Papal Intention for March: In this month, Pope Francis invites us to pray for the victims of abuse from the members of the Church. He desires that the victims find within the Church herself a concrete response to their pain and suffering. The members of the Church must take all the precautions with the utmost care not to hurt children and vulnerable adults. The Church must take proactive measures and adequate steps to ward off the menace of abuse at any time. How can the Church who is called “an expert in humanity”, be the cause for such deep wounds? She must do everything possible for humanity so that every person truly finds the authentic meaning of life. St Irenaeus said: “Gloria Dei vivens homo”: the human person who fully lives his or her dignity gives glory to God, who has given this dignity to men and women. Let our prayers rise to heaven that the Lord may help us to come to the aid of the victims of abuse and care for them.
Pope Francis’ Message for Lent: Meditating on the Transfiguration experience, Pope Francis invites the whole Church, during this Lenten season to have the synodal perspective. Amid ordinary and boring routines, during Lent we are invited to ascend “a high mountain” in the company of Jesus and to live a particular experience of spiritual discipline – ascesis – as God’s holy people. Both the journey of penance and the synodal journey demand effort, sacrifice and concentration. They have the joy of Transfiguration as the goal, both personal and ecclesial. God’s grace and our efforts must go hand in hand; thereby we acquire the knowledge of the Master and experience his salvific love.
The Pope focuses on two ways reflected in the Transfiguration scene. The first is to heed the voice heard at the mountaintop: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him”. When we journey together with others in the Lenten ascesis, we must give priority to listen to the Word of God, proclaimed during the liturgical celebrations, meditated in our communities and in our private reading. The Lord will reveal his will and our mission in the service of the Kingdom if we attentively listen to Jesus. The Supreme Pontiff affirms: “listening to Christ often takes place in listening to our brothers and sisters in the
Church. Such mutual listening in some phases is the primary goal, but it remains always indispensable in the method and style of a synodal Church”. Listening lovingly could be taken as Lenten practice of penance.
In the second way, the Pope insists that we, like Peter, James and John, fall prostrate before the Lord both in fear and in adoration. We are invited not to “take refuge in a religiosity made up of extraordinary events and dramatic experiences, out of fear of facing reality and its daily struggles, its hardships and contradictions”. These days, there is a tendency to go after the miraculous and extraordinary, but Jesus always proposes that the joy of Resurrection awaits those who are ready to walk with him on the way of the Cross. He never promises miracles to attract people to himself. Instead, he places the Resurrection as our goal and Transfiguration as its preview, and everything else will find its own place. Naturally, then, almsgiving, prayer and fasting will also be meaningful to us.
Pray for Pope Francis: On 13 March, Pope Francis completes 10 years after his election as the Supreme Pastor of the Church. At every discourse, he has one request to make: “Please do not forget to pray for me”. He deeply trusts in the power of intercession and sets himself as a wonderful example of humbly asking for prayers. Prayers of intercession are precious, and Pope Francis teaches us, by his example, that the Lord hears the cry of his people. Therefore, let us pray intensely for our beloved Pope, who desires our participation in his ministry through our prayerful support and let us intercede for one another.
St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church and of our Diocese: This year, the Solemnity of St Joseph is celebrated on 20 March. In his Apostolic Letter Patris Corde, Pope Francis underscores the tenderness with which St Joseph cared for Mary and Jesus. As a tender and loving father, St Joseph loves us too and teaches us that “Tenderness is the best way to touch the frailty within us. Pointing fingers and judging others are frequently signs of an inability to accept our own weaknesses, our own frailty. Only tender love will save us from the snares of the accuser (cf. Rev 12:10). That is why it is so important to encounter God’s mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we experience his truth and tenderness”(n. 2). In this month, aswe walk through the Lenten practices to ascend to the mountain of holiness, let St Joseph teach us to tenderly love one another. May the Sacrament of Reconciliation be a wonderful occasion to experience God’s tenderness and mercy towards us.
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord: The great mystery of incarnation, which we recall every day, at least thrice, during the Angelus, reminds us of the centrality of God becoming man. From this day of Annunciation, 25 March, Christmas is nine months away. Already, in the Lenten Season, we contemplate the birth of our Saviour. May the Church bell that invites for prayer of Angelus in the morning, noon and in the evening, be a call for us to contemplate the mystery of God’s incarnation and our own divinisation.
Message of the Conference of the Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI): Through the recently concluded CCBI meeting, with the theme, “Telling the Story of Jesus in our Context: The Synodal Way” held on January 24-30, 2023, at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bangalore, the Bishops invite all the faithful to recount the story of Jesus in our context. The synodal path we have begun traversing is the framework, in which we can encounter many co-pilgrims who desire to know Jesus, love him and be loved by him. The Bishops place before us the importance of the family in telling the story of Jesus. As we have dedicated this year to families, this message is meaningful to us: “This love of God is lived and experienced first and foremost in the family, where the story of Jesus is recounted by grandparents and parents to their children in various ways, by reading Bible stories, praying together and participating in popular devotions”. Parents must be encouraged to narrate to children the stories from the Bible, and the message of the parables so that they get deeply rooted in faith. Further, the CCBI also highlighted the importance of the Basic Ecclesial Communities in telling the story of Jesus. There we read and meditate on the Word of God and get down to action after listening to the Word. May these two intimate realities be effective instruments to make Christ known and loved.
Peter Paul Saldanha
Bishop of Mangalore