By Seàn-Patrick Lovett
It was a celebration of contrasts: the stern gaze of Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” staring down at the bustle of babies that on Sunday morning transformed the Sistine Chapel into a make-shift nursery. And then the somber voices of the Pontifical Choir chanting in counterpoint to the gurgles and cries of the infants.
Pope’s off the cuff homily
Pope Francis appeared to enjoy every minute of it, blessing each of the 18 baby girls and 16 boys in turn, and personally administering the Sacrament of Baptism on all of them. This Sunday marks the feast day that recalls Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan. Instead of delivering a scripted homily, the Pope chose to speak briefly off the cuff. In Italian, he used the word “dialect” to describe the “language” that needs to be used to guarantee the transmission of the Faith within the Family.
The “language” of the Family
Families must find their own “dialect”, said Pope Francis, the “language” that allows them to communicate with one another. “Babies have their own dialect”, he added: “if one starts to cry the others will follow, like in an orchestra”. Jesus, said the Pope, tells us to be like children: we must never forget this language of children. “It is a language that Jesus likes.” Which is why our prayers must be simple, like the language of a child.
Pope invites mothers to nurse their babies
At the conclusion of his brief homily, Pope Francis provided some practical suggestions for the parents: if your babies “start a concert”, he said, “it means they are uncomfortable, or hungry. And if they are hungry then, by all means, go ahead and feed them”. This too, he said, is a “language of love”.