While I think that we should be getting either all of Pope Francis’ little fervorini from his daily Mass or none of them (rather than snippets), today’s seems worthy of more note. Some samples from the site of Vatican Radio.
Jesus has, “the capacity to suffer with us, to be close to our sufferings and make them His own,” said Pope Francis, who began his reflections with the encounter between Jesus and the widow of Naim, of which Tuesday’s Gospel reading tells. He pointed out that Jesus, “had great compassion” for this widow who had now lost her son. Jesus, he went on to say, “knew what it meant to be a widow at that time,” and noted that the Lord has a special love for widows, He cares for them.” Reading this passage of the Gospel, he then said, that the widow is, “an icon of the Church , because the Church is in a sense widow”:
“The Bridegroom is gone and she walks in history, hoping to find him, to meet with Him – and she will be His true bride. In the meantime she – the Church – is alone! The Lord is nowhere to be seen. She has a certain dimension of widowhood … and that makes me makes me think of the widowhood of the Church. This courageous Church, which defends her children, like the widow who went to the corrupt judge to [press her rights] and eventually won. Our Mother Church is courageous! She has the courage of a woman who knows that her children are her own, and must defend them and bring them to the meeting with her Spouse.” [There is a Patristic flavor to this.]
The Pope reflected on some figures of widows in the Bible, in particular the courageous Maccabean widow with seven sons who are martyred for not renouncing God. [Remember the allegorical exegesis of that passage by Ambrose.] The Bible, he stressed, says this woman who spoke to her sons “in the local dialect, in their first language,” and, he noted, our Mother Church speaks to us in dialect, in “that language of true orthodoxy, which we all understand, the language of catechism,” that, “gives us the strength to go forward in the fight against evil”: [“language of true orthodoxy… catechism”… interesting.]
“This dimension of widowhood of the Church, who is journeying through history, hoping to meet, to find her Husband… Our Mother the Church is thus! She is a Church that, when she is faithful, knows how to cry. When the Church does not cry, something is not right. She weeps for her children, and prays! [And now reflect on how most Novus Ordo funerals are now, with their “celebration of life” foolery and white vestments and words of canonization of everyone who dies.] A Church that goes forward and does rear her children, gives them strength and accompanies them until the final farewell [i.e., DEATH] in order to leave them in the hands of her Spouse, who at the end will come to encounter her. [Who will come as “Just Judge” and “King of Fearful Majesty”.]This is our Mother Church! I see her in this weeping widow. And what does the Lord say to the Church? “Do not cry. I am with you, I’ll take you, I’ll wait for you there, in the wedding, the last nuptials, those of the Lamb. Stop [your tears]: this son of yours was dead, now he lives.” [Watch some people pounce! Ha!]
And this , he continued, “is the dialogue of the Lord with the Church.” She, “defends the children, but when she sees that the children are dead, she crys, and the Lord says to her: ‘I am with you and your son is with me.’” As he told the boy at Naim to get up from his deathbed, the Pope added, many times Jesus also tells us to get up, “when we are dead because of sin and we are going to ask for forgiveness.” And then what does Jesus “when He forgives us, when He gives us back our life?” He Returns us to our mother: [GO TO CONFESSION!]
“Our reconciliation with the Lord end in the dialogue ‘You, me and the priest who gives me pardon’; it ends when He restores us to our mother. There ends reconciliation, because there is no path of life, there is no forgiveness, there is no reconciliation outside of Mother Church. [NB you who think the Pope thinks the Church isn’t necessary: “there is no reconciliation outside of Mother Church”.] So, seeing this poor widow, all these things come to me somewhat randomly – But I see in this widow the icon of the widowhood of the Church who is on a journey to find her Bridegroom. [Which happens at a) death or b) the end of the world.] I get the urge to ask the Lord for the grace to be always confident of this “mommy” who defends us, teaches us, helps us grow and [teaches] us to speak the dialect.”
A few things.
First, the sermon seems to have had a nearly Patristic ring, stemming from his use of types and symbols.
Second, the widows the Lord encounters, such as the widow at Naim whose only son died were, in the ancient world, among the most vulnerable of all the “little ones”, in Hebrew anawim, the unprotected. A woman without sons and husband was vulnernable and alone. So too, today, is Holy Church becoming a widow in many ways, especially where she is being pushed to the margins and out of the public square.
Third, in the ancient Church there were “orders” of classes of people consecrated for work in the Church, especially having to do with corporal works of mercy. For example, there was an order of consecrated virgins. This order has been revived since the Council. There was an order of gravediggers. There was an order of widows. They had to be 60 years old, of good reputation, and engaged in works of mercy. The Church looked after them, especially through the ministry of deacons.
Fourth, contrast what the Holy Father says about these widows with his warning to modern women religious not to become “zitelle… spinsters”, which in Italian hints at sourness.
There has been some discussion of a revival of the Order of Widows.
I warmly and wholeheartedly support a revival of the Order of Widows.
May Pope Francis give close consideration to the work that has already been prepared concerning a modern incarnation of the Order of Widows.