This evening at the Vatican, the archpriest of St. Peter’s basilica, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, led a prayer vigil for Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square.
A group of about 500 faithful gathered around the central obelisk to pray for the Holy Father, recite the Rosary, read Gospel passages and reflect on excerpts taken from the Pope’s speeches.
Those present at the event this evening, promoted by the Italian Movement for the Family (Movimento dell'Amore Familiare), also lit torchlights as the sun set over the basilica, drawing to an end one of the longest days of the year.
Although the vigil drew a fair amount of attention, given the particularly challenging circumstances currently facing the Holy Father, this wasn’t the first event of its kind. Every year, around mid-June, the Movement for the Family has unfailingly held a prayer vigil for Pope Benedict in St. Peter's Square since his election in 2005.
In its prior publicity, the Movement called on the faithful to “all gather around the Holy Father, his figure and his role as head of the universal Church and loving Shepherd of the People of God, because the trials and sufferings that are directed against the Pope, the Vatican and the Church find all of us united in faith and love around Benedict XVI whom the Lord has chosen for our times. We pray that no evil and scandal within the Church or outside it discourages its vigour and strength.”
Father Stefano Tardani, ecclesiastical assistant to the Movement, played down the current scandal within the Curia in which a number of confidential documents have been leaked to the press, saying: “They are not the truth of life, just a piece of history.”
Below are the readings and meditations for this evening’s vigil:
PRAYER VIGIL FOR POPE BENEDICT XVI AND HIS PONTIFICATE
FRIDAY 22nd JUNE 2012 - SAINT PETER'S SQUARE
First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony of Jesus in the Garden
From the Gospel of Matthew (26, 36-41 )
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is Willing, but the flesh is weak."
Let us meditate on Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate.
Pope Benedict, in leading the Church following Christ in his life, relives the pain of betrayal and experienced little love not only in the world, but also within the Church entrusted to Him. During these seven years of his pontificate, Pope Benedict has always paid special attention to the transmission of the essential content of faith. Fighting the culture of relativism, he called to those responsible as educators of new generations, but also faced the drama of pedophilia in the Church and disobedience to the Church's life. Certain of the magnanimity of the Holy Father and His lofty mission, we Christians want to gather around our shepherd to follow him in his pontificate with prayer, demonstrating our spiritual closeness and our commitment as Christians.
From the Holy Father's Homily during the Mass for the beginning of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome - 24.4.2005
Dear Friends! At this moment there is no need for me to present a programme of governance. [.. ].My real programme of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him, so that He himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history. [... ] One of the basic characteristics of a shepherd must be to love the people entrusted to him, even as he loves Christ whom he serves. "Feed my sheep", says Christ to Peter, and now, at this moment, he says it to me as well. Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer. Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God's truth, of God's word, the nourishment of his presence, which he gives us in the Blessed Sacrament. My dear friends - at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more — in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let us pray for one another, that the Lord
Our Father, 10 Hail Marys, Glory be to the Father. My Jesus
Second Sorrowful Mystery: The scourging at the pillar
From the Gospel of John ( 18,37-40 -19,1)
Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" And Jesus answered, "Just as you say, I am a king. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of truth hears my voice. Pilate said, "What is truth?" Pilate then went out to the Jews again and said, "I find no crime in this man. Now, according to a custom, l must release a prisoner of yours at the Passover. With your agreement I will release for you the King of the Jews." But they insisted and cried out, "Not this man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a robber. Then Pilate had Jesus taken away and scourged."
Let us meditate on the family and work.
The family lives in diffìcult times, facing the problems of labor, hardship and instability, insecurity and exploitation.
Tensions at work, the pressures of wealth and career have impacted family life: a lack of dialogue and time together, stress, pressing working hours , selfishness, divisions, depression, lack of solidarity and understanding, inability to notice those in need. It's a very serious matter, cancelling the time of celebration and especially on Sunday. Sunday should be the moment of encounter with God, with family and with others; an extraordinary day when the heart is waiting to give meaning and value to life. Sunday reveals the meaning of work: one should not rest just to get back to work with more energy, but to become a family and to celebrate it.
From the letter of His Holiness Benedict XVII to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family in preparation to the 7th Meeting of Families -23.8.2010-
Work and celebration are closely connected with the lives of families: they condition decisions, influence relations between spouses and between parents and children and affect the relationship of the family with society and with the Church. Sacred Scripture (cf. Gen 1-2) tells us that the family, work and holidays are gifts and blessings to help us to live a fully human life. [...] In our day, unfortunately, the organization of work, conceived of and implemented in terms of market competition and the greatest profit, and the conception of a holiday as an opportunity to escape and to consume commodities, contribute to dispersing the family and the community and spreading an individualistic lifestyle. It is therefore necessary to promote reflection and commitment which aim at reconciling the needs and schedule of work with those of the family. They must also aim at recovering the true meaning of celebration, especially on Sunday, the weekly Easter, the day of the Lord and the day of man, the day of the family, of the community and of solidarity.
Our Father, 10 Hail Marys, Glory be to the Father, My Jesus.
Third Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus is Crowned with Thorns, from the Gospel of Matthew (27, 27-31)
The Roman soldiers took Jesus into the palace of the govemor and the whole troop gathered around him. They stripped him and dressed him in a purple military cloak. Then, twisting a clown of thorns, they forced it onto his head, and placed a reed in his right hand. They knelt before Jesus and mocked him, saying, "Long life to the King of the Jews!" They spat on him, took the reed from his hand and struck him on the head with it. When they had finished mocking him, they pulled off the purple cloak and dressed him in his own clothes again, and led him out to be crucified.
Let us meditate on violence against women.
Seeing Jesus mistreated in the body, silent in his suffering and humiliation, brings to mind a phenomenon dramatically topical: violence against women.
The pain of women who have suffered abuse affects us all, because the barbarity of violence against women has not been eradicated even in the economically and culturally advanced countries. It is the persistence of these aberrant patterns of thought to favor the reappearance of intolerable acts of oppression that are also found in familiar surroundings.
Only when you have Jesus as your ally, can you create a culture of genuine respect for women beyond merely vulgar consumerist visions, often guided by the language of media and advertising. We look to the attitude of Christ. Transcending the mentality of his time towards women with an attitude of openness, respect, acceptance, tenderness, thus honoring the woman's dignity; it has always been God's plan. This honor must now be taught by the mothers to their children.
From the Holy Father's address at a convention organized by the Pontificai Council of Laity on the XX anniversary of the publication of the Apostolic Letter, Mulieris dignitatem -9.2.2008 –
In May of last year in Brazil, I was able to recall how a masculine mentality still persists that ignores the novelty of Christianity, which recognizes and proclaims that men and women share equal dignity and responsibility. There are places and cultures where women are discriminated against or undervalued for the sole fact of being women, where recourse is made even to religious arguments and family, social and cultural pressure in order to maintain the inequaJity of the sexes, where acts of violence are consummated in regard to women, making them the object of mistreatment and of exploitation in advertising and in the consumer and entertainment industry. Faced with such grave and persistent phenomena, the Christian commitment appears all the more urgent so that everywhere it may promote a culture that recognizes the dignity that belongs to women, in law and in concrete reality.
Our Father, 10 Hail Marys, Glory be to the Father. My Jesus.
Fourth Sorrowful Mystery : The Carrying of the Cross.
From Gospel of Matthew (27,32-34)
As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means "the place of the skull"). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.
Let us meditate on the new poor.
They are called the "new poor” because today with the economic and social crisis they cannot even get to the end of the month. Today is a humanity torn by the lack of hope in tomorrow, and devoid of the certainties that now more than ever, cannot come from the bank account or a certain income. Yet today's man, oppressed and in the grip of material and spiritual poverty, is capable of hoping against hope, fìnding in the ecclesial communion the light and true good In following Jesus.
Here the cross of Jesus, an instrument of death, is transformed into the revelation of God's love for man, a sign of hope for all of us that we should not be alone, but to regain confidence in the preciousness of life, a gift so great as to preserve and to revive.
From the address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to members of the regional board of Lazio, the municipal Council of Rome and the administration of the Province of Rome-12.1.2012-
It is important that a renewed humanism be developed, in which the human identity equates with the category of person. The current crisis, in fact, is also rooted in individualism which obscures people's relational dimension and leads them to withdraw in their own small world, concerned primarily with satisfying their own needs and desires, with scant consideration for others. Are not speculation in leases, the increasingly difficult integration of young people in the labour market, the loneliness of so many of the elderly, the anonymity which often characterizes life in the neighbourhoods of the city and the, at times, superficial view of situations of marginalization and poverty a consequence of this mindset? Faith tells us that the human person is a being called to live in relationships; that the "I" can find itself precisely by approaching a "you" who accepts and loves him or her. This "You" is first and foremost God, the only One who can give the human being unconditional acceptance and infinite love; and it is also others, starting with those who are closest.
Our Father, 10 Hall Marys, Glory be to the Father, My Jesus.
Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The crucifixion and death of Jesus.
From the Gospel of Luke (23,44-46)
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Let us meditate on the boys and girls of today's society.
Some consider Jesus a dreamer, a loser, and also think the same of those who believe in Him! But God is not useless! The world offers us a happiness quite different from that of which Jesus speaks.
But although the world seems inviting, we feel it is a deception, because it rekindles in us the "sun" that was eclipsed, as we heard in the Gospel of Luke. In this world crisis, we also feel sometimes blocked, nailed, like crucifixes. But with the death of Jesus on the cross, the last words are no longer evil and death, for He is risen, which gives us hope and goodness. We are made for good, for life, lo be happy and we can be alone with Jesus, our most sincere and true friend!
From the address of His Holiness Benedict XVI on the occasion of the XXVI World Youth Day, Welcome Ceremony with young people in Madrid - 18.8.2011-
Dear friends: be prudent and wise, build your lives upon the firm foundation which is Christ. This wisdom and prudence will guide your steps, nothing will make you fear and peace will reign in your hearts. Then you will be blessed and happy and your happiness will influence others. They will wonder what the secret of your life is and they will discover that the rock which underpins the entire building and upon which rests your whole existence is the very person of Christ, your friend, brother and Lord, the Son of God incarnate, who gives meaning to ali the universe.
Our Father, 10 Hail Marys. Glory be to the Father. My Jesus.
Hall, holy Queen.