Monday, March 10, 2014
After I met Pope Francis, during the curial visits of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last October, I remarked to others that if I were choosing a parish based upon the pastor, he would be my pastor. Now he is the world’s pastor. During this past year, Pope Francis provides inspiration in so many ways:
· As a communicator, he speaks in a fresh and creative yet very simple style and like Jesus, uses images that people understand while communicating profound theological truth. Forthright, authentic and courageous in his communication, Pope Francis also humorously challenges us, as he calls us not to be “sourpusses,” “whiners” or “princes.”
· As a “son of the Church,” intent upon passing on the time-honored teachings of Jesus and his Church in fresh and compelling ways, Pope Francis constantly asks us to rediscover the voice of Jesus and seek to look at the world with the eyes of Jesus.
· As a shepherd, he serves as a model for the New Evangelization by constantly exhorting us to see the person first and to heal wounds and warm hearts as we accompany persons with mercy and compassion. Pope Francis “walks the talk,” and successfully conveys the good news of the gospel in large audiences in St. Peter’s square, before thousands of youth in Brazil, or on his trips to the Islands of Lampedusa. And, who can forget those images of him embracing the man with a disfigured face or his patience with the young boy who was hugging his legs during one of his addresses?
· As a priest, he has positively challenged my brother priests and me with his simple lifestyle, his obvious servant leadership, his reminders about what is most important in our priestly ministry and his contagious joyful spirit. Pope Francis has provided new energy and focus for many priests.
· As a leader who is clearly interested in dialogue and consultation, Pope Francis provides a model for all bishops as he works with the newly formed College of Cardinals and prepares for the upcoming synod on the family next October.
As a Catholic, I am excited as I hear positive feedback from other Catholics and those of other faith traditions. I am proud that Pope Francis has given a new voice to the Church’s rich heritage of Catholic social teaching as he speaks of a Church for the poor and as he calls us to promote the dignity of the person from conception to natural death, to support families, and to reach out to those on the margins. In challenging a culture of indifference, what he calls a “throwaway” society, Pope Francis speaks as though the vulnerable, poor, and forgotten are members of his own family – as indeed they are.
Finally, as a person, I am inspired by Pope Francis’ humility and by his witness to what the author Flannery O’Connor describes as the prerequisites for a healthy soul: gratitude, contrition, and mission.
I join with Catholics and all people of good will in thanking Pope Francis for being a true pastor and shepherd during this first year of his papacy. My prayers are with him as he continues to serve Christ and his Church.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz is archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
1. Catholics can make praying for peace in the Holy Land part of their Lenten journey by using resources from the Justice, Peace and Human Development department of the USCCB. The bishop who chairs the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace also urges U.S. Catholics to act and speak out for peace.
2. Don't forget to download our daily Lenten calendar. It's not too late to join in this spiritual campaign.
3. A statement from the Press Office of the Holy See on Monday confirmed that the Holy Father will be traveling to the Republic of Korea from Aug. 14-18.
4. Bishop Paul Bradley of the Diocese of Kalamazoo became the latest U.S. bishop to join Twitter last week. He's updating regularly and you can follow him at @BishopPBradley.
5. God loves you.
Friday, March 7, 2014
1. “What we fail to remember in this debate is the human aspect of immigration ¬– that immigration is primarily about human beings, not economic or social issues,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration. “Those who have died – and those deported each day – have the same value and innate God-given dignity as all persons, yet we ignore their suffering and their deaths.” Read more in the statement announcing the migration committee's upcoming trip to the border.
2. During Lent, the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace is asking Catholics in the United States to make peace in the Holy Land a special intention.
3. Cardinal Francis George writes about taking stock in life during Lent and reflects on some recent health issues he's facing, including some he's battled before.
4. Make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, which is updated regularly with new content.
5. God loves you.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
1. The USCCB Committee on Migration, joined by bishops on the border, will travel to Nogales, Arizona, March 30-April 1 to tour the U.S.-Mexico border and celebrate Mass on behalf of the close to 6,000 migrants who have died in the U.S. desert since 1998.
2. The Wall Street Journal wrote about yesterday's influx of Ash Wednesday selfies and mentions the USCCB Facebook page's efforts.
3. People can find resources to help on their Lenten journey including a downloadable calendar with inspirational messages from Pope Francis.
4. News.va reports Pope Francis said today that good priests must be close to their people, sharing their suffering and healing their wounds.
5. God loves you.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
1. USCCB President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz has asked for prayers today for the people of the Ukraine.
2. #AshWednesday, #Lent and #Ashtag have been trending on social media and many people are sharing photos of their ashes with us on Facebook today. Check them out.
3. Matt Kilmurry, who has spearheaded the new USCCB project myUSCCB, talks about why he likes Ash Wednesday.
4. Find resources to help you on your Lenten journey including a downloadable calendar with inspirational messages from Pope Francis.
5. God loves you.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
1. Pope Francis has named Father Peter Smith, 56, vicar general and moderator of the curia of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Portland.
2. The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace and the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission said, the U.S. Senate should act quickly to address a “growing crisis of religious minorities” by allowing a vote on S. 653, a bill to establish a Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia, said the letter.
3. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and our Facebook followers will once again be sharing their photos of their ashes tomorrow.
4. So why do Catholics wear Ashes? We've got an explanation for you.
5. God loves you.
By Sister Mary Ann Walsh
Ever visit an historic church after it’s been refurbished? With smoky grime washed away, colors become vibrant.Sunlight brightens once hidden corners. Mosaics shimmer and ancient statues convey a new life. You see the church as never before. It’s an old church, but suddenly it seems new, even awesome.
That’s appears to have happened with Pope Francis. In his simple humble way he knows the faith at its very heart andlives it. He focuses on the healing power of love. For him, love is not a dessert earned after toil and trouble; it’s theinitial response, not the final one.
Pope Francis mesmerizes those who watch him interact with people in the crowd. He sees individuals, he connects and a personal encounter takes place. He recognizes that inside every person is a human heart yearning to be loved.
People sense there’s change, and the new tone stops them short. Pope Francis is more pastor than preacher. He applies the Gospel in homespun ways. Last month he met in Romewith engaged couples on Valentine’s Day. He stressed theplace for “please,” “thank you” and “I’m sorry” in marriage. He warned the couples never to go to bed angry.
The pope has declared that the church must act “as a field hospital after battle.” He states that “it is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. And you have to start from the ground up.”
Pope Francis sees the pain of broken commitments. This is significant in the United States where it is estimated thatabout 23 percent of Catholic marriages end in divorce, only 15 percent of those divorced Catholics have sought an annulment, and of those who have sought one, only halfhave been successful. He has highlighted the issue of the pain suffered by divorced people for the forthcomingSynods on the Family slated for 2014 and 2015.
He wants Catholics to go out of themselves, not to be complacent. He declares that “Instead of being a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a Church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside of itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent.”
There’s a theme here. It’s about how love heals the familyand society. Jesus illustrated the theme with parables. There’s the tale of the Good Samaritan that emphasizes the stranger is my brother or sister and worthy of my generosity.And there is the tale of the woman caught in adultery. “Has no one condemned you?” Jesus asked the women nearly stoned to death by an angry crowd. “No one, sir,” she replied. Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on sin no more.”
Pope Francis sees an environment of pain and sorrow, and his first response is to embrace that world with love. Love is not a new theme in the Church, but perhaps it got lost for a while amidst polarization in society and even, sometimes, in the Church. In a year, Pope Francis has set to work refurbishing the Church, and, much like the Italian saint whose name he bears, allowed the beauty of the Church to shine through in a way everyone can understand.