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Front Row With Francis: The Gift of Counsel

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the GospelPope Francis continues his catechesis at the General Audience  Wednesday morning in Saint Peter’s Square on gifts of the Holy Spirit.

After having examined wisdom and understanding the last two weeks, this week he discusses the often misunderstood gift of counsel. The pope reminds us that “we must make room for the Spirit, so that he can counsel us.”

The Pope begins by reminding his audience that mystical experiences are not just the property of the holy few, of the saints. He makes it clear in his opening remarks, that from the moment we  host God in “our heart, the Holy Spirit begins immediately to make us sensitive to his voice and to direct our thoughts, our sentiments and our intentions according to God’s heart”.

Reading the words of Pope Francis reminds me of how often this has been evident in my own life.  The Pope wants this life for all Catholics. He wants believers who have an interior prayer life and experience God as ” he leads us increasingly to turn our interior gaze on Jesus, as model of our way of acting and of relating to God the Father and to our brothers’.

Rather than reprimanding the modern Catholic by pointing out his lack of an interior spirituality, Pope Francis calls forth latent spirituality by expecting that his listeners are living the normal Christian life in the Spirit. He does not speak to the lowest common denominator, but challenges us to rise up to his expectations and activate the gift of counsel by listening and obeying the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Standing on the this expectation (that as Catholics we are living in communion with the Holy Spirit), Pope Francis encourages all Catholics to pray not only rote prayers “but also to pray with our own words. To pray to the Lord: “Lord, help me, counsel me, what must I do now?” And with prayer we make room for the Spirit to come to help us at that moment.’

The pope exhorts us to pray everywhere, even in public because “no one is aware when we pray in the bus, in the street: we pray in silence with our heart.”  He continues to explain intimacy with God, by telling us  exactly how to listen to the voice of the Spirit and follow his counsel.

The pope reminds us that a vibrant Church is built of saints who pray, who listen to the inner voice of the Spirit, but who are humble and open enough to hear the counsel of God “through the witness of their brothers”.  The gift of counsel is not simply a personal gift but it is a treasure for the entire Church, for the community of brothers and sisters.

Through stories and practical examples, Pope Francis encourages mothers to pray for a gift of counsel. He closes his address with an uplifting quote from Psalm 16: “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (vv. 7-8). May the Spirit always be able to infuse this certainty in our heart and thus fill us with his consolation and his peace! Ask always for the gift of counsel.


Melanie Jean Juneau is a petite wife, writer and mother of nine children who blogs at Joy of nine9. When the words "The Joy of Mothering on a Hobby Farm" popped into her head as a subtitle for her short stories, it was like an epiphany for her because those few words verbalized her experience living with little people.The very existence of a joyful mother of nine children seems to confound people. Her writing is humorous and heart warming; thoughtful and thought provoking with a strong current of spirituality running through it. Part of her call and her witness is to write the truth about children, family, marriage and the sacredness of life, especially a life lived in God.

  • goral

    Pope Francis needs to heed his own words as he counsels the faithful in the area of economics. While his counsel is not universally binding on the Church, it nevertheless directs the conduct of those who give it cognizance. More importantly, it gives manipulative material to the detractors who look for and exploit any perceived inconsistencies. Let’s just say, it’s getting worrisome.

    • melanie jean juneau

      Interesting comment but I don’t have enough information to respond

      • goral

        Thanks for the response MJJ. Just ask for clarification and I’ll gladly do that

    • It really isn’t the Holy Father’s fault conservatives in America are ignorant of Catholic Social Teaching. He was quite clear on his statements in that everything he was saying was in the social doctrine of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. He could have taken it even further. While people can debate legitiamtely about the new direction (and how much of it is new) on other things, on Catholic social teaching there is nothing but startling consistency.
      Starting with Leo XIII and going through to Pope Francis, we have found several consistent remarks:
      1.) The Church doesn’t advocate a specific economic system for its goals because no economic system created by man can do it.
      2.) While acknowledging private property and the efficiencies of markets, they have nonetheless warned (quite prophetically) that when treated as ends in and of themselves, society and even markets themselves suffer.
      3.) Economics should not be based upon systems of exclusion. Even American conservatives argue today that due to things like crony capitalism, the deck is stacked against certain people. Why is it that when a Pope attacks the same capitalist system, tea partiers absolutely lose their lunch?
      4.) When it comes to redistribution, as much as members of the conservative base may wish it otherwise, here’s a truth of life. If individual citizens do not step up in their work to provide relief to the poor and excluded, the state will. Not only will the state do so, but it has an obligation to do so because of the damaging effects to civic peace that is caused. (Go see what 40% youth unemployment of mostly poor immigrants did in countries in Europe.)
      This isn’t something that is the playground of this or that ideology. It is a fact of life. Although quite honestly, I don’t blame most tea party people entirely. Their inability to do their homework is a strike against them, but there is a greater sin than ignorance, which can be cured.
      For the last 30 years, there has been a movement in America that has tried to convert Catholic Social teaching into a free market bonanza. Not the good kind of free market which pays heed to such things as morality and the dignity of persons, but a free market that puts the maximization of individual wealth upon a pedestal. This cancer has laid waste to the Republican Party. While it didn’t start with the Tea Party, this is one area most of them haven’t even tried to fix.
      Remarks like this are why I continue to be strengthened in my resolve that people need to write about Catholic Social Teaching more. It’s a lot more than pro-life and opposing gay marriage, and it has profound rammifications for the Church, the State, and the individuals who comprise both.
      There are things the Holy Father does I do not like, and where my opinion is well known on the manner. But on issues like this, he deserves to be defended because this isn’t the person of Pope Francis that is the real target. Instead the crosshairs are aimed at Catholic Social teaching itself.

      • goral

        We certainly can find examples of conservatives being ignorant of Catholic social teaching, we can find even more examples on the other side. The liberal/progressive side interprets the teaching as espousing Socialism and nothing short of that. JP2 wagged his finger at Liberation Theology. It brings great harm to the Church when She involves herself intimately with such causes.

        The Church’s directive always has been toward charity on a personal and community level, but never dictating a system and pitting one group against another.
        Noteworthy is the statement that religion is the greatest facilitator of that relationship, not the gov’t.

        “The great mistake made in regard to the matter now under consideration is to take up with the notion that class is naturally hostile to class, and that the wealthy and the working men are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict. So irrational and so false is this view that the
        direct contrary is the truth.” ….
        “there is no intermediary more powerful than
        religion (whereof the Church is the interpreter and guardian) in drawing the rich and the working class together, by reminding each of its duties to the other, and especially of the obligations of justice.”

        Pope Leo XIII – Rerum Novarum

        St. JP2 give us the following statement:

        “Malfunctions and defects in the social assistance state [or welfare state] are the result of an inadequate understanding of the tasks proper to the state. Here again the principle of subsidiarity must be respected: A community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good. (Centesimus Annus 48)

        When Pope Francis makes statements to the “communities of higher order”, he needs to pay extremely close attention to how his words will be extrapolated by the Marxists who find their niche in these Communities. The United Nations is one of the best examples of slugs living off the produce of the farmer. They are non-productive, dictating, irrational bureaucrats whose only interest is self-preservation.

        The Tea Party would be an example of a group that would take the Pope’s statements and draw sensible conclusions. The fact that you, Mr. Tierney, group them with ignorant villeins of the Church’s teaching shows the jaundice in your eye. These citizens are performing their civic duty in calling to our attention the abuse of power by both Wall St. and Pennsylvania Ave. They show up at State rallies to do the same thing. They are a positive force against the servile State and what the libs call “crony capitalism”. That term was obviously invented by a liberal who applied the operative word of democrats -crony, to a system that intrinsically can’t tolerate that combination. When Capitalism feeds cronies, it ceases to mind and create capital and fails. The only way that it works in that dichotomy is when the crony is the Fed. It’s the only entity that can keep printing money to make it look like both parties and both systems are doing just fine and that the poor are well cared for as the Church implores.

        Those of us who run businesses and own property used by others rely on the relationship of employers and workers to be on a noble level. Both groups serve their mutual interests best when they look out for the interests of the other. That is classic Christianity and Catholicism.

        My fear is that our pope is aiding the regime when he uses indistinct language. There is now a wedge being driven to separate and divide families and groups that should be cooperating freely.

        • See here’s where I think part of the problem is.

          “My fear is that our pope is aiding the regime when he uses indistinct language.”

          The Papacy is not a political office, and the Bishop of Rome rightly word his language about what domestic politicians in a once Protestant country might or might not do. His job is to simply give the principles Catholics are bound to follow.

          When Pope Francis wrote his words in Evangelii Gaudium about Capitalism, Tea Partiers like Sarah Palin lost their minds. The remarks about redistribution again, tea partiers lose their minds over the remark. How is that jaundice to point out the accurate facts? Why is it okay for Tea Partiers to attack a corrupt American economic system, but when someone else criticizes it, watch out?

          Yes, there’s a lot of people on the left who don’t have the first understanding of Catholic Social Teaching. But I’d honestly say there are just as many on the right. Most of Catholicism in America doesn’t understand Catholic Social Teaching at all. What little they get is in silly little culture war bromides.

          One can believe all the quotes above, and still advocate a social safety net through Catholic social teaching. Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI do precisely that. (Ditto for Pope Francis.) Just as Leo XIII put the big emphasis on religion, he also places a heavy emphasis on the duties of the state to promote social harmony as well.

          Saying there needs to be redistribution in some form in order to promote a just society, and that these inequalities will lead to serious social unrest if not checked, that isn’t class warfare. Catholic Social Teaching looks nothing like the political platforms of either party. Catholics are supposed to understand it, but over the last couple decades people say otherwise.

          • MELANIE JEAN JUNEAU

            WELL SAID- THANKS FOR THE CLARIFICATION,KEVIN

          • goral

            I’m glad you got your clarification. In future exchanges, to expedite matters, just go straight to the third party.

          • goral

            “The Papacy is not a political office, and the Bishop of Rome rightly
            word his language about what domestic politicians in a once Protestant
            country might or might not do. His job is to simply give the principles
            Catholics are bound to follow.”
            That is a naive statement. The Papacy is a political office to all those who are non-Catholics. As a Catholic, I also take his words politically when the forum is the UN or some such gatherings.

            He speaks as a Shepherd during a St. Peter’s Mass or to his bishops. Encyclicals go both ways depending on who’s reading them. Hardly anyone knows that St. John Lateran is the Arcibasilica Papale. As far as the world is concerned, the pope is the President of the Vatican.
            Pope Francis is not saying anything new about Catholic Social Teaching than his predecessors. Why is it that Sarah Palin is losing her wonderful mind and others are saying that they detect Marxist overtones?
            My fear is the Marxists who have infiltrated the College, ousted a genius of a Pope and are now pulling the strings of a good heart(ed), parochial Jesuit who has fond memories of Liberation Theology. They want to send the Church in the same direction that B. Husein is sending this country. If that’s the case, I’m not yet certain that it is, then the manly response is to stand in opposition to it.

          • 1.) In regards to the papacy not being a political office…. Your protest is duly noted, but still wrong. The job of the papacy is to transcend politics and outline principles that individuals, societies, and nation states should follow in applying Gospel principles to all facets of life, including business and politics. If anything I’d place just as much weight on them as dogmatic theology. You can go all your life without needing an in-depth understanding of the relationship between Popes and Bishops. But principles for how you treat your neighbor, the business decisions you invest with, and the principles you vote with? That’s really important stuff. Knowing such, perhaps it might be a good idea to actually try to read and understand what is being said, before dismissing it so quickly as the words of an ignoramus.
            2.) As far as your fear, that’s a nice theory….. but is there any actual evidence for it? The simple fact is that Sarah Palin is a Protestant politician. One with a keen sense of how to manipulate crowds. Her “wonderful mind” advocates torture, and torture as a first resort, which no Catholic can ever support.
            Besides, if you aren’t certain such is the case, wouldn’t the prudent decision to be do research and listen to all sides, before trying to work others up into a frenzy that something is happening?
            The social views of every pope from Leo XIII to today (and again, there’s remarkable consistency) is not the same direction the President is sending the country, no matter what your view on him is.

          • goral

            1.) No one is an “ignoramus” for thinking that the Papacy is an apolitical office. It’s just a difference of opinion.
            We really don’t need the Pope’s moral preaching to teach us how to live. That happens at home, school, church,Fr. John,
            St. JP2 challenged us to” put out into the deep” – what a beautiful exhortation as well “really important stuff”.

            2.) Yes, Sarah Palin can manipulate crowds. To me she does it with whit and style. Others are rubbed the wrong way, c’est la vie!
            “Her “wonderful mind” advocates torture, and torture as a first resort, which no Catholic can ever support.” That statement is crazy in it’s assumption.

            “The social views of every pope from Leo XIII to today (and again,
            there’s remarkable consistency) is not the same direction the President
            is sending the country, no matter what your view on him is.” On this I need clarification.

          • 1.) The ignoramus was in the way I honestly feel you treat the Pope. You act like he’s a useful idiot for Obama because Francis isn’t comfortable from a religious standpoint with growing inequality in the world. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a keen mind behind it. Even when he’s wrong, he’s probably worthy of a bit more respect and study. Often what we believe is “worrying” turns out to be the exact opposite.
            While I am a lover of a far less impactful papacy (one can read my article at Catholic Exchange “The Popes and Our Faith”) and am frequently tired of how people need a papal bull for breakfast, there’s little doubt that the Bishop of Rome has a teaching office in addition to a governing and sanctifying office. In that teaching office, he isn’t providing his own teaching, but a pretty consistent fabric of social thought which had been developed by men like Aquinas and other philosophers, and formalized into a distinct body of teaching by popes starting with Leo XIII.

            2.) As far as the torture remark, while it’s another argument, she advocated waterboarding people not as a last resort, but as a first resort, as a “baptizing” of an unsavory individual. Perhaps you believe strapping someone down naked while you place cellophane over their mouth and nose while pouring large amounts of water to drown someone in a controlled instance of drowning 183 times in one month not for the purpose of gaining a confession but to reprogram his will isn’t torture, but I suppose reasonable minds can indeed disagree.

            3.) There’s a reason why when Francis and Obama met, it wasn’t the propoganda coup Obama wanted, and why Francis mostly ignored Obama’s pleas to discuss income inequality together. For the Pontiff, income inequality comes about as a result of social inequality, which traces its roots to original sin.

            The President, like any good politician wishing to hold onto and increase power, is quite fine with most of that inequality, as it gives him a lever to exploit. It’s why most of his proposals aren’t about ending income inequality or the super rich, but are about damaging the affluent but not rich so the truly rich stay protected.
            Mr. Obama’s programs, like most political programs, also lack an emphasis on individuals to carry out social justice. Such is the nature of a politician, who has to sell his work as something individuals and society are incapable of doing. The Pope doesn’t want the cradle to grave welfare state, he specifically condemned it in EG. Yet he does want Christians to do more. He does want business owners to consider not just the market worth of someone like they are a commodity, but if its possible to pay them in a way that helps them fulfill their vocation in life. There’s no crystal clear answer to that question, but the Pope wants people to understand that if you are a business owner, you will be asked about that on Judgement Day, and you need to seriously consider those questions.

            To say that their agendas are similar because they both favor redistribution of some kind (as does any political and economic system!) is a very simple way to look at things, and not in a good way.

          • I also think this is why we really need to talk about this stuff as Catholics more. I talked with Lane (the politics editor) about this awhile back, and both of us agreed there needs to be an intelligent discussion on Catholic Social Teaching.

            This is why.

          • goral

            I’m all for it, as long as Lane is Catholic. We should be able to get intelligent discussions, if we try.

          • goral

            I hope that my concerns turn out to be the exact opposite. My fervent prayer is that there is some confusion in these marxist leaning remarks. The Vatican can and does get confused. There is turmoil there presently. Things are not as they should be. I don’t see much intelligence in petitioning an impotent body such as the UN to enlist its confused and corrupt aid in the Church’s campaign for more economic equality. Just recently they have attacked the Church and linked it to sexual abuse and torture, yes, torture.
            I’m waiting for this useless Body to make the same connection to Sarah Palin, just as you did. She did not become the governor of the largest, wealthiest, most freedom loving mass of land that is part of the Union by being a heartless monster.
            We do agree on 3.) I despise the current Occupier of this beautiful and compassionate land. I wouldn’t send another penny his way for any reason because I know that he’s a liar. I will gladly sell one of my junk cars and donate the proceeds once we have an honorable gov’t in place like we had under Reagan.