The Gifts of Pope Francis at the Angelus

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”” John 21:15 RSV

Since the time of Pope John XXIII, the Popes have done a Sunday Angelus address. This takes place in the square of St Peter’s at the Vatican about 12:00pm, and is delivered to pilgrims and visitors in the square prior to the communion praying of the midday Angelus.

I have been to the Angelus twice in the last few years.  Whilst it is in a language that is foreign to me, it is a moving experience being able to pray with so many people.
During his Angelus addresses, Pope Francis has been known to occasionally provide those in attendance with a range of gifts. This includes:

  • Copies of the Gospels or of a Gospel
  • A rosary (and later a rosary ring and prayer card)
  • A crucifix
  • Basic prayer book and a book on icons.

To this end, the Pope hopes that, in addition to his homilies, the faithful will take the gifts and use them in their daily lives. This is part of the Pope’s way of providing the faithful with the basics of the faith, with the view that if they transform people’s lives, they will see change.  This builds on the principle of the ‘very essential minimum’ I mentioned in my post on the five precepts, taking things a little further beyond that minimum.

What follows is a little bit of information on each of the gifts, as well as some other interesting points mentioned by Pope Francis that I observed whilst perusing the translated copies of the speeches given by the Pope at the Angelus.

On the pocket Gospel

  • “And now I greet with affection the children who have come for the blessing of the “Baby Jesus” figurines, organized by Centro oratori romani. My compliments! You have been so good, you were joyful here in the square, my compliments! And now you are carrying a blessed crib. Dear children, I thank you for your presence and I wish you a happy Christmas! When you pray at home before your nativity scenes, remember to also pray for me, as I will remember to do for you. Prayer is the soul’s breath: it is important to find moments throughout the day to open your heart to God, even with simple and brief prayers of the Christian people. That is why, today I thought of a gift for all of you here in the square, a surprise, a present: I will give you a little pocket-size book that contains a few prayers, for different moments throughout the day and for different situations in life. It’s this. Some volunteers will distribute them. Take one each and carry it with you always as an aid to living the whole day with God. And so that we don’t forget that message that you wrote on that sign which is so very beautiful: “Joy is at home in Jesus”. Once more: “Joy is at home in Jesus”. Well done!” Pope Francis, 14/12/2014
  • “We, the disciples of Jesus, are called to be people who listen to his voice and take his words seriously. To listen to Jesus, we must be close to him, to follow him, like the crowd in the Gospel who chase him through the streets of Palestine. Jesus did not have a teaching post or a fixed pulpit, he was an itinerant teacher, who proposed his teachings, teachings given to him by the Father, along the streets, covering distances that were not always predictable or easy. Follow Jesus in order to listen to him. But also let us listen to Jesus in his written Word, in the Gospel. I pose a question to you: do you read a passage of the Gospel everyday? Yes, no… yes, no… half of the time … some yes, some no. It is important! Do you read the Gospel? It is so good; it is a good thing to have a small book of the Gospel, a little one, and to carry in our pocket or in our purse and read a little passage in whatever moment presents itself during the day. In any given moment of the day I take the Gospel from my pocket and I read something, a short passage. Jesus is there and he speaks to us in the Gospel! Ponder this. It’s not difficult, nor is it necessary to have all four books: one of the Gospels, a small one, with us. Let the Gospel be with us always, because it is the Word of Jesus in order for us to be able to listen to him.” Pope Francis, 16/03/2014
  • “I suggest that today, when you return home, you take the Gospel of John and read this passage from Chapter nine. It will do you good, because you will thus see this road from blindness to light and the other evil road that leads to deeper blindness. Let us ask ourselves about the state of our own heart? Do I have an open heart or a closed heart? It is opened or closed to God? Open or closed to my neighbour? We are always closed to some degree which comes from original sin, from mistakes, from errors. We need not be afraid! Let us open ourselves to the light of the Lord, he awaits us always in order to enable us to see better, to give us more light, to forgive us. Let us not forget this!” Pope Francis, 30/03/2014
  • “And now I would like to make you a small gesture. On recent Sundays I suggested that you all obtain a little Gospel to carry with you throughout the day so that you can read it often. I then thought about an old Lenten tradition in the Church of giving the Gospel to catechumens, to those who are preparing for Baptism. So, today I want to offer you who are here in the Square — but as a sign for all — a pocket-size Gospel [he holds up the booklet]. It will be handed out gratis. There are places set up in the Square for distribution. I see them there, there and there…. Go there and take a Gospel. Take it, carry it with you and read it every day: It is Jesus himself speaking to you in it! It is the word of Jesus: this is the Word of Jesus! And like him I say to you: as you have received, freely, give freely, pass on the message of the Gospel! Maybe some of you don’t think it can be free. “But how much? How much must I pay, Father?”. Let’s do something: in exchange for this gift, do a charitable action, a gesture of spontaneous love, a prayer for your enemies, an act of reconciliation, something…. Today one can read the Gospel also on so many technological instruments. You can carry the whole Bible on your mobile phone, on your tablet. It is important to read the Word of God, by any means, but by reading the Word of God: Jesus speaks to us there! And welcome it with an open heart. Then the good seed will bear fruit!” Pope Francis, 06/04/2014
  • “This is why it is necessary to renew oneself by continually drawing sap from the Gospel. And how can one do this in practice? First of all by actually reading and meditating on the Gospel every day, so the Word of Jesus may always be present in our life. Remember: it will help you to always carry the Gospel with you: a small Gospel, in a pocket, in a bag, and read a passage during the day. But always with the Gospel, because it is carrying the Word of Jesus, and being able to read it. In addition, attending Sunday Mass, where we encounter the Lord in the community, we hear his Word and receive the Eucharist which unites us with Him and to one another; and then days of retreat and spiritual exercises are very important for spiritual renewal. Gospel, Eucharist, Prayer. Do not forget: Gospel, Eucharist, Prayer. Thanks to these gifts of the Lord we are able to conform not to the world but to Christ, and follow him on his path, the path of “losing one’s life” in order to find it (Mt 16:25). “To lose it” in the sense of giving it, offering it through love and in love — and this leads to sacrifice, also the cross — to receive it liberated from selfishness and from the mortgage of death, newly purified, full of eternity.” Pope Francis, 31/08/2014
  • “Remember well: life is a journey, always a journey, in search of God. Journey attentively, tirelessly and courageously. And something is missing, one thing is missing: attentively, tirelessly and courageously… and what is missing? Journey with light! And what is this light? The Gospel, the Word of God. Always with the Gospel: in your pocket, in your purse, in order to read it, always with us. Journey attentively, tirelessly, courageously and with the light of the Word of God.” Pope Francis, 06/01/2015
  • “And now we will repeat a gesture previously performed last year: according to the ancient tradition of the Church, the Gospel is delivered during Lent to those who are preparing for Baptism; thus today I offer to you who are in the Square a pocket-sized Gospel. It will be distributed gratis by several homeless people who live in Rome. In this too, we see a very beautiful gesture that pleased Jesus: the ones most in need are the ones who give us the Word of God. Take this Gospel and carry it with you, to read it often, every day. Carry it in your purse, in your pocket, read from it often, a passage every day. The Word of God is a light for our path! It will do you well. Do it.” Pope Francis, 22/03/2015
  • “I hope that each of you may live in joy and serenity this Week throughout which the joy of the Resurrection of Christ extends. In order to live this time more intensely — and I constantly return to this very point — it will do us good to read a passage of the Gospel every day about the event of the Resurrection. Every day a little passage.” Pope Francis, 06/04/2015
  • “I recall as well the advice that I have so often given you: every day read a passage of the Gospel, a verse of the Gospel, in order to know Jesus better, to open our hearts wide to Jesus, and in this way we can help others to know him better. Carry a small Gospel in your pocket, in your purse: it will do you good. Do not forget: read a passage of the Gospel each day.” Pope Francis, 03/01/16
  • “Now I would like to renew the gesture of giving you a pocket-sized Gospel. It incorporates the Gospel of Luke, which we are reading on the Sundays of this liturgical year. The booklet is entitled: “St Luke’s Gospel of Mercy”; indeed, the Evangelist recalls the words of Jesus: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (6:36), from which the theme of this Jubilee Year is drawn. It will be distributed free of charge by volunteers of the Santa Marta Paediatric Dispensary in the Vatican, and by some of the elderly and grandparents from Rome. How deserving are the grandfathers and grandmothers who pass the faith on to their grandchildren! I encourage you to take up this Gospel and read it, a passage every day; thus the Father’s mercy will dwell in your heart and you will be able to offer it to those whom you meet. At the end, on page 123, there are the seven corporal works of mercy and the seven spiritual works of mercy. It would be beautiful if you could memorize them, so it is easier to do them! I encourage you to take up this Gospel, so that the Father’s mercy may work within you. And you volunteers, grandfathers and grandmothers who are distributing the Gospel, be sure that the people who are in Pius xii Square — you see they could not enter — that they too receive this Gospel.” Pope Francis, 13/03/2016

On the Rosary

  • “Now I would like to recommend a medicine to you. Some of you may be wondering: “Is the Pope a pharmacist now?”. It is a special medicine which will help you to benefit from the Year of Faith, as it soon will come to an end. It is a medicine that consists of 59 threaded beads; a “spiritual medicine” called Misericordina. A small box containing 59 beads on a string. This little box contains the medicine, and will be distributed to you by volunteers as you leave the Square. Take them! There is a rosary, with which you can pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, spiritual help for our souls and for spreading love, forgiveness and brotherhood everywhere. Do not forget to take it, because it is good for you. It is good for the heart, the soul, and for life in general!” Pope Francis, 17/11/13
  • “Lent is an opportune time to travel a path of conversion that has mercy at its centre. Because of this, I’ve decided to give to those who are here in the square some “spiritual medicine” called “Misericordina”. We did this once before, but this one is better, it is “Misericordina-Plus”: a little box that has a rosary ring and a little image of the Merciful Jesus. Volunteers, including the poor, the homeless, refugees and also religious, will now distribute them. Receive this gift as a spiritual aid to spread pardon and fraternity, especially in this Year of Mercy.” Pope Francis, 21/02/2016

On the Crucifix

  • “Today, two days after the Feast of the Holy Cross, I wanted to give a Crucifix to you who are here in the Square. Here it is [holding it up]. The Crucifix is a sign of the love of God who in Jesus gave his life for us. I invite you to accept this gift and bring it into your homes, to the rooms of your children or of your grandparents… anywhere, but so that it can be seen in the home. It is not a decorative object but a religious symbol for contemplation and prayer. In looking at Jesus Crucified, we are looking at our salvation.” Pope Francis, 16/09/18

On the Icon / Prayer books

  • “Lent is a journey of conversion that puts the heart at its centre. Our heart must convert to the Lord. Therefore, in this First Sunday, I thought to give those of you who are here in the Square a small booklet entitled “Custodisci il cuore” (“Guard the heart”). It’s this one. [he holds up the booklet] This book contains some of Jesus’s teaching and the essential contents of our faith, for example the seven Sacraments, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Ten Commandments, the Virtues, the works of mercy, etc… The volunteers, among whom there are many homeless people who have come on pilgrimage, will now distribute them. And as always, today too, here in the Square, are those who are in need, the same who bring us a great wealth: the wealth of our doctrine, to guard your heart. Each one of you take a booklet and carry it with you, as a help for spiritual conversion and growth that always starts from the heart: the place where the match of daily choices between good and evil is played out, between worldliness and the Gospel, between indifference and sharing. Humanity is in need of justice, of peace, of love and will have it only by returning with their whole heart to God, who is the source of it all. Take the book and read it.” Pope Francis, 22/02/15
  • “The Magi offer their gifts to Jesus, but in reality, Jesus himself is the true gift of God: he is indeed the God who gives himself to us; in him we see the merciful face of the Father who awaits us, welcomes us, always forgives us; the face of God that never treats us according to our works or according to our sins, but only in accordance with the immensity of his inexhaustible mercy. And speaking of gifts, I too thought I would give you a little gift… there aren’t any camels, but I will give you the gift of the Icons of Mercy booklet. God’s gift is Jesus, mercy of the Father; and this is why in order to remember this gift of God, I am giving you this gift that will be distributed by the poor, by the homeless and by refugees along with many volunteers and religious whom I cordially greet and thank wholeheartedly.  I wish you a year of justice, forgiveness, serenity, but above all, a year of mercy. It will help you to read this book: it is pocket-sized, so you can take it with you.” Pope Francis, 06/01/17

Other interesting remarks made by the Pope during or after the Angelus

  • On the date of one’s baptism
    • “The celebration of Jesus’ baptism invites every Christian to remember his or her own baptism. I cannot ask you whether you remember the day of your baptism, because most of you were infants, like me; we were baptized as infants. But I ask you another question: do you know the date of your baptism? Do you know what day you were baptized? Each one think about it. And if you do not know the date or have forgotten it, upon returning home, ask your mom, grandma, uncle, aunt, grandpa, godfather, godmother: what is the date? We must always keep that date in our memory, because it is a date of celebration; it is the date of our initial sanctification; it is the date on which the Father gave us the Holy Spirit who encourages us to walk; it is the date of the great forgiveness. Do not forget: what is the date of my baptism?” Pope Francis, 07/01/2018
  • On feeling that God is not hearing our prayers
    • “And now, together with our prayers for peace, each of us in his or her own heart, pray for peace. Together with these prayers, balloons will rise up to heaven! [After balloons were released, Pope Francis concluded:] Have you seen these balloons? When we do not pray well, when we live a life which is not the life that Jesus wants, our prayers do not float up, and we need help to make them go aloft. When you feel that your prayers do not rise, seek someone’s help.” Pope Francis, 28/01/2018
  • On caring for the environment
    • “As announced, an Encyclical Letter on the care of creation will be released on Thursday. I invite you to accompany this event with renewed attention to the situation of environmental deterioration, as well as recovery, in your countries. This Encyclical is addressed to everyone: let us pray that all may receive its message and grow in responsibility for the common home that God has entrusted to all.” Pope Francis, 14/06/2018
  • On self-reflection about Jesus
    • “This week, remember to pause for a moment each day and ask yourselves the question: “Who is Jesus for me?”. And each one answer in your heart.” Pope Francis, 23/08/2015
  • On his choosing the name, ‘Francis’
    • “I have chosen the name of the Patron of Italy, St Francis of Assisi, and this strengthens my spiritual ties with this country where, as you know, my family comes from. However Jesus has called us to belong to a new family: his Church, to this family of God, walking together on the path of the Gospel. May the Lord bless you and may Our Lady keep you. Do not forget this: the Lord never tires of forgiving! It is we who tire of asking forgiveness.” Pope Francis, 17/03/2013
  • On searching for God and the meaning of life
    • “As you know two days ago the Encyclical Letter on the theme of faith, entitled Lumen Fidei,“the light of faith”, was promulgated. For the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI began this Encyclical, to follow up those on love and hope. I took up this great work and I brought it to conclusion. I offer it with joy to all the People of God: in fact, especially today, we all need to go to the essence of the Christian Faith, to deepen it and to confront it with our current problems. But I think that this Encyclical, at least in several places, can also be helpful to those in search of God and of the meaning of life.” Pope Francis, 07/07/2013
  • On understanding the words, ‘You are Peter… etc.’
    • “Let us pause on this very point, on the fact that Jesus gives Simon this name, “Peter”, which in Jesus’ language is pronounced “Kefa”, a word which means “rock”. In the Bible this term, “rock”, refers to God. Jesus gives it to Simon not because of his character or for his merits as a human, but for his genuine and steadfast faith, which comes to him from above.
    • Jesus feels great joy in his heart because, in Simon, he recognises the hand of the Father, the work of the Holy Spirit. He recognises that God the Father has given Simon “steadfast” faith on which He, Jesus, can build his Church, meaning his community, that is, all of us. Jesus intends to give life to “his” Church, a people founded no longer on heritage, but on faith, which means on the relationship with Him, a relationship of love and trust. The Church is built on our relationship with Jesus. And to begin his Church, Jesus needs to find solid faith, “steadfast” faith in his disciples. And it is this that He must verify at this point of the journey. 
    • The Lord has in mind a picture of the structure, an image of the community like a building. This is why, when he hears Simon’s candid profession of faith, he calls him a “rock”, and declares his intention to build his Church upon this faith.
    • Brothers and sisters, what happened in a unique way in St Peter, also happens in every Christian who develops a sincere faith in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Today’s Gospel passage also asks each of us, is your faith good? Each one answer in his or her heart. Is my faith good? How does the Lord find our hearts? A heart that is firm as a rock, or a heart like sand, that is doubtful, diffident, disbelieving? It will do us good to think about this throughout the day today. If the Lord finds in our heart, I don’t say a perfect, but sincere, genuine faith, then He also sees in us living stones with which to build his community. This community’s foundation stone is Christ, the unique cornerstone. On his side, Peter is the rock, the visible foundation of the Church’s unity; but every baptised person is called to offer Jesus his or her lowly but sincere faith, so that He may continue to build his Church, today, in every part of the world.
    • Even today, so many people think Jesus may be a great prophet, knowledgeable teacher, a model of justice…. And even today Jesus asks his disciples, that is, all of us: “Who do you say that I am?”. What do we answer? Let us think about this. But above all, let us pray to God the Father, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary; let us pray that He grant us the grace to respond, with a sincere heart: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. This is a confession of faith, this is really “the Creed”. Let us repeat it together three times: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.” Pope Francis, 24/08/2014
  • On the communion of saints
    • “Today’s Solemnity thus helps us to consider a fundamental truth of the Christian faith that we profess in the “Creed”: the communion of saints. What does this mean: the communion of saints? It is the communion born from faith, which unites all those who belong to Christ through Baptism. It is a spiritual union — we are all united! — That is not broken by death, but continues in the next life. Indeed, there is an unbreakable bond between us living in this world and those who have crossed the threshold of death. We, here on earth, along with those who have entered into eternity, form one great family. This familiarity endures.” Pope Francis, 01/11/2014
  • On longing to improve or be better
    • “Do not forget: the Lord comes, and if you feel a longing to improve, to be better, it is the Lord knocking at your door. This Christmas, the Lord is coming.” Pope Francis, 24/12/2014
  • On being a consistent Christian
    • “And do not forget: Christian consistency, which is to think, feel and live as a Christian, and not to think like a Christian and live as a pagan: not this! Today let us ask St Stephen for the grace of Christian consistency. And please continue to pray for me, do not forget!” Pope Francis, 26/12/2014

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