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Holiness means being open to God, pope says

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Being a
saint doesn’t require spending
long hours in prayer, but rather living life open to God in good times and in
bad, Pope Francis said.

Christians should live with
the “hope of becoming saints” and with the desire that “work,
even in sickness and suffering, even in difficulties, is open to God,” the
pope said June 21 during his weekly general audience.

“We think that it is
something difficult, that it is easier to be delinquents than saints. No! We
can become saints because the Lord helps us. It is he who helps us,” he told
the estimated 12,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis rode around in
his popemobile, stopping along the way to greet pilgrims and kiss babies. One
child casually waved goodbye to the pope as he was handed back to his parents.

In his talk, the pope
reflected on the intercession of the saints, who are “older brothers and
sisters who have gone along
our same path, (gone through)
our same struggles and live forever in God’s embrace.”

“Their existence tells
us above all that Christian life isn’t an unattainable ideal. And together,
they comfort us: We are not alone, the church is made up of innumerable
brothers and sisters, often anonymous, who have preceded us and who, through
the action of the Holy Spirit, are involved in the affairs of those who still
live here,” he said.

Just as their intercession is
invoked in Baptism, the pope continued, the church asks for their help in the
sacrament of marriage so couples “can have the courage to say
‘forever.'”

“To live married life
forever; not like some who say, ‘as long as love lasts.’ No, it is forever. On the contrary, it
is better you don’t
get married. It’s either forever or nothing. That is why their presence is
invoked in the nuptial liturgy,” he said.

The lives of the saints, he
continued, served as a reminder that “God never abandons us” and in
times of trial and suffering, he “sends one of his angels to comfort us and
fill us with consolation.”

There are “angels,
sometimes with a face and a human heart because God’s saints are always here, hidden
among us,” the pope said.

Another sacrament in which
the saints are invoked is Holy Orders, in which candidates for the priesthood
lay prostrate on the ground while the bishop and the entire assembly pray the
litany of the saints, he said.

“A man would be crushed
under the weight of the mission entrusted to him but, in feeling that all of
paradise is behind him, that the grace of God will not fail because Jesus is
always faithful, he can go forward serenely and refreshed. We are not
alone,” the pope said.

Pope Francis told the
pilgrims that Christians
need saints who lived their lives “aspiring to charity and
brotherhood” because without them, the world would not have hope.”

“May the Lord give us
the grace to believe so profoundly in him that we become images of Christ for
this world,” he said.

Before the general audience,
Pope Francis met with members of the U.S. Pro Football Hall of Fame, including Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who will be
inducted into the prestigious association Aug. 5.

“As many of you know, I
am an avid follower of ‘football,’
but where I come from, the game is played very differently!” the pope
said, referring to the
fact that “football” refers to the game of soccer in most parts of
the world.

The pope said the values of
“teamwork, fair play and the pursuit of personal excellence” aren’t
just important on the field, but are “urgently needed off the field, on
all levels of our life as a community.”

“Our world, and
especially our young people, need models, people who show us how to bring out the best in
ourselves, to use our God-given gifts and talents and, in doing so, to point
the way to a better future for our communities,” he said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter:
@arochoju.

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