March 9, 2015

Here is the second installment of the WCR Lenten series taken from Pope Francis Dec. 22, 2014 Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia.

We trust that the pope's reflections on "spiritual diseases" that weaken our service to the Lord will assist you in your own Lenten examination of conscience.

The pope counselled the members of the Curia to pray to the Virgin Mary to ask her help in healing "the wounds of sin which each of us bears in his heart."

There is also a "spiritual Alzheimer's disease." It consists in losing the memory of our personal "salvation history," our past history with the Lord and our "first love" (Revelation 2.4).

It involves a progressive decline in the spiritual faculties which in the long or short run greatly handicaps a person by making him incapable of doing anything on his own, living in a state of absolute dependence on his often imaginary perceptions.

We see it in those who have lost the memory of their encounter with the Lord; in those who no longer see life's meaning in "deuteronomic" terms; in those who are completely caught up in the present moment, in their passions, whims and obsessions; in those who build walls and routines around themselves, and thus become more and more the slaves of idols carved by their own hands.

7. The disease of rivalry and vainglory. When appearances, the colour of our clothes and our titles of honour become the primary object in life, we forget the words of St. Paul: "Do nothing from selfishness or conceit but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2.3-4).

This is a disease which leads us to be men and women of deceit, and to live a false "mysticism" and a false "quietism."

St. Paul himself defines such persons as "enemies of the cross of Christ" because "they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things" (Philippians 3.19).

8. The disease of existential schizophrenia. This is the disease of those who live a double life, the fruit of that hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and of a progressive spiritual emptiness which no doctorates or academic titles can fill.

It is a disease which often strikes those who abandon pastoral service and restrict themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality, with concrete people.

In this way they create their own parallel world, where they set aside all that they teach with severity to others and begin to live a hidden and often dissolute life. For this most serious disease conversion is most urgent and indeed indispensable (cf. Luke 15.11-32).

9. The disease of gossiping, grumbling and back-biting. I have already spoken many times about this disease, but never enough.

It is a grave illness which begins simply, perhaps even in small talk, and takes over a person, making him become a "sower of weeds" (like Satan) and in many cases, a cold-blooded killer of the good name of our colleagues and confrères.

It is the disease of cowardly persons who lack the courage to speak out directly, but instead speak behind other people's backs.

St. Paul admonishes us to do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent" (Philippians 2.14-15).

Brothers, let us be on our guard against the terrorism of gossip!

10. The disease of idolizing superiors. This is the disease of those who court their superiors in the hope of gaining their favour.

They are victims of careerism and opportunism; they honour persons and not God (cf. Matthew 23.8-12). They serve thinking only of what they can get and not of what they should give. Small-minded persons, unhappy and inspired only by their own lethal selfishness (cf. Galatians 5.16-25).

Superiors themselves could be affected by this disease, when they court their collaborators in order to obtain their submission, loyalty and psychological dependency, but the end result is a real complicity.