Potpourri of Popery, How Did It Get To Be Holy Week Already? Edition

 I was just mentally planning the Christmas edition of Potpourri, including the Pope's closing of the year greeting to the curia, address to the Roman Rota when it turned out to be Holy Thursday. Not clear how that happened, but here's a good round-up of the Pope's doings this winter, especially BXVI's "state of the world" address to Vatican diplomatic corps.

The indefatigable Christopher Blosser has a round-up from the Pope's trip to Mexico & Cuba too, and all the addresses are gathered here.

I always learn something from the brief remarks the Pope makes in-flight. It lets us in on his aims for his journeys (as opposed to everyone else's agenda). One amusing thing first: Years ago I was in St. Peter's square for the Sunday Angelus and heard JP the Great, who kept being interrupted by ebullient Mexican cheers and chants, ad lib the following with great affection: "Los Mexicanos saben rezar." (Great cheer.) "Los Mexicanos saben reír." (Great cheer) "Pero más que nada, los Mexicanos saben gritar!" (Mexicans know how to pray and to laugh, but more than anything they know how to shout.) Therefore this little remark made me laugh.
I went to Mexico as a cardinal and have excellent memories of it, moreover every Wednesday I hear the applause and feel the joy of the Mexicans.
Some things don't change! His affection for the Mexican people notwithstanding, his message to them strikes a serious note against the petty corruption engendered by socialist systems: 
In Latin America, and also elsewhere, among many Catholics a certain schizophrenia exists between individual and public morals: personally, in the private sphere, they are Catholics and believers but in public life they follow other trends that do not correspond with the great values of the Gospel which are necessary for the foundation of a just society. It is therefore necessary to teach people to overcome this schizophrenia, teaching not only individual morality but also public morality.
He's not speaking of imposing the faith on others, mind: 
public morality must of course be a reasonable morality, shared and shareable by non-believers too, a morality of reason.
He's simply insisting on moral consistency.

Once he was actually in Mexico, he clearly enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of the people and offered a series of addresses with a supremely simple message: re-encounter Jesus, and let that encounter be life-giving and transformative. 

He asked children to let Christ be their best friend and to be doers of the word and not hearers only:
The disciple of Jesus does not respond to evil with evil, but is always an instrument of good instead, a herald of pardon, a bearer of happiness, a servant of unity. He wishes to write in each of your lives a story of friendship. Hold on to him, then, as the best of friends. He will never tire of speaking to those who always love and who do good. This you will hear, if you strive in each moment to be with him who will help you in more difficult situations.
At the major outdoor Mass, he spoke to the people about the human longing for a pure heart, for cleansing, and urged them to rediscover Christ, not the trappings of Christ.
we need to overcome fatigue related to faith and rediscover “the joy of being Christians, of being sustained by the inner happiness of knowing Christ and belonging to his Church. From this joy spring the energies that are needed to serve Christ in distressing situations of human suffering, placing oneself at his disposition and not falling back on one’s own comfort
To the Mexican bishops, burdened down with pressing social justice concerns: poverty, corruption, drugs, he said simply: have faith, and spread this faith to others. That's the main thing.
Human evil and ignorance simply cannot thwart the divine plan of salvation and redemption. Evil is simply incapable of that.
At the airport, a closing wish: be good and do good. Christian faith is not private; it is mean to be lived, and when it is lived, it changes everyone's life for the better.
I strongly urge Mexican Catholics, and all men and women of good will, not to yield to a utilitarian mentality which always leads to the sacrifice of the weakest and most defenceless. I invite you to a common effort so that society can be renewed from the ground up, in order to attain a life of dignity, justice and peace for everyone. For Catholics, this contribution to the common good is also a requirement of that essential dimension of the Gospel which is human promotion and a supreme expression of charity. For this reason, the Church exhorts all her faithful to be good citizens, conscious of their responsibility to be concerned for the good of all, both in their personal lives and throughout society.
For Cuba, a different message, again from the plane: Marxism is spent and it's time for something else. 
In this process, which requires patience but also determination, we intend to help in a spirit of dialogue, to avoid traumas and to offer assistance on the journey towards the fraternal and just society that we want for the whole world, and we mean to cooperate to achieve this. It is obvious that the Church is always on the side of freedom: freedom of conscience, freedom of religion. In this regard we contribute, as well as the simple faithful, to this forward journey.
That papal patience disappointed a lot of Cuban exiles, as also George Weigel, who was happy with what the Pope said but thinks he missed an opportunity by not meeting with dissidents as John Paul II did in Poland and occasionally elsewhere. Critics are a bit skeptical of the defense that the Pope needed government permission to be allowed in the country, since JP II found ways around Communists, but even granting that difficulty, did the Pope not undermine his own message by having an audience with Fidel but not with dissidents? Plus, the regime spent the trip threatening, rounding up and jailing dissidents who wanted to talk to the Pope.

It's a fair point, although as even Weigel documents in the first part of his column, what the Pope preached was very strong and its message cannot have been missed by anyone. I don't think the Pope was being a weenie; I think he remembers well that the revolution in Poland came about during a Mass. By giving people the courage not to hide in their homes but to publicly profess their faith, they suddenly realized --and so did the whole world, including the Communists-- that they were more numerous and powerful than the government that persecuted them. That's what Benedict was focused on for Cuba. 

Furthermore, the simple fact of so many media pictures of Cuba was an act in support of dissidents. It's a little hard to maintain your romantic idea of the workers' paradise when these kinds of photos are beaming about the globe. Plus, here are two testimonies from within Cuba that show the Pope's visit did strengthen them. So, two cheers at least, and here's what he said. 

Airport welcome ceremony. It was noticeable on tv how stiff and uncomfortable the Pope was in Cuba as opposed to Mexico. Raul Castro greeted him at the airport with an interminable speech denouncing the U.S. (yo, Raul, 1972 called; wants its rhetoric back). What followed from the Pope was as close as he comes to giving the finger, and it sure looked as if that's what he felt like doing. 

He opened by recalling JP II's trip as "a breath of fresh air" for Cuba, then describing the situation Cuba is in:
a profound spiritual and moral crisis which has left humanity devoid of values and defenceless before the ambition and selfishness of certain powers which take little account of the true good of individuals and families. We can no longer continue in the same cultural and moral direction which has caused the painful situation that many suffer. On the other hand, real progress calls for an ethics which focuses on the human person and takes account of the most profound human needs, especially man’s spiritual and religious dimension. In the hearts and minds of many, the way is thus opening to an ever greater certainty that the rebirth of society demands upright men and women of firm moral convictions, with noble and strong values who will not be manipulated by dubious interests and who are respectful of the unchanging and transcendent nature of the human person.
Dear friends, I am convinced that Cuba, at this moment of particular importance in its history, is already looking to the future
In other words, Raul, drop dead. In brief remarks at Our Lady of Cobre, he told the people he was on their side,  praying for dissidents, for the persecuted Church, and for their perseverance in the face of trial: 
Let all those you meet know, whether near or far, that I have entrusted to the Mother of God the future of your country, advancing along the ways renewal and hope, for the greater good of all Cubans. I have also prayed to the Virgin for the needs of those who suffer, of those who are deprived of freedom, those who are separated from their loved ones or who are undergoing times of difficulty. I have placed in her Immaculate Heart young people, that they may be authentic friends of Christ and that they may not succumb to things which bring sadness in their wake.
A little more: 
I cannot forget the many country people and their families who wish to live the Gospel deeply in their homes and who offer their homes as mission centres for the celebration of Mass. Following the example of the Most Holy Virgin, I encourage all the sons and daughters of this dear country to continue to build their lives on the firm rock which is Jesus Christ, to work for justice, to be servants of charity and to persevere in the midst of trials. May nothing or no one take from you your inner joy which is so characteristic of the Cuban soul.  
Then, by an act of Providence, the mass readings for the closing day of his visit were about the young men thrown into the fiery furnace rather than bending to Nebuchadnezzar. This afforded him opportunity to preach about martyrdom, the human need for truth, and religious liberty.
The truth is a desire of the human person, the search for which always supposes the exercise of authentic freedom. Many, without a doubt, would prefer to take the easy way out, trying to avoid this task. Some, like Pontius Pilate, ironically question the possibility of even knowing what truth is, claiming is incapable of knowing it or denying that there exists a truth valid for all. This attitude, as in the case of scepticism and relativism, changes hearts, making them cold, wavering, distant from others and closed. There are too many who, like the Roman governor, wash their hands and let the water of history drain away without taking a stand.
On the other hand, there are those who wrongly interpret this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism; they close themselves up in “their truth”, and try to impose it on others. These are like the blind scribes who, upon seeing Jesus beaten and bloody, cry out furiously, “Crucify him!”
Did he just say the Castros crucify Christ? Why, yes he did! The entire homily is about how the regime crushes freedom and Christ gives it.

At the airport, his parting shot: find your interior freedom in Christ, and your political freedom will be there for the taking:
I came here as a witness to Jesus Christ, convinced that, wherever he is present, discouragement yields to hope, goodness dispels uncertainties and a powerful force opens up the horizon to beneficial and unexpected possibilities.
The path which Christ points out to humanity, and to each particular individual and people, is not a source of constraint, but rather the primary and principal premise for their authentic development. The light of the Lord, has shone brightly during these days; may that light never fade in those who have welcomed it; may it help all people to foster social harmony and to allow the blossoming of all that is finest in the Cuban soul, its most noble values, which can be the basis for building a society of broad vision, renewed and reconciled. May no one feel excluded from taking up this exciting task because of limitations of his or her basic freedoms, or excused by indolence or lack of material resources....
I now conclude my pilgrimage, but I will continue praying fervently that you will go forward and that Cuba will be the home of all and for all Cubans, where justice and freedom coexist in a climate of serene fraternity. Respect and promotion of freedom which is present in the heart of each person are essential in order to respond adequately to the fundamental demands of his or her dignity and, in this way, to build up a society in which all are indispensable actors in the future of their life, their family and their country. 
The Pope had barely landed back in Rome when it was Palm Sunday, "the great doorway" to Holy Week. Reflecting on the rapidity with which the exultant "Hosannas" descend into cries of "Crucify Him," the Pope attributes this to people's disappointment that Christ was not the kind of Messiah they wished for. That's our problem too:
The majority, in fact, was disappointed by the way Jesus chose to present himself as Messiah and King of Israel.  This is the heart of today’s feast, for us too.  Who is Jesus of Nazareth for us?  What idea do we have of the Messiah, what idea do we have of God?  It is a crucial question, one we cannot avoid, not least because during this very week we are called to follow our King who chooses the Cross as his throne.  We are called to follow a Messiah who promises us, not a facile earthly happiness, but the happiness of heaven, divine beatitude.  So we must ask ourselves: what are our true expectations? 
He hopes we will have two-fold response: praise and obedience.
may these days call forth two sentiments in particular: praise, after the example of those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with their “Hosanna!”, and thanksgiving, because in this Holy Week the Lord Jesus will renew the greatest gift we could possibly imagine: he will give us his life, his body and his blood, his love.  But we must respond worthily to so great a gift, that is to say, with the gift of ourselves, our time, our prayer, our entering into a profound communion of love with Christ who suffered, died and rose for us. ... let us spread ourselves like coats under his feet ... let us offer not palm branches but the prizes of victory to the conqueror of death. 
That brings us to Spy Wednesday, where the weekly Audience both reviewed the Latin American trip and offered tips for how to live the Sacred Triduum.

Obedience was again the theme of his homily for this morning's Chrism Mass. He asked the gathered priests: Can disobedience be a path to renewal? He specifically rebukes the group of Austrian priests calling for disobedience of the Magisterium (and in so doing doesn't he lay to rest forever of whether the question of women's ordination has been definitively decided --look at the language?)
Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for all true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?
Then he broadens the discussion beyond these particular men, however, and addresses the tension that exists within every believer between structure and dynamism. We don't want a Church of rules, we want a community of men and women who are alive and whose lives are fruitful. The problem is that life and fruitfulness do not come from doing your own thing, but from allowing Christ to work within you. Therefore, obedience to him is the precondition for the life and dynamism we seek. And if you find his example too lofty or abstract, that's what the saints are for:
it is clear that configuration to Christ is the precondition and the basis for all renewal. But perhaps at times the figure of Jesus Christ seems too lofty and too great for us to dare to measure ourselves by him. The Lord knows this. So he has provided "translations" on a scale that is more accessible and closer to us. For this same reason, Saint Paul did not hesitate to say to his communities: Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. For his disciples, he was a "translation" of Christ’s manner of life that they could see and identify with. Ever since Paul’s time, history has furnished a constant flow of other such "translations" of Jesus’ way into historical figures. We priests can call to mind a great throng of holy priests who have gone before us and shown us the way: from Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch, from the great pastors Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great, through to Ignatius of Loyola, Charles Borromeo, John Mary Vianney and the priest-martyrs of the 20th century, and finally Pope John Paul II, who gave us an example, through his activity and his suffering, of configuration to Christ as "gift and mystery". The saints show us how renewal works and how we can place ourselves at its service. And they help us realize that God is not concerned so much with great numbers and with outward successes, but achieves his victories under the humble sign of the mustard seed.
RTWT, it's splendid.
 And finally: little-known Catholic Holy Week Traditions. (My parish has all of these!)

May you have a fruitful and blessed Holy Triduum.