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Brazilian missionary developed her vocation by following Pope Francis’ WYD events

July 31, 2023 Catholic News Agency 2
Daiane Silva Pereira, 29, has been to every World Youth Day that Pope Francis has attended. Each of them played an important role in her discernment of religious life and now she’s in Lisbon for WYD 2023 as a member of the religious community Comunidade Canção Nova. / Credit: Natalia Zimbrão/ACI Digital

ACI Digital, Jul 31, 2023 / 14:40 pm (CNA).

Daiane Silva Pereira, 29, is a missionary of the Canção Nova Community in Cachoeira Paulista state in Brazil. On July 30 she embarked for Lisbon, Portugal, for her fourth World Youth Day (WYD). During her WYD experiences, she saw the awakening and maturation of her vocation.

“I had never stopped to think about it, but I have really followed Pope Francis in this. I see that it is also a move of God. The speeches of Pope Francis, the themes of the days always fit like a glove within what I was experiencing,” she told ACI Digital, CNA’s Portuguese-language news agency, hours before boarding.

Pereira’s first WYD was in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. That was also Francis’ first WYD as pope and his first international trip after his election in March of that year.

“During Missionary Week, the week leading up to WYD, we welcomed 146 Norwegians in my city, Viçosa,” she recalled. “For me, it was an unimaginable experience, because I had never had contact with people from other countries and I could get to know their culture, their faith.”

She added: “For example, some shared with me that in my city, we could wear a shirt with a religious print, such as ‘Jesus Christ’ written on it, but in their city, some could not even say that they were Christians, they were persecuted … mocked. This was very shocking to me, because many times, we do not value what we have. It was an awakening.”

The theme of WYD Rio 2013 was “Go and make disciples among the nations.” 

“There, at the Rio WYD, I had my call to find out what God had for me,” Pereira explained. “… I was already walking in the Church but had not taken [further] steps. It was there that I began to realize that I needed to go deeper.”

Pereira recalled that she had already been to Canção Nova in Cachoeira Paulista in 2011 and in 2013, when she participated in the youth meeting Jesus Revolution, which took place in January. She returned for this meeting in 2014. 

“I came back and the Lord had already asked me: ‘Don’t you want to take steps? Then do it.’ But I didn’t think I could,” she said. 

In 2015, she said she felt God telling her: “Here is your place.”

“But I thought, ‘How can I let go of everything?’ It didn’t make sense in my head so I extended it another year,” she said.

In 2016, Pereira went with a small group to WYD in Krakow, Poland.

“We passed a shrine of St. Faustina where they had put up some awnings at the entrance with her story. One of them said that she was dancing with a boy and the Lord appeared to her, disfigured, and said, ‘How long will I have patience with you?’ I stopped at that moment and heard the Lord speaking to me: ‘Daiane, how long will I have patience? I have already called you.’”

She recalled that the theme of WYD Krakow 2016 was “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

“I experienced God’s mercy in a concrete way on that day,” she said.

After this experience, she decided to take steps and wrote to Canção Nova to begin the path of vocational discernment. In addition, she was preparing for WYD Panama 2019, to which she took a group of 17 young people from her city.

“The theme of Panama was: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.’ I went with many self doubts, whether I would be able to cope with this missionary life, with the demands,” Pereira said. “One day, I asked the Lord if that was what it was and the theme itself said so. Our Lady did not see the whole picture. When the Lord called her, she didn’t know if she would be able to cope, she didn’t know what it would be like, she didn’t know anything. And we often want to know everything, to have certainties. Faced with my doubts, I thought: ‘If Our Lady said yes and the Lord did everything through her, I am here too, Lord; do your will and not mine.’”

In 2020, Pereira joined the discipleship of the Canção Nova Community, which was founded by Father Jonas Abib in 1978 and follows the guidelines of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

“Now, WYD Lisbon will be the first one I’m going to be in the community, where we live by God’s providence. I thought I wouldn’t go, but I gave it to God as I wanted to go. By providence, Canção Nova won vacancies to send young people … a month ago, I learned that I would be one of those young people,” she said.

The theme of WYD Lisbon 2023 is “Mary rose and left in haste.” Pereira said she has been “praying a lot about it.” 

“I don’t know what awaits me on this journey. I am looking forward to it. But God has already put it very strongly in my heart that Our Lady heard God’s call, gave her ‘yes’ and left in haste to serve, to do God’s will. I also need to go out of myself, to have the boldness to bring the good news to other people, and especially in haste. Today’s times are very difficult, today’s young people are very difficult to evangelize. So I see that the Lord is in a hurry, he is in a hurry with the young people, because there are many young people getting lost today,” she shared.

“Jesus is coming back. And how many souls we still need to reach, how many young people we still need to reach, to evangelize so that the person can live the experience with God,” Pereira said. “As Father Jonas [Abib] used to say: ‘Let my life hasten the Lord and he will soon come.’ I also need, with my life, with my testimony of life, to run after these people to hasten the coming of the Lord.”

This story was first published by ACI Digital, CNA’s Portuguese-language news agency. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


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Pope Francis: Benedict XVI brought us to ‘encounter with Jesus’

January 4, 2023 Catholic News Agency 2
Pope Francis gives his message during the weekly general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Jan. 4, 2023 / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jan 4, 2023 / 02:30 am (CNA).

Benedict XVI “always wanted to accompany us in the encounter with Jesus,” Pope Francis said at the start of his weekly public audience on Wednesday.

The pope began his message Jan. 4 with a reference to his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died on Dec. 31 at the age of 95. The body of Benedict XVI is lying in state in St. Peter’s Basilica Jan. 2-4, before his funeral on Jan. 5.

“Before beginning this catechesis,” Francis said in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, “I would like us to join with those here beside us who are paying their respects to Benedict XVI, and to turn my thoughts to him, a great master of catechesis.”

Catechesis means religious instruction or teaching.

“His acute and gentle thought was not self-referential, but ecclesial, because he always wanted to accompany us in the encounter with Jesus,” he said.

Pope Francis enters the Vatican's Paul VI Hall on Jan. 4, 2023, at the start of his weekly public audience. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Pope Francis enters the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Jan. 4, 2023, at the start of his weekly public audience. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

“Jesus, Crucified and Risen, the Living One and the Lord, was the destination to which Pope Benedict led us, taking us by the hand,” the pope added. “May he help us rediscover in Christ the joy of believing and the hope of living.”

Pope Francis’ message on Wednesday was the final instruction in a series on the theme of discernment.

One of the important tools to support discernment, he said, is spiritual accompaniment, also called spiritual direction.

“It’s very important not to walk alone,” he underlined, encouraging Catholics to find a spiritual director, a lay person or a priest, who can help to “unmask misunderstandings, even grave ones, in our consideration of ourselves and our relationship with the Lord.”

The pope compared the experience of discernment without accompaniment to looking at yourself alone in a mirror: you can imagine things that are not there or see things in a distorted way.

“God’s grace in us always works on our nature. Thinking of a Gospel parable, we can always compare grace to the good seed and nature to the soil,” Francis said. “First of all, it is important to make ourselves known, without fear of sharing the most fragile aspects, where we find ourselves to be more sensitive, weak, or afraid of being judged.”

He emphasized that the person who accompanies us in our spiritual journey does not replace or substitute the Lord, but “walks alongside him or her, encouraging them to interpret what is stirring in their heart, the quintessential place where the Lord speaks.”

The Church commonly calls someone in this role a “spiritual director,” but Pope Francis said he prefers the name “spiritual companion.”

“Discernment is an art, an art that can be learned and which has its own rules,” he said. “If learned well, it enables spiritual experience to be lived in an ever more beautiful and orderly manner. Above all, discernment is a gift from God, which must always be asked for, without ever presuming to be expert and self-sufficient.”

The pope said the act of recounting our life, experiences, and spiritual searching in front of someone else can bring clarity.

It can also, he added, bring to light “the many thoughts that dwell within us, and which often unsettle us with their insistent refrains — how often, in dark times, have these thoughts come to us: ‘I have done everything wrong, I am worthless, no-one understands me, I will never succeed, I am destined for failure,’ and so on.”

“False and poisonous thoughts, that the exchange with another helps to unmask, so we can feel we are loved and valued by the Lord for what we are, capable of doing good things for him,” he said.

Let us pray, Francis concluded: “Lord, give me the grace to discern. In life’s moments, help me to know what I should do. And send me the people who can help me discern.”


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‘Lazy, tepid, sad’: Pope Francis explains how desolation can be turned to good

October 26, 2022 Catholic News Agency 1
Pope Francis arriving for the general audience on St. Peter’s Square, Oct. 26, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Oct 26, 2022 / 04:02 am (CNA).

Pope Francis explained on Wednesday how times of spiritual desolation — described by St. Ignatius of Loyola as feelings of unquiet, temptation, sadness — can also help bring us closer to God.

“No one wants to be desolate, sad. We would all like a life that is always joyful, cheerful and fulfilled. Yet this, besides not being possible — because it is not possible — would not be good for us either,” the pope said during the general audience on Oct. 26.

In fact, he added, feelings of sadness or remorse can be the impetus for turning away from a life of vice.

Pope Francis continued his lessons on discernment with a reflection on spiritual desolation at his weekly gathering with the public in St. Peter’s Square.

Quoting from St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spiritual exercises, he said desolation is defined as: “Darkness of soul, disturbance in it, movement to things low and earthly, the unquiet of different agitations and temptations, moving to want of confidence, without hope, without love, when the soul finds itself all lazy, tepid, sad and as if separated from its Creator and Lord.”

He said one thing to know about desolation is that it is an invitation to self-reflection.

“It is important to learn how to read sadness,” Francis said. “We all know what sadness is: everyone. But do we know how to read it? Do we know what it means for me, this sadness of today?”

“In our time, [sadness] is mostly considered negatively, as an ill to avoid at all costs, and instead it can be an indispensable alarm bell for life, inviting us to explore richer and more fertile landscapes that transience and escapism do not permit,” he added.

The pope also pointed to St. Thomas Aquinas’ definition of sadness in the Summa Theologica as a “pain of the soul: like the nerves for the body, it redirects our attention to a possible danger, or a disregarded benefit.”

He compared the feelings to a red traffic light warning us to stop.

Pope Francis said we should also be aware of how the devil may try to use feelings of sadness or desolation to tempt us away from intentions to live with virtue.

“For those, on the other hand, who have the desire to do good, sadness is an obstacle with which the tempter tries to discourage us,” he explained.

“Think of work, study, prayer, a commitment undertaken: if we abandoned them as soon as we felt boredom or sadness, we would never complete anything,” he continued. “This is also an experience common to the spiritual life: the road to goodness, the Gospel reminds us, is narrow and uphill, it requires combat, self-conquest.”

He described a common experience: “I begin to pray, or dedicate myself to a good work, and strangely enough, just then things come to mind that need to be done urgently.”

“It is important, for those who want to serve the Lord, not to be led astray by desolation,” he warned, encouraging people to first pause and consider their state of mind before taking any drastic decisions.

“A wise rule says not to make changes when you are desolate,” he said without the help of a good spiritual guide.

The pope concluded by paraphrasing the encouraging words of St. Paul, who wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13, that no one will be tempted beyond his or her ability, because the Lord never abandons us, and with him near, we can overcome every temptation.

And if we do not succeed today, he said, let us rise up and try again tomorrow.


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Pope Francis: Desire points our discernment in the right direction

October 12, 2022 Catholic News Agency 5
Pope Francis speaking on St. Peter’s Square, Vatican, Oct. 12, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Oct 12, 2022 / 03:35 am (CNA).

At his public audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about the role desire plays in spiritual discernment, comparing it to a compass that points one in the right direction.

“Desire is not the craving of the moment. No. The Italian word, desiderio, comes from a very beautiful Latin term, desidus, literally ‘the lack of the star,’” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 12.

“Desire is ‘the lack of the star,’ of the reference point that orients the path of life,” he continued. “It evokes a suffering, a lack, and at the same time a tension to reach the good that is missing.”

The pope spoke in his general audience about desire as the third “indispensable ingredient” of discernment, after prayer and self-knowledge.

Pope Francis greeting pilgrims on St. Peter's Square, Oct. 12, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
Pope Francis greeting pilgrims on St. Peter’s Square, Oct. 12, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

On Aug. 31, Francis began a series of weekly catecheses, or messages, on discernment, which he described as “an exercise of intelligence, and also of skill and also of will, to seize the opportune moment” in order to make a good choice about one’s life.

“Desire, then,” he said in the live-streamed address on Wednesday, “is the compass to understand where I am and where I am going. Actually, it is the compass for whether I am standing still or going.”

Pope Francis addressed how someone can recognize desire within themselves in his message. “A sincere desire,” he said, “knows how to touch deeply the chords of our being, which is why it is not extinguished in the face of difficulties or setbacks.”

“Unlike a momentary craving or emotion, desire lasts through time, even a long time,” he explained.

General audience on St. Peter's Square, Oct. 12, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
General audience on St. Peter’s Square, Oct. 12, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Pope Francis pointed to some of the pitfalls to knowing the desires of one’s heart; for example, society’s promotion of “the maximum freedom of choice,” while those “choices” are mostly reduced to just what is wanted most in the moment, not what will truly satisfy over the long term.

“We are bombarded by a thousand proposals, projects, possibilities, which risk distracting us and not permitting us to calmly evaluate what we really want,” the pope said, adding that many people go around “with their cell phones in their hands and they are searching, looking,” but never stopping to think or reflect.

“Desire cannot grow like that,” he said. “You live in the moment, satiated in the moment, and desire does not grow.”

Francis said that distraction can cause people a lot of suffering “because they do not know what they want from their lives; they have probably never got in touch with their deepest desire.”

Another pitfall the pope mentioned was the knowledge that one wants to do something but never actually takes action.

“And so certain changes, though desired in theory, when the opportunity arises are never implemented,” he said.

“Often,” he said, “it is indeed desire that makes the difference between a successful, coherent and lasting project, and the thousands of wishes and good intentions with which, as they say, ‘hell is paved with.’”

The moon was visible over St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican, on the morning of Oct. 12. 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
The moon was visible over St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican, on the morning of Oct. 12. 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

He recalled that Jesus, before performing a miracle, often questions a person about his or her desires, like he does with the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda in chapter five of the Gospel of John. 

“Jesus asks him: ‘Do you want to be well?’ How come?” the pope said.

He explained that “Jesus’ question was an invitation to bring clarity to his heart, to welcome a possible leap forward: to no longer think of himself and his own life ‘as a paralytic,’ transported by others. … By engaging in dialogue with the Lord, we learn to understand what we truly want from life.”

The paralytic, he continued, is an “example of people [who say,] ‘Yes, yes, I want, I want,’” but in the end, never do anything.

Instead of taking action, we find excuses or complain: “But be careful,” he said, because “complaints are a poison, a poison to the soul, a poison to life because they don’t make you grow the desire to move forward.”

“If the Lord were to ask us, today, the question he asked the blind man in Jericho: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ how would we answer?” the pope said. “Perhaps we could finally ask him to help us know his deepest desire, that God himself has placed in our heart.”


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Pope Francis shares a spiritual life hack: Know the ‘passwords’ of your heart

October 5, 2022 Catholic News Agency 9
Pope Francis greeting pilgrims on St. Peter’s Square, Oct. 5 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Oct 5, 2022 / 03:04 am (CNA).

Pope Francis shared a spiritual life hack for discernment at his general audience on Wednesday.

Speaking in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 5, the pope said that the “spiritual life, too, has its passwords.” 

Just like on one’s computer, where “we know how important it is to know the password in order to get into the programs where the most personal and valuable information is stored,” the pope said that discernment requires unlocking “the passwords of our heart.”

Crowds welcome Pope Francis on St. Peter's Square, Oct. 5, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
Crowds welcome Pope Francis on St. Peter’s Square, Oct. 5, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Pope Francis underlined that “self-knowledge” is key to discernment. When discerning who to marry or whether one is called to be a priest or religious sister, the pope said it is important to know what one’s heart is most sensitive to protect oneself from temptation. 

He said the devil “knows these passwords well, and it is important that we know them too, so as not to find ourselves where we do not want to be.”

“Temptation does not necessarily suggest bad things, but often disordered things, presented with excessive importance,” the pope said

“They can be, for example, degrees, careers, relationships, all things that are in themselves praiseworthy, but towards which, if we are not free, we risk having unrealistic expectations, such as the confirmation of our worth. … From this misunderstanding often comes the greatest suffering, because none of those things can be the guarantee of our dignity,” he said.

Pope Francis recommended the practice of an “examination of conscience” to learn and note “what we give most importance to” in daily choices. 

Above all, he said that it is crucial to understand what truly “satiates the heart.”

“For only the Lord can give us confirmation of what we are worth. He tells us this every day from the cross: he died for us, to show us how precious we are in his eyes. There is no obstacle or failure that can prevent his tender embrace,” he said.

The pope’s reflection was part of a weekly catechesis series on spiritual discernment that he launched on Aug. 31. 

Pope Francis noted that “underlying spiritual doubts and vocational crises” is often a lack of self-knowledge.

The pope quoted Thomas Green’s book on discernment, Weeds Among the Wheat: “I have come to the conviction that the greatest obstacle to true discernment (and to real growth in prayer) is not the intangible nature of God, but the fact that we do not know ourselves sufficiently, and do not even want to know ourselves as we really are. Almost all of us hide behind a mask, not only in front of others, but also when we look in the mirror.”

Pope Francis added: “Forgetfulness of God’s presence in our life goes hand in hand with ignorance of ourselves … ignorance of our personality traits and our deepest desires.”

General audience with Pope Francis, Oct. 5, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
General audience with Pope Francis, Oct. 5, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

At the end of his general audience, Pope Francis recalled that the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Faustina Kowalska on Oct. 5.

“Through her, God directed the world to seek salvation in his mercy. Let us remember this especially today, thinking especially of the war in Ukraine,” he said in his greeting to Polish-speaking pilgrims.

Pope Francis reminded people of his appeal for Ukraine in his Angelus address on Sunday and added: “We trust in God’s mercy, which can change hearts, and in the maternal intercession of the Queen of Peace.”