Papal preacher focusing on Church's three big events
By Estefania Aguirre
Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., preacher to the Papal Household. CNA file photo.
Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., preacher to the Papal Household. CNA file photo.

.- Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the Papal Household, is basing his reflections for the Pope and his staff on the Church’s three main events in 2012.

"I try to adjust myself to the graces or the problems that the Church is living, and there are three main events this year," he explained to CNA.

His previous talks for December covered the "Year of Faith," an initiative launched by Pope Benedict to help Catholics deepen their relationship with God, and the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.

The topic of his next meditation on Dec. 21 will be the New Evangelization, since his aim is to talk about the Church's priorities.

Fr. Cantalamessa is the only person allowed to preach to the Pope, and he has been offering his meditations during Advent and Lent for 33 years.

"I feel so small doing this," said Fr. Cantalamessa, one of the most well-known priests in Italy.

"John Paul II used to thank me, but I would reply that it was me who had to thank him for his example of submission because he just sits there listening to a simple priest. So this job says more of the Pope than of the preacher," he added.

Fr. Cantalamessa has served as the Pope's preacher, a role traditionally entrusted to the Capuchin Franciscan order, after Blessed John Paul II appointed him in 1980. The preacher to the Papal Household is elected after the previous one retires and the general superior of the Capuchin order presents three names to the Pope, who chooses one.

General superiors of religious orders as well as the Roman Curia's cardinals and bishops also attend the meditation, which takes place each Friday during the two holy seasons.

"My biggest challenge is to always receive the anointing of the Spirit, because otherwise I would cause the Pope to waste his time," Fr. Cantalamessa remarked.

In order to accomplish this goal, he begins by listening to God, “because you can't invent God's word, you have to first listen to it simply by praying.”

"Unless the Holy Spirit is in the words we say, it's powerless, and this doesn't depend on me, but on my prayer and on other people's prayers," he added.

But Fr. Cantalamessa said he feels relaxed when preaching to the Pope.

"I'm not nervous because what I preach isn't my own philosophical message, it's the message of Jesus, and he deserves being listened to even today," he stated.

According to Fr. Cantalamessa, the Year of Faith is "very much at the heart of the Pope" and is "a big grace."

"The grace of the Church is that, when its center launches a program, it really reaches the entire Church," he noted.

The main message of his preaching on the Year of Faith was for believers to let the faith "pass from the ears to the heart."

He explained that St. Paul said the process of believing starts with hearing the message, which then descends into the heart, where the act of faith finally happens.

"It's there where the decision of adhering or refusing the message is made," reflected Fr. Cantalamessa.

“Once you make the decision of adhering to the faith, the message comes out from the mouth, which is where you make the proclamation of faith from.”

He also spoke about St. Augustine who said that faith blossoms from the very roots of the heart.

"I think this year's big grace for Catholics is to really believe with their hearts. And (to realize) faith isn't an ideology, but a sharing of one's life, because faith is life," he said.

During his meditation of the Second Vatican Council, Fr. Cantalamessa tried to portray its image.

"Many believe it caused struggles within the Church, but in my opinion it was a big gift from the Holy Spirit," said the priest.

“The best result of Vatican Councils,” he asserted, is not found “in the structure changing, but at the root of the Church where the quality of the Christian life has changed."

This can be seen in new people showing an eagerness to joyfully preach the Gospel, and a flourishing of charisms, which are all a “result of what the Holy Spirit is doing," the papal preacher explained.

He believes that this is a result of Pope John XXIII's prayer for the council and that God has in turn responded to the Pope’s prayers.

"Many people choose Jesus as their personal Lord, and this is the Holy Spirit's work," Fr. Cantalamessa said.

Tags: New Evangelization, Year of Faith, Second Vatican Council

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