Vatican City, 14 December 2014 (VIS) – This afternoon Pope Francis visited the Roman parish of San Giuseppe all'Aurelio, in the Primavalle suburb of the capital. Before celebrating the Eucharist, Francis met with various groups of people and spoke informally with them.
First, he met with some children who were preparing for their First Communion, and spoke about his own, which took place on 8 October 1944. “I remember it as if it were today. I prepared for a year with a very kind nun and two catechists. … In those times, its was not possible to drink a little water before Mass, nothing – not even a drop of water. It was Pope Pius XII who saved us from this dictatorship! … And we all arrived in the Church with our hands together, singing. … And later, in the afternoon, we returned to the Church for our Confirmation: the same day. And you, who will take your first Communion, will remember that day for ever, all your life: the first day Jesus came to you. He comes, He makes Himself one with us, he nourishes us to give us strength. … Do not forget the date, and every year, on that day, confess and take communion, will you?”
He then spoke to the Rom families in the parish, wishing them peace within their families and adding, “May there be work, and may there be joy. The joy of Jesus, the peace of Jesus, and so on. Do not lose hope in difficult moments, as hope never disappoints: the Lord gives it to us. And the Lord, sooner or later, He always awaits us, always”.
The Holy Father then met with the sick, and began by thanking them for their witness of patience, of love for God and of hope in the Lord. “This does great good to the Church”, he affirmed. “You continually nurture the Church with your life, with your suffering, with your patience. Thank you, truly. The Church, without the sick, would not carry on. You are the strength of the Church, her true strength”.
Finally, he encountered newly baptised children with their parents. “A child always offers a word of hope simply by being. … A child is a seed of the future. …. And you, parents, will say to God, protect my child in the future. Our hopes reside in our children. We hand them the torch of faith and life, and they will pass it on to their children, our grandchildren. This is life. And in Baptism, you have given them faith, and thus faith from Jesus' time up to the present day is like a chain, transmitted by parents. And this is a real responsibility! Never forget the day of your Baptism”.
Finally, after revealing that he was baptised on 25 December, just eight days after his birth, as was the custom at the time, Francis asked all those present to pray for him, and added, “babies and children cry, they make noise, they run about … and it bothers me greatly when a child cries in church and people expect him or her to leave. No! It is the best sermon. The cry of a child is the voice of God. Never, ever send them out of the church!”
Following his meetings with the parishioners, Pope Francis confessed several people and then celebrated Mass. In his homily, he mentioned that “the Church this Sunday anticipates the joy of the Nativity, and it is therefore called 'Gaudete Sunday', joyful Sunday”. The joy of the Nativity, he said, is a special joy the the Christian experiences not only on that day, but throughout all his or her life. “It is a serene, calm joy, a joy that always accompanies a Christian. Even in difficult moments, this joy is transformed into peace. The true Christian never loses this peace, even during suffering. This peace is a gift from the Lord”.
Francis emphasised that we encounter Christian joy in prayer and in giving thanks to God, and he spoke about all those people who do not know how to thank God and who are always looking for something to complain about. “A Christian cannot live like this, always complaining. … No saint has ever had a sad face. The saints always had joyful faces. Or at least, in moments of suffering, their faces showed peace”. In this way, the Pontiff explained that in order to obtain this Christian joy, which is not the joy of consumerism on 24 December, first one must pray and give thanks – but then there exists a further dimension, which is bringing the glad tidings to others. “Go to others, those who are in need, both materially and spiritually. They are many people who suffer and are distraught as a result of family problems. Bring them peace, the anointing of Jesus, the oil of Jesus which does so much good and consoles the soul”.