References to Liturgy in Pope Francis’s Homily This Evening

Vatican spokesman Fr. Tom Rosica posted the notice below on Facebook about tonight’s prayer vigil with the homily of Pope Francis.

Understandably, Francis’ message focusses on the family in the light of the synod which is now beginning. But Pray Tell readers will be interested in two lines with relevance to liturgy. First he says striking that without the Holy Spirit, “worship becomes mystique”:

For as Patriarch Athenagoras reminded us, without the Holy Spirit God is far off, Christ remains in the past, the Church becomes a mere organization, authority becomes domination, mission becomes propaganda, worship becomes mystique, Christian life the morality of slaves.

Second, in a line not directly about liturgy but certainly in line with the liturgical aesthetic Francis is promoting, he says that the church is “far from outward pomp””

The Church is an open house, far from outward pomp, hospitable in the simplicity of her members.

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7:00 p.m., the Holy Father will join the prayer vigil and be greeted by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. During the vigil, Pope Francis will deliver the following homily in Italian. The English translation is found below.

Dear Families,

Good evening! What good is it to light a little candle in the darkness? Isn’t there a better way to dispel the darkness? Can the darkness even be overcome? At some points in life – this life so full of amazing resources – such questions have to be asked. When life proves difficult and demanding, we can be tempted to step back, turn away and withdraw, perhaps even in the name of prudence and realism, and thus flee the responsibility of doing our part as best we can.

Do you remember what happened to Elijah? From a human point of view, the prophet was afraid and tried to run away. “Elijah was afraid; he got up and fled for his life… He walked for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. At that place he came to a cave and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kg 19:3,8-9). On Horeb, he would get his answer not in the great wind which shatters the rocks, nor in the earthquake nor even in the fire. God’s grace does not shout out; it is a whisper which reaches all those who are ready to hear its still, small voice. It urges them to go forth, to return to the world, to be witnesses to God’s love for mankind, so that the world may believe…

In this vein, just a year ago, in this same Square, we invoked the Holy Spirit and asked that – in discussing the theme of the family – the Synod Fathers might listen attentively to one another, with their gaze fixed on Jesus, the definitive Word of the Father and the criterion by which everything is to be measured.

This evening, our prayer cannot be otherwise. For as Patriarch Athenagoras reminded us, without the Holy Spirit God is far off, Christ remains in the past, the Church becomes a mere organization, authority becomes domination, mission becomes propaganda, worship becomes mystique, Christian life the morality of slaves.

So let us pray that the Synod which opens tomorrow will show how the experience of marriage and family is rich and humanly fulfilling. May the Synod acknowledge, esteem, and proclaim all that is beautiful, good and holy about that experience. May it embrace situations of vulnerability and hardship: war, illness, grief, wounded relationships and brokenness, which create distress, resentment and separation. May it remind these families, and every family, that the Gospel is always “good news” which enables us to start over. From the treasury of the Church’s living tradition may the Fathers draw words of comfort and hope for families called in our own day to build the future of the ecclesial community and the city of man.

Every family is always a light, however faint, amid the darkness of this world. Jesus’ own human experience took shape in the heart of a family, where he lived for thirty years. His family was like any number of others, living in an obscure village on the outskirts of the Empire.

Charles de Foucauld, perhaps like few others, grasped the import of the spirituality which radiates from Nazareth. This great explorer hastily abandoned his military career, attracted by the mystery of the Holy Family, the mystery of Jesus’ daily relationship with his parents and neighbors, his quiet labor, his humble prayer. Contemplating the Family of Nazareth, Brother Charles realized how empty the desire for wealth and power really is. Through his apostolate of charity, he became everything to everyone. Attracted by the life of a hermit, he came to understand that we do not grow in the love of God by avoiding the entanglement of human relations. For in loving others, we learn to love God, in stooping down to help our neighbor, we are lifted up to God. Through his fraternal closeness and his solidarity with the poor and the abandoned, he came to understand that it is they who evangelize us, they who help us to grow in humanity.

To understand the family today, we too need to enter – like Charles de Foucauld – into the mystery of the family of Nazareth, into its quiet daily life, not unlike that of most families, with their problems and their simple joys, a life marked by serene patience amid adversity, respect for others, a humility which is freeing and which flowers in service, a life of fraternity rooted in the sense that we are all members of one body.

The family is a place where evangelical holiness is lived out in the most ordinary conditions. There we are formed by the memory of past generations and we put down roots which enable us to go far. The family is a place of discernment, where we learn to recognize God’s plan for our lives and to embrace it with trust. It is a place of gratuitousness. of discreet fraternal presence and solidarity, a place where we learn to step out of ourselves and accept others, to forgive and to be forgiven.

Let us set out once more from Nazareth for a Synod which, more than speaking about the family, can learn from the family, readily acknowledging its dignity, its strength and its value, despite all its problems and difficulties.

In the “Galilee of the nations” of our own time, we will rediscover the richness and strength of a Church which is a mother, ever capable of giving and nourishing life, accompanying it with devotion, tenderness, and moral strength. For unless we can unite compassion with justice, we will end up being needlessly severe and deeply unjust.

A Church which is family is also able to show the closeness and love of a father, a responsible guardian who protects without confining, who corrects without demeaning, who trains by example and patience, sometimes simply by a silence which bespeaks prayerful and trusting expectation.

Above all, a Church of children who see themselves as brothers and sisters, will never end up considering anyone simply as a burden, a problem, an expense, a concern or a risk. Other persons are essentially a gift, and always remain so, even when they walk different paths.

The Church is an open house, far from outward pomp, hospitable in the simplicity of her members. That is why she can appeal to the longing for peace present in every man and woman, including those who – amid life’s trials – have wounded and suffering hearts.

This Church can indeed light up the darkness felt by so many men and women. She can credibly point them towards the goal and walk at their side, precisely because she herself first experienced what it is to be endlessly reborn in the merciful heart of the Father.

8 comments

  1. Pope Francis: “The Church is an open house, far from outward pomp, hospitable in the simplicity of her members. That is why she can appeal to the longing for peace present in every man and woman, including those who – amid life’s trials – have wounded and suffering hearts.

    I have long advocated for the low and austere liturgy. In my case, the preference is for the EF. However, a purposeful austerity is also possible in the OF. Often I chafe at the tendency of many in the EF movement to make every Mass solemn, replete with expensive vestments and wall-to-wall polyphony. in the OF, I often resent the clergy and laity who insist that every Mass have hymns, any hymns, even if they are not pertinent to the Mass of the day.

    Nursing my resentments get me nowhere. My desire for a stark austerity is perhaps well suited to the Cistercians, but not a neighborhood parish. In any event, I wonder if Pope Francis’s call to salve the “wounded and suffering hearts” is not related to a literal liturgical austerity but rather an austerity of intention. Here I am reminded of my favorite hymn, Wir pflügen und wir streuen, adapted as “We plow the fields and scatter”. We rejoice with humble and thankful hearts for the metaphorical sown wheat of the healing Eucharist we receive. This transcends liturgical appearances to the very yearning of the faithful for the supersubstantial bread. I have often thought that this hymn should replace any prayers after Mass. Is thanksgiving for Mass a time to seek favor and protection, or give thanks for the great gift of the Mass just celebrated?

    Only the Eucharist can salve what Pope Francis observes as the “wounded and suffering hearts.”

    1. @Jordan Zarembo:

      I feel much the same. I must admit, my experience of the EF has not been one of ostentatious Baroque theatre, which it is often accused of being. If anything, it appears to me to very restrained and disciplined. It has more movements, sure, but they’re subtle.

  2. If I could choose, I would love to celebrate a quiet OF Mass, with little music or pomp. While this is certainly not possible for a typical Sunday Mass, I do enjoy this during daily Mass. I think the ordinary form can do this quite well.

    1. @Timothy McCormick:

      Father, I would encourage you to try a quiet Mass on Sunday. Perhaps there is a Mass time which is frequented mostly by adults, such as the first Mass of Sunday morning. There are people like me who thirst for quiet contemplation. Were I to attend your quiet Mass, I would surely encourage you afterwards to continue. I suspect I am not the only one who would do the same.

      I have encountered profoundly contemplative environments in both forms of the Mass. The priests who celebrate seamlessly contemplative liturgies are adept at not drawing attention to themselves. Rather, the action and word of liturgy assume the role of a separate “actor” capable of independent self-expression. It is very unfortunate that some of the most gifted celebrants of this type of contemplative liturgy are no longer with us.

    1. @Peter Kwasniewski:
      “Beautiful churches don’t help people to find God?”

      Not necessarily. All the riches of our liturgical and spiritual tradition are capable of leading people to God, but also capable of becoming idols that close us in on ourselves. It always takes discernment and self-knowledge.

      awr

  3. Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that despite all these calls herein for “noble simplicity” and humility reflected in the ars celebrandi, that no one, not a single DM or Office of Worship, showed any evidence of being comfortable offering anything of that kind for the Papal Masses heard last month. Sure, the American Church cleaned up a lot of its act from Nationals’ to Philly, but there was plenty o’ pomp leftover reverberating after HHF boarded the plane to Rome. That one schola (was is it NYC?) could have been afforded an entire Mass, but no…….we gotta put out the dog and put on the tux and the Ritz.

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