pope-francis2

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 28 October 2017 to 8 November 2017.

Homilies

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “We are all small and defenceless before the mystery of death, but what a grace if at that moment we keep in our heart the flame of f” @Pontifex 2 November 2017
  • “When we pray, we need to have the courage of faith. Have trust that the Lord hears us!” @Pontifex 3 November 2017
  • “The Church needs faithful people who proclaim the Gospel with enthusiasm and wisdom, instilling hope and faith.” @Pontifex 4 November 2017
  • “Christ was victorious over death. He is our resurrection and our life. Be witnesses to this message of hope.” @Pontifex 5 November 2017
  • “War always causes serious damage to the environment. We must not mistreat our common home, but take care of it for future generations.” @Pontifex 6 November 2017
  • “Jesus of Nazareth walks at our side and introduces us, by his words and the signs he performs, to the great mystery of the Father’s love.” @Pontifex 7 November 2017
  • “Only faith can transform the end of our earthly life into the beginning of eternal life.” @Pontifex 8 November 2017

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 8 October 2017 to 1 November 2017.

Angelus

General Audiences

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “The culture of encounter means recognizing that we are all children of God, despite our differences.” @Pontifex 26 October 2017
  • “God loves us with a love so rich in mercy that He constantly welcomes us, protects and forgives us.” @Pontifex 27 October 2017
  • “Remember the sufferings of every person in your heart. Then bring them all to God in your prayers.” @Pontifex 28 October 2017
  • “I invite you to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ in order to learn from Him how to love with all your heart.” @Pontifex 29 October 2017
  • “Learn from wonder; nurture astonishment. Live, love, believe. And, with the grace of God, never despair.” @Pontifex 30 October 2017
  • “May the Virgin Mary help us to take the first step each day in order to build peace in love, justice and truth.” @Pontifex 31 October 2017
  • “Dear friends, the world needs saints and we are all called to holiness without exception. Don’t be afraid!” @Pontifex 1 November 2017

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 12 October 2017 to 25 October 2017.

Angelus

General Audiences

Letters

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Let yourself be guided by the tenderness of God so that you may transform the world with your faith.” @Pontifex 19 October 2017
  • “Let us bring the flame of Christ’s love to humanity which needs true happiness and peace so much.” @Pontifex 20 October 2017
  • “The Church is truly alive if it is maternal and missionary and goes out to meet others.” @Pontifex 21 October 2017
  • “On this day, let us remember that the Church is missionary by nature: mission is at the heart of Christian faith. #Missio” @Pontifex 22 October 2017
  • “oday, as we remember Saint John Paul II, let us also recall his words: “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!”” @Pontifex 22 October 2017
  • “Jesus gave us the light which shines in the darkness. Defend and protect this light: it is the greatest treasure entrusted to you.” @Pontifex 23 October 2017
  • “Let us all work together to promote peace among peoples and guarantee respect for human rights.” @Pontifex 24 October 2017
  • “Be courageous witnesses to Christ in the places where you live and work.” @Pontifex 25 October 2017

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Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 21 September 2017 to 18 October 2017.

Angelus

General Audiences

Letters

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “The statue of Our Lady of Aparecida was found by poor workers. May Mary bless all of us, but especially those seeking employment.” @Pontifex 13 October 2017
  • “In this centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, we thank God for the countless blessings we have received under her protection.” @Pontifex 13 October 2017
  • “We are called to defend and safeguard human life, especially in the mother’s womb, in infancy, old age and physical or mental disability.” @Pontifex 14 October 2017
  • “Along with the Saints, let the joy and beauty of living the Gospel shine through the witness of our lives.” @Pontifex 15 October 2017
  • “Ensuring everyone’s right to food and nourishment is an imperative we cannot ignore. It is a right to which there are no exceptions!” @Pontifex 16 October 2017
  • “Sharing requires conversion, and this is a challenge. #ZeroHunger” @Pontifex 16 October 2017
  • “It is the duty of the human family to help free every single person from poverty and hunger.” @Pontifex 17 October 2017
  • “May artists spread the beauty of the faith and proclaim the grandeur of God’s creation and His boundless love for all.” @Pontifex 18 October 2017

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 5 October 2017 to 11 October 2017.

Letters

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “The mission of schools and teachers is to develop an understanding of all that is true, good and beautiful.” @Pontifex 5 October 2017
  • “Let us ensure that the Internet is a safe and richly human place for children: a network that does not entrap them but helps them to grow.” @Pontifex 6 October 2017
  • “The Rosary is a synthesis of the mysteries of Christ: we contemplate them with Mary, who allows us to see with her eyes of faith and love.” @Pontifex 7 October 2017
  • “When you experience bitterness, put your faith in all those who still work for good: in their humility lies the seed of a new world.” @Pontifex 8 October 2017
  • “The search for peace is an open-ended task, a responsibility that never ends and that demands the commitment of everyone.” @Pontifex 9 October 2017
  • “God does not disappoint! He has placed hope in our hearts so that it can blossom and bear fruit.” @Pontifex 10 October 2017
  • “Like Saint John XXIII, whom we remember today, let us witness to God’s goodness and mercy before the Church and the world.” @Pontifex 11 October 2017

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EXODUSAccording to multiple books in the Old Testament, the Israelites came into possession of the land of Canaan after they left slavery in Egypt—an event known as the Exodus.

Yet, according to some skeptical scholars today, the Exodus never happened.

Instead, the Israelites simply were a group of Canaanites, and they eventually took over the territory in which they already lived—either as part of a peasant revolt or through some other process.

Despite these claims, there are reasons to hold the Exodus occurred.

Let’s talk about that.

 

Origin Stories

Every people has an account of its origins, or what could be called its origin story.

  • In the case of the United States, our origin story involves the original thirteen rebellious colonies that seceded from England in the American War of Independence, starting in 1776.
  • In the case of the United Kingdom, the origin story involves the uniting of the Kingdom of England with the Kingdom of Scotland in 1701.
  • In the case of Rome, the story involves the founding of the city by the hero Romulus.

But everybody’s got an origin story.

History doesn’t know any people who, if asked about their origins, would say, “Well, we don’t really know who we are or where we came from.”

The Israelites were no exception: Their national origin story involved the Exodus.

So why wouldn’t one take them at their word?

 

Sketchy Stories

It’s certainly true that you can’t take everybody’s origin story at face value.

For example, certain long-settled peoples have no memory of their true origins, and they have provided an account based on folklore and mythology.

When this happens, they may say that their people was created by the gods—or otherwise entered the world—in the same territory they now occupy.

This is the case with the Hopi and Zuni tribes of North America, whose origin stories hold that human beings—including themselves—first emerged into this world out of a hole in a rocky mound known as the Sipapuni, which is located on the Colorado River outside Grand Canyon National Park.

However, if modern scientific accounts are remotely accurate, their ancestors originated in the Old World and migrated over the Bering Land Bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska.

Sketchy origin stories are found in the Old World as well. The Egyptians, similarly, had no memory of their ancestors ever having lived anywhere else, and they set their creation stories in the Nile Valley. Curiously, their stories also feature a primeval mound, which they called the Benben.

 

Distance in Time

One thing the Hopi, Zuni, and Egyptian origin stories have in common is that they describe events occurring long before recorded history.

In the absence of historical memory, folklore has filled in the gaps.

This is markedly different from the origin stories of the U.S. and the U.K., which deal with events only a few hundred years ago.

If you read a modern account of the American Revolution or the British Acts of Union, the distance in time between the account and the events it describes is only 250-300 years.

How does Israel’s origin story fare by comparison?

 

References to the Exodus

For much of Church history, the book of Exodus was regarded as having been authored by Moses and thus as having been a record produced within the same generation as the events it describes.

More recently, biblical scholars have drifted away from this view, and by the 20th century it became common to hold that the Pentateuch—of which Exodus is a part—is a composite of four sources known by the initials J, E, D, and P.

The parts of the book of Exodus that deal with the Exodus event itself were held to be derived from the J (“Yahwist”) and E (“Elohist”) sources, which are named after the terms they use for God (“Yahweh,” and “Elohim,” respectively).

Scholars debated precisely when these sources were to be dated, but it was common to date J to some time between 950 and 850 B.C.

It was also common to date E sometime between 850 and 750 B.C.

More recently, the JEDP theory has begun to fall out of favor—at least in its classical form—though there is no current consensus about what should replace it.

However, if—for purposes of argument—we were to accept the dates proposed above, we would have references to the Exodus event in Israel’s literature between around 950 and 750 B.C.

Even if one were to take a more skeptical view and think the Pentateuch is composed of later sources, the date of our earliest Exodus references would not change much, because there are multiple references to the event in the prophets.

Thus in Micah 6:4, God declares, “I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of bondage.”

And in Hosea 11:1, he says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”

  • Micah prophesied between the times of King Jotham and King Hezekiah (Mic. 1:1), which puts his ministry between 750 and 687 B.C.
  • Hosea prophesied between the times of King Uzziah and King Hezekiah (Hos. 1:1), which puts his ministry between 783 and 687 B.C.

We therefore would still have references to the Exodus event in Israelite literature by the 700s.

The fact we have multiple such references (and there are others) means the tradition was widespread and thus has to be dated earlier to allow time for it to become popular and be mentioned multiple times in the surviving literature.

We thus would conclude that the story had to be circulating by around 850 B.C.—a century before the prophets just mentioned.

 

Dating the Exodus

That leads us to the question of when the Exodus occurred.

The traditional date for the event is in the 1400s B.C. However, more recently a date in the 1200s B.C. has been proposed.

The latter seems more likely, and it corresponds to the earliest extra-biblical reference we have to Israel.

This is found on an Egyptian monument known as the Merneptah Stele, which celebrates a military victory over the Israelites by the Egyptian pharaoh, Merneptah, who reigned between 1213 and 1203 B.C.

The inscription on the stele is significant not just because it refers to Israel but because of the way it refers to it.

Egyptian writing uses a set of symbols—known as determinatives—to help the reader identify the kind of thing being described. For example, when a man’s name is given, a symbol representing a seated man is often placed after it. When a woman’s name is given, a symbol representing a seated woman is used.

On the Merneptah Stele, when Israel’s name is given, a determinative indicating a foreign people is used.

This determinative is usually used for nomadic peoples that do not have a settled location, suggesting the inscription was made during the period of wandering before Israel was settled in the land.

That would suggest that the Exodus occurred in the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II (1279-1213 B.C.).

 

The Role of Writing

If accounts of the Exodus were circulating in Israel by 850 B.C. and if the event itself would have taken place around 1250 B.C., that’s only a gap of 400 years.

Four centuries is not a long time when it comes to national origin stories.

Even in purely oral (illiterate) societies that depend entirely on tradition for knowledge of the past, collective memory can preserve the core facts regarding where a people came from for that length of time.

But Israel was not a purely oral society at this time.

We have artifacts with Hebrew writing that date from the time of King David’s reign, in the 10th century B.C.

Given the fragmentary nature of the historical record in this period, writing had to have been in use in Israelite society even earlier. Very conservatively, we could push it back by a century, into the 11th century B.C.

That would reduce the time between the proposed date of the Exodus (13th century) and the Israelite use of writing (11th century) to only two hundred years.

That’s not long at all for oral tradition to preserve memories of something as important as how a nation was founded, and there’s no reason it need be that long. The Israelites could have been using writing even earlier.

In fact, according to the Exodus account, they came from Egypt, which had been a literate culture for 2,000 years by that point.

Even if they hadn’t yet begun writing their own language in the Phoenician-based script that they later used, the Israelite’s origin story attests that they had been exposed to a literate culture, and they could have been using writing even before the Exodus.

But there’s another reason we should give credence to the Exodus.

 

You Wouldn’t Make This Up

Nobody wants to look down on their ancestors, and national pride pushes people to glorify their ancestors and the founding of their nation.

Even if your nation was founded as, say, a penal colony, you’ll want to find admirable things about your ancestors and talk about their heroic struggle in a new and difficult land.

But you wouldn’t invent the idea that your nation was founded by convicts if it wasn’t true.

Long before 1984, inconvenient facts like that would be conveniently sent “down the memory hole” if at all possible.

We see this all the time in the ancient world. If you read the military records left by Egyptian pharaohs, guess what! They never lost a battle! (Though we do sometimes read about them “winning” battles progressively closer and closer to home as their armies were forced to retreat.)

If the Israelites had been in Canaan since time immemorial, they would have done what other ancient peoples did, such as saying they were created there.

They might have even depicted the Canaanites they displaced as invaders whose yoke they threw off.

Or they might have said their ancestors came from a powerful, nearby civilization which they admired (the way the Romans said Romulus was a descendant of the Trojan hero Aeneas).

But they would not have invented a shameful past that depicted their ancestors as slaves in a neighboring country that they hated and that periodically conquered them in their own land—which Egypt did.

Slavery was not a desirable condition in the ancient world, and Jewish people were as sensitive to that as anybody.

Thus the Gospel of John reports that, on one occasion, Jesus’ opponents declared, “We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one” (John 8:33).

This hasty statement ignores not only the bondage in Egypt but the subsequent conquest by the Babylonians and even their present subjection by the Romans—but it testifies to the common feeling of national pride that leads people to minimize or ignore uncomfortable facts about their past.

“We were slaves in Egypt” is one such uncomfortable fact, and it is not something that the Israelites would have made up.

We thus have good reason to hold that the Exodus occurred.

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Dissent_magazine_US_logoIt’s no secret that, today, a lot of people disagree with the Church’s teaching on various points.

That’s no surprise. The Church, like Christ, has always been “a sign that is spoken against” (Luke 2:34).

What’s more surprising—and scandalous—is that in our age many professing Catholics reject Church teaching, even teachings regarded as infallible.

The most famous example is the Church’s teaching on contraception. Opinion polls have revealed widespread dissent from this teaching, even among Catholics.

Sometimes those seeking to justify this dissent argue that the Church’s teaching on contraception has not been “received” by the faithful, and therefore is not authoritative. (More recently, Fr. James Martin, SJ has proposed a similar argument concerning homosexual behavior.)

What are they talking about?

 

Reception and the Sense of the Faithful

After reviewing how the Holy Spirit assists the Church when it infallibly defines a teaching, the fathers of the Second Vatican council stated:

To these definitions the assent of the Church can never be wanting, on account of the activity of that same Holy Spirit, by which the whole flock of Christ is preserved and progresses in unity of faith (Lumen Gentium 25).

The Council teaches that the Holy Spirit preserves the flock of Christ in the unity of faith. And so, when the Magisterium infallibly defines a teaching, the Holy Spirit guides the faithful to accept—or “receive”—that teaching.

This process of reception reflects what theologians have called the “sense of the faithful” (sensus fidelium) or the “sense of faith” (sensus fidei).

According to Vatican II:

The whole body of the faithful . . . cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals (Lumen Gentium 12; CCC 92).

The Holy Spirit thus gives the Church—including the ordinary faithful—a supernatural sense of what constitutes the true faith, and when the Magisterium infallibly defines a point of faith, the Holy Spirit guides the Church’s members to accept or receive this teaching.

 

Clarifying the Sense of the Faithful

In the debate over contraception that followed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, dissenters argued that so many Catholics rejected its teaching that the process of reception had not occurred and thus that the teaching was not accurate or authoritative.

They even used quotations from Vatican II—like the ones we have just seen—to argue their point.

This led defenders of the Church’s teaching to try to clarify the proper role of the sense of the faithful.

One point they made was that the process of reception is just that: a process. You can’t look at the immediate reaction to a teaching as a definitive guide. You have to give the Holy Spirit time to do his work in guiding the faithful.

Over time, a number of documents appeared that treated the subject of reception and the sense of the faithful.

One of the most thorough was produced by the International Theological Commission.

The ITC is not itself an organ of the Magisterium. Instead, it is an advisory body run by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Its documents are submitted to the pope and the CDF, and they are only published “on condition that there is not any difficulty on the part of the Apostolic See” (Statutes 12; cf. 11).

The ITC’s published documents—like its 2014 Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church, which was authorized for publication by Cardinal Muller—are thus considered theologically orthodox.

 

The ITC on Reception

The ITC notes that, despite the generally smooth reception of magisterial teachings:

There are occasions, however, when the reception of magisterial teaching by the faithful meets with difficulty and resistance, and appropriate action on both sides is required in such situations.

The faithful must reflect on the teaching that has been given, making every effort to understand and accept it. Resistance, as a matter of principle, to the teaching of the magisterium is incompatible with the authentic sensus fidei.

The magisterium must likewise reflect on the teaching that has been given and consider whether it needs clarification or reformulation in order to communicate more effectively the essential message (n. 80).

 

Conditions for the Sense of the Faithful

The ITC pointed out that just because a person is a Catholic doesn’t mean he is authentically displaying a true sense of faith. The fact Catholics disagree on various points guarantees that they can’t all be right, and it’s obvious that some Catholics are more faithful than others.

Through his work in our lives, God offers all the baptized guidance in discerning truth from falsehood, but we still have free will, and so we must cooperate with his work for this guidance to bear fruit.

The commission thus identified a set of criteria that an individual needs to authentically participate in the sense of faith:

a) Participation in the life of the Church
b) Listening to the word of God
c) Openness to reason
d) Adherence to the magisterium
e) Holiness—humility, freedom, and joy
f) Seeking the edification of the Church

All of these are common sense.

  • If a person was baptized Catholic but subsequently has never darkened a church’s door, he is so disconnected from his faith that he can’t be said to display a supernatural sense of faith.
  • The Faith is contained in the word of God, and so a willingness to listen to Scripture and Tradition is needed.
  • A person who is unreasonable, who is determined to hold his opinions regardless of the arguments brought forward, is not displaying the discernment needed to distinguish truth from falsehood.
  • Christ gave us a Magisterium, and a person who fundamentally refuses to listen to that Magisterium is not authentically faithful.
  • Holiness is a key goal of God’s work in our lives, and a person who doesn’t seek and display holiness is not cooperating with that work.
  • Finally, God guides individuals to build up or edify their fellow Christians, and someone fundamentally oriented toward creating division and disedification is not cooperating with him.

 

Opinion Polls and the Sense of the Faithful

In many parts of the world, America included, most Catholics don’t even go to Mass on a regular basis. They thus don’t seem to have the level of involvement in their faith needed to meet even the first criterion laid out by the ITC.

When you consider how many Catholics display the qualities listed above, it is clear that public opinion polls cannot be relied upon as a guide to the sense of the faithful. Thus the ITC comments that one can’t identify the sense of faith with public opinion:

i) First of all, the sensus fidei is obviously related to faith, and faith is a gift not necessarily possessed by all people, so the sensus fideican certainly not be likened to public opinion in society at large.

Then also, while Christian faith is, of course, the primary factor uniting members of the Church, many different influences combine to shape the views of Christians living in the modern world.

As the above discussion of dispositions implicitly shows, the sensus fidei cannot simply be identified, therefore, with public or majority opinion in the Church, either. Faith, not opinion, is the necessary focus of attention.

Opinion is often just an expression, frequently changeable and transient, of the mood or desires of a certain group or culture, whereas faith is the echo of the one Gospel which is valid for all places and times.

ii) In the history of the people of God, it has often been not the majority but rather a minority which has truly lived and witnessed to the faith. The Old Testament knew the ‘holy remnant’ of believers, sometimes very few in number, over against the kings and priests and most of the Israelites. . . .

In many countries today, Christians are under strong pressure from other religions or secular ideologies to neglect the truth of faith and weaken the boundaries of ecclesial community. It is therefore particularly important to discern and listen to the voices of the “little ones who believe” (Mk 9:42) (n. 118).

Therefore, one needs to think twice before one takes the latest opinion poll—whether about contraception or anything else—as a sign that a particular Church teaching has not been received by the faithful.

Obviously, many who dissent from Church teaching are regular churchgoers, and they may meet multiple criteria identified by the ITC. However, the fundamental point remains that the true sense of faith is displayed by those who are authentically faithful and not simply those who are baptized.

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Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 24 September 2017 to 4 October 2017.

Angelus

General Audiences

Messages

Papal Tweets

  • “Encountering Jesus can give a decisive direction to our life, filling it with meaning.” @Pontifex 28 September 2017
  • “Today is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Let us call on them so that we are always reminded of God’s presence.” @Pontifex 29 September 2017
  • “I have chosen this theme for World Communications Day 2018: “The truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32). Fake news and journalism for peace.” @Pontifex 29 September 2017
  • “In our times we need to pray so much – Christians, Jews, and Muslims – for peace.” @Pontifex 30 September 2017
  • “Like Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, let us learn from the humility of God who became small for us.” @Pontifex 30 September 2017
  • “Our guardian angel is a friend we do not see, but whose presence we feel. He accompanies us on our earthly journey to heaven.” @Pontifex 2 October 2017
  • “Only in the silence of prayer can you learn to listen to the voice of God.” @Pontifex 3 October 2017
  • “Like Saint Francis of Assisi, let us be transformed by the love of Christ in order to live in simplicity and joy.” @Pontifex 4 October 2017

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 13 September 2017 to 27 September 2017.

Angelus

General Audiences

Speeches

Papal Tweets

Papal Instagram

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Pope Francis is having his "Inaugural Mass"? What's happens in this Mass, and why is it important?This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 29 August 2017 to 21 September 2017.

Letters

Motu Proprio

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “The Lord does not leave us orphans: we have a Mother, the same one as Jesus. Mary takes care of us and always defends us.” @Pontifex 15 September 2017
  • “Global action is needed in order to reduce pollution and at the same time promote development in poorer countries.” @Pontifex 16 September 2017
  • “The more Jesus occupies the centre of our lives, the more He allows us to come out of ourselves and brings us closer to others.” @Pontifex 17 September 2017
  • “Let us find the courage to purify our hearts by removing the rocks and thorns which choke the Word of God.” @Pontifex 18 September 2017
  • “Let us work together to find concrete solutions to help the poor, refugees, victims of modern forms of slavery, in order to promote peace.” @Pontifex 19 September 2017
  • “Hope is the virtue of a heart that does not close itself in darkness or remain locked in the past, but looks towards the future.” @Pontifex 20 September 2017
  • “I appeal for peace and disarmament: in this world wounded by violence, we need fraternity among peoples.” @Pontifex 21 September 2017

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