Saint Patrick's Cathedral has come to symbolize the place of the Catholic Church in American history. Clearly, with the apostolic visitation of Pope Benedict XVI, another chapter in the history of that relationship is being written.
The beautiful Cathedral, with its gothic spires stretching toward the skyline of New York City, was filled to its capacity with 3000 Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and consecrated men and women religious.
They prayerfully awaited the arrival of the Successor of Peter, from whom they hoped to hear words of encouragement, inspiration and instruction from.
They received what their hearts desired and much, much more.
The music rose to fill the sacred space, bringing heaven to earth, spilling out in its splendor to touch even the secular reporters on major news networks who commented on its transcendence and beauty.
It also signaled what was to come.
This beautifully prepared Sacred Liturgy was presided over by the Vicar of Christ with grace, dignity and that unique gentleness of spirit which the American people are now learning to deeply admire.
After the entrance procession, Edward Cardinal Egan greeted the Holy Father with inspiring, and honest words of welcome, expressing a pledge of fidelity on behalf of all the clergy and religious to the current Occupant of the Office of Peter, Benedict XVI.
He also congratulated the Holy Father on the Third Anniversary of his elevation to the Chair of St. Peter which occurred on this same day.
The readings selected for the Holy Mass were taken from the Acts of the Apostles, St. Pauls letter to the Corinthians and the Gospel of St. John in the New Testament. They all spoke of the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believers - and in the life of the Church, the Body of Christ.
In a profound homily, the Holy Father spoke of the essential role of the Holy Spirit. In his unique manner he presented deeply theological truths in an accessible manner.
The homily was a theological exposition of Ecclesiology, the theology of the Church, Soteriology, the theology of salvation and conversion and Pneumatology, the theology of the work of the Holy Spirit. yet, it was not acadeemic, it was both understandable and inspiring.
It is this ability of Pope Benedict XVI which has shone throughout all of his homilies during this apostolic visit to the United States. He is truly gifted with an ability to articulate deep theological truth in a manner which can be easily understood by the faithful.
The Pope used the structure of the great Cathedral as a symbolic framework for addressing the interior meaning of the Christian vocation and mission. He called for a new Pentecost for the Church in America, reminding the faithful of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in and through the Church. He spoke of hope and joy which is to characterize the life of catholic Christians.
He first drew attention to the stained glass windows, noting that from the outside, the windows appear dark and heavy. Yet, it is only from the inside, where the light streams through those windows, where one sees the deeper reality.
Those windows he said, symbolize the experience of the Christian life as an encounter with the Risen Christ which is to be lived within the communion of the Church, His Living Body, which continues his presence on earth and carries on his redemptive mission until He comes again.
He reminded the faithful that the Church is the first fruits of a redeemed community and, citing the early Church father Irenaeus of Lyons, noted that where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God, where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church...and all grace.
He continued by pointing to other aspects of the beautiful structure of the Cathedral to symbolically break open the inner meaning of the Christian life and the consecrated vocations of those for whom this Holy Mass was especially being offered - the priests, deacons and consecrated religious - as well as the Baptismal vocation of all who bear the name Christian.
He spoke of the need for ongoing conversion of mind, heart and life, which occurs through a renewal in the Holy Spirit. He called for the healing of divisions which have occurred within the Church since the Second Vatican Council. Instead, he called for a return to a unity of vision and purpose for the Church which was the real purpose of that great Council.
Then, he once again addressed the pain of the crisis occasioned by the sexual abuse committed by a miniscule number of the clergy who had violated their sacred office. Only this time, he assured those present, who, like the overwhelming majority of priests, deacons and religious were living their vocations in sacrificial fidelity, of his spiritual closeness to them in their pain. He told them that they were living through a time of purification and healing.
Finally, he noted that the structure of the Spires of the Cathedral reflected not a static reality but a dynamic tension of diverse forces which stretch to the heavens. S it is with the living Body of Christ on earth, the Church, said the Pope.
Drawing from the Letter of St Paul which was read during the Liturgy of the Word, he noted that the hierarchical and charismatic gifts of the Body of Christ are ordered toward the mission of the whole Church, which is for the Common Good.
He invited all present to ask the Holy Spirit to make them into the Living Stones of which St Peter wrote in his first letter in the New Testament, so that they could be built into the House of God. He called for a New Springtime in the Spirit which, like the rising spires of the Cathedral, will point the way to the New Jerusalem.
It was an extraordinary homily, followed by a beautiful Liturgy of the Eucharist.
However, as the Liturgy progressed toward conclusion, there was a surprise. Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, in unexpected remarks, honored the Holy Father for his three years of service to the Church as the Successor of Peter. The assembly joined in with overwhelming response.
Pope Benedict, obviously moved, spoke with touching humility of his own unworthiness and asked the faithful for their prayers so that he, like Peter, may be a rock for the faithful.
Then, he gave the faithful gathered in the Cathedral and all those watching throughout the world, his apostolic blessing.
To the singing of the majestic ancient German Hymn, Holy God we Praise Thy Name, the Holy Father left in the closing Procession.
This beautiful papal Liturgy concluded, as it had begun, by drawing all present into the experience of heaven touching earth in the great Mysteries of the catholic Christian faith.
It was an inspiring Mass. We are all blessed by the presence of the Vicar of Christ!
He is just a man.
Not being a Catholic—meaning such religeous leaders as the Pope are superfluous to individual salvation yet still are invaluable in leading one there—I find B-16s visit to America fascinating and yes,uplifting.
The old kraut King Kristian has klass and kharisma,that much is klear (just being kute).
This has been a great week for ALL American Christians of ALL denominations.
“My how the leftist heathens do howl!”
It was a beautiful and reverent Mass, reminding us we are in God’s presence at Mass.