Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,

I am full of joy this week because of the opportunities that come with the visit of Pope Francis to our country. Most of this letter contains the words of the pope, who is a much better preacher than myself. As the Vicar of Christ, Francis calls us to be a welcoming home for all who seek God and come to us with wounds that need healing and loneliness that seeks companionship.

Pope Francis at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in Cuba said: “God’s presence in our lives never leaves us tranquil: it always pushes to do something. When God comes, He always calls us out of our house. We are visited so that we can visit others; we are encountered so as to encounter others; we receive love in order to give love.” We are being called out of our comfort zones and out of the doors of our parishes and homes to be agents of healing and unity in the world. We are called to pray for the conversion of sinners and to invite home Catholics who are lukewarm in the faith or who have fallen away from the active practice of our faith.

The Virgin Mary is the model Pope Francis points to: “Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness. We are asked to live the revolution of tenderness as Mary, our Mother of Charity, did. We are invited to ‘leave home’ and to open our eyes and hearts to others. Our revolution comes about through tenderness, through the joy which always becomes closeness and compassion, and leads us to get involved in, and to serve, the life of others. … Our faith, ‘calls us out of our house’, to visit the sick, the prisoner and to those who mourn. It makes us able to laugh with those who laugh, and rejoice with our neighbors who rejoice”.

“Like Mary, we want to be a Church who serves, who leaves home and goes forth, who goes forth from her chapels, her sacristies, in order to accompany life, to sustain hope, to be a sign of unity. Like Mary, Mother of Charity, we want to be a Church who goes forth to build bridges, to break down walls, to sow seeds of reconciliation. Like Mary, we want to be a Church who can accompany all those ‘pregnant’ situations of our people, committed to life, to culture, to society, not washing our hands but rather walking with our brothers and sisters. All together, serving, helping. All sons and daughters of God, sons and daughters of Mary…”

We are in a time of great tensions between the teachings of the Church that come down to us from divine revelation and the leading of the Holy Spirit and our cultures enshrinement of the individual and personal desire as the highest of values. However, the models of Jesus and Mary teach us to love others for their good and carry our cross as we follow Christ. To carry our cross is to live white “martyrdom”, dying to selfish interests to live as a people of love and compassion. Love enables us to embrace those who don’t speak English, the poor, widows, and immigrants as images of the thirsty and suffering Christ who is to be loved and not merely tolerated.

Please watch EWTN on TV or the internet to hear Pope Francis share the joy of the Gospel. This is a historic moment in our lives.

Your servant in Christ, Father Paul