Describing a world marked by signs of “the end of time,” including false prophets and cold hearts, Pope Francis urged Catholics to use Lent to counteract this “great tribulation” through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

This was his message for the 2018 liturgical season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, 14 February.

The theme of this year’s message is: ‘Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold’ (Mt 24:12). Below is the full text.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Once again, the Pasch of the Lord draws near! In our preparation for Easter, God in his providence offers us each year the season of Lent as a “sacramental sign of our conversion”. Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.

With this message, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth. I will take my cue from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12).

These words appear in Christ’s preaching about the end of time. They were spoken in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, where the Lord’s passion would begin. In reply to a question of the disciples, Jesus foretells a great tribulation and describes a situation in which the community of believers might well find itself: amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.

False prophets

Let us listen to the Gospel passage and try to understand the guise such false prophets can assume.

They can appear as “snake charmers”, who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go. How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness! How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests! How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness!

False prophets can also be “charlatans”, who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless. How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains! How many more are ensnared in a thoroughly “virtual” existence, in which relationships appear quick and straightforward, only to prove meaningless! These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love. They appeal to our vanity, our trust in appearances, but in the end they only make fools of us. Nor should we be surprised. In order to confound the human heart, the devil, who is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth. That is why each of us is called to peer into our heart to see if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets. We must learn to look closely, beneath the surface, and to recognize what leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, because it comes from God and is truly for our benefit.

A cold heart

In his description of hell, Dante Alighieri pictures the devil seated on a throne of ice, in frozen and loveless isolation. We might well ask ourselves how it happens that charity can turn cold within us. What are the signs that indicate that our love is beginning to cool?

More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, “the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10). The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; we prefer our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments. All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own “certainties”: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations.

Creation itself becomes a silent witness to this cooling of charity. The earth is poisoned by refuse, discarded out of carelessness or for self-interest. The seas, themselves polluted, engulf the remains of countless shipwrecked victims of forced migration. The heavens, which in God’s plan, were created to sing his praises, are rent by engines raining down implements of death.

Love can also grow cold in our own communities. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I sought to describe the most evident signs of this lack of love: selfishness and spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to self-absorption, constant warring among ourselves, and the worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary zeal.

What are we to do?

Perhaps we see, deep within ourselves and all about us, the signs I have just described. But the Church, our Mother and Teacher, along with the often bitter medicine of the truth, offers us in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers. He is our Father and he wants us to live life well.

Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbour as a brother or sister. What I possess is never mine alone. How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us! How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church! For this reason, I echo Saint Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to take up a collection for the community of Jerusalem as something from which they themselves would benefit (cf. 2 Cor 8:10). This is all the more fitting during the Lenten season, when many groups take up collections to assist Churches and peoples in need. Yet I would also hope that, even in our daily encounters with those who beg for our assistance, we would see such requests as coming from God himself. When we give alms, we share in God’s providential care for each of his children. If through me God helps someone today, will he not tomorrow provide for my own needs? For no one is more generous than God.

Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth. On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.

I would also like my invitation to extend beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church, and to reach all of you, men and women of good will, who are open to hearing God’s voice. Perhaps, like ourselves, you are disturbed by the spread of iniquity in the world, you are concerned about the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions, and you see a weakening in our sense of being members of the one human family. Join us, then, in raising our plea to God, in fasting, and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need!

The fire of Easter

Above all, I urge the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer. If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.

One such moment of grace will be, again this year, the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, which invites the entire Church community to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of Eucharistic adoration. In 2018, inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4, “With you is forgiveness”, this will take place from Friday, 9 March to Saturday, 10 March. In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, offering an opportunity for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession.

During the Easter Vigil, we will celebrate once more the moving rite of the lighting of the Easter candle. Drawn from the “new fire”, this light will slowly overcome the darkness and illuminate the liturgical assembly. “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds”, and enable all of us to relive the experience of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. By listening to God’s word and drawing nourishment from the table of the Eucharist, may our hearts be ever more ardent in faith, hope and love.

With affection and the promise of my prayers for all of you, I send you my blessing. Please do not forget to pray for me.



I went to the PLM chapel today for the Eucharistic Celebration of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord presided by Rev. Fr. Lenen E. Deciar, SSS.


Shine forth! The PLM Campus Ministry team all smiles after the first friday mass.

The feast reflects the one light of Christ from different angles and in different ways.

Historically the feast has been known by different names, each stressing a different aspect of the same mystery: the mystery that God has chosen to dwell among us.

Forty days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph traveled to Jerusalem to present him at the Temple. This was the first time Jesus entered the temple that years later he would cleanse of merchants with great zeal. The same temple where he would teach his disciples and challenge the Pharisees. The same temple where Judas would receive thirty silver coins in return for his betrayal.

Mary and Joseph presented Jesus with grateful hearts and offered the sacrifice prescribed by the Law of Moses for the poor: two young pigeons. God fulfills the prophecy of Malachi when Simeon identifies the child as the awaited Messiah. Simeon’s words at first are joyful and triumphant, “the child is a light for revelation, the glory of Israel,” but then he turns to the Blessed Mother and his tone becomes somber speaking of suffering and sacrifice: “this child will be contradicted and a sword will pierce your heart.”

This feast invites us to celebrate with Simeon that all prophecy has been fulfilled, while at the same time, it invites us to remember that Jesus was born to die as a sacrifice for our sins.

For centuries this feast was known as the Purification of the Virgin Mary, an event we also commemorate today. When a Jewish person had direct contact with blood, the person became unclean and he or she had to undergo religious rites to be purified. Recall the Parable of the Good Samaritan where the priests did not help the dying man for fear of touching blood and becoming impure.

When women give birth, obviously they have contact with blood. The Book of Leviticus prescribed that forty days after giving birth a woman had to be ritually cleansed. Today, forty days after Christmas Day, we commemorate that the Blessed Mother faithfully followed the Law of Moses and was purified. She who was conceived pure, without the stain of sin, obediently offered the called for sacrifice of two pigeons.

This feast invites us to ponder how the Blessed Mother faithfully followed the Law of Moses and went to the Temple with her son to be purified.

Today’s feast has also been called Candlemass throughout the centuries, a celebration of light (or candles). Traditionally candles are blessed on this day, followed by a procession in a darkened church, reminding us of Simeon’s words, that the child born on Christmas day is the “light of the nations.”

This feast invites to recognize Jesus as the light that has come into the darkness to destroy sin and death.

As if this feast didn’t have enough layers, there is one more. Today half of the Catholic world celebrates the feast of Our Lady of the Candle, La Candelaria, who appeared in Spain and devotion to her spread throughout Spain’s colonies in the new world; devotion to her, remains strong in all Latin America.

The one light of Christ is reflected from different angles and in different ways today. The light that shines forth from the mystery that God has chosen to dwell among us cannot be contained. All is renewed, all is transformed, all things are different because God has become man.

The joy of knowing the Messiah, the sorrow of recognizing he will be sacrificed, the blessedness of his mother and his perpetual light that dispels the darkness; all converge on this feast forty days after his birth.

The Church never ceases to proclaim the mystery that God has become man.

The Church never ceases to proclaim that our God who created all things has emptied himself to become like one of his creatures.

As a candle offers itself as a sacrifice to give us pure light, ceasing to exist as its wax melts away, slowly and selflessly dying as it shines for others to have light, so too Our Savior is a light that offers itself in sacrifice so that others may have life.

Candles always accompany the altar of sacrifice, burning themselves to death as a sacrifice, reminding us of the One who died so that we could have life.

May the Lord help us to be candles of his light, dying to our selves, so that the light of Christ may shine brightly in us.


We celebrate today the Solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul.

Why is it significant in our relationship with God?


Seating beside God’s messenger of faith, hope and love. Taken inside the PLM Chapel last year.

Father Bill Carmody shared that before Saint Paul’s conversion he thought he was a very good man. He thought he did everything very, very well. He was full of zeal, convinced of the direction he was taking in life, and was very successful within the scope of the people who mattered to him.

He had no idea that he was very misguided. Then the Lord entered his life, shook him up, blinded him, threw him to the ground and left him confused and unnerved for three days.

Having encountered the Risen Lord he was transformed. He re-evaluated everything in his life and became the most impacting force in the Church other than Jesus Himself. Paul translated the experience of Jesus not only from Aramaic into Greek, but from an Asian mentality to a European mentality. He became the greatest missionary the Church as seen, establishing churches that survive even to this day, and he wrote two thirds of the New Testament.

Paul’s conversion not only changed him; it changed the world.

This brings us to this feast’s application to us. God is calling some people here present to undergo a major change in the way they are living their lives.

All of us, in fact, are being invited by the Lord to undergo some kind of transformation, some form of conversion, some new way of believing and thinking. Wouldn’t you agree that all of us have some kind of obstacle to our following Christ more closely? And wouldn’t we all agree that the mother of all vices is pride? So as we celebrate Paul’s conversion let us take as look at the virtue that conquers pride: humility.

There are 3 different degrees of humility.

The 1st degree of humility is necessary for salvation. It’s having enough humility to stop justifying mortal sin in our lives. It’s the humility needed to recognize that I have this major obstacle in my life, some major sin, that keeps me at a distance from God. And it’s having enough humility to recognize that so far I have been unwilling to do what I need to do to remove this obstacle from my life. Without this 1st degree of humility I make the decision to live with my sin, even to justify it. The 1st degree of humility leads us to say to the Lord, “Not for all the riches in the world would I ever commit a mortal sin.”

The second degree of humility is a move towards holiness. In this state of relationship with the Lord, He, the Lord, has become so important to me that I don’t want to do the least little thing against the Lord. This is not scrupulosity but rather a desire to be one with Christ, to see Him in all things, to encounter him in all the people and events in our lives, a desire to rise above my mediocrity, and not settle for a half-hearted response to the call of Christ. And now we don’t want even venial sins to stand in our way, preventing a clear sight of the Lord who loves us so. This is the state of no longer wanting to disagree with, for instance, the teaching of the Church on the sanctity of life and settle for some compromise between good and evil. This second degree of humility leads us to say, “Not for all the money in the world would I ever want to commit even a venial sin.”

The third degree of humility is a move into true sanctity. In this degree of humility I see myself as part and parcel of all of sinful humanity and I see my call to be among those who are despised, rejected, ostracized, spat upon, and facing extreme oppression, because thus was treated my Lord and Savior. This is the degree of humility that hears the teaching of our Church as the voice of Jesus and embraces it, especially on such tough subjects as there being a need for a redistribution of wealth so there is a greater bond between the rich and the poor. A person who abides in this 3rd degree of humility not only understands, but lives, the Church teaching that says, “No one may appropriate surplus goods solely for his own private use when others lack the bare necessities of life.” (Populorum Progressio, 23)

Oh, how far away from this degree of humility we all are! But now we can see what is the trajectory of holiness the Lord is calling us to. Let us on this feast of Paul’s conversion let us ask the Lord to help us grow in holiness.