No longer alone

“How is it possible to believe that God, who is considered by religions to be infinite and all-powerful, can make Himself so small?”

“The Greek Fathers called it syncatabasis, divine condescension, that is: God coming down to be with us.  It is one of God’s mysteries.  Back in 2000, in Bethlehem, John Paul II said God became a child who was entirely dependent on the care of a father and mother.  This is why Christmas gives us so much joy.  We don’t feel alone anymore; God has come down to be with us.”  (Pope Francis)

The man Pope Francis kissed is all of us

Reblogging from Elizabeth Scalia:

“I am not contagious”: Vinicio Riva on Francis’ Kiss

November 18, 2013 By  

Everyone remembers this gentleman, and this beautiful moment, one that has lingered in our awareness so well that weeks later, we are still reading, writing and talking about it,still processing it:

When these pictures burst upon the scene, Max Lindenman, in a thoughtful post, wondered (worried?) whether the man’s anonymity might tempt us to dismiss his human reality.

But I do wish I knew more about him — his name, his nationality, his employment history, how faith and doubt play out in his life, any detail that tends to mark him as an individual. Through no fault of his own, he comes off in its absence like a prop, a flat character in a story called How Francis Transformed the Papacy.

In the story, his purpose, his job, is to be merely pitiable — or worse. The Kindness Blog’s headline refers to him as “Horribly Disfigured Man”; to UCatholic, he’s “Severely Disfigured Man.” Vatican Insider’s copy is a little more delicate, bumping up his status to “man plagued with neurofibromatosis.” But the line following the photo — “Pope Francis’ humanity shone [sic] through once again as he kissed a man’s disfigured face” — gives the game away. And it’s the same old game. We’re meant to understand that nobody but a saint would touch the guy with a ten-foot pole.

Finally, we know his name, and it all becomes even more real.

Vinicio Riva, whose head and neck are covered with tumors due to a rare disease, told an Italian magazine that his disfigured appearance has led to a lifetime of living on the margins. […]

Riva, who lives in Vicenza in northern Italy, said he suffers from neurofibromatosis Type 1, which causes painful tumors to grow throughout his body. His younger sisters and late mother also suffered from the rare disease, Riva told Panorama.

The first signs of the disease began when he was 15, Riva said, and since then, he has often felt ostracized because of his unusual appearance.

But the Pope showed no sign of discomfort as he approached, said Riva. Instead, the pontiff’s face broke into a calm smile.

“But what most astonished me is that he didn’t think twice on embracing me,” Riva said. “I’m not contagious, but he didn’t know. He just did it; he caressed all my face, and while he was doing that, I felt only love.”

Vinicio Riva has been marginalized for much of his life, because of his appearance; now he is celebrated and made known. In one of those great paradoxes of faith, the very malady that had pushed him to the edges of society was the thing that brought him into contact with the great, unnerving, liberating mystery that is love unnarrowed and unleashed, and all in the sight of the whole world.

Rather than instinctively looking away from Vinicio Riva; we now can’t take our eyes off of him, so fascinated are we by the revelation of love’s awe-full beauty, and the way it renders adorable what had previously seemed unlovable. Though we are afraid, we want it, too.

Pondering of all of this in the light of our broken, disfigured souls, we may literally tremble. I know I do. As physically unattractive as I am, it is my interior ugliness that often makes me feel repellent — to myself, to God, to the world — and it is the greater weight I drag as I wander the peripheries and wonder how much love I dare lay claim to.

And yet. . .here is hope, even for one as damaged and ghastly as I, in all my dark sins. This moment between Francis and Vinicio is just a small revelation of the love we are promised in the light of Christ. If this tiny apocalypse of pure love has us entranced and moved, what might the whole glory of it be were we to permit an unrestricted Christ-kiss to our souls?

We can’t even imagine it without becoming a little breathless, and yes, overwhelmed. It is promised to us. Dare we believe that with our whole hearts, and let it draw us into revelation?

Vinicio Riva is not contagious, but I really hope the love unleashed in that stark moment in Saint Peter’s Square becomes a kind of viral contagion — one that makes us so “sick with love” that we are (again, in divine paradox) cleansed, healed and made whole; slower to reject others, and faster to respect them; tempering our own harsh sell-assessments with a prudent, not indulgent, measure of mercy.

In front of more weakness

Continuing from yesterday’s post:

Secondly, I would emphasize his gentleness with people, especially his mercy.  I have to say that the priest Bergoglio has a very great sense of mercy.  Bergoglio is capable of forgiving what one might not be able to forgive himself.  I have always said that whoever hits bottom, whoever it may be, in Bergoglio he will find shelter, and it continues to be like that today.  This is true for whoever it may be, from your best friend to your worst enemy.  In front of more weakness, Bergoglio works better, in a strange spiritual equation, so to speak.  So if I would have to single out only one thing that remains with me–even though I do not know if I practice it, I am nevertheless grateful for it–it is his sense of mercy.  Very few times have I seen mercy at the depths to which he lives it . . .

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First to prayer

If you’re like me, you just want to read anything you can about Pope Francis.  I am currently reading Pope Francis, Our Brother, Our Friend: Personal Recollections about the Man Who Became Pope.  It is a collection of interviews with twenty people who are well acquainted with him.  This first selection is by Father Ángel Rossi.  Father Bergoglio was in charge of his formation during his years of studies.  Here is the beginning of his reflection:

What I always remember about the figure of Bergoglio is that he was a spiritual man, a man of prayer.  Bergoglio is a “pray-er:” a man who brings things first to prayer. Without wanting to go around measuring with a stopwatch, I would say that he prayed for at least three hours per day, and I’m sure he continues doing it because he is an early riser.  When we would get up at 6:30 or 7:00 to go to Mass, Bergoglio would have already prayed and already washed the sheets and towels for 150 Jesuits in the laundry room.  He would have already washed them and already hung them up when we were only just starting to get on our feet.

To be continued tomorrow . . . .

Hope is a risky virtue

Pope Francis on hope:

Vatican City, October 29, 2013 ( Junno Arocho Esteves

During his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today, Pope Francis reflected on the nature of hope, saying that it is not optimism but rather “an eager expectation towards the revelation of the Son of God.” The Holy Father drew his words from the first reading of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

The Pope emphasized that hope does not disappoint, it is secure. However, the Holy Father clarified to have hope does not meant to be optimistic. “Hope is not an optimism, it is not the capacity to see things with a good spirit and go forward. No, that is optimism, it is not hope. Nor is hope a positive attitude in front of things,” the Pope said. “This is good! But it is not hope.”

“It is not easy to understand what is hope. It is said that it is the most humble of the three virtues, because it is hidden in life. Faith is seen, is felt, it is known what it is. Charity can be one, it is known what it is. But what is hope? What is this attitude of hope? To approach this a bit, we can say firstly that hope is a risk, it is a risky virtue, it is a virtue, as Saint Paul says, ‘of an eager expectation towards the revelation of the Son of God.’ It is not an illusion.”

Pope Francis went on to explain that the early Christians depicted hope as an anchor that is fixed on the shore of the afterlife. The goal of a Christian is to walk towards this anchor. The Holy Father then asked those present to contemplate on where are they anchored in there own lives.

“Are we anchored just beyond the shore of that ocean far away or are we anchored in an artificial lagoon, that we have made ourselves, with our rules, our behaviors, our schedules, our clericalism, our ecclesiastical attitudes, not ecclesial? Are we anchored there? All comfortable, all secure That is not hope.”

Another image of this hope the Holy Father said that St. Paul indicates is that of going into labor. Hope, he stressed, is within this “dynamic of giving life.” The fruits of this labor, however, are unseen. The Holy Father compared this image of St. Paul to the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“I think of Mary, a young girl, when after hearing that she was a mother, her attitude changes and she goes, she helps and sings that hymn of praise,” the Pope said.

“When a woman becomes pregnant, she is a woman, but she is never (only) just a woman: she is a mother. And hope is something like this. It changes our attitude: it is us, but we are not ourselves; it is us, looking over there, anchored over there.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis addressed a group of Mexican priests who were present at the Mass celebrating their 25th anniversary of priestly ordination. “Ask Our Lady, Mother of hope, that your years be years of hope, to live as priests of hope,” he said to them.

(October 29, 2013) © Innovative Media Inc.

God walks at our Pace

Pope Francis: God Walks At Our Pace

Reflects on Patience of Gods Action in Our Lives

Vatican City, June 28, 2013 (Zenit.orgJunno Arocho Esteves |

During his homily at Mass in the chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae this morning, Pope Francis reflected on the action of God in one’s life.

The Holy Father compared the experiences of the protagonists of the two readings of the day. The first reading recounted God’s promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah while the Gospel recounted Jesus’ curing of a leper.

“The Lord slowly enters the life of Abraham, who is 99 years old when He promises him a son. Instead He immediately enters the life of the leper; Jesus listens to his prayer, touches him and performs a miracle,” the Holy Father said.

“When the Lord intervenes, He does not always do so in the same way. There is no ‘set protocol’ of action of God in our life”, “it does not exist “. Once he intervenes in one way, another time in a different way but He always intervenes. There is always this meeting between us and the Lord.”

The Pope went on to say that the Lord always chooses what way is best to enter our lives. For some, God may act slowly; sometimes so slowly that “we are in danger of losing our patience.”

“Other times, when we think of what the Lord has promised us, that it such a huge thing, we don’t believe it, we are a little skeptical, like Abraham – and we smile a little to ourselves … This is what it says in the First Reading, Abraham hid his face and smiled … A bit ‘of skepticism:’ What? Me? I am almost a hundred years old, I will have a son and my wife at 90 will have a son?”

The Holy Father also noted Sarah’s skepticism, when the three angels visited Abraham and promised a son, saying that we also become impatient or skeptical when God doesn’t intervene or perform a miracle when we want to.

“But He does not, He cannot for skeptics,” the Pope said. “The Lord takes his time. But even He, in this relationship with us, has a lot of patience. Not only do we have to have patience: He has! He waits for us! And He waits for us until the end of life! Think of the good thief, right at the end, at the very end, he acknowledged God. The Lord walks with us, but often does not reveal Himself, as in the case of the disciples of Emmaus. The Lord is involved in our lives – that’s for sure! – But often we do not see. This demands our patience. But the Lord who walks with us, He also has a lot of patience with us.”

Contemplating on the mystery of God’s patience, the Holy Father stated that God “walks at our pace.” Life’s troubles, he said, at times become so dark that it makes us want to come down from the cross.”

“This is the precise moment: the night is at its darkest, when dawn is about to break. And when we come down from the Cross, we always do so just five minutes before our liberation comes, at the very moment when our impatience is greatest “.

“Jesus on the Cross, heard them challenging him: ‘Come down, come down! Come ‘. Patience until the end, because He has patient with us. He always enters, He is involved with us, but He does so in His own way and when He thinks it’s best,” the Pope concluded.

“He tells us exactly what He told Abraham: Walk in my presence and be blameless’, be above reproach, this is exactly the right word. Walk in my presence and try to be above reproach. This is the journey with the Lord and He intervenes, but we have to wait, wait for the moment, walking always in His presence and trying to be beyond reproach. We ask this grace from the Lord, to always walk in His presence, trying to be blameless’.”