Sunday 28 February 2016

"A Book that is Fire." Pope Francis to Youth - English transation

This is Peter Gonsalves' translation of the Italian version of the preface written by Pope Francis for an edition of the Bible for young people, who have collaborated to discuss and write comments. The text was provided by La Civiltà Cattolica. 

My dear young friends,

If you saw my Bible, perhaps you wouldn’t be attracted at all. You would say: "What? Is this the Bible of the Pope? A book so old, so worn out." You may also wish to gift me a new copy, maybe one even costing 1,000 Euros. But no, I wouldn’t take it. I love my old Bible, the one that has accompanied half my life, that has seen my joys, and has been wet with my tears. It is my priceless treasure. I live with it and for nothing in the world would I give it away.

The Bible for young people, you have just opened, is beautiful. It is so vivid, so rich in the testimonies of the saints, of young people, which makes you want to read it at one go from the start to finish. And then…? Then it will be hidden, it will disappear on the shelf of a library, maybe behind the third row, only to gather dust. Until one day your children will sell it at the flea market. No. This cannot be!

I want to tell you one thing: today, even more than at the beginning of the Church, Christians are persecuted. What is the reason? They are persecuted because they carry a cross and give witness to Christ. They are sentenced because they possess a Bible. Clearly, the Bible is a very dangerous book, so risky that in some countries those who own a Bible are treated as if they are hiding a cupboard full of grenades!

Mahatma Gandhi, who was not a Christian, once said: "You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilisation to pieces, turn the world upside down and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of literature."

What then do you hold in your hands? A literary masterpiece? A collection of ancient and beautiful stories? In that case, we should say to the many Christians who are imprisoned and tortured for the Bible: “Indeed you have been foolish and unwise: it is only a literary work.” No, with the Word of God, the light is come into the world and will never be turned off. In my Apostolic ExhortationEvangelii Gaudium I wrote: "We do not blindly seek God, or wait for him to speak to us first, for God has already spoken, and there is nothing further that we need to know which has not been revealed to us. Let us welcome the sublime treasure of the revealed Word." (n. 175).

So you have in your hands something divine: a book like fire, a book in which God speaks. So remember, the Bible is not meant to be put on a shelf, rather it is meant to be held in the hand, to be accessed often, every day, either alone or in company. Others enjoy sports, or go shopping in company; why not read the Bible in the company of two, three or four? Even outdoors, surrounded by nature in the woods, by the sea, in the evening by candle light ... you will experience a powerful and unsettling experience. Or maybe you're afraid of looking foolish in front of others?
When you read it, read it carefully. Do not stay on the surface, as is done with comics! The pages of the Word of God cannot be flipped through! Ask yourself instead: "What does that say to my heart? Through these words, is God speaking to me? Is He perhaps arousing in me a yearning, a deep thirst? What should I do?" Only in this way the Word of God can unfold its full force; so that our lives can be transformed into becoming full and beautiful.

I'll let you in on a secret: when I read my old Bible, I often take it, I read it for a while, then I put it aside and I let myself be looked at by the Lord. I don’t look at Him, but let Him look at me: God is really there, fully present. So I see myself from his perspective and I feel - and this is not sentimentality - I perceive in the depths of my heart what the Lord is telling me.

Sometimes my Bible does not speak: so I don’t feel anything, I’m empty, empty, empty ... But, patiently, I stay there and I wait like this, reading and praying. (I prefer sitting. Kneeling hurts me.) Sometimes, while praying, I even fall asleep. But it’s not important: I am like a son close to my father, and that's what really matters.

Do you want to make me happy? Read the Bible.
Pope Francis

Taken from: Quaderno N°3972 del 2015/12/26 - (Civiltà Cattolica, IV 519-654)

Saturday 27 February 2016

I volti di misericordia nella bibbia

Some points from a conference by Rafael Vicent:

  • Giustizia e misericordia si baceranno
  • il Battista porta la misericordia nel suo nome: Yo-hannan: il Signore è misericordioso
  • nuova traduzione italiana del Benedictus: "grazie alla tenerezza e misericordia del nostro Dio, ci visiterà il sole"
  • nella storia di Mosè: la parola per cestello = la parola per l'arca
  • la conversione di Mosè: dalla liberazione come "mio progetto" alla liberazione come "progetto di Dio"
  • Mosè a Dio: Mostrami il tuo volto. E Dio: non è possibile, ma vedrai il mio dorso. E poi: la proclamazione: Dio misericordioso... lento all'ira... ricco dell'amore (RAHAMIM, HESED). Un amore affettivo e effettivo. 
  • In Hosea: un amore che va oltre la logica; una anticipazione del NT. Gesù ci ama quando siamo ancora nemici. Con la Samaritana: Gesù rompe tanti limiti e confini (boundaries): donna - Samaritana - adultera... Gesù ai farisei cita Hosea: voglio HESED non sacrifici.
  • Giona: fa fatica a capire la logica di Dio. Si arabbia quando i niniviti si convertano: "Sapevo che eri un Dio di misericordia..." Il figlio maggiore nella parabola è come Giona: si sente servo, non figlio.

Pope Francis' Message for Lent 2016


“I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13).
The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee

1. Mary, the image of a Church which evangelizes because she is evangelized
In the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, I asked that “the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus, 17). By calling for an attentive listening to the word of God and encouraging the initiative “24 Hours for the Lord”, I sought to stress the primacy of prayerful listening to God’s word, especially his prophetic word. The mercy of God is a proclamation made to the world, a proclamation which each Christian is called to experience at first hand. For this reason, during the season of Lent I will send out Missionaries of Mercy as a concrete sign to everyone of God’s closeness and forgiveness.
After receiving the Good News told to her by the Archangel Gabriel, Mary, in her Magnificat, prophetically sings of the mercy whereby God chose her. The Virgin of Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph, thus becomes the perfect icon of the Church which evangelizes, for she was, and continues to be, evangelized by the Holy Spirit, who made her virginal womb fruitful. In the prophetic tradition, mercy is strictly related – even on the etymological level – to the maternal womb (rahamim) and to a generous, faithful and compassionate goodness (hesed) shown within marriage and family relationships.
2. God’s covenant with humanity: a history of mercy
The mystery of divine mercy is revealed in the history of the covenant between God and his people Israel. God shows himself ever rich in mercy, ever ready to treat his people with deep tenderness and compassion, especially at those tragic moments when infidelity ruptures the bond of the covenant, which then needs to be ratified more firmly in justice and truth. Here is a true love story, in which God plays the role of the betrayed father and husband, while Israel plays the unfaithful child and bride. These domestic images – as in the case of Hosea (cf. Hos 1-2) – show to what extent God wishes to bind himself to his people.
This love story culminates in the incarnation of God’s Son. In Christ, the Father pours forth his boundless mercy even to making him “mercy incarnate” (Misericordiae Vultus, 8). As a man, Jesus of Nazareth is a true son of Israel; he embodies that perfect hearing required of every Jew by the Shema, which today too is the heart of God’s covenant with Israel: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Dt 6:4-5). As the Son of God, he is the Bridegroom who does everything to win over the love of his bride, to whom he is bound by an unconditional love which becomes visible in the eternal wedding feast.
This is the very heart of the apostolic kerygma, in which divine mercy holds a central and fundamental place. It is “the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead” (Evangelii Gaudium, 36), that first proclamation which “we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment” (ibid., 164). Mercy “expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe” (Misericordiae Vultus, 21), thus restoring his relationship with him. In Jesus crucified, God shows his desire to draw near to sinners, however far they may have strayed from him. In this way he hopes to soften the hardened heart of his Bride.
3. The works of mercy
God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, I expressed my hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” (ibid., 15). For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us” (ibid.). It is the unprecedented and scandalous mystery of the extension in time of the suffering of the Innocent Lamb, the burning bush of gratuitous love. Before this love, we can, like Moses, take off our sandals (cf.Ex 3:5), especially when the poor are our brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith.
In the light of this love, which is strong as death (cf. Song 8:6), the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep (cf. Lk 16:20-21). Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us and which we may well fail to see. Such blindness is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence, which reflects in a sinister way the diabolical “you will be like God” (Gen 3:5) which is the root of all sin. This illusion can likewise take social and political forms, as shown by the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century, and, in our own day, by the ideologies of monopolizing thought and technoscience, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited. This illusion can also be seen in the sinful structures linked to a model of false development based on the idolatry of money, which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies; they close their doors, refusing even to see the poor.
For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy. In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy – counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer – we touch more directly our own sinfulness. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated. By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they too are poor and in need. By taking this path, the “proud”, the “powerful” and the “wealthy” spoken of in the Magnificat can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord who died and rose for them. This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power and riches. Yet the danger always remains that by a constant refusal to open the doors of their hearts to Christ who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich and powerful will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell. The pointed words of Abraham apply to them and to all of us: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Lk 16:29). Such attentive listening will best prepare us to celebrate the final victory over sin and death of the Bridegroom, now risen, who desires to purify his Betrothed in expectation of his coming.
Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion! We ask this through the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, who, encountering the greatness of God’s mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness (cf. Lk 1:48) and to call herself the Lord’s humble servant (cf. Lk 1:38).
From the Vatican, 4 October 2015
Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi

Preface by Pope Francis to the Bible for Young People

Offriamo la versione italiana della prefazione scritta dal Pontefice per una edizione della Bibbia destinata ai giovani, i quali hanno collaborato a discutere e scriverne i commenti. Segue una breve presentazione dell’opera. 

Miei cari giovani amici,
se voi vedeste la mia Bibbia, forse non ne sareste affatto colpiti. Direste: «Cosa? Questa è la Bibbia del Papa? Un libro così vecchio, così sciupato!». Potreste anche regalarmene una nuova, magari anche una da 1.000 euro: no, non la vorrei. Amo la mia vecchia Bibbia, quella che ha accompagnato metà della mia vita. Ha visto la mia gioia, è stata bagnata dalle mie lacrime: è il mio inestimabile tesoro. Vivo di lei e per niente al mondo la darei via.
La Bibbia per i giovani, che avete appena aperto, mi piace molto: è così vivace, così ricca di testimonianze di santi, di giovani, che fa venir voglia di leggerla d’un fiato, dall’inizio fino all’ultima pagina. E poi…? Poi la nascondete, sparisce sul ripiano di una libreria, magari dietro, in terza fila, finendo per riempirsi di polvere. Finché un giorno i vostri figli la venderanno al mercatino dell’usato. No: questo non può essere!
Voglio dirvi una cosa: oggi, ancor più che agli inizi della Chiesa, i cristiani sono perseguitati; qual è la ragione? Sono perseguitati perché portano una croce e danno testimonianza di Cristo; vengono condannati perché possiedono una Bibbia. Evidentemente la Bibbia è un libro estremamente pericoloso, così rischioso che in certi Paesi chi possiede una Bibbia viene trattato come se nascondesse nell’armadio bombe a mano!
Mahatma Gandhi, che non era cristiano, una volta disse: «A voi cristiani è affidato un testo che ha in sé una quantità di dinamite sufficiente per far esplodere in mille pezzi la civiltà tutta intera, per mettere sottosopra il mondo e portare la pace in un pianeta devastato dalla guerra. Lo trattate però come se fosse semplicemente un’opera letteraria, niente di più».
Che cosa tenete allora in mano? Un capolavoro letterario? Una raccolta di antiche e belle storie? In tal caso, bisognerebbe dire ai molti cristiani che si fanno incarcerare e torturare per la Bibbia: «Davvero stolti e poco avveduti siete stati: è solo un’opera letteraria!». No, con la Parola di Dio la luce è venuta nel mondo e mai più sarà spenta. Nella mia esortazione apostolica Evangelii gaudium ho scritto: «Noi non cerchiamo brancolando nel buio, né dobbiamo attendere che Dio ci rivolga la parola, perché realmente “Dio ha parlato, non è più il grande sconosciuto, ma ha mostrato se stesso”. Accogliamo il sublime tesoro della Parola rivelata» (n. 175).
Avete dunque tra le mani qualcosa di divino: un libro come fuoco, un libro nel quale Dio parla. Perciò ricordatevi: la Bibbia non è fatta per essere messa su uno scaffale, piuttosto è fatta per essere tenuta in mano, per essere letta spesso, ogni giorno, sia da soli sia in compagnia. Del resto in compagnia fate sport, andate a fare shopping; perché allora non leggere insieme, in due, in tre o in quattro, la Bibbia? Magari all’aperto, immersi nella natura, nel bosco, in riva al mare, la sera al lume di una candela… farete un’esperienza potente e sconvolgente. O forse avete paura di apparire ridicoli di fronte agli altri?
Leggete con attenzione. Non rimanete in superficie, come si fa con un fumetto! La Parola di Dio non la si può semplicemente scorrere con lo sguardo! Domandatevi piuttosto: «Cosa dice questo al mio cuore? Attraverso queste parole, Dio mi sta parlando? Sta forse suscitando il mio anelito, la mia sete profonda? Cosa devo fare?». Solo così la Parola di Dio potrà dispiegare tutta la sua forza; solo così la nostra vita potrà trasformarsi, diventando piena e bella.
Voglio confidarvi come leggo la mia vecchia Bibbia: spesso la prendo, la leggo per un po’, poi la metto in disparte e mi lascio guardare dal Signore. Non sono io a guardare Lui, ma Lui guarda me: Dio è davvero lì, presente. Così mi lascio osservare da Lui e sento — e non è certo sentimentalismo —, percepisco nel più profondo ciò che il Signore mi dice.
A volte non parla: e allora non sento niente, solo vuoto, vuoto, vuoto… Ma, paziente, rimango là e lo attendo così, leggendo e pregando. Prego seduto, perché mi fa male stare in ginocchio. Talvolta, pregando, persino mi addormento, ma non fa niente: sono come un figlio vicino a suo padre, e questo è ciò che conta.

Volete farmi felice? Leggete la Bibbia.
 Papa Francesco
* * *

Il testo di Papa Francesco che La Civiltà Cattolica offre oggi ai suoi lettori è stato scritto per essere la prefazione a una Bibbia per i giovani, i quali hanno collaborato a discutere e scriverne i commenti (Bibel. Jugendbibel der Katholischen Kirche). L’idea del volume è partita da Thomas Söding, professore di Nuovo Testamento all’Università di Bochum, e per lungo tempo membro della Commissione Teologica Internazionale della Santa Sede. Padre di tre figli, sentiva la necessità di offrire ai giovani una possibilità di accesso alla Bibbia che risultasse attraente. Si è dunque rivolto a Georg Fischer (Università di Innsbruck) e Dominik Markl (Pontificio Istituto Biblico, Roma), gesuiti austriaci e professori di Antico Testamento, invitandoli a collaborare al progetto. A seguito dell’ampia distribuzione del catechismo per i giovani Youcat, gli autori hanno scelto di invitare la Youcat Foundation (Augsburg) insieme alla Katholische Bibelanstalt (Stuttgart) a collaborare per il progetto.

Friday 26 February 2016

Ricoeur on self-knowledge

From a Facebook entry (2015 perhaps - the trip to Colombia):
Yesterday, in the prenovitiate house of Mosquera (COB), near Bogotà, a nice experience: the young practical trainee quoted Paul Ricoeur to me, the wonderful text that says: self-knowledge is not a question of closing your eyes and trying to look at yourself. We come to self-knowledge, piece by piece, in our interaction with the Other: in interaction with people, events, circumstances, society, tradition, texts, life. This is probably the only practical trainee in the world who knows how to quote Ricoeur in such a disarming way!
And I thought of Lonergan's "mutual self-mediation" as the process of growth. It is, after all, the process of formation: we are formed, we grow, in a constant interaction with other persons, with what happens to us, in the bosom of our history, our tradition, our culture. And in the end with the community of persons that is God.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Keeping spaces open for all

Andrea Bozzolo highlights the new "logic of relation" that is being used to understand the place of consecrated life within the church:

The particularity of the consecrated vocation must not, therefore, be juxtaposed [opposed?] to the universality of grace. This vocation exists precisely to illuminate those aspects [of grace] that the world would not recognize if not through a kind of forcing of its logic. The power of the gospel acts in favour of the world by first challenging it in its vain presumption and its proud self-sufficiency. Only through the denial of that which blinds man and keeps him prisoner of himself, can the light of Christ appear. Since freedom draws from the structures of creation (eros, the necessity of material goods, the legitimate autonomy of freedom) to raise objections against the new life in Christ, the apparent no with which CL relativizes them constitutes the door through which grace can highlight, within the world, the divine logic on which it is based and which carries it to fulfilment. The no to the lie that tries in the name of creation to idolize it, makes evident in an extraordinary way the yes with which God blesses it. The particular vocations have therefore an irreplaceable representative meaning: their task is to occupy a particular place in the life of the church, not for themselves but to keep open that space for all. [326.]

A good example would be the many sisters trying to book places in St Peter's on the concluding day of the Year of Consecrated Life: they were putting handkerchiefs and bags and jackets and all sorts of things, in an effort to reserve places for their co-sisters. They were "trying to keep open a space" - not for themselves, but for their consorelle. The consecrated life "occupies" certain spaces that are meant for all, trying to keep them open to all - and not, of course, only for the consorelle or confreres. Celibacy challenges the idolization of eros, and shows how even eros is meant for eternity, and is an image of eternity. And so on.

Sunday 21 February 2016

Be merciful

Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. Be compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate. Be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus is the face of the Father. "No one has ever seen God. The only-begotten, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known."

We are called to the face of the Father, the merciful face of the Father. We are called to be signs and bearers of his love. This is our deepest mission.

We are transformed and transfigured into his likeness by prolonged exposure to him in prayer, by prolonged exposure to his Word, and by attentive contact with those who are most in need. 

The sign of Jonah

The sign of Jonah is Jesus. The focus of Lent is always Jesus.

Jesus expects people to recognize him. We all have the capacity to be touched by truth and goodness and love - even the people of our generation.

As always, the Word has a double movement: Come - and Go.

Come: believe, follow. How much do I believe? How far as the Word penetrated into the secret places of my being, between marrow and bone? What are the resistances? The Lord and his Word transform us.

Go: because we in our turn are called to be signs. This is our vocation. All are called to the radical following of Jesus. We consecrated people are called to be signs and prophets.

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Phyllis Wallbank at 98

With an attendant

Phyllis Wallbank is now at Burnham House Care Home, Slough, now almost 98. I saw her on 16 February 2016, thanks to the kindness of Martin Casey who picked me up at the airport and drove me over to Slough.

Phyllis asked me to summarize Lonergan in 20 words - very difficult! - and to put it on the net. "Lonergan taught us to focus on method rather than directly on content. He insisted that method is teamwork, and that the work be divided not by areas or subjects but functionally, much the way things are done in physics or in the other empirical sciences." In theology, he proposed 8 functional specializations: research, history, interpretation, dialectic, foundations, doctrines, systematics, communications. Perhaps his greatest innovation lies in dialectic and foundations - not because these did not exist before him, but because he proposes a methodical way of handling radical disagreements.

Phyllis said that Fr. Timothy Russ had died, and when we checked the net - at her insistence - I found it was true. He died at the age of 69, after having retired from the parish of Great Missenden, was described as the confessor of Tony and Cherie Blair, and a Lonergan scholar. It appears he was writing a novel when he died, based on his own family history and the house he inherited from his mother. Tim Russ belonged to one of the old English Catholic families.

Phyllis was lucid most of the time, though extremely impatient because she is not able to get out of bed.

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Encounter, wonder, gratitude

Here is Pope Francis' homily at the Concluding Eucharist of the year of consecrated life, yesterday. The Pope's 3 points: the culture of encounter; custodians of stupore or wonder; and gratitude.
Culture of encounter
The feast of the Presentation of our Lord is the feast of the encounter: of Jesus with us and of us with him. Of Simeon and his joy at the fulfilment of the promise. Of Anna.
Jesus is the perennial surprise of God
Consecrated persons are called to be men and women of encounter
One who encounters Jesus canot remain the same
We have to promote a culture of encounter, against the tendency to remain absorbed in ourselves.
Hebrews: Jesus, in order to meet us, did not hesitate to take on our flesh. He became close to us, he shared our condition.
We are part of this. We are in a permanent state of mission.
The joys and the hopes of people are our joys and hopes.
Custodians of wonder
Mary and Joseph are full of wonder. They marvel at what is being said of Jesus..
We are called to be custodians of wonder
Charisms are not museum pieces. They have to be renewed.
The founders did not have fear to dirty their hands.
We need to have a healthy restlessness in our hearts.
We need to make courageous and prophetic choices.
Let us learn to live gratitude, for Jesus and for the gift of consecrated life.
Gratitude is Eucharist
It is good to see the joyful face of a consecrated person
This is a synthesis and summary of the Year of Consecrated Life: gratitude to the Holy Spirit, who animates the Church through the charisms.
Finally: the gospel says that the child Jesus grew and became strong.
we pray that there might grow in us - the desire for encounter, the capacity to wonder, the joy of gratitude. That people seeing us might be attracted, and brought to the mercy of the Father.

Featured post

Rupnik, “E se l’evangelizzazione chiedesse una novità nella vita consacrata?” English summary