Potpourri of Popery, Ad Multos Annos Edition

Happy 84th, Holy Father! The Pope spent the day working quietly according to the Vatican. Hopefully he also rested up, as tomorrow starts Holy Week. (Finally! Ready for this Lent to be over.)

His Holiness concluded his 2-year cycle of Audiences on the saints with this summary: we're all called to be saints. He says much of value and quotes Scripture, various saints and documents. Then he offers his own formulation:
perhaps we should say things in a still simpler way. What is the most essential? Essential is that no Sunday be left without an encounter with the Risen Christ in the Eucharist -- this is not a burden but light for the whole week. Never to begin or end a day without at least a brief contact with God. And, in the journey of our life, to follow "road signs" that God has communicated to us in the Decalogue read with Christ, which is simply the definition of charity in specific situations. I think this is the true simplicity and grandeur of the life of holiness: the encounter with the Risen One on Sunday; contact with God at the beginning and end of the day; in decisions, to follow the "road signs" that God has communicated to us, which are simply forms of charity.
He asks a question:
Can we, with our limitations, our weakness, reach so high?
And answers that it's not necessary to be a great saint, merely a saint:
many saints, not all, are true stars in the firmament of history. And I would like to add that for me not only the great saints that I love and know well are "road signs," but also the simple saints, that is, the good persons that I see in my life, who will never be canonized. They are ordinary people, to say it somehow, without a visible heroism, but in their everyday goodness I see the truth of the faith. This goodness, which they have matured in the faith of the Church, is for me a sure defense of Christianity and the sign of where the truth is.
In the communion with saints, canonized or not canonized, which the Church lives thanks to Christ in all her members, we enjoy their presence and company and cultivate the firm hope of being able to imitate their way and share one day the same blessed life, eternal life.
In other words, he's as much touched by good people all around him as by his mentor, St. Augustine. 
Dear friends, how great and beautiful and also simple, is the Christian vocation seen from this light!
He concludes:
I would like to invite you to open yourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit, who transforms our life, to be, we also, pieces of the great mosaic of holiness that God is creating in history, so that the Face of Christ will shine in the fullness of its brilliance. Let us not be afraid to look on high, to the height of God; let us not be afraid that God will ask too much of us, but let us be guided in all our daily actions by his Word, even if we feel that we are poor, inadequate, sinners: He will be the one to transform us according to his love.
At the beginning of the month, the Pope addressed a seminar on the "internal forum" with this presentation on the sacrament of Confession. It's a very lovely reflection on what the priest learns from Confession (and why, therefore, he should spend a lot of time --more than 40 minutes Saturday afternoons?-- in the box):
how much the priest can learn from exemplary penitents: through their spiritual life, the seriousness with which they carry out their examination of conscience, the transparency with which they admit their sins and their docility to the Church's teaching and to the confessor's instructions.
From the administration of the sacrament of Penance we may draw profound lessons of humility and faith! It is a very strong appeal to each priest for knowledge of his own identity. We will never be able to hear the confessions of our brothers and sisters solely by virtue of our humanity! If they approach us, it is only because we are priests, configured to Christ the Eternal High Priest, and enabled to act in his Name and in his Person, to make God who forgives, renews and transforms, truly present. The celebration of the sacrament of Penance has a pedagogical value for the priest, as regards his faith, as well as the truth and poverty of his person, and nourishes within him an awareness of the sacramental identity.
A month prior, he visited the major seminary in Rome and gave a guided lectio divina to the seminarians there. The whole thing is worth reading, but he cracks me up sometimes, he's so realistic and unsentimental --so simple, perhaps?-- about what the Church is. So he's teaching them about Christian unity and the body of Christ and community, and he makes the point that these things are easier said than lived:
Of course we want the personal relationship with God, but we often do not like the body. 
 Heh. Why do I find it so comforting that the Pope feels these burdens, too?
perhaps we frequently feel the problem, the difficulty of this community, starting from the actual community of the Seminary to the large community of the Church, with her institutions. We must also keep in mind that it is really lovely to be in a company, to journey on in a large company of all the centuries, to have friends in Heaven and on earth and to be aware of the beauty of this body, to be happy that the Lord has called us in a body and has given us friends in all the parts of the world.
In a meeting with parish priests from the Diocese of Rome, he offered another lectio divina. He takes one of Paul's farewell discourse as a starting point: a passage I like because it reveals Paul's great humanity, charity and spirit of service. He loved these people! Whereas it's easy to think of Paul has kind of a blowhard (he did, after all, once literally preach someone to death!), or an itinerant preacher who has a lot of advice but doesn't stick around long enough to be a friend. Not so: he lived in communities for years at a time, often, working to earn his living, so as not to be burdensome:
In a certain sense it could be said that he was a worker priest because — as he also says in this passage — he worked with his hands as a tentmaker so as not to be a financial burden to them but to be free, and to leave them free.
Yet although he did manual work, he was nevertheless a priest for the whole of the period, he constantly advised them throughout this time. In other words, even though he was not always physically available to preach, his heart and soul were very present for them; he was steeped in the word of God and in his mission.
This seems to me to be a very important point; we cannot be part-time priests, we are priests for ever, with the whole of our soul, with the whole of our heart. This being with Christ and being an ambassador for Christ, this being for others, is a mission that penetrates our being and must ever more deeply penetrate the totality of our being.
A little more: 
Then St Paul says: “I have served the Lord with all humility” (v. 19). “Served”: a key word of the entire Gospel. Christ himself says: I did not come to dominate but to serve (cf. Mt 20:28). He is the Servant of God and Paul and the Apostles continue to be “servants”; they are not masters of faith but servants of your joy, St Paul says in the Second letter to the Corinthians (cf. 1: 24).
“Serving”, must also be decisive for us: we are servants. And serving means not doing what I propose for myself which would be what I should like best; serving means letting myself take on the Lord’s burden, the Lord’s yoke; serving means not being swayed by my own preferences, my priorities, but letting myself truly be “taken on in service” for others.
This means that we too must often do things that do not immediately seem spiritual and do not always correspond with our own choices. All of us, from the Pope to the lowliest parochial vicar, have to do administrative work, temporal work; yet we do it as a service, as part of what the Lord imposes on us in the Church and we do what the Church tells us and expects of us.
This is beautiful:
if the contemporary world is curious to know everything, even we ourselves must be more curious to know God’s: what could be more interesting, more important, more essential for us than knowing God’s wishes, knowing God’s will and God’s face?
This inner curiosity should also be our own curiosity to know God’s will better, more fully. We must therefore respond and reawaken this curiosity in others: truly to know the whole will of God, in order to become thoroughly acquainted with God’s will, hence to know how we can and should live and to recognize what is the path of our life.
Thus we must make known and understood — as far as we are able — the content of the Church’s Creed, from the Creation until the Lord’s return, until the new world. Doctrine, liturgy, morals, prayer — the four parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church — indicate this totality of God's will.
And it is also important if we are not to get lost in detail, not to give the idea that Christianity is an immense packet of things to learn. Ultimately, it is simple: God revealed himself in Christ. But to enter this simplicity — I believe in God who shows himself in Christ and I want to see and do his will — has meaning and, according to the situation, we enter more or less into details; but it is essential to make the ultimate simplicity of faith understood.
RTWT as there is much, much more. I don't know how he's going to top that at the Chrism mass this week!

Shortly after giving that address, the Pope made his annual Spiritual Exercises, preached by one Fr. Lethel. 

It didn't garner much press, but the Pope's visit to the Fosse Ardeatine memorial (the site of a mass execution carried out by the Nazis in reprisal for a Partisan attack) impressed me. Here are Jewish-Christian relations for you. The pope quotes a note left by one of the slain:
It is a sheet of paper on which one of those who died had written: “God my great Father, we pray you that you may protect the Jews from barbarous persecution. One Our Father, two Hail Marys, one Glory Be.
At such a moment, imprisoned, facing death, to be interceding for others and trying to find more to offer for them!
“I believe in God and in Italy”. In that testament carved in a place of violence and death, the bond between faith and love of the homeland appears in its full purity, without any rhetoric. Whoever wrote these words did so only out of deep conviction, as the extreme testimony to the truth believed, which makes the human soul royal even in extreme debasement. In this way every man is called to fulfil his own dignity: by testifying to this truth which each recognizes in conscience. 
Also a very nice address to the opening session of the "Court of the Gentiles."
And finally, God loves dogs. Have an intense and holy Passion Sunday & Holy Week!

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