Jesus established His Church with St. Peter at her head, and exclaimed that the gates of hell would never prevail against her. (Matt 16:18) To Peter, and to his successors, our Lord gave the keys to the kingdom, and the profound responsibility of guiding the Church through the rough waters that will seek to toss her to and fro. Salvation is given to the whole world, by His blood and through the Church that Christ established. Pope Francis is the current successor to St. Peter, and he faithfully guides the Barque of Peter, the Church, through the storms that assail her from every direction in these days. The forthrightness of Pope Francis causes some dismay, especially when the media transmits his words with a lack of comprehension of his motives, his methods and his message of mercy. But there is no need for dismay: only delight.
Pope Francis has a disarming way of humbling himself and calling all of humanity to a similar humility. He seeks to bring the Barque of St. Peter right up to the people and have them embark. He is working to remove any obstacle that might prevent a soul from approaching the boundless mercy of God. To that end, the Pope has recently written a letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who is in charge of the preparations for the upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy; outlining several points which he believes are necessary to ensuring that every faithful believer will be able to participate fully in this gift of grace. Pope Francis is considering every outlier who might believe that gift is withheld from them. By doing so, he is drawing all of us safely together onto the Barque, and steering us straight towards our Merciful Lord. He writes, “The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father.”
Pope Francis gives the usual conditions for obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence. “As a sign of the deep desire for true conversion,” one must make a “brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door” during the year long Jubilee, which will commence when the Holy Doors are opened on December 8, 2015. The Holy Doors are of the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, but the Pope also designates every Cathedral as well as any churches which a Bishop may designate, but he goes even further than that. With compassion towards the sick, the elderly, the imprisoned, the Holy Father insists that their obstacles themselves can be the Holy Door for them. The homebound can receive the indulgence by participation in the sacraments however it is possible for them. For those who are incarcerated, he suggests that they direct their thoughts to the Father every time they “cross the threshold of their cell” as signifying their Holy Door. The Pope exhorts all to practice the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy, and thus receive the Jubilee Indulgence, and promises that by this means, no one is excluded! Even the dead are to be remembered in the Sacrifice of Holy Eucharist, bringing them to the mercy of God.
Two special situations were given explicit directives. The separation of those who have procured an abortion is to be mercifully resolved in the Sacrament of Reconciliation with any priest. This is not something new, as the media might have falsely projected. Pope Francis is simply publicizing what is most often already done, especially in the United States. Also, in the matter of the illicit Fraternity of St. Pius X, whose Bishops are excommunicated, the faithful who are absolved by a priest of the Fraternity are in fact validly and licitly absolved, and our Holy Father writes that he trusts that solutions will come about soon, which will return to full communion those priests and superiors of the Fraternity of St. Pius X.
Pope Francis wants every soul carried in the blessed Barque to berth in the port of mercy. Do not neglect this open invitation by the representative of Christ on earth (and bring a friend)!
September 9, 2015
Camden Diocese has been preparing for the Philadelphia visit of our Pope by highlighting his cue to hear and respond to the “cry of the poor.” The Catholic Charities branch of Camden Diocese, which started in 1936 as the Catholic Aid Society, reaches out to the poor and vulnerable of the diocese in varied and effective ways. At the forefront of their endeavors is a mindfulness of the dignity of the human person, and the respect due to each one. The theological virtue of Charity, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies as superior to all the virtues (CCC 1826), impels us to love “our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.” (CCC 1822)
When we give to an agency such as Catholic Charities, we are extending ourselves to reach out to those more in need than we. Through the work that Catholic Charities does in our own diocese, we are helping our proximate neighbors. Listening to the quiet inspirations of the Holy Spirit, we can also help on a more intimate level those in our own families or communities, touching the very individuals with whom we come into contact. Seeing the face of Jesus in each individual, we respond with His own mercy and love, and reflect His face to those we help.
Charity begins at home, and all of us can find ways to give to those closest to us. Sometimes that offering is of greater sacrifice of love than an offering through an agency, but agencies allow us to provide help to those whose needs cannot be met by their immediate neighbors. There are myriad causes for the poor and needy across the globe and giving has never been easier than in this era of immediate “one-click” donation.
In a homily on June 16, 2015, Pope Francis taught of a “theology of poverty” describing the “mystery of Christ who humbled Himself, who let Himself be impoverished in order to enrich us.” The Holy Father reminds us to give of ourselves and of our want, not of our surplus, thus enriching others. I know a man who, hiking across the country, was touched by the loving gifts offered him, even by those who lived in poverty themselves. Pope Francis said this is what is meant by Christian poverty. We follow Christ as our model. Let us all be open to the ways we might practice charity and respond to the cry of the poor, both near and far.