Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Bertone's Opry Debut: Hail, Columbia... Love, B16

A bit of historic trivia for all of you: for the first time ever, the top two officials of the Roman Curia -- the Secretary of State and prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- are simultaneously on American soil. Granted, not in the same place (the latter is holidaying at his SoCal condo), but in the same country.

Thank God this isn't the 1850s, else the Nativists would be vaporizing that the Pope was in his final stages of preparing to dig that tunnel under the Atlantic.

Then again, that said prejudice has been eradicated can be credited in no small part to 125 years of the work of the Knights of Columbus.

Joined by 100 worshipful high-hats, and an even larger number of clergy, from far and nigh, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB opened the KofC's 125th Supreme Convention this morning in Nashville.

(For the record, the SegStat spoke no English -- homily delivered in Italian, ordinary of the Mass in Latin.)

Homily fulltext; snips:

On August 14, 1890, Father Michael J. McGivney, a priest of the Diocese of Hartford who was just 38 years old, passed from this life to eternity. An obituary notice quoted from the Book of Wisdom, “Being perfected in a short time, they fulfilled long years; for their souls were pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took them quickly from the midst of wickedness” (Wis 4:13-14). The crowds who turned out for his funeral bore eloquent witness to the power of his example, rooted in personal holiness. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints, as you know, is currently studying the life of this Servant of God, with a view to recognizing his sanctity and presenting him to the faithful as a model Christian, worthy of imitation. In the light of today’s Gospel, I would like to dwell briefly on some aspects of the life of this holy parish priest, founder of your association.

The Gospel we have just heard provides us with the image of Peter walking on the water towards Christ. Peter is uncertain, buffeted by the waves and the intensity of the storm, but with his gaze fixed upon Christ he finds the faith and the courage to withstand all the forces working against him and to move forward. Only when his faith momentarily deserts him, does he begin to sink, and then it is the hand of Christ that holds him up. In many respects the storm-tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee seems an apt image for the situation of the local Church at the time of Father McGivney, when the plight of Catholics in America was far from easy. This holy priest, however, like Peter in the Gospel story, found the faith and the courage to walk steadfastly towards Christ, and to inspire others by his leadership. Everyone who had the privilege of knowing Father McGivney was impressed by the dynamism of his personality and his pastoral zeal. He guided the organization he founded with prudence and wisdom, firmly trusting in Christ. He recognized the need to promote the mutual support and solidarity of the Catholic community, and nothing would deter him from pursuing this noble goal. May your founder’s faith and courage serve as an inspiration to all of you as you devote yourselves to the pursuit of your own apostolate.

When they saw Jesus walking across the water, the disciples were terrified. But when he encouraged them not to be afraid, Peter called out: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus said, “Come.” It was in response to that call that Peter set out towards him. Likewise, Father McGivney, when he set out upon the path to priesthood, did so in response to a call from Christ, and he spent his remaining years faithfully living out that vocation. He also helped others to recognize the call that Christ addressed to them, and to respond generously. This was the key to his apostolic vision in founding the Knights. He recognized the material and spiritual poverty of so many members of the Catholic community, and he understood that it was part of the lay vocation to become actively involved in offering assistance to brothers and sisters in need. He knew that it is not only priests and religious who have a vocation, but that every Christian is called by Christ to carry out a particular mission in the Church. He left a lasting legacy in the organization that he founded which has continued to provide opportunities for countless lay Catholics to play their part in building up the Kingdom of God.

At the end of today’s Gospel passage, we hear that the people from the surrounding country brought to Jesus all those who were sick, and begged to be able to touch even just the tassel on his cloak, so that they could be healed. Christ’s care for the sick and the suffering was an inspiration to Father McGivney who, as a priest, sought to be a living sign of Christ for the people he served. The parishioners in New Haven and Thomaston were attracted to this kind and gentle priest, who ministered to them with Christ-like compassion. Through the organization that he founded he reached out beyond the boundaries of his parishes to members of the Catholic community throughout America, many of whom were in great need. Widows and orphans who might otherwise have suffered destitution have been offered charitable assistance and fraternal support. Those afflicted by alcoholism have been helped through this association to overcome their loneliness and to make a courageous choice to fight against their dependency. Like the Good Samaritan, you bind the wounds of those you discover lying by the wayside and help restore them to health and strength. In so doing you are following in the footsteps of your founder, and with him imitating Christ, who came that we might have life in abundance.

AP/Mark Humphrey