Pope Francis’ advice for reigniting your spiritual life

Hannah Brockhaus   By Hannah Brockhaus for CNA

Pope Francis gives his general audience address in the Paul VI Hall of the Vatican Oct. 27, 2021 / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Oct 27, 2021 / 03:57 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has given Catholics some recommendations for how to reignite their spiritual life after falling out of practice.

“If we lose the thread of the spiritual life, if a thousand problems and thoughts assail us, let us heed Paul’s advice,” he said at his general audience on Wednesday.

“Let us place ourselves in front of Christ Crucified, let us begin again from Him. Let us take the Crucifix in our hands, holding it close to our heart. Or we can even take some time in adoration before the Eucharist, where Jesus is Bread broken for us, Crucified, Risen, the power of God who pours out his love into our hearts,” he said.

Pope Francis’ live-streamed address in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall Oct. 27 emphasized that Christ’s death and resurrection is “the center of the salvation and faith.”

Speaking to a packed hall of pilgrims, the pope continued his cycle of catechesis on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.

He explained that “today, there are many who still seek religious security rather than the living and true God, focusing on rituals and precepts instead of embracing God’s love with their whole being.”

“This is the temptation of the new fundamentalists, isn’t it?” he continued. “Of those who seem to be afraid to make progress, and who regress because they feel more secure: they seek the security of God and not the God of our security… This is why Paul asks the Galatians to return to what is essential – to return to God.”

A child embraces Pope Francis at his general audience Oct. 27, 2021. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
A child embraces Pope Francis at his general audience Oct. 27, 2021. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

He underlined that meeting the crucified Jesus in our prayers gives us life. The Holy Spirit flows forth from Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection to that “the action of the Holy Spirit in us” can change our hearts, not anything that we do.

The Holy Spirit nourishes our lives so we can continue to engage in our spiritual battle, he said, another important teaching in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

In his letter, “the apostle presents two opposing fronts: on the one side, the ‘works of the flesh,’ and on the other, the ‘fruit of the Spirit,’” Pope Francis said.

He noted that in Galatians 5, “Paul lists the works of the flesh which refer to the selfish use of sexuality, to magical practices connected with idolatry and to all that undermines interpersonal relationships such as ‘enmity, jealousy, dissension, divisions, factions, envy…’”

“The fruit of the Spirit, instead,” he explained, “is ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,’ as Paul says.”

This is how Christians are called to live, he stated, recommending the spiritual exercise of reading St. Paul’s list of fruits and meditating on whether our own life and behavior corresponds.

He said we should ask ourselves: “These fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control: does my life bear these fruits?”

This teaching also has a message for the Church, he said, because sometimes people “who approach the Church get the impression that they are dealing with a dense mass of rules and regulations: but no, this is not the Church.”

“In reality, the beauty of faith in Jesus Christ cannot be grasped on the basis of so many commandments, or of a moral vision developed in many layers, which can make us forget the original fruitfulness of love nourished by prayer from which peace and joyful witness flow,” he stated.

Pilgrims sing and dance at Pope Francis' general audience Oct. 27, 2021. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Pilgrims sing and dance at Pope Francis’ general audience Oct. 27, 2021. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The pope also criticized the practice by some priests and bishops of requiring people to deal with a lot of bureaucracy to access the sacraments.

“The life of the Spirit, expressed in the sacraments, cannot be suffocated by a bureaucracy that prevents access to the grace of the Spirit, the initiator of conversion of heart,” he said.

“We therefore have the huge responsibility of proclaiming Christ crucified and risen, enlivened by the breath of the Spirit of love,” he added. “For it is this Love alone that possesses the power to attract and change the human heart.”


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6 Comments

  1. Our Holy Father Francis can speak so beautifully, poignantly on what really matters, the Pauline proscription of gentleness and peace, goodness and compassion. Then it’s spoiled, admonishing “focusing on rituals and precepts”. The “dense” plethora of rules is not Catholicism. I’ve watched and listened to him on EWTN in his younger Buenos Aires archbishop days intelligent, insightful, quite perspicacious of the spiritual life. He’s not stupid and stumbling as some believe, quite the contrary. He’s purposeful. He portrays a beautiful world of forgiveness, of mutual compassionate embrace. Although on whose terms? Christ’s or His Holiness? My agnostic brother in law tells me there are multiple interpretations of the Gospels. My response, there is only one Apostolic Tradition. Well then, he adds, I would hope God is more expansive than your opinion. Homosexual coupled men are quite happy he adds. Well then, clams are quire happy with the incoming tide feeding freely and content in their secure sandy cavern when tide is out. Except for clamdigger. There’s always a condition to happiness. For Man happiness is not equivalent to that of a clam, rather to our coherence to the image of God. The effects of self indulgence, freedom, happiness are not of themselves the rule for the good, of nature ordained by God, rather it’s the rule that defines what is good as ordained by God.

    • Gilbert K. Chesterton Quote: “There are many ways to fall down, but there’s only one way to stand up straight.”

    • Tertullian offers: “Libertas in Christo non fecit innocentiae iniuriam. Manet lex tota pietatis sanctitatis humanitatis veritatis castitatis iustitiae misericordiae benevolentiae pudicitiae. In qua lege beatus vir qui meditabitur die ac nocte.” De pudicitia, VI, 4.

      Freedom in Christ has done no injury to virtue. There remains in its entirety the law of piety, sanctity, humanity, truth, chastity, justice, mercy, charity and purity; and blessed is the man who will meditate day and night upon this law.

  2. “The life of the Spirit, expressed in the sacraments, cannot be suffocated by a bureaucracy that prevents access to the grace of the Spirit, the initiator of conversion of heart,” he [Francis] said.

    When state bureaucracies deemed Catholic sacramental services non-essential, church bureaucracies agreed. If the life of the Spirit is expressed in the sacraments Francis oversaw and ruled for spiritual euthanasia.

  3. “God is strong and always wins. He controls those who fool others and those who are fooled. He strips advisors of their wisdom and makes leaders act like fools.” ~Job 12:16-17

    Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
    (Colossians 2:8 )

    Excerpt from Trent, Session 22, Doctrine on the Sacrifice of the Mass, CHAPTER V, On the solemn ceremonies of the Sacrifice of the Mass:

    “Whereas such is the nature of man, that, without external helps, he cannot easily be raised to the meditation of divine things; therefore has holy Mother Church instituted certain rites… employed ceremonies such as mystic benedictions, lights, incense, vestments, and many other things of this kind, derived from an apostolical discipline and tradition, whereby both the majesty of so great a sacrifice might be recommended, and the minds of the faithful be excited, by those visible signs of religion and piety, to the contemplation of those most sublime things which are hidden in this sacrifice.”

    From the Catechism:
    I. THE PRECEPTS OF THE CHURCH
    2041 The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor:

    2042 The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor”) requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days. 82

    The second precept (“You shall confess your sins at least once a year.”) ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness. 83

    To focus on precepts is to focus on Christ in His Church where he mysteriously abides in word and in rites and rituals of sacrament. If that is not love, then I’m not human.

  4. “For it is this Love alone that possesses the power to attract and change the human heart.”
    Beautiful and absolutely true. It is not our knowledge of sculpture or the great sounding prayers that can change people’s hearts but it is this true love that has the power to do so. It is this power that evangelizes.

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