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(Vatican Radio) The Papal preacher, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, delivered his second Advent Sermon on Friday to Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia.
As preacher to the Papal Household, Capucin Father Cantalamessa gives a meditation to the Pope, Cardinals and members of the Roman Curia every Friday morning in Lent and Advent in the Apostolic Palace’s “Redemptoris Mater” Chapel.
In the second Advent sermon, Fr. Cantalamessa continued his theme of the Holy Spirit’s action in the Church, focusing on the charism of discernment.
Please find below the full text English translation of the Sermon:
Second Advent Sermon
The Holy Spirit and the Charism of Discernment
Let us continue our reflections on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian. Saint Paul mentions a specific charism called “discernment of spirits” (see 1 Cor 12:10). This phrase originally had a very specific meaning: it indicated the gift that made it possible to distinguish from among the inspired or prophetic messages given during an assembly those that came from the Spirit of Christ and those that came from other spirits, such as the spirit of man, or a demonic spirit, or the spirit of the world.
For Saint John this is its fundamental meaning as well. Discernment consists in testing “the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 Jn 4:1). For Paul the fundamental criterion for discernment is confessing Christ as “Lord” (1 Cor 12:3); for John, it is confessing that Jesus “has come in the flesh” (1 Jn 4:2), meaning, the Incarnation. In John, discernment already begins to take on a theological function as the criterion by which to discern true doctrines from false ones, orthodoxy from heresy, which would become pivotal later.
1. Discernment in ecclesial life
There are two areas in which this gift of discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit needs to be exercised: the ecclesial and the personal. In the ecclesial area, discernment of spirits is carried out by the authority of the magisterium, which, however, must take into account, along with other criteria, the “sense of the faithful.”
But I would like to dwell on one point in particular which may be helpful in the discussionche taking place today on certain moral problems: the discernment of the signs of the time. The Second Vatican Council declared,
“In every age the church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the time and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task. In language intelligible to every generation, it should be able to answer the ever-recurring questions which people ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other.” 
It is clear that if Church has to discern the signs of the times in the light of the gospel, it does not do so by applying long-standing measures and rules to the “times,” that is, the problems and situations that emerge in society, but rather by giving new responses, “intelligible to every generation” starting each time from the gospel. The difficulty that is encountered on this path—and which must be taken seriously—is the fear of compromising the authority of the magisterium by admitting changes in its pronouncements.
There is a consideration, I believe, that can help overcome this difficulty in the spirit of communion. The infallibility that the Church and the pope claim is certainly not of a higher level than that which is attributed to revealed Scripture. Biblical inerrancy ensures that the Scripture writer expresses truth in the way and to the degree in which it could be expressed and understood at the time he wrote it. We see that many truths are articulated slowly and gradually, like the truth about the after-life and eternal life. In the moral sphere as well, many prior customs and laws are abandoned later to make way for laws and criteria that are more in accordance with the spirit of the Covenant. One example from among many: Exodus affirms that God will punish the children for the iniquities of the fathers (see Ex 34:7), but Jeremiah and Ezekiel say the opposite, that God will not punish the children for the sins of the fathers but that each person will be held responsible for his or her own actions (see Jer 31:29-30; Ez 18:1ff).
In the Old Testament the criterion by which people move beyond earlier proscriptions is a better understanding of the spirit of the Covenant and of the Torah. In the Church the criterion is a continuous re-reading of the Gospels in the light of new questions that are put to it. “Scriptura cum legentibus crescit,” said St. Gregory the Great: “Scripture grows with those who read it.” 
We know that the constant rule for Jesus’ actions in the Gospels, in moral questions, can be summarized in seven words: “No to sin, yes to the sinner.” No one is more severe than he is in condemning unjustly acquired wealth, but he invites himself to Zacchaeus’ house, and simply by going there to meet him he brings a change. He condemns adultery, even that of the heart, but he forgives the adulteress and gives hope back to her; he reaffirms the indissolubility of marriage, but he engages in conversation with the Samaritan woman who has already had five husbands, and he reveals to her the secret he had told no one else in such an explicit way: “I who speak to you am he [the Messiah]” (Jn 4:26).
If we ask ourselves how to justify theologically such a clear-cut distinction between the sinner and sin, the answer is very simple: sinners are God’s creatures, created by him and made in his image, and they maintain their dignity despite all their aberrations; sin is not the work of God: it does not come from him but from the enemy. It is the same reason why the Son of God became everything human beings are, “except sin” (see Heb. 4:15).
One important factor in accomplishing this task is the collegiality of the bishops, which the Council itself emphasized. Collegiality allows the bishops “to reach agreement on questions of major importance, a balanced decision being made possible thanks to the number of those giving counsel.”  The effective exercise of collegiality brings to bear on discernment and the solution to problems the diversity of local situations, points of view, insights and different gifts, which are present in every church and with every bishop.
We have a moving example of this in the first “council” of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem. That meeting allowed ample opportunity to both of the opposing points of view, those of the Judaizers and those who favored an openness to the pagans. There was “much debate,” but in the end they all agreed to announce their decision with this extraordinary formula: “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us . . .” (Acts 15: 28; see Acts 15:6ff).
We can see from this how the Spirit guides the Church in two different ways: sometimes in a direct, charismatic way through revelations and prophetic inspirations, and at other times in a collegial way, through the painstaking and difficult confrontation, and even compromise, between the different parties and points of view. Peter’s discourse on the day of Pentecost and at Cornelius’s house is very different from the one he later gave to justify his decision in front of the elders (see Acts 11:4-18; 15:14).
We need, therefore, to have confidence in the ability of the Spirit to achieve that accord in the end, even if at times it can seem as if the whole process is getting out of hand. Whenever pastors of the Christian churches gather together at the local or international level to discern or to make important decisions, each one should have a heartfelt, confident certainty of what the Veni Creator sums up in two verses: Ductore sic te praevio / vitemus omne noxium, “So shall we not, with Thee for guide, / turn from the path of life aside.”
2. Discernment in our own lives
Let us move on to discernment in our own lives. As a charism applied to individuals, the discernment of spirits underwent a significant evolution over the centuries. Originally, as we have seen, the gift functioned to discern the inspirations of others, of those who had spoken or prophesied in an assembly. Later, it functioned mainly to discern one’s own inspirations.
This was not an arbitrary evolution of the gift: it was in fact the same gift even though it was used for different purposes. A large part of what spiritual authors have written concerning the “gift of counsel” also applies to the charism of discernment. Through the gift, or charism, of counsel, the Holy Spirit helps us to evaluate situations and to orient our choices based not only on human wisdom and prudence but also in the light of the supernatural principles of faith.
The primary and fundamental discernment of spirits is the one that allows us to distinguish the “the Spirit of God” from “the spirit of the world” (1 Cor 2:12). St. Paul offers an objective criterion for discernment that is the same Jesus gave: the fruit. The “works of the flesh” demonstrate that a given desire has come from the old sinful nature, while “the fruits of the Spirit” reveal that a desire has come from the Spirit (see Gal 5:19-22). “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.” (Gal 5:17)
At times, however, this objective criterion is inadequate because the choice is not between good and bad but between one good and another good, and the question is to discern what God wants in a specific circumstance. It was precisely in response to this need that Saint Ignatius of Loyola developed his teaching on discernment. He invites us to consider one thing above all: our own interior dispositions, the intentions (the “spirits”) that lie behind a choice. In so doing, he was aligning himself with an already established tradition. One medieval author had written,
“No one can test the spirits to see if they are from God unless God has given him discernment of spirits to enable him to investigate spiritual thoughts, inclinations and intentions with honest and true judgment. Discernment is the mother of all virtues; everyone needs it either to guide the lives of others or to direct and reform his own life. . . . This then is true discernment, a combination of right thinking and good intention.” 
St. Ignatius proposed practical ways to apply these criteria.  For example, when you have two possible choices before you, it is good to select one of them as though you were about to follow it, and to remain in that stance for a day or more. You then evaluate your inner reaction to that choice to see if it brings peace, if it is in harmony with other choices you have made, if there is something within you that encourages you in that direction, or, on the contrary, if it leaves you with a cloud of uneasiness. Then you repeat that process with your other potential choice.
At the root of Saint Ignatius’s teaching on discernment is his doctrine of “holy indifference.”  It consists in placing oneself in a state of total willingness to accept the will of God, giving up all personal preference, like a scale ready to tip to the side where the greatest weight is. The experience of interior peace thus becomes the main criterion in all discernment. After long consideration and prayer, the choice that is accompanied by the greatest peace of heart must be the one retained.
It is essentially a question of putting into practice the ancient advice that Moses’ father-in-law gave him: “present the questions to God” and wait in prayer for his response (Ex 18:19). A deep-seated habitual disposition to do God’s will in every situation puts a person in the most favorable position for good discernment. Jesus said, “My judgment is just because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (Jn 5:30).
The danger in some modern approaches to understanding and practising discernment is an emphasis on its psychological aspects to the point of forgetting the primary agent in each discernment, the Holy Spirit. Saint John sees the decisive factor in discernment in being “anointed by the Holy One” (1 Jn 2:20). Saint Ignatius also mentions that in certain cases only the anointing of the Holy Spirit allows us to discern what we should do.  There is a profound theological reason for this. The Holy Spirit is himself “the substantial will of God,” so when he enters into a soul, this “Will of God . . . makes himself known to the person into whom he pours himself.” 
Discernment, in its essence, is not an art or a technique but a charism, a gift of the Spirit! Its psychological aspects are of great importance, but they always come second. One of the ancient Fathers wrote,
“Only the Holy Spirit can purify the mind. . . . So by every means, but especially by peace of soul, we must try to provide the Holy Spirit with a resting place. Then we shall have the light of knowledge shining within us at all times, and it will show up for what they are all the dark and hateful temptations that come from demons, and not only will it show them up: exposure to this holy and glorious light will also greatly diminish their power. That is why the Apostle says: Do not stifle the Spirit. [1 Thess 5:19]”. 
The Holy Spirit does not normally shed his light in our soul in an extraordinary or miraculous way but very simply through the words of Scripture. The most important exemples discernment in the history of the Church have come about this way. It was in hearing the saying from the Gospel, “If you want to be perfect . . . ,” that the Desert Father Anthony understood what he needed to do, and he founded monasticism.
This was also the way that Saint Francis of Assisi received the inspiration to initiate his movement of a return to the Gospel. He writes in his Testament, “After the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what I had to do, but the Most High himself revealed to me that I should live according to the pattern of the Holy Gospel.”  It was revealed to him during Mass after listening to the passage from the Gospel in which Jesus tells the disciples to go into the world and “take nothing for your journey: no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics” (Lk 9:3). 
I myself remember a small example of this same sort of thing. A man came to me during a mission and shared his problem with me. He had an eleven-year-old son who had not been baptized. He said, “If I baptize him, there will be trouble at home because my wife has become a Jehovah’s Witness. If I do not baptize him, my conscience will be uneasy because when we were married, we were both Catholic and promised to raise our children in the Church.” I told him to come back the next day because I needed time to pray and reflect. The next day he came to me radiant and told me, “I found the solution, Father. I was reading in the Bible about Abraham, and I saw that when he took his son Isaac to be offered in sacrifice, he didn’t mention anything to his wife!” The Word of God enlightened him better than any human advice could have. I baptized the boy myself, and it was a great joy for everyone.
Alongside listening to the Word, the most common practice for exercising discernment on a personal level is the examination of conscience. This practice should not be limited, however, only to preparation for confession but should become a continuous excercise of placing ourselves under God’s light to let him “search” our innermost being. If an examination of conscience is not done or not done well, even the grace of confession becomes problematic: either we do not know what to confess or we are too full of psychological or voluntaristic efforts, that is, we are aiming only at self-improvement. An examination of conscience limited to preparing for confession identifies some sins, but it does not lead to an authentic one-on-one relationship with Christ. It easily becomes just a list of imperfections that we confess so that we can feel better without the attitude of real repentance that makes us experience the joy of having “so great a Redeemer” in Jesus.
3. “Led by the Spirit”
The concrete fruit of this meditation should be a renewed decision to entrust ourselves completely and for everything to the inner guidance of the Holy Spirit as a kind of “spiritual direction.” It is written that “whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would go onward; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not go onward” (Ex 40:36-37). Neither should we undertake anything unless the Holy Spirit moves us (according to the Fathers, the cloud was a figure for him ) and unless we have consulted him before every action.
We have the most vivid example of this in Jesus’ life itself. He never undertook anything without the Holy Spirit. He went into the desert with the Holy Spirit; he returned in the power of the Spirit and began his preaching; he chose his apostles “through the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:2); he prayed and offered himself to the Father “through the eternal Spirit” (Heb 9:14).
We need to guard against a certain temptation, the temptation of wanting to give advice to the Holy Spirit instead of receiving it. “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, / or as his counsellor has instructed him?” (Is 40:13). The Holy Spirit directs everyone and is himself directed by no one; he guides and is not guided. There is a subtle way of suggesting to the Holy Spirit what he should to do with us and how he should guide us. We even make our own decisions at times and then attribute them flippantly to the Holy Spirit.
Saint Thomas Aquinas speaks about this inner leading of the Holy Spirit as a kind of “instinct of the righteous”: “As in bodily life the body is not moved save by the soul, by which it has life, so in the spiritual life all of our movements should be through the Holy Spirit.”  This is how the “law of the Spirit” works; this is what the Apostle calls being “led by the Spirit” (Gal 5:18).
We need to abandon ourselves totally to the Holy Spirit, like the strings of a harp to the fingers that pluck them. Like good actors, we need to listen attentively to the voice of the hidden prompter, so that we may recite our part faithfully on the stage of life. This is easier than some might think because our prompter speaks within us, teaches us everything, and instructs us about everything. At times we need only a simple glance inward, a movement of the heart, a prayer. We read this beautiful eulogy about a saintly bishop who lived in the second century, Melito of Sardis, that we would hope could be said of each of us after we die: he “lived entirely in the Holy Spirit.” 
Let us ask the Paraclete to direct our minds and our whole lives with the words from a prayer recited in the Office for Pentecost in the Syrian Rite:
“Spirit, dispenser of charisms to everyone;
Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, who so loves us all,
you fill the prophets, perfect the apostles,
strengthen the martyrs, inspire the teachers with teaching!
To you, our Paraclete God,
we send up our supplication along with this fragrant incense.
We ask you to renew us with your holy gifts,
to come down upon us as you came down on the Apostles in the upper room.
Pour out your charisms upon us,
fill us with knowledge of your teaching;
make us temples of your glory,
let us be overcome by the wine of your grace.
Grant that we may live for you, be of one mind with you, and adore you,
you the pure, you the holy, God Spirit Paraclete.” 
 Gaudium et spes [Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World], n. 4, in The Documents of Vatican Council II, ed. Austin Flannery (Northport, NY: Costello, 1995), p. 165.
 Gregory the Great, Homilies on Ezekiel 1.7, 8 (CCC 94).
 Lumen Gentium [Dogmatic Constitution on the Church], n. 22, p. 29.
 Baldwin of Canterbury, “Treatise 6,” Second Reading for Friday of the Ninth Week of Ordinary Time in The Office of Readings, pp. 334-335; see also PL 204, p. 466.
 See The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, Fourth Week, trans. Anthony Mottola (New York: Doubleday, 1989), 101-128.
 Cf. G. Bottereau, “Indifference, ” in Dictionnaire de Spiritualité, vol. 7, coll. 1688 ff.
 Saint Ignatius Loyloa, The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, 141, 414, trans. and comm. George E. Ganss (St. Louis, MO: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1969), p. 126, 204.
 See William of St. Thierry, The Mirror of Faith, 61, trans. Thomas X. Davis (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1979), p. 49; see also SCh 301, p. 128.
 Diadochus of Photice, On Spiritual Perfection, 28, Second Reading for Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time, in The Office of Readings, p. 227, italics original; see also SCh 5, p. 87 ff.
 Francis of Assisi, “Testament of Saint Francis,” in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1: The Saint, eds. Regis J. Armstrong et al. (New York: New City Press, 1999), p. 124. See also Fontes Franciscanas, p. 356.
 See Thomas of Celano, First Life, 22, trans. Christopher Stace (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2000), p. 24; see also ED, I, p. 201.
 See St. Ambrose On the Holy Spirit, III, 4, 21 (N.p.: Veritatis Splendor Publications, 2014), p. 177; and On the Sacraments, I, 6, 22, in “On the Sacraments” and “On the mysteries,” trans. Tom Thompson (London: S.P.C.K., 1950), p. 56.
 Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Letter to the Galatians, V, 5, n. 318, in Commentary on the Letters of Saint Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, eds. John Mortensen and Enrique Alarcón, trans. Fabian R. Larcher and Matthew Lamb (Lander, WY: Aquinas Institute for the Study of Sacred Doctrine, 2011), p. 150; see also V, 7, n. 340, and Commentary on the Gospel of John, VI, 5, 3.
 Eusebius of Caesarea, The History of the Church, V, 24, 5, ed. Andrew Louth, trans. G. A. Williamson (New York: Penguin Books, 19650, p. 172.
 Pontificale Syrorum, in Emmanuel-Pataq Siman, L’expérience de l’Esprit par l’Église d’après la tradition syrienne d’Antioche (Paris: Beauchesne, 1971), p. 309.(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta on Friday morning, focusing his remarks following the readings of the day on the need for priests to serve as authentic mediators of God’s love, rather than as intermediaries – “go-betweens” or “middle-men” – concerned only with advancing their own interests.
No to “go-between” priests, yest to priests who are mediators of God’s love
The role of the mediator is not that of the intermediary – and priests are called to be the former for their flock:
“The mediator gives himself (lit. perde se stesso) to unite the parties, he gives his life. That is the price: his life – he pays with his life, his fatigue, his work, so many things, but – in this case the pastor - to unite the flock, to unite people, to bring them to Jesus. The logic of Jesus as mediator is the logic of annihilating oneself. St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians is clear on this: ‘He annihilated himself, emptied himself, and to achieve this union, [he did so] even unto death, death on a cross. That is the logic: to empty oneself, to annihilate oneself.”
The priest who abandons the task of being a mediator and instead prefers to be an intermediary si unhappy, and soon becomes sad – and he will seek happiness in vaunting himself and making his “authority” felt.
Rigidity brings us to push away people who seek consolation
Jesus had a powerful message for the “go-betweens” of his day, who enjoyed to stroll the squares to be seen:
“But to make themselves important, intermediary priests must take the path of rigidity: often disconnected from the people, they do not know what human suffering is; they forget what they had learned at home, with dad’s work, with mom’s, grandfather’s, grandmother’s, his brothers’ ... They lose these things. They are rigid, [they are] those rigid ones that load upon the faithful so many things that they do not carry [themselves], as Jesus said to the intermediaries of his time: rigidity. [They face] the people of God with a switch in their hand: ‘This cannot be, this cannot be ...’. And so many people approaching, looking for a bit of consolation, a little understanding, are chased away with this rigidity.”
When a rigid, worldly priest becomes a functionary, he ends up making himself ridiculous
Rigidity – which wrecks one’s interior life and even psychic balance – goes hand-in-glove with worldliness:
“About rigidity and worldliness, it was some time ago that an elderly monsignor of the curia came to me, who works, a normal man, a good man, in love with Jesus – and he told me that he had gone to buy a couple of shirts at Euroclero [the clerical clothing store] and saw a young fellow - he thinks he had not more than 25 years, or a young priest or about to become a priest - before the mirror, with a cape, large, wide, velvet, with a silver chain. He then took the Saturno [wide-brimmed clerical headgear], he put it on and looked himself over. A rigid and worldly one. And that priest – he is wise, that monsignor, very wise - was able to overcome the pain, with a line of healthy humor and added: ‘And it is said that the Church does not allow women priests!’. Thus, does the work that the priest does when he becomes a functionary ends in the ridiculous, always.”
You can recognize a good priest by whether he knows how to play with children
“In the examination of conscience,” Pope Francis said, “consider this: today was I a functionary or a mediator? Did I look after myself, did I look to my own comfort, my own comfort, or did I spend the day in the service of others?” The Pope went on to say, “Once, a person told me how he knew what kind of priest a man was by the attitude they had with children: if they knew how to caress a child, to smile at a child, to play with a child ... It is interesting, that, because it means that they know this means lowering oneself, getting close to the little things.” Rather, said Pope Francis, “the go-between is sad, always with that sad face or the too serious, dark face. The intermediary has the dark eyes, very dark! The mediator is open: the smile, the warmth, the understanding, the caresses.”
St. Polycarp, St. Francis Xavier, St. Paul: three icons of the mediator-priest
In the final part of the homily the Pope then brought three “icons” of “mediator-priests and not intermediaries.” The first is the great Polycarp, who “does not negotiate his vocation and is brave all the way to the pyre, and when the fire is around him, the faithful who were there, they smelled the aroma of bread.”
“This,” he said, is how a mediator makes his end: as a piece of bread for his faithful.” Another icon is St. Francis Xavier, who died young on the beach of Shangchuan, “looking toward China” where he wanted to go but could not because the Lord took him to Himself. And then, the last icon: the elderly St. Paul at the Three Fountains. “Early that morning,” Pope Francis reminded those gathered for Mass, “the soldiers went to him, they got him, and he walked bent over.” He knew that that was because of the treachery of some in the Christian community but he had struggled so much, so much in his life, that he offered himself to the Lord as a sacrifice.” “Three icons,” he concluded, “that can help us. Look there: how I want to end my life as a priest? As a functionary, as an intermediary, or as a mediator, that is, on the cross?”(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) This year’s Christmas tree and crib were due to be inaugurated and lit up on Friday afternoon in St Peter’s Square. Earlier in the day in the Paul VI hall, Pope Francis met with the donors of the tree and the nativity scene, telling them that these gifts “form a message of hope and love.”
Listen to Lydia O’Kane report
Welcoming the donors of this year’s Christmas Tree and crib, Pope Francis thanked them for their gifts which he said, would be admired in Saint Peter’s Square “by pilgrims from around the world during Advent and the Christmas holidays.”
The 25 metre high spruce tree was donated by the Lagorai Forests Association which is located the Trentino region of Northern Italy and the Pope remarked that, “the beauty of those views is an invitation to contemplate the Creator and to respect nature, the work of his hands.”
The Pope also had a special word of thanks to the children who decorated the tree, with the support of the "Lene Thun Foundation" that organises the ceramic therapy workshops in various Italian hospitals for children undergoing treatment for cancer and other illnesses.
He told them that, “the multicoloured ornaments you have created represent the values of life, love and peace that Christ's Christmas proposes to us anew each year.”
This year’s crib in the Square, was donated by the Bishops and the Government of Malta and is the work of artist Manwel Grech from Gozo.
The Nativity scene features 17 figures dressed in traditional Maltese costume as well as a replica of a traditional “Luzzu” Maltese boat.
The Holy Father said that this typical Maltese vessel, recalled “the sad and tragic reality of migrants on boats making their way toward Italy”, and he expressed the hope that “those who visit this nativity scene would be invited to rediscover its symbolic value", which, he said, was “a message of fraternity, of sharing, of welcome and solidarity.”
Pope Francis concluded by telling those gathered that, “the crib and the tree form a message of hope and love, and help create a Christmas spirit that can draw us closer to living with faith the mystery of the birth of the Redeemer who came to this earth in simplicity and meekness.”(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis visited the Piazza di Spagna in Rome on Thursday for the celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, where he laid a bouquet of white roses near the Column of the Immaculate Conception and prayed especially for families and for workers.
Listen to Devin Watkins' report:
The Holy Father made his way to Rome’s Spanish Square to pay homage to the Immaculate Virgin, just as the Bishop of Rome has done annually for the past 50 years.
Flanked by Rome’s mayor, Pope Francis placed a bouquet of white roses at the base of the Column of the Immaculate Conception and led those present in a prayer for her feast day.
He prayed especially for abandoned children, for families struggling to make ends meet, and for men and women in search of work.
He said, “We have need of your immaculate heart, to love freely, without secondary aims but seeking the good of the other, with simplicity and sincerity, renouncing masks and tricks.”
Above all, the Holy Father prayed Our Lady to “Let us not give in to discouragement, but that, trusting in your constant help, we may engage ourselves fully in renewal of self, of this city and of the entire world.”
After the prayer, the Pope greeted many of those gathered in the square and blessed the sick and elderly.
He then made a short stop at the Basilica of St. Mary Major’s, before returning to the Vatican, to pray silently before the Maria Salus Populi Romani image, the protectress of the people of Rome.
A Vatican Radio English translation of the Pope's prayer is below:
O Mary, our Immaculate Mother,
On your feast day I come to You,
And I come not alone:
I bring with me all those with whom your Son entrusted me,
In this city of Rome and in the entire world,
That You may bless them and preserve them from harm.
I bring to you, Mother, children,
Especially those who are alone, abandoned,
And for this reason are tricked and exploited.
I bring to you, Mother, families,
Who carry forward life and society
With their daily and hidden efforts;
In a special way the families who struggle the most
For their many internal and external problems.
I bring you, Mother, all workers, men and women,
And I entrust to you especially those who, out of need,
Are forced to work in an unworthy profession
And those who have lost work or are unable to find it.
We have need of your immaculate gaze,
To rediscover the ability to look upon persons and things
With respect and awareness,
Without egotistical or hypocritical interests.
We have need of your immaculate heart,
To love freely,
Without secondary aims but seeking the good of the other,
With simplicity and sincerity, renouncing masks and tricks.
We have need of your immaculate hands,
To caress with tenderness,
To touch the flesh of Jesus
In our poor, sick, or despised brethren,
To raise up those who have fallen and support those who waver.
We have need of your immaculate feet,
To go toward those who know not how to make the first step,
To walk on the paths of those who are lost,
To find those who feel alone.
We thank you, O Mother, because in showing yourself to us
You free us of all stain of sin,
You remind us that what comes first is the grace of God,
The love of Jesus Christ who gave his life for us,
The strength of the Holy Spirit which renews all things.
Let us not give in to discouragement,
But that, trusting in your constant help,
We engage ourselves fully in renewal of self,
Of this city and of the entire world.
Pray for us, Holy Mother of God!(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday offered his prayers for the victims and families of the earthquake which hit Indonesia on Wednesday.
The 6.5 magnitude quake mostly affected the Aceh Province on the island of Sumatra, and over 100 people were killed in the disaster.
“I wish to assure you of my prayers for the victims and their families, for the injured and for those who have lost their homes,” – Pope Francis said during his Angelus address – “May the Lord give strength to the population and support the rescue efforts.”
The same region of Indonesia was hit by the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami , which killed over 100,000 people in the province.(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday encouraged Christians to give their “Yes” to God, which allows the Lord to create for us a “new story,” as opposed to sin, which makes us “old inside.”
The Holy Father was speaking to a crowd of pilgrims in St. Peter's Square before the Angelus on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
Pope Francis reflected on two of the readings from the feast’s liturgy: The Fall of Adam and Eve [Gn 3:9-15, 20], and the Annunciation [Lk 1:26-38].
“The readings of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary are two crucial passages in the history of the relationship between man and God: We might say they lead us to the origins of good and evil,” Pope Francis said.
The Holy Father said the Book of Genesis shows us the origins of sin, the first 'no' to God, when “man preferred to look at himself, not his Creator…and in doing so comes out of communion with God.”
“This makes sin,” – Pope Francis said – “But the Lord does not leave man at the mercy of his evil; He immediately seeks him out and asks a question full of apprehension: 'Where are you?' It is the question of a father or a mother searching for a lost child…and this God does with much patience, in order to bridge the distance which arose at the beginning.”
The Holy Father then turned his attention to the Gospel reading, when “God comes to dwell among us, [and] he becomes man like us.”
“And this was made possible by ‘a great yes,’ that of Mary at the Annunciation,” – the Pope continued – “Through this ‘yes’ Jesus began his way along the road of humanity; it began in Mary, spending the first months of his life within mother’s womb; not appearing already an adult and strong, but by following the entirety of the path of what it means to be human.”
Pope Francis drew attention to the fact Mary is described as “full of grace,” meaning there is “no room for sin…without a shadow of evil.”
He explained Mary’s ‘yes’ is complete and unconditional, without any reservations.
“Also for each of us, there is a story of salvation made of yes and no to God,” – Pope Francis said – “Sometimes, though, we are experts on the half-yes: We are good at pretending not to understand what God wants, and what our conscience prompts us to do. We are also smart, and never give a true no to God, and say: ‘I am not able’, ‘not today, but tomorrow’, ‘Tomorrow I will be better, tomorrow I will pray, tomorrow I will do good.’ Thus we close the door to the good, and evil takes advantage of this ‘yes’ which is lacking.”
“Whereas every full yes to God gives rise to a new story: Saying yes to God is truly ‘original,’ not sin, which makes you old inside,” – the Pope said – “Every yes to God creates stories of salvation for us and for others.”
Pope Francis concluded by saying that in this time of Advent, “God desires to see us and awaits our 'yes'.'"(from Vatican Radio)