Friday, 11 October 2013

Pope Francis: General Audience addresses on the Church

Since the resumption of the Wednesday General Audiences after their summer break, Pope Francis has given a series of addresses reflecting on that part of the Profession of Faith that refers to the nature of the Church:
I believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
The series to date do make up a very readable catechesis on the nature of the Church. The Holy Father has still to consider the "apostolic" nature of the Church (presumably this coming Wednesday?), but it was the most recent in the series, addressing the "catholic" nature of the Church, that caught my attention. The word "catholic"
... derives from the Greek “kath’olòn” which means "according to the whole", the totality.
 Pope Francis then presented his customary three points.
The first. The Church is catholic because it is the place, the house in which the faith is announced in its entirety.
This point was then developed by likening the Church to a family which nourishes its members and helps them to grow. It was the account of the part played in this by the Sacraments which struck me:
.... in the Church we can meet the Lord in the Sacraments which are the open windows through which is given the light of God, the streams from which we draw the very life of God  ...
Pope Francis continued to consider the Church as universal, and, thirdly, as the "house of harmony":
 There is a beautiful image which says that the Church is like a large orchestra in which there is variety. We are not all equal and we must not all be equal. We are diverse, different, each one with their own gift. And this is the beauty of the Church: each one carries his own, that which God has given them, to enrich the others.
In considering the Church as holy, Pope Francis first identified the holiness of the Church as being given to her by God, who gave himself for her on the Cross. He then speaks of how we as sinners in the Church are called to an experience of God's mercy and to strive for holiness.

Pope Francis opened his consideration of the Church as one by observing that:
 The Catholic Church in the world “has but one faith, one sacramental life, one apostolic succession, one common hope, and one and the same charity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 161). It is a beautiful definition, clear, it orients us well. Unity in faith, hope and charity, unity in the sacraments, in the ministry: these are like the pillars that hold up and keep together the one great edifice of the Church. Wherever we go, even to the smallest parish in the most remote corner of this earth, there is the one Church. We are at home, we are in the family, we are among brothers and sisters. And this is a great gift of God! The Church is one for us all. There is not one Church for Europeans, one for Africans, one for Americans, one for Asians, one for those who live in Oceania. No, she is one and the same everywhere.
The first two General Audiences of the series were devoted to the theme of the Church as Mother: here and here. In all of the Audiences of this series, Pope Francis is inclined to end his consideration of a point by asking several questions of his listeners, questions which ask them how well they are living out the reality of which he has just spoken. In the first address on the Church as Mother, in what I suspect was a departure from his prepared text, Pope Francis asked a particularly poignant question of his listeners:
Let us ask ourselves: how do I see the Church? As I am grateful to my parents for giving me life, am I grateful to the Church for generating me in the faith through Baptism? How many Christians remember the date of their Baptism? I would like to ask you here, but each of you respond in you heart: how many of you remember the date of your Baptism? A few people raise their hands, but many others do not remember! But the date of your Baptism is the day of our birth in the Church, the date on which our mother Church gave us life! And now I leave you with some homework. When you go home today, go and find out what the date of your Baptism is, and then celebrate it, thank the Lord for this gift. Are you going to do it?
 Mine is the 3rd August - but I have reached an age which means I would rather not reveal the year ....

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