General Audience the Sacraments, Gifts of H.Sp., the Church, Family by Pope Francis  (Jan. 8, 2014 - September 16, 2015)

 

1. Sacraments (January 8 to April 2,  2014)

On the Sacrament of Baptism

VATICAN CITY, January 08, 2014  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis on the Sacraments given at today’s General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today we begin a new series of Catecheses on the Sacraments, and the first is Baptism. By a happy coincidence, next Sunday marks the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

1. Baptism is the sacrament in which our faith is founded upon and which engages us as living members in Christ and in His Church. Together with the Eucharist and Confirmation, they form the so-called “Christian Initiation”, which constitutes as a single, great sacramental event that configures us to the Lord and makes of us a living sign of His presence and His love.

But a question may arise in us: is Baptism truly necessary to live as Christians and to follow Jesus? Isn’t it basically a simple rite, a formal act of the Church to give a name to a boy or a girl? It is a question that may come to us. In this context, it is illuminating what the Apostle Paul writes: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6,3-4). Therefore, it is not a formality! It is an act that profoundly touches our existence. A baptized child and a non-baptized child is not the same! A baptized person and a non-baptized person is not the same! With Baptism we come immersed in that inexhaustible source of life that is the death of Jesus, the greatest act of love in all of history; and thanks to this love we can live a new life, no longer at the mercy of evil, of sin and death, but in the communion with God and with the brothers.  

2. Many of us do not have the slightest memory of the celebration of this Sacrament, obviously, if we were baptized shortly after birth. I have asked this question two or three times here in the Square. Who here knows the date of their Baptism? Raise your hand! Who knows? Few, eh! Very few. It is important! It is important to know what day you were immersed in that current of salvation of Jesus! Permit me to give you a piece of advice. More than an advice, a homework for today: Today at home search for, ask for the date of your Baptism. And thus you may truly know well that beautiful date of your Baptism. Will you do it? [People: Yes!] I don’t hear enthusiasm. Will you do it? [People: Yes!] Yes! Because it is to know a happy date! Our Baptism! But the risk is to lose the memory of that which the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift that we have received. We end up considering it as only an event that happened in the past - and not even by our own will, but that of our parents -, that no longer has any effect in our present. We must awaken the memory of our Baptism. Awaken the memory of Baptism. We are called to live our Baptism every day as an actual reality in our existence. If we follow Jesus and remain in the Church, despite our limitations, our weaknesses and our sins, it is precisely by the Sacrament through which we become new creatures and we are reinvested by Christ.  It is in virtue of Baptism, in fact, that, free from original sin, we are grafted into the relationship of Jesus with God the Father; that we are bearers of a new hope because Baptism gives us this new hope! The hope of going on the path of salvation for the rest of our life. And nothing and no one can extinguish this hope, because hope does not deceive. Remember this. The hope in the Lord never deceives us. Thanks to Baptism, we are capable of forgiving and to love even those who offend us and hurt us, that we can recognize in the last ones and in the poor the face of the Lord who visits us and comes close to us and with this Baptism helps us to recognize in the face of the needy, in those suffering, even in our neighbor, the face of Jesus. It is a grace of this strength of Baptism.

3. One last important element and I’ll ask a question. Can a person baptize himself? [People: No!] I can’t hear your! [People: No!] Are you sure? [People: Yes!] One cannot baptize himself/herself!  No one can baptize themselves! No one! We can ask for it, desire it, but we always have need for someone to confer this Sacrament in the name of the Lord. Baptism is a gift that is given in a context of solicitude and fraternal sharing. Always in history, one baptizes another, and another. It is a chain, a chain of grace. But I cannot baptize myself. I must ask another for Baptism. It is an act of brotherhood, an act of filiation to the Church. In its celebration we can recognize the most genuine features of the Church, which as a mother continues to generate new children in Christ, in the fruitfulness of the Holy Spirit. Let us now ask the Lord with our whole heart to be able to experience evermore, in daily life, the grace that we have received with Baptism. That in meeting us, our brothers may encounter true children of God, true brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, true members of the Church. And don’t forget your homework for today, which is, to search, to ask, for the date of your Baptism. And as one knows their date of birth, so must they also know the date of Baptism because it is a feast day!

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today we begin a series of catecheses on the sacraments, starting with baptism.  The Second Vatican Council tells us that the Church herself is a “sacrament”, a grace-filled sign which makes Christ’s saving work present in history, through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

The first of the Church’s seven sacraments, baptism gives us new birth in Christ, makes us sharers in the mystery of his death and resurrection, grants the forgiveness of sin and brings us new freedom as God’s children and members of his Church.  Let us not forget the great gift we have received.  Our baptism has changed us, given us a new and glorious hope, and empowered us to bring God’s redeeming love to all, particularly the poor, in whom we see the face of Christ.  

Our baptism has also given us a share in the Church’s mission of evangelization; as disciples, we are also missionaries.  As we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord this Sunday, let us ask him to renew in us the grace of our baptism and to make us, with all our brothers and sisters, true children of God and living members of his body, the Church.

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On the Fruits of Baptism

VATICAN CITY, January 15, 2014  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis on the Sacraments, continuing on Baptism, during today’s General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Last Wednesday we began a brief cycle of catecheses on the Sacraments, beginning with Baptism. And I would like to reflect on Baptism also today, to underline a very important fruit of this Sacrament: it makes us become members of the Body of Christ and of the People of God. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that, whoever receives Baptism is incorporated with Christ, almost as his very member and is added to the community of the faithful (cf. Suma Theologiae, III, q. 69, art. 5; q. 70, art. 1), that is, the people of God.  In the school of the Second Vatican Council, we say today that Baptism makes us enter in the People of God, it makes us become members of a People that are journeying, a pilgrim people in history.

In fact, as life is transmitted from generation to generation, so also is grace transmitted from generation to generation, through rebirth at the baptismal font and, with this grace, the Christian people journey in time as a river that irrigates the earth and spreads God’s blessing in the world. From the moment that Jesus says what we heard in the Gospel, the disciples went to baptize; and from that time to the present there is a chain in the transmission of the faith through Baptism. And each one of us is a link in that chain: a step forward, always; like a river that irrigates. Such is the grace of God and so is our faith, that we should transmit to our children, because they, as adults, can transmit it to their children. So it is with Baptism. Why? Because Baptism makes us enter into this People of God that transmits the faith. This is very important. A People of God that walks and transmits faith.

In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples, called to take the Gospel to the world (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 120). “ All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization … The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized.” (Ibid). of all, of all the people of God, a new personal involvement from each of the baptized. The People of God are a Disciple People - because it receives faith - and Missionary - because it transmits faith. And Baptism does this in us. It gives us the Grace and transmits faith. All of us in the Church are disciples, and we are so always, for our whole life; and we are all missionaries, each one in the place the Lord has assigned to him. Everyone: the smallest is also a missionary; and the one who looks like the greatest is a disciple. But some of you may say: “The Bishops are not disciples, the Bishops know everything; the Pope knows everything, he is not a disciple.” No, even the Bishops and the Pope need to be disciples, because if they are not disciples they are not doing good, they cannot be missionary, they cannot transmit the faith. All of us are disciples and missionaries.

There is an indissoluble bond between the mystical and the missionary dimension of the Christian vocation, both rooted in Baptism. “On receiving faith and Baptism, we Christians welcome the action of the Holy Spirit that leads us to confess Jesus Christ as Son of God and to call God “Abba,” Father! All of us baptized men and women … are called to live and transmit communion with the Trinity, because evangelization is an appeal to participation in the Trinitarian communion” (Final Document of Aparecida, n. 157).

No one is saved on his own. We are a community of believers, we are People of God and in this community we experience the beauty of sharing the experience of a love that precedes us all, but which at the same time asks us to be “channels” of grace for one another, despite our limitations and sins. The communal dimension is not just a “frame,” a “garnish,” but an integral part of Christian life, of witness and of evangelization. Christian faith is born and lives in the Church and, in Baptism, families and parishes celebrate the incorporation of a new member of Christ in His Body which is the Church (cf. Ibid., n. 175b).

In connection with the importance of Baptism for the People of God, the history of the Christian community in Japan is exemplary. They endured a harsh persecution at the beginning of the 17th century. There were numerous martyrs; members of the clergy were expelled and thousands of faithful were killed. There was not one priest remaining in Japan, all were expelled. Then the community withdrew into the underground, keeping the faith and prayer in hiding. And when a child was born, the father or the mother would baptize them, because all the faithful can baptize in particular circumstances. When after close to two and a half centuries, 250 years later, the missionaries returned to Japan, thousands of Christians came out into the open and the Church was able to flower again. They survived with the grace of their Baptism! This is great: the People of God transmits faith, baptized their children and goes forward. And they maintained, though in secret, a strong community spirit, because Baptism made them become one body in Christ: they were isolated and hidden, but always members of the People of God, members of the Church. We can learn so much from this story!

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today we continue our catechesis on the sacrament of baptism by reflecting on how, through baptism, we become members of Christ’s mystical body, the Church. In every generation, through baptism, we are reborn to the new life of grace and called to be witnesses of the Gospel before the world. Baptism makes us “missionary disciples” within the communion of the Church. There is a close bond, then, between our rebirth in water and the Holy Spirit, our responsibility to live this new life within the Church, in our families and our parishes, and our mission to bring the Gospel to others as channels of God’s grace. We can look to the remarkable history of the Church in Japan, where small communities of the faithful survived clandestinely for over two centuries thanks to the grace of baptism. May this example help us to appreciate more fully the profound mystical, communitarian and missionary dimensions of our baptism.

Pope Francis (in Italian):

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

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The Pope said to Arabic-speaking pilgrims:

Dear Arabic-speaking brothers and sisters from Jordan and the Holy Land:

Learn from the Japanese Church that, because of the persecutions of the seventeenth century, withdrew into hiding for close to two and a half centuries, handing down from one generation to the next, the ever enkindled flame of faith. When difficulties and persecutions are lived with confidence, trust and hope, they purify and strengthen the faith. Be true witnesses of Christ and of his Gospel, authentic children of the Church, always ready to give reason for your hope, with love and respect. May the Lord guard your life and bless you!

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On the Sacrament of Confirmation
"When we receive the Holy Spirit in our heart and allow Him to act, Christ Himself makes Himself present in us and molds our life"

VATICAN CITY, January 29, 2014 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s continuing catecheses on the Sacraments during his weekly General Audience today in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!

In this third catechesis on the Sacraments, we will reflect on Confirmation or Cresima, which is understood in continuity with Baptism, to which it is connected in an inseparable way. These two Sacraments, together with the Eucharist, make up one salvific event -- “Christian initiation” --, with which we are inserted in Jesus Christ dead and risen and become new creatures and members of the Church. This is why originally these three Sacraments were celebrated at the same time, at the end of the catechumenal journey, normally during the Easter Vigil. Thus the course of formation was sealed and a gradual insertion in the Christian community, which could last even several years. It was done step by step to arrive at Baptism, then to Confirmation and the Eucharist.

Ordinarily one speaks of the Sacrament of “Cresima,” a word which means “anointing.” And, in fact, through the oil called “sacred Chrism” we are conformed, in the power of the Spirit, to Jesus Christ, who is the only true “Anointed One,” the “Messiah,” the Holy One of God.

The term “Confirmation,” therefore, reminds us that this Sacrament brings a growth of Baptismal grace: it unites us more firmly to Christ; it brings to fulfillment our bond with the Church; it gives us the special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith, to confess the name of Christ and never to be ashamed of His cross (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1303).

“For this reason it is important to care that our children, our young one have this sacrament. We all must take care that they be baptized: and this is good, but perhaps we don’t care so much if they receive Confirmation: they remain half-way and do not receive the Holy Spirit,  which is very important in Christian life, because it gives us the strength to go forward!

Let us think, each one of us: do we, truly care that our children and our young ones receive Confirmation? This is important, it is important! And if you have children in your home, young ones who have not received it yet and are of age to receive it, do everything possible to bring to fulfillment this Christian initiation and that they may receive the strength of the Holy Spirit. It is important!

Of course it is important to give the candidates for Confirmation a good preparation, which must seek to lead them to personal adherence to faith in Christ and to awaken in them the sense of belonging to the Church.

Confirmation, like every Sacrament,  is not the work of men but of God, who takes care of our life in order to mold us to the image of His Son, to make us capable of loving like Him. He does so by infusing in us His Holy Spirit, whose action pervades the whole person and the whole of life, as shining through the seven gifts that Tradition, in the light of Holy Scripture, has always evidenced. These seven gifts: I do not wish to ask you if you remember the seven gifts. Maybe you all do...But I will say them in your name. What are these gifts? Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of God. And these gifts are given to us by the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation.  I intend to dedicate to these gifts the catecheses that will follow those of the Sacraments.

When we receive the Holy Spirit in our heart and allow Him to act, Christ Himself makes Himself present in us and molds our life. Through us, it will be He who prays, who forgives, who infuses hope and consolation, who serves brethren, who makes Himself close to the needy and the least, who creates communion, who sows peace. Think of how important this is: through the Holy Spirit, Christ Himself comes to do all this in our midst for us. For this reason it is important that children and young ones receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Dear brothers and sisters let us remind ourselves that we have received Confirmation! All of us! Let us remember it first of all to thank the Lord for this gift, and then to ask Him to help us to live as true Christians, to walk always with joy according to the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the seven sacraments, we now reflect on Confirmation, which, together with Baptism and the Eucharist, is one of the sacraments of Christian initiation. These sacraments make us sharers in the death and resurrection of Jesus and living members of his body, the Church. In Confirmation, through the sacramental sign of anointing with sacred chrism, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in order to be more closely conformed to Christ, God’s “anointed one”. We are also strengthened – “confirmed” – in the grace of our Baptism and in our mission of bearing daily witness to Christ and his love. The working of the Holy Spirit in our lives is reflected in the seven spiritual gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. Today let us thank the Lord for the grace of our Confirmation and ask that, filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, we may always mirror Christ’s presence in our relations with others, our openness to those in need, and our living witness to the Gospel message of joy and peace.

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On the Eucharist

VATICAN CITY, February 05, 2014  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s continuing catecheses on the Sacraments during his weekly General Audience today in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning, but it is not a nice day, [the weather] is a bit nasty …

Together with Baptism and Confirmation, the Eucharist is at the heart of “Christian initiation,” and it constitutes the source of the very life of the Church. In fact, from this Sacrament of Love flows every authentic path of faith, of communion and of testimony.

What we see, when we come together to celebrate the Eucharist -- the Mass, makes us realize what we are about to live. At the center of the area allocated to the celebration is the altar, which is a table, covered with a cloth, and this makes us think of a banquet. On the table there is a cross, to indicate that on that altar the sacrifice of Christ is offered: He is the spiritual food that is received there, under the signs of bread and wine. Next to the altar is the pulpit, that is, the place from which the Word of God is proclaimed: this indicates that we gather there to hear the Lord who speaks through the Sacred Scriptures, and therefore the food that is received is also His Word.

Word and Bread become altogether one in the Mass, as in the Last Supper, when all Jesus’ words, all the signs he made, were condensed in the gesture of breaking the bread and offering the chalice, anticipation of the sacrifice of the cross, and in those words: “Take and eat, this is my Body … Take and drink, this is my Blood.”

The gesture Jesus made in the Last Supper is His utmost thanksgiving to the Father for His love, for His mercy. “Thanksgiving” in Greek is “eucharist.” And for this the Sacrament  is called the Eucharist: it is the supreme thanksgiving to the Father, who has loved us so much to give us his Son out of love. This is why the term Eucharist recapitulates all that gesture, which is the gesture of God and man together, gesture of Jesus Christ, true God and true man.

Therefore, the Eucharistic celebration is much more than a simple banquet: it is in fact the memorial of Jesus’ Passover, the central mystery of salvation. “Memorial” does not mean only memory, a simple memory but it means that every time that we celebrate this Sacrament we participate in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. The Eucharist is at the apex of God’s action of salvation: the Lord Jesus, making himself broken bread for us, sheds on us in fact all His mercy and His love, so as to renew our heart, our existence and our way of relating to Him and to our brothers. It is because of this that ordinarily, when we approach this Sacrament, we say we “receive Communion,” we make our Communion”: this means that, in the power of the Holy Spirit, participation at the Eucharistic table conforms us in a unique and profound way to Christ, giving us a foretaste already now of  the full communion with the Father that characterizes the heavenly banquet, where with all the Saints we will have the unimaginable joy of contemplating God face to face.

Dear friends, we never thank the Lord enough for the gift He has given us with the Eucharist! It is a great gift and for this reason it is very important to go to Mass on Sunday. Go to Mass not only to pray, but to receive Communion, this bread that is the body of Christ that saves us, forgives us, that unites us to the Father. It is beautiful to do this! And every Sunday we go to Mass, because it is the very day of the Resurrection of the Lord. For this reason, Sunday is so important for us. And with the Eucharist we feel this belonging to the Church, to the People of God, to the Body of God, to Jesus Christ. We will never end gathering all its value and richness. Let us ask Him then that this Sacrament may continue to maintain His presence alive in the Church and mold our communities in charity and communion, according to the heart of the Father. And this is done during your whole life, but it begins to be done on the day of First Communion. It is important that the children are prepared well for First Communion and that each child does it, because it is the first step of this strong belonging to Jesus Christ, after Baptism and Confirmation. Thank you!

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the sacraments of Christian initiation, we now reflect on the Eucharist, the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood. As the source of the Church’s life, the Eucharist accompanies every step of our pilgrimage of faith, fellowship and witness. The Mass is a banquet which nourishes us not only with the bread of life received from the altar, where Christ’s sacrifice is offered, but also with the proclamation of God’s word in the Scriptures. At the Last Supper, Christ gave us this sacrament when he broke bread and offered the cup as the foreshadowing of his sacrifice on the Cross. In the Eucharistic sacrifice, Jesus has thus given us the supreme prayer of thanksgiving to God our merciful Father. As the memorial of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection, the Eucharist makes present the paschal mystery in all its saving power. May we give thanks for this great gift, which grants us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet when we will see God face to face. Let us ask the Lord, present in this holy sacrament, always to shape our lives and our communities.

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On How We Live the Eucharist
"Through the Eucharist, Christ wants to enter into our existence and permeate it with His grace,"

VATICAN CITY, February 12, 2014 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s continuing catechesis on the Sacrament of the Eucharist to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly General Audience.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In the last catechesis I highlighted that the Eucharist introduces us to real communion with Jesus and His mystery. Now we can ask ourselves some questions regarding the relation between the Eucharist we celebrate and our life, as Church and as individual Christians. We ask ourselves: how do we live the Eucharist? When we go to Mass on Sunday, how do we live it?Is it only a moment of celebration, a consolidated tradition, an occasion to meet with one another and feel well, or is it something more?

There are very concrete signs to understand how we live all this, how we live the Eucharist; signs that tell us if we live the Eucharist well or if we don’t live it too well. The first indication is our way of looking at and of considering others. In the Eucharist Christ always acts anew the gift of Himself that he made on the Cross. His whole life was an act of total sharing of Himself out of love; that is why He loved to be with the disciples and with the people He was able to meet. For Him this meant sharing their desires, their problems, what agitated their soul and their life. Now we, when we participate in the Holy Mass, we meet with men and women of all kinds: young people, elderly people, children, poor people and the well-off, native to the place and foreigners, accompanies by relatives or alone … However, does the Eucharist I celebrate lead me to truly regard them all as brothers and sisters? Does it make my capacity grow to rejoice with the joyful and to weep with those who weep? Does it push me to go to the poor, the sick, the marginalized? Does it help me to recognize Jesus’ face in them? We all go to Mass because we love Jesus and we want to share in the Eucharist his Passion and Resurrection. But do we love, as Jesus wants, those brothers and sisters that are most in need? For example, in Rome in these days we have see so many social hardships or because of the rain, which has done so much damage to entire neighborhoods, or for the lack of work, consequences of the economic crisis in the whole world. I ask myself, and each one us should ask themselves: I, who go to Mass, how do I live this? Do I make sure to help, to come close to, to pray for those who have this problem? Or am I a little indifferent? Or maybe I’m concerned with gossip: Have you seen how that woman is dressed, or how that man is dressed? Sometimes this is done, after Mass, and it shouldn’t be done! We should worry about our brothers and our sister that are in need because of a sickness, a problem. Today, it would do us well to think of these our brothers and sisters that have these problems here in Rome: problems caused by the tragedy provoked by the rain, social problems and work. Let us ask Jesus, who we received in the Eucharist, to help us to help them.

A second, very important indication is the grace of feeling oneself forgiven and ready to forgive. Sometimes there are those who ask: “”Why should we go to church given that those who habitually take part in the Holy Mass are sinners like others?” How many times have we heard that! In reality, one who celebrates the Eucharist doesn’t do so because he believes, or wants to appear better than others, but precisely because he sees himself always in need of being received and regenerated by the mercy of God, made flesh in Jesus Christ. If each one of us does not feel in need of the mercy of God, does not feel like a sinner, it is better that they do not go to Mass! We go to Mass because we are sinners and we want to received the forgiveness of God, to participate in the redemption of Jesus,in his forgiveness. That “I confess” which we say at the beginning is not a “pro forma,” it is a true act of penance! I am a sinner and I confess it, that is how the Mass begins! We must never forget that Jesus’ Last Supper took place “on the night He was betrayed” (1 Corinthians 11:23). Renewed every time in that bread and wine that we offer and around which we gather, is  the gift of the Body and Blood of Christ for the remission of our sins. We should go to Mass humbly, as sinners and the Lord reconciles us.

A last precious indication is offered to us by the relation between the Eucharistic celebration and the life of our Christian communities. We must always keep present that the Eucharist is not something we do; it is not our commemoration of what Jesus said and did. No. It is in fact an action of Christ! It is Christ who acts there, that is on the altar.  It is a gift of Christ, who makes Himself present and gathers us around Himself to feed us with His Word and with His very life. This means that the mission and very identity of the Church flow from there, from the Eucharist, and they always take shape there. A celebration could even be impeccable, from the external point of view, but if it doesn’t lead us to an encounter with Jesus, it risks not bringing any nourishment to our heart and to our life. Through the Eucharist, instead, Christ wants to enter into our existence and permeate it with His grace, so that in every Christian community there is coherence between the liturgy and life.

Our heart is filled with confidence and hope thinking of Jesus’ words reported in John’s Gospel: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (6:54). Let us live the Eucharist with a spirit of faith, of prayer, of penance, og communitary joy, of concern for the needy and the needs of so many brothers and sisters, in the certainty that the Lord will fulfill what He has promised us: eternal life. May it be so!

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Continuing our catechesis on the Sacraments of Initiation, I wish to reflect on how we live the Eucharist in our daily lives, as a Church and individual Christians. First, the Eucharist affects the way we see others. In his life, Christ manifested his love by being with people, and by sharing their desires and problems. So too the Eucharist brings us together with others – young and old, poor and affluent, neighbours and visitors. The Eucharist calls us to see all of them as our brothers and sisters, and to see in them the face of Christ. Second, in the Eucharist we experience the forgiveness of God and the call to forgive. We celebrate the Eucharist not because we are worthy, but because we recognize our need for God’s mercy, incarnate in Jesus Christ. In the Eucharist, we renew the gift of the Body and Blood of Christ for the remission of sins, and our hearts are enlarged to receive and show mercy. Third, in the Eucharistic celebration, we are nourished as the Christian community by Christ’s Word and Life. It is from the Eucharist that the Church receives continually her identity and mission. It is in our celebration that Christ fills us with his grace, so that our lives may be consonant with our worship of God in the Liturgy. Let us live the Eucharist in a spirit of faith and prayer, with the certainty that the Lord will bring to fulfillment all that he has promised.

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 On the Sacrament of Penance
"Be courageous and go to Confession!"

VATICAN CITY, February 19, 2014 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s continuing catechesis on the Sacraments to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly General Audience.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Through the Sacraments of Christian initiation -- Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist -, man receives new life in Christ. Now we have this life “in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7), we are still subject to temptation, to suffering, to death and, because of sin, we can even lose this new life. This is why the Lord Jesus wished His Church to continue His work of salvation also to her members, in particular with the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that of the Anointing of the Sick, which can be united under the name of “Sacraments of Healing.” The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a Sacrament of healing. When I go to confess myself, it is to heal myself, to heal my soul, to heal my heart and anything that isn’t going well. The  The biblical icon that expresses best their profound bond, is the episode of the forgiveness and healing of the paralytic, where the Lord Jesus reveals himself at the same time  as doctor of souls and of bodies (cf. Mark 2:1-12; Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26).

1. The Sacrament of Penance and of Reconciliation flows directly from the Paschal Mystery. In fact, on the very evening of Easter the Lord appeared to the disciples, locked in the Cenacle and, after greeting them saying ”Peace be with you!,” he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (John 20:21-23). This passage reveals to us the most profound dynamic that is contained in this Sacrament. First of all, the fact that the forgiveness of our sins is not something that we can give ourselves. I cannot say: I forgive my sins. Forgiveness is asked, it is asked of another and in Confession we ask for forgiveness from Jesus. Forgiveness is not the fruit of our efforts but it is a present, a gift of the Holy Spirit, who fills us with the purification of mercy and grace which flows incessantly from the wide open heart of Christ crucified and risen. In the second place, it reminds us that only if we allow ourselves to be reconciled in the Lord Jesus with the Father and with our brothers can we really be in peace. And we all have heard this in the heart when we go to confess ourselves, with a weight in the soul, a bit of sadness; and when we receive the forgiveness of Jesus we are in peace, with that peace of the soul that is so beautiful that only Jesus can give, only Him.

2. In time, the celebration of this Sacrament passed from a public to a personal  and reserved form of Confession. This, however, must not make us lose the ecclesial matrix, which constitutes the vital context. In fact, the Christian community is the place in which the Spirit is rendered present, who renews hearts in the love of God and makes all brothers one in Christ Jesus. See then how it is not enough to ask forgiveness from the Lord in our own mind and heart, but it is necessary to confess one’s sins humbly and confidently to the minister of the Church. In the celebration of this Sacrament, the priest not only represents God but the whole community, which recognizes itself in the fragility of each of its members, which is moved on hearing one’s repentance, which reconciles with one, which encourages and accompanies one in the path of conversion and of human and Christian maturation. One may say: I only confess with God. Yes, you can say to God “forgive me” and say your sins, but our sins are also against the brothers, against the Church. For this it is necessary to ask forgiveness from the Church, from the brothers, in the person of the priest. “But Father, I am ashamed….” Even shame is good, it is healthy to have a bit of shame; to be ashamed is healthy. When a person doesn’t have shame, in my country we say that he is a “sin vergüenza” (without shame). But even shame does us well, because it makes us more humble, and the priest receives with love and tenderness this confession and in the name of God, forgives.

Even from a human point of view, to vent, it is good to talk with a brother and tell the priest these things, that weigh heavily in my heart. And one feels that they vent in front of God, with the Church, with the brother. Do not be afraid of Confession! When one is in line to confess, they feel these things, even shame, but then when Confession is ended, they feel free, great, beautiful, forgiveness, white (clean), happy. And this is the beauty of Confession! I would like to ask you - but don’t answer out loud, each one responds in their heart -: when was the last time you confessed, that you have confessed? Each one think about it...Has it been two days, two weeks, two years, twenty years, forty years? Everyone takes count, but everyone ask themselves: when was the last time that I confessed? And if a long time has passed, don’t miss another day, go, the priest will be good. Jesus is there, and Jesus is much better than the priests, Jesus receives you, He receives you with so much love. Be courageous and go to Confession!

Dear friends, to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation means to be wrapped in a warm embrace: it is the embrace of the infinite mercy of the Father. Let us remember that beautiful, beautiful parable of the son who left his home with the inheritance money; he squandered all the money, and then, when he didn’t have anything, he decided to return home, not as a son, but as a servant. So many faults he had in his heart and so much shame. The surprise was when he began to speak, to ask forgiveness, the father did not let him speak, he embraced him, he kissed him and made a feast. But I tell you: every time we confess, God embraces us, God makes a feast! Let us go forward on this path. May God bless you!

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Through the Sacraments of Initiation, we receive new life in Christ. This life we carry in earthen vessels, however, and we still experience temptations, suffering, and death. Because of sin, we can even lose this new life. Jesus therefore willed that the Church continue his works of salvation for her members, in particular through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which flows from the Paschal Mystery. The forgiveness we receive is not the result of our own efforts, but is the gift of the Holy Spirit reconciling us to God and to each other. While the celebration of the Sacrament is personal, it is rooted in the community of the Church, in which the Holy Spirit is present, uniting us all in Jesus Christ. When confessing our sins then, we confess to the priest who represents not only God but also the community of the Church that accompanies us on the path of conversion. Though this Sacrament is a great treasure, we may be tempted to dismiss it, perhaps due to laziness or embarrassment, or because of a diminishing sense of sin and its effects. Too often, we see ourselves as the centre and measure of all things, and our lives can go adrift. The Sacrament of Reconciliation calls us back to God, and embraces us with his infinite mercy and joy. May we allow his love to renew us as his children and to reconcile us with him, with ourselves, and with one another.

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 On the Anointing of the Sick
"The greatest comfort derives from the fact that is the Lord Jesus Himself who is present in the Sacrament"

VATICAN CITY, February 26, 2014  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s continuing catechesis on the Sacraments during his weekly General Audience today at St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today I would like to speak to you of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, which enables us to touch with our hand God’s compassion for man. In the past it was called “Extreme Unction,” because it was understood as spiritual comfort in the imminence of death. To speak, instead, of the “Anointing of the Sick,” helps us to widen our look on the experience of sickness and suffering, in the horizon of God’s mercy.

1. There is a biblical icon that expresses in all its depth the mystery that shines in the Anointing of the Sick: it is the parable of the “Good Samaritan,” in Luke’s Gospel (10:30-35). Every time we celebrate this Sacrament the Lord Jesus, in the person of the priest, comes close to the one who suffers and is gravely ill or elderly. The parable says that the Good Samaritan takes care of the suffering man, pouring oil and wine on his wounds. Oil makes us think of that which is blessed every year by the Bishop in the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday, precisely in view of the Anointing of the Sick. The wine, instead, is the sign of the love and grace of Christ that gushes forth from the gift of his life for us and is expressed in all its richness in the sacramental life of the Church. Finally, the suffering person is entrusted to an innkeeper, so that he can continue to take care of him, regardless of expense. Now, who is this innkeeper? It is the Church, the Christian community; it is we to whom every day the Lord Jesus entrusts those who are afflicted, in body and spirit, so that we continue to pour on them, without measure, all his mercy and salvation.

2. This mandate is confirmed explicitly and precisely in the Letter of James , where he recommends: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (5:14-15). Therefore, it is a practice that was already in act at the time of the Apostles. Jesus, in fact, taught his disciples to have the same predilection for the sick and suffering, and he transmitted to them the capacity and the task to continue to give freely, in his name and according to his heart, relief and peace through the special grace of this Sacrament. This, however, must not make us fall into the obsessive search of a miracle or into the presumption of being able to obtain healing always and in every case. But it is the assurance of the closeness of Jesus to the sick and also the elderly, because every elderly person, every person over the age of 65, can receive this Sacrament, through which Jesus Himself brings us closer.

But when there is a sick person, sometimes we think: “let us call the priest so he will come”; “No, then he’ll bring bad luck, don’t call him”, or perhaps  “then the sick person will be frightened.” Why does one think this? Because there is a bit this idea that after the priest comes the funeral home. And this isn’t true. The priest comes to help the sick or the elderly; for this it is so important the visit of the priests to the sick.You need to call the priest and say: “Come, give the anointing, bless him.” It is Jesus Himself who comes  to relieve the sick, to give them strength, to give them hope, to help, even to forgive them their sins. And this is beautiful! And it is unnecessary to think that this is taboo, because it is always beautiful to know that in the moment of pain and sickness that we are not alone: the priest and those who are present during the Anointing of the Sick represent the whole Christian community that, like one body clings around those who suffer and their relatives, nourishing faith and hope in them, and sustaining them with prayer and fraternal warmth. But the greatest comfort derives from the fact that is the Lord Jesus Himself who is present in the Sacrament, who takes us by the hand, He caresses us as he did with the sick and reminds us that now we belong to him and that nothing - not even evil or death - can separate us from Him. Let us have this habit of calling the priest so that our sick - and I’m not speaking of those sick with the flu for three or four days, but those with a serious sickness - and also our elderly, so that he may come and give them this Sacrament, this comfort, this strength of Jesus to go forward. Let us do this!

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In our catechesis on the sacraments, we now turn to the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, which expresses God’s merciful presence to the sick, the suffering and the aged. The parable of the Good Samaritan reflects our Lord’s tender concern for those who suffer; like the Samaritan, and following Christ’s example and teaching, the Church brings God’s healing presence to the suffering through the sacramental sign of anointing with oil. As we learn from the Letter of James (5:14-15), the early Church continued his ministry to the sick through prayer and anointing by her presbyters. Through the celebration of the Anointing of the Sick, the Church accompanies us in facing the profound mystery of suffering and death. In a culture which all too often refuses to speak of these realities, we need all the more to recognize the beauty of this Sacrament and to appreciate, in spiritual solidarity with the whole Church, the presence of the Lord Jesus, who strengthens us in faith and hope, and reminds us that nothing – not even evil and death – can ever separate us from the saving power of his love.

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General Audience: On the Sacrament of Marriage
"Married life is a most beautiful thing and we must guard it always"

VATICAN CITY, April 02, 2014  - Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis on the sacraments today during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today we conclude the series of catecheses on the Sacraments speaking of Marriage. This Sacrament leads us to the heart of God’s plan, which is a covenant plan with His people, with all of us, a plan of communion. At the beginning of the Book of Genesis, the first Book of the Bible, as the crowning of the account of creation, it states: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them … Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 1:27; 2:24).

The married couple is the image of God: the man and the woman, not only the man, not only the woman, but both. This is the image of God: the love, the covenant of God with us is represented in that covenant between man and woman. And this is very beautiful! We are created to love, as reflection of God and of His love. And in the conjugal union the man and the woman realize this vocation in the sign of reciprocity and of communion of a full and definitive life.

When a man and a woman celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage, God, so to speak, is “mirrored” in them, He imprints in them His own features and the indelible character of His love. Marriage is the icon of God’s love for us. God, in fact, is also communion: the three Persons of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit have lived always and forever in perfect unity. And this is in fact the mystery of Marriage: God makes of the two spouses a single existence. The Bible uses a strong expression and states “one flesh,” so intimate is the union between man and woman in marriage. And this is precisely the mystery of marriage: the love of God that is mirrored in the couple that decides to live together. Therefore, man leaves his home, the home of his parents and goes to live with his wife and unites himself so strongly to her that the two become – the Bible states – one flesh.

In the Letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul highlights the fact that a very great mystery is reflected in Christian spouses: the relationship established by Christ with the Church, a nuptial relationship (cf. Ephesians 5:21-33). The Church is the Bride of Christ. This is the relationship. This means that Marriage responds to a specific vocation and must be considered as a consecration (cf. Gaudium et spes, 48; Familiaris consortio, 56). It is a consecration: the man and the woman are consecrated in their love. By virtue of the Sacrament, the spouses are invested in fact in a true and proper mission, so that they can render visible, from simple ordinary things, the love with which Christ loves his Church, continuing to give his life for her, in fidelity and in service.

It is truly a stupendous plan that is inherent in the Sacrament of Marriage! And it is acted out in the simplicity and also in the fragility of the human condition. We know well how many difficulties and trials the life of two spouses has. What is important is to keep alive the bond with God, who is the basis of the conjugal bond. And the true bond is always with the Lord. When the family prays, the bond is maintained. When the husband prays for the wife and the wife prays for the husband, the bond becomes strong; one prays for the other.

It is true that in matrimonial life there are many difficulties, many: work, lack of money, children having problems – so many difficulties. And so often the husband and wife become a bit nervous and quarrel between themselves. They quarrel -- it is always so in marriage -- sometimes even plates fly. However, we must not become sad because of this; the human condition is like this. And the secret is that love is stronger from the moment there is quarreling, so I always advise spouses: Never end the day when you quarreled without making peace. Always! And it is not necessary to call the United Nations to come to one’s home to make peace. A small gesture, a caress, a hello is sufficient! And until tomorrow -– and tomorrow one begins again. And this is life; it must be carried forward thus, carried forward with the courage of wanting to live it together. And this is great, it is beautiful! Married life is a most beautiful thing and we must guard it always, protect the children.

At other times I have said in this square something that helps marital life a lot. They are three words that must always be said, three words that must be in the home: please, thank you, sorry [permesso, grazie, scusa] -- three magical words. 

Please, so as not to be invasive in the life of the spouse. Please, but what does this seem to you? Please, allow me.

Thank you: to thank one’s spouse: thank you for what you did for me, thank you for this. The beauty of rendering thanks!

And as we all make mistakes, the other word which is a bit difficult to say, but which must be said: sorry.

Please, thank you, sorry. With these three words, with the prayer of the husband for his wife and vice versa, with making peace always before the day ends, the marriage will go forward -- the three magical words, prayer and always making peace.

May the Lord bless you and pray for me.

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today we conclude our catechesis on the sacraments with the sacrament of Matrimony, which brings us to the very heart of God’s loving plan for the human family. The Triune God created us – men and women – in his image and calls us to mirror the mystery of his love. Married couples carry out this vocation in a full and definitive communion of life. As “one flesh”, they become living icons of God’s love in our world, building up the Church in unity and fidelity. Christian marriage also reflects the mystery of Christ’s own faithful and sacrificial love for his body, the Church. Christian spouses thus receive a special consecration and a special mission. While a noble vocation, marriage is not an easy one: it must constantly be strengthened by a living relationship with the Lord through prayer: mornings and evenings, at meals, in the recitation of the Rosary, and above all through the Sunday Eucharist. Today let us pray for all families, especially those experiencing difficulties, so that by God’s mercy they can always be joyful models of faith, love and generous service in our communities.

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 2.  New series of Audience talks on the gifts of the Holy Spirit (April 9, 2014) 

 
General Audience: On Wisdom
"We have the Holy Spirit within us, in our heart; we can listen to Him or not listen to Him"

VATICAN CITY, April 09, 2014  - Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis given at today's general audience in St. Peter's Square. He began today a new series of catechesis, taking up the theme of the Holy Spirit.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

We begin today a series of catecheses on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. You know that the Holy Spirit constitutes the soul, the vital lymph of the Church and of every individual Christian: He is the Love of God who makes our heart His dwelling and enters into communion with us. The Holy Spirit is always with us, in us, in our heart.

The Spirit himself is “the gift of God” par excellence (cf. John 4:10), He is a gift of God who in turn communicates different spiritual gifts to one who receives Him. The Church singles out seven, a number which symbolically means fullness, completeness; they are those that are learned when we prepare ourselves for the Sacrament of Confirmation and which we invoke in the ancient prayer called the Sequence of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

1. According to this list, the first gift of the Holy Spirit is, therefore, wisdom. However, it is not simply about human wisdom, which is the fruit of knowledge and experience. The Bible recounts that Solomon, at the moment of his crowning as King of Israel, asked for the gift of wisdom (cf. 1 Kings 3:9). And wisdom in fact is this: It is the grace to be able to see everything with the eyes of God. It is simply this: to see the world, to see situations, circumstances, problems, everything with God’s eyes. This is wisdom. Sometimes we see things according to how they please us or according to the situation of our heart, with love or with hatred, with envy … No, this is not God’s eye. Wisdom is what the Holy Spirit does in us so that we see all things with God’s eyes. This is the gift of wisdom.

2. And this obviously stems from intimacy with God, from the intimate relationship that we have with God, from the relationship of children with the Father. When we have this relationship, the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of wisdom. When we are in communion with the Lord, it is as if the Holy Spirit transfigures our heart and makes it perceive all His warmth and predilection.

3. Then the Holy Spirit renders the Christian “wise.” This, however, not in the sense that he has an answer for everything, that he knows everything, but in the sense that he “knows” of God, he knows how God acts, he knows when something is of God and when it is not of God; he has this wisdom which God gives to our hearts. In this sense, the heart of the wise man has the taste and flavor of God. And how important it is that such Christians be in our communities! Everything in them speaks of God and becomes a beautiful and living sign of His presence and His love. And this is something we cannot improvise, which we cannot acquire by ourselves: It is a gift that God gives those who are docile to the Holy Spirit. We have the Holy Spirit within us, in our heart; we can listen to Him or not listen to Him. If we listen to the Holy Spirit, He teaches us this way of wisdom, He gives us wisdom which is to see with God’s eyes, to hear with God’s ears, to love with God’s heart, to judge things with God’s judgment. This is the wisdom that the Holy Spirit gives us, and we can all have it, we only need to ask the Holy Spirit for it.

Think of a mother at home with the children, that when one does something, the other thinks of something else, and the poor mother goes from one place to the other with the problems of the children. And when mothers are tired and shout at the children, is that wisdom? To shout at children – I ask you – is that wisdom? What do you say: is it wisdom or not? No! Instead, when the Mother picks up the child and reproves him gently and says to him: “This isn’t done because …”, and she explains it to him with much patience, is this the wisdom of God? Yes! It is what the Holy Spirit gives us in life! Then in marriage, for instance, the two spouses – the husband and the wife – quarrel, and then they don’t look at each other, or if they do look at one another they do so with a cross face: is this the wisdom of God? No! Instead they say: “well, the storm has passed, let’s make peace,” and they begin again to go forward in peace: is this wisdom? [the people: Yes!] See, this is the gift of wisdom. May it come to the home, may it come with the children, may it come with all of us!

And this is not learned: it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we must ask the Lord to give us the Holy Spirit and the gift of wisdom, that wisdom of God that teaches us to look with God’s eyes, to feel with God’s heart, to speak with God’s words. And so, with this wisdom we go forward, we build the family, we build the Church, and we are all sanctified. Let us ask today for the grace of wisdom. And let us ask Our Lady, who is the Seat of Wisdom, for this gift: may she give us this grace. Thank you!

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today we begin a series of catecheses on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is himself the “gift of God” (cf. Jn 4:10), the presence of God’s love in the Church and in our hearts. Based on a messianic prophecy of Isaiah, the Church has traditionally distinguished seven gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. The first of these is wisdom. As a spiritual gift, this wisdom is an interior light, a grace enabling us to contemplate all things with the eyes of God and a heart docile to the promptings of the Spirit. Born of closeness to God in prayer and loving communion, it helps us to recognize with joyful gratitude his providential plan for all things. Christian wisdom is thus the fruit of a supernatural “taste” for God, an ability to savour his presence, goodness and love all around us. How much our world needs the witness of such wisdom today! Let us pray for this gift, so that, rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, we can be true men and women of God, transparently open to his own wisdom and the power of his saving love.

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Wednesday Audience:  On the Gift of Understanding
"The Holy Spirit introduces us into intimacy with God and renders us participants in his plan of love for us."

VATICAN CITY, April 30, 2014  - Below is a translation of the Holy Father's address at this morning’s General Audience, which was held at 10:30 in Saint Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning.

After having examined wisdom as the first of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, today I would like to point attention to the second gift, namely, understanding. It is not about human understanding, about an intellectual capacity with which we can be more or less gifted. Instead, it is a grace which only the Holy Spirit can infuse, and which arouses in the Christian the ability to go beyond the external aspect of reality and scrutinize the depth of God’s thought and of His plan of salvation.

Addressing the community of Corinth, the Apostle Paul describes well the effects of this gift – that is, what the gift of understanding does in us, and Paul says this: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him, God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). This obviously does not mean that a Christian can understand everything and have full knowledge of God’s plans: all this remains to be manifested in all its limpidness when we find ourselves in the presence of God and we are truly one with Him. However, as the word itself suggests, the intellect makes possible “intus legere,” that is, “to read within:" this gift makes us understand things as God understands them, with God’s understanding. Because one can understand a situation with human understanding, with prudence, and that is okay. However, to understand a situation in depth, as God understands it is the effect of this gift. And Jesus willed to send us the Holy Spirit so that we would have this gift, so that we can all understand things as God understands them, with God’s understanding. It is a beautiful gift that the Lord has given all of us. It is the gift with which the Holy Spirit introduces us into intimacy with God and renders us participants in his plan of love for us.

It is clear, then, that the gift of understanding is closely connected to faith. When the Holy Spirit dwells in our heart and illumines our mind, He makes us grow day after day in understanding what the Lord has said and has fulfilled. Jesus himself said this to his disciples: I will send you the Holy Spirit and He will make you understand what I have taught you: to understand Jesus’ teachings, to understand his Word, to understand the Gospel, to understand the Word of God. One can read the Gospel and understand something, but if we read the Gospel with this gift of the Holy Spirit we can understand the depth of God’s words. And this is a great gift, a great gift which we all must pray for and pray for together: Give us, Lord, the gift of understanding.

There is an episode in Luke’s Gospel which expresses very well the depth and strength of this gift. After having witnessed the death on the cross and burial of Jesus, two of his disciples, disappointed and dismayed, leave Jerusalem and return to their village called Emmaus. While they were on their way, the risen Jesus comes alongside them and begins to talk with them, but their eyes, veiled by sadness and despair, are unable to recognize him. Jesus walks with them, but they are so sad, so desperate, that they do not recognize him. However, when the Lord explains the Scriptures to them, to make them understand that he had to suffer and die to then rise again, their minds are opened and hope is rekindled in them (cf. Luke 24:13-27). And this is what the Holy Spirit does with us: He opens our mind, he opens us to understand better, to understand better the things of God, human things, situations, everything.

The gift of understanding is important for our Christian life. Let us ask the Lord to give us, to give all of us this gift to understand, as He understands, the things that happen and to understand, above all, the Word of God in the Gospel. Thank you.

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In our continuing catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the gift of understanding. Born of our sharing in God’s life through faith and Baptism, the gift of understanding enables us to see in all things the unfolding of his eternal plan of love. The Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and enlightens our minds, guiding us to an ever deeper understanding of Christ’s teaching and his saving mission. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, we often fail to recognize the Lord walking at our side and the working of God’s grace in our lives and the world around us. Yet thanks to the Spirit’s gift of understanding, our eyes are opened and our hearts burn within us (cf. Luke 24:13-27) as we recognize the Risen Lord’s presence and view all things in a new light, with fresh spiritual insight. How important it is to implore this gift of understanding! Through it the Holy Spirit dispels the darkness of our minds and hearts, strengthens us in faith and enables us to savor the richness of God’s word and its promise of salvation.

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General Audience:  On the Gift of Counsel
"We must make room for the Spirit, so that he can counsel us."

VATICAN CITY, May 07, 2014 - Below is a translation of Pope Francis' address at the General Audience this morning in Saint Peter’s Square.

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THE HOLY FATHER’S CATECHESIS IN ITALIAN

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In the reading of the Book of Psalms we heard the passage that says: “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me” (Psalm 16:7). And this is another gift of the Holy Spirit: the gift of counsel. We know how important it is, in the most delicate moments, to be able to count on the suggestions of wise persons who love us. Now, through the gift of counsel, it is God Himself, with his Spirit, who illumines our heart, to make us understand the right way to speak and to behave and the way to follow. But, how does this gift act in us?

The moment we receive Him and host him in our heart, the Holy Spirit begins immediately to make us sensitive to his voice and to direct our thoughts, our sentiments and our intentions according to God’s heart. At the same time, he leads us increasingly to turn our interior gaze on Jesus, as model of our way of acting and of relating to God the Father and to our brothers. Counsel, therefore, is the gift with which the Holy Spirit renders our conscience capable of making a concrete choice in communion with God, according to the logic of Jesus and of his Gospel. In this way, the Spirit makes us grow interiorly, he makes us grow positively, he makes us grow in the community and helps us not to fall prey to egoism or our own way of seeing things. Thus the Spirit helps us to grow and also to live in community. The essential condition to preserve this gift is prayer. We always come back to the same subject: prayer! But prayer is so important. To pray with the prayers that we all know from childhood, but also to pray with our own words. To pray to the Lord: “Lord, help me, counsel me, what must I do now?” And with prayer we make room for the Spirit to come to help us at that moment. To counsel us on what we must all do. Prayer, never forget prayer! Never! No one, no one is aware when we pray in the bus, in the street: we pray in silence with our heart. Let us take advantage of these moments to pray, to pray that the Spirit will give us this gift of counsel.

In intimacy with God and in listening to his Word, little by little we put aside our personal logic, dictated most often by our closures, our prejudices and our ambitions, and we learn instead to ask the Lord: what is your desire? What is your will? What pleases you? In this way, a profound attunement matures in us, almost innate in the Spirit and we experience how true Jesus’ words are reported in Matthew’s Gospel: “When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:19-20).

It is the Spirit who counsels us, but we must make room for the Spirit, so that he can counsel us. And to make room is to pray, to pray so that He will come and help us always.

As all the other gifts of the Spirit, then, counsel also constitutes a treasure for the whole Christian community. The Lord does not speak to us only in the depth of our heart; He speaks to us, yes, but not only there, but He also speaks to us through the voice and witness of brothers. It is truly a great gift to be able to meet men and women of faith that, especially in the most complicated and important moments of our life, help us to enlighten our heart and recognize the will of the Lord!

I remember once I was in a confessional in the shrine of Lujan, in front of which there was a long queue. There was also a very young altogether modern fellow with ear-rings, tattoos, all these things … And he came to tell me what was happening to him. It was a big, difficult problem. And he said to me; I have said all this to my mother and my mother said: go to Our Lady and she will tell you what to do. There was a woman who had the gift of counsel. She did not know how to resolve her son’s problem, but she pointed out the right way: go to Our Lady and she will tell you. This is the gift of counsel. That humble, simple woman gave her son the truest counsel. In fact, this boy said to me: I looked at Our Lady and I felt I had to do this, and this and this …. I did not have to speak, his mother and the boy himself had already said everything. This is the gift of counsel. You, mothers, who have this gift, ask it for your children. The gift to counsel children is a gift of God.

Dear friends, Psalm 16, which we heard, invites us to pray with these words: “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (vv. 7-8). May the Spirit always be able to infuse this certainty in our heart and thus fill us with his consolation and his peace! Ask always for the gift of counsel.

SUMMARY OF THE CATECHESIS AND GREETING IN ENGLISH

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catecheses on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the gift of counsel. Through this gift, God enlightens our hearts and directs our thoughts, words and actions in accordance with his saving will. By leading us to Jesus, and through him to the Father, the Holy Spirit guides us in our daily interaction with others and enables us to make right decisions in the light of faith. Through the gift of counsel, we also grow in the virtue of prudence, learning to overcome our self-centredness and to see all things with the eyes of Christ. The gift of counsel, like all spiritual gifts, needs to be cultivated through prayer, by which we become attuned to the voice of the Spirit and conformed to the heart of Christ. Nor does this gift enrich us as individuals alone; the Spirit also counsels us through the lives and experiences of our brothers and sisters in the Church. Today, as we give thanks for the gift of counsel, let us seek to support one another along the path of faith, as we seek to be ever more docile to the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

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Pope Francis' General Audience: Fortitude.    May 14, 2014
"We must have fortitude in our everyday life as Christians, we need this fortitude to carry on in our lives, our families our faith. "

VATICAN CITY, May 14, 2014  - Here below is the English translation of Pope Francis' general audience catechesis for Wednesday May 14, 2014. 

***

Dear brothers and sisters !

In recent catechesis, we examined the first three gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding and counsel. Today we think about what the Lord does, He always comes to support us in our weakness with a special gift, the gift of fortitude .

1. There is a parable told by Jesus, which helps us to grasp the importance of this gift. A sower goes out to sow; not all the seed he sows, however, bears fruit. What ends up on the street is eaten by birds; what falls on stony ground or among thorns sprouting, but is soon dried by the sun or choked by the thorns. Only what ends up on the good soil can grow and bear fruit (cf. Mk 4.3 to 9 / / Mt 13:3-9 / / Luke 8.4 to 8 ) . As Jesus himself said to his disciples, the Father is the sower, who sows the seed of His Word abundantly. The seed, however, often clashes with the aridness of our hearts and, even when welcomed, is likely to remain sterile. Instead with the gift of fortitude the Holy Spirit frees the soil of our heart from torpor, uncertainties and all the fears that can stop it, so that the Word of God can be put into practice, in an authentic and joyful way. This is a real help, this gift of fortitude it gives us strength and frees us from many obstacles.

2. There are difficult moments and extreme situations in which the gift of fortitude is manifested in an extraordinary, exemplary way. This is the case of those who are facing particularly harsh and painful experiences, that disrupt their lives and those of their loved ones. The Church shines with the testimony of so many brothers and sisters who have not hesitated to give their lives, in order to remain faithful to the Lord and His Gospel. Even today there are numerous Christians in many parts of the world who continue to celebrate and witness to their faith with deep conviction and serenity, and resist even when they know that this can result in them paying a very high price. All of us know people, people who have experienced difficult situations, so much pain, let us think of those men and women who have a difficult life, who fight for the survival of their family, educate their children. They do this because the Spirit of fortitude helps them. How many, many men and women - whose names we do not know – honor our people, honor our Church because they are strong in carrying forward their lives, their work, their family, their faith – these our brothers and sisters are saints! Every day saints! Hidden saints among us! They have the gift of fortitude in carrying on in their duty as people, mother, father, brother, sister citizen. We have so many, so many. Let us thank the Lord for these Christians who are the hidden saints among us. But is the Spirit within who carries them forward and it would do us good to think of these people. If they do this, if they can do this then why not me and we ask the Lord to give us the gift of fortitude.

3. With this, we must not think that the gift of fortitude is only necessary on some occasions or in certain situations. This gift must be the base note of our being Christians, in our ordinary everyday lives. As I said we must have fortitude in our everyday life as Christians we need this fortitude to carry on in our lives, our families our faith. Paul, the Apostle Paul, said something that it would do us all good to hear: "I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me" (Phil. 4:13).

In our everyday life, in difficult times it would do us good to say this "I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me”. The Lord always gives us strength, Lord never gives us more than we can handle, "I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me”.

Dear friends, sometimes we may be tempted to allow ourselves be overtaken by laziness or despondency, especially when faced with the hardships and trials of life. In these cases, do not lose heart, but invoke the Holy Spirit, so that with the gift of fortitude He can lift our hearts and communicate new vigor and enthusiasm to our lives and our following Jesus.

Summary:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In our continuing catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the gift of fortitude. We have seen that the first three gifts of the Spirit – wisdom, understanding and counsel – enable us to contemplate God’s loving plan and to know his will. Through the gift of fortitude, we receive the strength to do God’s will in spite of our own natural weakness and limitations. In the parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus teaches us that the seed of God’s word sown in our hearts can encounter not only interior resistence, but also be choked by life’s sufferings and trials. Through the gift of fortitude, the Holy Spirit enables us to remain faithful amid every difficulty and – as the experience of so many Christians around the world shows – even amid persecution and martyrdom. For most of us, the gift of fortitude is exercised in our patient pursuit of holiness in the circumstances of our daily lives. Whenever we feel weary or discouraged along the journey of faith, let us ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the gift of fortitude, to refresh us and to guide our steps with renewed enthusiasm.

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England and Wales, Sweden, Denmark, India, the Philippines, China, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Canada and the United States. Upon all of you, and upon your families, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord. God bless you!

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General Audience: On Knowledge
"The knowledge that comes from the Holy Spirit is not limited to human knowledge: it is a special gift"

VATICAN CITY, May 21, 2014  - Here below is the English translation of Pope Francis' general audience catechesis for Wednesday May 21, 2014. 

***

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good day! 


Today I want to highlight another gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of knowledge. When we speak of knowledge, we immediately think of the human capacity to learn more about the reality that surrounds him and to discover the laws that govern nature and the universe. The knowledge that comes from the Holy Spirit, however, is not limited to human knowledge: it is a special gift, which allows us to grasp, through Creation, the greatness and love of God and His profound relationship with every creature.

1. When our eyes are enlightened by the Spirit, they open to the contemplation of God in the beauty of nature and the grandeur of the cosmos, and lead us to discover how everything speaks to us of Him and everything speaks to us of His love. All this arouses astonishment and a deep sense of gratitude in us! It is the feeling we experience when we admire a work of art or any marvel that is the result of the genius and creativity of man: before all of this, the Spirit leads us to praise the Lord from the depths of our hearts and recognize, in all that we have and are, a priceless gift from God and a sign of His infinite love for us. 

2 .The first chapter of Genesis, at the very beginning of the Bible, shows us that God delights of His creation, by repeatedly emphasizing the beauty and goodness of all things. At the end of each day, it is written : "God saw that it was good" ( 1,12.18.21.25 ) …but if God sees that Creation is something good and beautiful, we too must have this attitude, we must see that Creation is something good and beautiful. The gift of knowledge, of this beauty, we have to thank God for having given us this gift, this beauty! This is the path…and when God finished creating man, He didn’t say that “it was good”, He said that it is “very good!”, He draws us close to Him. And in God’s eyes we are the greatest, the most beautiful, the best things about Creation…”But father the Angels? No the Angels are beneath us! We are more than the Angels! We heard it in the Book of the Psalms! God really loves us! We have to thank him for this!

The gift of knowledge places us in profound harmony with the Creator and allows us to participate in the brightness of His gaze and His judgment. And it is in this perspective that we can grasp in man and woman the summit of Creation, as the fulfillment of a plan of love that is imprinted in each of us and that makes us recognize each other as brothers and sisters. 

3 . All of this is a source of serenity and peace and renders the Christian a joyful witness of the God, in the wake of St. Francis of Assisi and many saints who were able to sing and praise His love through the contemplation of Creation. 

At the same time, however, the gift of knowledge helps us to avoid falling prey to excessive or incorrect attitudes. The first lies in the risk of considering ourselves masters of Creation. Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude. 

The second incorrect attitude is the temptation to limit ourselves to creatures, as if they can provide the answer to all our expectations. With the gift of knowledge, the Holy Spirit helps us not to give in to all of this…but I would like to return to the first wrong path…Custodians Creation, not Masters of Creation it is a gift that the Lord has given us, to us! We are Custodians of Creation. But when we exploit Creation we destroy the sign of God’s love for us, in destroying Creation we are saying to God: “I don’t like it!. This is not good!” “So what do you like?” “I like myself!” – Here, this is sin! Do you see? Custody of Creation is custody of God’s gift to us and it is also a way of saying thank you to God. I am the master of Creation but to carry it forward I will never destroy your gift. And this should be our attitude towards Creation. Safeguard Creation. Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!

Once I was in the countryside and I heard a saying from a simple person who loved flowers and he nurtured these flowers and he said we must nurture these beautiful things that God has given us. Creation is for us to use well, not exploit to nurture…because do you know father, God always forgives - Yes it is true God always forgives…We men, women, we forgive sometimes – Yes sometimes we forgive, not always …But father Creation never forgives! And if you don’t custody Creation it will never forigive you”.

This should give us pause for thought and ask the holy Spirit for the gift of knowledge that Creation is a gift from God, a gift for the best thing He created which is the human person…

Thank you 


The English language summary of the Holy Father’s catechesis


Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now consider the gift of knowledge. Through this spiritual gift, we are enabled to see every person, and the world around us, in the light of God’s loving plan. In a sense, we see the beauty, harmony and goodness of all creation with the eyes of God its maker. As is clear from the lives of Saint Francis of Assisi and so many other saints, the gift of knowledge gives rise to grateful contemplation of the world of nature and joyful praise of the Creator. The perspective given by this spiritual gift leads us to respect God’s gift of creation and to exercise wise stewardship of its resources for the benefit of the whole human family. It also prevents us from restricting our vision to the persons and things of this world alone, forgetting that in their order, value and beauty they point beyond themselves to God, their source and ultimate end. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us grow in the knowledge which enables us to perceive the love with which God guides the world, to respond with gratitude and to praise him for his infinite goodness and love.

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England and Wales, Scotland, Sweden, Norway, India, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, South Africa, Canada and the United States. Upon all of you, and upon your families, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord. God bless you all!

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Wednesday Audience: On Piety
"Makes us meek, tranquil, patient, at peace with God"

VATICAN CITY, June 04, 2014  - Here is a translation of Pope Francis' address during the General Audience this morning in St. Peter's Square.

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THE HOLY FATHER’S CATECHESIS IN ITALIAN

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning.

Today we want to pause on a gift of the Holy Spirit which is often misunderstood and considered in a superficial way; instead it touches in the heart our identity and our Christian life: it is the gift of piety.

It is necessary to clarify immediately that this gift is not identified with having compassion for someone, having pity for one’s neighbor, but it indicates our belonging to God and our profound bond with Him, a bond that gives meaning to the whole of our life and which keeps us firm, in communion with Him, also in the most difficult and trying moments.

1. This bond with the Lord is not intended as a duty or an imposition. It is a bond that comes from within. It is a relation lived with the heart: it is our friendship with God, given us by Jesus; a friendship that changes our life and fills us with enthusiasm and joy. Therefore, the gift of piety arouses in us, first of all, gratitude and praise. This is, in fact, the motive and the most authentic meaning of our worship and of our adoration. When the Holy Spirit makes us perceive the presence of the Lord and all his love for us, He warms our heart and moves us almost naturally to prayer and to celebration. Piety, therefore, is synonym of authentic religious spirit, of filial confidence in God, of that capacity to pray to Him with love and simplicity which is proper of persons who are humble of heart.

2. If the gift of piety makes us grow in our relation and communion with God and leads us to live as His children, at the same time it helps us to pour this love also on others and to recognize them as brothers. And then yes we will be moved by sentiments of piety -- not of pietism! -- in our dealings with those around us and those we meet every day. Why do I say not pietism?

Because some think that to have piety is to close one’s eyes, to make an imaginary face, and feign to be like a saint. In Piedmont we say: to make a ”Mugna Quacia” This isn’t the gift ofpiety. The gift of piety means to be truly capable of rejoicing with those in joy, to weep with those who weep, to welcome and help those who are in need. There is a very close relation between the gift of piety and meekness. The gift of piety that the Holy Spirit gives us makes us meek, it makes us tranquil, patient, in peace with God, and at the service of others with meekness.

Dear friends, in the Letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul affirms: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God, for you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship, when we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:14-15).

Let us pray to the Lord that the gift of his Spirit may conquer our fear, our uncertainties, also our restless, impatient spirit, and be able to render us joyful witnesses of God and of his love, adoring the Lord in truth and also in the service of our neighbor, with meekness and with the smile that the Holy Spirit always gives us in joy. May the Holy Spirit give all of us this gift of piety.

[Original text: Italian]

 

Summary of the Catechesis in English:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the gift of piety. Through this spiritual gift, we experience ever anew, with joy and gratitude, the loving relationship with God our Father which has been granted us in Jesus his Son. It is this loving relationship which grounds and perfects our authentic worship of God. The love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit leads us to perceive the Lord’s presence and love in our lives, and moves us to respond joyfully in prayer and adoration. Piety is not mere outward religiosity; it is that genuine religious spirit which makes us turn to the Father as his children and to grow in our love for others, seeing them as our brothers and sisters, members of God’s family. Let us ask that, through this gift of the Holy Spirit, we may always be ready to offer a helping hand to others, in the joyful awareness of that solidarity which is born of our communion with God in the unity of Christ’s body, the Church.

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England and Wales, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States. Upon all of you, and upon your families, I invoke the peace of the Risen Lord and the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit. God bless you all!

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"This is the fear of God: abandonment into the goodness of our Father who loves us so"

VATICAN CITY, June 11, 2014 - Here is a translation of Pope Francis' address during the General Audience this morning in St. Peter's Square.

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THE HOLY FATHER’S CATECHESIS IN ITALIAN

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning.

The gift of the fear of God, of which we speak today, concludes the series of seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. It does not mean to be afraid of God: we know well that God is Father, and that He loves us and wants our salvation, and He always forgives, always, so that there is no reason to be afraid of Him! The fear of God, instead, is the gift of the Spirit that reminds us how little we are before God and His love, and that our good lies in abandoning ourselves with humility, with respect and with trust into His hands. This is the fear of God: abandonment into the goodness of our Father who loves us so.

1. When the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our heart, he infuses in us consolation and peace, and leads us to see ourselves as we are, namely, little, with the attitude – so recommended by Jesus in the Gospel – of one who entrusts all is preoccupations and expectations to God and feels enveloped and sustained by His warmth and His protection, in fact, as a child with his Daddy! This is what the Holy Spirit does in our hearts: He makes us feel like children in the arms of our Daddy. In this connection, then, we understand well how the fear of God assumes in us the form of docility, of gratitude and praise, filling our heart with hope. Often, in fact, we fail to grasp God’s design, and we are aware that we are not capable of ensuring happiness and eternal life for ourselves. It is, in fact, in the experience of our limitations and of our poverty, however, that the Spirit confronts us and makes us perceive how the only important thing is to let ourselves be led by Jesus into his Father’s arms.

2. See why we are in such great need of this gift of the Holy Spirit. Fear of God makes us aware that everything comes from grace and that our real strength lies only in following the Lord Jesus and allowing the Father to pour His goodness and mercy on us. We must open our heart so that God’s goodness and mercy will come to us. The Holy Spirit does this with the gift of the fear of God: He opens hearts. An open heart so that the Father’s forgiveness, mercy, goodness, and caresses come to us, because we are infinitely loved children.

3. When we are permeated by the fear of God, then we are led to follow the Lord with humility, docility and obedience. This, however, not with a resigned, passive even mournful attitude, but with the wonder and joy of a child who sees himself served and loved by his Father. Hence, the fear of God does not make us timid, compliant Christians,but it generates in us courage and strength! It is a gift that makes us convinced, enthusiastic Christians, who are not subjected to the Lord out of fear, but because we are moved and conquered by His love! To be conquered by the love of God! And this is something lovely. To let ourselves be conquered by this Daddy’s love, who so loves us, who loves us with His whole heart.

However, we must be careful, because this gift of God, the gift of the fear of God is also an “alarm” in face of the tenaciousness of sin. When a person lives in evil, when he blasphemes against God, when he exploits others, when he tyrannizes them, when he lives only for money, for vanity or power or pride, then the holy fear of God puts us on alert: be careful! With all this power, with all this money, with all your pride, with all your vanity, you will not be happy. No one can take with him to the other side money, or power, or vanity or pride. Nothing! We can only take the love that God the Father gives us, God’s caresses, accepted and received by us with love. And we can take what we have done for others. Be careful not to put your hope in money, in pride, in power, in vanity, because all this cannot promise us anything good! I am thinking, for instance, of persons who have responsibility over others and who allow themselves to be corrupted; do you think a corrupt person will be happy on the other side? No, all the fruit of his corruption has corrupted his heart and it will be difficult for him to go to the Lord. I am thinking of those who live from the traffic of persons and of slave labor; do you think that these people who traffic in persons, who exploit people with slave labor have the love of God in their heart? No, they do not have the fear of God and they are not happy.

They are not. I am thinking of those who manufacture arms to foment wars, but think what an occupation this is. I am sure that if I now ask the question: how many of you are manufacturers of arms? No one, no one. Manufacturers of arms do not come to hear the Word of God. They manufacture death, they are merchants of death and make death merchandise. May the fear of God make them understand that one day everything will end and they will have to render an account to God.

Dear friends, Psalm 34 makes us pray thus: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them” (vv. 7-8).

Let us ask the Lord for the grace to unite our voice to that of the poor, to receive the gift of fear of God and to be able to recognize ourselves, together with them, clothed with the mercy and love of God, who is our Father, our Daddy. So be it.

[Original text: Italian]

SUMMARY OF THE CATECHESIS IN ENGLISH

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the last of these gifts: fear of the Lord. We know that this is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realization that only in him do our hearts find true peace. Through the fear of the Lord, we become, as Jesus asks us, like little children, trusting in the goodness and the protection of our heavenly Father. The Spirit enables us to persevere in loving obedience to the word of God. Fear of the Lord is also a kind of "alarm", awakening us to the presence of sin in our lives and reminding us that we will one day be held accountable to the just Judge. When we begin to use other people, to live for money and empty pleasure alone, blaspheming God’s name and allowing ourselves to be corrupted, this spiritual gift comes to our aid and directs us to the right path. Today let us pray that the fear of God, together with the other gifts of the Holy Spirit, will renew us in faith and constantly remind us that in God alone do we find our ultimate happiness, freedom and fulfilment.

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England and Wales, Scotland, Sweden, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Japan, the Philippines, Australia and the United States. Upon all of you, and upon your families, I invoke the grace and peace of the Lord Jesus and the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit. God bless you all!

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3.  New series on the Church beginning June 18, 2014

 
Pope's Audience Address: On the Church
"God forms a people to take His blessing to all the families of the earth"

VATICAN CITY, June 18, 2014  - Here is a translation of Pope Francis' address during the General Audience this morning in St. Peter's Square. 

***

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning. And congratulations to you because you have been good, with this weather that one doesn’t know if water is coming or not coming … You are good! We hope to finish the Audience without water, may the Lord have mercy on us.

Today I begin a series of catecheses on the Church. It’s somewhat like a child speaking of his mother, of his family. To speak of the Church is to speak of our Mother, of our family. The Church, in fact, is not an institution oriented to herself or a private association, an NGO, and much less so should one’s look be restricted to the clergy or the Vatican … “The Church thinks …” But we are all the Church! “Of whom are you speaking?” “Not of priests …” Ah, the priests are part of the Church, but we are all the Church! She mustn’t be restricted to priests, to Bishops, to the Vatican … They are part of the Church, but we are all the Church, all family, all of the Mother. And the Church is a much broader reality, which opens to the whole of humanity and which is not born in a laboratory; the Church is not born in a laboratory, she was not born suddenly. She was founded by Jesus but is a people with a long history behind it and a preparation that began much before Christ himself.

This history, or “pre-history,” of the Church is found already in the pages of the Old Testament. We heard the Book of Genesis: God chose Abraham, our Father in faith, and asked him to go forth, to leave his earthly homeland and go to another land, which He would indicate to him (cf. Genesis 2:1-9). And in this vocation God did not call Abraham alone, as an individual, but from the beginning involved his family, his relatives and all those who served in his household. Once on the way, -- yes, this is how the Church begins to journey – then, God widens the horizon again and fills Abraham with His blessing, promising him numerous descendants like the stars of the heavens and the sand on the seashore. The first important detail in fact is this: beginning with Abraham, God forms a people to take His blessing to all the families of the earth. And Jesus is born within this people.

A second element: it is not for Abraham to constitute a people around him, but it is God who gives life to this people. Usually it was man who turned to the divinity, seeking to fill the distance and invoking support and protection. People prayed to the gods, to the divinities. Witnessed in this case, instead, is something unheard of: it is God Himself who takes the initiative. Let us listen to this: it is God who knocks on Abraham’s door and says to him: go forth, go from your land, begin to walk and I will make of you a great people. And this is the beginning of the Church and Jesus is born in this people. God takes the initiative and addresses His Word to man, creating a bond and a new relation with him. “But Father, how does this happen? Does God speak to us?” “Yes.” “And can we speak to God?” “Yes.” “But can we have a conversation with God?” “Yes.” This is called prayer, but it is God who has done this from the beginning. In this way God forms a people with all those who listen to His Word and go forth, trusting in Him. This is the only condition: to trust God. If you trust God, listen to Him and go forth, this is to make the Church. God’s love precedes everything. God is always first, He arrives before us, He precedes us. The prophet Isaiah, or Jeremiah, I don’t remember well, said that God is like the flower of the almond tree, because it is the first tree to flower in spring -- to say that God always flowers before us. When we arrive, He is waiting for us, He calls us, He makes us walk. He is always ahead of us. And this is called love, because God always waits for us. “But Father, I don’t believe this, because if you, Father, knew my life, it’s been so bad, how can I think that God waits for me?” “God waits for you. And if you have been a great sinner He waits for you even more and He waits for you with so much love, because He is first. This is the beauty of the Church, which leads us to this God who waist for us!” He precedes Abraham, He also precedes Adam.

Abraham and his own listen to God’s call and go forth, despite not knowing well who this God is and where He wishes to lead them. It’s true, because Abraham goes forth, trusting this God who spoke to him, but he didn’t have a theology book to study what this God is. He trusts, he trusts the love. God makes him feel the love and he trusts. However, this does not mean that this people was always convinced and faithful. In fact, from the beginning there were resistances, a turning in on itself and its interests and the temptation of bargaining with God and of resolve things in its own way. And these are the betrayals and sins that mark the path of the people throughout the history of salvation, which is the history of God’s fidelity and the people’s infidelity. God, however, does not tire; God has patience, He has so much patience, and in time He continues to educate and form His people, as a father with his son. God walks with us. The prophet Hosea says: “I have walked with you and I have taught you to walk as a father teaches his child to walk.” Beautiful is this image of God! And it is so with us: He teaches us to walk. And it is the same attitude that He has in dealings with the Church. We too, in fact, despite our resolution to follow the Lord Jesus, every day experience egoism and the hardness of our heart. However, when we acknowledge ourselves sinners, God fills us with His mercy and His love. And He forgives us, He forgives us always. And, in fact, it is this which makes us grow as people of God, as Church: it’s not our bravura, it’s not our merits – we are but a little thing; it’s not that --, but it is the daily experience of how much the Lord loves us and takes care of us. It is this which makes us feel truly His, in His hands, and makes us grow in communion with Him and among ourselves. To be Church is to feel oneself in the hands of God, who is Father and who loves us, caresses us, waits for us, and makes us feel His tenderness. And this is very beautiful!

Dear friends, this is God’s plan; when He called Abraham, God was thinking of this: to form a blessed people from His love, which would take His blessing to all the peoples of the earth. This plan doesn’t change; it is always in act. It had its fulfillment in Christ and again today God continues to realize it in the Church. Let us then ask for the grace to remain faithful in following the Lord Jesus and in listening to His Word., ready to go forth every day, as Abraham, towards the land of God and of man, our true homeland, and thus become a blessing, a sign of the love of God for all His children. I like to think that a synonym, another name that we Christians could have, is this: we are men and women, we are people that bless. The Christian must always bless with his life, he must bless God and bless all. We, Christians, are people who bless, who are able to bless. This is a beautiful vocation!

[Original text: Italian]

Summary of the Catechesis and Greeting in English

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Today begins a new cycle of catecheses devoted to the Church. The Church is not simply an institution but a mother, a family, a mystery which is meant to embrace the whole human race. Founded by Jesus Christ, she traces her roots to the Old Testament, where God called Abraham to set off with his household for a new land and promised to make him the father of a vast people, in order to bring his blessing to all the nations of the earth. Significantly, it is God himself who takes the first step: he chooses Abraham and all his household to follow him in faith. The way God points out is not always clear, nor is the path free of obstacles, including the constant temptation to sin and infidelity. The history of God’s people, the Church, is thus one of God’s absolute fidelity, mercy and love; only by his unfailing aid can we overcome our sins and persevere in following the path he points out to us in Christ. Let us ask the Lord to sustain the Church on her journey of faith through history, to guide her to our heavenly homeland and to make her a blessing and a sign of God’s loving plan for all his children.

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kuwait, India, Australia and the United States. Upon all of you, and upon your families, I invoke joy and peace in the Lord Jesus. God bless you all!

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Audience Address: On Belonging to the Church
"There are those who think they can have a personal, direct, immediate relation with Jesus Christ outside the communion and mediation of the Church. These are dangerous and harmful temptations"

VATICAN CITY, June 25, 2014 - Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave during this morning’s general audience. As he did last week, due to the challenging Roman summer weather, Francis met with the sick and their families in Paul VI Hall, prior to the audience. The Holy Father continued with his catechesis series on the Church.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning.

Today, in Paul VI Hall, there is another group of pilgrims connected with us; they are the sick pilgrims, because with this weather, between the heat and the possibility of rain, it was more prudent that they should stay there. However, they are connected with us through a video-screen. Thus we are united in the same Audience. And all of us will pray today especially for them, for their sicknesses. Thank you.

In the first catechesis on the Church last Wednesday, we began with God’s initiative to form a people who will carry his blessing to all the peoples on earth. He began with Abraham and then, with much patience – and God has, He has so much patience! -- He prepares the people in the Old Covenant so that, in Jesus Christ, they are a sign and instrument of the union of men with God and among themselves (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution Lumen Gentium, 1). Today we wish to pause on the importance, for the Christian, of belonging to this people. We shall talk about belonging to the Church.

We are not isolated and we are not Christians as individuals, each one on his own. No. Our Christian identity is belonging! We are Christians because we belong to the Church. It is like a surname: if the name is “I am Christian,” the surname is “I belong to the Church.” It is beautiful to note how this belonging is expressed also in the name that God attributes to Himself. Responding to Moses, in the wonderful episode of the “burning bush” (cf. Exodus 3:15), He describes Himself, in fact, as the God of the Fathers. He does not say: I am Omnipotent …, no: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. In this way, he calls us to enter into this relation that precedes us. God’s relation with His people precedes us all, it comes from that time.

In this connection, our thought goes with gratitude, in the first place, to those who have preceded us and who have received us in the Church. No one becomes a Christian on his own! Is this clear? No one becomes a Christian on his own. Christians are not made in a laboratory. A Christian is part of a people who come from afar. The Christian belongs to a people called Church, and this Church makes him a Christian on the day of Baptism, and then in the course of the catechesis, and so on. However, no one, no one becomes a Christian on his own. If we believe, if we are able to pray, if we know the Lord and can listen to His Word, if we feel Him close and recognize him in the brethren, it is because others, before us, lived the faith and then transmitted it. We have received the faith from our parents, from our forbearers, and they have taught it to us. If we think well, perhaps how many dear ones pass before our eyes at this moment: it might be the face of our parents who asked for Baptism for us; that of our grandparents or of some relatives who taught us to make the sign of the cross and to recite our first prayers. I always remember the face of the Sister who taught me the catechism, it always comes to my mind – she is in Heaven, I’m sure, because she was a holy woman – but I remember her always and I thank God for this Sister. Or the face of the parish priest, of another priest, of a Sister, of a catechist who transmitted to us the content of the faith and made us grow as Christians … See, this is the Church: a great family, in which we are received and learn to live as believers and disciples of the Lord Jesus.

We can live this journey not only thanks to other persons but together with other persons. “Do it yourself” does not exist in the Church; “free builders” do not exist. How many times Pope Benedict described the Church as an ecclesial “we”! How many times have we heard this? And this is not on. There are those who think they can have a personal, direct, immediate relation with Jesus Christ outside the communion and mediation of the Church. These are dangerous and harmful temptations. They are, as the great Paul VI said, absurd dichotomies. It is true that to walk together is demanding, and sometimes it can be exhausting: it can happen that a brother or a sister causes one a problem, or gives scandal … But the Lord entrusted his message of salvation to human persons, to all of us, to witnesses; and it is in our brothers and our sisters, with their gifts and limitations, that He comes to meet us and makes us recognize Him. And this means to belong to the Church. Remember this well: to be a Christian means to belong to the Church. The name is “Christian,” and the surname is “belonging to the Church.”

Dear friends, let us ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, for the grace not to fall into the temptation of thinking that we can do without others, that we can do without the Church, that we can save ourselves on our own, that we are laboratory Christians. On the contrary, we cannot love God without loving our brothers, we cannot love God outside the Church; we cannot be in communion with God without being so in the Church, and we cannot be good Christians without being together with those who seek to follow the Lord Jesus, as one people, one body, and this is the Church. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

SUMMARY OF THE CATECHESIS AND GREETING IN ENGLISH

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Church, we have seen that God gathered a people to himself in the Old Testament and in the fullness of time sent his Son to establish the Church as the sacrament of unity for all humanity. God calls each of us to belong to this great family. None of us become Christians on our own; we owe our relationship with God to so many others who passed on the faith, who brought us for Baptism, who taught us to pray and showed us the beauty of the Christian life: our parents and grandparents, our priests, religious and teachers. But we are Christians not only because of others, but together with others. Our relationship with Christ is personal but not private; it is born of, and enriched by, the communion of the Church. Our shared pilgrimage is not always easy: at times we encounter human weakness, limitations and even scandal in the life of the Church. Yet God has called us to know him and to love him precisely by loving our brothers and sisters, by persevering in the fellowship of the Church and by seeking in all things to grow in faith and holiness as members of the one body of Christ.

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Wednesday Audience: On the People of God
"We are not used to repeating the Beatitudes. Let us try to recall them and to imprint them, in our hearts."

VATICAN CITY, August 06, 2014  - Here is a translation of Pope Francis' address during the General Audience this morning in Paul VI Hall in the Vatican. This is his first audience since he had taken a pause from audiences during the month of July.

***

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In the previous catechesis, we saw how the Church constitutes a people -- a people prepared with patience and love by God, to whom we are all called to belong. Today, I would like to make evident the novelty that characterizes this people: it is truly a new people, who are founded on the New Covenant established by the Lord Jesus with the gift of his life. This novelty does not deny the previous way nor is it opposed to it; rather, it carries it forward, it leads it to fulfillment.

There is a very significant figure, which is the hinge between the Old and the New Testament: that of John the Baptist. For the Synoptic Gospels, he is the “precursor,” the one who prepares the Lord’s coming, predisposing the people to conversion of heart and the reception of God’s now close consolation. For John’s Gospel, he is the “witness,” in as much as he makes us recognize in Jesus He who comes from on high, to forgive our sins and to make his people his Bride, first fruit of the new humanity. As “precursor” and “witness,” John the Baptist has a central role within the whole of Scripture, in as much as he is a bridge between the promise of the Old Testament and its fulfillment, between the prophesies and their realization in Jesus Christ. With his witness, John indicates Jesus to us, he invites us to follow him, and he tells us in no uncertain terms, that this requires humility, repentance and conversion: it is an invitation that he makes, to humility, to repentance and to conversion. As Moses stipulated regarding the Covenant with God in accordance with the law received on Sinai, so Jesus, from a hill on the shore of Lake Galilee, gives to his disciples and to the crowd a new teaching that begins with the Beatitudes. Moses gave the Law on Sinai and Jesus, the new Moses, gives the Law on that hill, on the shore of Lake Galilee. The Beatitudes are the path that God indicates as an answer to the desire of happiness inherent in man, and perfects the Commandments of the Old Covenant. We are used to learning the Ten Commandments – you certainly all know them, your learned them in catechism – but we are not used to repeating the Beatitudes. Let us try to recall them and to imprint them, in our hearts. Let’s do this: I will say them one after the other and you will repeat them. Agreed?

First: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” [Hall repeats]

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” [Hall repeats]

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” [Hall repeats]

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” [Hall repeats]

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” [Hall repeats]

“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” [Hall repeats]

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” [Hall repeats]

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” [Hall repeats]

“Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” I will help you: [the Pope repeats with the people] “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven.” [Hall repeats]

Good! But let’s do something: I give you a task for home, a task to do at home. Take the Gospel, the one you carry with you … Remember that you must always carry a small Gospel with you, in your pocket, bag, always; the one you have at home. Carry the Gospel; and, the Beatitudes are in the first chapters of Matthew – I believe in the 5th. And today, tomorrow read them at home. Will you do it? [Hall: yes!] Not to forget them, because it is the Law that Jesus gives us! Will you do it? Thank you.

In these words is all the novelty brought by Christ, and the whole novelty of Christ is in these words. In fact, the Beatitudes are Jesus’ portrait, his way of life, and they are the way of true happiness, which we also can live with the grace that Jesus gives us.

In addition to the new Law, Jesus also gives us the “protocol” on which we will be judged. We will be judged at the end of the world. And what will be the questions we will be asked there? What will be the questions? What is the protocol on which the Judge will judge us? It is the one we find in the 25th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. Today, the task is to read the 5th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, where the Beatitudes are, and to read Chapter 25 where the protocol is, the questions we will be asked on Judgment Day. We won’t have titles, credits or privileges to put forward. The Lord will recognize us if, in turn, we recognized him in the poor, the hungry, the indigent and marginalized, in the suffering… This is one of the fundamental criteria to verify our Christian life, against which Jesus invites us to measure ourselves every day. I read the Beatitudes and I think how my Christian life should be, and then I do my examination of conscience with this Chapter 25 of Matthew. Every day: I did this, I did this, and I did this … It will do you good. They are simple things, but concrete.

Dear friends, the New Covenant consists, in fact, of this: in recognizing ourselves in Christ, enveloped by mercy and the compassion of God. This is what fills our heart with joy, and it is this that makes our life a beautiful and credible testimony of the love of God for all the brothers we meet every day. Remember the tasks! Fifth chapter of Matthew and Chapter 25 of Matthew. Thank you!

[Original text: Italian]

Summary of the Catechesis and Greeting in English:

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In today’s Audience, we resume our catechesis on the Church, the People of God. Prepared for in the Old Testament and established by Christ in the fullness of time, the Church is a new people, founded on a new covenant. The newness brought by Christ does not set aside what went before, but brings it to completion. In the Scriptures, Saint John the Baptist is a bridge between the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament and their fulfilment in the New. John points to Jesus and calls us to follow him in repentance and conversion. The new law which Jesus gives in the Sermon on the Mount perfects the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai. In the Beatitudes, Jesus shows us the way in which, with his grace, we can attain authentic happiness. He tells us, in the Gospel of Matthew, that our Christian life will be judged on how we treat him in the least of our brethren. At the heart of the new covenant is our realization that, in Christ, we are embraced by God’s mercy and compassion, and that our lives must bear witness to his love for all our brothers and sisters.

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Audience: On the Dangers of 'Parish' Sins
Pope Francis' General Audience Catechesis, August 27th

VATICAN CITY, August 27, 2014  - Below is a translation of the Pope's address during today's General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

***

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Every time we renew our profession of faith reciting the “Creed,” we affirm that the Church is “one” and “holy.” She is one because she has her origin in God Trinity, mystery of unity and full communion. The Church is holy in as much as she is founded on Jesus Christ, animated by His Holy Spirit filled with His love and His salvation. At the same time, however, she is holy and is made up of sinners, all of us, we every day experience our own fragilities and our miseries. Now, this faith that we profess pushes us to conversion, to have the courage to live daily the unity and holiness, and if we are not united, if we are not holy, it is because we are not faithful to Him. However, He does not leave us alone; He does not abandon His Church! He walks with us. He understands us. He understands our weaknesses, our sins, and he pardons us. Always he pardons us. He is always with us, helping us, and makes us to be less sinners and to be more saints, and to be more united.

1. Our first comfort comes from the fact that Jesus prayed so much for the unity of the disciples. [...] He prayed for unity, and He did so above all in the imminence of His Passion, when He was about to offer His whole life for us. It is that which we are continually invited to reread and meditate, in one of the most intense and moving pages of John’s Gospel, chapter 17 (cf. vv. 11.21-23). How lovely it is to know that the Lord, just before dying, was not concerned about Himself, but thought of us! And in His heartbroken dialogue with the Father, He prayed in fact that we would be one with Him and among ourselves. See, with these words, Jesus makes Himself our intercessor with the Father, so that we can also enter into full communion of love with Him. At the same time, He entrusts us to Him as His spiritual testament, so that unity can become increasingly the distinctive note of our Christian communities  and the most beautiful answer to anyone who asks us the reason for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).

2. “That they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21). The Church has sought from the beginning to realize this intention, which is so much in Jesus’ heart. The Acts of the Apostles remind us that the first Christians were distinguished by the fact of having “one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32). The Apostle Paul then exhorted his communities not to forget that they are “one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). However, experience tells us that there are many sins against unity. And we do not think only of the great heresies and the schisms; we think of the many common failures in our communities, of “parish” sins, at those sins in the parishes.. Sometimes, in fact, our parishes, called to be places of sharing and communion, are marked sadly by envies, jealousies, antipathies. And this chitchat is carried to all. How much this chitchat exists in the parishes! This is not good. [...] This is not the Church! One must not do this, we must not do it! We need to ask the Lord for the grace not to do this.

This is human, all right, but not Christian! This happens when we seek the first places, when we put ourselves at the center, with our personal ambitions and our ways of seeing things, and we judge others; when we look at the defects of our brothers instead of their gifts, when we give more weight to what divides that to what brings us together.

3. In face of all this, we must make a serious examination of conscience. In a Christian community, division is one of the gravest sins, because it renders it not the work of God but a sign of the devil, who by definition is he who separates, who ruins relations, who insinuates prejudices. Instead, God wants us to grow in the capacity to accept, forgive and love one another, to be ever more like Him who is communion and love. Herein lies the holiness of the Church: in recognizes herself as the image of God, filled with His mercy and His grace. [...]

Dear friends, let us have these words of Jesus resound in our heart: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Let us ask sincerely for forgiveness for all the times we have been the occasion of division or incomprehension within our communities, knowing well that communion is not attained except through constant conversion. And let us pray that the daily fabric of our relations can become an ever more beautiful and joyful reflection of the relation between Jesus and the Father.

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English Summary of Pope's Audience on the Church
"While we, the members of the Church, are sinners, the unity and holiness of the Church arise from God and call us daily to conversion"

VATICAN CITY, August 27, 2014  - Here is the English-language summary of Pope Francis' General Audience of today:

***

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

We affirm in the Creed that the Church is one and that she is holy. One because she has her origin in the Triune God, mystery of unity and full communion. Holy since she is founded by Jesus Christ, enlivened by his Holy Spirit, and filled with his love and salvation. While we, the members of the Church, are sinners, the unity and holiness of the Church arise from God and call us daily to conversion. We have an intercessor in Jesus, who prays, especially in his passion for our unity with him and the Father, and with each other. Unfortunately, we know well the sins against unity--jealousy, envy, antipathy--which come about when we place ourselves at the center and which occur even in our parish communities. God’s will, however, is that we grow in our capacity to welcome one another, to forgive and to love, and to resemble Jesus. This is the holiness of the Church--to recognize the image of God in one another. May we all examine our consciences and ask forgiveness for the times when we have given rise to division or misunderstanding in our communities, and may our relationships mirror more beautifully and joyfully, the unity of Jesus and the Father.

I offer an affectionate greeting to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Malta, and Canada. May Jesus Christ confirm you in faith and make you witnesses of the holiness and unity of the Church. May God bless you all!

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On the Motherhood of the Church: Pope Francis' General Audience, Sept. 3
"The Church has the courage of a mother who knows that she must protect her own children from the dangers resulting from the presence of Satan in the world, to bring them to the encounter with Jesus."

VATICAN CITY, September 03, 2014  - Here below is a translation of Pope Francis' general audience catechesis, delivered in St. Peter's Square Sept. 3rd. 

***

Dear brothers and sisters,

In the previous catechesis, we were able to point out several times that you don’t become Christian by yourself, through your own efforts, on your own, but by being born and nurtured in the faith in the midst of the People of God, that is the Church. In this sense the Church is a true mother, our mother Church – it’s nice to say so, eh? – a mother who gives us life in Christ and in the communion of the Holy Spirit, brings us into a common life with all our brothers and sisters.

1. In this, her motherhood, the Church has as its model the Virgin Mary, the highest and most beautiful model that can be. The first Christian communities have already highlighted this and the Second Vatican Council expressed it in an admirable way (cf. Const. Lumen Gentium, 63-64). Mary's motherhood is certainly unique, singular, and was accomplished in the fullness of time, when the Virgin gave birth to the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit. And yet, the Church's motherhood places you right in continuity with that of Mary, as its prolongation in history. The Church, in the fruitfulness of the Spirit, continues to generate new children in Christ, always listening to the Word of God and in obedience to his plan of love. The Church is mother. The birth of Jesus in Mary's womb, in fact, is a prelude to the rebirth of every Christian in the womb of the Church, since Christ is the firstborn of many brethren (cf. Rom 8:29). And our first brother is Jesus, born of Mary, who is the model for all of us born into the Church. We understand, then, how the relationship that unites Mary and the Church is as deep: looking to Mary, we find the most beautiful and tender face of the Church; looking to the Church, we recognize the sublime features of Mary. We Christians are not orphans, we have a mom, we have a mother and this is great. We are not orphans. The Church is mother, Mary and mother.

2. The Church is our mother because she has delivered us in Baptism. Whenever a child is baptised, he becomes a son of the Church, from that day, he is in the Church which cares for him as a caring mother, she makes us grow in faith and shows us, with the power of the Word of God, the way of salvation, defending us from evil.

The Church has received from Jesus the precious treasure of the Gospel, not to keep it for herself, but giving it generously to others – as a mother does. In this service of evangelization the maternity of the Church is shown in a particular way -- committed, as a mother, offering her children the spiritual nourishment that feeds and makes fruitful the Christian life. All, therefore, are called to welcome with an open mind and heart the Word of God that the Church dispenses every day, because this Word has the ability to change us from the inside. Only the Word of God has this capacity to change us for the better from the inside out, from our deepest roots -- this powerful Word of God. And who gives us the Word of God? The mother Church, she gives her children this word, raising us throughout our whole life with this word. And this is great, it’s mother Church who, with this word, really changes us from the inside. The words that mother Church gives us transform us, making our humanity beat not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

In her motherly care, the Church strives to show believers the way to go to live a fruitful existence of joy and peace. Illuminated by the light of the Gospel and upheld by the grace of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, we can orient our choices towards the good and pass, with courage and hope, moments of darkness and more tortuous paths. The path of salvation, through which the Church guides us and accompanies us with the power of the Gospel and the support of the Sacraments, gives us the ability to defend ourselves from evil. The Church has the courage of a mother who knows that she must protect her own children from the dangers resulting from the presence of Satan in the world, to bring them to the encounter with Jesus. This defence also consists of a call to vigilance: be on guard against the deception and seduction of evil. Because even if God has conquered Satan, his temptations always return. We know this, we are all under attack. It is not for us to be naïve, but to be vigilant and stand firm in the faith, not to resist the advice of a mother, resist the help of mother Church. A good mother always accompanies her children in difficult moments.

3. Dear friends, this is the Church: this is the Church that we all love, the Church that I love. A mother who has at heart the welfare of their children, that has the capacity to give life to her children. We must not forget, however, that the Church is all the baptized – not just priests or bishops, no we all are. We are all in the Church, we are all children, also other Christians .We, all the baptized, men and women, together are the church. How many times in our life do we not give witness to this motherhood of the Church, to this maternal courage of the Church! Let us entrust ourselves to Mary, then, because she will teach us to have her same maternal spirit towards our brothers and sisters, with the sincere ability to accept, forgive and inspire confidence and hope.

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On the Works of Mercy: Pope Francis' General Audience, Sept. 10
"Mercy overcomes every wall, every barrier and brings you to always seek the face of man."

VATICAN CITY, September 10, 2014  - Here below is a translation of Pope Francis' general audience catechesis, delivered in St. Peter's Square Sept. 10th. 

***

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning.

In our itinerary of catecheses on the Church, we pause to reflect on the Church as a mother. The last time we underlined how the Church makes us grow, and with the light and strength of the Word of God, shows us the path of salvation, and defends us from evil. Today, I would like to highlight one particular aspect of this educational action of the mother Church, that is, how She teaches us the works of mercy.

A good teacher concentrates on the essentials. They are not lost in the details, but wants to transmit that which truly counts so that the child or student finds the meaning and joy of life. it is the truth! And what is essential, according to the Gospel, is mercy. What is essential in the Gospel is mercy! God has sent His Son! God has made Himself man to save us, that is, to give us his mercy. Jesus says it clearly, summing up his teaching to the disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Lk.6, 36).

Can a Christian who is not merciful exist? No! A Christian must be merciful because this is the center of the Gospel.

Faithful to this teaching, the Church can only repeat the same thing to its children: “Be merciful”. as the Father is, and as Jesus has been. Mercy!

And so the Church behaves as Jesus. It does not make theoretical lessons on love, on mercy. It does not spread throughout the world a philosophy, a path of wisdom….Of course, Christianity is all of this, but as a consequence, of reflection. The Mother Church, as Jesus, teaches us by example, the words serve to illuminate the meaning of its gestures.

The Mother Church teaches us to give food and drink to those who are hungry and thirsty, to clothe those who are naked. And how does she do it? By the example of so many saints who have done this in an exemplary way. But also, by the example of so many fathers and mothers, who teach their children that what is leftover to us if for those who are needy.

It is important to know this.

The rule of hospitality has always been sacred to the most ordinary Christian families: there is never a lack of food and a bed for those who are needy.

One time, a mother in a another diocese told me that she wanted to teach this to her children. and she would tell them to help and to give food to those who are hungry. She had three [children]. And one day during lunch, the father was away at work.and she was with her three small children. Seven, five and four years old, more or less. There was a knock at the door and there was a man who asked for something to eat. And the mother told him, “Wait one moment.” She went to her children and said, “There is a man who is asking for something to eat. What should we do?” The children said, “Yes, mom, let’s give him something.” Each one had a steak with fried potatoes on their plate. And the mother said, “Ok then, let’s give him half of each plate and we’ll give him half a steak from each one of you.” The children said, “Oh no, mom, that’s not how it should be done.” And she said, “That is how it is done! You must give of your own [plate].” And like this, the mother taught her children to give others to eat from their own plate. This is a beautiful example that helped me so much. “But I don’t have any left over.” But give from what you have. That is how the mother Church teaches us. And so many mothers here, you know what you must do to teach your children. So that they share their things with those in need.

Mother Church teaches us to be close to those who are sick. How many holy men and women have served Jesus in this way!  How many ordinary men and women, every day, put in practice this work of mercy in a hospital room, or a retirement home, or in their own home, helping the sick.

Mother Church teaches us to be close to those who are imprisoned. "But Father, no, this is dangerous. They are bad people!" But each one of us is capable of the same. Listen well: Each one of us is capable of doing the same thing that man or that woman in prison has done! We all have the ability to sin and to do the same! To make mistakes in life. They are not worse than you or me.

Mercy overcomes every wall, every barrier and brings you to always seek the face of man. And it is mercy that changes the heart and life, that can regenerate a person and allow them to insert themselves in a new way in society.

Mother Church teaches us to be close to those who are abandoned and dying alone. It is what Blessed Teresa did in the streets of Calcutta; and that which many Christians have done and still do who have no fear of holding the hand of those who are leaving this world. Even here, mercy gives peace to those departed and those who stay, making them feel that God is greater than death, and that remaining in Him, even the final moment is a "see you later". Blessed Teresa understood this very well. But some would say to her, “Mother you are wasting your time.” She would find people who were dying on the streets. People who were being eaten by the mice on the streets. And she would bring them home so they could die clean, calmly, caressed and in peace. She would give them a “farewell”. But all those people that she, and so many women and men like her who do this to, are waiting to open the door of heaven for them. To help people die well, in peace.

Dear brothers and sisters, in this way the Church is a mother, teaching its children the works of mercy. She has learned this path from Jesus, She has learned that this is essential for salvation. It is not enough to love those who love us. It is not enough to do good to those who do good to us. To change the world for the better, doing good to those who are unable to reciprocate, as the Father has done with us, in giving us Jesus.

Let us thank the Lord, who has given us the grace to have the Church as a mother, who teaches us the path of mercy that is the path of life.

 

Here below is a summary of the Pope's weekly general audience, given this morning in St. Peter's Square. 

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In our previous catechesis, we reflected on the Church as a Mother who nurtures us in the faith, guides us on the way of salvation, and protects us from evil.  Today, I wish to reflect on the Church as a Mother who teaches us the works of mercy.  A good teacher does not get lost in the details, but points to what is essential.  For the Gospel, what is essential is mercy.  As Jesus told the disciples to be merciful as the Father is merciful, so the Church teaches her sons and daughters to be merciful like the Father and the Son.  She teaches by example, using words to explain her actions.  She instructs us to feed the hungry and to clothe the naked, a lesson taught by many fathers and mothers to their children through the sacred rule of hospitality.  She calls us to be close to the sick, clearly lived in so many hospital rooms, communities for the elderly and infirm, and private homes everywhere.  She invites us to visit those imprisoned, where mercy is able to change hearts and lives, so that once freed, they may re-enter society renewed.  And she asks us to be close to those who are abandoned and dying alone, where mercy brings peace to both those departing this life and those who remain.  This is essential for salvation: that we may show mercy and love not only those who love us, but also those who cannot repay us, just as the Father had mercy on us and loved us through the gift of his Son Jesus.  Let us thank the Lord for giving us the Church as our Mother, she who teaches us the path of mercy, the path of life.

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Pope's General Audience: The Church Was Born Catholic and Apostolic
"To be part of the Apostolic Church means to be aware that our faith is anchored in the proclamation and witness of Jesus' Apostles themselves and, therefore, always to feel sent."

VATICAN CITY, September 17, 2014 - Here below is the full text of Pope Francis' weekly general audience catechesis, delivered in St. Peter's Square, September 17th.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

When we profess our faith, we affirm that the Church is “Catholic” and “Apostolic.” But what, effectively, is the meaning of these two words, these well known characteristic of the Church? And what value do they have for the Christian community and for each one of us?

1.         Catholic means universal. A complete and clear definition is given us by one of the Fathers of the Church, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, when he states: “Without a doubt, the Church is said to be Catholic, that is, universal, because of the fact that she is spread everywhere from one end to the other of the earth; and because universally and without defection she teaches all the truths that must come to the knowledge of men, be it in regard to heavenly or earthly things” (18th Catechesis, 23).

A clear sign of the Church’s catholicity is that she speaks in all languages. And this is nothing other than the effect of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1-13). It is the Holy Spirit, in fact, who has enabled the Apostles and the entire Church to resonate with all, to the ends of the earth, the Good News of salvation and of the love of God. The Church was born Catholic, “symphonic” from her origins, and cannot but be Catholic, pointing to evangelization and the encounter with all. The Word of God today is read in all languages, everyone has the Gospel in their own language to read. And I say again: it’s always good to take with you a small Gospel, to have in your pocket or purse and read a passage during the day. This is good for us. The Gospel has spread in all languages because the Church, the proclamation of Jesus Christ the Redeemer, is in all the world. And for this reason we say the Church is Catholic because it is universal.

2.         If the Church was born Catholic, it means that she was born “outgoing,” missionary. If the apostles stayed in the Upper Room, without going out to pray the Gospel, the Church would just be the Church of those people, of that city, of that cenacle. But all have gone out into the world, from the moment of the Church’s birth, from the moment the Holy Spirit came down. And so the Church has been born “outgoing”, that is, missionary. It is what we express qualifying her as Apostolic. This term reminds us that the Church – on the foundation of the Apostles and in continuity with them – is invited to take to all men the proclamation of the Gospel, accompanying it with the signs of the tenderness and the power of God. This also stems from the Pentecost event: it is for the Holy Spirit, in fact, to surmount every resistance, to overcome the temptation to be closed-in on oneself, among a few elect, and considering oneself the sole recipients of God’s blessing… If a group of Christians does this – “We are the elect, only us” – they die in the end. They die before, in their soul, then their body dies, because they don’t have life, they don’t have the capacity to generate life to other people, other peoples. They are not apostolic. It is the Spirit that leads us to encounter our brothers, including those most distant in every sense, so that they can share with us the love, peace, and joy that the Risen Lord has left us as a gift.

3.         What is entailed, for our communities and for each one of us, in being part of a Church that is Catholic and Apostolic? First of all, it means taking to heart the salvation of the whole of humanity, not feeling indifferent or strangers in face of the fate of so many of our brothers, but open and in solidarity with them. Moreover, it means having the sense of the fullness, the completeness and the harmony of Christian life, rejecting always partial, unilateral positions that shut us in on ourselves.

To be part of the Apostolic Church means to be aware that our faith is anchored in the proclamation and witness of Jesus’ Apostles themselves and, therefore, always to feel sent, in communion with the successors of the Apostles, to proclaim, with a heart full of joy, Christ and His love for the whole of humanity.

And here I would like to remember the heroic lives of many, many missionaries that have left their homeland to go and preach the Gospel in other countries, in other continents. A Brazilian cardinal who worked in the Amazon once told me that when he goes to a place, to a city in the Amazonian area, he always goes to the cemetery to see the tombs of those missionaries, priests, brothers, sisters that have gone to preach the Gospel, apostles. And he thinks: all these could be canonized now, they who have left all to proclaim Jesus Christ.  Let us give thanks to the Lord because our Church has many missionaries, has had many missionaries, and needs yet more! We thank you Lord for this. Perhaps among many young people, boys and girls who are here, someone has the desire to become a missionary: go ahead! It’s a beautiful thing to bring the Gospel of Jesus. Be brave and courageous!

Let us ask the Lord now to renew in us the gift of His Spirit, so that every Christian community and every baptized person is an expression of Holy Mother Church, Catholic and Apostolic.

***

In words to Arabic speaking pilgrims, the Pope said: "The Church is catholic and apostolic because she opens her arms to all men; firmly and freely announces the Good News without coercion or duress; and calls all to faith in the Son of God made man, with love, with tenderness and patience! O children of the Holy Land, from where the light of the announcement went out to the ends of the earth, always be, despite the difficulties, courageous and joyful bearers of the message of salvation, of the truth and of blessing. The Lord bless you and protect you always.”

[Original Italian]

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Summary of Pope's General Audience, September 17th
"May we always live in solidarity with all of humanity, and never closed in on ourselves."

VATICAN CITY, September 17, 2014  - Here below is a summary of Pope Francis' catechesis, delivered today at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

***

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

When we profess the Creed, we affirm that the Church is catholic and apostolic.  The word catholic signifies that she is universal.  This means that the Church is found everywhere and teaches the whole truth regarding the heavens and the earth.  The Church shows her catholicity by speaking all languages which is the effect of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit gave to the Apostles and the whole Church the gift of proclaiming the Good News of God’s salvation and love to all, even to the ends of the earth.  The Church then is of her nature missionary, given to evangelization and encounter; that is, she is apostolic.  Founded on the Apostles and in continuity with them, the Church is called to proclaim the Gospel to everyone, and to show the tenderness and power of God.  This too flows from Pentecost.  It is the Holy Spirit who prevents us from being self-absorbed, of thinking that the blessings of God are for us alone.  Rather, the Spirit compels us to encounter our brothers and sisters, even those most distant from us in every way, to share with them the love, peace, and joy of the Risen Lord.  May we always live in solidarity with all of humanity, and never closed in on ourselves.  May we go out, in communion with the Successors of the Apostles, to announce Christ and his love to all.  And may we always be a sign of the Church our Mother: holy, catholic and apostolic.   

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Pope's General Audience Catechesis, Oct. 1
"In the Christian community we are in need of one another, and every gift received is acted fully when it is shared with brothers, for the good of all. This is the Church!"

VATICAN CITY, October 01, 2014  - Below is a translation of the Pope's address at this morning's General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning,

From the beginning, the Lord filled the Church with the gifts of His Spirit, thus rendering her always alive and fruitful. Distinguished among these gifts are some that are particularly precious for the building and journey of the Christian community: they are the charisms. In this catechesis, we want to ask ourselves: what, exactly, is a charism? How can we recognize it and receive it? And, above all, the fact that in the Church there is a diversity and multiplicity of charisms, is this seeing positively, as something good, or rather as a problem?

In ordinary language, when there is talk of a “charism,” it is often understood as a talent, as a natural ability. So, in face of a particularly brilliant and moving person, it is usually said: “He is a charismatic person.” In the Christian perspective, however, a charism is something more than a personal quality, a predisposition of which one might be gifted. A charism is a grace, a gift lavished by God the Father, through the action of the Holy Spirit. And it is a gift that is given to someone, not because he is better than others or because he merited it: it is a gift that God makes so that, with the same gratuitousness and the same love, he can put it at the service of the whole community, for the good of all.

Something important that must be stressed immediately is the fact that one cannot understand on one’s own if one has a charism, and which one. It is within the community that the gifts with which the Father fills us flow and flourish; and it is in the heart of the community that one learns to recognize them as a sign of His love for all His children. So, it is good that each one of us ask himself: “Is there some charism that the Lord has made arise in me, in the grace of His Spirit, and which my brothers in the Christian community have recognized and encouraged? And how do I conduct myself in regard to this gift: do I live it with generosity, putting at the service of all, or do I neglect it and end up by forgetting it? Perhaps it becomes in me a reason for pride, to the point of always lamenting others and of pretending that things be done my way in the community?”

The most beautiful experience, however, is to discover with how many different charisms and how many gifts of His Spirit the Father fills His Church! This must not be seen as a reason for confusion, for embarrassment: they are all gifts that God makes to the Christian community so that it can grow harmoniously in the faith and in His love, as one body, the Body of Christ. In face of this multiplicity of charisms, therefore, our heart must open to joy and we must think: “What a beautiful thing! So many different gifts, because we are all God’s children, and all loved in a unique way.” Woe, then, if these gifts become a reason for envy and division! As the Apostle Paul reminds us in his First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12, all charisms are important in God’s eyes and, at the same time, no one is irreplaceable. This means that in the Christian community we are in need of one another, and every gift received is acted fully when it is shared with brothers, for the good of all. This is the Church! And when the Church expresses herself in communion, in the variety of charisms, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith, which is given by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter in the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life.

Dear friends, see what the Lord asks of us today: to recognize with joy and gratitude the different charisms that He distributes in the community, to put ourselves on the line for one another, according to the ministries and services to which we are called. In this way, the Church grows with the grace of her Lord and becomes in all times and places a credible sign and living testimony of the love of God.

Summary of the Catechesis in English

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Church, we now turn to the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit which enliven and enrich the Body of Christ. Among these gifts are charisms, the graces which the Spirit freely bestows upon the faithful for the benefit of the whole community. These gifts, while granted to individuals, are discovered and acknowledged within the wider ecclesial community. As a sign of God’s superabundant love for his children, they are rich and varied, yet each is meant to serve the building up of the Church as a communion of faith and love. The very diversity of the Spirit’s gifts invites us to share them generously for the good of all, and never to let them become a source of division. Today let us ask the Lord to help us recognize with gratitude this great outpouring of spiritual gifts which enables the Church to persevere in faith, to grow in grace and to be an ever more credible sign and witness of God’s infinite love. In a particular way, may each of us consider the special gifts he or she has received, and how we choose to use those gifts to advance the Church’s unity, life and mission in the world.

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Pope's General Audience Catechesis, Oct. 8th
"The Lord asks us not to fix our look on what divides us, but rather on that which unites us, seeking to know and to love Jesus better and to share the richness of His love."

VATICAN CITY, October 08, 2014  - Here below is the full text of the Pope's weekly general audience catechesis for October 8th. 

***

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the last catecheses, we sought to bring to light the nature and beauty of the Church, and we asked ourselves what it entails for each one of us to be part of this people. We must not forget, however, that there are so many brothers who share with us faith in Christ, but who belong to other confessions and different traditions from ours. Many are resigned to this division, which in the course of history was often the cause of conflicts and sufferings. Even today relations are not always marked by respect and cordiality … And we, how do we address all this? Are we also resigned if not, in fact, indifferent? Or do we believe firmly that we can and must walk in the direction of reconciliation and full communion?

The divisions between Christians, while wounding the Church, wound Christ. The Church, in fact, is the Body of which Christ is the Head. We know well how much Jesus had at heart that His disciples remain united in His love. Suffice it to think of His words reported in the seventeenth chapter of John’s Gospel, the prayer addressed to His Father in the imminence of His Passion: “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11). This unity was already threatened while Jesus was still among His own: in the Gospel, in fact, we are reminded that the Apostles argued among themselves as to who was the greatest, the most important (cf. Luke 9:46). The Lord, however, insisted so much on unity in the Father’s name, making us understand that our proclamation and our witness will be that much more credible the more we are able to live in communion and to love one another. It is what His Apostles, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, then understood profoundly and took to heart, so much so that Saint Paul arrived at the point of imploring the community of Corinth with these words: “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

During her journey in history, the Church is tempted by the Evil One, who attempts to divide her and, unfortunately, she has been marked by grave and painful separations. They are divisions that sometimes have been protracted long in time, up to today, so that it is difficult at this point to reconstruct all the motivations and above all to find possible solutions. The reasons that have led to breaks and separations can be the most diverse: from divergences on dogmatic and moral principles and on different theological and pastoral concepts, to political motives of convenience, to clashes due to antipathies and personal ambitions. What is certain is that, in one way or another, behind theses lacerations are always pride and egoism, which are the cause of all disagreement and which render us intolerant, incapable of listening and of accepting that there is a vision or a position different from ours.

Now, in face of all this, is there something that each one of us, as members of Holy Mother Church, can and must do? Without a doubt, prayer must not be lacking, in continuity and in communion with that of Jesus. And, together with prayer, the Lord asks us for renewed openness: He asks us not to close ourselves to dialogue and to encounter, but to take up everything that is valid and positive that is offered to us also from one who thinks differently from us or holds different positions. He asks us not to fix our look on what divides us, but rather on that which unites us, seeking to know and to love Jesus better and to share the richness of His love. And this entails concretely adherence to truth, together with the capacity to forgive one another, to feel ourselves part of the same family, to consider ourselves a gift to one another and to do many good things together, many works of charity.

Dear friends, let us go forward now towards full unity! History has separated us, but we are on the way towards reconciliation and communion! And when the goal might seem too distant, almost unreachable, and we feel prey to discouragement, let us be encouraged by the idea that God cannot close His ear to the voice of His Son Jesus and to hear His and our prayer, that all Christians be truly one.

Speaker:

         I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including the various groups from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Slovenia, Norway, Finland, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and the United States of America.  In a particular way, my greeting goes to the ecumenical and interreligious delegation from Taiwan and the group from the Institutum Romanum Finlandiae.  Upon you and your families, I invoke joy and peace in the Lord Jesus.  God bless you all!

* * *

I give a cordial greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, in particular, to the Pallotine religious; to the students of the Saint Peter Apostle College; to the faithful of the communities that have Saint Vitus Martyr as patron and to the young people of the Schoenstatt Movement, on the centenary of the foundation, who are leaving for Koblenz. I greet the National Association of the Third Age Universities; that of the civilian victims of war, as well as the promoters of the European Day for the Donation of Organs and I hope that with this peculiar way of witnessing love of neighbour, the certainty of the death of the donor is safeguarded and abuses, traffic and buying and selling are avoided.

Finally, a special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. The month of October is dedicated to the prayer of the Rosary. Dear young people, always invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that she illumine you in every need; dear sick, especially you of the Care and Rehabilitation Cooperative, may the comfort of the Marian prayer be present daily in your life; and you, dear newlyweds, strengthen with prayer your conjugal bond.

Summary of Pope's General Audience Catechesis, October 8th
"In loving the Lord and sharing the riches of his love, we will better see what unites us rather than what separates us."

VATICAN CITY, October 08, 2014  - Here below is a summary of Pope Francis' general audience catechesis for Oct. 8th. 

***

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

In our catechesis on the Church, we now consider our fellow Christians who belong to other confessions or traditions.  Divisions between Christ’s followers are clearly contrary to his will, as expressed in his prayer to the Father that all might be one, so that the world might believe (cf. Jn 17:21).  Christ desires us to be united in his love and in communion with one another; yet throughout history the Church has experienced temptations against this unity, leading to tragic divisions.  We must not be resigned to these divisions, but must join our prayer to that of Jesus in imploring among all his followers constant openness to dialogue and appreciation of the gifts of others.  In loving the Lord and sharing the riches of his love, we will better see what unites us rather than what separates us.  By dwelling in the truth, and practicing forgiveness and charity, we will be ever more conformed to Christ’s will, reconciled with one another, and led closer to the goal of full unity which he wills for all his disciples.

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Pope's General Audience Catechesis, Oct. 15th
"Christian hope is not simply a desire, a wish: for a Christian, hope is expectation, fervent, passionate expectation for the final and definitive fulfilment of a mystery, the mystery of Gods love."

VATICAN CITY, October 15, 2014  - Here below is the full text of Pope Francis' weekly general audience, given today in St. Peter's Square. 

***

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we want to ask ourselves: in the end, what will the People of God be? What will become of each one of us? What must we expect? The Apostle Paul encouraged the Christians of the community of Thessalonica, who asked themselves these same questions, and he concluded: “”And so we shall always be with the Lord!” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

It is emblematic in the Book of Revelation how John, taking up the intuition of the prophets, described the last, definitive dimension in terms of the “new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared a s a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). See what we await! And see, now, who the Church is: she is the People of God that follows the Lord Jesus and which prepares herself, day after day for the encounter with Him, as a bride with her husband. And it is not just a way of speaking: they will be true and proper nuptials! Yes, because Christ, becoming man like us and making us all one with Him, with his Death and His Resurrection has truly wedded us and has made us his Bride. And this is nothing other than the fulfilment of the design of communion and love woven by God in the course of the whole of history.

There is another element, however, which comforts us ultimately and which opens our heart: John tells us that in the Church, Bride of Christ, the “new Jerusalem” is rendered visible. This means that the Church, in addition to being Bride, is called to become a City, symbol par excellence of human coexistence and relationship. How lovely, then, it is to be able to contemplate already, according to another much more thought-provoking image of Revelation, all peoples and all nations gathered together in this city, as in a dwelling, “the dwelling of God” (cf. Revelation 21:3)! And in this glorious framework, there will no longer be isolation, prevarications and distinctions of any sort – of a social, ethnic or religious nature – but we shall all be one in Christ.

In the presence of this unheard of and wonderful scenario, our hearts cannot but feel confirmed strongly in hope. See, Christian hope is not simply a desire, a wish: for a Christian, hope is expectation, fervent, passionate expectation for the final and definitive fulfilment of a mystery, the mystery of God’s love, in which we are reborn and in which we already live. And it is the expectation of someone who is about to arrive: it is Christ the Lord who makes Himself ever closer to us, day after day, and who comes to introduce us finally into the fullness of His communion and of His peace. The Church now has the task to keep alight and well visible the lamp of hope, so that it can continue to shine as the sure sign of salvation and be able to illumine, for the whole of humanity, the path that leads to the encounter with the merciful face of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, see then what we expect: Jesus’ return! The Church-Bride awaits her spouse! We must ask ourselves, however, with much sincerity: are we truly luminous and credible witnesses of this hope? Do our communities still live in the sign of hope of the Lord Jesus and in the warm expectation of His coming, or do they seem tired, sluggish, under the weight of toil and resignation? Do we also run the risk of exhausting the oil of faith, of joy? Let us be careful!

We invoke the Virgin Mary, Mother of hope and Queen of Heaven, to keep us always in an attitude of listening and of expectation, so that already now we can be permeated with the love of Christ and take part one day in the joy without end, in full communion with God.

* * *

Summary

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Church, we now consider the object of our Christian hope, the fulfilment of God’s promises in the coming of Christ at the end of time. Saint John speaks of this joyful encounter between the Lord and his people using the image of “the new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, prepared as a bride adorned to meet her husband” (cf. Rev 21:2). This spousal imagery contains a profound truth: by taking on our flesh, Jesus united humanity to himself, and at his coming we will see the consummation of this mystic marriage in the wedding feast of heaven. The vision of the new Jerusalem also reminds us that the Church is meant in God’s plan to be a City in which all men and women live at last in harmony and blessed peace. Christian hope, then, is our joyful expectation of the Lord’s coming and the fulfilment of his saving plan for the human family. In every generation the Church holds high the lamp of this hope before the world. Today let us ask whether our lamps are alight with the oil of faith, and to what extent we live as credible and joy-filled witnesses to our hope in God’s promises.

Comments to English-Speaking Pilgrims

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including the various groups from England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Ghana, India, Japan, Thailand, Australia and the United States of America. In a particular way, my greeting goes to the Irish National Pilgrimage commemorating the fourteenth centenary of the death of Saint Columban. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke joy and peace in the Lord Jesus. God bless you all!

* * *

Comments to Italian-Speaking Pilgrims 

A cordial welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the participants in the 4thCongress of the Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation, which will take place in Medellin, exhorting them to study courses that build peace and promote the dignity of the human person. I greet the students of the Caboto Institute, on the anniversary of its foundation, accompanied by the Archbishop of Gaeta, Monsignor Fabio D’Onorio; the Union of the Pro loco of Italy; the Italian Surgery Society; the FIRMO Foundation of Florence. In addition, I greet the “Social Centers – Elderly Committees” of Bologna, that of the “wives of Italian doctors” and “Parents Always,” as well as the participants in the International Festival of the Circus of Latina. May the visit to the tombs of the Apostles foster in all growth in faith and more intense service in favour of the weakest, sick, elderly and defenceless persons.

Finally, a special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. We continue to invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary on the Synod of the Family. Dear young people, especially you of the Cicero, Saint Nilus and Saint Joseph Institute al Trionfale, always thank the Lord for the gift of the family; dear sick, unite the offering of your suffering to the intention of prayer for peace in families; and you, dear newlyweds, found your conjugal home on the rock of the Word of God.

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General Audience: On the Body of Christ
"War does not begin in the field of battle. Wars begin in the heart of these misunderstandings, divisions, jealousies with this struggle with others."

VATICAN CITY, October 22, 2014  - Here is a translation of the Holy Father's address during his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square:

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Dear brothers and sisters, Good Morning.

The image of the body is used when one wants to show how the elements that make up a reality are closely united with one another and form together one thing. Starting from the apostle Paul, this expression is applied to the Church and is recognized as his most profound and beautiful distinctive trait. Today, we wish to ask ourselves: in what sense does the Church form the body? And why is it defined as “the body of Christ”?

In the Book of Ezechiel, there is a peculiar vision that is described, impressive, but capable of instilling confidence and hope in our hearts. God shows the prophet a valley of bones, detached from each other and dry. A desolate scenario. Imagine, an entire hill full of bones. God asks him, then, to invoke the Spirit upon them. At that moment, the bones begin to draw closer and unite, first the nerves grow on them and then the flesh and thus the body is formed, complete and full of life. (Ez. 37, 1-14). This is the Church! I  recommend, today when you are home, to read Ezechiel, Chapter 27. Do not forget! It is beautiful. It is a masterpiece, a masterpiece of the Spirit, in which the new life of the Risen One is infused and puts one next to the other, one at the service and support of the other, thus making us all one body, built in communion and love.

The Church, however, is not only a body built in the Spirit: the Church is the body of Christ! And it is not simply a way of saying: we truly are! It is the great gift that we receive on the day of our Baptism! In the Sacrament of Baptism, in fact, Christ makes us His, welcoming us into the heart of the mystery of the Cross, the supreme mystery of his love for us, to make us rise again with Him, as new creatures. Behold: that is how the Church is born, that is how the Church is recognized as the body of Christ. Baptism constitutes a true rebirth, that regenerates us in Christ, making us a part of Him, and unites us intimately among us, as members of the same body, of which He is the head. (cfr Rom. 12,5; 1 Cor 12, 12-13).

That which emerges, then, is a profound communion of love. In this sense, it is enlightening how Paul, exhorting husbands to “love their wives as their own body”, he states: “As Christ also does with the Church, because we are members of his body.” (Eph. 5, 28-30). It would be beautiful if we remembered more often what we are, of what the Lord Jesus has made of us: we are His Body, that Body that nothing and no one can ever tear us from and that he covers all with his passion and His love, just like a husband with his wife. This thought, however, should arise in us the desire to respond to the Lord and to share his love among us, as living members of his body. In the time of Paul, the community of Corinth found many difficulties in that sense, living, as we too often, the experience of division, of jealousies, of misunderstandings and marginalizations.

All these things are not good because, instead of building and making the Church grow as the body of Christ, it shatters into many pieces, it dismembers it.

And even this happens in our days. Think about the Christian communities, the parishes, think about our neighbourhoods. How many divisions, how many jealousies, talking behind one’s back, how many misunderstandings and marginalizations!

And what does this do? It dismembers us! It is the start of war. War does not begin in the field of battle. Wars begin in the heart of these misunderstandings, divisions, jealousies with this struggle with others. And this community of Corinth were like this. They were experts!

And so the Apostle gave the Corinthians some concrete advice that applies to us: do not be jealous, but appreciate in our communities the gifts and qualities of our brothers and sisters;

Jealousies...I look at that one who bought a new car and I start to feel jealous. That one won the lottery, another jealousy. And that one does something well, yet another jealousy. This dismembers, it hurts us! You shouldn’t do it! Because jealousies grow and fill the heart. A jealous heart, is a bitter heart, a heart that instead of blood looks like its full of vinegar. It is heart that is never happy. It is a heart that dismembers the community.

But what should we do? Appreciate in our community the gifts, the qualities of others, of our brothers and sisters. But when we are jealous, because it comes to all, we are all sinners. When you become jealous, say “Thank you Lord because you gave this to that person.”

Appreciate the qualities; be close and participate in the sufferings of the last ones and of those most needy; expresses your gratitude to all.

Say thank you! The heart that knows how to say thank you is a good heart, a noble heart, a heart that is happy. Know how to say thank you. I ask myself: all of us, do we always know to say thank you? Not always, eh! Because envy, jealousy...it stops us a bit.

And lastly, this is a word of advice that the apostle Paul gives to the Corinthians and we should give to ourselves: do not esteem anyone as superior to the other.

How many people feel they are superior to others! Even we many times say like the Pharisee in the parable: “I thank you Lord because I am not like that one, I am superior.” This is aweful! Don’t ever do it! And when this thought comes to you, remember your sins, those that no one knows about, humble yourself before God and say, “You Lord, you know know who is superior. I will close my mouth.” This does us well.

And always in charity consider yourselves members one to another, that you may live and give to the benefit of all (cfr 1 Cor 12-14).

Dear brothers and sister, like the prophet Ezechiel and like the apostle Paul, let us also invoke the Holy Spirit, so that His grace and the abundance of His gifts help us to live always as the body of Christ, united! As a family, like the body of Christ and as a visible and beautiful sign of the love of Christ.

Thank you.

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Church, we now consider what it means to say, with Saint Paul, that the Church is “the Body of Christ”. Just as our body is one, but made up of many members, so it is with Christ and the Church. The vision of Prophet Ezechiel, in which God’s Spirit gives flesh and life to a field of dry bones, is a foreshadowing of the Church, filled with the Spirit’s gift of new life in Christ and united in fellowship and love.

Through Baptism we are made one with Christ in the mystery of his death and resurrection; all of us become sharers in the Holy Spirit and members of a mystical body of which the Risen Christ is the head. Paul uses the image of marital love to illustrate this great mystery: just as a husband and wife are one flesh, so it is with Christ and the Church. As members of the one body, we are called to live in unity, overcoming every temptation to discord and division. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, may we work to build up Christ’s Body in love by accepting with gratitude his many gifts, valuing those gifts in others and always showing generous concern for our brothers and sisters in need.

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Pope's General Audience Catechesis, Oct. 29
"The reality of the visible Church goes beyond our control, beyond our strength, and it is a mysterious reality because it comes from God."

VATICAN CITY, October 29, 2014  - Here below is a translation of Pope Francis' weekly general audience catechesis, Oct. 29.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the previous catechesis we highlighted how the Church is spiritual in nature: it is the Body of Christ, built in the Holy Spirit. When we refer to the Church, however, our thoughts turn immediately to our communities, our parishes, our diocese, to the structures in which we usually gather together and, of course, of the component and institutional figures which guide and govern it. This is the visible reality of the Church. We must ask, then: Are they two different things or the One Church? And, if it is the One Church, how can we understand the relationship between its visible and spiritual reality?

1. First, when we speak of the visible reality of the Church we said there are two - the visible reality which we see and the spiritual one -  we must not think only of the Pope, Bishops, priests and consecrated persons. The visible reality of the Church is made up of the many baptized brothers and sisters around the world who believe, hope and love. [Moving from the prepared text] “Often, we hear people say: the Church doesn’t do this …the Church doesn’t do that!’ ‘Tell me who is the Church? – ‘Well the Church is the priests, the bishops, the Pope …’ We are all the Church! All of us all of us Baptized! We are the Church, the Church of Jesus’”.

Of all those who follow the Lord Jesus and, in His name, are close to the poor and the suffering, trying to offer some relief, comfort and peace. [Moving from the prepared text ] “All of those who do these things, which the Lord sent us to do are the Church”.  Thus we understand that the visible reality of the Church cannot be measured, it cannot be known in all its fullness: how can one know of all the good that is done? [Moving from the prepared text ] “So many acts of love, so much faithfulness in families, so much work in educating children, to carry on, to transmit the faith, so much suffering in the sick who offer their suffering to the Lord.  We cannot measure this! It is so great, so great!” How can one know of all the wonderful things that, through us, Christ is able to operate in the hearts and lives of each person? You see: the reality of the visible Church goes beyond our control, beyond our strength, and it is a mysterious reality because it comes from God.

2. To understand the relationship, in the Church, between her visible and spiritual reality, there is no other way but to look to Christ, whose Body is the Church and from which the Church is generated, in an act of infinite love. Even in Christ, in fact, through the mystery of the Incarnation, we recognize a human nature and a divine nature, united in the same person in a wonderful and indissoluble way. This applies in a similar manner to the Church. Just as in Christ, human nature serves the divine in accordance with the fulfillment of Salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible reality serve the spiritual reality of the Church. The Church, therefore, is also a mystery, in which what is not seen is more important than what is seen, and can only be recognized with the eyes of faith (cf. Const. Dogmatic Constitution. On the Church Lumen Gentium, 8).

3. In the case of the Church, however, we must ask ourselves: How can the visible reality can be at the service of the spiritual? Again, we can understand it by looking to Christ. [Moving from the prepared text ] “But Christ is the model and the Church is His Body, He is the model for all Christians, all of us! Look to Christ, you can’t go wrong!”. The Gospel of Luke tells how Jesus came to Nazareth, where he grew up, went into the synagogue and read, referring to himself, the passage from the prophet Isaiah where it is written:"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free "(4,18-19). Look, how Christ used his humanity – because he was also a man -  to announce and carry out God's plan of Redemption and Salvation, so it must be for the Church. Through its visible reality – everything we see - the Sacraments and testimony of all of us Christians - it is called every day to draw closer to every person, starting with the poor, those who suffer and those who are marginalized, in order to continue to help all feel the compassionate and merciful gaze of Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, often as a Church we experience our fragility and our limitations, all of us, we all have them.  We are all sinners, no one can say I am not a sinner. And this fragility, these limitations, these our sins, it is right that these should provoke in us a profound displeasure, especially when we give bad example and we realize we are becoming a source of scandal. How often have we heard, in our neighborhoods: “That person there is always in Church but gossips about everyone, denigrates others – what a bad example! This is not Christian! This is a bad example.  So people say: ‘If this is a Christian, I prefer to be an atheist! Because people go by our witness”.

Then, let us ask for the gift of faith, so that we can understand how, despite our smallness and our poverty, the Lord has really made us means of grace and a visible sign of His love for all mankind. Yes, we can become a source of scandal but we can also be a source of hope through our lives our witness, just as Jesus wants! Thank you.

Below is the English language summary of the catechesis.

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In our catechesis on the Church, we have seen that the Church is a spiritual reality, the mystical Body of Christ. Yet we know that the Church is also a visible reality, expressed in our parishes and communities, and in her institutional structures. This visible reality is itself mysterious, for it embraces the countless and often hidden works of charity carried out by believers throughout the world. To understand the relationship between the visible and the spiritual dimensions of Christ’s Body, the Church, we need to look to Jesus himself, both God and man. Just as Christ’s humanity serves his divine mission of salvation, so too, with the eyes of faith, we can understand how the Church’s visible dimension is at the service of her deepest spiritual reality. Through her sacraments and her witness to Christ in our world, the Church seeks to proclaim and bring God’s merciful love to all, particularly the poor and those in need. Let us ask the Lord to enable us to grow in holiness and to be an ever more visible sign of his love for all mankind.

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Pope's General Audience Catechesis, Nov. 5th
"The Bishop is not an honorary role. It is a service!"

VATICAN CITY, November 05, 2014  - Here below is a translation of Pope Francis' weekly general audience catechesis given today in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

We heard what the Apostle Paul says to the Bishop, Titus, how many virtues we bishops must have, we all heard, no? And it’s not easy, it’s not easy because we are sinners. But we entrust ourselves to your prayers so that we can at least hope to be closer to the things that the Apostle Paul advises for all Bishops.  Do you agree? Will you pray for us?

In previous catecheses, we were already able to underline how the Holy Spirit always fills the Church abundantly with His gifts. Now, in the power and grace of His Spirit, Christ does not fail to give rise to ministries, in order to build Christian communities as His Body. Distinguished among these ministries is the episcopal. In the Bishop, helped by the Presbyters and Deacons, is Christ Himself who renders Himself present and who continues to take care of His Church, ensuring her protection and guidance.

In the presence and ministry of the Bishops, of Presbyters and of Deacons we can recognize the true face of the Church: it is the Hierarchical Holy Mother Church. And truly, through these brothers chosen by the Lord and consecrated with the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the Church exercises her maternity: she generates us in Baptism as Christians, making us reborn in Christ; she watches over our growth in the faith; she supports us between the Father’s arms, to receive His forgiveness, she prepares for us the Eucharistic table, where she nourishes us with the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Jesus; she invokes upon us God’s blessing and the strength of His Spirit, sustaining us throughout the course of our life and enveloping us with His tenderness and warmth, especially in the most difficult moments of trial, of suffering and of death.

This maternity of the Church is expressed in particular in the person of the Bishop and in his ministry. In fact, as Jesus chose the Apostles and sent them to proclaim the Gospel and to feed His flock, so the Bishops, their successors, are placed at the head of the Christian communities, as guarantors of their faith and as a living sign of the Lord’s presence in our midst.

Therefore, we must understand that it is not about having a position of prestige, an honorific charge. The Bishop is not an honorary role. It is a service!  Jesus wanted it this way.  There must be no place in the Church for a worldly mentality. A worldly mentality speaks of a man who has an ‘ecclesiastical career and has become a bishop’. There should be no place for such a mentality in the Church. The Episcopate is a service, it is not a position of honor, to boast about. To be Bishops means to have always before our eyes the example of Jesus who, as Good Shepherd, came not to be served but to serve (cf. Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45) and to give His life for his sheep (cf. Jn. 10:11). Holy Bishops – and there are so many in the history of the Church – show us that this ministry is not sought, it is not requested, it cannot be bought but it is received in obedience, not to elevate oneself, but to lower oneself, as Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). It is sad when we see a man who seeks this office and does so many things to get it and when he gets it does not serve, instead goes around like a peacock and lives only for his vanity.

There is another precious element, which merits being put in evidence. When Jesus chose and called the Apostles, He thought of them not separated from one another, each one on his own, but together, so that they would be with Him, united, as one family. The Bishops also constitute one College, gathered around the Pope, who is custodian and guarantor of this profound communion, which Jesus and His Apostles themselves had so much at heart. How beautiful it is, therefore, when the Bishops, with the Pope, express this collegiality! And try to become more, more, and more the servants of the faithful, the servants of the Church! We experienced it recently in the Assembly of the Synod on the Family. However, we think of all the Bishops scattered around the world who, though living in different localities, cultures, sensibilities and traditions - One bishop the other day told me that to come to Rome it took a flight of 30 hours - far away from one another, feel themselves part of one another and become expression of the profound bond in Christ between their communities. And, in the common ecclesial prayer, all Bishops place themselves together in listening to the Lord and the Spirit, thus being able to give profound attention to man and to the signs of the times (cf. Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 4).

Dear friends, all this makes us understand why Christian communities recognize in the Bishop a great gift, and they are called to nourish a sincere and profound communion with him, beginning with the Presbyters and the Deacons. There is no healthy Church if the faithful, the priests, deacons are not united around their bishop.  The Church that is not united around their bishop is a sick Church. Jesus wanted this union, of all faithful with the Bishop.  As well as the priests and deacons too.  And this in the awareness that it is precisely in the Bishop that the bond is rendered visible of each Church with the Apostles and with all the other communities, united with their Bishops and the Pope in the one Church of the Lord Jesus, which is our Hierarchic Holy Mother Church.

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In our catechesis on the Church, we have seen that the Holy Spirit constantly bestows his gifts for the upbuilding of the Body of Christ. Among these gifts are the ordained ministries. Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, bishops, priests and deacons are called to guide and protect Christ’s flock, above all though the celebration of the sacraments which give us new life in Christ. The Church is thus both hierarchical and maternal: her ordained ministries are at the service of her spiritual motherhood. This is especially clear in the case of bishops, who are called to lead the Christian community as living signs of the Lord’s presence in our midst. Like the Apostles whose successors they are, the Bishops form on college in communion with the Pope. This collegiality is seen not only in special assemblies like the recent Synod but also in the daily communion of Bishops throughout the world. Let us ask the Lord to draw us nearer to himself and to one another through the ministry of our bishops, priests and deacons, in the unity of “our Holy Mother the Hierarchical Church”.

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Pope's General Audience Catechesis, Nov. 12th
"We must always be grateful to the Lord, because in the person and the ministry of bishops, priests and deacons He continues to guide and to form His Church."

VATICAN CITY, November 12, 2014 - Here is a translation of Pope Francis' address this morning during the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the previous catechesis we saw how the Lord continues to feed His flock through the ministry of Bishops, helped by presbyters and deacons. It is in them that Jesus renders Himself present, in the power of His Spirit, and continues to serve the Church, nourishing in her faith, hope and the witness of charity. Therefore, these ministries are a great gift of the Lord for every Christian community and for the whole Church, in as much as they are a living sign of His presence and His love.

Today we want to ask ourselves: What is requested of these ministers of the Church, so that they can live their service in a genuine and fruitful way?

In his “Pastoral Letters,” sent to his disciples Timothy and Titus, the Apostle Paul reflects with care on the figure of Bishops, presbyters and deacons. There is also the figure of the faithful, of the elderly, of the youth. He focuses on a description of every Christian in the Church. He underlines for the Bishops, priests and deacons that to which they are called, and the prerogatives that must be recognized in them, who are chosen and invested with these ministries. Now, it is emblematic how, together with the gifts inherent in the faith and in the spiritual life, that can’t be overlooked in that very life, some exquisitely human qualities are listed: hospitality, sobriety, patience, meekness, reliability and goodness of heart. I repeat:hospitality, sobriety, patience, meekness, reliability and goodness of heart. This is the alphabet, the basic grammar of every ministry! It should be the basic grammar of every Bishop, of every priest and of every deacon! Yes, because without this good and genuine predisposition to encounter, to know, to dialogue, to appreciate and relate with ones brethren in a respectful and sincere way, it is not possible to offer a truly joyous and reliable service and witness.    

There is, therefore, an underlying attitude that Paul recommends to his disciples and, consequently, to all those who are invested with the pastoral ministry, be they Bishops, priests or deacons. The Apostle exhorts to revive continually the gift that was received (cf. 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). This means that the awareness must always be alive that one is not a Bishop, priest or deacon because one is more intelligent, good and better than others, but only because of a gift of love, a gift of God freely given, in the power of His Spirit, for the good of His people. This awareness is truly important and is a grace to pray for every day! In fact, a Pastor who is conscious that his ministry flows only from the mercy and heart of God will never be able to assume an authoritarian attitude, as if everyone was at his feet and the community was his property, his personal kingdom.

The awareness that everything is gift, everything is grace, also helps a Pastor not to fall into the temptation to put himself at the center of attention and to be confident only in himself. They are the temptations of vanity, of pride, of sufficiency, of arrogance. Woe if a Bishop, a priest or a deacon thinks he knows everything, that he always has the right answer for everything, and is in need of no one. On the contrary, the awareness that he is first of all the object of the mercy and compassion of God should lead a minister of the Church to be always humble and understanding in dealing with others. Also, in the awareness of being called to protect courageously the deposit of faith (cf. 1 Timothy 6:20), he will listen to the people. He is conscious, in fact, of always having something to learn, also of those who can still be far from the faith and from the Church. With his own fellow Bishops, priests and deacons, all this should lead him to assume a new attitude, marked by sharing, co-responsibility and communion.

Dear friends, we must always be grateful to the Lord, because in the person and the ministry of Bishops, priests and deacons He continues to guide and to form His Church, making her grow along the way of holiness. At the same time, we must continue to pray, so that the Pastors of our communities can be a living image of communion and love of God.

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Church, we have seen that the Lord continues to shepherd his flock with love through the ordained ministry of bishops, priests and deacons. Today we consider the qualities demanded of these ministers in their service to Christ and the Church. In addition to the essential gifts of firm faith and holiness, Saint Paul lists such  human qualities as kindness, gentleness, patience, prudence and attentive concern for others.

These gifts too are required for the exercise of spiritual leadership. In a special way, Paul urges the Church’s ordained ministers to rekindle constantly the gift of God which they have received.

For it is only by acknowledging that their ministry is an unmerited gift of God’s mercy that bishops, priests and deacons can serve their brothers and sisters with humility, generosity, wisdom and compassion, and thus build up the Church’s communion in faith and love. Let us thank the Lord for the gift of this threefold ministry in the Church, and pray that our ordained ministers may always be sustained in their efforts to be living icons of the Father’s loving concern for all his children.

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Pope's General Audience Catechesis, Nov. 19th
"To be holy, it is not necessary to be Bishops, priests or religious. We are all called to become saints!"

VATICAN CITY, November 19, 2014  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A great gift of the Second Vatican Council was that of recovering a vision of the Church founded on communion, and regaining also the principle of authority and of hierarchy in this perspective. This has helped us to understand better that all Christians, in as much as baptized, have the same dignity before the Lord and share the same vocation, which is that to holiness (cf. Constitution Lumen Gentium, 39-42). Now we ask ourselves: what does this universal vocation to be Saints consist of? And how can we achieve it?

First of all we must keep very present that holiness is not something that we procure for ourselves; that we obtain with our qualities and our capacities. Holiness is a gift, it is a gift that the Lord Jesus gives us, when He takes us to Himself, clothes us with Himself, and renders us like Himself. In the Letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul affirms that “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her” (Ephesians 5:25-26). There, holiness is truly the most beautiful face of the Church: it is to rediscover oneself in communion with God, in the fullness of His life and of His love. One understands, then, that holiness is not only the prerogative of some: holiness is a gift that is offered to all; no one is excluded, it is what constitutes the distinctive character of every Christian.

All this makes us understand that, to be holy, it is not necessary to be Bishops, priests or religious … We are all called to become saints! Very often, however, we are tempted to think that holiness is reserved only to those who have the possibility to detach themselves from ordinary tasks, to dedicate themselves exclusively to prayer. But it is not so! Some people think that holiness is closing your eyes and putting on a pious face... No! That is not holiness! Holiness is something greater, more profound that God gives us. In fact, it is precisely by living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to become Saints – and each one in the conditions and in the state in which he finds himself. Are you consecrated? Be holy  by living with joy your donation and your ministry. Are you married? Be holy by loving and taking care of your husband or your wife, as Christ did with the Church. Are you an unmarried baptized person? Be holy by doing your work with honesty and competence and offering time to the service of brothers.  "But, father, I work in a factory ... I work as an accountant, always with the numbers, I cannot be a saint there..." - "Yes, you can! There, where you work you can become a saint.

God gives you the grace to become a saint. God communicates with you." Always and everywhere you can become a saint, that is, by being receptive to the grace that is working in us and leads us to holiness. Are you a parent or a grandparent? Be holy by passionately teaching your children or your grandchildren to know and to follow Jesus. And this takes a lot of patience, to be a good parent, a good grandfather, a good mother, a good grandmother, it takes a lot of patience and this patience is the holiness exercising patience.  Are you a catechist, educator or volunteer? Be a Saint by becoming a visible sign of the love of God and of His presence at our side. This is it: every state of life leads to holiness, always!  At home, on the streets, at work, at church, in the moment and with the state of life that you have, a door is opened on the road to sainthood. Do not be discouraged to travel this road. God gives you the grace to do so. And this is all that the Lord asks, is that we are in communion with Him and serve others. If lived in communion with the Lord and in the service of others.

At this point, each of us can examine our conscience, we can do it now, everyone answering for himself, inside, in silence: So far how have we responded to God's call to holiness? But do I want to improve, to be a better Christian? This is the path to holiness. When the Lord calls us to be saints, he does not call us to something hard or sad... Not at all! It is an invitation to share His joy, to live and offer every moment of our lives with joy, at the same time making it a gift of love for the people around us. If we understand this, everything changes and takes on a new meaning, a beautiful meaning, to begin with the little everyday things. An example. A lady goes to the market to shop and meets another neighbor and starts talking and then comes the gossip and this lady says, "No, no, no I will not gossip about anyone." That's one step towards holiness, this helps you to become more holy. Then, at home, your son asks you to talk to him about his fantasies: "Oh, I'm so tired, I worked so hard today..." - "But sit down and listen to your son, he needs this." And you sit, you listen with patience... This is a step towards holiness. Then at end the day, we are all tired, but prayer... We must pray! That's one way to holiness. Then Sunday comes and you go to Mass and to take Communion, at times, a good confession that cleans us up a little. This is a step towards holiness. Then, Our Lady, so good, so beautiful, I take up the Rosary and pray. This is a step towards holiness. And so many steps towards holiness, little ones... Then I go down the street, I see a poor person, someone in need, I ask him, give him something, another step towards holiness. Small things are small steps toward holiness. And every step towards holiness will make us better people, free from selfishness and being closed in on ourselves, and open us up to our brothers and sisters and their needs.

Dear friends, in the First Letter of Saint Peter, this exhortation is addressed to us: “As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies, in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (4:10-11). See the invitation to holiness! Let us receive it with joy, and support one another, because the path to holiness is not traveled on one’s own, each one on his own account, but it is traveled together, in the one Body that is the Church, loved and rendered holy by the Lord Jesus.

APPEAL

On Friday, November 21, liturgical Memoria of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we will celebrate the Day pro Orantibus, dedicated to cloistered religious communities. It is an opportune occasion to thank the Lord for the gift of so many persons that, in monasteries and hermitages, dedicate themselves to God in prayer and in onerous silence, acknowledging in Him that primacy that belongs only to Him. We thank the Lord for the testimonies of cloistered life; may we not fail to give them our spiritual and material support, to carry out out such an important mission

APPEAL FOR PEACE IN JERUSALEM

I am following with concern the alarming increase in tension in Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land, with unacceptable episodes of violence that do not spare even the places of worship.  I assure a special prayer for all the victims of this dramatic situation and for those who suffer most as a result. From the bottom of my heart, I make an appeal to the parties involved to put an end to the spiral of hatred and violence and to make courageous decisions for reconciliation and peace. Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a torment!

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  

In our catechesis on the Church, we now consider the universal call to holiness.  Thanks to Baptism, each member of the Church shares in this vocation; every one of us is called to be a saint.  Holiness is first and foremost God’s gift, and not our own achievement.  Christ loved the Church, Saint Paul tells, and gave himself up for her, to make her holy (cf. Eph 5:26).  In the communion of the Church, each of us has been sanctified by the grace of Baptism and is called to grow in this holiness.  Whatever our state of life, we are called to live our daily lives and to fulfill our various responsibilities in prayerful union with the Lord and our brothers and sisters.  Today let us ask ourselves how well we have responded to this call.  By asking us to become holy in our daily lives, Christ is inviting us to experience in all things his own deep joy and to become a gift of love to all around us.  Growing in holiness thus means becoming better persons, free of selfishness and self-absorption, and ever ready to place ourselves at the service of our brothers and sisters in the Church as “good stewards of God’s manifold grace” (1 Pet 4:10).

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On the Church's Journey Towards Heaven
"The Second Vatican Council reminded us that the Church is not an end in herself, but that she is continually journeying through history to the kingdom of heaven, of which the Church on earth is the seed and beginning."

VATICAN CITY, November 26, 2014  - Here is the translation of Pope Francis’ catechesis during today’s General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning.

The day is not very nice, but you are courageous, congratulations! We hope to pray together today.

In presenting the Church to the men of our time, Vatican Council II was very conscious of a fundamental truth, which must never be forgotten: the Church is not a static, still reality, an end in herself, but is continually journeying in history towards the ultimate and wonderful end which is the Kingdom of Heaven, of which the Church on earth is the seed and the beginning (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 5). When we turn to this horizon, we notice that our imagination is arrested, revealing itself just capable of intuiting the splendor of the mystery that surpasses our senses. And some questions arise spontaneously in us: when will this final passage happen? What will the new dimension be like, which the Church will enter? What, then, will happen to humanity and to the creation that surrounds it? But these questions are not new; they were already asked by the disciples to Christ at that time: “But when will this happen? When will be the triumph of the Spirit over creation, over the created, over everything …” These are old, human questions. We also ask these questions.

In front of these questions, which always resound in man’s heart, the conciliar Constitution Gaudium et Spes states: “We do not know the time for the consummation of the earth and of humanity, nor do we know how all things will be transformed. As deformed by sin, the shape of this world will pass away; but we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide, and whose blessedness will answer and surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart.” (n. 39). Behold the end to which the Church tends: as the Bible says, it is the “new Jerusalem,” “Paradise.” More than a place, it is about a “state” of mind in which our most profound expectations will be fulfilled overabundantly and our being, as creatures and children of God, will reach full maturity. We will finally be clothed with joy, with peace and with the love of God in a complete way, no longer with any limit, and we will be face to face with Him! (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12). It is beautiful to think this, to think of Heaven. All of us find ourselves down here, all of us. It is beautiful; it gives strength to the soul.

In this perspective, it is beautiful to perceive how there is an underlying continuity and communion between the Church that is in Heaven, and the Church that is still journeying on earth. In fact, those who already live in the presence of God can assist and intercede for us, they can pray for us. On the other hand, we are also always sent to offer good works, prayers and the Eucharist itself to alleviate the tribulation of souls that are still awaiting blessedness without end. Yes, because in the Christian perspective the distinction is no longer between one who is already dead and one who is not dead yet, but between who is in Christ and who is not! This is the determining element, which is truly decisive for our salvation and for our happiness.

At the same time, Sacred Scripture teaches us that the fulfilment of this wonderful plan cannot but be of interest also to all that surrounds us and that issued from the thought and heart of God. The Apostle Paul affirms it explicitly,  when he says that “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). Other texts use the image of a “new heaven” and a “new earth” (cf. 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1), in the sense that the whole universe will be renewed and will be freed once and for all from every trace of evil and from death itself. What is anticipated, as fulfilment of a transformation that in reality is already in act since the Death and Resurrection of Christ, is, therefore, a new creation; not, therefore, an annihilation of the cosmos and of all that surrounds us, but a bringing of everything to its fullness of being, of truth and of beauty. This is the plan that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit has always willed to realize and is realizing.

Dear friends, when we think of this stupendous reality that we await, we realize how much our belonging to the Church is truly a wonderful gift, which bears inscribed a very high vocation. Let us then ask the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, to always watch over our way and to help us to be, as she is, a joyful sign of trust and hope in the midst of our brothers.

[Original text: Italian]

 

* *  *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

The Second Vatican Council reminded us that the Church is not an end in herself, but that she is continually journeying through history to the kingdom of heaven, of which the Church on earth is the seed and beginning. This journey will reach fulfillment in the end times, when the universe will be transformed and we will be fully enveloped by joy, peace and the love of God in the new heavenly Jerusalem. Even now we experience a communion between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven through our union with those who have died. The souls in heaven assist us with their prayers, while we assist the souls in purgatory through our good works, prayer and participation in the Eucharist. As members of the Church then, the distinction is not between who has died and who is living, but rather who is in Christ and who is not. Saint Paul tell us further that it is not only humanity which will be liberated from corruption, but the whole of creation. All things will be brought into the fullness of being, truth and beauty. This is God’s design for us and the Church’s vocation. Let us ask Mary, Mother of the Church, to watch over us on our way and to help us be a joyful sign of faith and hope among our brothers and sisters.

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 New Series on the Family in preparation for the Synod of 2015

 

Pope's General Audience Address of Dec. 10: On the Family
"We must know that the Synod is not a Parliament"

VATICAN CITY, December 10, 2014  - Here is a translation of Pope Francis' address during the weekly general audience held this morning in St. Peter's Square:

**

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning.

We concluded a series of catecheses on the Church. We thank the Lord who enabled us to make this journey, rediscovering the beauty and the responsibility of belonging to the Church, of all of us being Church.

Now we begin a new stage, a new series, and the subject will be the family, a subject that is inserted in this intermediary time between two Assemblies of the Synod dedicated to this very important reality. Therefore, before entering into the discussion of several aspects of family life, I wish to begin today, in fact, with the Synodal Assembly of the past month of October, which had this theme: “The Pastoral Challenges on the Family in the Context of the New Evangelization.” It is important to recall how it unfolded and what it produced, how it went and what it produced.

During the Synod, the media did its work – there was much expectation, much attention – and we thank them because their reporting was abundant. So much news, so much! This was possible thanks to the Press Office, which gave a briefing every day. However, the view of the media was often somewhat in the style of sports or political chronicles: often there was talk of two teams, for and against, conservatives and progressives. Today I want to tell you what the Synod was.

First of all, I asked the Synod Fathers to speak frankly and courageously and to listen with humility, to say courageously everything they had in their hearts. There was no previous censure in the Synod, but each one could – more than that, should – say what he had in his heart, what he sincerely thought. “But this will arouse argument.” It’s true; we heard how the Apostles argued. The text says: a strong argument broke out. The Apostles told one another off, because they were seeking the will of God in regard to pagans, if they could enter the Church or not. It was something new. When the will of God is sought in a Synod Assembly, there are always different points of view and there is argument and this is not a bad thing! – so long as it is done with humility and with a spirit of service to the assembly of brothers. A prior censure would have been something bad. No, no, each one should say what he thought. After the initial Report of Cardinal Erdo, there was a first, essential moment in which all the Fathers were able to speak, and all listened. And that attitude of listening that the Fathers had was edifying. It was a moment of great liberty, in which each one expressed his thought with frankness and confidence. The basis of the intervention was the Instrumentum Laboris,  fruit of the preceding consultation of the whole Church. And here we must thank the Synod’s Secretariat for the great work both before and during the Assembly. [It] was truly very good.

No intervention questioned the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of Matrimony, namely: indissolubility, unity, fidelity and openness to life (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council Gaudium et spes, 48; Code of Canon Law, 1055-1056). This was not touched.

All the interventions were collected and so the second moment was reached, namely, a sketch that is called Report after the discussion. This Report was also made by Cardinal Erdo, articulated in three points: listening to the context and the challenges of the family; the gaze fixed on Christ and the Gospel of the family; discussion on pastoral prospects.

The discussion in groups took place on this first proposal of synthesis, which was the third moment. As always, the groups were divided by language, because it is better that way, there is better communication: Italian, English, Spanish and French. At the end of its work, each group presented a report, and all the group reports were published immediately. Everything was given, for the sake of transparency, so that what was happening could be known.

At that point – it was the fourth moment – a Commission examined all the suggestions that emerged from the linguistic groups and the Final Report was made, which kept the preceding scheme -- listening to the reality, looking at the Gospel, the pastoral commitment – but it sought to receive the fruit of the group discussions. Also approved, as always, was a final message of the synod, which is briefer and more divulged than the report.

This was the unfolding of the Synod Assembly. Some of you might ask me: “Did the Fathers quarrel?” Well, I don’t know if they quarreled, but they spoke strongly, yes, truly. And this is liberty; it is in fact the liberty that exists in the Church. Everything happened “cum Petro et sub Petro,” namely, the presence of the Pope, which is the guarantee for all of liberty and trust, and guarantee of orthodoxy. And, with my intervention at the end, I gave a synthetic reading of the Synod experience.

Therefore, the official documents that issued from the Synod are three: the Final Message, the Final Report and the Pope’s final address. There are no others.

The Final Report, which was the point of arrival of all the reflection of the dioceses up to that moment, was published yesterday and is being sent to the Episcopal Conferences, which will discuss it in view of the next Assembly, the Ordinary, in October of 2015. I said it was published yesterday -- it had already been published -- but yesterday it was published with the questions addressed to the Episcopal Conferences and thus it becomes, in fact, the Guidelines of the next Synod.

We must know that the Synod is not a Parliament, a representative comes of this Church, of that Church, of the other Church … No, it is not this. A representative does come, but the structure is not parliamentary, it is totally different. The Synod is a protected space so that the Holy Spirit can operate; there was no clash between factions, as in a Parliament where this is licit, but a discussion between Bishops, which took place after a long work of preparation and which now will continue with other work, for the good of families, of the Church and of society. It is a process; it is the normal synodal way. Now this Relatio goes to the particular Churches and thus, continued in them, is the work of prayer, reflection and fraternal discussion in preparation for the next Assembly. This is the Synod of Bishops. We entrust it to the protection of the Virgin our Mother. May she help us to follow the will of God, making pastoral decisions that help the family more and better. I ask you to support this Synodal journey up to the next Synod with prayer. May the Lord illumine us, make us go toward the maturity of that which, as Synod, we must say to all the Churches. And for this, your prayer is important. With the Synod journey having begun, your prayer for the good of the family. May God bless you!

[Original text: Italian]

 

Summary of the Catechesis and Greeting in English

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

This morning we begin a new series of catecheses devoted to the family. As you know, the pastoral challenges involving the family were discussed in a recent meeting of the Synod of Bishops in preparation for the next Ordinary Assembly of the Synod in October, 2015. The meeting began with a very frank discussion of those serious challenges, in the light of the fundamental truths about the sacrament of Matrimony – its indissolubility, unity, fidelity, and openness to life. The fruits of this period of discussion and discernment were collected in a preliminary report, which was then discussed in smaller groups. The observations and suggestions which emerged were incorporated in a Final Report, which served as the basis for the Final Message of the Synod Fathers. The Final Report is being sent to the Bishops throughout the world, and the results of this consultation will be brought to the Synod meeting next October. I ask all of you to pray, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, that the Synod process will result in pastoral decisions truly beneficial to the family, the Church and society.

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Final 2014 General Audience Address: On Jesus' Choice to Be Part of a Family
"As Mary and Joseph did, every Christian family can first of all receive Jesus, listen to him, talk with him, guard and protect him, grow with him, and thus improve the world"

VATICAN CITY, December 17, 2014  - Here below is a translation of Pope Francis' address during his final General Audience of 2014 in St. Peter's Square, which took place this morning and coincided with his 78th birthday:

* * * 

THE HOLY FATHER’S CATECHESIS IN ITALIAN

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The Synod of Bishops on the Family just held was the first stage of a journey, which will end next October with the holding of another Assembly on the theme “The Family’s Vocation and Mission in the Church and in the World.” The prayer and reflection that must accompany this journey involves the whole People of God. I would also like the usual meditations of the Wednesday Audiences to be inserted in this common journey. Therefore, I have decided to reflect this year with you precisely on the family, on this great gift that the Lord has made to the world since the beginning, when He conferred on Adam and Eve the mission to multiply and fill the earth (Cf. Genesis 1:28) -- that gift that Jesus has confirmed and sealed in his Gospel.

The closeness of Christmas sheds great light on this mystery. The Incarnation of the Son of God opens a new beginning in the universal history of man and woman. And this new beginning takes place within a family at Nazareth. Jesus was born in a family. He could have come spectacularly, or as a warrior, an emperor … No, no: he came as a son of a family, in a family. This is important: to contemplate in the Crib this very beautiful scene.

God chose to be born in a human family, which He Himself formed. He formed it in a forgotten village of the periphery of the Roman Empire. Not at Rome, which was the capital of the Empire, not in a great city, but in an almost invisible periphery, in fact, rather ill-famed. The Gospels recall this, almost as a way of saying: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 46). Perhaps, in many parts of the world, we still speak like this, when we hear the name of some peripheral place of a large city. Well, in fact from there, from that periphery of the great Empire, the most holy and good story began -- that of Jesus among men. And this family was there.

Jesus stayed in that periphery for 30 years. The Evangelist Luke summarizes this period thus: Jesus “was obedient to them [namely, Mary and Joseph]. And someone might say: “But this God, who came to save us, wasted thirty years there, in that ill-famed periphery?” He wasted so many years! He willed this. Jesus’ way was in that family. His Mother kept all these things in her heart, and “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man." (2:51-51). There is no talk of miracles and healings, of preaching – he did not do any in that time. At Nazareth, everything seemed to be happening “normally,” in keeping with the customs of a pious and hard-working Jewish family: they worked, the Mother cooked, and did all the things of the house, ironed shirts … everything a mother does. The Father, a carpenter, worked and taught his son to work – for 30 years. “But what waste, Father!” God’s ways are mysterious. However, what was important there was the family! And this was not a waste! They were great Saints: Mary, the holiest woman, immaculate, and Joseph, the most just man… the family.

We will certainly be moved by the account of how Jesus, as an adolescent, attended the meetings of the religious community and carried out the duties of the social life; in knowing how, as a young worker, he worked with Joseph; and then his way of taking part in listening to the Scriptures, to the praying of the Psalms and in so many other things of daily life. In their sobriety, the Gospels do not say anything about Jesus’ adolescence and leave this task to our affectionate meditation. Art, literature and music have followed the way of imagination. It is certainly not difficult to imagine how much mothers can learn from Mary’s care for that Son! And how much fathers can draw from the example of Joseph, just man who dedicated his life to supporting and defending the child and his spouse – his family – in difficult moments! Not to say how much youngsters can be encouraged by the adolescent Jesus, in understanding the need and beauty of cultivating their most profound vocation, and of dreaming great things! And in those 30 years Jesus cultivated the vocation for which the Father sent him. And, in that time, Jesus was never discouraged, but he grew in courage to go forward with his mission.

As Mary and Joseph did, every Christian family can first of all receive Jesus, listen to him, talk with him, guard and protect him, grow with him, and thus improve the world. Let us make a place in our heart and in our days for the Lord. As Mary and Joseph also did, and it was not easy: how many difficulties they had to surmount! It was not an artificial family; it was not an unreal family. The family of Nazareth commits us to rediscover the vocation and mission of the family, of every family. And, as happened in those 30 years at Nazareth, so it can also happen for us: to make love and not hatred normal, to make mutual help common, not indifference and enmity. It is no accident, then, that “Nazareth” means “She who guards,” as the Gospel says Mary did, who “kept all these things in her heart” (Cf. Luke 2:19.51). Since then, every time there is a family  -- even if it is at the periphery of the world -- which keeps this mystery, the mystery of the Son of God, the mystery of Jesus who comes to save us, is at work and comes to save the world. This is the great mission of the family: to make room for Jesus who comes, to receive Jesus in the family, in the person of the children, of the husband, of the wife, of the grandparents … Jesus is there. Welcome him there, so that he will grow spiritually in that family. May the Lord give us this grace in these last days before Christmas. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian]

Summary in English:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In preparation for next October’s meeting of the Synod of bishops on the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the world, our weekly catecheses will be devoted to the theme of the family. This Advent season of prayerful expectation for the Lord’s coming invites us to consider how God’s original gift of the family was taken up and confirmed in the mystery of the Incarnation. The Son of God chose to be born into a human family, in an obscure town on the periphery of the Roman Empire. Although the Gospels tell us little about the first thirty years of his life, we can imagine that Jesus led a very “normal” family life. He was raised in an atmosphere of religious devotion, he learned from the words and example of Mary and Joseph, and he grew in wisdom, age and grace (Cf. Luke 2:52). In imitation of the holy Family, every Christian family must make a place for Jesus in its home. For it is through the love of such “normal” families that God’s Son quietly comes to dwell among us, bringing salvation to our world.

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Pope's General Audience Address: On Mother Church and Motherhood
"Every human person owes his life to a mother, and almost always owes her much of his subsequent existence, his human and spiritual formation."

VATICAN CITY, January 07, 2015  - Below is a translation of Pope Francis' address at the weekly general audience in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall this morning:

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today, we continue with the catechesis on the Church and we will reflect on Mother Church. The Church is Mother, our Holy Mother Church.

In these days, the liturgy of the Church has placed before our eyes the icon of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. The first day of the year is the feast of the Mother of God, which is followed by the Epiphany, recalling the visit of the Magi. The evangelist Matthew writes: “and going into the house they saw the child with Mary, his Mother, and they fell down and worshipped him” (Matthew 2:11). It is the Mother who, after having generated him, presents the Son to the world. She gives us Jesus, she shows us Jesus, she makes us see Jesus.

We continue with the catechesis on the family and, in the family, is the mother. Every human person owes his life to a mother, and almost always owes her much of his subsequent existence, his human and spiritual formation. A mother, however, though being much exalted from the symbolic point of view – so many poems, so many beautiful things that are said poetically about a mother – is little listened to and little helped in daily life, little considered in her central role in society. In fact, often advantage is taken of mothers’ willingness to sacrifice themselves for their children to “save” social expenses.

It also happens in the Christian community that the mother is not regarded justly, that she is little listened to. Yet, at the center of the life of the Church is the Mother of Jesus. Perhaps mothers, ready for so many sacrifices for their children -- and not rarely also for those of others -- should be more listened to. It is necessary to understand more their daily struggle to be efficient in their work and attentive and affectionate in the family; it is necessary to understand better what they aspire to express, the best and most authentic fruits of their emancipation. A mother always has problems with her children, always has work. I remember at home – we were five children – and while one did one thing, another thought of doing another, and our poor mother went from one to the other, but she was happy. She gave us so much.

Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of egotistical individualism. “Individual” means “that it cannot be divided.” Mothers, instead, “divide themselves,” from the moment they host a child to give him to the world and make him grow. It is they, the mothers, who in the main hate wars that kill their sons. I have thought so many times of those mothers who receive the letter: “I tell you that your son fell in defense of the fatherland …” Poor women! How mothers suffer! They are the ones who witness to the beauty of life.

Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero said that mothers live a “maternal martyrdom.” In the homily of the funeral of a priest killed by death squads, he said, echoing Vatican Council II: “We must all be ready to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not grant us this honor … to give one’s life does not only mean to be killed; to give one’s life, to have the spirit of martyrdom, is to give in duty, in silence, in prayer, in the honest fulfillment of one’s duty; in the silence of daily life; to give one’s life little by little. Yes, as a mother gives it who, without fear, with the simplicity of maternal martyrdom, conceives a child in her womb, brings him to life, nurses him, helps him grow and attends to him with affection. It is to give one’s life. It is martyrdom.” The quotation ends there. Yes, to be a mother does not mean only to bring a child into the world, but it is also a choice of life. What does a mother choose, what is a mother’s choice of life? A mother’s choice of life is the choice to give life, and this is great, this is beautiful.

A society without mothers would be an inhuman society, because mothers are always able to witness, even in the worst moments, tenderness, dedication, moral strength. Mothers also often transmit the profoundest meaning of religious practice. The value of the faith is inscribed in the life of a human being in the first prayers, in the first gestures of devotion that a child learns. It is a message that believing mothers are able to transmit without explanations: these will come later, but the seed of the faith is in those first, most precious moments -- and the Church is Mother, with all this, she is our Mother! We are not orphans; we have a Mother! Our Lady, the Mother of the Church, is our Mother. We are not orphans; we are children of the Church, we are children of Our Lady, and we are children of our mothers.

Dearest mothers, thank you; thank you for what you are in the family and for what you give to the Church and to the world. And to you, beloved Church, thank you, thank you for being Mother. And to you, Mary, Mother of God, thank you for having us see Jesus. And thank you to all the mothers here present: we greet them with applause!

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

Summary of the Catechesis and Greeting in English

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the family, and inspired by the Christmas image of Our Lady who presents her Son to the world, we now reflect on the role of mothers in society and in the Church. For all our symbolic glorification of mothers, their important contribution to the life of society, their daily sacrifices and their aspirations are not always properly appreciated. Mothers are an antidote to the spread of a certain self-centeredness, a decline in openness, generosity and concern for others. In this sense, motherhood is more than childbearing; it is a life choice, entailing sacrifice, respect for life, and commitment to passing on those human and religious values which are essential for a healthy society. Archbishop Oscar Romero spoke in this regard of a "martyrdom of mothers", whose sensitivity to all that threatens human life and welfare is a source of enrichment for society and the Church. Today I ask you to join me in thanking mothers everywhere for what they are, and for all that they give to the Church and to our world.

Speaker:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including the various groups from Ireland, Finland, Indonesia, Australia and the United States of America. In the joy of this Christmas season, I invoke upon you and your families grace and peace in the Lord Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, our Mother. God bless you all!

[Original text: English]

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General Audience: On Fatherhood

"The educational quality of the paternal presence is all the more necessary the more the father is constrained by work to be far from home."

VATICAN CITY, January 28, 2015  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address during his weekly General Audience today at the Paul VI Audience Hall.

--- --- ---

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

We continue the series of catecheses on the family. Today we will let ourselves be guided by the word father. A word that is more dear than any other to us Christians, because it is the name with which Jesus has taught us to call God: Father. In fact, the meaning of this word received a new depth beginning with the way that Jesus used it to address God and to manifest his special relationship with Him. The blessed mystery of the intimacy of God, Father, Son and Spirit, revealed by Jesus, is the heart of our Christian faith.

“Father” is a word known by all – a universal word. It indicates a fundamental relationship whose reality is as ancient as man’s history. Today, however, we have come to the point of affirming that ours is a “fatherless society.” In other words, the figure of the father, particularly in our Western culture, is symbolically absent, vanished, removed. Initially it was perceived as a liberation: liberation from the father-master, from the father as a representative of the law imposed from outside, from the father as censor of the happiness of the children and obstacle to the emancipation and autonomy of young people. In fact, at times  authoritarianism reigned in some homes, in certain cases, in fact, it was oppressive,” parents that treated their children as servants, not respecting the personal needs of their growth; fathers who did not help them to undertake their path with freedom, but it is not easy to educate a child with freedom. Fathers that do not help them to assume their responsibilities to build their future and that of society: this is certainly not a good attitude.

However, as it often happens, we pass from one extreme to another. The problem of our days does not seem to be so much the invasive presence of fathers, but rather their absence, their hiding. Fathers sometimes are so concentrated on themselves and on their work, and at times on their own individual fulfilment, that they even forget the family. And they leave the little ones and young people alone. Already as Bishop in Buenos Aires, I perceived the sense of orphan-hood that youth live today. And I often asked the fathers if they played with their children. And the answer was bad, eh! In the majority of cases {they said]: “But I can’t because I have so much work …” And the father was absent from that child who was growing up. And he did not play with him, he did not spend time with him. Now, in this common course of reflection on the family, I would like to say to all the Christian communities that we must be more attentive: the absence of the paternal figure in the life of little ones and young people produces gaps and wounds which can also be very grave. And, in fact, the deviances of children and of adolescents can in good part be traced to this absence, to the lack of examples and of authoritative guides in their daily life – to the lack of closeness, to the lack of love on the part of fathers. The sense of orphan-hood that so many young people live is deeper than we think.

They are orphans, but within the family, because the fathers are often absent, also physically, from home but above all because, when they are home, they do not behave as fathers, they do not have a dialogue with their children. They do not fulfil their educational task; they do not give to their children – with their example accompanied by words --, those principles, those values, those rules of life that they need, just as much as they need bread. The educational quality of the paternal presence is all the more necessary the more the father is constrained by work to be far from home. At times it seems that fathers do not know well what place to occupy in the family and how to educate the children. And then, in doubt, they abstain, they withdraw and neglect their responsibility, perhaps taking refuge in an improbable relation “on par” with the children. However, it is true that you must be a companion to your child but without forgetting that you are the father. However, if you only behave as a companion on a par with your child, you will not do the child any good.

However in this also, the civil community with its institutions has a responsibility, which we can say is paternal, towards young people, a responsibility that sometimes is neglected or exercised badly. It also often leaves orphans of the street that we are sure to come across, orphans of teachers they can trust, orphans of ideals that warm the heart, orphans of values and of hopes that sustain them daily. They are filled perhaps with idols, but they are not given work; they are deceived with the god of money and are denied the true riches.

And now it will do well to all, to fathers and to children, to hear again the promise Jesus made to his disciples: “I will not leave you orphans: (John 14:18). He is, in fact, the Way to follow, the Teacher to listen to, the Hope that the world can change, that love can overcome hatred, that there can be a future of fraternity and peace for all.

One of you might say to me: “But, Father, you have been too negative today. You have spoken only of the absence of fathers, of what happens when fathers are not close to their children.” It’s true. I wanted to stress this because next Wednesday I will continue this catechesis bringing to light the beauty of paternity. Therefore I chose to begin from the dark to come to the light. May the Lord help us to understand these things well. Thank you!

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  

In our continuing catechesis on the family, we now turn to the dignity and role of fathers. Jesus, by teaching us to call God our Father, gave new depth and richness to this relationship, so fundamental to the life of society. Sadly, in our modern societies, we are experiencing a crisis of fatherhood; from an image of the father as authoritarian and at times even repressive, we now sense uncertainty and confusion about the role of the father. 

Today we can speak of an “absence” of the father figure in society. Yet responsible fathers are so necessary as examples and guides for our children in wisdom and virtue. Without father figures, young people often feel “orphaned”, left adrift at a critical moment in their growth and development. Society itself has a similar responsibility not to leave the young as orphans, without ideals, sound values, hopes and possibilities for work and for authentic spiritual fulfilment.  

Jesus promised that he would not leave us orphans (cf. Jn 14:18). Let us ask him to deepen and renew our appreciation of fatherhood and to raise up good fathers for the benefit of our families, our Church and our world.

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General Audience: On the Positive Role of Fathers

"Fathers should be patient, many times there is nothing else that can be done other than to wait. Pray and wait with patience, gentleness, magnanimity and mercy."

VATICAN CITY, February 04, 2015  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address during his weekly General Audience at the Paul VI Audience Hall.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to develop the second part of the reflection on the figure of the father in the family. Last time I spoke of the danger of “absent” fathers. Today, instead, I want to look at the positive aspect. Saint Joseph was also tempted to leave Mary, when he discovered that she was pregnant, but the Angel of the Lord intervened and revealed God’s plan and his mission of foster father. And Joseph, a just man, “took his wife” (Mt. 1:24) and became the father of the Family of Nazareth.

Every family needs a father. Today we reflect on the value of his role, and I would like to begin from some expressions that are found in the Book of Proverbs, words that a father addresses to his son: “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My soul will rejoice when your lips speak what is right” (Proverbs 23:15-16).

One cannot express better the pride and emotion of a father who realizes that he has transmitted to his son what truly counts in life, namely, a wise heart. This father does not say: “I am proud of you because you are, in fact, just like me, because you repeat the things that I say and do.” No, he says something far more important to him, which we can interpret thus: “I will be happy every time that I see you act with wisdom, and I will be moved every time I hear you speak what is right. This is what I wanted to leave you, so that it would become something of yours: the attitude to feel and act, to speak and judge with wisdom and righteousness. And so that you would be able to be like this, I taught you things you did not know, I corrected errors that you did not see. I made you feel a profound and, at the same time, discreet affection, which perhaps you did not recognize fully when you were young and uncertain. I gave you a witness of rigor and firmness, which perhaps you did not understand, when you would only have wished for complicity and protection. I had to put myself first to the test of wisdom of heart, and to watch over excesses of sentiment and resentment, to bear the weight of the inevitable misunderstandings and find the right words to make myself understood. Now, when I see that you seek to be like this with your children, and with everyone, I am moved. I am happy to be your father.” And that is what a wise father says, a mature father.

A father is well aware how much it costs to transmit this heritage: how much closeness, how much gentleness and how much firmness. However, what consolation and what reward is received when children honor to this heritage! It is a joy that compensates for every effort, that surpasses every misunderstanding and heals every wound.

Hence, the first necessity is in fact this: that the father be present in the family. That he be close to his wife, to share everything – joys and sorrows, efforts and hopes. And that he be close to the children in their growth: when they play and when they are busy, when they are carefree and when they are anguished, when they express themselves and when they are silent, when they risk and when they are afraid, when they take a wrong step and when they find the way again. A father that is present, always! But to be present is not the same as controlling. Because fathers who are too controlling override the children, they do not let them grow.

The Gospel speaks to us of the exemplarity of the Father who is in Heaven – the only one, says Jesus, who can be truly called “Good Father” (Cf. Mark 10:18). Everyone knows that extraordinary parable called the “Prodigal Son,” or better of the “Merciful Father,” which is found in Luke’s Gospel (Cf. 15:11-32). How much dignity and how much tenderness in the father’s waiting, who is at the door of his home waiting for his son to return! Fathers should be patient, many times there is nothing else that can be done other than to wait. Pray and wait with patience, gentleness, magnanimity and mercy.

A good father is able to wait and to forgive from the depth of his heart. Of course, he is also able to correct with firmness: he is not a weak, compliant and sentimental father. The father who is able to correct without discouraging is the same one who is able to protect tirelessly. One time, I heard a father, in a meeting with married couples, say: "I, sometimes, must hit my child a little, but never in the face, to not degrade him. How beautiful! He knows the sense of dignity! He must punish but does it justly and moves forward.

Therefore, if there is someone who can explain in depth the prayer of the “Our Father,” taught by Jesus, it is in fact one who lives paternity personally. Without the grace that comes from the Father who is in Heaven, fathers lose courage and abandon the field. However, children are in need of finding a father who waits for them when they return from their failures. They will do everything not to admit it, not to make it seen, but they need him and in not finding him opens in them wounds that are difficult to heal.

The Church, our Mother, is committed to supporting with all her strength the good and generous presence of fathers in families, because they are, for the new generations, irreplaceable custodians and mediators of faith in goodness, in justice and in the protection of God, as Saint Joseph.

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Speaker:

          Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In our catechesis on the family, we have been reflecting on the dignity and role of fathers.  The Book of Proverbs speaks of the joy and pride which fathers feel as they see their children mature in wisdom and rectitude (cf. Prov 23:15-16).  These words sum up the demanding but indispensable role of fathers in the family and in society as a whole.  A good father teaches his children by giving a daily example of love and integrity.  He must first discipline his own heart in order to deal patiently with his children in their growth to maturity.  In a society like our own, where father figures are often absent, it is essential for fathers to be present and fully engaged in the life of the family.  Jesus points to God our Father as the model of all fatherhood.  Like the father of the prodigal son, God waits patiently for his children to return home; with mercy and forgiveness he is always there to welcome them back whenever they stray.  As Christian fathers strive, like Saint Joseph, to protect their children and to teach them wisdom, faith and integrity, may they always experience our gratitude, appreciation and support.

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General Audience: On the Gift of Children

"A society of children who do not honor their parents is a society without honor"

VATICAN CITY, February 11, 2015 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After having reflected on the figure of the mother and the father, in this catechesis on the family I would like to talk about the child or, better, the children. I take my cue from a beautiful image of Isaiah. The Prophet writes: “your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried in the arms. Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice” (60:4-5a).  It is a splendid image of the happiness that is realized in the reunion of parents and children, who walk together towards a future of freedom and peace, after a long time of privations and separation, when the Hebrews found themselves far from their homeland.

In fact, there is a close connection between the hope of a people and the harmony between generations. We should think of this well. There is a close connection between the hope of a people and the harmony between generations.The joy of children makes the hearts of their parents palpitate and re-opens the future.  Children are the joy of the family and of society. They are not a problem of reproductive biology, or one of the many ways of fulfilling themselves, and much less so, are they a possession of their parents. No. Children are a gift: do you understand? Children are a gift. Each one is unique and unrepeatable and, at the same time, unmistakeably connected to his roots. In fact, according to God’s plan, to be a son and a daughter means to bear in oneself the memory and the hope of a love that has realized itself precisely by kindling the life of another original and new human being. And for parents, each child are unique, different, and diverse.

Allow me to recall a family memory. I remember my mother would tell us – we were five [children]-: "I have five children." When they asked her: "Which one is your favourite, she would answer: "I have five children, like five fingers. [He shows his fingers to the crowd] If you hit this one, it hurts me; if you hit this other one, it hurts me. All five will hurt me. They are all my children, but they are all different like the finger on a hand." And that is how the family is! Children are different, but they are all children.

A child is loved because he is a child: not because he is beautiful, or because he is like this or like that; no, it is because he is your child! Not because they think like me or fulfil my wishes.A child is a child: a life generated by us but destined to him, to his good, to the good of the family, of society and of the whole of humanity.

From here stems also the depth of the human experience of being a son and daughter, which enables us to discover the most gratuitous dimension of love, which endlessly amazes us. It is the beauty of being loved first: children are loved before they arrive. How many times I meet mothers in the square who show their bellies and ask me for a blessing…these children are loved before coming into the world. And this is free, this is love; they are loved before birth, like the love of God who always loves us first. They are loved before doing anything to merit it, before being able to talk or think, in fact, before coming into the world! To be children is the fundamental condition to know the love of God, who is the ultimate source of this authentic miracle. In the soul of every child, in as much as vulnerable, God puts the seal of this love, which is the basis of his personal dignity, a dignity that nothing and no one can destroy.

Today it seems more difficult for children to imagine their future. Parents – I referred to it in preceding catecheses – have perhaps taken a step backwards and children have become more uncertain about taking their steps forward. We can learn the good relation between generations from our Heavenly Father, who leaves each one of us free but never leaves us alone. And if we make a mistake, He continues to follow us with patience without diminishing His love for us.

Our Heavenly Father does not take steps backwards in his love for us, never! He always goes in front of us and if we can't go forward, He waits for us, but he doesn't go back. He wants His children to be courageous and to take their steps forward.

For their part, the children must not be afraid of the commitment to build a new world: it is right for them to desire that it be better than the one they have received! However, this must be done without arrogance, without presumption. One must be able to recognize the value of children, and parents must always be rendered honor.

The fourth Commandment asks children – and we are all children! – to honor their father and their mother (Cf. Exodus 20:12). This Commandment comes immediately after those that concern God Himself. In fact, it contains something sacred, something that is at the root of all other kinds of respect between men. And, added in the biblical formulation of the fourth Commandment is: “that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” The virtuous connection between the generations is guarantee of the future, and it is the guarantee of a truly human history. A society of children who do not honor their parents is a society without honor; when parents are not honoured, one loves their own honor! It is a society destined to fill itself with arid and avid young people. However, a society that is greedy with its generation, which does not like to surround itself with children, that considers them above all a worry, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society, because they do not want children, they don't have children, the birthrate never reaches one percent. Why? Each one of us must think and respond. If a family that is full of children is regarded as if it were a weight, there is something that’s not right! The generation of children must be responsible, as the Encyclical Humanae vitae of Blessed Pope Paul VIalso teaches, but to have more children cannot become automatically an irresponsible choice. To not have children is a selfish choice. Life rejuvenates and acquires energies by multiplying itself: it is enriched, not impoverished! The children learn to take charge of their family, they mature in the sharing of their sacrifices, they grow in the appreciation of their gifts. The happy experience of fraternity animates the respect and the care of parents, to whom we owe our gratitude.

Many of you here present have children and we are all children. Let us do something, a minute of silence. Each one of us think in their hearts to their children – if you have them -; think in silence. And let us all think about our parents and thank God for the gift of life. In silence, those who have children, think of them, and everyone think about our parents. [Moment of silence] May the Lord bless our parents and bless your children.

May Jesus, the eternal Son, who was made a son in time, help us to find the way of a new radiation of this very simple and very great human experience, which is being children. In the multiplication of generation there is a mystery of enrichment of the life of all, which comes from God Himself. We must rediscover it, challenging the prejudice, and live it, in faith and in perfect joy. And I tell you: how beautiful it is when I pass among you and see the moms and dads who raise up their children to be bless. This is an almost divine gesture. Thank you for doing that!

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the family, we now reflect on the importance and role of children. The prophecy of Isaiah which we listened to at the beginning of this Audience speaks of the joy and hope which children bring to their parents. Children are the fruit of their parents’ love and a gift of God, whose own infinite love bestows inviolable dignity and worth upon each person who comes into the world. The Fourth Commandment, which enjoins respect for parents, invites us to see in the relationship between the generations a sacred bond which affects every other relationship and ensures a sound future for society as a whole. The Church’s concern for the responsible and generous transmission of God’s gift of life is thus linked to the health of society, which is strengthened, renewed and enriched by the presence of the young. May Jesus, Son of God and son of a human family, help us, and society as a whole, to value the gift of life, the dignity of the family, and our responsibility to help young people look to the future with joy, hope and courage.

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General Audience: On Brothers and Sisters

"The bond of brotherhood that is formed in the family between children happens in a climate of education of openness to others, it is the great school of freedom and peace"

VATICAN CITY, February 18, 2015 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address during his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In our series of catecheses on the family, after having considered the role of the mother, the father and children, today is the turn of brothers and sisters. “Brother” and “sister” are words that Christianity loves very much. And, thanks to the family experience, they are words that all cultures and all times understand.

The fraternal bond has a special place in the history of the People of God, which receives his revelation in the midst of the human experience. The Psalmist sings the beauty of the fraternal bond: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 132:1). How beautiful this is! Jesus Christ also brought to its fullness this human experience of being brothers and sisters, assuming it in the Trinitarian love and expanding it so that it goes well beyond the bonds of kinship and can surmount every wall of extraneousness.

We know that when the fraternal relation is ruined, it opens the way to painful experiences of conflict, of betrayal, of hatred. The biblical account of Cain and Abel is an example of this negative outcome. After the killing of Abel, God asks Cain: “Where is Abel, your brother?” (Genesis 4:9a). It is a question that the Lord continues to repeat in every generation. And, unfortunately, in every generation Cain's tragic answer also does not cease to be repeated: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9b). But when the fraternal bond between brothers is broken, it becomes something awful and also evil for humanity. And in families also, how many brothers have argued over little things or for an inheritance, and then they do not speak to one another anymore, they do not greet each other anymore. This is awful!

However, brotherhood is a great thing -- to think that all brothers have dwelt in the womb of the same mother during nine months. They come from the mother’s flesh! And brotherhood cannot be broken. Let us think a bit: we all know families that have brothers that are divided, that have argued. Let us give it some thought and pray to the Lord for these families. And, perhaps, in our family there are some cases for which we need the Lord to help us to reunite brothers: to rebuild the family. Brotherhood must not be broken. And when it is broken, what ensues is what happened with Cain and Abel. And when the Lord asks Cain where his brother was, he says: ”But I don’t know. I don’t care about my brother.” This is awful and it is something very, very painful to hear. But in our prayers we always pray for brothers who are divided.

The bond of brotherhood that is formed in the family between children happens in a climate of education of openness to others, it is the great school of freedom and peace. Human coexistence is learned in the family among brothers [and sisters], as one must coexist in society. Perhaps we are not always aware, of it but it is in fact the family that introduces brotherhood in the world! Beginning from this first experience of brotherhood, nourished by affections and family education, the style of brotherhood is radiated as a promise over the whole society and its relations between peoples.

The blessing that God, in Jesus Christ, pours down on this bond of brotherhood,expands it in an unimaginable way, rendering it capable of going beyond every difference of nation, language, culture and even of religion.

Think what the bond between men and women becomes -- who are also very different among themselves --, when they can say to one another. ”He is in fact like a brother, she is in fact like a sister to me!” This is beautiful, no? It’s beautiful! History has shown us sufficiently, however, that, without brotherhood, freedom and equality can also be filled with individualism and conformity, also of interests.

Brotherhood shines in a family in a special way when we see the solicitude, the patience, the affection with which the weaker little brother or the little sister, the sick, or bearers of handicaps are surrounded. There are very many brothers and sisters in the whole world who do this, and perhaps we do no appreciate their generosity enough. And when there are many brothers in a family – today I greeted a family there that has nine --, the greatest help to the father, to the mother is to take care of the little ones. And this work of help between brothers is beautiful!

To have a brother, a sister who loves you is an intense experience, invaluable, irreplaceable. The same thing happens with Christian brotherhood. The littlest, the weakest, the poorest mustmake us tender: they have the “right” to have our soul and heart. Yes, they are our brothers and, as such, we must love and relate to them. When this happens, when the poor are as of our home, our Christian brotherhood itself takes on life. In fact, when Christians go to encounter the poor and the weak they do so not to obey an ideological program, but because the Lord’s word and example tell us that they are our brothers. This is the principle of the love of God and of all justice between men.

I suggest something to you: before ending – I have a few lines left --, let each one of us, in silence, think of our brothers and our sisters. Let’s think in silence and, in the silence of our heart, let us pray for them – an instant of silence.

Moment of silent prayer

See, with this prayer we have brought all our brothers and sisters with our thought and with our heart here, to the Square, to receive the blessing. Thank you! 

Today more than ever it is necessary to bring brotherhood back to the center of our technocratic and bureaucratic society: then freedom and equality will also have their just intonation. Therefore, let us not, with a light heart, deprive our families out of suggestion or fear, of the beauty of an ample fraternal experience of sons and daughters, And let us not lose confidence in the breadth of the horizon that faith is able to draw from this experience, illuminated by God’s blessing. Thank you!

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: 

In our continuing catechesis on the family, we now reflect on the importance of brothers and sisters.  Growing up in a family with other children is a profound human experience which is fulfilled in Christ, who became our brother and made us children of God our Father.  The story of Cain and Abel shows that we are indeed our brothers’ keeper (cf Gen 4:9) within the human family.  In families, we learn how to be good brothers and sisters; what we learn at home then becomes a source of enrichment for society as a whole.  The grace of Christ leads us to see others as our brothers and sisters, reconciles differences and divisions, and offers the promise of a society of true freedom and equality.  The experience of fraternal love in families is seen especially in the care shown to our children with special needs.  Jesus teaches us that this same love must be shown to all our brothers and sisters, especially those in greatest need.  May our often impersonal societies learn to foster a spirit of brotherhood, and may families everywhere come to appreciate the great blessing of God found in our young who love, and are loved, as brothers and sisters.

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General Audience: On Grandparents

"The Church cannot and does not want to be conformed to the mentality of impatience, and much less so, of indifference and contempt, when it comes to old age."

VATICAN CITY, March 04, 2015 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address during his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s catechesis and that of next Wednesday will be dedicated to the elderly who, in the realm of the family, are the grandparents. Today we will reflect on the present problematic condition of the elderly and, next time, more positively, on the vocation contained in this age of life.

Thanks to the progress in medicine, life has lengthened: society, however, has not “enlarged” to life! The number of elderly has multiplied, but our societies have not organized themselves sufficiently to give them a place, with just respect and concrete consideration for their fragility and dignity. While we are young, we are induced to ignore old age, as if it were a sickness to avoid. Then, when we become old, especially if we are poor, sick or alone, we experience the lacunae of a society planned for efficiency that, consequently, ignores the elderly. And the elderly are richness; they cannot be ignored.

During a visit to a home for the elderly, Benedict XVI used clear and prophetic words: “The quality of a society, I would like to say of a civilization, is also judged by the way the elderly are treated and the place reserved for them in common living” (November 12, 2012). It’s true, attention to the elderly makes the difference in a civilization. In a civilization, is there attention to the elderly? Is there a place for the elderly? If so, this civilization will go forward because it respects the wisdom of the elderly. In a civilization where there is no place for the elderly, where they are discarded because they create problems, such a society bears in it the virus of death.

In the West, scholars present the currrent century as the century of growing old: children decrease and the elderly increase. This imbalance calls us into question, more than that, it is a great challenge for contemporary society. A certain culture of profit also insists on making the elderly appear as a weight, a “useless load.” Not only do they not produce, it believes, they are a load. In conclusion, as a result of thinking this way, they are discarded. It is ugly to see discarded elderly. It is a sin. No one dares to say it openly, but it is done! There is something vile in that addiction to the disposable culture. We are accustomed to discard people. We want to eliminate our growing fear of weakness and vulnerability but in doing so, we increase the anguish of the elderly of not being tolerated and of being abandoned.

Already in my ministry in Buenos Aires, I saw this reality and its problems first hand. ‘The elderly are abandoned, and not only in material precariousness. They are abandoned in the egoistic incapacity to accept their limitations, which reflect our limitations, in the numerous difficulties that they must overcome today to survive in a civilization that does not allow them to participate, to express their opinion, or to be a reference in keeping with the consumerist model that “only young people can be useful and can enjoy.’ However, the elderly should be for the whole society the reserve of wisdom of a people. The elderly are the deposit of wisdom of our people. With what ease the conscience is put to sleep when there is no love!’ (Love alone can save us, Vatican City 2013, p. 83). And it happens thus. I remember when I visited homes for the elderly, I talked with each one and I often heard this: ‘How are you?’ Well, well.’ And your children, how many do you have? Many, many.’ ‘Do they come to visit you?’ ’Yes, yes, always, they always come. ‘When was the last time they came?’ And then, the elderly woman I remember especially said: ’at Christmas.’ This was August. She was eight months without being visited by her children – abandoned for eight months. This is called mortal sin. Understood?

Once when I was little, my grandmother told us the story of an elderly grandfather who would soil himself when he ate, because he couldn’t take the soup spoon to his mouth. And his son, that is, the Father of the family, decided to separate him from the common table. And he had a table placed in the kitchen so that he could eat alone and not be seen and thus would not be an embarrassment when friends came to eat or dine. A few days later, he came home and found his son playing with wood, a hammer and nails. He was making something. The Father asked ‘What are you making?’ ‘I’m making a table, Daddy.’ ‘A table, why?’ “To have it for when you become old and so you can eat there.’ Children have more consciousness than we do.

There is a wealth of wisdom in the tradition of the Church, which has always supported a culture of closeness to the elderly, a disposition to affectionate and solidaristic support in this final part of life. This tradition is rooted in Sacred Scripture, as, for example, these expressions of the Book of Ecclesiastes demonstrate: “Do not move away from the conversation of the elderly, because they themselves learned from their parents: from them you will learn to be intelligent and to give an answer at the right moment.”

The Church cannot and does not want to be conformed to the mentality of impatience, and much less so, of indifference and contempt, when it comes to old age. We must awaken the collective sense of gratitude, of appreciation, of hospitality, which makes the elderly feel a living part of their community.

The elderly are men and women, fathers and mothers that have been before us on the same path, in our own home, in our daily battle for a fitting life. They are men and women from whom we have received much. The elderly person is not a stranger. We are the elderly: sooner or later, but inevitably, even if we don’t think about it. And if we do not learn to treat the elderly well, that is how we will be treated.

Almost all the elderly are fragile. Some, however, are particularly weak; many are alone and marked by illness. Some depend on indispensable care and others’ attention.

Will we step back because of this? Will we abandon them to their fate? A society without proximity, where unrequited gratitude and affection – also among strangers – is disappearing, is a perverse society. Faithful to the Word of God, the Church cannot tolerate these degenerations. A Christian community, in which proximity and gratitude are not considered indispensable, would lose its soul. Where there is no honour for the elderly, there is no future for the young people.

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the family, we now reflect on the importance of the elderly. Nowadays people tend to live longer, yet often our societies not only fail to make room for the elderly, but even consider them a burden. The quality of a society can be judged by the way it includes its older members. This is a particular challenge for our Western societies, marked on the one hand by aging populations and on the other by a cult of youth, efficiency and profit which tends to discard everything not considered productive or useful. Because of their vulnerability and their special needs, our elderly, above all those who are alone or ill, call for particular attention and care. Rather than a burden, they are, as the Bible tells us, a storehouse of wisdom (Sir 8:9). The Church has always accompanied the elderly with gratitude and affection, making them feel accepted and fully a part of the community. Without such solidarity between generations, the life of society is impoverished. In showing concern for our elderly, we strengthen the social fabric and ensure the future of our young.

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General Audience: On the Gift of Grandparents

"How I would like a Church that challenges the disposable culture with the overflowing joy of a new embrace between young people and the elderly"

VATICAN CITY, March 11, 2015 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address during his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * * 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning.

In today’s catechesis we continue the reflection on grandparents, considering the value and importance of their role in the family. I do so, identifying myself with these persons, because I also belong to this phase of age.

When I was in the Philippines, the Filipino people greeted me, saying: “Lolo Kiko,” – that is, Grandfather Francis – “Lolo Kiko,” they said! It is important to stress one thing first: it is true that society tends to discard us, but certainly not the Lord. The Lord never discards us. He calls us to follow Him in every age of life, and old age also contains a grace and a mission, a true vocation of the Lord. Old age is a vocation. It is not yet the moment “to rest on one’s oars.” Without a doubt, this period of life is different from the preceding. We also must somehow “invent it for ourselves” Because our societies are not ready, spiritually and morally, to give its full value to this moment of life. Once, in fact, it was not normal to have time at one’s disposal; today it is much more so. And Christian spirituality has also been caught somewhat by surprise, and an attempt is being made to delineate a spirituality of elderly persons. However, thanks be to God there is no lack of testimonies of elderly men and women Saints!

I was very moved by the “Day for the Elderly,” which we held here in Saint Peter’s Square last year. The Square was full. I heard stories of elderly people who spent themselves for others, and also stories of married couples, who said: “We are celebrating our 50thwedding anniversary; we are celebrating our 60thwedding anniversary.” It is important to have young people see this, who get tired immediately. The testimony of fidelity of the elderly is important. And there were so many of them in the Square that day. It is a reflection to be continued, be it in the ecclesial as well as in the civil realm. The Gospel comes to meet us with a very beautiful, moving and encouraging image. It is the image of Simeon and Anna, of which the Gospel of Jesus’ infancy speaks to us, composed by Saint Luke. They certainly were old, the “old man” Simeon and the “prophetess” Anna who was 84. This woman did not hide her age. The Gospel says that they awaited the coming of God every day, with great fidelity, for long years. In fact, they wanted to see him that day, gather the signs, and intuit the beginning. Perhaps they were somewhat resigned, by now, to die before: however, that long awaiting continued to occupy their whole life, they had no other important commitments than this: to await the Lord and pray. Well, when Mary and Joseph reached the Temple to fulfil the dispositions of the Law, Simenon and Anna were suddenly moved, animated by the Holy Spirit (Cf. Luke 2:27). The weight of their age and of the awaiting disappeared in a moment. They recognized the Child, and discovered new strength for a new task: to render thanks and render witness to this Signs of God. Simeon improvised a very beautiful hymn of jubilation (Cf. Luke  2:29-32) – he was a poet at that moment – and Anna became the first preacher of Jesus: she ”spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).

Dear grandparents, dear elderly, let us put ourselves in the track of these extraordinary old people. Let us also become somewhat poets of prayer: let us enjoy looking for our words; let us re-appropriate for ourselves those that the Word of God teaches us. The prayer of grandparents and the elderly is a great gift for the Church; it is richness! It is a great injection of wisdom also for the whole of human society, especially for that which is too busy, too seizing, too distracted. Someone must sing also for them the signs of God, must proclaim the signs of God, must pray for them! We look at Benedict XVI, who has chosen to spend the last stage of his life in prayer and in listening to God! This is beautiful! Olivier Clement, a great believer of the last century, of Orthodox tradition, said: “A civilization where there is no longer prayer is a civilization where old age no longer makes sense. And this is terrifying. We are in need first of all of elderly people that pray, because old age is given to us for this.” We are in need of elderly people that pray because old age is given to us precisely for this. The prayer of the elderly is a beautiful thing.

We can thank the Lord for the benefits received and fill the void of ingratitude that surrounds him. We can intercede for the expectations of the new generations and give dignity to the memory and the sacrifices of the past ones. We can remind ambitious young people that a life without love is an arid life. We can say to fearful young people that anguish over the future can be overcome. We can teach young people too enamoured of themselves that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. Grandfathers and grandmothers make up the permanent “chorale” of a great spiritual shrine, where the prayer of supplication and the singing of praise sustain the community that works and struggles in the field of life.

Finally, prayer purifies the heart incessantly. Praise and supplication to God prevent the hardening of the heart in resentment and egoism. How awful is the cynicism of an old man who has lost the meaning of his testimony, scorns young people and does not communicate the wisdom of life! Instead, how good is the encouragement that elderly man is able to give the youth in search of faith and the meaning of life! It is truly the mission of grandparents, the vocation of the elderly. Grandparents’ words have something special for young people. And they know it. I still carry with me always in my Breviary the words my grandmother consigned to me in writing the day of my priestly Ordination, and I read them often and it does me good.

How I would like a Church that challenges the disposable culture with the overflowing joy of a new embrace between young people and the elderly! And this is what I ask the Lord today, this embrace!

--- --- ---

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In our catechesis on the family, we now reflect on the role of grandparents. The Gospel offers us the image of Simeon and Anna as two older persons who hope in the Lord’s promises and then, when perhaps least expected, see them at last fulfilled. Simeon and Anna are models of a spirituality for the elderly. They point to the centrality of prayer; indeed, the prayer of grandparents is a great grace for families and for the Church. In prayer, they thank the Lord for his blessings, otherwise so often unacknowledged; intercede for the hopes and needs of the young; and lift up to God the memory and sacrifices of past generations. The purifying power of faith and prayer also helps us to find the wisest way to teach the young that the true meaning of life is found in self-sacrificing love and concern for others. Young people listen to their grandparents! I still treasure the words my grandmother wrote to me on the day of my ordination. In a society which overlooks and even discards the elderly, may the Church acknowledge their contribution and gifts, and help them to foster a fruitful dialogue between the generations!

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General Audience: On the Gift of Children

Children in themselves are richness for humanity and for the Church, because they recall to us constantly the necessary condition to enter in the Kingdom of God

VATICAN CITY, March 18, 2015 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address during his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

After having reviewed the different figures of family life – mother, father, children, siblings, and grandparents --, I would like to end this first group of catecheses on the family to speak about children. I will do so in two sessions: today I shall reflect on the great gift that children are for humanity. But this is true; thank you for applauding. They are the great gift for humanity, but they are also greatly excluded. And next week I shall reflect on some wounds that, unfortunately, harm children. There comes to mind the many children I met during my last trip to Asia: full of life, of enthusiasm and, on the other hand, I see that many of them live in the world in conditions that are undignified. In fact, a society can be judged by the way its children are treated. Not only morally, but also sociologically: if it is a free society or a society slave of international interests.

The first thing that children remind us of is that all of us, in the first years of life, were totally dependent on the care and benevolence of others. And the Son of God did not spare himself this stage. It is the mystery we contemplate every year at Christmas. The Manger is the icon that communicates this reality to us in the simplest and most direct way. But it’s curious. God has no difficulty in making himself understood by children, and children don’t have problems in understanding God. It’s no accident that in the Gospel there are very beautiful and intense words of Jesus on the “little ones.” This term “little” indicates all persons that depend on the help of others, and, in particular, children. For instance, Jesus says: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes” (Matthew 11:25). And again: “See that you not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven: (Matthew 18:10). Therefore, children in themselves are richness for humanity and for the Church, because they recall to us constantly the necessary condition to enter in the Kingdom of God: not to consider ourselves self-sufficient, but in need of help, of love and of forgiveness. And we are all in need of help, of love and of forgiveness. Everyone!

Children remind us of another good thing: they remind us that we are always children: even if one becomes an adult or elderly, even if one becomes a parent, if one has a position of responsibility, underneath all this remains the identity of a child. We are all children! And this refers us to the fact that we did not give life to ourselves but that we received it. The great gift of life, the first gift we received: life! Sometimes we live forgetting this, as if we were the masters of our existence; instead, we are radically dependent. In reality, it is a reason for great joy to know that in every age of life , in every situation, in every social condition, we are and remain children. This is the principal message that children give us, with their very presence. Their presence alone reminds us that each and all of us are children.

But there are so many gifts, so many riches that children bring to humanity. I shall recall only a few. They bring their way of seeing reality, with a trusting and pure look. A child has spontaneous trust in its father and in its mother: and it has spontaneous trust in God, in Jesus and in Our Lady. At the same time, its interior look is pure, it is not yet polluted by malice, by duplicity, by the “incrustations” of life that harden the heart.

We know that children also have original sin, that they have their selfishness, but they have a purity, an interior simplicity. But children are not diplomatic! They say what they feel. They say what they see directly! And so often they put their parents in difficulty. They say, “But I don’t like this because it’s ugly, in front of other persons. But children say what they see. They are not two-faced, they have not yet learnt that science of duplicity that we, adults, have learnt.

Moreover, in their interior simplicity they bear in themselves the capacity of receiving and giving tenderness. Tenderness means to have a heart “of flesh” and not “of stone,” as the Bible says (Cf. Ezekiel 36:26). Tenderness is also poetry: it is “to feel” things and events, not to treat them as mere objects, just to be used, because they are useful ... Children have the capacity to smile and to cry: some smile when I lift them to kiss them. Others see me in white, they think I’m the doctor, and that I am going to vaccinate them, and they cry – but spontaneously. Children are like this, they smile and cry: two things that in us adults are often “blocked,” we are no longer capable .... and so often our smile becomes a cardboard smile, something without life, a smile that’s not vivacious -- also an artificial smile, of a clown. Children smile spontaneously and cry spontaneously ... it always depends on the heart and our heart is blocked and often loses this capacity to smile and cry ...

And, therefore, children can teach us again to smile and cry . However, we must often ask ourselves: do I smile spontaneously with freshness, with love or is my smile artificial? Do I still cry or have I lost the capacity to cry? But these are two very human questions that children teach us.

For all these reasons Jesus invites his disciples “to become like children,” because “He who is as they are belongs to the Kingdom of God” (Cf. Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:14).

Dear brothers and sisters, children bring life, joy, hope, also trouble, but life is like this. They certainly also bring worries and sometimes problems. However, it’s better to have a society with these worries and problems than a sad and grey society because it has remained without children! And when we see that the level of births hardly reaches 1%, we can say that this society is grey because it has remained without children.

--- --- ---

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In our catechesis on the family, we now turn to children, who are a great gift for the Church and for our human family.  I think of the many happy children I saw during my recent visit to Asia, but also of the countless children throughout our world who are living in poverty and need.  A society can be judged by the way it treats its children.  Within our families, children remind us that from our earliest years we are dependent on others.  We see this in Jesus himself, who was born a child in Bethlehem.  Children also remind us that we are always sons and daughters; rather than being in complete control of our lives, we never cease being radically dependent on others.  They challenge us to see things with a simple, pure and trusting heart, to receive and to offer warmth and “tenderness”, and to laugh and cry freely in response to the world around us.  Jesus urges us to become like children, since God’s Kingdom belongs to such as these (cf. Mt 18:3).  Let us welcome and treasure our children, who bring so much life, joy and hope to the world.  How sad and bleak would our world be without them!

Pope Francis (in Italian):

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General Audience: On Praying for the Synod on the Family

"All the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, priests, men and women religious, lay faithful we are all called to pray for the Synod. There is need of this, not of gossip!"

VATICAN CITY, March 25, 2015 - Here is the translation of the address given by Pope Francis during today's General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

A good morning… but it’s not a pretty day. Today the Audience is in two different places, as we do when it rains: you here in the Square, and many sick people in the Paul VI Hall, who are following the audience on the big screens. Now, as a gesture of brotherly courtesy, let us greet them with a round of applause. [Applause] It’s not easy to applaud with an umbrella in hand.

In our course of catecheses on the family, today is a rather special stage – it will be a pause for prayer.  

On March 25, in fact, we celebrate solemnly in the Church the Annunciation, the beginning of the Mystery of the Incarnation. The Archangel Gabriel visits the humble Maiden of Nazareth and announces that she will conceive and give birth to the Son of God. With this Announcement, the Lord enlightens and reinforces Mary’s faith, as He will later do also for her husband Joseph, so that Jesus can be born in a human family.

This is very beautiful: it shows us how profoundly the Mystery of the Incarnation, as God willed it, includes not only the conception in the mother’s womb but also the reception in a true family. Today I would like to contemplate with you the beauty of this bond, the beauty of this condescension of God; and we can do so reciting together the Hail Mary, which in the first part takes up, precisely, the words of the Angel, those which he addresses to the Virgin. Let us pray together:

Hail Mary…

And now a second aspect: Celebrated in many countries on March 25, Solemnity of the Annunciation, is the Day for Life. Therefore, 20 years ago, on this date, Saint John Paul II signed the Encyclical Evangelium vitae. To recall this anniversary, present today in the Square are many followers of the Pro-Life Movement. In Evangelium vitae the family occupies a central place, in as much as it is the womb of human life. The word of my venerable Predecessor reminds us that the human couple is blessed by God from the beginning to form a community of love and of life, to which is entrusted the mission of procreation.  Celebrating the Sacrament of Marriage, Christian spouses render themselves available to honor this blessing, with Christ’s grace, for their whole life. On her part, the Church commits herself solemnly to take care of the family that is born, as gift of God for its life itself, in good and bad times: the bond between the Church and the family is sacred and inviolable. The Church, as Mother, never abandons the family, even when it is humiliated, wounded and mortified in so many ways. Not even when it falls into sin, or distances itself from the Church; she will always do everything to try to take care of it and heal it, to invite it to conversion and to reconcile it with the Lord.

Well, if this is the task, it is clear how much prayer the Church needs to be able, at all times, to fulfil this mission! -- a prayer full of love for the family and for life, a prayer that is able to rejoice with those who rejoice and suffer with those who suffer.

See then what we thought, together with my collaborators, to propose today: to renew the prayer for the Synod of Bishops on the Family. We re-launch this commitment until next October, when the Ordinary Synodal Assembly will take place, dedicated to the family. I would like this prayer, as the whole Synodal course, to be animated by the compassion of the Good Shepherd for his flock, especially for the persons and families that, for different reasons, are “tired and finished,” as sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

Thus, sustained and animated by God’s grace, the Church will be able to be committed again, and still more united, in the testimony of the truth of the love of God and of his mercy for the families of the world, none excluded, be it inside o outside the sheepfold.

I ask you, please, that your prayer not be lacking. All -- Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, priests, men and women religious, lay faithful – we are all called to pray for the Synod. There is need of this, not of gossip! I also invite you to pray those who feel far away, or who are no longer accustomed to doing so. This prayer for the Synod on the Family is for the good of all. I know that this morning you were given a little prayer card and that you have it in your hands. (Perhaps it’s a bit wet). I invite you to keep it and to carry it with you, so that in the coming months you can recite it often, with holy insistence, as Jesus has asked us. Now we recite it together:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
In you we contemplate
The splendor of true love,
We turn to you with confidence.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
Make our families, also,
Places of communion and cenacles of prayer,
Authentic schools of the Gospel,
And little domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth
May our families never more experience
Violence, isolation, and division:
May anyone who was wounded or scandalized
Rapidly experience consolation and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
May the upcoming Synod of Bishops
Re-awaken in all an awareness
Of the sacred character and inviolability of the family,
Its beauty in the project of God.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Hear and answer our prayer. Amen.

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: 

Today’s solemnity of the Annunciation invites us, in the context of the Church’s preparation for the forthcoming Synod on the Family, to consider the relationship between the Incarnation and the mission of the family. In God’s plan, Jesus was welcomed into, and grew up in, a true human family, that of Mary and Joseph. Today also marks the Day for Life, in which we once more reaffirm our respect for the inviolable dignity of every human life.  The family, blessed by God from the beginning and entrusted with the task of procreation, is meant to be a community of life and love in the heart of society. Here we see how closely linked are the Church and the family. The Church is called to accompany and support all families, especially those in greatest need. I ask you to continue praying for the Synod, so that it will reflect the compassion of the Good Shepherd for his flock and help the Church to be ever more committed and clear in her witness to the truth of God’s merciful love for all families.

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General Audience: On the Passion Suffered by Children

"Children are never 'an error'"

VATICAN CITY, April 08, 2015  -

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

We complete today, in the catecheses on the family, the reflection on children, who are the most beautiful fruit of the blessing that the Creator has given man and woman. We have already talked about the great gift that children are; today, unfortunately, we must talk about the “stories of passion” that many of them live.

So many children are rejected from the beginning, abandoned, robbed of their childhood and their future. Some might dare to say, almost to justify themselves, that it was an error to make them come into the world. This is disgraceful! Please, let’s not unload our faults on children! Children are never “an error.” Their hunger isn’t an error, as their poverty isn’t, their fragility, their abandonment -- so many are abandoned on the streets; nor is it their ignorance or their incapacity -- there are so many children who don’t know what a school is. If anything, these are reasons to love them more, with greater generosity. What are we doing in our solemn declarations of the rights of man and the rights of children, if we then punish children for the errors of adults?

Those who have the task to govern, educate -- however I’d say all of us adults are responsible for children and for each of us to do what he/she can to change this situation. I am referring to the “passion” of children. Every marginalized, abandoned child who lives on the street begging and with all sorts of devices, without school, without medical care, is a cry that goes up to God and that accuses the system that we adults have built. And, unfortunately, these children are prey to criminals, who exploit them for unworthy traffic or commerce, or to train them for war and violence. However, in so-called rich countries so many children also live dramas that marked them in a heavy way, because of the crisis of the family, of education voids and of conditions of life that at times are inhuman. In every case they are children violated in body and soul. However, the Father who is in heaven does not forget a single one of these children! Not one of their tears is lost! Nor is our responsibility lost either, the social responsibility of persons, of each one of us, and of countries.

Once Jesus rebuked his disciples because they were sending the children away that the parents were bringing to him, to have him bless them. The Gospel narrative is moving: “Then the children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said: ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them and went away” (Matthew 19:13-15).  How lovely was this trust of the parents, and Jesus’ answer! How I would like this page to become the normal story of all children! It’s true that, thanks be to God, children with serious difficulties very often have extraordinary parents, ready for any sacrifice and every generosity. However, these parents should not be left alone! We must support their effort, but also offer them moments of shared joy and carefree happiness, so that they are not prey only to the therapeutic routine.

In any case, when it is a question of children, we should not hear those formulas of office legal defense such as: “after all, we are not a welfare entity”; or “In privacy, each one is free to do what he wishes”; or also “we don’t like it, we can’t do anything.” These words are not right when it is a question of children.

Too often the effects of a life strained by precarious or badly paid work, of unsustainable hours, of inefficient transport, fall on children ... But children also pay the price of immature unions and irresponsible separations: they are the first victims; they suffer the successes of the culture of exasperating subjective rights, and they then become the most precocious children. Often they absorb violence that they are unable to “digest,” and under the eyes of the grownups they are constrained to be inured to degradation.

In our time also, as in the past, the Church puts her maternity at the service of children and of their families. She brings to the parents and children of this our world God’s blessing, maternal tenderness, firm rebuke and decisive condemnation. One doesn’t joke with children!

Think what a society would be like that decided once and for all to establish this principle: “It’s true that we aren’t perfect and that we make many mistakes. However, when it is a question of children who come into the world, no sacrifice of the adults is deemed too costly or to great, in order to avoid a child thinking that he is a mistake, that he had no value and that he is abandoned to the wounds of life and to the arrogance of men.” How beautiful such a society would be! I say that much would be forgiven such a society, its innumerable errors -- much, truly.

The Lord judges our life by listening to what the angels tell him about the children, angels that “always behold the face of the Father who is in heaven” (Cf. Matthew 18:10). We must ask ourselves always: What will the children's angels tell God about us?

[Original text: Italian]

* * *

A summary of the audience was given in several languages. In English:

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Today we continue our reflection on children, the greatest blessing which God has bestowed on man and woman. I wish to focus our attention on the suffering which many children are experiencing. From the first moments of their lives, some are rejected, abandoned, and robbed of their infancy and future. There are those who say it is a mistake to bring these children into the world, due to their fragility, and the hunger and poverty they suffer. But children are never a mistake, and their sufferings are only reasons for us to love them even more. Every child who begs on the streets, who is denied an education or medical care, is a cry to God. Too often, these children become prey to criminals, who exploit them for commerce or violence. Even in wealthy countries, they suffer due to family crises and living conditions which are at times inhumane. In every case, their childhood is violated in body and soul. How did Jesus respond to the children and their parents who brought them to him: “Let the children come to me… for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:14). How beautiful the trust of these parents, and the response of Jesus! And there are many extraordinary parents who daily make sacrifices for their children. The Church offers her maternal care to all children and their families, and she brings them the blessing of Jesus. May we always care for our children, not counting the cost, so that they may never believe themselves to be mistakes, but always know their infinite worth.

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 General Audience: On Man and Woman

VATICAN CITY, April 15, 2015 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address during his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today’s catechesis is dedicated to a central aspect of the subject of the family: that of the great gift that God made to humanity with the creation of man and woman and with the Sacrament of Marriage. This catechesis and the next are concerned with the difference and complementarity between man and woman, who are at the summit of the divine creation; the two following ones will be on Marriage.

We begin with a brief comment on the first account of Creation in the Book of Genesis. Here we read that God, after having created the universe and all living beings, created his masterpiece, namely, the human being, which he made in his own image: “in the image of God He created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

As we all know, sexual difference is present in so many forms of life, in the long scale of the living. However, only in man and in woman does it bear in itself the image and likeness of God: the biblical text repeats it a good three times in two verses (26-27): Man and woman are image and likeness of God! This tells us that not only man in himself is the image of God, not only woman in herself is the image of God, but also man and woman, as a couple, are the image of God. The difference between man and woman is not for opposition, or for subordination, but for communion and creation, always in the image and likeness of God.

Experience teaches it: to know himself well and to grow harmoniously, the human being is in need of reciprocity between man and woman. When this does not happen, the consequences are seen. We are made to listen to and to help one another. We can say that without the reciprocal enrichment in this relation – in thought and in action, in affections and in work, also in the faith – the two cannot understand in depth what it means to be a man and a woman.

Modern and contemporary culture has opened new areas, new freedoms and new depths for the enrichment of the understanding of this difference. However, it has also introduced many doubts and much skepticism. For instance, I wonder, for example, if the so-called gender theory is not also an expression of a frustration and of a resignation, which aims to cancel the sexual difference because it no longer knows how to address it. Yes, we risk taking a step backward. The removal of the difference, in fact, is the problem, not the solution. To resolve their problems of relation, man and woman must instead talk more to one another, listen more to one another, know one another more, love one another more. They must relate to one another with respect and cooperate with friendship. With these human bases, sustained by the grace of God, it is possible to plan the matrimonial and family union for the whole of life. The matrimonial and family bond is something serious, and it is for everyone, not only for believers. I would like to exhort the intellectuals not to abandon this topic, as if it had become secondary for the commitment in favor of a freer and more just society.

God has entrusted the earth to the alliance of man and of woman: its failure makes the world arid of affections and darkens the sky of hope. The signs are already worrying, and we see them. I would like to indicate, among many, two points that I believe must be attended with greater urgency.

The first. It is without doubt that we must do much more in favor of woman if we want to give back more strength to the reciprocity between men and women. In fact, it is necessary that women not only be more listened to, but that her voice has real weight, a recognized authoritativeness in the society and in the Church. The way itself with which Jesus considered women –we read it in the Gospel, it is so! -- in a context less favorable than ours, because in those times women were in fact in second place ... and Jesus considered her in a way which gives a powerful light, which enlightens a path that leads far, of which we have only followed a small piece. We have not yet understood in depth what things the feminine genius can give us, which woman can give to society and also to us. Perhaps to see things with other eyes that complements the thoughts of men. It is a path to follow with more creativity and more audacity.

A second reflection concerns the topic of man and woman created in the image of God. I wonder if the crisis of collective trust in God, which does us so much harm, and makes us become sick with resignation, incredulity and cynicism, is not also connected to the crisis of the alliance between man and woman. In fact the biblical account, with the great symbolic fresco on the earthly paradise and original sin, tells us in fact that the communion with God is reflected in the communion of the human couple and the loss of trust in the celestial Father generates division and conflict between man and woman.

From here comes the great responsibility of the Church, of all believers, and first of all of believing families, to rediscover the beauty of the creative design that inscribes the image of God also in the alliance between man and woman. The earth is filled with harmony and trust when the alliance between man and woman is lived well. And if man and woman seek it together between themselves and with God, without a doubt they will find it. Jesus encourages us explicitly to give witness to this beauty, which is the image of God. Thank you!

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Continuing our catechesis on the family, today we reflect on the complementarity between man and woman. Scripture tells us that “God created man in his own image… male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). Man and woman bear the image and likeness of God not only as individuals, but also together. In God’s plan, sexual differentiation is not ordered to subordination, but to communion and procreation. This reciprocity brings harmony and enrichment to the human family. But it also presents a constant challenge; that men and women learn how to speak to one another, and to respect and love each other. Nowadays, we sense the responsibility to do more in favour of women, recognizing the weight and authority of their voices in society and the Church. We must also ask ourselves to what extent society’s loss of faith in God is related to the crisis of that covenant. The challenge faced by the Church, and by all believers and families, is to rediscover the beauty of God’s plan, the imprint of his image in the covenant between man and woman.

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General Audience: On Man and Woman as Companions

"The social devaluation of the stable and generative alliance of man and woman is certainly a loss for all"

VATICAN CITY, April 22, 2015  - Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave at this morning’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning.

In the previous catechesis on the family, I reflected on the first passage of the creation of the human being, in the first chapter of Genesis, where it is written: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Today I would like to complete the reflection with the second passage, which we find in the second chapter. Here we read that the Lord, after having created heaven and earth, “formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” He is the pinnacle of creation. Then God put man in a most beautiful garden so that he would till and keep it.

The Holy Spirit, who has inspired the whole Bible, suggests for a moment the image of man alone, and that he is lacking something without woman. And he suggests God’s thought, almost God’s sentiment, who looks at him, who sees Adam alone in the garden: he is free, he is lord ... but he is alone. And God sees that this “is not good,” it is as though communion is lacking, plenitude is lacking. “It is not good” – God says – and adds: “I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Then God presents all the animals to man; man gives each one of them its name – and this is another image of man’s lordship over creation -- however, he does not find in any animal one that is like him. Thus, man continues alone.

When, finally, God presents woman to him, exulting man recognizes that creature, and only that one, which is part of him: “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Finally, there is a reflection of himself, a reciprocity.

And when a person – it is an example to understand this well – wants to shake hands with another, he must have another before him: if one puts out one’s hand and has nothing, the hand is there, but reciprocity is lacking. So was man, he was lacking something to reach his plenitude, he was lacking reciprocity.

Woman is not a “replica” of man; she comes directly from the creative gesture of God. The image of the “rib” does not express inferiority or subordination but, on the contrary, that man and woman are of the same substance and are complementary. And the fact that – still in the parable – God molded woman while man slept, stresses in fact that she is in no way creature of man, but of God. And it also suggests something else: To find woman, and we can say to find love in woman, to find woman, man must first dream about her and then he finds her.

God’s trust in man and woman, to whom he entrusts the earth, is generous, direct and full. However, it is here where the Evil One introduces in his mind suspicion, incredulity, mistrust and finally disobedience to the commandment that protected them. They fall into that delirium of omnipotence that contaminates everything and destroys harmony. We also feel it within ourselves, so many times, all of us.

Sin generates mistrust and division between man and woman. Their relationship is threatened by thousands of ways of prevarication and submission, of deceitful seduction and humiliating arrogance, even the most dramatic and violent. History bears the imprints. Let us think, for instance, of the negative excesses of patriarchal cultures. Let us think of the many forms of machismo, where woman is considered to be second class. Let us think of the instrumentalization and merchandising of the feminine body in the present media culture. However, let us also think of the recent epidemic of mistrust, skepticism and even hostility that is spreading in our culture – in particular beginning with a comprehensible mistrust of women – in relation to an alliance between man and woman that is capable at the same time of refining the intimacy of communion and of guarding the dignity of the difference.

If we do not find a wave of sympathy for this alliance, capable of establishing the new generations to repair the mistrust and the indifference, children will come into the world ever more uprooted from the maternal womb. The social devaluation of the stable and generative alliance of man and woman is certainly a loss for all. We must reassess marriage and the family! And the Bible says a beautiful thing: man finds woman, they find one another, and man must leave something to find her fully. And for this, man will leave his father and his mother to go with her. It is beautiful! This means to begin a journey. Man is all for woman and woman is all for man.

The care of this alliance of man and woman -- also if they are sinners and are wounded, confused or humiliated, mistrustful and uncertain -- is therefore for us believers a demanding and exciting vocation, in the present condition. The same passage of creation and of sin, at the end, gives us a most beautiful icon: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.” It is an image of tenderness to that sinful couple that leaves us with our mouth open: the tenderness of God for man and for woman. It is an image of paternal custody of the human couple. God himself takes care of and protects his masterpiece. 

 [Here is the English-language summary read at the audience:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Continuing our catechesis on the family, we recall God’s creation of man from the ground. He is placed in the garden, where he is to care for creation. Yet God sees that man is alone, and so he creates woman, someone complementary with whom man can share his life. Man and woman are created to live a life of reciprocity, to enter into a covenant together. Yet sin introduces discord into their relationship, lack of trust and suspicion. We see throughout history the fruit of this sin, especially towards women – oppression, violence and exploitation. Most recently, this mistrust and scepticism has led our culture to disregard the marriage covenant between a man and a woman, that covenant which deepens communion and safeguards the dignity of their uniqueness. When the stable and fruitful covenant between a man and a woman is devalued by society, it is a loss for everyone, especially the young. For all our sins and weaknesses, our vocation is to care for the covenant of marriage. It is a vital and energizing vocation, through which we cooperate with our heavenly Father, who himself always cares for and protects this great gift.

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General Audience: On Christian Marriage

"The Sacrament of Marriage is a Great Act of Faith and Love"

By Redaction

Vatican City State, May 06, 2015

Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address during his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In our series of catecheses on the family, today we touch directly on the beauty of Christian marriage. It is not simply a ceremony carried out in church, with flowers, the dress, photos. Christian marriage is a Sacrament that takes place in the Church and that the Church also does, starting a new family community.

It is what the Apostle Paul summarizes in his well-known expression: “This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church” (Ephesians 5:32). Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul affirms that the love between spouses is an image of the love between Christ and the Church – an unthinkable dignity! However, in reality it is inscribed in the creative design of God, and with the grace of Christ innumerable Christian couples, although with their limitations and their sins, have realized it!

Speaking of the new life in Christ, Saint Paul says that all Christians are called to love one another as Christ has loved them, namely “subject to one another” (Ephesians 5:21), which means at the service of one another. And here he introduces the analogy between the husband-wife couple and that of Christ-Church. It is clearly an imperfect analogy, but we must gather the spiritual sense which is very lofty and revolutionary, and at the same time simple, within the reach of every man and woman that entrusts himself/herself to the grace of God.

The husband – Paul says –must love his wife “as his own body” (Ephesians 5:28); he must love her as Christ “loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (v. 25). But do you husbands who are present here understand this? To love your wife as Christ loves the Church? These are not jokes but serious things! The effect of this radicalism of the dedication asked of man, for the love and dignity of the woman, on the example of Christ, must have been great in the Christian community itself.

This seed of the evangelical novelty, which re-establishes the original reciprocity of dedication and of respect, matured slowly in history but in the end prevailed.

The Sacrament of Marriage is a great act of faith and love: it witnesses the courage to believe in the beauty of God’s creative act and to live that love that pushes one to always go beyond, beyond oneself and also beyond the family itself. The Christian vocation to love without reservation and without measure is what, with Christ’s grace, is also at the base of the free consensus that constitutes marriage.

The Church herself is fully involved in the history of every Christian marriage: she is built on its successes and suffers in its failures. However, we must ask ourselves seriously: do we ourselves, as believers and as pastors, fully accept this indissoluble bond of the history of Christ and of the Church with the history of marriage and of the human family? Are we prepared to assume this responsibility seriously, namely, that every marriage goes on the way of love that Christ has with the Church? This is great!

In this depth of the creaturely mystery, recognized and re-established in its purity, a second great horizon opens that characterizes the Sacrament of Marriage. The decision to “be married in the Lord” also contains a missionary dimension, which means to have in the heart the willingness to be so through the blessing of God and the grace of the Lord for all. In fact, Christian spouses participate in as much as spouses in the mission of the Church. Courage is needed for this! That is why when I greet newlyweds I say: “See these courageous ones!” – because courage is needed to love one another as Christ loves the Church.

The celebration of the Sacrament cannot leave out this co-responsibility of family life in regard to the great mission of love of the Church. Thus the life of the Church is enriched every time by the beauty of this spousal alliance, as it is impoverished every time that it is disfigured. To offer to all the gifts of faith, of love and of hope, the Church is also in need of the courageous fidelity of spouses to the grace of their Sacrament! The People of God is in need of their daily journey in faith, in love and in hope, with all the joys and efforts that this journey entails in a marriage and in a family.

The route is thus marked forever, it is the route of love: one loves the way God loves, forever. Christ does not cease to take care of the Church: he always loves her, he always guards her, as himself. Christ does not cease to take away from the human face stains and wrinkles of all sorts. Moving and beautiful is this radiation of the strength and tenderness of God that is transmitted from couple to couple, from family to family. Saint Paul was right: this is in fact a “great mystery”! Men and women who are sufficiently courageous to carry this treasure in the “clay pots” of our humanity – these very courageous men and women are an essential resource for the Church, also for the whole world! May God bless them a thousand times for this!

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Continuing our catechesis on the family, we now reflect on the beauty of Christian marriage, that sacrament which builds up the community of the Church and society. Marriage has been inscribed in creation’s design by God, and, by his grace, countless Christian men and women have lived married life fully. Marriage is an act of faith in God’s plan for humanity and an act of selfless love. Saint Paul tells us that married love is an image of the love between Christ and his Church; a husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, by giving himself completely for her. When a man and a woman marry in the Lord, they participate in the missionary life of the Church, by living not only for themselves or their own family, but for all people. Therefore the life of the Church is enriched through every marriage which shows forth this beauty, and is impoverished when marriage is disfigured in any way. A couple which faithfully and courageously lives the grace of this sacrament assists the Church in offering the gifts of faith, hope and love to all people, and helps others to experience these gifts in their married lives and their families. May married couples live this mystery ever more fully, trusting in God’s tenderness and the Church’s maternal care.

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General Audience: On Family Life

"The more intimate and profound love is, the more it calls for respect of the freedom of the other and the capacity to wait for him to open the door of his heart."

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City State, May 13, 2015

Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address during his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today’s catechesis is like an entrance door to a series of reflections on the life of the family, its real life, with its times and its circumstances. Written above this entrance door are three words, which I have already used several times. And these words are: may I, thank you, pardon. In fact, these words open the way to live well in the family. They are simple words, but not so simple to put into practice. They enclose a great strength: the strength to take care of the home, including through thousands of difficulties and trials. However, its absence opens cracks that can even make it collapse.

We generally understand them as words of “good manners.” That’s fine. A polite person asks for permission, gives thanks and asks for pardon if he makes a mistake, because politeness is very important. A great Bishop, Saint Francis of Sales, used to say that “politeness is already half of holiness.” However, beware, in history we have also known a formalism of good manners that can become a mask that hides aridity of soul and indifference to the other. There is a saying: “behind many good manners bad customs hide.” Not even religion is immune to this risk, which sees a formal fulfilment slide into spiritual worldliness.

The devil that tempts Jesus shows good manners – he is a real lord, a gentleman – and quotes the Sacred Scriptures; he seems to be a theologian. His style seems correct, but his intention is to divert from the truth of the love of God. We, however, understand politeness in its authentic term, where the style of good relations is firmly rooted in love of the good and respect of the other. The family lives from this fineness of loving well.

The first word is "may I". When we are concerned to ask politely for what we think we deserve, we put a real defense in the spirit of marital and family coexistence. To enter into the life of the other, also when he forms part of our life, calls for the delicacy of a non-invasive attitude, which renews trust and respect. Trust does not authorize to take everything for granted. And, the more intimate and profound love is, the more it calls for respect of the freedom of the other and the capacity to wait for him to open the door of his heart. In this connection, we recall Jesus’ word in the Book of Revelation: ”See that I stand at the door and knock. If someone hears my voice and opens the door to me, I will go with him, eat with him and he with me. The Lord also asks for permission to enter! Let us not forget this. Before doing something in the family, permission, may I do so? Do you like me to do it this way? It is truly polite language, but full of love. And this does much good to families.

The second word is thank you. Often we can think that we are becoming a civilization of bad manners and bad words, as if it were a sign of emancipation. We hear them said also publicly. Politeness and the capacity to give thanks are seen as a sign of weakness, and sometimes they even arouse mistrust.

This tendency is contrasted in the very heart of the family. We must be intransigent when it comes to education in gratitude, in recognition: both the dignity of persons and social justice pass through here. If family life neglects this style, social life will also lose it. For a believer, moreover, gratitude is at the very heart of the faith: a Christian who does not give thanks is one who has forgotten God’s language. Listen well, I say! A Christian who does not give thanks is one who has forgotten God’s language. Hey, this is ugly!

Let us recall Jesus’ question when he healed the ten lepers and only one returned to thank him. I once heard an elderly person say, very wise, very good and simple, but with that wisdom of piety, of life ... “Gratitude is a plant that grows only in the earth of noble souls,” – that nobility of soul, that grace of God in the soul that drives one to say: Thank you for gratitude. It is the flower of a noble soul. This is something lovely.

And the third word is “pardon,” -- a difficult word, yes, but also necessary. When it is lacking small cracks are enlarged – even without wishing it – until they become wide gaps.

Not for nothing, in the “Our Father,” the prayer taught by Jesus that summarizes all the essential questions of our life, we find this expression: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We must admit we have done wrong, and be anxious to restore what we have taken – respect, sincerity, love – makes us worthy of forgiveness. And thus the infection stops. If we do not have the capacity to be sorry, it means that we are also incapable of forgiving. In a home where pardon is not requested, air begins to lack, the waters become stagnant. Many emotional wounds, many lacerations in families begin with the lost of this precious word: pardon. In marital life there are often quarrels, “plates” also “fly,” but I give this advice: do not end the day without making peace. Listen well. Husband and wife, have you quarrelled? -- Children with parents? Did you quarrel intensely? It’s not right, but it isn’t the problem: the problem is that this sentiment must not be there the next day. Therefore, if you have quarrelled, the day must never end without making peace in the family. And how do I make peace? Do I kneel down? No!  -- just a small gesture, a little thing. And, hey, family harmony returns! A caress suffices, without words, but never end the day without making peace in the family. Understood? Hey, it’s not easy! But it must be done. And with this life will be more beautiful.

These three key-words of the family are simple words, and perhaps initially they make us smile. However, when we forget them, there’s nothing to laugh about, no? Perhaps our education neglects them too much. May the Lord help us to put them back in the exact place, in our heart, in our home, and also in our civil co-existence. And now I invite all to repeat these three words together: “permission, thank you, pardon” ... all together! “Permission, thank you, pardon.” They are three words to enter really in the love of the family, so that the family will be well. Now repeat all together the advice I have given: never end the day without making peace. Everyone. “Never end the day without making peace.” Thank you.

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Today I would like to continue our catechesis on the family by reflecting on three phrases: “May I?”, “Thank you”, and “Pardon me”. These simple phrases are not so easy to say or to put into practice. But when they are ignored, their absence can cause cracks in the foundation of the family, which can lead to its collapse. If these words are part of our daily lives, not just as a formal expression of good manners, but as a sign of deep love for one another, they strengthen a happy family life. “May I?” – even if we think we have the right to something, when we speak to our spouse or family member with kindness we create space for a true spirit of marital and familial common life. We renew trust and respect, revealing our love for others, and we allow them to open the door of their hearts to us. “Thank you” – our society has great need for gratitude, which makes us more sensitive to the dignity of the human person and the demands of social justice. Thankfulness is also the language of God, to whom above all we must express our gratitude. “Pardon me” – Without these words, hurt can develop in our relationships, and weaken our life as a family. But when we ask forgiveness, we show our desire to restore what was lost – respect, honesty, love – and healing between family members is made possible. “May I?”, “Thank you”, “Pardon me” – Let us ask the Lord to keep these three phrases in our hearts, our homes and our communities.

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General Audience: On the Education of Children

"The Christian communities are called to offer support to the educational mission of families, and they do so first of all with the light of the Word of God."

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City State, May 20, 2015

Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address during his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square. 

* * *

Today, dear Brothers and Sisters, I wish to welcome you because I have seen so many families among you. Good morning to all the families! We continue to reflect on the family. Today we pause to reflect on an essential characteristic of the family, namely, its natural vocation to educate the children so that they grow in responsibility for themselves and for others. What we heard from the Apostle Paul at the beginning is so beautiful: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:20-21). This is a wise rule: the child is educated to listen to his parents and to obey his parents who must not command in a bad way, lest they discourage the children. The children, in fact, must grow without being discouraged, step by step. If you parents say to the children: “Let’s go up that flight of steps” and you take them by the hand and step by step you make them go up, things will go well. But if you say: ”Go up! – ‘But I can’t” – “Go!” this is called exasperating the children, asking the children to do what they are not capable of doing. Therefore, the relation between parents and children must be one of wisdom, of very great balance. Children, obey your parents, this pleases God. And you, parents, do not exasperate your children, asking them to do things they cannot do. And this must be done so that the children grow in responsibility for themselves and for others.

It would seem to be an obvious observation, yet even in our times, difficulties are not lacking. It is difficult for parents to educate their children when they see them only in the evening, when they return home tired from work – those who have the good fortune of having work! It is even more difficult for separated parents, who are weighed down by their condition: poor souls, they have had difficulties, they have separated  and so often the child is taken as hostage and the father speaks badly to him of his mother and the mother speaks badly to him of the father, and so much harm is done. But I say to separated parents: never, never, never take the child as hostage! You have separated because of many difficulties and motives, life has given you this trial, but the children must not bear the weight of this separation, they must not be used as hostages against the other spouse. They must grow hearing the mother speak well of the father, even though they are not together, and the father speaking well of the mother. For separated parents this is very important and very difficult, but they can do it.

However, above all, is the question: how to educate? What tradition do we have today to transmit to our children?

“Critical” intellectuals of all kinds have silenced parents in a thousand ways, to defend the young generations from harm -- real or imagined -- of family education. Among other things, the family has been accused of authoritarianism, favoritism, conformism, and of emotional repression that generates conflicts.

In fact, a rupture has been opened between the family and society, between the family and school; today the educational pact has been broken. And thus, the educational alliance of society with the family has entered into crisis because reciprocal trust has been undermined. The symptoms are many. For instance, relations between parents and teachers in the school have been damaged. At times there are tensions and mutual mistrust and the consequences naturally fall on the children. On the other hand, the so-called “experts” have multiplied, who have taken the role of parents even in the most intimate aspects of education. On emotional life, on personality and on development, on rights and duties the “experts” know everything: objectives, motivations, techniques. And parents must only listen, learn and adapt themselves. Deprived of their role, they often become excessively apprehensive and possessive in dealing with their children, to the point of not correcting them ever: “You can’t correct your child.” They tend increasingly to entrust them to the “experts,” even for the most delicate and personal aspects of their life, putting themselves in the corner, and thus parents today run the risk of excluding themselves from the life of their children. And this is very grave! Today there are cases of this type. I don’t say it happens always, but there are cases. The schoolteacher reprimands the child and writes a note to the parents. I remember a personal anecdote. Once when I was in the fourth year of elementary school I said a bad word to the teacher and the teacher, a good woman, had my mother called. She came the next day, they spoke together and then I was called. And, in front of the teacher, my mother explained to me that what I had done was a bad thing, which I must not do, but my mother did so with such gentleness and she asked me in front of her to ask the teacher for forgiveness. I did so and then I was happy because I said: the story ended well. However, that was the first chapter! When I returned home, the second chapter began ... Imagine if today the teacher does something of the sort, the next day the two parents or one of the two reprimands her, because the “experts” say that children must not be reprimanded like that. Things have changed! For this reason parents must not exclude themselves from the education of their children.

Evidently this approach is not good: it isn’t harmonious, it isn’t dialogic, and instead of fostering collaboration between the family and the other educational agencies, the school, it opposes them.

How have we arrived at this point? There is no doubt that parents, or better, certain educational models of the past had some limitations, there’s no doubt. However, it is also true that there are mistakes that only parents are allowed to make, because they can compensate for them in a way that is impossible for anyone else. On the other hand, we know it well, life has become stingy of time to talk, to reflect, to deal with one another. Many parents are “kidnapped” by work – father and mother must work – and by other preoccupations, hampered by the new needs of the children and the complexity of present-day life – which is like this, we must accept it as it is – and they feel paralyzed out of feart of making a mistake. However, the problem is not only to speak. In fact, a superficial “dialogism” does not lead to a true encounter of the mind and of the heart. Rather, we should ask ourselves: do we try to understand “where” the children really are in their journey? Do we know where their heart really is? And, above all: do we want to know it? Are we convinced that, in reality, they don’t expect something else?

The Christian communities are called to offer support to the educational mission of families, and they do so first of all with the light of the Word of God. The Apostle Paul reminds us of the reciprocity of duties between parents and children: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:20-21). At the base of everything is love, what God gives us, “it is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful, ... bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:5-6). Even in the best families it is necessary to endure one another, and so much patience is needed to endure one another! But life is like this. Life is not made in a laboratory, it is made in reality. Jesus himself went through family education. In this case also, the grace of the life of Christ leads to fulfillment what is inscribed in human nature. How many wonderful examples we have of Christian parents full of human wisdom! They show that a good family education is the spinal cord of humanism. Their social radiation is the resource that makes it possible to compensate for the lacunae, the wounds, the voids of paternity and maternity that touch less fortunate children. This radiation can do genuine miracles. And these miracles happen every day in the Church.

I hope that the Lord will give Christian families the faith, the freedom and the courage necessary for their mission. If family education rediscovers the pride of its leadership, many things will change for the better, for hesitant parents and for disappointed children. It is time that fathers and mothers return from their exile – because they have exiled themselves from the education of their children --, and reassume fully their educational role. We hope that the Lord will give parents this grace: not to exile themselves from the education of their children. And only love, tenderness and patience can do this.

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the family, today we consider the vocation of families to educate their children, to raise them in the profound human values which are the backbone of a healthy society. This educational mission, essential as it is, nowadays encounters a variety of difficulties. Parents spend less time with their children and schools are often more influential than families in shaping the thinking and values of the young. Yet the relationship between family and school ought to be harmonious. Our children need sure guidance in the process of growing in responsibility for themselves and others. Christian communities are called to support the educational mission of families. They do this above all by living in fidelity to God’s world, cultivating faith, love and patience. Jesus himself was raised in a family; when he tells us that all who hear the word of God and obey are his brothers and sisters, he reminds us that for all their failings, our families can count on his inspiration and grace in the difficult but rewarding vocation of educating their children.

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General Audience: On Betrothal

"The covenant of love between man and woman, a covenant for life, is not improvised; it is not made from one day to another"

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City State, May 27, 2015

Here is a ZENIT translation of the Holy Father's address during his Wednesday general audience held today in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Continuing these catecheses on the family, today I would like to speak about the [time of] engagement. Engagement -- we hear it in the word – it has to do with trust, confidence, reliability -- confidence in the vocation that God gives, because marriage is first of all the discovery of a call from God. It is certainly a good thing that today young people can choose to marry on the basis of mutual love. However, the freedom of the bond in fact requires a harmonious awareness of the decision, not only a simple understanding of the attraction or of the sentiment, of a moment, of a brief time ... it requires a course.

In other terms, the engagement is the time in which the two are called to work hard on love, a participated and shared work that goes in depth. As they discover one another, that is, man “gets to know” woman by getting to know this woman, his fiancée; and the woman “gets to know” man by getting to know this man, her fiancé. We must not underestimate the importance of this knowledge: it is a fine obligation, and love itself requires it, because it is not only a light-hearted happiness, an enchanted emotion ... The biblical account speaks of the entire creation as the fine work of the love of God; the Book of Genesis says that “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Only at the end did God “rest.”  From this image we understand that the love of God, which gave origin to the world, was not an extemporaneous decision. No! It was fine work. The love of God created the conditions of an irrevocable, solid alliance destined to last.

The covenant of love between man and woman, a covenant for life, is not improvised; it is not made from one day to another. There is no express marriage: one must work on love, one must journey. The alliance of love of man and woman is learned and refined. I allow myself to say that it is a crafted alliance. To make two lives only one life, is also almost a miracle, a miracle of freedom and of the heart, entrusted to faith. Perhaps we must make more of an effort on this point, because our “sentimental coordinates” have become somewhat confused. One who pretends to want everything immediately, then yields also on everything – and right away -- at the first difficulty --  (or on the first occasion). There is no hope for the trust and the fidelity of the gift of self, if the habit prevails to consume love as a sort of “integrator” of psychic-physical wellbeing. This is not love! The engagement puts in focus the will to protect together something that must never be purchased or sold, betrayed or abandoned, no matter how tempting the offer might be. However God also, when he speaks of the alliance with his people, does so at times in terms of engagement. In the Book of Jeremiah, speaking of the people that had distanced themselves from him, he reminds them when they were the “bride” of God and says thus: “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride” (2:2). And God undertook this journey of engagement; then he also made a promise: we heard it at the beginning of the audience, in the Book of Hosea: “I will make you my bride for ever, I will make you my bride in justice and in law, in love and in benevolence. I will make you my bride in fidelity and you will know the Lord” (2:21-22). Long is the way that the Lord travels with his people in this course of engagement. In the end God marries his people in Jesus Christ: he marries the Church in Jesus. The People of God is the bride of Jesus. But what a long way! And you, Italians, in your literature have a masterpiece on engagement [I Promessi Sposi]. It is necessary that young people should know it, that they should read it. It is a masterpiece, which tells the story of an engaged couple that suffered so much pain; they travelled a path full of difficulties until they arrived in the end at marriage. Do not leave aside this masterpiece on engagement that Italian literature has in fact offered you. Go ahead, read it and you will see the beauty, the suffering, but also the fidelity of the engaged couple.

In her wisdom, the Church keeps the distinction between being engaged and being married – it is not the same – precisely in view of the delicacy and depth of this verification. Let’s be careful not to scorn light-heartedly this wise teaching, which is nourished also by the experience of conjugal love happily lived. The strong symbols of the body hold the keys of the soul: we cannot treat the bonds of the flesh with heedlessness, without opening some lasting wound in the spirit (1 Corinthians 6:15-20).

Certainly today’s culture and society have become rather indifferent to the delicacy and the seriousness of this passage. And on the other hand, it cannot be said that they are generous with young people that are seriously intending to start a home and bring children into the world! Rather, they often put a thousand obstacles, mental and practical. The engagement is a course of life that must mature as fruit, it is a path of maturation in love, until the moment it becomes marriage.

The pre-marital courses are a special expression of the preparation. And we see so many couples, that perhaps arrive at the course somewhat against their will, “But these priests makes us do a course! But why? We know!” – and they attend against their will. But afterwards they are happy and thank us, because in fact they found there the occasion – often the only one! – to reflect on their experience in terms that aren’t trivial. Yes, many couples are together for a long time, perhaps also in intimacy, sometimes living together, but they don’t really know one another. It seems strange, but experience shows that it is so. Because of this, the engagement is re-evaluated as a time of getting to know one another and of a sharing a plan. The course of preparation for marriage is marked in this perspective, also making use of the simple but intense testimony of Christian spouses. And pointing here also on the essential: the Bible, to be rediscovered together, in a conscious way; prayer, in its liturgical dimension, but also in “domestic prayer,” to be lived in the family, the Sacraments, the sacramental life, Confession, ... in which the Lord comes to dwell with the engaged couple and prepares them to truly receive one another “with the grace of Christ”; and fraternity with the poor, with the needy, who stir us to sobriety and sharing. Engaged couples that work on this grow and all this leads to preparing a lovely celebration of Marriage in a different way, not in a worldly but in a Christian way! We think of these words of God that we heard when he spoke to his people as the fiancé to his fiancée: “I will make you my bride for ever, I will make you my bride in justice and in law, in love and in benevolence. I will make you my bride in fidelity and you will know the Lord” (Hosea 2:21-22). May every engaged couple think of this and say to one another: “I will make you my bride, I will make you my husband.” To wait for that moment; it is a moment, it is a course that goes slowly ahead, but it is a course of maturation. The stages of the course must not be burnt. Maturation is done like this, step by step.

The time of engagement can truly become a time of initiation, to what? To surprise! -- to the surprise of spiritual gifts with which the Lord, through the Church, enriches the horizon of the new family that prepares to live in his blessing. Now I invite you to pray to the Holy Family of Nazareth: Jesus, Joseph and Mary. Pray that the family will undertake this course of preparation; pray for engaged couples. Let us pray all together to Our Lady a Hail Mary for all engaged couples, that they may understand the beauty of this course to Marriage. [Hail Mary ...] And to the engaged couples that are in the Square: “Have a good course of engagement!”

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In our catechesis on marriage and the family, today we reflect on the importance of engagement as a preparation for marriage. The word “engagement” itself speaks of entrustment and commitment. Engagement is a time when couples come to know one another better in planning for the beautiful yet demanding enterprise of marriage. Love itself demands this preparation, which makes possible a free, generous and sober decision to enter into a life-long covenant of love. For this reason the Church stresses the importance of the period of engagement by offering courses of marriage preparation. With the help of Christian married couples, fiancés are challenged to reflect together on their love, their future and the importance of faith and prayer in the life they are about to share. Let us pray for young people looking forward to marriage, that they will prepare for the wedding day not in a worldly or banal way, but with the wisdom, hope and joy born of their faith in Christ.

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General Audience: On Poverty and the Family

“The Church is a mother, and should not forget this tragedy of Her children. She too must be poor”

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City State, June 03, 2015

Here is a ZENIT translation of the Holy Father's address during his Wednesday general audience held today in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning.

In these Wednesdays, we have reflected on the family. And we go forward on this theme: to reflect on the family.

Starting today, our catecheses will begin with a reflection on the consideration of the vulnerability of the family, in the conditions of life that puts them to the test.

Today we begin with the first. One of these trials is poverty. Let us think of the many families who populate the outskirts of the megacities, but also the rural areas...How much poverty, how much degradation! And then to make matters worse, even war comes to some places. War is always a terrible thing. It especially affects the civilian populations, the families. War is truly “the mother of all poverty”, it impoverishes the family, a great predator of life, of souls, and affects the most sacred and dearest ones.

Despite all this, there are so many poor families who try to live their daily lives with dignity, often openly trusting in the blessing of God. This lesson, however, should not justify our indifference, but rather increase our shame! That there is so much poverty! It is almost a miracle that, even in poverty, the family continues to form and even to conserve - as they can - the special humanity of their bonds. This fact irritates those planners of well-being who consider the affections, the generation, the family bonds, as a secondary variable of the quality of life. They do not understand anything! Instead, we should kneel before these families, who are a true school of humanity that saves societies from barbarism.

What remains, then, if we give in to the blackmail of Caesar and Mammon, of violence and money, and we renounce family affections? A new civil ethic will come only when those responsible for public life reorganize the social bond from the fight against the destructive spiral between family and poverty, which leads us into the abyss.

Today’s economy is often specialized in the enjoyment of individual well-being, but widely practices the exploitation of the family bonds. This is a serious contradiction! The immense work of the family is not quoted in financial statements, naturally! In fact, economy and politics are stingy with acknowledgements in this regard. Yet, the interior formation of the person and social circulation of affections have their pillar precisely there. If you take it away, it all comes down.

It is not just a matter of bread. We speak of work, education, health. It is important to understand this. We always remain very moved when we see pictures of hungry and sick children who are shown to us in many parts of the world. At the same time, we are also very moved by the sparkling gaze of many children, deprived of everything, who are in schools made of nothing, proudly showing their pencils and notebooks. And how they look at their teachers with love! Children truly know that man does not live on bread alone! Even family affections: when there is poverty, children suffer because they want love, the family bond.

We Christians should always be closer to the families tested by poverty. But think about it: all of you know someone; a father without work, a mother without work, and the family suffers! The bonds are weakened. This is bad.

In fact, social poverty strikes the family and, at times, destroys it. The lack or loss of work, or its strong precariousness, has serious implications on family life, severely testing relationships. The living conditions in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, with housing and transportation problems, as well as the reduction of social, health and educational services, causes further difficulty. The damage caused by those pseudo-models can be added to these material factors, disseminated by mass-media based on consumerism and the worship of appearance, that affects the poorest social classes and increases the degradation of family bonds. To care for families, to care for the affections, but misery puts families to the test.

The Church is a mother, and should not forget this tragedy of Her children. She too must be poor, to become fruitful and respond to so much misery. A poor Church is a Church that practices a voluntary simplicity in its own life - in its own institutions, in the lifestyle of its members - to break down every wall of separation, especially by the poor. It takes prayer and action. Let us pray intensely to the Lord, that He shakes us, to make our Christian families protagonists of this revolution of family closeness, which is so necessary now! The Church, since the beginning, is made from that: this family closeness. And we must not forget that the judgment of the needy, of the little ones and of the poor anticipates the judgment of God (Mt. 25, 31-46). Let us not forget this. And let us all do everything that we can to help families to go forward in the trials of poverty and misery that strikes at the affections, the family bonds.

I would like to read once again, the text from the Bible that we heard from the beginning. Each one of us should think about the families that are put to the test, that are tested by misery, by poverty. The Bible says: “My son, deprive not the poor of his living, and do not keep needy eyes waiting.” Let us think about each word! “Do not grieve the one who is hungry, nor anger a man in want. Do not add to the troubles of an angry mind, nor delay your gift to a beggar. Do not reject an afflicted suppliant, nor turn your face away from the poor. Do not avert your eye from the needy, nor give a man occasion to curse you; for if in bitterness of soul he calls down a curse upon you…(Sir. 4: 1-6) For this is what the Lord will do, the Gospel says, if we do not do these things. Thank you!

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:        

Today we consider one of the conditions which afflict too many families, namely, poverty.  

And yet, in the worst of circumstances, even in war torn areas, how often these families persevere with dignity, entrusting themselves to the goodness of God.  It is a miracle that even in extreme situations families continue to be formed and sustained.  Sadly, our modern economies often promote individual well-being at the expense of the family.  

As Christians, however, we must always look for ways to strengthen and support families, especially poorer ones.  The Church, as a mother, can never be blind to the sufferings of her children.  For each of us, this means choosing simplicity both individually and in our institutions, so as to break down walls of division and overcome all difficulties, especially poverty.  

A poorer Church will bear fruit for so many of her needy children.  Let us pray for the grace of conversion so that Christian families everywhere will be truly committed to helping their poorer brothers and sisters.

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On Sickness and Suffering of Family Members

"And I think of how important it is to educate children as little ones to solidarity in the time of sickness. An education that lacks sensitivity for human sickness hardens the heart"

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City, June 10, 2015

Here is a ZENIT translation of the Pope’s address at the general audience held this morning in St. Peter’s Square.

Continuing the series of catecheses on the family, the Pope reflected today on the subject of suffering and sickness in family life.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

We continue with the catecheses on the family, and in this catechesis I would like to touch on a very common aspect in the life of our families, that of sickness. It is an experience of our fragility, which we live in the main in the family, as children and then, especially, as elderly, when infirmities arrive. In the ambit of family bonds, the sickness of persons that we love is endured with “more” suffering and anguish. It is love that makes us feel this “more.” So often it is more difficult for a father and a mother to endure the sickness of a son, of a daughter than their own. The family, we can say, has always been the closest “hospital.” Even today, in many parts of the world, the hospital is a privilege for a few, and it is often far away. It is the mother, the father, brothers, sisters and grandparents that guarantee care and help to heal.

In the Gospel, many pages narrate Jesus’ meetings with the sick and his commitment to heal them. He presents himself publicly as one who fights against sickness and who has come to heal man from every illness: the illness of the spirit and the illness of the body. The evangelical scene just referred to in Mark’s Gospel is truly moving. It says thus:  “that evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons” (Mark 1:32). If I think of great contemporary cities, I wonder where the doors are where the sick can be taken hoping that they will be cured! Jesus never removed himself from their cure. He never passed by, he never turned his face elsewhere. And when a father or a mother, or simply friendly persons brought him a sick person for him to touch and heal, he lost no time; healing came before the law, even the very sacred one of rest on the Sabbath (cf. Mark 3:1-6). The Doctors of the law rebuked Jesus because he healed on the Sabbath, he did good on the Sabbath. But Jesus’ love was to give health, to do good: and this is always in the first place!

Jesus sends his disciples to carry out his own work and he gives them the power to heal, namely, to come close to the sick and heal them completely (cf. Matthew 10:1). We must have well in mind what he says to the disciples in the episode of the man born blind (John 9:1-5). The disciples – with the blind man in front of them there! – argued about who had sinned, because he was born blind, he or his parents, to cause his blindness. The Lord says clearly: neither he nor his parents; he is thus so that God’s works are manifested in him. And he healed him. See God’s glory! See the task of the Church! To help the sick, not to get lost in chatter, but to help always, to console, to relieve, to be close to the sick; this is the task.

The Church invites to continuous prayer for her dear ones stricken by sickness. Prayer for the sick must never be lacking. In fact, we should pray more, be it personally, be it in community. We think of the evangelical episode of the Canaanite woman (cf. Matthew 15:21-28). She is a pagan woman, she is not of the people of Israel, but a pagan who begs Jesus to heal her daughter. To put her faith to the test, Jesus first answered her harshly: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The woman did not give up – when a mother asks help for her child, she never gives up. We all know that mothers fight for their children – and she answers: “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table!” as if to say: “At least treat me like a dog!” Then Jesus says to her: “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (v. 28).

In face of sickness, also in families difficulties arise because of human weakness. However, in general, the time of sickness makes the strength of family bonds grow. And I think of how important it is to educate children as little ones to solidarity in the time of sickness. An education that lacks sensitivity for human sickness hardens the heart. And it makes youngsters “anesthetized” to others’ suffering, incapable of confronting suffering and of living the experience of limitation. How many times we see a man, a woman arrive at work with a tired face, with a tired attitude and when they are asked “”What is wrong?” they answer: “I slept only two hours because we take turns to be close to the baby, the sick one, the grandfather, the grandmother.” And the day continues with work. These things are heroic; they are the heroism of families! -- those hidden heroisms that are done with tenderness and courage when someone is sick at home.

The weakness and suffering of our dearest and most sacred loved ones can be for our children and our grandchildren a school of life – it is important to educate children and grandchildren to understand this closeness in sickness in the family – and they become so when in moments of sickness they are accompanied by prayer and the affectionate and solicitous closeness of relatives. The Christian community knows well that, in the trial of sickness, the family is not left alone. And we must say thank you to the Lord for those beautiful experiences of ecclesial fraternity that help families to go through the difficult moments of pain and suffering. This Christian closeness, of family to family, is a real treasure for the parish -- a treasure of wisdom that helps families in difficult moments and makes the Kingdom of God understood better than many discourses! They are caresses of God.

[Original text: Italian]

[Synthesis in English]

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we consider one of the conditions common to all families, namely, illness. Many times in the Gospels Jesus meets the sick and heals them. His desire to cure suffering is a central part of his ministry, coming even before observance of the law. He sends his disciples to do the same, giving them the power to heal, and to draw close to the sick, touching their deepest wounds and bringing them peace. The illness of one person can be a severe trial for all family members. As followers of Christ, we are called to pray without ceasing for the sick and dying, and to support families where this is being experienced. So too we must educate children to solidarity with the sick so that they are not anesthetized to the sufferings of others, but rather are capable of helping the ill and of living fully each human experience. May we always give thanks to the Lord for the support of the Church shown to families in times of illness, especially between families themselves.

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General Audience: On Mourning the Loss of a Loved One

“We can console one another in this faith, knowing that the Lord has conquered death once and for all.”

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City State, June 17, 2015

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address at the general audience held this morning in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In the course of catecheses on the family, today we take direct inspiration from the episode narrated by the Evangelist Luke, which we have just heard (cf. Luke 7:11-15). It is a very moving scene, which shows us Jesus’ compassion for one who suffers -- in this case a widow who has lost her only son -- and it shows us also Jesus’ power over death.

Death is an experience that concerns all families, without any exception. It is a part of life and yet, when it touches family affections, death never seems to appear to us as natural. For parents, to survive their children is something particularly excruciating, which contradicts the elementary nature of relations that give meaning to the family itself. The loss of a son or a daughter is as if time stood still: a chasm opens that swallows the past and also the future. Death, which takes away a small child or youth, is a slap to the promises, to the gifts and sacrifices of love joyfully given to the life that we made to be born. So often parents come to Mass at Saint Martha’s with the photo of a son, a daughter, a baby, a boy, a girl, and they say to me: “he is gone.” Their look is so sorrowful, and death does touch us. And when it is a child, it touches us profoundly. The whole family remains as though paralyzed, dumb. And the child that remains alone, because of the loss of a parent, or of both, also suffers something similar. The question: “But where is Daddy?” “Where is Mommy?” -- In Heaven -- “But why can’t I see him?” -- the question that covers the anguish of the little boy or the little girl. He remains alone. The void of abandonment that opens within him is all the more anguishing because of the fact that he does not even have the sufficient experience to “give a name” to what has happened. “When is Daddy coming back?” “When is Mommy coming back?” What can one answer? The child suffers. Death in a family is like this.

In these cases, death is like a black hole that opens in the life of families and to which we are unable to give an explanation. And sometimes one even blames God.

But how many people -- I understand them -- get angry with God, curse: “Why have you taken my son, my daughter? But God isn’t! God doesn’t exist! Why has he done this?” We have heard this so often; however, this anger is what comes, somewhat, from the heart of a great sorrow. The loss of a son, of a daughter, of the father, of the mother is a great sorrow, and this happens continually in families.

In these cases, I have said that death is almost like a hole. However, physical death has “accomplices,” which are even worse than it is, and which are called hatred, envy, pride, avarice, in sum, the sin of the world that works for death and renders it even more painful and unjust. Family affections seem like the predestined and defenseless victims of these auxiliary powers of death, which accompany the history of man. We think of the absurd “normality” with which, in certain moments and in certain places, the events that add horror to death are caused by the hatred and the indifference of other human beings. May the Lord deliver us from becoming used to this!

In the People of God, with the grace of his compassion given in Jesus, many families demonstrate with facts that death does not have the last word. And this is a real act of faith. Every time that a family in mourning -- even terrible -- finds the strength to protect the faith and love that unites us to those we love, it impedes death, already now, from taking everything. The darkness of death is confronted with a more intense work of love. “My God, lighten my darkness!” -- is the invocation of the liturgy of the evening. In the light of the Resurrection of the Lord, who does not abandon any one of those that the Father has entrusted to him, we can take away from death its “sting,” as the Apostle Paul says (1 Corinthians 15:55); we can impede its poisoning our life, rendering our affections vain, making us fall into the darkest void.

We can console one another in this faith, knowing that the Lord has conquered death once and for all. Our dear ones have not disappeared into the darkness of nothingness: hope assures us that they are in the good and strong hands of God. Love is stronger than death. Therefore, the way is to make love grow, to render it more solid, and love will protect us until the day in which every tear will be wiped away, when “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more” (Revelation 21:4). If we let ourselves be sustained by this faith, the experience of bereavement can generate a stronger solidarity of family bonds, a new openness to the sorrow of other families, a new fraternity with the families that are born and reborn in hope.

To be born and reborn in hope! – this is what faith gives us. However, I would like to underscore the last phrase of the Gospel we heard today. After Jesus brings this young man back to life, son of the mother who was a widow, the Gospel says: “Jesus gave him to his mother.” And this is our hope! All our dear ones who have gone -- all -- the Lord will restore to us and we will meet together with them. And this hope does not disappoint. Let us remember well this gesture of Jesus! “Jesus gave him to his mother.” Jesus will do this with all our dear ones in the family.

This faith, this hope protects us from the nihilist view of death, as well as from the false consolations of the world, so that the Christian truth “does not risk mixing itself with mythologies of various sorts,” yielding to rites of superstition, ancient or modern” (Benedict XVI, Angelus, November 2, 2008).

Today it is necessary that Pastors and all Christians express more concretely the meaning of faith in dealing with the family’s experience of bereavement. The right to weep should not be denied. We must weep in mourning. Jesus also “wept and was “profoundly moved” by the grave mourning of a family he loved (John 11:33-37). Rather, we can draw from the simple and strong witness of so many families who, in the very hard passage of death, were also able to pick up the secure passage of the Lord, crucified and risen, with his irrevocable promise of the resurrection of the dead. The work of the love of God is stronger than the work of death. It is precisely of that love of which we must make ourselves active “accomplices” with our faith! And let us remember that gesture of Jesus: “And Jesus gave him to his mother.” He will do this with all our dear ones and with us when we shall meet, when death is definitively defeated in us -- and defeated by the cross of Jesus.

Jesus will restore all families. Thank you.

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

           In our ongoing catechesis on the family, I wish to reflect on one of the more dramatic and painful events that every person, without exception, has to deal with, namely, the death of a family member.  Jesus has compassion on those who mourn, as today’s Scripture reading reminds us, because the death of a loved one is never without pain for families; this is especially true of parents who lose a child.  Jesus’ presence with the widow at Na’in assures us that he is with us in our darkest moments and that he is with us in our loss and mourning.  Through faith in him, in his Resurrection and his abiding presence, we can face our loss, “the sting of death”, as Saint Paul calls it, make sense of it, and have confidence that death does not have the last word.  May we, with Christ-like tenderness and compassion, know how to be close and offer consolation to families suffering the loss of a loved one.  Above all, may we always be witnesses to the love which Christ revealed through his cross and resurrection, a love stronger than death.  Let us also be grateful for our faith in him, which is the only adequate response to our deepest needs in the face of the death of a loved one.

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General Audience: On Family Wounds

“Everything is connected together in the family: when its spirit is wounded in some point, the infection contaminates everyone."

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City State, June 24, 2015

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address at the general audience held this morning in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In the last catecheses we spoke about the family that lives the frailties of the human condition: poverty, sickness, death. Today, instead, we reflect on the wounds that are opened in fact within the family’s coexistence. When, that is, harm is done in the family itself -- a most awful thing!

We are well aware that no moments are lacking in any family history in which the intimacy of dearest affections is offended by the behavior of its members. Words and actions (and omissions!) that, instead of expressing love, subtract or, even worse still, mortify it. When these wounds, which are still remediable, are neglected, they worsen: they are transformed into arrogance, hostility, contempt. And at a certain point they can become profound lacerations, which divide husband and wife, and induce to seeking understanding, support and consolation elsewhere. However, often these “supports” do not think of the good of the family.

The deprivation of conjugal love spreads resentment in relations, and often the break-up falls on the children.

See, the children. I would like to reflect somewhat on this point. Notwithstanding our seemingly evolved sensibility, and all our refined psychological analyses, I wonder if we are not also anesthetized in regard to the wounds of children’s soul. The more one tries to compensate with presents and little snacks, all the more the sense is lost of the most painful and profound wounds of the soul. We talk a lot about behavioral disturbances, psychic health, the child’s well-being, of anxiety of parents and children ... but do we yet know what a wound of the soul is? Do we feel the weight of the mountain that crushes the soul of a child, in families in which there is bad treatment and harm is done, to the point of breaking the bond of conjugal fidelity? In our choices -- mistaken choices, for example -- how much weight does the soul of the children have? When adults lose their head, when each one thinks only of him/herself, when father and mother harm one another, the soul of the child suffers much, he experiences a sense of desperation. And they are wounds that leave their mark for the whole of life.

Everything is connected together in the family: when its spirit is wounded in some point, the infection contaminates everyone. And when a man and a woman, who committed themselves to be “one flesh” and to form a family, think obsessively of their own needs of freedom and gratification, this distortion profoundly damages the heart and life of the children. So many times children hide to cry by themselves. We must understand this well. Husband and wife are one flesh, but their children are flesh of their flesh. If we think of the harshness with which Jesus admonishes adults not to scandalize the little ones -- we heard the passage of the Gospel -- (cf. Matthew 18:6), we can also understand better his word on the grave responsibility to protect the conjugal bond that begins the human family (cf. Matthew 19:6-9). When man and woman have become one flesh, all the wounds and all the abandonments of the father and the mother affect the living flesh of the children.

On the other hand, it is true that there are cases in which separation is inevitable. Sometimes it can even become morally necessary, when in fact it is a question of removing the weaker spouse, or little children, from the gravest wounds caused by arrogance and violence, humiliation and exploitation, estrangement and indifference.

Not lacking, thank God, are those that, sustained by faith and love of the children, witnesses their fidelity to a bond in which they believed, although it seems impossible to revive. Not all those who are separated, however, feel this vocation. Not all recognize, in solitude, an appeal of the Lord addressed to them. We find around us different families in so-called irregular situations -- I don’t like this word -- and we ask ourselves many questions. How can we help them? How can we support them? How can we support them so that the children do not become hostages of the father or of the mother?

Let us ask the Lord for great faith, to look at reality with God’s gaze; and a great charity, to approach persons with his merciful heart.

[Original text: Italian]

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: We know well that every family on occasion suffers moments when one family member offends another. Through our words, actions, or omissions, instead of expressing love for our spouse or children, we can sometimes diminish or demean that love. Hiding these hurts only deepens such wounds, leading to anger and friction between loved ones. If these wounds are particularly deep, they can even lead a spouse to search for understanding elsewhere, to the detriment of the family, especially children. Being one flesh, any wounds that spouses suffer are shared by their children, born of their flesh. When we remember how Jesus warned adults not to scandalize little ones (cf. Mt 18:6), we better understand the vital responsibility to maintain and protect the bond of marriage which is the foundation of the human family. We thank God that although these wounds may lead some to separation, even then many men and women remain true to their conjugal bond, sustained by faith and by love for their children. For those who enter into so-called irregular situations, we must reflect on how best to help and accompany them in their lives. Let us ask the Lord for a strong faith to see with his eyes the reality of family life, and for a deep love to approach all families with his merciful heart.

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GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Family Life

“The family is endowed with an extraordinary capacity to understand, direct and sustain the genuine value of the time of celebration.”

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City, August 12, 2015

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address at the general audience held this morning at Paul VI Hall.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today we begin a short course of reflection on three dimensions that beat the time, so to speak, of the rhythm of family life: celebration, work and prayer.

We begin with celebration. Today we will speak of celebration. And we say immediately that a celebration is an invention of God. We recall the conclusion of the account of Creation in the Book of Genesis, which we heard: “And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation” (2:2-3). God himself teaches us the importance of dedicating a time to contemplate and enjoy what was well done in work. I speak of work, of course, not only in the sense of a job or profession, but in the wider sense: every action with which we men and women can collaborate in the creative work of God.

Therefore, a celebration is not the laziness of being in an armchair, or the elation of a foolish evasion, no. A celebration is first of all a loving and thankful look on work well done; we celebrate a work. Also you, newlyweds, are celebrating the work of a good time of engagement: and this is beautiful! It is the time to look at children or grandchildren who are growing and to think: how lovely! It is the time to look at our home, the guests we entertain, the community that surrounds us, and to think: what a good thing! God did this when he created the world, and he does so continually because God always creates, also at this moment!

It can happen that a celebration arrives in difficult or painful circumstances, and one celebrates perhaps “with a lump in one’s throat.” Yet, in these cases also we ask God for the strength not to divest it completely. You mothers and fathers know this well: how many times, out of love for the children, you are able to put aside displeasures to let them live a celebration well, to taste the good sense of life! There is so much love in this!

Sometimes in the work environment also – without failing in duties – we are able to “infiltrate” a burst of celebration: a birthday, a marriage, a new birth, as also a departure or a new arrival ... it’s important. It’s important to celebrate. They are moments of familiarity in the gears of the productive machine: it does us good!

However, a true time of celebration halts professional work and is sacred, because it reminds man and woman that they are made in the image of God, who is not a slave of work, but Lord; therefore, we also must never be slaves of work, but “lords.” There is a commandment for this, a commandment that concerns all; no one is excluded! And instead we know that there are millions of men and women and even children that are slaves of work! In this time they are slaves, they are exploited, slaves of work and this is against God and against the dignity of the human person! The obsession of economic profit and the efficiency of technology put at risk the human rhythms of life, because life has its human rhythms. A time of rest, especially that of Sunday, is given to us so that we can enjoy what is not produced or consumed, not purchased or sold. And instead we see that the ideology of profit and consumption also wants to consume the celebration: the latter is also reduced sometimes to a “doing,” to a way of making and spending money. But do we work for this? The greed of consuming, which entails waste is an awful virus that, among other things, in the end makes us feel more tired than before. It harms true work and consumes life. The disorderly rhythms of a celebration create victims -- often young people.

Finally, the time of celebration is sacred because God dwells in it in a special way. The Sunday Eucharist brings to a celebration all the grace of Jesus Christ: his presence, his love, his sacrifice, his making us community, his being with us ... And in this way every reality receives its full meaning: work, family, the joys and efforts of every day, also suffering and death; everything is transfigured by the grace of Christ.

The family is endowed with an extraordinary capacity to understand, direct and sustain the genuine value of the time of celebration. But how lovely are the celebrations in the family, they are most beautiful! – and, in particular, those of Sunday. It is no accident that the celebrations in which there is place for the whole family are those that succeed better! Family life itself, looked at with the eyes of faith, seems better than the efforts it costs. It seems a masterpiece of simplicity, good precisely because it is not artificial, or false, but able to incorporate in itself all the aspects of a true life. It appears as something “very good,” as God says at the end of the creation of man and of woman (cf. Genesis 1:31). Therefore, a celebration is a precious gift of God; a precious gift that God has made to the human family: let’s not ruin it!

* * *

Speaker:

We begin now a series of catecheses on three facets of family life: celebration, work and prayer. Let us turn first to celebrations which, as we see from the Story of Creation, are the invention of God, who on the seventh day rested from his work. It is God himself who teaches us the importance of dedicating time to contemplating and enjoying the fruits of our labours, not only in our employment or profession, but through every action by which we as men and women cooperate in God’s creative work, even in times of difficulty. In the workplace too, we celebrate – a birthday, a marriage, a new baby, a farewell or a welcome. True moments of celebration make us pause from our work, because they remind us that we are made in the image and likeness of God, who is not a slave to work, but the Lord of work! And so we must never be slaves to work but rather its master! Yet we know that millions of men and women, even children, are slaves to work. The obsession with economic profit and technical efficiency puts the human rhythms of life at risk. Moments of rest, especially on Sunday, are sacred because in them we find God. The Sunday Eucharist brings to our celebrations every grace of Jesus Christ: his presence, his love and his sacrifice; his forming us into a community, and his way of being with us. Everything is transfigured by his grace: work, family, the joys and trials of each day, even our sufferings and death. May we always recognize the family as the privileged place to understand, guide and sustain the gifts which arise from our celebrations, especially the Sunday Eucharist.

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GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Family Life - Work

"Work is sacred. Work gives dignity to a family. We must pray that work is not lacking in a family."

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City, August 19, 2015

Below is a translation of Pope Francis' address during this morning's General Audience in Paul VI Hall:

***

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

After reflecting on the value of celebrations in family life, today we pause on a complementary element, which is that of work. Both celebration and work are part of the creative design of God.

Work, it is commonly said, is necessary to maintain the family, for the children to grow, to ensure a dignified life to one’s dear ones. The best thing that can be said about a serious and honest person is: “He is a worker,” in fact, he is really one who works, he is one that doesn’t live off the backs of others.  There are so many Argentines today, I have seen, and I will say as we say: "no vive de arriba" (who don't live supported by others). You understand?

And, in fact, work, in its many forms, beginning with household work, also cares for the common good. And where does one learn this hard-working lifestyle? It is learned first of all in the family. The family educates how to work with the example of the parents: the father and mother that work for the good of the family and of society.

In the Gospel, the Holy Family of Nazareth appears as a family of workers, and Jesus himself is called “son of the carpenter” (Matthew 13:55) or actually “the carpenter” (Mark 6:3).  And Saint Paul does not fail to admonish Christians: “If anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). This is a good recipe for losing weight: don’t work, don’t eat!

The Apostle is referring explicitly to the false spiritualism of some that, in fact, live on the backs of their brothers and sisters “without doing anything,” (2 Thessalonians 3:11). In the Christian concept, the commitment of work and the life of the spirit are not at all opposed to one another. It is important to understand this well! Prayer and work can and must be together in harmony, as Saint Benedict teaches. Lack of work also harms the spirit, as lack of prayer also harms practical activity.

To work – I repeat, in a thousand ways – is proper to the human person. It expresses his dignity of being created in the image of God. Therefore, it is said that work is sacred. And, consequently, the management of employment is a great human and social responsibility, which cannot be left in the hands of a few or discharged on a divinized “market.” Causing the loss of jobs means creating serious social damage. I am saddened when I see that there are people without work, who don’t find work, and don’t have the dignity of bringing the bread home. And I rejoice so much when I see that some [political] leaders make many efforts to find jobs and see that all have work. Work is sacred. Work gives dignity to a family. We must pray that work is not lacking in a family.

Therefore, like celebration, work is also part of the design of God the Creator. In the Book of Genesis, the subject of the earth as home-garden, entrusted to the care and work of man (23:8.15), is anticipated with a very touching passage: “In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground” (2:4b-6a). It’s not romanticism, it is a revelation of God; and we have the responsibility to understand and assimilate it in depth. The Encyclical Laudato Si’, which proposes an integral ecology, also contains this message: the beauty of the earth and the dignity of work are made to be combined; both go together: the earth becomes good when it is worked by man. When work is detached from God’s covenant with man and woman, when it is separated from its spiritual qualities, when it is hostage to the sole logic of profit and scorns the affections of life, the humiliation of the soul contaminates everything: even the air, the water, the grass, the food ... Civil life is corrupted and the habitat is damaged. And the consequences strike, above all, the poorest and the poorest families. The modern organization of work sometimes shows a dangerous tendency to consider the family a burden, a weight, a passive <element> for the productivity of work. But we ask ourselves: what productivity? And for whom? The so-called “smart city” is, without a doubt, rich in services and organization; however, it is often hostile, for instance, to children and the elderly.

Sometimes one who plans is interested in the management of the individual workforce, in assembling and using or discarding according to the economic convenience. The family is a great test bench. When the organization of work holds it hostage or, in fact, places obstacles in its way, then we are certain that the human society has begun to work against itself!

Christian families receive from this circumstance a great challenge and a great mission. They bring to the field the fundamentals of God’s creation: the identity and bond of man and woman, the generation of children, the work that renders the earth domestic and the world habitable. The loss of these fundamentals is a very serious affair, and in the common home there are already too many cracks! The task isn’t easy. At times, it might seem to family associations, that they are like David before Goliath ... but we know how that challenge ended! Faith and shrewdness are needed. In this difficult moment of our history, may God grant us to receive his call to work with joy and hope, to give dignity to oneself and to one’s family.

* * *

English Speaking Summary:

We continue our catechesis today by reflecting on work, which complements our moments of celebration and which is also a part of God’s creative design. Through work, the family is cared for and children are provided with a dignified life. So too the common good is served, as witnessed by the example of so many fathers and mothers who teach their children the value of work for family life and society. The Scriptures speak of this in the Holy Family, describing Jesus as the son of a carpenter and a carpenter himself. As Christians we know that work and the spiritual life are not opposed, but in harmony, as work expresses the dignity of the person, created in God’s image. When we engage in work, we share in creation by caring for the earth and cultivating it. If, however, we reduce work to profit and disregard its effects on humanity and the world, the environment and our lives suffer. This especially hurts the poor and families. God has given Christian families the challenge and mission to make present the foundations of his creation: a true understanding of the identity of man and woman and the bond they share, their call to bring children into the world, and the gift of work in making the world ever more fruitful and hospitable. May God help us to embrace this call in joy and hope, especially amidst the many challenges we face today.

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GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Praying as a Family

“The spirit of prayer gives back time to God, it steps away from the obsession of a life that is always lacking time, it rediscovers the peace of necessary things, and discovers the joy of unexpected gifts.”

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City, August 26, 2015

Here is the text of the address Pope Francis gave at the general audience this morning, held in St. Peter’s Square, as he continued with his catechesis series on the family. Today was the Holy Father’s 100th general audience.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

After reflecting on how the family lives times of celebration and work, we now consider the time of prayer. The most frequent lament of Christians has to do, in fact, with time: “I should pray more ... I would like to, but I often lack the time.” We hear this continually. The regret is certainly sincere, because the human heart always seeks prayer, even without knowing it, and if it does not find it, it has no peace. However, to find it, it is necessary to cultivate in the heart a “warm” love for God, an affectionate love.

We can ask ourselves a very simple question. It is good to believe in God with all one’s heart; it is good to hope that He will help us in difficulties; it is good to feel the duty to thank Him. All this is right. But do we also love our Lord a bit? Does the thought of God move us, astound us, make us tender?

We think of the formulation of the great Commandment, which supports all the others: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5; cf. Matthew 22:37). The formula uses the intensive language of love, pouring it over God. See, the spirit of prayer abides first of all here. And if it abides here, it abides all the time and never leaves. Are we able to think of God as the caress that holds us in life, before which there was nothing? A caress from which nothing, not even death, can detach us? Or do we only think of Him as the great Being, the Almighty who has made everything, the Judge who controls every action? All this is true, of course, but only when God is the affection of all our affections does the meaning of these words become full. Then we feel happy, and also somewhat confused, because He thinks of us and, above all, He loves us! Is this not impressive? Is it not impressive that God caresses us with the love of Father? It is so beautiful! He could have simply made Himself known as the Supreme Being, given his Commandments and waited for the results. Instead God has done and does infinitely more than this. He accompanies us on the way of life, He protects us, He loves us.

If affection for God does not enkindle a fire, the spirit of prayer does not warm time. We can also multiply our words, “as the pagans do,” says Jesus, or also exhibit our rites, “as the Pharisees do” (cf. Matthew 6:5.7). A heart inhabited by affection for God also makes a thought without words become a prayer, or an invocation before a sacred image, or a kiss sent toward a church. It is lovely when mothers teach their little children to send a kiss to Jesus or to Our Lady. How much tenderness there is in this! At that moment the heart of the children is transformed into a place of prayer. And it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Let us never forget to ask for this gift for each one of us! Because the Spirit of God has that special way of saying in our heart “Abba” – “Father,” in fact it teaches us to say “Father” as Jesus said it, a way that we can never find on our own (cf. Galatians 4:6). It is in the family that one learns to ask for and appreciate this gift of the Spirit. If one learns to say it with the same spontaneity with which one learns to say “father” and “mother,” one has learnt it forever. When this happens, the time of the whole of family life is enveloped in the womb of the love of God, and seeks spontaneously the time of prayer.

We know well that family time is a complicated and crowded time, occupied and preoccupied. It is always little, it is never enough, there are so many things to do. One who has a family soon learns to resolve an equation that not even the great mathematicians know how to resolve: within the 24 hours there is twice that number! There are mothers and fathers who could win the Nobel Prize for this. Of 24 hours they make 48: I do not know how they do it but they move and do it! There is so much work in a family!

The spirit of prayer gives back time to God, it steps away from the obsession of a life that is always lacking time, it rediscovers the peace of necessary things, and discovers the joy of unexpected gifts. Good guides in this are the two sisters Martha and Mary, spoken of in the Gospel we just heard: they learned from God the harmony of family rhythms: the beauty of celebration, the serenity of work, the spirit of prayer (cf. Luke 10:38-42). The visit of Jesus, whom they really loved, was their celebration. However, one day Martha learned that the work of hospitality, though important, is not everything, but that to listen to the Lord, as Mary did, was really the essential thing, the “better part” of time. Prayer flows from listening to Jesus, from the reading of the Gospel. Do not forget, every day to read a passage of the Gospel. Prayer flows from intimacy with the Word of God. Is there this intimacy in our family? Do we have the Gospel at home? Do we open it some times to read it together? Do we meditate on it while reciting the Rosary? The Gospel read and meditated in the family is like good bread that nourishes everyone’s heart. And in the morning and in the evening, and when we sit at table, we learn to say together a prayer with great simplicity: it is Jesus who comes among us, as he was with the family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. There is something that I have very much at heart and that I have seen in the city: there are children who have not learned to make the Sign of the Cross! But you, mother, father, teach your child to pray, to make the Sign of the Cross: this is a lovely task of mothers and fathers!

In the prayer of the family, in its intense and in its difficult seasons, we remember one another, so that each one of us in the family is protected by the love of God.

[Original text: Italian]

[English language summary]

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the family, today we reflect on the importance of devoting time to prayer. We all know how important prayer is, yet it seems so difficult to find time for it. Perhaps we need to ask if we truly love God, as he asks us to, with all our heart, and all our mind and all our strength. For the heart of prayer is the love of God, the source of our life, who constantly “caresses” us with his own love. A heart filled with the love of God can make even a silent thought or a small gesture of devotion a moment of prayer. The Holy Spirit teaches us to pray, to call God our Father, and to grow daily in his love. Our families need to ask for the gift of the Spirit! Through prayer, even in the busiest times, we give time back to God, we find the peace that comes from appreciating the important things, and we encounter the joy of God’s unexpected gifts. Through daily prayer may our homes become, like the house of Martha and Mary, places where Jesus always finds a warm welcome.

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GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Families Sharing the Faith

“No economic or political engineering is able to substitute this contribution of families. The Babel project builds skyscrapers without life. Instead, God’s Spirit makes deserts flower”

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City, September 02, 2015

Here is a translation of the catechesis from this morning’s general audience, held in St. Peter’s Square.

Continuing with the series of catecheses on the family, in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the responsibility of the family to communicate the faith.

After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present. Then, marking the anniversary of the end of World War II in the Far East, he renewed his appeal for peace in the world.

The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In this last stage of our course of catechesis on the family, we look at the way the family lives the responsibility to communicate the faith, to transmit the faith, be it within or outside itself.

Initially, some evangelical expressions can come to mind that seem to oppose the bonds of the family and the following of Jesus. For instance, those strong words we all know and have heard: “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37-38).

Of course, with this Jesus does not want to cancel the Fourth Commandment, which is the first great Commandment directed towards persons. The first three Commandments are in relation to God, this one [now is] in relation to persons. Neither can we think that the Lord, after having worked his miracle for the spouses of Cana, after having consecrated the conjugal bond between man and woman, after having restored sons and daughters to family life, is asking us to be insensitive to these bonds! This isn’t the explanation. On the contrary, when Jesus affirms the primacy of faith in God, he finds no greater significant paragon than family affections. And, on the other hand, these same family bonds, within the experience of faith and love of God, are transformed, are “filled” with greater meaning and are capable of going beyond themselves, to create a wider paternity and maternity, and to receive as brothers and sisters also those that are on the margins of every bond. One day, to one who said to him that his mother and brethren were outside looking for him, Jesus answered, pointing to his disciples: “Here are my mother and my brethren! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister, and mother” (Mark 3:34-35).

The wisdom of affections that are not bought and are not sold is the best gift of the family genius. In fact in the family we learn to grow in that atmosphere of wisdom of the affections. Their “grammar” is learned there; otherwise it is very difficult to learn it. And it is precisely this language through which God makes himself understood by all.

The invitation to put family ties in the ambit of obedience of the faith and of the covenant with the Lord does not mortify them; on the contrary, it protects them, it detaches them from egoism, it protects them from degradation, it leads them safely to the life that does not die. The circulation of a family style in human relations is a blessing for peoples: it brings hope on earth. When family affections allow themselves to be converted to witness of the Gospel, they become capable of unthinkable things, which make one touch with the hand the works of God, those works God carries out in history, such as those that Jesus carried out for the men, women and children he met. Only one smile wrung miraculously from the despair of an abandoned child, who begins to live again, explains to us God’s way of acting in the world more than a thousand theological treatises. Just one man and one woman, capable of risking and sacrificing themselves for a child of others, and not only for their own, explains things of love to us that many scientists no longer understand. And where these family affections exist, these gestures of the heart are born which are more eloquent than words. The gesture of love .... this makes one think.

The family that responds to Jesus’ call restores the direction of the world to the covenant of man and woman with God. Think of the development of this testimony today. Let us imagine that the rudder of history (of society, of the economy, of politics) is finally restored to the covenant of man and woman, so that they govern it with their look turned to the coming generation. The subjects of the earth and of the home, of the economy and of work, would sound a very different music!

If, beginning with the Church, we give back leadership to the family that listens to the Word of God and puts it into practice, we will become like the good wine of the Wedding of Cana, we will grow like God’s leaven!

In fact, the family’s covenant with God is called today to oppose the communal desertification of the modern city. But our cities have become like deserts because of lack of love, because of a lack of smiles. So many amusements, so many things to pass time, to make one laugh, but love is lacking. A family’s smile is capable of overcoming this desertification of our cities. And this is the victory of the love of the family. No economic or political engineering is able to substitute this contribution of families. The Babel project builds skyscrapers without life. Instead, God’s Spirit makes deserts flower (cf. Isaiah 32:15). We must come out of the armoured towers and rooms of the elites, to frequent again the homes and open spaces of the multitudes, open to the love of the family.

The communion of charisms – those given to the Sacrament of Marriage and those granted to consecration for the Kingdom of God – is destined to transform the Church into a fully familiar place for the encounter with God. Let us go forward on this path; let us not lose hope. Where there is a family with love, that family is capable of warming the heart of a whole city with its witness of love.

Pray for me, let us pray for one another, that we may become capable of recognizing and upholding God’s visits. The Spirit will bring happy chaos in Christian families, and man’s city will come out of depression!

[Original text: Italian]

 [English-language summary:]

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the family, today we reflect on the importance of families for spreading the faith, and in this way helping to build a more human society. Jesus, while affirming the primacy of faith in God, describes his disciples as brothers, sisters and mothers to him. In the Christian life, these family ties are transformed and enlarged; as spiritual fathers and mothers, as brothers and sisters to one another, and particularly to those in need, we bring the Father’s love to our world. In this way, we become a blessing, a sign of hope for the renewal of all social relations. Within families, faith becomes a powerful force for unity and love, and inspires a convincing witness to the Gospel. How important is this witness in our societies, so often marked by impersonalism and spiritual aridity! Let us pray for our families, and for all families, that, like the wine of the wedding feast of Cana, they may bring happiness, joy and the warmth of God’s love to our world.

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GENERAL AUDIENCE: On the Family and the Christian Community

“A Church that is truly according to the Gospel cannot but have the form of a welcoming home, with the doors always open.”

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City, September 09, 2015

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's address during his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today I would like to focus our attention on the bond between the family and the Christian community. It is, so to speak, a “natural” bond, because the Church is a spiritual family and the family is a small Church (cf. Lumen gentium, 9). The Christian community is the home of those who believe in Jesus as the source of fraternity among all men. The Church walks in the midst of the peoples, in the history of men and women, of fathers and mothers, of sons and daughters: this is the history that counts for the Lord. The great events of the worldly powers are written in history books, and they remain there. However, the history of human affections is written directly in the heart of God; and it is the history that remains in eternity. This is the place of life and of faith. The family is the place of our initiation – irreplaceable, indelible – to this history, to this history of eternal life that will end with the contemplation of God for all eternity in Heaven. But it begins in the family! Therefore, the family is very important. The Son of God learned human history in this way, and he lived it to the end (cf. Hebrews 2:18; 5:8).

It is good to contemplate Jesus again and the signs of this bond! He was born in a family and there he “learned the world”: a shop, four houses, a nothing village. Yet, by living this experience for thirty years, Jesus assimilated the human condition, gathering it in his communion with his Father and in his very apostolic mission. Then, when he left Nazareth and began his public life, Jesus formed around himself a community, an “assembly,” namely, a convocation of persons. This is the meaning of the word “church.” In the Gospels, Jesus’ assembly has the form of a hospitable family, not of an exclusive sect: we find Peter and John, but also the hungry and thirsty, the stranger and the persecuted, the sinner and the publican, the Pharisees and the crowds. And Jesus does not cease to receive and to talk to all, also to one who no longer expects to encounter God in his life. It is a strong lesson for the Church!

The disciples themselves were chosen to take care of this assembly, of this family of God’s guests. For this reality of Jesus’ assembly to be alive today, it is indispensable to revive the alliance between the family and the Christian community. We can say that the family and the parish are the two places in which that communion of love is realized, which finds its ultimate source in God himself.

A Church that is truly according to the Gospel cannot but have the form of a welcoming home, with the doors always open. Churches, parishes, institutions with closed doors must not be called Churches; they must be called museums! This is a crucial alliance today. “We put our hopes again in these centers of love, against the ‘centers' of ideological, financial and political ‘power.’ We put our hope in these centers of love, evangelizing centers, rich in human warmth, based on solidarity and participation,” also on forgiveness among us (PONTIFICAL CONSTITUTION FOR THE FAMILY, the Teachings of J.M. Bergoglio – Pope Francis on the Family and Life, 1999-2014, LEV 2014, 189). It is urgent today to reinforce the bond between the family and the Christian community. There is certainly need of a generous faith to rediscover the intelligence and the courage to renew this alliance. Sometimes families draw back, saying that they are not up to the measure: “Father, we are a poor family and also somewhat unhinged,” "We aren’t capable,” "We already have so many problems at home,” “We don’t have the strength.” It’s true, but no one is worthy, no one is up to the measure, no one has the strength! We can do nothing without God’s grace. Everything is given to us – freely given! And the Lord never arrives in a family without doing a miracle. Let us recall what he did at the Wedding of Cana! Yes, if we put ourselves in his hands, the Lord makes us do miracles  -- those miracles of every day when the Lord is in that family.

Of course, the Christian community must also do its part. For instance, it must seek to overcome too directive and too functional attitudes, fostering inter-personal dialogue and mutual knowledge and esteem. Families take the initiative and feel the responsibility to take their precious gifts to the community. We must all be aware that the Christian faith is played in the open field of life shared with all; the family and the parish must work the miracle of a more communal life for the whole society. The Mother of Jesus was at Cana, the “Mother of Good Counsel.” Let us listen to her words: “Do whatever he tells you” (cf. John 2:5).

Dear families, dear parish communities, we must let ourselves be inspired by this Mother: let us do everything that Jesus tells us and we will find ourselves before a miracle! – the miracle of every day. Thank you.

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  

In our continuing catechesis on the family, we reflect today on the connection between the family and the Christian community.  The Church is the home of those who believe in Jesus Christ as the source of the unity of the entire human family.  Christ chose to enter our history, to become part of a human family, and to form a community which welcomes all who wish to hear his good news of the Father’s love.  There is a close bond, then, between the family and the Church.  Families and parishes are the two places where we encounter, in every age, that communion of love which has its ultimate source in God.  Just as our families are domestic churches, our parishes are called to be welcoming families.  This “covenant” has to be renewed, with the courage and vision born of faith, so that these centres of love, evangelization, and solidarity can, with the help of God’s grace and despite all our limitations, work true miracles for the shaping of a more fraternal and humane world.

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GENERAL AUDIENCE: On the Universal Importance of the Family

“The promise that God makes to man and woman, at the beginning of history, includes all human beings until the end of history.”

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City, September 16, 2015

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's address today during his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

This is our final reflection on the subject of marriage and the family. We are on the eve of beautiful and demanding events, which are directly connected with this great subject: the World Meeting of Families at Philadelphia and the Synod of Bishops here in Rome. Both have a worldwide breadth, which corresponds to the universal dimension of Christianity, but also to the universal importance of this fundamental and irreplaceable human community that, in fact, the family is.

The present period of civilization seems marked by the long-term effects of a society administered by economic technocracy. The subordination of ethics to the logic of profit has tremendous resources and enormous media support. In this scenario, a new alliance of man and woman becomes not only necessary but also strategic for the emancipation of people from the colonization of money. This alliance must return to orientate politics, the economy and civil coexistence! It decides the habitability of the earth, the transmission of the meaning of life, the bonds of memory and of hope.

Of this alliance, the conjugal-family community of man and woman is the generative grammar, the “golden bond,” we could say. Faith draws it from the wisdom of the creation of God, who has entrusted to the family not the care of an intimacy that ends in itself, but rather the exciting project of rendering the world “domestic.” The family, in fact, is at the beginning, at the base of this global culture that saves us. It saves us from so many, so many attachments, so many destructions, so many colonizations, such as that of money or those ideological ones that threaten the world so much; the family is at the base to defend oneself.

In fact, in our brief Wednesday meditations on the family, we took our fundamental inspiration from the biblical Word of creation. We can and must draw from this Word again with abundance and profundity. It is a great work that awaits us, but also very exciting. God’s creation is not a simple philosophical premise: it is the universal horizon of life and of faith! There is not a different divine design of creation and of its salvation. It is for the salvation of the creature – of every creature – that God became man: “for us men and for our salvation,” as the Creed says. And the Risen Jesus is “the first born of all creation” (Colossians 1:15).

The created world is entrusted to man and woman: what happens between them leaves an imprint on everything. Their rejection of God’s blessing leads fatally to a delirium of omnipotence that ruins everything. It is what we call “original sin.” And we all come into the world with this inherited sickness.

Despite this, we are not cursed or abandoned to ourselves. The ancient account of God’s first love for man and woman, already had pages written with fire in this regard! “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed” (Genesis 3:15a).  They are the words that God addresses to the deceitful, beguiling serpent. Through these words God marks woman with a protective barrier against evil, to which she can take recourse – if she wishes – for every generation. It means that woman bears a secret and special blessing, for the defense of her child from the Evil One! As the Woman of Revelation, who runs to hide her son from the Dragon. And God protects her (cf. Revelation 12:6).

Think what depth opens here! There are many common places, sometimes even offensive, of the temptress woman that inspires to evil. Instead, there is room for a theology of woman that is equal to this blessing of God for herself and for the generation!

In any case, the merciful protection of God in the dealings of man and woman never fails for both. Let us not forget this! The symbolic language of the Bible tells us that before driving them out from the Garden of Eden, God made for the man and the woman garments of skins, and clothed them (cf. Genesis 3:21) This gesture of tenderness also means that in the painful consequences of our sin, God does not want us to remain naked and abandoned to our fate of sinners. We see this divine tenderness, this care for us, incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, “born of woman” (Galatians 4:4). And Saint Paul says again: “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ, born of woman, of a woman, is God’s caress on our wounds, on our mistakes, on our sins. But God loves us as we are and wants to lead us forward with this plan! And woman is the strongest who carries this plan forward.

The promise that God makes to man and woman, at the beginning of history, includes all human beings until the end of history. If we have sufficient faith, the families of the peoples of the earth will recognize themselves in this blessing. Whoever lets himself be moved by this vision in any way, regardless to what people, nation, or religion he belongs, let him get underway with us. He/she will be our brother and sister, without engaging in proselytism, no! We walk together under this blessing and under this objective of God to make us all brothers in life in a world that goes forward and is born in fact of the family, of the union of man and woman.

May God bless you, families of all corners of the earth! And may God bless you all!

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Today we conclude our series of catecheses on marriage and the family, on the eve of two significant international events: the World Meeting of Families, to be held next week in Philadelphia, and the Synod of Bishops here in Rome. In these past months, guided by God’s Word, we have reflected on the perennial value of the covenant between man and woman for the future of the entire human family. In the Creator’s plan, marriage and the family have an essential role in shaping an ever more humane political, economic and social life. This role is all the more critical today, in a society increasingly subject to technology and to forms of economic colonization which subordinate ethics to profits. From the beginning, God entrusted his creation to man and woman. Despite our rejection of his original blessing, he continues to watch over our efforts to make this world our common home. In a special way, by the coming of Jesus his Son, he has maintained his promise (cf. Gen 3:15) to bless and protect us in every generation. May families everywhere come to know this blessing!

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