Sunday 17 June 2018

Pope Francis speaking to the Italian Forum of Families

Pope Francis' prepared speech is being circulated - but on the occasion itself, he set it aside to respond "off the cuff" or rather, "from the heart", to the introductory words that had been addressed to him by a representative of the participants in the meeting. An English text of the Pope's remarks as actually delivered is not yet available, but the Italian is here. [UPDATE: English text, along with English text of Pope Francis' prepared text, here.]

The London Evening Standard website is citing what will no doubt be seen as the most controversial section of this address:

Quando ero ragazzo, la maestra ci insegnava storia e ci diceva cosa facevano gli spartani quando nasceva un bambino con malformazioni: lo portavano sulla montagna e lo buttavano giù, per curare “la purezza della razza”. E noi rimanevamo sbalorditi: “Ma come, come si può fare questo, poveri bambini!”. Era un’atrocità. Oggi facciamo lo stesso. Voi vi siete domandati perché non si vedono tanti nani per la strada? Perché il protocollo di tanti medici – tanti, non tutti – è fare la domanda: “Viene male?”. Lo dico con dolore. Nel secolo scorso tutto il mondo era scandalizzato per quello che facevano i nazisti per curare la purezza della razza. Oggi facciamo lo stesso, ma con guanti bianchi.

[When I was a boy, the teacher who taught us history spoke of what the Spartan's di when a disabled child was born: they carried them up the mountain and threw them down from there, to look after "the purity of the race". And we were amazed: "But how, how could they do this, poor children!" It was an atrocity. Today we do the same. You can ask yourself why we do not see as many disabled people* on the street? Because the protocol of many doctors - many, not all - is to ask the question "Will it go badly?" I say it with sorrow. In the last century the whole world was scandalised by what the Nazis did to keep the purity of the race. Today we do the same, but with white gloves**".]

That last sentence is hard hitting, to say the least.

But this is one paragraph of a much wider, from the heart, reflection by Pope Francis on the life of families in our own times. The whole is worth a read.

Pope Francis shares the questions he asks when he meets married couples at audiences; he very clearly speaks of marriage between a man and a woman (throughout!) and indicates how it is an image of God to the world; he comments on the analogical use of the term "family" and distinguishes that usage from the specific use of the term in relation to human families, made up of a man and woman with children; he suggests that we need a catechumenate for marriage like that we have for baptism; in an anniversary year of Humanae Vitae, he clearly calls on families to welcome the children that are the gift of God; and, as you would expect, he explains his three key words for married life - please, sorry and thank you - with the need for ensuring reconciliation at the end of the day.

It is probably better to view this address as being "from the heart" rather than "off the cuff". The content clearly arises from a long standing pastoral experience, and reflection on that experience, by Pope Francis.

And do read the whole.

*This is not a literal translation of the word "nani", but I think it will better capture the sense of Pope Francis' use of the word in this context.
**A reference to the surgical gloves of the medical profession.

Thursday 7 June 2018

Corpus Christi by Lake Como

I recall that, early in his pontificate, Pope Francis observed that it is popular devotions that represent the inculturation of the Gospel in a particular place. I was reminded of this last week when Zero and I were able to take part in the celebration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in the town of Bellano on Lake Como. We had noticed earlier in the week a notice of the celebration of the feast to take place on the Thursday at the Church of Saints Nazaro and Celso in the town square.

A solemn Mass, at a level that might have been typical of a reasonably capable parish, was celebrated at 8 pm. Ambrosian Rite (scroll down the page to find an account of the differences of the Ambrosian Rite from the Roman Rite), including with the particular Eucharistic Prayer that that rite has for the celebration of Maundy Thursday and other Eucharistic feasts. I particularly noticed the manner of the incensations (you can't really miss it!) and the blessing of the readers.

As Zero expressed it, the parish priest was someone who visibly communicated the joy of Christ (I'm not sure how well I translated that into Italian for him at the end of the procession!). The first communion children and their families were out in force, and there was a comfortably full Church. There was a choir, and three concelebrating priests. Parishioners seemed to be very familiar with the hymns being sung.

At the end of Mass we all moved out of the Church to form up outside for the Eucharistic procession. This was well organised - we were organised to walk in two lines at either side of the road, led by a cross and candles, with the town band about half way down the procession and the Blessed Sacrament carried under its canopy towards the rear. Loudspeakers carried on poles ensured that all could hear the meditations (on Gospel accounts of the meetings of Jesus with people on the roads), and the band played gentle music during times of our own meditations. The procession followed a loop around the town, including along the main lake side provincial road which was closed for half an hour or so. At the lake, there was a pause while the lake was blessed with the Blessed Sacrament, and a prayer offered of both thanksgiving for the lake and sorrow for those who have died in accidents on the lake.

And then back to the Church, through the narrow lanes of the town, for concluding prayers and Benediction. As we all left the Church, the town band played a short concert in the square outside.

Over the years, Zero and I have taken part in several Eucharistic processions during our holidays - one year at Rivotorto parish during a visit to Assisi and on another occasion at the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec in 2008. Bellano provided an experience as moving as any of them.