On her May 22 Feast Day, Pope Francis has remembered the beloved St. Rita of Cascia, praising the great example given by this saint of hopeless causes (together with Saint Jude).
During his General Audience today, the Holy Father said: “Saint Rita of Cascia, whose feast day is observed today, was a woman, wife, mother, widow and nun of her time.”
“May today’s women, following her example, be able to show the same enthusiasm of life and, at the same time, be able to have the same love that she had for all unconditionally.”
Today’s audience was held at 9:10 in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
Continuing with the series of catecheses on the “Our Father,” in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: “Wherever you are, invoke the Father” (Biblical passage: From the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans, 8:15).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present.
Francis invited those present to pray for the Catholic faithful in China, on the occasion of the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary “Help of Christians,” venerated in China at the Shrine of “Our Lady of Sheshan,”and observed on Friday, May 24.
At the end of the General Audience–Alessandro Gisotti, Director of the Holy See Press Office, confirmed in a message–the Holy Father greeted Dr. Denis Mukwege, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
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The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today we conclude the series of catecheses on the “Our Father.” We can say that Christian prayer is born of the audacity to call God with the name of “Father.” It’s not so much a formula as it is a filial intimacy, in which we are introduced by grace: Jesus is the Revealer of the Father and He grants us familiarity with Him. “He doesn’t leave us a formula to repeat mechanically. As with any vocal prayer, it’s through the Word of God that the Holy Spirit teaches God’s children to pray to their Father” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2766). Jesus himself used different expressions to pray to the Father. If we read the Gospels attentively, we discover that these expressions of prayer that appear on Jesus’ lips recall the text of the “Our Father.”
On the night of Gethsemane, Jesus prays this way: “Abba! Father! All things are possible to Thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt” (Mark 14:36). We have already recalled this text of Mark’s Gospel. How can we not recognize in this prayer, though brief, a trace of the “Our Father”? Amid the darkness, Jesus invoked God with the name of “Abba,” with filial trust and, although feeling fear and anguish, asks that His will be done. In other passages of the Gospel, Jesus stresses to His disciples that they must cultivate a spirit of prayer. Prayer must be insistent, and it must include above all remembrance of brothers, especially when we experience difficult relations with them. Jesus says: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in Heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). How can we not recognize in these expressions the assonance with the “Our Father”? And the examples could be numerous.
We don’t find the text of the “Our Father” in Saint Paul’s writings, but its presence emerges in that stupendous synthesis where the Christian’s invocation is condensed in one word: “Abba!” (Cf. Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus satisfies fully the disciples’ request who, seeing Him often going apart and immersing Himself in prayer, one day decide to ask Him: “Lord, teach us to pray, as John — the Baptist — taught his disciples” (11:1). And then the Master taught them the prayer to the Father.
Considering the New Testament as a whole, seeing clearly is that the first protagonist of every Christian prayer is the Holy Spirit, who breathes in the heart of the disciple. The Spirit makes us able to pray as children of God, which we really are by Baptism. The Spirit makes us pray in the “furrow” that Jesus has dug for us. This is the mystery of Christian prayer: by grace we are attracted in that dialogue of love of the Most Holy Trinity.
Jesus prays thus. Sometimes He used expressions that are certainly very far from the text of the “Our Father.” We think of the initial words of Psalm 22, which Jesus pronounces on the cross: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Can the heavenly Father forsake His Son? Certainly not. Yet love for us, sinners, lead Jesus to this point: to the point of experiencing God’s abandonment, His distance. However, in the anguished cry there also remains the “My God, my God.” In that “my” is the nucleus of the relationship with the Father, there is the nucleus of faith and of prayer.
See why, a Christian can pray from this nucleus in every situation. He can assume all the prayers of the Bible, of the Psalms especially; but he can also pray with many expressions that in millennia of history welled from men’s heart. And we never cease to tell the Father about our brothers and sisters in humanity, so that none of them, the poor especially, is without a consolation and a portion of love.
At the end of this catechesis, we can repeat that prayer of Jesus: “I thank Thee, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, that Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes” (Luke 10:21).[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims.
I’m happy to receive the participants in the Meeting organized by the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations, and the Sisters of Our Lady. I greet the parish groups, in particular those of San Giuseppe Vesuviano and of Vaglio di Basilicata; the Congolese Catholic Community of Rome; the Multi-Setting Kairos Missionary Association; the Italian Sports Center of Latina and the school institutes, especially that of Giulianova Lido.
A particular thought goes to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds.
Saint Rita of Cascia, whose Memoria is observed today, was a woman, wife, mother, widow and nun of her time. May today’s women, following her example, be able to show the same enthusiasm of life and, at the same time, be able to have the same love that she had for all unconditionally.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
The Holy Father’s Appeal
Next Friday, May 24, we will celebrate the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary “Help of Christians,” particularly venerated in China at the Shrine of “Our Lady of Sheshan,” near Shanghai.
This happy occasion enables me to express my special closeness and affection to all Catholics in China who, amid daily toils and trials, continue to believe, to hope and to love.
Dear faithful in China, may our Mother in Heaven help you all to be witnesses of charity and fraternity, keeping yourselves always united in the communion of the universal Church. I pray for you and I bless you.
Let us pray together: Hail Mary . . .[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]