Sunday, April 3, 2016

Easter Station Church 54: San Pancrazio

Second Sunday of Easter
Divine Mercy Sunday

It may seem unusual that the last Station Church should be one of the minor basilicas in Rome, the Basilica of St Pancras on the Janiculum Hill. The basilica is dedicated to the boy martyr, Pancras, a native of Phrygia who was put to death in Rome around the year 303. He came to Rome after his parents's death to live with his uncle. He converted to the faith at the age of fourteen, but as a member of the aristocracy his conversion was not appreciated. Attempts to make him recant failed, so he was beheaded.  His body was buried in the catacombs and later translated to the site where this basilica is now standing.  The basilica is in the care of our Order, the Discalced Carmelites.

St Pancras's faith is in striking contrast to St Thomas's doubts, and he is one of those whom Jesus refers to when blesses those who have not seen him but yet believe. His faith is true, deep, personal.  He is truly hidden with Christ in God - the simplicity of his basilica is a reminder to us that while alive with Easter faith we must always aim to nurture a deep, simple and authentic relationship with Jesus Christ.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Easter: Station Church 53: San Giovanni in Laterano

Easter Saturday

Once again the pilgrims return to the cathedral of Rome for a Station. Once the palace and estates of a disgraced family, the Laterani, it is now the heart of the Christian Church. It fits in with the renewal of the apostles following the Resurrection - men demoralised, weak in faith, lost, unsure of themselves, become bastions of faith and courageous preachers.  The rulers, elders and scribes are astonished - is this the motley crew of peasants that surrounded Jesus? Yes it is and see what they have become. As the Lateran basilica rose up in the Roman skyline no doubt many eminent Roman pagans said the same thing: "See what the Christians have become!" And why? Because of what we read in the Gospel today - the Lord has risen and has sent them out to proclaim the Good News to all creation.

Living in the age we do our enemies want to demoralise us, silence us, push us into the backstreets. But we must never allow that to happen. We must not lock ourselves behind closed doors anymore - the world is our sphere of action. We may need to find different ways of preaching the Gospel, but we must always be zealous to be faithful to the Lord's command.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Easter: Station Church 52: Santa Maria dei Martiri

Easter Friday

The Easter Station pilgrimage takes us to a new church today, the Basilica of St Mary of the Martyrs, usually referred to as the Pantheon in Rome. If ever there was a building which symbolises the triumph of Christianity it is this building - constructed in honour of all the gods of Rome, it has become a church dedicated to Our Lady as Queen of Martyrs. Given to Pope Boniface IV in 609, he converted it into a church and consecrated it. Apart from its attraction as ancient Roman building, the best preserved of all the ancient monuments, it is also the burial place of some important Italian figures - the painter Raphael and two kings of Italy.

On this Easter Friday, the Station pilgrimage brings us to reflect on martyrdom. In the first reading we see Peter and John drawing the ire of the Temple priests and others. It is dawning on the Jewish authorities that the "Jesus of Nazareth thing" is not going to go away - something has started and it is going to grow. The apostles are arrested and so begins the persecution of the Church, one which has lasted down to our day and will continue long after we have gone.

Our Gospel presents us with a comforting sight - the reconciliation of Peter with Our Lord. Forgiven, Peter is told to feed and care for the sheep and lambs - the flock of Christ - the Church. In the midst of all her troubles, Peter has fulfilled this command faithfully and Christ watches over us all. The gathering at Santa Maria dei Martiri reminds us all that suffering for the faith, though hard, is blessed, it strengthens the proclamation of the Gospel.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter: Station Church 51: Santi Apostoli

Easter Thursday

To mark today's Gospel, the Station Church today is the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles. The two disciples rush back from Emmaus to meet with the gathered apostles, and then the Lord enters into their midst: most of them see the Risen Lord for the first time. They are afraid - is this a ghost? Jesus calms their fears and asks for something to eat - this is no ghost - the Lord has risen. They are the witnesses, and they must now preach what they have seen and heard to all nations beginning in Jerusalem.

Our first reading reveals Peter and John fulfilling this task. They healed the crippled man, but that is only a sign, the Gospel is more important, the death and resurrection is more important - this is what heals the soul, heals humanity, restores us. We are brought to our senses, we are restored, we become truly human in the presence of Jesus Christ, drinking from his Paschal Mystery, living the life he offers us.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter: Station Church 50: San Lorenzo Fuori Le Mura

Easter Wednesday

We remain outside the city again today as the Station pilgrimage takes us back to the basilica of St Lawrence Outside-the-Walls.  Given their love of St Lawrence, the Romani would have to include his basilica in the Easter Stations. The first reading presents us with the story of St Peter and St John healing the crippled  man. "I have neither silver nor gold", Peter confesses, but he will answer the man's appeal for alms, he commends him to the healing power of the Risen Jesus, and the man is cured. This would bring St Lawrence's ministry of charity to the minds of the Romani. 

Our Gospel details the appearance of the Lord to two of disciples as they make their way to Emmaus. Though they do not recognise  him, their hearts are aflame with the healing fire of the Risen Christ as the Lord explains the Scriptures to them. They will recognise him in the breaking of the bread, a figure of the Eucharist. Here again poor men are healed, men poor in faith, men poor with sorrow. Christ does not give us silver or gold - the treasure of the Church is not to be found in material things, it is found in the love of Jesus Christ, in the Paschal Mystery, and in the healing encounter with the Risen Lord which we find every day in the Holy Eucharist.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter: Station Church 49: San Paolo Fuori Le Mura

Easter Tuesday

Today, after St Peter's yesterday, the pilgrims journey out to St Paul's Outside-the-Walls to honour on this Easter day the Apostle to the Gentiles, the one who understood what St Peter describes in our first reading as the Church as being made up of living stones and built into a spiritual house.  St Paul devoted his life to winning souls to become those living stones and through his preaching, writing and example taught the how to become holy and thereby build up that spiritual house.

Our Gospel relates the Lord's appearance to St Mary Magdalen,  Though at first she did not recognise him, she does when he calls her by name. St Paul did not first recognise Christ until he too was called by name in his dramatic encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. And us - have we truly recognised him? he has already called us by name, and like Mary and Paul, we have been asked by the Risen Lord to go and make his Gospel known to the world.

Monday, March 28, 2016

"I Will Be His Spouse"

This evening we celebrated Holy Mass in my parish for the repose of Mother Angelica. For your information, here is the text of the homily I delivered at that Mass. A poor tribute indeed.

"I Will Be His Spouse"

Remembering Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation 

In these days of the Easter Octave as the Church celebrates the Resurrection of the Lord, in the Holy Mass the readings are those of Jesus’ Resurrection appearances and the first proclamation of the Gospel in the early Church as preserved in the Acts of the Apostles. The Lord’s rising from the dead and the kerygma are united as one in these days of celebration. The Resurrection was no mere event that was to be left as another supernatural occurrence to be marveled at. No, it was one which shook the foundations of human history, of the world, and urged the Lord’s disciples to proclaim it from the rooftops.  Everything has changed, death has been conquered, salvation has been won, now, disciples of Jesus Christ, go out to the whole world and proclaim this Good News. None of those who call themselves Christian are exempt from this, no matter what are circumstances are, our state in life, our poverty or poor health, we are called to be evangelisers. As the Resurrection touches our lives, we are to be witnesses so it will touch the lives of others.

If we wish to understand the life of Mother Angelica, who was taken from us yesterday afternoon, we need to understand this call to evangelisation. She was first and foremost a disciple of Jesus Christ and then, by necessity, an evangelist. From the moment of her conversion in 1944, when she experienced a physical healing but an even great spiritual one, she understood there was one thing necessary, the better way – to serve the Master. In her letter of farewell to her mother, as she entered the Poor Clares in Cleveland, the then Rita Rizzo said “I will be His Spouse” and in this she knew that his concerns would be hers, and at the heart of them, the salvation of souls.  She fell “completely in love with Our Lord” and with his people. Throughout her long life, that love for Christ and souls intensified and she never lost sight of her responsibilities as a disciple and a bride of the Lord. 

Though she had retired to a Poor Clare community to live a life of prayer, Mother was open to whatever God was calling her to do to save souls. As other nuns fruitfully win souls for Christ through prayer and sacrifice, Mother was to add a third means – broadcasting – evangelisation through the mass media. Heeding the call to found a monastery in Alabama she never thought that that work was the first step in the foundation of a global Catholic network that would proclaim the Easter message, the Gospel to millions throughout the world. A slot in a local broadcaster in Alabama would give way to a makeshift studio in a garage which became what some in the media in the last day or so have been calling “a media empire”. Lest we be led astray by such terms, Mother would prefer to call it a means of proclaiming the Gospel, of teaching the faith and leading souls to Christ their Saviour. It was faith, determination, zeal and much suffering which bore fruit not just in building EWTN, but in touching the lives and hearts of millions and converting many to Christianity and Catholicism. 

Mother suffered for all this, no good work is ever accomplished without suffering, and she was not afraid to carry the cross. No cross was too heavy to carry, no sacrifice too great if it led to the proclamation of the Gospel and the reiteration of the truth. She detested the lie, the dissemination of falsehoods which undermined the Gospel, and so she found herself in many battles, some of them with pastors of the Church as she called them to fidelity to Church teaching. She was one with Peter, supporting St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI in their pontificates, putting the Network entirely at the service of the Church. 

But in all her troubles, Mother never lost her sense of humour. Grace builds on nature, St Paul tells us, and in Angelica a positive view of life and a mischievous sense of humour were enhanced by her progress in virtue. She saw that a life steeped in Christ could be joyful, happy, even hilarious because this life was one rooted in the Resurrection and the victory of the Lord over sin and death. Holiness was the goal, and though the struggle for holiness was real, that struggle was, in her own words, beautiful. 

Mother Angelica was one of the great evangelisers of the Church in the modern age, and I have no doubt that she will continue to carry out the mission the Lord gave her when he called her; recalling the sentiments of St Thérèse, I believe that mother’s work is just beginning.  But for all that, if I were to encourage you to reflect on one aspect of Mother’s life and legacy, I would have to give precedence to her love and service of the Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament. In this most wonderful Sacrament we will find the mystery of Mother’s life and the object of her love and service. Here was her strength, her joy, her peace, her holiness. Here was the source of Mother’s zeal, wisdom and confidence: the root of her apostolate. Here Angelica found her Lord and shared with him the most intimate moments.  Let this be her greatest lesson to all of us: to seek the Lord in the Holy Eucharist; to adore him most profoundly; to serve him; to spend time with him; to entrust our entire lives to him who has given his life for us.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord,
and may perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace. Amen.

Though officially we cannot say it, my heart already is: Mother Angelica, pray for us!

Mother Has Gone To God

Mother has gone to God. And on Easter Sunday! May the Lord grant her eternal rest.

Mother Angelica was one of those extraordinary charismatic figures who light up the Church and the world at certain times in history. Full of faith and determination such figures understand that they have been given a task and they dedicate themselves completely to fulfilling that task for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. In her work Mother was zealous, wise and even mischievous in a good sense. She made firm friends and inspired millions, she also made enemies and some powerful ones too. Yet with humble trust, a forceful God-centred confidence and wit she carried on. In every battle she abandoned herself to God and she won. Her life was spent serving the Church and no suffering, no sacrifice was too great for her. She marvelled at the wonder of God, immersed herself in the Word of God and rejoiced in the presence of God. She has left us all an extraordinary legacy.

On a personal level I know I should be sad, but today I experience a sense of joy. I truly believe we now have another Saint in heaven, and my first reaction is to pray to her. Of course the Church makes such decisions, but privately I am convinced she will be a powerful patron for all of us in these difficult times. That she died on Easter Sunday is, to my mind, of great significance. May she now share in the beatific vision and intercede for all of us.

Eternal rest grant to her, O Lord, and through her intercession bless the Network and our EWTN family. You have taken our Mother from us, now in your mercy glorify her and give her back to us as our heavenly intercessor and protector.

Mother, thank you for your life of dedicated service, watch over us.

Easter: Station Church 48: San Pietro in Vaticano

Easter Monday

The Easter pilgrims make their way to St Peter's Basilica for the Station today. A resplendent basilica awaits them.  Gathered around the bones of St Peter, our first reading relates his proclaiming his faith in the Risen Jesus. Called by Jesus to strengthen the brethren, this is what Peter is now doing, and he continues to do it both from heaven and in the person of his successor on earth, the Pope. 

Our Gospel relates the encounter of the holy women with Jesus: they believe because they have seen. Others have also seen, but they refuse to believe and prefer to manufacture a falsehood. But that lie will not dominate, in the end the truth about Christ will prevail. It is our task to ensure that the truth prevails in our lives, and by our participation in the Church's mission, prevails in our time.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Station Church 47: Santa Maria Maggiore

Easter Sunday

Beautifully. we celebrate Easter Sunday in the Basilica of St Mary Major, recalling that venerable tradition that the first, unofficial witness to the Resurrection of Jesus, was his mother. That ancient story tells us that very early on Easter morning Jesus came to his mother to reveal himself in all his glory, to console her, reward her faith, and acknowledge her perfect faith. 

We will have to wait until we get to heaven to know if this tradition is true or not, but one of the truths we can draw from it is that those who believe in Christ, even in the midst of great darkness, will be rewarded for their suffering with the vision of the Face of Christ. He will raise them up to be with him.

Happy Easter everyone.