Transcript of the Holy Father’s Remarks to Inmates at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility

Transcript of Pope Francis’ talk with inmates earlier today:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you for receiving me and giving me the opportunity to be here with you and to share this time in your lives. It is a difficult time, one full of struggles. I know it is a painful time not only for you, but also for your families and for all of society. Any society, any family, which cannot share or take seriously the pain of its children, and views that pain as something normal or to be expected, is a society “condemned” to remain a hostage to itself, prey to the very things which cause that pain. I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own. I have come so that we can pray together and offer our God everything that causes us pain, but also everything that gives us hope, so that we can receive from him the power of the resurrection.

I think of the Gospel scene where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. This was something his disciples found hard to accept. Even Peter refused, and told him: “You will never wash my feet” (Jn 13:8).

In those days, it was the custom to wash someone’s feet when they came to your home. That was how they welcomed people. The roads were not paved, they were covered with dust, and little stones would get stuck in your sandals. Everyone walked those roads, which left their feet dusty, bruised or cut from those stones. That is why we see Jesus washing feet, our feet, the feet of his disciples, then and now.  Life is a journey, along different roads, different paths, which leave their mark on us.

We know in faith that Jesus seeks us out. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet which hurt from travelling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from our journey. He doesn’t ask us where we have been, he doesn’t question us what about we have done. Rather, he tells us: “Unless I wash your feet, you have no share with me” (Jn 13:8). Unless I wash your feet, I will not be able to give you the life which the Father always dreamed of, the life for which he created you. Jesus comes to meet us, so that he can restore our dignity as children of God. He wants to help us to set out again, to resume our journey, to recover our hope, to restore our faith and trust. He wants us to keep walking along the paths of life, to realize that we have a mission, and that confinement is not the same thing as exclusion

Life means “getting our feet dirty” from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher, who wants to help us resume our journey. The Lord goes in search of us; to all of us he stretches out a helping hand. It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities. It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society. The Lord tells us this clearly with a sign: he washes our feet so we can come back to the table. The table from which he wishes no one to be excluded. The table which is spread for all and to which all of us are invited.

This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road, to give you a hand to help you rejoin society. All of us are part of that effort, all of us are invited to encourage, help and enable your rehabilitation. A rehabilitation which everyone seeks and desires: inmates and their families, correctional authorities, social and educational programs. A rehabilitation which benefits and elevates the morale of the entire community.
Jesus invites us to share in his lot, his way of living and acting. He teaches us to see the world through his eyes. Eyes which are not scandalized by the dust picked up along the way, but want to cleanse, heal and restore. He asks us to create new opportunities: for inmates, for their families, for correctional authorities, and for society as a whole.

I encourage you to have this attitude with one another and with all those who in any way are part of this institution. May you make possible new opportunities, new journeys, new paths.

All of us have something we need to be cleansed of, or purified from. May the knowledge of that fact inspire us to live in solidarity, to support one another and seek the best for others.

Let us look to Jesus, who washes our feet. He is “the way, and the truth, and the life”. He comes to save us from the lie that says no one can change. He helps us to journey along the paths of life and fulfillment. May the power of his love and his resurrection always be a path leading you to new life.

Transcript of Pope Francis’ Homily at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia

As translated by the Holy See:

This morning I learned something about the history of this beautiful Cathedral: the story behind its high walls and windows. I would like to think, though, that the history of the Church in this city and state is really a story not about building walls, but about breaking them down. It is a story about generation after generation of committed Catholics going out to the peripheries, and building communities of worship, education, charity and service to the larger society.

That story is seen in the many shrines which dot this city, and the many parish churches whose towers and steeples speak of God’s presence in the midst of our communities. It is seen in the efforts of all those dedicated priests, religious and laity who for over two centuries have ministered to the spiritual needs of the poor, the immigrant, the sick and those in prison. And it is seen in the hundreds of schools where religious brothers and sisters trained children to read and write, to love God and neighbor, and to contribute as good citizens to the life of American society. All of this is a great legacy which you have received, and which you have been called to enrich and pass on.

Most of you know the story of Saint Katharine Drexel, one of the great saints raised up by this local Church. When she spoke to Pope Leo XIII of the needs of the missions, the Pope – he was a very wise Pope! – asked her pointedly: “What about you? What are you going to do?”. Those words changed Katharine’s life, because they reminded her that, in the end, every Christian man and woman, by virtue of baptism, has received a mission. Each one of us has to respond, as best we can, to the Lord’s call to build up his Body, the Church.“What about you?” I would like to dwell on two aspects of these words in the context of our particular mission to transmit the joy of the Gospel and to build up the Church, whether as priests, deacons, or members of institutes of consecrated life.

First, those words – “What about you?” – were addressed to a young person, a young woman with high ideals, and they changed her life. They made her think of the immense work that had to be done, and to realize that she was being called to do her part. How many young people in our parishes and schools have the same high ideals, generosity of spirit, and love for Christ and the Church! Do we challenge them? Do we make space for them and help them to do their part? To find ways of sharing their enthusiasm and gifts with our communities, above all in works of mercy and concern for others? Do we share our own joy and enthusiasm in serving the Lord?

One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to enable them to fulfill that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel in our world. This will require creativity in adapting to changed situations, carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the possibilities which the Spirit opens up to us and communicating the joy of the Gospel, daily and in every season of our life.

“What about you?” It is significant that those words of the elderly Pope were also addressed to a lay woman. We know that the future of the Church in a rapidly changing society will call, and even now calls, for a much more active engagement on the part of the laity. The Church in the United States has always devoted immense effort to the work of catechesis and education. Our challenge today is to build on those solid foundations and to foster a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility in planning for the future of our parishes and institutions. This does not mean relinquishing the spiritual authority with which we have been entrusted; rather, it means discerning and employing wisely the manifold gifts which the Spirit pours out upon the Church. In a particular way, it means valuing the immense contribution which women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make, to the life of our communities.

Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for the way in which each of you has answered Jesus’ question which inspired your own vocation: “What about you?”. I encourage you to be renewed in the joy of that first encounter with Jesus and to draw from that joy renewed fidelity and strength. I look forward to being with you in these days and I ask you to bring my affectionate greetings to those who could not be with us, especially the many elderly priests and religious who join us in spirit.

During these days of the World Meeting of Families, I would ask you in a particular way to reflect on our ministry to families, to couples preparing for marriage, and to our young people. I know how much is being done in your local Churches to respond to the needs of families and to support them in their journey of faith. I ask you to pray fervently for them, and for the deliberations of the forthcoming Synod on the Family.

Now, with gratitude for all we have received, and with confident assurance in all our needs, let us turn to Mary, our Blessed Mother. With a mother’s love, may she intercede for the growth of the Church in America in prophetic witness to the power of her Son’s Cross to bring joy, hope and strength into our world. I pray for each of you, and I ask you, please, to pray for me.


Photo Credit: Public Domain Saint Lydia

On the sabbath we went outside the city gate along the river where we thought there would be a place of prayer. We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there. One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart…to what Paul was saying. Acts 16:13-14

This brief passage speaks beautifully of Lydia’s conversion by the river. She listens to Paul and the Lord opens her heart to the message of the Gospel. She is a Gentile devotee of the Jewish religion, a worshipper of God; and the authenticity of her faith is made clear in the humility displayed in her willingness to listen.

Too often, in today’s digital culture, we run the risk of either indifference or pride in our approach to faith. Neither disposition lends itself to prayerful listening. Don’t get me wrong, having zeal and passion for the faith is good, if not necessary. However, if we find ourselves habitually sidetracked by contentious debates, we have to ask ourselves, have I shifted the focus away from God and onto my own need to be right? 

We are called to inspire and engage the world, nourishing our brothers and sisters with the Gospel message, as Paul did with Lydia in the reading. We also have to keep in mind that it is the Lord who transforms hearts and minds. It is he who opens Lydia’s heart in the reading.

The following prayer by Cardinal Newman was one of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s favorites. It reminds us that the work of evangelizing begins and ends with Jesus. Blissfully so.

Dear Jesus, help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go;
Flood my soul with your spirit and life;
Penetrate and possess my whole being so completely
That all my life may be only a radiance of yours;
Shine through me and be so in me
That everyone with whom I come into contact
May feel your presence within me.
Let them look up and see no longer me—but only Jesus.

Blessed are they who believe…

Photo Credit: Gustav Klimt, Fruit Trees Public Domain

“I believe that the beginning of the glory of everything that exists has already begun to unfold, that we, who appear to be doomed and lost, searching and wandering, are already enveloped into infinite blessedness. For the end has already had it’s beginning. And it is glorious.”

This is a quote from one of Karl Rahner’s meditations on Easter. We are five weeks into the Easter and Pentecost is just a couple of weeks aways. We have been basking in the light of the season’s readings, discovering the Lord’s promise of blessedness for each of us. What is blessedness but the presence of God in our hearts in and in our lives? In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus gifts us with the language of contemplative prayer in action: I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit. (John 15:5) It is when we abide in the Lord, through contemplative silence, reading, or mindful devotional prayer that we are able to fully give of ourselves to the world.

Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches.(John 15:4) We are presented, here, with an articulate analogy for our relationship to the Lord and to one another. It is an intimate, interactive, fruitful relationship. Just as the sap moves through the branches to produce life in the vine, so the Spirit moves, in love, from the Lord to us, uniting us  in substance and will through faith and prayer. The fruit signifies the works of mercy and service that arise from abiding in Christ. 

How do we abide in him? Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel:  Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. (John14:23) His word is simple. It is that we love God and one another as he loves us. The selfless love that we are called to share with the world is the fruit of the blessedness that is made available to us through the death and Resurrection of Jesus. May we live this blessedness and share it, respectfully, with the world.  

I am the way, the truth, and the life

Photo credit:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:1-6

Let go of this week, the past month and settle into the Life that sustains us, here and now. The Lord is our dwelling place and we encounter him in the present moment. Let’s read this beautiful passage a few times, allowing its promises to awaken our hearts. Experience the living truth in the silence of your heart. Remain there, recollected and loved. And know that you too are the dwelling place of God.

Shelter from this Storm

Photo credit:

The news cycle this week brought us the devastating loss and displacement that resulted from the earthquake in Nepal. It was quickly followed by the protests in Baltimore and our nation’s collective mourning for yet another young life lost at the hands of those who should have been protecting him. We are all reeling from the scope of suffering that erupted in the world and in our backyards these past fews days.

We are not confronted with suffering on this scale very often. Tragedy is usually interspersed with details of the newest mobile gadget, the latest trend in world cuisine, the most salacious celebrity instagram photo or tweet. This escapist content is what sells. We have not integrated a dialogue of suffering – collective or personal – into our cultural conversation. At moments like these we pause and reflect.

We turn to our faith traditions in moments of crisis and mourning. As Christian, we find the courage to mercifully embrace these difficult turning points through the narrative of our faith, the life Jesus. When life shows us its underbelly, as believers, we know the discourse does not end there. The Cross, which is an articulation humanity’s suffering, does not stand in isolation. It is preceded by Jesus’ teaching and followed by his Resurrection. This discourse adds depth, dimension and transformative power to the conversation of injustice, suffering, and loss in our world.

We reflect on the following passage from Today’s Gospel.

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.  John 10:27-29

Let us read these words slowly, finding our shelter in the promise they contain.

Today’s Daily Readings are Acts 11:19- 26, Psalm 87, John 10 22-30

The Preciousness of Human Life


Today’s Daily Readings

We each matter to God. We are, each one, favored and adored. Each human life is of inestimable value. We bear the image of God; and God, in Christ, bears ours. The individual is of utmost importance in Christianity.

The at-one-ness of our relationship with God through Christ is the great, transformative mystery that brings rest and healing to our hearts and order to our lives. There is tremendous compassion for the uniqueness of our particular human circumstances in God’s unifying love for us.

We draw strength from this intimate bond with the Spirit so that we, like Christ, may make of our lives a gift to one another. Knowing who we are in God’s love, we recognize our human family in this sacred dwelling we share. The Holy Spirit that lives in each of us unites all of us.

Today we read of the martyrdom of Saint Stephen. Let us hold close to our hearts and prayers every precious life that is lost in the world to hunger, violence, and neglect. Let us also resolve to educate and transform this world, our human family, into a place where human life and all of creation are both honored and protected.