Short, sweet, simple: Francis & the Rule of Three

UPDATED Sept. 27: How amazing is that? The pope just got done speaking to catechists tonight about his use of threes!

He posed a question and then prepared to give some answers:

“First of all, I will talk about three things: one, two, three, like old-timer Jesuits used to do, right? One, two, three!” he smiled, as the audience laughed and clapped.

Prophetic? or does he read the CNSBlog!!??

Pope leads general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis speaks during a general audience in St. Peter’s Square in April. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis likes to boil most of his talks down to three bullet points.

The most memorable was his first homily as pope in a Mass with the cardinals who elected him, where he summed up faith in Jesus as being three kinds of movement: journeying, building, professing.

In some cases, like that March 14 Mass, he was capturing themes evident in the day’s three readings, but in most cases the “Rule of Three” works for Pope Francis as a simple framework upon which to hang just a few key concepts, making them easier for his audience to remember.

Since the pope basically inundated us with a huge number of texts this weekend, I thought it might be a fun time-saver for readers if they had a summary of Pope Francis’ important points by pulling out his “Famous Threes” from Sunday in Sardinia and Saturday at the Vatican: Continue reading

The spiritual physician and his remedies

Pope Francis blesses a sick man inside the Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari, Sardinia, Sept. 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis blesses a sick man inside the Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari, Sardinia, Sept. 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

CAGLIARI, Sardinia — “I see the church as a field hospital after battle,” Pope Francis said in his bold interview published last week in Jesuit magazines. His words were running through my mind yesterday as I photographed him tenderly greeting and kissing the sick in the Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari, on the Italian island of Sardinia. This wasn’t about just greeting people in wheelchairs. These were seriously ill people lying out on beds, some of them breathing oxygen or with masks over their mouths to protect from disease. The basilica looked as if it had been turned into a field hospital, much as U.S. churches were on battlefields were during the Civil War.

In my six months of photographic coverage of Pope Francis, I’ve witnessed the extraordinary emphasis he has placed on personally encountering the sick and disabled. At general audiences he personally greets, blesses and kisses dozens of infirmed. They are very touched by his gestures, many to the point of tears.

After seeing the basilica turned into a field hospital, I had a concrete image of how the pope also sees the church as a refuge for people suffering spiritually.

Pope Francis blesses a sick man as a man with a blue iPad captures the moment in the Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis blesses a sick man as a guy with a blue iPad captures the moment in the Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

I realized that he is like a spiritual physician who is giving us a prescription for how to best approach the deep wounds of a society distant from God.

The prescription is written in an informal and off-the cuff style. It is not the pontificating and direct style that many of us would expect. While experts debate the meaning of his words and style, I find by watching him closely that his manner seems to be that of a skilled country doctor. He makes personal visits and is beloved as he is colorful. He speaks informally, even sometimes using hyperbole to make a point. Like many doctors, he gives his prescription in language that his patients might find difficult to understand. But it would be impossible to doubt his compassion.

A clown blows bubbles as the pope blesses a sick man inside the basilica. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A clown blows bubbles as the pope blesses a sick man inside the basilica. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Writing desk of St. Therese goes on tour

Never mind the expression “if these walls could talk.” How about if this desk and inkwell could talk?

These items — second-class relics that belonged to St. Therese of Lisieux — have been on a tour of the United States. Sponsored by the Pontifical Mission Societies, the tour began in August and continues through mid-October. St. Therese and St. Francis Xavier are co-patrons of the church’s missionary work.

St. Therese is said to have used this desk almost daily from 1894 until her death from tuberculosis in 1897. It is where she composed her autobiography “Story of a Soul,” as well as many plays, poems and letters. Continue reading

Calling all Bergoglios! Picnic this weekend.

VATICAN CITY — With hundreds set to attend the Bergoglio family picnic this Sunday, one invited guest surely will be missing.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, today Pope Francis, was sent an invitation several days ago, but it’s unlikely he’ll be able to show. Attendees, who are meeting up in Cordoba, are hoping for a phone call or note instead, Luis Badilla reports on his blog Il Sismografo.

The future pope missed the gathering last year because it fell on the August feast day of St. Cajetan and he had to celebrate Mass, Betty Bergoglio of Las Varillas told reporters in March.

Continue reading

Another reason you may need to learn Italian?

UPDATED: You can hold off on signing up for Italian courses. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has saved the day.

Their online version has much better search functionality and people can order an ebook version, too.

Continue reading

Vatican Tweet Book

VATICAN CITY — Are you a Vatican junkie? Don’t have enough feeds streaming into your Tweetdeck or on Facebook?

Well, today’s your lucky day as we’ve combed through our “little black book” of Vatican VIPs and compiled a few of them for you.  Most are in English, some multi-language so follow where your linguistic abilities allow.

pontifeex@Pontifex  The official Twitter page of His Holiness Pope Francis

terza loggia@TerzaLoggia  The official Twitter page of the Secretariat of State.greg burke@GregBurkeRome  Senior Adviser for Communications, Secretariat of State

logo_news_va_twitter_VAT2_normal@news_va_en   Vatican media: CTV, Osservatore Romano, Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Vatican Radio, Press Office, Vatican website, V.I.S. is a service provided by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in cooperation with the media offices of the Vatican.

LOR-seal-name_normal@LOsservatoreUSA     USA edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, now printed by Our Sunday Visitor.

ossromano@oss_romano    (Italian)  L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

Basic RGB@Pope2YouVatican   Pope2You – A social network project by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications

pccs@PCCS_VA       Pontifical Council for Social Communications from the Holy See

uffliturgiche@UCEPO    (Italian) The office of Papal Liturgical Ceremonies (Ufficio delle Celebrazioni Liturgiche del Sommo Pontefice)

culture council@VaticanCultura   Pontifical Council for Culture’s aggregator of online updates. Not monitored.

0ravasi3_normal@CardRavasi_en  President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi

year of faith@Year_of_Faith   Official Twitter account of the Year of Faith of the Promotion of the New Evangelization

casinovifototwitter_normal@CasinaPioIV   News from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences

vat observ@VaticanObserv    The Vatican Observatory is the astronomical observatory of the Vatican City State. Founded in 1891, our history goes back to the Gregorian Calendar of 1582.

funes@JoseGFunesSJ      Jesuit Father Jose Funes. Director of the Vatican Observatory

broguy@specolations      Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno. Astronomer at the Vatican Observatory

caritas@iamCARITAS    Caritas Internationalis. The humanitarian and development organization of the Catholic Church

pontifcal foundation@acn_intl_org    Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical Foundation: Our Mission is to Help Persecuted and Oppressed Christians Worldwide with Prayer, Information and Action.

PontMissionsS-twitter_normal@1missionfamily   The Pontifical Mission Societies have, as their primary purpose, the promotion of a universal missionary spirit

cnewa@CNEWA      Catholic Near East Welfare Association is a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support for the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe.

usaholysee@USinHolySee    Official twitter account of the United States Embassy to the Holy See

ukholy see@UKinHolySee   The official twitter account of the British Embassy to the Holy See.


On Facebook be sure to friend:

vatican radio englishVatican Radio – English Section

swiss guardThe Pontifical Swiss Guard

patronsThe Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums


And don’t forget us, your friends at Catholic News Service!

cns logo@CatholicNewsSvc and



Pencil pals for Pope Benedict


Pope Benedict XVI working at a desk at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, July 23, 2010. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — There’s a small movement underway to thank retired Pope Benedict XVI for all he’s done for the church and to urge him to keep enriching the world with his writings.

“Pencils for Benedict XVI” is an informal campaign started by UK Web developer Sonia Swabey and her team at their website and forum — a site named in recognition of the retired pope’s personal secretary and prefect of the papal household, Archbishop Georg Ganswein.

Sonia said they would like people to submit their personal reflections about what Pope-emeritus Benedict means to them and how he has influenced their lives.

The group plans on compiling into a book all the written contributions that are sent to its web address: The plan is to also include a box of pencils — the retired pope’s favorite writing tool — as a symbolic way to encourage him to keep writing.

Despite being gifted a portable laptop just a few days after he broke his wrist in July 2009, Father Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters that the pope was “not used to writing with a PC; he isn’t very technological.” Father Lombardi said that, “especially in creative work, (the pope) prefers to use a pen” or as some rare pictures attest, a pencil.

Even though Pope Benedict said he would spend the rest of his days in prayer and meditation, it’s hard to imagine he’s not scribbling away, too.  When I was aboard the papal flight to the Czech Republic with him just two months after he hurt his wrist, he told us how difficult it was for him to have his writing hand immobilized by a cast and injury.

“My thoughts mostly develop through writing, so for me it was truly a test of patience to not be able to write for six weeks,” he had told us.

Sonia said the inspiration behind their “Pencils for Benedict” initiative is something Pope Francis said about having Pope Benedict living nearby at the Vatican. He told journalists this July: “It’s like having your grandfather in the house, a wise grandfather.  When families have a grandfather at home, he is venerated, he is loved, he is listened to.”

Now it’s your turn to tell the retired pope how you feel. The deadline for submissions to the campaign is Sept. 30.