Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Pope Francis on Mary

I did not get a chance to write my Empowered Catholic Women post for this week…but I promise there will be one next week! I did come across this article though and it states so eloquently what I was hoping to convey in my own post on the Blessed Mother a few weeks ago.  Here’s a sample…

Despite everything, even the “deepest darkness,” Mary does not leave, but stands faithfully, he said. “That’s why we all love her as a Mother…We are not orphans: we have a Mother in heaven, who is the Holy Mother of God.”

The full article can be found here.

Also, did you know that this Saturday is the 100th anniversary of Mary appearing to the children in Fatima? It’s been a favorite story of mine since I first learned about it as a child and I hope to write more about it someday. In the meantime, if you aren’t familiar with the inspiring story and Mary’s message, check it out! EWTN has a great site with all the info you could ask for here.

God Bless!

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Enough

After a few years of dealing with infertility, it can seem like there are two options available: continue to pursue medical treatment or begin the process to adopt. In reality there is also a third option and it is the option my husband and I have decided to take at this point.   And that is, basically, to do nothing.

Some might say that given what the doctors have said this doesn’t make any sense. Some might say that if we really wanted a baby we would do something more proactive at this point. Some might just shake their head in a sad fashion with a look that seems to say “so you’ve given up?”

And that could not be further from the truth. I still long desperately to be a mother. I still pray daily that it will happen. But after years of trying this treatment or that, we simply said “enough.” Enough tests, enough medication, enough stress, enough of the medical appointments (and bills that go along with them).

While adoption is a wonderful calling, it is just that: a calling. Not something that is a “last resort” option to have children. Despite how much we want a child, we simply do not feel the call to adopt. Deep in our hearts, we both still strongly feel that we will conceive and we will have our baby. And so we will continue to pray, continue to trust, continue to hope, and continue to wait.

I used to worry about what we would do when we reached this point. I would grow panicked at the thought of being able to do absolutely nothing else. But now that we are here? Now that we have made this decision? I feel immense peace about it. I know in my heart we will be parents. And I truly believe that we will become parents through conception. Even still, as we sit back and wait, we will continue to pray for God’s will to be made clear and to trust that if His will is something different, He will make it known to us.

We are not giving up hope, but we are giving up control. At the end of the day, it is God who creates life. Our decision to do nothing is a decision to fully give it to God. While I have said to myself before that we give this up to the Lord, a part of me still held onto control. A part of me felt that I had to try all my options. And I am glad that I did. I learned things about my overall health and got my body back on track. But now, I feel very comfortable with the decision to let go of it all and leave it fully in His hands.

A year ago today, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I made my first Marian consecration following the 33 Days to Morning Glory retreat. It was an important step in my faith and one that has led me closer and closer to Christ. The consecration calls me to give everything I have and everything that I am to Jesus through Mary. It calls me to relinquish all control and to trust in the everlasting goodness and mercy of our Lord. It may have taken me a year, and I certainly still have a ways to go, but I feel that on this anniversary of my consecration, I am truly ready in my heart to let go and give it all up to Him.

Today also marks the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. To celebrate this, my church is holding a Bible study on Divine Mercy throughout the Old and New Testaments. Our first session was last night. To open the session, we listened to Matt Maher’s song “Your Grace Is Enough” and discussed how God’s grace, God’s mercy, is truly the heart of our faith. Pope Francis said in his Angelus address today, “Mercy is the key-word of the Gospel” and that “we should not be afraid: we should allow ourselves to be embraced by the mercy of God, who waits for us and forgives everything.”

Today, at the start of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, while celebrating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the anniversary of my first Marian consecration, I am ready to stop being afraid, to give it all up to God, and to allow His rich mercy to surround me and fill my soul. In deciding to do nothing, I feel that we are leaving ourselves open to everything. He has a plan for us, one that while I may not yet understand it, I know in my heart will be far greater than what I could come up with on my own. I am ready to really immerse myself in His mercy and let my heart be open to His will in my life. Because His mercy, His love, His grace is enough.

Pilgrimage to Philadelphia

BannerThis weekend I was blessed to be in Philadelphia for the Pope’s visit at the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families. I do not think words can express how amazing the whole experience was, but I am still going to try – even if it gets a bit lengthy! Going into this trip, we fully expected to be back on a side street somewhere watching the proceedings on a screen. While we would have been perfectly content with this, our experience exceeded all expectations and was more than I had hoped for!

The group from our diocese left early Saturday morning on our bus. This truly was a pilgrimage and each bus trip had time spent in wonderful prayer and song. After arriving at  our campground, unloading, and eating a late lunch, we broke into smaller groups and headed into the city. It took about 45 minutes for our bus to get to the main parking lot at the Philadelphia Sports Complex. From there we took the subway into town. Saturday we knew we would not get close to the main stage for the Festival of Families so instead we headed towards City Hall where Pope Francis would be passing by in a Papal parade that evening.

Pope FrancisWe found a spot about five rows back from the gate to the street where he would pass by and waited. The crowd was large but not overwhelming and everyone was so friendly and joyful! You could hear in the distance the immense cheers as Pope Francis’s motorcade got closer to our spot and we all got our cameras ready. He went by pretty quickly and was looking on the other side of the street when he passed but it was still amazing to be so close to the Holy Father! Being a bit shorter, I could see him mostly through my camera which I held up high and succeeded in getting a (slightly blurry) photo as he rode by. Our small group of eight was amazed at how close we had been!   We walked a few blocks to a large jumbotron to watch the Festival from there. We saw him (on the jumbotron screen) speak at the Festival and stayed to watch a few performances before heading back to our bus.

SongThe next morning we woke up, ate, and made lunches for the day. Again we boarded the bus but this time when we arrived at the parking lot we were instantly aware that today the crowds would be much larger. With this in mind, and being fully convinced we would have to find a jumbotron far from the action, we took our time to keep our group together as we journeyed on. The subway station was packed and the lines long but the atmosphere was so filled with joy and excitement that we didn’t even care! We met people from near and far, Quebec, Pennsylvania, Dominican Republic, Chicago, and even some fellow pilgrims from Ohio!

When we got into the city, we headed towards the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. We found a security checkpoint but had to walk along the line to try and find the end of it! As we walked, we came to a block with angry protesters on each side. With their megaphones, yelling, and hateful signs, perhaps they thought they would discourage us. But walking by them only made the experience even richer as we joined together, the whole line of us, in singing the Our Father over and over until we passed their section. It was such a beautiful thing to see people so filled with love and joy in the Lord joining in song and prayer together without even stopping to pay any mind to those who were against us. ‘If God is for us, who is against us?’ Romans 8:31

CrowdThe line was so long and there was no end in sight when we passed one of the many military members helping in the security efforts. As we passed, we heard him say that the checkpoint one block over was just being opened to the general public (it had previously been for ticketed guests only.) Our group cut over a block and got in the (much shorter) security line. We could not believe this blessing! We made it through security and were amazed at how close we were. Since we were so close to the ticketed area that each of us received a mass booklet as well! We had not been anticipating this at all!

Our first spotWe found a spot on the corner right in front of a large jumbotron that was directly behind the ticketed area. We literally were as close as non-ticketed guests were able to get! We set up our blankets and chairs. There was a sewer vent right near our spot and one of the volunteers informed us that since we were “in limbo land” we would not have access to any restrooms. The restrooms were either closer up in the ticketed area, or we would have to go out to the non-ticketed area behind us which would require going through security again. Despite this, we decided to stay at our spot.   We ate our lunches and then decided we would say a rosary together. We had just begun the first three Hail Marys of our group rosary when that same volunteer came up to our group. She told us to quickly gather our things, there was additional room in the ticketed section and they were going to let us in!

Our final spot for MassWe scooped up our blanket and quickly went forward. We ended up setting up a spot right behind the handicapped viewing area. We were close enough that you could see the art museum ahead of us and could make out the crucifix on the altar for mass! We were so thankful and thrilled! We finished eating and finished our rosary. We had plenty of time still until mass so we began to sing. One of the members in our group had put together a booklet of popular hymns that we had been singing earlier on the bus. We took out our booklets and started singing. People around us began to join in. It was beautiful.

From our spot, not only could we see the altar, but we were also right by a huge jumbotron where we Pope Francis in his procession before Masscould see the mass up close. We saw on the screen that Pope Francis was beginning his procession prior to mass. We watched in anticipation for him to pass by our spot as he slowly went through the crowds, stopping to kiss several babies along the way. When he was nearing our spot, I held my camera up above me but did not stop to look through it. I clicked away figuring I will get whatever photo I get. I wanted to watch the Holy Father pass by with my own eyes. He went much slower this time and was facing our direction so that we got a clear view of his joyful self, greeting all of us with love.

After the procession it was time for mass. The mass was more beautiful than I could ever describe. It is said that during mass we are the closest to heaven. All I can say is that you could truly feel that. Celebrating mass with a million people, not to mention the millions who watched from their homes, and with Pope Francis! It was beyond words. The readings were in Spanish, English, and Vietnamese, with some of the prayers in English and the Eucharistic liturgy all in Latin. The Holy Father gave his homily in his native Spanish. The jumbotron had translated captions along the bottom so we could follow along.

When it was time for communion, the priests who were distributing the Eucharist were signified in the crowd by yellow and white umbrellas held high above them. To see over a thousand yellow and white umbrellas as they made their way through the crowd for people from all over the world to receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist was so moving. As we began to sing the communion hymns and made our way to the nearest umbrella I felt tears in my eyes. How awesome to celebrate this most Blessed Sacrament with so many others in one place together! Before mass ended, we received our blessing from Pope Francis.

The crowds leaving Philadelphia after Mass were certainly large but it was so well organized and everyone was so joyful that we didn’t mind. People were singing and laughing and celebrating together all the way back to the bus. You could truly feel the Holy Spirit among us all this weekend.

It is hard to describe our pilgrimage to Philadelphia. The photos don’t do it justice and while I pray my words express what we felt, I know they cannot. It was not about just seeing the Pope. It was not about getting as close as possible (although I am incredibly thankful that we were blessed to be as close as we were!) This was about worshiping together with so many people, led in prayer by our dear Pope Francis. It was an experience filled with prayer, love, and the joy of the Lord. It was inspiring and truly life-changing.

Glory to God for watching over us all this weekend! Thanks and praise for the wonderful blessings we received on this trip. And thank you to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for inspiring us all each day by your words and your actions. For helping to draw the Church closer to Christ. And for coming here to America with your message of love and mercy. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I feel so blessed to have been a part of it.

Altar

Pope Francis in the US – What’s the Big Deal?

Pope_FrancisPope Francis arrived in the United States on Tuesday and it seems it is all people can talk about!  The media is covering all papal events almost non-stop, thousands upon thousands of people are flocking to see him, and Pope Francis themed memorabilia has popped up all over the place.  It seems clear that the United States definitely has Pope Fever!

But what’s the big deal anyway?  Why do so many people, Catholic or not, even care about the Pope?  Who is the Pope to begin with?

“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”  Matthew 16:15-18

Jesus, while He was still on earth, chose Peter as the rock to build His Church upon. Peter became the leader of Christ’s Church.  Not above Christ, but to lead the Church to Christ.  Jesus knew He would not be on earth forever. He knew that there would be many trials to face the Church here on earth.  And He knew that throughout the good times and bad, the Church would need someone to look to as a leader here on earth.  Someone to dedicate their lives to following the Lord and to leading His Church ever closer to Him.   That is what it means to be Pope.

The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful.LUMEN GENTIUM, 23

The Pope is chosen by the guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead us into deeper communion with one another and with the Lord.  We can look back at the history of our Church and see the line of those who have followed in Peter’s footsteps to lead the Church.  From St. Peter to St. Linus to St. Anacletus (Cletus) and so on, all the way to our current Pope Francis, these men have dedicated their lives to the Church. (Click here for a full list of popes).

While all of that should certainly be enough to excite anyone about meeting one of the popes, Pope Francis in particular draws large crowds due to his down to earth attitude and his constant example of practicing that which he preaches.  To listen to him speak, to watch him in his interactions with others, you know that he truly lives out his Catholic faith. Quite simply, he lives striving to be more and more like Christ.  And in his words and actions, he inspires us all to do the same.

So is it really that big of a deal that Pope Francis is here in the United States?  Yes!  The successor to Peter, chosen by the Holy Spirit to lead our Catholic Church, daily living his life as an outward example of that which we are all striving to achieve, has come to the United States!  To our own home!  This is most certainly a big deal!  Our nation is in need of prayer.  In need of an increase in faith and a return to the Lord. I believe that the immense excitement surrounding the Pope’s visit serves as proof of just how badly this country needs to return to its founding Christian principles.

I pray that the Lord guide Pope Francis and protect him as he addresses our Congress today, the United Nations tomorrow, and the millions who are coming to see him in DC, New York, and Philadelphia (where I will be!).  I pray that all who hear him speak, whether in person or through the radio and television, are touched by his words and inspired to live out the Gospel in their lives, growing closer to Christ each day.  And I thank the Lord for the blessing of having His Holiness Pope Francis here in our country.  It truly is a big deal.

If you are interested in following more of the Pope’s journey here in the United States, I encourage you to visit the USCCB website for streaming video, news articles, prayers suggestions and more. 

“Laudato Si”

butterflyPope Francis’ Encyclical  “Laudato Si, (Praise Be): On Care for Our Common Home” has generated a lot of publicity.  As is common with many media reports involving our dear Pope Francis, I am certain many things will be twisted and portions will be taken out to suit specific agendas.  I decided to give it a read myself and highly recommend it to everyone!  It is a wonderful document filled with praise for our Creator and an urgent pleading for the greater care of all His creation.  I encourage you to read it for yourself to truly appreciate all the Pope has to say instead of just the bits and pieces the media might pull out.  You can read the full encyclical here.  Here are some of my favorite quotes from the document (it was so hard to choose just a few!):

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (Ps 33:6). This tells us that the world came about as the result of a decision, not from chaos or chance, and this exalts it all the more. The creating word expresses a free choice. The universe did not emerge as the result of arbitrary omnipotence, a show of force or a desire for self-assertion. Creation is of the order of love. God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things: “For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it” (Wis 11:24). Every creature is thus the object of the Father’s tenderness, who gives it its place in the world. Even the fleeting life of the least of beings is the object of his love, and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with his affection.

The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.

In the family we first learn how to show love and respect for life; we are taught the proper use of things, order and cleanliness, respect for the local ecosystem and care for all creatures. In the family we receive an integral education, which enables us to grow harmoniously in personal maturity. In the family we learn to ask without demanding, to say “thank you” as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggressivity and greed, and to ask forgiveness when we have caused harm. These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings.

Inner peace is closely related to care for ecology and for the common good because, lived out authentically, it is reflected in a balanced lifestyle together with a capacity for wonder which takes us to a deeper understanding of life. Nature is filled with words of love, but how can we listen to them amid constant noise, interminable and nerve-wracking distractions, or the cult of appearances?

It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation. Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsurpassable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures. The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours. In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved; it is the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life. Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God.

The Father is the ultimate source of everything, the loving and self-communicating foundation of all that exists. The Son, his reflection, through whom all things were created, united himself to this earth when he was formed in the womb of Mary. The Spirit, infinite bond of love, is intimately present at the very heart of the universe, inspiring and bringing new pathways.

Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and for all. In the meantime, we come together to take charge of this home which has been entrusted to us, knowing that all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly feast.

In the Simple Stillness

daisy-143186_640People want miracles.  They want to see instant cures and lasting peace.  They want to see the stars and the moon dance around in circles and for the world’s hunger to be instantly gone. They want to see something astounding.  Something that defies all explanation.   Something AMAZING!

People want a sign.  They want God to answer their prayers in a visible and immediate manner.  They want to hear God speaking and see Him working through a grand and wondrous spectacle.

People say that if they saw these things, if they heard His voice, if they had actual proof, then they would believe.

The truth is that God has worked miracles too numerous to count in people all over the world since the beginning of time.  Those miracles still happen today, even if we cannot open our eyes and our hearts to see them.

Miracles are little glimpses of Heaven, of the glory of the Lord that is too awesome to fathom.  But we do not need miracles to hear God’s voice and to feel His presence.  For even in the presence of great miracles, many saw and still did not believe. Beyond the miracles that leave us speechless, God is still there.  In every moment of every day, He is there.

The Lord meets us in the stillness of our hearts, in the silence of prayer, in the beauty of the sacraments.  He speaks to us all in a manner so beautifully and exquisitely simple that it touches the deepest parts of our souls and transforms our entire lives.  All we need to do is open our hearts to Him.

“This is how the Lord acts: He does things simply. He speaks silently to you, to the heart. Let us remember in our lives the many time we have felt these things: the humility of God is His style; the simplicity of God is His style. And even in the liturgical celebration, in the sacraments, what is beautiful is that which manifests the humility of God, and not the worldly spectacle. It would do us good to journey through our life and to consider the many times the Lord has visited us with His grace, and always with this humble style, the style He calls us, too, to have: humility.”  ~ Pope Francis

Not to Judge, But to Love

Jesus did not make a habit of hanging around the “best” crowds.  He was frequently seen with sinners of all sorts.  He did not gather these sinners together to judge and scold them.  He did not organize protests and rallies to call out their sinful ways. Certainly He did not agree with their actions.  But rather than judging, discriminating, scolding, and ignoring these people, He chose a different method.  One that drew sinners to Him, rather than chasing them away.

When Zacchaeus, a known tax collector, learned that Jesus was coming, “he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:4-5)  Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus!  There was something that pulled him to go make a fool of himself and climb a tree just to get a better look!

“And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.” Luke 7:37-38  This woman was not obligated to go see Jesus.   There was something that drew her to Him.  Something in what she had heard about Him that made her need to go to Him.

What is that something that drew these people to Jesus?   What was it that made them actively seek Him out? It was love.

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them,they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.”And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” John 8:3-11

Jesus did not condemn, nor did He approve of the actions of this woman.   He knew she had sinned and did not ignore that fact.  But He did not start out by lecturing her while the others watched.   He looked on her with mercy and showed her love first.  Then, after she had seen the love that He had for her, He tells her “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

What if, when presented with an adulterous woman, He shamed her and brought the people together to rally against her?  What if, upon seeing Zacchaeus up in the tree, He first lectured on the terrible sins this tax collector had committed?  What if, when the woman brought the alabaster jar to Him, He first berated her for her terrible life?  I doubt that these sinners and countless others like them would have sought out the Lord if this was how they were treated.

Zacchaeus may have stayed up in that tree out of shame.  The woman with the jar of ointment would have been embarrassed and probably would feel silly for thinking this man would see past her sins.  The adulterous woman likely would have been stoned.  And I am betting that none of them would change their lifestyle.  Why would they change their way of life if it seemed they were too far gone for mercy?

Back in July, Pope Francis was questioned on homosexuality and famously replied, “Who am I to judge?” The media jumped all over this.  But why is this so shocking?  Pope Francis has not changed any Church doctrine.  And he won’t.  The teachings of Christ and His Church are not meant to conform to the ways of man.  Rather, they are to remain constant despite the changing world around us.

What made his response so striking is that was vastly different in tone than the attitude presented by many Christians in our world today.  We have lost sight of what it is Christ is calling us to do: love.  This does not mean we need to conform and give in to things we disagree with.  We are not called to change our beliefs.  But we can change our focus.

I know I am a sinner.  I do not want to be judged because of mistakes I have made and continue to make.   Although I have sinned, I know that there is something far greater than sin.  It is the love of Jesus Christ whose endless grace and mercy forgives all my sins.  He died for all of our sins.  It is through His everlasting love that we have true joy and true peace.

When we see sin in those around us, let us remember to look at ourselves before we judge.  Rather than focusing on the faults of others, let us instead focus on showing love to everyone, even those we disagree with.  By showing love, mercy, and forgiveness first, we can inspire others to seek Jesus and His mercy.  We are not perfect, but we are loved.  And we are called to do the same.  Not to judge, but to love.

“Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins” 1 Peter 4:8