Mary - Our Lady

Pope Francis          

26.05.13 Eucharistic Celebration

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity with First Communicants, 

Roman Parish of Sts Elizabeth and Zachariah   

Luke 1: 39   Proverbs 8: 22-31   Romans 5: 1-5   John 16: 12-15 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In his greeting the Parish Priest reminded me of something beautiful about Our Lady. Our Lady, as soon as she had heard the news that she was to be the Mother of Jesus and the announcement that her cousin Elizabeth was expecting a child — the Gospel says — she went to her in haste, she did not wait. She did not say: “But now I am with child I must take care of my health. My cousin is bound to have friends who can care for her”. Something stirred her and she “went with haste” to Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:39). It is beautiful to think this of Our Lady, of our Mother, that she hastens, because she intends to help. She goes to help, she doesn't go to boast and tell her cousin: “listen, I’m in charge now, because I am the Mother of God!”. No, she did not do that. She went to help! And Our Lady is always like this. She is our Mother who always hurries to us whenever we are in need.

It would be beautiful to add to the Litany of Our Lady something like this: “O Lady who goes in haste, pray for us!”. It is lovely, isn’t? For she always goes in haste, she does not forget her children. And when her children are in difficulty, when they need something and call on her, she hurries to them. This gives us a security, the security of always having our Mother next to us, beside us. We move forward, we journey more easily in life when our mother is near. Let us think of this grace of Our Lady, this grace that she gives us: of being close to us, but without making us wait for her. Always! She — lets us trust in this — she lives to help us. Our Lady who always hastens, for our sake.

Our Lady also helps us to understand God and Jesus well, to understand Jesus’ life well and God’s life, and to understand properly what the Lord is, what the Lord is like and, God is. I ask you children: “Who knows who God is?”. Raise your hand. Tell me? There! Creator of the earth. And how many Gods are there? One? But I have been told that there are three: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit! How can this be explained? Is there one or are there three? One? One? And how is it possible to explain that one is the Father, another the Son and the other the Holy Spirit? Louder, Louder! That girl is right. They are three in one, three Persons in one.

And what does the Father do? The Father is the beginning, the Father who created all things, who created us. What does the Son do? What does Jesus do? Who can tell me what Jesus does? Does he love us? And then? He brings the word of God! Jesus comes to teach us the word of God. This is excellent! And what then? What did Jesus do on earth? He saved us! And Jesus came to give his life for us. The Father creates the world; Jesus saves us.

And what does the Holy Spirit do? He loves us! He gives you love! All the children together: the Father creates all, he creates the world; Jesus saves us; and the Holy Spirit? He loves us! And this is Christian life: talking to the Father, talking to the Son and talking to the Holy Spirit. Jesus has saved us, but he also walks beside us in life. Is this true? And how does he walk? What does he do when he walks beside us in life? This is hard. Anyone who knows this wins the Derby! What does Jesus do when he walks with us? Louder! First: he helps us. He leads us! Very good. He walks with us, he helps us, he leads us and he teaches us to journey on.

And Jesus also gives us the strength to work. Doesn’t he? He sustains us! Good! In difficulty, doesn’t he? And also in our school tasks! He supports us, he helps us, he leads us, he sustains us. That’s it! Jesus always goes with us. Good. But listen, Jesus gives us strength. How does Jesus give us strength? You know this, you know that he gives us strength! Louder, I can’t hear you! In Communion he gives us strength, he really helps us with strength. He comes to us. But when you say, “he gives us Communion”, does a piece of bread make you so strong? Isn’t it bread? Is it bread? This is bread, but is what is on the altar bread? Or isn’t it bread? It seems to be bread. It is not really bread. What is it? It is the Body of Jesus. Jesus comes into our heart.

So let us all think about this: the Father has given us life; Jesus has given us salvation, he accompanies us, he leads us, he supports us, he teaches us; and the Holy Spirit? What does he give us? He loves us! He gives us love. Let us think of God in this way and ask Our Lady, Our Lady our Mother, who always hurries to our aid, to teach us to understand properly what God is like: what the Father is like, what the Son is like, and what the Holy Spirit is like. Amen.

26.05.13

1. I have come to share with you the joys and hopes, the struggles and responsibilities, the ideals and aspirations of your island, and to strengthen you in the faith. Here in Cagliari, as in all Sardinia, there is no lack of difficulties — there are so many — of problems and concerns. I am thinking especially of the lack of work and of job insecurity, and therefore of uncertainty about the future. Your beautiful region of Sardinia has long suffered from many situations of poverty, which have been worsened by its condition as an island. The faithful collaboration of everyone, along with the responsible commitment of institutions — including the Church — is necessary in order to guarantee that fundamental rights are accorded to persons and to families, and in order to foster a more stable and fraternal society. The right to work, the right to bring home bread, bread earned through work must be guaranteed! I am close to you! I am close to you, I remember you in prayer and I encourage you to persevere in bearing witness to the human and Christian values that are so deeply rooted in the faith and history of this land and of its people. May you always keep the light of hope burning!

2. I have come among you to place myself, together with you, at the feet of Our Lady, who gives us her Son. I am well aware that Mary, our Mother, is very much in your hearts, as this Shrine testifies, to which many generations of Sardinians have climbed — and will continue to climb! — in order to invoke the protection of Our Lady of Bonaria, Principle Patroness of the Island. Here you bring the joys and sufferings of this land, of your families, and even of those of its children who live far away, who have left with great pain and longing, in order to find work and a future for themselves and for those who are dear to them. Today, we who gather here want thank Mary, because she is always near to us. We want to renew our trust and our love for her.

The first Reading we heard shows us Mary in prayer, in the Upper Room, together with the Apostles. Mary prays, she prays together with the community of the disciples, and she teaches us to have complete trust in God and in his mercy. This is the power of prayer! Let us never tire of knocking at God's door. Everyday through Mary let us carry our entire life to God's heart! Knock at the door of God's heart!

In the Gospel, however, we take in Jesus’ last gaze upon his Mother (cf. Jn 19:25-27). From the Cross, Jesus looks at his Mother and entrusts her to the Apostle John, saying: This is your son. We are all present in John, even us, and Jesus’ look of love entrusts us to the maternal care of the Mother. Mary would have remembered another look of love, when she was a girl: the gaze of God the Father, who looked upon her humility, her littleness. Mary teaches us that God does not abandon us; he can do great things even with our weaknesses. Let us trust in him! Let us knock at the door of his heart!

3. The third thought: today I have come among you; or rather, we have come together, to encounter the gaze of Mary, since there, as it were, is reflected the gaze of the Father, who made her the Mother of God, and the gaze of the Son on the Cross, who made her our Mother. It is with that gaze that Mary watches us today. We need her tender gaze, her maternal gaze, which knows us better than anyone else, her gaze full of compassion and care. Mary, today we want to tell you: Mother grant us your gaze! Your gaze leads us to God, your gaze is a gift of the good Father who waits for us at every turn of our path, it is a gift of Jesus Christ on the Cross, who takes upon himself our sufferings, our struggles, our sin. And in order to meet this Father who is full of love, today we say to her: Mother, give us your gaze! Let’s say it all together: “Mother, grant us your gaze!”. “Mother, grant us your gaze!”.

Along our path, which is often difficult, we are not alone. We are so many, we are a people, and the gaze of Our Lady helps us to look at one another as brothers and sisters. Let us look upon one another in a more fraternal way! Mary teaches us to have that gaze which strives to welcome, to accompany and to protect. Let us learn to look at one another beneath Mary's maternal gaze! There are people whom we instinctively consider less and who instead are in greater need: the most abandoned, the sick, those who have nothing to live on, those who do not know Jesus, youth who find themselves in difficulty, young people who cannot find work. Let us not be afraid to go out and to look upon our brothers and sisters with Our Lady's gaze. She invites us to be true brothers and sisters. And let us never allow something or someone to come between us and Our Lady’s gaze. Mother, grant us your gaze! May no one hide from it! May our childlike heart know how to defend itself from the many “windbags” who make false promises? from those who have a gaze greedy for an easy life and full of promises that cannot be fulfilled. May they not rob us of Mary’s gaze, which is full of tenderness, which gives us strength and builds solidarity among us. Let us say together: Mother, grant us your gaze! Mother, grant us your gaze! Mother, grant us your gaze!

22.09.13


Pope Francis       

13.10.13  Holy Mass for Marian Day, St Peter's Square   

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time  Year C     

2 Kings 5: 14-17,   2 Timothy 2: 8-13,   Luke 17: 11-19 

In the Psalm we said: “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things” (Ps 98:1).

Today we consider one of the marvellous things which the Lord has done: Mary! A lowly and weak creature like ourselves, she was chosen to be the Mother of God, the Mother of her Creator.

Considering Mary in the light of the readings we have just heard, I would like to reflect with you on three things: first, God surprises us, second, God asks us to be faithful, and third, God is our strength.

1. First: God surprises us. The story of Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, is remarkable. In order to be healed of leprosy, he turns to the prophet of God, Elisha, who does not perform magic or demand anything unusual of him, but asks him simply to trust in God and to wash in the waters of the river. Not, however, in one of the great rivers of Damascus, but in the little stream of the Jordan. Naaman is left surprised, even taken aback. What kind of God is this who asks for something so simple? He wants to turn back, but then he goes ahead, he immerses himself in the Jordan and is immediately healed (cf. 2 Kg 5:1-4). There it is: God surprises us. It is precisely in poverty, in weakness and in humility that he reveals himself and grants us his love, which saves us, heals us and gives us strength. He asks us only to obey his word and to trust in him.

This was the experience of the Virgin Mary. At the message of the angel, she does not hide her surprise. It is the astonishment of realizing that God, to become man, had chosen her, a simple maid of Nazareth. Not someone who lived in a palace amid power and riches, or one who had done extraordinary things, but simply someone who was open to God and put her trust in him, even without understanding everything: “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). That was her answer. God constantly surprises us, he bursts our categories, he wreaks havoc with our plans. And he tells us: Trust me, do not be afraid, let yourself be surprised, leave yourself behind and follow me!

Today let us all ask ourselves whether we are afraid of what God might ask, or of what he does ask. Do I let myself be surprised by God, as Mary was, or do I remain caught up in my own safety zone: in forms of material, intellectual or ideological security, taking refuge in my own projects and plans? Do I truly let God into my life? How do I answer him?

2. In the passage from Saint Paul which we have heard, the Apostle tells his disciple Timothy: Remember Jesus Christ; if we persevere with him, we will also reign with him (cf. 2 Tim 2:8-13). This is the second thing: to remember Christ always – to be mindful of Jesus Christ – and thus to persevere in faith. God surprises us with his love, but he demands that we be faithful in following him. We can be unfaithful, but he cannot: he is “the faithful one” and he demands of us that same fidelity. Think of all the times when we were excited about something or other, some initiative, some task, but afterwards, at the first sign of difficulty, we threw in the towel. Sadly, this also happens in the case of fundamental decisions, such as marriage. It is the difficulty of remaining steadfast, faithful to decisions we have made and to commitments we have made. Often it is easy enough to say “yes”, but then we fail to repeat this “yes” each and every day. We fail to be faithful.

Mary said her “yes” to God: a “yes” which threw her simple life in Nazareth into turmoil, and not only once. Any number of times she had to utter a heartfelt “yes” at moments of joy and sorrow, culminating in the “yes” she spoke at the foot of the Cross. Here today there are many mothers present; think of the full extent of Mary’s faithfulness to God: seeing her only Son hanging on the Cross. The faithful woman, still standing, utterly heartbroken, yet faithful and strong.

And I ask myself: Am I a Christian by fits and starts, or am I a Christian full-time? Our culture of the ephemeral, the relative, also takes it toll on the way we live our faith. God asks us to be faithful to him, daily, in our everyday life. He goes on to say that, even if we are sometimes unfaithful to him, he remains faithful. In his mercy, he never tires of stretching out his hand to lift us up, to encourage us to continue our journey, to come back and tell him of our weakness, so that he can grant us his strength. This is the real journey: to walk with the Lord always, even at moments of weakness, even in our sins. Never to prefer a makeshift path of our own. That kills us. Faith is ultimate fidelity, like that of Mary.

3. The last thing: God is our strength. I think of the ten lepers in the Gospel who were healed by Jesus. They approach him and, keeping their distance, they call out: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Lk 17:13). They are sick, they need love and strength, and they are looking for someone to heal them. Jesus responds by freeing them from their disease. Strikingly, however, only one of them comes back, praising God and thanking him in a loud voice. Jesus notes this: ten asked to be healed and only one returned to praise God in a loud voice and to acknowledge that he is our strength. Knowing how to give thanks, to give praise for everything that the Lord has done for us.

Take Mary. After the Annunciation, her first act is one of charity towards her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth. Her first words are: “My soul magnifies the Lord”, in other words, a song of praise and thanksgiving to God not only for what he did for her, but for what he had done throughout the history of salvation. Everything is his gift. If we can realize that everything is God’s gift, how happy will our hearts be! Everything is his gift. He is our strength! Saying thank you” is such an easy thing, and yet so hard! How often do we say “thank you” to one another in our families? These are essential words for our life in common. “Sorry,   “May I”, “thank you”. If families can say these three things, they will be fine. “Sorry”, “May I”, “thank you”. How often do we say “thank you” in our families? How often do we say “thank you” to those who help us, those close to us, those at our side throughout life? All too often we take everything for granted! This happens with God too. It is easy to approach the Lord to ask for something, but to go and thank him: “Well, I don’t need to”.

As we continue our celebration of the Eucharist, let us invoke Mary’s intercession. May she help us to be open to God’s surprises, to be faithful to him each and every day, and to praise and thank him, for he is our strength. Amen.

13.10.13


Pope Francis       

23.10.13 General Audience, Saint Peter's Square 

Catechesis on the Church - Mary as the image and model of the Church

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Continuing our catechesis on the Church, today I would like to look at Mary as the image and model of the Church. I will do so by taking up an expression of the Second Vatican Council. The Constitution Lumen Gentium states: "As St Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity, and the perfect union with Christ" (n. 63).

1. Let us begin with the first aspect, Mary as the model of faith . In what sense does Mary represent a model for the Church’s faith? Let us think about who the Virgin Mary was: a Jewish girl who was waiting with all her heart for the redemption of her people. But in the heart of the young daughter of Israel there was a secret that even she herself did not yet know: in God’s loving plan she was destined to become the Mother of the Redeemer. At the Annunciation, the Messenger of God calls her "full of grace" and reveals this plan to her. Mary answers "yes" and from that moment Mary’s faith receives new light: it is concentrated on Jesus, the Son of God, who from her took flesh and in whom all the promises of salvation history are fulfilled. Mary’s faith is the fulfilment of Israel’s faith, the whole journey, the whole path of that people awaiting redemption is contained in her, and it is in this sense that she is the model of the Church’s faith, which has Christ, the incarnation of God's infinite love, as its centre.

How did Mary live this faith? She lived it out in the simplicity of the thousand daily tasks and worries of every mother, such as providing food, clothing, caring for the house.... It was precisely Our Lady’s normal life which served as the basis for the unique relationship and profound dialogue which unfolded between her and God, between her and her Son. Mary’s "yes", already perfect from the start, grew until the hour of the Cross. There her motherhood opened to embrace every one of us, our lives, so as to guide us to her Son. Mary lived perpetually immersed in the mystery of God-made-man, as his first and perfect disciple, by contemplating all things in her heart in the light of the Holy Spirit, in order to understand and live out the will of God.

We can ask ourselves a question: do we allow ourselves to be illumined by the faith of Mary, who is our Mother? Or do we think of her as distant, as someone too different from us? In moments of difficulty, of trial, of darkness, do we look to her as a model of trust in God who always and only desires our good? Let's think about this: perhaps it will do us good to rediscover Mary as the model and figure of the Church in this faith that she possessed!

2. We come to the second aspect: Mary as the model of charity . In what way is Mary a living example of love for the Church? Let us think of the readiness she showed toward her cousin Elizabeth. In visiting her, the Virgin Mary brought not only material help — she brought this too — but she also brought Jesus, who was already alive in her womb. Bringing Jesus into that house meant bringing joy, the fullness of joy. Elizabeth and Zaccariah were rejoicing at a pregnancy that had seemed impossible at their age, but it was the young Mary who brought them the fullness of joy, the joy which comes from Jesus and from the Holy Spirit, and is expressed by gratuitous charity, by sharing with, helping, and understanding others.

Our Lady also wants to bring the great gift of Jesus to us, to us all; and with him she brings us his love, his peace, and his joy. In this, the Church is like Mary: the Church is not a shop, she is not a humanitarian agency, the Church is not an ngo. The Church is sent to bring Christ and his Gospel to all. She does not bring herself — whether small or great, strong or weak, the Church carries Jesus and should be like Mary when she went to visit Elizabeth. What did Mary take to her? Jesus. The Church brings Jesus: this is the heart of the Church, to carry Jesus! If, as a hypothesis, the Church were not to bring Jesus, she would be a dead Church. The Church must bring Jesus, the love of Jesus, the charity of Jesus.

We have spoken about Mary, about Jesus. What about us? We who are the Church? What kind of love do we bring to others? Is it the love of Jesus that shares, that forgives, that accompanies, or is it a watered-down love, like wine so diluted that it seems like water? Is it a strong love, or a love so weak that it follows the emotions, that it seeks a return, an interested love? Another question: is self-interested love pleasing to Jesus? No, it is not because love should be freely given, like his is. What are the relationships like in our parishes, in our communities? Do we treat each other like brothers and sisters? Or do we judge one another, do we speak evil of one another, do we just tend our own vegetable patch? Or do we care for one another? These are the questions of charity!

3. And briefly, one last aspect: Mary as the model of union with Christ . The life of the Holy Virgin was the life of a woman of her people: Mary prayed, she worked, she went to the synagogue... But every action was carried out in perfect union with Jesus. This union finds its culmination on Calvary: here Mary is united to the Son in the martyrdom of her heart and in the offering of his life to the Father for the salvation of humanity. Our Lady shared in the pain of the Son and accepted with him the will of the Father, in that obedience that bears fruit, that grants the true victory over evil and death.

The reality Mary teaches us is very beautiful: to always be united with Jesus. We can ask ourselves: do we remember Jesus only when something goes wrong and we are in need, or is ours a constant relation, a deep friendship, even when it means following him on the way of the Cross?

Let us ask the Lord to grant us his grace, his strength, so that the model of Mary, Mother of the Church, may be reflected in our lives and in the life of every ecclesial community. Amen

23.10.13

Pope Francis       

08.12.13  Angelus, St Peter's Square   

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary    

2nd Sunday of Advent Year A 

Luke 1: 26-38 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

This second Sunday of Advent falls on the day of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and thus our gaze is drawn to the beauty of the Mother of Jesus, our Mother! With great joy the Church contemplates her “full of grace” (Lk 1:28), and starting with these words we salute her together: “Full of grace!” Let us say it three times: “Full of grace!”. Everyone: Full of grace! Full of grace! Full of grace! This is how God saw her from the first moment of his loving design. He saw her as beautiful, full of grace. Our Mother is beautiful! Mary sustains our journey toward Christmas, for she teaches us how to live this Advent Season in expectation of the Lord. For this time of Advent is a time of waiting for the Lord, who will visit us all on the feast, but also, each one, in our own hearts. The Lord is coming! Let us wait for him!

The Gospel of St Luke presents us with Mary, a girl from Nazareth, a small town in Galilee, in the outskirts of the Roman Empire and on the outskirts of Israel as well. A village. Yet the Lord’s gaze rested on her, on this little girl from that distant village, on the one he had chosen to be the mother of his Son. In view of this motherhood, Mary was preserved from original sin, from that fracture in communion with God, with others and with creation, which deeply wounds every human being. But this fracture was healed in advance in the Mother of the One who came to free us from the slavery of sin. The Immaculata was written in God’s design; she is the fruit of God’s love that saves the world.

And Our Lady never distanced herself from that love: throughout her life her whole being is a “yes” to that love, it is the “yes” to God. But that didn’t make life easy for her! When the Angel calls her “full of grace” (Lk 1:28), she is “greatly troubled” for in her humility she feels she is nothing before God. The Angel consoles her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (v. 30,31). This announcement troubles her even more because she was not yet married to Joseph; but the Angel adds: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you… therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (v. 35). Mary listens, interiorly obeys and responds: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v.38).

The mystery of this girl from Nazareth, who is in the heart of God, is not estranged from us. She is not there and we over here. No, we are connected. Indeed, God rests his loving gaze on every man and every woman! By name and surname. His gaze of love is on every one of us. The Apostle Paul states that God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph 1:4). We too, from all time, were chosen by God to live a holy life, free of sin. It is a plan of love that God renews every time we come to him, especially through the Sacraments.

On this Solemnity, then, by contemplating our beautiful Immaculate Mother, let us also recognize our truest destiny, our deepest vocation: to be loved, to be transformed by love, to be transformed by the beauty of God. Let us look to her, our Mother, and allow her to look upon us, for she is our mother and she loves us so much; let us allow ourselves to be watched over by her so that we may learn how to be more humble, and also more courageous in following the Word of God; to welcome the tender embrace of her Son Jesus, an embrace that gives us life, hope and peace. 

08.12.13


Pope Francis       

22.12.13  Angelus, St Peters Square    

4th Sunday of Advent  Year A          

Matthew 1: 18-24 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, the Gospel tells us about the events preceding the birth of Jesus, and the Evangelist Matthew presents them from the point of view of St Joseph, the betrothed of the Virgin Mary.

Joseph and Mary were dwelling in Nazareth; they were not yet living together, because they were not yet married. In the meantime, Mary, after having welcomed the Angel’s announcement, came to be with child by the power of the Holy Spirit. When Joseph realized this, he was bewildered. The Gospel does not explain what his thoughts were, but it does tell us the essential: he seeks to do the will of God and is ready for the most radical renunciation. Rather than defending himself and asserting his rights, Joseph chooses what for him is an enormous sacrifice. And the Gospel tells us: “Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly” (1:19).

This brief sentence reveals a true inner drama if we think about the love that Joseph had for Mary! But even in these circumstances, Joseph intends to do the will of God and decides, surely with great sorrow, to send Mary away quietly. We need to meditate on these words in order to understand the great trial that Joseph had to endure in the days preceding Jesus’ birth. It was a trial similar to the sacrifice of Abraham, when God asked him for his son Isaac (cf. Gen 22): to give up what was most precious, the person most beloved.

But as in the case of Abraham, the Lord intervenes: he found the faith he was looking for and he opens up a different path, a path of love and of happiness. “Joseph,” he says, “do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20).

This Gospel passage reveals to us the greatness of St Joseph’s heart and soul. He was following a good plan for his life, but God was reserving another plan for him, a greater mission. Joseph was a man who always listened to the voice of God, he was deeply sensitive to his secret will, he was a man attentive to the messages that came to him from the depths of his heart and from on high. He did not persist in following his own plan for his life, he did not allow bitterness to poison his soul; rather, he was ready to make himself available to the news that, in a such a bewildering way, was being presented to him. And thus, he was a good man. He did not hate, and he did not allow bitterness to poison his soul. Yet how many times does hatred, or even dislike and bitterness poison our souls! And this is harmful. Never allow it: he is an example of this. And Joseph thereby became even freer and greater. By accepting himself according to God’s design, Joseph fully finds himself, beyond himself. His freedom to renounce even what is his, the possession of his very life, and his full interior availability to the will of God challenge us and show us the way.

Let us make ourselves ready to celebrate Christmas by contemplating Mary and Joseph: Mary, the woman full of grace who had the courage to entrust herself totally to the Word of God; Joseph, the faithful and just man who chose to believe the Lord rather than listen to the voices of doubt and human pride. With them, let us walk together toward Bethlehem. 

22.12.13

Pope Francis          

01.01.14   Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica    

Solemnity of Mary Mother of God Year A   

Numbers 6: 22-27

In the first reading we find the ancient prayer of blessing which God gave to Moses to hand on to Aaron and his sons: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Num 6:24-25). There is no more meaningful time than the beginning of a new year to hear these words of blessing: they will accompany our journey through the year opening up before us. They are words of strength, courage and hope. Not an illusory hope, based on frail human promises, or a naïve hope which presumes that the future will be better simply because it is the future. Rather, it is a hope that has its foundation precisely in God’s blessing, a blessing which contains the greatest message of good wishes there can be; and this is the message which the Church brings to each of us, filled with the Lord’s loving care and providential help.

The message of hope contained in this blessing was fully realized in a woman, Mary, who was destined to become the Mother of God, and it was fulfilled in her before all creatures.

The Mother of God. This is the first and most important title of Our Lady. It refers to a quality, a role which the faith of the Christian people, in its tender and genuine devotion to our heavenly Mother, has understood from the beginning.

We recall that great moment in the history of the ancient Church, the Council of Ephesus, in which the divine motherhood of the Virgin Mary was authoritatively defined. The truth of her divine maternity found an echo in Rome where, a little later, the Basilica of Saint Mary Major was built, the first Marian shrine in Rome and in the entire West, in which the image of the Mother of God – the Theotokos – is venerated under the title of Salus Populi Romani. It is said that the residents of Ephesus used to gather at the gates of the basilica where the bishops were meeting and shout, “Mother of God!”. The faithful, by asking them to officially define this title of Our Lady, showed that they acknowledged her divine motherhood. Theirs was the spontaneous and sincere reaction of children who know their Mother well, for they love her with immense tenderness. But it is more: it is the sensus fidei of the holy People of God which, in its unity, never errs.

Mary has always been present in the hearts, the piety and above all the pilgrimage of faith of the Christian people. “The Church journeys through time… and on this journey she proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary” (Redemptoris Mater, 2). Our journey of faith is the same as that of Mary, and so we feel that she is particularly close to us. As far as faith, the hinge of the Christian life, is concerned, the Mother of God shared our condition. She had to take the same path as ourselves, a path which is sometimes difficult and obscure. She had to advance in the “pilgrimage of faith” (Lumen gentium, 58).

Our pilgrimage of faith has been inseparably linked to Mary ever since Jesus, dying on the Cross, gave her to us as our Mother, saying: “Behold your Mother!” (Jn 19:27). These words serve as a testament, bequeathing to the world a Mother. From that moment on, the Mother of God also became our Mother! When the faith of the disciples was most tested by difficulties and uncertainties, Jesus entrusted them to Mary, who was the first to believe, and whose faith would never fail. The “woman” became our Mother when she lost her divine Son. Her sorrowing heart was enlarged to make room for all men and women, all, whether good or bad, and she loves them as she loved Jesus. The woman who at the wedding at Cana in Galilee gave her faith-filled cooperation so that the wonders of God could be displayed in the world, at Calvary kept alive the flame of faith in the resurrection of her Son, and she communicates this with maternal affection to each and every person. Mary becomes in this way a source of hope and true joy! The Mother of the Redeemer goes before us and continually strengthens us in faith, in our vocation and in our mission. By her example of humility and openness to God’s will she helps us to transmit our faith in a joyful proclamation of the Gospel to all, without reservation. In this way our mission will be fruitful, because it is modelled on the motherhood of Mary. To her let us entrust our journey of faith, the desires of our heart, our needs and the needs of the whole world, especially of those who hunger and thirst for justice and peace, and for God. Let us then together invoke her, and I invite you to invoke her three times, following the example of those brothers and sisters of Ephesus: Mother of God! Mother of God! Mother of God! Amen. 

01.01.14



Pope Francis          

08.12.14  Angelus, St Peter's Square   

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary   

Ephesians 1: 3-6, 11-12,     

Luke 1: 26-38 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning! Happy Feast Day!

The message of today’s Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary can be summed up in these words: everything is a free gift from God, everything is grace, everything is a gift out of his love for us. The Angel Gabriel calls Mary “full of grace” (Lk 1:28): in her there is no room for sin, because God chose her from eternity to be the mother of Jesus and preserved her from original sin. And Mary corresponds to the grace and abandons herself, saying to the Angel: “Let it be done to me according to your word” (v. 38). She does not say: “I shall do it according to your word”: no! But: “Let it be done to me...”. And the Word was made flesh in her womb. We too are asked to listen to God who speaks to us, and to accept his will; according to the logic of the Gospel nothing is more productive and fruitful than listening to and accepting the Word of the Lord, which comes from the Gospel, from the Bible. The Lord is always speaking to us!

The attitude of Mary of Nazareth shows us that being comes before doing, and to leave the doing to God in order to be truly as he wants us. It is He who works so many marvels in us. Mary is receptive, but not passive. Because, on the physical level, she receives the power of the Holy Spirit and then gives flesh and blood to the Son of God who forms within her. Thus, on the spiritual level, she accepts the grace and corresponds to it with faith. That is why St Augustine affirms that the Virgin “conceived in her heart before her womb” (Discourses, 215, 4). She conceived first faith and then the Lord. This mystery of the acceptance of grace, which in Mary, as a unique privilege, was without the obstacle of sin, is a possibility for all. St Paul, indeed, opens his Letter to the Ephesians with these words of praise: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (1:3). As Mary was greeted by St Elizabeth as “blessed among women” (cf. Lk 1:42), so too we have always been “blessed”, that is, loved, and thus “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless” (Eph 1:4). Mary was pre-served, while we have been saved thanks to Baptism and to the faith. However, all people, she and we together, through Christ, “to the praise of his glorious grace” (v. 6), with which grace the Immaculata was endowed to the fullest.

Regarding this love, regarding this mercy, the divine grace poured into our hearts, one single thing is asked in return: unreserved giving. Not one of us can buy salvation! Salvation is a free gift of the Lord, a free gift of God that comes within us and dwells in us. As we have received freely, so are we called to give freely (cf. Mt 10:8); imitating Mary, who, immediately upon receiving the Angel’s announcement, went to share the gift of her fruitfulness with her relative Elizabeth. Because if everything has been given to us, then everything must be passed on. How? By allowing that the Holy Spirit make of us a gift for others. The Spirit is a gift for us and we, by the power of the Spirit, must be a gift for others and allow the Holy Spirit to turn us into instruments of acceptance, instruments of reconciliation, instruments of forgiveness. If our life is allowed to be transformed by the grace of the Lord, for the grace of the Lord does transform us, we will not be able to keep to ourselves the light that comes from his face, but we will let it pass on to enlighten others. Let us learn from Mary, who kept her gaze, constantly fixed on the Son and her face became “the face that looked most like Christ’s” (Dante, Paradiso, XXXII, 87). And to her let us now turn with the prayer that recalls the annunciation of the Angel. 

08.12.14

Pope Francis          


4th Sunday of Advent Year B 

          

Romans 16: 25-27;        Luke 1: 26-38 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today, the Fourth and last Sunday of Advent, the Liturgy wants to prepare us for Christmas, now at the door, by inviting us to meditate on the Angel’s Annunciation to Mary. The Archangel Gabriel reveals to the Virgin the Lord’s will that she become the mother of his Only-Begotten Son: “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Lk 1:31-32). Let us fix our gaze on this simple girl from Nazareth, at the moment she offers herself to the divine message with her “yes”; let us grasp two essential aspects of her attitude, which is for us the model of how to prepare for Christmas.

First of all her faith, her attitude of faith, which consists in listening to the Word of God in order to abandon herself to this Word with full willingness of mind and heart. Responding to the Angel, Mary said: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38). In her “behold” filled with faith, Mary does not know by what road she must venture, what pains she must suffer, what risks she must face. But she is aware that it is the Lord asking and she entrusts herself totally to Him; she abandons herself to his love. This is the faith of Mary!

Another aspect is the capacity of the Mother of Christ to recognize God’s time. Mary is the one who made possible the Incarnation of the Son of God, “the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages” (Rom 16:25). She made possible the Incarnation of the Word thanks to her humble and brave “yes”. Mary teaches us to seize the right moment when Jesus comes into our life and asks for a ready and generous answer. And Jesus is coming. Indeed, the mystery of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem took place historically more than 2,000 years ago but occurs as a spiritual event in the “today” of the Liturgy. The Word, who found a home in the virgin womb of Mary, comes in the celebration of Christmas to knock once again at the heart of every Christian. He comes and knocks. Each of us is called to respond, like Mary, with a personal and sincere “yes”, placing oneself fully at the disposal of God and of his mercy, of his love. How many times Jesus comes into our lives, and how many times he sends us an angel, and how many times we don’t notice because we are so taken, immersed in our own thoughts, in our own affairs and even, in these days, in our Christmas preparations, so as not to notice Him who comes and knocks at the door of our hearts, asking for acceptance, asking for a “yes” like Mary’s. A saint used to say: “I am afraid that the Lord will come”. Do you know what the fear was? It was the fear of not noticing and letting Him pass by. When we feel in our hearts: “I would like to be a better man, a better woman…. I regret what I have done…”. That is the Lord knocking. He makes you feel this: the will to be better, the will to be closer to others, to God. If you feel this, stop. That is the Lord! And go to prayer, and maybe to confession, cleanse yourselves… this will be good. But keep well in mind: if you feel this longing to be better, He is knocking: don’t let Him pass by!

In the mystery of Christmas, at Mary’s side there is the silent presence of St Joseph, as he is portrayed in every Nativity scene — as in the one you can admire here in St Peter’s Square. The example of Mary and Joseph is for us all an invitation to accept, with total openness of spirit, Jesus, who for love made Himself our brother. He comes to bring to the world the gift of peace: “on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased” (Lk 2:14), as the choirs of Angels proclaimed to the shepherds. The precious gift of Christmas is peace, and Christ is our true peace. And Christ knocks at our hearts to grant us peace, peace of the soul. Let us open our doors to Christ!

Let us entrust ourselves to the intercession of our Mother and of St Joseph in order to experience a a truly Christian Christmas, free of all worldliness, ready to welcome the Saviour, God-among-us.

21.12.14

Pope Francis          


31.12.14  Vatican Basilica          

Te Deum and First Vespers Solemnity of Mary Mother of God        

Galatians 4: 4-5 

Today the Word of God introduces us in a special way, to the meaning of time, to understand that time is not a reality extrinsic to God, simply because He chose to reveal Himself and to save us in history. The meaning of time, temporality, is the atmosphere of God’s epiphany, namely, of the manifestation of God’s mystery and of his concrete love. In fact, time is God’s messenger, as St Peter Faber said. Today’s liturgy reminds us of the phrase of the Apostle John: Children, it is the last hour (1 Jn 2:18), and that of St Paul who speaks of “when the time had fully come” (Gal 4:4). Therefore, the present day manifests to us how time was — so to speak — “touched” by Christ, the Son of God and of Mary, and received from Him new and surprising meanings: it became the “salvific time”, namely, the definitive time of salvation and grace.

And all this induces us to think of the end of the journey of life, the end of our journey. There was a beginning and there will be an end, “a time to be born, and a time to die” (Eccles 3:2). With this truth, so simple and fundamental and so neglected and forgotten, Holy Mother Church teaches us to end the year and also our day with an examination of conscience, through which we review what has happened; we thank the Lord for every good we have received and have been able to do and, at the same time, we think again of our failings and our sins — to give thanks and to ask for forgiveness.

It is what we also do today at the end of the year. We praise the Lord with the Te Deum hymn and at the same time we ask Him for forgiveness. The attitude of thanksgiving disposes us to humility, to recognize and receive the Lord’s gifts.

In the Reading of these First Vespers, the Apostle Paul recapitulates the fundamental motive for our rendering thanks to God: He has made us his children, He has adopted us as his children. This unmerited gift fills us with a gratitude brimming with astonishment! Someone might say: “But are we not already his children, by the very fact of being men?”. We certainly are, because God is the Father of every person who comes into the world. But without forgetting that we were distanced from Him because of original sin, which separated us from our Father: our filial relationship was profoundly wounded. Therefore, God sent his Son to deliver us at the cost of His blood. And if there is a deliverance, it is because there is slavery. We were children, but we became slaves, following the voice of the Evil One. No one else delivers us from that effective slavery except Jesus, who assumed our flesh from the Virgin Mary and died on the Cross to free us from the slavery of sin and to restore us to our forfeit filial condition.

Today’s liturgy also reminds us that in the beginning (before time) was the Word and the Word was made man and because of this, St Irenaeus affirms: “This is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God” (Adversus Haereses, 3, 19, 1:PG7/1, 939; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 460).

Contemporaneously, the very gift for which we give thanks is also a reason for an examination of conscience, for a revision of our personal and communal life, to ask ourselves: what is our lifestyle? Do we live as children or as slaves? Do we live as people baptized in Christ, anointed by the Spirit, delivered and free? Or do we live according to the corrupt, worldly logic, doing what the devil makes us believe is in our interests? In our existential journey there is always a tendency to resist liberation; we are afraid of freedom and, paradoxically and somewhat unwittingly, we prefer slavery. Freedom frightens us because it causes us to confront time and to face our responsibility to live it well. Instead, slavery reduces time to a “moment” and thus we feel more secure, that is, it makes us live moments disconnected from their past and from our future. In other words, slavery impedes us from truly and fully living the present, because it empties it of the past and closes it to the future, to eternity. Slavery makes us believe that we cannot dream, fly, hope.

A few days ago a great Italian artist said that it was easier for the Lord to take the Israelites out of Egypt than to take Egypt out of the heart of the Israelites. “Yes”. They were “physically” freed from slavery, but during the wandering in the desert, with the various difficulties and the hunger, they began to feel nostalgia for Egypt and they remembered when they “ate the onions, and the garlic” (cf. Num 11:5); they forgot, however, that they ate them at the table of slavery. Nostalgia for slavery is nestled in our heart, because it is seemingly more reassuring than freedom, which is far more risky. How we like being captivated by lots of fireworks, beautiful at first glance but which in reality last but a few seconds! This is the reign, this is the charm of the moment!

For us Christians, the quality of our actions, of our life, of our presence in the city, of our service to the common good, of our participation in public and ecclesial institutions, also depends upon this examination of conscience.

For this reason, and being the Bishop of Rome, I would like to reflect on our life in Rome, which is a great gift, because it means living in the Eternal City; for a Christian, especially, it means being part of the Church founded on the testimony and the martyrdom of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Therefore, we also thank the Lord for this. At the same time, however, it is a great responsibility. And Jesus said: “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required” (Lk 12:48). Thus, let us ask ourselves: in this city, in this Ecclesial Community, are we free or are we slaves, are we salt and light? Are we leaven? Or are we listless, insipid, hostile, disheartened, insignificant and weary?

Undoubtedly the discovery of grave corruption, which has recently emerged, require a serious and conscious conversion of hearts for a spiritual and moral rebirth, as well as for a renewed commitment to build a more just and solidary city, where the poor, the weak and the marginalized are at the centre of our concerns and daily actions. A great and daily attitude of Christian freedom is necessary in order to have the courage to proclaim, in our city, that it is necessary to protect the poor, and not to protect ourselves from the poor, that we must serve the weak and not take advantage of them!

The teaching of a simple Roman deacon can help us. When St Lawrence was asked to bring and display the treasures of the Church, he simply brought a few poor people. In a city, when the poor and the weak are cared for, aided and helped to play their part in society, they reveal themselves to be the treasure of the Church and a treasure in the society. Instead, when a society ignores the poor, persecutes them, criminalizes them, and constrains them “to react as a mafia”, that society becomes impoverished to the point of misery, it loses its freedom and prefers “the garlic and the onions” of slavery, of slavery to its selfishness, of slavery to its pusillanimity; that society ceases to be Christian.

Dear brothers and sisters, to conclude the year is to reaffirm that a “last hour” exists and that the “fullness of time” exists. In concluding this year, in giving thanks and in asking for forgiveness, it will be good for us to ask for the grace to be able to walk in freedom, to thus be able to repair all the harm done and to protect ourselves against the nostalgia of slavery, to protect ourselves from feeling “nostalgia” for slavery.

May the Holy Virgin, the Holy Mother of God, who was at the very heart of the Temple of God, when the Word — who was in the beginning — made Himself one with us in time; may She who gave the Saviour to the world, help us to receive Him with an open heart, in order that we may truly be and live freely, as children of God. 

31.12.14


Pope Francis          

01.01.15  Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica  

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and 48th World Peace Day    

Numbers 6: 22-27,    

Galatians 4: 4-7,   

Luke 2: 16-21  

Today we are reminded of the words of blessing which Elizabeth spoke to the Virgin Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (Lk 1:42-43).

This blessing is in continuity with the priestly blessing which God had given to Moses to be passed on to Aaron and to all the people: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26). In celebrating the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, the Holy Mother of God, the Church reminds us that Mary, more than anyone else, received this blessing. In her the blessing finds fulfilment, for no other creature has ever seen God’s face shine upon it as did Mary. She gave a human face to the eternal Word, so that all of us can contemplate him.

In addition to contemplating God’s face, we can also praise him and glorify him, like the shepherds who came away from Bethlehem with a song of thanksgiving after seeing the Child and his young mother (cf. Lk 2:16). The two were together, just as they were together at Calvary, because Christ and his mother are inseparable: there is a very close relationship between them, as there is between every child and his or her mother. The flesh (caro) of Christ – which, as Tertullian says, is the hinge (cardo) of our salvation – was knit together in the womb of Mary (cf. Ps 139:13). This inseparability is also clear from the fact that Mary, chosen beforehand to be the Mother of the Redeemer, shared intimately in his entire mission, remaining at her Son’s side to the end on Calvary.

Mary is so closely united to Jesus because she received from him the knowledge of the heart, the knowledge of faith, nourished by her experience as a mother and by her close relationship with her Son. The Blessed Virgin is the woman of faith who made room for God in her heart and in her plans; she is the believer capable of perceiving in the gift of her Son the coming of that “fullness of time”(Gal 4:4) in which God, by choosing the humble path of human existence, entered personally into the history of salvation. That is why Jesus cannot be understood without his Mother.

Likewise inseparable are Christ and the Church – because the Church and Mary are always together and this is precisely the mystery of womanhood in the ecclesial community – and the salvation accomplished by Jesus cannot be understood without appreciating the motherhood of the Church. To separate Jesus from the Church would introduce an “absurd dichotomy”, as Blessed Paul VI wrote (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 16). It is not possible “to love Christ but without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but outside the Church” (ibid.). For the Church is herself God’s great family, which brings Christ to us. Our faith is not an abstract doctrine or philosophy, but a vital and full relationship with a person: Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God who became man, was put to death, rose from the dead to save us, and is now living in our midst. Where can we encounter him? We encounter him in the Church, in our hierarchical, Holy Mother Church. It is the Church which says today: “Behold the Lamb of God”; it is the Church, which proclaims him; it is in the Church that Jesus continues to accomplish his acts of grace which are the sacraments.

This, the Church’s activity and mission, is an expression of her motherhood. For she is like a mother who tenderly holds Jesus and gives him to everyone with joy and generosity. No manifestation of Christ, even the most mystical, can ever be detached from the flesh and blood of the Church, from the historical concreteness of the Body of Christ. Without the Church, Jesus Christ ends up as an idea, a moral teaching, a feeling. Without the Church, our relationship with Christ would be at the mercy of our imagination, our interpretations, our moods.

Dear brothers and sisters! Jesus Christ is the blessing for every man and woman, and for all of humanity. The Church, in giving us Jesus, offers us the fullness of the Lord’s blessing. This is precisely the mission of the people of God: to spread to all peoples God’s blessing made flesh in Jesus Christ. And Mary, the first and most perfect disciple of Jesus, the first and most perfect believer, the model of the pilgrim Church, is the one who opens the way to the Church’s motherhood and constantly sustains her maternal mission to all mankind. Mary’s tactful maternal witness has accompanied the Church from the beginning. She, the Mother of God, is also the Mother of the Church, and through the Church, the mother of all men and women, and of every people.

May this gentle and loving Mother obtain for us the Lord’s blessing upon the entire human family. On this, the World Day of Peace, we especially implore her intercession that the Lord may grant peace in our day; peace in hearts, peace in families, peace among the nations. The message for the Day of Peace this year is “No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters”. All of us are called to be free, all are called to be sons and daughters, and each, according to his or her own responsibilities, is called to combat modern forms of enslavement. From every people, culture and religion, let us join our forces. May he guide and sustain us, who, in order to make us all brothers and sisters, became our servant.

Let us look to Mary, let us contemplate the Holy Mother of God. I suggest that you all greet her together, just like those courageous people of Ephesus, who cried out before their pastors when they entered Church: “Holy Mother of God!” What a beautiful greeting for our Mother. There is a story – I do not know if it is true – that some among those people had clubs in their hands, perhaps to make the Bishops understand what would happen if they did not have the courage to proclaim Mary “Mother of God”! I invite all of you, without clubs, to stand up and to greet her three times with this greeting of the early Church: “Holy Mother of God!”

01.01.15


Pope Francis          

01.01.15  Angelus, St Peter's Square         

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and 48th World Peace Day Year B       

Galatians 4: 4-7   

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning and Happy New Year!

On this first day of the year, in the joyful — albeit cold — atmosphere of Christmas the Church invites us to fix our gaze of faith and of love on the Mother of Jesus. In her, the humble woman of Nazareth, “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14). Because of this it is impossible to separate contemplating Jesus, the Word of life who has become visible and tangible (cf. 1 Jn 1:1), from contemplating Mary, who has given Him her love and his human flesh.

Today we hear the words of the Apostle Paul: “God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4:4). That “born of woman” speaks in an essential manner, and for this reason, even more strongly expresses the true humanity of the Son of God. As a Father of the Church, St Athanasius affirms: “Our Saviour was truly man, and from that comes the salvation of all humanity” (Letter to Epictetus: PG26).

But St Paul also adds “born under the law” (Gal 4:4). With this expression he emphasizes that Christ has taken up the human condition, freeing it from the closed, legalistic mentality. In fact, the law deprived of grace becomes an insupportable yoke, and instead of being good for us it is bad for us. Jesus said: the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. This, then, is the end for which God sent his Son to earth to become man: a finality of liberation; indeed, of regeneration. Of liberation, “to redeem those who were under the law” (v. 5); and the redemption occurred with the death of Christ on the Cross. But especially of regeneration: “so that we might receive adoption as sons” (v. 5). Incorporated in Him, men and women really become children of God. This amazing transition takes place in us with Baptism, which grafts us into Christ as living members, and integrates us into the Church.

At the beginning of a new year, it is good to remember the day of our Baptism: we rediscover the gift received in that Sacrament which has regenerated us to new life — the divine life. And this through Mother Church, which has Mother Mary as a model. Thanks to Baptism we were introduced into communion with God and we are no longer at the mercy of evil and sin, but [rather] we receive the love, the tenderness, the mercy of the heavenly Father. I ask you once again: Who among you remember the day on which you were baptised? For those who don’t remember the date of their Baptism, I assign some homework: go find that day and cherish it in your heart. You can even ask your parents for help, godfather, godmother, uncles or aunts, grandparents.... The day on which we were baptised is a feast day! Remember it or go seek it out, the date of your baptism; it will be very beautiful to thank God for the gift of Baptism.

This closeness of God to our existence gives us true peace, the divine gift that we want especially to implore today, the World Day of Peace. I read there: “Peace is always possible”. Always, peace is possible! We have to seek it.... And over there I read: “Prayer at the root of peace”. Prayer is the very root of peace. Peace is always possible and our prayer is at the root of peace. Prayer disseminates peace. Today is the World Day of Peace, “No longer slaves, but brothers and sisters”: this is the Message of this Day. Because war always makes slaves of us! It is a message that involves all of us. We are all called to combat every form of slavery and to build fraternity — all of us, each one according to his or her own responsibility. Remember well: peace is possible! And at the root of peace, there is always prayer. Let us pray for peace. There are also good schools of peace, schools for peace: we must go forward with this education of peace.

To Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, let us present our good intentions. We ask you to extend the mantle of your maternal protection over each and every one of us in the new year: “O Holy Mother of God despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin” (Sub tuum praesidium).

And I invite you all to greet Our Lady as the Mother of God, hail her with this salute: “Holy Mother of God!”. As she was acclaimed, at the start of Christianity, when at the entrance of the Church they would cry out to their pastors this salute to Our Lady: “Holy Mother of God!”. All together, three times, let us repeat: “Holy Mother of God”.

01.01.15 a


Pope Francis          

01.01.16 Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica, 

Solemnity of Mary Mother of God,  World Day of Peace

Galatians 4: 4-7

Luke 2: 16-21  

We have heard the words of the Apostle Paul: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman” (Gal 4:4).

What does it mean to say that Jesus was born in “the fullness of time”? If we consider that particular moment of history, we might quickly be deluded. Rome had subjugated a great part of the known world by her military might. The Emperor Augustus had come to power after five civil wars. Israel itself had been conquered by the Roman Empire and the Chosen People had lost their freedom. For Jesus’ contemporaries, it was certainly not the best of times. To define the fullness of time, then, we should not look to the geopolitical sphere.

Another interpretation is needed, one which views that fullness from God’s standpoint. It is when God decided that the time had come to fulfil his promise, that the fullness of time came for humanity. History does not determine the birth of Christ; rather, his coming into the world enables history to attain its fullness. For this reason, the birth of the Son of God inaugurates a new era, a new computation of time, the era which witnesses the fulfilment of the ancient promise. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes: “God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the world. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word” (1:1-3). The fullness of time, then, is the presence of God himself in our history. Now we can see his glory, which shines forth in the poverty of a stable; we can be encouraged and sustained by his Word, made “little” in a baby. Thanks to him, our time can find its fullness. The use of our personal time can also find its fullness in the encounter with Jesus Christ, God made man.

Nonetheless, this mystery constantly clashes with the dramatic experience of human history. Each day, as we seek to be sustained by the signs of God’s presence, we encounter new signs to the contrary, negative signs which tend to make us think instead that he is absent. The fullness of time seems to fade before the countless forms of injustice and violence which daily wound our human family. Sometimes we ask ourselves how it is possible that human injustice persists unabated, and that the arrogance of the powerful continues to demean the weak, relegating them to the most squalid outskirts of our world. We ask how long human evil will continue to sow violence and hatred in our world, reaping innocent victims. How can the fullness of time have come when we are witnessing hordes of men, women and children fleeing war, hunger and persecution, ready to risk their lives simply to encounter respect for their fundamental rights? A torrent of misery, swollen by sin, seems to contradict the fullness of time brought by Christ. Remember, dear pueri cantores, this was the third question you asked me yesterday: how do we explain this… even children are aware of this.

And yet this swollen torrent is powerless before the ocean of mercy which floods our world. All of us are called to immerse ourselves in this ocean, to let ourselves be reborn, to overcome the indifference which blocks solidarity, and to leave behind the false neutrality which prevents sharing. The grace of Christ, which brings our hope of salvation to fulfilment, leads us to cooperate with him in building an ever more just and fraternal world, a world in which every person and every creature can dwell in peace, in the harmony of God’s original creation.

At the beginning of a new year, the Church invites us to contemplate Mary’s divine maternity as an icon of peace. The ancient promise finds fulfilment in her person. She believed in the words of the angel, conceived her Son and thus became the Mother of the Lord. Through her, through her “yes”, the fullness of time came about. The Gospel we have just heard tells us that the Virgin Mary “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). She appears to us as a vessel filled to the brim with the memory of Jesus, as the Seat of Wisdom to whom we can have recourse to understand his teaching aright. Today Mary makes it possible for us to grasp the meaning of events which affect us personally, events which also affect our families, our countries and the entire world. Where philosophical reason and political negotiation cannot arrive, there the power of faith, which brings the grace of Christ’s Gospel, can arrive, opening ever new pathways to reason and to negotiation.

Blessed are you, Mary, for you gave the Son of God to our world. But even more blessed are you for having believed in him. Full of faith, you conceived Jesus first in your heart and then in your womb, and thus became the Mother of all believers (cf. Saint Augustine, Sermo 215,4). Send us, O Mother, your blessing on this day consecrated to your honour. Show us the face of Jesus your Son, who bestows upon the entire world mercy and peace. Amen.

01.01.16 m


Pope Francis          

09.10.16  Holy Mass for Marian Day, St Peter's Square   

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time  Year C      

2 Kings 5: 14-17,      Luke 17: 11-19 

This Sunday’s Gospel (cf. Lk 17:11-19) invites us to acknowledge God’s gifts with wonder and gratitude. On the way to his death and resurrection, Jesus meets ten lepers, who approach him, keep their distance and tell their troubles to the one whom their faith perceived as a possible saviour: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (v. 13). They are sick and they are looking someone to heal them. Jesus responds by telling them to go and present themselves to the priests, who according to the Law were charged with certifying presumed healings. In this way, Jesus does not simply make them a promise; he tests their faith. At that moment, in fact, the ten were not yet healed. They were restored to health after they set out in obedience to Jesus’ command. Then, rejoicing, they showed themselves to the priests and continued on their way. They forgot the Giver, the Father, who cured them through Jesus, his Son made man.

All but one: a Samaritan, a foreigner living on the fringes of the chosen people, practically a pagan! This man was not content with being healed by his faith, but brought that healing to completion by returning to express his gratitude for the gift received. He recognized in Jesus the true Priest, who raised him up and saved him, who can now set him on his way and accept him as one of his disciples.

To be able to offer thanks, to be able to praise the Lord for what he has done for us: this is important! So we can ask ourselves: Are we capable of saying “Thank you”? How many times do we say “Thank you” in our family, our community, and in the Church? How many times do we say “Thank you” to those who help us, to those close to us, to those who accompany us through life? Often we take everything for granted! This also happens with God. It is easy to approach the Lord to ask for something, but to return and give thanks... That is why Jesus so emphasizes the failure of the nine ungrateful lepers: “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Lk 17:17-18).

On this Jubilee day, we are given a model, indeed the model, to whom we can look: Mary, our Mother. After hearing the message of the Angel, she lifted up her heart in a song of praise and thanksgiving to God: “My soul magnifies the Lord…” Let us ask our Lady to help us recognize that everything is God’s gift, and to be able to say “Thank you”. Then, I assure you, our joy will be complete. Only those who know how to say “Thank you”, will experience the fullness of joy.

It also takes humility to be able to give thanks. In the first reading we heard the singular story of Naaman, the commander of the army of the King of Aram (cf. 2 Kg 5:14-17). In order to be cured of his leprosy, he accepts the suggestion of a poor slave and entrusts himself to the prophet Elisha, whom he considered an enemy. Naaman was nonetheless ready to humble himself. Elisha asks nothing of him, but simply orders him to bathe in the waters of the River Jordan. This request leaves Naaman perplexed, even annoyed. Can a God who demands such banal things truly be God? He would like to turn back, but then he agrees to be immersed in the Jordan and immediately he is cured.

The heart of Mary, more than any other, is a humble heart, capable of accepting God’s gifts. In order to become man, God chose precisely her, a simple young woman of Nazareth, who did not dwell in the palaces of power and wealth, who did not do extraordinary things. Let us ask ourselves – it will do us good – if we are prepared to accept God’s gifts, or prefer instead to shut ourselves up within our forms of material security, intellectual security, the security of our plans.

Significantly, Naaman and the Samaritans were two foreigners. How many foreigners, including persons of other religions, give us an example of values that we sometimes forget or set aside! Those living beside us, who may be scorned and sidelined because they are foreigners, can instead teach us how to walk on the path that the Lord wishes. The Mother of God, together with Joseph her spouse, knew what it was to live far from home. She too was long a foreigner in Egypt, far from her relatives and friends. Yet her faith was able to overcome the difficulties. Let us cling to this simple faith of the Holy Mother of God; let us ask her that we may always come back to Jesus and express our thanks for the many benefits we have received from his mercy. 

09.10.16


Pope Francis       

01.01.17 Vatican Basilica    

Holy Mass Solemnity of Mary Mother of God Year A     

Luke 2: 16-21  

“Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart! (Lk 2:19). In these words, Luke describes the attitude with which Mary took in all that they had experienced in those days. Far from trying to understand or master the situation, Mary is the woman who can treasure, that is to say, protect and guard in her heart, the passage of God in the life of his people. Deep within, she had learned to listen to the heartbeat of her Son, and that in turn taught her, throughout her life, to discover God’s heartbeat in history. She learned how to be a mother, and in that learning process she gave Jesus the beautiful experience of knowing what it is to be a Son. In Mary, the eternal Word not only became flesh, but also learned to recognize the maternal tenderness of God. With Mary, the God-Child learned to listen to the yearnings, the troubles, the joys and the hopes of the people of the promise. With Mary, he discovered himself a Son of God’s faithful people.

In the Gospels, Mary appears as a woman of few words, with no great speeches or deeds, but with an attentive gaze capable of guarding the life and mission of her Son, and for this reason, of everything that he loves. She was able to watch over the beginnings of the first Christian community, and in this way she learned to be the mother of a multitude. She drew near to the most diverse situations in order to sow hope. She accompanied the crosses borne in the silence of her children’s hearts. How many devotions, shrines and chapels in the most far-off places, how many pictures in our homes, remind us of this great truth. Mary gave us a mother’s warmth, the warmth that shelters us amid troubles, the maternal warmth that keeps anything or anyone from extinguishing in the heart of the Church the revolution of tenderness inaugurated by her Son. Where there is a mother, there is tenderness. By her motherhood, Mary shows us that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong. She teaches us that we do not have to mistreat others in order to feel important (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 288). God’s holy people has always acknowledged and hailed her as the Holy Mother of God.

To celebrate Mary as Mother of God and our mother at the beginning of the new year means recalling a certainty that will accompany our days: we are a people with a Mother; we are not orphans.

Mothers are the strongest antidote to our individualistic and egotistic tendencies, to our lack of openness and our indifference. A society without mothers would not only be a cold society, but a society that has lost its heart, lost the “feel of home”. A society without mothers would be a merciless society, one that has room only for calculation and speculation. Because mothers, even at the worst times, are capable of testifying to tenderness, unconditional self-sacrifice and the strength of hope. I have learned much from those mothers whose children are in prison, or lying in hospital beds, or in bondage to drugs, yet, come cold or heat, rain or draught, never stop fighting for what is best for them. Or those mothers who in refugee camps, or even the midst of war, unfailingly embrace and support their children’s sufferings. Mothers who literally give their lives so that none of their children will perish. Where there is a mother, there is unity, there is belonging, belonging as children.

To begin the year by recalling God’s goodness in the maternal face of Mary, in the maternal face of the Church, in the faces of our own mothers, protects us from the corrosive disease of being “spiritual orphans”. It is the sense of being orphaned that the soul experiences when it feels motherless and lacking the tenderness of God, when the sense of belonging to a family, a people, a land, to our God, grows dim. This sense of being orphaned lodges in a narcissistic heart capable of looking only to itself and its own interests. It grows when what we forget that life is a gift we have received – and owe to others – a gift we are called to share in this common home.

It was such a self-centred orphanhood that led Cain to ask: “Am I my brother's keeper?” (Gen 4:9). It was as if to say: he doesn’t belong to me; I do not recognize him. This attitude of spiritual orphanhood is a cancer that silently eats away at and debases the soul. We become all the more debased, inasmuch as nobody belongs to us and we belong to no one. I debase the earth because it does not belong to me; I debase others because they do not belong to me; I debase God because I do not belong to him, and in the end we debase our very selves, since we forget who we are and the divine “family name” we bear. The loss of the ties that bind us, so typical of our fragmented and divided culture, increases this sense of orphanhood and, as a result, of great emptiness and loneliness. The lack of physical (and not virtual) contact is cauterizing our hearts (cf. Laudato Si’, 49) and making us lose the capacity for tenderness and wonder, for pity and compassion. Spiritual orphanhood makes us forget what it means to be children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, friends and believers. It makes us forget the importance of playing, of singing, of a smile, of rest, of gratitude.

Celebrating the feast of the Holy Mother of God makes us smile once more as we realize that we are a people, that we belong, that only within a community, within a family, can we as persons find the “climate”, the “warmth” that enables us to grow in humanity, and not merely as objects meant to “consume and be consumed”. To celebrate the feast of the Holy Mother of God reminds us that we are not interchangeable items of merchandise or information processors. We are children, we are family, we are God’s People.

Celebrating the Holy Mother of God leads us to create and care for common places that can give us a sense of belonging, of being rooted, of feeling at home in our cities, in communities that unite and support us (cf. Laudato Si’, 151).

Jesus, at the moment of his ultimate self-sacrifice, on the cross, sought to keep nothing for himself, and in handing over his life, he also handed over to us his Mother. He told Mary: Here is your son; here are your children. We too want to receive her into our homes, our families, our communities and nations. We want to meet her maternal gaze. The gaze that frees us from being orphans; the gaze that reminds us that we are brothers and sisters, that I belong to you, that you belong to me, that we are of the same flesh. The gaze that teaches us that we have to learn how to care for life in the same way and with the same tenderness that she did: by sowing hope, by sowing a sense of belonging and of fraternity.

Celebrating the Holy Mother of God reminds us that we have a Mother. We are not orphans. We have a Mother. Together let us all confess this truth. I invite you to acclaim it three times, standing [all stand], like the faithful of Ephesus: Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God.

01.01.17


Pope Francis       

15.08.17  Angelus, St Peter's Square        

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Year A       

Luke 1: 39-56 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Gospel introduces us to the young woman of Nazareth who, having received the Angel’s Annunciation, leaves in haste to be closer to Elizabeth, in the final months of her prodigious pregnancy. Arriving at Elizabeth’s home, Mary hears her utter the words that have come to form the “Hail Mary” prayer: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42). In fact, the greatest gift Mary brings to Elizabeth — and to the whole world — is Jesus, who already lives within her; and he lives not only through faith and through expectation, as in many women of the Old Testament: from the Virgin, Jesus took on human flesh for his mission of salvation.

In the home of Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah, where sadness once reigned for lack of children, there is now the joy of a child on the way: a child who will become the great John the Baptist, the precursor of the Messiah. And when Mary arrives, joy overflows and gushes from their hearts, because the invisible but real presence of Jesus fills everything with meaning: life, family, the salvation of the people. Everything! This joy is expressed in Mary’s voice in the marvellous prayer that the Gospel of Luke has conveyed to us and which, from the first Latin word, is called Magnificat. It is a song of praise to God who works great things through humble people, unknown to the world, as is Mary herself, as is her spouse Joseph, and as is the place where they live, Nazareth. The great things God has done with humble people, the great things the Lord does in the world with the humble, because humility is like a vacuum that leaves room for God. The humble are powerful because they are humble: not because they are strong. And this is the greatness of the humble and of humility. I would like to ask you — and also myself — but do not answer out loud — each of you respond in your heart: “How is my humility?”.

The Magnificat praises the merciful and faithful God who accomplishes his plan of salvation through the little ones and the poor, through those who have faith in him, who trust in his Word as did Mary. Here is the exclamation of Elizabeth: “Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45). In that house, the coming of Jesus through Mary created not only a climate of joy and fraternal communion, but also a climate of faith that leads to hope, prayer, and praise.

We would like to have all of this happen today in our homes too. Celebrating Mary Most Holy Assumed into Heaven, we would once again wish her to bring to us, to our families, to our communities, this immense gift, that unique Grace that we must always seek first and above all the other graces that we also have at heart: the grace that is Jesus Christ!

By bearing Jesus, Our Lady also brings to us a new joy full of meaning; she brings us a new ability to traverse with faith the most painful and difficult moments; she brings us the capacity of mercy, in order to forgive each other, to understand each other and to support each other.

Mary is the model of virtue and of faith. Today, in contemplating her Assumption into Heaven, the final fulfilment of her earthly journey, we thank her because she always precedes us in the pilgrimage of life and faith. She is the first Disciple. And we ask her to keep us and support us; that we may have a strong, joyful and merciful faith; that she may help us to be saints, to meet with her, one day, in Heaven.

15.08.17



Pope Francis          

08.12.17 Angelus, St Peter's Square        

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Year B      

Luke 1: 26-38  

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning and happy Feast Day!

Today we are contemplating the beauty of Mary Immaculate. The Gospel, which recounts the episode of the Annunciation, helps us to understand what we are celebrating, above all through the Angel’s greeting. He addresses Mary with a word that is not easy to translate, which means “filled with grace”, “created by grace”, “full of grace” (Lk 1:28). Before calling her ‘Mary’, he calls her full of grace, and thus reveals the new name that God has given her and which is more becoming to her than the name given to her by her parents. We too call her in this way, with each Hail Mary.

What does full of grace mean? That Mary is filled with the presence of God. And if she is entirely inhabited by God, there is no room within her for sin. It is an extraordinary thing, because everything in the world, regrettably, is contaminated by evil. Each of us, looking within ourselves, sees dark sides. Even the greatest saints were sinners and everything in reality, even the most beautiful things, are corroded by evil: everything, except Mary. She is the one “evergreen oasis” of humanity, the only one uncontaminated, created immaculate so as to fully welcome, with her ‘yes’, God who came into the world and thus to begin a new history.

Each time we acknowledge her as full of grace, we give her the greatest compliment, the same one God had given her. A beautiful compliment to give to a woman and to tell her, politely, that she looks youthful. When we say full of grace to Mary, in a certain sense we are telling her this too, at the highest level. In fact we recognize her as forever youthful, because she never aged through sin. There is only one thing that makes us age, grow old interiorly: not age, but sin. Sin ages, because it hardens the heart. It closes it, renders it inert, withers it. But she, full of grace, is without sin. So she is always youthful; she is “younger than sin” and is “the youngest of humankind” (G. Bernanos, Diario di un curato di campagna, ii, 1988, p. 175).

The Church today compliments herself with Mary by calling her ‘all fair’, tota pulchra. Just as her youth does not lie in age, her beauty does not consist in her outward appearance. Mary, as today’s Gospel reading shows us, does not stand out in appearance: from a simple family, she lived humbly in Nazareth, a village practically unknown. And she wasn’t well-known: even when the Angel visited her, no one knew of it; there were no reporters there that day. Nor did Our Lady have a comfortable life, but worries and fears: she was “greatly troubled” (v. 29), the Gospel says, and when the Angel “departed from her” (v. 38), her troubles mounted.

However, she, full of grace, lived a beautiful life. What was her secret? We can understand it by looking again at the scene of the Annunciation. In many paintings Mary is depicted as seated before the Angel with a small book in her hand. This book is the Scripture. Thus, Mary was accustomed to listening to God and interacting with him. The Word of God was her secret: close to her heart, it then became flesh in her womb. By dwelling with God, in dialogue with him in every circumstance, Mary made her life beautiful. Not appearances, not what is fleeting, but the heart directed toward God makes life beautiful. Today let us look joyfully at her, full of grace. Let us ask her to help us to remain youthful, by saying ‘no’ to sin, and to live a beautiful life, by saying ‘yes’ to God. 

08.12.17



Pope Francis       

24.12.17  Angelus, St Peter's Square          

4th Sunday of Advent Year B            

Luke 1: 26-38  

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!

This Sunday just before Christmas, we listen to the Gospel of the Annunciation (cf. Lk 1:26-38).

In this Gospel passage, we notice a contrast between the promises of the angel and Mary’s response. This contrast is manifested in the dimension and content of the expressions of the two protagonists. The angel says to Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever” (vv. 30-33). It is a long revelation which opens unprecedented possibilities. The Child that will be born to this humble girl from Nazareth will be called Son of the Most High. It is not possible to conceive of a higher dignity than this. And after Mary’s question in which she asks for an explanation, the angel’s revelation becomes even more detailed and surprising.

On the other hand, Mary’s reply is a short sentence that does not speak of glory. It does not speak of privilege but only of willingness and service: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38). The content is also different. Mary does not exalt herself before the prospect of becoming the mother of the Messiah, but rather remains modest and expresses her acceptance of the Lord’s plan. Mary does not boast. She is humble and modest. She always remains the same.

This contrast is meaningful. It makes us understand that Mary is truly humble and does not try to be noticed. She recognizes that she is small before God and she is happy to be so. At the same time, she is aware that the fulfilment of God’s plan depends on her response, and that therefore she is called to accept it with her whole being.

In this circumstance, Mary’s behaviour corresponds perfectly to that of the Son of God when he comes into the world. He wants to become the Servant of the Lord, to put himself at the service of humanity to fulfil the Father’s plan. Mary says: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord”; and the Son of God upon entering the world says: “Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God” (Heb 10:7). Mary’s attitude fully mirrors this statement by the Son of God who also becomes the son of Mary. Thus Our Lady shows that she is in perfect accord with God’s plan. Furthermore she reveals herself as a disciple of his Son, and in the Magnificat, she will be able to proclaim that God has “exalted those of low degree” (Lk 1:52) because with her humble and generous response, she has obtained great joy and also great glory.

As we admire our Mother for this response to God’s call to mission, we ask her to help each of us to welcome God’s plan into our lives with sincere humility and brave generosity. 

24.12.17 a

Pope Francis          

31.12.17  Vatican Basilica      

Te Deum and First Vespers Solemnity of Mary Mother of God Year B

Galatians 4: 4-5  

“When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son” (Gal 4:4). This celebration of Vespers breathes the atmosphere of the fullness of time. Not because we are at the last evening of the solar year, far from it; but because the faith teaches us to contemplate and feel that Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, has given fullness to worldly time and human history.

“Born of woman” (v. 4). The first to experience the meaning of the fullness given by the presence of Jesus was precisely the “woman” of whom he was “born”: the Mother of the Incarnate Son, Theotokos, Mother of God. The fullness of time flowed forth through her, so to speak: through her humble and faith-filled heart, through her flesh wholly permeated by the Holy Spirit.

From her the Church has acquired and constantly acquires this inner perception of fullness, which fosters a sense of gratitude, as a unique human response worthy of the immense Gift of God. A heartrending gratitude which, beginning from the contemplation of that Child swaddled and laid in a manger, extends to everything and to everyone, to the entire world. It is a “gratefulness” which reflects the Grace; it comes not from the ‘we’ but from him; it comes not from the ‘I’ but from God; and it engages the ‘I’ and the ‘we’.

In this atmosphere created by the Holy Spirit, we raise to God the thanksgiving for the year that is coming to an end, acknowledging that all good is his gift.

Even this moment of the year 2017, which God gave to us whole and healthy, we humans in many ways have squandered and wounded with works of death, with lies and injustice. Wars are a flagrant sign of this recidivist and absurd pride. But so too are all the small and large offenses to life, to truth, to brotherhood, which cause manifold forms of human, social and environmental degradation.

We wish to and must assume our responsibility for everything before God, our brothers and sisters and creation.

But this evening Jesus’ grace and his reflection in Mary prevail. And therefore gratitude prevails, the gratitude that, as Bishop of Rome, I feel in my heart, thinking of the people who live with open hearts in this city.

I feel a sense of fondness and gratitude for all those people who each day contribute, with small but valuable concrete gestures, to the good of Rome: they try as best they can to fulfil their duty; they move through the traffic with discernment and prudence, respecting public places and signalling the things that do not work; they are attentive to people who are elderly or in difficulty, and so on. In these and a thousand other ways they concretely express love for the city. Without speeches, without publicity, but with a style of civic education practiced in daily life. And in this way they quietly cooperate for the common good.

Likewise I feel great esteem for the parents, teachers and all educators who, with this same manner, try to form children and young people in civic awareness, in an ethics of responsibility, educating them to feel part of, to take care of, to take an interest in the reality that surrounds them.

These people, even if they do not make the news, are the majority of the people who live in Rome. And among them many find themselves in conditions of economic difficulty; and yet they do not complain about it, nor do they harbour resentment and rancour, but they strive each day to do their part to make things a little better.

Today, in giving thanks to God, I invite you to also express appreciation for all these artisans of the common good, who love their city not only with words but with deeds.

31.12.17


Pope Francis       

01.01.18  Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica     

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and 51st World Peace Day Year B       

Galatians 4: 4-7,     

Luke 2: 16-21     

The year opens in the name of the Mother of God. Mother of God is the most important title of Our Lady. But we might ask why we say Mother of God, and not Mother of Jesus. In the past some wanted to be content simply with the latter, but the Church has declared that Mary is the Mother of God. We should be grateful, because these words contain a magnificent truth about God and about ourselves. From the moment that our Lord became incarnate in Mary, and for all time, he took on our humanity. There is no longer God without man; the flesh Jesus took from his Mother is our own, now and for all eternity. To call Mary the Mother of God reminds us of this: God is close to humanity, even as a child is close to the mother who bears him in her womb.

The word mother (mater) is related to the word matter. In his Mother, the God of heaven, the infinite God, made himself small, he became matter, not only to be with us but also to be like us. This is the miracle, the great novelty! Man is no longer alone; no more an orphan, but forever a child. The year opens with this novelty. And we proclaim it by saying: Mother of God! Ours is the joy of knowing that our solitude has ended. It is the beauty of knowing that we are beloved children, of knowing that this childhood of ours can never be taken away from us. It is to see a reflection of ourselves in the frail and infant God resting in his mother’s arms, and to realize that humanity is precious and sacred to the Lord. Henceforth, to serve human life is to serve God. All life, from life in the mother’s womb to that of the elderly, the suffering and the sick, and to that of the troublesome and even repellent, is to be welcomed, loved and helped.

Let us now be guided by today’s Gospel. Only one thing is said about the Mother of God: “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). She kept them. She simply kept; Mary does not speak. The Gospel does not report a single word of hers in the entire account of Christmas. Here too, the Mother is one with her Son: Jesus is an “infant”, a child “unable to speak”. The Word of God, who “long ago spoke in many and various ways” (Heb 1:1), now, in the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), is silent. The God before whom all fall silent is himself a speechless child. His Majesty is without words; his mystery of love is revealed in lowliness. This silence and lowliness is the language of his kingship. His Mother joins her Son and keeps these things in silence.

That silence tells us that, if we would “keep” ourselves, we need silence. We need to remain silent as we gaze upon the crib. Pondering the crib, we discover anew that we are loved; we savour the real meaning of life. As we look on in silence, we let Jesus speak to our heart. His lowliness lays low our pride; his poverty challenges our outward display; his tender love touches our hardened hearts. To set aside a moment of silence each day to be with God is to “keep” our soul; it is to “keep” our freedom from being corroded by the banality of consumerism, the blare of commercials, the stream of empty words and the overpowering waves of empty chatter and loud shouting.

The Gospel goes on to say that Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. What were these things? They were joys and sorrows. On the one hand, the birth of Jesus, the love of Joseph, the visit of the shepherds, that radiant night. But on the other, an uncertain future, homelessness “because there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7), the desolation of rejection, the disappointment of having to give birth to Jesus in a stable. Hopes and worries, light and darkness: all these things dwelt in the heart of Mary. What did she do? She pondered them, that is to say she dwelt on them, with God, in her heart. She held nothing back; she locked nothing within out of self-pity or resentment. Instead, she gave everything over to God. That is how she “kept” those things. We “keep” things when we hand them over: by not letting our lives become prey to fear, distress or superstition, by not closing our hearts or trying to forget, but by turning everything into a dialogue with God. God, who keeps us in his heart, then comes to dwell in our lives.

These, then, are the secrets of the Mother of God: silently treasuring all things and bringing them to God. And this took place, the Gospel concludes, in her heart. The heart makes us look to the core of the person, his or her affections and life. At the beginning of the year, we too, as Christians on our pilgrim way, feel the need to set out anew from the centre, to leave behind the burdens of the past and to start over from the things that really matter. Today, we have before us the point of departure: the Mother of God. For Mary is what God wants us to be, what he wants his Church to be: a Mother who is tender and lowly, poor in material goods and rich in love, free of sin and united to Jesus, keeping God in our hearts and our neighbour in our lives. To set out anew, let us look to our Mother. In her heart beats the heart of the Church. Today’s feast tells us that if we want to go forward, we need to turn back: to begin anew from the crib, from the Mother who holds God in her arms.

Devotion to Mary is not spiritual etiquette; it is a requirement of the Christian life. Looking to the Mother, we are asked to leave behind all sorts of useless baggage and to rediscover what really matters. The gift of the Mother, the gift of every mother and every woman, is most precious for the Church, for she too is mother and woman. While a man often abstracts, affirms and imposes ideas, a woman, a mother, knows how to “keep”, to put things together in her heart, to give life. If our faith is not to be reduced merely to an idea or a doctrine, all of us need a mother’s heart, one which knows how to keep the tender love of God and to feel the heartbeat of all around us. May the Mother, God’s finest human creation, guard and keep this year, and bring the peace of her Son to our hearts and to our world. And as children, with simplicity, I invite you to greet her as the Christians did at Ephesus in the presence of their bishops: “Holy Mother of God!”. Let us together repeat three times, looking at her [turning to the Statue of Our Lady beside the altar]: “Holy Mother of God!”.

01.01.18 m


Pope Francis       

01.01.18  Angelus, St Peter's Square       

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and 51st World Peace Day Year B         

Luke 2: 16-21    

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

On the first page of the calendar of the new year that the Lord has given us, the Church places, as a splendid illumination, the liturgical solemnity of Mary Most Holy. On this first day of the solar year, we fix our gaze on her, to resume, under her maternal protection, the journey along the paths of time.

Today’s Gospel (cf. Lk 2:16-21) leads us back to the stable of Bethlehem. The shepherds arrive in haste and find Mary, Joseph and the babe; and they make known the message given to them by the angels, namely, that that Infant is the Saviour. All are astonished, while “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (v. 19). The Virgin helps us understand how the event of Christmas is to be received: not superficially but in the heart. She shows us the true way to receive God’s gift: to keep it in our heart and ponder it. It is an invitation offered to each of us to pray, contemplating and enjoying this gift that is Jesus himself.

It is through Mary that the Son of God assumes corporeity. But Mary’s motherhood is not reduced to this: thanks to her faith, she is also the first disciple of Jesus and this “expands” her motherhood. It will be Mary’s faith that provokes the first miraculous “sign” in Cana, which contributes to raise the faith of the disciples. With the same faith, Mary is present at the foot of the Cross and receives the Apostle John as her son; and lastly, after the Resurrection, she becomes the prayerful mother of the Church on which the power of the Holy Spirit descends on the day of Pentecost.

As mother, Mary plays a most important role: she places herself between her Son Jesus and the people in the reality of their sacrifices, in the reality of their poverty and suffering. Mary intercedes, as in Cana, conscious that as Mother she can, rather she must make the Son aware of the needs of the people, especially the weakest and most impoverished. The theme of the World Day of Peace, which we are celebrating today, is dedicated precisely to these people: “Migrants and refugees: men and women in search of peace”, this is the motto for this Day. I would like, once again, to be the voice of these brothers and sisters of ours who invoke for their future a horizon of peace. For this peace, which is the right of all, many of them are willing to risk their lives on a journey that in most cases is long and perilous; they are willing to endure hardships and suffering (cf. Message for the World Day of Peace 2018, 1).

Please, let us not extinguish the hope in their heart; let us not smother their expectations of peace! It is important that from all, civil institutions, educational, welfare and ecclesial bodies, there be a commitment to ensure to refugees, to migrants, to all a future of peace. May the Lord allow us all to work in this new year with generosity, with generosity, in order to achieve a more supportive and welcoming world. I invite you to pray for this, as along with you I entrust to Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, the newly begun year 2018. The elderly Russian monks, mystics, used to say that in times of spiritual unrest it was necessary to gather under the mantle of the Holy Mother of God. Considering so much unrest today, and above all migrants and refugees, let us pray as the monks taught us to pray: “We fly to Thy protection, O Holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin”. 

01.01.18  a


Pope Francis       

23.12.18 Angelus St Peter's Square   

4th Sunday of Advent Year C    

Luke 1: 39-45 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

The liturgy of this Fourth Sunday of Advent focuses on the figure of Mary, the Virgin Mother, expecting the birth of Jesus, the Saviour of the world. Let us fix our gaze upon her, a model of faith and of charity; and we can ask ourselves: what were her thoughts in the months while she was expecting? The answer comes precisely from today’s Gospel passage, the narrative of Mary’s visit to her elderly relative Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:39-45). The Angel Gabriel had revealed that Elizabeth was expecting a son and was already in her sixth month (cf. Lk 1:26, 36). So the Virgin, who had just conceived Jesus by the power of God, set out with haste for Nazareth, in Galilee, to reach the mountains of Judea, and visit her cousin.

The Gospel states: “she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” (v. 40). Surely she congratulated her on her maternity, as in turn Elizabeth congratulated Mary, saying: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (vv. 42-43). And she immediately lauds Mary’s faith: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (v. 45). The contrast is obvious between Mary, who had faith, and Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, who doubted, and did not believe the angel’s promise and therefore is left dumb until John’s birth. It is a contrast.

This episode helps us to interpret the mystery of man’s encounter with God in a very special light. An encounter that is not characterized by astonishing miracles, but rather, is characterized by faith and charity. Indeed, Mary is blessed because she believed: the encounter with God is the fruit of faith. Zechariah, however, who doubted and did not believe, was left deaf and dumb. To grow in faith during the long silence: without faith one remains inevitably deaf to the consoling voice of God; and incapable of speaking words of consolation and hope to our brothers and sisters. We see it every day: when people who have no faith, or who have very little faith, have to approach a person who is suffering, they speak words suited to the occasion, but they do not manage to touch the heart because they have no strength. They have no strength because they have no faith, and if they have no faith they do not find the words that can touch others’ hearts. Faith, in its turn, is nourished by charity. The Evangelist recounts that “Mary arose and went with haste” (v. 39) to Elizabeth: with haste, not with distress, not anxiously, but with haste, in peace. “She arose”: a gesture full of concern. She could have stayed at home to prepare for the birth of her son, but instead she takes care of others before herself, showing through her deeds that she is already a disciple of that Lord whom she carries in her womb. The event of Jesus’ birth began in this way, with a simple gesture of charity; after all, authentic charity is always the fruit of God’s love.

The Gospel passage about Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, which we heard at Mass today, prepares us to experience Christmas properly, by communicating to us the dynamism of faith and charity. This dynamism is the work of the Holy Spirit: the Spirit of Love who made Mary’s virginal womb fruitful and who spurred her to hasten to the service of her elderly relative. A dynamism full of joy, as seen in the encounter between the two mothers, which is entirely a hymn of joyful exultation in the Lord, who does great things with the little ones who trust in him.

May the Virgin Mary obtain for us the grace to experience an ‘extroverted’ Christmas, but not a scattered one: extroverted. May our ‘I’ not be at the centre, but rather the ‘You’ of Jesus and the ‘you’ of brothers and sisters, especially of those who need a hand. Then we will leave room for the Love that, even today, seeks to become flesh and to come to dwell in our midst.

23.12.18

We should be amazed today by the Mother of God, and allow Mary to gaze on us, embrace us and take us by the hand.

Mary is not only the Mother of God, she also presents all of us reborn to the Lord. The Church too, needs to be amazed, at being the dwelling place of the living God, the Bride of the Lord, a Mother who gives birth to her children. It is Our Lady who gives the Church the feel of home.

Whenever Mary gazes on us, she does not see sinners but children. By allowing her to gaze on us, we will see the reflection of God’s beauty and heaven. Her gaze, penetrates the darkest corner and rekindles hope.

As she gazes upon us, she says: ‘Take heart, dear children; here I am, your Mother!’

Mary takes all of us to heart in the same way that she took every person and event to heart during her life: her visit to Elizabeth, the newlyweds at Cana, the disciples in the Upper Room. She wants to embrace our every situation and present it to God.

God Himself needed a Mother. And Jesus gave her to us from the cross. Our Lady is not an optional accessory: she has to be welcomed into our life.

Mary, take us by the hand.

Gather us beneath your mantle, in the tenderness of true love, where the human family is reborn: ‘ We fly to thy protection, O Holy Mother of God.'

01.01.19


Pope Francis    

01.01.19   Angelus  St Peter's Square  Solemnity of Mary Mother of God   

Numbers 6: 22-27 

She blesses the journey of every man and every woman in this year that is beginning, and that will be good precisely in the measure in which each one will welcome the goodness of God that Jesus came to bring into the world.

Numbers 6: 22-27 the first reading from the day’s liturgy, gives us the "most ancient blessing" used by the Israelite priests to bless the people: "The LORD bless you and keep you. The LORD let His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The LORD turn His face to you and give you peace."

In the Bible, "the name represents the very reality that is being invoked," so that in this blessing, the invocation of the name of God – "LORD" – means offering God’s "beneficial strength" to those who receive the blessing.

In mentioning the "face" of the Lord, the priest asks God to grant His mercy and peace to those being blessed. The "face" of God represents His glory, which no man can look upon and live. But although God’s glory, which is "all Love" remains inaccessible in this life, the grace of Love shines upon and illuminates every creature, especially the men and women in whom it is most fully reflected.

And this, brings us back to the image of Mary, showing us her Son, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. "He is the Blessing for every person and for the whole human family." "He is the outpouring of grace, of mercy, and of peace.

This is why Pope St Paul VI determined that the World Day of Peace should be celebrated on January first, the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. The theme of this year’s observance is "Good politics at the service of peace." But, we do not think that politics should be reserved only to political leaders: everyone is responsible for the life of the ‘city,’ for the common good; and even politics is good in the measure in which each one does his or her part ‘in the service of peace’.

01.01.19

Pope Francis       

20.01.19   Angelus, St Peter's Square   

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time  

John 2: 1-11 

It is not by chance that at the beginning of Jesus' public life there is a wedding ceremony. In fact the whole mystery of the sign of Cana is based on the presence of this divine spouse who is beginning to make himself known.

Jesus manifests himself as the spouse of God's people, announced by the prophets, and reveals to us the depth of the relationship that unites us to Him: it is a new Covenant of love. By transforming into wine the water in jars used for the ritual purification of the Jews, Jesus makes an eloquent sign: he transforms the Law of Moses into the Gospel, the bearer of joy.

Mary's words to the servants underline the spousal picture at Cana: "Do whatever he tells you". Also today, Our Lady says to all of us: "Do whatever he says to you." These words are a precious inheritance that our Mother left us.

I would like to underline an experience that certainly many of us have had in our lives. When we are in difficult situations, when problems occur that we do not know how to solve, when we often feel anxiety and anguish, when we lack joy, go to Our Lady and say: "We have no wine. The wine is finished: look at how I am; look at my heart, look at my soul". Tell the mother. And she will go to Jesus and say: "Look at this, look at this: she/he has no wine". And then, she will come back to us and say to us, "Whatever he says to you, do it."

Serving the Lord means, listening to and putting his word into practice. It is the simple and essential recommendation of the Mother of Jesus, it is the program of life of the Christian. For each of us, to draw from the jar is to entrust ourselves to the Word and the Sacraments to experience the grace of God in our lives.

20.01.19

Pope Francis          


31.05.19   Holy Mass  Catholic Saint Joseph Cathedral, Bucharest, Romania

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary     

Luke 1: 39-56 

The Gospel we have just heard draws us into the encounter between two women who embrace, overflowing with joy and praise. The child leaps for joy in Elizabeth’s womb and she blesses her cousin for her faith. Mary sings of the mighty things that the Lord has done for his humble servant; hers is the great hymn of hope for those who can no longer sing because they have lost their voice. That hymn of hope is also meant to rouse us today, and to make us join our voices to it. It does this with three precious elements that we can contemplate in the first of the disciples: Mary journeys, Mary encounters, Mary rejoices.

Mary journeys… from Nazareth to the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth. It is the first of Mary’s journeys, as related by the Scriptures. The first of many. She will journey from Galilee to Bethlehem, where Jesus will be born; she will go down to Egypt to save her Child from Herod; she will go up again every year to Jerusalem for the Passover (cf. Lk 2:31), and ultimately she will follow Jesus to Calvary. These journeys all have one thing in common: they were never easy; they always required courage and patience. They tell us that Our Lady knows what it means to walk uphill, she knows what it means for us to walk uphill, and she is our sister at every step of the way. She knows what it is to be weary of walking and she can take us by the hand amid our difficulties, in the most perilous twists and turns in our life’s journey.

As a good mother, Mary knows that love grows daily amid the little things of life. A mother’s love and ingenuity was able to turn a stable into a home for Jesus, with poor swaddling clothes and an abundance of love (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 286). Contemplating Mary enables us to turn our gaze to all those many women, mothers and grandmothers of these lands who, by their quiet sacrifices, devotion and self-denial, are shaping the present and preparing the way for tomorrow’s dreams. Theirs is a silent, tenacious and unsung sacrifice; they are unafraid to “roll up their sleeves” and shoulder difficulties for the sake of their children and families, “hoping against hope” (Rm 4:18). The living memory of your people preserves this powerful sense of hope against every attempt to dim or extinguish it. Looking to Mary and to all those mothers’ faces, we experience and are nourished by that sense of hope (cf. Aparecida Document, 536), which gives birth to and opens up the horizons of the future. Let us state it emphatically: in our people there is much room for hope. That is why Mary’s journey continues even today; she invites us, with her, to journey together.

Mary encounters Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:39-56), a woman already advanced in years (v. 7). But Elizabeth, though older, is the one who speaks of the future and, “filled with the Holy Spirit” (v. 41), prophesies in words that foreshadow the last of the Gospel beatitudes: “Blessed are those who believe” (cf. Jn 20:29). Remarkably, the younger woman goes to meet the older one, seeking her roots, while the older woman is reborn and prophetically foretells the future of the younger one. Here, young and old meet, embrace and awaken the best of each. It is a miracle brought about by the culture of encounter, where no one is discarded or pigeonholed, but all are sought out, because all are needed to reveal the Lord’s face. They are not afraid to walk together, and when this happens, God appears and works wonders in his people. The Holy Spirit impels us to go out from ourselves, from all that hems us in, from the things to which we cling.

The Spirit teaches us to look beyond appearances and enables us to speak well of others – to bless them. This is especially true with regard to our brothers and sisters who are homeless, exposed to the elements, lacking perhaps not only a roof over their head or a crust of bread, but the friendship and warmth of a community to embrace, shelter and accept them. This is the culture of encounter; it urges us as Christians to experience the miraculous motherhood of the Church, as she seeks out, protects and gathers her children. In the Church, when different rites meet, when the most important thing is not one’s own affiliation, group or ethnicity, but the People that together praises God, then great things take place. Again, let us state it emphatically: Blessed are those who believe (cf. Jn 20:29) and who have the courage to foster encounter and communion.

Mary, as she journeys to visit Elizabeth, reminds us where God desired to dwell and live, where his sanctuary is, and where we can feel his heartbeat: it is in the midst of his People. There he is, there he lives, there he awaits us. We can apply to ourselves the prophet’s call not to fear, not to let our arms grow weak! For the Lord our God is in our midst; he is a powerful saviour (cf. Zeph 3:16-17) and he is in the midst of his people. This is the secret of every Christian: God is in our midst as a powerful saviour. Our certainty of this enables us, like Mary, to sing and exult with joy.

Mary rejoices. She rejoices because she bears in her womb Emmanuel, God-with-us: “The Christian life is joy in the Holy Spirit” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 122). Without joy, we remain paralyzed, slaves to our unhappiness. Often problems of faith have little to do with a shortage of means and structures, of quantity, or even the presence of those who do not accept us; they really have to do with a shortage of joy. Faith wavers when it just floats along in sadness and discouragement. When we live in mistrust, closed in on ourselves, we contradict the faith. Instead of realizing that we are God’s children for whom he does great things (cf. v. 49), we reduce everything to our own problems. We forget that we are not orphans. In our sadness, we forget that we are not orphans, for we have a Father in our midst, a powerful saviour. Mary comes to our aid, because instead of reducing things, she magnifies them in “magnifying” the Lord, in praising his greatness.

Here we find the secret of our joy. Mary, lowly and humble, starts from God’s greatness and despite her problems – which were not few – she is filled with joy, for she entrusts herself to the Lord in all things. She reminds us that God can always work wonders if we open our hearts to him and to our brothers and sisters. Let us think of the great witnesses of these lands: simple persons who trusted in God in the midst of persecution. They did not put their hope in the world, but in the Lord, and thus they persevered. I would like to give thanks for these humble victors, these saints-next-door, who showed us the way. Their tears were not in vain; they were a prayer that rose to heaven and nurtured the hope of this people.

Dear brothers and sisters, Mary journeys, encounters and rejoices because she carries something greater than herself: she is the bearer of a blessing. Like her, may we too be unafraid to bear the blessing that Romania needs. May you be promoters of a culture of encounter that gives the lie to indifference, a culture that rejects division and allows this land to sing out the mercies of the Lord. 

31.05.19

Pope Francis       

15.08.19   St Peter's Square, Rome  

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary  

Year C    

Luke 1: 39-56  

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In today's Gospel, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mary prays saying "my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour" (Lk 1:46 -47). Look at the verbs of this prayer: magnificent and rejoices. Two verbs: "magnificent" and "rejoice". We rejoices when something so beautiful happens that it is not enough to rejoice inside, in the soul, but we want to express our happiness with the whole body: that's when we rejoice. Mary rejoices because of God. I wonder if we too have rejoiced for the Lord, we rejoice for results obtained, for some good news, but today Mary teaches us to rejoice in God. Why? Because he -God-does "great things" (cf. v. 49).

Great things are recalled by the other verb: to magnify. "My soul magnifies the Lord". Magnify. In fact magnify means to exalt the reality for its greatness, its beauty ... Mary proclaims the greatness of the Lord, she praises Him saying that He is truly great. In life it is important to look for great things, otherwise we loose ourselves behind so many little things. Mary shows us that, if we want our life to be happy, we must place God first, because He alone is great. How many times we chase after things of little importance: prejudice, grudges, rivalry, envy, illusions, superfluous material goods ... How much pettiness in life! We know that don't we. Mary invites us to look upwards at the "great things" that the Lord has accomplished in her. Even in us, in all of us, the Lord accomplishes so many great things. He wants us to recognize that and to rejoice and magnify Him, for the things that He does in and with us. 627

These are the "great things" that we celebrate today. Mary is assumed into heaven: small and humble, she is the first to receive the highest glory. She, who is a human being, one of us, reaches eternity in body and soul. And there she waits for us, just like a mother waits for her children to come home. In fact, God's people invokes her as "the gate of heaven". We are on a journey, pilgrims, to our home up there. Today we look to Mary and see the finish line. We see that a creature has been assumed to the glory of the risen Christ, and that creature could only be her, the mother of the Redeemer. We see that in heaven, together with Christ, the new Adam, there's also her, Mary, the new Eve, and this gives us comfort and hope in our pilgrimage here on Earth.

The feast of the assumption of Mary is a call to everyone, especially to those who are afflicted with doubts and sadness, and live with their eyes turned downwards, they can't look up. Let us look upwards, the sky is open; it no longer arouses fear, it's no longer distant, because on the threshold of heaven there is a mother who awaits us and is our mother. She loves us, smiles at us and helps us with care. Like every mother she wants the best for her children and says to us: "you are precious in the eyes of God; you're not made for little satisfactions of the world, but for the great joys of heaven. " Yes, because God is joy, not boredom. God is joy. Let us allow ourselves to be taken by Mary's hand. Every time we take the Rosary in our hands and pray to her we take a step forward toward the great goal of our life. 

Let us be attracted by true beauty, and not be drawn in by the petty things of life, but let us choose the greatness of heaven. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, gate of heaven, help us to look with confidence and joy every day towards the place where our true home is, where she is, and where she our mother awaits us. 

15.08.19

Pope Francis       

08.12.19  Angelus, St Peter's Square   

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary    

2nd Sunday of Advent Year A 

Luke 1: 26-38 

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is placed in the context of Advent, a time of waiting: God will accomplish what He has promised. But in today's feast we are told that something is already accomplished, in the person and in the life of the Virgin Mary. Today we consider the beginning of this fulfilment, which is even before the birth of the Mother of the Lord. In fact, her immaculate conception leads us to that precise moment in which Mary's life began to beat in her mother's womb: the sanctifying love of God was already there, preserving her from the contamination of evil that is the common legacy of the human family.

In today's Gospel, the Angel's greeting to Mary resounds: "Rejoice, full of grace: the Lord is with you"(Luke 1:28). God had always thought of her and wanted her, in His inscrutable plan, as a creature full of grace, that is, filled with His love. But to be filled you have to make space, empty yourself, step aside. Just as Mary did, who was able to listen to the Word of God and fully trust His will, accepting it unreservedly into her own life. So much so that in her the Word became flesh. This was possible thanks to her "yes". To the Angel who asks her if she is willing to become the mother of Jesus, Mary replies: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (v. 38).

Mary does not loose herself in logical arguments, she does not place obstacles in the way of the Lord, but she promptly entrusts herself and leaves room for the action of the Holy Spirit. She immediately places her whole being and personal history at God's disposal, so that God's Word and will may shape them and bring them to fulfilment. Thus, perfectly matching God's plan for her, Mary becomes "all beautiful", "all holy", but without the slightest shadow of self-satisfaction. She's humble. She is a masterpiece, but remaining humble, small, poor. In her the beauty of God is reflected He who is all love, grace, self-giving. 

08.12.19 1

I would also like to emphasize the word by which Mary defines herself in her surrender to God: she professes herself to be "the handmaid of the Lord". From the beginning, Mary's "yes" to God assumes the attitude of service, of attention to the needs of others. This is testified to concretely by the fact of her visit to Elizabeth, which immediately follows the Annunciation. The openness to God is found in the openness to taking on the needs of others. All this without noise and ostentation, without seeking places of honour, without self-promotion, because charity and works of mercy do not need to be exhibited as a trophy. The works of mercy are done in silence, secretly, without boasting of doing them. Even in our communities, we are called to follow Mary's example, practicing her style of discretion and concealment. 

08.12.19 2


Pope Francis       

22.12.19  Angelus, St Peter's Square

4th Sunday of Advent  Year A        

Matthew 1: 18-24 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

On this fourth and final Sunday of Advent, the Gospel (cf. Mt 1:18-24) guides us to Christmas through the experience of St. Joseph, a person who is apparently in second place, but whose attitude contains the entirety of Christian wisdom. He, together with John the Baptist and Mary, is one of the people that the liturgy proposes to us for the time of Advent; and of the three he is the most modest. One who does not preach, does not speak, but tries to do God's will; and performs it in an evangelical style and the style of the Beatitudes. We think, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven"(Mt 5:3). And Joseph is poor because he lives of the essential, he lives by his work; it is the poverty typical of those who are aware of their dependence for everything on God in and place all their trust in Him.

Today's Gospel narrative presents a situation that is embarrassing and a conflicting situation. Joseph and Mary are engaged; but they do not live together yet, but she is expecting a child through God's working. Joseph, faced with this surprise, is naturally disturbed but instead of reacting impulsively or punitively – as was customary, the law protected him – he seeks a solution that respects the dignity and integrity of his beloved Mary. The Gospel says: "Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly." (v. 19). Joseph knew well that if he denounced his bride-to-be, he would expose her to serious consequences, even death. He has full confidence in Mary, whom he chose as his bride. He doesn't understand, but he's looking for another solution.

This inexplicable circumstance causes him to question their relationship; therefore, with great suffering, he decides to separate himself from Mary without causing scandal. But the Angel of the Lord intervenes to tell him that the solution he has proposed is not the one that God wants. Indeed, the Lord opens a new path for him, a path of union, love and happiness, and he says to him: "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary, your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. " (v. 20).

At this point, Joseph totally trusts God, obeys the words of the Angel, and takes Mary into his home. It is precisely this unwavering trust in God that has allowed him to accept a humanly difficult and, in a sense, incomprehensible situation. Joseph understands, through faith, that the baby conceived in Mary's womb is not his son, but he is the Son of God and he, Joseph, will be his guardian, fully assuming his earthly paternity. The example of this humble and wise man teaches us to lift up our gaze and look beyond. It is a question of recovering the surprising logic of God who, far from small or large calculations, is made of an openness to new horizons, towards Christ and his Word.

May the Virgin Mary and her chaste husband Joseph help us to listen to Jesus who comes, and who asks that we listen to Him regarding our plans and choices. 

22.12.19


Pope Francis       

01.01.20 Vatican Basilica        

Holy Mass Solemnity of Mary Mother of God Year A          

Luke 2: 16-21 

“But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4:4). Born of woman: Jesus came in this way. He did not appear in the world as an adult but, as the Gospel tells us, he was “conceived in the womb” (Lk 2;21). It was there that he made our humanity his own: day after day, month after month. In the womb of a woman, God and mankind are united, never to be separated again. Even now, in heaven, Jesus lives in the flesh that he took in his mother’s womb. In God, there is our human flesh!

On the first day of the year, we celebrate this nuptial union between God and mankind, inaugurated in the womb of a woman. In God, there will forever be our humanity and Mary will forever be the Mother of God. She is both woman and mother: this is what is essential. From her, a woman, salvation came forth and thus there is no salvation without a woman. In her, God was united to us, and if we want to unite ourselves to him, we must take the same path: through Mary, woman and mother. That is why we begin the year by celebrating Our Lady, the woman who wove the humanity of God. If we want to weave humanity into this our time, we need to start again from the woman.

Born of woman. The rebirth of humanity began from a woman. Women are sources of life. Yet they are continually insulted, beaten, raped, forced to prostitute themselves and to suppress the life they bear in the womb. Every form of violence inflicted upon a woman is a blasphemy against God, who was born of a woman. Humanity’s salvation came forth from the body of a woman: we can understand our degree of humanity by how we treat a woman’s body. How often are women’s bodies sacrificed on the profane altars of advertising, of profiteering, of pornography, exploited like a canvas to be used. Yet women’s bodies must be freed from consumerism; they must be respected and honoured. Theirs is the most noble flesh in the world, for it conceived and brought to light the love that has saved us! In our day, too, motherhood is demeaned, because the only growth that interests us is economic growth. There are mothers who risk difficult journeys desperately seeking to give a better future to the fruit of their womb, yet are deemed redundant by people with full stomachs but hearts empty of love.

Born of woman. The Bible tells us that woman come onto the scene at the height of creation, as a summation of the entire created world. For she holds within herself the very purpose of creation: the generation and safekeeping of life, communion with all things, care for all things. So it is with the Mother of God in today’s Gospel. The text tells us, “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (v. 19). She kept all these things: joy at the birth of Jesus and sadness for the lack of hospitality shown in Bethlehem; the love of Joseph and the amazement of the shepherds; the promise and the uncertainty of the future. She took everything to heart, and in her heart, she put everything in its right place, even hardships and troubles. In her heart, she lovingly set all things in order and entrusted everything to God.

In the Gospel, Mary does this a second time: at the end of the hidden life of Jesus, we are told that “his mother kept all these things in her heart” (v. 51). This repetition makes us realize that “keeping in her heart” was not something nice that Our Lady did from time to time, but something habitual. Women typically take life to heart. Women show us that the meaning of life is not found in making things but in taking things to heart. Only those who see with the heart see things properly, because they know how to “look into” each person: to see a brother apart from his mistakes, a sister apart from her failings, hope amid difficulty. They see God in all persons and things.

As we begin this new year, let us ask ourselves: Do I know how to see with the heart? Do I know how to look at people with the heart? Do I take to heart the people with whom I live? Or do I tear them down by gossip? And above all, do I put the Lord at the centre of my heart, or other values, other interests, like advancement, riches, power? Only if we take life to heart will we know how to take care and overcome the indifference all around. So let us ask for the grace to live this year with the desire to take others to heart and to care for them. And if we want a better world, a world that will be a peaceful home and not a war field, may we take to heart the dignity of each woman. From a woman was born the Prince of peace. Women are givers and mediators of peace and should be fully included in decision-making processes. Because when women can share their gifts, the world finds itself more united, more peaceful. Hence, every step forward for women is a step forward for humanity as a whole.

Born of woman. Jesus, newly born, was mirrored in the eyes of the woman, in the face of his mother. From her, he received his first caresses; with her, he exchanged the first smiles. With her began the revolution of tenderness. The Church, looking at the Baby Jesus, is called to continue that revolution. For she too, like Mary, is both woman and mother. The Church is woman and mother, and in Our Lady, she finds her distinctive traits. She sees Mary immaculate, and feels called to say no to sin and to worldliness. She sees Mary fruitful, and feels called to proclaim the Gospel and to give birth to it in people’s lives. She sees Mary a mother, and she feels called to receive every man and woman as a son or daughter.

In drawing close to Mary, the Church discovers herself, she finds her centre and her unity. The enemy of our human nature, the devil, seeks instead to divide, to highlight differences, ideologies, partisan thinking and parties. But we do not understand the Church if we regard her by starting with structures, programmes and trends, ideologies and functions. We may grasp something, but not the heart of the Church. Because the Church has a mother’s heart. And we, as her sons and daughters, invoke today the Mother of God, who gathers us together as a people of believers. O Mother, give birth to hope within us and bring us unity. Woman of salvation, to you we entrust this year. Keep it in your heart. We acclaim you, the Holy Mother of God. All together now, for three times, let us stand and acclaim the Lady, the Holy Mother of God. [with the assembly] Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God!

01.01.20m


Pope Francis       

15.08.20  Angelus, St Peter's Square     

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Year A     

Luke 1: 39-56 

Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

When man set foot on the moon, he said a phrase that became famous: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. In essence, humanity had reached a historical goal. But today, in Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, we celebrate an infinitely greater conquest. The Madonna has set foot in paradise: she went there not only in spirit, but with her body as well, with all of herself. This step of the lowly Virgin of Nazareth was the huge leap forward for humanity. Going to the moon serves us little if we do not live as brothers and sisters on Earth. But that one of us dwells in the flesh in Heaven gives us hope: we understand that we are precious, destined to rise again. God does not allow our bodies to vanish into nothing. With God, nothing is lost! In Mary, the goal has been reached and we have before our eyes the reasons why we journey: not to gain the things here below, which vanish, but to achieve the homeland above, which is forever. And Our Lady is the star that guides us. She went there first. She, as the Council teaches, shines “as a sign of sure hope and solace to the People of God during its sojourn on earth” (Lumen gentium, 68).

What does our Mother advise us? Today in the Gospel the first thing she says is: “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Lk 1:46). We, accustomed to hearing these words, perhaps we no longer pay attention to their meaning. To “magnify” literally means “to make great”, to enlarge. Mary “aggrandises the Lord”: not problems, which she did not lack at the time, but the Lord. How often, instead, we let ourselves be overwhelmed by difficulties and absorbed by fears! Our Lady does not, because she puts God as the first greatness of life. From here the Magnificat springs forth, from here joy is born: not from the absence of problems, which come sooner or later, but joy is born from the presence of God who helps us, who is near us. Because God is great. And, above all, God looks on the lowly ones. We are His weakness of love: God looks on and love the lowly.

Mary, in fact, acknowledges that she is small and exalts the “great things” (v. 49) the Lord has done for her. What are they? First and foremost, the unexpected gift of life: Mary is a virgin yet she becomes pregnant; and Elizabeth, too, who was elderly, is expecting a child. The Lord works wonders with those who are lowly, with those who do not believe that they are great but who give ample space to God in their life. He enlarges His mercy to those who trust in Him, and raises up the humble. Mary praises God for this.

And we - we might ask ourselves - do we remember to praise God? Do we thank Him for the great things He does for us? For every day that He gives us, because He always loves us and forgives us, for His tenderness? In addition, for having given us His Mother, for the brothers and sisters He puts on our path, and because He opened Heaven to us? Do we thank God, praise God for these things? If we forget the good, our hearts shrink. But if, like Mary, we remember the great things that the Lord does, if at least once a day we were to “magnify” Him, then we would take a great step forward. One time during the day to say: “I praise the Lord”, to say, “Blessed be the Lord”, which is a short prayer of praise. This is praising God. With this short prayer, our hearts will expand, joy will increase. Let us ask Our Lady, the Gate of Heaven, for the grace to begin each day by raising our eyes to Heaven, toward God, to say to Him: "Thank you!” as the lowly ones say to the great ones. “Thank you”. 

15.08.20


Pope Francis 

18.11.20  General Audience, Library of the Apostolic Palace    

Catechesis on prayer - 15. The Virgin Mary, prayerful woman       

Luke 2: 39-40, 51 

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

On our course of catechesis on prayer, today we meet the Virgin Mary as the prayerful woman. The Madonna prayed. When the world still knew nothing of her, when she was a simple girl engaged to a man of the house of David, Mary prayed. We can imagine the young girl of Nazareth wrapped in silence, in continual dialogue with God who would soon entrust her with a mission. She is already full of grace and immaculate from the moment she was conceived; but she knows nothing yet of her surprising and extraordinary vocation and the stormy sea she will have to cross. One thing is certain: Mary belongs to a great host of the humble of heart whom the official historians never include in their books, but with whom God prepared the coming of His Son.

Mary did not independently conduct her life: she waits for God to take the reins of her path and guide her where He wants. She is docile, and with her availability she prepares the grand events in which God takes part in the world. The Catechism recalls her constant and caring presence in the benevolent design of the Father throughout the course of Jesus’s life (see CCC, 2617-2618).

Mary was praying when the Archangel Gabriel came to bring his message to her in Nazareth. Her small yet immense “Here I am”, which makes all of creation jump for joy at that moment, was preceded throughout salvation history by many other “Here I ams”, by many trusting obediences, by many who were open to God’s will. There is no better way to pray than to place oneself in an attitude of openness, of a heart open to God: “Lord, what You want, when You want, and how You want”. That is, with a heart open to God’s will. And God always responds. How many believers live their prayer like this! Those who are the most humble of heart pray like this: with essential humility, let’s put it that way; with simple humility: “Lord, what You want, when You want, and how You want”. They pray like this and do not get upset when problems fill their days, but they go about facing reality and knowing that in humble love, in love offered in each situation, we become instruments of God’s grace. “Lord, what You want, when You want, and how You want”. A simple prayer, but one in which we place ourselves in the Lord’s hands so that He might guide us. All of us can pray like this, almost without words.

Prayer knows how to calm restlessness. We are restless, we always want things before asking for them, and we want them right away. This restlessness harms us. And prayer knows how to calm restlessness, knows how to transform it into availability. When we are restless, I pray and prayer opens my heart and makes me open to God’s will. In those few moments of the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary knew how to reject fear, even while sensing that her “yes” would bring her tremendously difficult trials. If in prayer we understand that each day given by God is a call, our hearts will then widen and we will accept everything. We will learn how to say: “What You want, Lord. Promise me only that You will be present every step of my way”. This is important: to ask the Lord to be present on every step of our way: that He not leave us alone, that He not abandon us in temptation, that He not abandon us in the bad moments. The Our Father ends this way: the grace that Jesus Himself taught us to ask of the Lord.

Mary accompanied Jesus’s entire life in prayer, right up to His death and resurrection; and in the end, she continued and she accompanied the first steps of the nascent Church (see Acts 1:14). Mary prayed with the disciples who had witnessed the scandal of the cross. She prayed with Peter who had succumbed to fear and cried for remorse. Mary was there, with the disciples, in the midst of the men and women whom her Son had called to form His Community. Mary did not act like a priest among them, no! She is Jesus’s Mother who prayed with them, in the community, as a member of the community. She prayed with them and prayed for them. And, once again, her prayer preceded into the future that was about to be fulfilled: by the work of the Holy Spirit she became the Mother of God, and by the work of the Holy Spirit she became the Mother of the Church. Praying with the nascent Church, she becomes the Mother of the Church, accompanying the disciples on the first steps of the Church in prayer, awaiting the Holy Spirit. In silence, always silently. Mary’s prayer is silent. The Gospels recount only one of Mary’s prayers at Cana, when she asks her Son for those poor people who are about to make a horrible impression during the banquet. So, let us imagine: there is a wedding banquet and it will end up with milk because there is no wine! What an impression! And she prays and asks her Son to resolve that problem. In and of itself, Mary’s presence is prayer, and her presence among the disciples in the Upper Room, awaiting the Holy Spirit, is in prayer. Thus Mary gives birth to the Church, she is the Mother of the Church. The Catechism explains: “In the faith of his humble handmaid, the Gift of God”, that is, the Holy Spirit, “found the acceptance he had awaited from the beginning of time” (CCC, 2617).

In the Virgin Mary, natural feminine intuition is exalted by her most singular union with God in prayer. This is why, reading the Gospel, we note that she seems to disappear at times, only to reappear for crucial moments: Mary was open to God’s voice that guided her heart, that guided her steps where her presence was needed. Her silent presence as mother and as disciple. Mary is present because she is Mother, but she is also present because she is the first disciple, the one who best learned Jesus’s ways. Mary never says: “Come, I will take care of things”. Instead she says: “Do whatever He will tell you”, always pointing her finger at Jesus. This behaviour is typical of the disciple, and she is the first disciple: she prays as Mother and she prays as a disciple.

“Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). Thus the evangelist Luke depicts the Mother of the Lord in the infancy narrative in his Gospel. Everything that happens around her ends up being reflected on in the depths of her heart: the days filled with joy, as well as the darkest moments when even she struggles to understand by which roads the Redemption must pass. Everything ends up in her heart so that it might pass through the sieve of prayer and be transfigured by it: whether it be the gifts of the Magi, or the flight into Egypt, until that terrible passion Friday. The Mother keeps everything and brings it to her dialogue with God. Someone has compared Mary’s heart to a pearl of incomparable splendour, formed and smoothed by patient acceptance of God’s will through the mysteries of Jesus meditated on in prayer. How beautiful it would be if we too could be a bit like our Mother! With a heart open to God’s Word, with a silent heart, with an obedient heart, with a heart that knows how to receive God’s Word and that allows itself to grow with the seed of good for the Church. 

18.11.20

Pope Francis          


08.12.20 Angelus, St Peter's Square   


Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Year B   


Ephesians 1: 3-6, 11-12,   


Luke 1: 26-38 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good afternoon!

Today’s liturgical feast celebrates one of the wonders of the story of salvation: the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Even she was saved by Christ, but in an extraordinary way, because God wanted that the mother of His Son not be touched by the misery of sin from the moment of her conception. And so, for the entire course of her earthly life, Mary was free from any stain of sin, she was the “full of grace” (Lk 1:28), as the angel called her. She was favoured by a singular action of the Holy Spirit so as to always remain in perfect relationship with her Son, Jesus. Rather, she was Jesus’s disciple: His Mother and disciple. But there was no sin in her.

In the magnificent hymn that opens the Letter to the Ephesians (see 1:3-6, 11-12), St Paul makes us understand that every human being is created by God for that fullness of holiness, for that beauty of which the Madonna was clothed from the beginning. The goal to which we are called is also a gift of God for us, for which, the Apostles says He “chose us before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish” (v. 4); He predestined us (see v. 5), in Christ to be totally free from sin one day. And this is grace, it is gratuitous, it is a gift of God.

And what Mary had from the beginning, will be ours in the end, after we have passed through the purifying “bath” of God’s grace. What opens the gates of paradise to us is God’s grace, received by us with faithfulness. Even the most innocent were, nevertheless, marked by original sin and fought with all their strength against its consequences. They passed through the “narrow door” that leads to life (see Lk 13:24). And do you know who is the first person we are sure entered paradise? Do you know who? A “ruffian”: one of the two who was crucified with Jesus. And he turned to Jesus saying: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. And He responded: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:42-43). Brothers and sisters, God’s grace is offered to everyone; and many who are the least on this earth will be the first in heaven (see Mk 10:31).

But be careful. It does not pay to be clever – to continually postpone a serious evaluation of one’s own life, taking advantage of the Lord’s patience. He is patient. He waits for us, He is always ready to give us grace. We may be able to deceive people, but not God; He knows our hearts better than we ourselves do. Let us take advantage of the present moment! This, yes, is the Christian sense of seizing the day. Not to enjoy life in each passing moment – no, this is the worldly sense. But to seize today, to say “no” to evil and “yes” to God, to open oneself to His grace, to once and for all stop thinking of ourselves, dragging ourselves into hypocrisy and to face our own reality as we are –this is who we are – to recognize that we have not loved God and neighbour as we should have. And to confess it, this is the beginning of a journey of conversion, asking God’s pardon first of all in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and then to repair the harm done to others. But always open to grace: the Lord knocks on our door, He knocks on our heart to enter into friendship with us, in communion, to give us salvation.

And this, for us, is the path for becoming “holy and immaculate”. The uncontaminated beauty of our Mother is incomparable, but at the same time it attracts us. Let us entrust ourselves to her and say “no” to sin and “yes” to Grace once and for all.

08.12.20



Pope Francis          

12.12.20  Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica          

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe                

Luke 1: 39-48 

In today's Liturgy three words stand out above all, three ideas: abundance, blessing and gift. And, looking at the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we also somehow have the reflection of these three realities: abundance, blessing and gift.

Abundance, because God always offers himself in abundance, always gives in abundance. He doesn't know the doses. He lets himself be "dosed" by his patience. It is we who – by our very nature, by our limitations – know the need for comfortable instalments. He instead gives himself in abundance, completely. And where there is God, there is abundance.

Thinking of the mystery of Christmas, the Advent liturgy takes from the prophet Isaiah much of this idea of abundance. God gives himself completely, as he is, totally. Generosity can be – I like to think so – a "limit" of God (at least one!): the impossibility of giving himself other than in abundance.

The second word is blessing. Mary's encounter with Elizabeth is a blessing, a blessing. Bless means "speak well." And God, since the first page of Genesis, has accustomed us to his style of speaking well. The second word he utters, according to the Bible, is: "And it was good," "it's good," "it was very good." The style of God is always to speak well, to curse is the style of the devil, of the enemy; the style of meanness, of the inability to give oneself completely, to "speak badly". God always speaks well. And he says it with pleasure, he says it by giving himself. Well. He gives himself in abundance, speaking well, blessing.

The third word is gift. And this abundance, to speak well, is a gift, it is a gift. A gift that is given to us in the One who is all grace, who is all him, all divinity: in the Blessed One. A gift that is given to us in she who is "full of grace", the "Blessed One". Blessed by nature and Blessed by grace: these are the two references that Scripture indicates. She is told: "blessed are you among women", "full of grace". Jesus is the Blessed One who brings the blessing.

And looking at the image of our Mother waiting for the Blessed, full of grace who awaits the Blessed, we understand a little of this abundance, of speaking well, of "blessing". And we understand this gift, the gift of God that presented to us in the abundance of his Son, by nature, in the abundance of his Mother, by grace. God's gift presented to us as a blessing, a blessing by nature and a blessing by grace. This is the gift that God presents to us and that he has continually wanted to highlight, to bring it out in the course of revelation.

"Blessed are you among the women because you have brought us the Blessed One" – "I am the Mother of God through whom you live, the One who gives life, the Blessed".

And so, contemplating today the image of Our Mother, we can see from God some of this style that He has: generosity, abundance, "speaking well", never cursing, and transforming our lives into a gift, a gift for all. Amen.

12.12.20


Pope Francis       

20.12.20  Angelus, St Peter's Square            

4th Sunday of Advent Year B           

Luke 1: 26-38  

Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!

On this Fourth and final Sunday of Advent, the Gospel proposes to us once again the account of the Annunciation. “Rejoice” says the angel to Mary, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Lk 1:28, 31). It seems to be an announcement of pure joy, destined to make the Virgin happy. Among the women of that time, which woman did not dream of becoming the mother of the Messiah? But along with joy, those words foretell a great trial to Mary. Why? Because in that moment she was “betrothed” (v. 27); she was unmarried. She was betrothed to Joseph. In such a situation, the Law of Moses stipulated there should be no relations or cohabitation. Therefore, in having a son, Mary would have transgressed the Law, and the punishment for women was terrible: stoning (see Dt 22:20-21). Certainly the divine message would have filled Mary’s heart with light and strength; nevertheless, she found herself faced with a crucial decision: to say “yes” to God, risking everything, even her life, or to decline the invitation and to continue her ordinary life.

What does she do? She responds thus: “Let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). But in the language in which the Gospel is written, it is not simply “let it be”. The expression indicates a strong desire, it indicates the will that something happen. In other words, Mary does not say: “If it has to happen, let it happen..., if it cannot be otherwise…”. It is not resignation. No, she does not express a weak and submissive acceptance, but rather she expresses a strong desire, a vivacious desire. She is not passive, but active. She does not submit to God, she binds herself to God. She is a woman in love prepared to serve her Lord completely and immediately. She could have asked for a little time to think about it, or even for more explanations about what would happen; perhaps she could have set some conditions... Instead, she does not take time, she does not keep God waiting, she does not delay.

How often - let us think of ourselves now - how often is our life is made up of postponements, even the spiritual life! For example, I know it is good for me to pray, but today I do not have time… tomorrow… by saying “tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow”, we postpone things: I will do it tomorrow. I know it is important to help someone, yes, I must do it: I will do it tomorrow. Today, on the threshold of Christmas, Mary invites us not to postpone, but to say “yes”. “Must I pray!” “Yes, I will try to pray”. “Must I help others? Yes”. How shall I do it? And I do it. Without putting it off. Every “yes” costs something, every “yes” has its cost, but it always costs less than what that courageous and prompt “yes" cost her, that “let it be to me according to your word”, which brought us salvation.

What, then is the “yes” we can say? Instead of complaining in these difficult times about what the pandemic prevents us from doing, let us do something for someone who has less: not the umpteenth gift for ourselves and our friends, but for a person in need whom no-one thinks of! And another piece of advice: in order for Jesus to be born in us, let us prepare our hearts, let us go to pray, let us not let ourselves be swept up by consumerism. “Ah, I have to buy presents, I must do this and that”. That frenzy of doing things, more and more. It is Jesus that is important. Consumerism is not found in the manger in Bethlehem: there is reality, poverty, love. Let us prepare our hearts to be like Mary's: free from evil, welcoming, ready to receive God.

“Let it be to me according to your word”. This is the Virgin’s last word for this last Sunday of Advent, and it is the invitation to take a genuine step towards Christmas. For if the birth of Jesus does not touch our lives - mine, yours, yours, ours, everyone’s - if it does not touch our lives, it slips past us in vain. In the Angelus now, we too will say “let your word be fulfilled in me”: May Our Lady help us to say it with our lives, with our approach to these last days in which to prepare ourselves well for Christmas. 

20.12.20

Pope Francis          


31.12.20  Vatican Basilica       

Te Deum and First Vespers Solemnity of Mary Mother of God 

Year B         

Galatians 4: 4-5 

This evening’s celebration always has a two-fold aspect: liturgically, we enter into the solemn Feast of Mary Most Holy, the Mother of God; and at the same time, we conclude the solar year with the great hymn of praise.

Tomorrow we will have the opportunity to reflect together on the first aspect. This evening, we create the space for giving thanks for the year that is drawing to a close.

“We praise you, O God: We acclaim you as Lord.” This may seem to be a forced, almost jarring form of thanking God at the end of a year like this, marked by the pandemic. We think of the families who have lost one or more members, of those who are ill, of those who have suffered alone, of those who have lost their jobs…

Sometimes someone asks: what sense does a tragedy such as this have? We do not need to hastily respond to this question. To our most anguished “whys”, not even God responds by having recourse to “higher reason”. God’s response takes the path of the Incarnation, as the Antiphon for the Magnificat will sing in a moment: “In his great love for us, God sent his Son in the likeness of our sinful nature”.

A God who would sacrifice human beings for his grand design, even the best possible, is certainly not the God that Jesus Christ revealed to us. God is Father, the “eternal Father”, and if his Son became man it is because of the immense compassion of the Father’s heart. God is a shepherd, and what shepherd would give up even a single sheep for lost, thinking that he at least still has many others? No, this cynical and ruthless god does not exist. This is not the God we “praise” and “acclaim as Lord”.

When the Good Samaritan met that poor, half-dead man on the side of the road, he did not give him a speech to explain to him the meaning of what had happened to him, perhaps even trying to convince him that in the end it was for his own good. The Samaritan, moved with compassion, bent over that stranger, treating him like a brother and cared for him, doing everything in his power (see Lk 10:25-37).

Yes, perhaps here we can find the “meaning” of this tragedy, of this pandemic, as well as other scourges that afflict humanity: the triggering compassion in us and of prompting attitudes and gestures of closeness, of care, of solidarity.

This is what has happened and is happening even in Rome in these months. And it is above all for this that we give thanks to God this evening: for the good things that have taken place in our cities during the lockdown and, in general, during the pandemic which, unfortunately, is not over yet.

There are many people who, without making noise, have tried to make the weight of this trial more bearable. With their daily dedication, inspired by love for their neighbour, they have made the words of the Te Deum real: “Day by day we praise you: We acclaim you now and to all eternity”. For the blessing and praise that the Lord loves the most is love of neighbour.

The healthcare workers – doctors, nurses, volunteers – found themselves on the front lines, and so they were always in our prayers and deserve our gratitude, as well as many priests and men and women religious. But this evening, our thanks go to all those who strive every day in the best way possible to carry on their service to their own families and the common good. We think especially of school administrators and teachers who carry out an essential role in the life of society and who must face a very complex situation. We gratefully think of public administrators as well who know how to value all of the resources present in their cities and territories, who are detached from their own private interests as well as those of their parties, who truly seek everyone’s good, beginning with the most disadvantaged.

All of this cannot happen without the grace, without the mercy of God. In difficult moments – we know this by experience – we are inclined to defend ourselves – this is natural – to protect ourselves and our dear ones, to safeguard our own interests… How is it then that so many people, without any other reward than that of doing good, found the strength to be concerned about others? What drove them to give up something of themselves, their own comfort, their own time, their own good, in order to give to others? In the end, even if they themselves are not aware of it, what fortifies them is God’s strength which is more powerful than our selfishness. We praise him for this, because we believe and we know that all the good that is accomplished day after day on earth, in the end, comes from him. And looking toward the future that awaits us, we implore of him once again: “May your mercy always be with us, Lord, For we have hoped in you”. Our trust and our hope are in you. 

31.12.20

Pope Francis          


01.01.21 Holy Mass, Vatican Basilica

   

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

 

54th World Peace Day Year B 

Numbers 6: 22-27,      Galatians 4: 4-7,      

Luke 2: 16-21 

In the readings of today’s Mass, three verbs find their fulfilment in the Mother of God: to bless, to be born and to find.

To bless. In the Book of Numbers, the Lord tells his sacred ministers to bless his people: “Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them, ‘The Lord bless you’” (6:23-24). This is no pious exhortation; it is a specific request. And it is important that, today too, priests constantly bless the People of God and that the faithful themselves be bearers of blessing; that they bless. The Lord knows how much we need to be blessed. The first thing he did after creating the world was to say that everything was good (bene-dicere) and to say of us that that we were very good. Now, however, with the Son of God we receive not only words of blessing, but the blessing itself: Jesus is himself the blessing of the Father. In him, Saint Paul tells us, the Father blesses us “with every blessing” (Eph 1:3). Every time we open our hearts to Jesus, God’s blessing enters our lives.

Today we celebrate the Son of God, who is “blessed” by nature, who comes to us through his Mother, “blessed” by grace. In this way, Mary brings us God’s blessing. Wherever she is, Jesus comes to us. Therefore, we should welcome her like Saint Elizabeth who, immediately recognizing the blessing, cried out: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Lk 1:42). We repeat those words every time we recite the Hail Mary. In welcoming Mary, we receive a blessing, but we also learn to bless. Our Lady teaches us that blessings are received in order to be given. She, who was blessed, became a blessing for all those whom she met: for Elizabeth, for the newlyweds at Cana, for the Apostles in the Upper Room… We too are called to bless, to “speak well” in God’s name. Our world is gravely polluted by the way we “speak” and think “badly” of others, of society, of ourselves. Speaking badly corrupts and decays, whereas blessing restores life and gives the strength needed to begin anew each day. Let us ask the Mother of God for the grace to be joyful bearers of God’s blessing to others, as she is to us.

The second verb is to be born. Saint Paul points out that the Son of God was “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4). In these few words, he tells us something amazing: that the Lord was born like us. He did not appear on the scene as an adult, but as a child. He came into the world not on his own, but from a woman, after nine months in the womb of his Mother, from whom he allowed his humanity to be shaped. The heart of the Lord began to beat within Mary; the God of life drew oxygen from her. Ever since then, Mary has united us to God because in her God bound himself to our flesh, and he has never left it. Saint Francis loved to say that Mary “made the Lord of Majesty our brother” (Saint Bonaventure, Legenda Maior, 9, 3). She is not only the bridge joining us to God; she is more. She is the road that God travelled in order to reach us, and the road that we must travel in order to reach him. Through Mary, we encounter God the way he wants us to: in tender love, in intimacy, in the flesh. For Jesus is not an abstract idea; he is real and incarnate; he was “born of a woman”, and quietly grew. Women know about this kind of quiet growth. We men tend to be abstract and want things right away. Women are concrete and know how to weave life’s threads with quiet patience. How many women, how many mothers, thus give birth and rebirth to life, offering the world a future!

We are in this world not to die, but to give life. The holy Mother of God teaches us that the first step in giving life to those around us is to cherish it within ourselves. Today’s Gospel tells us that Mary “kept all these things in her heart” (cf. Lk 2:19). And goodness comes from the heart. How important it is to keep our hearts pure, to cultivate our interior life and to persevere in our prayer! How important it is to educate our hearts to care, to cherish the persons and things around us. Everything starts from this: from cherishing others, the world and creation. What good is it to know many persons and things if we fail to cherish them? This year, while we hope for new beginnings and new cures, let us not neglect care. Together with a vaccine for our bodies, we need a vaccine for our hearts. That vaccine is care. This will be a good year if we take care of others, as Our Lady does with us.

The third verb is to find. The Gospel tells us that the shepherds “found Mary and Joseph and the child” (v. 16). They did not find miraculous and spectacular signs, but a simple family. Yet there they truly found God, who is grandeur in littleness, strength in tenderness. But how were the shepherds able to find this inconspicuous sign? They were called by an angel. We too would not have found God if we had not been called by grace. We could never have imagined such a God, born of a woman, who revolutionizes history with tender love. Yet by grace we did find him. And we discovered that his forgiveness brings new birth, his consolation enkindles hope, his presence bestows irrepressible joy. We found him but we must not lose sight of him. Indeed, the Lord is never found once and for all: each day he has to be found anew. The Gospel thus describes the shepherds as constantly on the lookout, constantly on the move: “they went with haste, they found, they made known, they returned, glorifying and praising God” (vv. 16-17.20). They were not passive, because to receive grace we have to be active.

What about ourselves? What are we called to find at the beginning of this year? It would be good to find time for someone. Time is a treasure that all of us possess, yet we guard it jealously, since we want to use it only for ourselves. Let us ask for the grace to find time for God and for our neighbour – for those who are alone or suffering, for those who need someone to listen and show concern for them. If we can find time to give, we will be amazed and filled with joy, like the shepherds. May Our Lady, who brought God into the world of time, help us to be generous with our time. Holy Mother of God, to you we consecrate this New Year. You, who know how to cherish things in your heart, care for us, bless our time, and teach us to find time for God and for others. With joy and confidence, we acclaim you: Holy Mother of God! Amen.

01.01.21 m


Pope Francis       

01.01.21  Angelus, Library of the Apostolic Palace      

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and 54th World Peace Day Year B     

Luke 2: 16-21 


Dear Brothers and Sisters, good afternoon and Happy New Year!

We begin this year placing ourselves under the maternal and loving gaze of Mary Most Holy, celebrated in today’s liturgy as Mother of God. Thus we take up once again the journey along the paths of history, entrusting our anxieties and our torments to her who can do everything. Mary watches over us with maternal tenderness just as she watched over her Son Jesus, and if we look at the Nativity Scene, we see that Jesus is not in the crib, and they told me that the Madonna said: “Won’t you let me hold this Son of mine a bit in my arms?” This is what the Madonna does with us: she wants to hold us in her harms to protect us as she protected and loved her Son. The reassuring and comforting gaze of the Holy Virgin is an encouragement to make sure that this time, granted us by the Lord, might be spent for our human and spiritual growth, that it is a time in which hatred and division are resolved, and there are many, that it is a time to experience ourselves as brothers and sisters, a time to build and not to destroy, to take care of each other and of creation. A time to make things grow a time of peace.

It is specifically regarding the care of our neighbours and of creation that the theme for the World Day of Peace, which we celebrate today, is dedicated: A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace. The painful events that marked humanity’s journey last year, especially the pandemic, taught us how much it is necessary to take an interest in others’ problems and to share their concerns. This attitude represents the path that leads to peace, because it fosters the construction of a society founded on fraternal relationships. Each of us, men and women of this time, is called to make peace happen, each one of us, we are not indifferent to this. We are called to make peace happen each day and in every place we live, taking those brothers and sisters by the hand who need a comforting word, a tender gesture, solidary help. This is a task given us by God. The Lord has given us the task of being peacemakers.

And peace can become a reality if we begin to be in peace with ourselves – at peace inside, in our hearts – and with ourselves, and with those who are near us, removing the obstacles that prevent us from taking care of those who find themselves in need and in poverty. It means developing a mentality and a culture of “caring” to defeat indifference, to defeat rejection and rivalry – indifference, rejection, rivalry which unfortunately prevail. To remove these attitudes. And thus, peace is not only the absence of war, peace is never sterile: no, peace does not exist in an operating room. Peace is within life: it is not only the absence of war, but is a life rich in meaning, rooted in and lived through personal realization and fraternal sharing with others. Then that peace, so longed for and always endangered by violence, by egoism and evil, that peace that is endangered might become possible and achievable if I take it as a task given to me by God.

May the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to the “Prince of Peace” (Is 9:6), and who cuddles him thus, with such tenderness in her arms, obtain for us from heaven the precious gift of peace, which cannot be fully pursued with human force alone. Human force is not enough because peace is above all a gift, a gift to be implored from God with incessant prayer, sustained with patient and respectful dialogue, constructed with an open collaboration with truth and justice and always attentive to the legitimate aspirations of individuals and peoples. My hope is that peace might reign in the hearts of men and women and in families, in recreational and work places, in communities and in nations. In families, at work, in nations: peace, peace. Now is time to think that life today is organized around war, and enmities, by many things that destroy. We want peace. And this is a gift.

On the threshold of this beginning, I extend to everyone my heart-felt greetings for a happy and serene 2021. May each one of us make sure that it is for everyone a year of fraternal solidarity and peace, a year filled with expectant trust and hope, which we entrust to the heavenly protection of Mary, Mother of God and our Mother. 

01.01.21 a


Pope Francis       

24.03.21  General Audience, Library of the Apostolic Palace 

Catechesis on prayer - 27. To pray in communion with Mary       

Acts 1: 12-14


Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today the catechesis is dedicated to prayer in communion with Mary. It occurs precisely on the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Annunciation. We know that the main pathway of Christian prayer is the humanity of Jesus. In fact, the confidence typical of Christian prayer would be meaningless if the Word had not become incarnate, giving us in the Spirit His filial relationship with the Father. We heard in the Scripture of the gathering of the disciples, the pious women and Mary, praying after Jesus’s Ascension. The first Christian community was awaiting Jesus’s gift, Jesus’s promise.

Christ is the Mediator, Christ is the bridge that we cross to turn to the Father (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2674). He is the only Redeemer: there are no co-redeemers with Christ. He is the only one. He is the Mediator par excellence. He is the Mediator. Each prayer we raise to God is through Christ, with Christ and in Christ and it is fulfilled thanks to his intercession. The Holy Spirit extends Christ’s mediation through every time and every place: there is no other name by which we can be saved: Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and humanity (see Acts 4:12).

Due to Christ’s one mediation, other references that Christians find for their prayer and devotion take on meaning, first among them being the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

She occupies a privileged place in the lives of Christians, and therefore, in their prayer as well, because she is the Mother of Jesus. The Eastern Churches have often depicted her as the Odigitria, the one who “shows the way”; and the way is her Son, Jesus Christ. The beautiful, ancient painting of the Odigitria in the Cathedral of Bari comes to my mind. It is simple. The Madonna who shows Jesus, naked; then they put a shirt on him to cover his nakedness, but the truth is that Jesus is naked, he himself, man, born of Mary, is the Mediator. And she indicates the Mediator: she is the Odigitria. Her presence is everywhere in Christian iconography, sometimes very prominently, but always in relation to her Son and in connection with Him. Her hands, her eyes, her behaviour are a living “catechism”, always indicating the hinge, she always points out the centre: Jesus. Mary is completely directed toward Him (see CCC, 2674) to such an extent that we can say she is more disciple than Mother. The directions she gave at the wedding at Cana: Mary says "do whatever he will tell you”. She always refers to Christ. She is the first disciple.

This is the role Mary fulfilled throughout her entire earthly life and which she forever retains: to be the humble handmaid of the Lord, nothing more. At a certain point in the Gospels she almost seems to disappear; but then she reappears in the more crucial moments, such as at Cana, when her Son, thanks to her caring intervention, performs his first “sign” (see Jn 2:1-12), and then on Golgotha at the foot of the cross.

Jesus extended Mary’s maternity to the entire Church when He entrusted her to his beloved disciple shortly before dying on the cross. From that moment on, we have all been gathered under her mantle, as depicted in certain medieval frescoes or paintings. Even the first Latin antiphon – sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix: the Madonna who ‘covers’, like a Mother, to whom Jesus entrusted us, all of us; but as a Mother, not as a goddess, not as co-redeemer: as Mother. It is true that Christian piety has always given her beautiful titles, as a child gives his or her mamma: how many beautiful things children say about their mamma whom they love so much! How many beautiful things. But we need to be careful: the things the Church, the Saints, say about her, beautiful things, about Mary, subtract nothing from Christ’s sole Redemption. He is the only Redeemer. They are expressions of love like a child for his or her mamma – some are exaggerated. But love, as we know, always makes us exaggerate things, but out of love.

And so, we began to pray to her using several expressions present in the Gospels directed to her: “full of grace”, “blessed are you among women” (see CCC, 2676f.). Sanctioned by the Council of Ephesus, the title “Theotokos”, “Mother of God”, was soon added to the Hail Mary. And, analogously as with the Our Father, after the praise we add the supplication: we ask that Mary pray for us sinners, that she might intercede with her tenderness, “now and at the hour of our death”. Now, in the concrete situations of life, and in the final moment, so that she might accompany us – as Mother, as the first disciple – in our passage to eternal life.

Mary is always present at the bedside of her children when they depart this world. If someone is alone and abandoned, she is Mother, she is there, near, as she was next to her Son when everyone else abandoned him.

Mary was and is present in these days of the pandemic, near to the people who, unfortunately, have concluded their earthly journey all alone, without the comfort of or the closeness of their loved ones. Mary is always there next to us, with her maternal tenderness.

Prayers said to her are not in vain. The Woman who said “yes”, who promptly welcomed the Angel’s invitation, also responds to our supplications, she hears our voices, even those that remain closed in our hearts that haven’t the strength to be uttered but which God knows better that we ourselves do. She listens as Mother. Just like, and more than, every good mother, Mary defends us from danger, she is concerned about us even when we are concentrated on our own things and lose a sense of the way, and when we put not only our health in danger, but also our salvation. Mary is there, praying for us, praying for those who do not pray. To pray with us. Why? Because she is our Mother. 

24.03.21

Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon and happy feast day!

In today’s Gospel, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Mary into Heaven, the Magnificat resounds in the liturgy. This hymn of praise is like a “photograph” of the Mother of God. Mary “rejoices in God”, why? “Because he has looked on the humility of his handmaid”, as it says (cf Lk 1:47-48).

Mary’s secret is humility. It is her humility that attracted God’s gaze to her. The human eye always looks for grandeur and allows itself to be dazzled by what is flashy. Instead, God does not look at the appearance, God looks at the heart (cf 1 Sam 16:7) and is enchanted by humility. Humility of heart enchants God. Today, looking at Mary assumed into heaven, we can say that humility is the way that leads to Heaven. The word “humility”, as we know, comes from the Latin word humus, which means “earth”. It is paradoxical: to arrive on high, into Heaven, what is needed is to stay low, like the earth! Jesus teaches this: “the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11). God does not exalt us because of our gifts, because of our wealth or how well we do things, but because of humility. God loves humility. God lifts up the one who humbles him or herself; he lifts up the one who serves. Mary, in fact, attributes no other “title” except servant to herself, to serve: she is, “the servant of the Lord” (Lk 1:38). She says nothing else about herself, she seeks nothing else for herself. Only to be the servant of the Lord.

Today, then, let us ask ourselves, each one of us in our heart: how am I doing with humility? Do I want to be recognised by others, to affirm myself and to be praised, or do I think rather about serving? Do I know how to listen, like Mary, or do I want only to speak and receive attention? Do I know how to keep silence, like Mary, or am I always chattering? Do I know how to take a step back, defuse quarrels and arguments, or do I always want to excel? Let us think about these questions, each one of us: how am I doing with humility?

In her littleness, Mary wins Heaven first. The secret of her success is precisely that she recognises her lowliness, that she recognises her need. With God, only those who recognise themselves as nothing can receive the all. Only the one who empties him or herself can be filled by Him. And Mary is the “full of grace” (v. 28) precisely because of her humility. For us as well, humility is the always the point of departure, always, it is the beginning of our having faith. It is fundamental to be poor in spirit, that is in need of God. Those who are filled with themselves have no space for God. And many times, we are full of ourselves, and the one who is filled with him or herself gives no space to God, but those who remain humble allow the Lord to accomplish great things (cf v.49).

The poet, Dante, calls the Virgin Mary, “humbler and loftier than any creature” (Paradise, XXXIII, 2). It is beautiful to think that the humblest and loftiest creature in history, the first to win heaven with her entire being, in soul and body, lived out her life for the most part within the domestic walls, she lived out her life in the ordinary, in humility. The days of the Full of grace were not all that striking. They followed one after the other, often exactly the same, in silence: externally, nothing extraordinary. But God’s gaze was always upon her, admiring her humility, her availability, the beauty of her heart never stained by sin.

It is a huge message of hope for us, for you, for each one of us, for you whose days are always the same, tiring and often difficult. Mary reminds you today that God calls you too to this glorious destiny. These are not beautiful words: it is the truth. It is not a well-crafted, beautiful ending, a pious illusion or a false consolation. No, it is the truth, it is pure reality, it is as real, as live and true as the Madonna assumed into Heaven. Let us celebrate her today with the love of children, let us celebrate her joyful but humble, enlivened by the hope of one day being with her in Heaven!

And let us pray to her now that she accompany us on our journey that leads from Earth to Heaven. May she remind us that the secret to the journey is contained in the word humility. Let us not forget this word which the Madonna always reminds us of. And that lowliness and service are the secrets for obtaining the goal, of reaching heaven.

15.08.21


Pope Francis       

15.09.21 Holy Mass on the Esplanade of the National Shrine in Šaštin, Slovakia, 

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows 

Luke 2: 33-35

In the Temple of Jerusalem, Mary offers the baby Jesus to the aged Simeon, who takes him in his arms and acknowledges him as the Messiah sent for the salvation of Israel. Here we see Mary for who she truly is: the Mother who gives us her son Jesus. That is why we love her and venerate her. In this National Shrine of Šaštín, the Slovak people hasten to her with faith and devotion, for they know that she brings us Jesus. The logo of this Apostolic Journey depicts a winding path within a heart surmounted by the cross: Mary is the path that guides us to the Heart of Christ, who gave his life for love of us.

In the light of the Gospel we have just heard, we can contemplate Mary as a model of faith. And we can discern three dimensions of faith: it is journey, prophecy and compassion.

First, Mary’s is a faith that sets her on a journey. The young woman of Nazareth, after hearing the message of the angel, “went with haste into the hill country” (Lk 1:39) to visit and assist Elizabeth, her cousin.  She did not consider it a privilege to be chosen as the Mother of the Saviour; she did not lose the simple joy of her humility after the visit of the angel; she did not keep thinking about herself within the four walls of her house.  Rather, she experienced the gift she had received as a mission to be carried out; she felt urged to open the door and go out; she became completely caught up in God’s own “haste” to reach all people with his saving love. That is why Mary set out on her journey. She chose the unknowns of the journey over the comfort of her daily routines, the weariness of travel over the peace and quiet of home; the risk of a faith that makes our lives a loving gift to others over a placid piety.

Today’s Gospel likewise presents Mary as she sets out on a journey: this time towards Jerusalem, where together with Joseph her spouse, she presents Jesus in the Temple. The rest of her life will be a journey in the footsteps of her Son, as the first of his disciples, even to Calvary, to the foot of the cross. Mary never stops journeying.

For you, the Slovak people, the Blessed Virgin is a model of faith: a faith that involves journeying, a faith inspired by simple and sincere devotion, a constant pilgrimage to seek the Lord. In making this journey, you overcome the temptation to a passive faith, content with this or that ritual or ancient tradition. Instead, you leave yourselves behind and set out, carrying in your backpacks the joys and sorrows of this life, and thus make your life a pilgrimage of love towards God and your brothers and sisters. Thank you for this witness! And please, always persevere on this journey! Do not stop! And I would like to add something else. I said: “Do not stop”, for when the Church stops, it becomes sick. When the Bishops stop, they make the Church sick. When priests stop, they make the people of God sick.

Mary’s faith is also prophetic. By her very life, the young woman of Nazareth is a prophetic sign pointing to God’s presence in human history, his merciful intervention that confounds the logic of the world, lifts up the lowly and casts down the mighty (cf. Lk 1:52). Mary embodies the “poor of the Lord”, who cry out to him and await the coming of the Messiah. She is the Daughter of Sion proclaimed by Israel’s prophets (cf. Zeph 3:14-18), the Virgin who was to conceive Emmanuel, God-with-us (cf. Is 7:14). As the Immaculate Virgin, Mary is the icon of our own vocation, for, like her, we are called to be holy and blameless in love (cf. Eph 1:4), images of Christ.

Israel’s prophetic tradition culminates in Mary, because she bears in her womb Jesus, the incarnate Word who brings to complete and definitive fruition God’s saving plan. Of Jesus, Simeon says to Mary: “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel… a sign that will be opposed” (Lk 2:34).

Let us never forget this: faith cannot be reduced to a sweetener to make life more palatable. Jesus is a sign of contradiction. He came to bring light to the darkness, exposing the darkness for what it is and forcing it to submit to him. For this reason, the darkness always fights against him. Those who accept Christ in their lives will rise; those who reject him remain in the darkness, to their own ruin. Jesus told his disciples that he came to bring not peace but a sword (cf. Mt 10:34): indeed, his word, like a two-edged sword, pierces our life, separating light from darkness and demanding a decision. His word demands of us: “Choose!” Where Jesus is concerned, we cannot remain lukewarm, with a foot in both camps; we cannot. When I accept him, he reveals my contradictions, my idols, my temptations. He becomes my resurrection, the one who always lifts me up when I fall, the one who takes me by the hand and lets me start anew. He always lifts me up.

Slovakia today needs such prophets. I urge you, the Bishops: be prophets who follow this path. This has nothing to do with hostility toward the world, but with being “signs of contradiction” within the world. Christians who can demonstrate the beauty of the Gospel by the way they live. Christians who are weavers of dialogue where hostility is growing; models of fraternal life where society is experiencing tension and hostility; bringers of the sweet fragrance of hospitality and solidarity where personal and collective selfishness too often prevails, protectors and guardians of life where the culture of death reigns.

Mary, the Mother of the journey, set out on the journey. Mary is also the Mother of prophecy. Finally, Mary is the Mother of compassion. Her faith is compassionate. She, “the servant of the Lord” (cf. Lk 1:38) who, with a mother’s care, ensured that the wine at the wedding feast of Cana would be sufficient (cf. Jn 2:1-12), shared in her Son’s mission of salvation, even to the foot of the Cross. At Calvary, in her overwhelming grief, she understood the prophecy of Simeon: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Lk 2:35). The suffering of her dying Son, who had taken upon himself the sins and infirmities of humanity, pierced her own heart. Jesus suffered in the flesh, the man of sorrows, disfigured by evil (cf. Is 53:3ff). Mary suffered in spirit, as the compassionate Mother who dries our tears, comforts us and points to Christ’s definitive victory.

Mary, Mother of Sorrows, remains at the foot the cross. She simply stands there. She does not run away, or try to save herself, or find ways to alleviate her grief. Here is the proof of true compassion: to remain standing beneath the cross. To stand there weeping, yet with the faith that knows that, in her Son, God transfigures pain and suffering and triumphs over death.

In contemplating the Sorrowful Mother, may we too open our hearts to a faith that becomes compassion, a faith that identifies with those who are hurting, suffering and forced to bear heavy crosses. A faith that does not remain abstract, but becomes incarnate in fellowship with those in need. A faith that imitates God’s way of doing things, quietly relieves the suffering of our world and waters the soil of history with salvation.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord always preserve in you wonderment and gratitude for the great gift of faith! And may Mary Most Holy obtain for you the grace of a faith that ever sets out anew, is deeply prophetic and abounds in compassion.

15.09.21


Pope Francis          

08.12.21  Angelus, St Peter's Square  

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary      

Luke 1: 26-38 

Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!

The Gospel for today’s Liturgy, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, brings us into the house of Nazareth, where she receives the angel’s annunciation (cf. Lk 1:26-38). Within the domestic walls, a person reveals him or herself better than elsewhere. And it is precisely within that domestic intimacy that the Gospel gives us a detail that reveals the beauty of Mary’s heart.

The angel calls her “full of grace”. If she is full of grace, it means the Madonna is void of evil: she is without sin, Immaculate. Now, at the angel’s greeting, Mary – the text says – is “greatly troubled” (Lk 1:29). She is not only surprised, but troubled. To receive grand greetings, honours and compliments sometimes brings the risk of provoking pride and presumption. Let us recall that Jesus is not gentle with those who go in search of greetings in the squares, adulation, visibility (cf. Lk 20:46). Mary, instead, does not exalt herself, but is troubled; rather than feeling pleased, she feels amazement. The angel’s greeting seemed too grand for her. Why? Because she feels her littleness within, and that littleness, that humility attracts God’s eyes.

Within the walls of the house of Nazareth, we thus see a marvellous characteristic of Mary’s heart. How is Mary’s heart? Having received the highest of compliments, she is troubled she because she hears addressed to her what she has not attributed to herself. In fact, Mary does not credit prerogatives to herself, she does not hold claim to anything, she accounts nothing to her own merit. She is not self-satisfied, she does not exalt herself. For in her humility, she knows she receives everything from God. Therefore, free from herself, she is completely directed toward God and others. Mary Immaculate does not look on herself. This is true humility: not looking on oneself, but looking toward God and others.

Let us remember that this perfection of Mary, the full of grace, is declared by the angel within the walls of her house – not in Nazareth’s main square, but there, in hiding, in the greatest humility. In that little house of Nazareth beat the greatest heart that any creature has ever had. Dear brothers and sisters, this is extraordinary news for us! Because the Lord is telling us that to work marvellous deeds, he has no need of grand means and our lofty abilities, but our humility, eyes open to Him, and also open to others. With this annunciation, within the poor walls of a small house, God changed history. Even today, he wants to do great things with us in our daily lives: in our families, at work, in everyday environments. God’s grace loves to operate there more than in great historical events. But, I ask myself, do we believe this? Or rather do we think that holiness is a utopia, something for insiders, a pious illusion incompatible with ordinary life?

Let us ask the Madonna for a grace: that she free us from the misleading idea that the Gospel is one thing and life is another; that she enkindle enthusiasm in us for the ideal of sanctity which has nothing to do with holy cards and pictures, but is about living humbly and joyfully, like the Madonna, what happens each day, freed from ourselves, with our eyes fixed on God and the neighbour we meet. Let’s not lose heart: The Lord has given everyone the stuff it takes to weave holiness within our everyday life! And when we are assailed by the doubt that we cannot succeed, the sadness of not being adequate, let us allow the Madonna to look on us with her “eyes of mercy”, for no one who asked for her help has ever been abandoned!

08.12.21


Pope Francis          

19.12.21 Angelus, St Peter's Square   

4th Sunday of Advent Year C 

Luke 1: 39-45

Pope Francis - Look for to help - Angelus 19.12.21

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

The Gospel of the Liturgy of today, fourth Sunday of Advent, tells of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1: 39-45). After receiving the annunciation of the angel, the Virgin does not stay at home, thinking over what has happened and considering the problems and pitfalls, which were certainly not lacking: because, poor girl, she did not know what to do with this news, with the culture of that age… She did not understand… On the contrary, she first thinks of someone in need; instead of being absorbed in her own problems, she thinks about someone in need, she thinks about Elizabeth, her relative, who was of advanced years and with child, something strange and miraculous. Mary sets out on with generosity, without letting herself be put off by the discomforts of the journey, responding to an inner impulse that called her to be close and to help. A long road, kilometre after kilometre, and there was no bus to go there: she went on foot. She went out to help. How? By sharing her joy. Mary gives Elizabeth the joy of Jesus, the joy she carried in her heart and in her womb. She goes to her and proclaims her feelings, and this proclamation of feelings then became a prayer, the Magnificat, which we all know. And the text says that Our Lady “arose and went with haste” (v. 39).

She arose and went. In the last stretch of the journey of Advent, let us be guided by these two verbs. To arise and to go in haste: these are the two movements that Mary made and that she invites us also to make as Christmas approaches. First of all, arise. After the angel’s announcement, a difficult period loomed ahead for the Virgin: her unexpected pregnancy exposed her to misunderstandings and even severe punishment, even stoning, in the culture of that time. Imagine how many concerns and worries she had! Nevertheless, she did not become discouraged, she was not disheartened: she arose. She did not look down at her problems, but up to God. And she did not think about whom to ask for help, but to whom to bring help. She always thinks about others: that is Mary, always thinking of the needs of others. She will do the same later, at the wedding in Cana, when she realizes that there is no more wine. It is a problem for other people, but she thinks about this and looks for a solution. Mary always thinks about others. She also thinks of us.

Let us learn from Our Lady this way of reacting: to get up, especially when difficulties threaten to crush us. To arise, so as not to get bogged down in problems, sinking into self-pity or falling into a sadness that paralyses us. But why get up? Because God is great and is ready to lift us up if we reach out to Him. So let us cast away the negative thoughts, the fears that block every impulse and that prevent us from moving forward. And then let’s do as Mary did: let's look around and look for someone to whom we can be of help! Is there an elderly person I know to whom I can give a little help, company? Everyone, think about it. Or to offer a service to someone, a kindness, a phone call? But who can I help? I get up and I help. By helping others, we help ourselves to rise up from difficulties.

The second movement is to go in haste. This does not mean to proceed with agitation, in a hurried manner, no, it does not mean this. Instead, it means conducting our days with a joyful step, looking ahead with confidence, without dragging our feet, as slaves to complaints these complaints ruin so many lives, because one starts complaining and complaining, and life drains away. Complaining leads you always to look for someone to blame. On her way to Elizabeth’s house, Mary proceeds with the quick step of one whose heart and life are full of God, full of his joy. So, let us ask ourselves, for our benefit: how is my “step”? Am I proactive or do I linger in melancholy, in sadness? Do I move forward with hope or do I stop and feel sorry for myself? If we proceed with the tired step of grumbling and talking, we will not bring God to anyone, we will only bring bitterness and dark things. Instead, it does great good to cultivate a healthy sense of humour, as did, for example, Saint Thomas More or Saint Philip Neri. We can also ask for this grace, this grace of a healthy sense of humour: it does so much good. Let us not forget that the first act of charity we can do for our neighbour is to offer him a serene and smiling face. It is to bring them the joy of Jesus, as Mary did with Elizabeth.

May the Mother of God take us by the hand, and may she help us to arise and to go in haste towards Christmas!

19.12.21


Pope Francis       

01.01.22 Holy Mass, St Peter’s Basilica   

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God    

55th World Day of Peace   Year C

Luke 2: 16-21 

The shepherds found “Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger” (Lk 2:16). For the shepherds, the manger was a joyful sign: it was the confirmation of the message they had heard from the angel (cf. v. 12), the place where they found the Saviour. It is also the proof of God’s closeness to them, for he was born in a manger, an object they know well, as a sign of his closeness and familiarity. The manger is also a joyful sign for us. Jesus touches our hearts by being born in littleness and poverty; he fills us with love, not fear. The manger foretells the One who makes himself food for us.  His poverty is good news for everyone, especially the marginalized, the rejected and those who do not count in the eyes of the world. For that is how God comes: not on a fast track, and lacking even a cradle! That is what is beautiful about seeing him there, laid in a manger.

Yet such was not the case with Mary, the Holy Mother of God. She had to endure “the scandal of the manger”. She too, long before the shepherds, had received the message of an angel, who spoke to her solemnly about the throne of David: “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David” (Lk 1:31-32). And now, Mary has to lay him in a trough for animals. How can she hold together the throne of a king and the lowly manger? How can she reconcile the glory of the Most High and the bitter poverty of a stable? Let us think of the distress of the Mother of God. What can be more painful for a mother than to see her child suffering poverty? It is troubling indeed. We would not blame Mary, were she to complain of those unexpected troubles. Yet she does not lose heart. She does not complain, but keeps silent. Rather than complain, she chooses a different part: For her part, the Gospel tells us, Mary “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (cf. Lk 2:19).

That is not what the shepherds and the people do. The shepherds tell everyone about what they had seen: the angel that appeared in the heart of the night, and his words concerning the Child. And the people, upon hearing these things, are amazed (cf. v. 18). Words and amazement. Mary, instead, is pensive; she keeps all these things, pondering them in her heart. We ourselves can have the same two different responses. The story told by the shepherds, and their own amazement, remind us of the beginnings of faith, when everything seems easy and straightforward. We rejoice in the newness of God who enters into our lives and fills us with wonder. Mary’s pensiveness, on the other hand, is the expression of a mature, adult faith, not a faith of beginners. Not a newborn faith, it is rather a faith that now gives birth. For spiritual fruitfulness is born of trials and testing. From the quiet of Nazareth and from the triumphant promises received by the Angel – the beginnings – Mary now finds herself in the dark stable of Bethlehem. Yet that is where she gives God to the world. Others, before the scandal of the manger, might feel deeply troubled. She does not: she keeps those things, pondering them in her heart.

Let us learn from the Mother of God how to have that same attitude: to keep and to ponder. Because we may well have to endure certain “scandals of the manger”. We hope that everything will be all right and then, like a bolt from the blue, an unexpected problem arises. Our expectations clash painfully with reality. That can also happen in the life of faith, when the joy of the Gospel is put to the test in troubling situations. Today the Mother of God teaches us to draw profit from this clash. She shows us that it is necessary: it is the narrow path to achieve the goal, the cross, without which there can be no resurrection. Like the pangs of childbirth, it begets a more mature faith.

I ask, brothers and sisters, how do we make this passage, how do we surmount this clash between the ideal and the real? By doing exactly what Mary did: by keeping and by pondering. First, Mary “keeps”, that is she holds on to what happens; she does not forget or reject it. She keeps in her heart everything that she saw and heard. The beautiful things, like those spoken to her by the angel and the shepherds, but also the troubling things: the danger of being found pregnant before marriage and, now, the lowly stable where she has had to give birth. That is what Mary does. She does not pick and choose; she keeps. She accepts life as it comes, without trying to camouflage or embellish it; she keeps those things in her heart.

Then, Mary’s second attitude is about how she keeps: she keeps and she ponders. The Gospel speaks of Mary “bringing together”, comparing, her different experiences and finding the hidden threads that connect them. In her heart, in her prayer, she does exactly that: she binds together the beautiful things and the unpleasant things. She does not keep them apart, but brings them together. It is for this reason that Mary is said to be the Mother of Catholicity. In this regard, we can dare to say that it is because of this that Mary is said to be Catholic, for she unites, she does not divide.  And in this way she discerns their greater meaning, from God’s perspective. In her mother’s heart, Mary comes to realize that the glory of the Most High appears in humility; she welcomes the plan of salvation whereby God must lie in a manger. She sees the divine Child frail and shivering, and she accepts the wondrous divine interplay between grandeur and littleness. Mary keeps and ponders.

This inclusive way of seeing things, which transcends tensions by “keeping” and “pondering”, is the way of mothers, who, in moments of tension, do not divide, they keep, and in this way enable life to grow. It is the way so many mothers embrace the problems of their children. Their maternal “gaze” does not yield to stress; it is not paralyzed before those problems, but sees them in a wider perspective. And this is Mary’s attitude: she keeps and ponders right up to Calvary. We can think of the faces of all those mothers who care for a child who is ill or experiencing difficulties. What great love we see in their eyes! Even amid their tears, they are able to inspire hope. Theirs is a gaze that is conscious and realistic, but at the same time offering, beyond the pain and the problems, a bigger picture, one of care and love that gives birth to new hope. That is what mothers do: they know how to overcome obstacles and disagreements, and to instil peace. In this way, they transform problems into opportunities for rebirth and growth. They can do this because they know how to “keep”, to hold together the various threads of life. We need such people, capable of weaving the threads of communion in place of the barbed wire of conflict and division. Mothers know how to do this.

The New Year begins under the sign of the Holy Mother of God, under the sign of the Mother. A mother’s gaze is the path to rebirth and growth.  We need mothers, women who look at the world not to exploit it, but so that it can have life. Women who, seeing with the heart, can combine dreams and aspirations with concrete reality, without drifting into abstraction and sterile pragmatism. And the Church is a Mother, this is what makes the Church feminine. For this reason, we cannot find a place for women in the Church without allowing the heart of the Woman and Mother to shine. This is the place of women in the Church, the great place, from which other places, more concrete and less important, are derived. But the Church is Mother, the Church is woman. And since mothers bestow life, and women “keep” the world, let us all make greater efforts to promote mothers and to protect women. How much violence is directed against women! Enough! To hurt a woman is to insult God, who from a woman took on our humanity. He did not do it through an angel; nor did he come directly; he did it through a woman. Like a woman, the Mother Church, takes the humanity of her sons and daughters.

At the beginning of the New Year, then, let us place ourselves under the protection of this woman, the Mother of God, who is also our mother. May she help us to keep and ponder all things, unafraid of trials and with the joyful certainty that the Lord is faithful and can transform every cross into a resurrection. Today too, let us call upon her as did the People of God at Ephesus. Let us stand and, facing Our Lady as did the people of God in Ephesus, let us together repeat three times her title of Mother of God: “Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God”! Amen.

01.01.22 m


Pope Francis       

01.01.22 Angelus, St Peter's Square   

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God    

55th World Day of Peace  Year C

Luke 2: 16-21 

Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon! Happy New Year!

Let us begin the new year entrusting it to Mary, the Mother of God. The Gospel of today’s Liturgy speaks of her, taking us back once again to the wonder of the crib. The shepherds hasten toward the stable and what do they find? The text says they find, “Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger” (Lk 2:16). Let us pause on this scene and let us imagine Mary who, like a tender and caring mamma, has just laid Jesus in the manger. We can see a gift given to us in that act of laying him down: the Madonna does not keep her Son to herself, but presents him to us. She not only holds him in her arms, but puts him down to invite us to look at him, welcome him, adore him. Behold Mary’s maternity: she offers the Son who is born to all of us. Always by giving her Son, showing her Son, never treating her Son as something of her own, no. And so throughout Jesus’ life.

And in laying him before our eyes, without saying a word, she gives us a wonderful message: God is near, within our reach. He does not come with the power of someone who wants to be feared, but with the frailness of someone who asks to be loved. He does not judge from his throne on high, but looks at us from below, like a brother, rather, like a son. He is born little and in need so that no one would ever again be ashamed. It is precisely when we experience our weakness and our frailness that we can feel God even nearer, because he appeared to us in this way – weak and frail. He is the God-child who is born so as not to exclude anyone. He did this to make us all become brothers and sisters.

And so, the new year begins with God who, in the arms of his mother and lying in a manger, gives us courage with tenderness. We need this encouragement. We are still living in uncertain and difficult times due to the pandemic. Many are frightened about the future and burdened by social problems, personal problems, dangers stemming from the ecological crisis, injustices and by global economic imbalances. Looking at Mary with her Son in her arms, I think of young mothers and their children fleeing wars and famine, or waiting in refugee camps. There are so many of them! And contemplating Mary who lays Jesus in the manger, making him available to everyone, let us remember that the world can change and everyone’s life can improve only if we make ourselves available to others, without expecting them to begin to do so. If we become craftsmen of fraternity, we will be able to mend the threads of a world torn apart by war and violence.

Today the World Day of Peace is celebrated. Peace “is both a gift from on high and the fruit of a shared commitment” (Message for the 55th World Day of Peace, 1). Gift from on high: we need to implore it of Jesus because we are not capable of preserving it. We can truly build peace only if we have peace in our hearts, only if we receive it from the Prince of peace. But peace is also our commitment: it asks us to take the first step, it demands concrete actions. It is built by being attentive to the least, by promoting justice, with the courage to forgive thus extinguishing the fire of hatred. And it needs a positive outlook as well, one that always sees, in the Church as well as in society, not the evil that divides us, but the good that unites us! Getting depressed or complaining is useless. We need to roll up our sleeves to build peace. At the beginning of this year, may the Mother of God, the Queen of Peace, obtain harmony in our hearts and in the entire world.

01.01.22 a


Pope Francis       

25.03.22 Penance Celebration, St Peter's Basilica    

Luke 1: 26-38

In the Gospel reading for today’s Solemnity, the angel Gabriel speaks three times in addressing the Virgin Mary.

The first is when he greets her and says, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28).  The reason to rejoice, the reason for joy, is revealed in those few words: the Lord is with you.  Dear brother, dear sister, today you can hear those words addressed to you.  You can make them your own each time you approach God’s forgiveness, for there the Lord tells you, “I am with you”.  All too often, we think that Confession is about going to God with dejected looks.  Yet it is not so much that we go to the Lord, but that he comes to us, to fill us with his grace, to fill us with his joy.  Our confession gives the Father the joy of raising us up once more.  It is not so much about our sins as about his forgiveness.  Our sins are present but the forgiveness of God is always at the heart of our confession.  Think about it: if our sins were at the heart of the sacrament, almost everything would depend on us, on our repentance, our efforts, our resolves.  Far from it.  The sacrament is about God, who liberates us and puts us back on our feet.

Let us recognize once more the primacy of grace and ask for the gift to realize that Reconciliation is not primarily our drawing near to God, but his embrace that enfolds, astonishes and overwhelms us.  The Lord enters our home, as he did that of Mary in Nazareth, and brings us unexpected amazement and joy - the joy of forgiveness.  Let us first look at things from God’s perspective: then we will rediscover our love for Confession.  We need this, for every interior rebirth, every spiritual renewal, starts there, from God’s forgiveness.  May we not neglect Reconciliation, but rediscover it as the sacrament of joy.  Yes, the sacrament of joy, for our shame for our sins becomes the occasion for an experience of the warm embrace of the Father, the gentle strength of Jesus who heals us, and the “maternal tenderness” of the Holy Spirit.  That is the heart of Confession.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us go forth and receive forgiveness.  And you, dear brother priests who are ministers of God’s forgiveness, offer to those who approach you the joy of this proclamation: Rejoice, the Lord is with you.  Please set aside rigidity, obstacles and harshness; may you be doors wide open to mercy!  Especially in Confession, we are called to act in the person of the Good Shepherd who takes his sheep into his arms and cradles them.  We are called to be channels of grace that pour forth the living water of the Father’s mercy on hearts grown arid.  If a priest does not approach Confession with this attitude, it would be better for him to refrain from celebrating the sacrament.

A second time the angel speaks to Mary.  She was troubled by his greeting, and so he tells her, “Do not be afraid” (v. 30).  The first time he says, “The Lord is with you”.  Now, the second time, he says “Do not be afraid”.  In the Scriptures, whenever God appears to those who receive him, he loves to utter those words: Do not be afraid!  He says them to Abraham (cf. Gen 15:1), repeats them to Isaac (cf. Gen 26:24), to Jacob (cf. Gen 46:3) and so on, up to Joseph (cf. Mt 1:20) and Mary.  Do not be afraid!  In this way, he sends us a clear and comforting message: once our lives are open to God, fear can no longer hold us in thrall.  For fear can truly hold us in thrall.  You, dear sister, dear brother, if your sins frighten you, if your past worries you, if your wounds do not heal, if your constant failings dishearten you and you seem to have lost hope, please, do not be afraid.  God knows your weaknesses and is greater than your mistakes.  God is greater than our sins.  He asks of you only one thing: that you not hold your frailties and sufferings inside.  Bring them to him, lay them before him and, from being reasons for despair, they will become opportunities for resurrection.  Do not be afraid!  The Lords asks us for our sins.  This brings to mind the story of a monk in the desert.  He had given everything to God and lived a life of fasting, penance and prayer.  The Lord asked for more.  “Lord, I gave you everything”, said the monk, “what more is there?”  The Lord replied, “Give me yours sins”.  Do not be afraid!

The Blessed Virgin Mary accompanies us: she cast her own anxiety upon God.  The angel’s proclamation gave her good reason to be afraid.  He proposed to her something unimaginable and beyond her abilities, something that she could not handle alone: there would be too many difficulties, problems with the Mosaic law, with Joseph, with the citizens of her town and with her people.  Yet Mary did not object.  Those words – do not be afraid – were sufficient for her; God’s reassurance was enough for her.  She clung to him, as we want to do tonight.  Yet so often we do the exact opposite.  We start from our own certainties and, when we lose them, we turn to God.  Our Lady, on the other hand, teaches us to start from God, trusting that in this way everything else will be given to us (cf. Mt 6:33).  She invites us to go to the source, to the Lord, who is the ultimate remedy against fear and emptiness in life.  There is a lovely phrase written above a confessional here in the Vatican that reminds us of this.  It addresses God with these words, “To turn away from you is to fall, to turn back to you is to rise, to abide in you is to have life” (cf. SAINT AUGUSTINE, Soliloquies I, 3).

In these days, news reports and scenes of death continue to enter our homes, even as bombs are destroying the homes of many of our defenceless Ukrainian brothers and sisters.  The vicious war that has overtaken so many people, and caused suffering to all, has made each of us fearful and anxious.  We sense our helplessness and our inadequacy.  We need to be told, “Do not be afraid”.  Yet human reassurance is not enough.  We need the closeness of God and the certainty of his forgiveness, which alone eliminates evil, disarms resentment and restores peace to our hearts.  Let us return to God and to his forgiveness.

A third time the angel speaks to Mary and says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” (Lk 1:35).  Again, the first time he says, “The Lord is with you”.  The second time his words are, “Do not be afraid”.  Now, he says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you”.  That is how God intervenes in history: by giving his very Spirit.  For in the things that matter, our own strength is not enough.  By ourselves, we cannot succeed in resolving the contradictions of history or even those of our own hearts.  We need the wisdom and gentle power of God that is the Holy Spirit.  We need the Spirit of love who dispels hatred, soothes bitterness, extinguishes greed and rouses us from indifference.  The Spirit gives us concord because he is concord.  We need God’s love, for our love is fragile and insufficient.  We ask the Lord for many things, but how often we forget to ask him for what is most important and what he desires most to give us: the Holy Spirit, the power to love.  Indeed, without love, what can we offer to the world?  It has been said that a Christian without love is like a needle that does not sew: it stings, it wounds, and if it fails to sew, weave or patch, then it is useless.  I would dare to say that this person is not a Christian.  This is why we need to find in God’s forgiveness the power of love: the same Spirit who descended upon Mary.

If we want the world to change, then first our hearts must change.  For this to happen, let us allow Our Lady to take us by the hand.  Let us gaze upon her Immaculate Heart in which God dwelt, “our tainted nature’s solitary boast”.  Mary is “full of grace” (v. 28), and thus free from sin.  In her, there is no trace of evil and hence, with her, God was able to begin a new story of salvation and peace.  There, in her, history took a turn.  God changed history by knocking at the door of Mary’s heart.

Today, renewed by forgiveness, may we too knock at the door of her immaculate heart.  In union with the Bishops and faithful of the world, I desire in a solemn way to bring all that we are presently experiencing to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  I wish to renew to her the consecration of the Church and the whole of humanity, and to consecrate to her in a particular way the Ukrainian people and the Russian people who, with filial affection, venerate her as a Mother.  This is no magic formula but a spiritual act.  It is an act of complete trust on the part of children who, amid the tribulation of this cruel and senseless war that threatens our world, turn to their Mother.  It is like what young children do when they are scared; they turn to their mother for protection.  We turn to our Mother, reposing all our fears and pain in her heart and abandoning ourselves to her.  It means placing in that pure and undefiled heart, where God is mirrored, the inestimable goods of fraternity and peace, all that we have and are, so that she, the Mother whom the Lord has given us, may protect us and watch over us.

Mary then uttered the most beautiful words that the angel could bring back to God: “Let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38).  Hers was no passive or resigned acceptance, but a lively desire to obey God, who has “plans for welfare and not for evil” (Jer 29:11).  Hers was the most intimate sharing in God’s plan of peace for the world.  We consecrate ourselves to Mary in order to enter into this plan, to place ourselves fully at the disposal of God’s plans.  After having uttered her “Fiat”, the Mother of God set out on a long journey to the hill country, to visit a relative who was with child (cf. Lk 1:39).  She went with haste.  I like to think of this image of Our Lady going with haste.  She comes with haste to help and take care of us.  May she now take our own journey into her hands: may she guide our steps through the steep and arduous paths of fraternity and dialogue, along the way of peace.

25.03.22


Pope Francis       

Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

O Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, in this time of trial we turn to you.  As our Mother, you love us and know us: no concern of our hearts is hidden from you.  Mother of mercy, how often we have experienced your watchful care and your peaceful presence!  You never cease to guide us to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Yet we have strayed from that path of peace.  We have forgotten the lesson learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two world wars.  We have disregarded the commitments we made as a community of nations.  We have betrayed peoples’ dreams of peace and the hopes of the young.  We grew sick with greed, we thought only of our own nations and their interests, we grew indifferent and caught up in our selfish needs and concerns.  We chose to ignore God, to be satisfied with our illusions, to grow arrogant and aggressive, to suppress innocent lives and to stockpile weapons.  We stopped being our neighbour’s keepers and stewards of our common home.  We have ravaged the garden of the earth with war and by our sins we have broken the heart of our heavenly Father, who desires us to be brothers and sisters.  We grew indifferent to everyone and everything except ourselves.  Now with shame we cry out: Forgive us, Lord!

Holy Mother, amid the misery of our sinfulness, amid our struggles and weaknesses, amid the mystery of iniquity that is evil and war, you remind us that God never abandons us, but continues to look upon us with love, ever ready to forgive us and raise us up to new life.  He has given you to us and made your Immaculate Heart a refuge for the Church and for all humanity.  By God’s gracious will, you are ever with us; even in the most troubled moments of our history, you are there to guide us with tender love.

We now turn to you and knock at the door of your heart.  We are your beloved children.  In every age you make yourself known to us, calling us to conversion.  At this dark hour, help us and grant us your comfort.  Say to us once more: “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?”  You are able to untie the knots of our hearts and of our times.  In you we place our trust.  We are confident that, especially in moments of trial, you will not be deaf to our supplication and will come to our aid.

That is what you did at Cana in Galilee, when you interceded with Jesus and he worked the first of his signs.  To preserve the joy of the wedding feast, you said to him: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3).  Now, O Mother, repeat those words and that prayer, for in our own day we have run out of the wine of hope, joy has fled, fraternity has faded.  We have forgotten our humanity and squandered the gift of peace.  We opened our hearts to violence and destructiveness.  How greatly we need your maternal help!

Therefore, O Mother, hear our prayer.

Star of the Sea, do not let us be shipwrecked in the tempest of war.

Ark of the New Covenant, inspire projects and paths of reconciliation.

Queen of Heaven, restore God’s peace to the world.

Eliminate hatred and the thirst for revenge, and teach us forgiveness.

Free us from war, protect our world from the menace of nuclear weapons.

Queen of the Rosary, make us realize our need to pray and to love.

Queen of the Human Family, show people the path of fraternity.

Queen of Peace, obtain peace for our world.

O Mother, may your sorrowful plea stir our hardened hearts.  May the tears you shed for us make this valley parched by our hatred blossom anew.  Amid the thunder of weapons, may your prayer turn our thoughts to peace.  May your maternal touch soothe those who suffer and flee from the rain of bombs.  May your motherly embrace comfort those forced to leave their homes and their native land.  May your Sorrowful Heart move us to compassion and inspire us to open our doors and to care for our brothers and sisters who are injured and cast aside.

Holy Mother of God, as you stood beneath the cross, Jesus, seeing the disciple at your side, said: “Behold your son” (Jn 19:26).  In this way he entrusted each of us to you.  To the disciple, and to each of us, he said: “Behold, your Mother” (v. 27).  Mother Mary, we now desire to welcome you into our lives and our history.  At this hour, a weary and distraught humanity stands with you beneath the cross, needing to entrust itself to you and, through you, to consecrate itself to Christ.  The people of Ukraine and Russia, who venerate you with great love, now turn to you, even as your heart beats with compassion for them and for all those peoples decimated by war, hunger, injustice and poverty.

Therefore, Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine.  Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love.  Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world.  The “Fiat” that arose from your heart opened the doors of history to the Prince of Peace.  We trust that, through your heart, peace will dawn once more.  To you we consecrate the future of the whole human family, the needs and expectations of every people, the anxieties and hopes of the world.

Through your intercession, may God’s mercy be poured out on the earth and the gentle rhythm of peace return to mark our days.  Our Lady of the “Fiat”, on whom the Holy Spirit descended, restore among us the harmony that comes from God.  May you, our “living fountain of hope”, water the dryness of our hearts.  In your womb Jesus took flesh; help us to foster the growth of communion.  You once trod the streets of our world; lead us now on the paths of peace.  Amen.

25.03.22 c


Pope Francis       

15.08.22 Angelus, Saint Peter's Square, Rome 

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary  

Luke 1: 39-56

Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon! Happy Feast Day!

Today, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Gospel offers us the dialogue between her and her cousin Elizabeth. When Mary enters the house and greets Elizabeth, the latter says: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42). These words, full of faith and joy and wonder, have become part of the “Hail Mary”. Every time we recite this prayer, so beautiful and familiar, we do as Elizabeth did: we greet Mary and we bless her, because she brings Jesus to us.

Mary accepts Elizabeth’s blessing and replies with the canticle, a gift for us, for all history: the Magnificat. It is a song of praise. We can define it as the “canticle of hope”. It is a hymn of praise and exultation for the great things that the Lord has accomplished in her, but Mary goes further: she contemplates the work of God in the entire history of her people. She says, for example, that the Lord “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (vv. 52-53). As we listen to these words, we might ask ourselves: is the Virgin not exaggerating a little, perhaps, describing a world that does not exist? Indeed, what she says does not seem to correspond to reality; while she speaks, the powerful of the time have not been brought down: the fearsome Herod, for example, is still firmly on his throne. And the poor and hungry remain so, while the rich continue to prosper.

What does that canticle of Mary mean? What is the meaning? She does not intend to chronicle the time – she is not a journalist – but to tell us something much more important: that God, through her, has inaugurated a historical turning point, he has definitively established a new order of things. She, small and humble, has been raised up and – we celebrate this today – brought to the glory of Heaven, while the powerful of the world are destined to remain empty-handed. Think of the parable of that rich man who had a beggar, Lazarus, in front of his door. How did he end up? Empty-handed. Our Lady, in other words, announces a radical change, an overturning of values. While she speaks with Elizabeth, carrying Jesus in her womb, she anticipates what her Son will say, when he will proclaim blessed the poor and humble, and warn the rich and those who base themselves on their own self-sufficiency. The Virgin, then, prophesies with this canticle, with this prayer: she prophesies that it will not be power, success and money that will prevail, but rather service, humility and love will prevail. And as we look at her, in glory, we understand that the true power is service – let us not forget this: the true power is service – and to reign means to love. And that this is the road to Heaven. It is this.

So, let us look at ourselves, and let us ask ourselves: will this prophetic reversal announced by Mary affect my life? Do I believe that to love is to reign, and to serve is power? Do I believe that the purpose of my life is Heaven, it is paradise? To spend it well here. Or am I concerned only with worldly, material things? Again, as I observe world events, do I let myself be entrapped by pessimism or, like the Virgin, am I able to discern the work of God who, through gentleness and smallness, achieves great things? Brothers and sisters, Mary today sings of hope and rekindles hope in us. Mary today sings of hope and rekindles hope in us: in her, we see the destination of our journey. She is the first creature who, with her whole self, body and soul, victoriously crosses the finish line of Heaven. She shows us that Heaven is within reach. How come? Yes, Heaven is within reach, if we too do not give in to sin, if we praise God in humility and serve others generously. Do not give in to sin. But some might say, “But, Father, I am weak” – “But the Lord is always near you, because he is merciful”. Do not forget God’s style: proximity, compassion and tenderness. Always close to us, with his style. Our Mother takes us by the hand, she accompanies us to glory, she invites us to rejoice as we think of heaven. Let us bless Mary with our prayer, and let us ask her to be capable of glimpsing Heaven on earth.

15.08.22


Pope Francis       

08.12.22 Angelus, St Peter's Square   

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary   Year A   

Luke 1: 26-38

Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon and happy feast day!

The Gospel of today’s Solemnity introduces us into the home of Mary to recount the Annunciation (cf. Lk 1:26-38). The angel Gabriel greets the Virgin like this: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (v. 28). He does not call her by her name, Mary, but with a new name, that she did not know: full of grace. Full of grace, and therefore free from sin, is the name God gives her and that we celebrate today.

But let us think of Mary’s wonder: only then did she discover her truest identity. Indeed, by calling her by that name, God reveals her greatest secret to her, which was previously unknown to her. Something similar can also happen to us. In what sense? In the sense that we sinners have also received an initial gift that has filled our lives, a good greater than anything else: we have received an original grace. We talk a lot about original sin, but we have also received an original grace, of which often we are unaware.

What is it, this original grace? It is what we received on the day of our Baptism, which is why it is good for us to remember, and even celebrate it! I will ask you a question: this grace received on the day of Baptism, it is important. But how many of you remember the date of your Baptism, what is the date of your own Baptism? Think about it. And if you do not remember, when you go home, ask your godfather, your godmother, your father or mother: “When was I baptized?”, because that day is the day of the great grace, of a new life beginning, of an original grace that we have. God descended into our lives that day, and we became his beloved children forever. This is our original beauty, for which to be joyful! Today, Mary, surprised by the grace that made her beautiful from the first instant of her life, leads us to marvel at our beauty. We can grasp this through the image of the white Baptismal garment; it reminds us that, beyond the evil we have stained ourselves with over the years, there is a good in us greater than all the evils that have befallen. Let us listen to the echo, let us hear God saying to us: “Son, daughter, I love you and I am with you always, you are important to me, your life is precious”. That is God’s message to us. When things do not go well and we are discouraged, when we are downcast and risk feeling useless or wrong, let us think about this, about this original grace. And God is with us, God is with me from that day. Let us think about it again.

Today the Word of God teaches us another important thing: that to safeguard our beauty demands a cost, it demands a struggle. Indeed, the Gospel shows us the courage of Mary who said “Yes” to God, who chose the risk of God; and the passage from Genesis, on original sin, speaks to us of a battle against the tempter and his temptations (cf. Gen 3:15). But we know this from experience too, all of us: it takes effort to choose good, it costs us; it takes effort to safeguard the good that is in us. Think of how many times we have squandered it by giving in to the lure of evil, being crafty for our own interests or doing something that would defile our hearts; or even wasting time in useless or harmful things, putting off prayer, for example, and saying “Today I can’t”, or saying “I can’t” to those who have needed us, when instead we could have.

But today, faced with all this, we have good news: Mary, the only human being in history without sin, is with us in the battle, she is our sister and, above all, our Mother. And we, who struggle to choose good, can entrust ourselves to her. By entrusting ourselves, consecrating ourselves to Mary, we say to her: “Take me by the hand, Mother, guide me: with you I will have more strength in the battle against evil; with you I will rediscover my original beauty”. Let us entrust ourselves to Mary today, let us entrust ourselves to Mary every day, repeating to her: “Mary, I entrust my life to you, I entrust my family, my work, I entrust my heart and my struggles. I consecrate myself to you”. May Mary Immaculate help us to safeguard our beauty from evil.

08.12.22 a


Pope Francis       

31.12.22 First Vespers and Te Deum in thanksgiving for the past year, St Peter’s Basilica,   

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God   Year A  

“Born of a woman” (Gal 4:4).

When, in the fullness of time, God became man, he did not come swooping down into the world from heaven on high. He was born of Mary. He was not born to a woman but of a woman. This is essentially different – it means that God wanted to take on flesh from her. He did not use her, but asked for her “yes”, for her consent. And so, with her began the slow journey of the gestation of a humanity free from sin and filled with grace and truth, filled with love and faithfulness. A beautiful, good and true humanity, made in the image and likeness of God, but at the same time, woven with our flesh offered by Mary…never without her…always with her consent…in freedom, gratuitously, respectfully, in love.

And this is the way God chose to enter into the world and to enter into history. This is the way. And this way is essential, as essential as the very fact that he came. The divine motherhood of Mary – virginal motherhood, fruitful virginity – is the way that reveals God’s utmost respect for our freedom. He who created us without us did not want to save us without us (cf. S. Agostino, Sermon CLXIX, 13).

The way he chose to come to save us is the way on which he also invites us to follow him so as to continue to weave humanity – new, free, reconciled – together with him. This is the word: reconciled humanity. It is a style, a way of relating to us, from which derives the multiplicity of human virtues of good and dignified living together. One of these virtues is kindness, as a way of life that fosters fraternity and social friendship (cf. Encyclical Fratelli tutti, 222-224).

And speaking of kindness, at this moment, my thought naturally goes to dear Pope emeritus Benedict XVI who left us this morning. We are moved as we recall him as such a noble person, so kind. And we feel such gratitude in our hearts: gratitude to God for having given him to the Church and to the world; gratitude to him for all the good he accomplished, and above all, for his witness of faith and prayer, especially in these last years of his recollected life. Only God knows the value and the power of his intercession, of the sacrifices he offered for the good of the Church.

And this evening, I would like to repropose kindness also as a civic virtue, thinking in particular of our diocese of Rome.

Kindness is an important aspect of the culture of dialogue, and dialogue is indispensable to live in peace, to live as brothers and sisters, who do not always agree – this is normal – but who nevertheless speak to each other, listen to each other and try to understand each other and to move toward one another. We only need to think of what the “world would be like without the patient dialogue of the many generous persons who keep families and communities together. Unlike disagreement and conflict, persistent and courageous dialogue does not make headlines, but quietly helps the world to live better” (ibid., 198). Kindness, then, is a part of dialogue. It is not only an issue of “good manners”; it is not a question of “etiquette”, of courteous behaviour…. No. This is not what we mean when speaking of kindness. Instead, it is a virtue to be retrieved and practiced every day in order to go against the tide and to humanize our societies.

The harm of consumeristic individualism is before everyone’s eyes. And the most serious damage is that others, the people who surround us, are perceived as obstacles to our tranquillity, to our well-being. Others “inconvenience” us, “disturb” us, rob us of the time and resources to do as we please. Our individualistic and consumeristic society tend to be aggressive, since others are competitors with whom to compete (cf. ibid., 222). And yet, within these very societies of ours, and even in the most difficult situations we face, there are individuals who demonstrate how it is possible to “cultivate kindness” and thus, by their style of life, they “become stars shining in the midst of darkness” (ibid.).

Saint Paul, in the same Letter to the Galatians from which the Reading for this liturgy is taken, speaks of the fruit of the Holy Spirit among which one is mentioned using the Greek word chrestotes (cf. 5:22). This is the one that we can understand as “kindness”: a benevolent attitude that sustains and comforts others and avoids any form of roughness and harshness. It is a way of treating one’s neighbour taking care not to be hurtful through words or actions; trying to lighten others’ burdens, to encourage, to comfort, to console, without ever humiliating, mortifying or despising (cf. Fratelli tutti, 223).

Kindness is an antidote against several pathologies of our societies: an antidote against cruelty, which can unfortunately creep in like poison seeps into the heart, intoxicating relationships; an antidote against anxiety and distracted frenzy that makes us focus on ourselves, closing others off (cf. ibid., 224). These “illnesses” of our everyday lives make us aggressive, make us incapable of asking “may I”, or even saying “sorry”, or of simply saying “thank you”. These three extremely human words for living together: may I, sorry, thank you. With these three words, we move forward in peace, in human friendship. They are the words of kindness: may I, sorry, thank you. It will do us good to think about whether we use them often in our lives: may I, sorry, thank you. And so, when we meet a kind person on the street, or in a store, or in the office, we are amazed, it seems to be a small miracle because, unfortunately, kindness is no longer common. But, thanks be to God, there are still kind people who know how to put their own concerns aside to pay attention to others, to offer the gift of a smile, to give an encouraging word, to listen to someone who needs to confide something, and to vent (cf. ibid.).

Dear brothers and sisters, I think that retrieving kindness as a personal and civic virtue might help a great deal to improve life within families, communities and cities. For this reason, as we look to the new year as the City of Rome, my wish for all of us who live here is that we might grow in this virtue: kindness. Experience teaches that kindness, if it becomes a style of life, can create a healthy living together, it can humanize social relationships, diffusing aggression and indifference (cf. ibid.).

Let us look on the icon of the Virgin Mary. Today and tomorrow, here in Saint Peter’s Basilica, we can venerate her through the image of Our Lady of Carmine of Avigliano, near Potenza. Let us not take her divine motherhood for granted! Let us allow ourselves to be amazed by God’s choice who could have come into the world in a thousand ways manifesting his power and, instead, willed to be conceived in full freedom in Mary’s womb, wanted to be formed for nine months like every baby and, in the end, to be born of her, to be born of a woman. Let us not pass over this quickly. Let us pause to contemplate and meditate because there is an essential characteristic of the mystery of salvation here. And let us try to learn God’s “method”, his infinite respect, his “kindness” so to speak, because the way for a more human world is found in the divine motherhood of the Virgin.

31.12.22 v

Pope Francis       

01.01.23 Holy Mass,  Saint Peter's Basilica  

Solemnity of Mary, Most Holy Mother of God and 56th World Day of Peace    

Holy Mother of God! This was the joyful acclamation of the holy People of God echoing in the streets of Ephesus in the year 431, when the Council Fathers proclaimed Mary the Mother of God. This truth is a fundamental datum of faith, but above all, it is a marvellous fact. God has a Mother and is thus bound forever to our humanity, like a child to its mother, to the point that our humanity is his humanity. It is an amazing and consoling truth, so much so that the most recent Council, which met here in Saint Peter’s, stated that, “by his incarnation, the Son of God has in a certain way united himself with each individual. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind, he acted with a human will, and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he truly became one of us, like us in all things except sin” (Gaudium et Spes, 22). That is what God did by being born of Mary: he showed his concrete love for our humanity, embracing it truly and fully. Brothers and sisters, God does not love us in words but in deeds; not from “on high”, but “up close”, precisely from “within” our flesh, because in Mary the Word became flesh, because Christ continues to have a heart of flesh that beats for each and every of us!

Holy Mother of God! Many books and weighty tomes have been written about this title of Our Lady. Yet these words have mostly entered the minds and hearts of the holy People of God through the simple and familiar prayer that accompanies the rhythm of our days, our moments of weariness and our greatest aspirations: the Hail Mary. After a few phrases drawn from the word of God, the second part of the prayer continues: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners…” This invocation, often repeated throughout the day, has allowed God to draw near, through Mary, to our lives and our history. Mother of God, pray for us sinners… It is recited in the most diverse languages, on the beads of a rosary and at times of need, in the presence of a holy image or walking along the way. To this invocation the Mother of God always responds; she hears our petitions; holding her Son in her arms, she blesses us and brings us the tender love of God made flesh. In a word, Mary gives us hope. At the beginning of this year, we need hope, just as the earth needs rain. This year that opens with the celebration of God’s Mother and our own, tells us that the key to hope is Mary and that the antiphon of hope is the invocation, Holy Mother of God. And today, we entrust beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to our Most Holy Mother, that she will accompany him on his journey from this world to God.

Let us pray to our Mother in a special way for her sons and daughters who are suffering and no longer have the strength to pray, and for our many brothers and sisters throughout the world who are victims of war, passing these holidays in darkness and cold, in poverty and fear, immersed in violence and indifference! For all those who have no peace, let us invoke Mary, the woman who brought into the world the Prince of peace (cf. Is 9:6; Gal 4:4). In her, the Queen of Peace, was fulfilled the blessing we heard in the first reading: “May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num 6:26). At the hands of a Mother, God’s peace wants to enter into our homes, our hearts and our world. Yet what must we do to receive that peace?

Let us be guided by the people we meet in today’s Gospel, who were the first to see the Mother and Child: the shepherds of Bethlehem. They were poor people and perhaps somewhat uncouth, and that night they were working. Yet they, not the learned or the powerful, were the first to recognize God among us, the God who became poor and loves to be with the poor. The Gospel emphasizes two very simple things that the shepherds did: things simple but not always easy. They went and saw. Two actions: Going and seeing.

First, going. The Gospel tells us that the shepherds “went with haste” (Lk 2:16). They did not wait around. It was night, they had their flocks to keep, and naturally they were weary: they could easily have waited for dawn, held off until sunrise in order to go and see the Child lying in the manger. Instead, they went with haste, because where important things are concerned, we need to react promptly and not wait, for “the grace of the Spirit brooks no delay” (SAINT AMBROSE, Commentary on Saint Luke, 2). And so they encountered the Messiah, the one awaited for centuries, the one that so many others had long sought.

Brothers and sisters, if we are to welcome God and his peace, we cannot stand around complacently, waiting for things to get better. We need to get up, recognize the moments of grace, set out and take a risk. We need to take a risk! Today, at the beginning of the year, rather than standing around, thinking and hoping that things will change, we should instead ask ourselves: “This year, where do I want to go? Who is it that I can help?” So many people, in the Church and in society, are waiting for the good that you and you alone can do, they are waiting for your help. Today, amid the lethargy that dulls our senses, the indifference that paralyzes our hearts, and the temptation to waste time glued to a keyboard in front of a computer screen, the shepherds are summoning us to set out and get involved in our world, to dirty our hands and to do some good. They are inviting us to set aside many of our routines and our comforts in order to open ourselves to the new things of God, which are found in the humility of service, in the courage of caring for others. Brothers and sisters, let us imitate the shepherds: let us set out with haste!

When they arrived, the Gospel tells us, the shepherds “found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger” (v. 16). It then says that “after having seen” the Child (cf. v. 17), they set out, filled with wonder, to tell others about Jesus, glorifying and praising God for everything that they had heard and seen (cf. vv. 17-18, 20). The important thing was that they had seen him. What is important is to see, to look around and, like the shepherds, to halt before the Child resting in his mother’s arms. To say nothing, to ask nothing, to do nothing. Simply to look on in silence, to adore and to contemplate the tender and comforting love of God made man, and his, and our, Mother. At the beginning of this year, among all the other things that we would like to do and experience, let us devote some time to seeing, to opening our eyes and to keeping them open before what really matters: God and our brothers and sisters. Let us have the courage to experience the wonder of encounter, which is God’s style. That is something very different from the world’s seductions, which seem to calm us. The wonder of God and of encounter gives us peace; the world can only anesthetize us and give peace of mind.

How many times, in our busy lives, do we fail to stop, even for a moment, to be close to the Lord and to hear his word, to say a prayer, to adore and praise him. We do the same thing with others: caught up in our own affairs or in getting ahead, we have no time to listen to our wife, our husband, to talk with our children, to ask them about how they really are, and not simply about their studies or their health. And how good it is for us to take time and listen to the elderly, to our grandfathers and grandmothers, in order to remember the deeper meaning of our lives and to recover our roots. Let us ask ourselves too, whether we are capable of seeing the people next door, the people who live in the same building, the people we meet each day on the street. Brothers and sisters, let us imitate the shepherds: let us learn to see! To understand by seeing with our hearts. Let us learn to see.

Going and seeing. Today the Lord has come among us and the Holy Mother of God sets him before our eyes. Let us rediscover in the enthusiasm of going and the wonder of seeing the secret that can make this year truly “new”, and thus overcome the weariness of being stuck or the false peace of seduction.

And now, brothers and sisters, I invite all of you to look to the Virgin Mary. Let us invoke her three times, as the people of Ephesus did: Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God!

01.01.23 m


Pope Francis       

01.01.23 Angelus, Saint Peter's Square   

Solemnity of Mary, Most Holy Mother of God and 56th World Day of Peace  

Dear brothers and sisters, good day and Happy New Year!

The beginning of the new year is entrusted to Mary Most Holy whom we celebrate today as Mother of God. At this time, let us invoke her intercession especially for Pope emeritus Benedict XVI who left this world yesterday morning. Let us all join together, with one heart and one soul, in thanking God for the gift of this faithful servant of the Gospel and of the Church. We saw recently on TV, the “Sua Immagine” program, all that he did and the life of Pope Benedict.

As we contemplate Mary in the stable where Jesus was born, we can ask ourselves: What languages does the Holy Virgin use to speak to us? How does Mary speak? What can we learn from her for this year that is dawning? We can say, “Our Lady, teach us what we need to do this year”.

In reality, if we observe the scene that today’s Liturgy presents to us, we note that Mary does not speak. She welcomes the mystery she is experiencing with awe, she cherishes everything in her heart and, above all, she is concerned about the Child whom, as the Gospel says, was “laid in a manger” (cf. Lk 2:16). This verb “to lay” means to carefully place, and this tells us that the language proper to Mary is maternal: she tenderly takes care of the Child. This is Mary’s greatness. As the angels celebrate, the shepherds come running and everyone praises God with a loud voice for what has happened, Mary does not speak, she does not entertain her guests explaining everything that had happened to her, she does not steal the show – to us who like to steal the show! – she does not steal the show. On the contrary, she puts the Child in the centre, she lovingly takes care of him. A poet once wrote that Mary “even knew how to be solemnly mute,  because she did not want to lose sight of her God” (A. Merini, Corpo d’amore. Un incontro con Gesù, Milano 2001, 114).  

This is typically maternal language: the tenderness of taking care of. In fact, after having borne the gift of a mysterious prodigy in their wombs for nine months, mothers constantly put their babies at the centre of their attention: they feed them, they hold them in their arms, they tenderly lay them down in the crib. To take care of – this is the language of the Mother of God, a language of mothers: to take care of.

Brothers and sisters, like all mothers, Mary bore life in her womb and thus, she talks to us about our future. But at the same time, she reminds us that, if we truly want the New Year to be good, if we want to reconstruct hope, we need to abandon the language, those actions and those choices inspired by egoism and learn the language of love, which is to take care of. To take care of is a new language that counters these languages of egoism. This is the commitment: to take care of our lives – each one of us needs to take care of our own life – to take care of our time, of our souls; to take care of creation and the environment we live in; and even more, to take care of our neighbour, of those whom the Lord has placed alongside us, as well as our brothers and sisters who are in need and who call for our attention and our compassion. Looking at Our Lady with the Child, there taking care of her Child, let us learn to take care of others, even of ourselves, caring for our interior health, our spiritual life, charity.

Celebrating today the World Day of Peace, let us regain awareness of the responsibility that has been entrusted to us to construct the future – in the face of the personal and social crises we are living, in the face of the tragedy of the war, “we are called to confront the challenges of our world in a spirit of responsibility and compassion” (Message for the 56th World Day of Peace, 5). And we can do this if we take care of each other and if, all of us together, take care of our common home.

Let us implore Mary Most Holy, the Mother of God, so that in this epoch, polluted by diffidence and indifference, she might make us capable of being compassionate and providing care – capable of being compassionate and providing care – capable of “looking more closely and sympathetically at others whenever necessary” (Apos. Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 169).

01.01.23 a


Pope Francis       

15.08.23 Angelus, St Peter's Square, Rome 

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary  

Luke 1: 39-56

Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

Today, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, we contemplate her ascending in body and soul to the glory of Heaven. Today’s Gospel also presents her to us as she ascends, this time “into the hill country” (Lk 1:39). And why does she go up there? To help her cousin Elizabeth, and there she proclaims the joyful canticle of the Magnificat. Mary ascends and the Word of God reveals to us what characterizes us as she does so: service to her neighbour and praise to God. Both of these things: Mary is the woman of service to neighbour, and Mary is the woman who praises God. The evangelist Luke, moreover, narrates the life of Jesus himself as an ascent upwards, towards Jerusalem, the place of his self-giving on the cross; and he also describes Mary’s journey in the same way. Jesus and Mary, in short, travel the same road: two lives that ascend upwards, glorifying God and serving brethren. Jesus as the Redeemer, who gives his life for us, for our justification; Mary as the servant who goes to serve: two lives that conquer death and rise again; two lives whose secrets are service and praise. Let us look more closely at these two aspects: service and praise.

Service. It is when we stoop to serve our brethren that we rise: it is love that elevates life. We go to serve our brothers and with this service, we “ascend”. But serving is not easy: Our Lady, who had just conceived, travels almost 150 kilometres from Nazareth to reach Elizabeth’s house. Helping is costly, to all of us! We always experience this in the fatigue, patience and worries that taking care of others entails. Think, for example, of the kilometres that many people travel every day to and from work, and the many tasks they perform for others; think of the sacrifices of time and sleep in caring for a newborn or an elderly person; the effort in serving those who have nothing to offer in return, in the Church and in voluntary work. I admire voluntary work. It is tiring, but it is ascending upwards, it is reaching Heaven! This is true service.

But service risks being barren without praise to God. Indeed, when Mary enters the home of her cousin, she praises the Lord. She does not talk about her weariness from the journey, but rather a song of jubilation springs from her heart. Because those who love God know praise. And today’s Gospel shows us “a cascade of praise: the child who leaps with joy in Elizabeth’s womb (cf. Lk 1:44); Elizabeth who utters words of blessing and “the first beatitude”: “Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45); and everything culminates in Mary, who proclaims the Magnificat (cf. Lk 1:46-55). Praise increases joy. Praise is like a ladder: it leads hearts upwards. Praise raises souls and defeats the temptation to give up. Have you seen how boring people, those who live off gossip, are incapable of giving praise? Ask yourselves: am I capable of giving praise? How good it is to praise God every day, and others too! How good it is to live in gratitude and blessing instead of regrets and complaints, to raise our gaze upwards instead of wearing a long face! Complaints: there are people who lament every day. But see that God is near you, see that he has created you, see the things he has given you. Praise, praise! And this is spiritual health.

Service and praise. Let us try to ask ourselves: do I live my work and daily occupations with a spirit of service, or with selfishness? Do I devote myself to someone feely, without seeking immediate advantages? In short, do I make service the “springboard” of my life? And thinking about praise: do I, like Mary, exult in God (cf. Lk 1:47)? Do I pray, blessing the Lord? And, after praising him, do I spread his joy among the people I meet? Each one of you, try to answer these questions.

May our Mother, assumed into Heaven, help us to climb higher each day through service and praise.

15.08.23


Pope Francis          

08.12.23 Angelus, St Peter's Square   

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary  -  Year B  

Luke 1: 26-38

Dear brothers and sisters, good day and happy feast day!

Today, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Gospel presents us with the scene of the Annunciation (cf. Lk 1:26-38). It demonstrates two of Mary’s attitudes that help us understand how she may have guarded the unique gift she received – a heart completely free from sin. These two attitudes are amazement regarding the works of God and fidelity in the simple things.

Let’s look at the first: amazement. The Angel says to Mary, “Rejoice, full of grace: the Lord is with you” (cf. v. 28). And the Evangelist Luke notes that the Virgin “was greatly troubled…and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be” (v. 29). She remains surprised, struck, troubled: she is amazed when she hears herself called “full of grace” – Our Lady is humble – that is, filled with God’s love. This is a very noble attitude: to be amazed before the Lord’s gifts, never taking them for granted, appreciating their value, rejoicing in the trust and tenderness they bring with them. And it is also important to demonstrate this amazement before others, speaking humbly about God’s gifts, about the good received, and not only about daily problems. To be more positive. We can ask ourselves: Do I know how to be amazed regarding God’s works? Does it happen at times that I am filled with wonder and share it with someone? Or am I always focused on the bad things, sad things?

And now the second attitude: fidelity in simple things. Prior to the Annunciation, the Gospel says nothing about Mary. She is presented as a simple girl, apparently equal to so many others who were living in her village. A young girl who, precisely because of her simplicity, kept pure that Immaculate Heart with which, by God’s grace, she had been conceived. And this too is important, to welcome God’s great gifts, it is necessary to know how to treasure those that are more everyday and less apparent.

It is precisely with her daily fidelity in goodness that Our Lady allowed God’s gift to grow within her. This is how she trained herself to respond to the Lord, to say “yes” to him with her entire life.

So, let us ask ourselves: Do I believe that fidelity to God is important both in everyday situations as well as in my spiritual journey? And if I believe this, do I find the time to read the Gospel, to pray, to participate in the Eucharist and to receive Sacramental forgiveness, to perform some tangible act of disinterested service? These are the small everyday choices, choices necessary to welcome the Lord’s presence.

May Mary Immaculate help us be amazed at God’s gifts and respond to them with faithful generosity each day.

08.12.23


Pope Francis       

24.12.23 Angelus, Saint Peter's Square  

4th Sunday of Advent Year B 

Luke 1: 26-38

Dear brothers and sisters, happy Sunday!

Today, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Gospel presents the scene of the Annunciation (cf. Lk 1:26-39). Explaining to Mary how she will conceive Jesus, the angel tells her, “The Holy Spirit will