Friday, June 3, 2016

Saint June 4 : St. Francis Caracciolo : Founder of Minor Clerks Regular : Patron of Cooks

St. Francis Caracciolo
FOUNDER
Feast: June 4


Information:

Feast Day:
June 4
Born:
October 13, 1563, Villa Santa Maria, Province of Chieti, Region of Abruzzo, Kingdom of Naplesa
Died:
June 4, 1608, Agnone, Province of Isernia, Region of Molise, Kingdom of Italy
Canonized:
May 24, 1807, Rome by Pope Pius VII
Major Shrine:
Church of Santa Maria di Monteverginella, Naples
Patron of:
of the city of Naples, Italy and of Italian cooks
St. Francis Caracciolo as a boy was one of those children whom the world "sets down as unnatural." No doubt we ourselves also had we seen the little Ascanio, by which name he was baptized, eschewing games and "the things of a child," to make constant visits to the Blessed Sacrament and give food and other reliefs to the poor, would have thought it all very "odd," did we not reflect that the "supernatural" does strange things at times and manifests itself in old and young alike, regardless of what people may say or even do! Ascanius, or as we must call him by his name in religion, Francis, Caracciolo, was born at Villa Santa Maria in that quarter of Italy known as the Abruzzi, the very name of which always recalls mental pictures of wild and lonely scenery and picturesque groups of Salvator Rosa-esque brigands! The family of the Saint was noble, being a junior branch of the ancient house. While still a youth, he was attacked by one of the several skin complaints collectively described as "leprosy" in those days, but which in the case of the subject of this memoir was made the means of still further withdrawing him from things of earth and towards those of Heaven. He was cured in consequence, it is said, of a vow to devote his life to the service of God, and with this end in view he went, at the age of about twenty-two, to study for the priesthood at Naples. In the intervals of reading, he busied himself with works of devotion and charity, making long visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and consoling the inmates of hospitals and prisons. He had a special liking for neglected churches, seeking to make up by his attendance and prayers for the absence of worshippers in these uncared-for sanctuaries. After his Ordination in 1587, he joined a pious confraternity, known as the "The White Robes of Justice." This Society, like that of the better-known Misericorde, attended condemned criminals and prepared them to die well. All this time, Francis seems to have had in mind the founding of a new religious Order, and next year the matter came to a head. It happened that the same idea had also occurred to another devout man, Giovanni Agostino Adorno, who unburdened his mind on the subject in a letter addressed to another member of the Caracciolo family, named Fabricius Ascanio. The letter was delivered by a very natural error to our Saint, who saw in the occurrence a clear indication of the divine will. Joining in at once with John Adorno and Fabricius Caracciolo, our Saint and they retired for a while to the desert of Camaldoli, where the holy trio drew up the Rule of what was to be the Minor Clerks Regular. Francis then went to Rome to obtain the approval of the Pope for the new Foundation. Sixtus V was at that time in the midst of his strenuous pontificate, clearing the Papal States of the swarms of brigands which had long made that part of Italy one of the most insecure places in Europe, and in beautifying Rome with those stately public buildings which still reflect the glory of the Sistine rule. The Holy Father with quite unwonted alacrity approved the Congregation on 1st July of the same year (1588).

The new Congregation of the Minor Clerks Regular thus established was one of considerable severity. The Clerks bound themselves to distribute various practices of penance among themselves daily, so that while one fasted, another took the discipline, a third wore the hair-shirt and so on. The rest not so engaged were meanwhile watching in turn before the Blessed Sacrament. In addition to the three usual vows, a fourth was added-not to aspire after dignities (de non ambiendis dignitatibus).

At his solemn profession at Naples, 9th April, 1589, Fr. Caracciolo took the name of Francis, from his great devotion to the holy Founder of the Seraphic Order. Fr. Adorno dying two years later, Fr. Francis, entirely against his own wish, was chosen Superior of the Congregation. He showed himself a model in all that related to the Rule, but quite surpassed all his brethren in the matter of prayer and austerity. He meditated several hours daily on the sufferings of Our Lord, and spent most of the night before the Blessed Sacrament. This he did, among other reasons, to make up as far as he could for the coldness and ingratitude of men, and often, too, the culpable negligence of indifferent ecclesiastics which so frequently caused the churches to be practically abandoned day after day. When kneeling before the altar, the face of Fr. Francis appeared to be lighted up with celestial glory, while he ejaculated from time to time a favourite sentence from the Scripture: "the zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up!" (Ps. lxviii. 10.)
The first house of the Clerks was one at Naples, known as St. Mary Major's, which had been made over to them by Sixtus V, but the expansion of the Congregation soon made it imperative to found others elsewhere. Spain early extended its welcome to the newest arrivals in the monastic field, and St. Francis undertook no fewer than three journeys to that most Catholic country under the special protection first of Philip II and afterwards of his son, Philip III. On one of these voyages, the ship that bore the holy Founder and his fortunes was nearly wrecked, but the vessel was saved by the prayer of our Saint. Of course, there was the opposition of the good to be met and overcome, but the spiritual methods and perseverance of Francis were rewarded by the establishment of three branches-the House of the Holy Ghost at Madrid (20th January, 1599), that of Our Lady of the Annunciation at Valla, closed (9th September, 1601), and St. Joseph at Alcala (1601). This last was opened in the University for the purpose of study and the requirements of the usual academic courses, and many of the aspirants to the Order in Spain spent some years there as part of their preparation for Holy Orders. Before this the Clerks obtained in Rome the Church of St. Leonard afterwards exchanged for that of St. Agnes in the Piazza Navona, the famous Church built on the traditional site of the martyrdom of St. Agnes. It was entirely rebuilt in 1642, at the expense of the Pamfili family, and among the many monuments of artistic or historic interest is the tomb of the Princess Mary Talbot Doria-Pamfili, who died 1857. She was the beautiful daughter of the Sixteenth Earl of Shrewsbury, and one of the Maids of Honour to Queen Victoria at her Coronation in 1838.

In spite of the general knowledge as to the "fourth vow" of the Congregation against accepting or even seeking ecclesiastical honours, many desired to see the Founder exalted to what they considered a wider field of usefulness, and Pope Paul V, who greatly admired the heroic virtues and practical wisdom of Francis, wished to make him a bishop, but desisted at the earnest entreaty of the Saint. Besides his work for the Congregation, Francis unceasingly interested himself in the salvation of souls generally. He was much sought after as a confessor while his exhortations brought to repentance numerous public sinners, and he fortified the wavering and the despondent by personal encouragement and the recommendation of the two great Catholic devotions, those to the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Lady. He had the gift of discerning hearts and of prophecy, and his own approaching death was made known to him one day, when, according to custom, he was praying before the altar of the Church of St. Lauretana. He was at that time in negotiation with the Oratorian Fathers with reference to taking over their house at Agnone in the Abruzzi for the use of his Congregation, and he lost no time in going to that place. Arrived there, he was shortly after seized with fever, and having received all the last rites, he died surrounded by the Oratorian Community of the place on the Vigil of Corpus Christi, 4th June, 1608. His body was removed to the Church of St. Mary Major, Naples, where it remained till it was transferred to the Church of Montivergonella which had been made over to the Clerks Regular, 1893, apparently in exchange for the other seized during the occupation of Naples by the French Revolutionary Army.

The Saint was proclaimed patron of the City of Naples in 1838, but the devotion to him which was once so marked a feature of the spiritual life of the place is said now to be much less in evidence. In addition to the Rule which he drew up in conjunction with his two holy coadjutors, St. Francis Caracciolo also left a devotional treatise on the Passion, this work, apart from the inherent value of the subject, is precious as containing the holy reflections and aspirations of one of the outstanding notabilities of the Church in the last period of the Counter-Reformation—the lover of souls—who did so much to heal by his zeal and piety the wounds which heresy and iniquity had inflicted upon the Mystical Body of the Lord.Source : EWTN

#PopeFrancis "Christ loves and knows his sheep." FULL TEXT Homily - Mass Video


(Vatican Radio) On Friday 3 June, Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass with priests in St Peter's Square as part of a special Jubilee of Mercy for Priests.
Please find below the prepared text for the Holy Father's Homily:
             This celebration of the Jubilee for Priests on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus invites us all to turn to the heart, the deepest root and foundation of every person, the focus of our affective life and, in a word, his or her very core. Today we contemplate two hearts: the Heart of the Good Shepherd and our own heart as priests.
            The Heart of the Good Shepherd is not only the Heart that shows us mercy, but is itself mercy. There the Father’s love shines forth; there I know I am welcomed and understood as I am; there, with all my sins and limitations, I know the certainty that I am chosen and loved. Contemplating that heart, I renew my first love: the memory of that time when the Lord touched my soul and called me to follow him, the memory of the joy of having cast the nets of our life upon the sea of his word (cf. Lk 5:5).
            The Heart of the Good Shepherd tells us that his love is limitless; it is never exhausted and it never gives up. There we see his infinite and boundless self-giving; there we find the source of that faithful and meek love which sets free and makes others free; there we constantly discover anew that Jesus loves us “even to the end” (Jn 13:1), without ever being imposing.
            The Heart of the Good Shepherd reaches out to us, above all to those who are most distant. There the needle of his compass inevitably points, there we see a particular “weakness” of his love, which desires to embrace all and lose none.
            Contemplating the Heart of Christ, we are faced with the fundamental question of our priestly life: Where is my heart directed? Our ministry is often full of plans, projects and activities: from catechesis to liturgy, to works of charity, to pastoral and administrative commitments. Amid all these, we must still ask ourselves: What is my heart set on, where is it directed, what is the treasure that it seeks? For as Jesus says: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt 6:21).
            The great riches of the Heart of Jesus are two: the Father and ourselves. His days were divided between prayer to the Father and encountering people. So too the heart of Christ’s priests knows only two directions: the Lord and his people. The heart of the priest is a heart pierced by the love of the Lord. For this reason, he no longer looks to himself, but is turned towards God and his brothers and sisters. It is no longer “a fluttering heart”, allured by momentary whims, shunning disagreements and seeking petty satisfactions. Rather, it is a heart rooted firmly in the Lord, warmed by the Holy Spirit, open and available to our brothers and sisters.
            To help our hearts burn with the charity of Jesus the Good Shepherd, we can train ourselves to do three things suggested to us by today’s readings:seek outinclude and rejoice.
            Seek out. The prophet Ezekiel reminds us that God himself goes out in search of his sheep (Ez 34:11, 16). As the Gospel says, he “goes out in search of the one who is lost” (Lk 15:4), without fear of the risks. Without delaying, he leaves the pasture and his regular workday. He does not put off the search. He does not think: “I have done enough for today; I’ll worry about it tomorrow”. Instead, he immediately sets to it; his heart is anxious until he finds that one lost sheep. Having found it, he forgets his weariness and puts the sheep on his shoulders, fully content.
            Such is a heart that seeks out – a heart that does not set aside times and spaces as private, a heart that is not jealous of its legitimate quiet time and never demands that it be left alone. A shepherd after the heart of God does not protect his own comfort zone; he is not worried about protecting his good name, but rather, without fearing criticism, he is disposed to take risks in seeking to imitate his Lord.
            A shepherd after the heart of God has a heart sufficiently free to set aside his own concerns. He does not live by calculating his gains or how long he has worked: he is not an accountant of the Spirit, but a Good Samaritan who seeks out those in need. For the flock he is a shepherd, not an inspector, and he devotes himself to the mission not fifty or sixty percent, but with all he has. In seeking, he finds, and he finds because he takes risks. He does not stop when disappointed and he does not yield to weariness. Indeed, he isstubborn in doing good, anointed with the divine obstinacy that loses sight of no one. Not only does he keep his doors open, but he also goes to seek out those who no longer wish to enter them. Like every good Christian, and as an example for every Christian, he constantly goes out of himself. The epicentre of his heart is outside of himself. He is not drawn by his own “I”, but by the “Thou” of God and by the “we” of other men and women.
            Include. Christ loves and knows his sheep. He gives his life for them, and no one is a stranger to him (cf. Jn 10:11-14).  His flock is his family and his life. He is not a boss to feared by his flock, but a shepherd who walks alongside them and calls them by name (cf. Jn 10:3-4). He wants to gather the sheep that are not yet of his fold (cf. Jn 10:16).
            So it is also with the priest of Christ. He is anointed for his people, not to choose his own projects but to be close to the real men and women whom God has entrusted to him. No one is excluded from his heart, his prayers or his smile. With a father’s loving gaze and heart, he welcomes and includes everyone, and if at times he has to correct, it is to draw people closer. He stands apart from no one, but is always ready to dirty his hands. As a minister of the communion that he celebrates and lives, he does not await greetings and compliments from others, but is the first to reach out, rejecting gossip, judgements and malice. He listens patiently to the problems of his people and accompanies them, sowing God’s forgiveness with generous compassion. He does not scold those who wander off or lose their way, but is always ready to bring them back and to resolve difficulties and disagreements.
            Rejoice. God is “full of joy” (cf. Lk 15:5). His joy is born of forgiveness, of life risen and renewed, of prodigal children who breathe once more the sweet air of home. The joy of Jesus the Good Shepherd is not a joyfor himself alone, but a joy for others and with others, the true joy of love. This is also the joy of the priest. He is changed by the mercy that he freelygives. In prayer he discovers God’s consolation and realizes that nothing is more powerful than his love. He thus experiences inner peace, and is happy to be a channel of mercy, to bring men and women closer to the Heart of God. Sadness for him is not the norm, but only a step along the way; harshness is foreign to him, because he is a shepherd after the meek Heart of God.
            Dear priests, in the Eucharistic celebration we rediscover each day our identity as shepherds. In every Mass, may we truly make our own the words of Christ: “This is my body, which is given up for you.”  This is the meaning of our life; with these words, in a real way we can daily renew the promises we made at our priestly ordination. I thank all of you for saying “yes” to giving your life in union with Jesus: for in this is found the pure source of our joy.

#Novena to St. Charles Lwanga and Martyrs of #Uganda in #Africa - SHARE

Novena in Honour of Saint Charles Lwanga & the Martyrs of Uganda

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

O God, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before you the blessed martyrs of Uganda, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom they gave obedience even unto death, and by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end, Amen


OUR FATHER
Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be
Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done,
on earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our
daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we
forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us
not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

HAIL MARY
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is
the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

GLORY BE
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.


O Jesus, our Lord and Redeemer, through your passion and death, we adore and thank Thee.
Holy Mary, Mother and Queen of Martyrs, Obtain for us sanctification through our sufferings.
Holy Martyrs, followers of the suffering Christ, obtain for us the grace to imitate Him.
St. Joseph Balikuddembe, first Martyr of Uganda, who inspired and encouraged Nephytes, obtain for us a spirit of truth and justice.
St. Charles Lwanga, patron of the Youth and Catholic Action, obtain for us a firm and zealous faith.
St. Matthias Mulumba, ideal Chief and follower of Christ meek and humble, obtain for us a Christian gentleness.
St. Dionysius Sebuggwawo, zealous for the Christian Faith and renowned for your modesty, obtain for us the virture of modesty.
St. Andrew Kaggwa, model Catechist and teacher, obtain for us a love of the teaching of Christ.
St. Kizito, child resplendent in purity and Christian joy, obtain for us the gift of joy in our Lord.
St. Gyaviira, shining example of how to forgive and forget injuries, obtain for us the grace to forgive those who injure us.
St. Mukasa, fervent catechumen rewarded with the Baptism of your blood, obtain for us perseverance unto the death.
St. Adolfus Ludigo, conspicuous by your following of our Lord's spirit of service to others; obtain for us a love of unselfish service.
St. Anatoli Kiriggwajjo, humble servant preferring a devout life to wordly honours; obtain for us to love piety more than earthly things.
St. Ambrosius Kibuuka, young man full of joy and love of your neighbour; obtain for us fraternal charity.
St. Achilles Kiwanuka, who for the sake of Christ detested vain superstitious practices; obtain for us holy hatred of superstitious practices.
St. John Muzeeyi, prudent councilor, renowned for the practice of works of mercy; obtain for us a love of those works of mercy.
Blessed Jildo Irwa and Blessed Daudi Okello who gave up your lives for the spread of the Catholic Faith; obtain for us the zeal of spreading the Catholic Faith.
St. Pontaianus Ngondwe, faithful soldier, longing for the martyr's crown; obtain for us the grace to be always faithful to our duty.
St. Athanasius Bazzekuketta, faithful steward of the royal treasury; obtain for us a spirit of responsibility.
St. Mbaaga, who preferred death to the persuasions of your parents; obtain for us to follow generously divine grace.
St. Gonzaga Gonza, full of sympathy for prisoners, and all who were in trouble; obtain for us the spirit of mercy.
St. Noe Mawaggali, humble worker and lover of evangelical poverty; obtain for us love of evangelical poverty.
St. Luke Baanabakintu, who ardently desired to imitate the suffering Christ by Martyrdom; obtain for us a love of our motherland.
St. Bruno Serunkuuma, soldier who gave an example of repentance and temperance; obtain for us the virture to repentance and temperance.
St. Mugagga, young man renowned for your heroic chastity; obtain for us perserverance in chastity.
Holy Martyrs, firm in your fidelity to the true Church of Christ; help us to be always faithful to the true Church of Christ.
Let us pray
O Lord Jesus Christ, who wonderfully strengthened the Holy Martyrs of Uganda St. Charles Lwanga, Matthias Mulumba, Blessed Jildo Irwa, Blessed Daudi Okello and their Companions; and gave them to us as examples of faith and fortitude, chastity, charity, and fidelity; grant, we beseech you, that by their Intercession, the same virtues may increase in us, and that we may deserve to become propagators of the true faith. Who lives and reigns world without end. Amen


St. Charles Lwanga and the Martyrs of Uganda, we come to you asking your prayers of intercession on behalf of all who suffer from the unjust exercise of authority. May you who were so cruelly persecuted for your faith in Jesus Christ intercede for all who are oppressed, that they might be comforted by the Divine Mercy and empowered by the gift and grace of fortitude. May justice be the goal of all people and may all who are called by the name Christian join together in works of redemption directed at the sins and the structures of sin that afflict our communities. Amen.

Today's Mass Readings and Video : Friday June 3, 2016 - Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus


Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Lectionary: 172


Reading 1EZ 34:11-16

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered
when it was cloudy and dark.
I will lead them out from among the peoples
and gather them from the foreign lands;
I will bring them back to their own country
and pasture them upon the mountains of Israel
in the land's ravines and all its inhabited places.
In good pastures will I pasture them,
and on the mountain heights of Israel
shall be their grazing ground.
There they shall lie down on good grazing ground,
and in rich pastures shall they be pastured
on the mountains of Israel.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.
The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.

Responsorial PsalmPS 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Reading 2ROM 5:5B-11

Brothers and sisters:
The love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For Christ, while we were still helpless,
died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,
though perhaps for a good person
one might even find courage to die.
But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood,
will we be saved through him from the wrath.
Indeed, if, while we were enemies,
we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son,
how much more, once reconciled,
will we be saved by his life.
Not only that,
but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have now received reconciliation.

AlleluiaMT 11:29AB

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord,
and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Or:JN 10:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord,
I know my sheep, and mine know me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelLK 15:3-7

Jesus addressed this parable to the Pharisees and scribes:
"What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,
'Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.'
I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance."

#PopeFrancis "... the confessional as the place where the truth makes us free for an encounter. " FULL TEXT


(Vatican Radio) The theme of the Pope’s third meditation at a spiritual retreat held on Thursday at the Papal Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls was “the good odour of Christ and the light of his mercy.”
Listen to the report by Lydia O'Kane:
 
At the heart of his reflection were the Works of Mercy saying as priests, “being merciful is not only “a way of life”, but “the way of life”, adding,  “there is no other way of being a priest.”
Drawing from the passage of the Lord’s encounter with the woman caught in adultery, the Pope explained that when Jesus says “Go and sin no more”, “his command has to do with the future, to help her to make a new start and to “walk in love”.  Such is the sensitivity of mercy, the Holy Father continued. “ it looks with compassion on the past and offers encouragement for the future.” 
Focusing his attention of the Sacrament of Confession Pope Francis noted that “people come to confession  because they are penitent. They come to confession because they want to change.”
During his meditation, the Pope also invited priests to let themselves “be moved by people’s situation, which at times is a mixture of their own doing, human weakness, sin and insuperable conditionings.  He went on to say, “we have to be like Jesus, who was deeply moved by the sight of people and their problems…”
The Jubilee for priests concludes on Friday with Holy Mass presided over by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square.

Please find below the English language of Pope Francis' meditation preached at St Paul's Outside the Walls


THIRD MEDITATION:
THE GOOD ODOUR OF CHRIST AND THE LIGHT OF HIS MERCY
In this, our third meeting, I propose that we meditate on the works of mercy, by taking whichever one we feel is most closely linked to our charism, and by looking at them as a whole.  We can contemplate them through the merciful eyes of Our Lady, who helps us to find “the wine that is lacking” and encourages us to “do whatever Jesus tells us” (cf. Jn 2:1-12), so that his mercy can work the miracles that our people need.
The works of mercy are closely linked to the “spiritual senses”.  In our prayer we ask for the grace so to “feel and savour” the Gospel that it can make us more “sensitive” in our lives.  Moved by the Spirit and led by Jesus, we can see from afar, with the eyes of mercy, those who have fallen along the wayside.  We can hear the cries of Bartimaeus and feel with Jesus the timid yet determined touch of the woman suffering from haemorrhage, as she grasps his robe.  We can ask for the grace to taste with the crucified Jesus the bitter gall of all those who share in his cross, and smell the stench of misery - in field hospitals, in trains and in boats crammed with people.  The balm of mercy does not disguise this stench.  Rather, by anointing it, it awakens new hope.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in discussing the works of mercy, tells us that “when her mother reproached her for care for the poor and the sick at home, Saint Rose of Lima said to her: ‘When we serve the poor and the sick, we are the good odour of Christ’” (No. 2449, Latin).  That good odour of Christ – the care of the poor – is, and always has been, the hallmark of the Church.  Paul made it the focus of his meeting with Peter, James and John, the “columns” of the Church.  He tells us that they “asked only one thing, that we remember the poor” (Gal 2:10).  The Catechism goes on to say, significantly, that “those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church, which from her origins, and in spite of the failings of many of her members, has not ceased to work for their relief, defence and liberation” (No. 2448).
In the Church we have, and have always had, our sins and failings.  But when it comes to serving the poor by the works of mercy, as a Church we have always followed the promptings of the Spirit.  Our saints did this in quite creative and effective ways.  Love for the poor has been the sign, the light that draws people to give glory to the Father.  Our people value this in a priest who cares for the poor and the sick, for those whose sins he forgives and for those whom he patiently teaches and corrects…  Our people forgive us priests many failings, except for that of attachment to money.  This does not have so much to do with money itself, but the fact that money makes us lose the treasure of mercy.  Our people can sniff out which sins are truly grave for a priest, the sins that kill his ministry because they turn him into a bureaucrat or, even worse, a mercenary.  They can also recognize which sins are, I won’t say secondary, but that have to be put up with, borne like a cross, until the Lord at last burns them away like the chaff.  But the failure of a priest to be merciful is a glaring contradiction.  It strikes at the heart of salvation, against Christ, who “became poor so that by his poverty we might become rich” (cf. 2 Cor 8:9).  Because mercy heals “by losing something of itself”.  We feel a pang of regret and we lose a part of our life, because rather than do what we wanted to do, we reached out to someone else.
So it is not about God showing me mercy for this or that sin, as if I were otherwise self-sufficient, or about us performing some act of mercy towards this or that person in need.  The grace we seek in this prayer is that of letting ourselves be shown mercy by God in every aspect of our lives and in turn to show mercy to others in all that we do.  As priests and bishops, we work with the sacraments, baptizing, hearing confessions, celebrating the Eucharist…  Mercy is our way of making the entire life of God’s people a sacrament.  Being merciful is not only “a way of life”, but “the way of life”.  There is no other way of being a priest.  Father Brochero, soon to be canonized, put it this way: “The priest who has scarce pity for sinners is only half a priest.  These vestments I wear are not what make me a priest; if I don’t have charity in my heart, I am not even a Christian.”
To see needs and to bring immediate relief, and even more, to anticipate those needs: this is the mark of a father’s gaze.  This priestly gaze – which takes the place of the father in the heart of Mother Church – makes us see people with the eyes of mercy.  It has to be learned from seminary on, and it must enrich all our pastoral plans and projects.  We desire, and we ask the Lord to give us, a gaze capable of discerning the signs of the times, to know “what works of mercy our people need today” in order to feel and savour the God of history who walks among them.  For, as Aparecida says, quoting Saint Alberto Hurtado: “In our works, our people know that we understand their suffering” (No. 386).  In our works...
The proof that we understand is that our works of mercy are blessed by God and meet with help and cooperation from our people.  Some plans and projects do not work out well, without people ever realizing why.  They rack their brains trying to come up with yet another pastoral plan, when all somebody has to say is: “It’s not working because it lacks mercy”, with no further ado.  If it is not blessed, it is because it lacks mercy.  It lacks the mercy found in a field hospital, not in expensive clinics; it lacks the mercy that values goodness and opens the door to an encounter with God, rather than turning someone away with sharp criticism…
I am going to propose a prayer about the woman whose sins were forgiven (Jn 8:3-11), to ask for the grace to be merciful in the confessional, and another prayer about the social dimension of the works of mercy.
I have always been struck by the passage of the Lord’s encounter with the woman caught in adultery, and how, by refusing to condemn her, he “fell short of” the Law.  In response to the question they asked to test him – “should she be stoned or not?” – he did not rule, he did not apply the law.  He played dumb, and then turned to something else.  He thus initiated a process in the heart of the woman who needed to hear those words: “Neither do I condemn you”.  He stretched out his hand and helped her to her feet, letting her see a gentle gaze that changed her heart.
Sometimes I feel a little saddened and annoyed when people go straight to the last words Jesus speaks to her: “Go and sin no more”.  They use these words to “defend” Jesus from bypassing the law.  I believe that Christ’s words are of a piece with his actions.  He bends down to write on the ground as a prelude to what he is about to say to those who want to stone the woman, and he does so again before talking to her.  This tells us something about the “time” that the Lord takes in judging and forgiving.  The time he gives each person to look into his or her own heart and then to walk away.  In talking to the woman, the Lord opens other spaces: one is that of non-condemnation.   The Gospel clearly mentions this open space.  It makes us see things through the eyes of Jesus, who tells us: “I see no one else but this woman”. 
Then Jesus makes the woman herself look around.  He asks her: “Where are those who condemned you?”  (The word “condemn” is itself important, since it is about what we find unacceptable about those who judge or caricature us…).  Once he has opened before her eyes this space freed of other people’s judgements, he tells her that neither will he throw a stone there: “Nor do I condemn you”.  Then he opens up another free space before her: “Go and sin no more”.  His command has to do with the future, to help her to make a new start and to “walk in love”.  Such is the sensitivity of mercy: it looks with compassion on the past and offers encouragement for the future. 
Those words, “Go and sin no more” are not easy.  The Lord says them “with her”.  He helps her put into words what she herself feels, a free “no” to sin that is like Mary’s “yes” to grace.  That “no” has to be said to the deeply-rooted sin present in everyone.  In that woman, it was a social sin; people approached her either to sleep with her or to throw stones at her.  That is why the Lord does not only clear the path before her, but sets her on her way, so that she can stop being the “object” of other people's gaze and instead take control of her life.  Those words, “sin no more” refer not only to morality, but, I believe, to a kind of sin that keeps her from living her life.  Jesus also told the paralytic at Bethzatha to sin no more (Jn 5:14).  But that man had justified himself with all the sad things that had “happened to him”; he suffered from a victim complex.  So Jesus challenged him ever so slightly by saying: “…lest something worse happen to you”.  The Lord took advantage of his way of thinking, his fears, to draw him out of his paralysis.  He gave him a little scare, we might say.  The point is that each of us has to hear the words “sin no more” in his own deeply personal way.
This image of the Lord who sets people on their way is very typical.  He is the God who walks at his people’s side, who leads them forward, who accompanies our history.  Hence, the object of his mercy is quite clear: it is everything that keeps a man or a woman from walking on the right path, with their own people, at their own pace, to where God is asking them to go.  What troubles him is that people get lost, or fall behind, or try to go it on their own.  That they end up nowhere.  That they are not there for the Lord, ready to go wherever he wants to send them.  That they do not walk humbly before him (cf. Mic 6:8), that they do not walk in love (cf. Eph 5:2).

THE SPACE OF THE CONFESSIONAL, WHERE THE TRUTH MAKES US FREE
Speaking of space, let us go to the confessional.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church presents the confessional as the place where the truth makes us free for an encounter.  “When he celebrates the sacrament of penance, the priest is fulfilling the ministry of the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep, of the Good Samaritan who binds up wounds, of the Father who awaits the prodigal son and welcomes him on his return, and of the just and impartial Judge whose judgement is both just and merciful.  The priest is the sign and the instrument of God’s merciful love for the sinner” (No. 1465).  The Catechism also reminds us that “the confessor is not the master of God's forgiveness but its servant.  The minister of this sacrament should unite himself to the intention and charity of Christ” (No. 1466).
Signs and instruments of an encounter.  That is what we are.  An attractive invitation to an encounter.  As signs, we must be welcoming, sending a message that attracts people’s attention.  Signs need to be consistent and clear, but above all understandable.  Some signs are only clear to specialists.  Signs and instruments.  Instruments have to be effective, readily available, precise and suitable for the job.  We are instruments if people have a genuine encounter with the God of mercy.  Our task is “to make that encounter possible”, face-to-face.  What people do afterwards is their business.  There is a prodigal son among the pigs and a father who goes out every afternoon to see if he is returning.  There is a lost sheep and a shepherd who goes out to seek him.  There is a wounded person left at the roadside and a good-hearted Samaritan.  What is our ministry?  It is to be signs and instruments enabling this encounter.  Let us always remember that we are not the father, the shepherd or the Samaritan.  Rather, inasmuch as we are sinners, we are on the side of the other three.  Our ministry has to be a sign and instrument of that encounter.  We are part of the mystery of the Holy Spirit, who creates the Church, builds unity, and constantly invites to encounter.
The other mark of a sign and instrument is that it is not self-referential.  Put more simply, it is not an end in itself.  Nobody sticks with the sign once they understand the reality.  Nobody keeps looking at the screwdriver or the hammer, but at the well-hung picture.  We are useless servants.  Instruments and signs that help two people to join in an embrace, like the father and his son.
The third mark of a sign and instrument is its availability.  An instrument has to be readily accessible; a sign must be visible.  Being a sign and instrument is about being a mediator.  Perhaps this is the real key to our own mission in this merciful encounter of God and man.  We could even put it in negative terms.  Saint Ignatius talked about “not getting in the way”.  A good mediator makes things easy, rather than setting up obstacles.  In my country, there was a great confessor, Father Cullen.  He would sit in the confessional and do one of two things: he would repair worn soccer balls for the local kids, or he would thumb through a big Chinese dictionary.  He used to say that when people saw him doing such completely useless things like fixing old soccer balls or trying to master Chinese, they would think: “I’m going to go up and talk to his priest, since he obviously doesn’t have much to do!”  He was available for what was essential.  He got rid of the obstacle of always looking busy and serious.
Everybody has known good confessors. We have to learn from our good confessors, the ones whom people seek out, who do not make them afraid but help them to speak frankly, as Jesus did with Nicodemus.  If people come to confession it is because they are penitent; repentance is already present.  They come to confession because they want to change.  Or at least they want to want to change, if they think their situation is impossible.  Ad impossibilia nemo tenetur, as the old maxim goes: no one is obliged to do the impossible.
We have to learn from good confessors, those who are gentle with sinners, who after a couple of words understand everything, as Jesus did with the woman suffering from a haemorrhage, and straightaway the power of forgiveness goes forth from them.  The integrity of confession is not a mathematics problem.  Sometimes people feel less shame in confessing a sin than in stating the number of times they committed it.  We have to let ourselves be moved by people’s situation, which at times is a mixture of their own doing, human weakness, sin and insuperable conditionings.  We have to be like Jesus, who was deeply moved by the sight of people and their problems, and kept healing them, even when they “didn’t ask properly”, like that leper, or seemed to beat around the bush, like the Samaritan woman.  She was like a bird we have in South America: she squawked in one place but had her nest in another.
We have to learn from confessors who can enable penitents to feel amendment in taking a small step forwards, like Jesus, who gave a suitable penance and could appreciate the one leper who returned to thank him, on whom he bestowed yet more.  Jesus had his mat taken away from the paralytic, and he made the blind man and the Syro-Phoenician woman have to ask.  It didn’t matter to him if they paid no attention to him, like the paralytic at the pool of Bethzatha, or told others what he ordered them not to tell, with the result that he himself became the leper, since he could not go into the towns or his enemies found reasons to condemn him.  He healed people, forgave their sins, eased their suffering, gave them rest and made them feel the consoling breath of the Spirit.
In Buenos Aires I knew a Capuchin Friar.  He is a little younger than myself and a great confessor.  There is always a line before his confessional, lots of people confessing all day long.  He is really good at forgiving.  He forgives, but every once in a while he has scruples about being so forgiving.  Once in conversation he told me: “Sometimes I have scruples”.  So I asked him: “What do you do when you have these scruples?”  He replied: “I go before the tabernacle, I look at our Lord and I tell him, ‘Lord, forgive me, today I was very forgiving.  But let’s be clear, it is all your fault, because you gave me bad example!”  He added mercy to mercy.
Lastly, as far as confession is concerned, I have two bits of advice.  First, never look like a bureaucrat or a judge, somebody who just sees “cases” to be dealt with.  Mercy sets us free from being this kind of priest, who is so used to judging “cases” that he is no longer sensitive to persons, to faces.  The rule of Jesus is to “judge as we would be judged”.  This is the key to our judgement: that we treat others with dignity, that we don’t demean or mistreat them, that we help raise them up, and that we never forget that the Lord is using us, weak as we are, as his instruments.  Not necessarily because our judgement is “the best”, but because it is sincere and can build a good relationship.
My other bit of advice is not to be curious in the confessional.  Saint Therese tells us that when her novices would confide in her, she was very careful not to ask how things turned out.  She did not pry into people’s souls (cf. History of a Soul, Ms C, to Mother Gonzaga, c. XII, 32r.).  It is characteristic of mercy to cover sin with its cloak, so as not to wound people’s dignity.  Like the two sons of Noah, who covered with a cloak the nakedness of their father in his drunkenness (cf. Gen 9:23).
THE SOCIAL DIMENSION OF THE WORKS OF MERCY
At the end of the Exercises, Saint Ignatius puts “contemplation to attain love”, which connects what is experienced in prayer to daily life.  He makes us reflect on how love has to be put more into works than into words.  Those works are the works of mercy which the Father “prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Eph 2:10), those which the Spirit inspires in each for the common good (cf. 1 Cor 12:7).  In thanking the Lord for all the gifts we have received from his bounty, we ask for the grace to bring to all mankind that mercy which has been our own salvation.
I propose that we meditate on one of the final paragraphs of the Gospels.  There, the Lord himself makes that connection between what we have received and what we are called to give.  We can read these conclusions in the key of “works of mercy” which bring about the time of the Church, the time in which the risen Jesus lives, guides, sends forth and appeals to our freedom, which finds in him its concrete daily realization.
Matthew tells us that the Lord sends his Apostles to make disciples of all nations, “teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded” (28:20).  This “instructing the ignorant” is itself one of the works of mercy.  It spreads like light to the other works: to those listed in Matthew 25, which deal more with the so-called “corporal works of mercy”, and to all the commandments and evangelical counsels, such as “forgiving”, “fraternally correcting”, consoling the sorrowing, and enduring persecution...
Mark’s Gospel ends with the image of the Lord who “collaborates” with the Apostles and “confirms the word by the signs that accompany it”.  Those “signs” greatly resemble the works of mercy.  Mark speaks, among other things, of healing the sick and casting out demons (cf. 16:17-18).
Luke continues his Gospel with the “Acts” – praxeis -- of the Apostles, relating the history of how they acted and the works they did, led by the Spirit.
John’s Gospel ends by referring to the “many other things” (21:25) or “signs” (20:30) which Jesus performed.  The Lord’s actions, his works, are not mere deeds but signs by which, in a completely personal way, he shows his love and his mercy for each person.
We can contemplate the Lord who sends us on this mission, by using the image of the merciful Jesus as revealed to Sister Faustina.  In that image we can see mercy as a single ray of light that comes from deep within God, passes through the heart of Christ, and emerges in a diversity of colours, each representing a work of mercy.
The works of mercy are endless, but each bears the stamp of a particular face, a personal history.  They are much more than the lists of the seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy.  Those lists are like the raw material – the material of life itself – that, worked and shaped by the hands of mercy, turns into an individual artistic creation.  Each work multiplies like the bread in the baskets; each gives abundant growth like the mustard seed.  For mercy is fruitful and inclusive. 
We usually think of the works of mercy individually and in relation to a specific initiative: hospitals for the sick, soup kitchens for the hungry, shelters for the homeless, schools for those to be educated, the confessional and spiritual direction for those needing counsel and forgiveness… But if we look at the works of mercy as a whole, we see that the object of mercy is human life itself and everything it embraces.  Life itself, as “flesh”, hungers and thirsts; it needs to be clothed, given shelter and visited, to say nothing of receiving a proper burial, something none of us, however rich, can do for ourselves.  Even the wealthiest person, in death, becomes a pauper; there are no moving vans in a funeral cortege.  Life itself, as “spirit”, needs to be educated, corrected, encouraged and consoled.  We need others to counsel us, to forgive us, to put up with us and to pray for us.  The family is where these works of mercy are practised in so normal and unpretentious a way that we don’t even realize it.  Yet once a family with small children loses its mother, everything begins to fall apart.  The cruellest and most relentless form of poverty is that of street children, without parents and prey to the vultures.
We have asked for the grace to be signs and instruments.  Now we have to “act”, not only with gestures, but by projects and structures, by creating a culture of mercy.  Once we begin, we sense immediately that the Spirit energizes and sustains these works.  He does this by using the signs and instruments he wants, even if at times they do not appear to be the most suitable ones.  It could even be said that, in order to carry out the works of mercy, the Spirit tends to choose the poorest, humblest and most insignificant instruments, those who themselves most need that first ray of divine mercy.  They are the ones who can best be shaped and readied to serve most effectively and well.  The joy of realizing that we are “useless servants” whom the Lord blesses with the fruitfulness of his grace, seats at his table and serves us the Eucharist, is a confirmation that we are engaged in his works of mercy.
Our faithful people are happy to congregate around works of mercy.  In penitential and festive celebrations, and in educational and charitable activities, our people willingly come together and let themselves be shepherded in ways that are not always recognized or appreciated, whereas so many of our more abstract and academic pastoral plans fail to work.  The massive presence of our faithful people in our shrines and on our pilgrimages is an anonymous presence, but anonymous simply because it is made up of so many faces and so great a desire simply to be gazed upon with mercy by Jesus and Mary.  The same can be said about the countless ways in which our people take part in countless initiatives of solidarity; this too needs to be recognized, appreciated and promoted on our part.
As priests, we ask two graces of the Good Shepherd, that of letting ourselves be guided by the sensus fidei of our faithful people, and to be guided by their “sense of the poor”.  Both these “senses” have to do with the sensus Christi, with our people’s love for, and faith in, Jesus.
Let us conclude by reciting the Anima Christi, that beautiful prayer which implores mercy from the Lord who came among us in the flesh and graciously feeds us with his body and blood.  We ask him to show mercy to us and to his people.  We ask his soul to “sanctify us”, his body to “save us”, his blood to “inebriate us” and to remove from us all other thirsts that are not of him.  We ask the water flowing from his side “to wash us”, his passion “to strengthen us”.  Comfort your people, crucified Lord!  May your wounds “shelter us”…  Grant that your people, Lord, may never be parted from you.  Let nothing and no one separate us from your mercy, which defends us from the snares of the wicked enemy.  Thus, we will sing your mercies, Lord, with all your saints when you bid us come to you.