30 March 2013

'Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope' - Pope Francis to young prisoners. Sunday Reflections, Easter Sunday



Readings for Easter Vigil (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings for Easter Vigil (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Readings for Mass on Easter Sunday (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings for Mass on Easter Sunday (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel for Mass on Easter Sunday John 20:1-9. (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb.  They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 


More than 30 years ago I spent part of a summer working in a suburban parish in the USA. One night at around 11 I did something I rarely did: make a late night phone call, and for no other reason than to say 'Hi'. I phoned a friend who was a teacher whom I had first met eleven years earlier when I was a young priest and she a generous, idealistic but confused 16-year-old. Over the years I saw 'Lily' - I'll call her that since that flower is often associated with Easter in northern climes and this is an Easter story.


I was shocked when 'Lily' answered. Her speech was slurred. She told me she had taken an overdose of a drug prescribed for a serious illness she had. I told her I would come over immediately but she said she would not let me in. She lived on her own but near her parents, about thirty minutes from where I was. I took another priest with me.

'Lily', of course, let us in. We spent about three hours with her. I was satisfied that what she had taken wasn't enough to kill her and that she wouldn't do anything drastic in the meantime. I promised to return in the morning.

I spent most of the next two days with 'Lily'. I called her doctor and also phoned a helpline for those dealing with or attempting suicide. 

I had seen 'Lily' grow in her faith over the years. After qualifying as a teacher she chose to teach in a parochial elementary school rather than in a public school, even though the salary was lower. She had a sense of mission. She came from a Catholic family but was aware since her childhood of her father's infidelity. But when she had attempted suicide when about 17 she saw her parents' great love for her, despite everything.

Yet it was something her mother said to her that had triggered off this latter attempt at suicide. 'Lily' felt that she wasn't living up to her mother's expectations. I think it was during the second morning I was with 'Lily' that she asked me, 'What are your expectations of me?' I answered, 'I don't have any expectations, only hopes'.

Hearing the word 'only hopes' was the turning point. That was when 'Lily' decided to live.

A few days later 'Lily' came to the parish where I was for confession and Mass and she was truly filled with the joy that only the Lord can give. She also wrote me a long letter - she was a wonderful letter writer - about her experience. 

Woman writing a letter, Gerard Terborch, c.1655 (Web Gallery of Art)

In her letter 'Lily' said: I have come to learn more about myself - as a 'vulnerable' yet 'hopeful' person, and yet even more important - I feel that my relationship with the Lord has deepened. I have a deeper hunger to be united with Him on a more intimate and dependent level.

Further on 'Lily' wrote: Most times we need to see and hear and feel Christ through another, to be able to believe in Him more faithfully and securely . . . I realize that years and years of therapy can amount to nothing unless the Lord is a very central part of it. I was able to share my fears, hurts, confusion, pain and - thank God - tears with you in and through the anointing of your priesthood . . .

I find 'Lily's' words echoed in those of Pope Francis when he celebrated Mass on Holy Thursday in Casal del Marmo Prison for Minors. He ended his homily with these words: Now we will perform this ceremony of washing feet, and let us think, let each one of us think: 'Am I really willing, willing to serve, to help others?'. Let us think about this, just this. And let us think that this sign is a caress of Jesus, which Jesus gives, because this is the real reason why Jesus came: to serve, to help us.

After the Mass Pope Francis met with the prisoners and said, Go forward, alright? And do not let yourselves be robbed of hope, do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! Understood? Always with hopeGo forward! Thank you

In his final greetings as he was leaving Pope Francis said, Now I leave. Thank you so much for your welcome. Pray for me and do not let yourselves be robbed of hope. Always go forward! Thank you so much! [Emphases mine.]

The following summer, at the end of a sabbatical, I was in that same parish again. I met up with 'Lily'. She told me that she didn't think she had long to live. Knowing something of her medical history I took her seriously and we had a very deep and faith-filled conversation about that. There was nothing morbid about it. We were facing a reality but with faith and hope in the Resurrection. Afterwards we had lunch together in a restaurant and our conversation was totally lighthearted.

That was the last time we met. 'Lily' died peacefully a few months later at the age of 29.

I learned from that experience that there are persons of deep faith who can be very fragile. I have seen that in others subsequently.

I also saw God's utter love. Why did I make that late night phone call? I can see the Lord's hand in that visit, 'Lily' time. And I know that I was the only person whom 'Lily' could totally confide in at that time. Somehow it has been easier to share the past month's conflicts, feelings, tears and hopes with you which have built up over the years than with anyone else.

Lent and Easter is a prolonged moment every year when Jesus the Risen Lord says to each of us what Pope Francis said three times to the young prisoners last Thursday: Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope.

Through God's mercy more than thirty years ago the same Risen Lord said to my friend 'Lily', Do not let yourself be robbed of hope - and she took him at his word.



The meditations for the Via Crucis led by Pope Francis in the Colosseum on the night of Good Friday were prepared by young people from Lebanon, as Zenit reportsThe youth of Lebanon received the invitation from Pope Benedict XVI to take part in this year's Stations of the Cross – or Via Crucis – following the Holy Father's apostolic visit to Lebanon, and were invited to compose meditations for the event. A delegation of 45 Lebanese youth have come to Rome on pilgrimage for this evening's Via Crucis with Pope Francis.

The video above is that of a proclamation of Easter two years ago in a mall in Beirut. I have used it a number of times and it never fails to remind me that He is risen as he said, Alleluia; Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia.

Holy Saturday. 'My body shall rest in hope.'

Entombment, Unknown French Master, 1496, Solesmes Abbey (Web Gallery of Art)

The Lord's descent into the underworld

Here is the complete text from which Fr James Kubicki SJ reads in the video above. The reading is found, with the full Office of Readings for Holy Saturday, on Universalis.

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

  He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

  I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

  See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

  I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.


Caro méa requiéscet in spe.
My body shall rest in hope.

From Tenebrae for Holy Saturday, sung by the monks of Solesmes Abbey. It is sung or recited during the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday.

29 March 2013

Good Friday: The Passion and Death of Jesus through the eyes of El Greco









El Greco, 'The Greek', was the nickname given to Doménikos Theotokópoulos, (1541 – 7 April 1614). He lived in Toledo, Spain, from 1577 till his death.

All paintings are taken from Web Gallery of Art.

28 March 2013

Holy Thursday. 'I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.'

Tintoretto, c.1547 (Web Gallery of Art)

Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
  
Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) [Readings for morning Mass of the Chrism included.]

Gospel John 13:1-15 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?" Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand." Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you." For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, "You are not all clean." When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 


Antiphona ad introitum Cf. Galatians 6:14

Nos autem gloriári opórtet in cruce Dómini nostri Iesu Christi, 
in quo est salus, vita et resurréctio nostra, 
per quem salváti et liberáti sumus.

Entrance Antiphon Cf. Galatians 6:14

We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection, 
through whom we are saved and delivered.

Tintoretto, 1579-81 (Web Gallery of Art)


Antiphona ad Communionem 1 Cor 11:24-25

Hoc Corpus, quod pro vobis tradétur: 
hic calix novi testaménti est in meo Sánguine, dicit Dóminus;
 hoc fácite, quotiescúmque súmitis, in meam commemoratiónem.

Communion Antiphon 1 Corinthians 11:24-25

This is the body that will be given up for you; 
this is the Chalice of the new covenant in my blood, says the Lord; 
do this, whenever you receive it, in memory of me.


Pange Lingua Gloriosi

This hymn, written by St Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi, is sung at the end of the Mass of the Lord's Supper as the Blessed Sacrament is taken in procession from the altar where the Mass has been celebrated to the Altar of Repose.








27 March 2013

100th anniversary of the birth of my Dad

John Coyle, my Dad, about a week before his sudden death on 11 August 1987.

Please remember in your prayers the soul of my father, John, who was born on 27 March 1913, a hundred years ago today, in Dublin, Ireland, to Nicholas and Jane Coyle. Easter fell on 23 March that year and so he came into the world on Easter Thursday.

I blogged about Dad on his 25th death anniversary, 11 August 1987, and on his 95th birth anniversary. And I posted about my parents on the 70th anniversary of their wedding.

A photo I took of my parents, Mary and John, in Ireland in the summer of 1968, when my mother was 53 and my father 55. My mother died less than two years later.

Collect from the Mass for the Priest's Parents

O God, who commanded us to honour father and mother, 
have mercy in your compassion 
on my father and mother, 
forgive them their sins, 
and bring me to see them one day 
in the gladness of eternal glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever.

My parents' wedding photo, taken in a studio some weeks after their wedding, which took place on 6 July 1942.



25 March 2013

Confession: an expression of God's mercy


I came across this short video today on the website of the Archdiocese of Vancouver. It shows how our sins affect others, in this instance within the family.

This note appears under the video.

'As the Family Goes' video by filmmaker Johanna Osborne, inspired by Pope John Paul II:

'As the family goes, 
so goes the nation 
and so goes the whole world 
in which we live.' John Paul II.

In the texts below you will find my [emphasis] and [comments].

The Church's basic teaching on this sacrament is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,Nos 1422 - 1498.

I. WHAT IS THIS SACRAMENT CALLED?
1423 It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present.

Jesus' call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin.

It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.

1424 It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a "confession" - acknowledgment and praise - of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.
It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent "pardon and peace."

It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles: "Be reconciled to God." He who lives by God's merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord's call: "Go; first be reconciled to your brother." 

The Second and Third Precepts of the Church from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos 2041 and 2042.

The second precept (“You shall confess your sins at least once a year.") ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness.

The third precept (“You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season.") guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy. [In this context 'Easter season' is usually interpreted broadly to mean from Ash Wednesday to Trinity Sunday.]

Christ and the adulteress, Pieter Aertsen, 1557-78 (Web Gallery of Art)

Is Pieter Aertsen suggesting that we put Jesus in the background because we 'have more important things to do'?

Pope Francis on asking Jesus for forgiveness (homily during Mass in St Anne's parish church, Vatican City, 17 March):

Think of the gossip after the call of Matthew: he associates with sinners! (cf. Mk 2:16). He comes for us, when we recognize that we are sinners. But if we are like the Pharisee, before the altar, who said: I thank you Lord, that I am not like other men, and especially not like the one at the door, like that publican (cf. Lk 18:11-12), then we do not know the Lord’s heart, and we will never have the joy of experiencing this mercy! It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! "Oh, Father, if you knew my life, you would not say that to me!" "Why, what have you done?" "Oh, I am a great sinner!" "All the better! Go to Jesus: he likes you to tell him these things!" He forgets, he has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, he kisses you, he embraces you and he simply says to you: "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more" (Jn 8:11). That is the only advice he gives you. After a month, if we are in the same situation . . .  Let us go back to the Lord. [Pope Francis is referring to the Sacrament of Confession.] The Lord never tires of forgiving: never! It is we who tire of asking his forgiveness. Let us ask for the grace not to tire of asking forgiveness, because he never tires of forgiving. Let us ask for this grace




Fr Michael Depcik OSFS, a Deaf priest in the USA, on how often we should go to confession.

Act of Contrition

O my God,
I am heartily sorry for
having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins,
because I dread the loss of heaven,
and the pains of hell;
but most of all because
they offend Thee, my God,
Who are all good and
deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve,
with the help of Thy grace,
to confess my sins,
to do penance,
and to amend my life.
Amen.

The above is perhaps the best known Act of Contrition in English. We pray this after telling our sins in confession and receiving our penance from the priest. Sometimes he gives us absolution while we are praying this, sometimes he waits till we are finished.

The Jesus Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of (the Living) God,
have mercy on me,
a sinner.

This very ancient prayer may also be used as an act of contrition.








23 March 2013

Pope Francis and Benedict XVI meet on feast of Patron Saint of Latin American bishops

St Turibius of Mongrovejo (16 November 1538 – 23 March 1606)

St Turibius (San Toribio) was a Spaniard who became third Archbishop of Lima, Peru. He was ordained priest in 1578 at the age of 40 and appointed Archbishop of Lima the following year. Among those he confirmed were St Rose of Lima and St Martin de Porres.


Today Pope Francis will meet with his predecessor, Benedict XVI. I don't know if it just a coincidence that today is the feast day of the Patron Saint of Latin American Bishops, St Turibius of Mongrovejo. If so, it is a happy coincidence.

The second reading in the Office of Readings for St Turibius is taken from Christus Dominus, the Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church, No 12, proclaimed by Pope Paul VI on 28 October 1965 during the Second Vatican Council and includes this passage [emphasis mine in quotations below]:

In exercising their duty of teaching - which is conspicuous among the principal duties of bishops - they should announce the Gospel of Christ to men, calling them to a faith in the power of the Spirit or confirming them in a living faith. They should expound the whole mystery of Christ to them, namely, those truths the ignorance of which is ignorance of Christ. At the same time they should point out the divinely revealed way to give glory to God and thereby to attain to eternal happiness.


Benedict XVI in his Message for World Youth Day 2013, to be held in Rio de Janeiro in July, wrote: What does it mean to be a missionary? Above all, it means being a disciple of Christ. It means listening ever anew to the invitation to follow him and look to him: 'Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart' (Mt 11:29). A disciple is a person attentive to Jesus’ word (cf. Lk 10:39), someone who acknowledges that Jesus is the Teacher who has loved us so much that he gave his life for us. Each one of you, therefore, should let yourself be shaped by God’s word every day. This will make you friends of the Lord Jesus and enable you to lead other young people to friendship with him.

I encourage you to think of the gifts you have received from God so that you can pass them on to others in turn.


In the homily he gave at the Mass celebrated in the Sistine Chapel on 14 March with the cardinals who had elected him Pope Francis said: 

This Gospel [Matthew 16:13-19] continues with a situation of a particular kind. The same Peter who professed Jesus Christ, now says to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. That has nothing to do with it. I will follow you on other terms, but without the Cross. When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

My wish is that all of us, after these days of grace, will have the courage, yes, the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s Cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward.

May the meeting of Pope Francis and Benedict XVI be a blessed moment  as each embarks on a new way of serving the Church and may this moment in history be one when each of us will truly desire to be a disciple of Jesus Christ to the fullest extent possible, with God's grace, knowing that to be such is to carry his Cross. 


22 March 2013

'When we journey without the Cross . . . we are not disciples of the Lord.' Sunday Reflections, Palm Sunday Year C


Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings(Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel for the Procession Luke 19:28-40. (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

When Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here. If any one asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say this, 'The Lord has need of it.'" So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?" And they said, "The Lord has need of it." And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it. And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road. As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out."


Antiphon for The Procession   Matthew 21:9

Hosanna to the son of David;
blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel.
Hosanna in the highest.


Setting by Thomas Weelkes (1576 - 1623)

Text used in the video:

Hosanna to the Son of David;
Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna, thou that sittest in the highest heavens!
Hosanna in excelsis Deo!

Pope Francis celebrated Mass on 14 March with the cardinals who elected him. The concluding part of his homily gives us food for reflection and prayer as we enter Holy Week. I have highlighted parts of the homily.

This Gospel [Matthew 16:13-19] continues with a situation of a particular kind. The same Peter who professed Jesus Christ, now says to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. That has nothing to do with it. I will follow you on other terms, but without the Cross. When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

My wish is that all of us, after these days of grace, will have the courage, yes, the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s Cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward.

My prayer for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, will grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ
crucified. Amen.

While Pope Francis was speaking at the Mass to the cardinal electors he is speaking to all of us. There seems to be a certain expectation among many that he will be some kind of Messiah, that he will get rid of all the Church's problems. There is only one Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Yes, there are situations that only a courageous Pope can deal with. But the renewal of the Church, the conversion of the Church, involves each of us and all of us.


In his Message for Lent to the people of Buenos Aires this year the then Cardinal Bergoglio wrote: Lent comes to us as a cry of truth and sure hope, which answers yes, that it is possible not to put on makeup and draw plastic smiles as if nothing is happening. Yes, it is possible that everything be made new and different because God continues to be 'rich in kindness and mercy, always willing to forgive,' and He encourages us to begin again and again. Today we are again invited to undertake a paschal journey to Truth, a journey that includes the cross and renunciation, which will be uncomfortable but not sterile. We are invited to admit that something is not right in ourselves, in society and in the Church, to change, to turn around, to be converted.

Further on Cardinal Bergoglio writes: This Year of Faith we are living is also an opportunity that God gives us to grow and mature in our encounter with the Lord who makes Himself visible in the suffering face of so many youth without a future, in the trembling hands of the forgotten elderly and in the vacillating knees of so many families that continue to face life without finding anyone to support them.

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires he was clearly calling each of his flock to be fully involved in the life of the Church, not to leave it to the Pope and bishops to do everything.

And he concluded his message as he began his new life as Bishop of Rome with a plea: Please, I ask you to pray for me. May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin look after you.


THE DONKEY

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

When fishes flew and forests walked 
And figs grew upon thorn, 
Some moment when the moon was blood 
Then surely I was born; 

With monstrous head and sickening cry 
And ears like errant wings, 
The devil's walking parody 
On all four-footed things. 

The tattered outlaw of the earth, 
Of ancient crooked will; 
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb, 
I keep my secret still. 

Fools! For I also had my hour; 
One far fierce hour and sweet: 
There was a shout about my ears, 
And palms before my feet.