Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Holy Father's Christmas address to the Roman Curia.

This is hardly a blistering speech, as characterized by the MSM. Still, here ya go.


P.S. This was a quick-and-dirty translation. I'll probably futz with it some more.


At the end of Advent we meet for the traditional greetings. In a few days we will celebrate the Nativity of the Lord; the event of God who became man in order to save men; the manifestation of the love of God which is not limited to [a] giving [of] us something, or to send us some message, or [send us] certain messengers but He gives Himself to us; the mystery of God who takes our human condition upon Himself and takes on [i.e. "bears"] our sins to reveal His divine life, His immense grace and His freely given forgiveness. [Christmas] is the appointment with God who is born, in the poverty of the grotto of Bethlehem, to teach us the power of humility. In fact, Christmas is also the feast of light that does not come to be accepted by the "elect" people but by poor, simple people who expected the salvation of the Lord.

First of all, I would like to wish all of you - co-workers, brothers and sisters, papal representatives around the world - and all of your loved ones a holy Christmas and a happy New Year. I would like to thank you sincerely, for your daily commitment to the service of the Holy See of the Catholic Church, of the particular Churches and of the Successor of Peter.

Since we are people and not numbers or only names, I must remember in a special manner those who, during this year, finished their service due to having reached age limits or who have taken other roles or because they have been called to the House of the Father. Also to all of them and their families must be my thoughts and gratitude.

I wish all of you raise up to the Lord a vivid and heartfelt thanks for the year that is ending, for the events [we have] lived and for all the good that He wished to, generously, make through the service of the Holy See, humbly asking forgiveness for the faults [we have] committed "by [our] thoughts, words, deeds and omissions".

And, starting from this request for pardon, I would like to make our encounter, and the thoughts that I will share with you, become for all of us a foundation and a stimulus to a true examination of conscience to prepare our hearts for a Holy Christmas.

Thinking about our encounter, the image of the Church as the mystical Body of Jesus Christ came to my mind. It is an expression that, as explained by Pope Pius XII, "springs and almost bursts from what is frequently exposed in the Sacred Scripture and Holy Fathers." In this regard, St. Paul wrote: "As the body, although it is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ" (I Cor 12:12 ).

In this sense, the 2nd Vatican Council reminds us that "in the structure of the mystical Body of Christ there is a diversity of members and offices. One is the Spirit, for which the Church distributes the variety of her gifts with magnificence proportionate to its riches and [to] the needs of the ministries (see I Cor 12:1-11)".  Hence, "Christ and the Church form the "total Christ" - Christus totus.  The Church is one with Christ."

It is beautiful to think of the Roman Curia as a small model of the Church, i.e. as a "body" that searches, seriously and daily, to be livelier, healthier, more harmonious and more united within itself and with Christ.

In reality, the Roman Curia is a complex body, composed of many Dicasteries, Councils, Offices, Courts, Commissions, and of numerous elements that do not all have the same task, but are coordinated for effective, edifying, disciplined and exemplary functioning, in spite of the cultural, linguistic and national diversity of its members.

Anyway, the Curia being a dynamic [i.e. “living”] body, it cannot live without eating and without [due] care. In fact, the Curia - as the Church - cannot live without having a vital, personal, genuine and balanced relationship with Christ.  A member of the Curia who is not fed with that [Divine] Food daily will devolve into a bureaucrat (a formalist, a functionary, a mere employee): a vine which dries and slowly dies and is thrown away. Daily prayer, assiduous participation in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist and Reconciliation, daily contact with the word of God and [a] spirituality [which is] translated into lived charity are the vital nourishment for each of us. It is clear to all of us that without Him we can do nothing (Jn 15:8).

As a result, the living relationship with God also nourishes and reinforces [our] communion with others, that is, the more we are intimately joined to God ,the more we are united among ourselves because “the Spirit of God unites and the spirit of the Evil One divides.”

The Curia is called to improve itself, to improve itself always, to grow in “communion, holiness and wisdom” to fully realize its mission. And yet it, as with each body, as each human body, it is also exposed to maladies, malfunction, disease. And here I would like to mention just a few of these probable maladies, curial maladies. Maladies are more habitual in our life in the Roman Curia. These are maladies and temptations that undermine our service to the Lord. I think it will be helpful [to have] the "catalog" of maladies – [following] the way of the desert Fathers, who made the catalog - about which we are talking today: to help us prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which will be a beautiful step for all of us in preparing for Christmas.

1. The malady of feeling "immortal," "exempt" or even "indispensable" by neglecting the necessary and usual [self] examination. A Curia that does not practice self-criticism, does not keep up to date, does not try to better itself, is a sick Body. A normal visit to the cemeteries could help us to see the names of so many people, who perhaps thought they were immortal, exempt, and indispensable! It is the disease of the rich fool of the Gospel who thought to live eternally (cf. Lk 12:13-21) and also of those who become masters and feel superior to all, not at the service of all. It is often due to the pathology of power, from the "complex of the elect," [this could be understood as a “Messianic” or “superiority” complex, it’s not clear] from narcissism that passionately guards its own image and does not see the image of God impressed on the face of others, especially the weakest and neediest.  The antidote to this epidemic is the grace to realize [literally, “have the sense”] we are sinners, and to say with all one's heart: "We are useless servants. We have done what we were expected to do" (Lk 17:10).

2. Another: The disease of the "Marthism" (which comes from Martha), of excessive industriousness: that is, those who are immersed in work, neglecting, inevitably, the "best part": to sit at the feet of Jesus (Lk 10:38-42).  Because of this, Jesus called his disciples to "rest awhile'" because to neglect the necessary rest leads to stress and anxiety. The time for rest, for those who brought to a conclusion their mission, is necessary, proper and should be lived seriously: to spend a bit of time with the family and in observance of [literally “respecting”] the Holidays as moments of spiritual and physical restoration; we must learn what is taught by "there is a time for everything." (3:1-15)

3. There is also the disease of mental and spiritual "petrification": that is, of those who possess a heart of stone and a "stiff neck" (Acts 7:51-60); of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, their vivacity and audacity, hiding [behind] paperwork and [who] become "procedural machines" instead of “men of God" (Heb 3:12). It is dangerous to lose the human sensitivity necessary for us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice! It the disease of people who lose "the feeling of Jesus" (Phil 2:5-11) because their heart, with the passing of time, hardens and becomes incapable of loving unconditionally the Father and one’s neighbor (cf. Mt 22:34-40).  Being a Christian, in fact, means "to have the same sentiments [as] Christ Jesus," (Phil 2-5) feelings of humility, and [of] self-giving, detachment and generosity.

4. The disease of the excessive planning and functionalism. When an apostle schedules everything meticulously and believes that [by] making a perfect plan, things must progress effectively, thus becoming [like] an accountant or a merchant. Preparing everything is good and necessary, but never give in to the temptation to want to confine and direct the liberty of the Holy Spirit, which remains larger, more generous than any human planning (cf. Jn 3:8).  One falls into this disease because 'it is always easier and more convenient to rest in static and unchanging positions.' In reality, the Church is faithful to the Holy Spirit in the [same] measure it lacks the presumption to adjust and domesticate it…taming the Holy Spirit!… [The Holy Spirit] is freshness, imagination, newness.

5. The disease of the poor coordination [this is meant in the sense of “cooperation”]. When the members [of a body] lose the communion between them and the body, [the body] loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra that produces noise, because its members do not cooperate and do not live the spirit of communion and teamwork. When the foot tells the arm: "I don't need you," or the hand to the head: "I’m in control," this causes [all manner of] disquiet and scandal.

6. There is also the disease of "spiritual Alzheimer's”: that is, a forgetfulness of the "history of salvation," of our personal history with the Lord, of the "first love" (Rev 2:4).  It is a progressive decline of the spiritual faculties, over a more or less long period of time, [which] causes severe disability to the person making it become unable to perform any autonomous activity, living in a state of absolute dependence on his [personal] viewpoints, often imaginary. You can see it in those who have lost any memory of their encounter with the Lord; in those who do not have a deuteronomic sense of life; in those who depend completely on their present, on their passions, whims and manias; in those who build walls out of their habits and increasingly become slaves of the idols that have been sculpted with their own hands.

7. The disease of rivalry and vainglory.  When one’s appearance, the colors of the robes and hallmarks of honor becomes the primary goal of life, forgetting the words of Saint Paul: "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but each one of you in humility consider others better than himself. Each does not seek his own interest, but also that of others" (Phil 2:1-4).  It is the disease that leads us to be false men and women and living a false "mysticism" and a false "quietism." The same St. Paul defines them as "enemies of the Cross of Christ" because "they boast of what they should be ashamed and think of the things the world." (Phil 3:19)

8. The disease of existential schizophrenia. It is the disease of those who live a double life, which is the result of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre [person] and of a progressive[ly worsening] spiritual vacuum which degrees or academic titles cannot fill. A disease that often hits those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit their activities to bureaucracy, losing touch with reality and [with] real people. They thus create their own parallel world, where they set aside all that they teach with severity to others and begin to live a hidden and often dissolute life. Conversion is quite urgent and indispensable for this very serious disease (cf. Lk 15:11-32).

9. Disease of gossip, murmurings and slander. This malady I have already mentioned several times but never enough. It is a grave malady, which begins simply, perhaps just with a chat and gets a hold of the that person [who then] becomes "a sower of discord" [literally a “sower of weeds”] (like Satan), and in many cases a "murderer in cold blood" of the good name and reputation of their colleagues and brothers. It is the disease of cowardly people who, not having the courage to speak out directly, speak behind the back. St Paul warns us: "Do all things without murmur and without hesitation, to be blameless and pure." (Phil 2:14-18).  Brethren, let us beware of the terrorism of slander!

10. The disease to deify [one's] leaders: it is the disease of those who court superiors, hoping to obtain their benevolence. They become the victims of careerism and opportunism, [they] honor people and not God (Mt 23:8-12).  These are people who live their vocation thinking only of what they are to gain and not of what they are to give. People who are petty, unhappy and inspired only by their own fatal selfishness (Gal 5:16-25).  This disease might also strike superiors when they court some of their subordinates in order to gain their submission, loyalty and psychological dependence, but the end result is a true complicity.

11. The disease of indifference toward others. When everyone thinks only of himself and loses the truthfulness and warmth of human relationships. When more experienced persons do not offer their knowledge to the service of less experienced colleagues. When, out of of jealousy or subterfuge, we rejoice in seeing others fall, rather than [wishing to] lift them up and encourage them.

12. The malady of the funereal face. That is, of people who are scowling and unfriendly, who consider that to be serious they should put on a face of melancholy, severity and to treat others - especially those they consider to be beneath them - with rigidity, hardness and arrogance. In reality, theatrical severity, and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity about themselves. The apostle must strive to be a polite, serene, enthusiastic and joyful person who transmits joy wherever he is. A heart full of God is a happy heart that radiates joy and captivates all those who are around it: You can see it now! Let us not lose, therefore, that joyful spirit, full of humor, and even self-deprecation, that makes us lovely people, even in difficult situations.  How good for us is a healthy dose of good humor! We would do very well to recite often the prayer of Saint Thomas More: I do so every day, it does me good.

13. Malady of accumulation: when an apostle seeks to fill an existential void in his heart by accumulating material possessions, not out of necessity, but only to feel secure. In reality, there is nothing material we can bring with us because "the [funeral] shroud does not have pockets" and all our earthly treasures - even if they are gifts - can never fill that void, but rather [that void] will be ever more demanding and more profound. To these people the Lord repeats: "Thou sayest, am rich, and enriched, have need of nothing. But you do not know what it is to be unhappy, miserable, poor, blind, and naked ... Be zealous therefore, and converted" (Rev 3:17-19).  Accumulation only clutters and inexorably slows down one’s path! And I think of an anecdote: There was a time when the Spanish Jesuits described the Society of Jesus as the "light cavalry of the Church".  I remember the transfer of a young Jesuit, who was loading onto a truck his many items: luggage, books, objects and gifts, I remember, an old Jesuit with a wise smile who stood to observe: “This is the LIGHT cavalry of the Church?" Our moving [as in when we move from one dwelling to another] are a sign of this malady.

14. The malady of closed circles, where the membership in the subgroup becomes more important than that of the body and, in some situations, than to Christ himself. This disease always begins with good intentions but with the passing of time it enslaves the members becoming a cancer that threatens the harmony of the Body and causes so much evil - scandals - especially in our younger brothers and sisters. The self-destruction or "friendly fire" of one’s colleagues, is a most insidious danger.  It is the evil that strikes from within; and, as Christ says, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to ruin." (Lk 11:17)

15. And the last: the malady of mundane [i.e. "vulgar"] profit, exhibitionism, when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into a commodity to obtain worldly profits or more power, and this the disease of people who are insatiably looking to multiply their power and, for this purpose, are capable of slander, defamation, and the disparagement [of] others, even in newspapers and magazines. Naturally, that is in order to show off and exhibit their superiority to others. This disease is very bad for the body because it leads people to justify the use of any means to achieve their purpose, often in the name of justice and transparency! And here I have in mind the memory of a priest who called journalists to tell them - and invent - private and confidential things of his brother priests and parishioners. For he had only wanted to see himself on the front pages, because it felt "powerful and addictive," causing so much harm to others and to the Church. How poor!

Brothers and Sisters, these maladies and these temptations are, of course, a danger for every Christian and every curia, community, congregation, parish, church movement, and they can hit both at the individual and community level.

It should be clarified that only the Holy Spirit - the soul of the Mystical Body of Christ, as it says in the Nicene creed: "I believe ... in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver" - can heal every infirmity. It is the Holy Spirit that sustains every sincere effort to purify and every good desire for conversion. It is he making us understand that every member participates in the sanctification of the body and to its weakening. He is the promoter of harmony: "Ipse harmonia est," says St. Basil. St. Augustine tells us: "When a part adheres to the body, its healing is not to be despaired, but what was severed, you can neither afford nor heal yourself."

Healing is also the result of the awareness of the disease and of a personal and communal decision of enduring patiently and with perseverance the [process of] cure.

Therefore, we are called - in this time of Christmas, and all the time of our service and of our [very] existence - to live "according to the truth in love, we are to grow in every way into Him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by the collaboration of every joint, according to the energy of each state, receives strength to grow in such a way as to build itself up in love." (Eph 4:15-16)

Dear brethren!

I once read that the priests are like airplanes: they make the news only when they fall, but there are so many who fly. [So] many people criticize [them] and [so] few pray for them. It is a very cute phrase but it is also very true, because it outlines the importance and delicacy of our priestly service and how much evil is caused - by [even] only one priest who "falls" - to the entire body of the Church.

Therefore, in order not to fall in these days in which we prepare for Confession, let us pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, to heal the wounds of sin that each of us carries in his heart and to sustain the Church and the Roman Curia, the healthy and in need of health; saints and in need of sanctification, to the glory of his Son, and for our salvation and the whole world. We ask You to make us love the Church as He loved Christ, His son and our Lord, and to have the courage to recognize ourselves as sinners and in need of His mercy and not be afraid to abandon ourselves His tender [literally “maternal”] hands.

So many wishes for a holy Christmas to all of you, to your families, and to your subordinates. And please, don't forget to pray for me! Thank you so much!