The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy Begins Today

Since we are officially now in the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, I would like to share with you four blog posts I have written in the past on mercy. If you would like to read the Papal Bull that Pope Francis wrote for the Year of Mercy, please do that here.

Also, below my four blog posts are videos from today’s Opening Mass of the Jubilee Year of Mercy when Pope Francis opened the Jubilee Door as well as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI walking through the door. When I was in Rome for World Youth Day with Pope St. John Paul II, I too walked through these same door. Watching Pope Francis open the door brought back a lot of memories for me the day I walked through the door in August of 2000.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Queen of Mercy – This was a very popular blog the day I published. Many people have a devotion to Our Lady under this title.

“Mondays with Mary” – 5 Quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on the Mother of Mercy – These five quotes come from the Polish Saint’s second encyclical, Dives in Misericordia, which particularly focuses on the topic. It was promulgated on November 30, 1980, a little more than two years after he was elected to the Chair of St. Peter. This is for the mainstream who today think that Pope Francis is the only Pope to speak about mercy. O how foolish they are!

Mercy, Compassion, Love, and the Poor: The Holy Father Speaks – This blog post stirred a lot of humorous (at least I thought they were) comments in the comment box. Make sure you read this blog post all the way to the end. This is a good one to share with your family and friends.

Psalm 51 – Have Mercy on Me, O God… – This blog post focuses on mercy from the perspective in the Sacred Scriptures. This is the Psalm that King David wrote after committing adultery with Bathsheba. Mercy, however, in the Sacred Scriptures is often translated differently than the way we use it today. Find it out what it means in this blog post.

Our Lady of Mercy…Pray for Us. 

This is image is 'Our Lady of Ostra Brama' (Our Lady of Mercy). She is the patroness of the Marian Province in the United States.

This is image is ‘Our Lady of Ostra Brama’ (Our Lady of Mercy). She is the patroness of the Marian Province in the United States.

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘Star of the New Evangelization’

Last night, I appeared on the Joe Miller Unplugged show featured on the Fiat Ministry Network for my first television interview. Among the many things we discussed, we focused on evangelization, but specifically, the New Evangelization. The New Evangelization, a concept at the core of this blog, is the same thing as the old evangelization, but it’s the renewal of the Gospel message using the tools of social media, film, and technology to promote the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church to places and lands that have already heard it.

Furthermore, the New Evangelization calls baptized Catholics to preach the Gospel to all people we encounter, and to do it with joy. As baptized Christians, it’s at our very core to be missionaries, even to people (our families, coworkers, and social circles) that have heard the Gospel message already. As Pope Francis says in Evangelii Gaudium,

“When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfillment. For ‘here we discover a profound law of reality: that life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others. This is certainly what mission means.’ Consequently, an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!”

In the interview, we also talked about the Blessed Virgin Mary, the weekly series which this post is now part of, and what the Church teaches about the Annunciation and the Immaculate Conception. So for today’s blog post I am going to unite these two elements – the New Evangelization and Mary, and give you the words of Pope Francis in the aforementioned Apostolic Exhortation.

The "Star of the New Evangelization' is the title given to Pope St. John Paul II to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The “Star of the New Evangelization’ is the title given to Pope St. John Paul II to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Focusing on Mary’s title as the ‘Star of the New Evangelization’, the Holy Father says,

“We ask the Mother of the living Gospel to intercede that this invitation to a new phase of evangelization will be accepted by the entire ecclesial community. Mary is the woman of faith, who lives and advances in faith, and “her exceptional pilgrimage of faith represents a constant point of reference for the Church. Mary let herself be guided by the Holy Spirit on a journey of faith towards a destiny of service and fruitfulness. Today we look to her and ask her to help us proclaim the message of salvation to all and to enable new disciples to become evangelizers in turn. Along this journey of evangelization we will have our moments of aridity, darkness and even fatigue. Mary herself experienced these things during the years of Jesus’ childhood in Nazareth: “This is the beginning of the Gospel, the joyful good news. However, it is not difficult to see in that beginning a particular heaviness of heart, linked with a sort of night of faith – to use the words of Saint John of the Cross – a kind of ‘veil’ through which one has to draw near to the Invisible One and to live in intimacy with the mystery. And this is the way that Mary, for many years, lived in intimacy with the mystery of her Son, and went forward in her pilgrimage of faith”.

There is a Marian “style” to the Church’s work of evangelization. Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness. In her we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong who need not treat others poorly in order to feel important themselves. Contemplating Mary, we realize that she who praised God for “bringing down the mighty from their thrones” and “sending the rich away empty” (Lk 1:52-53) is also the one who brings a homely warmth to our pursuit of justice. She is also the one who carefully keeps “all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). Mary is able to recognize the traces of God’s Spirit in events great and small. She constantly contemplates the mystery of God in our world, in human history and in our daily lives. She is the woman of prayer and work in Nazareth, and she is also Our Lady of Help, who sets out from her town “with haste” (Lk 1:39) to be of service to others. This interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization. We implore her maternal intercession that the Church may become a home for many peoples, a mother for all peoples, and that the way may be opened to the birth of a new world. It is the Risen Christ who tells us, with a power that fills us with confidence and unshakeable hope: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5).”

So as we begin our workweek this Monday, let us ask for the intercession of Mary as the ‘Star of the New Evangelization’ to help us bring the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to all those we encounter with joy, enthusiasm, and passion. Let us build relationships with people so they may see our relationship with Christ and have the desire to develop and form a relationship with Him as well.

Evangelii Gaudium Has Been Released!

Pope Francis’ first official document, written by his own hands, Evangelii Gaudium, has been released! This is an exciting day for those of us who love and promote the New Evangelization.

I will read it and write about it in the months ahead.

Pray for Pope Francis!

“Mondays with Mary” – Pope Francis on “The Faith of Mary”

For “Mondays with Mary” this week, I provide to you some of the words from Pope Francis on his catechesis from October 12, 2013 on “The Faith of Mary.” Bolded in RED are points that I think really stand out and bolded in BLACK are good questions that we should all ask ourselves.

Please take the time to read the entire blog post. Our Holy Father has a great love and understanding for the Mary, the Mother of God.

Mary always brings us to Jesus. She is a woman of faith, a true believer. What was Mary’s faith like?

The first aspect of her faith is this: Mary’s faith unties the knot of sin (cf. Lumen Gentium, 56). What does that mean? The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council took up a phrase of Saint Irenaeus, who states that “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; what the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith” (Adversus Haereses, III, 22, 4).

The “knot” of disobedience, the “knot” of unbelief. When children disobey their parents, we can say that a little “knot” is created. This happens if the child acts with an awareness of what he or she is doing, especially if there is a lie involved. At that moment, they break trust with their parents. How often does this happen! Then the relationship with their parents needs to be purified of this fault; the child has to ask forgiveness so that harmony and trust can be restored. Something of the same sort happens in our relationship with God. When we do not listen to him, when we do not follow his will, we do concrete things that demonstrate our lack of trust in him – for that is what sin is – and a kind of knot is created deep within us. These knots take away our peace and serenity. They are dangerous, since many knots can form a tangle which gets more and more painful and difficult to undo.

But nothing is impossible for God’s mercy! Even the most tangled knots are loosened by his grace. And Mary, whose “yes” opened the door for God to undo the knot of the ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that he can untangle the knots of our soul by his fatherly mercy. We might ask ourselves: What knots do I have in my life? Do I ask Mary to help me trust in God’s mercy, in order to change?

Mary Untier of Knots

A second aspect is that Mary’s faith gave human flesh to Jesus. As the Council says: “Through her faith and obedience, she gave birth on earth to the very Son of the Father, without knowing man but by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit” (Lumen Gentium, 63). This was a point on which the Fathers of the Church greatly insisted: Mary first conceived Jesus in faith and then in the flesh, when she said “yes” to the message God gave her through the angel. What does this mean? It means that God did not want to become man by ignoring our freedom; he wanted to pass through Mary’s free assent, her “yes”.

But what took place most singularly in the Virgin Mary also takes place within us, spiritually, when we receive the word of God with a good and sincere heart and put it into practice. It is as if God takes flesh within us; he comes to dwell in us, for he dwells in all who love him and keep his word.

Let us ask ourselves: Do we think about this? Or do we think that Jesus’ incarnation is simply a past event which has nothing to do with us personally? Believing in Jesus means giving him our flesh with the humility and courage of Mary, so that he can continue to dwell in our midst. It means giving him our hands, to caress the little ones and the poor; our feet, to go forth and meet our brothers and sisters; our arms, to hold up the weak and to work in the Lord’s vineyard, our minds, to think and act in the light of the Gospel; and especially our hearts, to love and to make choices in accordance with God’s will. All this happens thanks to the working of the Holy Spirit. Let us be led by him!

The third aspect is Mary’s faith as a journey. The Council says that Mary “advanced in her pilgrimage of faith” (Lumen Gentium, 58). In this way she precedes us on this pilgrimage, she accompanies and sustains us.

How was Mary’s faith a journey? In the sense that her entire life was to follow her Son: he is the way, he is the path! To press forward in faith, to advance in the spiritual pilgrimage which is faith, is nothing other than to follow Jesus; to listen to him and be guided by his words; to see how he acts and to follow in his footsteps; to have his same sentiments of humility, mercy, closeness to others, but also his firm rejection of hypocrisy, duplicity and idolatry. The way of Jesus is the way of a love which is faithful to the end, even unto sacrificing one’s life; it is the way of the cross. The journey of faith thus passes through the cross. Mary understood this from the beginning, when Herod sought to kill the newborn Jesus. But then this experience of the cross became deeper when Jesus was rejected and Mary’s faith encountered misunderstanding and contempt, and when Jesus’ “hour” came, the hour of his passion, when Mary’s faith was a little flame burning in the night. Through the night of Holy Saturday, Mary kept watch. Her flame, small but bright, remained burning until the dawn of the resurrection. And when she received word that the tomb was empty, her heart was filled with the joy of faith: Christian faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This was the culmination of Mary’s journey of faith, and that of the whole Church. What is our faith like? Like Mary, do we keep it burning even at times of difficulty and darkness? Do I have the joy of faith?”

Let us ask the Blessed Mother’s intercession that we may have faith like she did in her Son, Jesus Christ. Let us also pray that our faith in Jesus Christ, although it will have its trials and sufferings, is a faith filled with great joy. Amen.

“Mondays with Mary” – Pope Francis, Blessed John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Our Lady of Fatima

Yesterday, in Saint Peter’s Square, Pope Francis consecrated the world through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in front of the original statute of Our Lady of Fatima. If you haven’t figured it out already, Pope Francis is quite the Marian Pope! Like his predecessors, he has a deep love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Remember Day 2 of his Pontificate? Where did he go? He went to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome and offered flowers at the altar of the Salus Populi Romani.

Pope Francis kneeling at St. Mary Major

Rocco Palmo, author of Whispers in the Loggia, says it perfectly about Pope Francis, “whenever the Theotokos comes around, the 266th Bishop of Rome simply loses himself and is spiritually transported to another place.” Pope Francis truly loves the Blessed Mother and has consecrated his papacy under the care of Our Lady of Fatima. Along with the last two papacies, we are blessed to be alive during this time in Church History!

Before continuing on, I suggest to you two articles. First, read – Pope Entrusts World to Immaculate Heart of Mary (Catholic News Agency). Second, read The Great “Untier” – For Francis, There’s Something About Mary (Whispers in the Loggia).

Although the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima is officially May 13, I wanted to share some excerpts of great insight from Blessed John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. These two Popes can say great things in a few paragraphs, where it takes the average person pages upon pages to say something not even half as good. The emphasis below is mine.

John Paul II - Fatima 1982Blessed John Paul II, Homily at Fatima Shrine – May 17, 1982:

“If the Church has accepted the message of Fatima, it is above all because that message contains a truth and a call whose basic content is the truth and the call of the Gospel itself.

“Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15): these are the first words that the Messiah addressed to humanity. The message of Fatima is, in its basic nucleus, a call to conversion and repentance, as in the Gospel. This call was uttered at the beginning of the twentieth century, and it was thus addressed particularly to this present century. The Lady of the message seems to have read with special insight the “signs of the times”, the signs of our time…the children of Fatima became partners in dialogue with the Lady of the message and collaborators with her.

In the light of a mother’s love we understand the whole message of the Lady of Fatima. The greatest obstacle to man’s journey towards God is sin, perseverance in sin, and, finally, denial of God. The deliberate blotting out of God from the world of human thought. The detachment from him of the whole of man’s earthly activity. The rejection of God by man

…The Immaculate Heart of Mary, opened with the words “Woman, behold, your son!”, is spiritually united with the heart of her Son opened by the soldier’s spear. Mary’s Heart was opened by the same love for man and for the world with which Christ loved man and the world, offering himself for them on the Cross, until the soldier’s spear struck that blow…Consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother means returning beneath the Cross of the Son. It means consecrating this world to the pierced Heart of the Saviour, bringing it beck ‘to the very source of its Redemption.”

Pope Benedict XVI talkingPope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Regina Caeli Address – May 14, 2006:

A sure way of remaining united to Christ, as branches to the vine, is to have recourse to the intercession of Mary, whom we venerated yesterday, 13 May, in a particular way, recalling the apparitions at Fatima, where she appeared on several occasions to three shepherd children, Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, in 1917. 

The message that she entrusted to them, in continuity with that of Lourdes, was a strong appeal to prayer and conversion; a truly prophetic message, considering that the 20th century was scourged by unheard-of destruction caused by war and totalitarian regimes, as well as widespread persecution of the Church.

Moreover, on 13 May 1981, 25 years ago, the Servant of God John Paul II felt that he was saved miraculously from death by the intervention of “a maternal hand” – as he himself said – and his entire Pontificate was marked by what the Virgin had foretold at Fatima.

Although there is no lack of anxiety and suffering, and although there are still reasons for apprehension about the future of humanity, what the “Lady in White” promised the shepherd children is consoling:  “At the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph”.

With this awareness, we now turn with confidence to Mary Most Holy, thanking her for her constant intercession and asking her to continue to watch over the journey of the Church and of humanity, especially families, mothers and children.”

So what does Fatima teach us?  The underlining message from Fatima is hearing and living the call of the Gospel, a conversion and repentance must occur, we need enter into dialogue with the Blessed Mother who leads us to Jesus Christ, we must separate ourselves from sin, and entrust ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Immaculate Heart of Mary

Through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Lady of Fatima, and Blessed John Paul II, may we turn away from sin, repent and bring our lives in union with Jesus Christ. Amen.  

Mercy, Compassion, Love, and the Poor: The Holy Father Speaks

One week ago today, the now famous interview with Pope Francis was released across the globe via the Jesuit Order. Here in the United States, we received the interview from the Jesuit publication, America – The National Catholic Review.  If you haven’t read the interview, I would encourage you to read it, but read the actual interview itself, not some hijacked cherry-picked version that the mainstream media produced to make Francis sound like something he is not.

Honestly, I enjoyed the interview. I know many of my Catholic friends had their own opinions on it, but today’s post is not a rehashing of what was said and not said by Francis in the interview, that’s been done enough.

If Pope Francis is not challenging you or you have not felt uncomfortable with some of his words, you obviously aren’t listening. He has challenged me in ways I never thought, and yes, it’s totally uncomfortable! He is awakening many Catholics who are settled in their “comfort zones.”

Being that I blog and read other bloggers as well, it’s funny to read what’s being said about the new Holy Father. Others have said, He is too “progressive”, but he is still “conservative.” He seems “orthodox” but it’s a disguise to be “liberal.” He is going to “destroy the Extraordinary Form of the Mass!” He is breaking from the “continuity” of his predecessors.

Blah, blah, blah! He is neither liberal or conservative, he is Catholic! Just like his predecessors before him, Francis is a Catholic Pope. He cannot, and should not, be pigeon-holed.

Personally, I have enjoyed many of his words on mercy, compassion, love, and the poor. Do you think he is much different than his predecessors? Let’s look at some of the words of the Holy Father –

1. “Mercy that is truly Christian is also, in a certain sense, the most perfect incarnation of “equality” between people, and therefore also the most perfect incarnation of justice as well, insofar as justice aims at the same result in its own sphere.”

2. “Society can become more human only if we introduce into the many-sided setting of interpersonal and social relationships, not merely justice, but also that “merciful love” which constitutes the messianic message of the Gospel.”

3. “There is a need to intensify and broaden what is already being done in his area, with the goal of reaching as many of the poor as possible. Sacred Scripture reminds us that God hears the cry of the poor (cf. Ps 34:7) and the Church must heed the cry of those most in need. Hearing their voice, “she must live with the poor and share their distress. By her lifestyle, her priorities, her words and her actions, she must testify that she is in communion and solidarity with them.”

4. “…A woman represents a particular value by the fact that she is a human person, and, at the same time, this particular person, by the fact of her femininity. This concerns each and every woman, independently of the cultural context in which she lives, and independently of her spiritual, psychological and physical characteristics, as for example, age, education, health, work, and whether she is married or single.”

5. “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.”

6. “The poor are not to be considered a “burden”, but a resource, even from the purely economic point of view. It is nevertheless erroneous to hold that the market economy has an inbuilt need for a quota of poverty and underdevelopment in order to function at its best.”

7. “Mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message. In our time humanity needs a strong proclamation and witness of God’s mercy . . . Go forth and be witnesses of God’s mercy, a source of hope for every person and for the whole world.”

8. “The mission of the lay faithful is therefore to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility.”

If you think Pope Francis is saying new things never said before by his predecessors, well then I suggest you read Blessed John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI quite a bit more.

Do you know why?

The first four quotes above are from Pope St. John Paul II and second four quotes above are from Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Francis might be putting a new emphasis on being a Church of mercy, love, compassion, and the poor, but he is in complete “continuity” with the two Popes before him.

Updated – December 8, 2015.