Saturday, March 30, 2013


In St. Mark's version of the Resurrection of Jesus, we read:
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.  Very early when the sun had risen on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.  They were saying to one another, "Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?"  When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large

This passage has always struck me for one basic reason:  once the stone had been rolled back, and Jesus had emerged triumphant over death, the stone was not rolled back where it had been.  And Jesus never returned to the tomb.

Why is this reality so important for all of us?  Because Risen life with Jesus means that we, also, never return to the tomb.  We have left behind our sins, faults, failures, and mistakes.  All of the evil we have done is left in the cold and damp tomb.

This emerging from our own tombs of sin and death presupposes that we have experienced the love, mercy, and forgiveness of our Risen Lord.  And that we don't go back.

However, far too many disciples of Jesus insist on shoving others back into their tombs because these disciples don't know how to forgive and to forget.  To roll back the stone means that once and for all we are liberated by Jesus through our sharing in his life and Paschal Mystery.

This is why, sadly, some people refuse to let the past go, to allow full healing and reconciliation to take place.  Instead, as a person emerges from the tomb hoping for new life away from the tomb, they are dragged back into the tomb to suffer all over again.  This type of response from us is totally contrary to the message of the Risen Lord Jesus.

If we are guilty of pushing family or friends back into dark tombs over and over again, this Easter is the time to break that dreadful habit.  Just as we give thanks to God for our being raised up to new life with Jesus, and thereby departing from the tomb, we need to rejoice for each other as we share in this new life.

Our task is to make sure all our tombs are empty, and that they remain so.  We should never have to ask over and over, "Who will roll back the stone for us?"

May the graces and light of Our Risen Lord Jesus free you and bless you!

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Praying In a Crisis

Rev. Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I.
How do we lift our darkest, most depressed, most lonely moments up to God? How can we pray when we are most deeply alone, helpless, and our whole world seems to be collapsing?
We can learn from Jesus and how he prayed the night before his death in the Garden of Gethsemane, in his darkest hour: It was late at night; he had just had his last meal with his closest friends, and he had one hour to prepare to face his death. His humanity breaks through and Jesus finds himself prostrate on the ground, begging for escape. Here's how the Gospels describe it:

Jesus withdrew from his disciples, about a stone's throw away, and threw himself to the ground and prayed. "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine." And he came back and found his disciples sleeping.

So he withdrew again and in anguish prayed even more earnestly, and his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. When he rose from prayer he went to the disciples and found them sleeping for sheer grief. And he said to them, "Why are you asleep? Get up and pray not to be put to the test." And he prayed a third time, and an angel came and strengthened him, and he rose to face with strength what lay before him.

This prayer by Jesus in Gethsemane can serve as a model for how we can pray when we're in crisis. Looking at the prayer, we can highlight seven elements, each of which has something to teach us in terms of how to pray in our darkest times:

1. The prayer issues forth from his loneliness: The Gospels highlight this, both in terms of telling us that the prayer takes place in a garden (the archetypal place for love) and in that Jesus is "a stone's throw away" from his loved ones who cannot be present to what he is undergoing. In our deepest crises, we are always painfully alone, a stone's throw away from others. Deep prayer should issue from that place.

2. The prayer is one of great familiarity: He begins the prayer by calling his father "Abba", the most familiar term possible, the phrase that a young child would use sitting on his or her father's lap. In our darkest hours, we must be most familiar with God.

3. The prayer is one of complete honesty: Classically prayer is defined as "lifting mind and heart to God". Jesus does this here, radically, in searing honesty. He asks God to take the suffering away, to give him escape. His humanity cringes before duty and he asks for escape. That's honest prayer, true prayer.

4. The prayer is one of utter helplessness: He falls to the ground, prostrate, with no illusions about his own strength. His prayer contains the petition that if God is to do this through him, God needs to provide the strength for it.

5. The prayer is one of openness, despite personal resistance: Even as he cringes before what he is being asked to undergo and asks for escape, he still gives God the radical permission to enter his freedom. His prayer opens him to God's will, if that is what's ultimately being asked of him.

6. The prayer is one of repetition: He repeats the prayer several times, each time more earnestly, sweating blood, not just once, but several times over.

7. The prayer is one of transformation:
Eventually an angel (divine strength) comes and fortifies him and he gives himself over to what he is being asked to undergo on the basis of a new strength that comes from beyond him. But that strength can only flow into him after he has, through helplessness, let go of his own strength. It is only after the desert has done its work on us that we are open to let God's strength flow into us.
In his book, Stride Towards Freedom, Martin Luther King recounts how one night, after receiving a death threat, he panicked, gave into fear, and, not unlike Jesus in Gethsemane, literally collapsed to the floor in fear, loneliness, helplessness - and prayer. He confessed that his prayer that night was mostly a plea to God to let him find an honorable means of escape, but God asked something else of him.

Here are his final words to God in that prayer:
"But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I've come to the point where I can't face it alone." Then he adds: "At that moment I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him before." An angel found him.
When we pray honestly, whatever our pain, an angel of God will always find us.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Now that Pope Frances has been elected, and has concluded his Mass of Inauguration in St. Peter's Square, the really difficult work awaits him.

He has several key and meaningful appointments to make, and he needs to make them very soon:  the first and most important will include the Secretary of State, Substitute Secretary of State, Priest Secretaries, and Prefect of the Papal Household.

Pope Frances knows well that one of the major themes during the ten General Congregations of the Cardinals prior to the Conclave was the reform of the Vatican Curia.  Reform will only take place with the appointment of top collaborators with the Pope--and soon.  The longer he waits, the greater the danger that the current leadership may feel that they will remain in their jobs and will function as in the past.  But the world's Cardinals want something else.

With the fresh new vigor of Pope Francis and his vision of a Church which is "poor and for the poor," and with far less bureaucracy, that will only happen if the upper leadership in the Vatican is changed.

Fortunately, there are many fine candidates around the world for the various positions which he needs to fill.  He will be well served if he calls upon a small group of Cardinals who serve as Archbishops of Dioceses around the world to advise him on his choices.  Most likely, his new appointees will not be men presently serving in the Vatican Curia, but men with a broad working knowledge of the Church world-wide and seasoned in their experience.

Recall his words during his March 19 homily:  "Let us never forget that authentic power is service...."  We can consider that criterion to be high on his list when he prays and consults others about his appointees.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


There is one paragraph in Pope Francis' homily at his Mass of Inauguration which has deeply challenged me, and I hope, you as well.  It reads:

Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross.  He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God's people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, whose whom Matthew lists in the final judgement on love:  the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Matthew 25:31--46).  Only those who serve with love are able to protect!

Isnt' that the great challenge which Jesus Christ gave us so many centuries ago?  And to have Pope Francis offer it to us in a new and fresh way is such a grace!  Can you imagine what a different world we would be living in if all leaders of peoples and nations followed that motto:  Authentic power is service!!  We would no longer have wars, hatred, rivalries, conflicts, divisions, and unhappiness. 

Pope Francis has a great love for immigrants, and he told me that he was praying for all of the world's immigrants when I met him last Friday.  Some 212 million people on the move across the globe--amazing. 

My own ministry for the coming years will continue to focus upon our immigrants, and our understanding and service to them.  Once immigration reform is finally signed into law, we have the potential in southern California to qualify almost one million undocumented peoples!

Each of us needs to look deeply into our lives and to ask our loving Lord to help us commit to serving all of our brothers and sisters in whatever way we can--and not just once, but regularly.

Yes, indeed, "authentic power is SERVICE"!!

POPE FRANCIS' HOMILY --Feast of St. Joseph

 Homily of the Holy Father at the Inauguration of his Papal Ministry 19 March 2013:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.

I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.

In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).

How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit.
Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!

The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!

Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep.

Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46).  Only those who serve with love are able to protect!

In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.

To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!

I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.
Bottom of For


Sunday, March 17, 2013


After Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement, all of us turned to prayer, and especially, through the Holy Spiri,t to guide us.

With 1.2 billion Catholics world-wide, and being one of 115 to elect the new Pope, I was deeply humbled--and terrified.  My prayers to the Holy Spirit began, and were constant.

I know how many millions of fellow Catholics were praying across the world that the Holy Spirit point us to the best one to lead our Church forward.

When we eventually arrived at the Sistine Chapel on March 12, I was still pondering two or three candidates.  However, when the first blank ballot was given to us, and when it was time to write down a name, something powerful--and strange--happened.

I picked up my pen to write, and I began.  However, my hand was being moved by some greater spiritual force.  The name on the ballot just happened.  I had not yet narrowed my thinking down to one name; but it was done for me.

I wrote it, then trembled deeply.  That's when I knew the Holy Spirit was fully working within the Church of Jesus Christ, and that my role was not to "select" the new Successor to Peter, but to "write down" his name--a name that had been given to me.

The overwhelming power of prayer and reliance upon the Holy Spirit is beyond any human imagining.

Thanks to all of you who stormed heaven seeking the best Pope for the coming years!!!

Saturday, March 16, 2013


In an Address to journalists covering the election of Pope Francis, he explained how and why he chose the name "Pope Francis."  I am reprinting his words below which are a true vision and mission statement for the Church, and for his ministry as Successor to Peter:
“Some people didn't know why the Bishop of Rome wanted to call himself 'Francis'. Some though of Francis Xavier, Francis de Sales, even Francis of Assisi. I will tell you the story.

At the election I had the archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo next to me. He is also prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes [O.F.M.]: a dear, dear friend. When things were getting a little 'dangerous', he comforted me. And then, when the votes reached the two-thirds, there was the usual applause because the Pope had been elected. He hugged me and said: 'Do not forget the poor.'

And that word stuck here [tapping his forehead]; the poor, the poor. Then, immediately in relation to the poor I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of war, while the voting continued, until all the votes [were counted]. And so the name came to my heart:: Francis of Assisi.

For me he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and safeguards Creation. In this moment when our relationship with Creation is not so good—right?—He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … Oh, how I wish for a Church that is poor and for the poor!”

Those words, that challenge, have galvanized my own life and ministry for the remaining time left to me on this earth:  Oh, how I wish for a Church that is poor and for the poor!"  For the Church to be poor means to possess very little--not wealth, not nobility, not reputation.  It means to live our lives as Jesus did in the loving service of others.  In southern California we have many people who are poor:  the homeless, the hungry, the abandoned, the victims of all types of abuse, the immigrants, the hopeless.  Like Jesus, we must seek out and be found with all of "the wrong people" so that we can bring God's love, forgiveness, and comfort to them.

I will pray over and ponder the Pope's challenge these coming days, and will accept this challenge as a personal mandate for my own continuing ministry.   


[On Sunday March 17 I will celebrate Mass once again in my Rome Titular Church, I Santi Quattro Coronati--the Four Holy Crowned Martyrs.  Will be joined by the usual Italian parishioners, as well as Los Angeles priests and friends.

The Basilica is cared for by wonderful Augustinian Sisters, a cloistered community.  See their website:

You can find many interesting websites which feature I Santi Quattro Coronati; just use any search engine.]

My homily focuses upon the Scriptures for Sunday which carry a common and important theme:  do not allow ourselves to be imprisoned in the past; rather, look forward to fresh beginnings with God's grace!  Marvelous things can happen in our lives with God and with hope.

Is this not the reason we are so excited about Pope Francis?  He is pointing us in a new, fresh, and forward direction!

God is interested only in our future, what we will become in Christ.

In John's Gospel, we see Jesus go into the heart of the Temple--a sacred place for the Jewish people.  And here the pious Jewish leaders bring the woman caught in adultery.  Too many religious people want to trap others in their past--to nail them to an immovable past.  They even invoke Moses--using religion as a blunt instrument, tying us to our past, rather than considering forgiveness and our future.

But Jesus totally disarmed them, showing that our all being sinners should actually bring about compassion for one another.  And so, they slowly drifted away one by one.  St. Augustine comments on this Gospel contrasting two Latin words:  miseria and misericordia--moving from misery to mercy.

Jesus says, neither do I condemn you.  Go, and stop sinning.  Jesus is not obsessed with her past, but hopeful for her future.

My friends, all of us at times feel imprisoned by our past--often, we can't let go of past resentments against one another.  Maybe we don't want to go to Confession because we really don't want to change our lives--to live in the future free from our past.

Through this Eucharist, let us move from misery to mercy through the power of Jesus Christ as Pope Francis is leading us.  Remember:  every Saint has a past; but every sinner has a future [Fr. Robert Barron].  

Thursday, March 14, 2013


 Pope Francis' first homily, delivered in the Sistine Chapel on Thursday afternoon, March 14, as he celebrated Holy Mass for the first time as Pope and with the Cardinals who had elected Pope last evening.  He did not use a prepared text for this simple and inspiring homily.

[The three readings of the Mass “pro Ecclesia," on which Pope Francis commented, were taken from the book of Isaiah (2:2-5), from the first letter of Peter (2:4-9), and from the Gospel according to Matthew (16:13-19)]

In these three readings I see that there is something in common: it is movement. In the first reading, movement in walking; in the second reading, movement in the building up of the Church; in the third, in the Gospel, movement in confession.

To walk, to build up, to confess.

To walk. “House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” This is the first thing that God said to Abraham: Walk in my presence and be without reproach. To walk: our life is a journey and when we stop it is no good. To walk always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that irreproachability which God asked of Abraham, in his promise.

To build up. To build up the Church. Stones are spoken of: the stones have substance; but living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. To build up the Church, the bride of Christ, on that cornerstone which is the Lord himself. This is another movement of our lives: to build up.

Third, to confess. We can walk as much as we wish, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, it is no good. We will become a humanitarian NGO, but not the Church, bride of the Lord.

When one does not walk, one halts. When one does not build on stone what happens? That happens which happens to children on the beach when they make sand castles, it all comes down, it is without substance. When one does not confess Jesus Christ, I am reminded of the expression of Léon Bloy: "He who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.” When one does not confess Jesus Christ, one confesses the worldliness of the devil, the worldliness of the demon.

To walk, to build/construct, to confess. But the matter is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in confessing, at times there are shocks, there are movements that are not properly movements of the journey: they are movements that set us back.

This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who has confessed Jesus Christ says to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the cross. This has nothing to do with it. I will follow you with other possibilities, without the cross.

When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we confess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like that everyone, after these days of grace, should have the courage, truly the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the cross of the Lord; to build up the Church upon the blood of the Lord that was shed upon the cross; and to confess the only glory: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will move forward.

I hope for all of us that the Holy Spirit, through the prayer of the Virgin Mary, our Mother, may grant us this grace: to walk, to build up, to confess Jesus Christ crucified.
So may it be.


If you read my blog of March 3 and March 7, you will know that it was my dream and prayer that the Mass of Inauguration for our new Pope would be on Tuesday, March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, Patron of the Church.

Now, it's going to happen!  That date was set by Pope Francis the First last night, and it will be so memorable to join him in the Mass which officially begins his term as our new Pope.

St. Joseph has long been a personal patron Saint.  In all four Gospels there is no mention of Joseph saying any words.  Rather, his life was devoted to following God's will, caring for Mary and Jesus, and working quietly to safeguard the Holy Family.  His life-witness is what has always struck me as so inspirational.

It was in God's providence that I was ordained a priest on May 1, 1962--the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.  Then, on March 19, 1975 I was ordained a Bishop.

This year I will celebrate my 38th anniversary as a Bishop together with Pope Francis the First at St. Peter's here in Rome.  What a great joy that will be!!

A special Thank You for all of you who prayed that the Holy Spirit would enlighten us to choose the right man to be the Successor to St. Peter.  Those prayers were so fruitful!

When I entered the Conclave, and our first ballot took place, I was thinking of three possible candidates.  However, when I opened the small ballot to place a name there, no hesitation.  It felt as if I were not writing the name, but that some power had taken my pen in hand and was doing the writing for me.  Within seconds the name was on the first and the subsequent ballots.

St. Peter, pray for us and the Church!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


What a thrilling grace for the Catholic Church!! 

A day of firsts:  our first Pope from the southern hemisphere, our first Pope from Latin America, our first Pope to take the name of Francis, the first Jesuit Pope!!!

I am just ecstatic over the choice by the Holy Spirit through the Cardinals from across the globe.  It will be impossible to sleep tonight with such good and emotional news for us!

It was a special grace to represent Southern California in this Conclave, and especially with millions of people from across Latin America living in our area.  I can imagine how excited they must be to have for the first time a Pope who comes from their culture, language, and religious traditions.

Pope Francis I will continue to live out his deep personal faith with Jesus Christ in a way that attracts people to Jesus, thus bringing us a new Spring for evangelization within the Church.

With the name of Francis, he will also continue his great care and concern for the poor of the world--something that he has done as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

It's late in Rome, so more tomorrow!!!

Pope Francis I--what a graced ring there is to that name!

Monday, March 11, 2013


We have concluded our tenth and last General Congregation for the Cardinals, and we now await our move to Casa Santa Martha on Tuesday morning.

At 10:00 AM we will concelebrate a special Mass for the Election of the Pope in St. Peter's Basilica.

May I commend to your daily prayer the Mass Prayer which we will all pray on Tuesday morning:

O God, eternal shepherd,
who govern your flock with unfailing care,
grant in your boundless fatherly love
a Pastor and Successor to Peter for your Church
who will please you by his holiness
and to us show watchful care.
Through Christ our Lord.
On Tuesday evening the Cardinal Electors will enter in solemn Procession the Sistine Chapel, chanting as we go the Litany of the Saints.  There will be a spiritual reflection offered, and we will proceed to the necessary oaths.  On Tuesday evening we will have our first secret ballot vote for the next Pope.

It is interesting to note that since 1059 the College of Cardinals remains the sole body of Electors for the Pope--that's 954 continuous years.

The Election of the Pope by the College of Cardinals occurred in many locations around Italy, Spain and France, but since 1846, all Papal Elections have been held in the Sistine Chapel--this Election will be the twelfth continuous.  However, there were other times prior to 1846 when the Cardinals used the Sistine Chapel.

No other organization in human history has had the continuous and uninterrupted history of the Catholic Church.  The reason is simple:  the Church is the living presence of Jesus Christ among his people down through time, and no human leader can interrupt that presence.

Pray for us! 

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Although my attention is focused now upon the Conclave to begin on Tuesday, March 12, yet I am still praying for the introduction of a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill in the U.S. Senate before Easter.

Four Republican Senators are active participants:  Senators McCain, Rubio, Graham, and Flake; and four Democrat Senators:  Schumer, Durbin, Bennett, and Menendez.  They meet two or three times each week, and the fact that no leaks are occurring is a good sign. 

It has been years since we have had any positive initiative to overhaul the terribly broken immigration system that plagues our country, and which continues to keep some 11 million of our brothers and sisters in the shadows and under fear and threats.

If a truly bipartisan effort emerges from the Senate, I am hopeful that it will also pass the House without being watered down as to leave it meaningless.

In several of my past blogs I have stressed the essential elements that the Church requires for a truly comprehensive approach:  a DREAM Act provision for minors brought to this country without papers; a family reunification process which sharply reduces the waiting time; an earned path to legal residency for those without documents; some type of AGJobs to assist agriculture find adequate and qualified workers; some type of temporary worker program that protects the rights of American workers as well as the temporary ones.

The whole country suffers now without an adequate immigration system to balance our need for certain workers with a legal way for those workers to come here. 

I am hopeful that our next Pope will also continue the Church's worldwide effort to work with the 212 million people on the move across the globe.

Friday, March 8, 2013


Every day the Cardinals gather for our General Congregation meetings, and there are delightful breaks, coffee, and fraternity.

Almost every day I greet our new Pope, maybe have a cappuccino with him.

Trouble is, I don't know which one of these Cardinals will actually be elected in the coming week.  But it is one of them.

One of my brother Cardinals came to Rome with his suitcase, and with an open airline ticket to return home.  But one of them isn't going home.  He will move into the special apartments designed as the residence for the Pope.

Once one of the Cardinals receives at least 77 votes, he will be asked by the senior Cardinal if he accepts the election to serve as the next Pope.  Presuming he responds "yes," he will then be asked, "By what name do you wish to be called?"

The new Pope will become number 266 in the long succession of Popes going back to St. Peter.  If you scroll through the list of those Popes, you will find many different names chosen by them.  And many have been popular names, leading to numbers behind the name.  That's how Cardinal Ratzinger become Benedict XVI--he wanted the name Benedict, and since there were 15 prior Popes with that name, then he became XVI.

I hope that the new Pope will explain the reasons for choosing a particular name.  Those insights will help us all understand his vision for the Church in the coming years.

Shortly, we will begin our General Congregation sessions for today.

I hope once again to enjoy a cappuccino with our new Pope.

Please continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will unveil his identity for us.


Thursday, March 7, 2013


It is now March 7 here in Rome.  In two days, our Novena to St. Joseph begins.  It would be an incredible blessing to have it end on the Feast of St. Joseph, Universal Patron of the Church, on March 19, with the Inauguration of our new Pope!

Please join me in this 9 day Novena:

O glorious St. Joseph, faithful follower of Jesus Christ, to you do we come to ask your powerful intercession in obtaining from the merciful Heart of Jesus all the helps and graces that we need for our spiritual and temporal welfare, and in particular the grace of a happy death, and the special favor we now implore (silently recall the grace you are requesting).  O guardian of the Word incarnate, we know with confidence that your prayers on our behalf will be graciously heard before the throne of God, and that God will grant us whatever is for His greater glory and for our greatest good.

V.     O glorious St. Joseph, through your love of Jesus Christ and for the glory of his name,

R.     Hear our prayers and ask God to grant our petitions.

Let us Pray:

O glorious St. Joseph, spouse of the Immaculate Virgin, obtain fur us pure, humble, and charitable hearts, and perfect conformity to the will of God.  Be our guide, our father and model during life so that we may merit to die as you did in the arms of Jesus and Mary.  Dear St. Joseph, foster father of our Lord Jesus Christ, true spouse of the Virgin Mother of God, pray for us!!!

[May I please ask a humble remembrance in your prayers.]

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


In the monthly prayer and Mass booklet, Magnificat, the Lenten Gospel for March 5 is according to Matthew: chapter 18, verses 21--35.  One of Jesus' more powerful parables on forgiveness awaits you. 

But it's the Meditation of the Day which is striking.  Written by the late Monsignor Romano Guardini, a famous theologian and liturgist, it is well worth reflection:

Forgiveness should be no occasion, but our habitual attitude towards others....If you wish to obey Christ, you must first free yourself of all "righteous" indignation.  Only if you forgive entirely, can you contact the true self of the other, whom his own rebelliousness is holding back.  If you can reach this better self, you have a good chance of being heard, and of winning your brother.  This then is the great doctrine of forgiveness on which Jesus insists as one of the fundamentals of his message.  If we wish to get to its root, we must dig our way there question by question.

What must we overcome in ourselves to be capable of genuine forgiveness?...

Deep in the domain of the purely natural, the sentiment of having to do with an enemy.  This sense of the hostile is something animals have, and it reaches as far as their vulnerability.  Creatures are so ordered that the preservation of the one depends on the destruction of the other. 

This is also true of fallen man, deeply enmeshed in the struggle for existence.  he who injures me or takes something valuable from me is my enemy, and all my reactions of distrust, fear, and repulsion rise up against him.  I try to protect myself from him, and am able to do this best by constantly reminding myself of his dangerousness, instinctively mistrusting him, and being prepared at all times to strike back....

Here forgiveness would mean first that I relinquish the clear and apparently only sure defense of natural animosity; second, that I overcome fear and risk defenselessness, convinced that the enemy can do nothing against my intrinsic self....

But the crux of the matter is forgiveness, a profound and weighty thing.  Its prerequisite is the courage that springs from a deep sense of intimate security, and which, as experience has proved, is usually justified, for the genuine pardoner actually is stronger than the fear-ridden hater.

What extraordinary insights Guardini gives us!  He builds upon the message of Jesus Christ who in today's Gospel calls us to forgive our brother and sister not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

What a challenge for all of us along our Lenten journey.  I pray that our new Pope will continue proclaim and to witness the forgiveness of Jesus day and night in his service as the Successor to Peter.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Looking over the calendar for the rest of March, I am struck by the fact that the Feast of St. Joseph, the Patron of the Church, occurs on Tuesday, March 19.

What a great day for the Inaugural Mass of our next Pope!!

Obviously, I will have no say in when that Mass will take place.  But I can't help but note the significance of having that Inaugural Mass on the Feast of the Patron of the Universal Church.  St. Joseph was also given the title "Guardian of the Redeemer" by Blessed John Paul II.

Since I was a seminarian, I have had a very personal devotion to St. Joseph.  In God's providence I was ordained a priest on May 1, 1962 the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.  Then, on March 19, 1975, the Feast of St. Joseph I was ordained a Bishop.  Although all of this is just imaginary, it would be wonderful to celebrate the 38th anniversary of my episcopal ordination during the Inaugural Mass for our new Pope!

In a sermon on St. Joseph, St. Bernardine of Siena gives us helpful insights:

"Joseph was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasures, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Joseph's wife.  He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying:  'Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.'

What then is Joseph's position in the whole Church of Christ?  Is he not a man chosen and set apart?  Through him and, yes, under him, Christ was fittingly and honorably introduced into the world.  Holy Church in its entirety is indebted to the Virgin Mother because through her it was judged worthy to receive Christ.  But after her we undoubtedly owe special gratitude and reverence to Saint Joseph."

O glorious St. Joseph, spouse of the Immaculate Virgin, obtain for us pure, humble, and charitable hearts, and perfect conformity to the will of God.  Be our guide, our father and model during life so that we may merit to die as you did in the arms of Jesus and Mary.  Dear St. Joseph, foster father of our Lord Jesus Christ, true spouse of the Virgin Mother of God, pray for us!

Saturday, March 2, 2013


It is a great grace to be meeting with and speaking to so many Cardinals from around the world, all of us given the incredible task of electing the next Pope.

But one aspect of this search has been to quietly compile a list of those criteria and characteristics which both the Cardinals and Catholics are looking for in our next Successor to Peter.  The result:  there is no human being on earth who could meet all of those requirements!

Among some of the musings--we need a Pope who:   speaks at least six languages fluently; who has served as a pastoral priest and bishop for many decades; who has extensive administrative and financial experience; who is an intellectual and scholar; who is an ordinary person who can relate to people; who can relate to college graduates and to migrant farm workers; who can proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that attracts hundreds of millions of new followers;  who spends hours each day in prayer, while appearing on numerous television programs; who can understand Latin, and be on Facebook and Twitter at the same time; who can engage young people while consoling the elderly; who can speak clearly about Angola in one moment, and Tibet in the next; who can overnight increase vocations to the priesthood and to religious life.  And that's just the beginning of the list!

So, where do I turn?  To Peter, the first one to be the "rock" upon which the Church of Jesus Christ is built.  A fisherman, not a graduate from an elite Jerusalem university; an impetuous person who often speaks without thinking; one who denies he even knew Jesus Christ three times--but repents; one who pleads, "Lord, depart from me for I am a sinner"; one who eventually becomes a courageous proclaimer of the Gospel of Jesus; one who is finally crucified, upside down, in his final act of self-giving.

My prayer these days is not that I cast my vote for the "perfect" Successor of Peter, but rather, that my vote is for the one whom God has chosen to serve the Church for the coming years.  This, indeed, is our mystery of faith!

Friday, March 1, 2013


It is now 8:01 PM on Thursday, February 28, 2013, and history has just been made:  the Church has a Sede Vacante/Vacant See of Peter, but we still have a Pope Emeritus living.

Bells pealed all over Rome continuously from about 4:55 PM to 5:15 PM, the window of time for the Pope's helicopter to depart the Vatican and fly to Castel Gandolfo in the mountains outside Rome.  It was Rome's final tribute to a Pope whom Catholics and the world came to admire and cherish.

A Sede Vacante, but no Funeral Rites to be performed; no lying in state; no major Funeral Mass in St. Peter's Square.  So different than the last 600 years.

Tomorrow morning, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Dean of the College of Cardinals will send a special letter to all the Cardinals of the world informing them officially that the See of Peter is now vacant, that no one is holding the Keys of Peter.  Because of the advance notice by Pope Benedict, most of the Cardinals of the world are already here in Rome.

Most likely our first gathering, or General Congregation, will be on Monday, March 4.  Since the proceedings of those General Congregations are secret, except for official announcements, I will not be able to post new Blogs nor Tweet on the confidential issues and discussions. 

At yesterday's General Audience, and today's Farewell with the Cardinals, the one question I heard repeatedly was "Who is that?"  "Where is he from?"  These questions underscored our need to devote a lot of time to getting to know so many of the new Cardinals created these past few years.  Recall that there were two Consistories of Cardinals just last year.

I am eager to learn as much as I can about the status of the Church all around the globe, to find where the Church is dynamic and flourishing--and why.  Also, where the Church is in a darker reality, not active and few Catholics participating in their faith.  From all of these important discussions I am hopeful that a newer and fresher vision for the Church will emerge, thus helping us select the right man to lead us in that fresh direction.

St. Peter, pray for us!