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Sunday, March 18, 2018

To bear much fruit

This weekend, the Church across Canada is collecting funds in support of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.  This organization, sponsored by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, invites all Catholics in this country to assist those in our world who are in need - modern-day almsgiving.

Dying to self in order to give

The gospel passage begins with details about people who were coming in search of Jesus.  Saint John tells us that some Greeks ... came to Philip and asked him: ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’ (Jn 12:20-21).  On the surface, this seems to be an innocent question.  Perhaps they had heard about Jesus and wanted to meet him, but I wonder whether they realized how their lives would change once they had come face to face with him.

The same is true for us today.  We hear stories about the miracles that Jesus performed and perhaps there is a part of us that is intrigued.  We wonder whether we too can meet Jesus, whether he will work miracles in our lives too.  In some cases, we know of people who are sick and suffering and we want to pray for them; or perhaps we know of those who are facing financial hardships or other challenges and we want to ask Jesus to be close to them.  Whatever the concern may be, in the depths of our hearts we come to Jesus in hopes that he will answer our prayers ... but every time that we encounter Jesus, our lives are changed.  In some cases, he responds to our prayers, but in most cases, he also asks us to get involved.

When Andrew and Philip told him that the Greeks wanted to meet him, his response was more of a teaching for his disciples than a response to their question: unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (Jn 12:24).  In other words, anyone who wants to meet Jesus must also be willing to follow him, to allow him to teach us every day how to die to ourselves so that he – Jesus – can live within us.

He who learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb 5:8) wants to teach each one of us how to give of ourselves, purely motivated by love, so that others will come to know him and experience his love for them.

The ancient tradition of the Church has always included this attitude of self-giving in the disciplines that are proper to the season of Lent.  Almsgiving is traditionally thought of in terms of sharing monetary gifts with those who are in need, but it also includes the practice of learning how to give of ourselves.  This weekend, in all the Catholic churches across Canada, we receive the collection for Development and Peace.  Our offering of money to assist with the efforts of Development and Peace in areas of need throughout our world is one way that we can give of ourselves so that others may benefit.

The prophet Jeremiah reminds us today that the Lord wants to put his law within us ... to write it on our hearts (Jer 31:33).  Every day, he is at work, seeking out opportunities to show us how much he loves us.  Every day, he finds ways to help us understand that he is always close to us and that he loves us even more deeply than we can imagine.  Having experienced his love for us, Jesus then calls us to give what we ourselves have received so that others who come to us and say: we want to see Jesus, may also have an opportunity to encounter him.

Mourir à soi-même afin de donner de soi

Le passage de l'Évangile commence aujourd’hui par des détails sur les personnes qui venaient à la recherche de Jésus. Saint Jean nous dit que quelques Grecs ... abordèrent Philippe et lui demandèrent: Nous voudrions voir Jésus (Jn 12,20-21). Au premier regard, cela semble être une question innocente. Peut-être qu’ils avaient entendu parler de Jésus et qu’ils ont voulu le rencontrer, mais je me demande s'ils se rendaient compte à quel point leur vie changerait une fois qu'ils se trouveraient face à face avec lui.

C’est la même pour nous aujourd'hui. Nous entendons des histoires concernant les miracles que Jésus a accomplis et peut-être que nous sommes intrigués. Nous nous demandons si nous aussi pouvons rencontrer Jésus, s'il fera aussi des miracles dans nos vies. Dans certains cas, nous connaissons des personnes qui souffrent et nous voulons prier pour elles; ou peut-être que nous connaissons ceux qui font face à des difficultés financières ou à d'autres défis et nous voulons demander à Jésus de les aider à surmonter ces défis. Quelle que soit la préoccupation, au plus profond de notre cœur, nous venons à Jésus dans l'espoir qu'il répondra à nos prières ... mais chaque fois que nous rencontrons Jésus, nos vies sont changées. Il accueille toujours nos prières, mais dans la plupart des cas, il nous demande aussi de nous impliquer.

Lorsqu’André et Philippe lui ont dit que les Grecs voulaient le rencontrer, sa réponse était plus un enseignement pour ses disciples qu'une réponse à leur question: si le grain de blé tombé en terre ne meurt pas, il reste seul; mais s’il meurt, il porte beaucoup de fruit (Jn 12,24). C’est à dire, quiconque veut rencontrer Jésus doit aussi être disposé à le suivre, à lui permettre de l’enseigner chaque jour comment mourir à nous-mêmes afin que Jésus puisse vivre en nous.

Celui qui apprit l’obéissance par ses souffrances (Héb 5,8) veut enseigner à chacun de nous comment se donner, uniquement motivé par l'amour, afin que d’autres personnes le connaissent et éprouvent son amour pour elles.

L'ancienne tradition de l'Église a toujours inclus cette attitude de don de soi dans les disciplines qui sont propres au temps du Carême. L'aumône est traditionnellement comprise en termes de partage des dons monétaires avec ceux qui sont dans le besoin, mais elle inclut aussi la pratique d'apprendre à donner de soi-même. Cette fin de semaine, dans toutes les églises catholiques du Canada, nous recevons la quête pour Développement et Paix. Notre offrande d'argent pour soutenir les efforts de Développement et Paix dans les régions dans le monde entier qui sont en besoin est une façon de donner de nous-mêmes afin que d'autres puissent en bénéficier.

Le prophète Jérémie nous rappelle aujourd'hui que le Seigneur veut mettre sa Loi au plus profond de nous; il veut l’inscrire sur nos coeurs (Jér 31,33). Chaque jour, il est au travail, cherchant des occasions de nous montrer comment il nous aime. Chaque jour, il trouve des moyens de nous aider à comprendre qu'il est toujours proche de nous et qu'il nous aime encore plus profondément que nous ne pouvons l'imaginer. Ayant expérimenté son amour pour nous, Jésus nous appelle alors à donner ce que nous avons reçu nous-mêmes afin que d'autres qui viennent à nous et disent: nous voulons voir Jésus, puissent aussi avoir l'occasion de le rencontrer.

Angelus about a grain of wheat

At noon today (7:00am EDT), the Holy Father, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to recite the Angelus with the faithful and with pilgrims from Italy and from all corners of the world who were gathered in Saint Peter's Square.

Greetings of His Holiness, Pope Francis
prior to the recitation of the Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today's gospel (cf Jn 12:20-33) recounts an episode that took place during the final days of Jesus' life.  The scene unfolded in Jerusalem, where He was present for the feast of the Jewish Passover.  Some Greeks had also arrived for the feasts; they were a people characterized by religious sentiments, attracted by the faith of the Jewish people and who, having heard about this great prophet, came to Philip, one of the twelve apostles, and said to him: We want to see Jesus (Jn 12:21).  John emphasizes this phrase, focusing on the verb to see, which in the vocabulary of the evangelist signifies going above appearances to welcome someone's mystery.  The verb that John uses - to see - is meant to speak to our hearts, to provide a vision, to reach the intimacy of our inner selves.

Jesus' reaction is surprising.  He does not respond with a yes or with a no, but rather he says: The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified (Jn 12:23).  These words, which seem at first  to ignore the question asked by those Greeks, in reality provide a true response, for those who wish to know Jesus must look deeper - to the cross - where his true glory is revealed.  Look to the cross.  Today's gospel invites us to turn our gaze to the crucifix, which is not an ornamental object or a clothing accessory - sometimes it is abused in this way! - but it is a religious sign to be contemplated and understood.  The image of Jesus crucified reveals the mystery of the Son's death as a supreme act of love, the source of life and of salvation for all of humanity and for all time.  In his wounds, we are healed.

I can think: How do I look to the cross?  Is it a work of art meant to be seen - how beautiful it is, or whether it is ugly?  Or do I look within myself, do I enter into Jesus wounds, including his broken heart?  Do I gaze on the mystery of God who was put to death like a slave, like a criminal?  Don't forget this: look to the crucified Christ, but look within him.  There is a beautiful devotion of praying an Our Father for every one of the five wounds: when we pray the Our Father, we seek to enter through Jesus wounds and to go within, within, all the way to his heart.  There, we learn the great wisdom of the mystery of Christ, the great wisdom of the cross.

As an explanation of the significance of his death and resurrection, Jesus uses and image.  He says: If a grain of wheat falls into the earth but does not die, it remains a single grain; but if it dies, it produces much fruit (Jn 12:24).  He wants to make it clear that the extremity of his case - the cross, his death and his resurrection - is an act of fruitfulness - his wounds have healed us - a fruitfulness that bears fruit for many.  In this way, he compares himself to a grain of wheat that rots in the earth and generates new life.  Through his incarnation, Jesus came to this earth; but that wasn't enough: He also had to die in order to rescue us from slavery to sin and to give us a new life that has been reconciled through love.  I said: to rescue us, but in order to rescue me, you, all of us, every one of us, He paid the price.  This is the mystery of Christ.  Go toward his wounds, enter, contemplate them; see Jesus, but from within.

And the image of the grain of wheat, which was used to explain the reasons for Jesus actions, must also be a part of our own discipleship: we are called to make this Easter law of losing our lives in order to receive new and eternal life our own.  What does it mean to lose my life?  In other words, what does it mean to be a grain of wheat?  It means thinking less about ourselves, about our own personal interests, and knowing how to see and to meet the needs of others, especially those who are considered least in society.  Joyfully carrying out works of charity toward those who are suffering in body and in mind is the most authentic way to live the Gospel, it is fundamental, necessary so that our communities may grow in fraternity and in mutual welcome.  I want to see Jesus, but I want to see him from within.  Enter into his wounds and contemplate the love of his heart for you, for you, for you, for me, for everyone.

May the Virgin Mary, who always kept her gaze and her heart fixed on her Son, from the manger in Bethlehem to the cross on Calvary, help us to meet him and to know him in this way, so that we can live by his light, and bear fruit to build a world of justice and peace.

After the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I cordially greet all of you who are here, faithful of Rome and from many other parts of the world.

I greet the pilgrims from Slovakia and those who came from Madrid; the parish groups from Sant'Agnello, Pescara, Chieti and Cheremule; the young people from the Dioceses of Brescia and from Romana-Vittoria in Milan.

I greet the Italian Folclore Union, the group of families from Rubiera and the youth who have recently been confirmed from Novi di Modena.

Yesterday I paid a visit to Pietrelcina and to San Giovanni Rotondo.  I affectionately greet and wish to thank the community from the Dioceses of Benevento and Manfredonia, the Bishops - His Excellency, Bishop Accrocca and Bishop Castoro - the consecrated men and women, the faithful and the authorities; I thank you all for your warm welcome and I carry you all in my heart, but especially the sick from the Home for the relief of suffering - the elderly and the youth.  I thank all those who prepared for this visit which I truly will never forget.  May Padre Pio bless you all.

I wish you all a good Sunday.  Please don't forget to pray for me.  Enjoy your lunch and good bye!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

She was put to the test

Here is the text of the homily prepared for the funeral liturgy which was celebrated this morning at the church of the Holy Family (Ste-Famille) in Blind River, Ontario.

Funeral homily for Adrienne Chauvin

This morning, we have come here to pray for a dear sister of ours.  We have known her as a friend, as a wife, as a mother, as a grandmother and a great-grandmother but above all, in the family of God, she has been a sister to us, for everyone moved by the Spirit is a child of God (Rom 8:14).  The Holy Spirit entered into Adrienne’s life on the day of her baptism, From that time onward, she began to learn how to speak with God, how to call out to him when she was in need.  Saint Paul tells us that because we are all children of God, we can always call him by a special name: Abba, a word that means Father, or more precisely daddy.

Adrienne was granted 93 years to live here among us.  During that time, I wonder how often she heard the words of scripture that we have heard today.  I wonder how often she prayed these words, how often she pondered them, how deeply she believed them to be true.  If we are God’s children, we are also heirs: heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, sharing his suffering while we live here on earth, but always in the hope of one day sharing in his glory (Rom 8:17).

Adrienne spent 63 years married to her husband Léo.  Those who have attended the school of life will tell you that no matter what our path in life should be, every one of us has to work hard some days to make our way, but there are also moments that are worth celebrating, so together we give thanks today for the wisdom that we have learned from this great woman.  We trust that her soul is now in the hands of God (cf Wis 3:1).  She will no longer walk among us, she will no longer speak with a mortal tongue but she is at peace now (Wis 3:3) for in this life, God put her to the test and has found her worthy (Wis 3:5) and therefore she will now live with him in love, for grace and mercy await all those He has chosen (Wis 3:9).

It is good that we are here today to remember Adrienne in the presence of our God, to look back in thanksgiving for all the good that God has done in and through her, but we too must now take the wisdom that we have gained from her and courageously put it into practice so that others who we meet will also see that we are dressed for action (Lk 12:35) never afraid to speak to others about who Jesus is and how he is working in our lives.

We have been given a special mission in this world: the task of waiting for Jesus to return from heaven.  When he does, he has promised that he will take us to be with him in heaven.  He will sit us down at his banquet table and he will be the one to serve us.  It might seem strange that the master should be the one to serve us, but Jesus will do that willingly, just as Adrienne did countless times at her own table.

We do not know when the Lord will come and call us home, but for that reason, we must all stand ready.  The final days of Adrienne’s earthly life should provide us all with a warning to heed these words.  Don’t delay any opportunity that you have to be kind, to welcome a stranger, to do a good deed for someone.  The Son of Man is coming at an hour we do not expect (Lk 12:40).  When he comes, he will take us to heaven, and we will see Adrienne once again.  For now, we take leave of our sister, but we live in hope of the day that we will once again be reunited.

Pope Francis in Pietrelcina

At 7:00am this morning (2:00am EDT), the Holy Father, Pope Francis departed from the Vatican heliport and travelled to Pietrelcina (in the Diocese of Benevento) and to San Giovanni Rotondo (in the Diocese of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo where celebrations are in progress to mark 100 years since the apparition of the permanent stigmata that marked the body of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina and the fiftieth anniversary of that holy man's death.

Upon his arrival, at approximately 8:00am local time, in the Square located beside the Piana Romana Liturgical Hall, the Pope was welcomed by the Archbishop of Benevento, His Excellency, Felice Accrocca, and by the Mayor of Pietrelcina, Mister Domenico Masone.

The Holy Father paused briefly to pray in the Chapel of Saint Francis located in front of the elm of the stigmata.  Then, at 8:15am, in the Square outside the Liturgical Hall, the Pope met with the faithful.

Following a few words of greeting offered by the Archbishop, Pope Francis shared his speech.

When he was finished, the Holy Father greeted the members of the Capuchin Community and some of the faithful.  Then, at approximately 9:00am local time, he departed aboard the helicopter and continued his voyage to San Giovanni Rotondo.

Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
ouside the Piana Romana Liturgical Hall

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

I am pleased to be here in this countryside, where Francesco Forgione was born and began his long and fruitful human and spiritual life.  In this community he tempered his own humanity, learned to pray and to recognize the Lord's flesh in the poor, until he grew in the practice of following in the footsteps of Christ and asked to be admitted to the Capuchin Friars Minor, where he became known as Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.  It was here that he began to experience the maternity of the Church, of whom he was always a devoted son.  He loved the Church; he loved the Church even with all her problems, with all her woes, with all our sins.  We are all sinners, we are ashamed of ourselves, but the Spirit of God has gathered us together in this Church which is holy.  And he loved the holy Church and the sinful children of the Church, all of them.  This was Saint Pio.  Here he used to meditate intensely on the mystery of God who loved us to the point of giving Himself for us (cf Gal 2:20).  Remembering this holy disciple of Saint Francis with esteem and affection, I cordially greet all of you his fellow citizens, as well as your Pastor and the Mayor of your city.  I also greet the Pastor of your diocese, His Excellency, Felice Accrocca, the community of Capuchins and all of you who are here this morning.

We are standing today on the soil where Padre Pio lived in September 1911 in order to breathe in a little healthy air.  At that time, there were no antibiotics and diseases were often cured by returning to one's native village, to one's mother, to eat healthy things, to breathe in the air and to pray.  This was the case for him, like any other man, like a farmer.  This was his nobility.  He never denied his homeland, he never denied his origins, he never forgot his family.  In fact, at the time, he resided in his native land for health reasons.  That was not an easy time for him: he was severely tormented in his heart and he feared falling into sin, since he felt attacked by the devil.  And this gave him no peace, because the devil kept tempting him (giving him more and more temptations).  Do you belive that the devil exists? ... You are not so convinced?  I will tell your bishop to teach you ... Does the devil exist, yes or no?  (The people respond: Yes!).  And he goes, he goes everywhere, he places himself inside us, he tempts us, he torments us, he deceives us.  And he (Padre Pio), was afraid that the devil would attack him, drive him into sin.  He spoke about this with people, in letters and in person throughout the countryside: but only t the archpriest Father Salvatore Pannullo would he speak about almost everything including his desire to be enlightened (Letter 57, in Epistles I, p. 250), because he did not understand, he wanted to clarify what was happening in his soul.  He was a good man!

In those terrible moments, Padre Pio drew vial life from continual prayer and from the trust he placed in the Lord: All the ugly ghosts - he would say - that the devil is introducing into my mind disappear when I confidently abandon myself into the arms of Jesus.  This is an entire theology!  You have a problem, you are sad, you are sick: abandon yourself in the arms of Jesus.  And this is what he did.  He loved Jesus and he entrusted himself to Him.  He wrote to the Minister Provincial, saying that his heart felt attracted to a superior force before being united to Him sacramentally in the morning.  And this hunger and thirst, rather than remaining satisfied, after having received it, grew more and more (Letter 31, in Epistle I, page 217).  Padre Pio immersed himself in prayer in order to adhere to the divine plans.  Through the celebration of the Mass, which constituted the heart of every one of his days and the fullness of his spirituality, he reached a high level of union with the Lord.  In this period, he received special mystical gifts from above which preceded the manifestation of the signs of Christ's passion in his flesh.

Dear brothers and sisters of Pietrelcina and of the dioceses of Benevento, you count Saint Pio among the most beautiful and luminous figures of your people.  This humble Capuchin brother amazed the world with his life devoted to prayer and to patiently listening to his brothers; upon those sufferings he poured out the charity of Christ as a soothing balm.  By imitating his heroic example and his virtue, you too can become instruments of God's love, of Jesus' love for those who are weak.  At the same time, considering his unconditional fidelity to the Church, you will bear witness to communion, since only communion - that is always being united, in peace among ourselves, communion among us - can we build and construct.  A country that fights every day cannot grow, there can be no growth; people are scared.  Such a country is sick and sad.  However a country where people seek peace, where everyone loves each other - more or less, that is - at least that they don't wish ill for others, such a country, even if it is small, can grow and grow and grow, getting larger and larger and stronger and stronger.

Please don't waste time fighting among yourselves.  This doesn't accomplish anything.  It will never help you to grow!  It will never help you to go on.  Let us think about a child who is crying, crying, crying.  And when the mother puts him on the floor and he begins to crawl, he cries, cries ... and he returns to the cradle.  I ask you: will that baby ever be able to walk?  No, because he remains in his cradle!  If a friend of yours fights, fights, fights, will he ever be able to grow?  No, because he is constantly devoting all his energy to fighting.  Please: among yourselves, let there be communion among you.  And if any one of you should be tempted to gossip about another one, bite your tongue.  It will be good for you, good for your soul, because your tongue will swell up, but it will be good for you; and it will be good for your fellow citizens.  Give your testimony of communion.  I hope that this territory will be able to draw new life from the teachings of Padre Pio's life especially in times of difficulty such as these, while our population is progressively declining and growing older because many young people are forced to go elsewhere to look for work.  Migration among young people is a problem.  Pray to Our Lady, ask her to give you the grace you need so that young people can find work here, among you, close to their families, and that they won't be forced to go elsewhere in search of another way, and your area of the country will end up going down, down, down.  The population is growing older, but this is a treasure, the elderly are a treasure!  Please don't marginalize the elderly.  We should never marginalize the elderly, no.  The elderly are the source of wisdom.  And may the elderly learn to speak with young people, and may young people learn to speak with the elderly.  They have the wisdom of their country, the elderly.  When I arrived, I was very happy to meet one person who is 99 years old, and a young girl of 97.  This is beautiful!  These people are your wisdom!  Speak with them.  May they be protagonists of the growth of this country.  The intercession of your Holy fellow citizen will sustain your efforts to combine your strengths, in order to offer above all to younger generations concrete prospectives for a future of hope.  Don't miss an opportunity to pay prompt attention and to tenderly care for the elderly - as I have said - they are the heritage of a particular community.  At some point, I would love to see the Nobel prize won, just once, by an elderly person who has helped humanity to remember.

I encourage all of you to guard as a precious treasure the Christian and priestly testimony of Saint Pio di Pietrelcina: may it be for each of you an incentive to live your lives to the full, in the style of the Beatitudes and with the works of mercy.  May the Virgin Mary, who you venerate with the title of Our Lady of Freedom, help you to walk with joy on the path to holiness.  And please, pray for me, because I need your prayers.  Thank you!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Trial concluded

The canonical trial in the matter of accusations, including accusations of sexual abuse of minors, brought against the Most Reverend Anthony Sablan Apuron, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Agaña, Guam, has been concluded.

The Apostolic Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, composed of five judges, has issued its sentence of first instance, finding the accused guilty of certain of the accusations and imposing upon the accused the penalties of privation of office and prohibition of residence in the Archdiocese of Guam. The sentence remains subject to possible appeal. In the absence of an appeal, the sentence becomes final and effective. In the case of an appeal, the imposed penalties are suspended until final resolution.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

General Audience on the Our Father

This morning's General Audience began at 9:25am (4:25am EDT) in Saint Peter's Square, where the Holy Father, Pope Francis met with groups of pilgrims and the faithful from Italy and from every corner of the world.

In his speech, the Pope continued his catechesis on the Mass, adding a third meditation on the Liturgy of the Eucharist: the Our Father and the Fractioning Rite (breaking of bread).

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father offered greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.

The General Audience concluded with the chanting of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic blessing.

Catechesis of His Holiness, Pope Francis
for the General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

We continue with the Catechesis on the Mass.  At the Last Supper, after Jesus took the bread and the chalice of wine, and after he had given thanks to God, we know that he broke the bread.  This action corresponds, in the Eucharistic liturgy at the Mass, to the fractioning of the eucharistic bread, which is preceded by the prayer that the Lord has taught us, the one we call the Our Father.

This is the beginning of the Communion Rite, which prolongs by the praise and supplication offered in the Eucharistic prayer through the communal recitation of the Our Father.  This is not one of many Christian prayers but the prayer of the children of God: it is the great prayer that Jesus taught us.  In fact this prayer, which is presented to us on the day of our Baptism resounds within us with the same sentiments that were in Christ Jesus.  When we pray the Our Father, we pray like Jesus prayed.  This is the prayer that Jesus offered, and he taught it to us; when the disciples said to him: Master, teach us to pray like you pray.  Jesus used to pray like this.  It is beautiful to pray like Jesus prayed!  Instructed by his divine teachings, we dare to turn to God and call upon him as Father, since we are reborn as his children through water and the Holy Spirit (cf Eph 1:5).  In truth, no one can call God Abba without being inspired by God himself, without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as Saint Paul has taught us (cf Rom 8:15).  We must think: ono one can call God Father without being inspired to do so by the Spirit.  How often people say the Our Father, but don't really know what they are saying.  Yes, he is our Father, but do you feel that when you say Father, He is the Father, your Father, the Father of all humanity, the Father of Jesus Christ?  Do you have a relationship with this Father?  When we pray the Our Father, we connect with our Father who loves us, but it is the Spirit who provides this connection, this sentiment of being children of God.

What better prayer can there be than the one that Jesus taught to bring us into sacramental Communion with him?  In addition to the Mass, the Our Father is prayed, in the morning and at night, as part of Lauds (Morning Prayer) and Vespers (Evening Prayer); in this way, a filial attitude toward God and a sentiment of fraternity with our neighbour both contribute to giving our days a Christian format.

In the Lord's Prayer - in the Our Father - we ask for our daily bread, in which we see a particular reference to the Eucharistic Bread, which we need in order to live as children of God.  We also beg for the forgiveness of our sins, and to be worthy of receiving God's forgiveness as we forgive those who have sinned against us.  This is not easy.  To forgive a person who has offended us is not easy; it is a grace that we need to ask for: Lord, teach me to forgive as you have forgiven me.  This is a grace.  With our strength, we cannot do it: forgiveness is a grace we receive from the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, while we open our hearts to God, the Our Father also disposes us to fraternal love.  Finally, we call on God once again to free us from the evil, that separates us from Him and divides us from our brothers.  We are well aware that these requests are very suitable in preparation for the reception of holy Communion (cf General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 81).

In effect, what we ask for in the Our Father is prolonged in the prayer offered by the priest who, in the name of everyone present, begs: Deliver us, O Lord, from every evil; grant peace in our day.  And then he receives a kind of seal in the rite of peace: first of all, we call upon Christ for the gift of his peace (cf Jn 14:27) - which is very different from the peace that the world gives - asking that He may help the Church to grow in unity and peace - according to his will; then , with a concrete gesture that is exchanged among us, we express ecclesial communion and mutual love, before receiving the Sacrament of communion (GIRM, 82).  In the Roman rite, the exchange of a sign of peace, which since ancient times has preceded Communion, is aimed at creating and restoring Eucharistic communion.  According to Saint Paul's warning, it is not possible to be in communion with the one Bread that makes us one Body in Christ without recognizing ourselves as partakers in fraternal love (cf 1 Cor 10:16-17; 11:29).  The peace of Christ cannot take root in a heart that is incapable of living fraternally and of reassembling fraternity after having wounded it.  Peace is the gift of the Lord: He give us the grace of forgiving those who have offended us.

The gesture of peace is followed by the breaking of Bread, which from the time of the apostles has given its name to the entire celebration of the Eucharist (cf GIRM, 83; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1329).  Carried out by Jesus during the Last Supper, the breaking of Bread is the revealing gesture that allowed the disciples to recognize him after his resurrection.  We remember the disciples on the road to Emmaus who, while speaking about their encounter with the risen Christ, spoke about how they had recognized him in the breaking of the bread (cf Lk 24:30-31; 35).

The breaking of the Eucharistic bread is accompanied by the invocation of the Lamb of God, an image with which John the Baptist had indicated in Jesus the one who would take away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29).  The biblical image of the lamb speaks of redemption (cf Ex 12:1-14; Is 53:7; 1 Pt 1:19; Rev 7:14).  In the Eucharistic bread, broken for the life of the world, the assembly at prayer recognizes the true Lamb of God, who is the Redeemer Christ, and begs him: Have mercy on us ... grant us peace.

Have mercy on us, and grant us peace, are invocations that, from the prayer of the Our Father to the breaking of the Bread, help us to open our minds to participating in the Eucharistic banquet, the source of communion with God and with our brothers and sisters.

Let us not forget the great prayer: the prayer that Jesus taught, which is the prayer with which he himself prayed to the Father.  This is the prayer that prepares us to receive Communion.

The Holy Father's catechesis was then summarized in various languages and His Holiness offered greetings to each group of pilgrims in attendance.  To English-speaking pilgrims, he said:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from England, Ireland, Norway, Australia, China, Indonesia and the United States of America. With prayerful good wishes that this Lent will be a time of grace and spiritual renewal for you and your families, I invoke upon all of you joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you!

Pope meets Taoist delegation

At 8:45am today (3:45am EDT), before the General Audience in Saint Peter's Square, the Holy Father, Pope Francis met with a delegation of Taoists from the Bao'an Temple in Taipei (Taiwan).

Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
offered to the Taoist delegation

I thank you very much for your visit and for your words.  I am pleased with the work you are doing along with the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.  Yours is a dialogue not only about ideas; it is human dialogue, person to person, which helps everyone to grow, grow as persons, on our path of searching for the absolute, for God.  Thank you, thank you for your good will.  Thank you for your visit and thank you for your invitation to visit Taiwan.  I appreciate it very much.

May the Lord bless you all, and pray for me.