Pope Benedict XVI

"Beauty... is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God Himself and His revelation."
(Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, 35)

26 April 2010

Full Text of Bishop Edward Slattery's Sermon at the National Shrine, Washinton D.C., USA, on April 24, 2010

Solemn Pontifical Mass
Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
Washington, D.C.

Celebrating the fifth anniversary
of the ascension of Benedict XVI to the throne of Peter
- ad multos annos! -

We have much to discuss - you and I …

… much to speak of on this glorious occasion when we gather together in the glare of the world’s scrutiny to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the ascension of Joseph Ratzinger to the throne of Peter.

We must come to understand how it is that suffering can reveal the mercy of God and make manifest among us the consoling presence of Jesus Christ, crucified and now risen from the dead.

We must speak of this mystery today, first of all because it is one of the great mysteries of revelation, spoken of in the New Testament and attested to by every saint in the Church’s long history, by the martyrs with their blood, by the confessors with their constancy, by the virgins with their purity and by the lay faithful of Christ’s body by their resolute courage under fire.

But we must also speak clearly of this mystery because of the enormous suffering which is all around us and which does so much to determine the culture of our modern age.

From the enormous suffering of His Holiness these past months to the suffering of the Church’s most recent martyrs in India and Africa, welling up from the suffering of the poor and the dispossessed and the undocumented, and gathering tears from the victims of abuse and neglect, from women who have been deceived into believing that abortion was a simple medical procedure and thus have lost part of their soul to the greed of the abortionist, and now flowing with the heartache of those who suffer from cancer, diabetes, AIDS, or the emotional diseases of our age, it is the sufferings of our people that defines the culture of our modern secular age.

This enormous suffering which can take on so many varied physical, mental, and emotional forms will reduce us to fear and trembling - if we do not remember that Christ - our Pasch - has been raised from the dead. Our pain and anguish could dehumanize us, for it has the power to close us in upon ourselves such that we would live always in chaos and confusion - if we do not remember that Christ - our hope - has been raised for our sakes. Jesus is our Pasch, our hope and our light.

He makes himself most present in the suffering of his people and this is the mystery of which we must speak today, for when we speak of His saving presence and proclaim His infinite love in the midst of our suffering, when we seek His light and refuse to surrender to the darkness, we receive that light which is the life of men; that light which, as Saint John reminds us in the prologue to his Gospel, can never be overcome by the darkness, no matter how thick, no matter how choking.

Our suffering is thus transformed by His presence. It no longer has the power to alienate or isolate us. Neither can it dehumanize us nor destroy us. Suffering, however long and terrible it may be, has only the power to reveal Christ among us, and He is the mercy and the forgiveness of God.

The mystery then, of which we speak, is the light that shines in the darkness, Christ Our Lord, Who reveals Himself most wondrously to those who suffer so that suffering and death can do nothing more than bring us to the mercy of the Father.

But the point which we must clarify is that Christ reveals Himself to those who suffer in Christ, to those who humbly accept their pain as a personal sharing in His Passion and who are thus obedient to Christ’s command that we take up our cross and follow Him. Suffering by itself is simply the promise that death will claim these mortal bodies of ours, but suffering in Christ is the promise that we will be raised with Christ, when our mortality will be remade in his immortality and all that in our lives which is broken because it is perishable and finite will be made imperishable and incorrupt.

This is the meaning of Peter’s claim that he is a witness to the sufferings of Christ and thus one who has a share in the glory yet to be revealed. Once Peter grasped the overwhelming truth of this mystery, his life was changed. The world held nothing for Peter. For him, there was only Christ.

This is, as you know, quite a dramatic shift for the man who three times denied Our Lord, the man to whom Jesus said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Christ’s declaration to Peter that he would be the rock, the impregnable foundation, the mountain of Zion upon which the new Jerusalem would be constructed, follows in Matthew’s Gospel Saint Peter’s dramatic profession of faith, when the Lord asks the Twelve, “Who do people say that I am?” and Peter, impulsive as always, responds “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Only later - much later - would Peter come to understand the full implication of this first Profession of Faith. Peter would still have to learn that to follow Christ, to truly be His disciple, one must let go of everything which the world considers valuable and necessary, and become powerless. This is the mystery which confounds independent Peter. It is the mystery which still confounds us: to follow Christ, one must surrender everything and become obedient with the obedience of Christ, for no one gains access to the Kingdom of the Father, unless he enter through the humility and the obedience of Jesus.

Peter had no idea that eventually he would find himself fully accepting this obedience, joyfully accepting his share in the Passion and Death of Christ. But Peter loved Our Lord and love was the way by which Peter learned how to obey. “Lord, you know that I love thee,” Peter affirms three times with tears; and three times Christ commands him to tend to the flock that gathers at the foot of Calvary - and that is where we are now.

Peter knew that Jesus was the true Shepherd, the one Master and the only teacher; the rest of us are learners and the lesson we must learn is obedience, obedience unto death. Nothing less than this, for only when we are willing to be obedient with the very obedience of Christ will we come to recognize Christ’s presence among us.

Obedience is thus the heart of the life of the disciple and the key to suffering in Christ and with Christ. This obedience, is must be said, is quite different from obedience the way it is spoken of and dismissed in the world.

For those in the world, obedience is a burden and an imposition. It is the way by which the powerful force the powerless to do obeisance. Simply juridical and always external, obedience is the bending that breaks, but a breaking which is still less painful than the punishment meted out for disobedience. Thus for those in the world obedience is a punishment which must be avoided; but for Christians, obedience is always personal, because it is centered on Christ. It is a surrender to Jesus Whom we love.

For those whose lives are centered in Christ, obedience is that movement which the heart makes when it leaps in joy having once discovered the truth.

Let us consider, then, that Christ has given us both the image of his obedience and the action by which we are made obedient.

The image of Christ’s obedience is His Sacred Heart. That Heart, exposed and wounded must give us pause, for man’s heart it generally hidden and secret. In the silence of his own heart, each of us discovers the truth of who we are, the truth of why we are silent when we should speak, or bothersome and quarrelsome when we should be silent. In our hidden recesses of the heart, we come to know the impulses behind our deeds and the reasons why we act so often as cowards and fools.

But while man’s heart is generally silent and secret, the Heart of the God-Man is fully visible and accessible. It too reveals the motives behind our Lord’s self-surrender. It was obedience to the Father’s will that mankind be reconciled and our many sins forgiven us. “Son though he was,” the Apostle reminds us, “Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered.” Obedient unto death, death on a cross, Jesus asks his Father to forgive us that God might reveal the full depth of his mercy and love. “Father, forgive them,” he prayed, “for they know not what they do.”

Christ’s Sacred Heart is the image of the obedience which Christ showed by his sacrificial love on Calvary. The Sacrifice of Calvary is also for us the means by which we are made obedient and this is a point which you must never forget: at Mass, we offer ourselves to the Father in union with Christ, who offers Himself in perfect obedience to the Father. We make this offering in obedience to Christ who commanded us to “Do this in memory of me” and our obediential offering is perfected in the love with which the Father receives the gift of His Son.

Do not be surprised then that here at Mass, our bloodless offering of the bloody sacrifice of Calvary is a triple act of obedience. First, Christ is obedient to the Father, and offers Himself as a sacrifice of reconciliation. Secondly, we are obedient to Christ and offer ourselves to the Father with Jesus the Son; and thirdly, in sharing Christ’s obedience to the Father, we are made obedient to a new order of reality, in which love is supreme and life reigns eternal, in which suffering and death have been defeated by becoming for us the means by which Christ’s final victory, his future coming, is made manifest and real today.

Suffering then, yours, mine, the Pontiffs, is at the heart of personal holiness, because it is our sharing in the obedience of Jesus which reveals his glory. It is the means by which we are made witnesses of his suffering and sharers in the glory to come.

Do not be dismayed that there are many in the Church who have not yet grasped this point, and fewer yet still in the world will even dare to consider it. But you - you know this to be true - and it is enough. For ten men who whisper the truth speak louder than a hundred million who lie.

If, then, someone asks of what we spoke today, tell them we spoke only of the truth. If someone asks why it is you came here to Mass, say that it was so that you could be obedient with Christ. If someone asks about the homily, tell them it was about a mystery. And if someone asks what I said to the present situation, tell them only that we must - all of us - become saints through what we suffer.

Noteworthy Background on Bishop Slattery
You may be interested in some background on His Excellency.  I am told that his first response to the sex-abuse scandal was to order a Holy Hour of Reparation in front of the Blessed Sacrament, at the same time in all parishes and Catholic institutions within the diocese.  The people of Tulsa, led by their bishop, went to their knees together.  One might ask, why should those who have not abused children do time on their knees for those who did? The answer is simple:  Imitation of Christ who suffered immensely not for sins He committed, but for our sins.  Further, we bear some responsibility if we have not prayed for our priests and bishops.  Many Catholics today  are unfamiliar with the term reparation, but it is beginning to get taught at various levels.

I am also told that Bishop Slattery also created a confraternity for those who suffer in various ways, from cancer and diabetes, and other long-term illnesses that directs their suffering for the purpose of healing in those who have been abused by the Church's sacred ministers.  This is a form of redemptive suffering (col. 1:24).

These things were initiated some eight years ago, and continue today. 

h/t: http://te-deum.blogspot.com/2010/04/full-text-of-bishop-edward-slatterys.html

19 April 2010

Sunday 25th of April - 'The Greater Litanies' - Rogation Procession and Mass

This Sunday the 25th of April at 5pm at St. Patrick's in Kilkenny there will be a short procession with the sung Litany followed by the Mass of Rogation.

April 25 is honored in the Liturgy by what is sometimes called Saint Mark’s Procession.  The term, however, is not correct, as the Procession was a privilege peculiar to April 25 previously to the institution of the Evangelist’s Feast, which even as late as the 6th century had no fixed day in the Roman Church.  

The real name of this Procession is The Greater Litanies. The word Litany means supplication, and is applied to the religious rite of singing certain chants whilst proceeding from place to place in order to propitiate Heaven.  The two Greek words Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy on us) were also called Litany, as likewise were the invocations which were afterwards added to that cry for mercy, and which now form a liturgical prayer used by the Church on certain solemn occasions.
The Greater Litanies (or processions) are so called to distinguish them from the Minor Litanies, that is, processions of less importance as far as the solemnity and concourse of the faithful were concerned.  We gather from an expression of St. Gregory the Great that it was an ancient custom in the Roman Church to celebrate, once a year, a Greater Litany, at which all the clergy and people assisted.  This holy Pontiff chose April 25 as the fixed day for this Procession, and appointed the Basilica of St. Peter as the Station.

The institution of the Greater Litanies even preceded the Processions prescribed by St. Gregory for times of public calamity.  It existed long before his time, and all that he did was to fix it on April 25.  It is quite independent of the Feast of St. Mark, which was instituted at a much later period.   If April 25 occurs during Easter week, the Procession takes place on that day (unless it be Easter Sunday) but the Feast of the Evangelist is not kept till after the Octave.

The question naturally presents itself—why did Pope St. Gregory choose April 25 for a Procession and Station in which everything reminds us of compunction and penance, and which would seem so out of keeping with the joyous Season of Easter?  Liturgists have shown that in the 5th, and probably even in the 4th century, April 25 was observed at Rome as a day of great solemnity.  The faithful went, on that day, to the Basilica of St. Peter, in order to celebrate the anniversary of the first entrance of the Prince of the Apostles into Rome, upon which he thus conferred the inalienable privilege of being the capital of Christendom.  It is from that day that we count the 25 years, 2 months and some days that St. Peter reigned as Bishop of Rome.  The Sacramentary of St. Leo gives us the Mass of this solemnity, which afterwards ceased to be kept. St. Gregory, to whom we are mainly indebted for the arrangement of the Roman Liturgy, was anxious to perpetuate the memory of a day which gave to Rome her grandest glory.  He therefore ordained that the Church of St. Peter should be the Station of the Great Litany, which was always to be celebrated on that auspicious day.  April 25 comes so frequently during the Octave of Easter that it could not be kept as a feast, properly so called, in honor of St. Peter’s entrance into Rome; St. Gregory, therefore, adopted the only means left of commemorating the great event.

But there was a striking contrast resulting from this institution, of which the holy Pontiff was fully aware, but which he could not avoid: it was the contrast between the joys of Paschal Time and the penitential sentiments and Station of the Great Litany.  Laden as we are with the manifold graces of this holy Season, and elated with our Paschal joys, we must sober our gladness by reflecting on the motives which led the Church to cast this hour of shadow over our Easter sunshine.   After all, we are sinners, with much to regret and much to fear; we have to avert those scourges which are due to the crimes of mankind; we must, by humbling ourselves and invoking the intercession of the Mother of God and the Saints, obtain the health of our bodies and preservation of the fruits of the earth; we have to offer atonement to Divine Justice for our own and the world’s pride, sinful indulgences, and insubordination.   Let us enter into ourselves, and humbly confess that our own share in exciting God’s indignation is great; and our poor prayers, united with those of our Holy Mother the Church, will obtain mercy for the guilty, and for ourselves who are of their number.

A day, then, like this, of reparation to God’s offended majesty, would naturally suggest the necessity of joining some exterior penance to the interior dispositions of contrition which filled the hearts of Christians.  Abstinence from flesh-meat was long observed on this day at Rome; and when the Roman Liturgy was established in the Kingdom of the Franks by King Pepin and St. Karl the Great, the Great Litany of April 25 was, of course, celebrated, and the abstinence kept by the faithful of that country.  A council held at Aachen in 836 enjoined the additional obligation of resting from servile work on this day: the same enactment is found in the Capitularia of Charles the Bald.  As regards fasting, properly so-called, being contrary to the spirit of Paschal Time, it appears never to have been observed on this day, at least not generally.  Amalarius, who lived in the 9th century, asserts that it was not then practiced even in Rome.

During the Procession, the Litany of the Saints is sung, followed by several versicles and orations.  The Mass of the Station is celebrated according to the Lenten Rite, that is, without the Gloria, and in violet vestments.

For centuries, even many persons who had the reputation of being spiritual thought nothing of being absent from the Litanies said on the Feast of St. Mark and the Rogation Days.  One would have thought that when the Holy See took from these days the obligation of abstinence, the faithful would be so much the more earnest to join in the duty left—the duty of prayer.   The people’s presence at the Litanies is taken for granted; and it is simply absurd that a religious rite of public reparation should be one from which almost all should keep away.  We suppose that these Christians will acknowledge the importance of the petitions made in the Litanies; but God is not obliged to hear them in favor of such as ought to make them and yet do not.  When St. Charles Borromeo first took possession of the See of Milan, he found this negligence among his people, and that they left the clergy to go through the Litanies of April 25 by themselves.  He assisted at them himself, and walked barefooted in the Procession.  The people soon followed the saintly pastor’s example.