Close to Pope Francis, with Our Prayer and Affection, Article in Palabra, (April 2013)
We have welcomed with great joy the election of Pope Francis as Peter’s successor in the See of Rome and as Supreme Pontiff of the universal Church. The festive pealing of the bells, sent ringing throughout the whole world, brought us the news we had been praying for so intently: habemus Papam! And once more we experienced the the Paraclete’s action who, above all the vicissitudes of the world and of history, guides and governs the Mystical Body of Christ.
From the first moment, the Holy Father has asked for our prayers to help him carry the burden that our Lord has placed on his shoulders. In this moment filled with great emotion and significance, when once again we have seen that the Church is alive, and is capable of transmitting that life to all men and women, we renew our desires to accompany Pope Francis on his path of service to the Church and the world.
Evangelization, the new evangelization, the growth of Christian life. These are the key words with which, from the first moment, the Roman Pontiff has made known to us his priorities upon beginning his pontificate. Pope Francis comes from Latin America, where faith in Christ took root more than five hundred years ago. It is a church rich in religious traditions that nourish the faith of the People of God. A church close to people who, in the midst of the spiritual and material needs and difficulties of both the poor and the rich, the educated and the unlettered, the sick and the healthy, has remained faithful to Christ for centuries, under the protection of Mary’s mantle and closely united to its pastors. A church that, despite all the worldly attractions of materialism, has returned again and again to the sources of a true spirituality: the sacraments; devotion to our Lord, especially to his passion; a filial trust in our Lady; recourse to the intercession of the saints.
Pope Francis will transmit all of this spiritual richness to the Church on the other continents; above all to the places in Europe, North America and Oceania, where the symptoms of a certain disenchantment and spiritual erosion are more openly seen. It will mean, at the same time, a new impulse to the evangelization of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and of Latin America itself, so hungry for God.
The Roman Pontiff wants to steer us towards what is essential. “Christ is the center,” he said in his audience on March 26. And in his homily at the Mass for Palm Sunday, he assured us that “Christ’s Cross embraced with love never leads to sadness, but to joy, to the joy of having been saved and of doing a little of what he did on the day of his death.”
This brings us to the very core of Christian life. Pope Francis insists that God’s mercy is infinite, that he never tires of forgiving us. As St. Josemaría Escrivá often reminded us, “our God is a God who forgives,” a Father to whom we need to have frequent recourse in the sacrament of confession.
To carry on his task, the Pope is relying on the prayer of each one of us, and above all on the intercession of our Lady and St. Joseph. It was quite significant that his first departure from the Vatican, on the morning following his election, was to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, to place his pontificate at the feet of our Mother, the refuge and salvation of the Roman people and of the entire Church.
During the weeks that have gone by since then, there has been much discussion of the burden that has fallen on the shoulders of the Roman Pontiff, to whom is especially entrusted the unity of faith and communion in the Church. To be able to carry that weight joyfully, the Pope seeks above all the help of God, the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the closeness of our Lady, the intercession of the saints. But he also asks for (and I don’t mind repeating this once more) the affection and prayers of all Catholics and of many other people of good will. Let’s not leave him alone! May he be able to count on our daily prayer, backed up by sacrifice and the offering of work that is well finished. In a special way let us unite ourselves to him at Holy Mass, the best moment, the most sublime one each day, to beseech God our Lord, with words of St. Josemaría: “omnes cum Petro ad Iesum per Mariam! — that we may all go to Jesus, closely united to the Pope, through Mary” (The Forge, no. 647).
+ Javier Echevarría
Prelate of Opus Dei