The Presentation of Gifts…and Ourselves

So we, who bear death in our very bones, bring life-giving food before God and recognise that food as God’s gift. We do this in the awareness that he will return that bread to us in communion as the authentic bread of life, the bread that feeds undying life into us. This presentation of bread and wine is a radical act that expresses the fragility of our lives as human beings and at the same time recognises the One who has not only given us life as we have it now but who will give us life in abundance.

Frank O’Loughlin, New Wineskins: Eucharist in Today’s Context (Bayswater, VIC: Conventry Press, 2019), 39.

On the Liturgical Culture Wars

In its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the Second Vatican Council declared

…the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fount from which all the Church’s power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made children of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of his Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s Supper. (n.10)

Anyone reading such a clear and definitive statement would be hard-pressed to underestimate the significance and place of the Church’s liturgical life. It is also easy to understand why many Church members have firm and definite opinions on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the Church’s liturgy, what it should look like, and how it should be celebrated.

The emergence of what is often referred to as the ‘liturgy wars’ is, of course, not just about liturgy. The experience of conflict and division in liturgical matters often corresponds to firm positions in a range of other areas of Church life, such as the place and power of the Magisterium, the Papacy’s role, and the significance of dissent. Often enough, liturgical preferences were intimately connected with theological and ecclesiological understandings, and the liturgy became a ‘battleground’ that was about more than just the ‘what’ and ‘how’.

The cut and thrust of the ‘liturgy wars’ were often subject to significant influence by the person appointed to head the Church’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW). The ability of the CDW Prefect to influence how the liturgy is celebrated in any particular era is significant. That influence can have serious repercussions when personal preferences are given sway over the Church’s understanding of the place of the liturgy in its life.

During the past few weeks, Pope Francis has named a new Prefect for the CDW to take over its administration. The new Prefect, Archbishop Arthur Roche, had been the Secretary of the CDW since 2012 and previously had been head of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. Archbishop Roche has a quiet ‘can-do’ approach, able to get things accomplished as they are requested rather than operating from some personal preference. In this regard, he is different to his predecessor and former boss, Cardinal Robert Sarah, who it must be admitted had adopted a more ‘traditionalist’ approach to the Church’s liturgy.

It must also be admitted that Cardinal Sarah’s approach to liturgical matters was often at odds with the understanding and vision for liturgy held by Pope Francis. Ironically, Archbishop Roche was frequently despatched into the public arena to ‘walk back’ statements made by Cardinal Sarah after a private conversation between Sarah and Pope Francis.

So what does this new appointment mean for the liturgical life of the Church? Anthony Ruff OSB, writing for the Pray Tell website, hints

It seems Pope Francis is slowly but surely moving liturgy to be more aligned with the Second Vatican Council and its reform of the liturgy. In replacing all the consultants to the office for papal liturgical celebration in 2013, and in naming new consultors to the CDW in 2017, Francis has reversed the previous trend of appointing figures skeptical of the liturgical reform or interested in reinterpreting it in a traditionalist vein. This redirection is a delicate task for Francis to carry out, for traditionalist currents have grown quite strong in recent years.

It is to be regretted that the very thing meant to be a source of unity and common worship in the Church’s life has become a source of division and conflict in the years since the Second Vatican Council. The renewal of the sacred liturgy called for by the Council was meant to place the worship of God, as expressed in liturgical celebrations, within the ‘noble simplicity’ that is innate to the Roman Rite. Less encumbered by unnecessary accretions, the revised post-conciliar liturgy was meant to be a return to the inherent beauty of liturgy that is focussed on, and founded firmly in, an awareness of God and our worship of God.

Now granted, some will interpret the various liturgical norms and rubrics one way while others will have a different view. Such interpretations have as much to do with culture and experiences of the Divine as anything else. Such differences in liturgical approaches and interpretations are good and, I would argue, healthy for the life of the Church as a whole. After all, we are called to unity in worship, not uniformity.

However, I would also argue it is to be regretted that far too often an individual’s or a community’s particular preferences in liturgical matters are seen to be more important – to the point of dissent at times – than the participation in a common celebration of the Church’s liturgy which first and foremost is oriented towards God. The Church’s liturgy is far too important as the ‘source and summit’ to be reduced to mere personal or corporate preference. It is not mine, nor yours. It is a treasure that belongs to the Church.

And so we can only hope that the latest appointment by Pope Francis will have long-lasting benefits for the life of the Church, as expressed in its liturgical celebration and life and renew the Church’s commitment to living out the renewed life called for by the Second Vatican Council.

On The Professionalisation of Ministry

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you*. (Matthew 28:19-20a; NRSV)

* But only once you have been thoroughly vetted, educated and formed, and officially commissioned to do so by some liturgical ritual!

In the four and a half months of 2021, thanks to the direct intervention of Pope Francis, there has already been some significant changes in the understanding of officially recognised formal ministries in the life of the Catholic Church. In January 2021, thanks to his Apostolic Letter Spiritus Domini, the rather arbitrary restriction on the admittance of females to the formal ministries of Lector and Acolyte was removed through a change to Canon 230 §1 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law. The amended canon will now read:

Lay persons who possess the age and qualifications established by decree of the conference of bishops can be admitted on a stable basis through the prescribed liturgical rite to the ministries of lector and acolyte. Nevertheless, the conferral of these ministries does not grant them the right to obtain support or remuneration from the Church.

It is worth remembering, of course, that the ministry of Lector and Acolyte, as they are currently understood in the life of the Catholic Church, only dates back to Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Letter Ministeria Quaedam (1972). This intervention eliminated the former ‘minor orders’ that were part of the preparation of a man for ordination as Priest and replaced them with the two ‘lay ministries’ of Lector and Acolyte. Admittedly, there was still a focus in Ministeria Quaedam on the two lay ministries being necessary as part of the preparation for Holy Orders, though they could also be conferred on other suitable male (non-ordained) members of the Church.

Setting aside for the moment the nature of these two ministries, which I may return to in another column, there was very little in the way of controversy in the broader Church setting about Pope Francis’ changes. Why? Simply because it was already happening. Men and women were already fulfilling the larger part of the two ministries of Lector and Acolyte even if they were not officially referred to as such and there was no formal ‘conferral’ of the ministry.

It will be up to conferences of bishops to determine how best to give expression to the fullness of the changes within their own territories, yet I suspect – and fear – that the implementation may only be at a cosmetic level rather than a delving into, and an exploration of, the fullness of the two ministries of Lector and Acolyte.

More recently, Pope Francis has established a new ministry. In the opening days of May 2021, through his Apostolic Letter Antiquum Ministerium, Pope Francis has established the formal and official ministry of Catechist in the life of the Catholic Church. It has been established as a definitively ‘lay ministry’, one to which “those lay men and women who feel called by virtue of their baptism to cooperate in the work of catechesis” (n.5) may be admitted on a stable basis as a recognition of some “definite vocational aspect” (n.8).

Again, the reality of the new ministry of Catechist will only come to full expression once conferences of bishops take up Pope Francis’ invitation to determine “the necessary process of formation and the normative criteria for admission to this ministry” (n.9). And the question of the practical expression of the new ministry and what it might look like is still some way off.

And so I finally come to the point of this column, and the reason why I commenced by quoting what is often referred to as the ‘Great Commission’ of Jesus to the disciples.

At the heart of the ‘Great Commission’, the task of making disciples, is not a specialised subset of the existing disciples. The commission, the task, is given to all disciples, regardless of who they are, because they have first heard the Word of God and been called to the continuing task of personal and corporate conversion of heart and life. It is not something that belongs to only some in the Church, therefore, but something that belongs to all in the Church, and does so from the moment of baptism. It is baptism not the conferral of some ministry that prompts the Christian believer to participate in the continuing mission of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Or at least it should be.

One of the concerns I have already heard expressed in several places about the advent of the new ministry of Catechist, and which I suspect extends to the broader availability of the ministry of Lector and Acolyte, is about the ‘clericalisation’ of the laity of the Church.

At the heart of my concern about this is a concern that the conferring of these ministries on certain members of the Church – after they have been selected, vetted, educated, and formed – will give permission for other members of the Church, those on whom the ministries are not conferred, to simply not be involved in the continuing mission of the Church.

In other words, the professionalisation and clericalisation of ministry will permit the baptised members of the Church, those who have been anointed as ‘priest, prophet and king’ (see, for example, Rite of Baptism of Children, n.62), to abrogate the missional responsibility that is theirs by baptism. Mission and ministry will become the task and responsibility of a ‘special class’ within the Church, rather than the task and responsibility of the whole Church.

Now granted, individual members of the Church will exercise their ‘priestly, prophetic and kingly’ responsibility in a variety of ways. Some will be called to do so on a full-time basis either through the reception of Holy Orders or the conferral of a ‘lay ministry’. There will be others who will serve the mission of the Church in other ways on a full-time basis that are not connected with Holy Orders or formal ‘lay ministry’. Yet the responsibility for mission is not, and cannot be, limited to those who have received Holy Orders, been instituted into a formal ‘lay ministry’, or been employed by the Church in some specific role.

The advent of the changes by Pope Francis to the availability and breadth of formal ‘lay ministries’ is certainly to be welcomed. They suffer, I believe, because they are not firmly established first and foremost in a well-developed understanding or theology of the priesthood of all believers. As such there is a distinct risk to be faced by the Church in light of these changes, a risk that might further entrench a passivity in the members of the Church when it comes to responsibility for, and involvement in, the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ into the world.

It is to be hoped that conferences of bishops will be attentive to these risks as they examine how best to make these new ministries a reality in the life of the Church. It is also to be hoped that conferences of bishops will be attentive to the risks of simply innovating these new ministerial opportunities without placing them in the context of mission belonging to the whole Church.

Liturgy and Life. Inseperable After All.

Below is the translation of the catechesis of Pope Francis during his weekly Audience of Wednesday 10 February 2021.

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

In the preceding catechesis we saw how Christian prayer is “anchored” in the Liturgy. Today, we will shed light on how the Liturgy always enters daily life: on the streets, in offices, on public transportation… And there it continues the dialogue with God: the person who prays is like someone in love who always bears the beloved in his or her heart wherever they go.

Essentially, everything becomes a part of this dialogue with God: every joy becomes a reason for praise, every trial is an opportunity to ask for help. Prayer is always alive in our lives, like embers, even when the mouth does not speak, but the heart speaks. Every thought, even the apparently “profane” ones, can be permeated by prayer. There is even a prayerful aspect in the human intelligence; it is, in fact, a window peering into the mystery: it illuminates the few steps in front of us and then opens up to the entire reality, this reality that precedes it and surpasses it. This mystery does not have a disquieting or anxious face. No, knowledge of Christ makes us confident that whatever our eyes and the eyes of our minds cannot see, rather than nothing being there, there is someone who is waiting for us, there is infinite grace. And thus, Christian prayer instills an invincible hope in the human heart: whatever experience we touch on our journey, God’s love can turn it into good.

Regarding this, the Catechism reads: “We learn to pray at certain moments by hearing the Word of the Lord and sharing in his Paschal Mystery, but his Spirit is offered us at all times, in the events of each day, to make prayer spring up from us. […] Time is in the Father’s hands; it is in the present that we encounter him, not yesterday or tomorrow, but today” (n. 2659). Today I meet God, today is always the day of the encounter.

There exists no other wonderful day than the day we are living. Those who live always thinking about the future, in the future: “But it will be better…”, but do not take each day as it comes: these are people who live in their fantasy, they do not know how to deal with concrete reality. And today is real, today is concrete. And prayer is to be done today. Jesus comes to meet us today, the day we are living. And it is prayer that transforms this day into grace, or better, it transforms us: it appeases anger, sustains love, multiplies joy, instills the strength to forgive. Sometimes it will seem that it is no longer we who are living, but that grace lives and works in us through prayer. It is grace that awaits, but always this, don’t forget: take today as it comes. And let’s think about when an angry thought comes to you, of unhappiness, that moves you toward bitterness, stop yourself. And let’s say to the Lord: “Where are you? And where am I going?” And the Lord is there, the Lord will give you the right word, the advice to go ahead without that bitter, negative taste. For prayer is always, using a profane word, is positive. Always. It will carry you ahead. Each day that begins is accompanied by courage if it is welcomed in prayer. Thus, the problems we face no longer seem to be obstacles to our happiness, but appeals from God, opportunities to meet Him. And when a person is accompanied by the Lord, he or she feels more courageous, freer, and even happier.

Let us pray always, then, for everyone, even for our enemies. Jesus counseled us to do this: “Pray for your enemies”. Let us pray for our dear ones, even those we do not know. Let us pray even for our enemies, as I said, as the Scriptures often invite us to do. Prayer inclines us toward a superabundant love. Let us pray above all for people who are sad, for those who weep in solitude and despair that there still might be someone who loves them. Pray works miracles; and the poor then understand, by God’s grace that, even in their precarious situation, the prayer of a Christian makes Christ’s compassion present. He, in fact, looked with great tenderness on the weary and lost crowd who were like sheep without a shepherd (cf Mk 6:34). The Lord is – let’s not forget – the Lord of compassion, of nearness, of tenderness: three words never to be forgotten regarding the Lord. Because this is the Lord’s style: compassion, nearness, tenderness.

Prayer helps us love others, despite their mistakes and sins. The person is always more important than their actions, and Jesus did not judge the world, but He saved it. What a horrible life is that of the person who always judges others, who is always condemning, judging… This is a horrible, unhappy life, when Jesus came to save us. Open your heart, pardon, give others the benefit of the doubt, understand, be close to others, be compassionate, be tender, like Jesus. We need to love each and every person, remembering in prayer that we are all sinners and at the same time loved individually by God. Loving the world in this way, loving it with tenderness, we will discover that each day and everything bears within it a fragment of God’s mystery.

Again, the Catechism reads: “Prayer in the events of each day and each moment is one of the secrets of the Kingdom revealed to ‘little children,’ to the servants of Christ, to the poor of the beatitudes. It is right and good to pray so that the coming of the kingdom of justice and peace may influence the march of history, but it is just as important to bring the help of prayer into humble, everyday situations; all forms of prayer can be the leaven to which the Lord compares the kingdom” (n. 2660).

The human person – men and women, all of us, – the human person is like a breath, like a blade of grass (cf Ps 144:4; 103:15). The philosopher Pascal once wrote: “There is no need for the whole universe to take up arms to crush him: a vapour, a drop of water is enough to kill him.” We are fragile beings, but we know how to pray: this is our greatest dignity and it is also our strength. Have courage. Pray in every moment, in every situation so the Lord might be near to us. And when a prayer is said according to the heart of Jesus, it obtains miracles.

Christianity Without Liturgy? The Answer is No.

Below is the translation of the catechesis of Pope Francis during his weekly Audience of Wednesday 3 February 2021. For those with any interest in liturgy, it is well worth reading:

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

In the history of the Church, there has often been a temptation to practise an intimist Christianity, which does not recognise the spiritual importance of public liturgical rites. Often, this tendency claimed the supposed greater purity of a religiousness that did not depend on external ceremonies, which were considered a useless or harmful burden. At the centre of the criticism was not a particular ritual form, or a particular way of celebrating, but rather the liturgy itself, the liturgical form of praying.

Indeed, in the Church one can find certain forms of spirituality that have failed to adequately integrate the liturgical moment. Many of the faithful, although they participate assiduously in the liturgy, especially Sunday Mass, have instead drawn nourishment for their faith and spiritual life from other sources, of a devotional type.

Much has been achieved in recent decades. The Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium of the Second Vatican Council represents a pivotal point in this long journey. It comprehensively and organically reaffirms the importance of the divine liturgy for the life of Christians, who find therein that objective mediation required by the fact that Jesus Christ is not an idea or a sentiment, but a living Person, and His Mystery a historical event. The prayer of Christians passes through tangible mediations: Sacred Scripture, the Sacraments, liturgical rites, the community. In Christian life, the corporeal and material sphere may not be dispensed with, because in Jesus Christ it became the way of salvation. We might say that we must pray with the body too: the body enters into prayer.

Therefore, there is no Christian spirituality that is not rooted in the celebration of the holy mysteries. The Catechism writes: “The mission of Christ and of the Holy Spirit proclaims, makes present, and communicates the mystery of salvation, which is continued in the heart that prays” (2655). The liturgy, in itself, is not only spontaneous prayer, but something more and more original: it is an act that founds the whole Christian experience and, therefore, also prayer. It is event, it is happening, it is presence, it is encounter. It is an encounter with Christ. Christ makes himself present in the Holy Spirit through the sacramental signs: hence the need for us Christians to participate in the divine mysteries. A Christianity without a liturgy, I dare say, is perhaps a Christianity without Christ. Without Christ in full. Even in the sparest rite, such as that which some Christians have celebrated and continue to celebrate in places of incarceration, or in the seclusion of a house during times of persecution, Christ is truly present and gives Himself to His faithful.

The liturgy, precisely because of its objective dimension, demands to be celebrated with fervour, so that the grace poured out in the rite is not dispersed but instead reaches the experience of all. The Catechism explains it very well; it says: “Prayer internalises and assimilates the liturgy during and after its celebration” (ibid.). Many Christian prayers do not originate from the liturgy, but all of them, if they are Christian, presuppose the liturgy, that is, the sacramental mediation of Jesus Christ. Every time we celebrate a Baptism, or consecrate the bread and wine in the Eucharist, or anoint the body of a sick person with Holy Oil, Christ is here! It is He who acts and is present just as He was when He healed the weak limbs of a sick person, or when at the Last Supper He delivered His testament for the salvation of the world.

The prayer of the Christian makes the sacramental presence of Jesus his or her own. What is external to us becomes part of us: the liturgy expresses this even in the very natural gesture of eating. The Mass cannot simply be “listened to”: it is also an expression incorrect, “I’m going to listen to Mass”. Mass cannot merely be listened to, as if we were merely spectators of something that slips away without our involvement. The Mass is always celebrated, and not only by the priest who presides over it, but by all Christians who experience it. And the centre is Christ! All of us, in the diversity of gifts and ministries, join in His action, because He, Christ, is the Protagonist of the liturgy.

When the first Christians began to worship, they did so by actualizing Jesus’ deeds and words, with the light and power of the Holy Spirit, so that their lives, reached by that grace, would become a spiritual sacrifice offered to God. This approach was a true “revolution”. Saint Paul writes in the Letter to the Romans: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (12:1). Life is called to become worship to God, but this cannot happen without prayer, especially liturgical prayer. May this thought help us all when we go to Mass: I go to pray in the community, I go to pray with Christ who is present. When we go to the celebration of a Baptism, for example, it is Christ who is there, present, who baptizes. “But Father, this is an idea, a figure of speech”: no, it is not a figure of speech. Christ is present, and in the liturgy you pray with Christ who is beside you.

In Time of Pandemic

Overnight, we have heard the news the Church has authorised a new Mass proper “In Time of Pandemic”, in response to requests for specific prayers for use in these uncertain times.

The rubrics regarding the usage of this Mass proper read:

This Mass can be celebrated, according to the rubrics given for Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions, on any day except Solemnities, the Sundays of Advent, Lend, and Easter, days within the Octave of Easter, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day), Ash Wednesday and the days of Holy Week.

The Collect from the Proper is perhaps something we could pray as part of our daily prayer:

Almighty and eternal God,
our refuge in every danger,
to whom we turn in our distress;
in faith we pray
look with compassion on the afflicted,
grant eternal rest to the dead, comfort to mourners,
healing to the sick, peace to the dying,
strength to healthcare workers, wisdom to our leaders
and the courage to reach out to all in love,
so that together we may give glory to your holy name.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.

Pope’s Urbi et Orbi Blessing

Overnight, Pope Francis gave an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing in the light of the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic event. Below, via the ZENIT website, you can find the translated text of the Pope’s address prior to the imparting of the blessing.

“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets, and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel, we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.

It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40).

Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits, and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.

In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often forgotten people – who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents, and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Faith begins when we realize we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves, we founder: we need the Lord like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.

The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support, and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross, we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross, we have been redeemed. We have hope: by his cross, we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.

Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity, and solidarity. By his cross, we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7).

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

Original text in Italian; English translation via zenit.org.