“Welcome the Needy”

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis called for greater compassion for refugees and marginalized people less than a week after President Trump ordered a temporary immigration ban from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

In a video of the pontiff’s prayer intentions for February, the pope does not specifically refer to the president or his policies but emphasizes his concern about large numbers of people who he says are being marginalized and forgotten on the fringes of society.

“Don’t abandon them,” the pope says in the video, which features men and women comforting a homeless man on the street.

“Pray with me for all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees and marginalized, so they may be welcomed and find comfort in our communities.”

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A Jubilee of Mercy

A papal embrace on December 8, 2015

Pope Francis launched the jubilee of mercy on Tuesday (Dec. 8) with the opening of the Vatican’s holy door, joined by his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, surrounded by heavy security.

“This extraordinary year is itself a gift of grace,” Francis told the faithful gathered at the Vatican. “To pass through the holy door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them.”

Read more on Religion News Service.

Once again we encourage you to read the text of Pope Francis’ declaration—Misericordiae Vultus—that sets out the purpose of the Jubilee of Mercy and invites all Christ-followers to encounter and share God’s mercy and love.

Image: Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters via RNS

Nicea III? One perspective

Pope Francis with Patriarch Bartholomew I

For the “meeting” in 2025: will Protestants be invited? A good question. Read the perspective on The Daily Beast.

Pope Bozo …

… is the title of a post by David Gibson on dotcommonweal

Here is the photo that inspired the post

The Pope greeting the newlyweds (who share a clown ministry with children)Here is the story introducing the photo (with further comments on the Pope’s pastoral style).

And here is a favorite Chesterton quote of mine that I see coming to life in events like the one depicted above:

Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.

“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons …”

2013 Pope Francis embracing, blessing, and kissing a man with a skin diseaseOn so many levels this story and the accompanying picture has challenged me and others to wonder about our own ministry and our willingness to embrace “Christ in distressing disguise” (a saying of Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

Are you among the ones challenged by the example of Francis, Bishop of Rome?

Fr. James Martin, SJ, succinctly writes about why this example so moves us. Read his essay Why the Pope’s embrace of the disfigured man is so powerful on CNN.

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Image: La Stampa Media

Recreated by Christ’s love

The cross in the church of San DamianoWhere did Francis’s journey to Christ begin? It began with the gaze of the crucified Jesus. With letting Jesus look at us at the very moment that he gives his life for us and draws us to himself. Francis experienced this in a special way in the Church of San Damiano, as he prayed before the cross …

Today, October 4th, the Church remembers Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis traveled to Assisi and celebrated the Eucharist with thousands. His homily, at least the prepared text ( we know he often ad libs), is available for our consideration.

The Pope asks, “What does Saint Francis’s witness tell us today? What does he have to say to us, not merely with words – that is easy enough – but by his life?” He sets before us three answers beginning with:

His first and most essential witness is this: that being a Christian means having a living relationship with the person of Jesus; it means putting on Christ, being conformed to him. […]

On that cross, Jesus is depicted not as dead, but alive! Blood is flowing from his wounded hands, feet and side, but that blood speaks of life. Jesus’ eyes are not closed but open, wide open: he looks at us in a way that touches our hearts. The cross does not speak to us about defeat and failure; paradoxically, it speaks to us about a death which is life, a death which gives life, for it speaks to us of love, the love of God incarnate, a love which does not die, but triumphs over evil and death.

He proceeds to offer two other answers:

… the second witness that Francis gives us: that everyone who follows Christ receives true peace, the peace that Christ alone can give, a peace which the world cannot give.

… [third] Saint Francis of Assisi bears witness to the need to respect all that God has created, and that men and women are called to safeguard and protect, but above all he bears witness to respect and love for every human being.

Read the text of his homily. Understand the Pope’s prayers for us. I also encourage you to be attentive to reports of his ad lib comments and find trusted commentators (like Fr. James Martin, SJ, or the writers on Religion News Service or the folks at America Magazine) who have access to even more information and anecdotal material.

Ask yourself …

… do you pray for that brother or sister
who’s in difficulty for confessing their faith?

That is the question Pope Francis asked of the crowd in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, September 25, 2013.

Grieving after a suicide bomb attack in Peshawar, Pakistan

The Pope’s comments came in response to an attack on an Anglican Church in Peshawar, Pakistan that left 78 dead. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, also spoke of the courage, the willingness to forgive, and the ‘cry for justice’ arising from the ashes of the destruction. Listen to his comments on Radio 4’s World at One.

Well, do you pray for brothers and sisters you may never meet, but who are family to you?

Remembering Saint Matthew

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax booth. “Follow me,” he said to him. And he got up and followed him.

Matthew 9:9

The Church remembers Saint Matthew every year on September 21. This year a new layer was added to this remembrance. In an interview with Pope Francis posted and printed on September 19th, the Pope talked about his own calling:

Pope Francis continues his reflection and says, jumping to another topic: “I do not know Rome well. I know a few things. These include the Basilica of St. Mary Major; I always used to go there. I know St. Mary Major, St. Peter’s…but when I had to come to Rome, I always stayed in [the neighborhood of] Via della Scrofa. From there I often visited the Church of St. Louis of France, and I went there to contemplate the painting of ‘The Calling of St. Matthew,’ by Caravaggio. “That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew.”

The Calling of Matthew by Caravaggio

Here the pope becomes determined, as if he had finally found the image he was looking for: “It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff.” Then the pope whispers in Latin: “I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.”

Read A Big Heart Open to God, the interview with Pope Francis posted online by America Magazine.

From the Web Gallery of Art:
Caravaggio: The Calling of Saint Matthew 1599-1600
Oil on canvas, 322 x 340 cm
Contarelli Chapel, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome

John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, 407

Today (Sep. 13) the church remembers John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, 407.St. John Chrysostom

In an influential, prosperous, and sophisticated city at the apex of international power, it is rarely popular to advocate restraint, self-control, and responsible living. When the leaders of mighty Constantinople elected John Chrysostom to be Patriarch of the city, they thought they had elected a holy man who would bless and affirm them in their way of living. They were only half right.

Read the entire post on Forward Movement

Are we witnessing a similar ministry in our own day? May the future of Pope Francis be more like his namesake of Assisi and less like Chrysostom’s.

Image: Wikimedia Commons