19 March 2013

" please pray for me "

From the night of 13th March 2013, when he stepped on to the balcony last week amidst a thunderous and joyous 'Habemus Papam' to this day, 19th March, 2013, when he inaugurated his Petrine ministry, Pope Francis has had a frequent phrase on his lips, rather a humble request, " Please pray for me ". More than humility, it is rather wisdom that prompts him to seek the collaboration of his flock, first and foremost, in prayer, Indeed, as a poet once put it: "more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of".

Thinking about an important quality for good leadership, I recall a latin dictum: Si doctus es, doce nos; si sanctus es, ora pro nobis; sed si sapiens es, rege nos. (If you are learned, teact us; if you are holy, pray for us; but if you are wise, govern us). Perhaps, Church leadership today needs wisdom.

No doubt, the Holy Spirit has guided the Church, down the centuries and in very difficult situations, through timely leaders, Popes who have been acknowledged for their learning, holiness and wisdom. This only confirms the faithfulness of Jesus who assured us: "I will be with you till the end of times."

Within a week of his ministry as Bishop of Rome and even before the inauguration of papacy as the Vicar of Christ, the Catholic Church and the world community has hailed Pope Francis, as a humble and simple priest all out to translate Church authority into service  "of the poor and for the poor".

Wisdom nourished by prayer seems to be the path of change and renewal that Pope Francis intends to follow in order to confront the many challenges affecting the life of the Church. How wise of him to begin with his humble request, "please pray for me". Let us do so promptly and like him, humbly request each other, "please pray for me". 

17 March 2013

Significance of a "Religious" Pope

Great News! Pope Francis is a Religious belonging to the Jesuit Order. He is the first Jesuit ever, to sit on the Chair of St. Peter. Does that say anything to the Jesuits? .... Or to us Religious of the Apostolic life?

If the choice of the Pope by the college of Cardinals is attributed to the Holy Spirit, there is perhaps a message from God in it, for the whole Church and us, religious in particular. What is this message?

The Catholic Church today is faced with four serious charges:
1. Shameful financial corruption of the Vatican Bank;
2. Shocking Authority crisis and arrogance in the Curia offices;
3. Scandalous sexual misbehaviour & abuse by the clergy;
4. Secularism and dwindling divisive faith in the Catholic church community.

Though all these charges may not be what the secular press paints them to be,
the Catholic Church must definitely address these charges and therefore:
- Needs a transparent simple witness to Evangelical poverty;
- Needs a humble fulfilment of God's Will through Evangelical obedience;
- Needs a genuine integrity of love through Evangelical Chastity
- Needs a sincere communion of hearts as an Evangelical community.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit's choice of a Religious Pope, very significantly a Pope Francis, is to rebuild the Church, along the lines of renewal by an earlier Francis, also a religious, the Saint of Assisi.

A look at the "charges" points mostly to wrong and even sinful behaviour in the area of the Evangelical Counsels.  Again, the "needs" mentioned above, call for a better observance of these same Counsels.

Hence, the choice of a Religious Pope may indicate a reformist programme of a contrite Catholic Church which must include a more radical return to the practice of Evangelical Counsels of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, not only by those called to the Consecrated life, but by every single Catholic.

In this choice of a Religious Pope the Holy Spirit is perhaps also addressing another worrisome situation in the Catholic Church, the dwindling membership in Religious Congregations. This choice may be therefore a wake-up call to reinvigourate Consecrated Life, its relevance to modern times, and its important role in the rebuilding of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

Pope Francis is already attentive to the voice of the Spirit and has called the Catholic Church to be poor and for the poor, leading us by his own life of humility, simplicity, poverty and fraternity. God bless Our Pope Francis!    

7 March 2013

It all depends

The diverse views of people on diverse subjects need to be assessed by where they are and on what platform they stand on, never assuming anyone expresses the whole truth.

I am just thinking, as a case in point, about the recent perception of people who claimed to base their criticism of the charity works of Mother Theresa on some type of research and disqualified her cause of canonization. Is this perception or truth? 

3 March 2013

Stop the Church, I'm getting off!

"Stop the Church, I'm getting off!" That about sums up the frustration among many Catholics, shocked and shaken with recent happenings leading to the Pope opting to "renounce the Papacy. Unwilling to carry the cross of shame and the burden of sins, they are looking for another church or perhaps, another religion. Wasn't that precisely the reaction, 2000 years ago, of many disciples of Jesus Christ, waking up from what seemed a scandalous dream of condemnation, crucifixion and death. "Let's get back to fishing!" they thought.

But then, behold! The Pentecostal experience overpowers the defeatist spirit and witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ. This was indeed, God's doing.
And so, today and in this Year of Faith, let us await with the faith of Mary, for a fresh Pentecostal experience. Jesus is leading His Church to a fresh era of renwed Faith and Fidelity, and it has to be through the road to Calvary.   

1 March 2013


28th February 2013 at 8.00 pm gmt, marked a significant moment in Catholic Church history, when the Vicar of Christ convinced that it was the Will of God, officially stepped out of the Vatican leaving the See of Peter vacant.
Ever since the news broke into the media world on 11th February, 2013,  the Catholic community itself, starting from the Roman Curia in the Vatican to the distant catholic parish, reacted with respectful surprise and shock. Not a few newspapers, TV channels converted the news into media fodder to focus on the negative publicity surrounding the Church over recent years in particular. Why and Who are the two questions circulated around and hastily answered by more raw rumours than real facts.

After recovering from the unexpected news, my own thoughts are focussed more on the message the Pope Emeritus is sending across the Universal Catholic Church and the International Community to Leaders of the World today. Leadership, especially today cannot be a permanent charism, however gifted a leader is. Age and age-related limitations affect the performance of even efficient leaders. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The strife and struggle for democracy and People's power is gaining over monarchy and once successful leaders leaders are turning into despots and dictators in the political field.

Benedict XVI, we realise now was not a "power Pope" but truly a humble Leader devoted to his role as the Vicar of Christ and committed to His Gospel values. While seated on Peter's Chair, his pastoral ministry proclaimed lucidly and uncompromisingly the Teachings of Christ on Gospel Leadership, upto the very end of his papacy.

"The last shall be first and the first shall be last" was the often repeated key formula to good leadership which Jesus practised and preached, washing the feet of his own disciples at the Last supper.  This episode must have remained etched in the minds of the Apostles and we note that "servant ministry" was infact the hallmark of early Christians whose "love for one another" identified them as true followers of the Master.

To a Church that had lost its identity as the Church of Christ and fallen into the trap of ambitious power-politics and the consequent scandals of moral behaviour, financial scams and diminishing Faith, Benedict XVI raised an appeal for a Year of Faith in God and fidelity to the teachings of Christ. It appears to me, that inspired by the Spirit, precisely in this charismatic Year of Faith, Benedict XVI offered himself, "to lay down his life" for the good of the Church. His brave and humble example of stepping down from the papal throne should awaken us all to the lesson of Gospel Leader of Jesus Christ. More than write off the "renouncing of the papacy" as an age-related need, I term it a prophetic gesture, a call to all catholics, most particularly the Admistrative Leadership of the Church in Rome, in the Dioceses and Parishes to return to the Humble Jesus Christ who came "to serve and not to be served".