Thursday, 25 July 2013

Pope Francis’s homily at Aparecida Mass

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
What joy I feel as I come to the house of the Mother of every Brazilian, the Shrine of our Lady of Aparecida! The day after my election as Bishop of Rome, I visited the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, in order to entrust my ministry as the Successor of Peter to Our Lady. Today I have come here to ask Mary our Mother for the success of World Youth Day and to place at her feet the life of the people of Latin America.

There is something that I would like to say first of all. Six years ago the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean was held in this Shrine. Something beautiful took place here, which I witnessed at first hand. I saw how the Bishops – who were discussing the theme of encountering Christ, discipleship and mission – felt encouraged, supported and in some way inspired by the thousands of pilgrims who came here day after day to entrust their lives to Our Lady. That Conference was a great moment of Church. It can truly be said that the Aparecida Document was born of this interplay between the labours of the Bishops and the simple faith of the pilgrims, under Mary’s maternal protection. When the Church looks for Jesus, she always knocks at his Mother’s door and asks: “Show us Jesus”. It is from Mary that the Church learns true discipleship. That is why the Church always goes out on mission in the footsteps of Mary.

Today, looking forward to the World Youth Day which has brought me to Brazil, I too come to knock on the door of the house of Mary – who loved and raised Jesus – that she may help all of us, pastors of God’s people, parents and educators, to pass on to our young people the values that can help them build a nation and a world which are more just, united and fraternal. For this reason I would like to speak of three simple attitudes: hopefulness, openness to being surprised by God, and living in joy.

1) Hopefulness. The second reading of the Mass presents a dramatic scene: a woman – an image of Mary and the Church – is being pursued by a Dragon – the devil – who wants to devour her child. But the scene is not one of death but of life, because God intervenes and saves the child (cf. Rev 12:13a, 15-16a). How many difficulties are present in the life of every individual, among our people, in our communities; yet as great as these may seem, God never allows us to be overwhelmed by them. In the face of those moments of discouragement we experience in life, in our efforts to evangelize or to embody our faith as parents within the family, I would like to say forcefully: Always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you! Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts! The “dragon”, evil, is present in our history, but it does not have the upper hand. The one with the upper hand is God, and God is our hope! It is true that nowadays, to some extent, everyone, including our young people, feels attracted by the many idols which take the place of God and appear to offer hope: money, success, power, pleasure. Often a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols. Dear brothers and sisters, let us be lights of hope! Let us maintain a positive outlook on reality. Let us encourage the generosity which is typical of the young and help them to work actively in building a better world. Young people are a powerful engine for the Church and for society. They do not need material things alone; also and above all, they need to have held up to them those non-material values which are the spiritual heart of a people, the memory of a people. In this Shrine, which is part of the memory of Brazil, we can almost read those values: spirituality, generosity, solidarity, perseverance, fraternity, joy; they are values whose deepest root is in the Christian faith.

2) The second attitude: openness to being surprised by God. Anyone who is a man or a woman of hope – the great hope which faith gives us – knows that even in the midst of difficulties God acts and he surprises us. The history of this Shrine is a good example: three fishermen, after a day of catching no fish, found something unexpected in the waters of the Parnaíba River: an image of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Whoever would have thought that the site of a fruitless fishing expedition would become the place where all Brazilians can feel that they are children of one Mother? God always surprises us, like the new wine in the Gospel we have just heard. God always saves the best for us. But he asks us to let ourselves be surprised by his love, to accept his surprises. Let us trust God! Cut off from him, the wine of joy, the wine of hope, runs out. If we draw near to him, if we stay with him, what seems to be cold water, difficulty, sin, is changed into the new wine of friendship with him.

3) The third attitude: living in joy. Dear friends, if we walk in hope, allowing ourselves to be surprised by the new wine which Jesus offers us, we have joy in our hearts and we cannot fail to be witnesses of this joy. Christians are joyful, they are never gloomy. God is at our side. We have a Mother who always intercedes for the life of her children, for us, as Queen Esther did in the first reading (cf Est 5:3). Jesus has shown us that the face of God is that of a loving Father. Sin and death have been defeated. Christians cannot be pessimists! They do not look like someone in constant mourning. If we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our heart will “light up” with a joy that spreads to everyone around us. As Benedict XVI said: “the disciple knows that without Christ, there is no light, no hope, no love, no future” (Inaugural Address, Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, Aparecida, 13 May 2007, 3).
Dear friends, we have come to knock at the door of Mary’s house. She has opened it for us, she has let us in and she shows us her Son. Now she asks us to “do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Yes, dear Mother, we are committed to doing whatever Jesus tells us! And we will do it with hope, trusting in God’s surprises and full of joy. Amen

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Pope Francis arrives in Rio

Pope Francis arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, yesterday, beginning a week-long Apostolic visit to mark the twenty-eighth World Youth Day. After a brief formal greeting at Rio’s Galeão airport, the Holy Father proceeded to Guanabara Palace for the official Welcoming Ceremony, where he was received by the President of Brazil, Dilma Vana Rousseff Linhares, the Governor of Rio State, Sergio Cabral Filho, and the Mayor of the city of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes.

In her formal remarks, the President expressed joy and gratitude at the Holy Father’s visit. The Holy Father returned those sentiments, and placed his visit in the context of World Youth Day. The Holy Father went on to offer particular encouragement to the young participants, to their families, and to those responsible for forming and empowering the new generation to take up their responsibilities as the future leaders of humanity.

After the exchange of speeches, the Pope and the President retired for a private meeting, during which Francis presented Mrs. Rousseff with a mosaic realized by the Vatican Mosaic Studio according to the centuries-old techniques used to apply the mosaics in St. Peter’s Basilica, and depicting a panoramic view of Rio from just behind and above the great Statue of Christ the Redeemer.

Please find the full text of Pope Francis’ remarks, below:

Madam President,
Distinguished Authorities,Brethren and Friends!
In his loving providence, God wished that the first international trip of my pontificate should take me back to my beloved Latin America, specifically to Brazil, a country proud of its links to the Apostolic See and of its deep sentiments of faith and friendship that have always kept it united in a special way to the Successor of Peter. I am grateful for this divine benevolence.

I have learned that, to gain access to the Brazilian people, it is necessary to pass through its great heart; so let me knock gently at this door. I ask permission to come in and spend this week with you. I have neither silver nor gold, but I bring with me the most precious thing given to me: Jesus Christ! I have come in his name, to feed the flame of fraternal love that burns in every heart; and I wish my greeting to reach one and all: The peace of Christ be with you!

I cordially greet the President and the distinguished members of her government. I thank her for her warm welcome and for the words by which she expressed the joy of all Brazilians at my presence in their country. I also greet the state governor who is hosting us in the government palace, and the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, as well as the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the government of Brazil, the other authorities present and all those who worked hard to make my visit here a reality.

I would like to greet affectionately my brother bishops, to whom falls the serious task of guiding God’s flock in this vast country, as well as their beloved local churches. With this visit, I wish to pursue the pastoral mission proper to the Bishop of Rome of confirming my brothers in their faith in Christ, of encouraging them to give an account of the reasons for the hope which comes from him, and of inspiring them to offer everyone the inexhaustible riches of his love.

As you know, the principal reason for my visit to Brazil goes beyond its borders. I have actually come for World Youth Day. I am here to meet young people coming from all over the world, drawn to the open arms of Christ the Redeemer. They want to find a refuge in his embrace, close to his heart, to listen again to his clear and powerful appeal: “Go and make disciples of all nations”.
These young people are from every continent, they speak many languages, they bring with them different cultures, and yet they also find in Christ the answer to their highest aspirations, held in common, and they can satisfy the hunger for a pure truth and an authentic love which binds them together in spite of differences.

Christ offers them space, knowing that there is no force more powerful than the one released from the hearts of young people when they have been conquered by the experience of friendship with him. Christ has confidence in young people and entrusts them with the very future of his mission, “Go and make disciples”. Go beyond the confines of what is humanly possible and create a world of brothers and sisters! And young people have confidence in Christ: they are not afraid to risk for him the only life they have, because they know they will not be disappointed.

As I begin my visit to Brazil, I am well aware that, in addressing young people, I am also speaking to their families, their local and national church communities, the societies they come from, and the men and women upon whom this new generation largely depends.

Here it is common for parents to say, “Our children are the apple of our eyes”. How beautiful is this expression of Brazilian wisdom, which applies to young people an image drawn from our eyes, which are the window through which light enters into us, granting us the miracle of sight! What would become of us if we didn’t look after our eyes? How could we move forward? I hope that, during this week, each one of us will ask ourselves this thought-provoking question.

Young people are the window through which the future enters the world, thus presenting us with great challenges. Our generation will show that it can realize the promise found in each young person when we know how to give them space; how to create the material and spiritual conditions for their full development; how to give them a solid basis on which to build their lives; how to guarantee their safety and their education to be everything they can be; how to pass on to them lasting values that make life worth living; how to give them a transcendent horizon for their thirst for authentic happiness and their creativity for the good; how to give them the legacy of a world worthy of human life; and how to awaken in them their greatest potential as builders of their own destiny, sharing responsibility for the future of everyone.

As I conclude, I ask everyone to show consideration towards each other and, if possible, the sympathy needed to establish friendly dialogue. The arms of the Pope now spread to embrace all of Brazil in its human, cultural and religious complexity and richness. From the Amazon Basin to the pampas, from the dry regions to the Pantanal, from the villages to the great cities, no one is excluded from the Pope’s affection. In two days’ time, God willing, I will remember all of you before Our Lady of Aparecida, invoking her maternal protection on your homes and families. But for now I give all of you my blessing. Thank you for your welcome!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Solemnity of the Prophet Elijah

Today the Carmelite family celebrate the solemnity of the Prophet Elijah. Elijah is a principle figure in our spirituality. Our constitutions describe his ongoing influence beautifully.

“In Elijah we see the solitary prophet
who nurtured his thirst for the one and only God,
and lived in his presence.
He is the contemplative,
burning with passionate love for the Absolute who is God,
“his word flaring like a torch.
He is the mystic who,
after a long and wearisome journey,
learned to read the new signs of God’s presence.

He is the prophet who became involved in the lives of the people,
and who, by battling against false idols,
brought them back to faithfulness to their Covenant
with the One God.

He is the prophet
who was in solidarity with the poor and the forgotten,
and who defended those who endured violence and injustice.
From Elijah, Carmelites learn to be people of the desert,
with heart undivided, standing before God
and entirely dedicated to his service,
uncompromising in the choice to serve God’s cause,
aflame with a passionate love for God.
Like Elijah, they believe in God
and allow themselves to be led by the Spirit
and by the Word that has taken root in their hearts,
in order to bear witness to the divine presence in the world,
allowing God to be truly God in their lives.
Finally, in Elijah they see, not only prophetic wisdom,
but also brotherhood lived in community;
and with Elijah they learn to be
channels of God’s tender love
for the poor and the humble.”

Holy Elijah, prophet of God, pray for us!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel: Novena Day 9.

Mary, sister in the Christian community
Listening to the Word: With Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Acts 1: 12-14)

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Reflection: Jesus ascended into heaven and the first Christian community gathers to pray together. Among them is Mary, Mother and Sister. In our assemblies too, Mary prays with us. Let us then make our participation in the Eucharistic mystery, a participation that is full of joy and life; we are not alone. Jesus is with us. Mary, his and our Mother, is with us.

Prayer: Holy Mary, sister in our Christian communities, be our Sister in our daily life and in our prayer. Holy Mary, sister in our Christian communities, sit by our side and pray with us so that our prayer may be according to the desire of your Son. Mary, Star of the sea, Mother and Sister in Carmel, gather us closely under your mantle.

My commitment is to contribute to enlivening the Sunday Eucharistic celebration in my parish, so that it may be truly a moment of joy and fraternal prayer.


Monday, 15 July 2013

Novena in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel: Day 8

Mary, mother at the foot of the cross
Listening to the Word: At the foot of the cross (Jn 19: 25-27)

So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Reflection: John tells us that at the foot of the cross, stood Mary and John. Mary, the mother, John, the beloved disciple. The Virgin Mother stands at the foot of the cross to give strength to her Son to fulfil his last hour. This passage of the Bible, dear to the heart of every Carmelite, teaches us that in times of suffering we are not alone, Mary and Jesus are with us. It also reminds us that, by dying, the Lord gave us his mother as a precious gift. Let us try to be grateful to him by the example of our lives.

Prayer: Mary, mother at the foot of the cross, stand by our side in our daily crosses so that, like you, we may stand and accept and offer our sufferings.
Mary, mother at the foot of the cross, open our hearts so that we may welcome you at all times as the gift given us by Jesus when he was dying.
Mary, mother who bestows favours on her children, be our guide in our daily life.

My commitment is to show myself a neighbour to someone who is suffering, physically or spiritually.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel: Days 4, 5, 6, & 7.

Day Four

Mary, contemplative woman

Listening to the Word: The visit of the Magi (Mt 2: 1-12)

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: 'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'"

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Reflection: What would Mary and Joseph have thought when they saw these mysterious men coming from afar to see their little Jesus? And yet, the Son of God became man for all, also for these people who came from "afar". Mary immediately understands and shows Jesus to them too. Mary is the true contemplative, that is, the one who can see reality with the eyes of God. Are we contemplatives? Do we see reality with the eyes of God? Are we capable of giving Jesus to those we meet, those we know and those we don't know, our co-citizens and strangers, rich and poor?

Prayer: Blessed Mary, contemplative woman, teach us to keep in our hearts the situations of every day so that we may then see them with the eyes of God.

Blessed Mary, contemplative woman, teach us to see in the people we meet the face of your Son and not discriminate in any way.

Blessed Mary, child-bearing yet maiden, take us to Jesus.

My commitment is not to judge the people I meet during the day, but to see in each of them the face of the Lord.

Day Five

Mary, Lady of the offering

Listening to the Word: The presentation at the temple (Lk 2: 22-32)

And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."

Reflection: Let us try to stand as spectators at this event: Mary, Joseph and Jesus, a family that goes to the temple to offer the child to the Lord. If we wish to translate this event into our terms, it is a little like a family that prepares to take a child for baptism. We have so often taken part in festivities of this kind. However, let us try to examine the Mother's heart: she wholeheartedly offers to God the child to whom she gave birth. Are we capable of imitating her in our daily life?

Prayer: Daughter of Sion, Lady of the offering, envelop our hearts so that we may belong to Jesus completely.

Daughter of Sion, Lady of the offering, free our hearts so that without any fear we may be exclusively His property.

Daughter of Sion, Mother so tender, make our hearts like yours.

My commitment is to detach myself from something to which I am greatly attached and offer it to someone I particularly do not like. This is so that I may imitate the Mother of my Lord who offered Her Son with a pure heart.

Day Six

Mary, untiring seeker of God

Listening to the Word: The finding in the temple (Lk 2: 41-50)

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day's journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously." And he said to them, "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them.

Reflection: Mary and Joseph are distressed at the loss of their son, Jesus. They set out to search for him and find him after three days. In our life sometimes it seems that Jesus hides himself from us and leaves us alone. What do we do? Do we despair? Do we turn towards other goods? Or do we set out in search of Jesus so as not to loose him ever again. Mary and Joseph teach us to be untiring seekers of God, because he has made us for himself and our heart is restless until it rests in him (St. Augustine).

Prayer: Dear Mary, untiring seeker of God, give us the strength you had in seeking your Jesus who was lost in the temple.

Dear Mary, untiring seeker of God, guide our steps so that on life's journey we may always follow Jesus, lighthouse that enlightens us.

Dear Mary, Mother most pure, be our faithful companion on the journey towards Jesus.

My commitment is to pray more in times when Jesus seems to have abandoned me.

Day Seven

Mary, listening virgin

Listening to the Word: Blessed are the breasts you sucked (Lk 11: 27-28)

As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!" But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"

Reflection: It may seem that Jesus belittles Mary's part, preferring his disciples. But if we read the text carefully we will see that Jesus is really praising his mother. She is the woman who listens to the Word of God and keeps it all the time. She is an attentive disciple who keeps in her heart her Son's words and day after day keeps them. She points the way to us so that we too may imitate her if we wish to be truly her devotees.

Prayer: Beautiful Mother, listening virgin, open our hearts so that we may learn to listen to the words of your Son.

Beautiful Mother, listening virgin, open our hearts and minds that we may learn to listen to the words of your Son and keep them.

Mother so tender, pure of heart, strengthen us in our resolve.

My commitment is to listen attentively to the Word of God when it is proclaimed in church. I also commit myself to listen to God who speaks to me through the people I meet throughout the day.


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel: Day 3

Mary, the mother who clothes us with the Scapular
Listening to the Word: The birth (Lk 2: 1-20)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrolment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Reflection: Luke, the Evangelist, relates the affectionate and motherly gesture of Mary who wraps little Jesus in swaddling clothes. A gesture made by every mother as a sign of protection and care. We too are wrapped in swaddling clothes by Mary, our Mother and Sister; through the Scapular she looks after us and protects us. She wraps us so that we may grow strong and robust in the school of her Son.

Prayer: Virgin Mary, you who wrap your Jesus in swaddling clothes, teach us to be always small so that we may "be carried in God's arms".
Virgin Mother, who warp your Jesus in swaddling clothes, help us to clothe ourselves with your Son, so that each day we may be a sign of God's love.
Virgin Mary, Splendour of heaven, hold us tight under your mantle.

My commitment is to clothe myself with the Scapular so that I may witness, even externally, to my love for Jesus and Mary. Above all, I wish that the Scapular may remind me to live every day in the school of Jesus, after the example of the Virgin.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Day Two

Mary, wonderful in her service

Listening to the Word: The Visitation (Lk 1: 39-45)

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."

Reflection: Soon after hearing the Angel's message, the Mother of the Lord goes to her cousin Elisabeth who is old and expects a child. The Gospel says that she left in a hurry to place herself at the service of the needy. The Virgin does not allow the fact that the hope of Israel will be fulfilled in her "go to her head", but in utter humility she leaves to serve through small and simple house tasks.

Prayer: Mother Mary, expert servant, help us understand that it is only by being each other's servants that we can be true followers of your Son.
Mother Mary, expert servant, enable us to be always available to those whom we meet in our daily life.
Mother Mary, Vine blossom laden, help us compete in being charitable

My commitment is to serve those who are close to me. In imitation of the Virgin Mary, I shall try to serve ever better those who are least pleasing to me.

Pope Francis on Lampedusa

Immigrants who died at sea, from that boat that, instead of being a way of hope was a way of death. This is the headline in the papers! When, a few weeks ago, I heard the news – which unfortunately has been repeated so many time – the thought always returns as a thorn in the heart that brings suffering. And then I felt that I ought to come here today to pray, to make a gesture of closeness, but also to reawaken our consciences so that what happened would not be repeated. Not repeated, please! But first I want to say a word of sincere gratitude and encouragement to you, the residents of Lampedusa and Linosa, to the associations, to the volunteers and to the security forces that have shown and continue to show attention to persons on their voyage toward something better. You are a small group, but you offer an example of solidarity! Thank you! Thanks also to Archbishop Francesco Montenegro for his help and his work, and for his pastoral closeness. I warmly greet the Mayor, Mrs Giusy Nicolini. Thank you so much for all you have done, and for all you do. I give a thought, too, to the dear Muslim immigrants that are beginning the fast of Ramadan, with best wishes for abundant spiritual fruits. The Church is near to you in the search for a more dignified life for yourselves and for your families. I say to you “O’ scia’!” [trans.: a friendly greeting in the local dialect].

This morning, in light of the Word of God that we have heard, I want to say a few words that, above all, provoke the conscience of all, pushing us to reflect and to change certain attitudes in concrete ways.

“Adam, where are you?” This is the first question that God addresses to man after sin. “Where are you Adam?” Adam is disoriented and has lost his place in creation because he thought to become powerful, to dominate everything, to be God. And harmony was broken, the man erred – and this is repeated even in relations with his neighbour, who is no longer a brother to be loved, but simply someone who disturbs my life, my well-being. And God puts the second question: “Cain, where is your brother?” The dream of being powerful, of being as great as God, even of being God, leads to a chain of errors that is a chain of death, leads to shedding the blood of the brother!

These two questions resonate even today, with all their force! So many of us, even including myself, are disoriented, we are no longer attentive to the world in which we live, we don’t care, we don’t protect that which God has created for all, and we are unable to care for one another. And when this disorientation assumes worldwide dimensions, we arrive at tragedies like the one we have seen.

“Where is your brother?” the voice of his blood cries even to me, God says. This is not a question addressed to others: it is a question addressed to me, to you, to each one of us. These our brothers and sisters seek to leave difficult situations in order to find a little serenity and peace, they seek a better place for themselves and for their families – but they found death. How many times to those who seek this not find understanding, do not find welcome, do not find solidarity! And their voices rise up even to God! And once more to you, the residents of Lampedusa, thank you for your solidarity! I recently heard one of these brothers. Before arriving here, he had passed through the hands of traffickers, those who exploit the poverty of others; these people for whom the poverty of others is a source of income. What they have suffered! And some have been unable to arrive!

“Where is your brother?” Who is responsible for this blood? In Spanish literature there is a play by Lope de Vega that tells how the inhabitants of the city of Fuente Ovejuna killed the Governor because he was a tyrant, and did it in such a way that no one knew who had carried out the execution. And when the judge of the king asked “Who killed the Governor?” they all responded, “Fuente Ovejuna, sir.” All and no one! Even today this question comes with force: Who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters? No one! We all respond this way: not me, it has nothing to do with me, there are others, certainly not me. But God asks each one of us: “Where is the blood of your brother that cries out to me?” Today no one in the world feels responsible for this; we have lost the sense of fraternal responsibility; we have fallen into the hypocritical attitude of the priest and of the servant of the altar that Jesus speaks about in the parable of the Good Samaritan: We look upon the brother half dead by the roadside, perhaps we think “poor guy,” and we continue on our way, it’s none of our business; and we feel fine with this. We feel at peace with this, we feel fine! The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference. In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, it’s none of our business.

The figure of the Unnamed of Manzoni returns. The globalization of indifference makes us all “unnamed,” leaders without names and without faces.

“Adam, where are you?” “Where is your brother?” These are the two questions that God puts at the beginning of the story of humanity, and that He also addresses to the men and women of our time, even to us. But I want to set before us a third question: “Who among us has wept for these things, and things like this?” Who has wept for the deaths of these brothers and sisters? Who has wept for the people who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who wanted something to support their families? We are a society that has forgotten the experience of weeping, of “suffering with”: the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep! In the Gospel we have heard the cry, the plea, the great lament: “Rachel weeping for her children . . . because they are no more.” Herod sowed death in order to defend his own well-being, his own soap bubble. And this continues to repeat itself. Let us ask the Lord to wipe out [whatever attitude] of Herod remains in our hears; let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty in the world, in ourselves, and even in those who anonymously make socio-economic decisions that open the way to tragedies like this. “Who has wept?” Who in today’s world has wept?

O Lord, in this Liturgy, a Liturgy of repentance, we ask forgiveness for the indifference towards so many brothers and sisters, we ask forgiveness for those who are pleased with themselves, who are closed in on their own well-being in a way that leads to the anaesthesia of the heart, we ask you, Father, for forgiveness for those who with their decisions at the global level have created situations that lead to these tragedies. Forgive us, Lord!

O Lord, even today let us hear your questions: “Adam, where are you?” “Where is the blood of your brother?” Amen.

Text from page
of the Vatican Radio website

Monday, 8 July 2013

Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Day One

Mary, welcoming model
Listening to the Word: The Annunciation (Lk 1: 26-38)

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. 

Reflection: The Gospels begin by presenting Mary as a woman who embraces God's plan. In an attitude of prayer, she listens, meditates, consents and answers "yes" to God who calls her. In a word she is welcoming. It is this welcoming that gives birth to Life in her. "And the Word was made flesh."

Prayer: Holy Mary, welcoming woman, lead us to imitate you so that every day we may give birth to Jesus in the situations of life where we find ourselves.

Holy Mary, welcoming woman, teach us to meditate the Word of God like you, so that at every moment of our lives we may welcome it and allow ourselves to be guided by it.
Holy Mary, flower of Carmel, hear our pleading. 

My commitment is to read a page of the Gospel and reflect on it to try and discover what God wishes of me in my daily life.

Letter from the Prior General

Dear brothers and sisters in the Carmelite Family,

The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is approaching. As we do every year, we are now getting ready to celebrate joyfully this feast which is so important for the worldwide Carmelite Family. In different places, with a variety of religious events, we will honour the woman that we call, “Mother and Ornament of Carmel”. Processions, novenas, the giving of the Scapular, devotions, exchanges of good wishes and so on, will adorn the Carmelite landscape throughout the world. In many places, like Spain, my own country, devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is associated with the sea (sailors and fishermen) and her image shines on the waves, as a sign of hope and protection in the oftentimes more furrowed and tempestuous seas of life.

As one who shares in the joy, I offer you my best wishes: may these celebrations give life to our devotion to Mary our Mother, under the enduring and ever popular title of Mount Carmel. May she accompany us and lighten our way as an Order and as the Carmelite Family.

This year it occurs to me to ask you to reflect on one of the most popular images with which we represent Our Lady of Mount Carmel: the image of the Blessed Virgin from her place in heaven setting souls free from purgatory directly or through the mediation of the angels, and those who are to be set free, engulfed in flames and a pleading look on their faces. Without wishing to dwell on the theology or on the baroque imagery and its limitations, it would be good to remember that the faithful see in this image the motherly protection of Mary, or, even more, the way in which true devotion to the Blessed Virgin leads to a life of grace and faith.

At this time of profound economic crisis, of unceasing violence, of flagrant inequalities, …. I believe that we too, as people devoted to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, are called to bring freedom to those who suffer the purgatories of our times - hunger, unemployment, war, terrorism, drugs, depression, loneliness, poor education, exploitation and abuse ….. Our devotion to Mary makes us more sensitive to the needs of the least of our brothers and sisters, to the most forgotten, and it makes us more human, more compassionate and understanding, more in solidarity with others. Compassion is perhaps the greatest test of the authenticity of our devotion to Mary which can never be limited, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us (on its fiftieth anniversary) to a sterile or transitory affection or a certain vain credulity, (LG 67)

I also invite you to make of the celebrations in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel an opportunity for a serious evangelisation, and not just a propping up of traditions and practices from another age.  Let us celebrate our novenas and the giving of the scapular, with conviction, affection and pastoral care and attention, with a sense of liturgy and a sense of catechesis, in a way that makes true what Bishop Oscar Romero said in his famous homily of the 16th of July, 1978: our people know that Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, is the great missionary of the people.

A Happy Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel to you! May Mary, our Mother and Sister, walk with you always.

With fraternal affection,


Fernando Millán Romeral, O.Carm.

Prior General

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Pope Francis on the feast of St. Thomas

Study, meditation and mortification are not enough to bring us to encounter the living Christ. Like St Thomas, our life will only be changed when we touch Christ’s wounds present in the poor, sick and needy. This was the lesson drawn by Pope Francis during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today, the Feast of St Thomas.

Jesus after the Resurrection, appears to the apostles, but Thomas is not there: "He wanted him to wait a week - said Pope Francis - The Lord knows why he does such things. And he gives the time he believes best for each of us. He gave Thomas a week. " Jesus reveals himself with his wounds: "His whole body was clean, beautiful, full of light - said the Pope - but the wounds were and are still there" and when the Lord comes at the end of the world, "we will see His wounds". In order to believe Thomas wanted to put his fingers in the wounds.

"He was stubborn. But the Lord wanted exactly that, a stubborn person to make us understand something greater. Thomas saw the Lord, was invited to put his finger into the wounds left by the nails; to put his hand in His side and he did not say, 'It's true: the Lord is risen'. No! He went further. He said: 'God'. The first of the disciples who makes the confession of the divinity of Christ after the Resurrection. And he worshipped Him”.

"And so - continued the Pope - we understand what the Lord’s intention was when he made him wait: he wanted to guide his disbelief, not to an affirmation of the Resurrection, but an affirmation of His Divinity." The "path to our encounter with Jesus-God - he said - are his wounds. There is no other”.
"In the history of the Church there have been some mistakes made on the path towards God. Some have believed that the Living God, the God of Christians can be found on the path of meditation, indeed that we can reach higher through meditation. That's dangerous! How many are lost on that path, never to return. Yes perhaps they arrive at knowledge of God, but not of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity. They do not arrive at that. It is the path of the Gnostics, no? They are good, they work, but it is not the right path. It’s very complicated and does not lead to a safe harbour. "

"Others - the Pope said - thought that to arrive at God we must mortify ourselves, we have to be austere and have chosen the path of penance: only penance and fasting. Not even these arrive at the Living God, Jesus Christ.

They are the pelagians, who believe that they can arrive by their own efforts. "But Jesus tells us that the path to encountering Him is to find His wounds: "We find Jesus’ wounds in carrying out works of mercy, giving to our body – the body – the soul too, but – I stress - the body of your wounded brother, because he is hungry, because he is thirsty, because he is naked because it is humiliated, because he is a slave, because he's in jail because he is in the hospital. Those are the wounds of Jesus today. And Jesus asks us to take a leap of faith, towards Him, but through these His wounds. 'Oh, great! Let's set up a foundation to help everyone and do so many good things to help '. That's important, but if we remain on this level, we will only be philanthropic. We need to touch the wounds of Jesus, we must caress the wounds of Jesus, we need to bind the wounds of Jesus with tenderness, we have to kiss the wounds of Jesus, and this literally. Just think of what happened to St Francis, when he embraced the leper? The same thing that happened to Thomas: his life changed. "
Pope Francis concluded that we do not need to go on a 'refresher course' to touch the living God, but to enter into the wounds of Jesus, and for this "all we have to do is go out onto the street. Let us as St. Thomas for the grace to have the courage to enter into the wounds of Jesus with tenderness and thus we will certainly have the grace to worship the living God. "