How to profit from
the Holy Father's visit
Michael C. Barber, SJ
As you read this, Pope Francis will be making his apostolic visit to Cuba and the US. I hesitate to write anything this issue for The Catholic Voice, preferring instead to listen, rather than speak. I am reminded of a line in the Rule of St. Benedict: "In the presence of the Master, the disciple keeps silent."
One thing I would like to say: Listen to Pope Francis, listen to his homilies especially — his illumination of the Word of God for us. Don't just rely on soundbites and commentary provided by the media. Listen for yourself.
What resonance does the Holy Spirit put in your heart to the teaching of the Bishop of Rome? Where do you feel affirmed in your faith? Where do you feel challenged? How do we as a diocese respond to the teachings of Peter?
We will be doing that as a diocese, in our Presbyteral Council, in the meetings of our pastoral staff members at the chancery, with the leadership of Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul, with our school staffs and pastors.
Last week I was in Rome and heard the Holy Father in person ask every parish, convent and monastery in Europe to host a refugee family. The pope himself would lead the way by hosting a family in The Vatican. People have asked me "Are you going to do that Bishop?"
Under the auspices of Catholic Charities of the East Bay we have been helping settle refugee families in our diocese for years. If you want to concretely help refugees, support Catholic Charities. It has the experience and infrastructure already in place so each of our parishes does not have to start from scratch. Catholic Charities carries out its mission on behalf of all of us in the Oakland diocese.
Wouldn't it be great if, in the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy (beginning Dec. 8), we could sponsor 84 refugee families — the same as the number of parishes we have? Would you support such a work of mercy?
While in Rome I also heard the Holy Father announce changes to the marriage annulment procedures. There was lots of spin in the media, but what really happened was the pope simplified the process to make it more efficient. He did not change church doctrine.
We still believe in the permanence of marriage, as Christ Himself taught. The annulment procedure examines whether a true Catholic sacramental marriage was present in the first place. I welcome this initiative and look forward to implementing it in our diocese.
One last thing. Having participated in World Youth Days and papal visits to the US and Canada over the last 30 years, sometimes gestures speak louder than words.
In 2000, Pope John Paul II held a huge nighttime rally for more than 1 million kids. It was broadcast on world TV.
The Holy Father, then quite elderly and frail, sat in his chair listening to the youth singing. Suddenly a young girl, maybe 16 years old, barefoot, clad in shorts and a T shirt, got around the security barrier and ran up the stairs and made for the pope. Security tried to intercept her, but the pope waved them away.
The girl knelt at the pope's feet and cried as she confided her problem to him. He listened intently . . . and then embraced her.
"He comforts us in all our afflictions and thus enables us to comfort those who are in trouble, with the same consolation we have received from him." (2 Cor. 1: 4).
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