Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The sky in Rome today was a brilliant blue, the sun was shining and the day promised to be perfect for the multitudes who attended the Wednesday general audience. Except for the strong winds! The papal zucchetto stayed off the papal head during the morning but the wind never bothered the pilgrims, except perhaps for those lining up early for security checks and standing in the chillier shaded areas. Despite the strong and chilly wind, the Holy Father spent considerable time touring St. Peters Square in his open, white jeep, and doing what he does best, blessing children, greeting the elderly, embracing the sick.

The faithful were treated to an especially wonderful catechesis as Pope Francis continued his teachings on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and, have spoken on wisdom, understanding and counsel, today focussed on fortitude. I say especially wonderful because what he said about fortitude probably touched every listener who has ever faced challenges, suffered trials or been persecuted, especially because of the faith.

The Pope began his catechesis by noting there is a parable told by Jesus, which helps us to grasp the importance of this gift. A sower goes out to sow; not all the seed he sows, however, bears fruit. What ends up on the street is eaten by birds; what falls on stony ground or among thorns sprouting, but is soon dried by the sun or choked by the thorns. Jesus tells the dcisciples the Father is the sower, who sows the seed of His Word abundantly. The seed, however, often clashes with the aridness of our hearts and, even when welcomed, is likely to remain sterile. Instead with the gift of fortitude the Holy Spirit frees the soil of our heart from torpor, uncertainties and all the fears that can stop it, so that the Word of God can be put into practice, in an authentic and joyful way. This is a real help, this gift of fortitude it gives us strength and frees us from many obstacles.

There are difficult moments and extreme situations in which the gift of fortitude is manifested in an extraordinary, exemplary way, said Francis. This is the case of those who are facing particularly harsh and painful experiences, that disrupt their lives and those of their loved ones. The Church shines with the testimony of so many brothers and sisters who have not hesitated to give their lives, in order to remain faithful to the Lord and His Gospel. Even today there are numerous Christians in many parts of the world who continue to celebrate and witness to their faith with deep conviction and serenity, and resist even when they know that this can result in them paying a very high price.

All of us know people, continued the Holy Father, people who have experienced difficult situations, so much pain, let us think of those men and women who have a difficult life, who fight for the survival of their family, educate their children. They do this because the Spirit of fortitude helps them. How many, many men and women - whose names we do not know honor our people, honor our Church because they are strong in carrying forward their lives, their work, their family, their faith these our brothers and sisters are saints! Every day saints! Hidden saints among us! They have the gift of fortitude in carrying on in their duty as people, mother, father, brother, sister citizen. We have so many, so many. Let us thank the Lord for these Christians who are the hidden saints among us.

The Pope explained that fortitude must not be thought of as being needed only on special occasions: This gift must be the base note of our being Christians, in our ordinary everyday lives. As I said we must have fortitude in our everyday life as Christians. We need this fortitude to carry on in our lives, our families our faith. Paul, the Apostle Paul, said something that it would do us all good to hear: I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. The Lord always gives us strength, the Lord never gives us more than we can handle.

Do not lose heart in tough moments, said Francis, but invoke the Holy Spirit, so that with the gift of fortitude He can lift our hearts and communicate new vigor and enthusiasm to our lives and our following Jesus.


After the catechesis at the Wednesday audience, Pope Francis made an appeal for prayer for the miners who lost their lives in a mining disaster in Turkey: Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to pray for the miners who died in the mine yesterday in Soma, Turkey, and for those who are still trapped in the tunnels. May the Lord receive the deceased in His house and give comfort to their families.

At the time of the audience, more than 200 miners were confirmed dead, with several hundred more believed to be trapped in the mines. Rescue workers pumped oxygen into the mine to try to keep those trapped by the blaze alive, as thousands of family members and co-workers gathered outside the town's hospital. Some 93 people were rescued, including several rescuers, and 85 of them were being treated for their injuries. An explosion in the mines led to a fire which was still burning underground, hampering rescue operations and denting hopes of finding more survivors.

The Holy Father also called on Europe to unite forces and to put human rights in the forefront as the death toll of migrants trying to reach Europe continues to rise. He asked for prayers for those who have lost their lives in the past days as they crossed the Mediterranean sea in overcrowded and derelict vessels, describing the incidents as shameful carnage.

Meanwhile the death toll from the capsizing of a boat carrying some 400 migrants has climbed to 17. So far 206 immigrants have been rescued, but search efforts continue. The Italian navy said the boat, that sailed from Libya, went down some 160 km south of the Italian island of Lampedusa. The sinking follows Sundays discovery of the bodies of at least 40 immigrants off the coast of the Libyan town of Garbuli. Nearly 19,000 immigrants have been rescued since Italys government launched the Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) naval operation last October. (NEWS.VA)

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