VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis’ morning homilies represent a rallying cry and “road map” for today’s Christians in their daily journey to grow closer to God, said the Jesuit editor of a new collection of the homilies from the pope’s early morning Masses.
Each reflection the pope delivers in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, represents the pope unfurling “the map for the spiritual life and pastoral commitment” of the church, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro wrote in the introduction of the collection published in Italian by the Rizzoli publishing house.
The papal rulebook, however, doesn’t offer guidance for a “cake walk,” but rather sets the strategy for what’s more like a boxing tournament “where different matches are fought: a round against ‘the prince of this world,'” and others vying for power, the spirit and the pastor fighting for his people, Father Spadaro wrote in the book.
“It’s a fight where people’s well-being is at play, their eternal well-being, eternal salvation,” the pope said in a homily Oct. 11 last year.
The book compiles the Italian summaries and extended excerpts Vatican Radio has produced from the 186 morning homilies the pope delivered between March 25, 2013, and March 20, 2014.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman and general director of Vatican Radio, explained in the volume’s preface how the staff at the radio records and summarizes the pope’s homilies.
The morning Masses are normally held at 7 a.m. during the workweek, except on Wednesdays when the pope holds his weekly general audience. The Masses are not open to the public, but they are attended by Vatican employees and guests, including parishioners of the Diocese of Rome, by invitation.
While the homilies are recorded in their entirety in audio and video, Pope Francis has explicitly requested his morning reflections not be broadcast in full and that complete transcripts not be distributed publicly.
Instead, journalists at the Vatican Radio Italian news desk write up a summary of the pope’s brief remarks interspersed with three or four audio clips and additional direct quotes from the pope. The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, offers its own summary and Vatican television produces a short news clip of the homily.
Father Lombardi wrote that he is part of the editorial process of drafting the daily report and gives final approval of the finished report when time permits.
“But generally it’s not necessary because the pope’s thinking is clear and the journalist knows how to do his job,” he wrote.
Father Spadaro explained in the book’s introduction some of the reasons behind the pope’s decision to not allow the publication of a full transcript of his morning homilies.
First of all, he wrote, the brief homily does not come from a prepared text. The pope uses no notes and has nothing but the Lectionary on the lectern in front of him.
Pope Francis delivers the homily in Italian, which, even though he grew up hearing it from his Italian relatives in Buenos Aires and knows it very well, it is not his mother tongue, he wrote.
But more importantly, the priest wrote, the pope sees his daily homilies not as something to be “mediated” by technology and “broadcast” out into the ether. Rather the morning homily is part of a broader physical and oral relationship the pastor has with his parishioners — a celebration that is meant to be directly and immediately shared in person as a family, he wrote.
His morning reflections are not individual essays for a book of meditations, Father Spadaro wrote, but are an “encounter between a pastor and his people” where he speaks heart-to-heart to them, spontaneously and informally, but also forcefully. Any publication of a final “text” of the discourse “would blatantly turn it into something other than what the Holy Father intends to do,” he wrote, and risk making it seem like some sort of “official document.”
Despite the limited nature of the homily summaries, they still offer the public a clear path and understanding of Pope Francis’ pontificate, he wrote. The pope uses the daily readings from Mass to “show the way” and help people “put into practice” the word of God.
The Communications Department of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is planning to release an English version of the pope’s morning homilies as part of their “Simple Wisdom of Pope Francis” series.
The homilies will be the series’ fourth book published in conjunction with the Vatican publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana. More information can be found at www.SimpleWisdomSeries.com.