There is a reason we all cried at the opening of Pixar’s Up; Twilight, while certainly eliciting tears, only did so because no amount of shirtlessness can make up for a lack of inflection and plot.
Linked is the translation of the letter sent by Pope Francis to the founder of La Repubblica Italian newspaper Eugenio Scalfari in response to several questions made by him in various articles. The Holy Father addresses both Mr. Scalfari and non-believers. The stuff people are going crazy about is the last two paragraphs, in response to 3 questions that self-avowed atheist Scalfari asked Pope Francis. Scalferi’s questions (to which Francis refers) are the following: Does God forgive non-believers? Does absolute truth exist? And is God merely a creation of the human mind?
When I read even this letter in Francis’s own words, I was at first distressed and confused. Why did he seemingly treat the topic of atheism so briefly and seemingly equivocally? By providence, someone on Reddit encouraged me to read those last few paragraphs in context of each other, as a whole rather than focusing on one or two sentences, phrases, or even words that bothered me with my interpretation. When I did so, again, like all things Catholic and true, it showed its beauty through its unified wholeness. Upon second reading, I honestly think it is genius, but I began to wonder if maybe it was too deep and whether our own interpretations and fears are too strong to see the genuine and beautiful truth behind what he is saying. I found myself in the camp of the faithful Christian “older brothers”, stalwart in their own righteousness (remember last Sunday’s Gospel) who wanted to see the non-faithful condemned, not welcomed; the neo-pagan relativist, on the other hand (played here by the mainstream media) wants to see themselves accepted without having to make the humble journey home. Francis, like Christ, would be content with neither of these desires, nor our initial, superficial interpretation.
Here is my reflection on Francis’s answer (I invite you to read the letter first).
While Francis premises his response with what we all know and believe: “the mercy of God has no limits if one turns to him with a sincere and contrite heart,” he is not content in leaving the atheist/agnostic with the absolute that the angry traditionalist is waiting for (that a non-believer is incapable of turning to God and therefore will surely be deprived; forgiveness is not for them) nor what the new-ager is waiting for (that the turning is ultimately “optional”, that morality is relative, that all are forgiven regardless of what they do or believe). The Holy Father begins by saying that one who does not believe in God still has the dictums of his/her conscience, and in their own perception still has the weight of sin, can still know of and believe and perceive the rightness and wrongness of their action.
If he left it there, the new-age relativist would perhaps blow the trumpet of triumph (by virtue of omission of clarification of his premise, albeit without an outright affirmation of the relative conscience of the atheist), but Francis doesn’t leave it there. The very next question is whether or not there is such thing as absolute truth. If you think about it, the first question is actually predicated on the second; does God forgive those who do not believe? That depends of course, on whether there is something absolute that must be forgiven. In responding to this question, Pope Francis does not reiterate dogma or quote Scripture, what he presents as the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of truth is the humility to enter into relationship, the humility to enter into a conversation, to be questioned by a brother or sister, but also the humility to ultimately allow yourself to be loved by God, to be open to God. It is this humility that allows one to see the absolute truth, which is God himself, who is love itself perfected. In fact, was this humility and openness not for all of us in some way or another the true beginning of our understanding of truth, both of our own absolute depravity and of the absolute mercy of God? It certainly was for me (and still is every day).
He continues in this vein by answering the last question: Even if no human mind existed, God would still BE. God is not a creation of our mind, but is the very upholder of the universe. As the Holy Father says, God is reality itself (with a capital “R”), not a mere idea or a bearded man somewhere in the Cosmos. Yet this God who is our “all in all” toward which the entire universe is inherently inclined is also personal; he is revealed to us in Christ, the Son of God, through whom we are shown and given the gifts of God’s self-sacrificing love and humility with which we can enter into right relationship with God. It is through this relationship that we receive the grace to perceive more and more clearly his truth and respond more and more readily and gratefully to the love he gives, it is this relationship that gives grace to guide our moral actions, perfect our consciences, and helps us to turn to God with a sincere and contrite heart and so attain the forgiveness and mercy that is freely offered to every human being, regardless of where they are on their journey of faith.
Viva il papa!
The world would be better off
if people tried to become better,
and people would become better
if they stopped trying to become better off.
For when everyone tries to become better off
nobody is better off.
But when everyone tries to become better
everybody is better off.
Everyone would be rich
if nobody tried to become richer,
and nobody would be poor
if everybody tried to be the poorest.
And everybody would be what he ought to be
if everybody tried to be
what he wants the other fellow to be.
Matt Maher leading millions in adoration at WYD. No applause necessary :)
I hear you say “My love is over, it’s underneath
It’s inside, it’s in between
The times you doubt me, when you can’t feel
The times that you question, ‘Is this for real?’
The times you’re broken, the times that you mend.
The times you hate me, and the times that you bend
My love is over, it’s underneath
It’s inside, it’s in between
These times you’re healing, and when your heart breaks
The times that you feel like you’re falling from grace
The times you’re hurting, the times that you heal
The times you go hungry and are tempted to steal
In times of confusion, in chaos and pain
I’m there in your sorrow, under the weight of your shame
I’m there through your heartache, I’m there in the storm
My love I will keep you, by my power alone
I don’t care where you’ve fallen, or where you have been
I’ll never forsake you, my love never ends
It never ends.”
While Jesus was speaking,
a woman from the crowd called out and said to him,
“Blessed is the womb that carried you
and the breasts at which you nursed.”
“Rather, blessed are those
who hear the word of God and observe it.”
Blessed is the Mother of God, who by her hearing and observing the word of God, the Word was made flesh in her.
God, though all-knowing, even made one assumption…the Assumption of Mary! ;)
Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us :)
What do I expect as a consequence of the Youth Day? I expect a mess. There will be one. There will be a mess here in Rio? There will be! But I want a mess in the dioceses! I want people to go out! I want the Church to go out to the street! I want us to defend ourselves against everything that is worldliness, that is installation, that is comfortableness, that is clericalism, that is being shut-in on ourselves. The parishes, the schools, the institutions, exist to go out!
Viva il papa!
If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized
-Pope Francis, 7/29/2013
They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
-2358 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1992
The following is my reply to a question from a friend that inquired about indulgences in general after seeing this article. I thought it’s important to clarify since the Church’s teaching on indulgences are infallible and have been encouraged by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (while he was pope!) and even now by Pope Francis! (And also the Church “condemns with anathema those who maintain the uselessness of indulgences or deny the power of the Church to grant them” Apostolic Constitution Indugentiarum Doctrina, paragraph 8) Not to mention that indulgences are helpful for the spiritual life (and they’re free!)!!
I have to say it’s pretty responsible of the writer/editor to post the edit to correct themselves! :)
First, let’s be clear that Indulgences are NOT forms of forgiveness in terms of absolution (what we get when we go to confession, which hasn’t and I’m sure will never be done through virtual means like the big fuss the media tried to convey when the “confession app” came out)
Second, plenary indulgences (which are actually REALLY awesome if you CAN get one) is actually REALLY hard to get (since one of the requirements is complete detachment from sin! yikes!)
Thirdly, indulgences apply only to yourself for sins of the PAST (so you can’t “save up”) and for dead people in purgatory (since they don’t need them in Heaven)
Anyway, to understand indulgences, we have to understand sin and it’s two-fold effect. We often focus on the being forgiven part and don’t pay much attention to the consequences part (aka temporal punishment). If we keep in mind the consequences of sin, we see that purgatory and indulgences (and also even suffering here on earth that’s offered to God) are God’s mercy for us!
Here’s an awesome document that explains it in detail but also gives great Biblical support for indulgences from Catholic Answers with Imprimatur (so it’s official!) And it’s so good that I won’t even quote parts of it. (Here’s it is again, with supporting references from CCC and myths about indulgences that are answered)
Here’s the official Apostolic Constitution about indulgences from Paul VI along with the norms to receive indulgences
And not to advertise, but you can get your own copy of the Manual of Indulgences from the USCCB
Though I prefer the original Enchiridion of Indulgences even though it’s out of date, but just cause it’s got the word “Enchiridion” :)
With that said, I think it’s actually pretty cool that the pope is extending the granting of indulgences to those that follow through twitter, that’s a HUGE step in the use of social media for the faith. I think it’s pretty awesome since blessings for the person is extended through live tv broadcasts of papal events such as Masses. But note, that it’s ONLY through a live broadcast, not recordings. On the other hand, if you look through the list (Enchiridion) of indulgences, you can see that it’s not hard to get a partial indulgence! Like spend some time in prayer, or read the Bible, etc.
Personally, I’ve found that indulgences help motivate me to do these holy actions and makes me keep a good hard look at how attached to sin I am! They also help me in my relationships with those whom I hold dear that are dead when I offer my indulgences for them. I think when I recognize that what I do piously (or as pious as I’m able to) can be an indulgence for others, it makes me aware that I’m not alone in the Church! And it also brings to mind my responsibility isn’t just for my own salvation, but for everyone’s as well.