THE CHURCH IS A TENDER, WELCOMING MOTHER, NOT AN NGO
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
For the nth day, Rome has experienced huge, heavy, pelting rain. There might be an occasional hint of sunshine, or even a period of blue sky and warm sun that inspires a sense of relief and then WHAM, another deluge.

You might even wake up to brilliant sunshine and a delft blue sky, and you thank God for the gorgeous day BUT when you leave the house you still take your umbrella as it has now become your new best friend.

Trees are down, some streets are blocked because of the fallen trees or the accumulation of water (Rome has a very poor drainage system), and a number of subway stations have closed because they are flooded. As I write, a whirring noise is coming from an emergency truck parked outside a store near my apartment building - it appears to be draining water from the store.

Internet service has occasionally gone out and satellite TV has worked rarely, if at all, the past several days. Images are fragmented and you simply cannot watch when it is like that. I get news especially of the World Cup football championship from the Internet.

THE CHURCH IS A TENDER, WELCOMING MOTHER, NOT AN NGO

Pope Francis opened the Ecclesial Convention of the Diocese of Rome on Monday night, emphasizing the Churchs role of Mother in a society where more and more children are leading the life of an orphan. He described the orphans, as children whose parents who do not spend enough time playing with them because of long working hours and fatigue due to work, thus depriving the children of time spent freely with their parents.

Pope Francis began his remarks by thanking a parish priest and two catechists, Ada e Pierpaolo, who painted a picture of the situation in the diocese: I told them, You have said everything! All I have to do now is give my blessings and leave! They were really great!

He noted that, over the past year, he has made numerous parish visits in the diocese of Rome, where he has met a great number of people, however briefly. They have expressed their hopes and expectations, along with their pains and problems, he said.

The Holy Father noted that many people feel disoriented with the difficulties of life, which often lacks meaning and value. He then imagined the hectic day of a parent: getting up early, getting the children to school, the long commute to and from work.

It begins to feel like a crushing weight, Pope Francis said. And we ask ourselves: But is this life? Then, in our hearts, the question rises: How can we do this to our children - our children - and give a sense to their lives? Because they feel the way we sometimes live our lives is inhuman, and do not know which way to go so that life is beautiful, and you are content to get up in the morning.

The Holy Father lamented the fact that many men do not have time to play with their children, and said it leaves the child like an orphan.

Orphans, with no memories of the family, becausetheir grandparents have been moved away, perhaps to a nursing home, he said. Orphans without affection or love today because everyone is in too much of a hurry: Dad is tired, mom is tiredthey are orphaned!

Pope Francis reminded them that Jesus said he would not leave us orphans.

How can we not feel a burning in the heart and say to everyone, especially young people: You are not an orphan. Jesus Christ has revealed to us that God is our Father and want to help you, because he loves you?

He lamented the social aspects that contribute to what he called the orphanhood of the young: a culture that leaves young people without jobs, and a technological society that multiplies to infinity the opportunities for pleasure, distraction and curiosity, but is not able to lead man to true joy.

The Holy Father said, The great challenge faced by the Church is that of being a mother, he said, not a well-organized NGO full of pastoral plans. The Church needs to rediscover her maternity. She must be a mother; maternity is the grace that we must now ask of the Holy Spirit in order to go ahead in our pastoral and missionary conversion. However, the Church grows not by proselytism but by maternal attraction, through tenderness, through the testimony of her many children. The Pope remarked that Mother Church has aged somewhat, at the risk of becoming Grandmother Church, and that she must therefore be rejuvenated, but not by taking her to a cosmetic surgeon, no! The Church becomes younger when she is able to generate more sons; the more children she has, the younger she becomes.

Being in the Church is being at home with mom, he said. The Holy Father said without this, going to Church becomes like going to an institution, and gives it the identity of a football team, where people are just fans of being Catholic.

We have to always welcome people with a big heart, like family, he said.

This is especially true in dealing with young people, and the Pope said the Church must encourage the participation of the youth.

Pope Francis concluded his remarks by thanking parish priests, and acknowledging that work carried out by priests is not easy. It is easier to be a bishop, he affirmed, because we can always maintain a distance and hide ourselves behind the title of 'Your excellency', and defend ourselves in this way. But being a priest, when the parishioners knock on the door, when they talk to you about their problems it is not easy.

The Italian Church is strong thanks to the parish priests, he concluded. (VIS; Vatican Radio)

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