"Even To the Shedding of Your Blood...."
"To the praise of God, and the honor of the Apostolic See...and, accordingly, in his own reflection on receiving the Red Hat, this Consistory's marquee designate focused especially on the same point:
receive the red biretta, the sign of the cardinal's dignity;
and know that you must be willing to conduct yourselves with fortitude
even to the shedding of your blood:
for the growth of the Christian faith,
the peace and tranquility of the People of God,
and the freedom and spread of the Holy Roman Church."
Yes, becoming a cardinal is an honor, and many of you have been so kind in extending your good wishes and congratulations to me upon receiving it. Thanks! But it is not meant to be an honor without responsibility. To the contrary, cardinals are specifically asked to serve Jesus and His Church with renewed courage. When the Holy Father presents the “red hat” to the new cardinals, he will ask us to accept it as a sign of our readiness to shed our blood for the strengthening of the faith, the peace and tranquillity of the people of God, and the liberty and growth of the Church. Get it? Blood! Red!Benedict XVI's fourth intake to the College of Cardinals begins tomorrow morning, with the now-customary daylong meeting for prayer and consultation the Pope -- the first Cardinal-Dean raised to the Papacy in over four centuries -- has established for the "Senate" that will, in time, elect his successor.
Would you pray for me that I might do as I am asked, that I will be a courageous preacher of the Gospel, and defender of human dignity, the Church and our cherished religious freedom? I need more than your prayers though. I need your joyful witness, your solidarity. Just as the whole community shares in this honor, so too do we all share in the responsibility. If all this only means that I now dress up in a red cassock and red hat, we will have missed the whole point.
Are you ready to shed your blood? Every Christian disciple should aspire to be brave enough to do so. Please God, the day of shedding one’s blood for the faith will not come to New York, but the cardinalatial red should invite everyone to ask some questions and examine our consciences. As Blessed John Paul II observed, “If something is not worth dying for, it’s not worth living for.” God, family, faith, freedom, one’s country, friends, honor, virtue, life itself, the Church—all worth dying for . . . all worth living for!
For my part, I have to ask myself: Where do I show steadfastness now? If I can’t be courageous now in small things, how might I be ready to answer the summons to shed my blood in grave matters? Do I speak of the Gospel full and entire, with joy and conviction, even to those who appear to be indifferent or hostile? Do I defend the Church when she is maligned or attacked, or when her proper liberties are threatened? Do I stand fast with those around the world persecuted and even martyred for their faith, raising my voice in solidarity with them? Do I do my utmost, with the help of God’s grace, to live the virtues, especially those of humility and charity? Do I fight the daily battle to make room for God, in time set aside for prayer, the sacraments and works of service to others, especially those in need?
Might I invite you to ask those same questions? I hope that these days of the consistory in Rome be an occasion of renewed zeal throughout the [church], inaugurating an increasingly confident, joyful, courageous Catholic witness....
Pope Benedict XVI chose February 18 for the consistory because of its proximity to February 22, normally the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. (This year the feast will not be observed, as it is Ash Wednesday.) Peter’s final “chair” in Rome was the cross upside down, on a hill called “the Vatican,” and his martyr’s grave lies below the very spot where we new cardinals will receive the red biretta. The shedding of blood is not a metaphor; it is a reality.
There will be joy in Rome, but a sober joy. We are grateful to be Roman, to be Catholic, to be heirs to the promises of Christ and the blood of the martyrs. We renew our love for Christ, His Church, His Vicar on earth. We strengthen our courage to be witnesses of that love for the entire Church, and for the world that so urgently needs her witness.
That’s the significance of the consistory for new cardinals, for Rome, for New York [and for the wider Church].
The day's announced business dedicated to the New Evangelization -- but, quite possibly, not limited to it -- in a significant sign of B16's confidence in the chief of the US bishops, this pre-Consistory's key talk will be given by the rising, blogging cardinal-archbishop of New York.