Pope Francis I, General Audience 2022:
General Audience, 19 October 2022
Catechesis on Discernment: 6. An indispensable ingredient for discernment: one’s own life story.
Our life is the most precious “book” that is given to us, a book that unfortunately many do not read, or rather they do so too late, before dying. And yet, precisely in that book that one finds what one pointlessly seeks elsewhere. Saint Augustine (his writings), a great seeker of the truth, had understood this just by rereading his life, noting in it the silent and discreet, but incisive, steps of the presence of the Lord. At the end of this journey, he noted with wonder: “You were within, and I without, and there I did seek you; I, unlovely, rushed heedlessly among the things of beauty you made. You were with me, but I was not with you” (Confessions X, 27.38). Hence his invitation to cultivate the inner life to find what one is seeking: “Return within yourself. In the inner man dwells truth” (On True Religion, XXXIX, 72). This is an invitation I would extend to all of you, and even to myself: “Return within yourself. Read your life. Read yourself inwardly, the path you have taken. With serenity. Return within yourself”.
… Reading one’s own history also means recognizing the presence of these “toxic” elements, but then broadening our narrative, learning to notice other things, making it richer, more respectful of complexity, succeeding also in grasping the discreet ways in which God acts in our life… We must read our life, and by doing so we see things that are not good and also the good things that God sows in us.
Recounting the events of our life also enables us to grasp important nuances and details, which can reveal themselves to be valuable aids, hitherto concealed. For example, a reading, a service, an encounter, at first sight considered to be of little importance, over time transmit inner peace; they transmit the joy of living and suggest further good initiatives. Stopping and acknowledging this is essential. Stopping and acknowledging: it is important for discernment; it is a task of gathering those precious and hidden pearls that the Lord has scattered in our soil.
Goodness is hidden, always, because goodness is modest and hides itself: goodness is hidden; it is silent, it requires slow and continuous excavation. Because God’s style is discreet: God likes to go unseen, with discretion, he does not impose; he is like the air we breathe - we do not see it but it allows us to live, and we realize this only when it is missing.
Getting used to rereading one’s own life educates the outlook, it sharpens it, enables it to note the small miracles that good God works for us every day. When we realize this, we notice other possible directions that strengthen our inner taste, peace and creativity. Above all, it makes us freer from toxic stereotypes. Wisely it has been said that the man who does not know his own past is condemned to repeat it. It is strange: if we do not know the path we have taken, the past, we always repeat it, we go around in circles. The person who walks in circles never goes forward; it is not progress, it is like the dog who chases his own tail; he always goes this way, and repeats things.
Discernment is the narrative reading of the good moments and the dark moments, the consolations and desolations we experience in the course of our lives. In discernment, it is the heart that speaks to us about God, and we must learn to understand its language. Let us ask, at the end of the day, for example: what happened today in my heart? Some think that carrying out this examination of conscience is to calculate the balance of sins – and we commit many – but it is also about asking oneself, “What happened within me, did I experience joy? What brought me joy? Was I sad? What brought me sadness? And in this way, we learn to discern what happens within us.
Pope Francis I (General Audience, 19 October 2022)
General Audience, 12 October 2022
Catechesis on Discernment: 5. The elements of discernment. The desire
…discernment is a form of searching, and searching always stems from something we lack but somehow know, that we intuit...
What kind of knowledge is this? Spiritual teachers refer to it by the term “desire”, which, at root, is a nostalgia for fullness that never finds full fulfilment, and is the sign of God’s presence in us. Desire is not the craving of the moment, no. The Italian word, desiderio, comes from a very beautiful Latin term, this is curious: de-sidus, literally “the lack of the star”. Desire is the lack of a lodestar, the lack of the reference point that orients the path of life; it evokes a suffering, a lack, and at the same time a tension to reach the good that we miss. Desire, then, is the compass to understand where I am and where I am going, or rather it is the compass to understand if I am still or if I am moving; a person who never desires is a person who is static, perhaps ill, almost dead. It is the compass to know if I am moving or if I am standing still. And how is it possible to recognize it?
…Desire makes you strong, it makes you courageous, it makes you keep going forward, because you want to arrive at that: “I desire that”… In effect, a value becomes beautiful and more easily achievable when it is attractive. As some have said, “more important than being good is having the desire to become good”. Being good is something attractive, we all want to be good, but do we have the wish to become good?
… By engaging in dialogue with the Lord, we learn to understand what we truly want from life… Wanting to do something becomes like an illusion and one does not take the step to do it. Those people who want and don’t want… But beware, because complaints are a poison, a poison to the soul, a poison to life, because they prevent the desire to go on from growing. Beware of complaints. When we complain in the family, married couples complain, one complains about the other, children about their father, priests about the bishop, or bishops about many other things… No, if you find yourself grumbling, beware, it is almost a sin, because stops desire from growing.
Often it is indeed desire that makes the difference between a successful, coherent and lasting project, and the thousands of wishes and good intentions with which, as they say, “hell is paved with”: “Yes, I would like, I would like, I would like…”, but you do nothing. The era in which we live seems to promote the maximum freedom of choice, but at the same time it atrophies desire, you want to be satisfied continually, which is mostly reduced to the desire of the moment. And we must be careful not to atrophy desire. We are bombarded by a thousand proposals, projects, possibilities, which risk distracting us and not permitting us to calmly evaluate what we really want. Many times, many times, we find people, think about young people for example, with their telephone in their hand, looking at it… “But do you stop to think?” – “No”. Always turned outwards, towards the other. Desire cannot grow in this way, you live in the moment, satiated in the moment, and desire does not grow.
Many people suffer because they do not know what they want from their lives, many of them; they have probably never got in touch with their deepest desire, they have never known: “What do you want from your life?” – “I don’t know”. Hence the risk of passing one’s existence between attempts and expedients of various kinds, never getting anywhere, and wasting precious opportunities. And so certain changes, though desired in theory, when the opportunity arises are never implemented, the strong desire to pursue something is lacking.
If the Lord were to ask us, today, for example, any one of us, the question he asked the blind man in Jericho: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mk 10:51) – let us think that the Lord today asks each one of us this: “What do you want me to do for you?” – how would we answer? Perhaps we could finally ask him to help us know our deepest desire, that God himself has placed in our heart: “Lord, may I know my desires, may I be a woman, a man of great desires”; perhaps the Lord will give us the strength to make it come true. It is an immense grace, the basis of all the others: to allow the Lord, as in the Gospel, to work miracles for us: “Give us desire and make it grow, Lord”.
Because he too has a great desire for us: to make us share in his fullness of life. Thank you.
Pope Francis I (General Audience, 11 October 2022)
General Audience, 5 October 2022
Catechesis on Discernment: 4. Good Discernment requires Self-knowledge.
Forgetfulness of God’s presence in our life goes hand in hand with ignorance of ourselves – ignoring God and ignoring ourselves – ignorance of our personality traits and our deepest desires.
This is why, dear brothers and sisters, it is important to know ourselves, to know the passwords of our heart, what we are most sensitive to, in order to protect ourselves from those who present themselves with persuasive words to manipulate us, but also to recognize what is truly important for us, distinguishing it from current fads or flashy, superficial slogans. Many times, what is said in a television programme, in some advertisement that is made, touches our hearts and makes us go that way without freedom. Be careful about that: am I free, or do I let myself be swayed by the feelings of the moment, or the provocations of the moment?
An aid in this is examination of conscience, but I am not talking about the examination of conscience that we all do when we go to confession, no. This is: “But I sinned in this, that…”. No. A general examination of conscience of the day: what happened in my heart in this day? “Lots of things happened…”. Which? Why? What traces did they leave in my heart? Carrying out an examination of conscience, that is, the good habit of calmly rereading what happens in our day, learning to learning to note in our evaluations and choices what we give most importance to, what we are looking for and why, and what we eventually find. Above all, learning to recognize what satiates the heart. What satiates my heart? For only the Lord can give us confirmation of what we are worth. He tells us this every day from the cross: he died for us, to show us how precious we are in his eyes. There is no obstacle or failure that can prevent his tender embrace. The examination of conscience helps a great deal, because in this way we see that our heart is not a road where everything passes without us knowing about it. No. To see: what passed by today? What happened? What made me react? What made me sad? What made me joyful? What was bad, and did I harm others? Seeing the route our feelings took, the attractions in my heart during the day. Don’t forget! The other day we talked about prayer; today we are talking about self-awareness.
Prayer and self-knowledge enable us to grow in freedom. This is to grow in freedom! They are basic elements of Christian existence, precious elements for finding one’s place in life. Thank you.
Pope Francis I (General Audience, 5 October 2022)
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE INTERNATIONAL SUMMIT: “SPORT FOR ALL. COHESIVE, ACCESSIBLE AND TAILORED TO EACH PERSON”, 30 September 2022
The Church feels close to the world of sport, because she sees games and sporting activities as a place of personal encounter for people, a formation in virtue and fraternity. For this reason, sports find a home in the Church, especially in schools and parishes or youth centres.
A sense of participation, sharing and being part of a group is fostered when sports are played in such a way that the person is placed at the centre and the joy of playing together is valued. Indeed, I like to remind athletes, including professionals, not to lose the flavour of the game and “to live” their sport while always preserving the spirit of being an “amateur”. This is important. The reality of play is fundamental, especially for the very young: it gives joy, fosters sociability and engenders friendships, while also being formative. Thanks to sport we can establish strong and lasting relationships. Sports create community.
As the limbs form the body, so players form a team and people form a community. Sport can be a symbol of unity for a society, an experience of integration, an example of cohesion and a message of concord and peace. Today we are in great need of a pedagogy of peace, of developing a culture of peace, starting from every day interpersonal relationships and culminating in those between peoples and nations. If the world of sport conveys unity and cohesion, it can become a formidable ally in building peace.
I would like to address a word in particular to you athletes, who are a model for younger people. Unfortunately, in our societies a throwaway culture treats men and women as products, to be used and then discarded. The “use and discard” culture is widespread. As athletes, you can help combat this throwaway culture, with a sense of educational and social responsibility. How many marginalized people have overcome the dangers of isolation and exclusion precisely through sports! Playing a sport can become a way of personal and social redemption, a way to recover dignity!
Before concluding, I encourage you to strive to make sport a home for everyone, something open and welcoming. In this home, never lose the family spirit, for in this way, we may find brothers, sisters and friends in the world of sport. I am close to you in this mission; the Church supports you in this educational and social commitment. I bless you and your families with all my heart. And I ask you to please pray for me. Thank you!
Pope Francis I (30 September 2022)
General Audience, 28 September 2022
Catechesis on Discernment: 3. The elements of discernment. Familiarity with the Lord.
Prayer is an indispensable aid for spiritual discernment, especially when it involves the affective dimension, enabling us to address God with simplicity and familiarity, as one would speak to a friend. It is knowing how to go beyond thoughts, to enter into intimacy with the Lord, with an affectionate spontaneity. The secret of the lives of the saints is familiarity and confidence with God, which grows in them and makes it ever easier to recognize what is pleasing to Him. True prayer is familiarity with and confidence in God. It is not reciting prayers like a parrot, blah, blah, blah, no. True prayer is this spontaneity and affection for the Lord. This familiarity overcomes fear or doubt that His will is not for our good, a temptation that sometimes runs through our thoughts and makes our heart restless and uncertain, or even bitter.
…the sign of meeting the Lord is joy. When I encounter the Lord in prayer, I become joyful. Each one of us becomes joyful, a beautiful thing. Sadness, or fear, on the other hand, are signs of distance from God: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments,” Jesus says to the rich young man (Matthew 19:17). Unfortunately for that young man, some obstacles did not allow him to implement the desire in his heart to follow the "good teacher" more closely. He was an interested, enterprising young man, he had taken the initiative to meet Jesus, but he was also very divided in his affections, for him riches were too important. Jesus does not force him to make up his mind, but the text notes that the young man turns away from Jesus “sad” (v. 22). Those who turn away from the Lord are never happy, even though they have an abundance of possessions and possibilities at their disposal. Jesus never forces you to follow Him, never. Jesus lets you know His will, with all His heart He lets you know things, but He leaves you free. And this is the most beautiful thing about prayer with Jesus: the freedom that He allows you. On the other hand, when we distance ourselves from the Lord, we are left with something sad, something ugly in our heart.
Let us ask for this grace: to live a relationship of friendship with the Lord, as a friend speaks to a friend (cf. St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 53) (Audio Playlist, Text). I knew an old religious brother who was the doorman of a boarding school, and every time he could he would approach the chapel, look at the altar, and say, “Hello,” because he was close to Jesus. He didn't need to say blah blah blah, no: “Hello, I am close to you and you are close to me.” This is the relationship we must have in prayer: closeness, affective closeness, as brothers and sisters, closeness with Jesus. A smile, a simple gesture, and not reciting words that do not reach the heart. As I said, talk to Jesus as a friend talks to another friend. It is a grace we must ask for one another: to see Jesus as our friend, as our greatest friend, our faithful friend, who does not blackmail, above all who never abandons us, even when we turn away from Him. He remains at the door of our heart. “No, with you I don’t want to know anything,” we say. And He remains silent, He remains close at hand, at heart’s reach because He is always faithful. Let us go forward with this prayer, we could say the prayer of “Ciao,” the prayer of greeting the Lord with our heart, the prayer of affection, the prayer of closeness, with few words but with acts and good works. Thank you.
Pope Francis I (General Audience, 28 September 2022)
General Audience, 21 September 2022
Catechesis - The Apostolic Journey in Kazakhstan
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…I emphasized Kazakhstan’s vocation to be a country of encounter: in fact, about 150 ethnic groups — 150 ethnic groups! — coexist there and more than 80 languages are spoken. This vocation, which is due to its geographical characteristics and history — this vocation of being a country of encounter, of culture, of language — has been welcomed and embraced as a path, which deserves to be encouraged and supported. I hoped as well that the construction of an increasingly mature democracy, capable of effectively responding to the needs of society as a whole, could continue. This is an arduous task, which takes time, but already it must be acknowledged that Kazakhstan has made very positive choices, such as saying “no” to nuclear weapons and making good energy and environmental policies. This was courageous. At a time when this tragic war brings us to the point where some people are thinking of nuclear weapons — that madness — this country says “no” to nuclear weapons from the very beginning.
As for the Church, I was so glad to meet a community of happy, joyful people filled with enthusiasm. Catholics are few in that vast country. But this condition, if lived with faith, can bring evangelical fruits: first of all, the blessedness of littleness, of being leaven, salt, and light relying solely on the Lord and not on some form of human relevance. Moreover, numerical scarcity invites the development of relationships with Christians of other denominations, and also fraternity with all. So a small flock, yes, but open, not closed, not defensive; open and trusting in the action of the Holy Spirit, who blows freely where and how He wills. We also remembered that grey part, the martyrs, the martyrs of that holy People of God, because they suffered decades of atheistic oppression, until liberation 30 years ago — men and women who suffered so much for the faith during the long period of persecution. Murdered, tortured, imprisoned for the faith.
…It was the feast of the Holy Cross. And this leads us to reflect: in a world in which progress and regression are intertwined, the Cross of Christ remains the anchor of salvation: a sign of hope that does not disappoint because it is founded on the love of God, merciful and faithful.
Pope Francis I (General Audience, 21 September 2022)
General Audience, 7 September 2022
Catechesis on Discernment: 2. An example: Ignatius of Loyola
Teaching starts @ 18:20/1:06:10.
When he found himself wounded in his father’s house, Ignatius was not thinking of God at all, or of how to reform his own life, no. He had his first experience of God by listening to his own heart, which presented him with a curious reversal: things that were attractive at first sight left him disillusioned, whereas in others, less dazzling, he perceived lasting peace. We too have this experience; very often we begin to think about something, and we stay there, and then we end up disappointed. Instead, when we carry out a work of charity, do something good and feel something of happiness, a good thought comes to us, and happiness comes to us, something of joy. It is an experience that is entirely our own. He, Ignatius, had his first experience of God by listening to his own heart, that showed him a curious reversal. This is what we must learn: to listen to our own heart, to know what is happening, what decision to make. To make a judgement on a situation, one must listen to one’s own heart. We listen to the television, the radio, the mobile phone. We are experts at listening, but I ask you: do you know how to listen to your heart? Do you stop to ask: “But how is my heart? Is it satisfied, is it sad, is it searching for something?”. In order to make good decisions, one must listen to one’s own heart.
This is why Ignatius would go on to suggest reading the lives of the saints, because they show God’s style in the lives of people who are not very different from us, in a narrative and comprehensible way; because saints were made of flesh and blood like us. Their actions speak to ours, and they help us understand their meaning.
Listen carefully: God works through un-plannable events that happen by chance, but by chance this happened to me, and by chance I met this person, by chance I saw this film. It was not planned but God works through un-plannable events, and also through setbacks: “But I was supposed to go for a walk and I had a problem with my foot, I can’t…”. Setback: what is God saying to you? What is life telling you there? We have also seen this in a passage from the Gospel of Matthew: a man ploughing a field accidentally comes across a buried treasure. A totally unexpected situation. But what is important is that he recognises it as the lucky break of his life and decides accordingly: he sells everything and buys that field (cf. Matthew 13:44). I will give you a piece of advice: beware of the unexpected. He who says: “But I wasn’t expecting this”. Is it life speaking to you, is it the Lord speaking to you, or is it the devil? Someone. But there is something to discern: how I react when faced with the unexpected…
Discernment is the aid in recognising the signals with which the Lord makes himself known in unexpected, even unpleasant situations, as the wounded leg was for Ignatius. A life-changing encounter can arise from them, forever, as in the case of Ignatius. Something can arise that makes you better along the way, or worse, I don’t know, but being attentive: the most beautiful narrative thread comes from the unexpected: “How do I act in view of this?” May the Lord help us listen to our hearts and see when it is He who acts, and when it is not and it is something else.
Pope Francis I (General Audience, 7 September 2022)
General Audience, 31 August 2022
Catechesis on Discernment: 1. What does it mean to discern?
We have often had this experience: choosing something that seemed good to us and yet was not. Or knowing what our true good was and not choosing it. Human beings, unlike animals, can be wrong, can be unwilling to choose correctly. And the Bible shows this from its very first pages. God gives man a precise instruction: if you want to live, if you want to enjoy life, remember that you are a creature, that you are not the criterion of good and evil, and that the choices you make will have a consequence, for you, for others and for the world (cf. Genesis 2:16-17); you can make the earth a magnificent garden or you can make it a desert of death. A fundamental teaching: it is no coincidence that this is the first dialogue between God and man. The dialogue is: the Lord gives the mission, you have to do this and that; and with every step that people take, they have to discern which decision to make. Discernment is that reflection of the mind, of the heart, that we have to do before making a decision.
Discernment is demanding but indispensable for living. It requires that I know myself, that I know what is good for me here and now. Above all, it requires a filial relationship with God. God is Father and He does not leave us alone, He is always willing to advise us, to encourage us, to welcome us. But He never imposes His will. Why? Because He wants to be loved and not feared. And also, God wants children, not slaves: free children. And love can only be lived in freedom. To learn to live, one must learn to love, and for this it is necessary to discern: what can I do now, faced with this alternative? Let it be a sign of greater love, of greater maturity in love. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us! Let us invoke Him every day, especially when we have choices to make. Thank you.
Pope Francis I (General Audience, 31 August 2022)
Our sharing: What Pope Francis said made us recall this quote from Saint Augustine of Hippo in “Confessions”: “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.”
General Audience, 24 August 2022
Catechesis on Old Age - 18. The labour pains of creation. The story of the creature as a mystery of gestation
Theology has always reflected on the relationship of this singular ‘assumption’ with death, which the dogma does not define. I think it would be even more important to make explicit the relationship of this mystery with the resurrection of the Son, which opens the way for the generation of life for us all. In the divine act of reuniting Mary with the Risen Christ, the normal bodily corruption of human death, and not only this, is not simply transcended, the bodily assumption of the life of God is anticipated. In fact, the destiny of the resurrection that pertains to us is anticipated: because, according to Christian faith, the Risen One is the firstborn of many brothers and sisters. The Risen Lord is the one who went first, first, who rose first, in the first place; then we will go, but this is our destiny: to rise again.
We could say — following Jesus' words to Nicodemus — that it is a little like a second birth (cf. John 3:3-8). If the first was a birth on earth, this second is a birth in heaven. It is no coincidence that the Apostle Paul, in the text that was read at the beginning, speaks of the pains of childbirth (cf. Romans 8:22). Just as, in the moment we come out of our mother's womb, we are still ourselves, the same human being that was in the womb; so, after death, we are born to heaven, to God's space, and we are still ourselves, who walked on this earth. It is analogous to what happened to Jesus: the Risen One is still Jesus: he does not lose his humanity, his experience, or even his corporality, no, because without it he would no longer be himself, he would not be Jesus: that is, with his humanity, with his lived experience.
…To his friends he promised: ‘And if I go and prepare a place for you – He left to prepare a place for us, for all of us – and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also’ (John 14:3). And he will come, not only will he come at the end for everyone, he will come each time for each one of us. He will come to seek us out to bring us to him. In this sense, death is a kind of step toward the encounter with Jesus who is waiting for me to bring me to him.
Pope Francis I (General Audience, 24 August 2022)