Thursday, January 15, 2015

A great blessing

The visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines, that starts today and ends with his departure back to Rome on Monday, is a great blessing for us Filipinos. During this time, we will be reminded of our spirituality as a nation that has allowed us to live in the compassion of a belief nurtured by close to five centuries of faith.
Since the first day when the cross of Roman Catholicism was planted on our shores, the great majority of Filipinos have come to embrace a God of many virtues, one that has held their hands during wars and the worst of natural calamities, through family strife and trials, through personal moments of desperation and brooding despair.
It is also a faith that has buoyed the dignity of each one, giving him the largesse of heart to embrace goodness and to value simple joys – a smile, a touch, a warm word, the sun’s brilliance, the cool rush of morning air, the breaking light of the morning, and the comforting blanket that comes with the night sky.
The many materials about Pope Francis that we read and hear inspire us to be better Christians, not to revere in the image of the human being that the head of the Church is, but rather to lift our spirits to God’s immense mercy and compassion.
10 things
Here are the 10 things that you need to know about Pope Francis as lifted in part from, the official website of the apostolic visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines. Let us be inspired by him to be better Christians for our fellowmen and ourselves.
1. Pope Francis is a pope of many “firsts”.
He is the first to take the name “Francis,” after Francis of Assisi, the itinerant friar and great saint of the poor and the downtrodden. He is the first pope from the Americas, having been born and raised in Argentina by Italian immigrants. He is the first pope from the Society of Jesus, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, that produced great evangelizers and reformers. Finally, he is the first pope to have been ordained priest after Vatican II, the ecumenical council that modernized the Church.
2. Pope Francis sees himself as a sinner.
Yes, a sinner just like anyone, but one whom the merciful Lord had looked upon and called to a life of service. His religious experience can be summed up by his motto: Miserando atque Eligendo. Its English translation is “By Having Mercy and by Choosing Him.”
3. Pope Francis believes the Church should be more like a “field hospital after battle,” with bishops serving as true pastors and priests spending more time in confessionals, consoling wounded souls.
“The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost,” he says.
4. Pope Francis wants to keep it simple but “cannot live without people.”
Much has also been written about the Holy Father’s decision to live at Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican residence for visiting clergy, rather than at the Papal apartments in the apostolic palace. The reason for not moving into the palace was simply to be able to meet people. He tells Fr. Spadaro: “I cannot live without people. I need to live my life with others.”
5. Pope Francis only has the deepest of affections for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, his “brother” who now lives in a monastery at the Vatican.
“He is a man of God, a humble man, a man of prayer,” Pope Francis told journalists aboard the flight back to Rome after World Youth Day 2013 in Rio. “Two popes” at the Vatican doesn’t bother him at all. “It’s like having your grandfather in the house, a wise grandfather.”
6. Pope Francis is a reformer; he is not afraid to shake things up.
The Holy Father proceeded with reforms at the Institute for the Works of Religion (known as the Vatican Bank) that began under his predecessor Benedict XVI. In February 2014, he established a new office, the Secretariat for the Economy, which will serve as the Vatican’s financial watchdog. The Secretariat reports to the new Council for the Economy, which will have seven cardinals and bishops, but also an unprecedented membership of seven lay experts. Earlier, Pope Francis formed an advisory body made up of eight trusted cardinals, whose job is to advise him on reforms in the Roman Curia and the governance of the Universal Church.
7. Pope Francis says “no” to an economy of exclusion.
The Holy Father laments: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” The solution lies at resolving, without delay, the structural causes of poverty. Welfare is only a temporary response. What’s also needed is a rejection of financial speculation and absolute market autonomy.
8. Pope Francis warns Christians against falling into the trap of “spiritual worldliness,” which is “self-centeredness cloaked in an outward religiosity bereft of God.”
“Spiritual worldliness which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church,” the Holy Father explains in Evangelii Gaudium, “consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory, but human glory and personal well-being.” To avoid this, the Church must “constantly go out from herself, keeping her mission focused on Jesus Christ, and her commitment to the poor.”
9. Pope Francis is a fervent devotee of the Blessed Mother.
Mary, Pope Francis believes, is indispensable to the work of the New Evangelization. “Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness. In her we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak, but of the strong who need not treat others poorly in order to feel important themselves,” he says.
10. Pope Francis is a son of the Church.
The so-called “Francis effect” has become a media narrative, with some commentators going as far as anticipating radical changes in the 2,000-year-old Church. The Pope says: “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”
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