May the peace of the Risen Lord be with you!
Having taken a break for both Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, I would like to continue to look at the 12th of the Fifteen Diseases of Roman Curia as described by Pope Francis. As I have said to you each time, while it is easy to point to the Vatican Curia and to think that this is only applicable to them, each of us can be afflicted with one or more of the Fifteen Diseases. May Christ the Divine Healer – heal us!
The Twelfth of the Fifteen Ailments of the Roman Curia – “The Disease of the Funeral Face.”
It is the disease of people who are ‘scowling and unfriendly and think that, in order to be serious, they must show a melancholic and strict face and treat others – especially those who they think are inferior – with rigidity, harshness and arrogance.’ In reality, adds the Pope, ‘theatrical strictness and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity about themselves. The apostle must strive to be a polite, serene, enthusiastic and joyful person…’ Francis invites people to be full of humour and self irony. ‘How beneficial a healthy dose of humour can be!’
One of my favorite books to go back to is The wit and wisdom of Pope John XXIII. Pope John had a tremendous wit and a great sense of humor. So did Pope John Paul II who as a young seminarian used to mimic some of his seminary professors. Are we living a balanced life? Are we able to laugh and have a developed sense of humor? Do we take ourselves too seriously? One of the greatest Catholic Evangelists, Archbishop Fulton Sheen was a master at humor and self irony. Take time this week to listen to some of his talks!
Today we celebrate Palm Sunday which marks the beginning of Holy Week. I would strongly encourage you not to treat Palm Sunday and Holy Week as any other “ordinary” week in your life. I would encourage you not to fill up this week with things that you “normally do,’ but spiritually focus on each of the events of Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
An old, now worn out book that I always go back to is “Characters of the Passion” written by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. In his book, Archbishop Sheen carefully looks at the characters of the Passion – Peter, Judas, Pilate, Herod, Claudia and Herodias, Barabbas and the thieves, and the Scars of Christ.
To give you one example from his book, Archbishop Sheen looks at the character and characteristics of Peter. He describes five stages that led to Peter’s fall. The are 1. Neglect of Prayer, 2. Substitution of action for prayer. 3. Lukewarmness. 4.The satisfaction of material wants, feelings and emotions. 5. Human Respect (when we deny our faith, or are ashamed of it under ridicule or scorn). I would encourage us all to do an examination of conscience this week on these five areas. Are we men and women of deep prayer, or do we neglect our prayer life? Do we act without taking time to pray? Are we lukewarm? Are we trying to satisfy ourselves with material wants, feelings and emotions – or does our soul yearn for you Lord and you alone? Have we denied our faith?
Archbishop Sheen then carefully points out the four graced steps that led Peter back. 1. Disillusionment. 2. Response to grace. 3. Amendment and 4 . Sorrow. Hopefully in our lives we experience God’s graces found in the midst of our own disillusionment with how far we have wondered from God. Hopefully we then respond to the gift of the grace from God, work towards amending our lives and truly express our deep sorrow for our sinfulness.
This is a quick summary of one of the Characters of the Passion described by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Let us carefully reflect on how we follow Christ on this Palm Sunday and into Holy Week.