Pope Francis Gives Roman Curia 15 Lumps of Coal for Christmas

On December 22, 2014, Pope Francis did not pull back any punches in chastising the highest-ranking officials within the Vatican leadership: the Roman Curia.  I was surprised to read the sharp criticism.  It’s like Santa gave each of the Cardinals 15 pieces of coal as Christmas gifts.  I imagine many Cardinals felt embarrassed.  It must not have been easy for Pope Francis, either.  Color commentary said the Pope read straight from his script and did not look up with impromptu elaboration like he usually does.  The full English translation can be found on America Magazine.  Here is a summary of the 15 “diseases”:

Pope Francis Chastises Roman Curia
Pope Francis Chastises Roman Curia
  1. The sickness of considering oneself “immortal,” “indispensable” and lacking the necessary and habitual controls.  It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live forever and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves to be superior to others, rather than at their service.
  2. The sickness of excessive industriousness, or “Martha-ism,” is present in those who immerse themselves into work and neglect spending the better part sitting at Jesus’ feet (contemplative prayer).
  3. The sickness of mental and spiritual hardening occur in those who conceal themselves behind paper, who become working machines rather than of men of God.  These people cannot weep with those who weep, or rejoice with those who rejoice… sentiments that were present with Jesus Christ.
  4. The sickness of excessive planning and functionalism is when the apostle plans everything in detail and believes that things effectively progress with perfect planning.  They try to regulate or domesticate the Holy Spirit instead of being faithful to the Spirit’s freshness, imagination or innovation.
  5. The “sickness of poor coordination develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra of cacophony because the members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team”.
  6. Spiritual Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive decline of one’s spiritual faculties.  These are people who are incapable of carrying out certain activities autonomously, living in a state of absolute dependence on one’s own often imaginary views.  We see this in those who have lost their recollection of their encounter with the Lord, in those who build walls around themselves and who increasingly transform into slaves to the idols they have sculpted with their own hands”. [Ouch.]
  7. The sickness of rivalry and vainglory: when appearances, the color of one’s robes, insignia and honors become the most important aim in life.
  8. Existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by degrees or academic honors. This ailment particularly afflicts those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality and with real people. They create a parallel world of their own, where they set aside everything they teach with severity to others and live a hidden, often dissolute life”.
  9. The sickness of “chatter, grumbling and gossip: this is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord, like Satan, and in many cases cold-blooded murderers of the reputations of their colleagues and brethren. It is the sickness of the cowardly who, not having the courage to speak directly to the people involved, instead speak behind their backs”.
  10. The sickness of deifying leaders is typical of those who court their superiors, with the hope of receiving their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, honoring people rather than God. They are people who experience service thinking only of what they might obtain and not of what they should give. They are mean, unhappy and inspired only by their fatal selfishness”.
  11. The disease of indifference towards others arises when each person thinks only of himself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships. When the most expert does not put his knowledge to the service of less expert colleagues; when out of jealousy … one experiences joy in seeing another person instead of lifting him up or encouraging him”.
  12. The illness of the funereal face: or rather, that of the gruff and the grim, those who believe that in order to be serious it is necessary to paint their faces with melancholy and severity, and to treat others – especially those they consider inferior – with rigidity, hardness and arrogance. In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity”.
  13. The disease of accumulation: when the apostle seeks to fill an existential emptiness of the heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but simply to feel secure.
  14. The ailment of closed circles: when belonging to a group becomes stronger than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ Himself.
  15. Then, there is the “disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism: when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into goods to obtain worldly profits or more power. This is the disease of those who seek insatiably to multiply their power and are therefore capable of slandering, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally in order to brag and to show they are more capable than others”.

Text of Pope Francis’ homily at Christmas Mass

This is a beautiful Christmas homily.

There were two parts that particularly spoke to me:

(1) God is in love with our smallness… He made himself small so that we can encounter him.

(2) Do I welcome with warmth the difficulties and problems of those near me, or do I prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective, but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel?

The Amazing Pope Francis Interview

I nearly cried when I read how Pope Francis saw himself as the sinful tax collector Matthew called by Jesus to follow him.  He referred to Caravaggio’s painting The Calling of Saint Matthew and had this to say: “It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’  Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff.”  I guess I got emotional because I know how power and fame would go straight to my head, but here’s a man who is still filled with so much humility despite that power and fame.  He is living out the virtue of humility in the spotlight for folks like me to follow.

“The Calling of St. Matthew” by Caravaggio

The interview is as explosive as the commentators are making it out to be.  Although it’s rather long, I agree with others who say it is worth reading in full, and then again.  The original article can be found at America Magazine.

In his answer about why he chose the Jesuit order and why he decided on a room in the Santa Marta for his Papal Residence, I found myself asking myself why I’m a loner.  Am I really a loner?  Don’t I also yearn for community?  I think I hold onto this idea that I’m a loner as a badge of honor, something to be proud of because I never really fit in with the popular crowd.  It is probably closer to the truth that I desire to be a part of a group, but hold up this shield of being a loner as a defense.  I don’t want to get hurt when a group decides not to include me.

When Pope Francis talked about his management experience as a Jesuit superior of a province, I found myself reflecting on how I am as a manager.  Am I making the same mistakes?  How can I learn from the Pope’s mistakes?  While the virtue of magnanimity was a bit unclear, I think I understand what he was saying better when he described it:

Thanks to magnanimity, we can always look at the horizon from the position where we are. That means being able to do the little things of every day with a big heart open to God and to others. That means being able to appreciate the small things inside large horizons, those of the kingdom of God.

It’s easy for me to fall into the trap where I desire the bigger office, the corner office.  I even found myself thinking that a good act of humility would be to give up my current office to use as a conference room and take up a cubicle where I’m sharing the space with someone.  It would force me to go out and meet my team instead of waiting for my team to come and speak with me.

His emphasis on discernment is interesting to me.  When I first converted to the faith, I did not trust my discernment.  I always second-guessed myself and asked God to give me signs that this is what He wants me to do.  I guess I still do that.  What I found interesting was how doubt was important in the discernment process.  It’s as if there is a certainty in doubt, if that makes any sense.  By doubting whether a course is the right one, I seek God.  In seeking, I become certain of what God wants — all the while still doubting my motives!  It’s a paradox: the certainty in doubt, but it’s true.  I experienced it when I asked God about Anne Marie, whether she was His choice to be my wife.  [I should blog about that sometime.]

I loved the section when he talked about a “holy middle class.”  It’s true that modern saints like Saint Therese, Mother Teresa, or Jose Maria Escrivá lived lives that may seem far out of reach, the poor working holy class doubting he can ever become a part of the “holy upper class.”  I should not fear because it’s still possible to strive for a middle class in holiness:

“I see the holiness,” the pope continues, “in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity.”

That first example is poignant: a woman who is raising children.  I definitely see the sanctity shine in my wife when she’s with our girls.  She has her flaws of course, but I see her shine with holiness as a mother.  It’s humbling and very inspiring.  And, it makes me love her greatly!

I remember another living saint who once told me, “Don’t be turned off by the hypocrites.  A church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners.”  So, when I read Pope Francis’ extension of that analogy, I really could relate:

…the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds….

Apparently, there were commentators who wanted to “clarify” what the Pope meant when he said “Who am I to judge?” when it came to homosexuals.  Those commentators wanted to think the Pope meant only priests who were gay.  In the interview, it was clear his sentiments applied to all homosexuals:

A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’  We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.

I like this focus on the person and on relationships.  We don’t learn truths from books, we learn them through encounters with people.  We may intellectually understand a truth as it is presented in a book, but we don’t really learn it until we live it in the context of relationships (i.e., redemptive suffering via marriage; the inner life of the Trinity via parenthood; virtue of humility via friendships, etc.)

Pope Francis said so much more that his interview is worth reading, again.  I think his words have already begun a change in me, something I know I should eventually do when the time is right.

Pope takes classic Renault for spin, leaves security in the dust

This is a beautiful little story of Pope Francis and his love for his pastors and sheep.

My Highlights and Notes from Lumen Fidei (Part 3 of 3)


I have a lot of highlights and notes from Lumen Fidei.  Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here.  As before, my own remarks are [in bold & italics].

Faith makes us appreciate the architecture of human relationships because it grasps their ultimate foundation and definitive destiny in God, in his love, and thus sheds light on the art of building; as such it becomes a service to the common good.  … it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope.  (LF 51)  [Pope Francis then goes on to highlight Heb 11:33 and 1 Sam 12:3-5; 2 Sam 8:15.  Specifically, how faith helped the rulers be just and provide wisdom that brings peace to the people governed.]

As salvation history progresses, it becomes evident that God wants to make everyone share as brothers and sisters in that one blessing, which attains its fullness in Jesus, so that all may be one….  Faith teaches us to see that every man and woman represents a blessing for me, that the light of God’s face shines on me through the faces of my brothers and sisters….  Thanks to faith we have come to understand the unique dignity of each person, something which was not clearly seen in antiquity….  At the heart of biblical faith is God’s love, his concrete concern for every person, and his plan of salvation which embraces all of humanity and all creation, culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  (LF 54)

Here is the concluding prayer for Lumen Fidei:

Let us turn in prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of our faith.

Mother, help our faith!

Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call.

Awaken in us a desire to follow in his footsteps, to go forth from our own land and to receive his promise.

Help us to be touched by his love, that we may touch him in faith.

Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him and to believe in his love, especially at times of trial, beneath the shadow of the cross, when our faith is called to mature.

Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One.

Remind us that those who believe are never alone.

Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path.  And may this light of faith always increase in us, until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!

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