Of Homecomings... and Hat Parades
Led by the overwhelmingly-Buddhist country's prime minister, much of the island's political, cultural and pan-religious establishment turned out to greet Ranjith as his flight touched down in the capital. As native dancers performed and monks of other faiths prayed, thousands thronged Colombo's streets -- many decorated to celebrate the occasion -- as the new cardinal was paraded through on his way to a thanksgiving stop at the country's patronal shrine of Our Lady of Lanka, where the new cardinal prayed at the tomb of the first Sri Lankan raised into the papal "Senate," Thomas Benjamin Cooray.
An Oblate of Mary Immaculate who served at the helm of the Colombo church from 1947-76, Cooray was created a cardinal in the 1965 intake -- the last to receive the time-honored ceremonial "red hat" that still surmounts the rank's coat of arms... and, apparently, his successor's homecoming float.
Cooray built the massive basilica, which was dedicated in 1974. He died in 1988, and just last month, Ranjith opened the cause for his predecessor's beatification.
Spread across eleven dioceses, Catholics comprise just under 10% of Sri Lanka's 20 million residents.
Since time immemorial, the mitre worn by members of the College of Cardinals in the Pope's presence (and for concelebrations in general) has been the traditional all-white, but with a quietly distinctive twist: in deference to the rank, cardinals have donned the "damasked mitre" of white-on-white silk, with red tassels on the back.
One of the few pieces of insignia to survive the Conciliar reforms completely intact, even more than its look, the mitra damasco (shown en masse at left) was conspicuous by its size -- such was the headgear's height that, in many cases, the gap between its front and back peaks (usually "open" on a mitre) proved close to nonexistent, which, at least for some cardinals, was said to have made its use a painful experience.
Seemingly in response to the complaints, the damasco was tweaked into a more manageable form at the 2001 consistory -- same style, but significantly smaller (above) -- and was immediately adopted by practically the entire College. Now, however, in the spirit of the "Papal Pallium," the papal MC Msgr Guido Marini and his team have apparently moved to make another innovation, debuting a complete revamp of the red-hats' liturgical headdress:
And, well, time will tell how it catches on, both in Rome and on the road.
No one is master in the Church but all are called, all are sent out, all are reached and guided by divine grace. And this is also our security! Only by listening anew to the word of Jesus who asks, “come, follow me”, only by returning to our original vocation, is it possible to understand our own presence and mission in the Church as authentic disciples....and Sunday's Mass of the Rings:
The request of James and John and the indignation of the other “ten” Apostles raised a central question to which Jesus chose to answer: who is great, who is “first” for God? First of all Jesus looks at behaviour which “those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles” risk assuming: to “lord it over them”.
Jesus points out to the disciples a completely different conduct. “But it shall not be so among you”. His community follows another rule, another logic, another model: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all”.
The criterion of greatness and primacy according to God is not domination but service; diaconia is the fundamental law of the disciple and of the Christian community, and lets us glimpse something about “the lordship of God”.
And Jesus also indicates the reference point: the Son of man who came to serve. In other words he sums up his mission in the category of service, not meant in a generic sense but in the concrete sense of the Cross, of the total gift of life as a “ransom”, as redemption for many, and he points it out as a condition of the “sequela”.
It is a message that applies for the Apostles, for the whole Church, and especially for those who have leadership roles in the People of God. It is not the logic of domination, of power according to human criteria but rather the logic of bending down to wash feet, the logic of service, the logic of the Cross that is the root of all exercise of authority.
The Church in every period is committed to conforming to this logic and to testifying to it to make the true “lordship of God” shine out, that of love.
Venerable Brothers appointed to the cardinalitial dignity, the mission to which God calls you today and which qualifies you for an even more responsible ecclesial service, requires an ever greater willingness to adopt the style of the Son of God who came among us as one who serves (cf. Lk 22:25-27).
It is a question of following him in his humble and total gift of himself to the Church, his Bride, on the Cross. It is on this wood that the the grain of wheat — which the Father let fall into the earth of the world — dies, in order to become a ripe fruit.
This is why it is necessary to be even more deeply and firmly rooted in Christ. The intimate relationship with him that transforms life increasingly in such a way that it is possible to say with St Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20), constitutes the primary requirement if our service is to be serene and joyful and to bear the fruit that the Lord expects of us.
In today's Gospel we see that everyone asks Jesus to come down from the Cross. They mock him, but this is also a way of excusing themselves from blame as if to say: it is not our fault that you are hanging on the Cross; it is solely your fault because if you really were the Son of God, the King of the Jews, you would not stay there but would save yourself by coming down from that infamous scaffold.Speaking of texts, while yesterday afternoon saw Cardinal Donald Wuerl's Mass of Thanksgiving in Washington on his return to the capital, his first message on these shores has yet to emerge.
Therefore, if you remain there it means that you are wrong and we are right. The tragedy that is played out beneath the Cross of Jesus is a universal tragedy; it concerns all people before God who reveals himself for what he is, namely, Love.
In the crucified Jesus the divinity is disfigured, stripped of all visible glory and yet is present and real. Faith alone can recognize it: the faith of Mary, who places in her heart too this last scene in the mosaic of her Son's life. She does not yet see the whole, but continues to trust in God, repeating once again with the same abandonment: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord” (cf. Lk 1:38).
Then there is the faith of the Good Thief: a faith barely outlined but sufficient to assure him salvation: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” . This “with me” is crucial. Yes, it is this that saves him. Of course, the good thief is on the cross like Jesus, but above all he is on the Cross with Jesus. And, unlike the other evildoer and all those who taunt him, he does not ask Jesus to come done from the Cross nor to make him come down. Instead he says: “remember me when you come into your kingdom”.
The Good Thief sees Jesus on the Cross, disfigured and unrecognizable and yet he entrusts himself to him as to a king, indeed as to the King. The good thief believes what was written on the tablet over Jesus' head: “The King of the Jews”. He believed and entrusted himself. For this reason he was already, immediately, in the “today” of God, in Paradise, because Paradise is this: being with Jesus, being with God.
So here, dear Brothers, is the first and fundamental message that the word of God clearly tells us today: to me, the Successor of Peter, and to you, Cardinals.
It calls us to be with Jesus, like Mary, and not to ask him to come down from the Cross but rather to stay there with him. And by reason of our ministry we must do this not only for ourselves but for the whole Church, for the whole People of God.
Then again, the DC cardinal's "real" homecoming is still two weeks off; on 12 December, the 11th bishop of Pittsburgh will return to his hometown for a celebration in the Steel City's St Paul's Cathedral.
Luckily, however, Wuerl's American counterpoint in this class is nowhere near as bashful, so the full, footnoted text of Cardinal Raymond Burke's Thanksgiving sermon on his elevation lit up the wires almost within minutes of its delivery last Monday in the chapel of the Pontifical North American College.
Among other points, the now scarlet-clad "chief justice" mused that "the cardinal has a particular bond with the virgin martyrs," adding for good measure the story of St John Fisher, who received the red hat behind bars amid his refusal to assent to Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy -- or, as Burke called it, the earthly ruler's "angry rebellion against the law of Our Lord."
In light of the new cardinal's prior statements on the domestic state of affairs -- among them, that American society "is abandoning its Judeo-Christian foundations, the fundamental obedience to God’s law which safeguards the common good, and is embracing a totalitarianism which masks itself as the 'hope,' the “future,” of our nation"...
...suffice it to say, complete the sentence.
PHOTOS: Archdiocese of Colombo(1,2); AP(4,5); Reuters(6)