Pope Francis warned that some Christians establish the eighth sacrament “of pastoral customs” when they insist on protocol instead of seeking to meet spiritual needs.
He made his remarks during his May 25 homily on the Gospel reading from Mark 10 in which the disciples rebuked people who were bringing children to Jesus.
“I remember once, coming out of the city of Salta, on the patronal feast, there was a humble lady who asked for a priest’s blessing,” Pope Francis recalled in the chapel of St. Martha’s House.
“The priest said, ‘All right, but you were at the Mass’ and explained the whole theology of blessing in the Church. You did well: ‘Ah, thank you father, yes father,’ said the woman. When the priest had gone, the woman turned to another priest: ‘Give me your blessing!’
“All these words did not register with her,” the Pope underscored, “because she had another necessity: the need to be touched by the Lord. That is the faith that we always look for, this is the faith that brings the Holy Spirit. We must facilitate it, make it grow, help it grow.”
He also pointed to the story of the blind man of Jericho, who was rebuked by the disciples because he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“The Gospel says that they didn’t want him to shout, they wanted him not to shout but he wanted to shout more, why? Because he had faith in Jesus! The Holy Spirit had put faith in his heart. And they said, ‘No, you cannot do this! You don’t shout to the Lord. Protocol does not allow it.’”
Pope Francis also used a more modern example by describing an encounter of a young couple with a parish secretary.
“‘Good morning, the two of us – boyfriend and girlfriend – we want to get married,’” the couple says.
“And instead of saying, ‘That’s great!’ They say, ‘Oh, well, have a seat. If you want the Mass, it costs a lot … .’ This, instead of receiving a good welcome – ‘It is a good thing to get married!’ – But instead they get this response: ‘Do you have the certificate of baptism, all right … .’ And they find a closed door,” the Pope said.
He described the situation as one where a “Christian has the ability to open a door, thanking God for this fact of a new marriage” but instead the secretary controlled the faith when it was possible to have facilitated the couples’ faith.
“There is always a temptation,” he said, “to try and take possession of the Lord.”
Before finishing his homily, Pope Francis painted one final scenario, that of a single mother who wants to have her child baptized.
“Think about a single mother who goes to church, in the parish and to the secretary she says: ‘I want my child baptized.’
“And then this Christian, this Christian says: ‘No, you cannot because you’re not married!’
“But look, this girl who had the courage to carry her pregnancy and not to return her son to the sender, what is it? A closed door! This is not zeal! It is far from the Lord! It does not open doors!
“And so when we are on this street, we have this attitude, we do not do good to people, the people, the People of God. But Jesus instituted the seven sacraments, (and) with this attitude and we are establishing the eighth: the sacrament of pastoral customs!” he warned.
The Pope noted, “Jesus is indignant when he sees these things” because those who suffer are “his faithful people, the people that he loves so much.”
He concluded his homily by asking everyone to think about “the Holy People of God, a simple people, who want to get closer to Jesus and we think of so many Christians of goodwill who are wrong and that instead of opening a door they close the door of goodwill … So we ask the Lord that all those who come to the Church find the doors open, find the doors open, open to meet this love of Jesus. We ask this grace.”