We are already almost two weeks into the new year and just about halfway through the month of January. The holidays are quickly receding into the past and new year’s resolutions we made may also be quickly receding there as well. They say that time goes more quickly as one gets older and certainly many of us can testify that this phenomenon is real. What used to seem so long to occur when we were younger seems to occur more quickly as age moves on.
Certainly one for whom this is true is our Holy Father, Pope Francis. He celebrated his eighty-first Birthday on December 17, shortly before Christmas. Pope Francis has experienced a great deal during his life and passes on his wisdom to us in a marvelous manner. One of the things he continually reminds us of is the wisdom that is possessed by the elderly, especially grandparents, and how our society needs to listen more closely to this wisdom of life. This is certainly a good counsel to keep before us, especially at the beginning of a new year.
Pope Francis decided to celebrate his birthday in a very wise manner. He did not have a formal dinner nor did he invite heads of states to his celebration. Rather, Pope Francis celebrated his birthday with young children from the Vatican pediatric hospital in Rome to whom he presented a thirteen foot long rectangular pizza. Pope Francis is a great fan of pizza and once remarked that one of the most difficult things about being Pope was not being able to go to a pizzeria and quietly eat a slice by himself. There was a candle in the center of the big pizza which the Pope gleefully extinguished.
The perception of the passing of time for the young children was certainly very different than that of the eighty-one year old Pontiff. The Pope recognized the difference in age in terms of what was before the young people when he wisely counseled them to "eat all four meters" of the pizza because it would help them to grow. After his pizza party, the Pope was greeted by thousands of young children at his Sunday audience.
Pope Francis recognizes that more senior people understand what the meaning of life is all about because of the experiences they have had. He recognizes that those experiences are part of what gives the appearance of time moving more quickly as one gets older. He also wisely recognizes that young people have time before them in which they need to grow and, more than food and the other needs of life, need the wisdom and experience of their families in helping them in that growth.
At the conclusion of 2014, the Pope addressed the workers at the Vatican for a Christmas gathering. He gave them very wise advice to assist them in finding joy in their daily lives and in appreciating more the passing of time in their lives. The wisdom he shared with those gathered for that occasion is good to reflect upon for all of us especially as we move more and more into a new year. His advice is good for us as well as for our young people who need to grow continually into what really matters in life. His counsel can actually be understood in the form of ten New Year's resolutions. They are:
1. "Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are."
2. "Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention and love."
3. "Take care of your relationship with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy."
4. "Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity and worldly decadence."
5. "Heal wounds of the heart and with the oil of forgiveness, to giving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused others."
6. "Look after your work, doing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion and with the spirit that knows how to thank the Lord."
7. "Be careful of envy, lust, hatred and negative feelings that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people."
8. "Watch out for anger that can lead to vengeance; for laziness that leads to existential euthanasia; for pointing the finger at others, which leads to pride; and for complaining continually, which leads to desperation."
9. "Take care of brothers and sisters who are weaker ... the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and strangers, because will be judged on this."
10. "Making sure your Christmas is about Jesus and not about shopping."
Pope Francis gave very similar advice at this year’s gathering just a few weeks ago. As we reflect upon these resolutions, they express well the constant and down to earth advice which the Holy Father continually gives. He emphasizes the need to pray in order to be in union with God in a personal and loving relationship. He reminds us always to look deep within ourselves before we criticize the faults and sins of others because many times, as the Lord Himself emphasized, the same are found in us. We do much better by changing ourselves, whom we can change, rather than others, whom we most likely are not able to change. Pope Francis encourages us to be understanding and forgiving, to look after those in need and to be joyful. He exhorts to be careful of gossip and rumors which cause so much hurt to others and to ourselves. Above all, he stresses the importance of marriage and family life as the key to true joy as so presented in his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.
Like the pizza Pope Francis presented to the young people to help them grow, the list he gave to the Vatican workers is a good one for all of us to keep before us to help us grow and to help our children grow no matter what our age. Accepting the wisdom of Pope Francis in this new year, an acronym for pizza sums up this message well:
P I Z Z A
Prayer; Integrity; Zeal; Zest; Amoris Laetitia
A Happy New Year to all! Enjoy some pizza during it! Next year will be here before you know it!
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
January 12, 2018