On January 20th 2015, at the Jesuit University of Santa in Santa Clara Californian, Cardinal Rodriguez (who is the head of the cardinal’s council to advise the pope), gave a presentation on what “Model” Pope Francis has for the Catholic Church. He says that the Church is to be a mother to whom all people can come home to and be healed from all their wounds, (like a hospital or home). And this mother is full of love and mercy. But he forgets that any good mother also corrects and disciplines.
Although his “Model Mother” is very harsh with anyone who is traditional like the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate.
Here are what I consider the important parts of the long address. The next blog will have the whole address for those who have the time to read it all. Even these passages are long too, but very necessary to take time to study to be able to talk with all the Catholics (and non Catholics), who are in deeply enamored with everything the pope says.
We agree totally with mercy and love being the center of Catholicism, but we also believe in justice and that sin causes all the casualties Pope Francis wants to heal. If you get rid of sin, you will not need to have a hospital church. We also need to talk about where the casualties of war come from: the three enemies,
- The devil.
- The flesh.
- The world.
If we do not deal with these enemies, we will just continue to pick up the dead and hospitalize the wounded.
One example in this address is the parable of the 99 good sheep left while the shepherd goes out in search of the one lost. But they never say anything about the following verses about the rejoicing in heaven over the one sinner repenting. When the Church welcomes sinners without conversion, is only relieves the symptom and but does nothing to cure the decease.
Cardinal Rodriguez also talks about the Synod and changes made in the Church from Vatican II. You can use these quotes with all the neo-cats who deny that Vatican II changed anything. But what is sad, is that you can see that Pope Francis does not think the changes worked, so now new changes have to made again.
It all reminds me so so much of our current president who won on popularity from his promises to make changes.
The Church of Mercy with Pope Francis
“It is not just Christ’s pain and his passion that redeem, it is not just the cross that saves us: his pain, his passion and his cross have redeeming power because of Love. It is then Christ’s crucified Love that gives back meaning to human existence and elevates it to the dignity from which sin deprived it and that Jesus’ decision, dying for love in the cross, recovered.
If the world experienced how big God’s love and salvation initiative are, all temples would be filled with people asking for the holy sacraments of Confession, Baptism, Anointing of the Sick and Eucharist. Priests would not be able to handle such a need for absolution, blessing or communion since entire multitudes —convinced of that infinite love of God, origin of salvation—, would understand that truth and life have a name: Jesus. And his name is Love.
That is why the Pope says, “Only love fills the void,” Which void? Superficiality, noise, alienation of the heart that hardens when it lets itself be taken over by consumerism, love for money, the culture of death, the maelstrom of pleasure in all its forms, the drugs and the life without God. If man’s void was filled with God’s mercy and mercy could be experienced in the Church, nobody would abandon their parish, temples would be packed with faithful, seminaries would be filled with young men that would leave the field of daily worries to devote themselves to serve God and console their brothers. This is not idyllic nor poetic, it is as realistic as the pain that only love can heal. Void cannot be filled with another void. It has to be filled with content and realities that can sublimate and explain them. That is why the answer that man—wounded—seeks as the ultimate meaning of his existence only exists in God.
If people were to find a Church close to the people, compassionate, a companion, identified with the bleeding pain of so many “sick” and terminally ill lives, the Church of Christ, the Church that Pope Francis presides today, would be more credible and necessary.
It is starting from God’s mercy how we reach man. That is why every honest meeting with the existential reality of man takes place under the sign of mercy. It is either mercy or judgment. And the Church is not here to judge, condemn, reproach or reject anybody but to embrace as in a home where love reigns for everybody who needs it.
When Christ was Incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made Man (cf. Nicene’s Creed), he took as his all human beings reality, all their miseries to redeem them and save what was lost. He did it in a way that where there was man in his circumstances, where there was a person conditioned by his or her own existential environment, where life weighs and existence hurts, where depression and absurdity stand out, God’s love arrives, repeating what the Pope said, “the attitude of God in contact with human misery, with our poverty, our suffering, our anguish,” (idem). God does not become absent from man. Instead, moved by mercy, He has an eternal appointment with him to heal his misery and proclaim about each life and about each history a new hope made up of forgiveness, comprehension and deep tenderness. This type of God wants this type of Church.
Specifically, there is no true ecclesial renovation without a transformation of the institutions; of the quality and focus of the activities; of the mystic and the spiritual. Usually, renovation begins with pastoral activities. For it is there where the inconsistencies of a certain “model” of the Church and reality are primarily experienced. The missionaries, the evangelists on the “margins” of the Church, are the first ones to notice the insufficiency of the “traditional” ways of action; the pastoral criticism begins with the experience of the mission in the “peripheries.” Changes and adjustments begin there.
After Vatican Council II, the methods and content of evangelization and Christian education change. The liturgy changes: local languages are adopted, some rituals and symbols change, measurements are taken for a greater participation, etc. The missionary perspective changes: the missionary must know the culture, the human situation; the missionary must establish an evangelizing dialogue with those realities. “Social action” changes, it is no longer just charity and development services but also struggle for justice, human rights and liberation…
The Council propelled institutional renovations, following the logic of the Spirit. These reforms encompass all levels of the ecclesial organization: the religious congregations or missionary societies —whose “Chapters of Renovation” multiply— the diocesan and Vatican Curia, Episcopal Conferences, the Synods, the parishes, the pastoral areas, the presbyteries, the lay apostolic institutions, the teaching of theology, the seminaries, the catholic schools… New institutions for missionary dialogue emerge: ecumenism, Jews, other religions… Everything in the Church changes consistent with a renewed pastoral model.
Maybe some thought that the Church renovation was only that. But the institutional and functional changes —alone in themselves— proved insufficient, superficial. Sometimes they created new problems and crises both unnecessary and deep. Any change in the Church eventually requires considering a renovation of the motivations that the new options inspire. Without deep-rooted, living and explicit motivations, no human group, no institution and no society can survive for a long time, much less renovate itself. Motivations answer to the fundamental “why” of the options, the enterprises, the demands, and the same reason for being of the institution.
The Pope wants to take this Church renovation to the point where it becomes irreversible. The wind that propels the sails of the Church towards the open sea of its deep and total renovation is Mercy.
The institutional and functional renovation of the Church requires a renovation of its mystical dimension. And at the roots of the mystical is mercy.
Spirituality is not a science nor one more praxis in the Church. It is the “nourishment” of the pastoral, the theology and the community, whatever their “model” is.
When this was forgotten by the process of ecclesial renovation, this caused “schizophrenia” in some Christians, which is one of the causes of many failures. In a short time, they progressed in all of the levels of the renovation. They changed many pastoral, theological, and disciplinary categories. The image and the mission of the Church changed. Likewise, its concept that related faith with history and society changed; therefore the social and political options became more important.
In this context, there was no mystical renovation and it remained “traditional,” consistent with another vision of the faith and of the mission, and inconsistent with the new ecclesial experiences.
In the Gospel, the pastor who goes out goes to seek the lost sheep – he could keep accounts like a good businessman. [He could say]: ‘Ninety-nine sheep, if I lose one, it’s no problem; the balance sheet – gains and losses. But it’s fine, we can get by.’ No, he has the heart of a shepherd, he goes out and searches for [the lost sheep] until he finds it, and then he rejoices, he is joyful.”
“When the Church does not do this, then the Church stops herself, is closed in on herself, even if she is well organized, has a perfect organizational chart, everything’s fine, everything’s tidy – but she lacks joy, she lacks peace, and so she becomes a disheartened Church, anxious, sad, a Church that seems more like a spinster than a mother, and this Church doesn’t work, it is a Church in a museum. The joy of the Church is to give birth; the joy of the Church is to go out of herself to give life; the joy of the Church is to go out to seek the sheep that are lost; the joy of the Church is precisely the tenderness of the shepherd, the tenderness of the mother.”
“May the Lord give us the grace of working, of being joyful Christians in the fruitfulness of Mother Church, and keep us from falling into the attitude of these sad Christians, impatient, disheartened, anxious, that have all the perfection in the Church, but do not have ‘children.’ May the Lord console us with the consolation of a Mother Church that goes out of herself and consoles us with the consolation of the tenderness of Jesus and His mercy in the forgiveness of our sins.”
Many identified as the unique and fundamental topic, issues that were merely secondary. For example, we did not talk only about giving “communion” to re-married Christians —that was a collateral argument, it was never essential. What was really said, and I repeat and emphasize, is that the realities of dissolved and rebuilt families are not an impediment to live and participate in the abundant life of the Church; that the “sacramental communion” is not the only way to vitally participate in the pastoral dynamic of the parish community and that every Christian couple that seeks God will find Him because he allows Himself to be found and that every re-married Christian can be a full-time Christian, has a right to be happy, and his house can become also a place where the love of God is born witness.
For me, there is no “place in the basement” of the Church for Catholics that have wanted to rebuild their lives having remarried, though they cannot receive the Sacrament of Communion; there is no corner in attic for migrants that do not have documents in order and want to prepare their children in the sacraments of Christian Initiation; there is no special window in Heaven to assist those who have left the Catholic Church and have gone to other places seeking the warmth, refuge and respect that their mother has not been able to provide.
All these are challenges to our conscience and a strong and tough demand to our parish practices that are so rigid and narrow-minded. That is why the Pope said to be careful not to turn the parish and episcopal offices into “customs.” And he is completely right. (Santa Marta, May 25, 2013). To remember the whole message, I quote: “We are many times ‘controllers of faith,’ instead of becoming ‘facilitators’ of the faith of the people,” lamented the Pope during his daily mass at Santa Marta’s Guest House in the Vatican. In his homily that was broadcasted by Vatican Radio, the Argentine Pope mentioned a priest who refused to baptize the son of a single mother, “this girl who had the courage to carry her pregnancy (…) and what does she find? A closed door,” affirmed the Pope.
Nobody is excluded from the Church of Christ. There is a place for everybody, for the migrants, for those who one day abandoned the Church but come back convinced that they can stay forever, for those married-divorced-remarried, for the poor, for everybody. Within these categories fall those that Francis calls “the least”, when he encourages: “The Church must step outside herself. To go where? To the outskirts of existence, whatever they may be. If we step outside ourselves we find poverty. We cannot put up with this! We cannot become starched Christians, those over-educated Christians who speak of theological matters as they calmly sip their tea. No! We must become courageous Christians and go in search of the people who are the very flesh of Christ, those who are the flesh of Christ!” Read whole address here. scu.edu