Posts Tagged ‘St. Francis of Assisi’

Spiritual Practices: Meditating upon “the four last things” — Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell — “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

March 19, 2014


St Jerome visited by angels by Bartolomeo Cavarozzi

The Catholic Church has always admonished her spiritual children to reflect often, even daily, on “the four last things”: Death, Judgment, Heaven   and Hell. For there is nothing better conceived than this powerful meditation   to bring forcefully before our minds the essential purpose of life, namely,   to save our souls and avoid Hell. The saints have recommended it most highly,   especially the great Doctor of the Church, St. Alphonsus Liguori. The present   little book by Fr. Martin von Cochem is a reflection on many aspects of this   famous meditation, and it is construed thereby to help us with our own meditations   when we approach the subject. No one could be expected to dwell upon every aspect   of this book every day, but rather any one aspect of the whole subject is meat   enough for a profound daily reflection on our final end. The present book is   an excellent took to assist us in making this exercise regularly. The reader   should realize that Father von Cochem is emphasizing in this little book God’s justice, rather than His mercy. Today, one hears almost exclusively of God’s   great mercy and of His love for mankind. These qualities of our Creator are   indeed true, nor, in a sense, is the emphasis on His mercy overdone, for we   can never comprehend the great mercy of God nor His infinite love for man that   causes Him to extend Himself continually in so many ways (for the most part,   of course, only to be rejected by the majority of souls).

On the other hand, the complimentary quality of God, His infinite justice,   is just as great a reality, and if we could save our souls, we all must satisfy   it by repenting of and avoiding mortal sin; and if we wish to avoid Purgatory,   by repenting of all sin and making amends for our unexpiated wrong-doing. What   the reader should bear in mind while reading The Four Last Things is that the   author has purposely concerned himself mainly with God’s justice, rather   than with His mercy. Obviously, the author is cognizant of God’s mercy,   but that is simply not the subject of this book. However, as a result of this   emphasis, the reader should not thereby adopt a lopsided view of the task we   have of saving our souls, thinking it to be impossible. Just as on the side   of divine justice there are many sobering aspects to take into account, not   least of which are our own weakness and perversity; nevertheless, on the side   of God’s mercy, there are equal, if not in fact overwhelming, factors that   give us hope of our salvation. In the 20th century alone, Our Lord has appeared   to numerous mystic souls, giving messages of His infinite mercy and love—if   sinners will only repent and turn to Him. Some of these privileged souls are   Sr. Josefa Menendez (d. 1923), Sr. Faustina Kowalska (d. 1938), Sr. Mary of the Trinity (d. 1942), and Sr. Consolata Betrone (d. 1946). But there have been   others as well. Further, the Catholic Church possesses the sublime Sacrament of Confession, whereby sinners may unburden their hears and gain forgiveness   of their sins; and she also grants indulgences. Especially worthy of note are   plenary indulgences, whereby a person can make expiation for all the temporal   punishment due to all his sins in just one act—one plenary indulgence.   Indeed, Almighty God has been merciful to an incredible degree to us poor miserable   sinners.

The Four Last Things, besides focusing our attention on the principal reason   we exist and our principal job in this world, is also excellent for the many   somewhat “lesser-known” truths of our holy religion that it enunciates,   for example, that at the hour of death the devils intensify their efforts to   cause a soul to be damned. For it is then that the person is weakest—physically,   mentally, emotionally and even, one might say, spiritually, because he or she   could easily be in a state of confusion due to conern about unforgiven or unexpiated   sins. During the healthy, mature years of our lives, therefore, it behooves   us to contemplate our death and our final end, and to prepare for a happy and   holy death in every way possible, realizing that at the hour of death Satan   will mount his most powerful attacks and we will be in the greatest danger of   losing our souls.

The author says that death is a time of confusion for all, which in one sense   is very true, for did not even Our Divine Lord cry out just before expiring,    “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46). Death   is not natural for us, and it is something we all wish to avoid. But if we rely   on the help of Our Lady, surely our death will be as peaceful as possible—and   many good people achieve a peaceful, holy death—yet many of the great canonized   saints were terribly concerned for their eternal salvation even on their death   beds—a very sobering thought.

Another little-known and almost never-mentioned truth of our religion that   the author brings out is the fact that we do not know for sure if we are truly   pleasing to God, i.e., whether we are actually in the state of grace and free   from mortal sin, or whether we are in the state of mortal sin and worthy of   Hell. And he cites Scripture to reinforce this point. Many today think that   most people are in the state of grace and destined for Heaven; whereas, the   catechism teaches that most adults commit mortal sins. This realization alone,   that we do not know for sure if we are pleasing to God, should make everyone   humble, if nothing else will. The author also touches upon the topic of whether   most people are saved or damned. The predominating opinion among the great writers   of the Church is that most souls are lost eternally because they do not cooperate   with the graces that God makes available to men to save their souls. And they   cite several indicative passages of Scripture to this effect, especially the   famous passage in Matthew (Chapter 7, verses 13 & 14): “Enter ye in   at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth   to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate,   and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!”    Also, in Matthew 20:16, Our Divine Saviour boldly proclaims in the following   manner: “So shall the last be first, and the first last. For many are called,   but few are chosen.” And there are many other passages in Scripture to   indicate this same meaning.

There are also several minor aspects of Fr. von Cochem’s book that need   explanation as well: For example, he speaks about God being “angry”    with us because of our sins; in fact, the Bible in many passages speaks of “the   wrath of God.” However, we know from reason and we are taught by philosophy   and theology that God is perfect, and as such is perfectly serene, or impassible,   that is, He does not become angry as we understand it or undergo any suffering   or change. Speaking as if He does is simply an anthropomorphism to express His   justice with us, which takes the form of some sort of punishment sent our way.   It is an allegorical manner of speaking and should always be taken as such.   There are sophomoric minds who would dispense themselves from taking seriously   such a sober study as this book simply because of their own puerile interpretation   of such language. Those who would judge thusly do so only to the detriment of   their own souls.

Fr. von Cochem calls a mortal sin “an infinite evil,” and this because   it is committed against the infinite goodness of God. This is an aspect of sin   we cannot fully comprehend, or even appreciate, while yet in the flesh, but   it is one which we shall more fully comprehend when we see God face to face.   Then he quotes Scripture to the effect, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning   of wisdom.” (Psalm 110:10, et al.). Now to many of the uninstructed this   passage is monstrous, for they would deny that God wants us to fear Him since   Jesus was “good and gentle,” “meek and humble of heart,”    etc. and since this view violates the goodness and mercy of God. On the contrary,   the truth is that God is so august, is so good and is so holy that when a soul   begins to advance in holiness himself, he comes to an appreciation of just how   good “perfect” is, as in the passage, “Be ye therefore perfect   as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48). And the soul is   fearful of not being able to satisfy the justice of God, and fearful as well   of “offending” the infinite goodness of God. In any event, the burden   here is on the skeptic to explain why the Bible in so many, many places uses   this phrase. Also, the author mentions the famous difficulty of a rich man being   saved, as enunciated by Christ: “It is easier for a camel to pass through   the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”    (Mark 10:25). Here we must understand that the “eye of the needle”    was a low, narrow gate in a town’s walls left open at night for entrance   to and egress from a city after the main gates had been closed. It was so small   that armed men would have difficulty going through it, but for a camel to go   through would be nigh impossible. At the very least it would have to be unburdened   of its load, symbolic of the riches which the rich man would have to shed before   he could enter into the kingdom of God. But even then a camel is too tall and   too wide to have been easily squeezed through this gate—though the job   was not totally impossible. The people of Our Lord’s time knew exactly   what He meant, and the analogy was perfect.


Finally, the author speaks of the Resurrection of the Body at the End of Time,   when all souls will be reunited with their bodies, which will be in a perfect   state. In speaking of that event, he says that the soul will address the body   and the body will speak to the soul. Again, this manner of speaking should be   taken in the allegorical sense, for obviously bodies do not speak when they   are separated from their souls. This device is simply a graphic depiction of   the mind of man in dialog with itself. We all speak to ourselves when alone;   we do so when we write; this is the way the mind reasons when it figures out   its problems. As we are made “in the image and likeness of God” (Gen.   1:27), so we have, it would seem, like God, a three-part mental faculty that   can speak back and forth to itself and also observe and evaluate the on-going   conversation. In conclusion and to reiterate briefly, the great value of The   Four Last Things is to bring before our minds the fact that Hell lasts for eternity,   and if we should go there we shall suffer, and suffer indescribably, forever.   On the other hand, Heaven also lasts for eternity, and if we go there, we shall   never again want for anything—our every desire will be fulfilled. Further,   the fact is that death can come at any time and after that we shall have our   Particular Judgment, when our fate will be sealed for eternity. Yet the great   consolation from this book is that nothing is settled yet and that we have it   completely within our power to opt for God, for Heaven and for happiness—if   we will just have the courage to cooperate with God’s grace and use the   means He has placed at our disposal to save our souls.

Burying our spiritual heads in the sand like ostriches will not make the problem   of eternal salvation go away nor take it off our own shoulders, where God has   placed it. But meditating on the four last things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and   Hell will give us a realistic and accurate understanding of the job to be accomplished   by anyone who would save his soul and, by forewarning and forearming us, will   the better prepare us to be successful in the only endeavor that really counts   in life.

By Thomas A. Nelson   October 27, 1987

More reading:

The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Hell, Heaven by  Fr. Martin von Cochem

It has ever been the practice of the Catholic Church to recommend to her spiritual children the meditation on man’s Four Last Things – death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Keeping these sobering aspects of human destiny ever before our eyes, we will be that much less likely to fall into mortal sin and be lost eternally. Gives many facts we should meditate on as we contemplate death. This book has converted numerous Protestants in our day because of its cogent reasons for rectifying our lives.


St. Francis Looking Toward Heaven, by Francisco de Zurbarán

From The Archdiocese of Washington D.C.


Traditional Catholic theology has distinguished the “Four Last Things” : Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. We are admonished to meditate upon these things frequently. We WILL die, be judged, and spend eternity either in Hell, or in Heaven (likely after some time in purgatory). All men are appointed to die once, and after that face The judgment (Hebrews 9:27) The video posted below is  of a song by Johnny Cash on the topic of judgment. Here are some of the words:

You can run on for a long time Run on for a long time, run on for a long time Sooner or later God’ll cut you down Go tell that long tongue liar, go and tell that midnight rider Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down.

We will all one day die, or as the song puts it, be cut down. We will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (cf 2 Cor 5:10;  Heb 4:13; 1 Peter 4:5).

The reality of judgment and the possibility of Hell bothers a lot of modern Christians who have had God’s love emphasized to the exclusion of just about everything else about God. For example that He is Truth, and utterly Holy, that nothing unholy can tolerate His presence and so forth.

How to explain the possibility of Hell to a generation with a rather simplified notion of God? Perhaps the word “respect” can help. God want to save us all and have us live with him forever. This is clear in Scripture. But God has made us free and wants us to freely love Him and accept His invitation. This is His respect for our freedom. Now everyone want to go to heaven as they describe it. But NOT EVERYONE wants to go to real heaven which is God’s Kingdom in perfection. You see, in heaven, God’s Kingdom,  there is love for the truth, love for chastity, love for the poor, love for justice, love for one another, mercy and forgiveness are esteemed and God is at the center. But NOT EVERYONE wants these things. Not everyone wants the truth, wants to be chaste, not everyone wants to forgive and love everyone. Not everyone wants God to be at the center, they prefer that spot for themselves or some other idol. As we discussed a couple of days ago many people can’t stand to go to Church at all, or if they do they want it to be as short as possible. If we don’t want to spend time with God here what makes us think we will want to do so after death? If the liturgy is boring or loathsome to someone now what makes them think they will enjoy the liturgy of heaven? And The Scriptures clearly describe heaven as primarily a liturgy of praise (cf esp. Rev 4-8) centered on God. So God invites, but not all accept or are interested in the real heaven to which God invites them. In the end, God respects our choice and this is why there is Hell, it is for those who do not want what the Kingdom of God is. God still sustains the souls in Hell but he ultimately respects their choice to reject the Kingdom and its values.

So we ought to pray for a deepening desire for heaven. Death is on the way, sooner or later we will all be cut down. And the Lord Jesus will judge us among other things with this question: “What is it that you want??”  Do not think that we will magically change at that moment. By that time our choice for the Lord and his Kingdom or for something else will be firmly fixed. Behaviors become habits, habits become character, character becomes destiny.

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years (Deut 30:19-20)

Saint Francis of Assisi in his tomb, painted by Francisco de  Zurbaran (1598 – 1664)



We’re On The Clock: Psychologists and Spiritual Directors Recommend We Contemplate Our Own Mortality Each Day

February 9, 2014

By Steve Taylor

We all have to face it at some point; an event of such enormity that it can make everything else in our lives seem insignificant: death, the end of our existence; our departure from this world.

We live in a culture that denies death. We’re taught that death is something we should shy away from, and try to forget about. If we start contemplating our own mortality – so this traditional wisdom goes – we’ll become anxious and depressed. And there’s no doubt that this is often the case. In psychology, Terror Management Theory suggests that a large part of all human behaviour is generated by unconscious fear of death. This fear generates a fundamental anxiety and unease, which we try to offset with behaviour such as status-seeking or strongly defending the values of our culture. We feel threatened by death and so seek security and significance to defend ourselves against it. Studies have shown, for example, that when people are made more aware of their own mortality, they tend to become more nationalistic and tribal and more materialistic.

However, this is by no means always the case. In fact, there is also a great deal of evidence showing that becoming aware of death can have a powerful positive effect, and bring about a radical shift in attitude and perspective. I interviewed many people who had undergone this shift for my book Out of the Darkness: people who had been diagnosed with cancer, or had recovered from a close brush with death such as a heart attack or near drowning.

Tranformational Effects

The people I interviewed described a new ability to live in the present. Facing death had taught them that the future and the past are unimportant, and that life only ever takes place in the present moment. They had developed a much more appreciative attitude, a sense of gratitude for aspects of their life they had taken for granted before. They were grateful for their friends and family, grateful just to be alive, grateful to be able to perceive and experience the world around them. The world had also become a more real place to them – things that they had never paid attention to before became strikingly vivid and beautiful.

Worries and anxieties which had oppressed them before – for example, worries about being liked by other people, about not being successful in their career, or about past events which had made them feel embarrassed – no longer seemed important. There was a shift away from an ego-centered, materialistic attitude to a less selfish altruistic one. There was a sense of ‘letting go’ – of releasing themselves from fear, from ambitions, from attachment to material goods or concepts of status.

Rock musician Wilko Johnson

There was a powerful example in the news in the UK recently – a rock guitarist called Wilko Johnson (pictured above, from the band Dr. Feelgood) who was diagnosed with stomach cancer last year and told he only had 8 or 9 months left to live. Speaking a few weeks after his diagnosis, Johnson said that he had been feeling “vividly alive” and experiencing a sense of euphoria, with “this marvellous feeling of freedom.”

As Johnson told the BBC, the sense of euphoria began as soon as he was told the news: “We walked out of [the consulting room] and I felt an elation of spirit. You’re walking along and suddenly you’re vividly alive. You’re looking at the trees and the sky and everything and it’s just ‘whoah!’. I am actually a miserable person. I’ve spent most of my life moping in depressions and things, but this has all lifted… The things that used to bring me down, or worry me, or annoy me, they don’t matter anymore – and that’s when you sit thinking ‘Wow, why didn’t I work this out before? Why didn’t I work out before that it’s just the moment you’re in that matters?’

“Worrying about the future or regretting the past is just a foolish waste of time. Of course we can’t all be threatened with imminent death, but it probably takes that to knock a bit of sense into our heads. Right now it’s just fantastic; it makes you feel alive. Just walking down the street you really feel alive. Every little thing you see, every cold breeze against your face, every brick in the road, you think ‘I’m alive, I’m alive.’”

Facing Up and Acceptance 

So why does awareness of death have a positive effect on some people, but not others?

To a large extent, it depends on the intensity of the encounter with our mortality. Anxiety usually occurs when we’re passively aware of death, thinking about it in a vague way rather than actually facing up to it. There’s certainly an important difference between being aware of death as a concept (as people were in the research for Terror Management Theory), and being confronted with the reality of it, and being forced to deal with it as an imminent prospect. When we face up to death actively and directly, there’s a chance that we’ll transcend anxiety and insecurity, and experience its transformational potential.

An attitude of acceptance is important too. If we resist death, fight against its inevitability, refuse to let go of our lives, and feel bitterness about all the things that we’re going to lose and leave behind – then we’re much less likely to experience the potentially positive effects.

Most importantly, however, it should be possible for us to harness the transformational effect of death without actually undergoing the process of dying. It’s important for us to make a conscious effort to remind ourselves of our own mortality. I believe we should spend a few minutes of every day thinking about our own death, contemplating the fact that we’re only on this planet for a certain amount of time, that death could strike us down at any moment.

This may seem morbid to some, but it’s only really a question of facing up to reality. Ultimately, we’re all in the same position as a cancer patient who’s been told they only have a certain amount of time left to live – it’s just that we don’t know how much time we have left, and it’s likely that most of us will have more time than the cancer patient.

Death is always present, and its transformational power is always accessible to us, so long as we’re courageous enough to face it. Becoming aware of our own mortality can be a liberating and awakening experience, which can – paradoxically, it might seem – encourage us to live authentically and fully for the first time.

Steve Taylor, Ph.D. is a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK. He is the author of Out of the

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St. Francis of Assisi

St. John of the Cross

Photo: Russell Brand, once addicted to heroin, says it is good to keep aware of our own mortality


The casket of Philip Seymour Hoffman leaves the Church of St Ignatius in Manhattan on Friday as family and friends mourned the loss of the talented actor

The casket of Philip Seymour Hoffman leaves the Church of St Ignatius in Manhattan as family and friends mourned the loss of the talented actor who died at age 46.

Recommended Reading:

1. Jean Pierre de Caussade, “Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence,” (also sometimes called “The Value of the Present Moment”), TAN Books edition, 1987.

2. “The Catholic Guide to Depression,” by Aaron Kheriaty, MD and Fr. John Cihak, STD.

3. “Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic” by Matthew Kelly.


How many ways are there to get to God?

February 2, 2014

Pope Francis

By Bruce Davis

There are two distinct cultures in the world today and Pope Francis is standing on the bridge between them. There is the historical culture of the Church with beliefs in  God and the devil.  The Church is battling for the hearts and minds of everyone, believers and nonbelievers alike. And there is modern secular culture which offers an intellectual view for our ills which includes therapy and forgiveness. Pope Francis is standing on the bridge between religion and psychology. Can he illuminate the truth in both?

The worlds of religion and psychology both have their self righteousness and certainty in their position. On the one hand, God exists. There is a soul, sin and eternity for each of us. And for the other, God’s existence is an unknown. What we know for sure is that we are psychological beings which explains violence in our world, the world we can do something about.

What Pope Francis represents is not so much the intellectual correctness of either world view, but a path for everyone to follow to find their own answers. What everyone is discovering is that Pope Francis is neither conservative or liberal, but something else. He is a mature psychological and spiritual being of our time, challenging us all. By choosing St. Francis of Assisi as his inspiration, Pope Francis has chosen the human saint who everyone of all religions and no religion can discover and enjoy.

Through the path of humility instead of self importance, love and forgiveness instead of judgment and control, St. Francis and Pope Francis show a path which takes the weeds out of our garden. The world of religion and psychology both have a selfishness and arrogance which is the root of much judgment and personal pain. Love of the heart whether we call it God or simple love opens and inspires. St. Francis offers a path to the great love. It is here that people find for themselves love, God, the power of forgiveness. It is in exploration of the heart of awareness that religion and psychology find their common ground. It is in his heart of awareness that Pope Francis is speaking, acting, laughing and crying with us all.

The heart of awareness is being found by many in the worlds of both psychology and religion through meditation. As a Jesuit, Pope Francis spent much time in silence and in the heart of reflection. As thought slows down and becomes less overwhelming, he discovered what is our heart essence.  The vastness of inner peace found in meditation is changing many in their views of life beyond our physical world, the life of work and accumulating possessions. The vast presence found in our heart is changing many in their views of what gives life meaning and how we find purpose.

The simple peace found in meditation is turning many to want more simple peace in their daily lives. This is the spirit of St. Francis alive and well today. It is this spirit, which Pope Francis calls upon as he tries to be the hands and feet, words and heart of a giving God.

The path of letting go of excessive thought and receiving our heart is making people of both cultures instruments of peace. Pope Francis is simply repeating the words of St. Francis, calling us to be instruments of service. It is through our service that the world of personal psychology discovers we are part of a global humanity. And it is through service, the world of religion discovers what we judge as sin in others is more often than not, good people in difficult circumstances needing our love.

Where we all meet is in awareness of our own conscience.  It is our conscience that modern education has too often left out of the classroom. And it is our conscience which tells believers of all kinds what it is to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is through silence, meditation and service that we discover the growth and clarity of our conscience. Pope Francis is reminding us of St. Francis and our potential of perfect joy.  In our complicated world he is showing us clear steps. Pope Francis is betting that the path of St. Francis will bridge the worlds between religion and psychology, bringing us together and more important bringing us to the truth of our unlimited heart.


Many in the Catholic Church believe there is a great symbiosis between the spiritual life and other efforts to find peace in life.

In “The Catholic Guide to Depression,” by Aaron Kheriaty, MD and Fr. John Cihak, STD, discuss in depth their experiences and conclusions from working with hundreds of people complaining of depression. They have concluded that all too often in our society today, folks neglect even to investigate if their depression or unhappiness has a root cause in their spirituality — in their relationship with God.

We recommend readers take a look at:

“The Catholic Guide to Depression”
By Aaron Kheriaty, MD and Fr. John Cihak, STD


During an interview, Pope Benedict XVI was asked:

How many ways are there to God?

Pope Benedict XVI Responded:

As many ways as there are people. For even within the same faith each man’s way is an entirely personal one. In that respect there is ultimately one way, and everyone who is on the way to God is therefore in some sense also on the way to Jesus Christ. But this does not mean that all ways are identical in terms of conciousness and will but on the contrary, the one way is so big that it becomes a personal way for each man…Unity of mankind, unity of religions, unity of Christians – we ought to search for these unities again, so that a more positive epoch may really begin…In all religions there are men of interior purity who through their myths somehow touch the great mystery and find the right way of being human…The Christian can also find the secret working of God behind them. Through the other religions God touches man and brings him onto the path. But it is always the same God, the God of Jesus Christ…”

Pope Benedict XVI, Salt of the Earth, 1997 (when he was Cardinal Ratzinger Head of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith)


Who Can Be saved? Pope Francis’ Answer – A Surprise?

On May 22, Pope Francis preached in the chapel of his residence at Domus Sanctae Marthae in the Vatican. He based his remarks on the gospel text of Mark 9:38-40. His homily set the media abuzz. There was a frenzy of reports claiming that Pope Francis has shown an unprecedented openness to non-Catholics. Something so unlike his predecessors. Commenting on the Scripture passage, the pope had said, “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all.”
With his engaging preaching style, the Holy Father affirmed that salvation is offered to those who do not share the Catholic faith and to atheists as well. This astonished many as something new. One commentator even made the uncomplimentary remark that “Francis’s reaching out to atheists and people who belong to no religion is a marked contrast to the attitude of former Pope Benedict” (cf. Reuters report By Philip Pullella). Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Pope Francis follows in good Catholic tradition in what he teaches. He does not depart from Pope Benedict XVI’s teaching or from that of any one of his predecessors who have occupied the Chair of Peter. He makes clear what the Church has consistently taught in various ways in different historical contexts.
Why, then, is there the desire on the part of some to take Pope Francis’ teaching as something novel? The answer lies in a misunderstanding of a fundamental truth of the Catholic faith. Or even, perhaps, in a rejection of it. And, what is this fundamental truth? It is this: the Church is the instrument and sign of salvation for all.
Christ is the one Mediator between God and us. Christ is the one Redeemer. By his Paschal Mystery, that is, his Death and Resurrection, he redeems all people of every time and place. All who are saved are saved because Jesus gave himself as a “ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:5).
There is an essential relationship between Christ as Savior and the Church as the instrument of salvation for all. “The Lord Jesus, the only Savior, did not only establish a simple community of disciples, but constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him (cf. Jn 15:1ff.; Gal 3:28; Eph 4:15-16; Acts 9:5). Therefore, the fullness of Christ’s salvific mystery belongs also to the Church, inseparably united to her Lord” (Dominus Jesus, 16).
Christ is now present to us in His Body, which is the Church, as the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. “Thus, the Church, which Christ himself founded, is necessary for salvation (cf. Lumen Gentium, 2:14). All grace comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 846). This is a truth that many simply do not accept. They fear that accepting this truth excludes non-Catholics from the possibility of salvation.
But, this truth, that all grace, all salvation, comes from Christ, whose Body is the Church, needs to be seen together with another truth of the Catholic faith. Yes, God has made the Church the very instrument to bring all people into relationship with the Paschal Mystery. However, God accomplishes this in mysterious ways. As Vatican II taught, “All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this Paschal Mystery” (Gaudium et Spes, 22).
Following the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, Dominus Jesus, a declaration on the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, clearly affirmed that God’s saving grace is offered to all people (n.20). The declaration also said, that just as there is one Christ, so there exists a single body of Christ, a single Bride of Christ: “a single Catholic and apostolic Church” (Dominus Jesus, 16). Many took offense at this second statement of Catholic faith. And, since Pope Benedict XVI, the then Cardinal Ratzinger, was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which issued the declaration, they judge him to be close-minded and not open to salvation for the non-Catholics. But they are emphatically misguided in their opinion.
In 1997, before being elected pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith, gave a full-length interview to secular journalist Peter Seewald. Questioned on a variety of thorny and controversial issues facing Catholicism, Cardinal Ratzinger spoke with candor and profound theological insight. Peter Seewald asked him, “How many ways are there to God?” Cardinal Ratzinger replied, “As many as there are people. For, even within the same faith, each man’s way is an entirely personal one. We have Christ’s word: I am the way. In that respect, there is ultimately one way, and, everyone who is on the way to God is therefore in some sense also on the way of Jesus Christ. But this does not mean that all ways are identical in terms of consciousness and will, but, on the contrary, the one way is so big that it becomes a personal way for each man” (Salt of the Earth, p.32).
After Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as Pope Benedict XVI, he continued the same teaching. In his general Wednesday audience on Nov. 30, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI offered a meditation on St. Augustine’s commentary on Psalm 137. This psalm dramatically depicts the suffering of the Jewish people during the Babylonian Exile. The pope noted that St. Augustine was very timely in what he taught. Augustine recognized that, among the inhabitants of Babylon, there were non-believers who were committed to peace and the good of the community. These individuals were open to the transcendent. They were open to God. Pope Benedict taught that whoever seeks peace and the good of the community with a pure conscience, and keeps alive the desire for the transcendent, can be saved, even if that person, through no fault of his or her own, lacks biblical faith.
Both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI are on the same page when it comes to the truth of the Catholic faith. Both hold to the Church’s consistent faith that Jesus is the one Savior of all and the Church is His instrument of salvation. Both also affirm the possibility of salvation for all. To Pope Benedict, we are indebted for his theological explanation of these truths. To Pope Francis, for his pastoral reminder of their importance in the lives of us all. Each has given witness to the truth, articulating the faith with conviction. And their witness to truth is a gift of charity to all.
Pope Francis, May 22, 2013, St. Peter’s Square, General Audience:


Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, December 14, 2013 — “In the evening of your life you will be judged by your love”

December 13, 2013

Saint John of the Cross by Francisco de Zurbarán, 1656

Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church Lectionary: 186

Reading 1 Sir 48:1-4, 9-11


In those days, like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace. Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits; By the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire. How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Whose glory is equal to yours? You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses. You were destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD, To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob. Blessed is he who shall have seen you and who falls asleep in your friendship.

Responsorial Psalm PS 80:2ac and 3b, 15-16, 18-19


R. (4) Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved. O shepherd of Israel, hearken, From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth. Rouse your power. R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved. Once again, O LORD of hosts, look down from heaven, and see; Take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted the son of man whom you yourself made strong. R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved. May your help be with the man of your right hand, with the son of man whom you yourself made strong. Then we will no more withdraw from you; give us new life, and we will call upon your name. R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Gospel Mt 17:9a, 10-13


As they were coming down from the mountain, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
St. Francis of Assisi (1181 — 1226) and St. John of the Cross (1542 – 1591) are often depicted carrying a skull.
St. Francis himself seems to tell why he carries a skull in his work “The Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon.”


Toward the end of the canticle Francis says “be praised, my Lord, for Sister Death,” and he sees in Sister Death the priestess of God because it’s the one that takes us to Him, the one that brings us into the fullness with Him. So for him, death is to be embraced because it is the one who takes us to the Lord.”



To me the skull represents the importance of our life here on earth. Each day counts — and at the end of each day we are closer to death, and therefore to God!



Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
Liturgy: Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saint John was born, probably in 1540, in Fontiveros, near Avila in Spain. His father died when he was very young and he had to move with his mother from one place to another, while he tried as best he could to continue his education and, at the same time, to earn a living. In Medina in 1563 he was clothed in the Carmelite habit and, after a year’s novitiate, was given permission to follow the unmitigated Carmelite Rule.


He was ordained priest in 1567, after studying philosophy and theology at Salamanca, and, in the same year, he met Saint Teresa of Jesus who, a little while before, had obtained permission from the Prior General Rossi to found two communities of contemplative Carmelite Friars (later called the Discalced) in order that they might help the communities of nuns that she had established. A year later – during which he travelled with Teresa – on the 28th November 1568, John became part of the first group of Reformed Carmelites at Duruelo, changing his name from John of St. Matthias to John of the Cross.

He occupied many different positions within the Reform. From 1572 to 1577 he was general confessor for the monastery of the Incarnation in Avila (not then reformed but where Saint Teresa was Prioress). In carrying out his duties, he became involved in an unpleasant dispute within the monastery, a dispute for which he was considered in some way responsible. As a result, he was seized and spent about eight months imprisoned in the Carmelite house in Toledo, from where he escaped in August 1578. During his time in prison, he composed many of his poems for which, later on, he wrote commentaries in his celebrated spiritual masterpieces.

After Toledo, he was appointed superior in a succession of houses, until, in 1591, the Vicar General, Nicolas Doria, (the Reform having, by this time, gained a certain autonomy) dismissed him from all his positions. In the final years of his life, this was not the only “trial” which came to him who had given everything to the Reform, but he bore all his trials as a saint.


He died between the 13th and 14th December 1591 in Ubeda, aged 49 years.


He communicated his spirituality essentially by word of mouth and it was only written down as a result of persistent requests. The central theme of his teaching, which has made him renowned both within and without the Catholic Church, concerned the union through grace of man with God, through Jesus Christ: he described a spiritual journey from the very beginning up to the most sublime level, which consists of the stages of the purgative way, the illuminative way and the unitive way or, in other words, the stages for beginners, for the proficient and for those who are close to perfection.


As Saint John says – in order to arrive at the All which is God, it is necessary that man should give all of himself, not like a slave but inspired by love. Saint John’s most celebrated aphorisms were: “In the evening of your life you will be judged by your love” and, “Where there is no love, put love and then you will find love”. Canonized by Pope Benedict XIII on 27th December 1726, he was proclaimed a doctor of the Church by Pius XI on 24th August 1926.





The disciples have just seen Moses and Elijah before Jesus in the Transfiguration on the mountain (Mt 17, 3). In general, people believed that Elijah had to return to prepare the coming of the Kingdom. Prophet Malachi said: “Look, I shall send you the prophet Elijah before the great and awesome Day of Yahweh comes. He will reconcile parents to their children and children to their parents, to forestall my putting the country under the curse of destruction!” (Mal 3, 23-24; cf. Eccl. 48, 10). The disciples want to know: What does the teaching of the Doctors of the Law mean, when they say that Elijah has to come before?” Because Jesus, the Messiah, was already there, had already arrived, and Elijah had not come as yet. Which is the value of this teaching of the return of

Jesus answers: “Elijah has already come and they have not recognized him; rather, they have treated him as they have wanted. In the same way, they will also make the Son of Man suffer”. Then the Disciples understood that Jesus was speaking of John the Baptist.

In that situation of Roman domination which disintegrated the clan and the familiar living together, people expected that Elijah would return to reconstruct the community: to reconcile the parents to their children and the children to their parents. This was the great hope of the people. Today also, the neo-liberal system of communism disintegrates the families and promotes the masses which destroy life.

To reconstruct and remake the social fabric and the community living of the families is dangerous because it undermines the basis of the system of domination. This is why John the Baptist was killed. He had a project to reform
human living together (cf. Lk 3, 7-14). He carried out the mission of Elijah (Lk 1, 17). This is why he was killed.


Jesus continues the same mission of John: to reconstruct the life in community. Because God is Father, we are all brothers and sisters. Jesus joins together two loves: love toward God and love toward neighbour and makes them visible in the form of living together. This is why, like John, he was put to death. This is why Jesus, the Son of Man, will be condemned to death.


Personal questions

Placing myself in the position of the disciples: does the ideology of consumerism have power over me?

Placing myself in the position of Jesus: Do I have the force to react and to create a new human way of living together?


Concluding Prayer

May your help be with
the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we
will call upon your name. (Ps 80)

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

To appreciate today’s gospel reading, we must first appreciate the person of the prophet Elijah.  He is one of the two greatest prophets of the Old Testament, the other being Moses.   The latter was seen more as a symbol of the Law since it was through him that God gave the Law to Israel.  Elijah was considered to be the unparalleled prophet Israel had ever seen.  Appropriately, just before the death of Jesus, both Moses and Elijah, one representing the Law and the other the Prophets, appeared in the transfiguration scene with the transfigured Jesus in His glory.  They were seen talking to Him.

As the prophet of all times, he was remembered as the one who was zealous for the purity of the faith of Israel. He was fearless in preserving the pristine faith of Israel, even if it meant going against the King of Israel.  Indeed, he was sent “to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children, and to restore the tribes of Jacob.”  So much so, he was persecuted by Queen Jezebel who was a pagan queen and responsible for introducing pagan practices in the kingdom.  His prayers were efficacious and through him, miracles were wrought.   The author of the book of Sirach recounts him as one who “arose like a fire”, his word flaring like a torch.  It was he who brought famine on them, and who decimated them in his zeal. “By the word of the Lord, he shut up the heavens. He also, three times, brought down fire. How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah! Has anyone reason to boast as you have?” Finally, he ended his magnificent career with a glorious ending when he was “taken up in the whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses.”

It was within this context that the Jews believed that before the Messiah comes, Elijah will come again.  That is why after having witnessed the Transfiguration and on coming down from the mountain, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come first?”  The reply of Jesus implied that He was the Messiah that they were expecting when He said, “True, Elijah is to come to see that everything is once more as it should be; however, I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.”   And we have the footnote supplied by the evangelist when he wrote, “the disciples understood then that he had been speaking of John the Baptist.”

As we come to the end of the second week of Advent and as Christmas draws nearer, John the Baptist becomes more prominent, for he is seen as the precursor of the Lord.  As a true and distinguished prophet like Elijah, he preached salvation through repentance to his people.  Like Elijah, he had no fear of man, not even King Herod and his wife, Herodias.  He spoke the truth and did not mince his words.  Sanctified at birth in the womb of Elizabeth by Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, he was intimately one with the Lord.  He lived in the desert in total dependence on the Lord, surviving on locusts and wild honey.  He knew his mission as a messenger of the Lord.  Regardless of what others thought of him, even as the Messiah, he declared in no uncertain terms that he was only the voice of the Lord crying out in the desert, not the Word of God.  His mission was to prepare the way for the Lord.  He was the bride waiting for the bridegroom.  Once the Messiah came, he faded away from the scene, for his job was done since his master must increase and he must decrease.  Truly, at his preaching, many repented for fear of the punishment waiting for them.

Unfortunately, many did not take heed, especially the Jewish leaders.  It was not that they could not recognize Christ as the Messiah; they were simply not ready to accept Christ for fear of losing their status quo.  Their pride and self-righteousness hindered them from hearing the call to repentance.  They repeated the same mistake of their forefathers who murdered the prophets.   Hence, when Jesus came, they rejected Him.  They were hostile to Jesus and sought to destroy Him as He was becoming too popular.  Most of all, Jesus was upsetting their status quo and challenging the institutions of the day, especially the customs that kept the people poor and marginalized.

Christ our Messiah is coming soon.  Have we paved the way to receive our Lord and Saviour?  Are we any better than the Israelites and the Jews?  Do we treat the messengers of God any better than the Israelites and the Jews?  Have we also turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the messengers of God calling us to repentance and conversion?

Who are these messengers of God that He has sent along our way to invite us to true repentance of heart so that the Lord can come into our lives?  They could be our priests who preach the Word to us and counsel us.  They could be our friends or even family members and colleagues.  Are we receptive to their advice?  Sometimes, God’s Word comes through a sharing or an email or even when we read the newspaper.  So what is preventing us from listening to them?  Why are we so blind that we do not see and so deaf that we do not hear?

Is it pride or fear? More often than not, regardless of whether we consider ourselves active in the Church ministry or even good Catholics, we tend to fall into the sin of pride, like the Pharisees and the Scribes.  Many of us think too highly of ourselves.  We do not see our blindness, like the Jewish leaders.  We tend to perceive ourselves as holy and devout Catholics, and that others are sinners.  The very fact that we tend to condemn others and pass judgement on them shows our spiritual pride.  Most of all, we cannot bear to hear that we need conversion or that we do not know about God or that our spiritual life is weak and inadequate.  Indeed, those of us who are holding Church positions often fall into the same trap of the Pharisees and the Scribes.  This explains why Jesus reserved all the harsh criticisms for the Jewish leaders but demonstrated compassion and gentleness to sinners.

Of course, there are many of us who are still too attached to the world.  We are engrossed with the pleasures of life, our ambition, and our pursuits.  We do not resist the temptation of the Evil One, the Flesh and the World.  We fail to realize that the Devil is tempting us to sin and to turn away from the Lord.  Because we lack discernment, we cannot tell the difference between right and wrong.  At any rate, we prefer to listen to the Evil One who tempts us to commit sins of the flesh and follow the pursuit of the world, striving for glory, power, status and wealth.

Finally, if we are not receptive to the prophets of God, most likely, it is because our ignorance causes us to resist changing our comfortable status quo for fear that we lose power and control over others and compromise our self-interests.  Many of us are afraid to give up our sins for fear that we might lose our friends or the little joys we have.  We prefer to remain where we are in spite of the fact that we are not really happy either.  It is just like those living in irregular relationships.  They are caught in a bind.  They are afraid to let go on one hand but on the other hand, they are not at peace either.

So we must pray for the grace of conversion and repentance.  Like the psalmist, we pray for wisdom, enlightenment and strength.  We too must cry like the psalmist, “O shepherd of Israel, hear us, shine forth from your cherubim throne. O Lord, rouse up your might, O Lord, come to our help.  God of hosts, turn again, we implore, look down from heaven and see. Visit this vine and protect it, the vine your right hand has planted.  Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.”    As Penitential services will be held soon in most parishes, let us prepare ourselves well for a meaningful celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation by making time for prayer, entering into ourselves so that we can surrender those areas of sin and wounds for the Lord to heal us.


Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, November 23, 2013 — The experience of resurrection in our lives

November 23, 2013

King Antiochus started being so ruthless when it came to religion that  he earned himself the nickname Antiochus the Madman. He even filled the  Jews’ holy temple with his own idols (statues of gods) and forbade them from  observing their own holidays and traditions.

Read more:

The Hanukkah Story aka Miracle

Saturday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 502

Reading 1 1 Mc 6:1-13


As King Antiochus was traversing the inland provinces, he heard that in Persia there was a city called Elymais, famous for its wealth in silver and gold, and that its temple was very rich, containing gold helmets, breastplates, and weapons left there by Alexander, son of Philip, king of Macedon, the first king of the Greeks. He went therefore and tried to capture and pillage the city. But he could not do so, because his plan became known to the people of the city who rose up in battle against him. So he retreated and in great dismay withdrew from there to return to Babylon.
While he was in Persia, a messenger brought him news that the armies sent into the land of Judah had been put to flight; that Lysias had gone at first with a strong army and been driven back by the children of Israel; that they had grown strong by reason of the arms, men, and abundant possessions taken from the armies they had destroyed; that they had pulled down the Abomination which he had built upon the altar in Jerusalem; and that they had surrounded with high walls both the sanctuary, as it had been before, and his city of Beth-zur.
When the king heard this news, he was struck with fear and very much shaken. Sick with grief because his designs had failed, he took to his bed. There he remained many days, overwhelmed with sorrow, for he knew he was going to die.
So he called in all his Friends and said to them: “Sleep has departed from my eyes, for my heart is sinking with anxiety. I said to myself: ‘Into what tribulation have I come, and in what floods of sorrow am I now! Yet I was kindly and beloved in my rule.’ But I now recall the evils I did in Jerusalem, when I carried away all the vessels of gold and silver that were in it, and for no cause gave orders that the inhabitants of Judah be destroyed. I know that this is why these evils have overtaken me; and now I am dying, in bitter grief, in a foreign land.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 9:2-3, 4 and 6, 16 and 19


R. (see 16a) I will rejoice in your salvation, O Lord. I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will declare all your wondrous deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, Most High. R. I will rejoice in your salvation, O Lord. Because my enemies are turned back, overthrown and destroyed before you. You rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; their name you blotted out forever and ever. R. I will rejoice in your salvation, O Lord. The nations are sunk in the pit they have made; in the snare they set, their foot is caught. For the needy shall not always be forgotten, nor shall the hope of the afflicted forever perish. R. I will rejoice in your salvation, O Lord.

Gospel Lk 20:27-40


Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. Then the second and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.” Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Some of the scribes said in reply, “Teacher, you have answered well.” And they no longer dared to ask him anything.
Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

The Gospel today gives us the discussion of the Sadducees with Jesus on faith in the resurrection. • Luke 20, 27: The ideology of the Sadducees. The Gospel today begins with the following affirmation: “The Sadducees affirm that there is no resurrection”. The Sadducees were an elite type of great landowners or large estates and traders. They were conservative. They did not accept faith in the resurrection. At that time, this faith was beginning to be valued, appreciated by the Pharisees and by popular piety. This urged the people to resist against the dominion of the Romans and of the priests, of the elders and of the Sadducees; the Messianic Kingdom was already present in the situation of well being which they were living. They followed the so called “Theology of Retribution” which distorted reality. According to that Theology, God would pay with riches and well being those who observed the law of God and would punish with suffering and poverty those who do evil.
Thus, one can understand why the Sadducees did not want any changes. They wanted religion to remain just as it was, immutable like God himself. And for this, to criticize and to ridicule faith in the resurrection, they told fictitious cases to indicate that faith in the resurrection would have led people to be absurd.
Luke 20, 28-33: The fictitious case of the woman who married seven times. According to the law of the time, if the husband died without leaving any children, his brother had to marry the widow of the deceased man. And this was done in order to avoid that, in case someone died without any descendants, his property would go to another family (Dt 25, 5-6).
The Sadducees invented the story of a woman who buried seven husbands, brothers among themselves, and then she herself also died without children. And they asked Jesus: “This woman, then, in the resurrection, whose wife will she be? because the seven of them had her as wife”. This was invented in order to show that faith in the resurrection creates absurd situations. • Luke 20, 34-38: The response of Jesus which leaves no doubts. In the response of Jesus there emerges irritation of one who cannot bear pretence or deceit. Jesus cannot bear hypocrisy on the part of the elite which manipulates and ridicules faith in God to legitimize and defend its own interests.
The response contains two parts: (a) you understand nothing of the resurrection: The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead, do not marry, because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection, they are children of God” (vv. 34-36). Jesus explains that the condition of persons after death will be totally diverse from the actual condition.
After death there will be no marriages, but all will be like angels in heaven. The Sadducees imagined life in Heaven the same as life on earth; (b) you understand nothing about God: “For the dead will rise, Moses has also indicated this in regard to the bush, when he calls the Lord: the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is not God of the dead, but of the living, because all live in him”. The disciples are attentive and learn! Those who are on the side of the Sadducees find themselves on the opposite side of God! • Luke 20, 39-40: The reaction of others before the response of Jesus. “Then some of the Scribes said: “Master you have spoken well. And they no longer dared to ask him any more questions”. Most probably these doctors of the law were Pharisees, because the Pharisees believed in the resurrection (cf. Ac 23, 6).
Personal questions
Today, how do the groups which have power imitate the Sadducees and prepare traps in order to prevent changes in the world and in the Church?
Do you believe in the resurrection? When you say that you believe in the resurrection, do you think about something of the past, of the present or of the future? Have you ever had an experience of resurrection in your life?
Concluding prayer
This I believe: I shall see the goodness of Yahweh, in the land of the living. Put your hope in Yahweh, be strong, let your heart be bold, put your hope in Yahweh. (Ps 27,13-14)
From Peace and Freedom
In the Lection Divina, we are asked by the Carmelites, “Have you ever had an experience of resurrection in your life?”
Many can say yes.

Not too long ago, in a hospital along with a Catholic Priest as he administered the sacrament of the sick to a man near death — a man came up to the priest and said, “Hey Father. Do people really come back from the dead?”

Unperturbed, the priest quietly said, “Ask any recovered alcoholic or drug addict. Many of them are back from the dead.”




Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

As we come to the end of the liturgical year the Church invites us to meditate on the meaning of life.  The meaning of life is however understood only in the horizon of death. In turn, death itself is understood in the perspective of eternal life.  This is the theme of today’s scripture readings.  It is an important consideration because the failure to confront the ultimate realities of life will only make us regret when we reach the end of our life, knowing that we have never lived.  Only those who lived well will die well.  And those who die well will live forever.

This was the case of the king in the first reading.  At the threshold of death, he began to reflect and regret the mistakes and follies of his life.  He came to realize the emptiness of riches, power and position.  Indeed, he realized that there were more important things than riches and power.  In the face of death, what seemed the most important things lost its importance. He acknowledged that he was selfish and evil and that earthly riches do not last beyond this earth.  Most of all, he came to realize his human limitations and that he was not God after all.  Then, he thought he was so powerful and had no fear of God.  He even desecrated the Temple of God and killed the believers.  But at the threshold of death,   he was powerless.  He was only a finite being after all.  His personal failures led him to despondency and depression.  He ended a disillusioned man, bitter with life and humanity.  The experience of the ultimacy of life brought him to reflect on the meaning life.

He appeared to have repented at the end, for he recognized the wrongs he did.  We read that he told his friends, “Sleep evades my eyes, and my heart is cowed by anxiety.  I have been asking myself how I could have come to such a pitch of distress, so great a flood as that which now engulfs me – I who was so generous and well loved in my heyday.  But now I remember the wrong I did in Jerusalem when I seized all the vessels of silver and gold there, and ordered the extermination of the inhabitants of Judah for no reason at all.  This, I am convinced, is why these misfortunes have overtaken me, and why I am dying of melancholy in a foreign land.” He knew that the sad state of affairs and the straits he was in was due to his folly, especially in refusing to acknowledge the supremacy of God.

It was God who won the battle at the end.  His truth and goodness could not be defeated.  As the psalmist declares,”I will rejoice in your salvation, O Lord. Because my enemies are turned back, overthrown and destroyed before you. You rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; their name you blotted out forever and ever. The nations are sunk in the pit they have made; in the snare they set, their foot is caught. For the needy shall not always be forgotten, nor shall the hope of the afflicted forever perish.” This text applies to the King, for he was reaping what he sowed. Indeed, how we live determines how we die. If we live without love and reverence for God, we will die reaping the consequences of our pride and follies.  Those who live by the sword die by the sword.  Those who do evil, evil will catch up on them, if not on this earth, surely at their death bed.  It will be a tragedy then because there will not be sufficient time for any closure or repentance.  It might be too late.

Most of us unfortunately are too distracted by our daily responsibilities and worldly involvements to think of death until we fall ill. Some of us might not even have the opportunity to reflect on death!  We can be too concerned with our daily preoccupations, with our work, family affairs, our children, our elderly parents, our relationships, etc, so much so that we live only for today and the immediate future.  We drift from one event to another without pausing to wonder what we are doing and why we are doing what we do.  We keep on accumulating the treasures of the world.  We chase after things valued by the world, namely, power, money, status and pleasure.  Life is reduced to that of an animal state.  We cannot restrict life to merely a life on this earth.  We too must come to an awakening that these things do not matter in view of eternal life and at the threshold of death. Yes, this is our temptation today; to live only for today, without a view of the future and the afterlife. 

So if the things and ambitions of this world do not last, what is it that lasts? It is relationships.  Indeed, there is nothing more important in life than relationships.  One can be successful in many ways.  We can be successful in work.  We can be somebody in society.  We might be looked up to by many people, and are popular and well known.  We might own a beautiful house, drive a dream car and have all the luxuries in life.  But without love, our life is really empty.  Without someone whom we can share our soul, our feelings, our aspirations and our real self, then we would be living an impoverished life.  Such a life is not worth living at all.   That is why a man without relationship with God, like King Antiochus, lives a deficient life.  Marriage, as the gospel suggests, is a beautiful gift of God to humanity.

But is this true?  We know that many beautiful relationships, whether in married life or with friends, have to come to an end.  So what hope is there that relationships last and matter most?  This precisely is what the Sadducees in the gospel were disputing when they brought up the example of a woman who had seven husbands in her earthly life. This seems to be the way most people see life as well.  When we attend funeral wakes, the eulogies we hear mostly speak about how the dead have impacted lives and how memories of them will remain with their loved ones for the rest of their lives.  But we seldom hear anyone speak of how the dead will continue to live in God and with the communion of saints! We mourn that the relationship has come to an end.  On the contrary, this relationship is now taken to a higher level.  Death is not the end of our relationship with our departed ones.  Rather, we are now closer to each other in spirit and we will see each other face to face again at the resurrection.  For us, waiting to be with the Lord so that we can be with them might appear to take a long time.  But as St Peter quips: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”(2 Pt 3:8) The psalmist also expressed the same sentiments when he prayed, “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”(Ps 90:4)

This is where the gospel brings us to another level. Jesus assures us that the relationships in this world continue in the next life, albeit in a new and inclusive way.  That is to say, in heaven we love inclusively and each person’s happiness is that of all.  Thus the Sadducees’ objection is not valid, for earthly marriage and earthly ties are not absolute but a foreshadowing of what heaven is like.  When we are in heaven, we live as the communion of saints, living for, in, with and by each other.  In heaven our love for our brothers and sisters would be complete and total, without reservation, because we will be all in all through Christ in the Holy Spirit.

Hence, it is not enough to live for the future but from the future. This is what Christian hope is all about, a hope founded on the promises fulfilled already in Christ.  For the God we believe in is a living God.  This is what Jesus reminds us when He quoted the text from Moses “he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob; now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.”

God is the living God also because of Jesus’ resurrection.  Our faith that relationships will continue, although in a fuller way and complete manner, is rooted in the promise given to us in Christ’s death and resurrection; that life continues in a transformed manner.   The resurrection of the body implies that the earthly body which was used for inter-communication and the means by which we love and do good, will be resurrected and thus relationships do not cease after our life on earth but in fact continues in a richer and deeper dimension in the next life.

How then can we live this life of communion? By living from the future of what has been revealed to us in Christ!  What is the future if not the fact that eternal life consists of our union with God.  He is our fulfillment and our joy.  Eternal life is the perfection of our desire and this desire is for God.  Only He can satisfy man’s craving.  In the words of Augustine, ‘You have made us, O Lord, for yourself and our heart is restless until it rests in you.’  Indeed, if we find ourselves too attached to this world and to human relationships, it indicates that we have still not realized that God alone can satisfy all our desires.  But for those who have had a foretaste of His presence and love, especially in the Eucharist and in prayer, we will find ourselves secure in Him and confident even in the face of trials and difficulties, for our joy is not found in things and achievements but in our union with Him.

Only because of our union with God, can we also find joyful relationships with the blessed in heaven.  For if God is our security and fulfillment and love, then our love for others in heaven will be unconditional, pure, selfless and inclusive, since we do not possess each other but we are always living for and in each other, in union with the love we have received from the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

Thus, it is fitting that we end the liturgical calendar with the celebration of the Feast of Christ the King, knowing that coming under His Lordship, we will return to the Father, for Jesus will hand over the kingdom to His Father when God will be all in all.  “When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”(1 Cor 15:28) Truly, our whole vocation is a call to a deeper communion with God in the Holy Trinity, for God, being alive, is not alone but three.  Flowing from this fellowship with Him, our mission and desire is to bring others into fellowship with Him so that we all can be in communion with each other in the community of the saints in heaven where love continues without end.




A surprising number of spiritual people started out on the wrong side of the law and everything else. Many even had a “near death experience” that was instrumental in their “conversion” and a new way of life…..


Art: Penitent Mary Magdalene by Nicolas Régnier, Palace on the Water, Warsaw


Thomas Merton: You should want to be a saint.

You should want to be a saint. And to be one, all you need is to want to be one.

Of course, if you only want to be a run-of-the-mill, average Christian, that’s probably all you’ll ever be. Every one can do just enough to get by. It’s not hard.

But many of us are challenged to do more….

One of our favorite stories of Thomas Merton is here:


Terribly disfigured man who was held by the Pope

November 19, 2013

Brave: Vinicio Riva, from Vicenza in northern Italy, is covered from head-to-toe by the growths, but was kissed by the pope in a moment seen around the world

Brave: Vinicio Riva, from Vicenza in northern Italy,  pictured with his aunt Caterina, is covered from head-to-toe in growths, but was  kissed by the Pope in a moment seen around the world

  • Vinicio Riva, 53, suffers from the  genetic disease  neorofibromatosis
  • Condition has left him covered from  head-to-toe in non-contagious growths
  • Earlier this month Pope Francis embraced and  kissed him in Rome audience
  • Images of the touching moment the Pontiff  held him seen around the world
  • ‘It was paradise. He didn’t  think about  whether or not to hug,’ Mr  Riva said
  • In an exclusive interview  with MailOnline he has told the story of his life

By  Hannah Roberts

The severely disfigured man whose full-body  tumours were lovingly kissed by the Pope has told MailOnline the moving story of  his life.

Vinicio Riva, from Vicenza in northern Italy,  is covered from head-to-toe in painful growths, a symptom of his genetic disease  neurofibromatosis, passed down to him by his late mother.

Earlier this month the 53-year-old’s picture  spread across the world when he was warmly embraced by Pope Francis at one of  the pontiff’s weekly audiences in St Peter’s Square.

Overwhelmed: Mr Riva said that being caressed by Pope Francis made his heart beat so fast he thought he 'would die'Overwhelmed: Mr Riva said that being caressed by Pope  Francis made his heart beat so fast he thought he ‘would die’

Vinicio as a young boy in Vicenza in northern Italy, before his condition fully developed
Touching moment: The pontiff kissed Mr Riva, who suffers from a rare disease called neurofibromatosis, which is genetic and not contagious

Tough life: Vinicio as a young boy before his condition  fully developed and then as the pontiff Francis kissed him


In an exclusive interview with  MailOnline,  the brave man has described meeting the head of the Catholic church,  saying  that being caressed by Pope Francis made his heart beat so fast he  thought he  ‘would die’.

The  pontiff’s hug was ‘like paradise’, he  said, adding: ‘He didn’t even think about  whether or not to hug me.

‘I’m not contagious, but he didn’t know that.  But he just did it: he caressed me all over my face, and as he did I  felt only  love.’



Mr Riva  recollected: ‘He came down from the  altar to see the sick people. He  embraced me without saying a word. I felt as  though my heart was leaving my body.

‘He was completely silent but sometimes you  can say more when you say nothing.’

‘First, I kissed his hand while with the  other hand he caressed my head and  wounds. Then he drew me to him in a strong  embrace, kissing my face.

‘My head was against his chest his arms were  wrapped around me. It lasted  just over a minute, but to me it seemed like an  eternity.’

Vinicio Riva (left), from Vicenza in northern Italy, with his aunt, Caterina Lotto, 68, (centre) and his sister MorenaClose: Vinicio Riva (left), from Vicenza in northern  Italy, with his aunt, Caterina Lotto, 68, (centre) and his sister Morena, who  has a milder form of the same condition


Mr Riva is covered from head-to-toe by the growths, a symptom of his genetic disease, neorofibramatosisStruggle: Mr Riva is covered from head-to-toe by the  growths, a symptom of his genetic disease, neorofibromatosis

Earlier this month Mr Riva's picture shot round the world, when he was warmly embraced by Pope Francis, at one of the pontiff's weekly audiencesFamous: Earlier this month Mr Riva’s picture shot round  the world, when he was warmly embraced by Pope Francis, at one of the pontiff’s  weekly audiences

Close to his heart: Vinicio Riva with a picture of his late mother Rosaria, who suffered from the same condition he doesPainful: Vinicio Riva with a picture of his late mother  Rosaria, who suffered from the same condition he does


Photographs of the touching embrace were  shown across the world and drew comparisons to the 13th Century’s St Francis of  Assisi.

It was one of a number of public acts of  humility carried out by Pope Francis that has inspired an increase in  congregation numbers in Catholic churches across the world.

Since he was elected eight months ago, Pope  Francis has been seen to wash the feet of juvenile delinquents, personally call  distraught worshipers on the phone and invite homeless people to dine at St  Peter’s Square.

The so-called ‘Pope Francis Effect’ has been  credited with a 20 per cent rise in Catholic congregations in Britain, and  similar boosts in Italy, Spain, France, the U.S., and Latin America.

Family: Vinicio Riva's mother, who died of the genetic disease he suffers from called neorofibramatosisFamily: Vinicio Riva’s mother, who died of the genetic  disease he suffers from called neorofibramatosis

The Italian Centre for Studies of New  Religions say ‘hundreds of thousands’ of people have flocked to the church since  his election.

Mr Riva was accompanied to the Vatican by his  aunt, Caterina Lotto, 68.  Afterwards he felt so emotional and his heart was  beating so hard he  turned to her and said: ‘This is going to kill me  .’


Mr Riva lives with his sister Morena, 46, in  the council house they share outside Vicenza.

He has endured numerous operations on his  heart, throat and eyes, and often gets short of breath as a result of his  condition.

Mr Riva suffers from open wounds on his legs  that bleed onto his clothes and always wakes wearing a T-shirt covered in blood.

His sister Morena also suffers from the  disease, although from a far milder form. Their mother Rosalia was the genetic  carrier that passed on the disease but she did not develop any symptoms until  she had children.

Until the age of 15, Mr Riva was an  unblemished, self-assured adolescent. But then the growths appeared  all over  his body, inch by painful inch.

Now his entire face  and head are covered in  the boils. Only his left cheek, which is warped, is free of the painful growths.

During an  operation on his heart the doctors  had to enter through the armpit to  avoid the tumours which cover his  torso.

His feet are deformed and devastated by the  sores, which makes walking  difficult. He rides to work and around the village  by bike but visited  the Vatican by wheelchair because of the long waiting time  on foot.

The dermatology patient’s mother, Rosaria,  eventually died of the  condition, aged 81, and Mr Riva himself was only  expected to live until  the age of 30.

Vinicio Riva, from Vicenza in northern Italy, is covered from head-to-toe by the growths, a symptom of his genetic disease, neorofibramatosis
Vinicio Riva, from Vicenza in northern Italy, is covered from head-to-toe by the growths, a symptom of his genetic disease, neorofibramatosis

Life-changing: Until the age of 15, Mr Riva was an  unblemished, self-assured adolescent.  But then the growths appeared  all  over his body

His father,  77, a former builder, who still  lives in the retirement home where Mr  Riva now works, seems to have been a  somewhat authoritarian figure.

Mr Riva showed little affection to his son  after he got sick and pulled  him out of school aged 15 to come and work on the  building sites with  him. The dust made the boy’s sores itch  terribly.

Later the son went to work, painting in a  ceramics factory and, in a  specially assisted place for disabled people,  assembling parts such as  car batteries.

The dermatology patient's mother, Rosaria, died of the condition, aged 81The dermatology patient’s mother, Rosaria, died of the  condition, aged 81

Family album: Mr Riva's father, 77, a former builder, who still lives in the retirement home where Mr Riva now worksFamily album: Mr Riva’s father, 77, a former builder,  who still lives in the retirement home where Mr Riva now works

When he is  not working Mr Riva rides his  bikes around the village. He is also a  keen football fan and often goes to  football matches or out for pizza  with former classmates and friends.

He has not had a girlfriend since he was a  young man after having his heart broken.

But despite the heartache Mr Riva enjoys  reading romance novels. And he has also been known to bring flowers to the  nurses at the clinics where he needs once or twice a week treatment.

He says he would like to meet a person who  suffers from the same condition ‘out of interest’ but especially a woman, for a  possible relationship.

The big-hearted volunteer has often been  shunned in the street as an ‘Elephant Man’, with mothers crossing the street to  avoid him. Surprisingly, the women can be worse than the men, he  said.

On one particularly painful occasion he was  forced to leave his seat on the bus. He said: ‘I got on the bus and wanted to  sit next to the driver.

Act of kindness: Pope Francis (left) comforts Mr Riva in Saint Peter's Square at the end of his General Audience in Vatican CityMagic moment: Pope Francis comforts Mr Riva in Saint  Peter’s Square at the end of his General Audience in Vatican City

Touching moment: The pontiff kissed Mr Riva, who suffers from a rare disease called neurofibromatosis, which is genetic and not contagious
Touching moment: The pontiff kissed Mr Riva, who suffers from a rare disease called neurofibromatosis, which is genetic and not contagious

Rome meeting: The pontiff kissed Mr Riva, who suffers  from neurofibromatosis, which is genetic and not contagious

‘But one man said that I couldn’t sit  there.  He said he didn’t want to look at me. No one on the bus defended  me. I felt  terrible.’

The family haven’t been on holiday for  years  – for one thing because the wounds on Mr Riva’s body bleed so much that the  sheets need changing every day.

‘They don’t say directly but they say that  you have to leave,’ Aunt Caterina said.

‘People can be OK but the “kids” [Vinicio and  Morena] don’t go out unless I go along too,’ aunt Caterina said: ‘They feel more  protected when I am there. I’ve know them since they were born.’

The brother and sister exist on a mere 250  euros a month each from their disabled benefits and 150 euros each from their  volunteer jobs.

There is not a lot of money to spare, but  their aunt Caterina helps out with her by giving them part of her pension.

Fortunately, in the village the community  have become accustomed to him.

He said: ‘Those who I have known for a long  time are kind; the others are horrible.’

The severely sick man is taken to Lourdes, a  popular place of pilgrimage in France, every year by Catholic group Unitalsi but  it was the first time they had thought to take him to St Peter’s.


Neurofibromatosis has long been associated with the 'Elephant Man,' the name given to Joseph Carey who was severely disfigured. But evidence now suggests he was suffering from another rare syndromeNeurofibromatosis has long been associated with the  ‘Elephant Man,’ the name given to Joseph Carey Merrick, who was severely  disfigured. But evidence now suggests he was suffering from another rare  syndrome

The man who met Pope Francis is  believed to  be suffering from a condition called neurofibromatosis – the name for a number  of genetic conditions that cause swellings or lumps.

Although many people who have the condition  inherit it from one of  their parents, up to 50 per cent develop it randomly  from a  gene mutation before they are born.

There are two types of neurofibromatosis and  this man is suffering from type  one, Dr Anand Saggar, a London-based genetics  expert, told MailOnline.

Despite their alarming appearance, the  growths and swellings – called  neurofibromas and caused by a growth of cells – are not cancerous or  contagious.

The condition has long been associated with  the ‘Elephant Man,’ the name  given to Joseph Carey Merrick, who was severely  disfigured.

However, in 1986, a new theory emerged that  Mr Merrick may actually have had  Proteus syndrome, a condition which involves  symptoms  such as abnormal growth of the bones, skin and head.

The confusion was again compounded in 2001  when it was proposed that he had suffered from a combination of  neurofibromatosis type one (NF1) and  Proteus syndrome.

However, DNA tests on his hair and bones have  proven inconclusive.

Other symptoms of neurofibromatosis type one  include flat, light brown spots on the skin.

These harmless marks, also called cafe au  lait spots, are common in many  people. People who have more than six spots that  are bigger than half a  centimetre wide should get investigated for  NF1.

NF1 is a condition someone is born with,  although some symptoms develop  gradually over many years. The severity of the  condition can vary  considerably from person to person.

People with NH1 are more likely to suffer  from learning difficulties and  behavioural problems, a type of cancer known as  malignant peripheral  nerve sheath tumours, which affect around 10 per cent of  people with NF1 over their lifetime, vision problems, high blood pressure and a  curved  spine.

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Pope Francis recives a caress from a disabled man during a meeting with the UNITALSI, Italian Union for the transportation of sick people to Lourdes and International Shrines in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican on November 9, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Filippo MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)


Pope Francis kisses, blesses severely disfigured man

Pope Francis with the severely disfigured man in St. Peter’s Square.


Pontiff's penitence: Pope Francis washes the foot of a prisoner at Casal del Marmo youth prison in Rome March 28, 2013.


Pontiff’s penitence: Pope Francis washes the foot of a  prisoner at Casal del Marmo youth prison in Rome March 28, 2013

Pope Francis: Prayer is Good Medicine

November 18, 2013

Pope Francis: ‘Pharmacist’ Pope Francis offers pilgrims boxes of rosaries as medicine during   Sunday sermon

A faithful shows so-called 'Misericordina', a box containing a rosary, at the end of Pope Francis' traditional appearance in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican City. The pontiff recommended the rosary as medicine that 'does good to the heart'.

A visitor to St. Peter’s on Sunday, November 17, 2013, shows so-called ‘Misericordina’, a box containing a rosary, at the end of Pope Francis’ traditional appearance in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican City. The pontiff recommended the rosary as medicine that ‘does good to the heart’.   Photo: EPA
Chris Irvine

By , agencies

Daily Telegraph

The Pope   joked that he was a pharmacist on Sunday as he promoted prayer as medicine   for the heart, offering some 20,000 boxes of “mercy” – containing   rosaries – to pilgrims in St Peter’s Square.

Appearing at his studio window, Francis held up the box designed to resemble a   packet of pills emblazoned with a design of a human heart, before volunteers   distributed them.

“I now want to suggest a medicine. ‘What?’ you ask, ‘the pope is now a   pharmacist?’” he said shaking the box, after reciting the traditional   Sunday Angelus prayer from a window overlooking the square.

Labelled “Misericordina, 59 Beads for the Heart”, the box also   contains instructions in several languages.

“Can be used once a day, but in case of emergency can be taken as much as   the soul needs,” the instruction leaflet says, adding: “The dose   is the same for adults and children.”

The pontiff added: “Don’t forget to take your medicine, because it is   good for the heart, the soul, the whole life.”

At his address on Sunday, he also warned the 80,000 tourists who packed the   square not to be taken in by “false messiahs”.

The Pope has been hailed for reinvigorating interest in the Catholic Church   since he was elected in a secret conclave earlier this year after Benedict   XVI stepped down.

Last   week he was praised for kissing a man suffering from a rare disfiguring   disease, drawing comparisons with his namesake, St Francis of   Assisi, who is said to have embraced a leper.

Catholics cathedrals in England and Wales are benefiting from the so-called “Francis   effect”, seeing a rise in attendance for the first time in years,   according to a survey carried out by The Sunday Times. The largest bump was   in Leeds, which has seen a 35 per cent bounce in attendance. Similar rises   are being reported around the rest of Europe and the World.

The first non-European pope in 1,300 years last month broke   through the 10 million followers barrier on Twitter, while he   has also been credited with a tourism boom in Rome, drawing   larger-than-usual crowds to his sermons thanks to his down-to-earth way of   speaking.


  (The “Francis   effect”)

A woman holds a rosary as she waits to board a military evacuation flight from the typhoon-battered city of Tacloban, Philippines, Nov. 13. Hundreds of thousands of people in Leyte province had been displaced by Typhoon Haiyan, one of the worst storms to hit land. (CNS photo/Edgar Su, Reuters)

A woman holds a rosary as she waits to board a military evacuation flight from the typhoon-battered city of Tacloban, Philippines, Nov. 13. Hundreds of thousands of people in Leyte province had been displaced by Typhoon Haiyan, one of the worst storms to hit land. (CNS photo/Edgar Su, Reuters)

Pope Francis kisses, blesses severely disfigured man

November 7, 2013

Pope Francis kisses, blesses severely disfigured man

Pope Francis with the severely disfigured man in St. Peter’s Square.

Photo: EPA

A touching image of Pope Francis tenderly embracing a severely disfigured man in St Peter’s Square has gone viral.

Pope Francis with the severely disfigured man in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis kissed and blessed the man, whose face was covered in boils, after his general address at the Vatican on Wednesday.

Pope Francis touches a boy’s head as he delivers his speech during an audience with families in St. Peter’s Square.

The pope laid his hands on the head of the sick man, who is believed to be suffering from the rare disease Neurofibromatosis, and closed his eyes in prayer.

Pope Francis has drawn comparisons to his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi — the revered 13th-century holy figure who was known for his kindly nature and love for the sick and poor.

Earlier in his address at the Vatican, Pope Francis asked the crowd to pray for a sick little girl that he had just met.

A champion of the underdog, Pope Francis — who is also a prolific user of Twitter — also tweeted: “We need courage if we are to be faithful to the Gospel.”

The pontiff made headlines last week when he was upstaged by a little boy who walked on stage while he was giving an address at the Vatican.

The child hugged the Pope’s legs and refused to leave his side, drawing smiles and a friendly pat on the head from Francis.

This article originally appeared on

Being Faithful to the Gospel: Pope Francis Embraces Man Covered in Boils

November 7, 2013

Act of kindness: Pope Francis (left) comforts a man covered in boils in Saint Peter's Square at the end of his General Audience in Vatican City


Act of kindness: Pope Francis (left) comforts a man  covered in boils in Saint Peter’s Square at the end of his General Audience in  Vatican City

  • Pontiff embraced and prayed with the man,  who suffers from neurofibromatosis – a rare genetic condition that is not  contagious
  • People living with the painful illness  are often shunned because of their appearance
  • Earlier in Wednesday’s general audience,  Pope Francis asked the faithful to pray for a sick girl

By  Snejana Farberov

Pope Francis concluded Wednesday’s general  audience in St Peter’s Square in Rome by kissing a man covered in boils and  joining him in prayer.

Photos of the pontiff embracing the severely  disfigured man have gone viral online, with commenters praising the pope for his  compassion and kindness.

In Italian press, the pope has drawn  comparisons to his illustrious namesake, St Francis of Assisi – a revered 13th  century holy figure, who according to legend kissed a leper he had encountered  on a road after receiving a message from God.


Touching moment: The pontiff kissed the worshiper, who  suffers from a rare disease called neurofibromatosis, which is genetic and not  contagious

Images of Pope Francis comforting the ailing  worshiper were taken at the end of the general audience Wednesday, when a man  covered in neuronal tumors approached the leader of the Catholic Church asking  for a blessing.

Famous namesake: The pope has drawn comparisons to St Francis of Assisi - a revered 13th century holy figure, who according to legend kissed a leperFamous namesake: The pope has drawn comparisons to St  Francis of Assisi – a revered 13th century holy figure, who according to legend  kissed a leper

The man reportedly suffers from a rare and  painful disease called neurofibromatosis, which causes boils, impaired vision  and in some cases cancer, according to the Catholic News Agency. 


Patients suffering from the ailment, which is  genetic and not contagious – are often shunned by society because of their  appearance.

Pope Francis has been widely praised for his  common touch and accessibility.

Since being elected to the Holy See  earlier  this year, the pontiff has made headlines around the world by  washing the feet  of juvenile delinquents, personally calling distraught  worshipers on the phone  and inviting homeless people to dine at St  Peter’s Square.

On  Wednesday, the leader of the world’s  1.3billion Catholics was greeting  pilgrims following his weekly public audience  when he took a break to  comfort the disfigured believer.

Pope Francis then kissed the man on the face  and blessed him. He was photographed with his eyes tightly shut in prayer.

Show stealer: Last month, the pontiff allowed a young boy to remain on stage with him as he delivered a speech to 150,000 worshipers, occasionally patting the boy's headShow stealer: Last month, the pontiff allowed a young  boy to remain on stage with him as he delivered a speech to 150,000 worshipers,  occasionally patting the boy’s head

Pontiff's penitence: Pope Francis washes the foot of a prisoner at Casal del Marmo youth prison in Rome March 28, 2013Pontiff’s penitence: Pope Francis washes the foot of a  prisoner at Casal del Marmo youth prison in Rome March 28, 2013

Earlier in today’s audience, the pope asked  the people assembled in the square to pray for a sick little girl he had just  met.

Last week, the pontiff allowed a little boy  to remain on stage with him and cling to his leg during a speech in front of a  crowd of 150,000.

Earlier this year, Francis tweeted to his  3.2million followers: ’The Pope must serve all people, especially the poor, the  weak, the vulnerable.’

On Tuesday, the pontiff fired off this  message: ‘We need courage if we are to be faithful to the Gospel.’

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Pope Francis
Pope Francis is reportedly more popular on Twitter than the New York Times and just behind rapper Kanye West. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images


Pope Francis embraces a man during his visit to St. Francis of Assisi hospital for rehabilitation of drug addicts in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday, July 24, 2013.  Photo by EPA
Pope Francis at the St Francis of Assisi hospital, located in the run-down Tijuca district of northern Rio de Janeiro. Note the statue of St. Francis of Assisi. At this hospital, Pope Francis met with and embraced men and women recovering from drug addiction.

Pope Francis reaching out.  Pope Francis holds a dove before his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 15, 2013. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)


Pope Francis greets a man as he meets with patients, family and staff at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro July 24, 2013. The pope addressed a group of recovering drug addicts offering them a message of compassion and hope as well as a call to self-determination. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope, in Assisi, calls on Church to shun vanity

October 4, 2013

Pope Francis arrives at St. Francis Basilica during his pastoral visit in Assisi

Pope Francis (C) arrives at St. Francis Basilica during his pastoral visit in Assisi October 4, 2013.  Credit: Reuters/Filippo Monteforte/Pool

By Philip Pullella

ASSISI, Italy (Reuters) – The Roman Catholic Church, from the lowliest priest to the pontiff himself, must strip itself of all “vanity, arrogance and pride” and humbly serve the poorest members of society, Pope Francis said on Friday.

The pope’s appeal, made in the central Italian hill town of Assisi where his namesake Saint Francis lived in the 12th century, comes amid a drive by Francis to turn around a Church plagued by financial and sexual abuse scandals.

Saint Francis is revered by Catholics and many other Christians for his simplicity, poverty and love of nature. – qualities the Argentinian-born Francis has made the keynote of his papacy since his election in March.

“This is a good occasion to invite the Church to strip itself of worldliness,” he said in a room that marks the spot where St. Francis stripped naked as a young man, renounced his wealthy family and set out to serve the poor.

“There is a danger that threatens everyone in the Church, all of us. The danger of worldliness. It leads us to vanity, arrogance and pride,” said Francis in the richly frescoed room of the residence of the archbishop of Assisi.

As he has often done, Francis spoke impromptu after putting aside prepared versions of two speeches, clearly moved by the sick and the poor people present in the room.

Francis has brought a new style of openness, consultation and simplicity to the Vatican. A few days after his election, he said he wanted to see “a Church that is poor and for the poor”.

He has shunned the spacious papal apartments for spartan quarters in a Vatican guest house and has urged all clergy, regardless of rank, to get out among the poor and needy.


Francis said all members of the Church should avoid attaching importance to worldly things and become more humble.

“Worldliness brings us to vanity, arrogance, pride and these are idols… All of us have to strip ourselves of this worldliness,” he said.

Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years and the first ever from Latin America, has formed three committees to advise him on making the Vatican more transparent, particularly in its financial dealings.

He has also said that Catholic convents and monasteries that are empty should be opened up to house migrants and refugees.

At a Mass for several thousand people outside the pink stone basilica-convent complex where St. Francis is buried, the pope appealed for respect for the environment.

“St. Francis of Assisi bears witness to the need to respect all that God has created … From this city of peace, I repeat with all the strength and the meekness of love: Let us respect creation, let us not be instruments of destruction,” he said.

Pope Francis holds a mass next to San Francesco Basilica in Assisi October 4, 2013. REUTERS-Stefano Rellandini

Pope Francis holds a mass next to San Francesco Basilica in Assisi October 4, 2013. Credit: REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Francis was visibly moved when he heard the stories of some of the poor people earlier in the day.

“Many of you have been stripped by this savage world that does not give employment, that does not help, that does not care if there are children in the world who are dying of hunger, does not care if so many families have nothing to eat,” he said.

He decried a world “that does not care about many people who have to flee poverty and hunger, flee seeking freedom and many times they find death, as happened yesterday in Lampedusa”.

Francis was referring to the sinking of a migrant boat off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa on Thursday in which more than 300 people are believed to have died.

“Today is a day for crying,” Francis said of the tragedy.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)


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