Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Day: October 11, 2013

With the Holy Father in Assisi

Hello and welcome!

As I left off last week, I was beginning to relate some of my experiences meeting with the Holy Father, and the group of cardinals advising him, in Rome.

Now that I have returned and have a bit more time, I’d like to share with you some more details of my visit, particularly accompanying the Holy Father on his visit to Assisi.

At the beginning of my week in Rome, I was invited to the Generalate of the Jesuits and had lunch with the Jesuit Father General Adolfo Nicolás.Ital_20130928_1351480_1

He showed me the new chapel there designed by the noted Jesuit artist Father Marko Rupnik and the famous statue of Saint Ignatius, depicting the scene where he is telling the Jesuits to go set the world on fire. Ital_20130928_140530nItal_20130928_14124398

I thought it was ironic that they keep a big fire extinguisher right next to it!Ital_20130928_14125687

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On Monday, I joined the other Cardinals in the consistory where the Holy Father proclaimed that blessed John XXIII and blessed Pope John Paul II are to be canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday of next year.Ital_20131001_221408v_1Ital_20130930_09521454

The following day we began our meetings with the Holy Father.POPE-CARDINALS

The first meetings were in the library of the Apostolic Palace, but the rest were held in the Domus Santa Marta. The Holy Father attended all the meetings. He only absented himself to go to the Wednesday General Audience.

It was very interesting experience because the Cardinals in the advisory group really do come from every continent, so you have quite a convergence of ideas and experiences of the Church. The lingua franca, if you will, was Italian, all the meetings were conducted in Italian.

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On Friday, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, we went in military helicopters from Vatican City to Assisi. It was about a 40 minute flight, and we arrived in Assisi, the first place we went to was the Instituto Serafico, where the Holy Father met with about 100 disabled children, their caretakers and families.Ital_20131004_072919pPOPE-ASSISI

The Holy Father greeted each child, blessed them and kissed them. POPE-ASSISI POPE-ASSISI POPE-ASSISI

He then gave a very wonderful talk, in which he compared the children to the wounds on Jesus’s body. POPE-ASSISI POPE-ASSISI

He said when the resurrected Christ came back, all of the bruises and scars were gone but the wounds of the crucifixion on his hands, feet and side were still there, and he took those wounds to heaven. He said the children are the wounds of Jesus, and if we worship Jesus present in them, then we will someday be able to worship the wounds of Christ that are now in heaven.

Then we went to San Damiano. The Friars met him there, and we prayed with them. SDaminano002

During the visit, the Holy Father gave a brief talk on Lady Poverty. He reminded the Friars they are supposed to be married to Lady Poverty and to be unfaithful is adultery to their commitment to poverty.

Next, we went to the Vescovado, which is the old bishops palace, the place where St. Francis was tried before the bishop and returned his clothes back to his father. There, Holy Father addressed people from the different Caritas programs. SDaminano001

From there, we went to Santa Maria Maggiore, which is the Capuchin church in Assisi. In fact, we did not have a church there until a few years ago, when the bishop gave the church to us. Our general, Father Mauro Johri, and a group of Capuchins greeted the Holy Father there.

Santa Maria Maggiore was the original Cathedral of Assisi and is where St. Francis and St. Clare were baptized, though the baptismal font has since been moved to San Rufino, the new Cathedral.Majore004

Then we went to the Basilica Superiore di San Francesco. There we were greeted by the Conventual Friars and by Prime Minister Enrico Letta.Ital_20131004_101335xItal_20131004_101543iPOPE-ASSISI Ital_20131004_101639tItal_20131004_101940yItal_20131004_103422r

The Holy Father celebrated Mass in the main piazza of the Basilica.POPE-ASSISI POPE-ASSISI POPE-ASSISI POPE-ASSISI

At the end of Mass, as they do every year on the Feast, they blessed the oil that is burned in the lamp before the tomb of St. Francis, the Patron Saint of Italy. So, there were a number of elected officials from the different townships and cities in Umbria present.

Following lunch, we went to the Hermitage of the Carceri. They are called that because the cells are so tiny. The Holy Father went there to pray. The original Carceri was built by Saint Bernadino.Carceri006Ital_20131004_143335cPOPE-ASSISI Ital_20131004_143639photoItal_20131004_143957qPOPE-ASSISI POPE-ASSISI POPE-ASSISI

From there we went to the Cathedral of San Rufino, where the Holy Father addressed those involved in the diocesan synod.SRufino007

Ital_20131004_152035bItal_20131004_152153wItal_20131004_153439jItal_20131004_160725kAt the Basilica of Santa Chiara, he went to pray before the tomb of St. Clare as well as before the original San Damiano Crucifix.Ital_20131004_162018hItal_20131004_162056gItal_20131004_165006sItal_20131004_163221fItal_20131004_164836lItal_20131004_164850d

Then, in the afternoon, we went to the Basilica of the Santa Maria degli Angeli of the Portiuncula where there were thousands of young people gathered in the plaza. The Holy Father addressed them and answered their questions.POPE-ASSISI POPE-ASSISI

He visited the Portiuncula, where St. Francis established the order, which is contained within the basilica.

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After the rally with the youth at the Portiuncula, we traveled to Rivotorto, which are the little cottages where Francis and the first Friars stayed.Rivotorto012

Our time in Assisi was very moving, particularly in the visit with the children, and everywhere we went the crowds were just enormous. It was a very beautiful way to end our time with the Holy Father.Ital_20131004_1819452

Certainly, the visit was a demonstration of the Holy Father’s love for St. Francis and for the themes of St. Francis’s life, which were of course life for Christ crucified, the poor, and for being an instrument of peace and reconciliation. Many of these themes appear in the talks that the Holy Father gave throughout the day.

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Before I conclude, I want to make mention of a few other items.

I was sorry I was not able to be present for the celebration of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s 140th anniversary celebration. So many of our Catholics here have been taught by the sisters and have great affection for them.CSJ20131006_152147CSJ20131006_152330CSJ20131006_152530CSJ20131006_153037CSJ20131006_153939CSJ20131006_155152CSJ20131006_161731

The sisters, in 140 years, have made such a vital contribution to the life of the archdiocese. It was a very important event and I was happy to hear how well it went.

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This month is also Respect Life Month, and we are calling on Catholics in the archdiocese and throughout the country to participate in the events that take place this month.

I am happy to share with you this video that we prepared with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. We call on people to continue their prayers and sacrifices on behalf of the Gospel of Life.


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Finally, I want to conclude this week asking everyone to pray for the Holy Father, who faces many challenges in this moment in the life of the Church. He is always asking for prayers, and so I want to echo that request.POPE-ASSISI

He feels it is important that the Catholics of the world be united with him in prayer so that the Holy Spirit will guide him on the path that will bring healing and peace to our Church and to bring energy to the task of the new evangelization.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

October 2013