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In first year, Pope Francis has challenged 'all' to live Gospel
By Carl Bunderson
Washington D.C., Mar 9, 2014 / 04:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Anticipating the one-year anniversary of the election of Pope Francis as the Bishop of Rome, Catholic leaders nationwide have reflect on his papacy thus far, noting his call for every Catholic to evangelize.
“In a certain sense, by his style of interviews and public statements, he kind of throws the ball back in our court as well – and I don't mean bishops, I mean all the faithful,” Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb. told CNA March 6.
“And what I mean by that is that…it kind of falls upon us to put him in context, and to tell people what he means. And that's part of the sensus fidelium, that's part of, really, our baptismal charism: that the faithful also have the responsibility of articulating the teaching of the Church, so it doesn't focus on one person, like the Pope, like a bishop; that we all have this responsibility of preaching the gospel, and explaining the Gospel, and articulating the Gospel.”
Since the election of Jorge Bergoglio as Pope on March 13, 2013, the world has been fascinated by the Roman Pontiff, as seen by him being named “Man of the Year” by several publications. He has so far given three interviews to secular publications, and one to a magazine of the Society of Jesus, for which he was ordained a priest.
Pope Francis' personal style in these interviews and elsewhere, Bishop Conley said, “has given us an opportunity to put his words into context and to explain maybe some of the ambiguities, some of the lack of precision in his language. It's not a bad thing.”
He emphasized that the Pope has said repeatedly that he is first and foremost a son of the Church and “has made it clear he has no intention of changing Church teaching on fundamental issues; but because of perhaps his style, or his way of doing interviews, it leaves a lot of room for us to explain what he really means.”
John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America, told CNA that when Pope Francis' words are misappropriated – as when his comment “who am I to judge” is taken out of context and used to support acceptance of the commission of homosexual acts – “someone ought to call out the appropriators on that.”
Yet at the same time, he said another misreading of Pope Francis' message, “which some Catholics may fall victim to,” is “to say 'yeah, yeah, yeah, fine about mercy, but let me tell you again about the rules.'”
Pope Francis “is saying that’s not the way to sell the faith,” Garvey emphasized. “The most interesting thing about him…is his emphasis on mercy, and his repeated talk about Jesus and the Gospels and the primacy of charity, rather than rules and laws.”
“If we want to evangelize, we need to describe what we love about the faith, (and) not the kinds of rules and laws that we all should, of course, attend to,” he said.
Garvey said Pope Francis' message is that “what draws people to the faith is God's mercy…if we respond to the message that he's communicating – that we need to love God and our neighbors, that charity is paramount, that we need to take care of the poor, that the message of the Gospels is God's mercy, and that’s what the Church is preaching – if we feel we need to respond to that by saying, 'yeah, now he’s not telling you you have to obey all these rules about sex and fasting and take your pick,' we're kind of missing the point that he’s trying to communicate to us.”
“We should, none of us, feel the obligation to make up for the Pope's failures in communication, by saying the things he says we shouldn’t be talking about all the time. What we ought to do, is pay attention to what he’s saying, and try to copy that style for a little while.”
Garvey said he has used a metaphor of teaching someone golf for how to evangelize: “it would be odd, and probably not very attractive, to say, now here's the deal, when you’re on the tee, you don't go outside the white stakes, because they’re out of bounds, and the penalty is stroke and distance…what you should do, is say the goal is to get the ball in the hole with the fewest strokes, by going along the fairways, and enjoying the company with you.”
“They're both apt description of what golf is, and of course the second description doesn’t mean you’re allowed to ignore out of bounds markers or sand traps.” Similarly, in evangelizing, we should focus on what is beautiful about the Church, and not solely rules and laws, he indicated.
Garvey also noted that an important effect of the first year of Pope Francis' pontificate is “how he has kind of transcended liberal and conservative categories,” being both fully concerned with social justice and poverty, but also affirming Church teaching on “abortion and contraception and a hundred other things.”
“There’s a tendency (in the U.S.) to think of Catholics as Republicans because they hold ‘old-fashioned’ views on sex, when in fact so much of the Church’s teaching is more comfortable on the progressive side of the political spectrum,” Garvey said.
He added that the Pope's style is “a way of taking being Catholic out of politics, and situating it in the real world; and that’s been a really nice thing, I think.”
He also noted Pope Francis' genuineness in his concern for the poor: “it's who he is. The way he’s living is perfectly consistent with the message he's preaching. He lives like a poor man, he takes care of the poor…it's not just a token, it’s the best evidence of his sincerity.”
Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services, said March 6 that “Francis has taught us many lessons in the first year of his papacy, reminding the faithful that the preferential option for the poor is a central mission of the Church…this has made his papacy particularly meaningful to those of us at Catholic Relief Services.”
“In washing the feet of the poor, in visiting the refugees on the Italian island of Lampedusa, Francis has demonstrated that it is necessary to go beyond words to deeds in service to the poor. This is the work that thousands of employees of CRS are engaged in every day around the world, in solidarity with the Catholic community in the United States. Francis has been an inspiration to us all.”
Bishop Conley reflected on the last year in Lincoln – with the caveat that he was transferred there only a few months prior to Pope Francis' election – but saying that “I certainly have detected a greater awareness of our missionary responsibility, our evangelical responsibility to proclaim the faith, particularly among the lay faithful.”
“It seems that there is a new energy, or awareness or attentiveness, to the call of the lay faithful to be part of the evangelization effort of the Church. I’ve noticed that in parishes as I go around and the questions people ask me.”
He added that the priests, also, “have been preaching more and more about the Church as mission, and they’ve been reaching out to those Catholics who have fallen away from the sacramental practice of the faith. But also, a kind of awareness of obligation to evangelize non-Catholics, and to share our faith with them.”
Bishop Conley also reflected on this first year of Pope Francis’ pontificate in his March 7 column at the Southern Nebraska Register, where he noted the profound continuity between Pope Francis and Benedict XVI.
“Often, we hear about the differences between each man who becomes the Pope – in 2005, we heard that Pope Benedict was different from Blessed John Paul II; today we hear that Pope Francis is different from Pope Benedict,” he wrote.
“I am struck more deeply by the continuity in the papacy than by the differences. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And, in thought, and life, and mission, so is the Church.
He described how both know the Church is called to mission to “a world which is hurting,” saying, “Pope Benedict called this poverty a desert; Pope Francis calls it the periphery.”
Bishop Conley wrote, “I am grateful for the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI. He called me to the episcopal office and sent me to this great diocese of Lincoln. His humility, brilliance, and generosity brought souls to Jesus Christ. And I am grateful for the ministry of Pope Francis. His openness, and courage, and pastoral kindness make disciples of the world.”
When Does Lent Start in 2014?
Lent starts on Ash Wed, Mar 5 and ends with the start of the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, which is the beginning of the Triduum. Easter Sunday is April 20.
What is Lent?
Lent is a time when the Catholic Church collectively enters into preparation for the celebration of Easter.Lent originally developed as a forty-day retreat, preparing converts to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. It is now a part of our Church's liturgical calendar and a season of conversion for all. Conversion is the process of turning away from sin and turning to God.
Are Sundays a part of Lent?
Sundays are always a day of celebration of Christ's passion and Resurrection, so we celebrate on these days. While still part of the season of Lent, they have a mixture of both celebration (because it is Sunday) and repentance (because it is Lent).
Does this mean I can "cheat" on Sundays?
Since Sundays are not part of the penitential season, you are not required to practice signs of penitence on these days. But, there is no reason you can't do them either. If you feel you are "cheating" then it isn't helping! Since the Church has some conflicting information (different documents state different things) I think you should do what you feel is best regarding the Lenten season and Sundays. In other words, follow your conscience.
Why forty days and not some other number?
Because 40 is a special number in the Bible. It signifies preparation for something special - as in the 40 day flood of Noah.
*Moses stayed on the Mount Sinai forty days (Ex 24:18),
Jonah gives the people of Ninevah forty days to repent (Jon 3:4) - (there are many other Old Testament stories)
*Jesus, before starting his ministry, spent 40 days in the desert in prayer and fasting (Matt 4:2).
So, as in the Bible, we spend 40 days in preparing ourselves to rejoice at the Resurrection of our Lord at Easter.
What is Ash Wednesday all about?
Ash Wednesday is so named because this first day of Lent is where we are marked with ashes to show the repentance of our sins and mourning. This is also a Biblical sign that we live today. We can see this in several verses.
"I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes" (Dan 9:3)
Other verses include: 1 Sam 4:12, Jon 3:6, Esther 4:1 and Matt 11:20-21
Today, ashes are still this same sign of repentance and mourning for our sins. They also represent our mortality. "I am nothing but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27). We started as nothing and our bodies will become dust and ashes after our death. Reminding ourselves that nobody escapes physical death, we look forward to eternal life.
So, why are the ashes made into a cross on the forehead?
Because it is the ancient sign of being marked by Christ in our baptism. We are no longer our own, but Jesus Christ owns us. The book of Revelation tells us that all the elect will be marked by the sign of Christ - "On Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads." (Rev 14:1)
Where do we get the ashes?
They come from burning the palms from last years Palm Sunday Masses.
Who can receive ashes?
Anyone can receive ashes on Ash Wed. While we have communion only for Catholics who are in good standing with the Church, all may receive ashes.
Is Ash Wed a holy day of Obligation?
No. But all Catholics are strongly urged to attend, because it is the start of the Lenten season.
Do we have to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wed?
Yes. This means that all Catholics from 14 and up are required to abstain from meat and Catholics 18-60 are required to eat only one average meal and two snacks without anything else. Children, the elderly and those who are sick are not obligated to do this.
Again, this is because we are called to by Jesus. By denying ourselves something good, we remember what the highest good of all is - GOD. We also practice self-discipline and self-mastery, which we need in order to achieve holiness. Jesus fasted in the desert and calls us to as well.
"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." (Matt 6: 16)
"and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer." (Luke 2:37)
Fasting also helps focus us in our prayer. *Yet when they were ill, I...humbled myself with fasting.” (Psalm 35:13)
Why abstain from meat?
Because of the spiritual discipline it provides. "In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . 'I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.'" (Dan 10:1-3) We give up meat, which still today is a luxury in some parts of the world, as a good thing that we offer up in order to remember that Christ is better than food and needed more by all of us than anything else.
Why is fish not considered meat?
Because it was the food of the poor who could not afford meat, yet could catch fish to sustain themselves.
So, what are the other days of fast and abstinence?
Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence. All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence from meat, this is because Christ died on a Friday.
So, why do people "give up" things during Lent?
While we are not required to “give something up” we are required to do something penitential. Lent is a great time to break a bad habit and give it to the Lord. These sins and vices we should not take back after Lent. It is also a time to give something up that is good during this season. This is why people give up something they enjoy. In doing so we can draw closer to God by our temporary sacrifice. We should find an appropriate balance of giving something up and not completely cutting ourselves off of good things. We will find our need for God if we do it correctly.
What else then IS required during Lent?
The Church asks us to increase our prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is assumed that we are already doing these things and should merely increase them.
Got any suggestions?
First off, pray about what you are going to do for Lent. Ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your spiritual practice of Lent. Then find a few things that you feel called to do. Don't do too much or too little. Stretch yourself, but don't pick things you won't stick to.
This year, journey through Lent with Fr. Robert Barron:
Sign up here to receive daily Lenten reflection from Fr. Barron.
POPE FRANCIS APPOINTS SPRINGFIELD PRIEST TO HEAD DIOCESE OF WICHITA, KANSAS
WICHITA, Kan. – His Holiness, Pope Francis, has named Msgr. Carl A. Kemme, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, to be the 11th bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, Kansas. The appointment was announced today in Washington, D.C., by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop-elect Kemme, age 53, will succeed now-Archbishop Michael O. Jackels, who in April 2013 was named head of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa.
Bishop-elect Kemme said he was “deeply humbled and honored by the appointment of Pope Francis as the 11th bishop of the Diocese of Wichita.”
“To be a bishop in the church has never been something I have sought or dreamed possible,” he said. “I have accepted this assignment relying solely on God’s grace and mercy to help me fulfill the lofty responsibilities of this office. The confidence our beloved Holy Father has shown in me is a source of humility and peace in knowing that God chooses the weak and sinful to accomplish his great mission in the world.”
“Pope Francis has reached into the heart of Illinois, to the Diocese of Springfield, to call forth a pastor. God has heard our prayers for a wise and loving bishop to guide us in building up the Body of Christ and the Reign of God. This person, this priest said ‘Yes’ to that call,” said Msgr. Robert Hemberger, diocesan administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. “We are grateful to God, to Pope Francis, and to this person soon to be ordained the 11th bishop of the Diocese of Wichita.”
Bishop-elect Kemme is the son of Donald and Marita (Kortte) Kemme. He has four brothers and one sister and grew up on a small family farm in rural Shumway. His family attended and his parents are still members of the Church of the Annunciation Parish there.
He was a student at Shumway Elementary School and Beecher City High School and then attended St. Henry’s Preparatory Seminary in Belleville where he received his high school diploma. He entered the Diocesan Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield in 1978, and then graduated from Cardinal Glennon College and Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, where he earned the bachelor of arts and the master of divinity degrees.
He was ordained to the priesthood on May 10, 1986, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield, Ill.
“Of course, I will miss my family, my friends, my bishop, my brother priests, and co-workers in our diocesan curia in the Diocese of Springfield, but at the same time look forward to making my home now in the state of Kansas and in the Diocese of Wichita,” Bishop-elect Kemme said.
The Call of God
Great examination of a topic we all need to reflect upon - how and why God calls us and what that means for us. Fr. Robert Barron discusses the calling of the Disciples.