The Vatican

Francis launches more prayer and fasting for peace, looks to Charles de Foucauld

The Pope has called for Friday, October 27, an ecumenical and interreligious Day of Prayer, Fasting and Penance for peace in the Holy Land, to which he has invited "all those who have at heart the cause of peace in the world". In addition, this Wednesday afternoon there will be an hour of prayer in St. Peter's for peace. In his catechesis he focused on St. Charles de Foucauld.

Francisco Otamendi-October 18, 2023-Reading time: 5 minutes
Pope Francis

Pope Francis during the general audience on October 18 (CNS photo / Lola Gomez)

In the aftermath of the wars in Ukraine and Palestine e Israelthe Holy Father Francis intensifies the prayer for peaceand urges the whole world to the cause of peace. This morning, in his Wednesday catechesis on the passion for evangelization: the apostolic zeal of the believer, he announced an ecumenical and interreligious Day of Prayer, Fasting and Penance for Peace at Holy Land on October 27th, and has set its sights on the heart of saint Charles de Foucauld

Moreover, addressing Italian-speaking pilgrims and all the faithful, he called on them at 6 p.m. this evening, the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, in St. Peter's Square, to live "in a spirit of penance an hour of prayer for implore peace for our days, peace in the world. I ask all the particular churches to participate, establishing similar initiatives that involve the People of God".

The Pontiff pointed out that the victims are increasing, the situation in Gaza is desperate, and made an appeal: "Please do everything possible to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. We are concerned about the possible prolongation of the conflict, while in the world different war fronts are open".

"Let the weapons be silent, let the cry for peace of the poor, of the people, of the children be heard," he added. "Sisters and brothers, war does not solve any problem, it sows only death and destruction, increases hatred, multiplies vengeance. War cancels the future" (he said this twice). "I exhort believers to take in this conflict only one part, the part of peace, not with words, but with prayer, with total dedication."

World Mission Sunday, St. John Paul II

Among other themes that have emerged in the catechesis, next Sunday is the celebration of the World Missionary DayThe Pope recalled that the theme of the annual meeting is 'Burning Hearts', inviting "dioceses and parishes to participate in this annual event with prayer and concrete help for the needs of the Church's evangelizing mission".

In his greeting to Polish-speaking pilgrims, the Holy Father said that "last Monday we commemorated the 45th anniversary of the election of Karol Wojtyla to the See of Peter. During his pontificate, the call to open wide the doors to Christ resounded with great force. This has borne fruit both in personal conversions and in social changes in many countries hitherto closed to Christ. Following the example of this Holy Popecontinue the work of the new evangelization that he began. I bless you from my heart".

In welcoming the English-speaking pilgrims, especially the groups from Ireland, Norway, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Canada and the United States of America, Francis sent "a special greeting to the young university students participating in the Rome International Seminar for Peace", and also greeted the priests of the Institute of Ongoing Theological Formation of the Pontifical North American College. I invoke upon all of you the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you".

To the Arabic-speaking faithful, the Pope reminded them that "this month of October is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. I invite you to contemplate with the Mother of God the mysteries of Christ's life, invoking her intercession for the needs of the Church and the world. May the Lord bless you all and always protect you from every evil".

Francis also greeted groups of French-speaking parishioners and students from Switzerland, Ivory Coast, France and Morocco, including the delegation from the Al Mowafaqa Ecumenical Theological Institute, accompanied by Cardinal Cristobal Lopez Romero and Mrs. Karen Smith. "May St. Charles de Foucauld teach us the value of silence and the evangelizing power of a life hidden in God," he told them. 

St. Charles de Foucauld: Eucharist, the Tabernacle

In this catechesis on apostolic zeal, Pope Francis shared in the Audience the testimony of St. Charles de Foucauld, canonized on May 15, 2022 along with seven other Blesseds, who lived a youth far from God until he met Jesus of Nazareth. 

"Today I would like to speak to you about a man who made Jesus and the poorest of our brothers and sisters the passion of his life. I am referring to St. Charles de Foucauld who, 'from his intense experience of God, made a journey of transformation until he became the brother of all' (Fratelli tutti, 286)". 

Experiencing a profound conversion, he went from being attracted to Jesus to the desire to imitate him, feeling that he was his "little brother," the Pope emphasized. "From attraction he passed to imitation. On the advice of his confessor he went to the Holy Land and, traveling through the Holy Places, he discovered the call to live in the spirit of Nazareth, poor and hidden, meek and humble of heart."

Francis emphasized in his reflection that Charles de Foucauld "spent much time meditating on the Gospel, but this did not make him withdraw into himself; on the contrary, it impelled him to proclaim it to others. For him, the Eucharistic life was the starting point for the mission, so he prayed for hours before the tabernacle, and there he found the evangelizing strength to go to meet people who did not know Jesus".

The secret: "Lose your head for Him".

What was the "secret" of his life, the Pope asked. "I lost my heart to Jesus of Nazareth," he confided to a non-believing friend. "Brother Charles thus reminds us that the first step in evangelizing is to have Jesus at the center of one's heart, is to 'lose one's head' for Him. If this does not happen, we will hardly be able to demonstrate it with our lives. We run the risk of speaking of ourselves, of our group, of a moral or, even worse, of a set of norms, but not of Jesus, of his love, of his mercy," the Pope continued. 

"Let us ask ourselves then: I have Jesus at the center of my heart, have I lost my mind a little bit for Him? Charles has, to the point of moving from attraction to Jesus to imitation of Jesus. Charles lets Jesus act in silence, convinced that the 'Eucharistic life' evangelizes. He believes in fact that Christ is the first evangelizer. And do we, I wonder, believe in the power of the Eucharist?"

The Laity. Anticipates the Second Vatican Council

'Every Christian is an apostle,' wrote Charles de Foucauld to a lay friend, to whom he reminded that "close to priests we need lay people who see what the priest does not see, who evangelize with a closeness of charity, with a kindness for all, with an affection always ready to give of itself," the Pope recalled. 

"Charles thus anticipates the times of the Second Vatican Council, senses the importance of the laity and understands that the proclamation of the Gospel belongs to the whole People of God. But how can we increase this participation? As Charles did: by getting down on our knees and welcoming the action of the Spirit, who always raises up new ways to involve, meet, listen and dialogue, always in collaboration and trust, always in communion with the Church and with the pastors."

Finally, the Holy Father called St. Charles de Foucauld "a prophetic figure for our time" and asked us "if we bring in ourselves and in others Christian joy, which is not simply joy, but charity of the heart. Joy is the thermometer that measures the warmth of our proclamation of Jesus, the One who is the good news for all".

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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