“The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer,” writes St John Paul II in the opening paragraphs of Rosarium Virginis Mariae.
“In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium. […] With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love,” the sainted pontiff continues.
It is not surprising that St John Paul II invites us in this apostolic letter to contemplate the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ through the eyes of His Blessed Mother. As she herself proclaims to her cousin Elizabeth: “My soul magnifies the Lord!” That is, as the first Christian and missionary, Mary makes God even more visible to us.
To help us deepen this understanding of the life of Christ, St John Paul II then proposed the five Luminous Mysteries alongside the traditional Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious. Pope Francis has continued in this tradition of his predecessor in asking us to contemplate the life of Christ through Mary. Here is Pope Francis’s teaching on the five Luminous Mysteries:
The Luminous Mysteries
1 – The Baptism in the Jordan
From the Angelus Address: Baptism of Our Lord (January 7, 2018):
We then understand the great humility of Jesus, the One who had not sinned, in lining up with the penitents, mingled among them to be baptized in the waters of the river. In doing so, He manifested what we celebrated at Christmas: the availability of Jesus to immerse Himself in the river of humanity, to take upon Himself the shortcomings and weaknesses of humanity, to share our desire to be free and to overcome everything that separates us from God and makes us strangers to our brothers and sisters. Just like in Bethlehem, along the banks of the River Jordan, God keeps his promise to take charge of the fate of human beings, and Jesus is the tangible and definitive sign.
Francis is the Pope of the Catholic Church, but at this unique point in our history, we have a Pope Emeritus too. Sure, the old Benedict cardboard cut-outs have been taken down, but they haven’t been thrown away. They’ve been hiding in a back closet for five years, ready to come out for big events.
Below, I recall the writings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 3: do not let your preferences, even for a holy man like Pope Benedict, undermine your adherence to the Spirit, who guides the Church today under the leadership and authority of Pope Francis.
Pope Emeritus Benedict has pledged to live a life of prayer and study, and in some instances, he has publicly offered encouragement to the Church by responding to letters, giving interviews, and attending notable events. With regards to his public statements, Pedro Gabriel outlines the bulk of these in a three-part series.
Here, Pedro describes the ways in which Benedict has given support to Francis’ papacy, above all by encouraging the habit of obedience and ensuring the faithful that his resignation was prompted by the Lord and not by curial pressure. From what he has said so far, Benedict has avoided particular comments or criticisms of Francis’ papacy, instead offering broad comments in support of his ministry.
But if he is no longer the Pope, why are we continually fascinated by what Pope Emeritus Benedict has to say anyway?
Pope Francis often speaks about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Not only among Catholics, but to the world at large. Frequently, His Holiness invokes her intercession and encourages Christian devotion to her. Among western Catholics, there is no devotion to Mary more popular than the Rosary.
Therefore, it proves fruitful to look at Pope Francis’ take on each of the Rosary’s 20 mysteries. Let us begin with the Joyful…
The Joyful Mysteries
1 – The Annunciation
From the Angelus Address: On the Gospel of the Annunciation (December 24, 2017):
Mary’s response is a brief phrase, which doesn’t speak of glory, doesn’t speak of privilege, but only of willingness and service: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38). The content is also different. Mary doesn’t exalt herself in face of the prospect of becoming, in fact, the Mother of the Messiah, but remains modest and expresses her own adherence to the Lord’s plan. Mary doesn’t boast. She is humble, modest. She remains as ever.
In the debate over the doctrinal soundness of Amoris Laetitia — and of the orthodoxy of Pope Francis’s teaching in general — is one area where papal critics cannot provide a single clear or compelling answer: how this ends.
While they can be quite clear in explaining where they think they are right and Pope Francis is wrong, there is a lack of clarity about when or how they think Francis’s “errors” will be corrected, or by whom. Some of the possible solutions that have been presented by papal critics lack any canonical weight or any precedent in the history of the Church.
Indeed, Catholic law and doctrine fail to foresee the possibility of a heretic pope (and many theologians say it’s impossible), and there are no provisions for licit dissent or conditions upon which the primacy of the pope is not to be respected on matters of faith and morals. The closest thing I could find to an instruction for those who ultimately cannot assent to a particular teaching of the Magisterium is in the CDF document Donum Veritatis, On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, which states,
“Faced with a proposition to which he feels he cannot give his intellectual assent, the theologian nevertheless has the duty to remain open to a deeper examination of the question.
For a loyal spirit, animated by love for the Church, such a situation can certainly prove a difficult trial. It can be a call to suffer for the truth, in silence and prayer, but with the certainty, that if the truth really is at stake, it will ultimately prevail.” (DV 31)
The public outcry over Pope Francis hardly looks like suffering in silence and prayer. The public nature of the dissent on display is calling for action on the part of the bishops against the pope, open defiance of papal teaching in the form of public letters or petitions, and books and essays written to persuade the faithful of their position that the pope is heterodox and aiming to undermine the unchanging teachings of the Church.
“We have long thought that simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace, we were providing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life. We find it difficult to present marriage more as a dynamic path to personal development and fulfilment than as a lifelong burden. We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations. We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them” (Amoris Laetitia 37).
This paragraph from Amoris Laetitia is one of the document’s more noteworthy and controversial passages. While most people focus on the end section about consciences, I would like to look at the first part in light of the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s famous encyclical, Humanae Vitae. (more…)
«She [the Virgin St. Mary] is the Mother of mercy, because she bore in her womb the very Face of divine mercy, Jesus»
— Pope Francis, Homily on the Opening of the Holy Door of Mercy at Archbasilica of St. Mary Major, Jan 1st 2016
Last February, Aleteia has circulated a story which has been making the rounds on social media for some years now, appearing and resurfacing now and then. I think the first time I heard about this story, it was apocryphally attributed to Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen, but I can’t ascertain its accurate provenance.
Either way, it’s not as important where it came from, as it is what it says. According to this story, St. Peter came to Jesus, very alarmed since he saw a lot of souls entering Heaven without coming across the pearly gates where he stood guard with his keys. Jesus, on the other hand, tells him not to be concerned with that, for those souls were coming through another entrance opened by His Mother, through the prayer of the rosary.
I believe I heard this story in some way even before Pope Francis was elected. At the time, it was not very controversial. Nor is it now, don’t get me wrong…
«Piety, however, grew cold, and especially afterward because of the widespread plague of Jansenism, disputes began to arise concerning the dispositions with which one ought to receive frequent and daily Communion; and writers vied with one another in demanding more and more stringent conditions as necessary to be fulfilled. The result of such disputes was that very few were considered worthy to receive the Holy Eucharist daily, and to derive from this most health-giving Sacrament its more abundant fruits (…) To such a degree, indeed, was rigorism carried that whole classes of persons were excluded from a frequent approach to the Holy Table
The poison of Jansenism, however, which, under the pretext of showing due honor and reverence to the Eucharist, had infected the minds even of good men, was by no means a thing of the past. The question as to the dispositions for the proper and licit reception of Holy Communion survived the declarations of the Holy See, and it was a fact that certain theologians of good repute were of the opinion that daily Communion could be permitted to the faithful only rarely and subject to many conditions.»
In February of this year, Fr. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., President of the University of Notre Dame, wrote a letter explaining that after years of fighting in court, and even after being granted an exemption by the federal government under the Trump administration, Notre Dame would allow for their health insurance programs to directly cover “simple” and non-abortifacient contraceptives. In this statement, Fr. Jenkins referred to the “conscientious” decisions of Notre Dame’s employees and students who disagree with the Church’s teaching on this matter, explaining that not covering contraceptive would be an unacceptable burden on them.
Within the context of this letter, the “burden” Fr. Jenkins is referring to is primarily financial, as in, the cost of obtaining contraception outside of a health insurance program is financially burdensome, in the view of the University. Implied by Fr. Jenkins’ statement is the belief that the University is at least partly responsible for any financial or physical harm caused by revoking or denying contraceptive benefits. This provides the foundation for its justification.
To exculpate itself from any potential moral harm caused, the University makes two arguments: First, it will provide a statement of the Catholic view on contraceptives with the goal of educating all those receiving benefits under the University’s health plans. Secondly, Fr. Jenkins argues that it is a good to allow Notre Dame’s students and employees to discern in freedom, which in Fr. Jenkins’ view is “a process of weighing thoughtfully considerations for and against various courses of action. Yet it also demands prayerful attention to God’s guidance through the prompting of the Holy Spirit.”
It’s fairly evident that the debate over Amoris Laetitia has mostly stayed within the domain of a very small subset of Catholics: those who follow Vatican affairs closely, those who consume EWTN and other Catholic media, and those who enjoy reading papal encyclicals and theological writing.
The typical practicing Catholic, thankfully, is quite unaware of the civil war that’s raging in academia, within the walls of the Vatican, and (perhaps most intensely) on social media. In many ways, these Catholics are the lifeblood of the Church: they are prayerful, receptive, generous, humble, and joyful. Their experience of the faith is personal and communal, and they trust the Holy Spirit and the hierarchy to work out the finer points of Church doctrine and discipline.
These are the Catholics who Pope Francis is clearly most concerned with, especially the poor and those on the margins, the hungry and hurting, the questioning but open, the good-hearted and sincere disciples who paradoxically extend to the margins of our society but are closest to the heart of Christ.
The Church is made up of many different types, however. Diversity is a good thing, and it’s how the Church has always been. For every hundred Catholics who follow the “little way” of St. Therese, there might be one who dives deeply and seriously into the vast theological and intellectual tradition of the Church, studying the intricacies of moral theology or scripture or canon law.