Pope Francis: visit to Santa Maria a Setteville parish
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said Mass at the Roman parish of Saint Mary in Setteville on Sunday afternoon. The Holy Father made a pastoral visit to the parish, leaving the Vatican at 3PM Rome Time, and spending the afternoon with parishioners, clergy and staff.
The visit featured moments with the sick of the parish, including a private meeting with one of the parish curates, don Giuseppe Berardino, who suffers from ALS – with the children and young people in the parish’s catechetical programmes – with the parents fo children baptized during the course of the past year – and with parishioners who contribute to Santa Maria’s pastoral outreach initiatives.
The Holy Father spoke briefly, off the cuff, to each group, beginning with the sick and troubled of the parish. “Jesus,” said Pope Francis, “desired to be close to us also in His [own] pain, with his passion, with His [own] suffering, and Jesus is close to you.”
“He himself said: ‘If you go to find a sick person, you go to find me.’ Jesus is here with the sick, with those who have problems,” continued Pope Francis. “I know that when we suffer, when there are problems, it is difficult to understand, but it is not a question of understanding: it is a question of feeling, of feeling the caresses of Jesus – that’s it – and this consoles – and in order that all of you should be able to feel these caresses of Jesus, I will give you my blessing.”
To children and young people, Pope Francis spoke warmly, thanking the younger children for the drawings they gave him, and encouraging the older ones not to become “strangers” to parish life and to the life of faith. “The Lord has given you this grace [of Confirmation],” he said. “Do not make Confirmation the ‘See you later,’ Sacrament – until your wedding day.” Pope Francis went on to say, “That’s a lot of years to go without a community, and you have been chosen by the Lord to make a community.”
In a question-and-answer session with a few of the young people, Pope Francis offered a glimpse into his own journey of faith, saying, “Sometimes, I think of how in some moments, faith dropped so much that I could not find it and I lived as if I had no faith. Then, one finds faith again. The ups and downs of life also shock us at first, and that moves you and makes you lose some faith, but then as time goes by you find it again, see? There is a passage in the Gospel when Jesus says: ‘Everything is possible for the one who has faith.’ Everything – and the father of the sick child – the father had taken the child to be healed by Jesus – what did he say to Jesus? ‘Lord, I believe – only help my unbelief.’ Faith is not always so: there are dark days, days all [plunged in] darkness – even I have walked for days like that in my life as well. Only, be not afraid: pray and be patient, and then the Lord shows up, makes us grow in faith and makes you go forward.”
To illustrate the point, the Holy Father said, “Some days you do not see the faith: it is dark – and when one sees disasters, and sees that – [Saturday], for example, when I baptized 13 children [born after the earthquakes in central Italy], there was the father of one of the children, who had lost his wife. ‘I lost my love,’ he said. One thinks, ‘But can this man have faith, after this tragedy?’ – and you know it is dark, there. [Should I say], ‘If you do not have faith...?’ [No.] Shut up. Accompany him. Respect the darkness of the soul. Then will the Lord awaken faith – you see, faith is a gift from God. Our job is only to preserve it.”
Then Pope Francis spoke with the parents of children baptized during the course of the past year, offering two of his favorite pieces of advice: do not fight in front of the children, and do not go to sleep without making peace. “It’s normal,” he said, “arguing is part of life. But the advice that I give to you, is that your children never hear or see you fight: if you want to say things to each other, go in the [other] room, close the door and say everything – have it out. It is healthy, because even blowing off steam is healthy – only do not let them see it, because children suffer, they feel abandoned when parents argue.”
Then, “Never end the day without making peace,” he said. “[T]he ‘cold war’ of the day after is very dangerous: do not end the day without making peace.”
In remarks to all the faithful of the parish present for the Mass, following the readings of the day, Pope Francis spoke of the need to avoid gossip. “The Apostles,” he said, “were not gossipers: they did not speak ill of others, did not speak badly of each other. In this they were good. They didn’t talk behind each other’s’ backs.”
“[T]he Apostles did bad things: they betrayed the Lord, but not this,” Pope Francis continued. “We are all sinners,” he said, “but a community where there are gossips and trash-talkers, is a community that is incapable of giving witness.”