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Don’t let Christmas take you by surprise: lessons for Advent from the Church

null / Lisa Missenda / Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., Nov 28, 2022 / 06:36 am (CNA).

The First Sunday of Advent 2022 is Nov. 27, exactly four weeks before the Sunday of Christmas this year, and while the Church provides this time to allow you to be caught by the joy of the Incarnation, you can be easily caught by surprise that it is Christmas. To help remedy this surprise, the Church provides songs, signs, and symbols to enter into the season of Advent more fruitfully.

Here are three ways the Church teaches us about the meaning of the season:

Advent hymns

Many of the customary hymns for Advent highlight the movement of the soul toward what Pope Francis termed in a 2014 homily on Advent as a “horizon of hope.” No hymn epitomizes this better than “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” with its overtones of expectation and its mournful remorse over the state of man, captive to sin. The cultivation of hope and expectation is also seen in Advent hymns such as “O Come Divine Messiah” and “People Look East.” 

The commingled darkness and hope that God will fulfill his promises, a theme characteristic of Advent, deepens with songs like the Spanish carol “Alepun.” The lyrics of “Alepun” move the faithful into an experience of waiting with a pregnant Blessed Virgin Mary while the rhythm and percussion evoke donkey hooves clattering across the plains of Israel to Bethlehem.

Church decor

Advent is a season of penance marked by joy and, in many ways, a little Lent. This is why the colors of purple and pink — with their ties to penance and the Lord’s Passion, and the joy of Laetare Sunday when Lent is almost over — are the colors of Advent. But did you know that the deep purple of Advent has a blue hue to it to teach the faithful in symbol about the Marian heart of the season?

The lack of church decor also teaches about the penitential nature of the season. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the lack of flowers on the altar, the restrained use of instruments, and the absence of the resounding and angelic Gloria all lead to a deliberate emptiness.

The emptiness will first be filled on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and, later, flowers will be allowed on Gaudete Sunday as the first expression of the festivity of the coming Christmas.

Saints and solemnities 

Following the solemnity of Christ the King, Advent begins with echoes of the power of Christ coming in glory before it stretches forward to the humble beginnings of the mystery of the Incarnation.

This means there is a certain focus the Church helps people enter into even in the way the liturgical calendar is marked by very few memorials of saints: just five in the course of the four weeks, most of whom are deeply embedded in the celebration of and preparation for Christmas in various countries.

St. Nicholas is the best known of the five: the generous bishop whose gifts inspired generations of lore and giving. St. Lucy, whose desire to give charity to prisoners in the catacombs meant she wore candles in her hair to free her hands, is another well-known saint with connections to Christmas whom we celebrate in Advent.

The Church also shows forth the importance of Mary during this season, which places her Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8, a solemnity and holy day of obligation, at the very beginning of the liturgical year. Combined with the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, the Church shows forth what God has wrought in a soul full of grace — a foreshadowing of the entire mystery of salvation in one soul.

Though there are many more signs and symbols that communicate the meaning of Advent, these can assist you as you enter the season of expectation, building anticipation for the celebration of Christmas so it doesn’t catch you by surprise.

New cardinal from Ghana with heart problems dies at 63

Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr. / Credit: Missionaries of Africa.

Rome Newsroom, Nov 28, 2022 / 04:31 am (CNA).

Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr, bishop of Wa, Ghana, died in Rome on Sunday evening at the age of 63.

The cardinal had been hospitalized for heart problems after arriving in Rome in late August and was therefore unable to attend the Vatican ceremony at which he was elevated to the College of Cardinals Aug. 27.

Baawobr died around 5:45 p.m. on Nov. 27 after being taken by ambulance to Rome’s Gemelli hospital, according to a press release from André-Léon Simonart, secretary general of the Missionaries of Africa.

The African cardinal was hospitalized at Santo Spirito hospital close to the Vatican from Aug. 26 to Oct. 15, when he was transferred to the larger Gemelli Polyclinic and University Hospital to receive more specialized care.

On Nov. 18, he was discharged from the hospital and moved into the general house of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa, commonly known as the “White Fathers” for their distinctive white cassocks, of which he was a member.

Baawobr was expected to undergo heart surgery, but according to a communication from the missionary society, as of Nov. 1, the cardinal was still waiting for doctors to decide “the modalities and the time for an intervention.”

“May Richard rest in the peace of his Lord whom he so generously served,” the White Fathers said in a press release about Baawobr’s death. “On behalf of the bereaved Society. Our prayer and our thoughts go also to his family, to his diocese, his fellow bishops, to all his friends and acquaintances.”

Baawobr was a member of the White Fathers since the early 1980s.

He served as a missionary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, France, and Tanzania, before being named bishop of Wa in Ghana in 2016.

He was also superior general of the White Fathers, the first African to hold that position, from 2010–2016.

At the end of July he had been elected head of the African bishops’ conference, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM).

Baawobr was known in Ghana for his charity and for his care for people with mental disabilities in a country where the stigmatization of mental illness is still high.

In 2016, he launched a diocesan street ministry that brings together parish volunteers and health care professionals to provide care and medical assistance to people with mental disabilities who have been abandoned by their families.

“I think each one of us, wherever we are, we are called to serve, and that is what will make us great, not the title,” Baawobr said in an interview with ACI Africa, CNA’s Nairobi-based news partner, before traveling to Rome for the consistory.

New cardinal from Ghana with heart problems dies at 63

Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr. / Credit: Missionaries of Africa.

Rome Newsroom, Nov 28, 2022 / 04:31 am (CNA).

Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr, bishop of Wa, Ghana, died in Rome on Sunday evening at the age of 63.

The cardinal had been hospitalized for heart problems after arriving in Rome in late August and was therefore unable to attend the Vatican ceremony at which he was elevated to the College of Cardinals Aug. 27.

Baawobr died around 5:45 p.m. on Nov. 27 after being taken by ambulance to Rome’s Gemelli hospital, according to a press release from André-Léon Simonart, secretary general of the Missionaries of Africa.

The African cardinal was hospitalized at Santo Spirito hospital close to the Vatican from Aug. 26 to Oct. 15, when he was transferred to the larger Gemelli Polyclinic and University Hospital to receive more specialized care.

On Nov. 18, he was discharged from the hospital and moved into the general house of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa, commonly known as the “White Fathers” for their distinctive white cassocks, of which he was a member.

Baawobr was expected to undergo heart surgery, but according to a communication from the missionary society, as of Nov. 1, the cardinal was still waiting for doctors to decide “the modalities and the time for an intervention.”

“May Richard rest in the peace of his Lord whom he so generously served,” the White Fathers said in a press release about Baawobr’s death. “On behalf of the bereaved Society. Our prayer and our thoughts go also to his family, to his diocese, his fellow bishops, to all his friends and acquaintances.”

Baawobr was a member of the White Fathers since the early 1980s.

He served as a missionary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, France, and Tanzania, before being named bishop of Wa in Ghana in 2016.

He was also superior general of the White Fathers, the first African to hold that position, from 2010–2016.

At the end of July he had been elected head of the African bishops’ conference, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM).

Baawobr was known in Ghana for his charity and for his care for people with mental disabilities in a country where the stigmatization of mental illness is still high.

In 2016, he launched a diocesan street ministry that brings together parish volunteers and health care professionals to provide care and medical assistance to people with mental disabilities who have been abandoned by their families.

“I think each one of us, wherever we are, we are called to serve, and that is what will make us great, not the title,” Baawobr said in an interview with ACI Africa, CNA’s Nairobi-based news partner, before traveling to Rome for the consistory.

Carlo Acutis comic book: Meet the teenager who loved the Eucharist

A scene from “Digital Disciple: Carlo Acutis and the Eucharist” written by Philip Kosloski, the founder of Voyage Comics & Publishing. / Courtesy of Voyage Comics & Publishing

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 27, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Carlo Acutis slid his books into his backpack when he heard the parish priest knocking at the door. The hoodie-clad teenager had just finished teaching his first catechism class by himself.

“Father Antonio, I ... I don’t know what to do!” Carlo asked for advice. “These kids don’t love the Mass like I do! How do I help them understand the beauty of the Mass?”

Placing his hand on Carlo’s shoulder, the priest pointed him to a picture of a church hanging on the wall. It was San Francesco in Lanciano, Italy.

“Inside it is a Eucharistic miracle that reminds me why every Mass is a miracle, even when it may seem boring,” the priest explained, referring to a miracle where the Eucharistic host visibly transformed into flesh and blood at Mass.

So begins “Digital Disciple: Carlo Acutis and the Eucharist” — a new comic book that tells the story of Blessed Carlo Acutis, a young millennial who used his knowledge of computers and technology to document the world’s Eucharistic miracles online and draw people closer to God.

“Meet Carlo, an Italian fifteen-year-old computer geek who loved superheroes and video games, but most of all, the Holy Eucharist,” the book’s description reads.

Inspired by that love, Carlo completed a Eucharistic miracle display and website before he died in 2006 from leukemia. He was 15.

The comic book rewinds time to tell the story of a seemingly ordinary teenager with an extraordinary devotion to God. Published by Voyage Comics and the Augustine Institute, the book’s pages burst with color and movement, inviting readers to walk with Carlo. You can purchase the book here for $6.99.

“[I] simply put myself into Carlo's shoes and wrote the comic book through his eyes,” Philip Kosloski, the writer of the new book, told CNA.

The 36-year-old, who currently lives in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, revealed his inspiration for the project.

“When I first heard of him a few years ago, I was fascinated by him and his life,” Kosloski said of Carlo. “He had a deep devotion to the Eucharist as a teenager and was blown away by Eucharistic miracles.”

Carlo had also impacted his life on a more personal level.

“I had a similar experience as a teenager when I learned about Eucharistic miracles and I saw the panels he created that were touring the United States several years ago, though at the time I didn't know they were by him,” he said.

In 2018, Kosloski founded Voyage Comics & Publishing with the mission to create exceptional entertainment, informed by Catholic values, that inspires people to live a heroic life. To prepare for his latest project, Kosloski said that he read every book he could find — and even contacted the Acutis' secretary in Italy. 

“The family had a chance to look over the script and they gave the ‘green light,’” he said.

The comic book depicts Carlo as a relatable teenager: a video game enthusiast, a caretaker of animals and the environment, a soccer player, and an admirer of superheroes. But he also stands out as someone who defends classmates with disabilities against bullies, helps the homeless and the poor, attends daily Mass, and lives by the motto “The Eucharist is my highway to heaven.”

In other words, a superhero worthy of a comic book.

A scene from “Digital Disciple: Carlo Acutis and the Eucharist” written by Philip Kosloski, the  founder of Voyage Comics & Publishing. Courtesy of Voyage Comics & Publishing
A scene from “Digital Disciple: Carlo Acutis and the Eucharist” written by Philip Kosloski, the founder of Voyage Comics & Publishing. Courtesy of Voyage Comics & Publishing

Available for shipping in November, the book took roughly four to five months to produce. Kosloski said he had the help of experienced artists, such as Jay David Ramos. 

He called Ramos, the book’s colorist, “a rising star at Marvel Comics.” 

“He is a devout Catholic, originally from the Philippines, who is living in California and is a full-time comic book artist,” Kosloski said. “He has been part of the Voyage Comics team for the past few years and is always eager to color the lives of ‘superhero’ saints, taking a break from his normal work.”

Kosloski’s favorite scene in the book, he said, is a section that focuses on Acutis’ experience playing video games. 

“It is based off a real event in his life where he saw his friends get overly frustrated with video games,” he said. “He learned that video games need to be moderated and [that] was part of the reason why he limited himself to one hour of video games a week.”

A scene from “Digital Disciple: Carlo Acutis and the Eucharist” written by Philip Kosloski, the  founder of Voyage Comics & Publishing. Courtesy Voyage Comics & Publishing
A scene from “Digital Disciple: Carlo Acutis and the Eucharist” written by Philip Kosloski, the founder of Voyage Comics & Publishing. Courtesy Voyage Comics & Publishing

For his part, Kosloski hoped that the book would speak to both Catholic and non-Catholic readers.

“I hope Catholics will see an enthusiastic teenager in the pursuit of the truth,” he said. “He found the truth behind the Eucharist and couldn’t contain his excitement at what he found. He had to spread his love, hoping the entire world would come to see the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.”

“For non-Catholics, I hope they see a teenager on fire with Christ's love,” he added. “He not only shared his love of the Eucharist but also served the poor and cared for what Pope Francis would call our, ‘common home.’”

He concluded: “His life shows that God can work through anyone, no matter their age.”

‘Violence kills the future’: Pope Francis condemns Israeli-Palestinian conflict after 2 boys die

Pope Francis gives his weekly Angelus address on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Nov 27, 2022 / 08:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has spoken out against violence in the Holy Land after one teenager died in a blast in Jerusalem and another teenager died in armed clashes in Palestine last week.

“Violence kills the future, shattering the lives of the young and weakening hopes for peace,” the pope said in an appeal at the end of his Sunday Angelus Nov. 27.

A 16-year-old Israeli boy was killed, and at least 14 people were injured, after two bombs exploded at bus stops on the outskirts of Jerusalem Nov. 23. Israeli authorities said the attacks appear to have been carried out by Palestinian militants, Reuters reported.

Late on Tuesday, Nov. 22, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes in the city of Nablus in the Israeli occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian officials.

Pope Francis said he is following with concern the “increase in violence and clashes” between Israel and Palestine, and called the twin blasts in Jerusalem “cowardly attacks.”

“Let us pray for these young men who died and for their families, especially their mothers,” Francis said. “I hope that the Israeli and Palestinian authorities will more readily take to heart the search for dialogue, building mutual trust, without which there will never be a peaceful solution in the Holy Land.”

After the Angelus, the pope also greeted participants of a Nov. 27 march to denounce sexual violence against women.

Sexual violence against women is “unfortunately a general and widespread reality everywhere and also used as a weapon of war,” he said. “Let us not tire of saying no to war, no to violence, yes to dialogue, yes to peace.”

‘Violence kills the future’: Pope Francis condemns Israeli-Palestinian conflict after 2 boys die

Pope Francis gives his weekly Angelus address on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Nov 27, 2022 / 08:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has spoken out against violence in the Holy Land after one teenager died in a blast in Jerusalem and another teenager died in armed clashes in Palestine last week.

“Violence kills the future, shattering the lives of the young and weakening hopes for peace,” the pope said in an appeal at the end of his Sunday Angelus Nov. 27.

A 16-year-old Israeli boy was killed, and at least 14 people were injured, after two bombs exploded at bus stops on the outskirts of Jerusalem Nov. 23. Israeli authorities said the attacks appear to have been carried out by Palestinian militants, Reuters reported.

Late on Tuesday, Nov. 22, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes in the city of Nablus in the Israeli occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian officials.

Pope Francis said he is following with concern the “increase in violence and clashes” between Israel and Palestine, and called the twin blasts in Jerusalem “cowardly attacks.”

“Let us pray for these young men who died and for their families, especially their mothers,” Francis said. “I hope that the Israeli and Palestinian authorities will more readily take to heart the search for dialogue, building mutual trust, without which there will never be a peaceful solution in the Holy Land.”

After the Angelus, the pope also greeted participants of a Nov. 27 march to denounce sexual violence against women.

Sexual violence against women is “unfortunately a general and widespread reality everywhere and also used as a weapon of war,” he said. “Let us not tire of saying no to war, no to violence, yes to dialogue, yes to peace.”

Cardinal Sarah: ‘Religious liberty is under threat in the West, too’

Cardinal Robert Sarah / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Nov 27, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Christians in the West should not take religious liberty and freedom of worship for granted, Cardinal Robert Sarah said in a recent interview with EWTN News.

“Threats against religious liberty take many forms. Countless martyrs continue to die for the faith around the world,” the 77-year-old Sarah said. “But religious liberty is under threat in the West, too.”

“It is not often an overt threat, or hatred of the faith,” he added, but an “implicit bias against Christianity.”

In the interview, which will air on EWTN’s Vaticano program at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 27, the Guinean cardinal pointed to the Book of Exodus, which tells of the 10 plagues, the departure of the Hebrews, and the destruction of Egypt. Those events took place, he said, “so that God’s people might have the freedom to worship him properly.”

“Religious liberty is not to be taken for granted, or compromised, or neglected.”

Cardinal Robert Sarah holds his latest book, Catechism of the Spiritual Life, during an interview with EWTN News in Rome. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Cardinal Robert Sarah holds his latest book, Catechism of the Spiritual Life, during an interview with EWTN News in Rome. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Cardinal Sarah spoke with EWTN News earlier this month about his latest book, “Catechism of the Spiritual Life,” published by EWTN Publishing in English in October.

The cardinal’s seventh book is an in-depth reflection on the Catholic Church’s seven sacraments and how to make progress in the spiritual life.

One of the book’s central themes is the importance of the Mass and the Eucharist.

“We are to assemble for the Holy Mass and to receive our Lord in the Eucharist,” Cardinal Sarah said in the hourlong interview in Rome.

He criticized what he called the wide acceptance of “draconian restrictions” on Mass attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We cannot forget this: The Eucharist is the source and the summit of a Christian life,” he stressed.

“Adaptation,” he continued, “is necessary at times. We’ll face more pandemics and other emergencies, and there will be debate concerning how best to address this in relation to the celebration of the Eucharist. This is good. Liberal democracy requires debate, but never can the importance of our worship of God be forgotten or neglected in the course of debate. Liberal democracy must not forget God.”

Cardinal Robert Sarah. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Cardinal Robert Sarah. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Cardinal Sarah was prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from November 2014 to February 2021, when Pope Francis accepted his resignation.

The cardinal had submitted his resignation to the pope when he turned 75 in June 2020, as Church norms dictate.

While head of the liturgy department, Sarah was the most senior African prelate at the Vatican, where he had held important posts since 2001.

Sarah said his book places a special focus on the sacraments, prayer, and the cross.

“A Christian life,” he said, “must be built on three pillars: crux, hostia, and virgo. The cross, the host, and the Virgin Mary. These are the three pillars on which you have to build a Christian life.”

The cardinal said being prefect of the Vatican’s divine worship office really drove home for him the importance of the liturgy being a great and unique moment “to encounter God face to face and to be transformed by him as a child of God and as a true worshiper of God.”

“Liturgy,” he added, “must be beautiful, it must be sacred, and it must be silent.”

He warned against turning the Mass into a “spectacle” or just a gathering of friends, taking the focus off of worship of God.

“I will encourage that the liturgy becomes more and more sacred, more and more holy, more and more silent, because God is silent, and we encounter God in silence, in adoration,” he said. “I think that the formation of the people of God to the liturgy is very important. We can show people the beauty, to be reverent, and to keep silent in the liturgy, in which our encounter with Christ is deepened.”

Sarah also praised silent eucharistic adoration as a chance to encounter Christ in a way that can “really change our lives.”

Cardinal Robert Sarah. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Cardinal Robert Sarah. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Commenting on modern society, the cardinal said: “God has been forgotten.”

“We all live as if God doesn’t exist. Confusion reigns everywhere. Too many would reduce our lives, the very meaning of our lives, to absolute individualism and the pursuit of fleeting pleasure.”

Christians, he said, should respond by returning to the basics of the faith.

“We require a retreat from the world, withdrawal into the desert, where we can relearn the fundamentals, the basics: monotheism, the revelation of Jesus Christ, us and God, his word, our sin, our dependence and need of his mercy,” he said.

Sarah said God, through his Church and the sacraments, “guides us into an ever-deeper relationship with him. And we all have a need to reacquaint ourselves with his profound gift, which is his love.”

Faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, he said, is one of the Church’s fundamental beliefs, without which, “she loses the meaning of her existence.”

“The Church is not a social organization to meet the problems of migration or poverty,” he continued. “The Church has a divine purpose: to save the world.”

“If Christ does not dwell within the Church, tangibly, visibly, sacramentally, then what good news do we have to offer to the world? What is the meaning of evangelization?” he said. “When Christians forget why they are Christian, the community must fall into decline. They forget the Gospel and lose sight of their purpose.”

Cardinal Sarah said spiritual warfare is much the same as it has ever been, even if many bishops and priests have ceased to remind Catholics of its reality. Our weapon in this war, he explained, is the word of God.

There is a need “to turn to God every day, not just for consolation amid worldly adversities, but because we depend upon him entirely in the cosmic struggle. We are all at war whether we recognize it or not. It is good that all of us should become aware of that fact, and make sure every day that we fight on the side of God,” he said.

Cardinal Robert Sarah. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Cardinal Robert Sarah. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The book, “Catechism of the Spiritual Life,” Sarah said, is meant to be a response to the “confusion of this day, outside and even inside the Church.”

“I saw a need for a representation of some reflections on our spiritual progress in our spiritual life: progress in our personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.”

He added that he hopes his book answers “a profound need of our time.”

“Every one of us must strive, continuously, to draw closer to Jesus Christ, to return to his Word, and to the simplicity of the faith in his self-revelation. It is the simplicity of the desert, of recognition of our dependence upon God, and encountering him and the gift of his love and his grace, by which he configured us to himself,” he said.

“That is why I decided to write ‘Catechism of the Spiritual Life.’”

Cardinal Sarah: ‘Religious liberty is under threat in the West, too’

Cardinal Robert Sarah / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Nov 27, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Christians in the West should not take religious liberty and freedom of worship for granted, Cardinal Robert Sarah said in a recent interview with EWTN News.

“Threats against religious liberty take many forms. Countless martyrs continue to die for the faith around the world,” the 77-year-old Sarah said. “But religious liberty is under threat in the West, too.”

“It is not often an overt threat, or hatred of the faith,” he added, but an “implicit bias against Christianity.”

In the interview, which will air on EWTN’s Vaticano program at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 27, the Guinean cardinal pointed to the Book of Exodus, which tells of the 10 plagues, the departure of the Hebrews, and the destruction of Egypt. Those events took place, he said, “so that God’s people might have the freedom to worship him properly.”

“Religious liberty is not to be taken for granted, or compromised, or neglected.”

Cardinal Robert Sarah holds his latest book, Catechism of the Spiritual Life, during an interview with EWTN News in Rome. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Cardinal Robert Sarah holds his latest book, Catechism of the Spiritual Life, during an interview with EWTN News in Rome. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Cardinal Sarah spoke with EWTN News earlier this month about his latest book, “Catechism of the Spiritual Life,” published by EWTN Publishing in English in October.

The cardinal’s seventh book is an in-depth reflection on the Catholic Church’s seven sacraments and how to make progress in the spiritual life.

One of the book’s central themes is the importance of the Mass and the Eucharist.

“We are to assemble for the Holy Mass and to receive our Lord in the Eucharist,” Cardinal Sarah said in the hourlong interview in Rome.

He criticized what he called the wide acceptance of “draconian restrictions” on Mass attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We cannot forget this: The Eucharist is the source and the summit of a Christian life,” he stressed.

“Adaptation,” he continued, “is necessary at times. We’ll face more pandemics and other emergencies, and there will be debate concerning how best to address this in relation to the celebration of the Eucharist. This is good. Liberal democracy requires debate, but never can the importance of our worship of God be forgotten or neglected in the course of debate. Liberal democracy must not forget God.”

Cardinal Robert Sarah. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Cardinal Robert Sarah. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Cardinal Sarah was prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from November 2014 to February 2021, when Pope Francis accepted his resignation.

The cardinal had submitted his resignation to the pope when he turned 75 in June 2020, as Church norms dictate.

While head of the liturgy department, Sarah was the most senior African prelate at the Vatican, where he had held important posts since 2001.

Sarah said his book places a special focus on the sacraments, prayer, and the cross.

“A Christian life,” he said, “must be built on three pillars: crux, hostia, and virgo. The cross, the host, and the Virgin Mary. These are the three pillars on which you have to build a Christian life.”

The cardinal said being prefect of the Vatican’s divine worship office really drove home for him the importance of the liturgy being a great and unique moment “to encounter God face to face and to be transformed by him as a child of God and as a true worshiper of God.”

“Liturgy,” he added, “must be beautiful, it must be sacred, and it must be silent.”

He warned against turning the Mass into a “spectacle” or just a gathering of friends, taking the focus off of worship of God.

“I will encourage that the liturgy becomes more and more sacred, more and more holy, more and more silent, because God is silent, and we encounter God in silence, in adoration,” he said. “I think that the formation of the people of God to the liturgy is very important. We can show people the beauty, to be reverent, and to keep silent in the liturgy, in which our encounter with Christ is deepened.”

Sarah also praised silent eucharistic adoration as a chance to encounter Christ in a way that can “really change our lives.”

Cardinal Robert Sarah. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Cardinal Robert Sarah. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Commenting on modern society, the cardinal said: “God has been forgotten.”

“We all live as if God doesn’t exist. Confusion reigns everywhere. Too many would reduce our lives, the very meaning of our lives, to absolute individualism and the pursuit of fleeting pleasure.”

Christians, he said, should respond by returning to the basics of the faith.

“We require a retreat from the world, withdrawal into the desert, where we can relearn the fundamentals, the basics: monotheism, the revelation of Jesus Christ, us and God, his word, our sin, our dependence and need of his mercy,” he said.

Sarah said God, through his Church and the sacraments, “guides us into an ever-deeper relationship with him. And we all have a need to reacquaint ourselves with his profound gift, which is his love.”

Faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, he said, is one of the Church’s fundamental beliefs, without which, “she loses the meaning of her existence.”

“The Church is not a social organization to meet the problems of migration or poverty,” he continued. “The Church has a divine purpose: to save the world.”

“If Christ does not dwell within the Church, tangibly, visibly, sacramentally, then what good news do we have to offer to the world? What is the meaning of evangelization?” he said. “When Christians forget why they are Christian, the community must fall into decline. They forget the Gospel and lose sight of their purpose.”

Cardinal Sarah said spiritual warfare is much the same as it has ever been, even if many bishops and priests have ceased to remind Catholics of its reality. Our weapon in this war, he explained, is the word of God.

There is a need “to turn to God every day, not just for consolation amid worldly adversities, but because we depend upon him entirely in the cosmic struggle. We are all at war whether we recognize it or not. It is good that all of us should become aware of that fact, and make sure every day that we fight on the side of God,” he said.

Cardinal Robert Sarah. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Cardinal Robert Sarah. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The book, “Catechism of the Spiritual Life,” Sarah said, is meant to be a response to the “confusion of this day, outside and even inside the Church.”

“I saw a need for a representation of some reflections on our spiritual progress in our spiritual life: progress in our personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.”

He added that he hopes his book answers “a profound need of our time.”

“Every one of us must strive, continuously, to draw closer to Jesus Christ, to return to his Word, and to the simplicity of the faith in his self-revelation. It is the simplicity of the desert, of recognition of our dependence upon God, and encountering him and the gift of his love and his grace, by which he configured us to himself,” he said.

“That is why I decided to write ‘Catechism of the Spiritual Life.’”

Pope Francis: God is present ‘in everyday things’

Pope Francis at the Angelus Nov. 27, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 27, 2022 / 07:20 am (CNA).

It is good to remember that God is present to us even in the small, everyday events of our lives, Pope Francis said on the first Sunday of Advent.

In his Angelus address Nov. 27, the pope said, “Let us bear this in mind: God is hidden in our life, he is always there — he is concealed in the commonest and most ordinary situations in our life.”

God, he continued, “does not come in extraordinary events, but in everyday things.”

“He is there, in our daily work, in a chance encounter, in the face of someone in need, even when we face days that seem grey and monotonous, it is right there that we find the Lord, who calls to us, speaks to us and inspires our actions,” he said.

Francis spoke about the season of Advent, the period of preparation for the Lord’s coming on Christmas, from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square. And he presented a question for reflection: “How can we recognize and welcome the Lord?”

It is important, he said, that we are “awake, alert, vigilant.”

The pope also quoted from a sermon of St. Augustine, who said, “I fear the Lord who passes by.”

“That is, I fear that he will pass by and I will not recognize him,” Francis explained.

He pointed out the warning Jesus gave his disciples in the day’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew: Jesus said people in the time of Noah “ate and drank ‘and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away.’”

The people, Pope Francis said, “were absorbed in their own things and did not realize that the flood was about to come.”

“In this time of Advent, let us be shaken out of our torpor and let us awaken from our slumber,” he said. “Let’s try to ask ourselves: am I aware of what I am living, am I alert, am I awake? Do I try to recognize God is present in daily situations, or am I distracted and a little overwhelmed by things?”

“If we are unaware of his coming today, we will also be unprepared when he arrives at the end of times. Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us remain vigilant.”

Pope Francis: God is present ‘in everyday things’

Pope Francis at the Angelus Nov. 27, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 27, 2022 / 07:20 am (CNA).

It is good to remember that God is present to us even in the small, everyday events of our lives, Pope Francis said on the first Sunday of Advent.

In his Angelus address Nov. 27, the pope said, “Let us bear this in mind: God is hidden in our life, he is always there — he is concealed in the commonest and most ordinary situations in our life.”

God, he continued, “does not come in extraordinary events, but in everyday things.”

“He is there, in our daily work, in a chance encounter, in the face of someone in need, even when we face days that seem grey and monotonous, it is right there that we find the Lord, who calls to us, speaks to us and inspires our actions,” he said.

Francis spoke about the season of Advent, the period of preparation for the Lord’s coming on Christmas, from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square. And he presented a question for reflection: “How can we recognize and welcome the Lord?”

It is important, he said, that we are “awake, alert, vigilant.”

The pope also quoted from a sermon of St. Augustine, who said, “I fear the Lord who passes by.”

“That is, I fear that he will pass by and I will not recognize him,” Francis explained.

He pointed out the warning Jesus gave his disciples in the day’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew: Jesus said people in the time of Noah “ate and drank ‘and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away.’”

The people, Pope Francis said, “were absorbed in their own things and did not realize that the flood was about to come.”

“In this time of Advent, let us be shaken out of our torpor and let us awaken from our slumber,” he said. “Let’s try to ask ourselves: am I aware of what I am living, am I alert, am I awake? Do I try to recognize God is present in daily situations, or am I distracted and a little overwhelmed by things?”

“If we are unaware of his coming today, we will also be unprepared when he arrives at the end of times. Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us remain vigilant.”