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A Braccio

Pope Francis, as we know, has been living at the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican. He takes some of his meals with residents, and celebrates Mass daily with small groups of invited guests. According to reports, he preaches on the readings of the day "a braccio:" extemporaneously. Vatican Radio has been providing summaries with quotes.Here are some of his reflections, based upon the Acts of the Apostles:

Wonder is a great grace, the grace that God gives us in our encounter with Jesus Christ. It is something that draws us outside of ourselves with joy.We cannot profess Jesus, we cannot talk about Jesus, we cannot say anything of Jesus without the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that impels us to profess Jesus, to speak about Jesus, to have faith in Jesus. Jesus who is always with us on our life's journey.Throughout history, the people of God have always been tempted to chop a piece off faith. But when we start to cut down on faith, to negotiate faith, selling it to the highest bidder, we take the path of apostasy, we begin to lack faith, to lack faith in the Lord.

Francis' coat of arms features the IHS monogram of the Society of Jesus. Clearly the name of Jesus stands at the center of his own spirituality.Tomorrow the Bishop of Rome celebrates Mass in his Cathedral: Saint John Lateran. It will be interesting to hear his homily and how much of it is "a braccio."


About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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My sense is he's comfortable speaking from the heart, unscripted. Those in the Vatican and elsewhere throughout the Church whom that worries because in these days when no word is lost the smallest expression can and will be interpreted to the speaker's detriment, will simply have to live with it. I imagine there'll be "incidents" - the "wrong" word at the "wrong" time. Fine. Good for him. More power to him.

Today, at the Angelus, not quite a braccio--he was speaking from a text--the Pope spoke of the proclamation of the resurrection "dagli Apostoli e dalle donne"--by the Apostles and by the women. Huge crowd in St. Peter's Square, a very festive air. Applause when he said, "Buon giorno," and, later, "Cari amici" (Dear friends), and, at the end, "Buon pranzo!"

"Buon pranzo" will always set Italian hearts aglow!

Here are other of his words at the "Regina Coeli:""Non dobbiamo avere paura di essere cristiani e di vivere da cristiani! Noi dobbiamo avere questo coraggio, di andare e annunciare Cristo Risorto, perch Lui la nostra pace, Lui ha fatto la pace, con il suo amore, con il suo perdono, con il suo sangue, con la sua misericordia."We should not be afraid to be Christians and to live as Christians. We should have the courage do go forth and announce the risen Christ, because he is our peace. He has established peace by his love, by his forgiveness, by his blood and his mercy."The rest is here:

A few moments ex tempore during homily, but largely the pope stayed with his text. The themes of mercy and forgiveness again to the fore.A beautiful moment -- the greeting after the Mass of those outside, from the loggia of St. John Lateran. The pope very relaxed. "Popolo e vescovo insieme. Avanti!" The people and their bishop together go forward!

Thanks, John,I celebrated the noon Mass, so I missed the homily. I look forward to reading it.But I did catch the ceremony before the Mass when representatives of the diocese of Rome paid their respects. The Pope lingered lovingly with the mother, father and four youngsters, one of whom did not want to leave.I also caught the appearance on the loggia. As you say, very relaxed. There's a famous painting of Boniface VIII appearing on the same loggia, but I believe he's wearing the tiara -- perhaps best left to the "Verdicts" post on Dante!

The conclusion of the homily at St John Lateran is worth noting. The last sentence states the conclusion of his theme of human response to God's compassion and mercy: "we will feel his wonderful tenderness, we will feel his embrace" and then a magnificent shift, to "and we too will become more capable of mercy, patience, forgiveness and love."This has the quality of a surprise ending. Contemporary Catholics are so accustomed to a God who may be merciful but is "out there" and distant, extrinsic to humankind. A God who is, as Rahner and Ratzinger complained is seen as being "on the second floor." Here Francis suggests that our association with God transforms us internally to patience, forgiveness and mercy. Benedict had a similar surprise ending in Deus Caritas Est. After extensive exploration of God as source of life, love and living water throughout the encyclical, the very last lines of sec 42 state that the human person united to God "enables those who have drunk from the fountain of God's love to become in their turn a fountain from which "flow rivers of living water" (Jn 7:38)."To me there seems unlimited potential for a renewed Christian anthropology in the post-modern period, one that begins with God's healing and elevating work in the human person, God's unique work of art and ongoing project. hope this works. If it does, it is a link to the Pope's homily as he took possession of his cathedral church, Saint John Lateran, yesterday.Joseph Piccione has done far better than I can in his reflection. I would simply add, after listening a second time to the homily, which the Pope gave very spiritedly, this simple summary: With tenderness, patience, mercy God awaits us as the father in the well-known Gospel story never tired of waiting for the return of his errant son.

Joseph,you write: "To me there seems unlimited potential for a renewed Christian anthropology in the post-modern period, one that begins with Gods healing and elevating work in the human person, Gods unique work of art and ongoing project."I think an important point of contact can be made via Charles Taylor's discussion of the "transformation perspective" in "A Secular Age." In that regard he surprisingly evokes the Patristic notion of "theosis" - "divinization." I have not seen much commentary on this dimension of Taylor's thought.

John Page,Thank you for providing the link. I'm struck by the Pope's ease in drawing upon the concreteness of the mystical tradition, as in this quote from Saint Bernard and his commentary on it:" Saint Bernard, in a fine homily, says: Through the wounds of Jesus I can suck honey from the rock and oil from the flinty rock (cf. Deut 32:13), I can taste and see the goodness of the Lord (On the Song of Songs, 61:4). It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart."

[Tangent: Pope Frances is moving towards more collegiality. He has decided to allow the bishops of Italy to choose both the President and Secretary of their national organization of bishops. At present the popes appoint them.]

Fr Imbelli,Charles Taylor doesn't wander from human transcendence and transformation in his "Sources of the Self" either. He is aware of theosis/divinization and God's agape/grace that effects the ongoing human transformation and the life of love toward others. However, he suggests that grace is no longer recognized as the cause of concern for others in Western culture. For those attentive to the foundational quality of a classical Christian anthropology, transformation seems always present as a theme and possibility and he closes "Sources" on that note. In "Sources" the "secular derivatives of Christianity" (45) have such a presence in the cultural imagination of the last several hundred years. All the more clear is the challenge to Christianity to state it's fundamental message of God's affirmation of humanity. Lumen Gentium 40 affirms humanity's call to be "partakers in the divine nature." Do we tend to gloss over this? Do we have a sense of what it suggests about us?By the way thanks for your reference to Taylor's "excarnation" in a recent post. It reminded me of Walker Percy's suggestion in "Love in the Ruins" that we have become abstractions to ourselves.

Joseph,I've read that Pope Francis' favorite film is "Babette's Feast:" a wonderfully concrete depiction of transformation.

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