Pope: Synod is not parliament, but place to listen to Spirit

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The world Synod of Bishops on the family is not a parliament where participants will negotiate or lobby, Pope Francis said, but it must be a place of prayer where bishops speak with courage and open themselves to “God who always surprises us.”

Opening the first working session of the synod Oct. 5, the pope said the synod’s 270 voting members need courage, “pastoral and doctrinal zeal, wisdom, frankness and to keep always before our eyes the good of the church and of families and the supreme law — the salvation of souls.”

Arriving about 15 minutes before the session began, Pope Francis welcomed to the synod hall the members, delegates from other Christian communities and the men and women who will serve as experts and observers.

The synod is not a convention or a parliament, Pope Francis said, “but an expression of the church; it is the church that walks together to read reality with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God.”

Synod members must be faithful to church teaching, “the deposit of faith, which is not a museum to be visited or even simply preserved, but is a living spring from which the church drinks to quench the thirst and enlighten” people, he said. Continue reading

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Oct. 4, 2015

"And the two shall become one flesh." -- Mark 10:8a

“And the two shall become one flesh.” — Mark 10:8a

Oct. 4, Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle B. Readings:

1) Genesis 2:18-24

Psalm 128:1-6

2) Hebrews 2:9-11

Gospel: Mark 10:2-16 or Mark 10:2-12


By Jeff Hensley
Catholic News Service

How many of us have watched, in our own families or the families of those close to us, as husbands and wives have endured rough patches — some short, others stretching over decades. At times, it may have seemed easier, we might have observed, to dissolve a marriage and give both parties the chance to begin anew.

My father, as much as I loved him, didn’t become a particularly easy fellow to live with until many years into his retirement. But a bit before my mother was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, he changed. His compassion became more pronounced, and his concern for my mother began to develop a nurturing side that had not surfaced since his children were small.

His was a long, steep upward climb to maturity. Had my mother not held on during those more difficult times in their marriage, he would not have been there as her close emotional and physical support during her last years.

Today’s Genesis Scripture speaks of God’s creation of marriage, of the physical unity of husband and wife. The familiar passage that sums up that unity ends with the words, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.”

In the passage from Mark, Jesus quotes this Scripture when he answers the Pharisees’ questions about divorce. It is “the hardness of your hearts” he says, that caused Moses to provide a means under the law for men to divorce their wives.

These are interesting Scriptures to consider at an interesting time in the life of the world and the church, especially in light of the beautiful theology on marriage and the family to be taught and discussed at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Perhaps even more pertinent is the end of this passage in Mark, in which Jesus, on allowing small children to approach him over the objections of his disciples, says, “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”


Do you find it easy or hard to respond to the “difficult” teachings of Jesus with a childlike willingness to obey?

Conjectures of a guilty stander

MertonconjecturesI figure that since Pope Francis mentioned Father Thomas Merton as an exemplar in his address to Congress, I could riff on the title of one of his more famous books to write about what I saw in the non-ticketed section of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during Sunday’s papal Mass, which was the pope’s last public event before heading to Atlantic Aviation for his return to Rome.

First, I was concerned — and legitimately so — that the lack of information available about the Philadelphia portion of Pope Francis’ apostolic journey in the weeks preceding it, coupled with the blocking off to all traffic a major chunk of downtown Philly meant that this was going to be tantamount to Woodstock without the bands, rain or no rain. That was not the case. I’m more relieved to report than happy to report that, but if you didn’t get to the TSA security line until the afternoon,  the wait to get through was three hours by then. My wait was 30 minutes, but I pulled up to the end of line at 9:30 a.m.

There should be no question about the faith and zeal of the hundreds of thousands who endured the byzantine maze of road closures, commuter train reroutings, and security checkpoints to join Pope Francis, even if there was little guarantee of seeing him in person.

I found a nice spot on the Ben Franklin Parkway behind the Costa Rican flag, finally settling for the back row against a concrete abutment atop which stood a cast-iron fence to keep people from tumbling onto the temporarily closed freeway below. So when I didn’t have to stand, I could at least lean.

This section possibly represented well the cross-section of Catholics coming to the Mass: Navajo women from New Mexico, a three-generation family from Ohio, a budding Michigan-vs.-Ohio State rivalry between a woman and her niece, a Vietnamese refugee from 40 years ago who has made her home in Boston, a woman who came to the United States at age 12 from the Dominican Republic to settle in Rhode Island, college types from Loyola University of Maryland, a family with three young daughters from New Jersey, mass-transit “pope pass” winners from Pennsylvania and Delaware, and two Asian-American families with four preschool-age children between them.

Pope Francis arrives in the popemobile for the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia Sept. 27. (CNS photo/Bob Roller) See POPE-FAMILY-MASS Sept. 27, 2015.

(CNS photo/Bob Roller)

One lady stood on the abutment to better get a glimpse of Pope Francis. She got what she came for, when his popemobile (the white Jeep Wrangler, not the black Fiat 500L), moved slowly down the parkway. Then she headed off. It’s too bad, because the pontiff made a return trip in the opposite direction, stopping right in front of us to embrace and kiss a baby that he wanted brought to him.

I was put off by the commercialism surrounding the Mass. Food continued to be for sale during the Mass. The same was true for “official merchandise.” The World Meeting of Families has a generous budget to mount these meetings every three years (Dublin, Ireland in 2018), but in my view they risk reducing the gathering with official this and official that. What makes an official rosary any better than a non-official rosary? And do we really need hawkers selling official ivory bone china of the World Meeting of Families?

The liturgy itself was quite fitting for the occasion, with the use of songs by several top liturgical music composers of the 20th century. But it struck a nerve when the master of ceremonies for the Mass cut off the gospel choir singing James Moore’s “Taste and See” during the refrain to remind all of the need for “sacred silence.” After the microphones were cut off, people along the parkway continued singing the chorus until the emcee’s instruction. To these eyes and ears, there would have been plenty of time for sacred silence once the chorus had concluded.

I was a touch surprised how many packed up their things to leave during Communion. Some left without receiving Communion, while others packed up their things and got in line for a priest underneath a gold and white umbrella to give them the Eucharist, and they were never seen again.

The walk away from the parkway was far easier than not only the walk to the parkway, but also the walk Sept. 26  after the Mass in the Basilica Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul. Police are to be commended for the quick removal of barricades.

I just hope someone writes down the lessons learned for a papal playbook for the next time Pope Francis or a successor visits these shores.

Indy couple uses teacher skills to engineer mitres

Doug and Julie Bauman show off their homemade miters as they wait for Pope Francis’ motorcade to arrive on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for Mass on Sept. 27. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)

Doug and Julie Bauman show off their homemade miters as they wait for Pope Francis’ motorcade to arrive on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for Mass on Sept. 27. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)

By Seth T. Gonzales

PHILADELPHIA — Sunday was the first time Doug and Julie Bauman have ever worn a miter. Made of cardboard, of course.

“We engineered these hats in our hotel room two days ago,” Doug said. “We wanted to be fun, creative and under budget.”

Drawing on their experience as schoolteachers, they accomplished all three with a dollar in their pocket, two pieces of poster board and a roll of duct tape.

Hailing from Indianapolis, the Baumans, who have three young children back at home, traveled to Philadelphia with a group of 50 pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. After spending the week at the World Meeting of Families, Doug and Julie gamed a plan not just to get close to the papal motorcade, but to get Pope Francis’ attention.

With no baby in hand for the pontiff to kiss, they had to think outside the box. Julie said they remembered a group of friends who traveled to Denver during St. John Paul II’s visit to the city and came back with foam miters.

“I thought I could find one to buy, but it turns out I couldn’t,” Julie said. “So we had to improvise.”

Doug Bauman (wearing the miter) waits for Pope Francis’ motorcade to arrive on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for Mass on Sept. 27. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)

Doug Bauman (wearing the miter) waits for Pope Francis’ motorcade to arrive on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for Mass on Sept. 27. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)

Married for 14 years, the couple said they weren’t going to miss Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. Doug said he and his wife were moved to tears during the pontiff’s improvised talk at the Festival of Families.

“It was one of those moments I’ll never forget,” Doug said. “We prayed with the Holy Father and his message was directed right toward our ministry as spouses, parents and teachers.”

Julie said Pope Francis is helping the two of them look at the bigger picture when dealing with the stress of raising a family.

“Even in our not-so-great moments as a parent, Jesus is with us, especially during those times,” Julie said.

As for the miters, the couple said they might not have scored any brownie points with their kids back home.

“We sent them a photo and they’re totally embarrassed,” Julie laughed. “They’re really glad they didn’t come with us.”

Follow Gonzales on Twitter: @TexasCatholic

Pope Francis a powerful ally for woman whose mom has cancer

By Seth Gonzales

PHILADELPHIA — Cancer is a formidable opponent, but Joann Roa knows she has a powerful ally in Pope Francis.

A caretaker for her mother Rosa, who is fighting stage four ovarian cancer back in Long Island, New York, Roa sought a place along the papal motorcade route before the pontiff arrived at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for Mass Sept. 27.

Philadelphia City Hall towers over a sea of pilgrims gathered on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for Mass with Pope Francis on Sept. 27. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)

Philadelphia City Hall towers over a sea of pilgrims gathered on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for Mass with Pope Francis on Sept. 27. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)

Touting a sign in Spanish briefly explaining her mother’s situation, Roa simply hoped to get Pope Francis to pray for her mother.

She said his words have given her consolation during some very difficult times.

“It is very hard, but we believe that nothing is impossible with God,” said Roa, who also volunteered with the World Meeting of Families. “We believe in what he tells us: to have faith and to have joy in suffering. He gives me that consolation and strength to keep going and to keep loving.”

Adding to her family’s grief was the death of her father Jose in this past July. Roa said she was inspired by the way her father gave his life in service to the church as a deacon for 35 years, and to her mother during her illness.

Despite the cross she and her family are bearing, Roa said Pope Francis has given her hope through his gestures of love, humility and mercy.

“(Pope Francis) is teaching me to smile on the outside even though it’s hard on the inside,” Joann said.

Though the suffering her family has been through might be great, she said she believes it’s happening for a reason and has faith that her mother will be healed in some way, shape or form.

“I believe we’re all called to suffering because it’s redemptive, it’s purifying,” Joann said. “It brings us closer to Christ, and this is what our Holy Father calls for, each and every one of us. It’s worth it to strive for holiness.”

Follow Gonzales on Twitter: @TexasCatholic

Hymn composer for World Meeting of Families honored, humbled

Normandy Gouin (photo courtesy of Holy Cross College)

Normand Gouin (Photo courtesy of Holy Cross College)

When the Philadelphia Orchestra plays the official hymn for World Meeting of Families during the closing Mass later today in Philadelphia, the song’s composer, who will be singing with the choir, said he might have a hard time singing.

“I’ll likely be overcome by emotion,” said Normand Gouin, less than a week before the Mass, when he was still going back and forth for rehearsals.

Gouin, director of liturgy and music at the chaplain’s office at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, composed the music for the hymn “Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom” and the text was written by Norbertine Father Andrew Ciferni, director for the Center of Norbertine Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin.

He said he wanted the hymn, which will be sung three times during major events at the World Meeting of Families, to be simple and accessible to people, along the lines of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

He and Father Ciferni worked together for about a month on the song before submitting it as a contender for the event’s official hymn.

“The word I keep using is humble,” Gouin said of the piece being chosen. He has composed other pieces but never something performed in such a large setting and also before a pope.

The hymn’s bell theme was something he and Father Ciferni felt would not only convey the symbolic Liberty Bell in Philadelphia but also how bells are used in monasteries to mark time, “calling us to be mindful of God’s presence.”

Once the hymn was selected, which Gouin composed for brass, organ and choir, the arrangement was sent to the Philadelphia Orchestra to be elaborated on for their performance.

The hymn also was also used in the opening Mass for the World Meeting of Families and in the Sept. 26 Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

The hymn will not just have its big moment during the World Meeting of Families, but will be used in other liturgical celebrations with an alternate text that expresses the role of the Holy Spirit in peoples’ lives.

Gouin’s hope is that the hymn, like Pope Francis, will bring encourage and inspire people and lead them “to raise their hearts and voices in a spirit of unity, peace, and renewed hope.”

Celebrating families, and the pope, in Philly

Lily, 6, and Michael, 8, wait for Pope Francis with their parents Heather and Robert Kerschner during the Festival of Families on Sept 26. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)

Lily, 6, and Michael, 8, wait for Pope Francis with their parents Heather and Robert Kerschner during the Festival of Families on Sept 26. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)

By Seth T. Gonzales

PHILADELPHIA — A host of performers, including actor Mark Wahlberg, comedian Jim Gaffigan and musical artists Aretha Franklin, Andrea Bocelli, Juanes and The Fray entertained pilgrims young and old from across the world gathered on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in downtown Philadelphia for the Festival of Families.

On Sept. 9, organizers made 10,000 free tickets for the Sept. 26 festival available on a first-come, first-serve basis for seats closest to the stage. For nonticket holders, sections were cordoned off along the parkway and Jumbotrons put in place to view the festivities on stage.

World Meeting of Families organizers said thousands more had filled those sections by 5 p.m. Attendees began camping out as early as Friday night in order to ensure admittance into the park.

Luisa Sanchez-Sorondo and Francisco Dionisio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, attend the Festival of Families in Philadelphia Sept. 26. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)

Luisa Sanchez-Sorondo and Francisco Dionisio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, attend the Festival of Families in Philadelphia Sept. 26. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)

Before arriving at the park, Pope Francis delivered a speech to thousands gathered at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. The pontiff then made his way to the park in his popemobile and addressed the crowd.

Luisa Sanchez-Sorondo and her husband, Francisco Dionisio, are natives of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and knew the pope while he was still a cardinal. Both are leading the cause for the canonization of an Argentine laywoman named Maria Antonia de Paz Figueroa.

“I see him (Pope Francis) dressed in white and I cannot believe it, because I always met him in black so it’s so strange for me,” said Sanchez-Sorondo, who has two children. “(This event) gives us an opportunity to listen to different points of view from around the world.”

Flying all the way from Hawaii, Heather and Robert Kerschner brought their two children, Michael, 8, and Lily, 6, in the hopes of seeing Pope Francis. All four of them pressed up against the park’s security railing on the pope’s motorcade route.

“I think it’s really important for them to see the power of faith and to see that it was a long journey for us to get here, but just to see it all culminate in a really exciting event like this is another way for our faith to bring us together,” Heather said. “We were just telling our son yesterday that we are a part of history right now.”

Hailing from North Dakota, Paul Gardner is a second-year seminarian studying at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. He was among those who got a ticket for seats near the stage.

“To see the pope who’s giving such a good example of how to live a humble life and not think much of himself is very exciting,” Gardner said. “More than anything I’m looking forward to seeing that example so I can live it out if, God-willing, I become a priest someday.”

Follow Gonzales on Twitter: @TexasCatholic

People line up along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)

People line up along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia. (CNS photo/Seth Gonzales)


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