Question

Dear Father,

Please be patient this time too and try to give me some answers.

A few days ago, the Pope was seen showing a gigantic monstrance in solid gold (I suppose) wearing a sacred vestment also sumptuously embroidered in gold (again, I suppose).

The classic display of poverty of the Catholic Church!

I am sure that, in his place,  his predecessor (the poor man of Assisi) would have surely shown up   wearing tattered clothes and holding in a hand a simple wooden cross,  by which he would have effectively symbolized that there is nothing one can do against the inflexible laws of nature!

Regards,

E. M.


Answer of the priest

Dearest E. M.,

1. For the sake of our visitors, I remind that you are referring to the papal blessing urbi et orbi that Pope Francis gave with the monstrance in St. Peter’s Square, in order to implore the end of the pandemic.

I do not know if the monstrance, which the Pope used, is made of solid gold or if the cape he used was embroidered in gold.

Anyway, let us suppose that they are exactly as you described them.

2. Today, while I am replying to your email, the Churches celebrates the Holy Monday. On this day, the liturgy of the Church reminds us of what Mary, Martha’s and Lazarus’ sister, did six days before our Lord’s death.

In the middle of the supper, “she took three hundred grams of pure nard perfume, very precious, she sprinkled Jesus’ feet with it, then she dried them with her hair, and the whole house was filled with the aroma of that perfume.

Then Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, who was about to betray him, said, “Why did they not sell this perfume for three hundred denarii and give it to the poor? (Jn 12:3-5).

3. That perfume must have really been “very precious”, if Judas, at a glance, was able to exclaim that it could be sold for ‘three hundred denarii’.

Workers would earn one dinar a day.

Consequently, three hundred denarii was about as much as the annual salary of a worker.

Judas murmured and said it was wastefulness.

Probably, some of the apostles too joined Judas’ criticisms because, according to some manuscripts and to the Latin version of the Gospel, the Lord replied: “Leave her alone “, in the plural.

4. The reason why the Lord said this is: “That she may keep it for the day of my burial” (Jn 12:7).

Some authors think that Jesus wanted to reveal the secret reason why Mary had made that gesture.

Mary certainly did so because  Jesus had resurrected her brother Lazarus. Evidently, Lazarus was worth far much more than three hundred denarii.

Anyway, she did it so also in anticipation of our Lord’s death, which she thought to be imminent.

The Lord had spoken of his death three times. The apostles had not yet understood this.

Instead, Mary, more sensitive and attentive to Jesus’ words, prefigure the death of Jesus, as the Gospel shows on another passage (“She had a sister, named Mary, who, sitting at the Lord’s feet, listened to his word”; Lk 10:39).

Mary, fearing that after the crucifixion  Jesus’ bloody body would remain without honor, she anticipated the anointing. That is why Jesus says: “She (…) anointed my body in advance for burial” (Mk 14:8).

5. In those days, it was customary to anoint the body before burial, in order to delay the process of decomposition.

We see something great in the death and burial of Jesus.

By virtue of the passion and death of Jesus, we have been redeemed “at great cost” (1 Cor 6:20).

By virtue of that  “great cost”, we have been redeemed by the Devil, who held the whole of humanity under his slavery.

By virtue of that “great cost ” we have been forgiven sins.

By virtue of that “great cost”,we have been made sharers in the life of God, deserving to be treated as His adopted children.

By virtue of that “great cost”, Heaven has opened up for us and we will enjoy the presence of our beloved ones for much longer time than Martha and Mary their brother Lazarus.

6. In the monstrance used by the Pope, there was Jesus Christ, who blessed and comforted the world.

How can we not welcome the Lord to the best of our spiritual and material possibilities?

What blessing can we claim to give him What kind of divine blessing will we get, by thinking we are giving too much and whispering, like Judas and other apostles, that using golden monstrance is wastefulness?

If there were a price to pay for the end of the pandemic, we would say that any price would be a little price.

Without mentioning that we keep the gold in our houses, ready for the thieves!

Instead of honoring and loving our Lord, we say that the bare wood is enough!

No groom would do that to his bride.

7. You are asking me how St. Francis would have behaved.

Certainly, for himself, St. Francis had rejected the finest clothes, which he had got from his father, and would wear rags instead.

But the Second Life (nr. 201) which collects the first testimonies about the life of St. Francis reports that:

”With every fiber of his being Francis burned with love for the Sacrament of the Body of the Lord. It left him overcome with wonder for so great a condescension and merciful love. He was said to be disconsolate if, even once, he could not hear daily Mass, even if it was impossible to do so. He received communion often and with such devotion as to make others experience a like devotion. He rendered every reverence to so venerable a sacrament, offering the sacrifice of his whole self; and when he received the Immolated Lamb of God, he immolated his own spirit in that fire which was always burning on the altar of his heart.

One day she wanted to send the friars around the world with precious pyxes, so that they could put the price of redemption in as worthy a place as possible, wherever they saw it kept with little decorum”  “He once wanted to send brothers throughout the world (Jn 3:16) with precious pyxes, so that wherever they should find the price of our redemption in an unsuitable place they might put it away in the very best place”(Franciscan Sources 789).

8. For St. Francis, “the very best place” was an echo of another place that wanted as worthy as possible to preserve the presence of Jesus, “the price of our redemption”.

This place was his heart.

But he was not satisfied with his heart only. He also wanted the outward appearance .

9. Even the honor and glory for the Lord displayed in the outward appearance attracts his benevolence to us and brings us the greatest blessings.

To you, my dear friend, the most beautiful wish: that your heart be as worthy as possible to preserve the presence of Jesus, “the price of our redemption”.

And the wish that in the outward appearance as well, you can do the same thing, as if you were another Saint Francis or as another of the Franciscan friars, who first followed Saint Francis, i.e. to treasure Jesus, the price of our redemption, with the most precious goods that Divine Providence has given to you.

I accompany this wish with my prayer.

I bless you.

Father Angelo

original post is available in Italian