International News

Pope: Prepare for Christmas With Joy

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – No saint was ever known for having a “funeral face,” Pope Francis said; the joy of knowing one is loved by God and saved by Christ must be seen at least in a sense of peace, if not a smile.

Celebrating the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, Dec. 14, Pope Francis paid an evening visit to Rome’s St. Joseph parish, meeting with the sick, with a group of Gypsies, with a first Communion class and with dozens of couples whose newborn babies were baptized in the past year.

“Be joyful as you prepare for Christmas,” he told them at Mass, urging as a first step that people thank God each day for the blessings they have been given.

A Christian’s Christmas joy has nothing to do with “the consumerism that leads to everyone being anxious Dec. 24 because, ‘Oh, I don’t have this, I need that’ – no, that is not God’s joy.”

With Christmas “less than 15 days away, no 13 days, let us pray. Don’t forget, we pray for Christmas joy. We give thanks to God for the many things he has given us and for faith, first of all.”

Earlier in the day, reciting the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis blessed the statues of the Baby Jesus that will take center place in Nativity scenes in Rome schools, churches and homes. Addressing the children who brought their figurines to the square, the pope said: “When you pray in front of your creche at home, remember to pray for me, like I will remember you.”

At the end of the Angelus, volunteers distributed a little booklet, marked “gift of Pope Francis,” containing the texts of the Our Father and Hail Mary and other “traditional prayers,” as well as prayers drawn from the Psalms and the “five-finger prayer.”

Using the fingers on one hand, the prayer guides people in praying for those closest to them, for those who teach, for those who govern, for those who are weak and – on the pinkie or smallest finger – for one’s own humility.

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