POPE’S MESSAGE | Don’t rush through silence at Mass

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has described the silence that precedes the opening prayer at Mass an opportunity for Christians to commend to God the fate of the Church and the world.

At his weekly general audience Jan. 10, the pope urged priests "to observe this brief silence and not hurry. ... I recommend this to the priests. Without this silence, we risk neglecting the reflection of the soul."

Continuing his series of audience talks on the Mass, Pope Francis spoke about the Gloria and the opening prayer.

After the encounter between "human misery and divine mercy" experienced in the penitential rite, the faithful are invited to sing the ancient hymn of praise that was sung by the angels after Christ's birth, the pope said. "The feelings of praise that run through the hymn are intertwined with the confident pleading of divine benevolence ... establishes an opening of earth to heaven."

After the hymn, the priest invites the assembly to pray then observes a moment of silence so that the faithful may be conscious of the fact that they are in God's presence and formulate their petitions. The silence isn't just an absence of words but the pope called it a time to listen "to other voices: that of our heart and, above all, the voice of the Holy Spirit."

"Perhaps we come from days of toil, of joy, of sorrow and we want to tell the Lord, to invoke His help, to ask that He be near us; we have family members and friends who are ill or who are going through difficult trials," the pope said, adding that the priest's posture — with hands outstretched in supplication — is also an important sign, an imitation of Christ with His arms open on the cross. "In the crucifix, we recognize the priest who offers pleasing worship to God; that is, filial obedience."

According to Pope Francis, by pondering the prayers and gestures, which are "rich in meaning," Christians can make "many beautiful meditations" that can benefit their spiritual lives.

"To go back and meditate on the texts, even outside of Mass, can help us to learn how to turn to God, what to ask, which words to use," the pope said. "May the liturgy become for all of us a true school of prayer."

Bullying is the devil's work

VATICAN CITY — Just as the influence of the Holy Spirit is recognized when one does an act of charity, Christians also must recognize the presence of the devil when bullying occurs, Pope Francis said.

"When we realize that we harbor within ourselves the desire to attack someone because they are weak, we have no doubt: It is the devil. Because attacking the weak is the work of Satan," the pope said in his homily Jan. 8 at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The pope centered his homily on the day's reading from the First Book of Samuel, which recounts the verbal abuse Hannah endured because she was unable to conceive a child.

Similar accounts in other Bible stories — from Abraham's wife Sarah ridiculed by her servant to Job who was rejected by his wife after his misfortune — are stories that Christians should take time to reflect on, the pope said.

"I ask myself: What is within these people? What is it within us that pushes us to mock and mistreat others weaker than we are?" the pope asked.

"It is understandable when a person resents someone stronger than them, perhaps because of envy ... but toward the weak? What makes us do that? It is something habitual, as if I need to ridicule another person to feel confident; as if it were a necessity," he said.

Pope Francis said that as a child there was a woman named Angelina in his neighborhood and she was constantly ridiculed by others, especially children, because of her mental illness.

While people would generously give her food and clothes, local children would make fun of the woman and say, "Let's find Angelina and have some fun," the pope said.

"Today we see it constantly in our schools — the phenomenon of bullying, attacking the weak because 'you're fat or foreign or because you're black,'" he said. "This means there is something within us that makes us act aggressively toward the weak."

Although psychologists may give a different reason as to why some are inclined to bully the weak, Pope Francis said he believed it was "a consequence of original sin" and the work of Satan who "has no compassion."

"Let us ask the Lord to give us the grace of God's compassion," the pope said. "He is the one who has compassion on us and helps us to move forward."

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service 

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