From all over….
First at our local parish, which is St. Peter’s. Opening and closing hymns were the hymn in honor of St. Peter – “O Sing the Great Apostle” I think. Is that it?
Homily pulled from all the readings, pointing to the fact that this is not the past we are talking about, that St. Peter and Paul are not figures to admire from afar, but men whose love of Christ and willingness to spread that Good News is a call to us – all of us – today to do the same.
Boyz were good. I really do think we are past the worst. Well past. Joseph is always very good – wants his own missalette/hymn book, tries to follow along with varying degrees of interest, depending on his mood. I do think we have his first grade teacher to thank for that. Michael draws on the bulletin, pays attention sometimes, studies the floor sometimes, but has finally internalized the concept of “church voice.” Thank goodness.
Parents of young children, take heart!
Before we left, I caught some of EWTN’s Mass, with Bishop Baker presiding. I’m sure his homily will be posted on the diocesan website soon, but from my recollection, it was a good call to deeper discipleship during this Year of St. Paul. He hit particularly strongly on divisions within the Church – echoing the Pope’s repeated call to American Catholics on that score. He also told a good story about being interviewed by a student from the local Catholic high school about the Year of St. Paul. He said all Catholics were being encouraged to read all the Letters of St. Paul. “Oh, I’ve already done that, Bishop.” In fact, this young lady was taking the season (it was Lent) to memorize a Scripture verse a day. Well, good, said the Bishop, let’s hope more of your fellow Catholics will do as you’re doing.
“Well, yes,” said the young lady, “but I’m a Methodist.”
Finally, to Rome.
You can find images and commentary on this morning’s Mass at NLM and Fr. Z’s. It was a morning rich in symbolism – of reaching back to the past, recognizing and celebrating that the past is truly not the past, and hope for the future.
After the proclamation of the Gospel, Benedict XVI introduced the address by Bartholomew I, which emphasised the profound unity and friendship that binds Constantinople (“the new Rome”) and the “old Rome”. He affirmed that theological dialogue “continues forward, beyond the considerable difficulties that remain and the well-known problems”, and expressed his hope that soon, “as soon as possible”, full unity may be reached. The visit of the delegation from the patriarchate to Rome for the feast of the holy apostles – which has become a tradition – is itself an expression of this desire, and of a form of unity already present. This year, Bartholomew I himself wanted to be present in order to repay the pope’s visit to Constantinople last November, but above all to inaugurate together the Pauline Year, at the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Saint Paul. Bartholomew I said that for them as well, this is “the Year of the apostle Paul”, in which the Church of the East has planned pilgrimages to Rome and to the places of the apostle’s activity in Turkey (Ephesus, Miletus, etc.) and to Greece, Rhodes, and Crete.
In his homily, the pontiff emphasised above all the value of Rome, as the place of the martyrdom of the two apostles: “Through their martyrdom, they became brothers; together they were the founders of the new Christian Rome”. And he added: “The blood of the martyrs does not call for vengeance, but rather reconciles. It does not present itself as an accusation, but as ‘luce aurea’ . . . as the power of love that overcomes hatred and violence, thus founding a new city, a new community. Because of their martyrdom, they – Peter and Paul – are now part of Rome: through martyrdom, Peter as well became a Roman citizen forever. Through martyrdom, through their faith and love, the two apostles show where real hope lies, and are the founders of a new kind of city that must be formed continually anew in the midst of the old human city, which remains under threat from the opposing forces of sin and human egoism”.
Benedict XVI asked “why” Peter and Paul came to Rome. “[For Paul,] going to Rome was part of the universality of his mission to all peoples. The road to Rome . . . was an integral part of his task of bringing in the Gospel to all the gentiles – of founding the catholic, universal, Church. Going to Rome was for him an expression of the catholicity of his mission. Rome must make the faith visible to all the world, it must be the place of encounter in the one faith”.
For his part, the pope continued, Peter is the one who opened the doors of the pagans to the Christian faith (see the episode with the centurion Cornelius, Acts 10). “Peter”, the pope explained, “. . . left the leadership of the Christian-Jewish Church to James the Less, in order to dedicate himself to his true mission: to his ministry for the unity of the one Church of God formed from Jews and pagans. St Paul’s desire to go to Rome emphasises – as we have seen – among the characteristics of the Church, above all the word ‘catholic’. St Peter’s journey to Rome, as representative of the peoples of the world, falls above all under the word ‘one’: his task was that of creating the unity of the catholica, of the Church made up of Jews and pagans, of the Church of all peoples. And this is the permanent mission of Peter: to make it so that the Church never be identified with a single nation, with a single culture or a single state. That it always be the Church of all. That it unite humanity beyond all boundaries, and, in the midst of the divisions of this world, make present the peace of God, the reconciling power of his love”.
The unity of the Church, guaranteed by the ministry of Peter and of his successors, is not an end in itself, but a necessity for the world, which is always divided: “Thanks to the uniformity of technology, thanks to the worldwide network of information, thanks also to the connection of common interests, there now exist in the world today new ways of unity, which are however leading to an explosion of new disagreements, and giving a new impetus to old ones. In the midst of this external unity, based on material things, we need interior unity all the more, which comes from the peace of God – the unity of all those who through Jesus Christ have become brothers and sisters. This is the permanent mission of Peter, and also the particular task entrusted to the Church of Rome”.
The last part of the homily was dedicated to the 40 archbishops who received the pallium from him today, a collar made of lamb’s wool, embroidered with five crosses (a symbol of the five wounds of Christ). Among the archbishops – from all over the world – there were also some from Asian dioceses: Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem; John Hung Shan-Chuan of Taipei (Taiwan); John Lee Hiong Fun-Yityaw, of Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia); Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, from Moscow. The archbishop of Patna, William D’Souza, will instead receive the pallium in his see.
“When we take the pallium upon our shoulders”, the pope explained, “this gesture reminds us of the Shepherd who takes upon his shoulders the lost sheep, which on its own was not able to find the way home, and brings it back to the fold”. But Jesus Christ “also wants men who will ‘carry’ together with Him” lost humanity.
I actually think this morning’s liturgy gives us a good opportunity to consider what liturgy is for Catholics and the Orthodox – the Apostolic Churches. I am not going to distract us from the question at hand – what did you see and hear – for this, because I hope to do something longer later. But simply consider this.
As I have written many times before, it is perhaps time to seriously and honestly consider the messages many of us have absorbed about liturgy over the years. I think many of us think of the Mass essentially as a prayer meeting in which the content of what happens there is provided by us, what we bring – our sensibilities and our needs.
This is, naturally enough, a reaction against the popular perception of years past in which the nature of the congregation’s participation in the Mass had perhaps been obscured. Please – this is not the place to rehash those discussions – later! – but as obviously rich as the celebration of the Mass before the Council could be, the Liturgical Movement happened because many concluded that the laity could perhaps be encouraged to connect more consciously with the the presence of Christ in the liturgy, both by increased catechesis and reforming the liturgy itself.
In the past decades, however, what has happened is that for many, that ancient understanding of liturgy has been lost. And that ancient understanding is that the Mass is, among many other things, an entity that (for lack of a better phrase) “holds” the Faith. It is the place and time in which we encounter Christ in his fullness, which includes how He lives and reigns through His Church.
Which is why, I would add, that one of the primary means of evangelization for Catholicism has always been through the liturgy. Concern with the celebration of the liturgy and its symbolism is not “aesthetics” – although, like anything else, it can be misdirected in that fashion, and the point can be lost in obsessions about details – but such is the case with any of us and our interests. But the fundamental spirit is a concern that the fullness of this faith – the faith that we know through Christ and His Church – is expressed clearly, richly and evocatively. In a way that expresses what this Real Presence is and means, part of which involves mystery.
And so today, just one point.
So a bunch of archbishops are given some stoles. So what? Why the fuss? Why not just hand them to them after lunch?
Because this is the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, whose ministries are continued in the ministries of these men.
Because the pallia are woven in part from the wool of lambs and embroidered with crosses.
Because the night before this Mass, this is what happens:
On the evening before St. Peter’s Day, the pope places them overnight in an alcove below the high altar in St. Peter’s Basilica. This niche lies directly above the tomb of St. Peter himself, and so the pallia are thought to become contact relics, blessed by the apostle whom Jesus commanded to “tend his sheep” and “feed his lambs,” and offering a share in his authority. Reception of the pallium is thus a sign of a bond to the see of Peter and of participation in the pope’s universal solicitude as vicar of Christ, the Good Shepherd.
And then at Mass, the deacons bring the pallia up from the confessio and they are placed upon the shoulders of the Metropolitan Archbishops.
From Peter’s bones, broken for Christ…lamb’s wool…crosses..to their own shoulders. Shepherds.
Every human act that seeks to touch and be touched by God runs a risk of derailment. A casual prayer meeting runs the risk of solipsism, of a narrowness of vision. Ritual runs the risk of distancing and distracting us in those very acts that are supposed to bring us closest to Christ and, because we are His Body, to each other. An Archbishop, taken up by the moment, might be tempted to absorb it all as “honor” rather than a call to deeper, more sacrifical service.
But so all of us our tempted to fall short in our own calling.
It also might be tempting for some to consider the simple fisherman, St. Peter, upon whose bones this great edifice and elaborate ceremony takes place, and devalue the latter as somehow a betrayal of the former. But is it? Our Church is one that recognizes and celebrates the rich totality of God’s ways in the world. Our saints have worn the rich robes and have challenged those in the robes. Our saints have been concerned with detail and minutiae, our saints have knelt on stone floors, simple and grateful in the presence of God. Our saints have fished – in all kinds of ways. WIth hand woven nets, with embraces of leprous bodies, with rough words and fine Latin phrases.
There is no cause. There is only Christ, who comes to us as we are, in a world at once simple, complex, rich in its poverty, plain and obscure. As members of his body we listen, we correct each other, we balance each other, we are willing to learn, expand our vision and admit our mistakes.
But most of all, we are willing to follow, love and suffer, living and working in all the diversity of human experience and ways of knowing and being.
Sts. Peter and Paul..orate pro nobis.
So – back to the matter at hand. What did you see and hear? Was the Year of St. Paul mentioned?