Building a Civilization of Truth and Love
Editor’s note: The following address by Archbishop Cordileone titled “Building a Civilization of Truth and Love” was delivered at the March for Marriage on June 19, 2014 in Washington D.C.
In our Catholic faith tradition, young people around the age of junior high school or high school receive the sacrament of Confirmation, normally administered by the bishop. At a Confirmation ceremony I celebrated recently in a large, Hispanic parish, two of the young people shared some reflections on what their Confirmation meant to them. They said that their Confirmation gave them the grace to go forth and “build a civilization of truth and love.” I could not have said it better myself! And that, my friends, is why we are here. Both are necessary, both, together, if we wish to have a flourishing society: truth and love.
This is the legacy we have received from our ancestors in faith. To my fellow believers in Jesus Christ I would call our attention to those first generations of Christians in the city of Rome, who were so often scapegoated by the powerful pagan Roman government. But when a plague would strike the city and the well-to-do fled to the hills for safety until the plague subsided, it was the Christians who stayed behind to care for the sick, at great risk to their own health and very lives. And not just the Christian sick: all the sick, regardless of religion, of how they lived their lives, or even what they thought of the Christians themselves. The historian Eusebius noted about the Christians of his time, “All day long some of them tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.” Likewise, the Emperor Julian complained to one of his pagan priests, “[They] support not only their poor, but ours as well.”
It is this kind of love and compassion in the service of truth, especially the truth of the human person, that has marked the lives of the holy ones of our own faith tradition and others as well: hospitals, orphanages, schools, outreach to the poor and destitute—giving without concern for getting anything in return, seeing in each human being, especially in the poor and destitute, a priceless child beloved by God, whom God calls to turn away from sin and toward Him, so that they might be saved. In 1839 Jeanne Jugan met one such priceless child of God, a blind old crippled woman whom nobody cared for. That night, Jeanne carried the woman home to her apartment, and put her to sleep in her own bed. From this profound encounter was born the Little Sisters of the Poor, who even today are loving, caring for and providing homes for thousands of elderly who deserve dignity as well as care. These are the very nuns who now face the possibility of being shut out of spreading the love of Jesus to the needy because of their refusal to comply with a healthcare mandate that violates their moral convictions, convictions which stand on the truth of basic human dignity.
Let us, then, take our cue from the best our predecessors in faith have inspired, and not humanity’s frequent failings and sins. Like them, we now in our own time need to proclaim and live the truth with charity and compassion as it applies to us today: the truth of a united family based on the union of the children’s father and mother in marriage as the foundational good of society. Every child comes from a man and a woman, and has a right, a natural human right, to know and be known by, to love and be loved by, their own mother and father. This is the great public good that marriage is oriented towards and protects. The question is then: does society need an institution that unites children to the mothers and fathers who bring them into the world, or doesn’t it? If it does, that institution is marriage—nothing else provides this basic good to children.
Yes, this is a foundational truth, and one to which we must witness by lives lived in conformity to it, and which we must proclaim with love. Love for those millions of loving single mothers and fathers who struggle to pick up the pieces of their lives and succeed in creating loving homes for their children—they need and deserve our love, affirmation and support. Love for the husband struggling with fidelity, for the woman who feels abandoned and pressured into abortion, for the teenager struggling to believe in the heroic vision of love that makes sense of chastity, for the single person who cannot find a mate, for the childless couple trying to cope with infertility, for the wife who finds herself nursing a sick husband in her marriage bed, for the young person trying to navigate through sexual identity issues and may feel alienated from the Church because of it, maybe even because of the sort of treatment received from those who profess to be believers. To all of you, I say: know that you are a child of God, that you are called to heroic love and that with God’s help you can do it, that we love you and want to support you in living your God-given call.
And let us not forget: we must also proclaim this truth especially with love for those who disagree with us on this issue, and most of all, for those who are hostile toward us. We must be careful, though, not to paint our opponents on this issue with broad strokes. There is a tendency in our culture to do this to groups of people the powerful don’t know and think they don’t like. We must not do that. We must recognize that there are people on the other side of this debate who are of good will and are sincerely trying to promote what they think is right and fair. It is misdirected good will. But even those from whom we suffer retribution—and I know some of you have suffered in very serious ways because of your stand for marriage—still, we must love them. That is what our ancestors in faith did, and we must, too. Yes, it is easy to become resentful when you are relentlessly and unfairly painted as a bigot and are punished for publicly standing by the basic truth of marriage as a foundational societal good; it is tempting to respond in kind. Don’t. For those of us who are Catholic, we just heard our Master command us in the gospel proclaimed at Mass the day before yesterday: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44). We must not allow the angry rhetoric to co-opt us into a culture of hate.
Yes, we must show love toward all of these and more. Love is the answer. But love in the truth. The truth is that every child comes from a mother and a father, and to deliberately deprive a child of knowing and being loved by his or her mother and father is an outright injustice. That is our very nature, and no law can change it. Those with temporal power over us might choose to change the definition of marriage in the law even against all that we have accomplished through very generous participation in the democratic process, but our nature does not change. If the law does not correspond to our nature, such that there is a conflict between the law and nature, guess which will prevail? And people will figure it out.
We can take heart from what we see happening now in the pro-life movement. Back in the early 1970’s, just before the Court issued its infamous Roe vs. Wade ruling, public support for abortion was growing rapidly. And as with marriage redefinition today, a generation gap opened up in the polls, leading many to predict that opposition to abortion would literally die off. That was the future; before long, it would not even be an issue. Instead, something unexpected happened. A relatively small band of faithful believers held the line on the sanctity of human life in the womb, and today, two generations later, the pro-life movement is flourishing like never before. We now have the most pro-life generation of young adults since the infamous Roe decision. People have figured out that it is a human life that is within the mother’s womb, and that abortion, yes, really does harm women; they’ve figured out that it’s good to cherish that human life and surround the mother with love and support so a truly happy choice can be made, the choice for life.
People, too, will figure out that a child comes from a father and a mother, and it’s good for the child to be connected to his or her father and mother. These truths may seem obvious to us, but they aren’t to everyone while in the heat of controversy. They will figure out this truth about marriage, though, because it, too, is in our nature, and it is a key to individual and societal flourishing. All we have to do is look around and see that our society is broken and hurting in so many ways; there is so much work to do to fix it and bring healing. Yes, it is very complex, and many different things need to be done: we need to fix our economy; we especially need to pay a living wage to working class families; we need to fix our broken immigration system; we need to improve our schools, especially those that are failing children from poorer families. Yes, we need to do all this and more. But none of these solutions will have a lasting effect if we do not rebuild a marriage culture, a culture which recognizes and supports the good of intact families, built on the marriage between a man and a woman committed to loving faithfulness to each other and to their children. No justice, no peace, no end to poverty, without a strong culture of marriage and the family. This noble cause is a call to love we cannot abandon, that we will not give up on, and that in the end we know will triumph.
So take heart: the truth spoken in love has a power over the human heart. We are here today to March for Marriage, to pick up the torch, and pass on to a new generation the truth about marriage, not just the abstract truth, but the lived reality that makes a difference in children’s lives. So, my friends, we must not give up: the truth will not go away, and we will not go away. Let us take heart from the legacy we have received, let us place our trust in God, and let us go forth to build a civilization of truth and love.
Reprinted with permission of Crisis Magazine
(Photo credit: RNS / Heather Adams)
There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: “I am the truth”? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ.
Through his birth, preaching and baptizing, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.
Such was the quality and strength of the man who accepted the end of this present life by shedding his blood after the long imprisonment. He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men. He was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ.
To endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.
Since death was ever near at hand, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: “You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake.” He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”
— Saint Bede the Venerable
1. Following the Bull Munificentissimus Deus of my venerable Predecessor Pius XII, the Second Vatican Council affirms that the Immaculate Virgin “was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over” (Lumen gentium, n. 59).
The Council Fathers wished to stress that Mary, unlike Christians who die in God’s grace, was taken up into the glory of heaven with her body. This age-old old belief is expressed in a long iconographical tradition which shows Mary “entering” heaven with her body.
The dogma of the Assumption affirms that Mary’s body was glorified after her death. In fact, while for other human beings the resurrection of the body will take place at the end of the world, for Mary the glorification of her body was anticipated by a special privilege.
2. On 1 November 1950, in defining the dogma of the Assumption, Pius XII avoided using the term “resurrection” and did not take a position on the question of the Blessed Virgin’s death as a truth of faith. The Bull Munificentissimus Deus limits itself to affirming the elevation of Mary’s body to heavenly glory, declaring this truth a “divinely revealed dogma”.
How can we not see that the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin has always been part of the faith of the Christian people who, by affirming Mary’s entrance into heavenly glory, have meant to proclaim the glorification of her body?
The first trace of belief in the Virgin’s Assumption can be found in the apocryphal accounts entitled Transitus Mariae, whose origin dates to the second and third centuries. These are popular and sometimes romanticized depictions, which in this case, however, pick up an intuition of faith on the part of God’s People.
Later, there was a long period of growing reflection on Mary’s destiny in the next world. This gradually led the faithful to believe in the glorious raising of the Mother of Jesus, in body and soul, and to the institution in the East of the liturgical feasts of the Dormition and Assumption of Mary.
Belief in the glorious destiny of the body and soul of the Lord’s Mother after her death spread very rapidly from East to West, and has been widespread since the 14th century. In our century, on the eve of the definition of the dogma it was a truth almost universally accepted and professed by the Christian community in every corner of the world.
3. Therefore in May 1946, with the Encyclical Deiparae Virginis Mariae, Pius XII called for a broad consultation, inquiring among the Bishops and, through them, among the clergy and the People of God as to the possibility and opportuneness of defining the bodily assumption of Mary as a dogma of faith. The result was extremely positive: only six answers out of 1,181 showed any reservations about the revealed character of this truth.
Citing this fact, the Bull Munificentissimus Deus states: “From the universal agreement of the Church’s ordinary Magisterium we have a certain and firm proof demonstrating that the Blessed Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven … is a truth revealed by God and therefore should be firmly and faithfully believed by all the children of the Church” (Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus: AAS 42 , 757).
The definition of the dogma, in conformity with the universal faith of the People of God, definitively excludes every doubt and calls for the express assent of all Christians.
After stressing the Church’s actual belief in the Assumption, the Bull recalls the scriptural basis for this truth.
Although the New Testament does not explictly affirm Mary’s Assumption, it offers a basis for it because it strongly emphasized the Blessed Virgin’s perfect union with Jesus’ destiny. This union, which is manifested, from the time of the Saviour’s miraculous conception, in the Mother’s participation in her Son’s mission and especially in her association with his redemptive sacrifice, cannot fail to require a continuation after death. Perfectly united with the life and savingwork of Jesus, Mary shares his heavenly destiny in body and soul.
4. The Bull Munificentissimus Deus cited above refers to the participation of the woman of the Proto-gospel in the struggle against the serpent, recognizing Mary as the New Eve, and presents the Assumption as a consequence of Mary’s union with Christ’s saving work. In this regard it says: “Consequently, just as the glorious Resurrection of Christ was an essential part and the final sign of this victory, so that struggle which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her divine Son should be brought to a close by the glorification of her virginal body” (Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus: AAS 42 , 768).
The Assumption is therefore the culmination of the struggle which involved Mary’s generous love in the redemption of humanity and is the fruit of her unique sharing in the victory of the Cross.
Wednesday, July 2, 1997
The following article was written in 2008 and serves as a reminder during this “Fortnight to Freedom” about the true greatness of our Holy Roman Catholic Church. Mike Aquilina is executive vice-president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He is author of two Catholic Scripture Study International bible studies, “Entertaining Angels” and “Lent, The Road to Redemption, Cycle A”. He is also the author more than forty books on Catholic history, doctrine, and devotion.
When People Ask You Why You’re Catholic,
Sit Them Down and Tell Them the Whole Story
Cardinal John Henry Newman called her “desire of the eyes, joy of the heart, the truth after many shadows, the fullness after many foretastes, the home after many storms.”
“She” was his mother, the Roman Catholic Church. And his mother is YOUR mother.
Asked, in the 4th century, how he could ever remain in such a Church full of sinners and scandals, St. Augustine rattled off his reasons:
“The consent of people and nations keeps me; her authority keeps me — inaugurated by miracles, nourished in hope, enlarged by love and established by age;
The succession of priests keeps me, from the very chair of the apostle Peter down to the present bishops.”
And Augustine’s Church is your Church.
Indeed CHRIST’S Church is yours. It is one, holy, apostolic — and Catholic. It is one through all time and space. By grace, the Catholic Church has preserved Jesus’ teaching unchanged through 20 centuries, even as it has delivered the good news to the ends of the earth. The Church carried out this mission for you, as if you were the only one who mattered.
This Easter, join your prayers to Newman’s and Augustine’s and all the billions who share your faith, on earth and in heaven. Be thankful for all God has given you. And be proud, because even St. Paul found it right to boast of the Church (see 2 Cor 8:24).
Should you ever need a reason to boast, think for a moment. Yours is the Church that has rescued civilization again and again. As the Roman Empire fell into its final decay, it was Christians who constituted the remnant of civilized society. As barbarian hordes swept through Europe and Africa, it was Christian monasteries that secreted away the treasures of classical learning, copying documents faithfully for centuries. And it was conversion to Christianity that kept the barbarian tribes from establishing yet another culture of death. Instead, Europe was born again in a golden age of universities and cathedrals.
Yours, too, is the Church that, centuries later, roused the West to its successful defense against Muslim invaders. And, closer to our own time, your Church is the only institution, Albert Einstein said, that dared to defend German Jews against their Nazi oppressors. “Up to this time,” he testified, “I had no interest in the Church, but today I profess a great admiration and a great attachment for the Church which alone has had the unfailing courage to battle for spiritual freedom and moral liberty.”
Yours is the Church that has nourished culture down through the ages. The great works of art and literature of the last two millennia are those imbued with a Catholic spirit. Open your eyes to the color and glorious form illuminating canvases, chiseled in stone, cast in bronze. Yours is the Church of Giotto, Duccio, Cimabue, Michelangelo, El Greco, Rubens, Bernini, Rouault, Yousuf Karsh, and even M.I. Hummel and Andy Warhol.
Yours is the Church that inspired The Divine Comedy, The Canterbury Tales and The Quest for the Holy Grail. Yours is the Church of Dante, Cervantes, Chaucer, Richard Crashaw, Alexander Pope, John Dryden and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Your Church has hymned God’s glory in the melodies of the great composers, her children: Palestrina, Vivaldi, Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven, Handel and, in our own day, Messiaen, Part, Gorecki, Brubeck, Marylou Williams, John Michael Talbot. Yours is the Church of Gregorian chant and “Faith of Our Fathers.”
Yours is the Church, film critics say, that inspired the cinematic masterpieces of Franco Zeffirelli and Alfred Hitchcock.
And yours is the Church that continues to nurture the art of Western culture. Consider the Catholics Nobel prizewinners: Sigrid Undset, Francois Mauriac, Heinrich Boll, Czeslaw Milosz. Think of the poets: Francis Thompson, Coventry Patmore, Allen Tate, Robert Fitzgerald, John Frederick Nims, Paul Claudel, Edith Sitwell. Dame Edith, on her conversion, told the news magazines that she needed “the zeal, the fire and the authority of Catholicism.”
Then there are the novelists: Flannery O’Connor, J.R.R. Tolkien, Walker Percy, J. F. Powers, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Julien Green, Shusako Endo. In science fiction, Catholic themes constantly re-emerge, as they have since the time of Robert Hugh Benson. One of the undisputed classics of the genre is Walter M. Miller’s Catholic epic, “A Canticle for Leibowitz.” And so, too, with mystery novels, from G.K. Chesterton to Ralph McInerny.
Ponder philosophy, then, and again you must confront your fellow Churchmen: Boethius, Augustine, Aquinas, Scotus, Anselm, Ockham, Descartes, Marcel.
Moving from the library to the laboratory, you’ll note that yours is the Church that made modern science possible. Aristotelian science stalled in Greece till it encountered that particularly Catholic notion of the goodness and order of God’s creation. The rest is history. The astronomer Nicholas Copernicus was a priest. The father of genetics, Gregor Mendel, was a monk. Biologist Louis Pasteur was a layman, who once wrote, “The more I know, the more nearly is my faith that of a Breton peasant. Could I but know all, I would have the faith of a Breton peasant woman.” The first computer was designed and constructed by the Catholic apologist Blaise Pascal.
The sciences of the mind, psychiatry and psychology, advanced in unexpected directions thanks to the contributions of Catholics such as Karl Stern, Gregory Zilboorg, Conrad Baars and Anna Terruwe. Today, Catholics — Paul Vitz, Richard Fitzgibbons, William Kirk Kilpatrick, Robert Enright — continue to produce some of the most exciting work in these professions.
Yours is the Church where comedians Fred Allen and Stepin Fetchit took daily Communion.
You can boast that your Church established institutions that became the pillars of our civic life: the university and the hospital. Alcoholics Anonymous — the grandfather of all 12-step movements — built on foundations laid a century earlier by the Irish Capuchin priest, Theobald Mathew.
Yours is the Church in solidarity with the poor. Catholics have worked, for millennia, to bring education, medical care, legal counsel, housing and honest work to those most in need. Think of the selfless work of Las Casas among the Indians, Mother Teresa in Calcutta, Blessed Damien among the lepers in Molokai, Dorothy Day on the streets of Manhattan, St. Martin de Porres, St. Peter Claver.
And what would your country be without your Church? The New World was “discovered” by a Catholic, Christopher Columbus, sailing a ship named for Holy Mary. On arriving, he sang the Salve Regina. Our continent was named for a Catholic, Amerigo Vespucci, explorer and mapmaker. Indeed, no history of the Americas would be complete without telling the contributions of Roman Catholics: Pocahontas, St. Isaac Jogues, Charles Carroll, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, Blessed Junipero Serra.
Yet, as the saying goes, your Church is not a hotel for saints, but a hospital for sinners. And the hospital is always fairly full. It was your Church’s crusaders who sacked Constantinople, the capital of Eastern Christianity, in 1204, leaving the city so devastated that it never recovered. Thus, Muslims could take Constantinople with little difficulty in 1453. It was your Church’s conquistadors who visited horrors upon Indians in Spanish America. Catholic treatment of the Jews, down through the years, has often been shameful. And the Church’s Inquisition, for a time, moved beyond zeal to cruelty. All these sins the sinners justified in the name of their Catholic faith.
You should know, too, that it was a Catholic chief justice who wrote the Supreme Court’s infamous Dred Scott decision on slavery, and a Catholic justice was said to be the “brains” behind the Roe v. Wade abortion decision. A Catholic was commandant of Auschwitz when St. Maximilian Kolbe and millions of others were martyred there.
Still, yours is the Church that owns and repents of the sins of its members. We do not despair of Christ because of the sins of Christians. He promised not to abandon His Church, and we take Him at His word. Rather than found a newer, “purer” Church (which has never been done), we stay with the Lord even as new and improved Judases ever betray Him.
Repentance comes today from none other than Pope John Paul II — who has pleaded sorrow for Catholics’ mistreatment of Jews, for the Inquisition and for other crimes. He invites us all to join him.
But, lest you dwell too long on the sins of a few and forget the virtues of many: Recall that yours is the Church that has long buttressed true liberty and justice. One cannot advance in the field of political philosophy without wrestling with Catholics such as St. Thomas More, Lord Acton and Michael Novak. It is significant that, in the wake of World War II, as the nations sought a way of lasting peace, your Church provided the philosophical basis for the dialogue. The men who established the United Nations say that the only common language they could find for conversation between conflicting ideologies was the natural-law tradition of Catholic philosophy. Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain was perhaps the most important interlocutor. And it was Catholics who made peace work in the postwar European democracies: Konrad Adenauer in Germany, Charles de Gaulle in France.
But not everything, and certainly not the most important stuff, is so utterly this-worldly. Thus, your Church is guardian of the rich Christian traditions of prayer, contemplation and mysticism. And the permutations are as varied as the people you meet: the joyful poverty of Franciscanism, the workaday holiness of Opus Dei, the spirited praise of charismatics, the unifying power of Focolare, the zealous culture of Communion and Liberation, the disciplined subtlety of Jesuits, the prayer and penance of Carmelites, the profound intellect and piety of Dominicans . . . No one can honestly call us monochromatic.
As one early Christian said: We live abundantly in this land, even as we are citizens of another. Yours is the Church that has preserved the mystical life from materialism, and material life from spiritualism.
Your Church is a great place to come home to. Every day, new members find their way to the Catholic faith. Your Church has been growing every year for centuries. Today, the Church is witnessing rapid growth in the places where faith is most ruthlessly persecuted: China, North Korea and sub-Saharan Africa.
There’s precedent for this. Yours has always been a faith to die for, and millions have — at the hands of Nero, Diocletian, the Muslim Caliphs, Henry VIII, the Lutheran mobs that sacked Rome, John Calvin, Robespierre, the Spanish Republicans, Hitler’s Nazis, Stalin’s communists, China’s Cultural Revolutionaries and Algeria’s terrorists.
In lands of peace, too, so many are coming home to your Church. Consider only the non-Catholic clergymen of recent years: Richard John Neuhaus, Walter Hooper, Scott Hahn, John Haas.
Again, this is nothing new. “Within that household,” said Hillaire Belloc of your Church, “the human spirit has roof and hearth. Outside it is the Night.” For years, the great have come home to Catholicism: actors John Wayne and Alec Guinness, showman Buffalo Bill Cody, artist Aubrey Beardsley, playwright Oscar Wilde, historian Will Durant, media sage Marshall McLuhan, slugger Babe Ruth, singer Maria von Trapp, journalist Heywood Broun, U.S. Rep. Clare Boothe Luce, commentator Malcolm Muggeridge, philosopher Henri Bergson, composer Erik Satie, poet Wallace Stevens and the giant G.K. Chesterton.
Others wrestled with your Church for much of the lives — and where they stopped, nobody knows but God: Jorge Luis Borges, Henry James, Soren Kierkegaard, Henry Adams, Charles Peguy, Franz Werfel, James Joyce, Anthony Burgess, Jean Cocteau, Eugene O’Neill, Jack Kerouac, Miguel de Unamuno.
But, then, why not? Yours is the only Church that can accept Jesus’ hard sayings (Jn 6:26-59 and Mt 16:18-19, for example) without circumlocutions.
And yours is the Church where Jesus himself dwells — body, blood, soul and divinity — in the Holy Eucharist. Yours are the tens of thousands of Catholic churches and chapels worldwide where Jesus waits for you in the tabernacle.
Yours is the Church that traces authority back, generation by generation, to the commissioning of the Twelve Apostles. In 2,000 years, not a single moment is unaccounted for. Your Holy Father today, Pope John Paul II, is a direct successor of St. Peter, whom Jesus himself named to head His Church. And surely John Paul is among the greatest of the 263 popes who have served the servants of God since A.D. 33.
Scholars and experts, including Mikhail Gorbachev, credit the current pontiff with the downfall of world communism. So when this Pope talks — at the United Nations, in Central Park, on an airstrip in Africa — people listen. Everywhere John Paul goes, he draws record crowds. At each successive World Youth Day, every other year, he routinely outdraws Woodstock. (That’s right, your almost-80-year-old pontiff is cooler and more electrifying with kids today than Jimi Hendrix was to kids 30 years ago.) In the Philippines he drew the largest crowd in human history — modest estimates place it at 5 million.
So when people ask you which Church is yours, lift your head up and tell them: It’s the one Jesus Christ gave you — and gave the world. Then invite them in for a visit.
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.
Those in our modern culture who identify themselves as secularists, agnostics or atheists often claim that religion is a childish fantasy, that science has undermined all of its claims, and that it is violent and dangerous. They also claim that they do not need religion and are perfectly happy as they are. This world gives me all that I require, they say. What fascinates me is that as happy as they are and having all they need from this world; why do so many of them spend so much time and energy engaging in the discussion of religion?
St. Augustine was dead right when said: Lord, you have made us for Yourself; therefore our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee. Everybody, believer and non-believer alike, knows in his bones that this is true. And I have wagered my whole life on it.
The proof of this is that nothing in this world: success, money, power, or pleasure, ever truly satisfies the human heart completely. There is still a longing for something more. Even Donald Trump and Bill Gates would admit to this in their more honest moments.
It is a fact that we want, with all our hearts, something that this world simply cannot offer us. We eventually come to realize that so much of what we pursue in this life ultimately disappoints us in the end.
Those of us who embrace our faith wholeheartedly know that the human heart is only fulfilled by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. We want the very life of God within us. We want the vitality and energy of God. And this is our focus today on this great feast of Pentecost, the feast of the Holy Spirit.
It is precisely what Jesus is talking about in the 7th Chapter of John’s gospel from the Vigil Mass for today. When at the climax of the great feast of Tabernacles, Jesus stands in the temple precincts and says: Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Keeping this image in mind, consider that the fact that we can live quite a while without food, especially if we have a little fat on our bones. But, without water, we would die in very short order. That’s how desperately we need water.
Water is an absolute prerequisite for life and we sense this truth precisely when we are thirsty. Hunger, while also unpleasant, is not quite the same as being thirsty. There is something particularly awful about thirst, something desperate and oppressing that goes beyond the level of hunger. It is our body’s way of signaling that it needs something essential and it needs it NOW.
This is why Jesus speaks of thirst. We recall the Psalmist’s words: O God, You are my God, for whom I thirst, like a dry weary land without water. Our need for God is desperate and oppressing like the worst thirst we have ever experienced and nothing in this world could ever satisfy such a thirst as this.
Jesus is speaking to a craving in the human heart so profound; it seeks meaning, purpose, and a connection to something, to someone beyond itself.
In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear that Jews have gathered from all over the world in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. It was a Jewish feast before it became a Christian feast. They all hear the same message as the disciples preach. It is the message that everybody is thirsty for. At that miracle of Pentecost everyone hears the disciples speaking in his own language, signally the universality of this thirst of which I am speaking. Christian and non-Christian, believers and non-believers, Easterners and Westerners, everyone wants to hear this message.
As they whistle in the dark, the secularists and atheist are tragically set adrift in a spiritual desert; that dry weary land without water. This is why our culture and our Church itself need to be evangelized and re-evangelized. People all over the planet are dying of thirst. What the Church offers is the water of the Holy Spirit. Come to me, Jesus says, and drink.
And how do we get the Holy Spirit? There is a hint in the second reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Paul tells us: No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There is a very tight correlation between having the Holy Spirit and declaring the Lordship of Jesus. And what does it mean to declare the Lordship of Jesus? It means to submit to His direction in every aspect of your life: to think as He thought; to act as He acted; to desire as He desired; to pray as He prayed; to love as He loved. If Jesus is the Lord of my life, if He is the Dominus in Latin, then He must dominate every aspect of my existence.
It doesn’t mean I pay attention to Him for a few minutes once a week. It doesn’t mean I pay Him lip service. It doesn’t mean I merely check the box: I’m a Christian, I am a Catholic. It means that He has taken possession of my whole life.
Submission to His Lordship will unleash the Holy Spirit in you. It is when you make Jesus the Lord of your life that the Holy Spirit becomes operative in you.
Remember, as Jesus dies on the cross, He breathes his last and then hands over the Spirit—a beautiful image indeed. As Jesus dies, He expires, breathing His last breath, He hands over His Spirit. Spirit, throughout Scripture means breath, wind, and power. We recall also that the Resurrected Jesus breathed on His disciples and He said: Receive the Holy Spirit.
As we celebrate this great feast of Pentecost let us pray for a renewal of the power, strength, vigor, energy, life, and light of the Holy Spirit. But first, my brothers and sister, you must make Jesus and only Him, the Lord of your whole life. You must daily draw near to Him and learn how to think as He thought, pray as He prayed, and love as He loved; then and only then will the Holy Spirit dwell within you. Amen.
- Fr. David M. Chiantella
In our readings today we are offered some glimpses of the Holy Spirit in anticipation of the great feast of Pentecost that approaches in two weeks. There is palpable excitement in the Church’s choice of these readings as we await the arrival of the Holy Spirit and catch some glimpses of the work and role of the Spirit in the life of the Church. And so we find in each of our readings today a tantalizing peek at the being and action of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity.
In the first reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles we hear about the mission of Philip the Apostle to the town of Samaria. His proclamation of the gospel there was accompanied by the some pretty spectacular things: unclean spirits coming out of possessed people, many paralyzed and crippled people being cured, and so on. When the chief apostles in Jerusalem heard about these events, they sent Peter and John, two apostolic heavyweights, to pray with the people of Samaria and to encourage them.
Here is where the Holy Spirit comes in explicitly. They prayed that the newly baptized, those who had heard the gospel from Philip, and had been baptized in the name of Jesus, might receive the Holy Spirit. They laid hands upon them, and then we are told the Spirit fell upon them. A curious expression; the falling of the Holy Spirit heard elsewhere in the Acts of the Apostles—some power coming down upon them from on high.
Something for us to note is that water baptism in the name of Jesus and the baptism in the Holy Spirit are recognized as separate events in the earliest experience in the life of the Church. They are seen as separate moments in the same process of bringing someone into Christ. The Church, to the present day, mimics this in making Baptism and Confirmation separate sacraments.
Throughout the Acts of the Apostles, you will find that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is associated with special gifts conducive toward mission. These gifts or charismata Paul calls them, charisms; are given for the sake and the purpose of mission. No one in the bible, Old Testament or New, is ever given an experience of God without being given, at the very same time, a mission. It is the Holy Spirit who equips someone for mission. It is the Holy Spirit that gives the powers needed to announce Christ and bring Him to others.
The question that arises from this first understanding of the Holy Spirit is: What gift has the Spirit given to you? As baptized and some of you, confirmed Christian Catholic, what is your charism? What is your gift for the mission of the Church?
Paul identifies preaching, teaching, organizing, administrating, healing, speaking in tongues, and prophesying—all these are charismata, gifts of the Holy Spirit equipping the Church for its mission.
What is yours? My dear brothers and sisters, there is no question more important than this one. There are questions about family, career, success, and the needs of everyday life to be addressed. But none surpass in importance this question that we must all ask ourselves. What is the Holy Spirit empowering me to do better? What has the Spirit already empowered me to do?
In baptism and confirmation we have been given these gifts—what are they and how do we use them? There are no greater questions more important to ponder in this life than these.
Now in the second reading from the first letter of St. Peter, we find him focusing on the Holy Spirit. He is writing to a Christian community in the midst of a critical and sometimes outright violent society. He is clearly writing to a church that is being persecuted. As we well know, it happened a lot in the early days of the developing Church. He is telling them how to engage those who stand outside the Christian faith, even those who are meeting it with criticism, disdain, or at the extreme, with violence. Well, Peter famously says: “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”
Suppose someone knows you are a Catholic Christian; maybe they are just intrigued, maybe indifferent, or maybe even hostile. But they want to know what it is that is giving you hope. It is important to note that St. Peter identifies hope as central to the Christian theme. We are meant to be a people of hope borne from our faith in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
He is also assuming that Christian faith is not an irrational superstition. It is not opposed to reason. It can be explained and should be. It is from these notions of Peter that the seeds are sown that will later blossom into what the Church will later teach as: Fides quaerens intellectum (Faith seeking understanding). We do not have an irrational faith but one that can be brought to reason—and should be. And so therefore, those who hold the Christian faith should be equipped to speak about it reasonably to anyone and everyone who asks.
We cannot and must not retreat into privacy saying our faith is a personal matter, a merely private conviction of our own. This is NOT good enough—and never has been!
St. Peter goes on to recommend that we offer our explanations of hope “with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.” It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
The society that Peter is talking about is not entirely unlike our own. We are living in a time where there is a good deal of hostility toward religion, especially toward Christianity.
- Did you know that worldwide Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world?
- Did you know that the 20th century produced more Christian martyrs than all previous 19 centuries combined?
How does a Christian engage this kind of world? With reason—be ready to give a reason for the hope that lives in you; but ALSO with gentleness and reverence toward the objector—even when this is extremely difficult to muster. This is Peter’s advice to us today. When you engage someone who is hostile to the faith, even to the point of persecution—you must still do it with gentleness and deep reverence. Christians must respond, in short, in the spirit of the crucified Jesus who forgave—yes—even those who were putting him to death.
THIS is the attitude born of the Holy Spirit, who is the love between the Father and the Son. That is why now we are speaking of the Holy Spirit here. When you respond to criticism, to objection, and even to persecution with an attitude of gentleness and reverence, you are living in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit lives in you.
Lastly, let us look at today’s gospel reading. Our Lord speaking to his disciples the night before he died, He tells them that He and His Father will send them an Advocate. The word in Greek is Parakletos. A word meaning summoned or called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid. This Advocate will be one who pleads to the Father on our behalf; someone who supports us, inspires us and encourages us.
Jesus is our first advocate, but He will soon physically depart from the scene of the early Church. Yet, the Father and He will send the Holy Spirit as friend, supporter, advocate, pleader, inspirer and guide for all Christians up and down the ages. And this should give us great hope.
- When the martyrs went to their deaths, it was with the help of this Paraclete.
- When the missionaries went to proclaim the faith in hostile lands, it was the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit who pleaded on their behalf.
- When Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, it was the Holy Spirit who sustained and inspired him.
- When Thomas Aquinas wrote his theological masterpieces, it was at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
- When Edith Stein went with her Gustapo captors to Auschwitz, she went with and in the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.
Friends, the final question as we approach Pentecost, The Great Feast of the Holy Spirit: What is this Parakletos, this Advocate prompting you to do as your part in the mission of the Church?
We need the living Christ, whom we can know only through our encounter with him. But encounter presumes actual presence—the Real Presence, which, in turn, requires the Sacrament and the Church that alone is authorized to give us the Sacrament, the Church that Christ himself willed into existence and continues to support. The Eucharist, at each new celebration, must be recognized anew as the core of our Christian life. But we cannot celebrate the Eucharist adequately if we are content to reduce it to a ritual of—more or less—a half-hour’s duration. To receive Christ means to worship him. We welcome him properly and worthily at the solemn moment of receiving him only when we worship him and in worshipping him learn to know him, come to understand his nature, and follow him. We need to learn once more how to rest peacefully in his gentle presence in our churches, where the Eucharist is likewise always present because Christ intercedes for us before the Father, because he always awaits us and speaks to us. We must learn again how to draw inwardly close to him, for it is only thus that we become worthy of the Eucharist. We cannot prepare ourselves to receive the Eucharist simply by thinking about how it should be done. We can prepare for it only when we try to comprehend the depths of its demands on us, of its greatness; when we do not reduce it to our level, but let ourselves be raised to its exalted level; when we become aware of the accumulated sound of the prayers offered during all the centuries in which generations of men have advanced and are still advancing toward Christ. It is petty and undiscerning to criticize such prayers because we do not understand them; it is an expression of a genuinely “critical” sentiment (of which, be it noted, self-criticism is also a form) when we begin to recognize their greatness and, opening ourselves to that greatness, let ourselves be deepened and purified by it.
From: Joseph Ratzinger, Roman homilies, October 12, 1982
On October 11, 1954, the feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Pius XII recognized the tradition already established in the Church that Mary would be afforded special honor as Queen of May in his encyclical, AD CAELI REGINAM. The Pope stated that the Church was not proposing a new truth to be believed by Christians since this had already been clearly found in ancient documents of the Church and books of the sacred liturgy.The encyclical reads, “From early times Christians have believed, and not without reason, that she of whom was born the Son of the Most High received privileges of grace above all other beings created by God. He “will reign in the house of Jacob forever,” “the Prince of Peace,” the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” And when Christians reflected upon the intimate connection that obtains between a mother and a son, they readily acknowledged the supreme royal dignity of the Mother of God.”
The encyclical cites the early writers of the Church called Mary “the Mother of the King” and “the Mother of the Lord,” and goes on to quote St. Ephrem’s, (303-373 AD) prayer to Mary, “Majestic and Heavenly Maid, Lady, Queen, protect and keep me under your wing lest Satan the sower of destruction glory over me, lest my wicked foe be victorious against me.” He also mentioned, St. Gregory Nazianzus (330-390AD) calls Mary “the Mother of the King of the universe,” and the “Virgin Mother who brought forth the King of the whole world,”
The encyclical goes on to quote various early writers as well as more contemporary writers and pontiffs. He states, “For “just as Christ, because He redeemed us, is our Lord and king by a special title, so the Blessed Virgin also (is our queen), on account of the unique manner in which she assisted in our redemption, by giving of her own substance, by freely offering Him for us, by her singular desire and petition for, and active interest in, our salvation.”
Pope Pius XII concludes, “Since we are convinced, after long and serious reflection, that great good will accrue to the Church if this solidly established truth shines forth more clearly to all, like a luminous lamp raised aloft, by Our Apostolic authority We decree and establish the feast of Mary’s Queenship, which is to be celebrated every year in the whole world on the 31st of May. We likewise ordain that on the same day the consecration of the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary be renewed, cherishing the hope that through such consecration a new era may begin, joyous in Christian peace and in the triumph of religion.”
To read the entire encyclical: Ad Caeli Reginam
In 1965 Pope Paul VI reiterated that special honor should be given to Mary stated in his encyclical Mense Majo that during the month of May.
May crownings take place in many Roman Catholic parishes and homes. The rite for these crownings is flexible and can be adapted to differenct circumstances. Often it consists of prayers such as the Hail Holy Queen, Hail Marys or the Rosary along with hymns such as Queen of the May or Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above. This is concluded with placing the crown of flowers on Mary’s head often by children.
by St. John Chrysostom
Let all pious men and all lovers of God rejoice in the splendor of this feast; let the wise servants blissfully enter into the joy of their Lord; let those who have borne the burden of Lent now receive their pay, and those who have toiled since the first hour, let them now receive their due reward; let any who came after the third hour be grateful to join in the feast, and those who may have come after the sixth, let them not be afraid of being too late; for the Lord is gracious and He receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes on the eleventh hour as well as to him who has toiled since the first: yes, He has pity on the last and He serves the first; He rewards the one and praises the effort.
Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Saviour has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh.
When Isaias foresaw all this, he cried out: “O Hades, you have been angered by encountering Him in the nether world.” Hades is angered because frustrated, it is angered because it has been mocked, it is angered because it has been destroyed, it is angered because it has been reduced to naught, it is angered because it is now captive. It seized a body, and, lo! it encountered heaven; it seized the visible, and was overcome by the invisible.
O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and you are abolished. Christ is risen and the demons are cast down. Christ is risen and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen and life is freed. Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.