Pope Francis Mentions Abortion in Gaudete et Exsultate, With a Prayer From Pope Benedict

In 2018 Pope Francis and the Vatican issued an official Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete Et Exsultate, or in English, On the Call to Holiness In Today’s World.  In the spirit of Vatican II, Pope Francis is not only addressing Catholics, he is addressing the challenges all Christians face when living in the modern world.  This is an official Vatican document, which means that there is collegial support in the Vatican and the Catholic Church for the basic contents of this exhortation.

Vox has an article that accurately describes the words of Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation, discussing various excerpts from this official Catholic document.  There are many Catholic press discussions of Gaudete Et Exsultate, but for this topic, the Vox article is well written and very friendly to Catholic concerns.
https://www.vox.com/2018/4/11/17220108/pope-francis-catholics-conservative-abortion-gaudete-exsultate-twitter-church-apostolic-exhortation

The Vox article has a subhead: The Pope says you should get off Twitter.  The spiritual dangers of yelling and screaming and bullying on social is definitely discussed, we must always remember that whatever we say on social media should make the world a slightly better place, that we should strive always for whatever we post on social media will increase in all of us greater love for our neighbor and our Love for God, so we can truly Love God with all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our mind and with all of our strength.  We should always strive to enhance the reputation of our neighbor, realizing that this does not in any way prohibit us from criticizing the political philosophy and moral character of anyone running for political office.

IDEOLOGIES STRIKING AT THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL

This subheading is taken directly from Gaudete Et Exsultate, this is the section that mentions abortion.  The official English translation from the Vatican is not hard to read, anyone with a high-school education can and should read it for themselves, anyone who reads the exhortation will become a slightly better person and will be closer to God, whether or not they are Catholic.  When you read any Vatican II or post-Vatican II official document online, you will learn more if you open the text in one browser tab, and scan the footnotes at the bottom of the text in a second browser.  These footnotes are important: these are avenues for further study, and spiritual studies help you to become a mature Christian.

This exhortation is written as a personal exhortation from Pope Francis himself, and we will quote in full all paragraphs from this section:
100. “I (Pope Francis) regret that ideologies lead us at times to two harmful errors. On the one hand, there is the error of those Christians who separate these Gospel demands from their personal relationship with the Lord, from their interior union with him, from openness to his grace. Christianity thus becomes a sort of NGO (non-government organization) stripped of the luminous mysticism so evident in the lives of Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Vincent de Paul, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, and many others. For these great saints, mental prayer, the love of God and the reading of the Gospel in no way detracted from their passionate and effective commitment to their neighbors, quite the opposite.”

Why the emphasis on mental prayer?  Often Catholics follow the Protestant lead preferring off-the-cuff quick prayers of whatever is on our mind, or some simple prayer we say over and over again, like table grace.  But here Pope Francis mentions mental prayer and the saints, he exhorts us to recite the prayers in our prayer books composed by the mystics and the saints, which we can then follow with our personal prayers.

Pope Francis continues:
101. “The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist. Or they relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend.”

“Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development.”

“Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.  We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty.”

We split up the paragraph to emphasize this point made by Pope Francis.  Catholics should not be one-issue voters, even when that one issue is abortion, but if Catholics do wish to be one-issue voters, that one issue should be social justice, which includes abortion and concern for the poor, the sick, the elderly, .  Black lives indeed matter very much to the Church.

Recently the priest at my church made it very clear that nobody should talk politics at church, that both the Republican and Democratic Party were both equally inimical to Christian ideals, but yet he decided to devote an entire Sunday’s homily on abortion.  This was a disconnect, abortion is both a political and a moral issue.  At coffee hour I asked a black friend what he thought of the sermon.  His response: In America, does the right to life terminate at birth?

Pope Francis continues:
102. “We often hear it said that, with respect to relativism and the flaws of our present world, the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue. Some Catholics consider it a secondary issue compared to the ‘grave’ bioethical questions. That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian, for whom the only proper attitude is to stand in the shoes of those brothers and sisters of ours who risk their lives to offer a future to their children. Can we not realize that this is exactly what Jesus demands of us, when he tells us that in welcoming the stranger, we welcome him (cf. Mt 25:35)? Saint Benedict did so readily, and though it might have “complicated” the life of his monks, he ordered that all guests who knocked at the monastery door be welcomed ‘like Christ, with a gesture of veneration’; the poor and pilgrims were to be met with ‘the greatest care and solicitude’.”

The Rule 53 of St Benedict cited in the footnotes include this instruction regarding how we should treat the poor, disadvantaged, and immigrants, regardless of their technical legal status:
“In the reception of the poor and of pilgrims
the greatest care and solicitude should be shown,
because it is especially in them that Christ is received;
for as far as the rich are concerned,
the very fear which they inspire
wins respect for them.”[1]

St Francis elaborates on the need for Christians to be compassionate to all immigrants:
103. “A similar approach is found in the Old Testament: ‘You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt’ (Ex 22:21). ‘When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt’ (Lev 19:33-34). This is not a notion invented by some Pope, or a momentary fad. In today’s world too, we are called to follow the path of spiritual wisdom proposed by the prophet Isaiah to show what is pleasing to God. “’Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.’ (58:7-8)”

Pope Francis invokes the story of how the Lord said to Moses, Go down to Egypt land, and tell old pharaoh to let my people go.  This particular Bible story ro Exodus provided great comfort to the negro slaves as the slaved in the cotton fields, these particular lyrics are what the negro slaves sung in the fields to give them hope in their lives, this is Louis Armstrong singing this memorable Negro spiritual:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vf6jBP4YXwo

We wrote a series of blogs on black civil rights and how race and slavery has dominated American politics from the time of the abolitionists in the 1830’s up until the present day:
http://www.seekingvirtueandwisdom.com/american-civil-rights-history-yale-lecture-notes/
http://www.seekingvirtueandwisdom.com/post-civil-war-reconstruction-and-redemption-history-yale-lecture-notes/
http://www.seekingvirtueandwisdom.com/stories-of-how-slaves-helped-the-union-win-the-civil-war-yale-lecture-notes/
http://www.seekingvirtueandwisdom.com/american-slavery-and-the-abolitionists-yale-lecture-notes/

Another Southern gospel song agrees with Pope Francis that we cannot Love God unless we love our neighbor, and if there are neighbors we stubbornly refuse to love, then we can never truly Love God with all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epArSqlMQ-E

We do not Love God on Sundays if we do not love our neighbors and try to help them on Mondays, black lives do matter.  Pope Francis is one of my favorite popes just as St Augustine is one of my favorite saints because he likes to explicitly reminds us that we do not Love God if we do not love our neighbor, this is the number one failing of white Christians today.

Pope Francis also reminds us that in the Holy Scriptures love and charity are one and the same, they are synonymous, you cannot love your neighbor and not show charity to your neighbor.  Earlier in Gaudete Et Exsultate Pope Francis states need to love our neighbor:
60. (Pope Francis reminds us that) “there is a hierarchy of virtues that bids us seek what is essential. The primacy belongs to the theological virtues, which have God as their object and motive. At the center is charity. Saint Paul says that what truly counts is ‘faith working through love’ (Gal 5:6). We are called to make every effort to preserve charity: ‘The one who loves another has fulfilled the law… for love is the fulfilment of the law’ (Rom 13:8.10). ‘For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal 5:14).

COMPASSION ENCOURAGES MORALITY, LACK OF COMPASSION ENCOURAGES CRUELTY

Pope Francis has publicly called out Trump, accusing him of pro-life hypocrisy when his policies show deliberate cruelty to immigrants, and the poor, and other disadvantaged in our society:
https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/09/pope-francis-trump-daca

One of signal articles in the Atlantic magazine during Trump’s term is titled: The Cruelty is the point, how Trump and his supporters find community by rejoicing in the suffering of those they hate and fear:
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/the-cruelty-is-the-point/572104/

The editor of Christianity Today warns all Christians that if the Church is seen as identifying itself with the cruelties and un-Christian policies of the Trump regime, the reputation of the Church can be grievously harmed:
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/trump-should-be-removed-from-office.html

A similar editorial has been published in the American magazine, the national Jesuit Review:
https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2020/09/15/president-donald-trump-threat-constitution-election-2020

When I wrote a blog on how a Christian Democrat can ponder abortion, I tried my best to encourage my fellow Christians to view WITH COMPASSION those mothers who are forced by life’s many miseries and challenges to consider abortion.  Most of those who commented bitterly that I was condoning abortion did not really seem to read the opening paragraphs, or much of the blog, as expected.  I started the blog with these opening words:
KILLING BABIES IS SINFUL!  Killing babies is immoral!  Killing babies is murderous!  Killing babies is an activity that only the LOST would enjoy!

There, I got it off my chest.  I DO NOT BELIEVE IN KILLING BABIES.  I AM NOT A BABY KILLER.  I just wanted to assure you, dear Gentle Reader, that I am just not fond of killing babies, nor should anyone else be fond of killing babies.  This is most certainly true, this is indeed a moral certainty, indeed nobody should enjoy killing babies.

Why am I being so shouty and capitalizing and repetitive about this point?  Because many of my Christian friends only want to see the short memes, if they come across a serious and longish article that even suggests that these expectant mothers, many of whom who are facing an incredibly vexing life decision, need our understanding and compassion, many of my Christian friends would jump knee-jerk to the conclusion that the author must think it is OKAY TO KILL BABIES.  They judge that morally abortion is a very simple moral issue, that anyone who seeks an in-depth discussion of abortion is morally suspect.
http://www.seekingvirtueandwisdom.com/a-democrat-christian-ponders-abortion-and-morality/

PROCEEDINGS OF APARECIDA: FIFTH CONFERENCE OF LATIN AMERICAN BISHOPS

Paragraph 100 of Gaudete Et Exsultate quoted above references the address of Pope Benedict XVI when he addressed Aparecida, which in English means Appeared, a recent conference of Latin American bishops in 2007:
http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2007/may/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20070513_conference-aparecida.html
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who would later become Pope Francis, chaired the committee that drafted the final document of this conference.  In

America magazine wrote an excellent article on Pope Francis and his role in this important conference:
https://www.americamagazine.org/trail-aparecida

America magazine says this about the message of Aparecida:
“’Do not forget the poor.’ Aparecida did not forget them. The conference used a typical expression of the theological and pastoral tradition of Latin America: ‘the preferential option for the poor and the marginalized.’ Chapter 8 of Aparecida’s final document is precisely devoted to a reflection on the relationship between God’s kingdom and the dignity of human beings. The document says: ‘We pledge to work harder, so our Latin American and Caribbean Church may continue to accompany our poorest brothers on their journey, even to martyrdom. Today, we want to confirm and promote the option of preferential love for the poor.’  Concern for the poor is not optional.  Also, Pope Benedict summarizes in one phrase what has been a constant in Latin American theological reflection: ‘the preferential option for the poor is implicit in the Christological faith in the God who became poor for us, to enrich us with his poverty.’”

SOCIALISM IS NOT COMMUNISM

Latin American Catholicism has historically differed from European Catholicism because of its historical embrace of Liberation Theology, which has openly and controversially adopted communist ideals on the rights of the poor.  Historically, both Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict, were suspicious of the tenets of Liberation Theology because of their European struggles against the totalitarian communist regimes of Eastern Europe.

In consultation with the future Pope Francis, Pope Benedict included this paragraph in Section 4 of his Aparecida address to the Latin American bishops:
“The Marxist system, where it found its way into government, not only left a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction, but also a painful oppression of souls. And we can also see the same thing happening in the West, where the distance between rich and poor is growing constantly, and giving rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness.”

Both Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II were wary of the Liberation Theology developed by priests in Latin America because it openly endorsed communist concerns for the oppressed poor.  Their experiences battling communism in Poland and post-war Europe were not favorable.

Pope Benedict also says this in his address:
“In Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in other regions, there has been notable progress towards democracy, although there are grounds for concern in the face of authoritarian forms of government and regimes wedded to certain ideologies that we thought had been superseded, and which do not correspond to the Christian vision of man and society as taught by the Social Doctrine of the Church. On the other side of the coin, the liberal economy of some Latin American countries must take account of equity, because of the ever increasing sectors of society that find themselves oppressed by immense poverty or even despoiled of their own natural resources.”

This address also references the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church, starting with Rerum Novarum.  Many scholars believe that these Catholic social teachings influenced the American progressives and the New Deal policies of FDR.  The best summary of the philosophy of the New Deal and post-World War II world order is the Four Freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.  You do not really have freedom if you work hard for forty hours or more a week and cannot earn enough to feed your family with dignity.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Freedoms

Vatican II realized that authoritarian governments could never be long-term friends of the Church, that the modern church needs to encourage democracy:
http://www.seekingvirtueandwisdom.com/vatican-ii-decree-on-freedom-of-religion-embracing-democracy-rejecting-fascism/
The Church only hurts herself when she rejects a democratic party that is not overtly hostile to Christianity, and upholds the Catholic teachings of social justice.

OVERVIEW OF GAUDETE EX EXCULTATE

We hope to entice the reader to read Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation for himself by summarizing the main ideas of the entire document of which his comments on abortion and social justice are a small portion.

Pope Francis begins:
1. “REJOICE AND BE GLAD (Mt 5:12), Jesus tells those persecuted or humiliated for his sake. The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. The call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. We see it expressed in the Lord’s words to Abraham: “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1).”

We are encouraged in our call to tread in the path of holiness by the examples of the Old Testament patriarchs, the martyrs and sainst of all Christian traditions, and by the kindnesses shown by our considerate neighbors and the kindnesses of ordinary believers.  Pope Francis reminds us:
16. “This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures. Here is an example: a woman goes shopping, she meets a neighbor and they begin to speak, and the gossip starts. But she says in her heart: ‘No, I will not speak badly of anyone’. This is a step forward in holiness. Later, at home, one of her children wants to talk to her about his hopes and dreams, and even though she is tired, she sits down and listens with patience and love. That is another sacrifice that brings holiness. Later she experiences some anxiety, but recalling the love of the Virgin Mary, she takes her rosary and prays with faith. Yet another path of holiness. Later still, she goes out onto the street, encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word to him. One more step.”

As Christians we must love our neighbor and Love God truly in our heart, we must strike a spiritually healthy balance between the activity and busy-ness of Martha and the contemplation of Mary, as Pope Francis states:
31. “We need a spirit of holiness capable of filling both our solitude and our service, our personal life and our evangelizing efforts, so that every moment can be an expression of self-sacrificing love in the Lord’s eyes. In this way, every minute of our lives can be a step along the path to growth in holiness.”

Pope Francis warns against the two subtle enemies of holiness, the modern versions of the ancient heresies of Gnosticism and Pelagianism.  The modern versions of Gnosticism can lead to an intellectual understanding of the faith without God and without flesh, a doctrine without mystery, promising falsely simplistic solution to complex moral issues.  We listen to so many TED speakers who are eager to solve all of life’s problems in fifteen-minute amusing talks.

Pope Francis gives us this example:
46. “When Saint Francis of Assisi saw that some of his disciples were engaged in teaching, he wanted to avoid the temptation to Gnosticism. He wrote to Saint Anthony of Padua: ‘I am pleased that you teach sacred theology to the brothers, provided that… you do not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion during study of this kind.’  Francis recognized the temptation to turn the Christian experience into a set of intellectual exercises that distance us from the freshness of the Gospel. Saint Bonaventure, on the other hand, pointed out that true Christian wisdom can never be separated from mercy towards our neighbor: ‘The greatest possible wisdom is to share fruitfully what we have to give… Even as mercy is the companion of wisdom, avarice is its enemy’. ‘There are activities that, united to contemplation, do not prevent the latter, but rather facilitate it, such as works of mercy and devotion.’”

Pope Francis reminds us of these teachings of the Church to avoid Pelagianism, which falsely states that man can live a godly life by his own free will unassisted by the Holy Spirit:
52. “The Church has repeatedly taught that we are justified not by our own works or efforts, but by the grace of the Lord, who always takes the initiative. The Fathers of the Church, even before Saint Augustine, clearly expressed this fundamental belief. Saint John Chrysostom said that God pours into us the very source of all his gifts even before we enter into battle. Saint Basil the Great remarked that the faithful glory in God alone, for ‘they realize that they lack true justice and are justified only through faith in Christ’”.

  1. “The Second Synod of Orange taught with firm authority that nothing human can demand, merit or buy the gift of divine grace, and that all cooperation with it is a prior gift of that same grace: Even the desire to be cleansed comes about in us through the outpouring and working of the Holy Spirit.’ Subsequently, the Council of Trent, while emphasizing the importance of our cooperation for spiritual growth, reaffirmed that dogmatic teaching: ‘We are said to be justified gratuitously because nothing that precedes justification, neither faith nor works, merits the grace of justification; for ‘if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace’ (Rom 11:6).’”
  2. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church also reminds us that the gift of grace ‘surpasses the power of human intellect and will’ and that ‘with regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality.’ His friendship infinitely transcends us; we cannot buy it with our works, it can only be a gift born of his loving initiative. This invites us to live in joyful gratitude for this completely unmerited gift, since ‘after one has grace, the grace already possessed cannot come under merit.’ The saints avoided putting trust in their own works: ‘In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you empty-handed, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justices have stains in your sight.’”

We encourage the reader to study the third section of Gaudete Et Exsultate which encourages Christians to go against the flow of a secular and godless culture by living out the spiritual beauty of Christ’s Beatitudes in Matthew 5.  This is followed by the paragraphs on social justice and abortion that we studied in detail above.

Pope Francis then discusses how the life we live affects our worship of our God:
104. “We may think that we give glory to God only by our worship and prayer, or simply by following certain ethical norms. It is true that the primacy belongs to our relationship with God, but we cannot forget that the ultimate criterion on which our lives will be judged is what we have done for others. Prayer is most precious, for it nourishes a daily commitment to love. Our worship becomes pleasing to God when we devote ourselves to living generously, and allow God’s gift, granted in prayer, to be shown in our concern for our brothers and sisters.”

Pope Francis warns us both of the spiritual dangers of our consumer culture and our superficial social media culture.  This is one of the passages where Pope Francis warns us of the spiritual dangers of twittering:
108. “Hedonism and consumerism can prove our downfall, for when we are obsessed with our own pleasure, we end up being all too concerned about ourselves and our rights, and we feel a desperate need for free time to enjoy ourselves. We will find it hard to feel and show any real concern for those in need, unless we are able to cultivate a certain simplicity of life, resisting the feverish demands of a consumer society, which leave us impoverished and unsatisfied, anxious to have it all now. Similarly, when we allow ourselves to be caught up in superficial information, instant communication and virtual reality, we can waste precious time and become indifferent to the suffering flesh of our brothers and sisters. Yet even amid this whirlwind of activity, the Gospel continues to resound, offering us the promise of a different life, a healthier and happier life.”

Section Four teaches how we can be holy in today’s world, showing perseverance, patience and meekness, with many references to Holy Scriptures, we encourage you to read this section on your own.

Pope Francis warns us that social media too easily tempts us to the sin of slander, the sin of damaging the reputation of our neighbor:
115. “Christians too can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication. Even in Catholic media, limits can be overstepped, defamation and slander can become commonplace, and all ethical standards and respect for the good name of others can be abandoned. The result is a dangerous dichotomy, since things can be said there that would be unacceptable in public discourse, and people look to compensate for their own discontent by lashing out at others. It is striking that at times, in claiming to uphold the other commandments, they completely ignore the eighth, which forbids bearing false witness or lying, and ruthlessly vilify others. Here we see how the unguarded tongue, set on fire by hell, sets all things ablaze (cf. Jas 3:6).”

Why is Pope Francis cautioning us against the Catholic media who defame, slander, and overstep their boundaries?  We need to be aware of the clerical credentials of those who are part of the Catholic internet media, but more importantly, we need to judge what we read on the internet against standards of Christian decency.  Does the author lead us to love our neighbor and our God?  Does the author lead us to love the Church and her teachings, particularly the teachings of Vatican II and the post-Vatican II popes?  Does the author support the Catholic teachings of social justice as taught by Rerum Novarum and Vatican II and the Catholic Catechism?

Vatican II affirmed the moral teachings of the Council of Trent, Vatican II did not reject the moral teachings of Trent, both the decrees of Vatican II and the Catholic Catechism, which is a restatement of the decrees of Vatican II, have extensive footnotes, many of which reference the decrees of Trent.
http://www.seekingvirtueandwisdom.com/council-of-trent-the-reform-council-foreshadowing-vatican-ii/

When we do not show compassion for the poor, the sick, the elderly, the disadvantaged, the sojourner,  the immigrant, the slave, the minimum wage worker, when we deny that black lives matter, we are rejecting the Catholic teachings on social justice.  When we reject the concept of social justice, when we do not seek to be compassionate to those who face suffering and difficulties in their less-privileged lives, when we seek to blame the poor for their poverty, then we become judgmental.  Pope Francis warns us:
117. “It is not good when we look down on others like heartless judges, lording it over them and always trying to teach them lessons. That is itself a subtle form of violence. Saint John of the Cross proposed a different path: ‘Always prefer to be taught by all, rather than to desire teaching even the least of all.’ And he added advice on how to keep the devil at bay: ‘Rejoice in the good of others as if it were your own, and desire that they be given precedence over you in all things; this you should do wholeheartedly. You will thereby overcome evil with good, banish the devil, and possess a happy heart. Try to practice this all the more with those who least attract you. Realize that if you do not train yourself in this way, you will not attain real charity or make any progress in it.’”

Pope Francis bids us to live a holy life with joy and a sense of humor, with boldness and with passion, in community in our local church and with our fellow Christians, in constant prayer.  Pope Francis teaches us:
134. “Like the prophet Jonah, we are constantly tempted to flee to a safe haven. It can have many names: individualism, spiritualism, living in a little world, addiction, intransigence, the rejection of new ideas and approaches, dogmatism, nostalgia, pessimism, hiding behind rules and regulations. We can resist leaving behind a familiar and easy way of doing things. Yet the challenges involved can be like the storm, the whale, the worm that dried the gourd plant, or the wind and sun that burned Jonah’s head. For us, as for him, they can serve to bring us back to the God of tenderness, who invites us to set out ever anew on our journey.”

In a footnote Pope Francis recommends this prayer from St Thomas Moore: “Grant me, O Lord, good digestion, and also something to digest. Grant me a healthy body, and the necessary good humour to maintain it. Grant me a simple soul that knows to treasure all that is good and that doesn’t frighten easily at the sight of evil, but rather finds the means to put things back in their place. Give me a soul that knows not boredom, grumbling, sighs and laments, nor excess of stress, because of that obstructing thing called ‘I’. Grant me, O Lord, a sense of good humour. Allow me the grace to be able to take a joke and to discover in life a bit of joy, and to be able to share it with others”.

Pope Francis references the Orthodox Classic, the Way of the Pilgrim:
152. “I ask that we never regard prayerful silence as a form of escape and rejection of the world around us. The Russian pilgrim, who prayed constantly, says that such prayer did not separate him from what was happening all around him. “Everybody was kind to me; it was as though everyone loved me… Not only did I feel [happiness and consolation] in my own soul, but the whole outside world also seemed to me full of charm and delight.”

In the last section, Section 5, Pope Francis teaches us how we should wage spiritual combat with vigilance and discernment.  Pope Francis warns us:
161. “We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable. The devil does not need to possess us. He poisons us with the venom of hatred, desolation, envy and vice. When we let down our guard, he takes advantage of it to destroy our lives, our families and our communities. “Like a roaring lion, he prowls around, looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8).”

We have given you a personal sampling of this wonderful teaching, we again encourage you to read this teaching on your own, whether you are Catholic or not.  The footnotes indicate that it includes teachings from many Church Fathers, including Hans von Balthasar, Francis De Sales, Ignatius of Loyola, Thomas Aquinas, Theresa Avila, St Augustine’s Confessions, and many others.
http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html#_ftnref26

POPE BENEDICT’S PRAYER FOR THE LORD TO STAY WITH US

There is no better way to end this blog than with Pope Benedict’s excellent prayer pleading with God to Stay With Us in our strivings and struggles to live a truly godly live in our modern world in Aparecida, his address to the Latin American bishops, Section 6.  Pope Benedict’s prefaces this prayer with:
The deliberations of this Fifth General Conference lead us to make the plea of the disciples on the road to Emmaus our own:
“Stay with us, for it is towards evening, and the day is now far spent.” (Lk 24:29)

“Stay with us, Lord, keep us company, even though we have not always recognized you. Stay with us, because all around us the shadows are deepening, and you are the Light; discouragement is eating its way into our hearts: make them burn with the certainty of Easter. We are tired of the journey, but you comfort us in the breaking of bread, so that we are able to proclaim to our brothers and sisters that you have truly risen and have entrusted us with the mission of being witnesses of your resurrection.”

“Stay with us, Lord, when mists of doubt, weariness or difficulty rise up around our Catholic faith; you are Truth itself, you are the one who reveals the Father to us: enlighten our minds with your word, and help us to experience the beauty of believing in you.”

“Remain in our families, enlighten them in their doubts, sustain them in their difficulties, console them in their sufferings and in their daily labors, when around them shadows build up which threaten their unity and their natural identity. You are Life itself: remain in our homes, so that they may continue to be nests where human life is generously born, where life is welcomed, loved and respected from conception to natural death.”

“Remain, Lord, with those in our societies who are most vulnerable; remain with the poor and the lowly, with indigenous peoples and Afro-Americans, who have not always found space and support to express the richness of their culture and the wisdom of their identity. Remain, Lord, with our children and with our young people, who are the hope and the treasure of our Continent, protect them from so many snares that attack their innocence and their legitimate hopes. O Good Shepherd, remain with our elderly and with our sick. Strengthen them all in faith, so that they may be your disciples and missionaries!”[2]

[1] http://archive.osb.org/rb/text/rbeaad1.html#53

[2] http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2007/may/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20070513_conference-aparecida.html

About Bruce Strom 127 Articles
I was born and baptized and confirmed as a Lutheran. I made the mistake of reading works written by Luther, he has a bad habit of writing seemingly brilliant theology, but then every few pages he stops and calls the Pope often very vulgar names, what sort of Christian does that? Currently I am a seeker, studying church history and the writings of the Church Fathers. I am involved in the Catholic divorce ministries in our diocese, and have finished the diocese two-year Catholic Lay Ministry program. Also I took a year of Orthodox off-campus seminary courses. This blog explores the beauty of the Early Church and the writings and history of the Church through the centuries. I am a member of a faith community, for as St Augustine notes in his Confessions, you cannot truly be a Christian unless you worship God in the walls of the Church, unless persecution prevents this. This blog is non-polemical, so I really would rather not reveal my denomination here.

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