ROME — Pope Francis said Wednesday that the world is in need of “zealous Christians” who are able to defend life and make a case for morality in the public square.
“How much we are in need of believers, of zealous Christians, who act before people with leadership responsibility with the courage of Elijah, to say, ‘This must not be done! This is murder!’” Francis told the pilgrims gathered in the Vatican for his weekly general audience.
The pope’s reflection was inspired by a passage from the biblical First Book of Kings, which tells the story of the prophet Elijah who stands up to the murderous king and queen of Israel, Ahab and Jezebel.
Elijah is “a man of contemplative life and, at the same time, of active life, concerned with the events of his time, capable of clashing with the king and queen after they had Nabot killed to take possession of his vineyard,” the pontiff said.
“We need Elijah’s spirit,” Francis continued. “He shows us that there should be no dichotomy in the life of those who pray: one stands before the Lord and goes towards the brothers to whom He sends us.”
Rather than closing believers off from others, prayer spurs the faithful to action, the pope said. It is also the guarantee that our actions will be righteous and not rash or fruitless.
“Scripture presents Elijah as a man of crystalline faith: his very name, which may mean ‘Yahweh is God,’ encapsulates the secret of his mission,” Francis said. “He will be like this for the rest of his life: a man of integrity, incapable of petty compromises.”
“His symbol is fire, the image of God’s purifying power,” the pope continued. “He will be the first to be put to the test, and he will remain faithful. He is the example of all people of faith who know temptation and suffering, but do not fail to live up to the ideal for which they were born.”
At the end of his general audience, Francis reminded his guests that on October 7 Catholic Christians celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
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The feast, which was formerly called Our Lady of Victory, was established by Pope Pius V in 1571 to commemorate a landmark victory of Christian forces over the invading Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.
On October 7, 1571, a fleet of ships assembled by a coalition of Christian nations fought an intense battle against the Ottoman forces. The unexpected victory of the so-called “Holy League” radically stemmed efforts by the Turks to control the Mediterranean.
In preparation for this decisive battle, Pope Pius V had ordered that the churches of Rome be kept open for prayer day and night and urged the faithful to invoke the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary through the rosary prayer.
On hearing of the Christian victory, the pope established a new feast day in the Roman Liturgical Calendar, which would come to be known as the feast of the Holy Rosary.
In 2018, Pope Francis called on all Catholics to pray the rosary and the prayer to Saint Michael the archangel every day during the month of October to protect the church from Satan’s attacks.
“The Holy Father has decided to invite all the faithful, of all the world, to pray the Holy Rosary every day, during the entire Marian month of October,” a Vatican communiqué stated at the time, “and thus to join in communion and in penitence, as the people of God, in asking the Holy Mother of God and Saint Michael Archangel to protect the Church from the devil, who always seeks to separate us from God and from each other.”