heart. It is bad to find this. There needs to be the example of someone who invites me “beyond” to “more,” to grow a little. Saint Ignatius called it the “magis,” “the fire, the fervor of action that rouses the dormant.”

The road of what is missing passes for what there is. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfil. We have to start from reality to make the jump to “what is missing.” We must scrutinize the ordinary to open ourselves to the extraordinary.

In these catecheses we will take the two tablets of Moses as Christians, hand in hand with Jesus, to pass from the illusions of youth to the treasure that is in heaven, walking behind Him. We will discover, in each of those laws, ancient and wise, the door opened by the Father Who is in heaven because the Lord Jesus, who has passed through it, leads us into real life. His life. The life of the children of God.  •

President of USCCB Welcomes Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on Holiness in the Contemporary World

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is welcoming the release of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad), subtitled “On the Call to Holiness in the Contemporary World.” In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo expresses his deep gratitude to the Holy Father for the exhortation and the call for each Christian to “acknowledge and be open to what God wants them to be.”

In the introduction to the exhortation, the Pope emphasizes that the goal of his exhortation is to “repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities.”

An apostolic exhortation is considered the second-highest form of papal teaching after an encyclical letter. Since his election, Pope Francis has issued two other exhortations: Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) in 2013 and Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) in 2016.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement on Gaudete et Exsultate follows:
“I want to personally express my deep gratitude to the Holy Father for his powerful, straightforward words in Gaudete et Exsultate. In this exhortation, Pope Francis is very clear – he is doing his duty as the Vicar of Christ, by strongly urging each and every Christian to freely, and without any qualifications, acknowledge and be open to what God wants them to be – that is ‘to be holy, as He is holy’ (1 Pet 1:15). The mission entrusted to each of us in the waters of baptism was simple – by God’s grace and power, we are called to become saints.

‘Do not be afraid of holiness (no. 32).’ These words of the Holy Father jumped out at me when I first read them. In a way, each one of us has a fear of striving for holiness – a fear that we would be mocked, ignored, or even hated by others because we would stand out. Yet that is what the Lord has called each and every person to! Pope Francis calls us out: A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness, for ‘this is the will of God, your sanctification (I Thess 4:3) (no. 19).’

The Holy Father describes how holiness comes through the daily struggles each of us face. In the ordinary course of each day, the pope reminds us, ‘We need to recognize and combat our aggressive and selfish inclinations, and not let them take root’ (no. 114). Yet, he says, this ‘battle is sweet, for it allows us to rejoice each time the Lord triumphs in our lives’ (no. 158).

One paragraph in particular points out the continuing need we have for civility in all our interactions, especially in the media. ‘Christians too,’ the Holy Father writes, ‘can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication.’ This can be true even in Catholic media (no. 115). ‘Even in our heated disagreements with one another, we always need to remember that it is God who judges, not man (James 4:12).’

In the light of Easter joy, as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, I encourage every Christian to rekindle their baptismal call to be holy by reading this wonderful exhortation by Pope Francis, especially the beautiful section on the Beatitudes. Through an exploration of the Beatitudes, and by offering examples of how to live out our call to holiness in everyday life, the Holy Father has given us a wonderful tool for renewing our love for God and for each other.”

The USCCB has made the exhortation available for order online at http://store.usccb.org/rejoice-and-be-glad-p/7-599.htm.
The Vatican has also posted the exhortation online at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html.

Pope Francis’ Easter Message

from Vatican Information Services

Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Easter!
Jesus is risen from the dead!

This message resounds in the Church the world over, along with the singing of the Alleluia: Jesus is Lord; the Father has raised him and he lives forever in our midst.

Jesus had foretold his death and resurrection using the image of the grain of wheat. He said: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). And this is precisely what happened: Jesus, the grain of wheat sowed by God in the furrows of the earth, died, killed by the sin of the world. He remained two days in the tomb; but his death contained God’s love in all its power, released and made manifest on the third day, the day we celebrate today: the Easter of Christ the Lord.

We Christians believe and know that Christ’s resurrection is the true hope of the world, the hope that does not disappoint. It is the power of the grain of wheat, the power of that love which humbles itself and gives itself to the very end, and thus truly renews the world. This power continues to bear fruit today in the furrows of our history, marked by so many acts of injustice and violence. It bears fruits of hope and dignity where there are deprivation and exclusion, hunger and unemployment, where there are migrants and refugees (so often rejected by today’s culture of waste), and victims of the drug trade, human trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery.

Today we implore fruits of peace upon the entire world, beginning with the beloved and long-suffering land of Syria, whose people are worn down by an apparently endless war. This Easter, may the light of the risen Christ illumine the consciences of all political and military leaders, so that a swift end may be brought to the carnage in course, that humanitarian law may be respected and that provisions be made to facilitate access to the aid so urgently needed by our brothers and sisters, while also ensuring fitting conditions for the return of the displaced.

We beseech fruits of reconciliation for the Holy Land, also experiencing in these days the wounds of ongoing conflict that do not spare the defenseless, for Yemen and for the entire Middle East, so that dialogue and mutual respect may prevail over division and violence. May our brothers and sisters in Christ, who not infrequently put up with injustices and persecution, be radiant witnesses of the risen Lord and of the victory of good over evil.

We invoke on this day fruits of hope for those who yearn for a more dignified life, above all in those areas of the African continent deeply affected by hunger, endemic conflicts and terrorism. May the peace of the risen Lord heal wounds in South Sudan and open hearts to dialogue and mutual understanding. Let us not forget the victims of that conflict, especially the children! May there be no lack of solidarity with all those forced to abandon their native lands and lacking the bare essentials for living.

We implore fruits of dialogue for the Korean peninsula, that the discussions underway may advance harmony and peace within the region. May those who are directly responsible act with wisdom and discernment to promote the good of the Korean people and to build relationships of trust within the international community.

We also beseech fruits of peace for Ukraine, that the steps taken to favor harmony may be consolidated, and facilitated by the humanitarian initiatives needed by its people.

We also invoke fruits of consolation for the Venezuelan people, who, as their bishops have written, are living in a kind of “foreign land” within their own country. May that nation, by the power of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, find a just, peaceful and humane way to surmount quickly the political and humanitarian crises that grip it. May welcome and assistance not be wanting to its sons and daughters forced to abandon their homeland.

May the risen Christ bring fruits of new life to those children, who as a result of wars and hunger, grow up without hope, lacking education and health care; and to those elderly persons who are cast off by a selfish culture that ostracizes those who are not “productive”.

We also implore fruits of wisdom for those who have political responsibilities in our world, that they may always respect human dignity, devote themselves actively to the pursuit of the common good, and ensure the development and security of their own citizens.

Dear brothers and sisters,
The words heard by the women at the tomb are also addressed to us: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6). Death, solitude and fear are not the last word. There is a word that transcends them, a word that only God can speak: it is the word of the resurrection (cf. John Paul II, Conclusion of the Way of the Cross, 18 April 2003). By the power of God’s love, it “dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord and brings down the mighty” (Easter Proclamation).

Happy Easter to all!

Domestic Justice and Education Chairmen Urge Concrete Actions to Address Scourge of Gun Violence

photo by Fabrice Florin from Mill Valley, USA (Tam High Vigil for Parkland School Shooting)  [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON—In the aftermath of the tragic attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCBs Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio, Chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education, urged national leaders to finally come together and address the crisis of gun violence in a comprehensive way.

The full statement follows:
“Once again, we are confronted with grave evil, the murder of our dear children and those who teach them. Our prayers continue for those who have died, and those suffering with injuries and unimaginable grief. We also continue our decades-long advocacy for common-sense gun measures as part of a comprehensive approach to the reduction of violence in society and the protection of life.

Specifically, this moment calls for an honest and practical dialogue around a series of concrete proposals—not partisanship and overheated rhetoric. The idea of arming teachers seems to raise more concerns than it addresses. Setting a more appropriate minimum age for gun ownership, requiring universal background checks (as the bishops have long advocated), and banning ‘bump stocks are concepts that appear to offer more promise. We must explore ways to curb violent images and experiences with which we inundate our youth, and ensure that law enforcement have the necessary tools and incentives to identify troubled individuals and get them help.

Most people with mental illness will never commit a violent act, but mental illness has been a significant factor in some of these horrific attacks. We must look to increase resources and seek earlier interventions.

For many years, the USCCB has supported a federal ban on assault weapons, limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines, further criminalizing gun trafficking, certain limitations on the purchase of handguns, and safety measures such as locks that prevent children and anyone other than the owner from using guns without permission.

The advocacy by survivors of the Parkland shooting—and young people throughout our nation—is a stark reminder that guns pose an enormous danger to the innocent when they fall into the wrong hands. The voices of these advocates should ring in our ears as they describe the peaceful future to which they aspire. We must always remember what is at stake as we take actions to safeguard our communities and honor human life. In the words of St. John, ‘let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth (1 Jn. 3:18).”

USCCB Offers Congratulations to Pope Francis on His Fifth Year Anniversary

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Administrative Committee has issued the following statement today marking the fifth anniversary of the election of Pope Francis. The Administrative Committee is comprised of USCCBs officers, committee chairmen and other bishops representing every region of the United States.

Full statement follows:
“The members of the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, now gathered in ordinary session on the 13th day of March 2018, take this opportunity to express our filial affection on the fifth anniversary of your election to the Chair of St. Peter.
May the Lord bless you with His grace as you confirm all the brothers and sisters in unity and shepherd us in charity.”

From the Pope: Eucharistic Liturgy: I. Presentation of Gifts

from Vatican Information Services

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Let us continue with the catechesis on the Holy Mass. The Liturgy of the Word – on which I have reflected in the last catecheses – is followed by the other constitutive part of the Mass, which is the Eucharistic Liturgy. In this, through the holy signs, the Church continuously makes present the Sacrifice of the new covenant sealed by Jesus on the altar of the Cross (cf. Vatican Ecumenical Council II, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 47). It was the first Christian altar, that of the Cross, and when we approach the altar to celebrate Mass, our memory goes to the altar of the Cross, where the first sacrifice was made. The priest, who in the Mass represents Christ, carries out what the Lord Himself did and handed over to the disciples at the Last Supper: He took the bread and the cup, gave thanks, and gave them to the disciples, saying: “Take, eat, and drink: this is my Body; this is the cup of my Blood. Do this in memory of me.”

Obedient to the command of Jesus, the Church has arranged the Eucharistic Liturgy in moments that correspond to the words and gestures made by him on the eve of his Passion. Thus, in the preparation of the gifts, bread and wine are brought to the altar, that is, the elements that Christ took in his hands. In the Eucharistic Prayer we give thanks to God for the work of redemption and the offerings become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is followed by the breaking of the Bread and the Communion, through which we relive the experience of the apostles, who received the Eucharistic gifts from the hands of Christ himself (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 72).

The first gesture of Jesus: “He took the bread and the cup of wine,” therefore corresponds to the preparation of the gifts. It is the first part of the Eucharistic Liturgy. It is good that the faithful present the bread and wine to the priest, because they signify the spiritual offering of the Church gathered there for the Eucharist. It is beautiful that it is the faithful themselves who bring the bread and wine to the altar. Although today “the faithful no longer bring from their own possessions the bread and wine intended for the liturgy as in the past, nevertheless the rite of carrying up the offerings still retains its force and its spiritual significance” (ibid., 73). And in this regard it is significant that, in ordaining a new priest, the bishop, when he gives him bread and wine, says:  “Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God” (Roman Pontifical – Ordination of bishops, priest and deacons).

The people of God who bring the offering, the bread and the wine, the great offertory for the Mass! Therefore, in the signs of bread and wine, the faithful people place their offering in the hands of the priest, who lays it on the altar or table of the Lord, “which is the center of the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist,” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 73). That is, the center of the Mass is the altar, and the altar is Christ; we must always look at the altar, which is the center of the Mass. In the “fruit of the earth and the work of man,” the faithful therefore offer their commitment to make of themselves, obedient to the divine Word, a “sacrifice pleasing to God the Father Almighty,” “for the good of all His holy Church.” Thus “the lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1368).

Of course, our offering is small, but Christ needs this little that we give. He asks little of us, the Lord, and he gives us much. He asks little. He asks us, in ordinary life, for good will; he asks us for an open heart; he asks us for the desire to be better, to welcome him, he who offers himself to us in the Eucharist; he asks us for these symbolic offerings that then become his body and his blood. An image of this oblative movement of prayer is represented by the incense which, consumed in the fire, releases a fragrant smoke that rises upwards: incensing the offerings, as is done on feast days, incensing the cross, the altar, the priest and his people visibly manifests the offertory bond that unites all these elements to Christ’s sacrifice (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 75). And do not forget: there is the altar, which is Christ, but always with reference to the first altar, which is the Cross, and on the altar that is Christ, we bring our small gifts, the bread and the wine, which will then become great: Jesus himself who gives life to us.

And all this is also expressed by the offertory prayer. In it the priest asks God to accept the gifts that the Church offers Him, invoking the fruit of the wonderful exchange between our poverty and His wealth. In the bread and in the wine we present to Him the offering of our life, so that it may be transformed by the Holy Spirit into the sacrifice of Christ and become with Him the single spiritual offering pleasing to the Father. While the preparation of the gifts is concluded, the Eucharistic Prayer is recited (cf. ibid., 77).

The spirituality of the gift of oneself, that this moment of the Mass teaches us, can illuminate our days, our relationships with others, the things we do, and the sufferings we encounter, helping us to build the earthly city in the light of the Gospel.

Bishop Conference President Reaction to Shooting at Florida High School

WASHINGTON—Following the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for prayer and healing.

The full statement is as follows:

“We are deeply saddened by the shootings in Broward County, Florida, and by the needless and tragic loss of life. May the mercy of God comfort the grieving families and sustain the wounded in their healing. Catholics and many other Christians have begun the journey of Lent today. I encourage us to unite our prayers and sacrifices for the healing and consolation of all those who have been affected by violence in these last weeks and for a conversion of heart, that our communities and nation will be marked by peace. I pray also for unity in seeking to build toward a society with fewer tragedies caused by senseless gun violence. Our hope is in the Lord, as he promised after his resurrection, ‘behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age’ (Mt. 28:20).”

Federal Budget Should Build Toward Common Good, Say U.S. Bishops

WASHINGTON— After the Trump Administration released its federal budget proposal, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, and the Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, expressed deep concerns about many of the priorities outlined in the blueprint, and called on Congress to “ensure a budget for our country that honors our obligations to build toward the common good.”

The full statement follows:

“The federal budget is a moral document, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has consistently urged our national leaders to consider important principles when deciding how to steward the finite resources entrusted to it by the American people. Budget decisions ought to be guided by moral criteria that safeguard human life and dignity, give central importance to ‘the least of these,’ and promote the well-being of workers and families who struggle to live in dignity. Our nation must never seek to balance the budget on the backs of the poor at home and abroad.

February 13, President Trump unveiled a budget plan, ‘Efficient, Effective, Accountable: An American Budget,’ that again calls for deep cuts to vital parts of government, including underfunding programs that serve the poor, diplomacy and environmental stewardship. At the same time, the plan calls for increases in immigration enforcement spending and further increases in military spending, including on nuclear weapons. Prohibiting certain abortion providers from receiving federal funds and providing increased resources to combat opioid addiction is commendable. However, we urge Congress—and every American—to evaluate the Administration’s budget blueprint in light of its impacts on those most in need, and work to ensure a budget for our country that honors our obligations to build toward the common good.” •

From the Pope: Open Your Ears to the Readings at Mass

from Vatican Information Services 

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Let us continue with the catechesis on Holy Mass. We had arrived at the Readings.

The dialogue between God and His people, developed in the Liturgy of the Word of the Mass, reaches its peak in the proclamation of the Gospel. It is preceded by the singing of the Alleluia – or, during Lent, another acclamation – with which “the assembly of the faithful welcomes and greets the Lord who is about to speak to it in the Gospel.” Just as the mysteries of Christ illuminate the entire biblical revelation, so, in the Liturgy of the Word, the Gospel is the light for understanding the meaning of the biblical texts that precede it, both of the Old and of the New Testament. In fact, “Christ himself is the center and fullness of all the Scripture, as he is of the entire liturgy.Jesus Christ is always at the center, always.

This is why the liturgy distinguishes the Gospel from the other readings, and surrounds it with particular honor and veneration. Indeed, its reading is reserved to the ordained minister, who ends by kissing the book; we listen standing and we make the sign of the cross on the forehead, the mouth and the chest; the candles and incense honor Christ who, through the Gospel reading, makes his effective word resonate. From these signs the assembly acknowledges the presence of Christ who addresses to it the “good news” that converts and transforms. It is a direct discourse that takes place, as affirmed by the acclamations with which it responds to the proclamation “Glory to you, O Lord” and “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.” We stand to listen to the Gospel, but it is Christ who speaks to us, there. And this is why we are attentive, because it is a direct conversation. It is the Lord who speaks to us.

So, in the Mass we do not read the Gospel to know how things went, but we listen to the Gospel to be aware of what Jesus did and said once; and that Word is living, the Word of Jesus that is in the Gospel is living and arrives to my heart. This is why listening to the Gospel is so important, with an open heart, because it is the living Word. Saint Augustine writes that “the mouth of Christ is the Gospel. He reigns in heaven, but never ceases to speak on earth.” If it is true that in the liturgy “Christ is still proclaiming his Gospel,” it follows that, by participating in Mass, we must give him an answer. We listen to the Gospel and we must give an answer in our life.

To make his message reach us, Christ also uses the word of the priest who, after the Gospel, pronounces the homily.Strongly recommended by Vatican Council II as part of the same liturgy, the homily is not a circumstantial speech, nor a catechesis like the one I am giving now. It is neither a conference nor a lesson. The homily is something else. What is a homily? It is the resumption of “a dialogue between God and His people,” so that it may find fulfilment in life. The authentic exegesis of the Gospel is our holy life! The Word of the Lord ends its path by becoming flesh in us, by being translated into words, as in Mary and in the saints. Remember what I said to you last time: the Word of the Lord enters the ears, reaches the heart and goes to the hands, to good works. And the homily too follows the Word of the Lord and also makes this journey to help us, so that the Word of the Lord arrives at the hands, passing via the heart.

I have already considered the subject of the homily in the Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, in which I recall that the liturgical context “demands that preaching should guide the assembly, and the preacher, to a life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist.”.

He who pronounces the homily must perform his ministry well – whoever preaches, the priest or the deacon or the bishop – offering a real service to all those who participate in the Mass, but also those who listen to it must do their part. First and foremost, they must pay attention, which means assuming the right inner predispositions, without subjective demands, knowing that every preacher has his gifts and his limits. While at times there is reason to be bored by a long, unfocused or incomprehensible homily, other times instead the obstacle is prejudice. And he who pronounces the homily must be aware that he is not doing something of his own, he is preaching, giving voice to Jesus, he is preaching the Word of Jesus. And the homily must be well prepared, and it must be brief, brief! A priest said to me that once he went to another city, where his parents lived, and the father had said to him “You know, I am happy, because my friends and I have found a church where there is Mass without the homily!” And how often we see that during the homily some people fall asleep, others chat, or go outside to smoke a cigarette. So, please, let it be brief, the homily, but let it also be well prepared. And how do you prepare a homily, dear priests, deacons and bishops? How do you prepare it? With prayer, with the study of the Word of God, and by giving a clear and brief summary, which must not exceed 10 minutes, please.

In conclusion, we can say that in the Liturgy of the Word, through the Gospel and the homily, God engages in dialogue with His people, who listen to Him with attention and veneration and, at the same time, acknowledge that He is present and working. If, then, we listen to the “good news,” we will be converted and transformed by it, and capable of changing ourselves and the world. Why? Because the Good News, the Word of God which enters through the ears, goes to the heart and arrives at the hands, to do good works. •

From the Pope: The Hymn of the Gloria and the Prayer of the Collect

from Vatican Information Services

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning! During our catechesis on the Eucharistic celebration, we have seen that the Penitential Act helps us to divest ourselves of our presumptions and to present ourselves to God as we really are, conscious of being sinners, in the hope of being forgiven.

It is precisely from the encounter between human misery and divine mercy that there comes the gratitude expressed in “Gloria,” “a very ancient and venerable hymn in which the Church, gathered together in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 53).

The beginning of this hymn resumes the song of the Angels at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, a joyous announcement of the embrace between heaven and earth. This song also engages us, gathered in prayer: “Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace to people of good will.”

After the “Gloria,” or, when it is not included, immediately after the Penitential Act, prayer takes a particular form in the oration called the “Collect,” by means of which the proper character of the celebration is expressed, variable according to the days and times of the year. With the invitation to “pray,” the priest exhorts the people to gather with him in a moment of silence, in order to become aware of being in the presence of God and to bring out, each in his own heart, the personal intentions with which he participates in Mass. The priest says, “Let us pray,” and each person thinks of what they need, what they wish to ask for, in the prayer.

Silence is not reduced to the absence of words, but rather it is the willingness to listen to other voices: that of our heart and, above all, the voice of the Holy Spirit. In the liturgy, the nature of the sacred silence depends on the moment in which it takes place: “Within the Act of Penitence and again after the invitation to pray, all recollect themselves; but at the conclusion of a reading or the homily, all meditate briefly on what they have heard; then after Communion, they praise and pray to God in their hearts.” So, before the initial prayer, silence helps us to gather ourselves and to think of why we are here. Here, then, there is the importance of listening to our heart to then open it to the Lord. Perhaps we come from days of weariness, of joy, of pain, and we want to say so to the Lord, to invoke His help, to ask Him to be close to us; we have relatives or friends who are ill or who are going through difficult times; we wish to entrust to God the fate of the Church and the world. And this is why we need this brief silence before the priest, gathering the intentions of each person, expresses in a loud voice to God, on behalf of all, the common prayer that concludes the rites of introduction, making the “collection” of individual intentions. I strongly recommend that priests observe this moment of silence and not to be hasty: “Let us pray,” and then silence. I recommend this to priests. Without this silence, we risk neglecting the recollection of the soul.

The priest recites this entreaty, this prayer of the Collect, with his arms outstretched, in the attitude of the person praying, adopted by Christians since the early centuries – as the frescoes of the Roman catacombs testify – to imitate Christ with open arms on the wood of the cross. And there, Christ is the Orante and it is prayer together! In the Crucifix we recognize the priest who offers to God the worship he pleases, that is filial obedience.

In the Roman Rite the prayers are concise but full of meaning: many beautiful meditations can be made on these prayers. So beautiful! Going back to meditating on the texts, even outside of Mass, can help us learn how to turn to God, what to ask, what words to use. May the liturgy become for all of us a true school of prayer.  •