150th Anniversary of the Foundation of The Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
150th Anniversary of the Foundation of
The Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Saturday, June 25, 2005

Dear Sisters, consecrated to Jesus Christ and His Church,
Dear Friends in the Lord,

She was the first person Mother Teresa came upon when she began her now famous ministry among the dying of Calcutta. The old woman, her body seriously diseased, lay by the roadside, hungry and alone. Blessed Teresa recognized that death was only moments away. All she could do was simply hold the frail body in her arms. The old Hindu woman looked up and uttered only two words: "Thank you," she whispered, and then she died.

Recounting this story many years later, Blessed Teresa said that what impressed her the most in that meeting was its similarity with the Mass in which she had just participated that same morning: "Once more, I encountered the mystery of the Eucharist in that woman’s simple words of thanks." And she added that she herself was filled with a tremendous gratitude for meeting Jesus in that woman and for being able to share His love that day.

Mother Teresa’s encounter provides us with a simple insight into that great mystery which is the Holy Eucharist. Each time we gather around the altar, we meet the risen Jesus Christ, but in the body that was broken for us. He is so close to us. His suffering becomes our suffering; His offering becomes our offering; His thanksgiving becomes our thanksgiving; His Resurrection becomes our life.

Jesus Christ’s words of thanks are at the very heart of the Eucharist. It is in this sacrament that the Son recalls the Father’s total and complete love for Him - and it is that love which we, His brothers and sisters, are privileged to share. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s loving compassion brought a heartfelt "thank you" to the parched lips of a dying woman. But can you and I ever begin to appreciate the depths of Christ’s own thanksgiving to the Father—the Father who reached out in love and brought His Son through the hideous suffering and death on the cross to the glory of His Resurrection? Can we, who share in that same love, in that same promise of everlasting life, ever adequately give thanks? We simply cannot, unless we join ourselves to Christ in the Eucharist and thank the Father "through Him and with Him and in Him."

The words of today’s Gospel related to us how Jesus found Himself encountering ten persons afflicted with leprosy. Saint Luke is quick to point out that only one of them, a foreigner, desperate as he was for a cure, could see beyond his suffering. He understood this miracle as a sign of even greater things to come, and so he returned to give glory to God and to thank Jesus for this gift.

"I was filled with tremendous gratitude," wrote Blessed Teresa, "for meeting Jesus in that woman and being able to share her love that day." Such an experience of gratitude, of compassion, of solidarity, and of thanksgiving is a gift from our heavenly Father. Such a gift was the experience of the foreigner with leprosy in Saint Luke’s Gospel, who was cured by our Lord. And only those who have been graced with such a gift know that this cured man in the Gospel truly understood and appreciated Jesus’ miracle: even greater things were to come.

Today, we are the foreigner with leprosy face-to-face with Jesus Christ. And today, each one of us knows, as did Blessed Teresa and the dying woman, that to really live we need to love and to be loved; we need to appreciate and to be appreciated; we need the Eucharist; we need Jesus Christ.

Such was the lesson learned by the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia, Saint John Nepomucene Neumann, through whose instrumentality Mother Francis Bachmann founded the Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia 150 years ago. Bishop Neumann’s sole desire was to be a simple religious priest, but, instead, he was given the charge of a diocese which, at that time, encompassed all of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and part of New Jersey. Visiting his flock by horseback, his whole life, despite his many sufferings and infirmities, was lived in thanksgiving to God for all that God had done for him. Through Saint John Neumann’s gentle and humble spirit, and particularly through His devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the Forty Hours’ Devotion was introduced in this country, as was the parochial school system, and this brand new religious congregation, the Franciscan Sisters of Glen Riddle.

Saint John Neumann reflected in all that he said and did his undivided love of the God who gave him life and who shared with him His love. The power that was at work in the life of Philadelphia’s "Little Bishop" was the life of Christ in the Eucharist. Saint John Neumann’s life was a shining example of the words of Saint Paul: "Over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And be thankful." He lived the words of Isaiah: "The favors of the Lord I will recall...because of all he has done for us." And he made his own the words of the Psalm: "Lord, I thank you for your faithfulness and love."

Following the example of Saint John Neumann, Mother Francis Bachmann strove to thank Almighty God by keeping alive the memory of the Lord’s covenant with us. She accomplished this by founding this religious institute as a sharing in the world mission of the Church "to magnify the honor of God, to spread the holiness of Christ, and thereby to glorify His name." Each of you who are spiritual daughters of Mother Francis began your own journey with Christ to Jerusalem at baptism. Your consecration as women religious is a further expression of your baptismal call and commitment. In living out your consecrated life, you follow in the footsteps of your Foundress, witnessing to the life of the chaste, poor, and obedient Christ, in the spirit and tradition of Saint Francis of Assisi.

The love of Christ leads you, through your vow of chastity, to "care for the things of the Lord," and "to have nothing else to do except to follow the will of the Lord and to please Him"[Constitutions, no. 15]. You are called to be "truly poor in spirit, following the example of the Lord, ...[living] in this world as pilgrims and strangers...materially poor, but rich in virtue" [Constitutions, no. 22]. And, through your vow of obedience, you "willingly serve and obey one another with that genuine love which comes from each one’s heart" [Constitutions, no. 25].

I take this opportunity, dear Sisters, on behalf of the clergy, religious, and laity of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, to offer my warm congratulations to you as you celebrate this important anniversary in the life of your religious institute. I also extend my deep gratitude to the more than three hundred and twenty sisters who live in and serve this local Church. You are involved in a variety of apostolates here—in all levels of education, in parish service-related works, in health care and campus ministry, in the administration of your institute and in many volunteer works, performed particularly by the residents of Assisi House, who continue to serve us by their prayers and good works.

Although deeply appreciative of what you do for the People of God, I am also reminded of the words of our Holy Father, who, speaking to other religious, said: "Your greatest contribution is not what you do but who you are and who you have become by the grace of God: women specially consecrated in love to Jesus Christ; women living for Christ and for His Church in ‘the obedience of faith’; women finding in Christ the fullness of a wisdom and justice, a sanctification and redemption to be communicated to a world in need" [Message to the General Chapter of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus, January 30, 1980].

As you move toward your future as a religious institute, never doubt that you have a vital message to proclaim to a world in need. This message is Jesus Christ. Never wonder whether your life makes a difference in a society often immersed in darkness. Never lose hope in the midst of the many distracting shadows that vie for the attention of those whom you are called to serve. But, as the man cleansed from leprosy, always and in all things give thanks to God in Jesus Christ, so that in your hearts, as in the Heart of Mary, He can daily re-ignite the fire of His love. In this love may you always find the deepest fulfillment of your hearts and the strength to serve and serve and serve until the end. Amen.

Mass on the Solemnity of All Saints
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass on the Solemnity of All Saints
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
November 1, 2007

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Thank you, dear friends, for the faith that inspires your presence here this morning. We know that this feast is a great feast in the history of the Church and it has a tremendous lesson for all of us, as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, as always, when we gather for the Eucharist we celebrate the gift of salvation that Jesus gives us by His death on the Cross. By His great act of love Jesus procured for us salvation, eternal life, eternal happiness, eternal joy. Every time we come to Mass we celebrate one or other aspect of this event. Today-the Solemnity of All Saints-we celebrate the goal of our lives, which is to be one day with the saints in heaven. We celebrate this vast multitude of people who have gone before us with the sign of faith, who have lived faithful lives over the centuries and now are gathered in the kingdom of God with our Lord Jesus Christ.

In our first reading from the Book of Revelation, we have an inkling of who these people are. The question was raised to God: Who are these people? And the answer is: the people that surround the throne of God. "These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb."

Dear friends, this tells us a great deal about Christianity in general; it tells us a great deal about God's saints. It tells us that everyone who is in heaven-who is a member of this communion of saints-is there because he or she has had contact with God's mercy, with the Blood of Jesus who has redeemed us. And, therefore, on this feast we honor all these unknown saints of God who, throughout the ages, have been faithful to Christ and now have received their reward. Each one of these saints is worthy of our respect and admiration. But, above all, this feast of All the Saints is a great tribute to Jesus Christ our Savior. Because, in honoring the saints who were saved through His great sacrifice on the Cross, we honor Jesus Christ the Savior of the world. Yes, this great feast is a feast that honors the Blood of Jesus in a very special way. It honors His salvific action, His great act of love when He died for us on the Cross. Through what is perpetuated in the Mass all of these saints are now our intercessors in heaven. This is the beautiful lesson of this great feast on which we recall that this great multitude has been saved by God through the Blood of Jesus Christ.

This multitude is also a great example to all of us, because these saints include people, as the Book of Revelation says, "from every nation, race, people, and tongue." They are the Christians who have gone before us, who have been faithful. They are the young and the old; they are the innocent children; they are the single and the married people; they are the religious; they are the priests. They are the innocent, as well as converted sinners, but all of them have had this great privilege of having contact with the Blood of Jesus Christ, who is their Savior. How beautiful this is, dear friends.

This gives us encouragement. And Saint John, in our second reading, tells us that we are children of God, but, he says, it has not yet appeared what we will be. In other words, we too will be glorified one day with our brothers and sisters in the communion saints. This is our destiny and this is what God's love in Jesus Christ has made possible for us.

And, so, dear friends, we rejoice, we are encouraged and we praise God who has sent us the Savior of the world, His beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is He who shed His Blood on the Cross, so that you and I and all of us might join this immense multitude to praise God forever, that we too might praise the precious Blood of Jesus Christ, which is the price of our redemption. Amen.

Mass for the 25th Anniversary of the Office for Black Catholics
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass for the 25th Anniversary of the Office for Black Catholics
and Celebration of the Feast of Saint Martin de Porres
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
November 6, 2005

Dear Bishop Murry, All of us extend a very warm welcome to you and thank you for coming to Philadelphia for this weekend. We especially thank you for your words of inspiration last evening at the Jubilee Reception for the Office for Black Catholics.

Dear brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Deacons, men and women Religious,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

Praised be Jesus Christ!
Praised be Jesus Christ for his Incarnation as man.
Praised be Jesus Christ for His life and ministry.
Praised be Jesus Christ for His Passion, Death and Resurrection.
Praised be Jesus Christ for Sunday, His Day, the Day of Resurrection and new life.

Indeed, we gather on Sunday to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of our lives as Catholics. It is this sacred food and drink that nourishes us as disciples in mission.

As we entered this great basilica this afternoon, we sang, "We are marching to Zion, beautiful Zion, that beautiful City of God!" What a powerful image. We, the Church - bishops, priests, deacons, religious, faithful laity, are indeed marching to Heaven, our true home. Yet, in this pilgrimage, we must always be ready and prepared.

In our Gospel for Mass this Sunday, Jesus speaks again in a parable. He is teaching His disciples about how important it is to be prepared. In the story, five virgins were wise and five were foolish. Five were prepared for the Bridegroom’s arrival, while five were not.

And when did the Bridegroom arrive? When they least expected him.

This story points our attention as followers of Christ, to stand always ready and waiting for Jesus. That’s what it means to be truly wise, to live our lives as Christian people waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

For when our Lord returns, He expects us to be ready. How do we stand ready? How do we stay marching? It is by living our faith. We must do much more than simply talk about Jesus, we must act like Jesus!

We celebrate at this holy Mass twenty-five years of the faithful service of our Archdiocesan Office for Black Catholics. In the name of the Archdiocese, I express my deep gratitude for all that has been done to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ among our African American brothers and sisters, all that has been done to imitate Jesus. I especially am grateful for the dedicated service of the directors of the Office for Black Catholics, who have served our Church so faithfully for the past 25 years.

I am reminded of the beautiful words of our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, when he hosted a historic meeting with Black Catholics in New Orleans. He said,
"Dear brothers and sisters: your black cultural heritage enriches the Church and makes her witness of universality more complete. In a real way the Church needs you, just as you need the Church, for you are part of the Church and the Church is part of you."

Yes, my brothers and sisters, the Church needs you! We need your gifts of joy and compassion. We need your gifts of vitality and strength. We need your gift of sacred song. We need all your gifts, which find their roots in Mother Africa.

Let us make no mistake, the Church in the African American community of this Archdiocese is alive!

Today, we humbly ask the intercession of Saint Martin de Porres, our patron, to pray for us that we may be ready and prepared to proclaim and live our faith as he did, and one day to join him in the choir of Heaven. Let us continue to march to Zion, that beautiful city of God! Amen.

Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Permanent Diaconate
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Permanent Diaconate
in Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
October 29, 2006

Bishop DeSimone,
Bishop Thomas,
Father Olson, Director of the Office for Permanent Deacons,
Brother Priests,
Dear Deacons,
Dear Wives,
Dear Families,
Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Today’s Gospel passage is meant to be a companion piece to the one we heard last week. You may recall last week in the Gospel that the Apostles James and John approached Jesus with a request. Jesus asked them, "What do you want me to do for you?" Interested in their own glory rather than the glory of God, they asked Jesus for positions of honor in His Kingdom. Jesus told them in no uncertain terms that the greatest in the Kingdom of God is the one who is the servant of all.

Today Jesus puts those words into action as He becomes the servant, the deacon, who attends to the needs of a poor blind beggar, Bartimaeus. While the world around Jesus seemed to have much more important things to do than attend to Bartimaeus, Jesus heard him above all the other noises and shouts. Bringing him into the center of the crowd, Jesus asked him the same question he asked James and John, "What do you want me to do for you?"

When Bartimaeus says, "I want to see," Jesus attends to his needs immediately. Bartimaeus was not looking for glory; he only wanted to be healed. As soon as he was healed, his eyes came upon the one who could save him, and Bartimaeus followed Jesus. In this case, the service Jesus gave to Bartimaeus, led Bartimaeus into discipleship.

Image of Jesus Christ the servant of all

We have often heard Jesus referred to as a priest. This is particularly true in the Letter to the Hebrews that was just proclaimed to us. Jesus was indeed, and is, the great High Priest who offered himself as a sacrifice for our salvation. But the Gospel highlights another aspect of Jesus’ ministry and, even if we do not hear this as much, it is every bit as true: Jesus was a deacon. He was a servant. And those who minister today as deacons in our Church serve in His name.

The service of the deacon: the service of the Church sacramentalized

Today, our world is filled with people like Bartimaeus who call out for healing and who are in need. And so many in our world are much too busy and "important" to attend to their needs. The great ones of this age still seek to make their importance felt while those around them are in need. But Jesus is still calling us as a Church to greater service in the world. Jesus’ words in the Scriptures still echo in our ears today: "...whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant."

It is the work of the whole Church to be of service to those in need in our world. Serving is our way of modeling our lives on the life of Jesus. Even though we are all called to service, Jesus calls some of us to a particular level of service through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Deacons are especially charged to be images of Jesus, the servant of all, the one who attends to the weakest and poorest among us. In a very tangible way, a deacon is the sacramental embodiment of the service of the Church. And just as Jesus’ work of healing and service to Bartimaeus led Bartimaeus to following Jesus as a disciple, so the service of deacons leads the Church and the world into greater discipleship and a closer following of Jesus.

Joy and Thanksgiving

Today we gather in this Cathedral Basilica, the mother-church of our Archdiocese, where so many of our deacons were ordained. We gather to celebrate twenty-five years of dedicated service by permanent deacons in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. We rejoice, dear brother deacons, in the fruitfulness of your service throughout the years. We rejoice in praising God’s grace which is the cause of all fruitfulness in the Church.

Today is a wonderful opportunity to express the gratitude of the entire Archdiocese of Philadelphia for your generous response to the call to service. You have dedicated countless hours of service to the sick, elderly, imprisoned and needy among us. You have ministered to engaged couples preparing for marriage, new parents seeking baptism for their children, and families mourning the loss of a loved one. Your have taught in our schools and CCD programs, walked with our catechumens in the RCIA, and helped to deepen the faith of our people through adult education programs. You have proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the pulpit and in the marketplace.

In all this you have fulfilled the command given to you by the Church at your ordination: "Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach." This you have done and for this I thank you and rejoice with you!

Diaconate: a sign of renewal in the Church

Permanent deacons are a sign that the Holy Spirit is continuing to work in the Church today. The permanent Diaconate was restored in the Latin Church as a result of the vision of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Paul VI officially restored the role of permanent deacon in 1967, recalling that permanent deacons were an important part of the life of the early Church. The vision of Pope Paul VI and the Fathers of Vatican II is given flesh and form in the men who are gather here today as deacons. There are currently 218 permanent deacons working in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, with 71 men in formation, each responding to the call of the Church for service in the community.

Our entire Church has been renewed as a result of the Second Vatican Council and a great sign of that renewal—that new and vibrant energy in the Church—is seen in our permanent deacons. Yes, the Church is alive and dynamic in Philadelphia. The Holy Spirit is active in our Church, and the permanent deacons are signs of His vivifying and sanctifying action.

Diaconate: a calling to dedicated service

So, what does the service of a deacon look like? Is it just a functional role that shows us as leaders in the service to God’s people at worship? Certainly not! A deacon is a deacon all the time, just as a priest is a priest all the time and a bishop is a bishop all the time. This does not mean that we are fulfilling our ministries twenty-four hours a day, but that we live out the mystery of Christ in everything we do and with every breath we take. This full-time diaconate manifests itself in two areas in particular: when a deacon serves the community, and when a deacon is with his family.

Permanent deacons can minister in society in ways that are not possible or appropriate for other members of the clergy. In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, ordained deacons are employed in the business world, the service industry, health care, the legal profession, civil service, education, and in so many other fields. While every baptized member of the Church is called to bear witness to Christ in the world, permanent deacons do so in a particular way, by being a sacramental image of Christ the servant of all. Our deacons provide leadership in calling all members of society to serve Christ as they themselves serve the least of His brothers and sisters.

Gratitude to wives and families, and above all to Almighty God

I must recognize the importance of family life in the life of a permanent deacon. Most of our permanent deacons have a double vocation: that of husband and father in the married state of life, and that of a sacramental minister called by the Church to fulfill a special form of service. For all of you married deacons, your first call is answered in your self-giving and loving service to your wife and children. Your family life is so important to all of us that the Church even required the consent of your wife before you were ordained.

Your whole families also share your ministry as deacons. They do this by supporting you in your ministry, sharing their own time with you so that you can minister to others, and sometimes even increasing their own service to the Church by following your lead. I wish specifically and publicly to thank your wives and children for their generous sharing in your ministry, for the sacrifices they have made to allow you to serve the greater community, and for their own dedicated service to the Church. Just as your families are a blessing to you, they are also a blessing to the community of the Church. In recognizing this, I thank them all. Above all, the celebration of this anniversary is a solemn expression of thanksgiving to God for His gift of a restored permanent Diaconate. We bless and praise God, who through His Holy Spirit, has accomplished so much good through the ministry of our deacons. It is He who conforms our deacons to Jesus the Servant. It is He who sustains them in their work and gives them the power to do good.

Special communion with the Bishop and one another

Deacons do not function as isolated individuals in our diocese. Every deacon at the time of his ordination promises respect and obedience to his Bishop and his Bishop’s successors. Just as the first deacons had a special connection to the Apostles by sharing in the Apostles’ ministry of charity to the community, so each deacon today has a special connection to his own Bishop in all the service of charity that he performs. Together with the priests, deacons form with the Bishop a "communion of service," sharing the public sacramental ministry of the Church. Your ministry as deacons extends the work of the Apostles and the whole Church, just as the work of the first deacons did, as we see in the Acts of the Apostles.

Deacons also form together a community of selfless service. It is inspiring how deacons rally around each other in prayer and fraternal support— especially in times of need. When a deacon’s family member is sick, when he is feeling particular stress at work, when he experiences difficulty in his ministry or a flagging spirit, he is supported by the rest of the diaconate community. The diaconate community is truly a prayerful community, praying for the Church and for one another. This is especially true at the time of death, when the community in a particularly moving way prays for their brother as he journeys to the Father.

Service of the deacon at the Altar

As deacons, your service of charity in the Church—which is extremely important—is made complete by your service of the word of God and at the altar. As ministers of the word, you proclaim the Gospel, and by word and deed make known the message of Jesus Christ. Often as deacons you are privileged to preach the homily, sometimes at Mass and also in other settings. You are daily witnesses in prayer to the transforming power of the word of God.

Along with proclaiming the Gospel, deacons are called to serve at the altar of the Sacrifice of Christ, at the side of the priest. It is the deacon who stands like the centurion on Calvary, proclaiming by his presence that this truly is the Son of God.

As Pope John Paul II said in an address to permanent deacons, "...the word of God leads us to the Eucharistic worship of God at the altar; it turn, this worship leads us to a new way of living which expresses itself in acts of charity." This threefold ministry of service—service of the word, at the altar, and of charity—must inspire you to greater sacrificial generosity in the Church. That is why you are here today to renew your commitment, to rejoice, and to rededicate yourselves to the great ministry of the sacramental servanthood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Perhaps, dear friends in Christ, all of us can echo the words of our Blessed Mother Mary today as we consider the blessing of all of our permanent deacons throughout the past twenty-five years when we say with them: "My spirit proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."

May God continue to look with favor on all his servants in the permanent Diaconate as they humbly, resolutely and joyfully fulfill, in the name of Jesus, their ministry of sacramental servanthood! Amen.

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali 25th Anniversary of Ordination to the Episcopacy
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
25th Anniversary of Ordination to the Episcopacy
Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
September 14, 2010

“We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.”

Your Eminences Cardinal McCarrick, Cardinal Egan and Cardinal Foley,
Brother Bishops,
My Brother Priests,
Dear Deacons, Religious, Seminarians, Lay Faithful,
Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Back in the fourth century the Bishop of Jerusalem Saint Cyril wrote these words: “The Catholic Church glories in every action of Christ but her greatest glory is the Cross.”

As Catholics, as followers of Jesus Christ, all of us together make up that Church whose greatest glory is the Cross.

Today, September 14th, is a special day in the life of the Church, the day the Church celebrates in a particular way the triumph that was accomplished on the Cross, and who it was that brought about that triumph: the crucified Christ. Today we glorify and exalt the Cross. Our feast itself is called the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The first reading in our Mass explains how in the Old Testament the people complained against God and against Moses. In punishment the Lord sent serpents among them; many of the people were bitten and died. We see how the people then came to Moses and repented, saying: “We have sinned in complaining against the Lord and you. Pray the Lord to take the serpents from us.” The reading tells us that Moses prayed for the people and that the Lord instructed him to make a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole. God then told Moses that those who were bitten would live if they looked upon the serpent. And this is what happened.

In the Gospel Jesus Himself explains how this situation of the Old Testament prefigured His own crucifixion on the Cross. Jesus said: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” It was on the Cross that Jesus triumphed over sin and death and accomplished the redemption of the world, which He brought to conclusion by His Resurrection. This is why we look up to Him on the Cross, why we so often proclaim these words in the Liturgy: “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life.” This is why we are so grateful for Christ’s loving act of sacrifice offered for us on the Cross. This is why our greatest glory is the Cross. This is why we joyfully celebrate today’s feast, calling it the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

It is also on this feast that I am privileged to celebrate my anniversary as a Bishop, having been ordained to the episcopacy by Pope John Paul II twenty-five years ago today. On that day Pope John Paul II drew my attention to the need for me, as a Bishop, to bear witness to the mystery of the Cross. He said to me: “You are called to serve the mystery of the triumph of the Holy Cross.” And he added: “...you are called to serve and proclaim this inexpressible mystery:...the mystery of salvific love; the mystery of merciful love. ‘God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him’ (Jn 3:17).”

I am deeply grateful, dear friends, for this calling to be a Bishop, a calling that came from our Lord Jesus Christ through the Church and through the Pope, for the service of God’s people. I am so happy that you are here to join in this Mass, which is a sublime act of gratitude to the Most Blessed Trinity.

During these past twenty-five years, at every turn I have been assisted and supported with extraordinary kindness and love in all my five major assignments as a Bishop. After my episcopal ordination I was privileged to serve first as President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome, where young priests from all over the world are trained for service to the Holy See and the universal Church. I recall with deep affection those priests with whom I lived and worked, many of whom are now stationed in the different continents of the world. Just a few days ago, one of them was named the Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq and Jordan.

My second assignment was as Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, where I was privileged to work personally with so many Bishops of the Church and with the Holy Father himself, Pope John Paul II.

Then, after completing almost thirty years in Rome and three and a half years on the island of Madagascar, in 1994 I was named the Archbishop of St. Louis. What an immense privilege it was to serve for nine and a half years as Pastor of that local Church, with the opportunity to work closely with the priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful entrusted to my pastoral care!

The joy and privilege of serving a local Church, of celebrating the Paschal Mystery of the Lord Jesus in word and sacrament, of sharing intimately the joys and sorrows, the hopes and sufferings and the aspirations of God’s people—all this was given to me again as I was called seven years ago, in 2003, to serve as Archbishop of Philadelphia.

And finally, last year, while remaining the Archbishop of Philadelphia, I was named the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Scranton. There also for a number of months I was privileged, in the name of the Holy Father, to serve the people of God and to be close to them in their journey of discipleship. How edifying for me to be in contact with yet another community of Christ’s faithful striving to live their faith generously and to share it with others.

Here in Philadelphia, as in Scranton, in St. Louis and in Rome, I have never been alone as a Bishop in proclaiming the triumph of the Cross or in bearing the burdens of the Gospel. Like so many Bishops, I have been blessed in experiencing the vitality of the Church and the goodness of all the categories of God’s people. I give thanks for the numerous gifts with which the Holy Spirit has enriched our communities.

I am profoundly grateful to God for my Auxiliary Bishops and my priests, who have been my closest collaborators and partners in the Gospel, both in St. Louis and here in Philadelphia, as well as in Scranton. Within the limitations of the humanity common to us all, the vast majority of priests has shown superb fidelity to Jesus Christ, to the mission of His Church and to the people whom they serve with love, joy, respect and perseverance. We pray that the upright and dedicated lives of our priests will always be an inspiration especially for our seminarians, who are joyfully aspiring to offer their lives to God in the sacred priesthood.

I also acknowledge the splendid contribution of our zealous deacons as they endeavor to assist the priests and aspire only to fulfill the humble ministry of Christ, the Servant of all.

And what can I say at this time to express sufficient gratitude for decades of service on the part of our consecrated women and men religious? So much of the history of the Church has been an expression of their generous labor and love. Their names are written in the book of life.

Bishops, priests, deacons, religious and seminarians pray and serve together with the lay faithful who, by God’s plan, will always make up the very highest percentage of Christ’s disciples. The lay faithful will always be called to contribute the supreme measure of holiness and collaboration in the mission of the Church. We acknowledge just how much the laity “are” the Church in their vocation and condition as married and single persons, as spouses, parents, children, widows and widowers, young and old, all baptized members of the Body of Christ. Today I voice deep gratitude to so many of the laity, a number of whom are present here, who over the years have so generously assisted me as a Bishop of the Church, but, even more, have faithfully and sacrificially contributed to the mission of the Church, especially in the Archdioceses of St. Louis and Philadelphia and in the Diocese of Scranton.

As we gather together at this Eucharistic Sacrifice we see ever more clearly the beauty of the community of the Church that assembles in the name of Jesus Christ. We acknowledge the importance and contribution of every individual, the need for all the many and diverse talents and gifts of God’s people, coming from every race and background—everyone striving amidst human weakness to be faithful as disciples of the Lord.

To understand, however, our full identity as the Church we need to realize that our Archdiocese can only exist if it is in full communion with all the other local Churches throughout the world. On a personal level one of the great blessings I have had as a Bishop is the constant fraternal support and help of my brother Bishops in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, so many of whom are here today. To all of them I express my profound thanks.

Finally, our Catholic identity is marked, and always will be, by the fact that we live in communion of faith and love with the Bishop of Rome, whom we honor and obey as the Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ for the universal Church. I gratefully acknowledge his spiritual presence with us today and thank him for the beautiful personal letter that he sent to me for this occasion.

And so, dear friends, our hearts return to the Cross of Christ through which we enter into the mystery of salvific love, the mystery of merciful love. We thank our Lord Jesus Christ for having triumphed on this tree of life, with His Virgin Mother Mary standing next to Him and offering Him her loving support. We thank Him for having given her to us as our Mother, as the one who helps us, her children, to understand and live the mystery of the Cross in our own lives. United with her and with all the members of the universal Church, we once again proclaim: “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.” Amen.

45th Archdiocesan Mass celebrating the feast day of Saint Martin de Porres and 25th Anniversary of the Ordination of the first African American Permanent Deacons
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
45th Archdiocesan Mass celebrating
the feast day of Saint Martin de Porres and
25th Anniversary of the Ordination of the first
African American Permanent Deacons
Sunday, November 4, 2007

Dear brother Priests and Deacons,
Dear Men and Women in Consecrated Life,
Dear Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

A few moments ago, we sang, "Lift the Savior up, He’s worthy." What beautiful and appropriate words to begin our celebration this afternoon. Yes, Jesus is worthy to be praised!

Indeed, at this Holy Mass, we have so many reasons to praise our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. First and foremost, it is Sunday, the Day of the Lord and we gather to listen to God’s Word and receive the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ.

We also gather to celebrate the feast of Saint Martin de Porres. For the past 45 years, as a faith community we have gathered to remember his feast day. What a wonderful tradition! This holy man of God is such an inspiration to all of the Church, especially to our African American Catholic community. We are blessed that, in so many of our Churches, his image reminds us that we are all called to be saints, all called to evangelize, all called to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. We remember and honor Saint Martin on this day and ask him to pray for us, for our families, parishes, our neighborhoods, our city and our nation.

As we celebrate, during this year 2007, Philadelphia’s Bicentennial Year as a diocese, we are reminded of the joyous event which took place in this Cathedral at this annual Mass 25 years ago. On that memorable day, His Eminence Cardinal John Krol ordained the first African American Deacons for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Deacon Hopkins, Deacon Nightingale, Deacon Purnell and Deacon Shields, you have taken the words of Jesus to heart, "I have come not to be served, but to serve." You have served faithfully as ministers of the Altar, ministers of the Word and especially as ministers of charity. We thank you for your years of dedicated service and for your prayerful example as you labored worthily among the people of God in our Archdiocese. God is good and we have been and will continue to be blessed by your service as deacons.

Our Gospel from Saint Luke today is the familiar story of the encounter of Jesus and Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was indeed looking for Jesus. Being small in stature, but large in his desire, he climbed a tree along the pathway to get the best possible view of Jesus. Zacchaeus must have heard of Jesus’ miracles, His teachings and the way He changed people’s lives. Not even the large crowd could keep Zacchaeus from seeing Jesus. He was committed and determined to see who Jesus was (Luke 19:2). Yet, it was really Jesus who was looking for him. Is it not the case with God? Long before we find God, God looks for us. God’s love for us is reflected in the words from Book of Wisdom, our first reading today: “You spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover or souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!” (Wisdom 11:26).

Out of all the people in the crowd that day, Jesus looks for Zacchaeus and goes to his home. And what happens to Zacchaeus after he encounters Christ? He is changed, he is renewed, and he is sent. Zacchaeus says: “Half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I shall repay it four times over” (Luke 19:7).

It was the grace, mercy and love of Christ that made Zacchaeus a new man. People’s hearts are never changed out of fear, but they are changed out of love, true love.

Is there a lesson in this for us this afternoon? Yes, we too have been called by God to announce to the world through our words and deeds that “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Whether we are ordained clergy, or lay faithful, man or woman, young or old, God loves us and calls us to a life of service to our brothers and sisters in our families, neighborhoods and communities. Serving others in the name of Jesus is what we learn from the life of Saint Martin de Porres.

On the day of his canonization, in 1962, Blessed John XXIII said: "It is deeply rewarding for those striving for salvation to follow in Christ’s footsteps and to obey God’s commandments. If only everyone could learn this lesson from the example that Martin gave us." The best way to honor Saint Martin de Porres on his feast day is to imitate his life of service to Jesus Christ and to all those whom Jesus loves. Amen.

50th Anniversary to the Priesthood
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
50th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
April 25, 2011

Dear Friends,

Some years ago Pope John Paul II, who will be beatified next Sunday, on the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the Priesthood wrote a book entitled Gift and Mystery. In this book he explained that it is through the Priesthood that we have the Eucharist. And in the celebration of the Eucharist we have the sacramental re-presentation of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ and its fulfillment in His glorious Resurrection.

Yesterday we celebrated Easter Sunday not only by telling the Easter story but the proclamation of the Word of God actually brought us into contact with the power of Christ’s Resurrection, which is the power of His victory over sin and death. And the proclamation of the Word of God reached its climax as the Priest consecrated the bread and wine in the Sacrifice of the Mass.

In every Mass through the gift and mystery of the Priesthood, the Death of Christ and His Resurrection become a reality for all God’s people. But why is this so important? It is so important because Christ saved us by His Death and Resurrection. The Church proclaims this so beautifully when she says: “Dying you destroyed our death and rising you restored our life.” In God’s plan all of this is linked to the Priesthood, which is truly such a great gift and mystery.

To speak of the Priesthood is to speak of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest. It is He who is present in every Mass. It is by His power that His saving Death and Resurrection are renewed on our altars. But it is also His will to be represented by the Priest, who in his ordination is configured to Christ and receives the power to offer up the Eucharist—but only in Christ’s name.

Hence the Priesthood, from the time of the Apostles at the Last Supper, is both gift and mystery. It is a gift of Christ’s Sacred Heart. It is a mystery of faith, which requires of us acceptance of Jesus Christ and of His freedom to call the men whom He chooses to share His Priesthood and to act in His Name. Those whom He chooses have no motive to boast; rather they receive the grace to fulfill their office faithfully, but this also requires effort, sacrifice and love.

I am grateful to all of you who have come together with me to celebrate my ordination to the Priesthood fifty years ago today. I wish particularly to thank Cardinal Levada who has been a close friend for fifty-seven years since our time together in the seminary and who has come from Rome to join in this celebration of thanksgiving. I also greet Cardinal Foley, another friend of many years, whose presence means so much to me today. My deep gratitude goes likewise to Bishop Stika of Knoxville, for so much support and help, and also to my Auxiliary Bishops and brother Priests whose presence has required so much effort and is so much appreciated. It is an enormous privilege to offer up the Eucharistic sacrifice in thanksgiving, surrounded by lay faithful and religious of the Archdiocese and other devoted friends who mean so much to me and whose prayerful support I so greatly count on. Among those present there is one who was at my ordination fifty years ago in the Cathedral of Los Angeles. I am pleased to welcome my sister, Sister Charlotte Rigali of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet.

For all of us this celebration is directed to thanking God for the gift and mystery of Christ’s Priesthood, even as it is expressed amidst the frailty and limitations of the humanity of our Priests. For me personally it is an opportunity to thank God for all those who helped me reach the Priesthood: my parents, family, friends, devoted Priests and sisters, teachers, seminary professors and fellow students, and so many unknown benefactors, without whose prayers I would never have reached the Priesthood.

Among the memories of this day I recall in prayer Blessed John XXIII, during whose pontificate I was ordained, and Cardinal James Francis McIntyre who was my Archbishop and ordaining Prelate. In addition I remember with profound affection the three Popes whom I subsequently was honored to serve: Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II. I remember the faithful to whom I was privileged to minister, either as a priest or bishop, in Los Angeles, Rome, St. Louis, Scranton and Philadelphia.

Today’s Eucharistic celebration takes place in close union with our present Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, whom I thank for the blessing that he has just sent me for this occasion and to whom I pledge the full communion of the Church of Philadelphia.

Even as fifty years in the priesthood require on my part deep sentiments of thanksgiving, they also require me to renew in the Church’s words my own daily plea for God’s mercy and forgiveness: “I confess to Almighty God and to you my brother and sisters that I have sinned through my own fault in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do.” It is for this reason that “I ask Blessed Mary ever Virgin all the angels and saints and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.” I ask, morever, the Holy Spirit by His grace to supply for all my deficiencies and to bring to completion whatever good I have been able to accomplish in the past fifty years.

Since there is no way that the Resurrection of the Lord can be adequately celebrated in a single day the Church continues today and throughout this whole week the special celebration of Easter. The message that we proclaim is the beautiful message of Saint Peter: “God raised...Jesus.... Exalted at the right hand of God, he poured forth the promise of the Holy Spirit.” Peter, in turn, as our Gospel attests, had received this message from the women who had met the Risen Lord Jesus on that Easter morning. To all of us personally the living Jesus now repeats: “Do not be afraid.”

In the power of the Risen Jesus, the gift and mystery of the Priesthood continues in the Church, despite human weakness. Through the priest the people of God participate in the Eucharist and hence in the power of the Death and Resurrection of the Lord. Sins are forgiven through the Sacrament of Confession and God’s word continues to bring forth fruits of conversion and holiness of life in the faithful. For the great privilege of sharing for fifty years in this gift and mystery as a Priest, I thank God today in your presence. With Him, I thank Mary, the Mother of Jesus, our great High Priest, for her constant intercession and perpetual help in all the hopes and joys, difficulties and challenges of these years.

Finally as we continue our celebration of Christ’s Resurrection let us all join in the Church’s Easter hymn of praise, proclaiming: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Academic Honors Mass
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Academic Honors Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
May 22, 2006

Dear Priests, Deacons, Religious,
Members of the Secretariat for Catholic Education,
Administrators and Faculty,
Representatives of the Connelly Foundation,
Archdiocesan Scholars and Families,
Dear Friends,

What a joy it is for all of us to gather in thanksgiving to God and in recognition of our archdiocesan scholars.

Your accomplishments, dear Scholars, are undoubtedly the result of sacrifice and personal effort. We admire the way in which you have applied yourselves to your studies. I speak for all in the Archdiocese in congratulating you for your achievements.

How fitting that our celebration takes place during the Easter season. On Easter Sunday we celebrated Christ’s Resurrection, his victory over sin and death. During the fifty days of the Easter season, we are immersed in this profound mystery. We celebrate the fact that the gift of eternal life is offered to us by God in Baptism, and how the Eucharist offers a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. This joyful season offers us the hope that where Jesus has gone, we too might follow.

The joy of Christ’s Resurrection is meant to be shared. We are called by God to be witnesses of Jesus, to testify that Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life. A witness not only knows what is true, but speaks the truth. A Christian witness is one who knows Christ and wants others to know Him too. This witness, this testimony must come from inner conviction. Inner conviction develops out of intimacy with Christ. Intimacy with Christ is possible only by spending time with him. There can be no effective Christian witness without the inner conviction that is born of a personal relationship with Christ.

For you, our Archdiocesan Scholars, your formation to be witnesses for Christ began at home. Your parents have been influential in your faith formation. Parents are the first educators, who teach primarily by the witness of their Christian lives and by their love for the faith. It is at home that the seeds of a personal relationship with Jesus are planted.

The Catholic schools that you have attended have assisted your parents in forming you to be witnesses. Catholic schools have provided you with an academically rigorous and doctrinally sound program of education and faith formation designed to strengthen your union with Christ and his Church. Catholic schools have collaborated with your parents and guardians in raising and forming you to meet the changing and challenging cultural and moral contexts in which you find yourselves. Catholic schools have provided you with sound Church teaching through a broad-based curriculum, where faith and culture are intertwined in all areas of a school’s life. Your Catholic education, rooted in Jesus Christ and the Gospel message, rich in the cherished traditions and liturgical practices of our faith, ensures that you have the foundation to be witnesses of Christ in the world.

Archdiocesan Scholars, you are and will be witnesses for Jesus. You witness already by applying yourselves to your studies and participating in school activities. In so doing you develop the gifts that you have received from God. You testify to Jesus by your lifestyle. Your moral example and acts of charity enrich the lives of others and offer encouragement, especially to your peers. Your witness is particularly clear by your participation in the sacramental and prayer life of the Church, especially the Eucharist.

We look forward to the future when you will witness to Christ by the energetic leadership you provide for our Church and our nation. Some will do so as lay members of Christ’s faithful people. Others will be called to witness as Priests, as religious Sisters and Brothers.

This past Saturday, in this very Cathedral, three young men were ordained to the priesthood for service in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I am convinced that God is calling some of you to the priesthood and religious life. The Church’s history is filled with numerous examples of priests and religious who were gifted with superior intellects. Thomas Aquinas, Catherine of Siena, Augustine of Hippo and Teresa of Avila are just a few who applied their minds to probing and explaining the deepest mysteries of faith and the world. What a privilege for you to place your talents at the service of God in the Church. May you be open and responsive to the invitation to serve God’s people. May your parents be given the grace of generosity and trust in Jesus, that they may help you, their sons an daughters, to accept your vocation in life with wisdom and freedom.

The call to witness will not always be easy. Regardless of your age or vocation in life, discipleship involves challenges. In the Gospel, Jesus warned his disciples that their testimony would result in persecution or even death. Just as Jesus endured the cross because he testified to his Father’s love and forgiveness, so also will we, as disciples, endure crosses as we testify to Jesus’ love and forgiveness. However, disciples of Jesus never face such difficulties alone. Jesus assures us, His disciples, that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, enables us to bear witness and endure the trials and tribulations that may occur.

There is so much for which to be grateful this evening. I express my deep gratitude, first of all, to the parents who have entrusted the education and formation of their children to our Catholic schools. In so doing, you have given us the privilege of sharing a role in which you have the primary and irreplaceable responsibility.

I am grateful for the Priests, religious Sisters and Brothers, and laity who serve in the educational apostolate and who support this apostolate with such generosity and dedication. We depend upon all of you to set high academic standards and instill a spirit of faith and values rooted in Christ. You give generously of your time, talent and treasure to advance the teaching mission of the Church. You assist parents by providing their children with a solid moral foundation. Our Catholic school teachers understand that their work is not just a career opportunity, it is a vocation, a response to God’s call to teach and evangelize our youth.

I am grateful for the support of the entire Catholic community who by their prayers and financial support enable our schools to accomplish their mission. With this support, many are able to receive a Catholic education who might otherwise be deprived.

Finally, I congratulate our Archdiocesan scholars. The future of the world and the Church belongs to the younger generation. We are proud of you. Christ expects great things from young people. Put your talents at the service of the proclamation of the Good News. Be friends of Jesus and offer witness so that others might get to know Him.

We entrust you, our Archdiocesan scholars, to our Blessed Mother Mary, whom we venerate in a special way during this month of May. Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, Mary overcame doubts and accepted God’s invitation to be the Mother of his Son, Jesus. The Holy Spirit empowered her to witness to God and endure the trials that came, especially the death of her Son on the cross. Through her maternal intercession, may Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, assist you in recognizing the Truth and witnessing to it in your lives. Amen.

Mass during Academic Honors Convocation for Secondary Education
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass during Academic Honors Convocation
for Secondary Education
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
May 20, 2008

Brother Priests, Deacons, professed Religious,
Administrators and Educators, dear Scholars, Families and Friends,

“Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” These words of Saint Paul convey so clearly why we gather tonight. In this Eucharist we praise and thank God for the divine favors that have been bestowed upon each of us, particularly our honorees. You, dear friends, have cultivated, through personal effort, the intellectual gifts with which God has blessed you. I speak for all in the Archdiocese in offering congratulations.

The foundation and purpose of all education is a search for truth. Saint Augustine maintained that we desire truth more passionately than anything else. Each of us has an innate and irrepressible desire for ultimate and definitive truth.

Today, however, some people suggest that it is wrong to seek ultimate and definitive truth. They argue that such truth does not exist and, if it does, it is beyond reach. In place of truth, an idea is spread which gives value to everything, indiscriminately. According to this view, what is true or false, right or wrong is determined by the individual. There are no absolutes. This relativism leads to intellectual and moral confusion. It results in despair and loss of self respect.

In an address to youth during his recent visit to the United States, Pope Benedict encouraged young people to continue to pursue the truth. He made it clear, though, that truth is not simply a set of rules that impose themselves upon human beings. Truth is not merely a series of hypothetical propositions. Truth is a person, Jesus Himself, the Word made flesh. The search for truth is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One whom we can always trust. In seeking truth we come to live by faith because the pursuit of truth draws us to the acceptance of Christ.

Truth, ultimate and definitive truth, does exist. It is not remote or impossible to attain. The incarnation of the Word in the womb of Mary reveals this. When God, the infinite and definitive truth, becomes flesh in Jesus, human beings are given access to Truth Himself. We do not despair of the possibility of embracing the truth. We are people of hope, who have been embraced by the truth.

Students in our Catholic schools are fortunate that their quest for truth takes place within a religious atmosphere. Catholic schools are institutions which offer high quality academic instruction and Christian formation. Each day, students are offered a challenging curriculum. They hear and live the Gospel; learn to appreciate the teachings of the Church; acquire a deep understanding, reverence and love for the Liturgy; build community; pray and properly form their consciences; develop virtue and participate in Christian service. By relating academic study to faith, students come to see how Jesus illumines all of life.

The offer of truth that comes in Jesus calls for a response. During this month of May, we venerate our Blessed Mother Mary in a special way. Through the archangel Gabriel, she was invited to be the Mother of the Redeemer. By her faith-filled response, “May it be done to me according to your word,” she conceives the Eternal Word of God. Truth takes flesh within her very being. The special privilege that is hers, as Mother of God, is not something that she keeps to herself. She proceeds in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Mary experiences an urgency to proclaim, by her words and deeds, the greatness of the Lord.

Saint Paul reminds us that in Christ, we are God’s adopted sons and daughters. Like Mary, we are called to proclaim God’s greatness by word and action. Jesus is the light of the world. He is the light that dispels the darkness of ignorance and evil. Christ’s light beckons us to be guiding stars for others, walking Christ’s way of forgiveness, reconciliation, humility, joy and peace.

The call to communicate Christ to others is a privilege. The Blessed Mother, herself, testifies to the joy that she experiences in proclaiming the greatness of the Lord. Truly, nothing is more beautiful than to know Christ and to make him known to others as the one true Savior. The world needs to encounter Christ, the Incarnate Truth, to believe in Him, and to experience His love.

Dear scholars: your formation to be light for the world began at home. Your parents have been influential in your faith formation. Parents are the first educators. They teach primarily by the witness of their Christian lives and by their love for the faith. It is at home that the seeds of a personal relationship with Jesus are planted. The Catholic schools you attend have collaborated with your parents and guardians in raising and forming you to be the light of Christ for others.

The light of Christ continues to shine through you only if Jesus is within you. Mary was able to offer Jesus to the world because Jesus was first within her. Jesus becomes most present in us through the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist that Jesus unites us to Himself and transforms us into his very likeness.

Dear young people: you already give praise to God by applying yourselves to studies, participating in school activities, and even more by your moral example and acts of charity. We look forward to the future when you will provide strong leadership for our Church and society. This will happen to the extent that you know and follow Jesus, who is eternal Truth.

Dear Parents: the Church asks you to encourage your children to follow the example of Mary by being open to God’s will. Trust in Jesus, and help your sons and daughters to accept their personal vocation in life with wisdom and freedom. The decision to follow Christ as a priest, religious sister or brother, can be deeply rewarding, as is the vocation of Christian married love.

Tonight we are thankful in many ways. I am particularly grateful to the parents who entrust the education and formation of their children to Catholic schools. I appreciate the support offered by the entire Catholic community. Their prayers and financial support enable Catholic schools to accomplish their mission. All who collaborate in the educational apostolate of the Archdiocese deserve special recognition. You give generously of yourselves to advance the teaching mission of the Church.

Again, I congratulate our honorees. We entrust you, dear young people to the loving intercession of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. May you follow her example by proclaiming the greatness of the Lord and allowing the light of Christ to shine through your lives. Amen.

Mass Opening the Academic Year, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass Opening the Academic Year
Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary
August 31, 2009

Dear Friends in Christ,

What a pleasure for me as Archbishop of Philadelphia to be with you today and to welcome all of you who make up this community of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary. What a pleasure to celebrate the Eucharist with you and for you. It is a joy to invite all of you to begin a new academic year of grace in the name of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I greet with profound affection and respect the faithful and dedicated administration, beginning with the Rector, Monsignor Joseph Prior, together with the faculty and staff, who respond anew this year to the Church’s call to serve generously and selflessly the seminary community of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, offering all their gifts, talents and energies to this great apostolate, this great ecclesial work of helping to prepare young men for the priesthood.

I welcome cordially our new faculty members whom we are so happy to receive and who will in a few moments edify us by their profession of the holy Catholic faith and their oath of loyalty to the Church.

How pleased we are this afternoon to have present representatives of the Board of Trustees, who serve so faithfully and with such dedication the life of our seminary and seminarians. The Archdiocese is deeply grateful for their extraordinary contribution.

During this Eucharist we experience unity with all the Bishops and Ordinaries who have entrusted their young men to Saint Charles Seminary. We also pray for all the Dioceses and Religious Orders represented here today.

The return of our seminarians from last year, together with the arrival of so many new men gives us the occasion to praise God for His “mighty acts” in their lives. The fact, dear seminarians, that you have just come, or that you have come back, shows the action of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Amidst many invitations and enticements in your lives you have felt an attraction to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, which is a pearl of great price, and with generous love you are here to pursue or to continue the discernment of your vocation. The action of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit are clearly at work in your lives. Blessed be God for His mighty works!

The word of God that the Church and the Lord Himself proclaim to us in this votive Mass of the Holy Spirit helps us in our great act of praise and in our understanding in the Church both of discipleship and the priesthood.

Our first reading describes that great day of Pentecost. And what happened on that day? The Apostles of Jesus were together. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised and whom Jesus had sent them from the Father. And in the power of the Holy Spirit they began to speak. About what? About the “mighty acts of God” accomplished in Jesus Christ.

At Pentecost the promise of Jesus was fulfilled. He had promised to send the Holy Spirit from the Father. He had promised that the Holy Spirit would bear testimony to Him and that the Apostles would likewise bear testimony to Him.

Today, dear friends, in the liturgy of the Church, in our gathering, in this sacred place, the fulfillment of the magnificent promise of Jesus is re-enacted. Speaking to our hearts Jesus says: “I will send you the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. He will testify to me. He will guide you to all truth. He will lead you to me. I am the truth.”

Dear friends, these words speak also about the most important goal for all of you in this Seminary: To get to know Jesus, in the sacraments, the word of God and in prayer; to be formed into Jesus by the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sends you, and in turn to be able to testify to Jesus by your words and your actions.

In all His faithful people, God intends to perform His “mighty acts,” and He asks everyone to bear witness to them. But, in the Church, Jesus chooses certain men to be His priests, by the power of the Holy Spirit to enter into a particular relationship with Him, and to bear special witness to Him by proclaiming sacramentally His Paschal Mystery. The sacramental proclamation of the Paschal Mystery is the Eucharistic celebration, the Mass. The core of your vocation is the Eucharist, just as it is the source and summit of all Christian life. You are here, dear seminarians, to discern and to love the priestly vocation, which is above all to celebrate the Eucharist for the people of God and for the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity.

The action of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit will make this possible for you. And Mary the Mother of Jesus, by her prayers and maternal love for you, will empower you to find peace and joy, generosity and fulfillment in all your seminary days and in your future priestly life and ministry. Amen.

Academic Honors Convocation Mass
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Academic Honors Convocation Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
May 22, 2007

Bishop McFadden,
Dear Priests and Deacons, Religious, Administrators and Educators,
Student Honorees,
Families and Friends,

What a joy it is to gather in thanksgiving to God and in recognition of distinguished scholars from our archdiocesan high schools. Your achievements are, undoubtedly, the result of sacrifice and personal effort. We admire the way in which you have applied yourselves to your studies. I speak for all in the Archdiocese in offering congratulations.

The foundation and purpose of all education is a search for truth. Saint Augustine maintained that we desire truth more passionately than anything else. Each of us has an innate and irrepressible desire for the ultimate and definitive truth. As Christians, we recognize that this truth is a person: Jesus Himself, the Word made flesh. Jesus, then, is the truth for which we all long. In coming to know and love Jesus, we come to know and love the truth.

Students in our Catholic schools are fortunate that their quest for truth takes place within a religious atmosphere. Catholic schools are institutions which offer high quality academic instruction. Even more, they are an effective vehicle of total Christian formation. By offering courses in science, history, mathematics, languages, the arts and so forth, the school nurtures and responds to the student’s intellectual curiosity.

By relating these subjects to salvation, students come to see how Jesus Christ illumines all of life. Catholic education provides an environment where a student can come to know and love Jesus. Daily, students are afforded the opportunity to hear and live the Gospel; to learn and appreciate the teachings of the Church; to acquire a deep understanding, reverence and love for the Liturgy; to build community; to pray and properly form their consciences; to develop virtue and participate in Christian service.

Catholic schools provide students with an academically rigorous education and a doctrinally sound program of faith formation designed to strengthen their union with Christ and his Church. Through a broad-based curriculum, where faith and culture are intertwined, Catholic schools form students to meet the challenging cultural and moral contexts in which young people find themselves. They are provided "an education by virtue of which their whole lives may be inspired by the spirit of Christ" (Gravissimum Educationis, 8).

What the world needs most is God’s love. It needs to encounter Jesus Christ and to believe in Him. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Christ and to make Him known to others as the one true Savior. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Paul testifies how he bore witness to Jesus. He did so with humility and endured many trials and hardships. However, he never shrank from proclaiming the Gospel of God’s grace. He felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to teach the people. The value that Paul found in life was directly connected with proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Distinguished scholars, your formation to be witnesses for Christ began at home. Your parents have been influential in your faith formation. Parents are the first educators. They teach primarily by the witness of their Christian lives and by their love for the faith. It is at home that the seeds of a personal relationship with Jesus are planted.

The Catholic schools that you have attended have assisted your parents in forming you to be witnesses. Catholic schools have collaborated with your parents and guardians in raising and forming you to proclaim Jesus to others. Your Catholic education, rooted in Jesus Christ, ensures that you have the foundation to be witnesses to Him in the world.

A Christian witness is one who knows and loves Jesus and wants others to know and love Him too. This witness, this testimony must come from inner conviction. Inner conviction develops out of intimacy with Christ. Intimacy with Christ is possible only by spending time with him. There can be no effective Christian witness without a personal relationship with Jesus, especially in the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist that Jesus unites us to himself. In the Eucharist, the Lord truly becomes food to satisfy pilgrim hearts that hunger and thirst for truth.

Distinguished scholars, you already witness to Jesus by applying yourselves to your studies and participating in school activities. In so doing, you develop the gifts that you have received from God. You proclaim Jesus by your lifestyle. Your moral example and acts of charity enrich the lives of others and offer encouragement, especially to your peers. Your witness is particularly clear by your participation in the Eucharist.

We look forward to the future when you will provide faith-filled leadership for our Church and our nation. Always view others from the perspective of Jesus. Recognize that all men and women are created, just like yourselves, in God’s image and likeness. Do not remain passive in the face of human suffering and inequality. Scholars, place your enormous gifts and talents at the service of life and the promotion of justice, reconciliation and peace. Like Saint Paul, work tirelessly to promote a civilization of love. In so doing, you will be glorifying God.

Some of you will witness to Jesus as lay members of Christ’s faithful people. Others will be called to witness as priests, religious sisters and brothers. This past Saturday, in this very Cathedral, seven young men were ordained to the priesthood for service in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I am convinced that God is calling some of you to the priesthood and religious life. The Church’s history is filled with numerous examples of priests and religious who were gifted with superior intellects. Thomas Aquinas, Catherine of Siena, Augustine of Hippo and Teresa of Avila are just a few who applied their minds to probing and explaining the deepest mysteries of faith. What a joy and privilege for you to place your talents at the service of God as a priest, brother or sister! May you be open and responsive to the invitation to serve God’s people.

Parents, encourage your children to be open to doing God’s will. Trust in Jesus, and help your sons and daughters accept their vocation in life with wisdom and freedom. The radical decision to follow Christ as a priest or religious sister or brother can be deeply rewarding. We have a deep conviction that Christ continues to inspire young men and women to give themselves totally to Christ as priests, sisters and brothers.

There is so much for which to be grateful this evening. I express my deep gratitude, first of all, to the parents who have entrusted the education and formation of their children to our Catholic schools. In so doing, you have given us the privilege of sharing a role in which you have the primary and irreplaceable responsibility.

I am grateful for the priests, religious sisters and brothers, and lay faithful who serve in the educational apostolate. We depend upon you to set high academic standards and instill a spirit of faith and values rooted in Christ. You give generously of yourselves to advance the teaching mission of the Church. You assist parents by providing their children with a solid moral foundation. Our Catholic school teachers understand that their work is not just a career opportunity; it is a vocation, a response to God’s call to teach and evangelize our youth.

I am grateful for the support of the entire Catholic community, who by their prayers and financial support enable our schools to accomplish their mission. With this support, many are able to receive a Catholic education who might otherwise be deprived.

Finally, I congratulate our archdiocesan scholars. The future of the world and the Church belongs to the younger generation. We are proud of you. Christ expects great things from young people. Put your talents at the service of the proclamation of the Good News. Be friends of Jesus and give authentic witness to Him so that others might get to know and love Him.

Tonight we entrust you, our archdiocesan scholars, to our Blessed Mother, Mary, whom we honor in a special way during this month of May. Through her maternal intercession, may Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, assist you in putting your gifts and talents at the service of the Kingdom of God. Amen.

Confirmation of Adults
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Confirmation of Adults
Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul
May 23, 2004

Bishop Maginnis,
Bishop Burbidge,
Dear brother Priests and Deacons,
Dear Candidates for Confirmation,
Dear Sponsors,
Dear Families,
Dear Friends in Christ,

            Today we have a very special celebration. We have a double celebration because the Church on this seventh Sunday after Easter continues her celebration of the whole Easter Mystery, the Easter event, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Next Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, we will celebrate the first coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.

            In the meantime, today in this Cathedral Basilica, we anticipate that celebration by invoking the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Confirmation on all our candidates who are to be confirmed this afternoon. For fifty days the Church is intent on helping us understand just what it means that Jesus rose from the dead. On Ascension Thursday, forty days after Easter, we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. For forty days after Jesus rose from the dead, He remained with His apostles. He remained with them to continue His instructions, to continue to encourage them, to show them that He was alive, that He had truly risen from the dead, and that they were to be His witnesses throughout the whole world. They were to go to all the corners of the earth and proclaim Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Then on Ascension Thursday, after forty days, Jesus gathered the apostles around Him in a very moving meeting. He spoke to them for the final time He led them near to the town of Bethany, near the Mount of Olives where He had suffered his Agony in the Garden. There Jesus lifted up His arms, He blessed His apostles, and with that He was taken out of their sight. He ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of His Father in glory.

            The work of Jesus on earth was completed, but Jesus had promised solemnly that He would not leave His apostles orphans, that He would not abandon His Church. He had promised that on Pentecost the Spirit of God s love would come upon the Apostles, take possession of their hearts, and that the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, would give to the Apostles the strength to do what Jesus had commanded them to do. The Holy Spirit would give them the fortitude and courage to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus and to carry on His mission. That was God s plan so beautifully and profoundly simple, and yet so full of meaning. The work of Jesus Himself was accomplished. Jesus went back to heaven, but the Spirit of God s love, whom He would send into His Church, would be with her forever. That is what has happened, dear friends. The apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit. And these were the apostles who up to a few weeks before were weak men. We remember what happened the night before Jesus died, how He was arrested, how the apostles were filled with fear. We remember how the apostles fled. Peter, their head, denied Jesus and all the others abandoned Him. These were the apostles who were called to go out into the whole world. On their own there was no way that they would be able to fulfill their mission. That is why Jesus had foreseen and promised the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost that is exactly what happened. At that time the apostles began their preaching throughout the whole world. They spread out. Their head, Peter, went to Rome and there he testified, not only by His life but by his death. They crucified him upside down. Peter became the chief witness of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. During all this time the apostles were communicating the Holy Spirit to others through the Sacrament of Confirmation.

              In our first reading today, from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear about the first martyr of the Church, Saint Stephen. We see how Saint Stephen was persecuted this is very often the lot of those who believe in Christ. Christians very often throughout history have had to suffer and many of them have had to die in order to proclaim Jesus Christ. Here in our first reading, we have the first martyr of the Church who gave this wonderful testimony of his belief in Christ. The Acts of the Apostles tell us that Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit. He had received the gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. Throughout the ages there have been millions and millions of followers of Jesus who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit and who have borne witness to Jesus Christ in their lives. Most of the followers of Christ are not called to die for their faith. But everyone is called upon to bear witness in his or her own life in the family, in the workplace, in the activities of every day all of us are called to bear witness to Jesus Christ and to His Gospel. Just as the apostles experienced their own weakness, just as they had to recognize that they were weak and sinful men, so all of us, dear friends, have to recognize our human weaknesses. We have to recognize the fact that there is no way, if left to ourselves, that we can be faithful to our calling faithful to Jesus Christ forever. That is where the great gift of the Holy Spirit comes in.

            Today, dear candidates for Confirmation, you have assembled here in order to receive this great gift of the Holy Spirit the same gift that the apostles received on that first Pentecost. Next week, on Pentecost Sunday, everyone in the Church will be celebrating this event. Meanwhile, we are anticipating this event here in this Cathedral. During this Pentecost celebration which we are anticipating today, you will realize that Jesus promise is fulfilled in your regard, just as it was fulfilled for the apostles on that first Pentecost. The Spirit of God s love comes to take possession of your hearts and your lives. This does not mean that from now on there will be no temptations not at all. This does not mean that you can desist in making the effort necessary --- no absolutely not. We are human. We have our human weaknesses and these human weaknesses remain with us forever. But the gift of God s Holy Spirit and the strength that comes from His love are infused into our hearts. This, dear friends, is the wonderful event that you celebrate today. And all of this is because of God s love. It is because as Christ tells us in the Gospel today the Father loves us. The Father loves Jesus and the Father loves us. Because of this love, because we are loved by God, we receive the greatest gift possible. We receive the gift of His love, and that gift is the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity. The Spirit of God s love takes possession of our lives.

             Dear friends, this is a wonderful moment for all of us to renew our resolution to be faithful to Christ, and to realize that all the weaknesses we are capable of as human beings are still inferior to the strength that is offered us by the the Sacrament of Confirmation. The strength of God s love is something more powerful than our weaknesses. It is something that will accompany us all our lives.

             So today, dear friends, at the end of this ceremony as you leave the Church, you will be walking into the future, but not alone. You will have the great gift of God s love and His strength in your hearts. And with this, Christ Himself challenges you to go out into the world and bear witness to Him, to bring His name to other people, to let people see that by your lives you bear witness to Jesus. Jesus has told us: You are my friends if you do what I command you. With the firm resolution to be faithful to the Gospel of Christ, with the firm resolution to be faithful to the commandments of Christ, you begin a new phase in your lives the wonderful phase of Confirmation, with the Spirit of God s holy love in your hearts. Amen.

Advent 2003
Advent 2003

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Liturgy of the Word for this First Sunday of Advent offers to us images both catastrophic and calming. In the passage from the Gospel according to Saint Luke, Jesus speaks in terrifying terms of the end of the world. Signs will appear in the sky, the nations will be in anguish, the sea will be in upheaval, and people will be frightened. These images hardly seem appropriate for the beginning of the joyful season of Advent. Yet, these words of Jesus are followed by His exhortation: Stand up straight and raise your heads, for your ransom is at hand.

The Church enters into the important season of Advent with two goals. Initially, we prepare our minds and hearts for the celebration of the Birth of Our Savior. Secondly, we prepare our minds and hearts for the day when Our Lord returns as our judge at the end of the world. It is for these reasons that the Church offers to us the images of tribulation, but also calming words which remind us that we who are followers of Christ and His Gospel have nothing to fear. We await His return and we will be prepared.

In this first Advent as your Archbishop, I take this opportunity to assure you that in the midst of the trials and distress which afflict our world and our Church, we have every reason to remain calm with minds and hearts fixed on Christ. Jesus came into the world to reveal the love and mercy of God our Father. Jesus is with us always and He guides us through every difficulty, even when we are least aware of His loving presence. He gives us the courage to stand and keep our heads raised as we give witness to the world that we are Christians and that we live joyfully in the light of Christ.

This season of grace also invites us to reflect on the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary was the first person to experience the nearness of Christ when, in her womb, the Word became Flesh. The example of Mary, as she waited for the birth of her Son, shows us how to experience within us the presence of God, especially in the ordinariness of life. I ask everyone throughout this holy season to look to Mary. She will assist us in recognizing the nearness of Christ and His calming, guiding love.

With these sentiments, I entrust you all to Mary Mother of Jesus the Incarnate Word, Mother of God.


Sincerely in Christ,


Cardinal Justin Rigali
Archbishop of Philadelphia

Altar Server Mass
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Altar Server Mass
Cathedral Basilica SS. Peter and Paul
Sunday, February 5, 2006

Dear Priests and Deacons,
Dear Altar Servers,
Dear Parents,
Dear Friends,

Praised be Jesus Christ!

My dear young people, WELCOME! Welcome here to this Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Today, it is a great joy for me to welcome you here, to celebrate this Mass with you and to recognize your service to the Church in your role as altar servers.

You gather here today with people from over 50 parishes in our Archdiocese. You gather here today with fellow altar servers, friends and family. You gather here today with many priests, deacons and religious. And all of us are here today worshipping God together at this Altar. It is indeed good for us to be here!

Every year at this time, we celebrate this special Mass at the Cathedral so that we can all join together in praise of our heavenly Father. At a celebration like this, when we are all gathered together, we can see just how large our Church in Philadelphia is. In fact, our Archdiocese is so large that we need to split into sections those who attend this Mass! We simply cannot fit all the altar servers in Philadelphia into this Cathedral. Today, we welcome here all of you, the servers from the Philadelphia South Vicariate, as well as the Delaware and Chester County Vicariates. Over 800 altars servers are present here!

Friends, we have just listened to God’s holy word proclaimed in the Scriptures. And in today’s readings, we have heard several different stories. Each different but each containing something for us to think about and to ponder.

In the first reading, we heard about a man named Job. Job’s name is spelled, J-O-B, the same way we spell our name for work, the word "job". And if you have ever had a difficult job to do, you can appreciate Job’s entire life. Job was a man who not only had a difficult job, but he had a difficult life. I am sure that some of you even at your young age can relate to this man named Job. I am sure that at times you have experienced hard days at school, hard days at home, or you have had some hard things to do. That is what Job’s life was like. And we hear him today saying, "Life is a drudgery." "I feel like a slave, a hired hand." Job certainly was having difficulties. In many ways, Job’s heart was broken. He was not happy. Perhaps some of you too know what that is like: times when everything seems to be broken, times when you are just not happy.

It was only 6 weeks ago that we celebrated the beautiful feast of Christmas. I am sure all of you here today received some new gifts at Christmas time. I wonder if any of those things you received might be broken today. Or if the batteries have worn out or if the pieces are missing. When that happens, we need to do something to fix it. We have to take it back to the store, get new batteries or get someone to repair it. We have all experienced that. But it is different when it is your heart that is broken, when you are feeling sad. What are we to do then? Who can fix a broken heart? Who can help us when we are sad?

Our responsorial psalm today gives us the answer. "Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted!"

And in the Gospel we see that it is our Lord Jesus Christ who is doing just that. Jesus today is healing sick people, people not only with broken bodies but with sad and broken hearts. Isn’t that wonderful! For we see today Jesus doing what no one else can do. Only Jesus can heal the brokenhearted. No one else can fix a broken heart, only Jesus can and we see that He wants to do just that today.

Why does Jesus do this? He does this because He loves his people and He wants everyone to know His love. In His ministry in today’s Gospel, Jesus remains not just in one spot; He moves around and He wants those whom He has healed to tell others about the gift they have received. To share with others, to serve others with the love they have received from Him.

Friends, there are so many altar servers in this Church today. But what does it mean to be an altar server? Part of it means that you help the priest at Mass, that you are responsible and report for your duties on time and are respectfully dressed. For some of you it even means that you need to wake up extra early in the morning to serve early Masses! This is all part of being an alar server.

But being an altar server means something much more than that. It means that you are someone very special. You are a friend of Jesus. It means that you are a special friend of Jesus. It means that He knows who you are, He knows your name and He is happy that you have chosen to serve him at His altar.

Being an altar server also means that you are connected. And today, we see that connection in a powerful way. We see it first in the albs or robes you are wearing. These show that you are a child of God, that you have put on Christ Jesus. And so, through Him and with Him you are all connected, you are all one with each other and with the whole Church.

We see today the connection in the tasks you do as altar servers. Yes, you come from different churches, from different parish communities. But every Mass, no matter where it is celebrated, is the same. And no matter where you are, the task of the altar server is the same: to bring over water and wine, to wash the priest’s hands, to help him at the altar. This is done at every Mass by every altar server in the world! And this shows that you are connected not only in what you wear but in what you do, serving Jesus at Mass, where Jesus heals the world through His Eucharistic love.

Finally, we see the connection in the call that you all share: the call to serve Jesus. Jesus came on earth to bring His healing to the world, a world that was filled with people who had broken hearts.

We hear about that healing in the Gospel today. But we see that healing in the Eucharist. We see His healing presence as Jesus is made present on the altar.

And so, the work of Jesus continues. And here in service to Jesus at the altar, all of you are indeed connected with Him in His wonderful work of healing the world. It is a work that you are privileged to share as you serve Jesus at the altar.

Dear servers, this is the job that we all have. The task all of us have together as Christians is to live our connection with the Lord. We must live the love of Jesus in our lives.

Young people, when you live that connection with Jesus, when you live the love of Jesus by praying, keeping His commandments and serving others, your life becomes different. You are truly blessed. You find peace and happiness and you become a blessing to others. God begins to use you in a powerful way and His love begins to grow in your hearts. It grows not only within you but it reaches out to others.

This is your job as Christians. Not merely to serve Jesus at the altar but to serve Him by living His love. What a wonderful job, what a wonderful privilege it is, to live the love of Jesus!

Dear servers, this is what our world needs today. Jesus needs you. He needs young people committed to living His love and serving him. And He calls you to do that with generous hearts. In fact, I have no doubt at all that Jesus is even calling many of you young men here today in this Church to serve him as His priests, to serve Him in this special way at the altar. Furthermore, I have no doubt at all that Jesus is calling many of you young women to serve Him as religious sisters, to serve and teach the love of God as Mary did. What a beautiful gift to experience God’s call to be His priest or a religious. Do not be afraid to answer that particular call if it is meant for you.

Finally, as we move on now to celebrate this Eucharistic Sacrifice, I want to thank you for taking the time to come here today, on this Super Bowl Sunday. Thank you for being young people in service to Jesus. And may God’s blessing descend upon you and your families today and forever. Amen.

Altar Server Mass
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Altar Server Mass
Cathedral Basilica SS. Peter and Paul
Sunday, February 22, 2009

Praised be Jesus Christ!

To my brother priests, consecrated religious, parents, teachers and chaperones and to all of you altar servers, welcome to our Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. How good it is to be with you once again for this Annual Altar Servers Mass! And how splendid the view is from up here! To see so many of you, altar servers gathered together in one place is quite a sight indeed, and it is good to be with you here today at this Holy Mass.

We have just heard, dear friends, a beautiful account from Saint Mark’s Gospel—an account that describes a remarkable scene and a beautiful miracle of grace, a story of forgiveness and service, of healing and love. We heard about a day that the people gathered with Jesus would never forget, a dramatic day on which they witnessed something entirely new, something they had never heard or seen before. Let us try to imagine the scene.

We are told that people had heard Jesus was at home, and so they started coming to see Him. A great crowd of people was gathered, some of the crowd had seen Jesus before and others were hoping to see Him for the first time. Four of the people decided to bring with them a paralyzed man, hoping that Jesus would heal him. It took great effort to bring this paralyzed man to Jesus. First, they had to carry him. Then they had to get him through the thick crowd. In doing that, they realized they could not get close enough to Jesus so they decided to carry this man up to the roof! Imagine the energy and care that that involved! Once on the roof, they had to break the roof open, and finally after much work, they were able to lower the man down to see Jesus. Imagine that scene, quite an event in itself, all in an effort to help this one man to see Jesus!

It is at this point in the Gospel, that we see Jesus work a wonderful miracle and do something that only He can do. First, he forgives the man’s sins. Jesus declares, "Child, your sins are forgiven." Then, He heals him of his handicap. He looks at the man with love and says, "Rise, pick up your mat and go home." The man did just that and we are told that the crowd was astounded, for they had witnessed a miracle, and as Saint Mark tells us, "They glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this’." They had witnessed a miracle of mercy, healing and love.

For some of you, today, you too are witnessing something you have never seen before. This may be, for many of you, your first time in this Cathedral, a crowded Cathedral, filled with people who want to see Jesus. This alone is quite a sight. But there is more. For just as Jesus did on that day in Capernaum, today Jesus desires to do something new for us. And He does! Jesus comes to us today, He speaks His word of mercy and love, and brings us new healing and grace. How good it is to be here with Jesus!

For Altar Servers, it is in a very special way that Jesus is present to you. For it is primarily at the Altar, where you serve, that Jesus comes to you and works His greatest miracle in today’s world. It is at the altar that Jesus meets his people, thousands of people from all over the world, each and every day in the Eucharist. It is there at the altar that Jesus offers Himself, as forgiveness, as healing, as food, empowering us to serve Him with reverence, attention and love. As altar servers, then, you are very much like the four men in this gospel. For like them, you serve others and, in serving, you get to be close to Jesus, you get to bring yourselves and others to Jesus with great attention and love. Such a service is a great gift and a tremendous privilege. For having served at the altar, you too like the four men in the Gospel can go out and tell others the wonderful things that God has done for his people, how He gives Himself to them both in His Word and in the Eucharist. Yes, friends, as we are gathered together here today at Mass, we are very much like the people in the Gospel, for we get to see wonderful things, new things, miracles of grace as we serve Jesus.

In today’s world, it is often difficult to see new things, but even new things quickly grow old. We seem to have so many things, and yet it is easy to grow bored, and tired in life. But young servers, do not be fooled. And do not worry, for Jesus saves us from all that is old, boring and tired. In fact, he offers us a remedy for such things, just as he did for the people in this Gospel. We heard God’s word today, spoken to us also through Isaiah the prophet who told the people who had grown old and bored: "Remember not the things of the past, things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert, I make a way." Jesus is that Way! And He is with us today.

In just three short days, from now, dear friends, we will begin something new. We will begin the holy season of Lent. Lent is a time when we remember in a special way Jesus being tempted for forty days in the desert. It is a time when Jesus is making a new way for us. It is a time when many people will make a way for Jesus. In just a few days, many people will come to Jesus and renew their "yes" to Him. They will be marked with Ashes and will enter into a special season of grace, with good intentions, sacrifice and prayer. Altar Servers, what a wonderful opportunity Lent is to grow close to Jesus. To renew your "yes" to Jesus, to serve Him well! We have a wonderful new grace, a new opportunity right before us.

This Lent, as you serve at the altar and you see so many people coming close to Jesus, may I ask of you a very special intention? I ask you to ask the Holy Spirit to help you to be like the men in today’s Gospel. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to know how Jesus wants you to serve Him. You can even ask that question to Jesus directly, just say, "Jesus, how do you want me to serve you today and in the future?" What an important question that is and I am certain that you will hear an answer. For Jesus loves to answer that question! Just try it and find out. Wouldn’t it be great if every altar server here today, indeed all our altar servers throughout our Archdiocese, would ask that question of Jesus and make that his or her prayer for each day of Lent? Let us make it a Lenten resolution. What beautiful graces that prayer will bring to you, as you ask Jesus how He wants you to serve Him. Through that prayer you will find great grace and even discover your particular vocation.

Young people, Jesus has a very special love in His heart for each and every one of you. He loves you and He wants to use you to bring His love to others. On behalf of your pastors and the other priests, I thank you for serving Jesus at the altar as altar servers and for bringing His love to others. I thank your parents and priests for helping you to be faithful to your commitments. As we proceed now to meet Jesus at the Altar, let us give Him thanks, let us praise His glory and like the people in today’s Gospel, let us glorify God who makes all things new. Amen.

Altar Server Mass
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Altar Server Mass
Cathedral Basilica SS. Peter and Paul
February 14, 2010

Praised be Jesus Christ!

It is a joy for all of us to be together today in this Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. We are here for this annual gathering of our altar servers and for this celebration of Sunday Mass. It is good to see so many of our altar servers assembled on this occasion, and it is a blessing to be with you. I thank all of those who have made this gathering possible.

Today, of course, is a very special day of the week. Today is Sunday, the Day of the Lord, the day when all of us Christians throughout the world gather together to give praise and thanks to Almighty God as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus our Lord and Savior. As Catholics, we mark this day in a very special way, as we celebrate Holy Mass, in which we gather at the Altar to serve Jesus and where, in His great love for us, Jesus in turn, serves us! For it is here at this Mass that Jesus teaches us with His Word. It is here at this Mass that Jesus nourishes us with His Body and Blood, giving us grace, wisdom and strength for the days ahead. The presence of so many of our altar servers is a concrete reminder to all of us of the tremendous service which takes place in this Eucharist as we give to the Lord our love and receive from the Lord His Love. What a beautiful gift! What a wonderful exchange of love transpires here today!

Of course, today, February 14th, is also Valentine’s Day—a day in this country on which we remember in a particular way loved ones and friends. It is common on this day to exchange greetings, flowers and other remembrances to those close to us. Such kind gestures are appropriate, but they do not last, do they? Such expressions of love are only for a day. By the end of the week, the flowers will be wilting and the other remembrances gone. Such signs and symbols of friendship and love are just that, namely signs and symbols; they are not love itself. Love is much deeper. It is not limited to the symbols of this day, but rather is found in persons, in relationships, in human hearts, in the Heart of Jesus.

It is with this in mind, dear friends, that we gather here today with great joy and faith. For we know that it is here at this Eucharist, here at this altar, that we are given not a symbol of God’s love, but the reality of God’s love, Jesus Himself. It is here in this Eucharist that we are given the living heart of God, the real and living presence of Jesus who has promised to give His heart to us, and who shares with us in this Mass His endless Love. We hear of this real and enduring love of God in our readings today which speak to us of the Beatitudes and of two ways of living. There is a way that leads to life and that endures, and there is a way that leads to sadness, a way that leads away from life, that does not endure. Both the prophet Jeremiah and the Psalm which we hear today describe these two ways of life, using a very beautiful image, the image of two trees. One tree is planted by running waters, where it is able to stretch out its roots and drink freely of the water. This tree is well provided for, even during the difficult seasons; this tree remains strong, bearing fruit, and its leaves never fade. The other tree is not near the waters, and as such it has no nourishment and cannot survive. This tree bears no fruit.

Dear friends: God is reminding us today that you and I are like those trees and that Jesus Himself is the living water. Jesus invites us today and every day to be close to Him so that we may drink freely of His love, so that we may have life and bear fruit that endures. This invitation of God to us is the reason we are here today, to receive the living water, the very gift and life of Jesus Himself.

How you may ask do we do this? How can we grow strong in the love and strength of God? We do so by remaining close to Jesus Himself. By following His commandments, by walking in His ways and by being faithful to the sacraments, especially Sunday Mass. For, it is in the Mass that we meet the Lord and have life; without Mass, we miss this meeting and remain deprived of life.

Dear young people: It is in reflecting on God’s Word that you realize how blessed you are to be servers of our Lord at Mass. You realize how blessed you are to be near Jesus, to receive Jesus and to grow in His grace. You are like those trees that are planted near the running waters and endure. You are meant to be witnesses for others of God’s love and power.

The world today needs witnesses of God’s love and power, and you, dear young people, can be tremendous witnesses of God in this world. Through your faithful service, through your joy and zeal, through your enthusiasm and reverence, you bring hope to the world. When others see you at Mass, when others see you serve, when others see your reverence, attention and love, they begin to realize the presence of Jesus. Your service then becomes a witness for all to see.

This week, the Church throughout the world will enter the holy season of Lent. We begin Lent on Ash Wednesday and receive ashes on our foreheads that many people will see. This mark is a sign. But, like the hearts on Valentine’s day, the ashes will quickly disappear. They last only for a short time. You and I, then, are called to something greater; we are called to live forever, to be living witnesses of God’s unchanging love.

Dear Servers: It is through your service to the Lord at the Altar, that you will grow in the gift of God’s love. Countless Saints served the Lord in this way. Many priests and religious brothers and sisters did the same when they were younger. And now is your time to do the same. Pray to the Lord each day, give Him thanks for His countless blessings and ask Him to help you to be His living witnesses in the world, witnesses of His enduring love.

And remember that Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Blessed Mother too, will always help you to perform well your important service in the Church. Amen.

Altar Server Mass
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Altar Server Mass
Cathedral Basilica SS. Peter and Paul
February 14, 2011

Praised be Jesus Christ!
Now and forever!

Dear brother Priests and Deacons,
Dear Seminarians from Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary,
Dear members of the Serra Club,
Most especially, dear altar servers from the parishes of
Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia North Vicariates,
Dear Friends in our Lord, Jesus Christ,

Welcome! Welcome to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where we gather, in the name of Jesus, to give thanks and praise to Almighty God for his countless blessings. Yes, we gather, in the name of Jesus Christ, to celebrate the gift of our holy Catholic faith, and, in a special way, to express appreciation to the altar servers, who have gathered in this magnificent basilica, for this special time of grace and blessing. As Archbishop, it gives me great joy, to gather with you, dear young people, but more importantly that we gather in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, is an opportunity for me to reflect, with you, on the vital role you partake in as an altar server in your parish. You have chosen to offer your service, in a way like no other, for you have chosen to assist the priest as he offers up the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the greatest prayer of all. You, through your willingness to serve at holy Mass, help lead your fellow parishioners in giving praise to God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You see, your role of serving is of great importance and can never be taken lightly or for granted. For when you serve at Mass, you are in such close proximity to the central mystery of our holy Catholic faith. Namely, that the ordinary bread and wine offered, do in fact, become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. What a great privilege you have been given and I remind you that serving at Holy Mass, is something that will always require your total attention and careful preparation so that fitting praise and worship is given to our Father in Heaven.

Dear altar servers, along with the priests of your parish, I offer deep gratitude for the dedication you offer to serve at Sunday and daily Mass at your parish. Personally, I am grateful, that as I have the blessing to visit your parishes for the Sacrament of Confirmation and other special liturgies, I witness how well you serve. I know that this requires great preparation and time for special practices.

Today, in thanking you for your commitment, I wish also to offer you encouragement to stay always close to Jesus Christ, for I realize we live in challenging times, where there are temptations, distractions, noises and distortions that could harm us. I realize this is especially true for you, dear young people. Placed before you, each day, is the opportunity to increase in holiness, growing closer to Jesus. Sadly, there are temptations placed before you that could jeopardize your relationship with Him. And so, I exhort you to be diligent regarding what your Baptism, and for some of you, your Confirmation, requires of you. Namely, to follow the Law of the Lord, to know and be faithful to his commandments and to rejoice in the blessings promised to those who are faithful.

Our First Reading, from the Old Testament Book of Sirach, speaks of the promise that such diligence will bring: “If you choose, you can keep the commandments, they will save you...” Yes, if “you choose”, dear young people, choosing the way of Jesus will give you freedom, peace and most of all the promise of his presence with you always.

Our Psalm reminds us, so beautifully, “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!” There is great blessing in knowing, following and living the law of the Lord. But this will be a challenge! It will be difficult, because there are many distractions, peer pressure and strange voices that will tempt you not to listen and live the Lord’s commandment of love. Therefore, remain focused on what Jesus wants of you! In difficult times, choose Jesus, choose his way, choose to follow him and you will be called blessed.

In our Second Reading, Saint Paul gives us further encouragement when he writes to the people living in Corinth, he says: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.” This is the promise and assurance that we are given, if we choose to follow the way of the Lord, to follow Jesus and to love and serve him. To love Jesus means to follow his commandments, the greatest of which is love. Again, imagine the great promise that Saint Paul utters, no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and it has not even dawned on the imagination of man, the splendid reward God has prepared for you if you choose to live and follow his commandment of love.

It is not easy always to follow Jesus. At times, His commandment of love requires great effort or great restraint on your part. However, when you follow his commandments, you are assured of his presence and blessings always. Your lives are filled with choices, and you are being challenged today, by Jesus, to choose love. Remember the promise in the prayer, at the beginning of this holy Mass, make it your own each day, as you face the challenge of choosing between what is good and evil: “God our Father, you have promised to remain forever with those who do what is just and right.”

Just a short time ago, in a school not far from where we are this afternoon there was a young boy named Cory—about your age. Cory was verbally bullied and brutally beaten by a group of his peers because they felt he was inferior in size. The news of these criminal acts was reported in news stations and papers throughout the country. There was outrage that such a brutal attack could take place among people so young, but what was more alarming was there were some young people who chose to stand by and do nothing to help Cory in his time of need . It could be said, that the neglect to stand up for someone in need of help, someone powerless, is the far greater offense.

Jesus’ commandment of love calls you to live lives that witness to and speak the truth! Therefore, to speak for, defend and love everyone. Because of Jesus’ commandments we can never stand by and watch as someone is taken advantage of or bullied. Dear young people, I know you want to make a difference, I know you want to show the world that Jesus loves you and that you love Jesus. Hence, you must make it a daily habit to live God’s commandments faithfully and never just stand by and watch!

When you serve at Mass, you are showing others that you want to follow the Lord, and by your example, you are helping others to follow the Lord. In the sanctuary serving, in the classroom studying, on the court or field be consistent in your commitment to Jesus Christ. Never be one person for Christ and another person just to fit in because of peer pressure! Listen to Jesus, what He says in the Gospel today. “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No’.” In other words, be sincere and faithful to the law of the Lord.

Dear young people, thank you for your service, thank you for coming here today. May you be renewed in the love of Jesus Christ, renewed in following the commandments of the Lord so that you will always know his presence and blessing in your life.

Finally, dear young people, always stay close to Jesus’ Mother, Mary. For she will intercede for you and help you to choose to live in Christ, to act uprightly and follow His commandments. She will give you the courage to combat evil and temptation, to stand for the rights of others who have no voice. Pray to her daily and ask her to help you to make good decisions and to live her Son’s commandment of love now and always. Amen.

Altar Server Mass
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Altar Server Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Sunday, February 11, 2007

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Greetings and a heartfelt welcome to all of you gathered here for this special Mass in which we recognize and honor the Altar Servers of our Archdiocese. Boys and girls, young men and women, how good it is to be here with you! Here, in this Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, we gather with altar servers from 63 parishes of the Montgomery, Bucks and Philadelphia North Vicariates. Here, on this Sunday, we gather with so many of our priests, deacons, religious sisters, seminarians, parents, family members and friends. Here, today, we gather to celebrate and to participate in this Eucharist with our Lord Jesus Christ. It is indeed good to be here today!

In the course of any day, wherever we may be, people ask us questions. In school, teachers ask us questions. For it is through questions that they find out what we have learned and how well we have studied our lessons. At home, our parents ask us questions. They love us, care about us and they want to know what’s going on in our lives. At Confirmation, the Bishop who comes to our parish church will at times ask questions. For he wants to show the congregation that we are properly prepared to receive the Sacrament. Even our best of friends, in the course of every day events, will ask us questions. While this is common in our relationships with one another, it is interesting to note that even God—He who knows everything about us—will at times ask us questions!

In fact, in the very opening scene of the Bible, we find God asking Adam and Eve some questions. You might remember the scene. It was right after Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, after they sinned. God asks them "Where are you?" Here we have an interesting scene. For we see here that God, who sees and knows everything, is looking for Adam and Eve! It seems rather comical. And while God knows where they are, His question reveals to them His love, His great concern and His fatherly care. It is clear that Adam and Eve are important to God. God loves them, and where they are matters to God. He cares for them very much and desires them to be with Him.

Dear Friends: what is true for Adam and Eve, is true for you and me as well. God cares for us. We, too, are important to God and where we are matters to God for He loves us so very much. Today, as we gather at this Eucharist, we are reminded of this truth. We are reminded of who we are. We are God’s children, we are His people, members of His family, members of Christ’s Body, the Church. As such, where we are is important to God; it is important for us as well.

Today, as we gather here in God’s house, to celebrate and share at His altar, we are invited to consider carefully our place in God’s Plan—where we are in our lives, in our relationship to God, in our relationship with one another and in relationship to God’s Plan for our salvation. Certainly, God knows where we are. But we ourselves need to know where we are, and where he is calling us to be in His plan for our salvation.

In the first reading today from the Prophet Jeremiah, we see two very different places where human beings may find themselves. Two places where you and I might be. The first is a dry and barren place, a wilderness, an uninhabited land. Not a very nice place, not a good place to be. It is here that we find a man who trusts not in God but in himself. Such a man can be found in this rough and dangerous place. But then we hear of another place, a beautiful place where we find a man who trusts in the Lord. Unlike the first scene, which is dry and barren, here we find a running stream. The man found here who trusts in the Lord is well provided for. In fact, we are told that he is like a tree that grows strong, stretching its roots into the stream. And no matter what the weather may be, no matter what season it is, this man is safe. He is provided for, he has everything he needs. This is the place of the man who trusts in the Lord. He is found in this good and healthy and safe place. And this, dear Friends, is obviously the place where we ourselves would like to be, where God desires us to be, and where we will be if we trust in Him.

In the Gospel today we see where Jesus is. He has just come down from the mountain. He has just selected his Twelve Apostles and called them by name. And now, we find Jesus standing before a large crowd of people. Saint Luke tells us that Jesus is on a plain, a flat and level stretch of ground. The crowd has gathered around Him and Jesus, looking toward His disciples, begins to teach. He teaches the people how to be good. He teaches them how they can be blessed; how, if they trust in Him, they can arrive in that good and safe place. Furthermore, as a good teacher He also warns them of dangers, how they need to avoid trusting in themselves or in worldly riches. He teaches them how they can avoid that dry and barren place.

In this Gospel scene Jesus teaches the crowds the Beatitudes. And it is here in this teaching that Jesus shows the people how to be with Him, how to be like Him, indeed how to represent Him in the midst of this world. Dear Friends, these teachings of Jesus are very important for us. They serve as a roadmap, guiding us and showing us where we are in our lives and how we can move closer and closer to Jesus.

As Altar Servers, you have a very important role to play in the Church; you are indeed very close to Jesus. In fact, when you serve at the altar, next to the priest, you are the closest to Jesus. For unlike the other people in the Church who are in the pews, you as an altar server are right there, next to the priest, very close to the altar. As altar servers, then, you find yourself in a privileged and holy place: very often kneeling right there at the side of the altar or in front of the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer. You are close to Jesus. In the crowd of many people, you have a front row place! You are in a good and holy place!

Now from the sanctuary, dear young people, Jesus invites you to act like Him, to be like Him. He invites you to trust Him, like the man in the first reading, so that you may come to that blessed place where all is well. Jesus invites you to trust in him, to be loving and kind toward others so that you can be close to Jesus always, and serve Jesus not only at the altar but everywhere else as well. You are called to be His presence in the midst of this world, like Mother Teresa, like Pope John Paul II, like all the Saints whom we know so well. This is God’s Will for you. This is the place where God wants you to be: to be always with Jesus, to be like Jesus, to represent Jesus and to be Jesus in this world.

Right now, for most of you, your place in the world is with your families and at your schools. This is where God wants you to be. Someday, however, that will change. You will grow older. You will graduate from your schools and God will be there leading you to a new place. Young people: it is important for you to know where that place is. It is important for you consider carefully, to discern where Jesus is leading you.

For many of you it will eventually be the vocation of Christian married love, the Sacrament of Marriage. This vocation is very important for the Church and the world. It is so much a part of God’s plan. Your parents will tell you that it involves sacrifice and requires a great deal of self-giving, a great deal of love.

Others of you Jesus will lead to serve Him one day as a religious brother or sister. To be set aside and consecrated to Jesus in religious life is another form of love, a wonderful form of special service in the Church and in the world.

Some of you young men may be called by God to be priests, to share the ministry of Jesus the Good Shepherd. You know that it is through the priest that all of God’s people are able to have the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Jesus. Without the priest, there is no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist there is no Church! If God is calling you young men to this vocation, He will give you the grace to be generous and say yes.

Jesus will call still others here to different forms of service. But no matter where Jesus is calling you, it is your duty and privilege as His friends to listen to His voice and to live according to His way of life. Each and every one of you has the calling to be with Jesus, to be like Him, and to live according to His way of life, according to His commandments, His Beatitudes.

Today, dear Friends, as we gather close to Jesus at this Eucharist and join with Him here at this high altar, let us respond to Jesus who is asking us that important question, "Where are you?" Let us answer like Mary and like all the Saints of God. Let us say with joyful and excited hearts: "Here I am Lord! Where you are, Lord, is where I want to be! Keep me Lord Jesus ever close to you, today and forever." Amen.

75th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Altoona Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
75th Anniversary of the Dedication of the
Altoona Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Sunday, September 10, 2006

Praised be Jesus Christ!

How lovely is your dwelling-place, Lord, mighty God!

With great joy I have accepted the invitation of the Pastor of this local Church of Altoona-Johnstown, my dear friend Bishop Joseph Adamec, to be the principal celebrant and homilist on this special occasion: the 75th anniversary of the dedication of this Altoona Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.

It is an honor for me as Archbishop of Philadelphia to be spiritually united with all of you today, as was my predecessor Cardinal Dennis Dougherty three-quarters of a century ago when he dedicated this great Cathedral church.

In the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ I greet you all: Bishop Adamec, priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese, civic dignitaries and guests. In particular, I cordially acknowledge the presence of Bishop Viliam Judak of Nitra in Slovakia and Archabbot Douglas Nowicki of Saint Vincent Archabbey, as well as Metropolitan Nicholas of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese.

The history of this Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and of this Diocese is linked to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in different ways. Bishop John McCort, your second Bishop who came to you from Philadelphia, was the first person to envision this majestic structure. Bishop Carroll McCormick, once Auxiliary of Philadelphia, was privileged to see the completed Cathedral opened for public worship in 1960. Twenty-five years ago, in 1981, my predecessor Cardinal John Krol presided at the solemn consecration of this sacred edifice. And just last year, as Metropolitan Archbishop of Philadelphia I was honored to preside at the funeral liturgy of Bishop James J. Hogan.

What unites us so deeply, however, dear friends, is the mystery—the divine reality—of the Church of Jesus Christ. We belong to one Church; we are members of the one Body of Christ. The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is linked with the Metropolitan See of Philadelphia, but all of us are linked in organic unity with the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church spread throughout the world under the spiritual leadership of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, but above all under the Supreme and Eternal Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ.

In preparation for this day, your own Bishop Adamec has rightly spoken about the celebration of the Cathedral as "the celebration of the life of the Diocese and its unity as a Church."

The word of God that we proclaim today helps us to understand what the Cathedral and the Diocese are all about.

In the Gospel we see how Jesus loved the Temple in Jerusalem, and how He referred to it as "my Father’s house." Everything about it was sacred. Jesus did not tolerate the profanation of the temple area. He forcefully drove out those who sold oxen, sheep and doves, as well as the money changers. "Take these out of here," He said, "and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace." Jesus was consumed with zeal for His Father’s house.

Every church, but the Cathedral in particular, is God’s house. It is the Church’s place of prayer and worship. It is God’s dwelling-place. It is where the supreme treasure of the Church—the Blessed Sacrament—is honored and adored. Jesus Christ, the second person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Son of the living God, the Son of Mary, is enthroned in the tabernacle of each Church. What importance, what dignity, what a sacred place!

But every church, and in particular the Cathedral church in this Diocese and in every diocese throughout the world, is an image and a sign of another structure that is even more magnificent, a structure that is made of living stones. Hence this Cathedral is a sign of the living Church of Jesus Christ, to which we are all privileged to belong as baptized Christians. In our second reading this afternoon, Saint Paul tells us that we are "members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred to the Lord; in him you are being built together into a dwelling-place of God in the Spirit."

And so, dear friends, we can see that the greatest dignity of the Cathedral is to be a symbol of the Diocese itself, which in turn is a privileged part of the Church of the living God, which Jesus purchased by the shedding of His precious Blood.

This sacred edifice, this magnificent Cathedral is an image, in its own structure, of another structure, a living structure, the one Body of Christ, in which we are all destined to find life and salvation and unity in Jesus Christ.

And just as the Cathedral is God’s house available for everyone, so too the Church is meant to unite us all in Christ. The Church herself is a community of faith, a community of prayer and worship, a community of love for God that becomes also a community of service to one another.

This is why the Church condemns all unjust discrimination and why the well-being of the poor and the needy are such priorities in our Christian communities. In the apostolic tradition of the Church our love for God becomes our challenge to assist others, as Saint Paul says: "Bear one another’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal 6:2).

Here then in this Cathedral we find the fullness of the mystery of Christ in the Sacraments that are given us, in the word of God that is proclaimed to us, and in the unity of the Church that challenges us to accept Jesus in all of our brothers and sisters. Here too in this dwelling-place of God, in this house of worship and adoration we find consolation, strength and courage for our journey to our homeland, just as the people of Israel did when the Lord addressed them in the words which we find in our first reading: "Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God...he comes to save you."

Because the Cathedral is the sign and image of Christ’s Church it is also the sign of the salvation and eternal life that we receive in the Church.

Dear brothers and sisters: in the name of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father and Son of Mary, we give thanks to God for the great gift of this Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, which for seventy-five years has immersed the community of this local Church into the saving and life-giving mystery of God’s love. Amen.

Mass for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Designation of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Designation
of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown
Cathedral of Saint John Gualbert, Johnstown
October 7, 2007

Bishop Adamec,
Brother Priests and Deacons;
Dear Religious, Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

I greet you warmly in the name of Jesus Christ on the occasion of this joyous anniversary. I express my gratitude to Bishop Adamec for inviting me to celebrate this liturgy with you, and to give thanks to almighty God for His blessings to the entire Church in the Metropolitan Province of Philadelphia. Today we thank God in particular for the vibrant and faithful witness of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. Your fidelity through the years—up to our own day—has made the Face of Jesus shine forth in the beautiful Allegheny area.

It is especially important to mark this celebration in this beautiful and historic Cathedral Church of Saint John Gualbert. This soaring edifice is both a tribute to the character of the Catholic people of this diocese, as well as a means of raising our eyes, our hearts and our minds to God, our merciful Father. In the words of Psalm 95, "Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to him" (Ps 95: 2). Here, in the presence of your Bishop, with so many priests, and such a great number of the faithful, the Church is truly present. As the Metropolitan Archbishop of this Province, I rejoice in the unity which we enjoy as members of the Church, the Body of Christ, in communion with our Holy Father. I also bring you the prayerful regards of the Church in Philadelphia. As we, too, mark a milestone anniversary—our Bicentennial—together, we give thanks to God for calling us to be His witnesses and collaborators in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Liturgy of the Word speaks well to our celebration. While the prophecy of Habakkuk strikes us as somewhat unsettling with its reference to violence, misery, destruction, strife and clamorous discord, the emphasis is on hope: "For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint" (Hb 2:3). In the midst of trial and hardship, the prophecy of Habakkuk offers security, stability, strength and joy to the person who remains righteous. Like the people of Judah so long ago, God calls us, in times of joy and in times of trial, to remain loyal, faithful and to place all of our hope in Him.

Saint Paul, in his Second Letter to Timothy, charges not only his young disciple, but all of us: "Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God" (2 Tim 1: 8). This anniversary provides an opportunity to look upon the past and note well the beginnings of the growth of the Church across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. What was certainly a daunting task for the early missionaries, such as the Jesuits, the Franciscans and the Benedictines, has borne much fruit. History provides us with outstanding, yet humble, heroes who are enduring models of evangelization. We acknowledge with deep gratitude that we are beneficiaries and heirs of those who responded to the call to embrace and proclaim the Gospel, particularly the tireless shepherd, Saint John Neumann, and the zealous apostle of the Alleghenies, Prince Demetrius Gallitzin. Never shrinking from the task, they bore their share of the burden of the Gospel that many, especially Catholic immigrants, would receive spiritual and pastoral care. While we honor them for their missionary work, undoubtedly they would respond humbly, but emphatically, "we have done what we were obliged to do" (Lk 17: 10).

Vatican II, in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, makes clear that all of us are obliged to bring Jesus to the world: "Incorporated into the Church by Baptism, the faithful are appointed by their baptismal character to Christian religious worship; reborn as children of God, they must profess before men the faith they have received from God through the Church. By the sacrament of Confirmation they are more perfectly bound to the Church and are endowed with the special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread the faith by word and deed. Taking part in the eucharistic sacrifice, the source and summit of the Christian life, they offer the divine victim to God and themselves along with it" (no. 11). Lumen Gentium, acknowledging the trials and hardships of the modern world, emphasized that "by the power of the risen Lord [the Church] is given strength to overcome, in patience and love, her sorrows and her difficulties, both those that are from within and those that are from without, so that she may reveal in the world, faithfully, however darkly, the mystery of her Lord until, in the consummation, it shall be manifested in full light" (no. 8).

Our celebration today marks a certain triumph, the triumph of the Gospel in this beautiful area of our Commonwealth. You know the hardships and tragedies which have been overcome and you rejoice in the gift of perseverance. Within the Church, however, triumph and celebration can only spur us on to further action. We must never rest while there are people who do not know Jesus or who are indifferent to Him. We can never be inactive as long as there is violence, hatred, abuse and poverty. We must never allow our young people to become absorbed in a culture of self-destruction. This Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has an important mission to fulfill: Continue to make known the Face of Jesus! Let His voice be heard! Let His love be felt by all whom you encounter, especially the young, the despondent, the poor and the suffering. May the Name of Jesus be proclaimed anew to a world rent and sundered by violence, selfishness and sin!

In his Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us of the source of love within the Church: "Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light—and in the end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working" (no. 39). Urged on by the love of Christ, the Church will never weaken in the task of spreading the Gospel.
Through the Holy Eucharist, we share deeply in the mystery of the Heart of Jesus. Both at Mass and through Eucharistic Adoration, we are drawn into the depths of the love of God, a love which is all-consuming and self-sacrificing. In Holy Communion, we are united to Jesus and to one another. In Eucharistic Adoration, our nearness to Jesus makes us long for Him that much more. This longing also enables us to seek His presence in those who are in need and to fulfil our obligations to make known the love of Jesus.

Always, we entrust our efforts to the Blessed Virgin Mary. On this day, October 7, and in this month dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, we have renewed recourse through that devotion which, as expressed by the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, enables us with Mary to contemplate the Face of Jesus. Our late beloved Holy Father wrote: "The Rosary is also a prayer for peace because of the fruits of charity which it produces. When prayed well in a truly meditative way, the Rosary leads to an encounter with Christ in his mysteries and so cannot fail to draw our attention to the face of Christ in others.... [H]ow could one possibly gaze upon the glory of the risen Christ or of Mary Queen of Heaven, without yearning to make this world more beautiful, more just, more closely conformed to God’s plan" (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 40)?

Fervently, I entrust you, dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, to the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary, who always grants victory to those who have recourse to her. Together with your zealous shepherd, Bishop Adamec, and with you and your clergy bear the burden of the Gospel with renewed zeal and vibrancy. May the Love of Jesus fill your hearts, the Name of Jesus be ever on your lips, and the Face of Jesus shine upon you always! Amen.

 

Mass closing Amazing Race for Grace
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass closing Amazing Race for Grace
Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary
September 29, 2007

Dear brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Religious, Seminarians, Families and in particular you
our young people gathered here this evening: Praised be Jesus Christ!

How good it is to be gathered with you this evening, here on the grounds of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, here in this 200th year, this Bicentennial year of our diocese, here with one another, gathered together in the name of Jesus at this Eucharistic celebration. It is indeed good to be here!

Today, a number of you have participated in what has been called "The Amazing Race for Grace." What an amazing day it has been! From our opening ceremony early this afternoon at the Cathedral, to the Quests held in various historic churches and sites within our city, to the Festival of Praise held here on the seminary grounds. Today has indeed been an amazing day of grace in which we have celebrated the gift of our holy Catholic Faith. And now, dear friends, we come to this moment—this moment of God’s special grace as we celebrate this holy Mass, which is the gift and mystery of God’s love for us. It is here that we hear God’s word proclaimed to us, and it is here that we enter into contact with Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God made flesh for our salvation. This Mass is the center, the source and summit of our Catholic life because it is the greatest expression of God’s love for us. This love of God is a love that is real and personal. It is revealed in Jesus Christ. This evening, how privileged we are in this Eucharistic Sacrifice to profess His name, to glorify His name and to bear witness to His name. This, dear friends, is the very reason for our existence: to profess, to glorify and to bear witness to the name of Jesus.

We have just heard proclaimed a parable of our Lord Jesus Christ. Two men are referred to: one is called the "rich man," while the other is called "Lazarus," a name which means "God is my help." As we can see, Lazarus needs a lot of help. Lazarus is the poor man, a man who has a sad and unfortunate life. He is a beggar and we are told that he used to lie at the door of the rich man, longing to eat even the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. He was covered with sores and no doubt was a pitiable sight—a sight which the rich man, although close by, failed to notice in his life time. It is only at the end, when both men die that the rich man sees. What is it he sees? He sees Lazarus, the poor beggar, now rich in the glory of God, resting with Abraham in heaven in the company of the angels. And we see the rich man, whose fate is worse than that of Lazarus. And so the irony of the parable is revealed: the rich man is now poor and the poor man is rich. It is for this reason that this parable can be called "the parable of the great reversal." We see that reversal in the end. But in its reference to the rich man, this parable can also be called "the parable of the man who never noticed." And it is this title which can lead us to discover the real hero of the parable, namely, the Man who did notice Lazarus, the Man who had mercy on him, the Man who welcomed him into His Kingdom. We speak of course, of Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

At this time, dear friends, and throughout this Bicentennial year, we as Catholic Christians in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, united together, rejoice. We rejoice and celebrate the fact that Christ has noticed us. He has noticed you, He has noticed me. And in His great love and mercy for us, He has called us and given us a name. He has anointed us by the power of His Holy Spirit. He feeds us with His Body and Blood. And He commissions us to exercise a most sacred task: to profess, to glorify and to bear witness to His holy name in our lives. This is our vocation. It is both our sacred duty and our greatest joy. It is because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has noticed. Jesus Christ has not passed us by, but He has noticed you and me. And now is time for us to notice Him: to profess, to glorify and to bear witness to His holy name in our lives.

In celebrating and living this Catholic faith of ours, we have great need to remember who we are. This evening we hear Saint Paul reminding his friend Timothy of that very fact. He calls Timothy, "man of God". As members of the Church, we are the same; we are children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. We are not simply a band of common believers, we are more. We are not a club, an organization or just a gathering of like-minded people, we are more. As members of the Church, we are also members of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we bear His name, we have life in Him and apart from Him we have no life at all.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us, we are members of God’s family—a family that was formed and has taken shape throughout history, in keeping with the Father’s plan. As members of God’s family then, we not only bear the name of His Son, but have certain traits or marks as well. We are the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We share a communion of faith, of sacraments, charisms and love. We are then never alone, never unloved, never unnoticed. The faith we profess is the same faith professed by the Apostles—the faith for which the martyrs died, and men and women of every generation spent their lives in heroic love. In the history of our own Church of Philadelphia, we have two outstanding heroes who have been raised up for our inspiration and whose lives and intercession it is good to recall: Saint Katharine Drexel and Saint John Neumann.

Katharine was born here in our very city, when our diocese was just fifty years old. She was the daughter of a wealthy banker and, although she was rich, Katharine noticed the beggars at her door. When Katharine was 27 years old, she inherited her father’s wealth. She took her share and left home to take notice of those whom few people noticed, namely the Native Americans and the African Americans of our country. Katharine Drexel, a daughter of Philadelphia, professed Jesus; she bore witness to His name and glorified Him in the Holy Eucharist. Her life and love made a difference—a difference that we too try to make as brothers and sisters with Katharine in the one Church, the Body of Christ.

Our other great local hero is Saint John Neumann, the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia. Bishop Neumann was the Bishop of Philadelphia when Katharine was born. Because of his height, he was known as "the short bishop". But John Neuman stood tall in great love. John Neumann, like Katharine, professed Jesus; he bore witness to the name of Jesus and glorified Him in the Holy Eucharist. He was a man who took great notice of others, establishing schools, parishes and Eucharistic devotion throughout our city. His life made a difference, which we as members of the Church in Philadelphia are privileged to share.

Dear friends: these are but two of countless holy people who have graced the Church in our Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Interestingly enough, their lives crossed each other not only in time but also in space. Our lives are meant to do the same. You and I together must fulfill our call to holiness. And now is our time. We must profess, glorify and bear witness to Jesus Christ in every aspect of our lives.

Six years ago, as the Servant of God Pope John Paul the Great was closing the Jubilee Year 2000, he said the that a "new stage of the Church’s journey was about to begin." He suggested that we begin the New Millennium by heeding the words of Jesus: "Put out into the deep." Peter and his companions trusted those words of Christ and cast their nets. And "when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish" (Luke 5:6). Tonight, these words ring out for us and they encourage us to put out into the deep. As we continue this celebration of our Bicentennial year, let us praise the Son of God who has noticed us. Let us proudly, without fear and with great generosity, profess, glorify and bear witness to the holy name of Jesus. Amen.

Mass with Persons with Disabilities
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
175th Anniversary of the Foundation of
Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary
Thursday, May 3, 2007

Your Eminence,
My brother Bishops,
Dear brother Priests, especially our honored Jubilarians,
Dear Deacons, Faculty, Seminarians, Lay faithful,
Friends in Jesus Christ,

How deeply grateful the Church of Philadelphia is for your presence today in this sacred place! She thanks all of you for the effort you have made to come here; she rejoices in your fidelity to Saint Charles Seminary.

1. Love: The Root of both One’s Vocational Call
and One’s Faithful Response

Our Gospel passage according to Saint John recounts the beautiful exchange between Jesus and Peter. In this encounter, Peter confesses his love for the Lord, saying: "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." We recall that during the unfolding of our Lord’s Passion, Peter denied Him three times. Peter’s denial arose from human weakness. Yet, Peter’s weakness and notorious lapse of love would not have the last word. Subsequently, Peter’s personal encounter with the Risen Lord would empower him to believe, to hope in Christ and to love Him. And Peter’s love for the Lord would become service to others after Jesus said to him: "Feed my lambs.... Tend my sheep." Thus, pastoral love, rooted in a loving encounter with the Risen Christ, is fundamentally directed, through the loving gift of self, to Christ’s flock, the Church.

Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est wrote: "I wish in my first Encyclical to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others" (no.1). God’s abundant love for us is revealed above all in the gift of His only Son Jesus Christ, who came "not to be served but to serve" (Matthew 20:28). The Christ who redeemed us through His Passion, Death and Resurrection, now invites us to be His friends. Yet this new authentic friendship—to which we are called—finds its source and depth in sacrificial and self-giving love. The redemption won for us in the self-giving of Christ Jesus is made available to us pre-eminently through the saving sacramental economy instituted by Christ Himself in the Holy Eucharist.

2. The Love of the Priest is Sacrificial, Perpetual, and Apostolic

On the night before He died, the Lord Jesus instituted the great sacrament of His Body and Blood. On the same occasion, the Lord Jesus also instituted the great sacrament of Holy Orders. From its very foundation, the ministerial priesthood has been inextricably linked with the Holy Eucharist. In a real sense the hierarchical priesthood is ordered to the Body of Christ, both His Eucharistic Body and His Mystical Body. Just as the bridegroom willingly lays down His life to protect of the body of His bride, so too the priest, in imitation of the Divine Bridegroom, is called to lay down his life for the Body of Christ—the Eucharist and the Church. The love of the priest, as one "wedded" to the Body of Christ, must indeed be sacrificial.

We gather this afternoon in this sacred liturgy to celebrate the glorious mystery of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ and our wondrous participation in it. On this special occasion, we call to mind the indispensable and irreplaceable role which the sacred priesthood fulfills in the divinely instituted economy of salvation. We likewise reflect on the role which Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary has played in service to the ministerial priesthood and to God’s people. Today we joyfully and gratefully recall the remarkable service offered by all who have collaborated over the last 175 years in the mission of Saint Charles Seminary. Through Jesus Christ we offer deep praise to God for the fruitfulness of this institution and its contribution to priestly ministry. With immense gratitude we honor all our priests who faithfully and lovingly have served and are serving God’s holy people, especially our Jubilarians gathered here this afternoon. As we bless God and give Him thanks for His goodness, we ask His special blessings on all our priest alumni and on all the dioceses who entrust their seminarians to Saint Charles Seminary.

The fundamental work of a Catholic seminary is to conform the human mind, although limited and fallible, and the human heart, although subject to weakness and sin, to the wisdom and love of God: specifically, to configure the seminarian to the person of Jesus Christ the great High Priest. Just as an encounter with the Risen Lord transformed Peter, so too does our encounter with the Risen Lord—now present in God’s Word and in the Eucharist—allow us daily to be converted evermore to Christ. This personal encounter with the Lord Jesus forms a bond which deepens over time in our continuing conversion and sanctification. With God’s grace, Peter was able to give an irrevocable "yes," and to witness courageously, zealously, and faithfully to the holy Gospel. In a similar way, God’s grace illumines the minds and strengthens the hearts of those who are disposed to answer the call of God that empowers them freely and faithfully to say "yes" to Christ.

In this very chapel, Pope John Paul II, in 1979, reiterated the importance of fidelity. The Holy Father stated: "Human dignity requires that you [priests and future priests] maintain this commitment, that you keep your promises to Christ no matter what difficulties you may encounter, and no matter what temptations you may be exposed to." This irrevocable act of priestly self-giving is echoed in today’s Responsorial Psalm: "You are a priest forever." The love of the priest, as one configured to Christ, is perpetual.

In order to give himself irrevocably and totally to Christ, the seminarian must undergo a period of preparation in which he is led to a deeper understanding and a more abiding love of Christ and His Church. Does not Saint Paul gives us formational advice in today’s reading from his Letter to the Ephesians when he writes: "I…urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience"? It is precisely in our encounter with Christ, principally in the Sacraments and pre-eminently in the Holy Eucharist, in the Liturgy of the Hours, in private prayer and meditation, in study and cultural pursuits, in apostolic and pastoral work, and in community living that we come to know better not only God, but also other people and ourselves. The Second Vatican Council stated: "The whole training of the students [in seminaries] should have as its object to make them true shepherds of souls after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, teacher, priest and shepherd" (Optatam Totius, 4). The good shepherd is the one who by his spiritual, intellectual, apostolic and human formation is able to teach, sanctify, and lead his people. The love of the priest, which is the fruit of continual rejuvenating prayer and ongoing multi-faceted formation, is ordered towards apostolic service.

It is particularly fitting that we celebrate the 175th anniversary of the founding of Saint Charles Seminary and its service to the Holy Priesthood in the broader context of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Philadelphia. Just as the sacred Priesthood is ordered to the service of the ecclesial Body of Christ, so too is the Seminary instituted and ordered to the service of the Diocese.

3. Jubilee Anamnesis:
A Time for Recalling God’s Providential Care

An essential component of the sacred liturgy is the anamnesis or recalling of God’s many wonderful gifts to us. So, it is particularly fitting, as we celebrate 175 years of service to the Church on the part of this blest institution, that we recall some graced moments in its illustrious history—a history marked by God’s providential care, a history that challenges us today to recommit ourselves and to keep up the traditions of Saint Charles Seminary.

This Seminary began in the heart of a faithful and hope-filled Bishop. Within one week of his Episcopal Ordination, Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick wrote to the Apostolic See of his desire to erect a seminary in the Diocese of Philadelphia. Thus, on June 26, 1832, Bishop Kenrick opened his Episcopal Residence (on South Fifth Street) to accept the first seminarian. Within its first decade, while located in three different locations, the Seminary grew from the heart of the Bishop into a magnificent reality, a legal entity, and an expanding institution.

In 1838, the Seminary moved to a newly furnished building near the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. By 1871, the Seminary needed to expand again and was located at its fifth and final home at Overbrook. Here Archbishop Wood welcomed 128 seminarians. He noted that the gleaming Seminary was "an enduring witness of the generous zeal of the clergy and people of the diocese of Philadelphia" (Letter on Seminary Collection, 1871). Archbishop Prendergast continued the rich tradition of the Seminary’s growth and expansion with the construction of the Ryan Memorial Library in 1911, Saint Edmond’s Dormitory Hall in 1913, and the Convent and Services Building in 1917. Yet, the greatest of all expansions of the campus was undertaken by Cardinal Dougherty when he opened the "Prep Side" in 1928. After the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Krol founded the School for Religious Studies in 1969 to assist in the updating of religious and laity.

Each period of the Seminary’s history has been marked by successes, challenges and setbacks. The Seminary has survived continual overcrowding and the outbreak of infectious diseases, financial burdens and minor fires, anti-Catholic riots and vocational shortages. Our purpose today is to praise God, to bless His providence and humbly but confidently to invoke His help upon the mission of Saint Charles Seminary.

4. Priestly Vocations: First Stirrings of Priestly Love

Our own time presents us with real concerns and challenges. Our first concern is to promote priestly vocations. The Second Vatican Council stated: "The duty of fostering vocations falls on the whole Christian community and they should discharge it principally by living full Christian lives" (Optatam Totius, 2). Trusting in God’s plan, we must perseveringly "ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest" (Matthew 9:38).

On this Jubilee Day, I wish to greet in a special way our seminarians of Saint Charles and thank them for their openness to the voice of God and for their courage in respondeing generously. You, dear seminarians, are a precious treasure of the Church. You are a great hope for the Church. When Cardinal Ratzinger, our present Holy Father, visited the Seminary in 1990, he spoke to the seminarians, saying: "Let yourselves be built into a spiritual home" (cf. 1 Peter 2:5). This Petrine directive enjoins an openness and receptivity to the work of the Divine Builder. You are His stones, with which He continues to build His Church. The Cardinal insisted that the seminarians should have a "passion for truth." He asserted: "One who loves wants to learn" (Keynote Address, January 17, 1990, no. 14).

5. Thanksgiving to God for the Seminary and its Benefactors

I also take this opportunity to express deep gratitude to the lay faithful gathered here who in many and various ways have been generous collaborators and untiring benefactors of our Seminary. No accounting of the successes of the Seminary would be complete without the recognition of the abiding and extraordinary generosity of the faithful of the Archdiocese who have consistently and faithfully supported their Seminary. One of the many means of support has been the Annual Seminary Appeal, which dates back to 1835, and continues to be an essential aspect of the Seminary’s sustenance.

Saint Charles has trained thousands of men for priestly service and scores of them have served the Church as Bishops, Successors of the Apostles. The long list of men who were well formed at Saint Charles Seminary and who have served, near and far, as holy priests over the past 175 years is fittingly a source of pride for all of us.

It is an unenviable task to do justice to the remarkable accomplishments and service of so many who have been associated with Saint Charles Seminary: brilliant and dedicated professors; prayerful and generous spiritual directors and confessors; inspiring pastoral supervisors and deans; capable administrators; workers in the fields, offices and kitchens; distinguished counselors and board members; and self-effacing rectors. May the Lord Jesus, who alone can properly reward them, bless them abundantly for their many sacrifices and their important service!

The Seminary has been enriched not only by her generous priest alumni who have gone forth to serve, but also by prominent ecclesiastics and distinguished guests speakers. We recall with gratitude to God some notable Seminary visitors: Saint John Neumann, who was very solicitous for the needs of the Seminary; Saint Katharine Drexel, who, along with her family, was a great benefactor of the Seminary; Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who delivered a inspiring talk here in 1979; Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, who visited the Seminary in 1936; Cardinal Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, who visited the Seminary in 1960; Cardinal Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, who visited the Seminary twice as Cardinal, in 1969 and in 1976. He returned a third time as Pope in 1979.

On this joyful occasion, as we commemorate the 175th anniversary of the founding of Saint Charles Seminary, with renewed devotion we invoke the continuing protection of our Blessed Mother Mary, asking her to guide with motherly care her dear sons who are now training for priestly life and ministry. We beseech her to protect and strengthen, and fill with joy, all the alumni who have been called and ordained to proclaim the Word and serve at the altar of the Lord.

And finally, dear friends, as we recall the awesome reality of an unbroken tradition of 175 years of priestly formation, we renew our prayer of praise and thanksgiving through Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, and in His Eucharistic Sacrifice. And with Peter we say to Jesus: "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Amen.

Mass in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception during the Archdiocesan Pilgrimage
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
During the Archdiocesan Pilgrimage
Washington, DC
April 28, 2007

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

I am delighted to be here with so many of the faithful of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. In this, the Bicentennial Year of the establishment of Philadelphia as a Diocese by Pope Pius VII, it is most fitting that we come on this pilgrimage to this magnificent basilica dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. The Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of the Immaculate Conception, is the Principal Patroness of our Archdiocese, as she is of our Nation. Here in her shrine, I humbly entrust our jubilee celebrations, endeavors and hopes to her Immaculate Heart.

I express my gratitude to Cardinal Bevilacqua for his presence here today. I thank as well my brother Bishops, priests, deacons, religious sisters and brothers, our seminarians, and all who have made this journey today. We remember as well and are in solidarity with those who are unable to be with us today, especially the aged, infirm and homebound whose prayers help to sustain the Church in Philadelphia in her mission of evangelization and sanctification. In a particular way, I thank you for your prayers and support for me in my ministry as your shepherd.

Throughout this Easter season, we have listened to accounts of the Risen Jesus revealing Himself to His Apostles. Today, we listened to the account given by Saint Matthew as Jesus reveals Himself again, just before His Ascension into heaven. Saint Matthew tells us: "When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted" (Mt 28: 17). Even after all that they had seen and heard, even after touching the glorified body of Jesus, they doubted. Nonetheless, Jesus gave them an enormous commission: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19-20a).

With all of their hesitations, questions, weaknesses and doubts, Jesus entrusted to the Apostles His mission, the proclamation of the Gospel and the transformation of the world. He gave them as well the assurance of His Presence: "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Mt 28:20b).

Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, provides some insight into the climate and culture in which the Apostles were sent to preach: "For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:22-23). Sent out into the world, the Apostles proclaimed forcibly and lived convincingly the power of the Cross and the love of Jesus Crucified. To many parts of the ancient world, the Apostles traveled and, wherever they went, they taught and lived the love of Jesus. They went to the great and the lowly, to scholars and sinners, to the afflicted and the poor, to the skeptical and to the dissolute. To all they proclaimed Jesus and thus they began to transform the world, the work in which the Church remains ever engaged as she faces challenges both old and new.

Still early in the Third Millennium of Christianity, the Church continues to meet and address the issues, hopes, hardships and even tragedies which affect the world. We rejoice in the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the ban on the horrific procedure known as partial birth abortion. At the same time, we deplore the wanton violence which plagues our day: the murderous rampage at Virginia Tech; the continued loss of life in the Middle East, especially in Iraq; and the escalating murder rate in the City of Philadelphia. In spite of all this darkness and tragedy, the Church continues to proclaim Christ Crucified and Risen from the dead, and, as long as we proclaim the Gospel, there remains hope for the transformation of our society, of our culture, and of our world.

It is fortunate, therefore, that we gather today, on the Memorial of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, a French priest whose missionary endeavors among his own people led to a spiritual renewal and revitalization in the late seventeenth century and early eighteenth century France. Faced with the many challenges of his own day, Saint Louis de Montfort desired to inspire men and women to rekindle within themselves holiness of life and zeal for the word of God, and the desire to correct the errors and sins of the time. For these endeavors, Saint Louis de Montfort pointed to the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the model of discipleship and the Chosen Vessel through which the Incarnate Word of God entered the world.

In his masterpiece of Catholic spiritual literature, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, Saint Louis de Montfort wrote: "In Mary and through Mary, God the Holy Spirit wills to form His elect ... When Mary has implanted her roots in a soul, she produces these wonders of grace which she alone can produce, because she alone is the fruitful Virgin who never has had, nor ever shall have, her equal in purity and in fecundity. By the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit , Mary has produced the greatest event which ever was or ever shall be: the birth of the God-Man. Consequently, it is she who will produce the great events which will mark the ending of time; for to her is reserved the formation and education of the great Saints who will then walk the world’s ways. Only this excellent and miraculous Virgin can produce, in union with the Holy Spirit, such mighty and extraordinary events" (Chapter 1, Article 2).

At the core of the teaching of Saint Louis de Montfort is the understanding that devotion to Mary will make the soul more and more like Mary. When a soul reflects the Virgin, the Holy Spirit is always attracted to that soul, communicates with that soul, and fills it with His Presence. Thus, Jesus is formed in the soul of the one who is truly devoted to Mary.

The Servant of God Pope John Paul II, as a young man, studied and lived the True Devotion. Of this work, he wrote: "There I found the answers to my questions. Yes, Mary does bring us closer to Christ.... The author was an outstanding theologian. His Mariological thought is rooted in the mystery of the Trinity and in the truth of the Incarnation of the Word of God" (Gift and Mystery, Chapter III). The profound impact which the True Devotion had on Pope John Paul II is reflected in his motto, Totus Tuus, "All Yours," an abbreviation of a form of entrustment to the Mother of God composed by Saint Louis Marie de Montfort.

At the beginning of our Bicentennial Jubilee, here in this sacred place and on the memorial of a great missionary, we are called to renew within our Archdiocese and within ourselves Christ’s mission mandate: "Make disciples of all nations." We begin with ourselves, praying for the grace of daily conversation and, in a special way, a more complete dedication to Mary. I invite everyone to join me in entrusting our call to continuing renewal to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, Queen of Apostles and Help of Christians. I especially ask everyone to pray the Rosary, that marvelous devotion through which, with Mary, we contemplate the face of Jesus.

I ask your assistance in inviting to the Church your family members and neighbors who are seeking Jesus, but, perhaps, have never been invited to come and learn about our Catholic Faith. I ask also that you invite back to the Church, to Mass and to the Sacraments, those who perhaps have become neglectful of or indifferent to the practice of the Faith. Invite them to encounter again the mercy of God in the Sacrament of Penance that they may lovingly and worthily receive Jesus in Holy Communion.

I ask everyone here to draw closer to Jesus through Eucharistic Adoration. I renew my request that pastors do everything possible to make available increasing opportunities for this Adoration. I ask the faithful to come and experience the unique nearness of Jesus who dwells in the monstrance and in the Tabernacle. Time spent in adoration of Christ present in the Eucharist increases our longing to participate in the Mass and Holy Communion, just as each Holy Communion increases our desire to remain close to Jesus through Eucharistic Adoration. The more lovingly we celebrate the Sacred Mysteries and the more closely we draw to the Eucharistic Presence, the more deeply we will love Jesus and the more readily we will respond to His call to work together to spread His Kingdom. Philadelphia’s two beloved Saints, John Nepomucene Neumann and Katharine Drexel, both give vibrant testimony to the transforming power of the Eucharist in our lives, as well as the sustenance it provides for our mission to evangelize.

Furthermore, I ask that, through Eucharistic Adoration and devotion to the Rosary, you will join with me in praying for our young people. Within the hearts of our youth there is a longing for adventure, a desire to embark on exciting journeys, a craving to accomplish great things. Pray that our youth will find the fulfillment of all their desires in intimate friendship with Jesus, and pray that many will respond wholeheartedly to commit themselves to the service of Jesus through the Priesthood for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and in the Consecrated Life.

The most evident fruit of deeper devotion to our Eucharistic Lord and to the Blessed Virgin Mary is love, genuine Christ-like charity. It is in His great love for us that Jesus redeemed the world. Love was likewise the motivating factor in the lives and example of the saints. It is love, therefore, which will, at the beginning of our Jubilee Year, draw many to God.

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in his first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, reminds us: "The entire activity of the Church is an expression of love that seeks the integral good of man: it seeks his evangelization through Word and sacrament, an undertaking that is often heroic in the way it is acted out in history; and it seeks to promote man in the various arenas of life and human activity. Love is therefore the service that the Church carries out in order to attend constantly to man’s sufferings and his needs" (no 19).

As we begin our Jubilee observance, I wish to recall the words with which I began my episcopal ministry on October 7, 2003 in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul:

"In this new moment in the life of this Archdiocese of Philadelphia, we set our hope on the living God (cf. Tm 4:10), on His Son Jesus Christ and on the power of the Holy Spirit. We humbly pray: ‘Jesus, we trust in you!’ And we confidently invoke Mary, His Mother and ours, under her title of the Immaculate Conception.

"Finally, permit me, as your...Archbishop, to entrust you all to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in the pastoral act which I ask you to ratify personally in consecrating [once again] your own lives to her and, through her, to her beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Keeping Children Safe
Keeping Children Safe
The following article by Cardinal Justin Rigali appeared as an Op-Ed column
in the September 22, 2005 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Keeping Children Safe

Cardinal Justin Rigali

As the Archbishop of almost 1.5 million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, I know that the issue of clergy sexual abuse has caused pain and confusion for some people and anger for others. I understand these feelings and am sorry that the actions of a very small minority of priests have caused hurt and mistrust. Once again, I offer my deep apologies to those who have suffered sexual abuse by a priest or employee of the church.

Our experience in the last several years has taught us a great deal about this issue of critical importance to society. Any incident of sexual abuse of a minor can cause serious mental and emotional harm to a victim. Understanding this, the Archdiocese has for many years provided for psychological counseling and related treatment for victims of this sexual misconduct.

When the grand jury began its work almost three and a half years ago, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was already moving forward, taking steps to protect young people. Much of what we have done was recommended by our own blue ribbon panel, chaired by Ms. Helen Alvare, a respected attorney. The Alvare Commission worked for ten months during 2002 to evaluate Archdiocesan policies and procedures related to clerical misconduct. In all of our efforts, the safety of children and help for victims are paramount.

• All priests and deacons, as well as parish staff, teachers and volunteers who have regular contact with children must attend Safe Environment training. This provides a greater understanding of adults’ role as protectors of children, models of appropriate behavior and advocates for those who are most vulnerable. To date, 40,000 individuals have participated in Safe Environment training. In addition, almost 110,000 young people have received grade-appropriate lessons concerning personal boundaries and healthy relationships.

• The Archdiocese established a Victims Assistance Coordinators Program. Our coordinators are licensed professionals who respond with appropriate care to those victimized by sexual abuse.

• I have offered to meet with any victims, just as my predecessor, Cardinal Bevilacqua did.

The Archdiocese has learned from the victims. We heard their stories and recognized that we cannot be the only investigators in cases of clergy sexual abuse. That is why, since 2002, the Archdiocese has reported every allegation of sexual abuse of a minor to law enforcement authorities.

Even before the Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was adopted in 2002, the Archdiocese immediately suspended the ministry of a priest credibly accused of sexual misconduct with a minor. After sending an accused priest to a facility specializing in such cases, the Archdiocese received a psychological evaluation of the priest and in those cases followed the facility’s recommendation either to bar the priest permanently from ministry or return him to ministry. Today the medical community better understands abusive behaviors. The Archdiocese now holds to zero tolerance: no priest who has sexually abused a minor will serve in any ministry in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

When the Philadelphia district attorney announced in 2002 an investigation, which was to include “other religious orders, organizations and denominations,” the Archdiocese cooperated fully, producing in excess of 45,000 documents and supplementing these 30 times with additional material. Representatives of the Archdiocese testified on numerous occasions.

It is my sincere hope that what we have done will benefit the entire community in helping to understand and root out the terrible reality of sexual abuse of children and young people and that other groups and institutions will take some of the same precautionary steps that the Archdiocese is using.

Though this moment in the life of the Church and in our society is cause for sadness, I firmly believe it will be transformed by the power of God into a time of heightened awareness and a renewed commitment to keep all children as safe as is humanly possible.

Ascension Thursday
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Ascension Thursday
Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul
May 20, 2004

Dear Friends in Christ, 

            For a few moments we would like to reflect on the event of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven and on its meaning.

             But before that I would like to express my admiration, my gratitude to all you for the faith that inspires you, for the holy Catholic faith that is so much a part of your lives, that is an incentive to you to make a very special effort to be here in the Cathedral this morning on this Feast of the Ascension. Not everyone can make it to Mass, but you know that the effort that you expend is certainly a wonderful expression of your faith.

            The fact itself, the fact of the Ascension, is very simple. It took place forty days after Jesus rose from the dead. Forty days after he had completed His work. Jesus left the apostles and went back to heaven. This is the fact of the Ascension.

            It is beautifully described two times this morning in the word of God: first of all in the Acts of the Apostles and then in the Gospel itself. The Gospel is particularly moving. Jesus is speaking to His disciples, recounting the major events of His life the major events of God s plan. And Jesus says to his disciples: Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and now the suffering is complete that the Christ should suffer and rise from the dead. In other words Jesus is recounting His suffering, His passion, His death. He goes on to recount that on the third day He would rise again. Then Jesus brings in another element. He talks about how, in the plan of God, the preaching of this Paschal Mystery, the preaching of these events would go on forever, that these events would be preached to all the nations. And He says to the apostles: You are witnesses. And then Jesus tells them that they are to stay in the city of Jerusalem and await the promise. He says: And behold I am sending the promise of my Father, the Holy Spirit. And then: You will be clothed with power from on high. With that Jesus completes His instructions.

             The apostles know that it is time for Jesus to go back to heaven. But He will not leave them. He had promised: I will not leave you orphans. That is how the promise of the Holy Spirit comes into the picture. Ten days later the promise will be fulfilled. The apostles will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. They will go out in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim Jesus Christ to the whole world. Eventually the Gospel will come to Philadelphia and to every other place, and eventually we will embrace the Gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit. In God s plan it is the Holy Spirit who will complete the entire mission of Jesus. Today on the Feast of the Ascension, the hour has come for Jesus to be glorified. The hour has come for Jesus to return to His heavenly Father, and from heaven He will direct His Church forever through the power of the Holy Spirit.

             The final scene is so moving. Saint Luke tells us that Jesus led the apostles as far as the little village of Bethany, near the Mount of Olives. It was in this vicinity that Jesus suffered immensely the night before He died. Jesus chooses this place to be seen no longer in His passion but in His glory. Then we read these moving words: Jesus raised his hands, He blessed the apostles and as He blessed them, He parted from them and was taken up to heaven. The Acts of the Apostles continues the description, saying that a cloud took Him out of their sight. The apostles returned to Jerusalem with great joy and they praised God in the Temple.

             You know, dear friends, the Church lives in the power of this blessing the blessing that Jesus gave to His apostles on that first Ascension when He declared that His work on earth was over. It was then up to the apostles, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to continue His great work. At the Ascension Jesus leaves us. He goes back to heaven, He blesses His Church. But even as He goes back to heaven, something extraordinary takes place. We remember when Jesus came down from heaven when the Word of God, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, who is God s own Son, took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary at the moment of the Annunciation. It was then that Mary received the message that she was to become the Mother of God. And at that moment God s Son took flesh in her womb. But that flesh never left Him. Jesus remained both God and man. And in His flesh Jesus went back to heaven. He did not have it when He came, but He went back to heaven with the flesh that He received in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

             The great Pope Leo the Great, in the fifth century, tells us the whole meaning of this. Jesus, our head, has gone back to heaven with His flesh and has taken His place with God. He has also given us the right to take our place eventually in heaven. Even as we honor Christ leaving this world with His flesh, blessing His Church, going back to heaven, taking His place at the right hand of His Father, we see the full meaning of this event. Jesus takes us with Him! We are part of His flesh and He prepares a place for us. It is as He said on another occasion: When I shall have gone and prepared a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself so that where I am you also may be.

            This is the final chapter in the whole story of Christianity: to be with Christ. Today on the Feast of the Ascension, Jesus Christ Himself is at the right hand of the Father. He intercedes for us. He blesses us. He gives us strength. He gives us joy in our lives that we may be able to be his faithful disciples and that we may be able one day to take our place our rightful place, the place that He gives us with Him in the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity. Amen.

Mass on Ash Wednesday
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass on Ash Wednesday
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
March 1, 2006

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin an important journey. It is a journey that we make together with Jesus, and the journey takes Jesus and us all the way to Calvary. Our Lenten season will culminate in the Death of Jesus on Good Friday and then, finally, with His glorious Resurrection.

We know—as we ask ourselves the purpose of this journey on the part of Jesus all the way to Calvary, all the way to the shedding of His blood on the Cross—that this journey was made out of love for us. It was a journey by which Christ would gain His goal, and His goal through his death on Calvary was to take away the sins of the world, to take away our sins. Jesus knew that we needed redemption and His love for us prompted Him to make this journey to Jerusalem, to Calvary. For us, too, dear friends, our Lenten celebration is a journey of love in which we endeavor to return God’s love. In a very special way, we do this by a concerted effort to renounce sin.

We are called upon, in our first reading today, to turn to God. Lent is a wonderful opportunity in our life. God is calling us. And just as Jesus laid down His life out of love for us, so now He asks us out of love for Him and His Father in heaven to make the effort to turn to Him and to renounce sin, in order to live for God.

Did you notice in our second reading from Saint Paul the extraordinary expression that the Apostle used? Saint Paul said, as he was describing the fact that Jesus took upon Himself all the sins of the world on Calvary—and he uses a dramatic expression!—Christ became sin. It is this expression that helps us to understand just how much the sins of the world weighed upon Christ. So much so that Saint Paul says He became sin—He who was the Son of God, He who was absolutely sinless Himself. In taking upon Himself the sins of the world, our sins, He became sin. But Saint Paul goes on to explain that Christ became sin, with all this weight, precisely so that we might become the righteousness, the holiness of God, that we might become worthy of our vocation as children of God.

Today, dear Friends, during this special period of grace in the life of the Church and in our own lives, Jesus Himself speaks to us in the Gospel and He gives us an indication of how we might respond to His call, how we might turn to God during Lent. Jesus Himself suggests three things. One of them is prayer. Through prayer we have a wonderful opportunity to connect with God. And then Jesus also points out to us the possibility of fasting. Although the fasting of the Church is very mitigated, today is one of the days in which we are asked—just today and Good Friday—to make an effort to fast a bit. And the third thing that Jesus Himself speaks to us about is almsgiving. We who have received so much from God, we who have been pardoned our sins, we who have been redeemed are now asked to go out of ourselves, to turn to our neighbor, to turn to those in need, to turn in mercy and almsgiving to help relieve the tremendous needs of the world.

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has just encouraged us, since we are loved by God so much, to be mindful of all the needs of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, to be mindful of suffering, to be mindful of poverty. And so we have the possibility, which is a great thing in the tradition of the Church, to be generous, to give of ourselves, to give back to God a part of what He has given to us.

Dear friends, with determination, with great gratitude to God, with joy in our hearts we begin our journey to Jerusalem, we begin our journey to Calvary together with Jesus Christ. And just as His journey was motivated completely by love for us so our journey is motivated by an attempt to return the love with which we have been loved by God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Ash Wednesday Mass
Homilía del cardenal Justin Rigali
Misa del Miércoles de Ceniza
Catedral Basílica de San Pedro y San Pablo
09 de marzo del 2011

Queridos amigos en Cristo:

En la vida de la Iglesia, la cuaresma es acerca de enfrentar la realidad del pecado a la luz de la victoria de la Muerte y Resurrección de Cristo.

Hoy, Miércoles de Ceniza, el comienzo de la cuaresma, nos reunimos en la comunidad de la Iglesia, en el nombre de Jesús. Inclinamos nuestras cabezas en espíritu de arrepentimiento y humildemente recibimos las cenizas bendecidas.

Cada uno de nosotros sabe que estamos llamados a reconocer el pecado en nuestras vidas. En cada misa se admite esta realidad. En el Confiteor, decimos claramente: «Yo confieso ante Dios todopoderoso y ante vosotros, hermanos y hermanas, que he pecado mucho de pensamiento, palabra, obra y omisión...»

A lo largo de los siglos del cristianismo, la cuaresma ha sido siempre un tiempo especial para reconocer el pecado, para pedir perdón a Dios, y para resolver ─con su ayuda─ no volver  a pecar. En la cuaresma expresamos profundo pesar por haber ofendido a Dios y a nuestro prójimo al esforzarnos para aceptar la invitación del Evangelio de Jesús a la oración, el ayuno y la limosna.

La Iglesia nos ofrece hoy en día en nuestro salmo responsorial las palabras inspiradas del rey David que nos ayudan a formular en nuestros corazones sentimientos de tristeza personal por todos nuestros pecados

Señor, apiádate de mí, por tu misericordia inmensa,
y por tu compasión sin límites olvida mis ofensas;    
l ávame más y más de mis delitos
y borra de mi culpa toda huella.

Pues mi maldad conozco,
cargo siempre mi culpa en la conciencia.   
A ti Señor, a ti fue al que ofendí,
al cometer el mal que tú detestas.

Dame, Señor, un corazón sincero
y un espíritu firme.
No me arrojes, Señor, lejos de ti
ni tu santo espíritu me retires.

Estamos todos invitados a participar en la petición de la Iglesia: «Misericordia, Señor, hemos pecado».

Con arrepentimiento por nuestros pecados nosotros con humildad y con confianza pedimos el perdón de Dios, el cual viene a nosotros a través de Cristo. También pedimos humildemente el perdón de todos aquellos a quienes hemos ofendido de alguna manera. De la misma manera nosotros rogamos a Dios que traiga reconciliación y sanación a nuestra comunidad.

Durante esta cuaresma nosotros estamos especialmente conscientes de los pecados graves de los abusos sexuales cometidos contra menores, en particular por miembros del clero. Experimentamos la necesidad de pedir el perdón de Dios repetidamente en nuestra liturgia y de ofrecer oraciones de reparación por estos pecados y por todos los pecados del mundo.
Una vez más, renovamos nuestro compromiso de hacer todos los esfuerzos posibles para impedir estos actos malvados y para proteger a los niños de daños.

En este espíritu, como anuncié ayer, la Arquidiócesis está volviendo a examinar los casos de interés para el Gran Jurado acerca de las denuncias de abuso de menores o problemas de límites de algunos sacerdotes. De la misma manera vamos a volver a evaluar la manera en que manejamos las denuncias. La protección de los niños es de suma importancia.

Quienquiera que dañe a un niño debe recordar las palabras de Jesús: «Al que haga caer a uno de estos pequeños que creen en mí, mejor le sería que le amarraran una gran piedra de moler y que lo hundieran en lo más profundo del mar» (Mt 18:6).

En este Miércoles de Ceniza, cuando recibimos las cenizas benditas como el signo de nuestro arrepentimiento por el pecado y nuestra resolución para caminar en una vida nueva cristiana, expresamos de nuevo nuestro pesar a Dios por nuestros pecados y los pecados de otros. Yo personalmente renuevo mi profundo pesar a las víctimas del abuso sexual en la comunidad de la Iglesia y a todos los otros, incluyendo a los muchos sacerdotes fieles que sufren a consecuencia de este gran mal y crimen. Como sacerdotes y fieles ahora comenzamos juntos unidos en Cristo nuestra jornada cuaresmal. Esta jornada cuaresmal nos conduce a la Cruz de Cristo y luego a la victoria de su Resurrección.

Estamos llamados a mantener los ojos fijos en Jesús mientras reconocemos su triunfo sobre el pecado y la muerte. Proclamamos que es sólo Jesús, el Cordero de Dios, que quita los pecados del mundo. Es él, Jesús, el Señor crucificado y resucitado, el único que puede vencer todo mal y nos lleve al regocijo de la vida eterna. Amén.

Ash Wednesday Mass
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Ash Wednesday Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
March 9, 2011

Dear Friends in Christ,

In the life of the Church, Lent is all about facing the reality of sin in the light of the victory of Christ’s Death and Resurrection.

Today, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, we gather together in the community of the Church, in the name of Jesus.  We bow our heads in the spirit of repentance and humbly receive blessed ashes.

Each one of us knows that we are called to acknowledge sin in our lives.  At every Mass we admit this reality.  In the confiteor we say clearly: “I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do....”

Throughout the centuries of Christianity, Lent has always been a special time to acknowledge sin, to ask God’s pardon, and to resolve—with His help—not to sin again.  In Lent we express deep sorrow for having offended God and our neighbor as we strive to accept the Gospel invitation of Jesus to prayer, fasting and almsgiving.        
The Church offers us today in our responsorial psalm the inspired words of King David that help us to formulate in our own hearts sentiments of personal sorrow for all our sins:

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
In the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.

For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
‘Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.’

A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

We are all invited to join in the Church’s plea: “Be merciful, Lord, for we have sinned.”

With repentance for our sins we humbly and confidently ask the forgiveness of God, which comes to us through Christ.  We also humbly ask the forgiveness of all those whom we have offended in any way.  We likewise beg God to bring about reconciliation and healing in our community.

During this Lent we are especially conscious of the grave sins of sexual abuse committed against minors, in particular by members of the clergy.  We experience the need to ask God’s forgiveness repeatedly in our liturgy and to offer prayers of reparation for these sins and for all the sins of the world.

Once again, we renew our commitment to make every possible effort to prevent these evil acts and to protect children from harm.

In this spirit, as I announced yesterday, the Archdiocese is having re-examined, cases of concern to the Grand Jury about allegations of abuse of minors or boundary issues of some priests.  We are likewise re-evaluating the way we handle allegations.  The protection of children is paramount.

Whoever harms a child must remember the words of Jesus: “...it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Mt 18:6).

On this Ash Wednesday, as we receive blessed ashes as the sign of our repentance for sin and our resolution to walk in the newness of Christian life, we express once again our sorrow to God for our sins and the sins of others.  I personally renew my deep sorrow to the victims of sexual abuse in the community of the Church and to all others, including so many faithful priests, who suffer as a result of this great evil and crime.  As priests and people we now begin together - united in Christ - our Lenten journey.  This Lenten journey leads us to the Cross of Christ and then on to the victory of His Resurrection.

We are called to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as we acknowledge His triumph over sin and death.  We proclaim that it is only Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.  It is He, Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord, who alone can conquer all evil and lead us to the joy of eternal life.  Amen.

Baccalaureate Mass Archbishop Wood High School
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Baccalaureate Mass
Archbishop Wood High School
June 5, 2010

Praised be Jesus Christ...now and forever!

Brother Priests; Administration, Faculty & Staff of Archbishop Wood High School; Graduates and your Families; Friends in Christ,

Congratulations to the graduates of the Class of 2010 of Archbishop Wood High School! I commend you for your hard work and sacrifice. May the education and formation you received at Archbishop Wood, encourage you to open your hearts in loving service of our Church and nation.

I also congratulate the parents of our graduates. You are the primary educators in the faith. Through the many sacrifices you have made to provide a Catholic education, you have nurtured the lives entrusted to you by God.

Graduates, your high school years have been marked by numerous achievements. We acknowledge those among you who have been awarded academic honors or have even been granted scholarships to college.
We recognized those who have competed in athletics. Special mention is made of the girls’ soccer, cheerleading, volleyball, swimming, and basketball teams as well as the boys’ football and soccer teams who were crowned champions.

Your interests reached beyond the classroom or field of sports. Through “Athletes Helping Athletes” you reached out to the elderly in Luther Park Retirement home and assisted mentally challenged youth. You enjoyed your own senior prom but also hosted a real senior prom for the elderly in this area. You supported our combat troops by donating money to the “Wounded Warriors Association.” You provided calling cards that enable soldiers to contact loved ones back at home. You helped fight cancer through your “Beads of Courage” program, and the money raised by raffles and the sale of daffodils. Many of you provided tutoring services after school. Your “Community Service Corps” provided many services including “Charity Wednesday,” “Aid for Friends,” and “Operation Santa Claus.” These are just some of the many ways you put your faith into practice. Dear young people, your concern for others is admirable.

In the Gospel, Jesus refers to Himself as the vine and we are the branches. Jesus draws from an image that was part of the religious heritage of the Jewish nation. Vines were and still are abundant in Israel. The vine had actually become the symbol of the nation of Israel. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as the vine or the vineyard of God. Israel is the vine that God brought out of Egypt and planted.

It is curious that in the Old Testament, the symbol of the vine is always used in connection with Israel’s disobedience. Old Testament prophets expressed unhappiness that Israel had become a wild and degenerate vine. Though Israel was God’s vine, it refused to listen to Him and live as He requested. As a result so many became withered and useless branches.

In contrast, Jesus identifies himself as the “true” vine. Unlike a wild and disobedient vine, Jesus is the faithful and obedient vine that is planted by God to give life to the world. Since He is the true vine, the only way that our lives can bear fruit is for us to have intimate and loving fellowship with Him. He is the vine of God and we must be branches joined to Him. Faith in Jesus and friendship with Him is the only means to happiness and salvation. Apart from Him we can accomplish nothing.

Graduates, Jesus is the vine and you are the branches. You will remain connected to the vine by making deliberate choices to be with him. Pray each day, even if only for a few moments. Jesus wants converse with you about all of your concerns. The Sacred Heart of Jesus overflows with love for you. Jesus manifested that love through His death on the Cross. He continues to offer His love to you each day as much as He did on Calvary. Jesus says: “Ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” If you are leaving home after graduation, take a bible and rosary with you. Read the scriptures, especially the gospels. Pray the rosary and meditate on the life of Christ. Most of all, remain close to Jesus in the Eucharist. Attend Mass regularly. The Bread of Life is the most powerful means of being joined to Jesus. Arrange your life, arrange your prayer, arrange your silence in such a way that there is never a day when you give yourself a chance to forget Jesus.

Apart from Christ, you will wither, but if you remain in Christ, you will bear much fruit. God is glorified, when you bear much fruit and show yourself to be a disciple of Jesus. The greatest glory of the Christian life is that by our life and conduct we can bring glory to God. In his letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul writes of the privilege of preaching Jesus Christ to the world. God had revealed to Paul the mystery of Jesus Christ and Paul was intent on sharing that good news with others. You too are invited by Jesus to be His disciples. Speak with boldness and confidence about Jesus, and the good things he has done for you. Better yet, glorify God by the way you live. Inspire others to a deeper love of Jesus by the example of your life. Follow the motto of Archbishop James Frederick Wood for whom this school is named. “Be faithful unto death.”

I am sure that during your years at Archbishop Wood you have cheered your school with the chant of “Go Vikings!” As you know, the Vikings, were explorers. So I say to you this evening, “Go Vikings!” Go forth and explore the world that God has created. Search for truth. Since God is truth, a real search for truth will always lead to God. Discover the mystery of Jesus in yourself and others. Be humble in your successes and hopeful in your struggles. Most of all remain one with Jesus, as branches on the vine.

Tonight, we are thankful in many ways. I am particularly grateful to parents who entrust the education and formation of their children to Catholic schools. Graduates, know that your parents are proud of you and your achievements. Be grateful to them for the many sacrifices they have made.

I appreciate the support offered by the entire Catholic community. Their prayers and financial support enable Catholic schools to accomplish their mission. The administration, faculty and staff who collaborate at Archbishop Wood High School deserve special recognition. You, dear friends, give generously of yourselves to advance the teaching mission of the Church. This is a great contribution to building up the Kingdom of God.

Again, dear graduates, I congratulate you, and I entrust you to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. May the love of Jesus dwell always in your hearts.

Endnotes

1. John 15:5.
2. Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; Psalm 80:8.
3. John 15:1.
4. John 15:5.
5. John 15:8.
6. Ephesians 3:12.
7. “Esto Fidelis Usque Ad Mortem.” Episcopal motto of James Frederick Wood, 5th Bishop of Philadelphia (1860-1883).

Mass for the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass in Celebration of the Bicentennial
of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Villanova Pavilion
Sunday, April 13, 2008

Jesus Christ, you were crucified for us,
but now you are risen from the dead, alleluia!

Jesus Christ, you are alive in the community of your Church, alleluia!

Jesus Christ, you are forever the Good Shepherd,
who never abandons us your flock, alleluia!

On the occasion of the two hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Philadelphia, we gather together with sentiments of praise and thanksgiving, lifting our minds and hearts to God our merciful Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ our Redeemer, and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life. We come with our different gifts and in our different roles of service in the Church. The presence of so many people gathered here today—people of ethnic backgrounds from the ends of the earth—is a tribute to the spread of the Gospel throughout the world, and, in particular, throughout our own Archdiocese.

On behalf of our local Church, I warmly greet His Eminence Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, a close friend since seminary days; His Eminence Cardinal Adam Maida, Archbishop of Detroit; His Eminence, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington; and our native son, His Eminence Cardinal John Foley, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

We are honored, too, by the presence of several Archbishops. I welcome especially Archbishop Stefan Soroka, Archbishop of Philadelphia of the Ukrainians. I also offer a warm welcome to two other native sons, Archbishop Edward Adams, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, who has traveled from Manila to be with us for this celebration, and Archbishop Francis Schulte, Archbishop Emeritus of New Orleans. The presence of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz shows our communion with the Church of Louisville, which is also celebrating its Bicentennial as a Diocese.

I greet the many Bishops who have come for this Liturgy. I am grateful for the presence of my own Auxiliary Bishops: Bishop Robert Maginnis, Bishop Joseph Cistone, Bishop Joseph McFadden and Bishop Daniel Thomas, as well as our Retired Auxiliary Bishops, Bishop Martin Lohmuller and Bishop Louis DeSimone. I extend a special greeting to the Bishops of the Province of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I welcome “home” all those Bishops who also are native sons of Philadelphia: Bishop Thomas Welsh, Bishop Edward Hughes, Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, Bishop Joseph Galante, Bishop Edward Cullen, Bishop Joseph Pepe, Bishop Joseph Martino, Bishop Michael Burbidge and Bishop Michael Bransfield. I am also grateful for the presence of Abbot Ronald Rossi of Daylesford Abbey.

I greet also my brother priests. Your fidelity to your vocation, your compassionate service, and your devotion to the proclamation of the Gospel and the ministry of the sacraments are at the daily service of almost 1,500,000 Catholics. Great are the multitudes of those who, through your ministry, have been washed in the saving waters of Baptism! Through you, Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament is present to His People to feed and strengthen them. Through your ministry in the Sacrament of Penance, sins are forgiven. With your assistance and blessing, men and women are united in holy matrimony. Through your hands, Jesus brings healing to the sick and comfort to the dying. For all that you have done and continue to do, the Church gives praise and thanks to God.

I thank also the deacons for their service in the Church. Ministers of Word and Sacrament, and also Ministers of Charity, your collaboration is of great assistance to me and to your pastors.

I welcome all the religious sisters and brothers present, and I extend deep appreciation for the constant contributions which your Religious Institutes have made to this Archdiocese. Almost every parish and institution has been influenced by you who faithfully live the consecrated life in imitation of the chaste, poor and obedient Christ. The history of this local Church at every moment of its history speaks of your lasting contribution. In your fidelity and service, you still show the loving face of Jesus.

I greet our seminarians and thank you for your youthful and generous witness. The Church looks to you with joy as you show great hope for the future. By your example, may many more young men embrace the vocation to the sacred Priesthood.

To all of the lay faithful—married, widowed, and single, parents, children, family members, young and old—beloved friends in Jesus Christ, I welcome you and thank you. Every church, school and institution in this Archdiocese is a tribute to your generous love for the Church. I give thanks to God for the joy, the vibrancy, and the devotion with which you respond to what the Second Vatican Council acknowledged as the “universal call to holiness.” Formed by Baptism as the Pilgrim People of God, strengthened by the Gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, and nourished by Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, you bring the love of God to every place and every situation. By your fidelity to your Christian vocation, you confirm what was taught by Saint John Chrysostom many centuries ago: If you are a Christian, it is impossible not to influence others (Liturgy of the Hours, Common of Holy Men).

With special affection I greet the sick and suffering of every category of Christian life who are spiritually present with us today. The full salvific value of your suffering is known only to God. Your contribution to the Gospel is immense!

This Fourth Sunday of Easter keeps before us the joyful and moving message of Jesus Christ Crucified and Risen from the dead. The first proclamation of Peter—“God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified”—stirred the hearts of multitudes of men, women and children as they listened attentively to it on the first Pentecost. We are told in the Acts of the Apostles that three thousand persons were added to the Church on that very day. The powerful proclamation of the Gospel by Peter and Paul, and the preaching of Jesus Himself, were an invitation to repentance, to conversion and to belief. This belief in Jesus leads to Baptism, the first sacrament of the Church, the sacrament through which sin is forgiven and through which we have access to the other sacraments. Baptism, which immerses us in the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, also immerses us in the mission of the Church. By virtue of our Baptism, we all are called to the task of evangelization: to bear joyful witness—by our words and actions—to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Our Bicentennial is essentially a celebration of how effectively God’s word has taken root in the lives of our faithful people during the last two hundred years. The missionary endeavors of the early Jesuit priests from Maryland addressed the needs of an ever-growing Catholic population in Pennsylvania. As more Catholics arrived, so did more priests. Through the efforts of these dedicated priests, as well as through the example of the fervent lay faithful, more people embraced the Catholic faith and chapels and churches began to appear. In spite of a strong—and often fierce—anti-Catholic sentiment, the Catholic faith flourished in this area. The vibrancy of this local Church was recognized and Philadelphia was made a diocese on April 8, 1808 by His Holiness Pope Pius VII.

The work of evangelization was further carried out by courageous Bishops and zealous priests, both religious and diocesan. The devoted clergy ministered not only to the faithful who resided in the city, but many traveled extensively over a vast territory to bring the Gospel and the sacraments to Catholics who settled in rural and even mountainous areas.

We need only consider the example of our beloved fourth Bishop, Saint John Neumann. Though reluctant to accept the office of Bishop, he never shrank from his episcopal duties. His pastoral zeal, accentuated by his Redemptorist spirit, stirred him to see the many challenges and opportunities for evangelization, especially among the ever-increasing immigrant population. In his eight years as Bishop of Philadelphia, this humble man of small stature left a legacy of monumental accomplishments. Among these are Catholic schools, for which Philadelphia is well-known, and the annual Forty Hours Eucharistic Devotion, which remains a highlight in the Eucharistic piety of the parishes in our Archdiocese. Every aspect of his life was directed toward the spread of the Gospel, the salvation of souls and the service of his people. Saint John Neumann fervently prayed: “O my Jesus, though I am poor in so many ways ... I have been chosen as a shepherd of Thy sheep. Give me an ever increasing love for those souls redeemed by Thy precious Blood, that I may labor at their salvation in wisdom, patience and holiness.... Lord, teach me how to live and, if need be, to die, that all may be saved, that all may love and praise Thee throughout all eternity” (Saint John Neumann, C.Ss.R., His Favorite Prayers).

The Church of Philadelphia, since its earliest days, has been blessed with the presence of many women and men religious who have borne witness to Jesus by professing and living the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience. Faithful to the charism of their various founders and foundresses, our consecrated religious contributed in inestimable ways to the mission of evangelization. In the establishment of elementary and secondary schools, as well as colleges and universities, the apostolate of Catholic education has formed countless children and young men and women in their knowledge of Jesus Christ and of our holy Catholic faith. In their concern for the poor and the sick, consecrated religious established numerous institutions to care for children in need, for the homeless, for women and families in difficulty, as well as hospitals and nursing homes to provide compassionate and Christ-like care for the sick and the dying. Through their fidelity to Jesus Christ and His Church, their bold vision, and their heroic dedication, consecrated religious have accomplished great things for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, the dignity of the human person.

The example of Philadelphia’s own Saint Katharine Drexel illustrates the vision of so many consecrated religious. Although a child of wealth and privilege, Saint Katharine was taught by her devout family to be intently focused on Christ’s love for the poor. Katharine’s observation of those oppressed by poverty and prejudice moved her to action. She knew that only in Christ could people truly be free. Saint Katharine used her enormously charitable heart and her considerable resources to bring Jesus to as many people as possible. Her own love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament made her aware of what needed to be accomplished. Saint Katharine wrote: “He came to save all. I want to enter into and be permeated with Jesus’ desire to save all - all the world throughout the centuries” (Reflections on Life in the Vine found in the Writings of Mother M. Katharine Drexel).

Special gratitude also must be offered for the contribution—past and present —of contemplative religious, who though separated from the world, always have a prayerful gaze fixed on the needs of the Church and the world. Because of their steadfast devotion and contemplation of the Face of Jesus, our cloistered religious prayerfully support and sustain the activity of the Bishops, priests, deacons, religious and all the faithful who engage in the work of evangelization.
As we reflect on the wonders which God has worked throughout the history of our Archdiocese, we are filled with a profound gratitude for all of these blessings. Every parish, school, and institution within our Archdiocese is a vibrant reminder of how, from generation to generation, the gift of faith has been preserved, handed on and cherished. Great sacrifices, generous collaboration, unfailing hope, and, above all, genuine love, have brought the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to this moment, this hour of grace, this portal to a new era in our history in which, together, we can continue, with God’s help, to accomplish great things.

On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, we stand in the radiance of the Risen Christ, the Good Shepherd, who “calls his own by name and leads them out” (Jn 10: 3). Through Baptism, each one here has been called by name by Jesus to bear His light and His love into the world. Each one of us, called by Jesus, is sent into the world—into the human family—to invite others to meet Jesus in His Church. Each one of us is called by Jesus to uphold and proclaim courageously the dignity and sanctity of human life from the first moment of conception to natural death. Each one of us is called by Jesus to preserve and protect the sanctity of marriage—that inviolable union between a man and a woman—established by God as a sign of His covenant of love and for the propagation of the human family. Each of us is called by Jesus to promote peace on earth: peace in our hearts and in our homes, peace in our neighborhoods and in our land, a true and lasting peace between nations.

In a couple of days, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, with whom we are closely united on this special occasion in faith and love, will arrive in the United States on his first apostolic journey to our nation. The theme of this visit is Christ Our Hope, a theme derived from his own Encyclical, Spe Salvi. In his encyclical, our Holy Father tells us: “Our hope is always essentially also hope for others.... As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise?” (no. 48).

This celebration of our Bicentennial invites us all—clergy, religious and laity —to recommit ourselves to the mission of evangelization, to sharing the word of God and to bringing to others the hope, mercy and salvation that we find in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Our 200-year history testifies to what can be accomplished when we trust in Jesus Christ and place ourselves at His service. In our own day, we must work together, gently inviting people to undergo conversion of heart, to experience the joy of life in Christ, and to rediscover the beauty and transforming power of the Sacraments. All of us must bear witness to our need for God, and to what it means to keep holy the Lord’s Day through participation at Sunday Mass, through deeds of charity, and through much-needed rest. The love of Christ demands that as individuals and families we do all that we can to bring others to conversion of heart, to lead others to “Christ Jesus, our hope” (1 Tim 1:1).

On this solemn occasion, the two hundredth anniversary of our local Church, as Archbishop of Philadelphia I extend a heartfelt invitation to all our Catholic people who, for one reason or another are separated from the life of the Church and are no longer active members of our community of worship and service. For so many of you, dear friends, a profound reconciliation with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and with the community of the Church is so readily available in the Sacrament of Confession. There you have immediate access to Christ’s mercy, His forgiveness and His love. And with this reconciliation comes deep peace and the joy of new life in Christ. And if there is some situation in your life that first needs to be addressed, you can be assured that our priests will do everything possible to assist you. No matter what your spiritual condition is, your prayerful presence at Sunday Mass means so much to Christ, to yourselves and your families, and to all of us.

At this moment, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is fitting that we turn our thoughts to Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, who is likewise, under her title of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of our local Church. By her prayers and maternal love Mary helps us meet the challenges of our Bicentennial. She helps us to be faithful to God’s commandments, to be authentic in our Christian lives, and to be generous in fulfilling the many services that our holy Catholic faith invites us to offer to others in the name of Jesus.

Finally, I would like to recall to you, dear friends, words I spoke when I became your Archbishop in 2003. At that time I said: “In this new moment in the life of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, we set our hope on the living God (cf. 1 Tim 4:10), on His Son Jesus Christ and on the power of the Holy Spirit. We humbly pray: Jesus, we trust in you!” I then went on to say what I repeat today: “...permit me...to entrust you all to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in a pastoral act which I ask you to ratify personally in consecrating your own lives to her, and through her...to her beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Daniel E. Thomas
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Daniel E. Thomas
Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
July 26, 2006

Your Eminences,
Dear brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Deacons, Religious, Seminarians,
Dear Faithful Laity of this Archdiocese of Philadelphia,
Dear Family Members and Friends of Bishop-elect Thomas,
Dear Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Guests,
And especially you, Dan, our dear brother called to the Episcopacy,

Our late beloved Holy Father Pope John Paul II repeatedly proclaimed the ideal and challenges of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He spoke to every category of Christian people about their particular vocation. In a very beautiful way he frequently spelled out what it means to be a Bishop of the Church of God, to share in the Episcopacy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today the Church of Philadelphia and many others gather with us to reflect on the pastoral office of the Bishop as we celebrate in word and sacrament the episcopal ordination of Monsignor Daniel Thomas.

The sacred Ordination rite that we perform is done in communion with our Holy Father and by his authority and mandate. We are here because of the choice made by the Church, acting in the Holy Spirit and through the selection of Pope Benedict XVI, of Monsignor Thomas for the office of Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia.

Monsignor Thomas is a son of the Church of Philadelphia, a member of our presbyterate, and until recently the zealous pastor, since his return to the Archdiocese, of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Strafford. Prior to this he served the universal Church in Rome, in the Congregation for Bishops.

Over the years Monsignor Thomas has shared his faith and friendship with his brother priests. He has come from their ranks and is known and loved by them. Our gathering today is witness to the great esteem in which he is held. But his priestly ministry also reflects the dedication, generosity and integrity of so many Philadelphia priests who, like him, make every effort to live faithfully their vocation of priestly holiness and service, and to whom the community renders deep honor and respect.

Today’s feast is that of Saints Joachim and Ann, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through them Mary was prepared for her exalted mission as Mother of Jesus, Mother of God. This ordination ceremony, Dan, bids us remember the important role of all Christian parents, including your own, in helping their children to reach their vocation. We recall your mother, Anna, on this her feast day, and give thanks for the presence of your father among us. As a Bishop of the Church you are called to proclaim the holy Catholic faith which you first learned from them and to which they bore witness in the family to you and your brother. I am sure that you first learned also from your parents the deep meaning and consequences of those words of Saint Paul that we have just heard proclaimed in our second reading: " We preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus."

Proclaiming Jesus Christ will be at the core of your episcopal ministry. And the sacramental proclamation of His Death and Resurrection in the Eucharist will be the source and summit of all your episcopal activity as it has been of all your priestly life and ministry. From the Eucharist you will draw both the strength to fulfill your role and the clear understanding that this strength is not your own. Saint Paul reminds us that "we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us."

How then do we describe this episcopal ministry that you are about to receive? What do we say about the identity of the Bishop?

The Second Vatican Council and the whole tradition of the Church have spoken at length about the ministry of the Bishop. In an address to the Bishops of the United States (September 5, 1983), our late Holy Father Pope John Paul II explained so much of the Bishop’s identity by stating that the Bishop is "a living sign of Jesus Christ," one who in and through his own humanity communicates Jesus Christ and makes Him visible to the People of God. The words of Pope John Paul II help us to understand how all-embracing is the ministry of the Bishop as a living sign of Jesus Christ. The Holy Father underlined various dimensions of the Bishop as a sign. This is how he put it:

- The Bishop is "the sign of the love of Jesus Christ" as he offers understanding and consolation to those in need, in trouble and in pain. In a special way, the Bishop is "the sign of Christ’s love for his priests." Dan, I know that you will eagerly try to be this sign and to help me, together with Bishop Maginnis, Bishop Cistone and Bishop McFadden, to fulfill ever more effectively this service to our priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

- The Bishop is also called to be "a sign of Christ’s compassion." The Holy Father further explained this, saying: "The consciousness on the part of the Bishop of personal sin, coupled with repentance and with the forgiveness received from the Lord, makes his human expression of compassion ever more authentic and credible. But the compassion that he signifies and lives in the name of Jesus can never be a pretext for him to equate God’s merciful understanding of sin and love for sinners with a denial of the full liberating truth that Jesus proclaimed. Hence there can be no dichotomy between the Bishop as a sign of Christ’s compassion and as a sign of Christ’s truth."

- The Bishop is truly then "a sign of fidelity to the doctrine of the Church." He is never reticent to proclaim the teaching of the Church, which he embraces with all his heart, together with his brother Bishops and in communion with the Roman Pontiff, in virtue of a charism sustained by the Spirit of Truth.

- Another role assigned to the Bishop is to be "a teacher of prayer," and as such he is meant to be "a living sign of the praying Christ." Like Christ, the Bishop is called to submit all his pastoral initiatives and decisions to the Father. Jesus did nothing without praying.

- The Bishop is called moreover to be "a sign of the unity of the universal Church." For this, Dan, you have a special sensitivity, because of your long priestly service to the Holy See. We are never more ourselves—the Church of Philadelphia—than when we embrace the Church’s universal faith and discipline, and are open in charity to the needs of the universal Church, which by her nature is missionary. Sometimes we are asked why we give to the Church’s missions, why we help those far away, why we offer support to the Pope when there are so many needs at home. The universal Church and our belonging to her prevent us from ever becoming a sect turned in on ourselves and oblivious to the needs of others throughout the world. Yes, the Bishop is indeed called to be "a sign of Catholic solidarity."

- As a living sign of Jesus Christ, the Bishop cannot renounce the preaching of the Cross. Like Jesus, he must accept criticism and acknowledge failure in not always being able to obtain a consensus of doctrine acceptable to everyone. Because he is "a sign of fidelity" he must therefore also be "a sign of contradiction." Jesus was a sign of contradiction. He could preach nothing other than what His Father communicated to Him. He said: "... I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me" (Jn 8:28). Despite great openness and gentle dialogue, you too, Dan, must be the same sign of contradiction in the world. "The Bishop," Pope John Paul II tells us, "will proclaim without fear or ambiguity the many controverted truths of our age. He will proclaim them with pastoral love, in terms that will never unnecessarily offend or alienate his hearers, but he will proclaim them clearly, because he knows the liberating quality of truth."

- Finally, in the words of Pope John Paul II, the Bishop is meant to be "a sign of hope for the People of God, as strong and unbreakable as the sign of the Cross, becoming a living sign of the Risen Christ." From Christ’s Cross and Resurrection he draws all the strength necessary "to live by faith in the Son of God" (Gal 2:21).

Up until now, dear brother Daniel, you have striven to be a living sign of Jesus Christ in the faithful fulfillment of your priesthood. From now on you are meant to bear even greater witness as a Bishop. Everything you do in your episcopal ministry, beginning with the proclamation of the word of God that culminates in its Eucharistic celebration, you must strive to do with contagious joy.

Among the many tasks that will be yours as an Auxiliary Bishop and a Vicar General I am asking you to give very special attention to the service of our brother priests and seminarians, and to coordinating all the efforts of our local Church in promoting vocations to the priesthood. In God’s wonderful plan every vocation in the community of the Church needs the Eucharist and, therefore, the priesthood. You yourself will always exist to serve the Eucharist, the priesthood and the community.

In this work and in everything else you do as a living sign of Jesus Christ, you will be supported by the people of God, who look to you for encouragement and pastoral love. Remember that so many of our faithful people are making heroic efforts to be faithful to Jesus Christ and His Church. They want you to walk with them, leading them in prayer, and proclaiming to them God’s holy word as it is understood and interpreted by the Church. At the same time they want to see Jesus in you, because they know intuitively that the Bishop is meant to be "a living sign of Jesus Christ."
You will also be supported by your brother priests, your brother Bishops in the Archdiocese and in the Episcopal Conference. You will continue to be confirmed in your faith by the Successor of Peter and sustained by God’s grace through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, who in her glorious Assumption is herself "a sure sign of hope" for us all.

At the very center of your existence is the person whom, as a Bishop, you must trust completely and constantly endeavor to represent as "a living sign." And it is He, Jesus Christ, whom you confess today and always, with the Apostle Thomas and with the whole Church as "my Lord and my God." Amen.

Catholic Participation in the Political Process
Cardinal Rigali Remarks
News Conference
June 8, 2006

I have two announcements this morning that bring honor and pride to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has appointed Reverend Monsignor Daniel E. Thomas as an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese. I am grateful to the Holy Father for this appointment and his recognition of the pastoral and spiritual needs of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and our almost 1.5 million Catholics.

Bishop-elect Thomas is a native of the Manayunk section of Philadelphia. He attended Roman Catholic High School and Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary and was ordained in 1985. During his twenty-one years as a priest he has served the Church faithfully as a Parochial Vicar, administrator and Pastor. He is currently Pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Strafford, Chester County, but has recently returned from Rome where he served the Holy See in the Congregation for Bishops. I had the pleasure of having Bishop-elect Thomas working with me for the years that I was Secretary of the Congregation. He is an exemplary priest with a great love for the Church.

Bishop-elect Thomas demonstrates a pastoral care for the faithful which I know will only grow as he assists me in ministering to the entire Archdiocese of Philadelphia. His experience in Rome and in the Archdiocese will be of great benefit to him as he begins his episcopal ministry. I express my gratitude to him for his generous response as we begin our new collaboration, together with the other Auxiliary Bishops, in serving Gods people. It will be my honor to ordain Bishop-elect Thomas on July 26, 2006 at 2:30 p.m. in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. I ask the clergy, religious and laity to join me in rendering praise and thanks to the Lord Jesus, who continually blesses the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

* * *

The Archdiocese has traditionally served the universal Church by providing dedicated priests as Bishops to lead some other Dioceses throughout the country. Now the tradition continues. It gives me great pleasure to announce that Pope Benedict XVI has named Bishop Michael F. Burbidge as the fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh. Bishop Burbidge is actually in North Carolina this morning, holding his first news conference at his Chancery.

I have expressed to Bishop Burbidge my warm congratulations and best wishes on his appointment. I have also thanked him for his tireless and selfless service as a priest and as an Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia. I will greatly miss his invaluable assistance to me and his contribution to this local Church, especially his particular concern for his brother priests and all Gods people. It seems that his episcopal ministry has been all too brief here in Philadelphia but the Holy Father has called Bishop Burbidge to serve the larger Church.

This appointment demonstrates the Holy Father's confidence in Bishop Burbidge. Bishop Burbidge is a skillful leader who will shepherd the people of Raleigh with great care and concern for their spiritual well-being. They will come to know Bishop Burbidge as we do; as a compassionate, wise and faith-filled priest and Bishop. He exhibits deep joy in carrying out his priestly duties and serving in Jesus' name; it is a gift to witness his zeal for his ministry.

As Bishop Burbidge begins this new ministry, I offer him my fraternal support and assurance of my prayers. May the Lord bless him and the people of Raleigh.

The date of these announcements, June 8, has special significance. It was on this date two years ago that our Holy Father appointed Bishop Joseph Cistone and Bishop Joseph McFadden as Auxiliary Bishops of Philadelphia. I am so grateful for their assistance and that of Auxiliary Bishop Robert Maginnis. They help me each day with the pastoral and administrative care of the Archdiocese.

This is a joyful time and I ask the Lord to continue to bless and protect the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and all the people of our community.

Mass on the occasion of the return to Philadelphia
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass on the occasion of the return to Philadelphia
of Archbishop James Patrick Green
Sunday, September 29, 2006
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

The Church in Philadelphia is deeply pleased by the presence today of Cardinal Bevilacqua, Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore, and all the Bishops who join with Archbishop Green in this Eucharistic celebration. We are particularly gratified by the representation of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and acknowledge the presence of Archbishop Soroka, Archeparch of Philadelphia and his predecessor Archbishop Sulyk, together with Bishop Paska and Bishop Bura. We are also pleased to have so many priests and so many seminarians at this Mass.

Today the whole Archdiocese of Philadelphia celebrates with great joy. James Patrick Green returns to the Church of his Baptism, his First Communion, his Confirmation and his Ordination to the Priesthood. He comes home as an Archbishop of the Church. He does this just weeks after his Episcopal Ordination in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

After having served as a priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and after graduate studies in Rome, Father Green in 1985 generously answered the call of the Holy See to serve in a special ministry to the universal Church.

This priestly ministry took him to various parts of the world, involving him in activities that reflected the pastoral care and concern of the Holy Father for different nations. In Papua New Guinea, Korea, Bangladesh, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, Sweden and Taiwan, Monsignor Green was part of the life of the Church and a witness and servant of the inculturation of the Gospel in numerous communities. In these last three years he has served Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI in the Secretariat of State of the Vatican.

Now after an extended period of generous and dedicated collaboration in the work of the Holy See, he has been chosen to represent directly and personally Pope Benedict XVI as the Holy Father assists local Churches and serves various peoples throughout the world.

Archbishop Green’s mission will now take him to South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana to bear witness to the Gospel and to make present everywhere throughout this immense region the pastoral solicitude of the Holy Father, who is the visible principle of unity for the entire Church.

We gather at this time to express solidarity with him in his new ministry. This work will be an expression of the evangelizing, missionary and pastoral service not only of the Holy See, but also of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which rejoices in his appointment and spiritually supports him.

Archbishop Green goes forth as both the Representative of the Holy Father and as a gift of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to the universal Church.

His specific ministry is to make the Successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ present in the jurisdictions that he will serve. A special work of the Holy See is to promote peace among the nations, on the pillars of justice and love, freedom and truth.

Hence, Archbishop Green, as the Holy Father’s Representative, will be a herald of international peace, a promoter of global justice and charity, and a strenuous defender of the cause of human life. From now on he will be ever more engaged in the international effort of the Holy See to foster freedom and proclaim the truth of the inviolability of human dignity.

All of this, however, he will do as a Bishop of the Church of God, supporting his brother Bishops in five nations in Southern Africa. Here he will serve not a single diocese but many local Churches, bringing in his person the support of the Holy Father to the evangelizing, missionary and pastoral mission of an extensive area of the Church.

The focus of all his activities will be to promote the building up of God’s kingdom through the power of the Gospel and the Sacraments of the Church. The very center of his ministry will be, as in the case of every priest and Bishop, the Holy Eucharist. Like every priest and Bishop, he is called to pray for Christ’s flock, to share their joys and their hopes and sufferings, and to personify constantly the loving mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In a particular way he is called to extend encouragement, assistance and fraternal support to the local Bishops as they exercise their pastoral role and sustain and guide the People of God.

Today Archbishop Green comes home to Philadelphia, en route to his new mission. He embraces anew his mother, his sisters, all his family, friends and brother priests. He renews his communion with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that formed him in Christian living and prepared him well for his priestly mission.

He finds new strength in the support of classmates and friends, whose presence recalls to him the mystery of God’s providence in his life, as well as the origins of his priestly journey. He remembers all the graces of his vocation, the people whom he served, the experiences of his ministry, including his special service as Secretary to the late Cardinal John Joseph Krol. He gives thanks for all those who did so much for him and who contributed to his formation by their help, their generosity, their friendship and their prayers.

Reflecting on all of this, Archbishop Green is given the opportunity today by the Church to renew all the dedication of his priesthood and to commit himself vigorously as a Bishop to the mission that lies ahead of him.

This whole worshiping community is assembled here in this Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul to support Archbishop Green in prayer. As his family and friends, and as members of the Church of Philadelphia and beyond, we are able to offer him the great support of this Mass, the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which is offered to give him grace and strength.

Since we know that his new mission will require special support for him, we also invoke on his behalf the intercession of the Archangels whose feast we celebrate today. We invoke Saint Michael to defend him, Saint Gabriel to counsel him and Saint Raphael to accompany him on his mission from beginning to end.

As we gather in the presence of the Angels during this Eucharistic Supper of the Lamb of God, we renew our trust in the power of the Blood of the Lamb that today is offered to the Father for the work and new episcopal ministry of our brother James.

We are also grateful to God for this opportunity to join a new Bishop of the Church as he professes his holy Catholic faith. Archbishop Green, as a successor of the Apostles, joins the Apostle Nathaniel, whom we encounter today in our Gospel, to lead us in a great act of faith. Together with Nathaniel, together with Archbishop Green, together with the Apostle Peter and Peter’s successor, Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome, we all proclaim Jesus Christ, confessing: "You are the Son of God." "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

In the name then of the Lord Jesus, may you go forth, Jim, on your mission to serve worthily as a Representative of our Holy Father, trusting in the power of the Paschal Mystery and relying on the intercession of Mary, the Queen of Angels.

The Church of Philadelphia, of which you have been so much a part and which has been so much a part of you, is proud of the working of God’s grace in your life. With great confidence the Archdiocese supports you, prays for you, and trusts that you will be faithful to the end. Amen.

Bless the Baby Jesus Devotion and 2nd Sunday of Advent Mass
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass for the Second Sunday of Advent
and Bless the Baby Jesus
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
December 6, 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Thank you for coming to this Mass for the Second Sunday of Advent and our annual Bless the Baby Jesus celebration. It is such a joy to see all of you here —especially the children—with your images of the Baby Jesus that I will bless at the end of Mass today. I am hoping that you will take your blest images of the Baby Jesus back to your homes and place them among the figures in a Nativity scene. The tradition of the Christmas Nativity scene began with St. Francis of Assisi in 1223. Francis realized how the Incarnation of Jesus revealed God’s love for us in a very special way. To make that love more visible to the people of his time, Francis created a manger scene in the town of Greccio, in Italy, using live people and animals. The local people were so moved by this depiction that it quickly became an annual tradition. Soon, this beautiful practice became popular in other nations around the world. Today, the Nativity scene has a prominent place in so many Christian homes. Placing your Baby Jesus figure in a nativity crèche in your home can help the whole family reflect, throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons, on Christ’s wonderful birth in Bethlehem.

In today’s Liturgy, the first reading from the prophet Baruch offers us a foreshadowing of the joy that Jesus brings in His incarnation, in His coming to us at Christmas. The prophet exclaims, “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever” (Bar 5:1). He adds, “God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company” (Bar 5:9). Jesus comes during a silent night; but, truly, His coming is filled with glory, joy, mercy, and justice, prefiguring His public ministry as well as the ministry of the Church. This reading is meant to be a joyful reminder and an invitation to us to cast off any sin in our lives, to live by the light of Jesus’ glory.

Our Psalm response echoes this joyful reminder: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy” (Ps 126:3). The account by the psalmist is ecstatic: “When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion, we were like men dreaming. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing” (Ps 126: 1-2). Advent is meant to be a time of joy, of longing to see the Lord. The word Advent indicates a “coming.” At this time of the year, we remember that God came to us as a newborn babe and comes to us today in the Eucharist. What better way to prepare for God’s coming than to partake with others in the Eucharist at Mass? The Psalm today also says, “Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing” (Ps 126:5). Those who weep and bear heavy crosses in this life will be comforted. Jesus will comfort us and help us carry our burdens in this life, and will bring us to a place of joy and rest in the next life. This is our Christian hope. This is a great reason for our hope and joy at Christmas.

The second reading today is also related to Christian joy. Saint Paul’s letter to the Christians at Philippi is a beautiful expression of the love and affection he felt towards his brothers and sisters in Christ there. As in the other readings today, Paul reminds us of the values inherent in the Christian life and the continual looking forward to Jesus’ coming. He says, “This is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (Phil 1: 9-11). Our task is to allow ourselves to be filled with the love and truth of Christ, showing this love to others so that it spreads like a flame throughout the earth. In this way, we prepare ourselves and the world for Christ’s coming: at Christmas and right now, in the Eucharist of this Mass.

Today’s Gospel reading from Saint Mark offers us a strong and straightforward challenge to “prepare the way of the Lord, [and] make straight his paths” (Lk 3:4). John the Baptist tells us that “Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk 3:5-6). In the ancient world, the roads were often treacherous and in need of repair. Often when there was a battle, one group would destroy bridges or set up obstacles to stop the advance of the enemy. Any time a traveling dignitary was coming through, workers would either have to fix the roads or build new ones so that the visitor with his caravan could make it through safely. The repair of these roads required much manual work, making rough ways smooth, crooked paths straight, even filling in valleys or flattening hills in the road’s path.

In order to prepare for Christ’s coming, we too are to make smooth the crooked paths - not of our roads, but rather, of our hearts. We are to trace a new path not in the desert or wilderness, but in our lives. Doing this requires a true conversion of heart. For us Christians, to prepare a way for the Lord means to examine our lives, to see if the paths we are walking are crooked or straight. We are called to make low the mountains of our pride and our selfishness and to fill in the valleys that come from a superficial prayer life and a shallow way of living our faith. We are challenged to straighten out any crooked paths on which we may have been walking - that is, the paths of sin present in our lives.

Especially during Advent, we are urged to repent and turn to the Lord. If we have avoided reconciliation with God or with other people, now is the time to make straight these paths. If God has not been at the center of our lives and families, now is the time to reform our ways. Advent itself is a gift to us, a time to start anew and look forward to Jesus’ coming.

Such conversion is a choice—to turn away from sin and embrace the Lord. In today’s Gospel, we see the contrast between those who chose well and those who chose poorly. Seven religious and political figures are named in the reading: Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanius, Annas, and Caiaphas. All of them were still living when Jesus was crucified, and some of them were directly involved in the trial that resulted in His death. In contrast, there is John the Baptist, who chose Christ. He chose the Lord, and preached repentance and humility not only with his words but with his very life. He was the “voice of one crying out in the desert,” to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Lk 3:4). Note that he did not say, “I am one crying out in the desert,” but instead said, “I am the VOICE of one crying out in the desert” (Lk 3:4). John is the voice, the spokesman. The one crying out to us is the Lord, the Word; it is Christ himself. Through John, He says, “the rough ways [shall be] made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” This is the gift that Christ brings to us this Christmas: His saving presence in the world. He comes to us to be our Savior.

Dear friends: each day presents to us as Christians a call to conversion—a call to choose Christ and to acknowledge God as the source and giver of all of our blessings. Realizing this truth helps us to share with others what we ourselves have been given by God. I know that a number of you who have brought items for needy children have heeded the call to share generously with our brothers and sisters, and I thank you for this and for all your good works of charity.

May the Holy Family bless all of you during these days of Advent and bring you close to Jesus. And may Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of our Savior, be a model of humility and grace for us all. Amen.

Permanent Diaconate Ordination
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass at the Blue Army Shrine
Washington, New Jersey
June 13, 2007

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Mary, Treasured by Christ, A Gift to the Church

"Behold, your Mother." These beautiful words, which were recorded by Saint John the Evangelist, were uttered from the lips of our suffering Lord as He hung dying on the cross. In the final moments of His Passion, Our Lord turned His mind and heart to His Mother. She had been a great treasure to Him throughout His life, and now at His moment of suffering, she was there attending to Him, present in His final agony. The abiding and loving presence of Mary in the life of Jesus was certainly one of the constant joys in His life and ministry.

Our Lord’s love for us was so abundant that in the midst of excruciating physical pain and great mental anguish, Jesus gave to us, through His beloved disciple John, the one who was a great consolation to Him in this world: His own Mother. What a refuge and help we have in Mary! Pope Benedict XVI has re-affirmed Mary’s motherhood. He writes, "[Our Lord] made her [Mary] our Mother when he said to the disciple and to all of us: ‘Behold, your Mother!’ We have a Mother in Heaven" (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily on the Solemnity of the Assumption, 2005). Mary, who was chosen from among all women to be a chief cooperator with God and Mother of Jesus, can now rightly be called: Our Blessed Mother.

Our Blessed Mother accompanies and sustains us in all the moments of our life, especially those times made particularly difficult by sickness, suffering, and set-backs. What a treasure she was to Her Son in His life! What a treasure she is to us in our life! Today, we celebrate Mary’s unfailing motherly care for us, which Christ so earnestly desires for us.

It is a particular joy to be here at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Shrine, widely known as the Blue Army Shrine, which is dedicated to promoting devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. It is a personal privilege to be here during this jubilee year in which we commemorate the 90th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady to three shepherd children in Fatima. I am especially pleased to be with you, the dedicated members of The World Apostolate of Fatima/The Blue Army, as you mark its sixtieth anniversary.

Today our hearts are filled with joy as we recall the miraculous events which occurred in 1917 in a quiet place called the Cova da Iria in the small town of Fatima. May 13th of that year marked the first of what was to be a series of six apparitions of Our Lady to a ten-year-old girl named Lucia and her two younger cousins: Jacinto, age 8, and Francisco, age 7. The beautiful Lady identified herself to the children as "Our Lady of the Rosary." During the apparitions, Our Lady, showing her motherly and solicitous care for all God’s children, invited the children to pray for sinners and for themselves. She encouraged them to undertake penances in reparation for offenses against God’s majesty and to pray the rosary in order to overcome the ultimate consequence of evil: punishment in the fires of hell and a life separated from God.

During the second apparition, which occurred on this day 90 years ago, Our Lady instructed the children to pray the Fatima prayer, which for many has become a part of their private recitation of the rosary: "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, help especially those in most need of Thy mercy." This beautiful prayer is simply a petition for Divine Mercy. It is an appeal to the One—born of the Virgin—who came that He might save all.

Mary: The Fulfillment of a Promise and our Model in Faith

Mary’s role and importance in the Church and in our life is underscored when we realize that she had been willed by God from the beginning. Shortly after the fall, our parents Adam and Eve were the recipients of a promise of victory over sin and death. Mary is prophesied in this promise (cf. Gen 3:15; Lumen Gentium, 55). Just as the first woman, Eve, had a role in the bringing about our mortality through sin, so too it was fitting that Mary, the new Eve, the woman "full of grace," should have a role in man’s redemption and new life won through obedience. Therefore, Saint Irenaeus can write, "The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what Eve bound through disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith" (Saint Irenaeus, Adv. Haer, II, 22, 4: PG 7, 959A). Mary is rightly celebrated as our model of perfect obedience in faith. Mary’s response to the angel is none other than total faithful commitment to God: "Be it done unto me according to thy word" (Lk 1: 38).

Mary: Prefigured in the Old Testament and our Model in Charity

The gift that Mary was to be to Our Lord, to the Church, and to us personally and individually was an integral part of God’s wise and loving plan of salvation. Mary was prefigured in the Old Testament in the Meeting Tent, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Temple. When the Ark of the Covenant or the Meeting Tent was overshadowed by the Spirit of God, God’s glory was made manifest to His people. In the new dispensation, Mary is now the new Meeting Tent, the new Ark of the Covenant, and the new Tabernacle of the Lord. Recall the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Lk 1: 35). Mary lovingly accepted Jesus into her womb and her heart, thereby becoming the first tabernacle of Jesus in this world. Likewise, the beautiful Temple, which was the dwelling place of God on earth, points to Mary, the definitive Temple of the Holy Spirit.

All these salvific and sacred persons, events, and things of the Old Covenant find their deeper and fuller meaning in New Covenant established by Christ Jesus. Mary, promised and prefigured in the Old Testament, becomes for us a model of charity in her life which is witnessed by the Gospels. Let us look at three of many moments in Mary’s life which illustrate her life of charity. First, Scripture records that after learning of her elderly cousin Elizabeth’s condition, Mary set out in haste to the hill country to assist Elizabeth, who was with child (cf. Lk 1:39). Mary’s charitable response was service-oriented as recounted in the story of her Visitation. She set out to help another in need. Second, and later in time, at the Wedding Feast at Cana, Mary brings the needs of the young married couple to the Lord. She becomes, in a sense, the catalyst for Our Lord’s first public miracle: the miracle of turning the water in the jars into wine. The last words which Sacred Scriptures records of Mary’s are set at this Feast: "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn 2:5). Mary’s charity is ordered to doing the will of God. Third, in today’s Gospel, we witness Mary’s loving presence at the side of Our Lord during His Passion and Crucifixion. In these three moments—at the Visitation, at the Wedding Feast of Cana, and at the Cross—Mary is our model of Christian charity. Mary is chronicled in Scripture as the woman who attends to the needs of others.

Mary: A Woman of the New Order and our Model in Hope

In our first reading today, which is taken from the Book of Revelation, we read about a new heaven and new earth (cf. Rev. 21:1). The old is passing away. We also read about a new city—a new and holy Jerusalem. This city will be like a bride adorned for her bridegroom. The author of Revelation states that the One on the throne will say, "Behold I make all things new" (cf. Rev. 21:5). Indeed, the Lord is the One who makes all things new. The first recipient of God’s newness is Mary. Mary is now our new Eve; she is the new Meeting Tent; she is the new Ark of the Covenant; she is the new Temple. Mary, who follows Christ closely, is the first in the new order. In this new order, Mary can rightly be called both Virgin and Mother.

God’s grace has elevated Mary to a privileged place in salvation history. In the new order, Mary can be called the Immaculate Conception. As Pope Pius IX wrote: "The Most holy Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin" (Ineffabilis Deus [1854]). She is of the new order of men and woman who have been set free from sin by Christ’s redemption. As a consequence of her freedom from sin, Mary has been privileged to be assumed, body and soul, into heaven. As Pope Pius XII wrote: "Mary, the immaculate perpetually Virgin Mother of God, after the completion of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven" (Munificentissimus Deus [1950]). She is our heavenly Mother who is preparing a place for her children in heaven. Thus, Mary is our guide in Christian hope.

Mary: Our Intercessor, Teacher and Mother

The Second Vatican Council taught: "The faithful must in the first place reverence the memory ‘of the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ’" (LG 52). As the Mother of God, Mary transcends in dignity all created persons, both angels and men. The Council Fathers continue: "She is endowed with the high office and dignity of the Mother of the Son of God, and therefore she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit" (LG 53). Mary holds a pre-eminent role and profound importance in the life of Our Lord, in the life of the Church, and in our lives. Mary as our heavenly Mother is our powerful intercessor. Mary is also our sure moral guide. She is the one, who is "full of grace," and who through the exercise of the virtues of faith, hope and charity, teaches us the way to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. We can invoke and imitate her as Our Blessed Mother.

On this special jubilee day, as we recall with great joy the Marian apparitions at Fatima, we lift up our minds and hearts to our Lord Jesus Christ in heartfelt thanksgiving for the gift of our heavenly and Blessed Mother. Let us pray to Mary to assist us and to guide us daily in the way of prayer and penance, in the way of faith, hope and charity. And as an act of praise for God’s eternal plan to send us His Son conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, I invite you on this day, dear friends, to renew in faith and love your own personal consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Mother of His Church. Amen.

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass during Couples for Christ Conference
Baltimore Washington Marriott
Baltimore, Maryland
July 3, 2009

ABlessed are those who have not seen and have believed.@

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Our Lord Jesus Christ,

We are gathered together on this feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, on the occasion of this meeting of Couples for ChristCFoundation for Family and Life.  I am grateful to have this time to be with you in support of your ecclesial mission and to reaffirm the significance of your witness to marriage and family life.

Today I hope to offer a few reflections on our Gospel reading, which describes the doubt of Thomas before he encounters the risen Lord:

Upon hearing the news of the risen Christ, Thomas reacts by saying, AUnless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.@  He expresses a natural human perspective, which demands physical evidence and proof .  So often we are limited to only this viewpoint, afraid of daring to go higher. 

But faith offers a supernatural perspective, transcending earthly realities in a way that surpasses our understanding.  Indeed, faith is extraordinary.  Faith gives us the supernatural outlook that enables us to view all people, situations, and circumstances with God=s eyes, rather than our limited human perspective. 

Faith goes beyond our naturally limited notions.  When God achieves a great work, He can do it through the most unexpected channels.  There are many examples of this in the Bible.  In the Old Testament, for example, Abraham and Sarah have a son, Isaac, despite their old age.  There is also the story of King David.  As a young boy, he defeated the giant soldier, Goliath.  And, when it was time to select a new king for the people of Israel, it was not a man of high stature whom he chose to be king; it was the lowly shepherd boy, David. 

At the Annunciation, we see a beautiful and simple expression of faith when the Virgin Mary is informed by an angel that she is to be the mother of God.  Here, we have a case of an unmarried adolescent, with wisdom and grace beyond her years, who responds to God with a resounding Ayes@ to the aweBinspiring mission ahead of her.  She could not have anticipated the future Asword that would pierce her heart,@ yet her Ayes@ was total, free, and unconditional.  It was a great act of faith.

But faith is something extraordinary and not always easy to embrace.  Thomas reacts, not with faith, but with natural, human expectations.  How does Christ respond?

Christ gives a peaceful greeting and allows Thomas to touch him: APut your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.@

Christ has infinite patience with us.  When we have doubts and fears, He never stops reaching out to us with his love.  He wants us to love Him back, he wants us to trust him completely.  We sometimes lack faith because the realities of the world press in on us:  a financial situation, a job situation, a difficulty in the family, and other factors.  When these concerns cloud our hearts, we begin to lose the clear vision of faith that frees us.
  
Trust Christ!  Have faith!  Do not be afraid to trust Christ completely,  offering Him your worries and fears, your joys and hopes. Jesus, I trust in you!  This is the great exclamation of the Church.  It is only through trust that you will begin to experience the depths of Christ=s love for you.  And when you begin to experience this love, deeply and profoundly in your lives, you cannot help but see the world around you differently. 

This is the experience of Thomas when Christ shows him His wounds and allows Thomas to touch him.  Thomas responds with the words, AMy Lord and my God!@Ca profound expression of wonder and awe, and ultimately, of faith.  This is the moment of transformation for Thomas.

Christ says, ABlessed are those who have not seen and have believed.@  Thomas and the other disciples had the privilege of living with Christ in their midst everyday.  What a gift it must have been to live side by side with Christ and see him in the fullness of his humanity!  What a privilege, to be able to converse with him, to share meals with him, to observe and learn from his example when he dealt with the different personalities and characters from all walks of life!  What must it have been like to see his joy at the wedding at Cana, his tears at the tomb of Lazarus, his diligence and humility in his carpenter=s work, and his leadership and authority with the crowds?

We do not have that privilege as the disciples did, but Christ does speak to us now these special words: ABlessed are those who have not seen and have believed.@  We cannot see Christ as the disciples did, but He is no less present to us now in the world.  He remains with us in the Eucharist.  I encourage you, especially as married couples and as families, to develop a strong Eucharistic life where you can draw close to Christ to find the strength to deal with the many challenges you face in your daily lives.

And so I say once again: trust Jesus Christ!  He waits for you in the many lonely tabernacles of the world.  He waits for your love, and it is through you that He wishes to make known His presence in the world.  As the first apostles were messengers of Christ, so too do you bear witness to His love through your lives!
 
In a special way, dear married couples, you are called to radiate this love through your spousal fidelity as a sign of Christ=s fidelity to his bride, the Church.  In a world in a culture where lifelong commitment is increasingly scoffed at, where virtue is mocked more often than rewarded; how greatly your joyful, firm and faithful witness is needed.  You are to be beacons of light in the world.

Equally important, dear married couples, is your great gift and responsibility as parents.  The family is the first school of the faith.  The family is the source of the child=s development as a person in all dimensions: the intellect, the heart, the will, and the soul.  Dedicate yourselves to forming your children with a deep awareness of Christ=s love; and, as husband and wife, model this love through your respect and affection for each other.

In a society where family life is suffering severe setbacks, broken marriages, the attacks of the media and other social influencesCall these threaten to destroy the very foundation upon which society is built.  Draw close to Christ in the sacraments to maintain always your perspective of faith.  Continue to build up your marriage and family life through your mutual support and encouragement with others who share the same values.  You already are united by a common ideal through your involvement in Couples for Christ.  Such is an example of the gift of movements in the Church that provide a support for those in the married and lay state.

Remember these words of our Lord Jesus Christ: ABlessed are those who have not seen and have believed.@  If you have faith, you will see the world differently, not from a human perspective, but with a supernatural view.  This vision of faith will bring to your ordinary everyday activities a fresh divine perspective.  If you see the world differently, with the eyes of Christ, you will be able to radiate His love to all you meet.  You are a light in this world, because you reflect the light that is Christ.  In your marriage and family life, you are to be a witness, a reflection, a mirror of that Love which is so powerful yet gentle, sacrificial yet victorious, so instant yet eternal.

May God give you grace and strength, dear friends, in the days to comeCgrace and strength to fulfill your role, to be partners in the Church with the Lord Jesus Himself in building up His Kingdom in your families, in your parishes, and in the worldCa Kingdom of holiness and truth, a Kingdom of peace, a Kingdom of life and love.  Amen.

Let the Oppressed Go Free: Breaking the Bonds of Addiction" Remarks to Conference Participants
Remarks of Cardinal Justin Rigali
To Conference Participants
"Let the Oppressed Go Free: Breaking the Bonds of Addiction"
Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel
November 5, 2010

Good morning. As Archbishop of Philadelphia, I extend a warm welcome to all of you gathered here today, and ask God’s blessings upon you and your families, as well as your important work in the field of addictions treatment and ministry. It brings me great joy to host this inaugural conference on the need to integrate the sacred and therapeutic dimensions of effectively caring for those battling addictions and for their families.

In communion with my brother bishops around the country, I wish to express our profound gratitude for the dedication and compassion of so many dedicated members of the helping professions who are addressing this issue on a daily basis. I deeply appreciate the presence of so many of you here today as an expression of your genuine and heartfelt concern for those who struggle with addictions, and for their families and faith communities. In your treatment centers, practices, parishes, schools, and homes, you are on the front lines of a battle for the health and well-being, indeed the very survival, of countless men, women and children who have been ensnared in the trap of substance abuse and a host of other compulsive diseases. As you tend to their wounds and accompany them on their journey back to health and wholeness, you are a tangible expression of the love that emanates from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where the brokenness of humanity encounters the transforming mercy and power of God.

Substance abuse and addictive disorders have reached epidemic proportions in our society, with an ever-widening range of compulsive behaviors on the rise among ever younger age groups. Such trends have made compassionate care for those affected by these diseases an urgent pastoral concern for the Church and her ministers, and for that reason I chose to write on this topic as part of the Shepherd’s Voice Series published by our friends at Basilica Press. As I stressed in my book, the Church has and must continue to speak out on the issue of addiction, in fidelity to her mission to preach the Good News of the love of God the Father through the forgiveness of sins and the healing of those who are afflicted.

If leprosy was the most destructive and contagious diseases of Jesus’ time, it might well be said that addiction is the scourge of our time, given the insidious nature in which it spreads and the terrible damage it causes in the lives of those addicted and their families. Unfortunately it is all too common in our society to see persons with addictions as “weak” or “unwilling to change” and even to blame them for succumbing to something that we have since come to realize is in fact a destructive disease. The addict’s need for clinical intervention and treatment often goes ignored, and when combined with the lingering social stigma attached to addictive behaviors, often causes these suffering individuals in their pain to seek out ways to cope that only do further harm to their human dignity and that of others. The self-defeating, shaming and blaming patterns become a vicious cycle that virtually chains addicts in destructive downward spirals.

While the addict’s need to take personal responsibility for his or her choices is always present, it must be acknowledged that the addictive process over time greatly impedes and wounds personal freedom, and as such the addict is not simply an actor but also a victim of a disease that affects his or her ability to “get well” without help. The pastoral activity of the Church directed toward those battling addictions should therefore be understood within the framework of continuing the ministry of Jesus, who reached out mercifully to touch the suffering and sick, bringing them healing, comfort and renewed strength.  Jesus proclaimed in word and deed that He is the Divine Physician who heals those who are afflicted, and the Good Shepherd who seeks out and saves those who are lost.

We cannot ignore the Gospel imperative to imitate Christ in our readiness to enter into the messiness of the lives of our brothers and sisters who have become entangled with addictions, whether to alcohol or drugs, sexual aberrations and pornography, gambling, shopping, or a whole host of other compulsive traps. The Church calls us to recognize the inviolable dignity of every human person, and in face of those who would shun and marginalize the addict, we must resoundingly affirm his or her God-given right to a dignified life characterized by freedom from obstacles that destroy their authentic human good.

The Catholic Church has addressed the need to provide help and support for those struggling with addiction and compulsive behaviors in a variety of ways. These include ongoing advocacy for comprehensive care to be provided for those who are addicted, by offering continued spiritual guidance for those in recovery, and by issuing a call for strategies aimed at the prevention of addiction.  Historically, the Church in the United States has been actively engaged in addressing the problem of addiction and its underlying spiritual nature and causes. Catholic clergy and religious were intimately involved from the outset with the development and growth of the recovery movement, and many were essential contributors to the early foundations of Alcoholics Anonymous and The Twelve Steps.  The U.S Catholic Bishops worked diligently to bring the issue of addiction to national consciousness in the 1980s and 1990s, combining theological and pastoral reflection with contemporary clinical research on addictions to issue a strong and compelling pastoral diagnosis and related recommendations.

Those prior efforts have resulted today in a myriad of Church-sponsored organizations, specialized treatment programs, support groups, and affiliated institutions that are all focused on providing comprehensive and effective care for those adversely impacted by addictions. Today more than ever the Church recognizes the importance of creative and dynamic partnerships with those engaged in the helping and healing professions of therapeutic treatment and counseling, with the goal of cooperatively supporting effective long-term recovery for as many people as possible.  I am pleased to acknowledge the contributions made in this regard by our co-sponsors – Catholic Health Care Services, St. John Vianney Center, and Guest House Institute – and am grateful for their combined efforts in making this conference day possible. I also acknowledge with great esteem the excellent work of partner organizations represented by our invited speakers today – The National Association for Children of Alcoholics, Fr. Martin’s Ashley, The International Coalition of Addictions Studies Educators, and The National Catholic Council on Alcoholism and Related Drug Dependencies. Our purpose today is to highlight the many good things being done by these groups and others to integrate the sacred and clinical dimensions of effective addictions treatment and ministry.

I would like to conclude by emphasizing a point that I stressed in the second part of my book, on the importance of a robust Christian anthropology as a basis for an adequate Catholic response to the problem of addiction. Addiction is a human issue that touches the person on many levels, including significantly the spiritual dimension of our personhood. God has created the human person as a union of body and soul, and as such each of us has a divine origin and destiny. This Christian understanding of human nature means that all of our desires and hungers are for what we perceive as good, and are ultimately grounded in our desire for God, who is our true and ultimate Good. As Saint Augustine so aptly put it, “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Yet, our desires can at times become distorted and cause us to perceive things as apparent goods which are in the end not good for us. Addictions are an example of the adverse results that occur when our perceptions of what is good for us go astray, and we choose to continue to pursue those false and illusory goods. For that reason, any effort to deal effectively with addictions must take due account of the need for spiritual conversion and renewal. The Catholic insight has always been that grace builds upon nature, and therefore all good human efforts necessarily find their completion in God’s guidance and assistance. 

It is with this in mind that we have come together today, to explore together how best to facilitate recovery from addiction within the context of conversion of heart and transformation of life. Catholic teaching on the necessity of grace and virtue reminds us of the importance of the sacraments and prayer in the overall process leading to genuine healing, recovery and renewal for those who suffer the pain of addiction. Today we will explore in our various presentations and workshops some of the most important themes regarding this critical interface between the sacred and the therapeutic dimensions of clinical and pastoral care in addictions ministry. Let us go forward with the deep conviction that with God all things are possible, and that no one is beyond the reach of God’s infinite power and mercy. We are a people of hope, and today we proclaim the word of hope from our Savior, Christ Jesus, to all who are burdened and heavy laden with the weight of addiction: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened…and you will find rest for yourselves”  (Mt 11:28-29).  Again, welcome, and may God bless you.

Let the Oppressed Go Free: Breaking the Bonds of Addiction" Homily During Mass for Participants
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass for Participants in One-Day Conference on Addiction
"Let the Oppressed Go Free"
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Friday, November 5, 2010

Dear Friends,

It is an honor to welcome you this afternoon to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. I deeply appreciate the splendid opportunity presented to us today. I welcome in a particular way the psychologists, social workers, licensed professional counselors, physicians, nurses, addiction counselors, marriage and family therapists, teachers and school administrators who have taken part in the conference today. I am especially grateful for the participation and presence of those in recovery, and family members affected by addiction. I extend also a warm welcome to all members of the Christian faith, to our Jewish brothers and sisters, to members of the Islamic faith, and all people of faith and good will. I am happy to express my deep gratitude for the collaboration of Guest House Institute, Saint John Vianney Center and the Catholic Health Care Service of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in sponsorship of the conference proceedings today.

The struggle with addiction crosses every sector of society. No segment of the population is immune: Rich or poor, men or women, youth or elderly, blue collar or white collar, devout or secular. Regardless of educational experience or professional expertise, whether we live in the city or suburbs, from the board room to the waiting room, the pain of addiction confronts all of us.
 
Addiction can take many forms: alcohol addiction, dependency on illegal substances and even on prescription medications, gambling, tobacco, food, video games, spending, shopping and sexualizing. In particular, we are aware of the considerable extent to which Internet pornography has devastated married couples, young people and society at large.

Addiction is so often a response to the deep and long echo of pain. Our pain comes from our wounds. Our wounds are many: wounds of rejection, loss, traumatic conflict, family division, unemployment, heart-breaking transitions, chronic worries, disappointing regrets, repeated attempts to control the ongoing demands and difficulties of life. We may choose to neglect our wounds, but their pain remains, and can influence us to attach ourselves to substances and activities that falsely promise to make the pain go away. Addiction does not bring what it promises. It purports to fix or to numb, but, in fact, it only worsens the pain and deepens the wound. As addiction takes further hold on our life, we simply go through the motions, and sooner or later enter a tragic downward spiral. Addiction captures us in a slavery that engulfs us, our friends, neighbors and colleagues in a puzzling labyrinth of chaos that seemingly has no end.

God is familiar with every pain and hardship we can encounter. He called His people, Israel, out of slavery in Egypt (cf. Ex 3:7-8). He rescued them from exile (cf. Is 52:1-6). In the fullness of time (cf. Gal 4:4), the Son of God intervened in human history. He assumed our human nature. Jesus understands our wounds even when we do not. In the Gospel of Saint Matthew, as we heard proclaimed only a few moments ago, Jesus says to us: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves” (Mt 11:28-29). Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh (cf. Jn 1:14), accepted the Cross to free us from sin and death and to reveal the Father’s love for us. The humble Sacred Heart of Jesus offers to heal our own wounded hearts.

The human heart is like a seed. The seed is very vulnerable. It can be scarred and bruised. Before it can ever bear fruit, the seed falls to the ground. It falls into a dark place where rocks and other obstacles weigh upon it. Recovery is the new search for our heart, for the seed of life. The seed goes through much – it descends into the darkness, it may seem lost or abandoned, but its life persists in its long journey. As the Lord proclaimed through Isaiah the prophet in the first reading: “I will never forget you” (Is 49:15). How true this is for those in recovery! Somewhere in the darkness, against all hope, the seed stirs and breaks open. It begins to grow. Even from the darkness, the seed reaches forth to the light it cannot yet find. The seed grows in strength, stretches forth its roots, breaks through, grows beyond the surface and becomes a tree. It bears fruit and feeds the world. It is on the tree of the Cross that the saving action of Jesus redeems the world. In His saving act, Jesus takes up and transforms even our wounds into sources of new life.

The light that guides the seed is like the light of faith. We are often tempted to compartmentalize faith, to make it fit into our preconceived notions. Faith is not a merely external, superficial overlay or a decorative, ceremonial circumstance. It is never arbitrary or simply private. We can never reduce faith in Jesus Christ to a mere means to an end. The human person is a profound irreducible mystery. We have a depth in our heart that can only be reached by faith in Christ. This faith does not bring automatic results. It brings much more because it is a divine gift. As faith unfolds we act in a new way, from a new depth of trust. From this trust, faith is understood, in the words of the Venerable Servant of God Pope John Paul II, as “a decision involving one’s whole existence” (Veritatis Splendor, 88). In the school of faith, we learn that painful past secrets are healed one day at a time, one hour at a time. The Sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, provide us with the strength for this journey. In the Eucharist we receive Christ Himself, and share in His grace-filled, sacrificial act of love on the Cross.

Nourished by the Eucharist, and with the support of Twelve Step spirituality, faith reminds us that there is a momentum that is deeper than the pain. As professionals, your calling is to reflect the radiance of Christ, the light of Jesus, into the labyrinth of confusion and hurt. Your good work assists our brothers and sisters in recovery in the search for life: meeting after meeting, appointment after appointment, group session after group session, even in the midst of relapses. No darkness can smother the seed that reaches out for air and light. The Church greatly values and deeply appreciates your heroic work in specialized service to those who seek recovery. Your many sacrifices, including years of study, training and practice, long hours of research and appointments, demonstrate the dedication, expertise and qualification that is so important in this crucial work. In so many instances your work hinges on showing people the indispensible role of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is the breakthrough by which recovery becomes the road to holiness.

Three and a half years ago, Pope Benedict XVI made a visit to Brazil. During the visit, the Holy Father met with a community named Nossa Senhora da Glória, which is also known as Fazenda da Esperança, or, the Farm of Hope. The Fazenda da Esperança is a center in service to those who suffer from drug addiction and chemical dependency. At that time, the Pope expressed, in his own words, his appreciation of “those many other institutions throughout the world which work to rebuild and renew the lives of these brothers and sisters of ours present in our midst, whom God loves with a preferential love. I am thinking of groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous as well as the sobriety associations working generously in many communities so as to build up the lives of others”  (Meeting with the Community at the Fazenda da Esperança, Guarantinguetá, May 12, 2007).

Today, we entrust the professional efforts of caregivers and the personal courage of our brothers and sisters in recovery to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Hope. May she who knew the heart of the Savior so well lead us to this same inexhaustible source of grace and strength. Then, our work, our journey and our sacrifices will be joined to those of Jesus, and serve as the light that transforms the dark labyrinth of pain into the radiant path to holiness on which the oppressed are set free.

Amen.

Mass for Calix Society
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass for Calix Society
Saint Joseph Retreat House, Malvern
Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

It is a joy to be with you this morning in the celebration of the Eucharist.  I  extend a warm welcome as you gather in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for the 2011 convention of the Calix Society on the theme: Let the Oppressed Go Free: Breaking the Bonds of Addiction.

The central action in the midst of the Gospel passage which the Church gives us for this Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time is the moment when Jesus stretches out His hand to save St. Peter.  The Gospel tells us that the disciples had gotten into a boat to precede Jesus to the other shore. In the midst of the night, the boat became engulfed with waves.  Notice that Jesus is on the mountain in prayer with the Father, and at the same time the disciples are in confusion and bewilderment.  So often we are tempted to see reality from only one perspective, that of the world. We are tempted to judge our condition by the world alone.  But no matter how badly the world may buffet us, it is Jesus the Lord who is our Center.  He is the One who prays on our behalf to the Father in the Holy Spirit, and nothing disturbs His prayer.  In fact, the prayer of Jesus is the center of the world.

The Gospel tells us that Jesus, from His prayer with the Father, comes to his disciples. Jesus approaches and invites St. Peter to come to him across the water.  Recall that water in Sacred Scripture sometimes represents chaos and disorder.  Jesus walks upon, transcends the chaos and disorder of the world and of sin.  When Peter accepts the invitation of Jesus, and starts to walk toward the Lord on the water, He becomes frightened. He begins to sink, and cries out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” The Gospel tells us, “Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter” (Mt 14:31).  Notice the close connection between the plea of Peter for salvation and the response of Jesus in stretching out His sacred hand.  Notice as well, Peter does not cry out, “Lord, fix me!” Rather, he cries out, “Lord, save me!” And, as soon as that plea, “save,” reaches the ears of Jesus, the Son of God, the Word made flesh (Jn 1:14), He responds immediately.

Peter was an experienced fisherman.  He was an expert at seamanship.  Yet his boat was being battered by the winds and tossed about by the waves.  Nothing he had experienced prepared him for this bitter moment.  This is true for all of us, and in a particular way for those who experience addiction.  We are often like ships on a stormy sea, tossed about in directions we had never dreamed of.  The conflicts and hardships of life, as well as our wounds and weaknesses, often propel us into confusing and unpredictable situations. In such painful moments, so many are tempted to seek refuge in coping mechanisms such as the misuse and abuse of alcohol. Alcohol can seem like a way out, but, in fact, it only draws us deeper into danger.  Even when Jesus approaches the boat, the disciples do not recognize Him.  In fact, they begin to think their dire situation is worsening: they think He is a ghost (Mt 14:26).  We too, at times, can so focus on ourselves, that even the intervention that is aimed at saving us appears threatening.  But as with Peter, Jesus is present in the midst of the storm.  When we call, He stretches forth His hand into the very center of our distress to rescue us, to save us.

The action of Jesus that forms the center of the Gospel reading just proclaimed a moment ago―that stretching forth of His hand to save Peter―is not the last time Jesus stretched forth His hand.  He will do so again on Calvary, this time to save not only Peter, but to offer His salvation to the world.  The Church longs to provide spiritual assistance and pastoral resources to our brothers and sisters who suffer from alcoholism.  All of our efforts begin with the outstretched hand of Jesus.  When we face the old temptations of the false self, when we encounter the deception of sin, the illusions of the world, discouragement with the journey and frustration at our past, present or future, it is then that we must cling above all to Jesus in and through His Church. In simple living faith, we must, again and again, firmly entrust our entire soul to the Lord.  He alone is the One who opens new dimensions in our life. He draws us into the inner meaning of every hour, every moment.  In the first reading, the Book of Kings describes the encounter of Elijah with the presence of God.  God was not in the heavy wind, the earthquake or the fire.  He was in the tiny whispering sound.  God hides inexhaustible riches and inner treasures deep in the ordinary moments of life, and even more deeply in the painful places of life.

We often make the same mistake that Peter made.  In the midst of great difficulties and the pains of life he relied on his own strength.  Peter had yet to learn the lesson of powerlessness, that when we are weak, it is then that we are strong.  Jesus continually invites Peter to allow the Holy Spirit to enter his life and become the source of his strength.  Jesus invites us to this strength of the Spirit as well.  The Lord offers us His strength through the life of grace which we find in the Sacraments, especially in the Sacrament of Penance and in participation in the Most Holy Eucharist.  In our worthy reception of the Eucharist and in time of sacred adoration before our Lord, it is then that He reaches out His hand just as surely as He did to St. Peter, just as surely as He did upon the Cross for our salvation.  We encounter Jesus in our personal prayer, in spiritual reading, in meditation on the lives of the Saints, in friendship, and preeminently in entrusting ourselves to our Blessed Mother Mary through her holy Rosary.   The Lord also gives us natural means of healing. When we take advantage of prudent counseling, of the wisdom of time-tested Twelve Step groups and of the support of a seasoned sponsor, the Lord stretches forth His hand to us. He gives us His own strength.

The Church greatly appreciates your efforts, your efforts to stretch out your hand, after the example of Jesus, to others through caring outreach and the spirituality of the Twelve Steps. Your compassion, patience and time all reflect the love of Jesus for those who suffer from addiction, for their families and friends.  For Catholics who are in the Twelve Steps, we depend on God who saves us, and who at the same time sends us, to plunge back into the darkness as servants of the hand of Jesus Christ.  Do not forget that as God sends us to others, they also minister to us. The grace of sobriety, as you share it, you continue to receive it. 

The central action of Jesus in today’s Gospel is the stretching out of His hand to those in need, in distress.  We come together today to allow Jesus to stretch His hand out to us, to further free us from those things that hold us bound, so that, unencumbered, we may go forth and discover those who long to be within reach of His saving hand.  May our participation in this Eucharist free our hearts more deeply and strengthen us more surely that we might turn to one another, even in the midst of our own needs, and strengthen one another on our journey to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Mass for Campus Ministers Leadership Institute
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass for Campus Ministers Leadership Institute
Saint Joseph's University Chapel
Sunday, June 1, 2008

Dear Friends in Christ,
I am delighted to be with you to celebrate this Mass and to have the opportunity to express personally my gratitude to you for your involvement in Campus Ministry. Your dedication to this ministry demonstrates that you have a real understanding that a crucial aspect of higher education for young men and women is their spiritual formation and participation in the sacramental life of the Church. Through your efforts, many young men and women grow in their appreciation of how special they are in the Church, and what contributions they can make to further the mission of the Church. By your availability to them, so many young people are aided in their relationship with God, who invites them to grow in holiness as they grow in wisdom, knowledge and maturity.

The Servant of God Pope John Paul II, in Pastores Gregis, the 2003 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World, emphasized the solicitude which the Bishop must have for young people. "The Bishop, as pastor and father of the Christian community, will be particularly concerned for the evangelization and spiritual accompaniment of young people. A minister of hope can hardly fail to build the future together with those to whom the future is entrusted.... [Y]oung people are ready to commit themselves in the Church and in the world, if only they are offered real responsibility and an integral Christian formation" (53). Campus Ministry, then, is a great collaboration with the ministry of the Bishop who keeps ever close to his heart the young men and women who are the future of society, the future of the Church.

Within universities and colleges, young people, often away from home, find themselves in an often-overwhelming new world. As you know so well, they are immersed in an intense schedule of academics in unfamiliar surroundings. They find themselves removed from any parental supervision and exposed to various influences, some of which are not always positive. Through you, brother priests, religious sisters and brothers, and lay leaders, our young people find a safe refuge in Campus Ministry Centers, a renewed connection with the Church, and a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. Please know that you are a valuable resource to the Bishop in his solicitude for these young people, and on behalf of the many Bishops with whom you work throughout the country, I offer heartfelt thanks.

You know well that the Bishops—and all ministers and teachers of the Church —are entrusted not only with safeguarding the truths of our holy Catholic faith, but also with proclaiming to all people the good news of Jesus Christ. Through the ministry of the Word and in the administration of the Sacraments, the Church offers to all people an encounter with the living Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14: 6). In the gospel passage just proclaimed, Jesus declares the necessity of listening to His words and putting into action the message which is entrusted to those who believe in Him: "Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rains fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock" (Mt 7: 24-25).

The truths of Jesus, transmitted through the teaching of the Church, are enduring and provide the firm foundation of which Our Lord speaks. It is our mutual task—our very mission—to nurture all people, but especially our youth, with the truth and to sustain them through the sacramental and liturgical ministry of the Church. Thus they are able to survive temptation, stress, hardship and loss, the storms and squalls of everyday life. Fidelity to Sacred Scripture and to Sacred Tradition provides security, stability, and even serenity in times such as our own, which are turbulent, yet remarkably full of hope.

Jesuit Father Manuel Ruiz Jurado, commenting on the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, explains the mission of Jesus transmitted to the apostles, and to the entire Church. "Christ’s apostles do not draw out morality and dogma from their own ideas, nor do they compromise them through discussion or haggling. They are servants, not the Master. They have received a ‘deposit of faith’ which must be conserved and transmitted intact (1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:14). This is their glory" (For the Greater Glory of God: A Spiritual Retreat with St. Ignatius, 179).

Frequently, as they mature and develop intellectually, young people question or seek to understand more fully the teachings of the Church. In some instances, however, in some institutions of higher learning, students are encouraged to challenge or dismiss Church teachings, or are offered personal opinion in place of authentic teaching. This causes confusion in the minds of young people, and, even worse, may lead them away from the Church. Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, in his April 17, 2008 address to Catholic educators at the Catholic University of America, addressed this very issue with a stirring reminder: "These harmful developments point to the particular urgency of what we might call ‘intellectual charity’. This aspect of charity calls educators to recognize that the profound responsibility to lead the young to the truth is nothing less than an act of love."

Where sometimes the academic sphere falls short, you, dear friends who are engaged in the work of Campus Ministry, act in charity to offer the truth, to guide young people through their sincere searching and questioning to understand the truths of our faith. Although yours is not the academic setting, in various programs which you sponsor, guest lectures which you organize, or faith-formation opportunities which you provide, and retreat experiences which you direct, young men and women advance in their knowledge of the Catholic Faith. Furthermore, you help them to live the faith in the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance. Young people also appreciate opportunities to experience anew or reacquaint themselves with devotions which have deep meaning in the life of the Church. The Rosary, the Lenten practice of the Stations of the Cross, and, most especially, Eucharistic Adoration, foster within young people a more intense friendship with the Lord Jesus and a deeper understanding of the role of Mary in the whole plan of the Incarnation.

"Young people," wrote Pope John Paul II, "through personal relationships with their pastors and teachers, must be encouraged to grow in charity and be trained for a life of generosity and availability for the service of others, especially the needy and infirm. In this way it will be easier to speak with them about the other Christian virtues, especially chastity. By taking this path they will come to know that life is ‘something beautiful’ when it is given to others, following the example of Jesus. Thus, they will be able to make responsible and binding decisions, whether about marriage, the sacred ministry or the consecrated life" (Pastores Gregis, 53).

These sentiments of Pope John Paul II can also be applied to those engaged in Campus Ministry. Your joyful witness, steadfast living of what has been entrusted to you, and the love with which you welcome young people through Campus Ministry will continue to have a positive and life-giving influence on them. Do not underestimate the importance of your work, of the daily routine of your ministry, of offering that firm foundation. As companions of the young, you have a lasting impact on the future, for to lead young people to Jesus Christ is to assure them a future full of hope. Your partnership in this great work is a blessing for all.

Homecoming Mass for Cardinal John Patrick Foley
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Homecoming Mass for Cardinal John Patrick Foley
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Thursday, December 13, 2007

Your Eminence, Cardinal Foley,

It is a joy for me as Archbishop of Philadelphia to welcome you today on your first visit home since those recent eventful days in Rome, when His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI created you a Cardinal of the Church.

You have come back to the city of your birth, to the Archdiocese of your Baptism and introduction into the faith. You have returned to the place where your beloved parents first taught you to love God and your neighbor. You have returned to the place that evokes your call to the sacred Priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the local Church which holds all the memories of your youth and your seminary training.

At this moment you have returned to the very Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul where you were ordained a priest, where you were ordained a Bishop and entered effectively into the College of Bishops as a Successor of the Apostles—here in this sacred church.

It was from this local Church of Philadelphia, which had nourished you in grace and challenged you to holiness of life, that you were sent to Rome to heed the call of Pope John Paul II to collaborate with him in the Roman Curia, and specifically in his mission of communicating the good news of salvation to the whole world. And so for those many years in Rome, and in those other places where your work directed you, you sought to collaborate faithfully with the Holy Father in his evangelizing mission. All of this brought you into contact with the world, and the world into contact with you. But what really mattered during all those twenty-three years is that through your ministry as priest and Bishop in a close partnership with Christ’s Vicar on earth—first John Paul II and more recently Benedict XVI— the world came into contact with Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ was manifested ever more to His people through the faithful communication of the word of God.

During those years, as Providence would have it, you were uniquely positioned to be of great assistance to so many of the faithful of Philadelphia, many of them being your brother priests. You assisted them to profit from their visit to Rome "to see Peter," and to use the occasion to ponder God’s word as He communicated His Son to them ever more through your person, your ministry, your kindness.

And in the fullness of time, as it related to your life, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI chose you to be a Cardinal of the Church, a member of the presbyterate of Rome, assigning you to a new ministry but one that is always at the service of God’s word and, in particular, His Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. Your new assignment and challenge is to be the worthy Grand Prior of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. As such your ministry and solicitude are oriented to the Church in the Holy Land, with its sacred shrines and institutions and, above all, the immense needs of the Christian people of these places.

From now on your ministry, your very person is meant to be synonymous with the great pastoral solicitude of the Church for Jerusalem and all that is known as the Holy Land. And through you the exquisite sensitivity of the Chief Shepherd of the Church for the peace of Jerusalem will constantly be revealed.

It is obvious that just as until now, as a faithful disciple, you have borne your share of hardship for the Church, so in the future you will be called upon to bear an even greater share of burden in Christ’s saving work.

The context in which we express to you our solidarity and support in your new activities is, of course, the celebration of the Eucharist. How fortunate for you to be surrounded here this evening by so many of your brother Bishops and priests, so many of your faithful friends, who have made such a great effort to be with you. We extend a particular welcome to Cardinal Bevilacqua, Cardinal Keeler and Cardinal McCarrick. Their presence is indicative of your warm acceptance into the College of Cardinals. But all of us are gratified to be close to you in the greatest act of our holy Catholic faith—so meaningful for all God’s people—our greatest form of celebration: the Mass.

Some years ago—you may well recall the incident—Pope John Paul II was asked by a journalist what the greatest joy is in the life of the Pope. He unhesitatingly replied: to enjoy the same privilege shared by every Catholic priest in the world—the privilege of being able to celebrate Mass every day. After many years of service as a priest and Bishop, and now as a Cardinal, your greatest privilege and joy remains to offer up the Eucharist, for the living and the dead. And this evening so many people join you joyfully in this Eucharistic celebration, which, as Vatican II explained so well, is the source and summit of the Christian life of all of us.

Back on November 24th when the Holy Father made you a Cardinal, he reminded you that the honor you were receiving was all about the glory of God and the service of the Apostolic See. He mentioned explicitly before all the people present that the red biretta was meant to be a sign that you and your brother Cardinals would be ready to conduct yourselves with courage, even to the shedding of blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and tranquility of the People of God, and for the freedom and progress of the holy Church of Rome. How beautiful a coincidence that our Eucharistic celebration today, on the feast of Saint Lucy, recalls the memory of one of the Church’s faithful witnesses of the third century—a virgin martyr who testified by her life to her faith and love for our Lord Jesus Christ!

After more than seventeen centuries, the Church still speaks about Saint Lucy, with honor and admiration. While none of us can aspire to such a destiny—to be remembered after so many centuries—still we know that God has given us a special role to play, a special service to fulfill in the unity of the Church and for the benefit of all our brothers and sisters. Your role and service, dear Cardinal Foley, is more than ever before one of great importance for the glory of God and the well-being of His Church. In the weeks and months and years to come may Mary, the Mother of the Incarnate Word, sustain you in fidelity and joy as you consume yourself for the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Catholic Leadership Conference
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Opening Mass of the Thirteenth Annual Catholic Leadership Conference
Saint Patrick Church, Philadelphia
September 9, 2010

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

It is a joy for me to welcome those from outside the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and to welcome all of you to this church dedicated to a great missionary, Saint Patrick, as we assemble for worship on this feast of another great missionary, Saint Peter Claver.

I am pleased that all of you who come together today do so in the name of Jesus, and that you aspire to exercise a gift that comes through the Church from God’s Holy Spirit. This gift is the gift of Catholic leadership in its various forms.

It is a credit to your Catholic faith and zeal that on this first day of deliberations and exchange the celebration of the Eucharist is central for you. It is important for you as members of God’s people to gather at the altar of Christ’s sacrifice, to invoke wisdom and strength, to proclaim your oneness in and with the Church, and to rededicate yourselves in Catholic unity to a mission which belongs to Jesus and which, through the Church, He shares lovingly with you.

How great is the human person! How great is man, creature and child of God, whom He made male and female and constituted as a brother or sister of Christ! And how great is the gift of knowing God, who is revealed in Jesus Christ, and in sharing the mission of communicating Him to others.

This parish church dedicated to its great patron, Saint Patrick, inspires all of us to strive in humble collaboration to promote the mission of the Church: to communicate Jesus to the world. I remember from years ago a remarkable reference made by the Venerable Servant of God Pope John Paul II about Saint Patrick. He mentioned what a tremendous effect the fidelity of one man has had on the Church for centuries. Saint Patrick has become the patron of Ireland and, through the Irish, the patron of Nigeria. His influence extends throughout time and space. Because of his fidelity, the fidelity of one man, our Lord Jesus Christ is still being powerfully communicated in so many parts of the world.

The second missionary that we revere today is Saint Peter Claver. How he understood human dignity as the greatness of God’s creation! How he understood and participated in the Church’s mission of communicating the uplifting Gospel of love and life to African slaves, becoming in his own expression “the slave of the slaves forever”!

Today, dear friends, in our first reading there emerges a clear expression of the beauty of human dignity and we also see the importance of the mission that God permits us to share in as members of His Church.

God explained to the prophet Jeremiah that He knew him even before he was formed in the womb. God said: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” How worthy then of respect is every human person who, like Jeremiah, is known and loved by God even before conception! And how awesome that every human person, like Jeremiah, has been assigned a mission before his or her birth, as God said: “Before you were born I dedicated you”!

And how lofty the mission of leadership assigned by God to each of us in His Church, in the measure that He wills! Like the mission of Jeremiah our mission is a sharing in God’s work. It is God who, through His Church, is uplifting the world communicating a knowledge of His Son and appealing for a response of obedience and love. We are instruments, chosen and privileged, but the message and the conditions for its effective communication belong to God and are guarded by the Church. God says: “To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.” He goes on to encourage us and assure us: “Have no fear...because I am with you to deliver you.” How magnificently, dear friends, these words of God thunder down the centuries, challenging the Church, but reassuring her and comforting her: “I am with you .... See, I place my words in your mouth!”

These words of God provoke in us a response of trust and peace: “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.... To do your will, O my God, is my delight.”

In our efforts to build up God’s Kingdom, efforts which must always include the mission of Jesus “to bring glad tidings to the poor and to proclaim liberty to captives” we are so blessed in the Church to have such great examples of missionary saints. How relevant for our mission today is Saint Peter Claver, who continues to teach us how evangelization in the Church must always include, together with a clear proclamation of God’s revealed truths, an earnest promotion of human dignity. As he baptized over three hundred thousand people, Saint Peter Claver gave his life, endeavoring to lift so many brothers and sisters out of the squalor of slavery.

Dear friends: Is not this “Catholic Leadership Conference” a splendid opportunity for all of you, in the measure given you by Christ, to rededicate yourselves to collaboration, by prayer and action, in and with the Church, in the great mandate that the Lord Jesus left with His disciples? Certainly the whole Church is called to contribute in different ways to this plan so clearly presented by Jesus to the disciples: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

As we endeavor to support and promote all that Jesus has commanded, we also must commit ourselves to promote it in the way that is characteristic of Him, who says to us: “I am meek and humble of heart.” Leadership must indeed be clear, strong and dynamic. But it must also be invested with the gentle action of the Spirit, who is known by the fruits that He stirs up in the hearts of those who invoke Him in prayer. These fruits have been so masterfully described by Saint Paul and summarized by the Church as: “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity” (cf. Gal 5:22-23; CCC, 1832). Surely these fruits of the Holy Spirit embody so much of what constitutes the Catholic leadership of your daily lives and the splendid contribution that you are able to make in building up the kingdom of God.

And finally, dear friends, as you strive, guided by your holy Catholic faith, to lead others in the way of salvation, you must listen anew to Jesus, who in the power of His Spirit, continues to say to you: “Behold I am with you, always, until the end of the age.” Amen.

Catholic Life Congress
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Votive Mass of the Holy Eucharist and
Opening of the Archdiocesan Catholic Life Congress
Archbishop John Carroll High School
November 12, 2005

The Eucharist: One Body, One Mission

The word of God speaks to us in the circumstances of our life. Today we gather as the Church, the Church of Philadelphia, the Catholic Church, in our own specific vocations. We gather as a Eucharistic people, therefore as one: with each other, with all our brothers and sisters in this local Church and in our universal Church. We gather to celebrate our mission—which is very important. And we gather to celebrate the power to fulfill this mission, in other words, our Eucharistic power. What we ask for today is to understand our mission and to re-commit ourselves to it. What is this mission? To communicate Christ by word and by example. It is an arduous mission, and we need strength which we get from the Eucharist. We need the unity which we get from the Eucharist.

The word of God today tells us that, in God’s plan, the one Bread that we receive has the power to make us one. There are conditions, however, for us to be able to draw strength from the Eucharist. We must participate in the Eucharist internally and externally.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus asked the Lord to remain with them. Jesus also invites us to remain with Him. We must accept His invitation. We must live according to Christ’s law. We have experienced in the Church of Philadelphia a scandal that weakens the community. We are deeply sorry for the sins that caused this scandal. What we must also accept is the fact that every serious sin of ours, whether it comes to light or not, affects the Body of Christ. It saps the inner energy of the community of the Church and makes her mission more difficult to achieve. Every mortal sin works seriously against the unity of the Church and her effectiveness in the world. On the contrary, every prayer, every act of charity, every sacrifice or suffering patiently endured, every Eucharistic celebration worthily performed increases the effectiveness of the Church, because it increases her holiness. What we hope for in the Church is a new wave of holiness of life: composed of generosity and integrity of life.

In the Gospel, the first disciples experienced more than joy when they were with Jesus. They experienced the fire of zeal. Together in unity and striving for holiness in our personal lives we can draw great strength from Jesus and His Eucharist. This is the only way we can go forward in fulfilling our mission—communicating Christ in our families, our parishes, our communities. To communicate Christ is to communicate His identity, His word, His promises, His challenges and His commandment to love one another. Finally, we are called to communicate the Christ whom we ourselves have encountered, whom we have recognized in the breaking of the bread. Amen.

Catholic Medical Association
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass for Philadelphia Catholic Medical Association
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul, Philadelphia
October 24, 2004

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

It gives me great pleasure to be present with you at this annual gathering of healthcare professionals, you men and women who labor so faithfully in service to the frailest, sickest, and neediest in our midst. I appreciate very much the desire of the Philadelphia chapter of the Catholic Medical Association to have me celebrate this Mass with and for you.

Before turning to the Scriptures to uncover what the word of God is speaking to us this morning, I wish to express my gratitude for your generous service to the cause of human life and human dignity. I wish to acknowledge the great efforts that you make on behalf of your patients, particularly those efforts made without the knowledge of anyone except yourselves and God. Your sacred activity of healing and comfort is so desperately needed today and the Church wants you to know how highly she values the contribution that you make for the well-being of God’s people here in Philadelphia. Healthcare—particularly Catholic healthcare—is a powerful witness of Jesus’ continuing mission in our day, demonstrating God’s goodness and healing power. In your daily encounters with the sick people you serve, God’s healing presence is made manifest and felt.

The readings in today’s Mass speak to us about the manner in which Jesus’ disciples are to pray, with humility and perseverance. The Gospel parable reminds us that when we come to God in prayer, we are to come with humble and open hearts. To come otherwise is to come in haughtiness and pride—attitudes which the Lord makes clear are not a part of Christian discipleship. No matter how numerous our accomplishments are, self-sufficiency is not acceptable in God’s Kingdom. Rather, the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (also called the publican) warns against self-promotion as a substitute for humble prayer. An awareness of one’s place before God is absolutely essential if our relationship with Him is to be authentic.

While the theme of the parable is prayer and one’s attitude in regard to God, there is another reflection that merits our particular attention in the context of this gathering. For a long time Catholic healthcare operated in a manner that was relatively low-key and generated relatively little attention. It operated so often in obscurity, without trumping its achievements, not seeking any limelight, simply offering healing and dignity to the persons being helped. Over the years many Catholic-sponsored healthcare operations grew into tremendously large operations, treating thousands of persons annually without regard to religious background. Care for the indigent was a part of the reason for the existence of so many clinics and hospitals. As we all know, the industry changed significantly beginning in the last decades of the 20th century, resulting in a very difficult and competitive environment. Now Catholic healthcare is struggling for survival against obstacles which assail it from every side. These obstacles cannot be allowed to weaken its corporate witness and its need to be genuinely Catholic: Catholic in its motivation, Catholic in its self-understanding, and Catholic in its identity.

The current climate in the social arena calls all Catholic healthcare professionals to acknowledge rigorously their identity. An effort in our nation to attack the conscience rights of the religious providers of healthcare seems to be gaining in momentum. Institutions and professional staff are being saddled with obligations to furnish particular services which are incompatible with Catholic values. Third parties cannot be allowed to discriminate against us because we choose to protect our Catholic identity in terms of the services we provide. Catholic healthcare institutions and Catholic medical professionals have a right not to be involved in procedures which violate the principles of their institutions and their personal consciences. Their expression of integrity cannot be construed as an imposition of one’s morality. It is rather fidelity to the healing ministry of Jesus Himself as normative.

Knowing oneself and one’s place before God, I submit, entails faithfulness in two areas: faithfulness as a baptized Christian and as a professional healthcare provider. By virtue of our baptism we have all been called to share in the life and work of Jesus Christ. We have been conformed to Christ and empowered to do His work. The recognition of individual dignity demands deep respect for others. To be able to see the presence of God in our brothers and sisters in need makes the call to serve them not only a duty to fulfill, but a privilege to enjoy.

Catholic healthcare is a service to persons in need, not a commodity geared to provide returns to investors. You have all responded to a vocation to be healers, continuing the work of the Lord in this time and place. Your professional and personal gifts have been generously shared with others and contribute to a healing ministry that is part of the mission of the Catholic Church. You are the living instruments of God’s presence, and effective signs of God’s care to those whom you assist.

It is my hope for you as Catholics engaged in healthcare services that you will always view your work as the expression of a vocation to which the Lord has called you. A person’s identity calls him or her to live in a particular way. All of us are meant to bear witness and to live as Jesus did, by communicating God’s goodness to others. We are God’s humble instruments called to serve in wonder, in humility and with perseverance.

Humility before God and a healthy recognition of one’s limitations are qualities which Jesus praises in this morning’s Gospel. As Catholic physicians and nurses, as people serving in many facets of healthcare, you are challenged to persevere with hope and confidence. In witnessing to the value of human life, as is seen daily in Catholic healthcare services, your work and the manner in which it is performed are tremendous signs. They signify the inherent dignity of individuals regardless of their abilities; they signify the healing love of the Lord manifest in your care for the sick; and they signify the continuity of Jesus’ ministry of healing in our day. The challenges to Catholic healthcare cannot deter you from engaging in your work of healing as Jesus did. The constant assaults on human life must not weaken your hope or diminish your conviction that life will be victorious!>

In these difficult times it is even more important than ever to work collaboratively, to avoid competition among Catholic providers, and to welcome opportunities to gather together. For the good of the mission of the Church at the service of all humanity, you must continue to treat people according to ethical guidelines of the Church as taught by the Bishops in union with the Pope, and in a manner that is unashamedly and non-apologetically Catholic. Knowing yourselves and your place before God gives you every reason to rejoice in the gift to the Church that is Catholic healthcare, serving, defending and loving human life.

At this Mass may you appreciate ever more the dignity of your calling. And may you unite your work, your prayers and all your strivings with the great Eucharistic Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is His great act of love and praise of His Father. And may the Lord Jesus Himself give you deep fulfillment, satisfaction and joy as you commit yourselves anew to Catholic healthcare offered in His name. Amen.

Cardinal Rigali Joins Statement on Catholic-Orthodox Relations
Affirmation of the Common Declaration by
Pope Benedict XVI and
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I


On this Great Feast of the Martyrdom of Andrew, the first called, with great joy and sublime satisfaction, we affirm and enthusiastically echo the fraternal bond forged by the successors of the Holy Brothers, Peter and Andrew of Bethsaida, in their common declaration. We await in solidarity with our Holy Fathers for the gift of the Holy Spirit that “will help us prepare the great day of the reestablishment of full unity, whenever and however God wills it.” We stand in awe and with admiration recognizing the courage and fortitude of these two spiritual and intellectual leaders of the world in building bridges and forging peace among all the peoples of the world.

As chief pastors and Prelates of our respective local flocks, we pledge to follow the great challenge laid down in the common declaration that as “pastors, we first of all reflect on the mission to proclaim the Gospel in today’s world and make disciples of all nations.” Here in Philadelphia, we your bishops, exhort the local Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic faithful “to take an active part in this process (of unity) through prayer and through significant gestures.” Locally let us respond in a tangible way to the call in the common declaration continuing to reach out in Christian love and fraternal affection as we draw closer to one another in mutual understanding.

His Eminence Cardinal Justin Rigali
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey




The jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Jersey extends to the greater Philadelphia area, which includes the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Day of Prayer for Church in China
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Day of Prayer for Church in China
Holy Redeemer Church
May 24, 2008

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,
It is certainly timely that we are praying for China today, as so many thousands of Chinese are suffering the loss of loved ones because of the devastating earthquake. Our hearts are saddened as we daily see pictures of people digging out of rubble and waiting for food and medicine. In his letter on China, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the desire of the Catholic Church to be of service to the people of China. At a time like this we Catholics must do what we can to assist the people of China. Our prayers are with those suffering in China today.

In our Gospel today we hear how Mary stood at the foot of the cross while her Son died. The story tugs at our hearts as we contemplate a Mother helplessly watching her Son die in violent agony. One of the titles by which we honor Mary is Mother of Sorrows. As we have watched television coverage of the earthquake in China, we see many "mothers of sorrow" in grief over lost loved ones. Mary is in solidarity with all people who suffer, for she herself knows what it is to love a child and suffer on that child’s account.

Apart from the earthquake, the story of the Catholic Church in China throughout the years is one of great glory and also great sorrow. Surely Mary is in solidarity with all suffering Chinese Catholics. As she watched her Son’s broken body on the cross, Jesus named her the Mother of His beloved disciple and the Mother of the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ and Mary is the Mother of Christ. Chinese Catholics knew in the midst of their deepest sufferings that their heavenly mother was with them, as she had been with Jesus in his darkest moments. Just as Mary stood by the suffering body of Jesus on the cross, she always stands by His Body, the Church, suffering from persecution.

The roots of Christianity in China are quite ancient. However, it was in the later years of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century that Christianity really began to spread throughout China and to flourish. For about a century the mission to China excited thousands of missionaries who went to establish the Church and to serve the people of China. Millions of Chinese embraced the faith and the future looked bright.

China suffered a great deal during the Second World War and its aftermath. One of the consequences of that time of mayhem was the success of the Communist Maoist Revolution which had become firmly entrenched in China by the time Mao declared the creation of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Those were dark days throughout the world as people feared the spread of Communism and the loss of freedom. When China became a Communist state many people throughout the world saw it as an ominous sign. The Communists were determined to create an all powerful, all controlling government and the Catholic Church was seen as an enemy of that mad vision of the ideal society.
Immediately Chinese Catholics were in danger. Over the next three decades Chinese Catholics by the hundreds and thousands were sent to labor camps and were tortured, beaten and killed. All contact with the universal Church was cut off. The most diabolical scheme of the Communist government was the creation of a parallel Catholic church to try to lure Chinese Catholics away from membership in a universal Church in exchange for some limited freedom to practice some elements of the Catholic faith. I know that some of you, members of Holy Redeemer Church, suffered under these persecutions in China.

At the time of the 1949 declaration by Chairman Mao of the establishment of the Communist regime in China, there were more than 3 million Catholics in China. Stories of the sufferings of faithful Catholics seeped out of China and were greatly inspiring to the Catholics around the world. Since the earliest days of the Church, Catholics have always venerated our martyrs, and even as we were in distress over the sufferings of our Catholic brothers and sisters in China, we were also proud of their bravery and fidelity.

The situation in China worsened with the cultural revolution in the mid-1960s. By the late 1960s many Catholic analysts from around the world were of the opinion that the Church in China had been destroyed and that there was nothing left from which to build. The predominant judgment was that a new missionary effort would have to start from scratch one day, when the Communist regime was no longer in power.

However, the story of Chinese Catholicism is truly miraculous! When limited contact between China and the outside world was re-established, we discovered that the Catholic Church in China was not destroyed during four decades of persecution. In fact, to the amazement of all, the Catholic Church in China had not diminished but had grown. When the revolution was established in 1949 there were 3 million Catholics; when contact was re-established there were between 12 and 20 million Catholics and the Church was growing in numbers and in faith every year.

The great Father of the Church, Tertullian, is quoted as saying, "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians". The 20th-century story of the Catholic Church in China is the proof of this ancient saying. The more the Communists were determined to kill the Church by outright persecution and by fostering internal conflict, the more the Church grew.

Chinese Catholics are a great inspiration to the worldwide Catholic Church. We greatly esteem the way they held on to faith despite some of the fiercest persecution in modern times. When I hear stories of the amazing faith of our Chinese Catholic brothers and sisters, it makes me proud to be a Catholic, proud to hold the same faith which Chinese Catholics have suffered to protect.

Although there are signs of progress in China, we must not be fooled into believing that all is well. Chinese Catholics are still not given full religious freedom. Bishops and ordinary lay people are still imprisoned and harassed. Perhaps the saddest legacy of the Communist interference in the Church is that still the Chinese Catholics themselves sometimes are divided into two camps. All Chinese Catholics wanted to be in union with the universal Church and the Holy Father. However, Catholics made different decisions about how to relate to the government. Some hid in underground churches and others registered with the government. The Catholics did not create this division; the government did, but the Catholics are left with the difficult responsibility to reconcile with one another.

We gather today to pray for China. As I said a few moments ago, many of you suffered in China to preserve the faith that you now embrace freely here in the United States. I ask you to be faithful practicing Catholics here in the United States. It would be a shame if you were able to remain steadfast in your Catholic faith through years of persecution, only to find that your faith weakened in our secular and commercial America. I beg you not to be so attracted to material success that you now grow lukewarm in faith.

Communism is an utterly materialistic philosophy of life. For a Marxist there is no God, no eternal life, no spirit. Many Chinese are now hungry for God. They want to talk about life after death and the meaning of life. In China, there is great interest in religion. As China opens to outside ideas and as the government becomes more open to religious liberty, there is a remarkable opportunity for evangelization. China is the evangelization opportunity of this millennium.

Almost one in five human beings is Chinese. Yet Christianity is still a minority faith there. I believe that the Chinese who now live all over the world will have a role to play in the evangelization of China. At least, the Chinese Catholics from around the world should have a heart for China and for the spread of the Gospel there.

I also must pay tribute to the amazing achievement that Holy Redeemer is. Holy Redeemer was built by Monsignor William Kavanagh when there was only one Chinese Catholic family in Philadelphia. Since then Holy Redeemer has been a whirlwind of service and evangelization in the Chinese community. Holy Redeemer School is an excellent school, a tremendous resource for the Chinese community. Holy Redeemer Church manages to include all segments of the Chinese community and in this regard it is unique. Chinese from the mainland, from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Chinese living in the United States for generations all come together to share this Church. You have worked hard to create a remarkable Chinese ministry. I urge you to work together to continue this outstanding legacy.

In our second reading we find Mary present at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples. Mary was present when her Son died, but she was also present when the Holy Spirit came and the command of Jesus that the gospel be proclaimed to the ends of the earth began to be fulfilled. Immediately there was an outburst of evangelical activity and the Church was fortified and quickly began to grow. We pray for a new Pentecost in China and we ask Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to pray that our Catholic faith will flourish in China and among the Chinese all over the world. Amen.

Untitled Document
HOMILY OF CARDINAL JUSTIN RIGALI
CHRISM MASS
CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF SS. PETER AND PAUL
PHILADELPHIA
April 8, 2004

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,
It is certainly timely that we are praying for China today, as so many thousands of Chinese are suffering the loss of loved ones because of the devastating earthquake. Our hearts are saddened as we daily see pictures of people digging out of rubble and waiting for food and medicine. In his letter on China, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the desire of the Catholic Church to be of service to the people of China. At a time like this we Catholics must do what we can to assist the people of China. Our prayers are with those suffering in China today.

In our Gospel today we hear how Mary stood at the foot of the cross while her Son died. The story tugs at our hearts as we contemplate a Mother helplessly watching her Son die in violent agony. One of the titles by which we honor Mary is Mother of Sorrows. As we have watched television coverage of the earthquake in China, we see many "mothers of sorrow" in grief over lost loved ones. Mary is in solidarity with all people who suffer, for she herself knows what it is to love a child and suffer on that child’s account.

Apart from the earthquake, the story of the Catholic Church in China throughout the years is one of great glory and also great sorrow. Surely Mary is in solidarity with all suffering Chinese Catholics. As she watched her Son’s broken body on the cross, Jesus named her the Mother of His beloved disciple and the Mother of the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ and Mary is the Mother of Christ. Chinese Catholics knew in the midst of their deepest sufferings that their heavenly mother was with them, as she had been with Jesus in his darkest moments. Just as Mary stood by the suffering body of Jesus on the cross, she always stands by His Body, the Church, suffering from persecution.

The roots of Christianity in China are quite ancient. However, it was in the later years of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century that Christianity really began to spread throughout China and to flourish. For about a century the mission to China excited thousands of missionaries who went to establish the Church and to serve the people of China. Millions of Chinese embraced the faith and the future looked bright.

China suffered a great deal during the Second World War and its aftermath. One of the consequences of that time of mayhem was the success of the Communist Maoist Revolution which had become firmly entrenched in China by the time Mao declared the creation of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Those were dark days throughout the world as people feared the spread of Communism and the loss of freedom. When China became a Communist state many people throughout the world saw it as an ominous sign. The Communists were determined to create an all powerful, all controlling government and the Catholic Church was seen as an enemy of that mad vision of the ideal society.
Immediately Chinese Catholics were in danger. Over the next three decades Chinese Catholics by the hundreds and thousands were sent to labor camps and were tortured, beaten and killed. All contact with the universal Church was cut off. The most diabolical scheme of the Communist government was the creation of a parallel Catholic church to try to lure Chinese Catholics away from membership in a universal Church in exchange for some limited freedom to practice some elements of the Catholic faith. I know that some of you, members of Holy Redeemer Church, suffered under these persecutions in China.

At the time of the 1949 declaration by Chairman Mao of the establishment of the Communist regime in China, there were more than 3 million Catholics in China. Stories of the sufferings of faithful Catholics seeped out of China and were greatly inspiring to the Catholics around the world. Since the earliest days of the Church, Catholics have always venerated our martyrs, and even as we were in distress over the sufferings of our Catholic brothers and sisters in China, we were also proud of their bravery and fidelity.

The situation in China worsened with the cultural revolution in the mid-1960s. By the late 1960s many Catholic analysts from around the world were of the opinion that the Church in China had been destroyed and that there was nothing left from which to build. The predominant judgment was that a new missionary effort would have to start from scratch one day, when the Communist regime was no longer in power.

However, the story of Chinese Catholicism is truly miraculous! When limited contact between China and the outside world was re-established, we discovered that the Catholic Church in China was not destroyed during four decades of persecution. In fact, to the amazement of all, the Catholic Church in China had not diminished but had grown. When the revolution was established in 1949 there were 3 million Catholics; when contact was re-established there were between 12 and 20 million Catholics and the Church was growing in numbers and in faith every year.

The great Father of the Church, Tertullian, is quoted as saying, "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians". The 20th-century story of the Catholic Church in China is the proof of this ancient saying. The more the Communists were determined to kill the Church by outright persecution and by fostering internal conflict, the more the Church grew.

Chinese Catholics are a great inspiration to the worldwide Catholic Church. We greatly esteem the way they held on to faith despite some of the fiercest persecution in modern times. When I hear stories of the amazing faith of our Chinese Catholic brothers and sisters, it makes me proud to be a Catholic, proud to hold the same faith which Chinese Catholics have suffered to protect.

Although there are signs of progress in China, we must not be fooled into believing that all is well. Chinese Catholics are still not given full religious freedom. Bishops and ordinary lay people are still imprisoned and harassed. Perhaps the saddest legacy of the Communist interference in the Church is that still the Chinese Catholics themselves sometimes are divided into two camps. All Chinese Catholics wanted to be in union with the universal Church and the Holy Father. However, Catholics made different decisions about how to relate to the government. Some hid in underground churches and others registered with the government. The Catholics did not create this division; the government did, but the Catholics are left with the difficult responsibility to reconcile with one another.

We gather today to pray for China. As I said a few moments ago, many of you suffered in China to preserve the faith that you now embrace freely here in the United States. I ask you to be faithful practicing Catholics here in the United States. It would be a shame if you were able to remain steadfast in your Catholic faith through years of persecution, only to find that your faith weakened in our secular and commercial America. I beg you not to be so attracted to material success that you now grow lukewarm in faith.

Communism is an utterly materialistic philosophy of life. For a Marxist there is no God, no eternal life, no spirit. Many Chinese are now hungry for God. They want to talk about life after death and the meaning of life. In China, there is great interest in religion. As China opens to outside ideas and as the government becomes more open to religious liberty, there is a remarkable opportunity for evangelization. China is the evangelization opportunity of this millennium.

Almost one in five human beings is Chinese. Yet Christianity is still a minority faith there. I believe that the Chinese who now live all over the world will have a role to play in the evangelization of China. At least, the Chinese Catholics from around the world should have a heart for China and for the spread of the Gospel there.

I also must pay tribute to the amazing achievement that Holy Redeemer is. Holy Redeemer was built by Monsignor William Kavanagh when there was only one Chinese Catholic family in Philadelphia. Since then Holy Redeemer has been a whirlwind of service and evangelization in the Chinese community. Holy Redeemer School is an excellent school, a tremendous resource for the Chinese community. Holy Redeemer Church manages to include all segments of the Chinese community and in this regard it is unique. Chinese from the mainland, from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Chinese living in the United States for generations all come together to share this Church. You have worked hard to create a remarkable Chinese ministry. I urge you to work together to continue this outstanding legacy.

In our second reading we find Mary present at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples. Mary was present when her Son died, but she was also present when the Holy Spirit came and the command of Jesus that the gospel be proclaimed to the ends of the earth began to be fulfilled. Immediately there was an outburst of evangelical activity and the Church was fortified and quickly began to grow. We pray for a new Pentecost in China and we ask Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to pray that our Catholic faith will flourish in China and among the Chinese all over the world. Amen.

Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
April 5, 2007

Your Eminence,
Dear brother Bishops,
My brother Priests,
Dear Deacons, Religious, Seminarians,
Parents of our Priests, Representatives of our Parishes,
Students from our schools, Members of Serra International,
Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

At this Chrism Mass the readings from Holy Scripture speak to us about the work of the Holy Spirit and about anointing. We have come together in order to bless and consecrate oils with which the people of God will be anointed through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the first reading Isaiah prophesies concerning the Messiah, saying: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me." In the responsorial psalm we hear that David, God’s servant, is anointed with holy oil. And then in the Gospel, Jesus speaks about Himself being anointed by the Holy Spirit for a mission. Jesus applies to Himself the words that were spoken through the prophet Isaiah. But we too, as followers of Jesus, can see that this text applies likewise to us, since all of us have received a special anointing with holy oil.

Actually, there are three holy oils that are being blessed or consecrated this morning: the Oil of the Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick and, above all, Holy Chrism. Holy Chrism is the special combination that is made from olive oil and perfume, to indicate the refreshing action of the Holy Spirit. Truly, each one of us can say with Jesus: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly." All of us have been anointed in Baptism and so many of us anointed in Confirmation. And every time that someone is anointed in the Church it is by the action of the Holy Spirit. Every time there is an anointing, a mission is given to the person anointed.

I am so pleased that some of our students can be here with their priests and Bishop to take part in the ceremony of the blessing and consecration of the oils. I hope that all of you, dear young people, will associate this day with your own Confirmation. For today we gather together to invoke the Holy Spirit, asking Him to sanctify the oils with which you are anointed and sent out into the world to share in Christ’s mission of spreading His Gospel of justice, peace and love.

In the words of our second reading, words from the Book of Revelation, Saint John says: "Grace to you and peace from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his Blood…to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen." This is indeed a moment of grace and peace for everyone in this Cathedral Basilica, everyone who makes up the great assembly of those loved by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit.

But it is especially a moment of grace and peace for you, my brothers in the Priesthood. On this Holy Thursday we experience deeply the presence in our midst of Jesus Christ our great High Priest. We are also very conscious of being united with our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI and all our brothers and sisters throughout the world who celebrate the gift of the Priesthood that Christ has given to His Church. This is the day in which we humbly praise the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives and ministry. It was in the power of the Holy Spirit that Christ called us to a special anointing and gave us a specific mission to proclaim God’s love and mercy. Everyday we are called to fulfill this mission in a sacramental way, especially through the Eucharist.

Today, the institution of the Eucharist is foremost in our minds and hearts, as is the institution of the Priesthood and, this morning in particular, the wonderful anointing that expressed our conformity to Christ the Priest as sacramental ministers of His Gospel of love, ministers of His pardon, His compassion, His forgiveness—in other words, ministers of His mercy. This sacred anointing was individual and personal for each one of us—just as was the call of Jesus Christ to each one of us, just as was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our ordination day. But the exercise of this ministry of ours is coordinated in the community of the Church. We exercise our priestly ministry within the presbyterate of this local Church—you and I together. It is the only way it works: you and I together, priests and Bishop proclaiming one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

You and I share a deep fraternal unity that is so much more than just a grouping of many different individuals. Our unity expresses Christ’s plan for us, Christ’s plan for His Church. This fraternal unity—this presbyterate—upholds us and sustains us. In remaining faithful to it, we are sanctified and are able to be instruments of sanctification for our people. How we have been called by Christ, anointed individually by the Holy Spirit and introduced by Him into the presbyterate is all a gift and mystery. We are an important part of the mystery of Christ’s Church. We have been highly gifted in being called to minister in the person of Christ. Not by any merit of our own, but through the outpouring of the Spirit of Love, our lives are a gift to the Church—to our people.

So today is truly the day to celebrate the Priesthood; it is the day of our renewed commitment to Christ the High Priest. Today the Church wants you, dear brother Priests, to realize just how important you are in God’s plan of salvation. Today Christ Himself thanks you for sharing with Him, faithfully and perseveringly, the burdens of His Gospel. Today Christ tells you again how much He loves you, how much your ministry means to Him and to His Church. It is the day when He invites you to ever deeper friendship with Himself, when He asks you to open your heart ever wider so that He can infuse into it more love and more joy, so that His joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. Today is a day for renewed trust in the Lord Jesus who has entrusted us with His own Body and Blood and with the sacred service of His people. It is a day to offer thanks and praise for the graces imparted through our Priesthood, and for the mercy and forgiveness we have personally received. Today, also, we remember those brothers of ours who share deeply the heavy weight of pain, suffering and affliction. We are spiritually close, in prayer and with fraternal affection, to all who bear the Cross of Christ and share its weight.

The same Holy Spirit who anointed Jesus and anointed us gives us grace and strength this morning to renew our promise of celibacy. Celibacy is the gift of ourselves whereby we freely choose once again to belong fully to God and, in Him, fully to our people. This is the day for us once again to tell the world that we love Christ, and it is the day when Christ wants the world to know that He loves His priests.

Our people likewise are here today to listen to us solemnly repeat our promise of fidelity, to support us by their prayers, and by their love and esteem of the Catholic Priesthood to challenge us to live in constant authenticity and ever greater generosity.

Today we celebrate moreover our vocation to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ and the solemn expression of our commitment, with the help of God and the help of all our people, to promote vocations to the Priesthood and to invite young men repeatedly to consider the possibility of their being called by God to this vocation. The whole Church and every member of the Church needs the Eucharist and therefore the Priesthood. This is God’s plan. And so I appeal to those young men who hear Christ’s call to open their hearts in generosity and trust, the way Mary did when she was called to be the Mother of Christ.

Dear brother Priests: not only are our people here today to spur us on, but Christ Jesus Himself is in our midst. It is He who accepts the renewal of the gift of ourselves and reiterates His love for each of us. And so confidently we lift up our hearts, saying: "To him who has loved us and has freed us from our sins by his Blood, who has made us into a Kingdom, priests for his God and Father – to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen."

Chrism Mass
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Chrism Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
March 20, 2008

Praised be Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, the Faithful Witness,
the Firstborn of the dead and Ruler of the Kings of the earth!

Your Eminence,
Dear brother Bishops and Priests in the presbyterate of Philadelphia,
Dear Deacons, Religious and Seminarians,
Dear Students and Young Men exploring a vocation to the sacred priesthood,
Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

We are closely united today in this Sacrifice of the Mass with our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, chief representative of our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. We ask God to give him special grace and strength on this Holy Thursday. Together with him and all the priests of the world we give thanks to God for gathering us together to proclaim Jesus Christ as the great High Priest anointed by the Holy Spirit.

At this Mass we celebrate the gift and mystery of the priesthood. We celebrate Jesus Christ as He Himself is anointed Priest of the New Covenant and as He shares the priesthood with those whom He has personally chosen. This is the day on which the faith of the Church shows the relationship of the priesthood to the Eucharist and the Eucharist to the priesthood. This is the day on which we express support and love for all the priests who carry forward their daily dedicated pastoral care of God’s people.

I would like to extend a greeting especially to you young people who have come here from so many parishes to be with your Bishop and your priests on this Holy Thursday: the day when Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist and the priesthood—the day when He gave priests the power to offer up the Eucharistic Sacrifice, to celebrate Mass.

Throughout the whole world this is the day when the Bishop comes together with his priests, as a united presbyterate, to celebrate the Eucharist. Today the Bishop also blesses the oils that benefit all the People of God and are used in administering four of the sacraments of the Church: Baptism, Confirmation, the Anointing of the Sick and Holy Orders. Your presence here this morning, dear young people, is very important.

In the life of the Church there are different moments when we emphasize different vocations and different aspects of God’s plan for His Church. For example, on the feast of the Holy Family, the Church proclaims the special importance of the family, the vocation of husbands and wives, mothers and fathers of families—and also the role of children and their importance. On the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the Church emphasizes the great value of religious consecration in the midst of the People of God. At that time she also underlines the deep meaning of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience as they are lived in joy by men and women religious throughout the world. On Deacon Day we celebrate the providential role of the diaconate in the Church and give thanks for the service that our deacons render.

Today, Holy Thursday, the Church concentrates on the Eucharist and Christ’s gift of the priesthood, which benefit all people—young and old, married and single, clergy and religious. She emphasizes the importance of the vocation to the priesthood. The Church needs the priesthood. The People of God need the priesthood. Jesus Himself needs the priesthood to fulfill His plan of salvation. Today at this Mass I ask those young men who may experience a vocation to the priesthood to open their hearts to the call of our Lord and not to be afraid to say yes.

All of you, dear People of God, by your participation at this Mass show your faith in the Church, in the priesthood and in the Eucharist. You are all very much aware that despite the weaknesses and sins of individuals, the Church, which is the Body of Christ, is strong in faith and love. Our hope is in the living God. We believe in the power of the Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ to forgive sins, to renew hearts and to bring us all to ever deeper conversion in our lives.

On this Holy Thursday I would like to speak especially to my priests. These times continue to be challenging for all of us and for the People of God. We pray in a special way for all our brother priests, including those who for various reasons need God’s special grace and strength in a particular way. We remember those in pain, sickness and suffering. We know that Jesus our High Priest takes on the sins of all of us and offers all of us forgiveness and mercy. As ministers of reconciliation we know how much the world and ourselves constantly need repentance, pardon, penance and new life.

As a community we renew today our commitment to holiness of life, to sacred celibacy and to faithful service. It is my conviction, dear brother Priests, that you are already deeply involved in this search for holiness and in this reawakening of the ideals of total self-giving to Christ. And what strength and joy you find in this!

Dear brother priests: this is the day for all of us to re-live the joy of our ordination. This is the day for the Church to pray earnestly for vocations to the priesthood. These vocations are deeply rooted in the enduring power of Christ to attract young men to a life of generosity and sacrifice in the priesthood. In God’s providence priestly vocations are also fostered by the witness of your own priestly fidelity and joy. This is the day for all priests to experience and bear witness, through the Holy Spirit, to a special relationship with Christ and therefore with the Father. We are called to experience the joy of paternity in the Church; to express gratitude for the sentiments of our people, for the love they have for priests. It is the moment to realize the esteem of the faithful for the celibacy that we have promised and that we freely, and with determination, renew today. It is the occasion to express fraternity among ourselves in the presbyterate.

It is because of the priesthood that the Church possesses the Mass, Holy Communion, Viaticum, reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, Eucharistic Adoration and all the Sacraments. Through the priesthood every vocation is sustained in the Church. Christian marriage and the Christian family are a special part of the daily pastoral care that priests give to the faithful. In God’s plan the priesthood exists to support all God’s people.

And how grateful we are to the People of God here and in our parishes, and throughout the entire Archdiocese of Philadelphia, for their trust and love and support. We renew our commitment to them because we renew our commitment to Jesus Christ and to the mission of His Church. We experience confidence not because we have no weaknesses or sins, but because Jesus Christ died for us and in the Eucharist His Body and Blood are offered up to the Father “so that sins may be forgiven.”

Dear brother priests: the People of God count on your love, your pastoral service, and your fidelity to the end. Jesus Himself has chosen you to serve the rest. You have been anointed like Jesus, to be able to proclaim the Gospel to the poor and to the whole world. Brother priests: never forget how important you are in God’s plan of salvation! Rejoice! Be strong, be faithful! You are not alone! Mary, the Mother of Jesus is with you at all times. The prayer of Christ’s Church supports you. And Jesus Himself calls you to support, by your love, one another and all your brothers and sisters in the Church.

Finally, all praise and thanksgiving to you, Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, for the gifts of the priesthood and the Eucharist—to you who have loved us and freed us from our sins by your Blood, who have made us into a Kingdom, priests for your God and Father, to you be glory and power forever and ever (cf. Rev 1:5-6). Amen.

Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
April 9, 2009

Dear brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Deacons, Seminarians and Religious,
Dear Young People from our schools,
Dear Young Men exploring a vocation to the priesthood,
Dear Stewards of Saint John Neumann,
Dear Parents of Priests,
Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Once again this beautiful feast of Holy Thursday brings all of us together as the People of God, as disciples of Jesus to proclaim His love and to fulfill our Christian vocation. Above all, we gather to celebrate the great gifts of the Eucharist and the Priesthood, instituted by Jesus on the first Holy Thursday. Through these gifts all the faithful are sustained in their Christian lives, even in the midst of the anxieties and uncertainties of today’s world.

Our vocation to follow Jesus began at our Baptism, when we were anointed with Chrism and baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. At our Confirmation we were once again anointed with Chrism and sealed with the Holy Spirit. And this morning an important part of our ceremony is the consecration of this holy Chrism, together with the blessing of the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of Catechumens.

All of us who have been baptized and confirmed are challenged on this day to renew the consecration of our Baptism and Confirmation. We have been anointed with Chrism to show that we all share—every man, woman and child in the Church—in Christ’s dignity as King and Priest and Prophet. In the Old Testament Kings and Priests and Prophets were anointed with oil. Jesus is our King and Priest and Prophet, and He was anointed directly with the Holy Spirit. When we Christians are anointed with Chrism, we receive the same Holy Spirit whom Christ possessed in fullness.

In the life of the Church there are different moments when we emphasize different vocations and different aspects of God’s wonderful plan for His Church. Today, Holy Thursday, the Church concentrates on the institution of the Eucharist and Christ’s gift of the priesthood. She emphasizes the importance of the vocation to the priesthood. The Church needs the priesthood. The People of God need the priesthood. Jesus Himself needs the priesthood to fulfill His plan of salvation. Without the priesthood there is no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist there is no Church. Today at this Mass I ask those young men who may experience a vocation to the priesthood to open their hearts to the call of our Lord and not to be afraid to say yes.

Holy Thursday is a day of solemn thanksgiving for the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood, His Paschal Meal and His sacrificial Supper, which we will emphasize even more later on this evening at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Today is also the time when we praise the Lord for the Eucharistic vocation of our priests.

On this special day I would like to address a particular message of solidarity, support and deep fraternal love to the many priests gathered here this morning—the priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, priests of religious congregations, and extern priests serving in the Archdiocese. A particular greeting goes to the priests who are sick, suffering or in special need.

Our lives as priests are so closely linked through the Eucharist to Christ’s work of salvation. We are so much a part of God’s plan; we are so much a part of our people’s lives; we are so much a part of Christ’s love. The laity and Religious present here in this Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul and all the people of our parishes need our Eucharistic service and deserve our priestly fidelity.

In this context, my dear brother priests, let us ask ourselves this morning what Jesus means for us and what we mean for Jesus.

What does Jesus mean for us? In the word of God, in the Book of Revelation, we heard Him called: "the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead," and the one who "loves us and has freed us from our sins by his own blood."

Jesus is indeed faithful to His Father and to the mission that His Father gives Him. And in that fidelity He brings glad tidings to the lowly, glad tidings to the poor. Jesus is then the faithful witness who challenges us to proclaim in fidelity and joy His saving Gospel. What does Jesus mean for us? He means fidelity. Our fidelity to the priesthood and to the Church is possible because of His fidelity. Our fidelity is absolutely required because of His fidelity.

Jesus is our great High Priest, the friend who personally called us to share in His priesthood, and the one who has loved us, and whom we have endeavored to love and follow from our youth. What does Jesus mean for us? He is our Shepherd, the type and model of all our pastoral ministry. At the same time He is the example for our generosity, the inspiration for our joy, the strength for our Priesthood and for the sacrificial offering of our lives.

But what do we mean to Jesus? As His brother priests we are important to Him. We are important to His plan of salvation, important for His Church. Let us accept once again those words of the Book of Revelation as having special meaning for ourselves in the midst of God’s people. We heard proclaimed that Jesus "loves us and has freed us from our sins by his own blood," that He has made us "a royal nation of priests in the service of his God and Father."

My brother priests, we have been loved and redeemed by Christ and entrusted with the Eucharist and, therefore, with the mystery of redemption for our brothers and sisters. What love! What trust! What confidence Christ places in us! Christ shares with us the mission given to Him by His Father. His trust in us is at the center of all collaborative ministry. Christ needs us. He needs our hearts, our hands, our minds—our love. Christ needs our renewed and absolute fidelity.

And all this implies that Christ needs our perseverance amidst the joys and sorrows, the anxieties and trials, the hopes and disappointments of our daily lives as priests serving God’s people. Jesus, the faithful witness, insists on our personal fidelity. He calls us in spite of our imperfections, in spite of the limitations of our humanity, in spite of our weaknesses and in spite of our sins. He is always ready—in His love—to forgive us, to encourage and challenge us. On our part this requires a great response of love, with earnest effort and deep repentance for our sins.

In the Eucharistic celebration itself we humbly acknowledge our sins, saying: "I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do." In addition we ask for the prayers of our Blessed Mother and all the angels and saints, and we confidently invoke God’s mercy and forgiveness. In the Sacrament of Penance, like all our fellow Catholics, we personally confess our sins and express a firm purpose of amendment. We strive moreover to make atonement to God for all our sins and the sins of the whole world. As ministers of reconciliation we know how much the world—ourselves included—needs the repentance, pardon, penance and new life that only God’s grace can bring about. As a presbyterate we renew our commitment to sacred celibacy, faithful service and holiness of life.

Are we, then, important for Jesus and His Church? Most assuredly! And is our effort valuable? And is our continued conversion necessary? And is our renewed fidelity to Christ a priority in our priestly lives and in our service to our people? We know that the answer is yes. And this Holy Thursday is the day for us to proclaim this clearly: to tell the world that we love Christ and His priesthood and we intend to live our vocation faithfully until death. It is also the day when Christ wants the world to know that He loves you His priests, that He stands by you and supports you, and, yes, asks from you a great deal of renewed dedication and generosity.

In dealing with the mystery of the Church, the Second Vatican Council says that the Bishop, by reason of his office, is the Vicar of Christ for his people, just as the Pope is the Vicar of Christ for the universal Church. But the Bishop cannot be separated from his priests. In the Bishop, joined with his priests, Vatican II tells us, our Lord Jesus Christ is present in the midst of those who believe (cf. Lumen Gentium, 21). This is not because we are worthy, but because Christ has willed it so.
This is of course a formidable responsibility for all of us, one that unites Bishop and priests in ever greater unity. It also gives the Bishop a particular responsibility constantly to proclaim Christ’s love—love for His people and love for you His priests.

And today, my brother priests, my final desire is to do just that—to proclaim Christ’s love for you—and in the name of Jesus, who as Son of Mary is our brother and High Priest, to entrust you to her, our Blessed Mother, and to thank you for what you are and for everything you do to serve the world with integrity, generosity and joy. Amen.

Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
April 1, 2009

Dear brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Deacons, Religious, Seminarians,
Parents of our Priests, Representatives of our Parishes,
Students from our schools, Members of Serra International,
Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

For all of us it is deeply meaningful to gather at this Chrism Mass in this Year of the Priest! Our readings from the Sacred Scriptures speak to us about the work of the Holy Spirit and about anointing. We have come together in order to bless and consecrate oils with which the people of God will be anointed through the power of the Holy Spirit by priests and bishops.

In our first reading we hear the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the Messiah, saying: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me." In the responsorial psalm we hear that David, God’s servant, is anointed with holy oil. And then in the Gospel, Jesus speaks about Himself being anointed by the Holy Spirit for a mission. Jesus applies to Himself the words that were spoken through the prophet Isaiah. But we too, as followers of Jesus, can see that this text applies likewise to us, since all of us have received a special anointing with holy oil.

At this time three holy oils are being blessed or consecrated: the Oil of the Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick and, above all, Holy Chrism. Holy Chrism is the special combination that is made from olive oil and perfume, to indicate the refreshing action of the Holy Spirit. Truly, each one of us can say with Jesus: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly." All of us have been anointed in Baptism and so many of us anointed in Confirmation. And every time that someone is anointed in the Church it is by the action of the Holy Spirit. Every time there is an anointing, a mission is given to the person anointed.

It is a joy to have a number of our students here this morning with their priests to take part in the ceremony of the blessing and consecration of the oils. I hope that all of you, dear young people, will associate this day with your own Confirmation. For today we gather together to invoke the Holy Spirit, asking Him to sanctify the oils with which you are anointed and sent out into the world to share in Christ’s mission of spreading His Gospel of justice, peace and love.

In our second reading from the Book of Revelation, Saint John says: "Grace to you and peace from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his Blood…to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen." This is indeed a moment of grace and peace for everyone in this Cathedral Basilica, everyone who makes up the great assembly of those loved by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit.

It is a moment of grace and peace especially for you, my brothers in the Priesthood. On this Holy Thursday we experience deeply the presence in our midst of Jesus Christ our great High Priest. We are also very conscious of being united with our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, who has done so much to lead the whole Church in purification, renewal and reform, and to whom we express our total prayerful support. We are also spiritually united with all our brothers and sisters throughout the world who celebrate the gift of the Priesthood that Christ has given to His Church. This is the day on which we humbly praise the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives and ministry. It was in the power of the Holy Spirit that Christ called us to a special anointing and gave us a specific mission to proclaim God’s love and mercy. Everyday we are called to fulfill this mission in a sacramental way, especially through the Eucharist.

On this day, the institution of the Eucharist is foremost in our minds and hearts, as is the institution of the Priesthood and, this morning in particular, the wonderful anointing that expressed our conformity to Christ the Priest as sacramental ministers of His Gospel of love, ministers of His pardon, His compassion, His forgiveness—in other words, ministers of His mercy. This sacred anointing was individual and personal for each one of us—just as was the call of Jesus Christ to each one of us, just as was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our ordination day. But the exercise of this ministry of ours is coordinated in the community of the Church. We exercise our priestly ministry within the presbyterate of this local Church—you and I together. It is the only way it works: you and I together, priests and Bishop proclaiming one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

You and I, dear brother Priests, share a deep fraternal unity that is so much more than just a grouping of many different individuals. Our unity expresses Christ’s plan for us, Christ’s plan for His Church. This fraternal unity—this presbyterate—upholds us and sustains us. In remaining faithful to it, we are sanctified and are able to be instruments of sanctification for our people. How we have been called by Christ, anointed individually by the Holy Spirit and introduced by Him into the presbyterate is all a gift and mystery. We are an important part of the mystery of Christ’s Church. We have been highly gifted in being called to minister in the person of Christ. Not by any merit of our own, but through the outpouring of the Spirit of Love, our lives are a gift to the Church—to our people. And what a great responsibility this is for all of us!

This is truly the day to celebrate the Priesthood; it is the day of our renewed commitment to Christ the High Priest. Today the Church wants you, dear brother Priests, to realize just how important you are in God’s plan of salvation. Today Christ Himself thanks you for sharing with Him, faithfully and perseveringly, the burdens of His Gospel. Today Christ tells you again how much He loves you, how much your ministry means to Him and to His Church, and how much He counts on your fidelity. It is the day when He invites you to ever deeper friendship with Himself, when He asks you to open your heart ever wider so that He can infuse into it more love and more joy, so that His joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. Today is a day for renewed trust in the Lord Jesus who has entrusted us with His own Body and Blood and with the sacred service of His people. It is a day to offer thanks and praise for the graces imparted through our Priesthood, and for the mercy and forgiveness we have personally received.

Today, also, we remember all those who share deeply the heavy weight of pain, suffering and affliction. We are spiritually close, in prayer and with fraternal affection, to all who bear the Cross of Christ and share its weight. Recent reports in Europe of sexual abuse by clergy have reminded all of us of those terrible sins that have caused such immense suffering in victims and have contributed to the Passion of Christ. We recall how Saint Paul reminds us that if one part of Christ’s Body, the Church, suffers, all of us suffer (cf. 1 Cor 12:26). Together then in the presbyterate as bishops and priests, we recommit ourselves to the Bishops’ Charter in diligence and vigilance, so as to ensure the future protection of young people everywhere.

The same Holy Spirit who anointed Jesus and anointed us gives us grace and strength this morning to renew our personal promise of celibacy. Celibacy is the gift of ourselves whereby we freely choose once again to belong fully to God and, in Him, fully to our people. This is the day for us once again to tell the world that we love Jesus Christ, and intend to remain faithful forever to His word. It is the day when Jesus Christ wants the world to know that He loves His priests and strengthens them with His grace.

Our people likewise are here today to listen to us solemnly repeat our promise of fidelity, to support us by their prayers, and by their love and esteem of the Catholic Priesthood to challenge us to live in constant authenticity, in ever greater generosity and holiness of life.

Today we celebrate moreover our vocation to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ and the solemn expression of our commitment, with the help of God and the help of all our people, to promote vocations to the Priesthood and to invite young men repeatedly to consider the possibility of their being called by God to this vocation. The whole Church and every member of the Church needs the Eucharist and therefore the Priesthood. This is God’s plan. And so I appeal to those young men who hear Christ’s call to open their hearts in generosity and trust, the way Mary did when she was called to be the Mother of Christ.

Dear brother Priests: not only are our people here today to spur us on, but Christ Jesus Himself is in our midst. It is He who accepts the renewal of the gift of ourselves and reiterates His love for each of us. And so confidently we lift up our hearts, saying: "To him who has loved us and has freed us from our sins by his Blood, who has made us into a Kingdom, priests for his God and Father – to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen."

Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass 2011
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Chrism Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Holy Thursday, April 21, 2009

Praised be Jesus Christ our great High Priest,
“the faithful witness...who loves us
and has freed us from our sins by his Blood....”

My first greeting is to you, dear brother Priests, as we are gathered in the presence of God’s faithful people to celebrate once again as a presbyterate the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday.

I want immediately to welcome Cardinal John Foley, who comes back to us after his many years in Rome. During that time he was never a stranger to the presbyterate of Philadelphia, as his constant attention and service to his brother priests so clearly testify. John, we are so pleased to have you in our midst again.

For all of us this Chrism Mass is all about Jesus Christ, our great High Priest and about our sharing in His sacred priesthood—in joy, in suffering, and always in hope.

This year our celebration takes place under difficult circumstances. With reference to the sexual abuse of minors we are all experiencing pain for victims of such abuse, as well as for those brother priests who are so deeply affected by the situation. In the midst of this, all of us are challenged as we remember the words of Jesus who says to us so clearly: “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (Jn 16:33). We are called to this courage, this confidence, not because we ourselves have no weaknesses or sins, but because Jesus Christ died for us and, in the Eucharist, His Body and Blood are offered up to the Father “so that sins may be forgiven.”

The word of God in our second reading proclaims to us Jesus Christ as “the faithful witness...who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his Blood.” In acknowledging Jesus as the faithful witness we likewise acknowledge that, as His priests, we too have been called to this same role in sacrifice and suffering. Like Him we have been consecrated by the Holy Spirit to bring glad tidings to the lowly and to heal the brokenhearted. Realizing the difficulties of this moment, we see just how much Jesus needs us for His work, how much the Church counts on us to fulfill our ministry, in perseverance and in holiness of life.

This is the day, dear brothers, on which, in unity with our Holy Father and with one another in the presbyterate of Philadelphia, we are called to consecrate ourselves anew to our Eucharistic mission and ecclesial identity. Everyone knows that without the priesthood there is no Eucharist, and without the Eucharist there is no Church. This is the day for us to tell the Lord Jesus that we love Him and the great mission that He has entrusted to us, even when we must live it in sacrifice and pain. This is also the day when Jesus Christ wants the world to know that He loves His priests and strengthens them with His grace.

And because Jesus invites us to ever greater friendship with Himself, the Church leads us today in the renewal of our sacred commitment to celibacy, which is the expression of our priestly love. What is particularly significant in this regard is that we renew our pledge in the solemn presence of our people, whose relationship we cherish and for whose spiritual benefit we have freely laid down our lives.

We are so deeply grateful to the People of God for the high standards that they require of us, for the level of generosity that they seek from us, for the confidence that they want always to place in us, and for the love that they so constantly lavish on us and that so beautifully exists in each parish family.

To you, dear People of God, I express profound thanks for the way you live your holy Catholic faith, recognizing in your priests and in their humanity God’s plan for His Church. It is through the priest that our Lord Jesus Christ gives us the Eucharist, which builds and sustains the Church, and offers us mercy and the forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of Confession.

In the great tradition of the Church, you have always honored your priests, encouraged and challenged them, and gratefully received their sacramental ministry, which derives its meaning and power from Christ Himself. Today your priests, in the unity of the presbyterate, commit themselves anew, in fidelity and love, to their sacred mission at your service—at the service of our families, of our young people, our sick and suffering, our poor, our immigrants, our elderly, our dying, all those in need of Christ and His mercy. All the while, your priests count on the power of your prayers and the gift of your love. We all remember those challenging words of Saint Paul: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2).

Today the Church asks all of you, dear friends, to pray for vocations to the priesthood, that many young men may generously accept the call of Christ to serve God’s people as ministers of His mercy and love. And you are asked to pray that our priests will always, even in times of difficulty, give a witness of contagious joy in the fulfillment of the priesthood, which has so accurately been described as the love of the heart of Jesus. And may those young men called by God to the priesthood open wide their hearts in generosity and love.

Since the priesthood is a treasure that belongs to the entire community, and without the priesthood there is no Eucharist and no Church, it is so important that the whole Church assume the responsibility of prayer for vocations. I remind all our suffering brothers and sisters, all the sick and infirm of our Archdiocese what a tremendous power of intercession they can exercise for obtaining needed vocations. I ask our contemplative Religious once again to renew their special commitment to this sacred cause.

Every time the Church celebrates the Sacrifice of the Mass, the priest prays these words: “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety....” Today, with deep earnestness and support, we offer up this prayer for all our priests, as we entrust them to Mary the Mother of Jesus, and as they themselves look back to their ordination day and recall the power of the Holy Spirit, with which they were invested at that time, and which will never abandon them.

Dear brother priests: On this day that is so important for the Church, for our people and for ourselves, let us remember the exhortation of Paul to Timothy. He says: “For this reason I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God .... For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord .... He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus .... On this account I am suffering these things; but I am not ashamed, for I know him in whom I have believed and am confident that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day” (1 Tim 1:6,7,9,12). Amen.

Mass on Christmas Day

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass on Christmas Day
At the Parish of Saint Rose of Lima, Philadelphia
Christmas 2005

Dear Monsignor Pashley,
Dear Parishioners of Saint Rose of Lima Parish,

It was just a week ago that some of us were together in the Cathedral Basilica for the "Bless the Baby Jesus" prayer service. I am very happy to be with you again now on Christmas Day as we reflect on God’s word and participate together in Christ’s Eucharistic Sacrifice.

In the midst of all the sufferings of the world, all the difficulties of the Church, and all of our own problems and those of our families, the word of God in our Christmas liturgy gives us a wonderful invitation. The invitation comes from Psalm 98 and is this: "Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wondrous deeds." The Psalm then goes on to tell us what a wondrous deed we are celebrating today: "The Lord has made his salvation known: in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice. He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God."

All of us are invited to sing and to praise God: "Sing joyfully to the Lord all you lands; break into song; sing praise." Yes, dear friends, we are celebrating Christmas Day. This means that we are celebrating our salvation, because we are celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

At the Midnight Mass last night the Church proclaimed the wonderful event of Jesus’ birth. The angel told the shepherds in Bethlehem: "Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you who is Christ and Lord." Then the angel went on to tell the shepherds: "And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."

This morning in this Parish of Saint Rose of Lima and in every church throughout the world we find this Child, lying in a manger, surrounded by the love of His Mother, Mary, and His foster father, Joseph.

Our hearts are filled with praise because in Christ Jesus, this little Child, God has indeed made His salvation known.

But who is this Child, who is this infant Jesus?

He is the one sent by God to bring salvation to the world. This is the reason He was born, the reason He is called Jesus because Jesus means "Savior." He has come to be our Savior—your Savior and mine, the Savior of the whole world.

He is the Son of the Virgin Mary. His foster or legal father is Joseph, who was a carpenter, but also a man who belonged to the royal line of King David. It is Joseph who ensures that the Child will be recognized legally as belonging to the family of David. Even though Joseph is only the foster father of Jesus, he is the husband of Mary and the head of the Holy Family. Joseph is the Guardian of his foster son, Jesus, who is the Savior, the Redeemer of the world, the light who has come into the world.

Who then is this Child? Who is His Father? This morning the Church answers this question clearly. The letter to the Hebrews tells us that God in past times spoke to the world through His prophets, but now He speaks to us through His Son. And the Letter to the Hebrews goes on to say that the Son is the reflection of the Father’s glory, the very imprint of the Father’s being. As the Son of the eternal Father, Jesus Christ, the Child born in Bethlehem, is true God. He is the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity. He has an eternal relationship to His Father. He is His Son, the one whom Saint John will speak of as both "Son" and "Word."

The Gospel of Saint John tells us clearly that "the Word was God." And then comes that wonderful revelation, that wonderful proclamation: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth."

Once again, who is this Child? He is the Son of God, the Word made flesh. He is true God! At the same time He is the Son of the Virgin Mary. He is true man! He is one of us. He shares our humanity, our human condition, our human weaknesses, all of them—except sin.

This is why the Church prays: Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man! And one of the great Fathers of the Church, Pope Saint Leo the Great, will explain that Jesus is consubstantial with His Father, and consubstantial with His Mother. In other words, Jesus is of the same substance, the same nature as His Father. He is divine. He is God. He is of the same substance, the same nature as His Mother. He is human. He is man.

Who is this Child? The one who, sharing divinity and humanity, links us to God. The one who is our Mediator. He is the one who takes on our humanity and gives us His divinity. The one who teaches us to be fully human and shows us how to live our human life. He is the one who lays down His human life to save us.

Who is this Child? He is our Savior. He is the one who challenges us to live according to His law, His beatitudes—in a word, His way of life.

Who is this Child? He is the one who reveals to us the love of God His Father. He is the one who in the tenderness of Bethlehem reveals to us the loving kindness and mercy of the God we cannot see.

Who is this Child? He is the God of love, the one who invites us to return His love. He is the one who commands us to love one another as He has loved us.

He is the one who in His weak humanity becomes for us the way to heaven. He is, in His own words: "the Way, the Truth and the Life." He is the Light of the world!

He is the one who calls us and invites us and commands us to love our brothers and sisters as much as He does, the one who took on our humanity as His own and the one who tells us to love and serve all those who share humanity with Him.

Jesus Christ is the Head of redeemed humanity. He is the one who has brought us God’s salvation.

Dear friends: All the ends of the earth have seen in Jesus Christ—the newborn Savior, the Child of Bethlehem, the Infant lying in a manger—the saving power of God.

And as Jesus saves us from our sins, He asks us to respond to His love, to observe His commandments, to follow His way of life, and to open our hearts in love and service to one another.

All this is part of our Christmas hymn of praise as we say: "Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man. Blessed be the Son of the eternal Father. Blessed be the Word made flesh. Blessed be the Son of the Virgin Mary. Blessed be our newborn Savior lying in a manger. Blessed be Jesus Christ forever!" Amen.

Christmas Day Mass

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Christmas Day Mass
Visitation BVM Parish, Trooper
December 25, 2006

Dear Monsignor Thomas Murray,

It is a great joy for me to be here on this Christmas day in Visitation B.V.M. Parish. I greet you, Father Patrick McManus, and your brother, Monsignor Ignatius Murray, together with all the people of God who make up this vibrant parish family. How pleased I am to celebrate with you the Birth of Jesus. On this day, dear Friends, the Church proclaims: "A holy day has dawned upon us. Come, you nations, and adore the Lord. Today a great light has come upon the earth."

The great light that has come upon the earth is Jesus Christ Himself. He comes to dispel the darkness of our world.

The holy day that has dawned upon us is the day of His birth, the birth of Jesus, the birth of the Savior. This holy day is today. It is our Christmas day 2006.

It is the day on which the Church proclaims the birth of God’s own Son, the Son of the Eternal Father, the Eternal Word of God, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, who has become the Son of Mary.

It is the day on which the Church invites us to find the little Child—our God—in the Crib of Bethlehem, in the arms of His Virgin Mother Mary, in the presence of her husband Joseph, the Child’s foster-father, and surrounded by the shepherds who came to see the newborn Child.

This holy day is the day on which the Church does more than just invite us to find the Child in the arms of His Mother. The Church invites us also to adore the Child clothed in the humanity that His Mother gives Him. For this reason we repeat: "Come you nations, and adore the Lord." Come, brothers and sisters, and adore the Lord! Come, parishioners of Visitation Parish. Come, all you faithful members of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Come, America, and adore the Lord! In Him you will find new hope and joy.

But in order to adore the Lord, the newborn Child of Bethlehem, with all the power of our being, we must penetrate ever more the mystery of the Child, the reality of His humanity and His divinity, the meaning of His Birth, and its many consequences.

Today let us look at the Child, and with Mary and Joseph try to understand Him.

Last night at midnight we read the beautiful Gospel of Saint Luke. The time for Mary to give birth arrived while she was at Bethlehem. She gave birth to a Son. We heard the wonderful announcement of the Angel to the shepherds: "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. This day in the city of David there is born to you a Savior who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign to you: you will find an Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."

Today in our Christmas liturgy we find this Infant. We find Him in the beauty and the limitations of His humanity. We find Him as a baby, the Son of Mary. We know that Joseph is His foster-father, His legal guardian. Through Joseph, Jesus is recognized to be of the royal lineage of King David.

In His birth Jesus shares our humanity. And with this humanity, He loves us in a thoroughly human way.

Through this humanity, which he received from Mary His Mother, Jesus will suffer and die for our redemption. Through His humanity He will become our Savior. The very name Jesus means Savior.

This morning in the Christmas liturgy that we are now celebrating, the Church proclaims to us that the Son of Mary, the foster child of Joseph, is indeed the Son of God. God is His Father by an eternal relationship. Jesus is God’s eternal Word. He is the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity.

In His one person Jesus is true God and true man. He is divine like His Father. But He is human like His Mother and like us.

And here we have the grandeur of the mystery of Christmas. Here we have the explanation of the Baby born in Bethlehem. Here we see the full identity of Jesus Christ—the one who will live and die as one of us, the one who, because He is God, will save us from our sins and from death, and lead us to eternal life. He is the Son of God but He is also the Son of Mary. He is born to die, so that we may live and share in His divinity.

Years after His birth, we will find the same person, the same Jesus on Calvary, hanging on a Cross out of love for us. And among His last words one of them will be addressed to His Father and another one to His Mother. In this way Jesus will once more confirm His identity as Son of the Eternal Father and Son of the Virgin Mary.

The final secret of the birth of Jesus is found in the words of the Gospel this morning: "To those who accepted Him, He gave the power to become children of God."

To accept Jesus is to acknowledge and to share His relationship with His Father and with His Mother Mary.

But to accept Jesus also means to accept all those who share humanity with Him.

To accept Jesus is to accept His Church and all His brothers and sisters: to accept them in their needs—to accept to love one another, to serve one another in the name of Jesus, who took on our flesh at Bethlehem. The Birth of Jesus becomes for all of us then a global call to solidarity with our brothers and sisters, with those who suffer, with those who mourn, with those in pain.

At Bethlehem, as a great light, Jesus shows us how to live a truly human life, how to share what we have with others—in order to share in the eternal life of God.

In the fifth century, Pope Saint Leo the Great summarized so much of the meaning of Christmas in these words: "Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness." Pope Saint Leo goes on to say: "No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing.... Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness...." He then concludes, saying: "Christian, be mindful of your dignity."

Today, dear Friends, the Church exhorts us to be mindful of the dignity that is ours, the dignity that we share with Christ and with one another. Why? Because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born of the Virgin Mary. He has taken on our humanity and has lifted up all of us to God. Amen.

Christmas Eve Mass

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Christmas Vigil Mass - 7:30 pm
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Christmas 2010

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

As Archbishop of Philadelphia I extend a warm welcome to all of you as we begin together our Christmas celebration 2010. It is a special joy for me to announce to you once again the Christmas message of God’s love. In our celebration this evening, we bend our knee in adoration before the Child in the crib of Bethlehem. It is so important for us to understand the identity of this Child and to accept the message that His Birth reveals to the world.

Once again we gather to listen to the angel’s proclamation to the shepherds in Bethlehem when Jesus Christ was born: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a Savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.... You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

It is uplifting and encouraging for us to hear these words at a time when our world lives with anxiety, consternation and great uncertainity! But the angel says: “Do not be afraid.... a Savior has been born to you who is Christ and Lord.”

After centuries of waiting and preparation on the part of the Chosen People, God sent the Savior into the world to bring us peace, to take away our sins and to teach us how to live.

But who is this Savior, this Christ and Lord, this Jesus born as a little child in Bethlehem?

He is the Son of the Virgin Mary. She it is who conceived the Child in her womb, gave Him birth and nourished Him at her breasts. We see her represented in the crib scene. The Child is her Son.

The Child is also the foster Son of Joseph the carpenter, the husband of Mary. It is Joseph who will protect the Child and help bring Him up, since the Child had no human father. Jesus was conceived in an extraordinary way by the power of the Holy Spirit. God is His Father and He is the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity. Before His birth He already existed as the eternal Word of God, the eternal Son of the eternal Father.

These then are the two most important truths about Christ’s person, the two identifying characteristics of the Child: He is true God, because He is the Son of God. He is true Man, because He is the Son of Mary.

But the Child is one Person. He is a Divine Person and His name is Jesus, which means Savior. He has, however, two natures: the nature of God—a divine nature; and the nature of man—a human nature.

In every way He is like His Father. We call Him Splendor of the Father. But He is also like us in every way, except sin.

Who then is the Child of Bethlehem? He is the Son of God and He is the Son of the Virgin Mary. He is, therefore, the One who links divinity with humanity. He is the Mediator between God and man. Because He is God, He has the power to save us from our sins. Because He is human like us, He has a human body, a human soul and a human heart with which to love us and to die for us, in order to save us from our sins and to bring us peace.

How beautiful are the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A child is born to us; a son is given to us; upon his shoulders dominion rests.” Among His titles is “Prince of Peace.” Isaiah also tells us that the Child who is born as Savior is the Light of the World. Let us listen to Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” How wonderful is this light today in our world that has so much darkness!

In answer to our question: Who is this Child? this Christ? this Jesus born in Bethlehem? the Church repeats: He is the Son of God. He is the Son of Mary. He is the Light of the World. But He is even more: This Child who is born to us, this Son who is given to us is the great defender of humanity.

Jesus Christ, who is God and man and who was born in Bethlehem, is the One who reveals to us the dignity of every person who shares humanity with Him and in Him is destined to share eternal life.

Jesus Christ is the One who tells us that the humanity which He has assumed, which he has embraced in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is a humanity worthy of honor, respect and love.

And everyone who possesses that humanity possesses dignity, regardless of race or ethnic background, regardless of sex, religion, culture or degree of education. The importance of a human being depends much more on what he or she is than on what he or she has or does. What is so supremely important is the fact that every man, woman and child shares humanity with the Son of Mary, with the Son of God.

Here we find the impact of Christmas on the world. Christmas means that every human life is sacred, because God has embraced human life, Christ has assumed it. Whatever wounds, weakens or destroys human life, and therefore vilifies human dignity, challenges the primacy of God, a God who “was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.” As we recite the Creed at this Mass, the Church invites us to genuflect when we say those words, in order to show that we accept the great reality of the Incarnation of the Son of God, with all its consequences.

There is no way that we can truly love and honor the humanity of Jesus Christ the Savior and at the same time reject the humanity of those whom He has loved and saved.

Dearly beloved: this holy night of Christmas challenges us to renew our faith in the Child of Bethlehem, Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Son of Mary, the Light of the World and the defender of human dignity. We are called to adore Him. But this holy night of Christmas also challenges us to follow His teaching to love and serve one another, to honor the dignity of every man, woman and child who shares humanity with the Son of God.

In this Christmas Eucharist we receive the strength and grace to honor the Child, and with Him, all those whom He loves, all those who share humanity with Him, and in Him are destined for eternal life.

Dear Friends: the angel’s message is for all of us and for the whole world: “Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For today...a Savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”

Truly we find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger. Above all, we find Him hidden in the Eucharist and there we must adore Him. But we also find Him in every human person that mirrors His glory, and there too we must love Him.

All of this; dear Friends, is the good news of Christmas—the tidings of great joy to be shared by all the people, to be shared by all of us. Amen.

Midnight Mass

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Midnight Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Christmas 2007

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

On this holy Christmas night we bend our knee in adoration before the Child in the crib of Bethlehem. As we do so, we proclaim: Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man! It is so important for us to understand the identity of this Child and to accept the message that His Birth brings to the world.

Tonight we gather to listen once again to the angel’s proclamation to the shepherds in Bethlehem when Jesus Christ was born: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.… You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

How uplifting and encouraging it is for us to hear these words at a time when our world lives with anxiety and consternation!

After centuries of waiting and preparation on the part of the Chosen People, God sent the Savior into the world to bring us peace, to take away our sins, to teach us how to live in justice, harmony and love: in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our parishes, in our whole society.

But who is this Savior, this Christ and Lord? Who is this Jesus born as a little child in Bethlehem?

He is true God and true man. He is first of all the Son of the eternal Father, divine like His Father in heaven. But He is also the Son of the Virgin Mary, human like His Mother and like us. Mary is the one who conceived the Child by the power of the Holy Spirit and carried Him in her womb. She gave Him birth and nourished Him at her breasts. We see her represented in the crib scene, with the Infant Jesus.

The Child is also the foster Son of Joseph the carpenter, the husband of Mary. It is Joseph who will protect the Child and help bring Him up, since this Child Jesus had no human father.

According to God’s plan, Jesus was conceived in an extraordinary way by the power of the Holy Spirit. God is His Father. We call Him the Splendor of the Father for He is the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity. Before His birth He already existed as the eternal Word of God, the eternal Son of God.

These then are the two most important truths about the person of Jesus Christ. These are the two identifying characteristics of the Child: He is true God, because He is the Son of God. He is true Man, because He is the Son of Mary.

But the Child is one Person, and His name is Jesus, which means Savior. He has, however, two natures: the nature of God — a divine nature; and the nature of man — a human nature.

In every way He is like His Father, and in every way He is like His Mother. And in every way He is like us, except sin.

Who then is the Child of Bethlehem? He is the Son of God and He is the Son of the Virgin Mary. He is, therefore, the One who links divinity with humanity. He is the Mediator between God and man. Because He is God, He has the power to save us from our sins. Because He is human like us, He has a human body, a human soul and a human heart with which to love us and to die for us, in order to save us from our sins and to bring us peace.

How beautiful are the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A child is born to us; a son is given to us; upon his shoulders dominion rests.” Among His titles is “Prince of Peace.” Isaiah also tells us that the Child who is born as Savior is the Light of the World. Let us listen to Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” How wonderful is this light today in our world that has so much darkness!

In answer to our question: Who is this Child? this Christ? this Jesus born in Bethlehem? the Church repeats: He is the Son of God. He is the Son of Mary. He is the Light of the World. But He is even more: this Child who is born to us, this Son who is given to us is the great defender of humanity.

Jesus Christ, who is God and man and who was born in Bethlehem, is the One who reveals to us the dignity of every person who shares humanity with Him and with Him is destined to share eternal life.

Jesus Christ is the One who tells us that the humanity which He has assumed, which he has embraced in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is a humanity worthy of honor, respect and love.

And everyone who possesses that humanity possesses dignity, regardless of race or ethnic background, regardless of sex, religion, culture or degree of education. A human being is important not because of what he or she has or does, but because of what he or she is. What is so important is the fact that every man, woman and child shares humanity with the Son of Mary, who is the Son of God.

Here we find the impact of Christmas on the world. Christmas means that every human life is sacred, because God has embraced human life, Christ has assumed it. Whatever wounds, weakens or destroys human life, and therefore vilifies human dignity, challenges the primacy of God, a God who “was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.” Tonight as we recite the Creed of our Mass, the Church invites us to genuflect when we say those words, in order to show that we accept the great reality of the Incarnation of the Son of God, with all its consequences.

There is no way that we can accept to love and honor the humanity of Jesus Christ the Savior and at the same time reject the humanity of those whom He has loved and saved. We cannot love Jesus Christ and refuse to love our fellow human beings, whom He loves.

Dearly beloved: this holy night of Christmas challenges us to renew our faith in the Child of Bethlehem, Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Son of Mary, the Light of the World and the defender of human dignity. We are called to adore Him. But this holy night of Christmas also challenges us to follow His teaching to love and serve one another, to honor the dignity of every man, woman and child who shares humanity with the Son of God.

In this Christmas Eucharist we receive the strength and grace to honor the Child and, with Him, all those whom He loves, all those who share humanity with Him, and with Him are destined for eternal life.

Dear friends: the angel’s message is for all of us and for the whole world: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today… a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”

Truly you will find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger. Above all, you will find Him hidden in the Eucharist and there you must adore Him. But you will also find Him in every human person that mirrors His glory, and there too you must love Him.

All of this, dear friends, is the message of Christmas. It is a message of hope—the good news of great joy to be shared by all the people. Amen.

Homily for Third Sunday of Advent - Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Midnight Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Christmas 2009

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

During this past year all of us have experienced joys but also unsettling and difficult situations. We long for world peace and are preoccupied for the economy and for many other issues, such as genuine health-care reform. Some of us have difficulties in our families or in our work. Health and well-being have been a concern for many of us and our loved ones. All of us have had personal challenges. Precisely then at this moment, in this Christmas Mass, the Church repeats to us those inspiring words which we have just heard proclaimed in the Gospel—words that the angel spoke to the shepherds of Bethlehem: “Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

Once again I am privileged as your Archbishop to celebrate with you in this Cathedral Basilica the feast of Christmas and to proclaim to you the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This wonderful proclamation of His birth dominates our celebration at this Christmas Midnight Mass. The Church invites us to join in and to praise God for this marvelous event that touches the lives of all of us, takes away our fear, and gives us joy and hope and strength for Christian living.

This birth of Jesus Christ, which we see depicted in the manger, is described by the Church as a wonderful exchange. This birth is indeed a wonderful exchange between God and man.

It is through the Virgin Mary, the woman of all salvation history, that God takes on our humanity and gives us a share in His divinity.

Not only is this exchange wonderful, but everything about it is wonderful. The exchange is wonderful in the Child. Who is this Child? Who is this Child born in Bethlehem on Christmas night? This Child, whose name is Jesus, is both the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin Mary. This Child shares divinity with His Father. He is God like His Father. This Child shares humanity with His Mother and with all of us. This Child is true God and true Man.

Why is this exchange is so wonderful? It is because, in Jesus, God takes on our humanity and gives us a share in His divinity, His own divine life. In accepting Jesus, we become children of God, sharing in His divine nature as brothers and sisters of His Son, Jesus.

This exchange is also wonderful in the love that is at its origin. The reason why the Child came into the world, the reason why Jesus was born in Bethlehem is that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to be our Savior. Love is at the source of the Father’s plan to send His Son into the world, so that His Son could assume our flesh, sanctify our humanity and then give us a share in His divine life.

But there is more! This exchange between God and man is also wonderful in what it brings to Christ. What it gives to the Son of God is wonderful. God, from all eternity, is the God of love. But at Bethlehem God begins to love in human flesh. And it is something new and wonderful for God to share our human flesh and, with our emotions and with our heart of flesh, to be able to love us with His eternal love. Yes, this exchange between God and man is indeed wonderful in the humanity that it gives to Jesus Christ.

And then, too, this exchange is wonderful in the consequences that it has for us. In Christ, in Jesus Christ, in the Child at Bethlehem, God’s solidarity with us, God’s solidarity with all humanity is complete and His love is total.

But, also, in the mystery of Christ’s birth, total also is the solidarity that Christ requires of all His brothers and sisters with the rest of humanity. Christ requires that He be loved in every human being by every other human being, because humanity is now united to God. Humanity is now united to Christ, and Christ will never allow Himself to be separated from those who share humanity with Him.

And this, dear Friends, is where our Christmas message leads us: to the consequences of this wonderful exchange. Our Christmas message leads us to humanity in need: to every brother and sister in need of Jesus Christ and His love, His pardon, His healing, His compassion, His Gospel of eternal life.

Our Christmas message leads us to every human being suffering from hunger and disease; suffering in body, mind and soul; suffering from war and hatred; suffering from natural causes and disasters, and those suffering from their own sins and the sins of others.

The Word, the Word of God became flesh and dwelt amongst us. He dwelt amongst us in Jesus Christ. And to all those who accept Him, He gives the power to become the children of God.

In our second reading Saint Paul alludes to all these consequences, saying that the grace of God that has appeared—this wonderful mystery of God’s humanity—trains us and challenges us, to live temperately and justly and devoutly, and to be eager to do what is right, what is right toward our God, what is right toward our brothers and sisters.

This, dear Friends, is our Christmas message. It expresses the faith of a Church that loves and cares for all human beings, because in Jesus Christ she adores an incarnate God who is the Word made Flesh and in whose humanity every human being is sacred, from the moment of conception to natural death, and every human right is inviolable.

This Christmas message—rooted in adoration of the newborn Savior, in adoration of the Child at Bethlehem—expresses a new commandment and a new commitment for us to defend, in His Name, the dignity of human life from whatever wounds or weakens, dishonors or destroys it. A new challenge emerges for us to work to uplift the human condition of all those who share humanity in common with the Son of God and who, in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, are destined for eternal life.

How important it is, dear Friends, for each one of us all during the coming year to be a part of the living, praying, worshiping, and serving Church of Jesus Christ. This is indeed a challenge for all of us—the challenge that comes to us at the birth of Jesus—the challenge of the wonderful exchange between God and man, between God and all of us.

Therefore, each of us must realize that everyone is welcome in the Catholic community. Everyone is welcome to come home to stay in the Church of God. Everyone is needed. Everyone is needed throughout the year, and everyone is called by God to participate in the life and prayer and good works of the Church. Everyone is invited by this great love story of God our Father to be part—to be an active part—of this wonderful exchange between the Son of God and His Church. Christ came to be close to all of us. He came to bring us into His Church, in which we are truly a living, praying, worshiping and serving people. Christ came at Bethlehem to call us to accept Him freely, and, in accepting Him, to accept His Church.

There is a place of honor for all of you, dear Friends, in the community of Christ’s Church, and Jesus needs you. He needs you here week after week to pray with Him, to serve with Him, to love others in His Name. A tremendous challenge! Yes, this wonderful exchange of divinity and humanity remains a challenge for us tonight and throughout the year. It is a challenge to all of us who have the immense privilege of being brothers and sisters of that Child in Bethlehem; that Child who is our Savior, our God; that Child who is the Son of the Eternal Father; that Child who is the Son of the Virgin Mary; that Child who is the Savior of the world.

The angel was right, dear Friends. The message is meant for all of us. Let us listen to it once again: “Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in th city of David a Savior has been born to you who is Christ and Lord.” Amen.

Christmas Day Mass

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Christmas Day Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
December 25, 2010

“Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice....”

“Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.”

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Today we rejoice indeed as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.

The Church welcomes each and every one of you to this celebration in this Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. We gather as a community to acknowledge the coming of the Savior into the world and to welcome Him into our hearts and into our homes.

Our celebration begins before the Crib where we see a representation of the wonderful event that took place two thousand years ago in Bethlehem, when the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus in the midst of the poverty and simplicity of a stable, because there was no room in the inn.

In our Crib we see the different figures and recall the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. We see the animals that are silent witnesses of an event which they could not grasp, but at which their presence would be noted for all time to come.

We see the representation of an angel and of shepherds, and recall how the angel at Bethlehem spoke to the shepherds, saying: “Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”

We remember how the shepherds left their fields and went in haste and found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the manger. Speaking of the shepherds, the Gospel tells us that “When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.” Then the Gospel speaks also about passers-by, saying: “All who heard it were amazed at what had been told them by the shepherds.”

Obviously the passers-by understood very little about the identity of the Child. The shepherds knew more, and yet their knowledge too was extremely limited.

Another figure in our Christmas Crib is Saint Joseph, the husband of Mary and the one who was the foster-father of Jesus. Saint Joseph knew much more. He was the silent witness to the real identity of the Child, knowing that he was not the father. He had been informed personally by an angel that the Child had been conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, without a human father. Joseph’s role is key for us to understand that the Child is indeed God’s Son, the eternal Word of God, the eternal Son of the eternal Father.

Besides the angel and the shepherds, besides the silent witness of the animals at the crib, besides the faith-filled role of Joseph, the husband of Mary and the foster-father of Jesus, we find Mary, His Mother. As we see Mary kneeling in adoration before her Child, who is also her God, the Church invites us to reflect on the sentiments of her heart. For nine months, after the announcement of the angel Gabriel to her that she was to be the Mother of God, she carried the Baby in her womb. She was in constant communion with the Child. Even though His development in the womb was like that of any other child, He was God’s Son, who existed from all eternity, before taking flesh in Mary’s womb.

No one—neither the shepherds, nor the angel, nor Joseph—could fathom the identity of the Child the way Mary His Mother could. She lived those nine months of pregnancy in a communion of love and prayer with Jesus. And when the time came, she brought Him forth with immense joy. Informed by the angel, she had some inkling of his mission, but her knowledge was still incomplete before the mystery of God who became man in her womb. Nine months before the birth, she had expressed her consent to the angel. She would do anything necessary to fulfill worthily her role as Mother of God, and later on as spiritual Mother of the Church.

And so we see that various witnesses gazed upon the newborn Savior, with differing degrees of understanding of His identity. The role of Mary, the Virgin Mother of the Child, exceeds all other witnesses in understanding, in joy and in love.

Even though the Crib cannot depict Him, there was one more person who gazed upon the Child with love beyond all words. It was His Father in heaven: the One to whom Jesus Christ was eternally related as Son, in the communion of the Most Blessed Trinity. It was God the Father who had sent His Son into the world, so that the Son could take on our human nature, and by His life, death and resurrection save us from our sins.

Rightly do we reflect on the immense love and satisfaction of the Father as He gazes from heaven on His beloved Son whom He has now allowed to become the Son of the Virgin Mary. Saint John tells us that it was because God so loved the world that He sent His Son into the world, so that whoever believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life. And Saint John adds: “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

And so when the Father contemplates His Son lying in a manger, clothed in our human flesh, He is immensely pleased because He knows that His plan is being fulfilled and that our salvation is under way.

The other individuals missing from the Crib are ourselves. But now we have arrived. We are here to contemplate and to adore the Son of God made Man. We have come here in order to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. In his Gospel, Saint John tells us that those who accept Jesus Christ are empowered to become children of God.

Today, dear friends, dear people of God, our role is to accept Jesus Christ our Savior. To accept Jesus Christ is to accept His full identity, to acknowledge Him as true God—the Son of God; to acknowledge Him as true Man – the Son of Mary.

To accept Jesus Christ is to accept His Gospel, His commandments, His way of doing things. It means to accept His Church, the way He founded it, the way He wills it to be. To accept Jesus Christ means to accept His teaching, not because we agree with it or judge it to be acceptable, but because it is His teaching and He is our God.

Finally, dear friends: to accept Jesus Christ in the fullness of His identity as God and Man, as divine and human, is to accept Jesus Christ in others, in all those who share humanity with Him.

By becoming man and taking on our human nature, Jesus has sanctified all humanity and proclaimed for all ages the human dignity of every man, woman and child. Yes, to accept Jesus Christ our Savior and our God is to accept one another in love, in solidarity, in mutual service.

How can we do all this? Jesus Christ who comes to us in the Eucharist is our strength. Adoring and receiving Him personally we are strengthened to reach out and embrace all those who share humanity with Him. This reaching out to others requires generosity, it requires effort, it requires love. But it is an important dimension of our Christmas celebration. This is where the Crib directs us. This is what Mary and Joseph and the Child Jesus want us to do. This is part of the angel’s message: “I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Amen.

Christmas Vigil Mass

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Christmas Vigil Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Christmas 2007

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

For two thousand years the meaning of our Christmas celebration has been spelled out for us so clearly in the words of the Gospel that we have just heard. The angel announces to all of us: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”

This is indeed the Christmas proclamation of the Church. God has come to save us in the person of His own Son Jesus Christ. The Son of God appears among us as a newborn child. We have heard the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A child is born to us, a son is given us.” Jesus Christ is born in Bethlehem.

But this birth of Jesus Christ, which we see depicted in the manger, is not only the birth of the Savior. It is also a wonderful exchange. This birth represents a wonderful exchange between God and man. Through the Virgin Mary, God takes on our humanity and God gives us a share in His divinity.

Not only is this exchange wonderful, but everything about it is wonderful. The exchange is wonderful in the Child. Who is this Child? Who is this Child born in Bethlehem on Christmas night? This Child, whose name is Jesus, is both the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin Mary. This Child shares divinity with His Father. He is God like His Father. This Child shares humanity with His Mother and with all of us. And this is why the exchange is so wonderful, because, in Jesus, God takes on our humanity and gives us a share in His own divine life. In accepting Jesus, we become children of God, His brothers and sisters.

This exchange is also wonderful in the love that explains it. The reason why the Child came into the world, the reason why Jesus is born at Bethlehem is that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to be our Savior. And so, this exchange is indeed wonderful in the love that is at the source of this plan of God to send His Son into the world, so that He could take our flesh, sanctify our humanity and then give us a share in His divine life.

But there is more! This exchange between God and man is also wonderful in what it brings to Christ. What it gives to the Son of God is wonderful. God, from all eternity, is the God of love. But at Bethlehem God begins to love in human flesh. And that is something new and wonderful: for God to share our human flesh and, with our emotions and with our heart of flesh, to be able to love us with His eternal love. O yes! This exchange between God and man is indeed wonderful in the humanity that it gives to Jesus Christ.

And then, too, this exchange is wonderful in the consequences that it has for us. In Jesus Christ, the Child at Bethlehem, God’s solidarity with us, God’s solidarity with all humanity, is complete and His love is total.

But in the mystery of Christ’s birth, total also is the solidarity that Christ requires of all His brothers and sisters with the rest of humanity. Christ requires that He be loved in every human being by every other human being, because humanity now belongs to God. Humanity now belongs to Christ, and Christ will never allow Himself to be separated from those who share humanity with Him.

And this, dear friends, is where our Christmas message takes us: to the consequences of this wonderful exchange. Our Christmas message takes us to humanity in need: to every brother and sister in need of Jesus Christ and His love, His pardon, His healing, His compassion, His Gospel of eternal life.

Our Christmas message takes us to every human being suffering from hunger and disease; suffering in body, mind and soul; suffering from war and hatred; suffering from natural causes and disasters, and those suffering from their own sins and the sins of others.

The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us! The Word of God dwelt amongst us in Jesus Christ. And to all those who accept Him, He gives the power to become the children of God.

In our second reading Saint Paul alludes to all these consequences, proclaiming the grace of God that has appeared in Jesus Christ. Through His humanity Jesus Christ trains us and challenges us to live temperately and justly and devoutly, and to be eager to do what is right, what is right toward our God, what is right toward our brothers and sisters.

This, dear friends, is indeed our Christmas message. It expresses the faith of a Church that loves and cares for all human beings, because in Jesus Christ she adores an incarnate God who is the Word made Flesh and in whose humanity all human life is sacred, and every human right is inviolable.

This Christmas message—rooted in adoration of the newborn Savior, in adoration of the Child at Bethlehem—becomes a new commitment and an invitation to us to uphold and defend, in His Name, the dignity of human life from whatever wounds or weakens, dishonors or destroys it. For us, Christmas becomes a new commitment and an invitation for us to work to uplift the human condition of all those who share humanity in common with the Son of God and who, in the Son of God, in Jesus Christ, are destined for eternal life.

How important it is, dear friends, for each one of us—during the whole year—to be a part of the living, praying, worshiping, and serving Church of Jesus Christ. This is a challenge for all of us—the challenge that comes to us at the birth of Jesus—the challenge of the wonderful exchange between God and man, between God and all of us.

Therefore, each of us must realize that everyone is welcome, in our community and in our Church. Everyone is welcome to come home to stay in the Church of God. Everyone is needed. Everyone is needed throughout the year, and everyone is called by God. Everyone is invited by this great love story of God our Father to be part—to be an active part—of this wonderful exchange between the Son of God and His Church. Christ came to be close to all of us. He came to bring us into His Church, in which we are truly a living, praying, worshiping, and serving people. Christ came at Bethlehem to call us to accept Him freely, and, in accepting Him, to accept His Church, to accept one another.

There is a place of honor for all of you, dear friends, in the community of Christ’s Church, and Jesus needs you. He needs you here week after week to pray with Him, to serve with Him, to love others in His Name. A tremendous challenge! Yes, this wonderful exchange of divinity and humanity remains a challenge for us tonight and throughout the year. It is a challenge to all of us who have the immense privilege of being brothers and sisters of that Child in Bethlehem; that Child who is our Savior, our God; that Child who is the Son of the Eternal Father; that Child who is the Son of the Virgin Mary; that Child who is the Savior of the world.

The angel was right, dear friends. The message is meant for all of us. Let us listen once again: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.” Amen.

Christmas Vigil Mass

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Christmas Vigil Mass at 5:00 p.m.
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Christmas 2010

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

The meaning of Christmas is spelled out for us so clearly in the words of the Gospel that we have just heard. The angel announces to the shepherds and to all of us: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”

The Christmas proclamation of the Church is precisely this: God has come to save us in the person of His own Son Jesus Christ. The Son of God appears among us as a newborn child. We have heard the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A child is born to us, a son is given us.” Jesus Christ is born in Bethlehem.

This birth, however, of Jesus Christ, which we see depicted in the manger, is not only the birth of the Savior. It is also a wonderful exchange. This birth represents a wonderful exchange between God and man. Through the Virgin Mary, God takes on our humanity and God gives us a share in His divinity.

Not only is this exchange wonderful, but everything about it is wonderful. The exchange is wonderful in the Child. Who is this Child? Who is this Child born in Bethlehem on Christmas night? This Child, whose name is Jesus, is both the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin Mary. This Child shares divinity with His Father. He is God like His Father. But this Child shares humanity with His Mother and with all of us. And this is why the exchange is so wonderful, because, in Jesus, God takes on our humanity and gives us a share in His own divine life. In accepting Jesus, we become children of God, His brothers and sisters.

This exchange is also wonderful in the love that explains it. The reason why the Child came into the world, the reason why Jesus is born at Bethlehem is that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to be our Savior. And so, this exchange is indeed wonderful in the love that is at the source of this plan of God to send His Son into the world, so that He could take our flesh, sanctify our humanity and then give us a share in His divine life.

But there is more! This exchange between God and man is also wonderful in what it brings to Christ. What it gives to the Son of God is wonderful. God, from all eternity, is the God of love. But at Bethlehem God begins to love in human flesh. And that is something new and wonderful: for God to share our human flesh and, with our emotions and with our heart of flesh, to be able to love us with His eternal love. O yes! This exchange between God and man is indeed wonderful in the humanity that it gives to Jesus Christ.

And then, too, this exchange is wonderful in the consequences that it has for us. In Jesus Christ, the Child at Bethlehem, God’s solidarity with us, God’s solidarity with all humanity, is complete and His love is total.

But in the mystery of Christ’s birth, total also is the solidarity that Christ requires of all His brothers and sisters with the rest of humanity. Christ requires that He be loved in every human being by every other human being, because humanity now belongs to God. Humanity now belongs to Christ, and Christ will never allow Himself to be separated from those who share humanity with Him.

And this, dear friends, is where our Christmas message takes us: to the consequences of this wonderful exchange. Our Christmas message takes us to humanity in need: to every brother and sister in need of Jesus Christ and His love, His pardon, His healing, His compassion, His Gospel of eternal life.

Our Christmas message takes us to every human being suffering from hunger and disease; suffering in body, mind and soul; suffering from war and hatred; suffering from natural causes and disasters, and those suffering from their own sins and the sins of others.

The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us! The Word of God dwelt amongst us in Jesus Christ. And to all those who accept Him, He gives the power to become the children of God.

In our second reading Saint Paul alludes to all these consequences, proclaiming the grace of God that has appeared in Jesus Christ. Through His humanity Jesus Christ trains us and challenges us to live temperately and justly and devoutly, and to be eager to do what is right, what is right toward our God, what is right toward our brothers and sisters.

This, dear friends, is indeed our Christmas message. It expresses the faith of a Church that loves and cares for all human beings, because in Jesus Christ she adores an incarnate God who is the Word made Flesh and in whose humanity all human life is sacred, and every human right is inviolable.

This Christmas message—rooted in adoration of the newborn Savior, in adoration of the Child at Bethlehem—becomes a new commitment and an invitation to us to uphold and defend, in His Name, the dignity of human life from whatever wounds or weakens, dishonors or destroys it. For us, Christmas becomes a new commitment and an invitation for us to work to uplift the human condition of all those who share humanity in common with the Son of God and who, in the Son of God, in Jesus Christ, are destined for eternal life.

How important it is, dear friends, for each one of us—during the whole year—to be a part of the living, praying, worshiping, and serving Church of Jesus Christ. This is a challenge for all of us—the challenge that comes to us at the birth of Jesus—the challenge of the wonderful exchange between God and man, between God and all of us.

Therefore, each of us must realize that everyone is welcome, in our community and in our Church. Everyone is welcome to come home to stay in the Church of God. Everyone is needed. Everyone is needed throughout the year, and everyone is called by God. Everyone is invited by this great love story of God our Father to be part—to be an active part—of this wonderful exchange between the Son of God and His Church. Christ came to be close to all of us. He came to bring us into His Church, in which we are truly a living, praying, worshiping, and serving people. Christ came at Bethlehem to call us to accept Him freely, and, in accepting Him, to accept His Church, to accept one another.

There is a place of honor for all of you, dear friends, in the community of Christ’s Church, and Jesus needs you. He needs you here week after week to pray with Him, to serve with Him, to love others in His Name. A tremendous challenge! Yes, this wonderful exchange of divinity and humanity remains a challenge for us tonight and throughout the year. It is a challenge to all of us who have the immense privilege of being brothers and sisters of that Child in Bethlehem; that Child who is our Savior, our God; that Child who is the Son of the Eternal Father; that Child who is the Son of the Virgin Mary; that Child who is the Savior of the world.

The angel was right, dear friends. The message is meant for all of us. Let us listen once again: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.” Amen.

Church Ministry Institute Graduation Mass

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Church Ministry Institute Graduation Mass
Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul
May 22, 2004

Dear Graduates of the Church Ministry Institute, 

Dear Friends in Christ,

             It is my joy to celebrate with you during this Easter Season, two days after the feast of the Lord s Ascension into Heaven and one week from the marvelous day of Pentecost when Jesus sent His Spirit upon the Apostles.

            I welcome you, the Graduates of the Church Ministry Institute, 59 lay men and women who come from 39 parishes representing the 6 vicariates. I welcome your Vicars, your pastors, your teachers, mentors, family and friends. Today we celebrate your completion of three years of formation in theological studies, spiritual development and pastoral skills. Your graduation from the Church Ministry Institute marks an important milestone in your faith journey, and we are proud of you!

            How appropriate are the Scriptures of the Easter Season on this special occasion of your commencement! These past weeks we have reflected on stories from the Acts of the Apostles describing the fabric and growth of the newly formed Church. In today s reading we listen to the story of Apollos who with ardent spirit spoke and taught about Jesus, Priscilla and Aquila who explained to him the way of the Lord , and the brothers and sisters in community who welcomed and encouraged Apollos.

            We are inspired by Apollos spiritual fervor and his boldness in witnessing to the saving mission of Jesus Christ in the public setting; yet, how open he was to being further formed in faith by Priscilla and Aquila. We are edified by Priscilla and Aquila who took Apollos aside and deepened his understanding of the Christian message by steadfastly explaining the way of God. We are encouraged by the brothers and sisters who befriended Apollos and supported him so he could give assistance to those who had come to believe through grace. How enthusiastically the early followers shared the good news of Jesus!

            Like Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila, and the early Christians, we are called to witness to the saving mission of Jesus Christ. The ministry of salvation that Jesus began will only be fully accomplished if we are willing to continue to be His disciples today. Vatican II reminds us that each layperson must stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and a sign that God lives (Lumen Gentium, 38).

            Like Apollos, we must boldly witness to Christ in our daily lives. Laity have a special role to play in evangelizing our society in the areas of culture, politics, economics, science, art, and the media. Also, in your professional work, you can be mindful of the words of St. Francis of Assisi to his followers, Preach with your lives, use words if you have to .

            Like Priscilla and Aquila, who were a married couple and extraordinary missionaries, you proclaim Christ in the domestic church. The family is the place where the Gospel message is shared with your children, and radiates to others by the witness of unity and love fostered in a deeply committed Christian family.

            Like the early Christians, we, too, are called to share the good news with our brothers and sisters. You do this in your parish communities. Through Baptism you are called to contribute your gifts and talents, and to take an active and responsible role in the mission of the Church. You do this when you serve your parishes as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, lectors, cantors, ushers, catechists and teachers; in assisting the sick and grieving; as members of welcoming committees, pastoral councils, finance committees, outreach committees, and social justice committees. You reach out to the poor in your parishes and neighborhoods to perform the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and give much needed relief to the suffering of our world.

             As Jesus so compassionately reminds us in Matthew s Gospel, Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me ( Mt 25: 40). This Gospel mandate is reiterated in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (no. 43), when it states, Since they have an active role to play in the whole life of the Church, lay people are not only bound to penetrate the world with a

Christian spirit, they are also called to be witnesses to Christ in all things in the midst of human society. Your main activity, your main apostolate is to live your Christian vocation and bear witness to the Gospel in your families, in the ordinary circumstances of your work, and in your various communities. Your efforts, your labors and your prayers - especially your participation in the Eucharist - help consecrate the world to God.

            In today s Gospel from John, we listen to Jesus instruct His disciples, and His words penetrate our hearts. For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me. The Easter Season is one long celebration of God s goodness and love. In the readings of the Easter Vigil, we are reminded of God s great love for us already set in motion at the beginning of the world, fulfilled through the Incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus, reaching culmination at His Second Coming. For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him ...might have eternal life ( John 3:16 ).

            We also hear in the today s Scripture, Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. To pray in Jesus name does not mean to invoke a magic formula. Rather, to pray in the name of Jesus implies a communion of persons, a harmony of will with God. We pray in union with Jesus so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. The glory that the Father receives through the works of the Son continues in the works of the Son s followers.

            Today, the Church reaffirms for us two important themes from Vatican II, which are the universal call to holiness and the universal call to mission . Throughout your time in the Church Ministry Institute, you have strengthened your personal relationship with Jesus Christ and entered more deeply into the mission of His Church. I encourage you, as you conclude your studies, to establish the important balance between your daily prayer and your daily tasks. Be confident that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus ( Phil 1:6 ). Know that it is God Himself who works in and through you to bring about the fruits of your labor.

            Finally, you are commended for your work and effort in developing your God-given gifts. You have deepened your knowledge and appreciation of the Catholic Church, grown in your relationship with the Lord, and prepared for continued generous service in the Church. Society needs your goodness, talents and faithfulness so that through you it may receive the saving message of Christ. Your graduation from the Church Ministry Institute is a cause for rejoicing in the Church in Philadelphia.

            Today is also an important day for your parish and family for they have encouraged and supported you through these three years. I thank them for their support.

            Finally, may I make special note of the work of your administrators, teachers, and mentors who have prepared you to take your place in the Church and make a difference in the world. I am grateful to them for their work with you.

            May today truly be a commencement for you, a moving forward in wisdom and grace. May Mary, our Mother, guide you in the years ahead to follow the ways of her Son and may our Lord Jesus Christ bless you and your families with lasting joy.

Mass for the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Church Ministry Institute Graduation
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
May 10, 2008

Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

I welcome you, the graduates of the Church Ministry Institute: sixty-five lay men and women who come from forty-six parishes representing the six vicariates of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I welcome your pastors, teachers, mentors, families and friends. Today we celebrate your completion of three years of formation in theological studies, spiritual development and pastoral skills. Your graduation from the Church Ministry Institute marks an important milestone in your faith journey, and we are very proud of you.

In his recent visit to Washington, D.C., our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, offered these words to Catholic Educators: “All the Church’s activities stem from her awareness that she is the bearer of a message which has its origin in God himself: in his goodness and wisdom, God chose to reveal himself and to make known the hidden purpose of his will (cf. Eph 1:9; Dei Verbum, 2). God’s desire to make himself known, and the innate desire of all human beings to know the truth, provides the context for human inquiry into the meaning of life. This unique encounter is sustained within our Christian community: the one who seeks the truth becomes the one who lives by faith (cf. Fides et Ratio, 31). It can be described as a move from “I” to “we”, leading the individual to be numbered among God’s people.”

It is by these words that your vital role within the Church should be defined. All of you have spent three years working to gain a greater knowledge of the truth, a truth proclaimed in Sacred Scripture, the tradition of the Church and in Church teaching—a truth that guides us to know, love and serve our God without reservation. Through this knowledge, we become aware that we the baptized are numbered among God’s people and are called to proclaim the Good News by our words and deeds.

We hear today in the first reading how, despite his imprisonment, Saint Paul received all who came to him and “proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 28:31). Paul was so convinced that Jesus is our hope and our salvation that not even imprisonment and chains could impede his proclamation of the Good News. It is with the conviction of Saint Paul that you, the new graduates of the Church Ministry Institute, are being sent forth to engage in the work of evangelization, an evangelization that offers encouragement and support to those who have never heard the Good News of Jesus, as well as to those who have already accepted it, have been baptized and are endeavoring to conform their lives to it.

As you go forth today to take up your various roles in your parishes, you may encounter various obstacles that often seem difficult to overcome. Perhaps you will encounter apathy, you may feel inadequate, or you may struggle with balancing your time between family, work and parish commitments. These difficulties can provide both a challenge and an opportunity to turn to God in prayer for guidance on how best to proceed. Take comfort, dear friends, as did Saint Paul, in knowing that everything is possible with the love and support of Jesus, the Jesus who accompanies us every moment of our lives.

In our Gospel reading today, from the end of Saint John’s Gospel, we see how Saint Peter is invited by Jesus to follow Him. Jesus sends Peter forth to shepherd the community of believers. It is so important to understand that this role of Peter’s is one built upon love and willingness to give one’s life in witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. As you go forth to work within your parishes, you must remain open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and work with selfless love. You may be asked to carry out simple ordinary tasks or to serve your parish in a role of leadership, but know that God is with you in whatever work you are assigned. Always remember that the Lord Jesus has a plan for each of you as you work in partnership with Him and His Church. Working together for the common good, we must proclaim God’s unconditional love made manifest in the living Jesus Christ.

As graduates of the Church Ministry Institute, you have spent three years of your life walking a very special journey of enlightenment. I commend you for your hard work and effort in developing your knowledge and understanding of our Catholic faith. I trust that this experience has helped you to grow in your relationship with the Lord Jesus and, therefore, has prepared you for continued service in the Church. Our faith community and, indeed society as a whole, need your goodness, your talents and your faithfulness to the truth so that the message of God’s love may enter the world more fully. Your graduation from the Church Ministry Institute is cause for rejoicing in the Church of Philadelphia.

Today is also an important day for your parishes and your families, for they have encouraged and supported you through these last three years. I extend my heartfelt thanks to them for their support, as well as to the Institute’s administrators, teachers and mentors who have helped prepare you to take your place in the Church and to make a difference in the world. I am grateful to them for their service to you and to the faithful of the Archdiocese.

Remember that you have been called by the Lord to come to know Him more fully. You are also being called to use what you have learned to assist others in coming to know and love Jesus more deeply. Dear friends: keep this calling present in every aspect of your daily life. Keep it alive through your daily prayer, especially when participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Whether you assist in the parish setting, with RCIA, as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion or at your job: be one who seeks the truth, lives by faith and proclaims a message of hope and charity in all that you do and say. May Mary, the Mother of the Incarnate Word, obtain for you from her Son, grace, peace and joy. Amen.

Chrism Mass

HOMILY OF CARDINAL JUSTIN RIGALI
CHRISM MASS
CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL
MARCH 24, 2005

Praised be Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, the Faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the dead and Ruler of the Kings of the earth!

Your Eminence, Cardinal Bevilacqua: Everyone is so pleased today to have you in our midst. We honor you as our former shepherd and greet you with deep affection in the Lord.

Dear brother Bishops,
Dear brother Priests in the presbyterate of Philadelphia,
Dear Deacons,
Dear Religious,
Dear Seminarians,
Dear Students,
Dear Young People preparing for Confirmation,
Dear Young Men exploring a vocation to the sacred priesthood,
Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Today we are united with our Holy Father Pope John Paul II, asking God to give him special grace and strength at this difficult moment in his life. We ask God to sustain him in his extraordinary witness of generosity and love. Together with all the priests of the world we give thanks to God for gathering us together on this Holy Thursday, when the Church proclaims Jesus Christ as the great High Priest anointed by the Holy Spirit.

At this Mass we celebrate the gift and mystery of the priesthood. We celebrate Jesus Christ as He Himself is anointed Priest of the New Covenant and as He shares the priesthood with those whom He has personally chosen. This is the day on which the faith of the Church shows the relationship of the priesthood to the Eucharist and the Eucharist to the priesthood. This is the day on which we express support and love for all the priests who carry forward their daily dedicated pastoral care of God's people.

This morning I would like to extend a greeting especially to all you young people who have come here from so many parishes to be with your Bishop and your priests on this Holy Thursday: the day when Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist and the priesthood; the day when He gave priests the power to offer up the Eucharistic Sacrifice, to celebrate Mass.

This wonderful feast is the day when the Bishop comes together with his priests, as a united presbyterate, to celebrate the Eucharist. Today the Bishop also blesses the oils that benefit all the People of God and are used in administering four of the sacraments of the Church: Baptism, Confirmation, the Anointing of the Sick and Holy Orders. Your presence here this morning, dear young people, is very important.

In the life of the Church there are different moments when we emphasize different vocations and different aspects of God's plan for His Church. For example, on the feast of the Holy Family, the Church proclaims the special importance of the family, the vocation of husbands and wives, mothers and fathers of families - and also the role of children and their importance. On the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the Church emphasizes the great value of religious consecration in the midst of the People of God. At that time she also underlines the deep meaning of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience as they are lived in joy by men and women religious throughout the world. On Deacon Day we celebrate the providential role of the diaconate in the Church and give thanks for the service that our deacons render.

Today, Holy Thursday, the Church concentrates on the Eucharist and Christ's gift of the priesthood, which benefit all people - young and old, married and single, clergy and religious. She emphasizes the importance of the vocation to the priesthood. The Church needs the priesthood. The People of God need the priesthood. Jesus Himself needs the priesthood to fulfill His plan of salvation. Today at this Mass I ask those young men who may experience a vocation to the priesthood to open their hearts to the call of our Lord and not to be afraid to say yes.

All of you, dear People of God, by your participation at this Mass show your faith in the Church, in the priesthood and in the Eucharist. You are all very much aware that despite the weaknesses and sins of individuals, the Church, which is the Body of Christ, is strong in faith and love. Our hope is in the living God. We believe in the power of the Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ to forgive sins, to renew hearts and to bring us all to ever deeper conversion in our lives.

On this Holy Thursday I would like to speak especially to my priests. These times are challenging for all of us and for the People of God. We pray in a special way for all our brother priests, including those who for various reasons need God's special grace and strength in a particular way. We remember those in pain, sickness and suffering. We know that Jesus our High Priest takes on the sins of all of us and offers all of us forgiveness and mercy. As ministers of reconciliation we know how much the world and ourselves constantly need repentance, pardon, penance and new life.

As a community we renew today our commitment to holiness of life, to sacred celibacy and to faithful service. It is my conviction, dear brother Priests, that you are already deeply involved in this search for holiness and in this reawakening of the ideals of total self-giving to Christ. And what strength and joy you find in this!

Dear brother priests: this is the day for all of us to re-live the joy of our ordination. This is the day for the Church to pray earnestly for vocations to the priesthood. These vocations are deeply rooted in the enduring power of Christ to attract young men to a life of generosity and sacrifice in the priesthood. In God's providence priestly vocations are also fostered by the witness of your own priestly fidelity and joy. This is the day for all priests to experience and bear witness, through the Holy Spirit, to a special relationship with Christ and therefore with the Father. We are called to experience the joy of paternity in the Church; to express gratitude for the sentiments of our people, for the love they have for priests. It is the moment to realize the esteem of the faithful for the celibacy that we have promised and that we freely, and with determination, renew today. It is the occasion to express fraternity among ourselves in the presbyterate.

It is because of the priesthood that the Church possesses the Mass, Holy Communion, Viaticum, reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, Eucharistic Adoration and all the Sacraments. Through the priesthood every vocation is sustained in the Church. Christian marriage and the Christian family are a special part of the daily pastoral care that priests give to the faithful. In God's plan the priesthood exists to support all God's people. And how grateful we are to the People of God here and in our parishes, and throughout the entire Archdiocese of Philadelphia, for their trust and love and support. We renew our commitment to them because we renew our commitment to Jesus Christ and to the mission of His Church. We experience confidence not because we have no weaknesses or sins, but because Jesus Christ died for us and in the Eucharist His Body and Blood are offered up to the Father "so that sins may be forgiven."

Dear brother priests: the People of God count on your love, your pastoral service, and your fidelity to the end. Jesus Himself has chosen you to serve the rest. You have been anointed like Jesus, to be able to proclaim the Gospel to the poor and to the whole world. Brother priests: never forget how important you are in God's plan of salvation! Rejoice! Be strong, be faithful! You are not alone! Mary, the Mother of Jesus is with you at all times. The prayer of Christ's Church supports you. And Jesus Himself calls you to support, by your love, one another and all your brothers and sisters in the Church.

Finally, all praise and thanksgiving to you, Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, for the gifts of the priesthood and the Eucharist - to you who have loved us and freed us from our sins by your Blood, who have made us into a Kingdom, priests for your God and Father, to you be glory and power forever and ever. Amen. (Cf. Rev 1:5-6).

Easter Sunday Mass

HOMILY OF CARDINAL JUSTIN RIGALI
EASTER SUNDAY MASS
CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL
MARCH 27, 2005

"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad" Alleluia!

Dear Friends in the Risen Christ,

During the whole period of Lent, and especially during Holy Week, the Church has followed Jesus through all His suffering. We have reflected on His Passion and His Death. We have stood with Mary His Mother at the foot of the Cross. And we were with Jesus when He died. We accompanied Him to His burial place and then we withdrew waiting for something more.

This morning, Easter Sunday, we return to the tomb. Here we join Mary of Magdala and the other women of the Gospel. We come with Peter and John and, like them, we find the tomb empty. We see "the burial cloths there and the cloth that had covered his head not with the burial cloths, but rolled up in a separate place." We see and we believe.

And then we hear those words that the angel spoke to the women - words that come thundering down the ages: "I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead, and is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.' Behold, I have told you."

Like the women and the Apostles, we too believe. And Jesus speaks to us as He spoke then, saying: "Do not be afraid." In the midst of the problems and challenges of the world and of our own Archdiocese of Philadelphia, despite our weaknesses and sins, Jesus says to us: "Do not be afraid." And we begin to understand that Jesus is alive and that the destiny of the world is in His hands. We listen also to Saint Peter speaking to the Christians of his day saying: "You know what has happened.. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised up on the third day.. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name."

Dear friends: this is what the Resurrection brings to you and me, to all of us: the forgiveness of our sins. Christ's Resurrection is a victory over sin and death, but it is a victory, a triumph that Jesus shares with us. Jesus takes away our sins. His victory, though, is also a challenge for us. Jesus beckons us to turn to Him, to make the effort necessary to embrace His forgiveness and to live in newness of life.

Saint Paul summarizes this for us when he states, as we heard proclaimed this morning: "If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above." In our personal lives, in our dealings with one another, in the family, in the community, in society, we are challenged to put into practice the meaning of our Baptism: to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Last night, at the Easter Vigil, I spoke about the need for the power of Christ's Resurrection to touch the hearts of all. There is no other power that can change people's hearts and bring peace to the world.

Today, at this Easter Mass, I wish to emphasize how each one of us must turn to the Risen Christ, to the One who lives, the One who has conquered death, the One who is merciful and wishes to forgive our sins. You and I must personally accept the pardon won for us by Christ, through His Death on the Cross.

Today, Easter Sunday, God the Father, by raising Christ from the dead, ratifies the value of Christ's redeeming death and confirms before all the world His plan of mercy for humanity.

Dear friends, Christ's love for us and the Father's mercy require a response of love and action on our part. This is the hour for us to turn to God, to open our hearts to Him and to be made new by the power of Christ's Resurrection.

Six years ago Pope John Paul II came to the United States and pronounced some very special words, words that in one way or another apply to each one of us. He said: "In the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd I wish to make an appeal - an appeal to Catholics throughout the United States and wherever my voice or words may reach - especially to those who for one reason or another are separated from the practice of their faith....Christ is seeking you out and inviting you back to the community of faith. Is this not the moment for you to experience the joy of returning to the Father's house?"

The return to the Father's house challenges us at various levels and in different degrees. Christ wishes all of us to be fully His, to share abundantly His risen life through the sacraments, through prayer, by good works, by an authentic Christian life of service to one another. Christ wants His mercy to envelop us and His Easter joy to fill our hearts today and throughout our lives. The Holy Father concluded his appeal invoking Mary the Mother of Mercy, the Mother of Jesus. This was his final prayer: "Mary, Mother of Mercy, teach the people of ... the United States to say yes to your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ!"

Is this not the meaning of our Easter celebration: to say yes to Jesus in newness of life, to let the power of His Resurrection challenge us to live always according to His Gospel?

Dear friends: "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad."

For Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Alleluia!

Good Friday

HOMILY OF CARDINAL JUSTIN RIGALI
THE CELEBRATION OF THE LORD'S PASSION
CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL
MARCH 25, 2005

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

Dear People of God,

Back in the fourth century the great Doctor of the Church Saint Cyril of Jerusalem stated that the Church is proud of all the actions of Jesus, but that her greatest boast is the Cross. Today, Good Friday, we celebrate the Cross and above all the One who hangs on the Cross.

In the Old Testament, at Passover, the Jewish people sacrificed a lamb - called the paschal lamb. On Good Friday we look to the Cross; we look to the Cross to see the One who has become the Lamb of God. At Communion time we receive this Lamb of God and before doing so we proclaim: "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." Today all our attention is concentrated on Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who is immolated on the Cross and becomes our sacrifice. The victim on Calvary takes away our sins and the sins of the whole world.

In our First Reading, the Prophet Isaiah tells us: ".he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed." And then Isaiah explicitly compares Him to the paschal lamb saying: ".the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.. like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth."

In his prophecy, Isaiah attests to the redemption that is accomplished by Christ, the Lamb of God: ".he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses."

All this, dear friends, takes place on the Cross. Today we look to the Cross to find salvation and to profess our faith in the power of Christ's Sacrifice. By His death on the Cross, Jesus destroys death. He conquers the cause of death, which is sin. The humiliation of His death on the Cross is transformed into triumph and victory, as Saint Paul tells us: "Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a Cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him.."

For all the Church, the death that Christ dies becomes the cause of life and immortality. How beautiful is the ancient chant of Good Friday that the Church sings today! At the moment that Christ dies, the Church attests that death has no power over Him: at that moment He is proclaimed as holy, strong and immortal! By dying He overcomes death. He can die no more and those associated with His Death are immune from death and will share His Resurrection.

Today, as we see Jesus the Paschal Lamb die upon the Cross, we proclaim His triumph and victory. And just as He, with absolute freedom, entrusted His life to His Father, we entrust ourselves freely to Him and to His mercy. In the words of today's Psalm we pray: ".my trust is in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God. In your hands is my destiny; rescue me..'"

All of this means that God's mercy is available to each of us. Today is the day that mercy becomes real. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews exhorts us: ".let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help."

Friends in Christ: our greatest boast is the Cross! The Cross is the throne of grace; it is the source of mercy. The One who hangs on the Cross is our Redeemer and our King. He helps us to overcome sin in our lives and to live for God in holiness of life.

As He bends down to lift us up, let us reach out to Him and say: Jesus I trust in you! Amen.

HOMILY OF CARDINAL JUSTIN RIGALI
OPENING MASS
NCEA CONVENTION
TUESDAY, MARCH 29, 2005

"I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified....Then go quickly and tell his disciples,
'He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you...'" (Mt 28:6-7).

Dear brother Bishops,
Dear Priests, dear Deacons, dear Religious,
Dear Seminarians, dear Students,
Dear Catholic Educators,
Dear Friends in the Risen Christ,

All during these fifty days after the great feast of the Resurrection, the Church is faithful to her Easter proclamation and to her Easter challenge. Jesus Christ is alive. Jesus Christ goes before us to lead the way, to invite us to ever greater conversion and holiness of life.

It is a great joy to welcome all of you to this National Catholic Educational Association Convention in Philadelphia and to be able to celebrate the Eucharist with you today, this Tuesday of Easter week. I am pleased that you have come here to our local Church of Philadelphia in order to encounter the Risen Lord and to renew to Him your commitment. United with Peter and the other Apostles, as Catholic educators you have such a privileged and important part in the massive witness that the Church bears to Jesus Christ risen from the dead. You live and work to enrich the lives of your students with the fullness of the Gospel of life, to invite them boldly to accept Jesus Christ and His Church, and to help them deepen their faith and understanding of the Paschal Mystery.

Today in this Easter season how uplifting it is to realize that the Risen Lord Jesus shares his teaching ministry with you. When the Holy Father visited with teachers and catechists of the United States in New Orleans in 1987, he said: "Yours is a great gift to the Church, a great gift to your nation" (September 12, 1987). How providential that you now gather in Philadelphia. Here, in this City, our nation was born and was immediately nurtured on those truths and ideals which we as Americans value and cherish: those God-given gifts of life, liberty and the authentic pursuit of happiness. How greatly you, as Catholic educators, enrich this noble cause by communicating to your students the Gospel of the Risen One, who is the source of life, liberty and true happiness.

In the setting of today's Gospel Saint John tells us that Mary Magdalen came to the tomb when it was still dark. As we listen to that Gospel, we realize that darkness described not only the time of the day. Mary, like other friends and followers of Jesus, came to the tomb devastated. She and all of the disciples thought they had lost the person whom they had trusted more than anyone else. They loved Him more than family and all they possessed. He had been with them for three years; they called Him Master, Lord and Teacher. He had told them they were no longer slaves but friends. Now it seemed that He was gone. There was darkness in their lives.

We need to ponder carefully what we heard in Saint John's Gospel this morning. Jesus asks Mary, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" In her darkened state of spirit and soul Mary did not recognize Him. She thought He was the gardener. Had she given up? Did fear, or the uncertainty about the future, or her lack of understanding of the Paschal Mystery blind her to the presence of Christ in her life? But once Jesus calls her by name, once she hears His voice, once she sees Him, once she recognizes Him, once she knows that Jesus is alive, she is ecstatic and everything in her life changes. We can only imagine how quickly she ran back to the disciples with the message, "I have seen the Lord." She then reported what He had told her.

Dear friends: your mission in our Catholic schools and parish religious education programs is like that of Mary Magdalen. With much urgency you are to bring the message of the Risen Jesus to the children and youth whom you teach. It is important, as you fulfill your mission in Catholic education, that your students know that you too acknowledge Him as risen from the dead; that you have recognized Jesus' voice calling you by name; that you have seen the Lord with eyes of faith; that you believe that Jesus is present in your lives; and that you believe in the power of His Paschal Mystery. It is so important that you yourselves acknowledge that He goes before you and that He is never far from you.

In the world in which we live it is easy for young people to be overwhelmed with fear, with uncertainties about the future. It is useful to recall once again that six years ago, during his pastoral visit to St. Louis, Pope John Paul II stated: "Sometimes the world itself seems filled with darkness. The darkness of children who go hungry and even die. The darkness of homeless people who lack work and proper medical care. The darkness of violence against the unborn child, violence in families, the violence of gangs, the violence of sexual abuse, the violence of drugs that destroy the body, mind and heart. There is something terribly wrong when so many young people are overcome by hopelessness to the point of taking their own lives. And already in parts of this nation, laws have been passed which allow doctors to end the lives of the very people they are sworn to help. God's gift of life is being rejected. Death is chosen over life, and this brings with it the darkness of despair" (January 26, 1999).

There is, however, something that counters all this darkness. Our young people in particular need to believe in the power of Christ's Death and Resurrection. They too need to believe in the victory which is Christ's. As in the case of Mary Magdalen and the early disciples, everything will change for them once they know that Jesus is alive and present in their lives. You, dear friends, are signs of hope to the young people of our Church, to the extent that you embrace and share the Light that is the Risen Christ, who goes before you.

We know that there are times when teachers, catechists, principals, administrators, directors of religious education, superintendents, vicars and members of the clergy can become excessively anxious. We can become like Mary Magdalen approaching the Lord in darkness. We can think of times when teaching might have seemed so much easier, with fewer obstacles and lesser challenges. But we never lose hope because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! He is alive and in our midst, working through the power of His Spirit. He goes before us!

In the draft of the National Directory for Catechesis there is a thought-provoking and beautiful paragraph which reminds all of us that we are not alone in this work of Catholic education. This paragraph summarizes quite well what we will all celebrate on the fiftieth and last day of the Easter season, on the feast of Pentecost. Here are those words:

"[The Holy Spirit] gives the catechist faith in which to form disciples. He is, therefore, the principal catechist ... inspiring all catechetical work and all who do this work. He is the Advocate whom the Father will send in Christ's name - who will teach the disciples everything and remind them of all that Christ told them. He is the Spirit of truth who will guide you to all truth. The Holy Spirit is thus promised to the Church and to each Christian as a Teacher within, who, in the secret of the conscience and the heart, makes one understand what one has heard but was not capable of grasping. He transforms believers into disciples, and disciples into witnesses to Christ in the world" (no. 73).

In our Catholic schools and parish religious education programs we constantly need bold witnesses. Not just silent witnesses but educators who have encountered the Risen Christ and are willing to work in the community of His Church, with the Holy Spirit and under His guidance, for the transformation of the individual and the world - educators who expect not only intellectual changes but spiritual changes as well, teachers and catechists who will invite young people to follow Jesus Christ and to be active members of His Church.

On this occasion you have come together with thousands of your fellow Catholic educators to stand in solidarity with the Risen Christ and with one another, committed to your profession of Catholic education, which belongs to the vital mission of the Church. Your commitment is both professional and personal. It requires the gift of your entire self. Like Jesus, your entire life teaches, not just by what you say but also by who you are and what you do, and how much you give of yourselves.

While you are here in Philadelphia, you may have the opportunity to visit the Shrines of Saint John Neumann and Saint Katharine Drexel, two great saints who valued and in so many ways dedicated themselves to what you have dedicated yourselves to: the Catholic formation and education of youth. Certainly these two saints are smiling on the efforts of this Convention, and on all those who accept and live the special vocation of an educator in the Catholic Faith.

You may also be in a position to visit another place that is special to all Americans. It is Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. There, too, our Founding Fathers forged the Constitution, with its challenge to protect freedom and all human rights. There you may see the chair in which George Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention. On the back of the chair is a carving of the sun. It is said that during the Convention, one of the delegates, noticing that carving, leaned over to Dr. Benjamin Franklin and said, "I wonder if it is a rising or a setting sun." The aged Benjamin Franklin quite optimistically responded: "It is a rising sun!"

With optimism far greater than that of Dr. Franklin, the Church knows the meaning of the rising sun. For two thousand years, since Mary Magdalen came to the tomb while it was still dark, the Church has basked in the radiance of that Easter morning. That radiance is none other than the Sun of Justice, the Risen Christ, whose light shines on the Church and on all those committed to the mission of the Church. Today the Risen Christ challenges you to be, with Him, the light of the world! As educators, you observe the tender light of faith which dawns and grows ever brighter in the eyes, the minds, the hearts and the souls of our children. So much of the reception of that light depends on you, for you are bearers of the light of Jesus. Remember always: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (Jn 1:5). Jesus who has conquered sin and death reminds us: "I am with you always" (Mt 28:20). He says: "Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!" (Mk 6:50). I am confident that, with the help of Mary the Mother of Jesus, who stood at the foot of the Cross and who waited in hope for the Resurrection of her Son, you will bear the light of Jesus magnificently in all that you do for the Church.

Dear friends: what a great ecclesial mission you have! By the Church you are sent out in the power of your Baptism, and given the strength of the confirming Holy Spirit to sustain you. And the Risen Lord Jesus goes before you in this Easter season and always, as He draws all people to Himself, for the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity. Amen.

The Lord's Supper

HOMILY OF CARDINAL JUSTIN RIGALI
MASS OF THE LORD'S SUPPER
CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL
MARCH 24, 2005

Dear Friends,

This evening we gather in this Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul for the second Mass of Holy Thursday. It is called the Mass of the Lord's Supper.

This morning we celebrated the Chrism Mass. It was a magnificent assembly of priests and people, including a large number of young people. During the Mass, I blessed the holy oils for the catechumens and the sick, and I consecrated the sacred Chrism, which is used in anointing those who are baptized, confirmed and ordained to the priesthood.

At that time I spoke about the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, its relation to the Eucharist, and how important it is in the Church. I expressed our gratitude and support for the lives and ministry of our priests. All of our priests, in the presence of God's people, renewed their commitment to sacred celibacy and faithful service.

This evening the texts of Sacred Scripture immerse us in the mystery of the Eucharist. To understand the liturgy that we are celebrating we must speak about the Eucharist itself, about the priesthood, without which the Eucharist cannot exist, and about Christ's commandment of love and service. Jesus says: "I give you a new commandment. Love one another as I have loved you."

Today is the anniversary of the institution of the Eucharist. It is also the anniversary of the institution of the priesthood. The two sacraments go together. There can be no Eucharist without the priesthood. The priesthood exists to make the Eucharist possible.

The Gospel of Saint John that we proclaimed this evening takes us to the Last Supper. Actually Saint John does not speak about the Eucharist. The other three evangelists - Matthew, Mark and Luke - describe its institution. Saint Paul does so also. Saint John, on the other hand, presumes it and goes on to speak about Christ's attitude of love and service, which was the reason Christ instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood.

These then are the three elements that make up our Holy Thursday reflection 1) the gift of the Eucharist, 2) the gift of the priesthood and 3) Christ's love for us manifested in washing the feet of his apostles in humble service.

The institution of the Eucharist is beautifully described for us by Saint Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians. This Letter was written only about twenty years after the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. This is the first account of what took place at the Last Supper. It precedes the accounts written by Matthew, Mark and Luke.

The words that Saint Paul records are the basic formula that we hear pronounced in every Eucharist: "This is my body which will be given up for you." "This is the cup of my blood.. It will be shed for you.." And finally: "Do this in memory of me."

Christ's command - "Do this in memory of me" - links the Eucharist and the priesthood. The Church teaches that the Apostles whom Jesus had chosen to celebrate the Eucharist passed on this power to their successors in the priesthood. And so tonight the command of Christ is once more fulfilled: "Do this in memory of me."

But what is it that we are doing in memory of Christ?

The Church evokes the memory of Christ's Last Supper, but she does this in a sacramental way. She makes this Supper sacramentally present for us.

We know also that this Last Supper was the proclamation - as Saint Paul says - of the Death of the Lord. The Last Supper was also the anticipation of the Sacrifice that Christ would consummate on Good Friday by His Death on the Cross, and that the Father would ratify by raising Him from the dead.

And so the Church teaches that each Eucharistic celebration, each Mass, is the sacramental re-enactment of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Our Eucharist tonight brings us into contact with the Redemption that Jesus accomplished by His Paschal Mystery.

The Eucharist re-presents sacramentally the Last Supper. It re-presents the Sacrifice of Calvary. It makes actual in our lives the whole liberating action that Jesus accomplished by his Death and Resurrection.

Holy Thursday for us, then, means the Mass and the priest who celebrates every Mass: our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Holy Thursday also means the love that motivated Jesus to gather His Apostles together at the Last Supper and to die for them, and for all of us, on Good Friday.

Finally Holy Thursday means for us the challenge to follow Jesus in the loving service that He performs for His apostles by washing their feet. Jesus was willing to serve others generously. He was willing to give His life in sacrifice for the redemption of the world.

Tonight Jesus gives us the privilege of joining in the celebration of His Eucharist, which is both Sacrifice and Supper. But He also challenges us to embrace His sentiments, to take on His attitude, to love one another as He has loved us, to be willing to surrender ourselves in service to one another.

"Do you realize what I have done for you?" - Jesus says to us. "You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am."

Tonight His final words to us are these: "I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do."

Dear friends: this too is Holy Thursday: a new way of loving, giving and serving; a new way to be a family, to be a community, to be the Church; a new way to be a spouse, a parent, a son or daughter, a priest, deacon, religious or seminarian, a dedicated single person; a new way to live the life of Jesus and to follow Him to His Death and Resurrection. Amen.

Easter Vigil

HOMILY OF CARDINAL JUSTIN RIGALI
EASTER VIGIL
CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL
MARCH 26, 2005

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ risen from the dead,

In his Letter to the Romans Saint Paul poses an important question: "Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?"

What Paul is saying is that there is an intimate connection between our Baptism and what took place at Christ's Death and Resurrection. We know that by His Death and Resurrection Jesus Christ destroyed our death and restored us to life. He made it possible for us, in the expression of Saint Paul, to live in newness of life.

This is what Easter is all about: newness of life. For those being baptized and confirmed on this night there is indeed newness of life. A wonderful future opens up before them as they seek constantly to pass from sin to life in Christ Jesus. What is it to be a member of the Church? It means to die to sin, to live for God in Christ Jesus. In other words: to live in newness of life.

But where does the power come from to be able to live in newness of life? How is it possible to live in newness of life? The power comes from the Death of Jesus - a death that He endured out of love for us, a death that, in the Resurrection, is now ratified and accepted as a sacrifice by the Father, who raises Jesus to life.

All of us tonight - priests, deacons and religious and lay faithful - are called to newness of life. How good God is to give us a fresh opportunity to live in newness of life! Tonight we rejoice with our newly baptized and committed Catholics. We express solidarity with them. But we are also publicly challenged to renew the promises of our own Baptism: to get on with our Christian lives in newness of life. We remember our own Confirmation, the gift of the Holy Spirit that we have received in order to be strengthened in Christian living. The new way of life that opens up before us means the rejection of sin, the rejection of Satan and all his works and all his empty promises.

All of this is possible because Jesus died for us and rose from the dead. In His sacred humanity he was raised up by His Father. The power of Christ's Death and Resurrection is what makes newness of life possible for our catechumens and candidates, for all of us, and for all the members of the Church. By His Resurrection Jesus has definitively conquered sin and death and has made newness of life possible. By this power we are able to set aside in our lives whatever is opposed to the commandments of God and to the Gospel of Christ.

As individuals, as families, as a parish, as a community, as the Church of Philadelphia - all of us need the Resurrection of Jesus. The world needs the Resurrection at this moment of continuing armed conflict, of raging violence, and of widespread suffering of innocent people.

What is needed - and what is possible - is newness of life. It can come only from the power of Christ's victory over sin and death. Only the Risen Christ has the power to bring about peace, because only the Risen Christ can change hearts. Without a change of heart there is no peace, no newness of life. Human effort is not enough. Human justice is insufficient. Human force can backfire. But God's mercy is unleashed by the prayer of His people. And God's strength is available through the power of Christ's Resurrection, which becomes our power during this Easter celebration of the Eucharist. Newness of life is possible only because Christ is risen from the dead.

We heard those wonderful words tonight in the Gospel. At the empty tomb the angel spoke to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary saying: "Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay."

And as the women went away quickly from the tomb, they ran to find the disciples of Jesus to share with them the Good News of the Resurrection. Meanwhile, as the Gospel says: Jesus Himself "met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid .'."

On this Easter night, Jesus speaks to each of us, to the Church of Philadelphia and to the whole world these same words: "Do not be afraid!" Strengthened by the power of Christ's Resurrection we have nothing to fear. Jesus has died to redeem us from our sins and to make it possible for us to reject all sin in our lives. In His mercy, He will forgive us if we turn to Him with contrition and a firm purpose of amendment. We need not be afraid of death, because, by dying, He has destroyed our death and, by rising, has restored us to life. He has truly made it possible for us all to live in newness of life.

This, dear friends, is what we mean by a blessed Easter: to live with Christ - the Risen Christ - in newness of life! Amen. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Saint Peter Claver Center

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Saint Peter Claver Center for Evangelization, Tenth Anniversary
September 9, 2005

Bishop Maginnis, Bishop McFadden,
Dear brother Priests, dear Deacons,
Dear Religious women and men,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

We gather this evening to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. We gather this evening in this holy place, the ‘Mother Church’ for Black Catholics in this Archdiocese on the feast of Saint Peter Claver to offer profound praise and worship to Almighty God. We gather this evening to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Saint Peter Claver Center for Evangelization and thank God for many blessings.

We also gather fully aware of the tremendous suffering and pain of so many people in the Gulf Coast of our country who have lost life and property in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. We commend the souls of those who have died to Almighty God and ask Him to grant them eternal rest and peace. In addition to prayers, we also pledge our financial support this evening, because we are all one in the family of God.

In the Office of Readings for the feast of Saint Peter Claver, there is a letter written by the Saint that offers an account of his ministry to the African people who were brought from their homes through the evil of slavery. Saint Peter Claver describes how he ministered to the physical needs of the people who were broken, beaten and half-dead from their journey to a foreign land. He writes, "This is how we spoke to them, not with words but with our hands and our actions." He further notes that after feeding and clothing the people, he offered them the Catholic Faith, thus instructing them in the sacraments and prayers of the Church, before baptizing them in the Name of the Holy Trinity.

For Saint Peter Claver, love was an action word. He understood so well the words spoken by Saint Paul that we heard this evening, "The love of Christ impels us!" (2 Cor. 5, 14). Our Lord Jesus Christ is the sign of God the Father’s intense, unconditional love for the world. It is this love that impels us as well to put our faith into action.

For ten years the Saint Peter Claver Center has served as a home for our African American brothers and sisters to know and love the Catholic Faith. Through the efforts of Mrs. Carolyn Jenkins, the staff and so many catechists, the True Faith has been strengthened and shared. Thousands of people have come to this Center and benefitted from the catechesis and instruction received here. But this knowledge must always be used to serve others, to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to others, especially those most in need.

The Gospel we heard this evening is the Great Commissioning. Jesus commissions or sends His disciples into the whole world to preach His Good News. Our Lord also reminds them and, indeed reminds us, in the very last words of the Gospel of Matthew, "I am with you always until the end of the age" (Mt 28:20).

Because Jesus is with us we must never be afraid to evangelize. We must never be ashamed of our Catholic Faith. And you, my brothers and sisters must always be proud to be Black and Catholic!

In one of the African-American spirituals, we hear:
Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus, you may have all this world,
Just give me Jesus!

May we be inspired this evening as we receive Jesus—Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist—to evangelize and bring Him to others! Saint Peter Claver, pray for us!

Archdiocesan Catholic Life Congress, 2007

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Archdiocesan Catholic Life Congress, 2007
Archbishop Carroll High School
November 3, 2007

Dear Friends in Christ,

I welcome you to this Catholic Life Congress, and I applaud you for your desire to deepen your faith and pastoral skills in order to serve more effectively the people of God. It is a noble work to commit yourself to bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others through your life and your apostolates. This great occasion brings us together to celebrate that commitment and the opportunity to grow together in God’s wisdom and grace. The theme of this Congress reminds us that we are One People, united in One Lord and sharing One Faith. It is a unity that surpasses all earthly differences. Our loving God gently weaves together the threads of our differences into a beautiful tapestry of oneness called the Church.

The late Pope John Paul II said that "the prime value which must be ever more widely inculcated is that of solidarity." The Holy Father believed that "A society depends on the basic relations that people cultivate with one another in ever widening circles (Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, January 1, 2001, no. 17). And, so, we gather here today, casting aside any differences of age or race, language or culture. United by our common fellowship of faith, we celebrate our oneness, our solidarity, in the Lord.

It is providential that today is the feast of Saint Martin de Porres. Born into poverty in Peru during the sixteenth century, Saint Martin was of mixed race and experienced firsthand the cruel realities of discrimination and injustice. Yet, with great piety and an openness to the Spirit, Saint Martin used these obstacles as a pathway to a life of holiness and service to God’s poor and marginalized. Through him, God touched the orphan, the sick and the outcast, working miracles and healing souls as well as bodies. With great humility Martin went about his daily tasks, assured that all work, no matter how great or small, is sacred. Truly, we have that same assurance. In whatever venue we minister, whatever service we are able to render in God’s name is blessed. Often, we do not know the far-reaching effects of our efforts. Yet, just as Saint Martin de Porres did, we respond in faith to the call of today’s Gospel to "love your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt 22:37).

Our lives and our work are not without great challenge in today’s world. Daily, we are faced with concerns and fears and perhaps even with opposition to the Gospel message we try to share. Yet, through grace, we are able to remain strong and faithful to our call. Our Scripture readings today are especially fitting for this gathering and they bolster our resolve. In the first reading, Saint Paul reminds us that "The Lord is near" and that we are to "have no anxiety" (Phil 4:6 ). The message is clear to all those who toil in the vineyard of the Lord as we do: "Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me" (Phil 4:9). In other words, keep teaching and proclaiming the Gospel; continue ministering to the poor and homeless and those challenged by disabilities; keep binding up the wounds of the ill, the forgotten, the elderly; keep advocating for the unborn. In these and so many other ways, we become the hands and feet and voice of Christ. The words of Saint Teresa of Avila remind us that "Ours are the eyes through which [Christ’s] compassion must look out on the world." It is this compassion, this kindness, which Saint Paul tells us today "should be known to all" (Phil 4:5). It is with the eyes of Christ that we look upon our brothers and sisters of all cultures and socio-economic strata, of every state and condition of life. It is with the hands of Christ that we serve those in need. It is with the compassion of Christ that we are able to pour ourselves out as an offering for many. But in order to bring Christ, we must first know Him and be one with Him. Hence, we come to the Eucharistic banquet to be fed and nourished and strengthened for the journey. We find in the Eucharistic mystery the courage and energy to follow Christ and to serve Him in others. Indeed, it is the Eucharist that enables us to see Christ in the face of another human being and to transform the obstacles that life sends our way into the stones which pave our way to eternal life. It is the Eucharist which opens our minds and hearts to the will of God and allows us to make choices that align us more closely with all that is holy.

In a homily this past spring, Pope Benedict XVI observed that "In truth, life is always a choice: between faithfulness and unfaithfulness, between selfishness and altruism, between good and evil... no servant can serve two masters. A fundamental decision is necessary then....If loving Christ and our fellow man is not considered as a superficial accessory but rather as the real and ultimate aim of our entire life, we must know how to make fundamental decisions, to be ready to make radical sacrifices. Today, as yesterday, the life of Catholics calls for the courage to swim against the tide, to love like Jesus, who went so far as to sacrifice Himself upon the Cross."

Your choice to be here today, to serve and assist others in faith is, in itself, proof of your fundamental choice, of your decision to choose Christ rather than the world, to focus, as Saint Paul tells us, on "what is true... honorable... just... pure... lovely... gracious [and] worthy of praise" (Phil 4:8). For two hundred years, clergy, Religious and laity of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia have made this same choice. They have come to the altar of God to receive Jesus Christ and to bring that same Christ to a hungry world. You are part of that proud history—you are part of that strong heritage. On your shoulders, future generations of faithful Catholics will stand and will continue the work of Christ just as you now do. As you follow the example of those who have gone before us , others will follow in your footsteps. We are links in a chain that spans centuries. We do what God asks of us so that others, too, may do the same. Take courage, then. Be of strong heart in the service of God. "Have no anxiety at all" (Phil 4:6). Cast all of your cares upon the Lord; and He will sustain you in your life, in your work, and in your choices.

Then, you will be able to rejoice with the Psalmist and say, "In you, Lord, I have found my peace" (Ps 131: 2), and your peace and joy will be complete. Amen.

Catholic Life Congress 2010

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass during Catholic Life Congress
Archbishop Carroll High School, Radnor, PA
November 13, 2010

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Bishop McIntyre,
Brother Priests,
Dear Deacons and Religious,
All of you who collaborate in the Church’s mission
of Evangelization and Catechesis,
Dear Friends in Christ,

Thank you for taking the time to gather here today. I am grateful for the many ways you contribute to the building up of the Kingdom of God within the Archdiocese. Your sacrifices of time, talent and treasure are essential means by which the Word of God takes root and flourishes in the hearts of many. I hope your participation in this day fosters your own growth in faith so that you will be even more effective witnesses of Jesus Christ.

The theme of this day is “Sacred Mysteries, ever ancient—ever new.” In common usage, the term mystery is applied in many ways. Many people enjoy reading mystery novels. Law enforcement officials address mysterious crimes. Scientists probe the mysteries of the universe. Even sports fans discuss the mystery of why the Phillies failed to win another world series.

When the term mystery is applied to elements of faith or religion, it has a far more profound meaning. Sacred mysteries, including the most fundamental mysteries of the Most Blessed Trinity and the Incarnation, are all rooted in the fact that God Himself dwells in inaccessible light. His life cannot be fully grasped by human beings. God is He whom no one has seen, and whose free action toward humanity is a mystery. The mystery of the infinite God reaching out to finite human beings culminates in the person of Jesus. In the mystery of the Incarnation, God is not merely present “to” the world, He is present “in” the world. Hence, mystery is an essential aspect of reality. Jesus is at the center of the mystery of God’s eternal plan for the salvation of the human race. That mystery continues to be manifest through the Holy Spirit and culminates in the beatific vision.

The term mystery is generally applied to situations in which there is no immediate answer. In these cases a mystery is something that seeks a solution. The searcher or researcher keeps probing with anticipation that an answer will be found and the mystery solved. Sacred mystery, or the mystery of God, is different. It is not a problem for which we find an answer. Sacred mystery draws us to desire to know God. In the process, we are drawn further into mystery. We are invited to a deeper relationship with a loving God whom we cannot fully grasp.

Rather than attempting to solve the mystery of God, we are invited to exercise our freedom in loving God and in accepting the future as God’s future. Saint Paul suggests that we are called to live with mystery willingly, obediently and trustingly. In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul writes, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How...unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord...? ...To him be glory forever.” Sacred Mystery, calls us to rise above ourselves, in loving adoration of God.

The liturgical life of the Church celebrates the sacred mysteries of our faith. The sacraments, mysteries themselves, are gifts from God to the Church. Through the celebration of the sacraments, the divine mystery is made present and effective in the world. In Baptism we celebrate God’s liberation of humanity from the bonds of original sin. Confirmation celebrates the mystery of the Holy Spirit active in our lives and the Church. The mystery God’s abundant mercy is celebrated in the sacrament of Penance. Marriage celebrates the mystery of man and woman becoming one and providing a living example of the love that God has for the Church. In the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, the Church celebrates the mystery of God’s healing and purifying power in those who are ill and suffering. The sacrament of Holy Orders celebrates the mystery through which men, though unworthy, are given a share in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ. In the Eucharist we celebrate the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection as the means of the salvation of the world.

In and through the celebration of the sacraments, the mystery of the eternal God is made ever new in the life of the Church. Through our celebration of the sacraments, the mystery of divine life is kept alive in each one of us.

Today we remember Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini. She is an example of what happens when we allow the mystery of God’s life to transform us. As a young girl she was inspired by the stories of missionaries that her father would read to the children gathered around the table. She imagined sailing off to India or China. At eighteen, she desired to become a nun, but poor health prevented her from being admitted. After spending several years as a teacher, her Bishop requested her to found the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children. Then at the urging of Pope Leo XIII she came to the United States with six religious Sisters in 1889 to work among the Italian immigrants.

Filled with a deep trust in God and endowed with a wonderful administrative ability, this remarkable Sister was responsible for the establishment of nearly seventy orphanages, schools and hospitals. Described in the words of Saint Paul, she was “holy and beloved,” filled with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” She did everything in the name of Jesus. At the time of her death in 1917, her community had established houses in the United States, Europe, South and Central America. Known more affectionately as “Mother Cabrini,” she became the first American citizen to be canonized a saint.

Her life, like that of so many saints is a mystery, every ancient and new. She was a seemingly very ordinary child that God called to extraordinary heights. She opened herself to God and permitted God to enter into the innermost reality of her existence. She did not shy away from mystery. She celebrated it through her participation in the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church. As a result, the word of Christ dwelt in her richly, and she bore fruit that still remains.

Thank you again, dear friends, for your presence today and for your collaboration in the spreading of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is He, Jesus Christ, who calls each of us to be His friends. In the Gospel passage that we have just heard proclaimed, Jesus offers us an extraordinary gift. He offers us His love, but He explains that it is the love that He has received from His Father. He says so simply, so beautifully, so powerfully: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” With these words Jesus introduces us deeply into the mystery of God’s life, the mystery of Trinitarian love, ever ancient, ever new. And then Jesus charges us saying: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” We are invited to bear fruit by laying down our lives in loving service of others. May our words and deeds always be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. And may we experience with Mary the Mother of Jesus, who is the Son of the living God, the joy of making the ever-ancient mystery of God’s love ever-new and present in the world. Amen.

Blessed Columba Marmion

Colloquium on Blessed Columba Marmion
Presentation by Cardinal Justin Rigali
"Blessed Columba Marmion: Doctor of Divine Adoption"
Conception Seminary College, Conception, Missouri
September 14, 2005

Dear Friends,

I believe that any reflection on Abbot Marmion will eventually lead us to a reflection on Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. For this reason, permit me to begin by greeting you with the first words of this Letter: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

It is a joy to be here. It is a joy to participate in this colloquium honoring Blessed Columba Marmion. It is a joy to reflect that now for over five years he has been honored by the Church with the title Blessed. For myself personally, it has been an outstanding grace in my life to have become acquainted years ago with Dom Columba Marmion. His writings have truly influenced my way of thinking. I am deeply grateful for this great grace and I am grateful to the person who first introduced me to the works of Abbot Marmion. I cannot pinpoint the exact year, but I know that it was at the beginning of my studies in the minor seminary. It is now more than fifty-five years that I have been reading Abbot Marmion.

I had always hoped to be able to assist at his Beatification. Five years ago, on September 3rd in the Jubilee Year 2000, I had that great opportunity when he was beatified by Pope John Paul II, together with Pope Pius IX, Pope John XXIII, Archbishop Tommaso Reggio of Genoa and Father William Joseph Chaminade.

It is a privilege now to speak of Blessed Columba Marmion: Doctor of Divine Adoption. I am convinced that he merits the title which, as a matter of fact, has been used for a number of years. I know it was used as early as 1946 by Dom Thibaut, Monk of Maredsous, in his splendid work, L'Idée Maîtresse de la Doctrine de Dom Marmion. In that work reference is made to Dom Van Houtryve and to a work of his, L'esprit de Dom Marmion. I am very grateful to Father Mark Tierney, O.S.B., Vice-Postulator for the Cause of the Canonization of Dom Columba Marmion, for having recently given me a copy of this splendid work, which has helped me in the preparation of this presentation today.

In the Foreword to his great work, Christ the Life of the Soul, Abbot Marmion writes the following words: "My object in these, as in all my other instructions, is to fix the eyes and the hearts of my readers on Jesus Christ and on His word. He is the Alpha and Omega of all sanctity and His word is the divine seed, from which all sanctity springs. In the first ages of the Church these two divine principles, untrammelled in their action, produced wonders of sanctity, but, little by little, men, not content with the simplicity of the divine message, mingled their own conceptions with those of God.

"I felt convinced that if I could deliver God’s message in His own words, according to the divine simplicity of His plan, these same effects would follow, and I must say that my hopes have not been disappointed" (p. 13).

Abbot Marmion speaks of the simplicity of God’s message. He identifies this divine simplicity to a great extent with the gift of divine adoption and this gift of divine adoption becomes, for him, the summary of divine revelation.

Let us return to the first chapter of Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved" (Eph 1:3-6).

It is the opinion of Dom Thibaut that the entire doctrine of Dom Marmion is indeed summarized in this text: God has predestined us: there is a divine decree; to become his adopted children: and this is the object as far as we are concerned of this predestination; through Jesus Christ: this is the way that was chosen by God to realize his plan (cf. L'Idée Maîtresse, p. 20). In the thought of Dom Marmion, and this is indicated by Dom Thibaut, there exists an eternal decree which controls and regulates God’s entire work of salvation and holiness, a decree which at the same time affects us and which, if we accept it, elevates us to a participation in divinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have predestined us to participate in their divine life, to enter into their communion. And this takes place through the grace of adoption, which makes us God’s children and the heirs of His glory. This eternal predestination is realized, in time, through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. Jesus Christ assumes personally through the Incarnation a human nature which belongs to Him alone. Through this humanity, the Son of God communicates to those who accept Him, a participation in His divine filiation. It is indeed to establish the Kingdom of the children of God, in which He will be the elder brother, that the Son has come among us, and that He has effected our redemption. The work of salvation and sanctification continue in the Church throughout all ages under the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the thought of Dom Marmion—his "idée maîtresse." This is the summary of the divine plan. All of God’s actions in the world are related to this plan. For this reason, Dom Marmion makes divine adoption in Christ Jesus the center of his teaching. Everything he says leads us to this central idea, leads us to the fact that God destined us for adoption to Himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of His will, for the praise of the glory of His grace that He granted us in His beloved Son.

In this teaching on divine filiation, adoptive filiation, we find the substance of revelation. Here we find the fundamental dogma of the divine paternity of God and of our adoption in His Son Jesus Christ. We find the Three Persons of the Most Blessed Trinity: the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We find the elevation of man at his creation to a supernatural state as a child of God. We see the influence of original sin and the marvelous restoration of the divine plan through the Incarnation, which makes Christ our elder brother and, through the redemption, which, in restoring our eternal heritage, establishes Christ as Head of the Mystical Body, the Church, and as the universal dispenser of all grace—a divine work that is prolonged throughout the centuries by the Church and which the life-giving Spirit incessantly renders fruitful by his action (cf. L'Idée Maîtresse, pp. 21, 53).

Columba Marmion emphasized the eternal decree of adoption in Christ Jesus whereby, according to the Letter to the Ephesians, we become one in the Son of God, in Jesus Christ. But Dom Marmion was also intent on emphasizing another aspect of the divine plan whereby the only begotten Son of God becomes the Firstborn among many brothers and sisters. He is very fond of Saint Paul’s reference in the Letter to the Romans where it is stated: "For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified" (Rm 8:29-30). In Christ the Life of the Soul, Abbot Marmion emphasizes the eternal act of God’s predestination whereby we are led to participate in the divine sonship of Jesus. The realization of this divine plan is entrusted to Jesus Christ Himself and is accomplished through His sacred humanity. Blessed Columba Marmion says: "The Divine Sonship which is in Christ by nature, and makes Him God’s own and only Son...is to be extended to us by grace, so that in the thought of God, Christ is the First-born of many brethren, who are by grace what He is by nature, sons of God....

"We are here at the central point of the Divine Plan: it is from Jesus Christ, it is through Jesus Christ that we receive the Divine adoption. ‘God sent His Son’, said Saint Paul, ‘that we might receive the adoption of sons’" ( p. 35).

In even greater detail, Abbot Marmion summarizes this divine plan of our adoption. He says: "God is a Father. Eternally, long before the created light rose upon the world, God begets a Son to Whom He communicates His Nature, His perfections, His beatitude, His life, for to beget is to communicate being and life.... In God then is life, life communicated by the Father and received by the Son. This Son, like in all things to the Father, is the only Son of God.... He is so because he has, with the Father, one same and indivisible Divine Nature, and both, although distinct from one another (on account of their personal properties "of being Father" and "of being Son"), are united in a powerful, substantial embrace of love, whence proceeds that Third Person, Whom Revelation calls by a mysterious name: the Holy Ghost.

"Such is, as far as faith can know it, the secret of the inmost life of God; the fulness and the fruitfulness of this life are the source of the incommensurable bliss that the ineffable society of the three Divine Persons possesses.

"And now God–not in order to add to His plentitude, but by it to enrich other beings–extends, as it were, His Paternity. God decrees to call creatures to share this Divine life, so transcendent that God alone has the right to live it, this eternal life communicated by the Father to the Only Son, and by them to the Holy Spirit. In a transport of love which has its source in the fulness of Being and Good that God is, this life overflows from the bosom of the Divinity to reach and beatify beings drawn out of nothingness, by lifting them above their nature. To these mere creatures God will give the condition and sweet name of children. By nature God has only one Son; by love, He wills to have an innumerable multitude: that is the grace of supernatural adoption" (ibid., pp. 23-24).

And this is what Blessed Columba Marmion taught, this was l'idée maîtresse of his teaching, beautifully and consistently presented throughout all his works, and this is why he is respectfully presented to the determining judgment of the Church as the Doctor of Divine Adoption.

It should be noted that the life that is received by the Son, by the eternal Word, and that is shared with humanity when the Unigenitus Dei Filius, the only begotten Son of God, becomes the Primogenitus in multis fratribus, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, leads to glory. The Second Vatican Council will arrange its teaching on the Church in such a way that the next to last chapter of Lumen Gentium will draw attention to the eschatological dimension of the Church in which all the children of God share eternal life with Christ in the communion of the Blessed Trinity.

The teaching on divine adoption, for Blessed Columba Marmion, summarizes the Church’s teaching on the Most Blessed Trinity. It takes into account the action of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is, by its nature, profoundly Trinitarian. But it is likewise profoundly Christological, because every human being who is configured to Christ, every human being who is granted the privilege of entering into the sonship of Jesus, is radically related to Him.

Blessed Columba Marmion explains in great detail how Christ is the life of the soul, how Christ is the model of all Christian living, the model of the human activity and virtues of all those who are destined to be His brothers and sisters through divine adoption. Jesus Christ is also the meritorious cause of salvation. By His Death on the Cross, Jesus Christ has merited the great gift of reestablishing humanity in the relationship of divine filiation with the Son. And Jesus Christ is the one, in the thought of Columba Marmion, who is indeed the efficient cause, the one who personally brings it about, that the individual human being is configured to Christ and receives a participation in His divine filiation. This filiation is brought about by Jesus Christ who is the exemplary cause, the meritorious cause and the efficient cause of all holiness. Through His sacraments, Jesus Christ works to bring about in each human being what He has initially brought about for all humanity through His Death on the Cross.

The Second Vatican Council has insisted that God’s plan of salvation and sanctification does not involve us as disconnected individuals, but that we are all destined to be incorporated into the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. And it is in this Mystical Body of Christ that the whole divine plan is realized: God’s plan of incorporating us into Christ, God’s plan of making us His children and having us share with one another the dignity of the children of God.

In presenting the divine plan of our adoption in Christ, Blessed Columba Marmion, in accord with the most sacred tradition of the Church, outlines the work of the Holy Spirit. This is in keeping with the teaching of the Church, both in the East and the West. Blessed Columba beautifully explains the role of the Holy Spirit in the Most Blessed Trinity. He explains the operations of the Holy Spirit in Christ. He explains the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and the action of the Holy Spirit in souls. It is impossible to understand how the gift of divine adoption is effected by the Father, apart from Christ and apart from the action of the Holy Spirit.

When we speak about the great love of God that has made it possible for us to be His children, we must, of necessity, speak about the role of the Holy Spirit. And Abbot Marmion does this very effectively. He explains that the Holy Trinity acts in the world as one and the same cause. And, yet, he shows how the Church attributes to one or other of the Divine Persons certain actions which are produced in the world and, although common to the Three Persons, have a special relation or an intimate affinity with the place which this Person occupies in the Blessed Trinity, and with the attributes which are particularly and exclusively His own. And, so, Abbot Marmion explains that the Holy Spirit is the ultimate term of the divine operations of the life of God in Himself. The Holy Spirit closes, so to speak, the cycle of the intimate divine life: it is His personal property to proceed from both the Father and the Son by way of love. This is why all that is a work of achievement, of perfection, all that is a work of love, of union, and, consequently, of holiness—for our holiness is measured by our degree of union with God—is attributed to the Holy Spirit (cf. Christ the Life of the Soul, pp. 108-109).

In this way, the Church can attribute divine adoption to the action of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the substantial love of the Father and the Son. The love of the Father and the Son causes us to become children of God. And Saint Paul says that this love is poured out by the Holy Spirit. Holiness is the complete expression of our divine adoption and the Holy Spirit perfects in us the interior transformation to the image of Christ, the Son of God. To the Holy Spirit, then, is attributed every work of sanctification, of completion, of achievement. The sublime end to which all the operations of the Holy Spirit in the soul tend is to perfect the interior transformation to the image of Christ, the Son of God. In presenting to us the teaching on divine filiation, divine adoption, Columba Marmion leads us into the mystery and action of the Holy Spirit and thereby into a deeper understanding of the whole mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity.

In Part II of Christ the Life of the Soul, Abbot Marmion presents the foundation and double aspect of the Christian life. And he presents these as the response of Christians to the grace of divine adoption. For Abbot Marmion, the response to the divine plan is Christian living and this Christian living involves both death to sin and life to God. The two fundamental aspects of Christian living are faith and Baptism. Blessed Columba Marmion reminds us that faith is the foundation of all Christian life. He reminds us of Saint Paul’s words: "For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:26). He reminds us that faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and that it "embraces, as its primordial object, the Divinity of Jesus sent by the Eternal Father to work out our salvation. From this principal object, faith radiates on everything referring to Christ: the Sacraments, the Church, individual souls, the whole of revelation and, when it culminates in love and adoration yielding all our being to the full accomplishment to the will of Jesus and His Father, faith reaches its perfection" (Christ the Life of the Soul, p. 151). For Abbot Marmion, Christianity is nothing more than the acceptance in all its consequences, both doctrinal and practical, of the divinity of Christ in the Incarnation.

Faith is the free and firm acceptance of God’s revealed truth by the human intellect, under the impulse of the will, and aided by grace. And the truth of God that we must accept by faith can be summarized in this way: Jesus Christ is His only Son sent for our salvation and given for our sanctification. Hence, faith is what the eternal Father Himself demands of us when He presents Jesus to us saying: "This is my beloved Son; listen to him."

Abbot Marmion recommends to those who want to live the fullness of Christian life to join in the confession of faith that is made by Peter to Jesus: "You are the Christ the Son of the living God." This confession of faith, for Abbot Marmion, is meant to be an act that engages our entire being and all our existence. At this point, I would like to share with you a personal experience of mine last April. It was in the Sistine Chapel, just moments after Pope Benedict XVI had been elected Pope. The conclave came to an end officially when the new Pope accepted his election at the hands of the College of Cardinals. As soon as he said yes, the confidentiality of the conclave was lifted. And right after that, after he had explained the reasons for the name that he had chosen, namely, Benedict—and one of them was the fact that Saint Benedict had told his disciples to prefer nothing to the love of Christ—then Pope Benedict XVI went to the sacristy to change his cassock. He returned in the papal white cassock and took his place before the backdrop of The Last Supper in the Sistine Chapel. It was at this moment that one of the first significant acts in the new pontificate was performed by the senior Cardinal Deacon. It was he, Cardinal Medina, who was charged to approach the new Pope and to proclaim to him the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Saint Matthew. At the very beginning of his pontificate, Benedict XVI was reminded, through the proclamation of God’s revealed word, that his predecessor Peter had confessed and proclaimed Jesus as the Son of the living God, and that Jesus Himself had proclaimed Peter to be the foundation rock of His Church. The faith of Peter is something that his successor must consistently proclaim and, in proclaiming it, he shares with all of us the opportunity to engage in this act of faith, to repeat this assent to Jesus Christ, which is at the foundation of all Christian life.

According to Christ’s will, however, the Christian life rests not only on the profession of faith, but on the sacrament of faith, which is Baptism. According to the will of Christ, Baptism is the efficacious sign of our divine adoption. It is through Baptism that we truly become children of God and are incorporated into Christ Jesus. Baptism is, therefore, the sacrament of divine adoption. It is the sacrament of Christian initiation. It is the sacrament that incorporates us into the death and life of Christ.

In Christ the Life of the Soul, Abbot Marmion places in perspective everything else that relates to the great gift of divine filiation, the great gift of divine adoption. Abbot Marmion reminds us that all our holiness is summarized in participating by grace in the divine filiation of Christ Jesus and in being, by supernatural adoption, what Christ is by nature.

For Abbot Marmion, to receive Christ in the Eucharist, to participate in the Eucharistic action is indeed to make the most elevated act of faith and to participate in the greatest measure possible in the divine filiation of Jesus. This constant doctrine of Blessed Columba Marmion, so intimately placed within the structure of divine adoption, is totally consonant with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that the Eucharist is "the source and summit of our Christian life." Our Baptism is fully actuated in our Eucharistic participation.

And while the Eucharist is indeed the most sublime form of prayer, Blessed Columba Marmion explains to us the full role of prayer as it relates to the life of one who has been given divine adoption. Prayer, in general, therefore, becomes the expression of our intimate life as children of God. It is the fruit of our divine filiation in Christ. How aptly Jesus taught His Apostles, when they asked Him to teach them to pray, that they should say: "Our Father who art in Heaven."

For Blessed Columba Marmion, the Christ to whom we are united by divine filiation is both the Son of the living God and the Son of Mary. For this reason, Blessed Columba tells us: "To separate Christ from His Mother in our piety, is to divide Christ; it is to lose sight of the essential mission of His Sacred Humanity in the distribution of Divine grace" (Christ the Life of the Soul, p. 340). He reminds us that "if Jesus Christ is our Savior, our Mediator, our Elder Brother, because He has taken upon Himself our human nature, how can we love Him truly, how can we resemble Him perfectly, without having a special devotion to her from whom He took His human nature?" (ibid.).

Citing Blessed Pius IX, Blessed Columba tells us that the eternal Father, in His divine thoughts, does not separate Mary from Christ. He comprehends, in the same act of love, the Virgin who is to be the Mother of Christ and the humanity of His Son in whom He is well pleased (cf. Ineffabilis Deus).

According to the divine plan, life is only given to mankind through Christ, the man God. But Christ is given to the world only through Mary: Et incarnatus est ex Maria Virgine.

The final chapter of Christ the Life of the Soul, like the next to final chapter of the Church’s Constitution on the Church, brings us to eternal life. Abbot Marmion concludes his great work, Christ the Life of the Soul, saying: "Let no pain, no suffering cast you down.... Let no temptation hold you back, for if you are found faithful in the hour of trial, the hour will come when you will receive the crown which will be given to you on entering into the true life ‘which God hath promised to them that love Him’" (ibid., p. 367).

His other works are likewise faithful to the development of his great theme. Christ in His Mysteries takes up again the theme of divine adoption and shows how essential it is for the Christian to imitate Christ and to be, by grace, what Jesus is by nature.

Christ The Ideal of the Monk, insists upon the importance of divine filiation. It shows the monastic life as a special development of the life of Baptism. In this work, Abbot Marmion shows also that the invitation to share, through divine adoption the Sonship of Christ Jesus, is the source of all divine mercy.

In his work Union With God, which is a collection of his letters, Abbot Marmion develops at great length his understanding of divine mercy. It is very interesting to recall that the first chapter of Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, which speaks about divine adoption, speaks immediately afterwards about "redemption by his blood and the forgiveness of transgression" (Eph 1:7).

Abbot Marmion expresses great confidence in the mercy of the heavenly Father. Confidence in the Father’s mercy is an essential aspect of the filial spirit that is proper to divine adoption. For Dom Marmion, human misery is a title to receive the mercy of God. In Christ the Life of the Soul, Dom Columba had already given an extraordinary definition of mercy, saying: "Now God is goodness itself and infinite love. Deus caritas est; and in the presence of misery His goodness and love become mercy" (Christ the Life of the Soul, p. 182). I believe that this definition of mercy is one that will hold up in the entire theology of mercy that is so beautifully being developed in this our age.

Abbot Marmion loves to extol "the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation." And he shows that the special glory which God wants from us, by reason of our eternal adoptive predestination, is the glorification of His merciful love (cf. L'Idée Maîtresse, p. 160). Blessed Columba Marmion gives us, finally, a magnificent personal testimony, in regard to God’s mercy. He says: "For some time past God has been making me see in a magnificent light that His Majesty’s whole plan, His whole ‘economy’ towards us is an economy of mercy. It is our miseries which, united to Christ’s sufferings and infirmities, draw down all the graces He gives us.

"God has been giving me for some time past," he says again, "a strong light, and this light is shed over my whole life. When God looks upon this poor world, upon this multitude of the miserable, incredulous and sinful, what does He feel? Misereor super turbam, ‘I have compassion on the multitude.’ Our miseries excite His mercy. Not only that, but as we, through our baptism, are members of Christ, our miseries are His. He has taken them all upon Him. He has assumed them and rendered them divine, and the Father, in looking upon our miseries and weaknesses, sees those of His Son which cry out to him for mercy" (Union with God, pp. 126-127).

And finally, in January 1923, just fifteen days before his death, Blessed Columba Marmion, expressed a magnificent testimony of confidence in the face of divine mercy, saying: "For me, at this moment, all my spiritual life is to stretch out my misery before him" (L'Idée Maîtresse, p. 165).

* * *

To complete our vision of this Doctor of Divine Adoption, it is necessary to go back for a moment once again to Christ the Life of the Soul, to show that the divine fatherhood of God is, for Columba Marmion, the source and motive of human solidarity. This is a very important point, in presenting the full measure of his spirituality. In his chapter, "Love One Another," Blessed Columba says that "the commandment of the love of our brethren is the supreme wish of Christ: it is so much His desire that He makes of it, not a counsel, but a commandment, His commandment, and He makes a fulfilment of it the infallible sign by which His disciples shall be recognized" (pp. 324-325). He adds, "There are souls that seek God in Jesus Christ and accept the humanity of Christ, but stop there. That is not sufficient: we must accept the Incarnation with all the consequences that it involves: we must not let the gift of ourselves stop at Christ’s own humanity, but extend it to His Mystical Body. That is why—never forget this, for it is one of the most important points of the supernatural life—to abandon the least of our brethren is to abandon Christ Himself."

The final and supreme criterion for fraternal love that is presented by Blessed Columba Marmion is taken from Jesus’ words in the 17th chapter of Saint John. Jesus says: "I pray for them...for the ones you have given me, because they are yours" (Jn 17:9). This phrase—"because they are yours"—brings us back to our theme of divine adoption. Humanity has been assumed by Christ and, through His own sacred humanity, he has uplifted His brothers and sisters. The gift of divine adoption that we have received compels us to love one another, and this love is the final measure in which we respond to the gift of our own divine adoption in Christ Jesus.

I believe that this message is consonant with the words spoken by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000. At the Beatification of Blessed Columba Marmion, he said: "Dom Marmion left us an authentic treasure of spiritual teaching for the Church of our time. In his writings, he teaches a simple yet demanding way of holiness for all the faithful, whom God has destined in love to be his adopted children through Christ Jesus (cf. Ep 1:5)." And then he expresses the wish which is certainly our own today: "May a widespread rediscovery of the spiritual writings of Blessed Columba Marmion help priests, religious and laity to grow in union with Christ and bear faithful witness to him through ardent love of God and generous service of their brothers and sisters."

Mass on the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass for Catechists of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
January 25, 2009

Dear Friends,

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Brother Bishops,
Regional Vicars, Priests, Deacons and Religious,
Award Recipients, esteemed Catechists and your families,
Lay faithful,
Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,

It is a joy and, indeed, a privilege to join with you in giving thanks to God for all that He accomplishes in and through the catechetical ministry of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Catechists are esteemed and loved by the Church. By teaching the faith, you proclaim the word of God and share in an essential ministry of the Church. The National Directory for Catechesis points out that "The single most critical factor in a parish catechetical program is the catechetical leader" (54-B-5). You are vital to parish life and ministry. A vibrant parish depends on the generous and caring people who are part of parish religious education programs. Without you a very important part of the parish’s ministry would be missing.

The Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul commemorates an event on the road to Damascus. Saul, after falling to the ground in astonishment, encountered the risen Savior. He then arose as Paul, to become the Apostle to the Gentiles. He who formerly blasphemed, persecuted and insulted Christ would become one of Christ’s most zealous disciples.

The conversion of Saul was a pivotal event for the early Church. So much of the story of the early Church can be traced to the intimacy with Jesus that was ignited in the heart of Saint Paul. His conversion gave him insight into the workings of sin, but even more into God’s power to transform completely the human being.

At the heart of Paul’s conversion was a surrender to the love of the risen Lord. The experience of being loved by Jesus was the motivating force behind his missionary activity. To the Galatians he wrote, "I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). It was the awareness that Christ died out of love for him that overwhelmed him to his depths and totally transformed him. He came to see God, other people and even himself in a new way, with the eyes of Christ. He was emboldened to reach out to others and communicate to them, the love he had experienced and the truth that he had come to know. He became a teacher of faith to the gentiles and a herald of Jesus Christ to the world. He defended and offered Christ to anyone who would listen.

Two thousand years ago Paul was a vessel, chosen to share with others, the treasure that God had given him. His goal was: "to know Christ and the power of his resurrection" (Philippians 3:10). Today, you too are vessels God has chosen to bring the knowledge and truth of Christ to others so that they might come to accept salvation in Him.

Your role as catechists is a response to the words that Jesus speaks in today’s Gospel. "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Christ’s command has resounded through the ages, calling men and women of every race and nation, in every time and place to join Him in announcing the coming of God’s Kingdom. Christ taught individuals, small groups, and great crowds. He taught from hillsides and boats, in towns and synagogues, on mountains and seashores, on Sabbaths and feasts, early in the morning and in the dark of night.

You too, in a variety of settings, are called to communicate Christ to others. By familiarizing them with the Scriptures, teaching the truths of faith and preparing them to receive sacraments, you bring them into a deeper relationship with Jesus and His Church. Their growth in the knowledge of the Catholic faith brings them greater awareness of God’s infinite love for them. Their experience of this love transforms them, much as Paul was transformed through his encounter with the risen Christ.

Jesus Christ is the heart of catechesis. When you offer authentic instruction about Jesus, you convey Truth itself. He is "the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). By sharing the Catholic faith with others, you keep the person and message of Jesus alive. You help people live according to the teachings of Christ so that they might be made new in Him.

As you know, the ministry of catechesis is not always easy. It often entails proclaiming the person and message of Jesus to a culture that is not always prepared to hear and accept the message. We are reminded of Saul’s own companions. They did not understand the voice that spoke to Saul. There are many reasons that hinder a deeper and richer encounter with Christ, his Gospel and his Church. Powerful and attractive messages contradict the Gospel. Secularism, moral relativism, distorted notions of freedom, materialism and individualism are just some of the obstacles that you encounter.

However, Jesus’ death on the Cross and the struggles that Saint Paul faced are reminders that teaching the faith has always encountered opposition. This should not diminish our enthusiasm for bringing Christ to others. Today’s challenges are also enormous opportunities. Tradition, Scripture and Church teaching are all gifts of God. They must be presented clearly and reasonably and in an attractive manner. It is necessary for you to demonstrate that a commitment to faith does not diminish freedom and happiness but offers the fullness of life, including eternal life. You are called to explore the new possibilities offered by new technologies. The Gospel message has to penetrate the culture, make sense to a new generation and bring about a response of faith.

More persuasive than words are our actions. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus directs Paul to be "his witness before all" (Acts 22:15). The most effective catechesis is a life that is lived in conformity with faith. Through your witness, others see that your life has meaning, joy and fulfillment. They are drawn to want to share the Catholic faith and become followers of Jesus on the "Way" to eternal life.

During his visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI described America as a "land of great faith and remarkable religious fervor" (Homily to Bishops, April 16, 2008). Much stronger than the apparent religious indifference is a yearning in the human heart for God. Many do not contest what the Church teaches, they simply do not know it or think that it is something other than it is. Their search for meaning in life is an occasion for us to teach Jesus and the fullness of life that He brings.

The success of the Church’s catechetical mission does not depend merely on human effort. Were that the case, there would be cause for concern. Christ’s presence in the Church is the guarantee of success. Recall that as Saul lay on the ground at the moment of his conversion, Jesus did not ask, "Why do you persecute my followers, my Church?" He asked, "Why do you persecute me?" Jesus identifies Himself with His Church. He is one with His Church. As a consequence, the victory that Jesus had over sin and death He shares with us, His body, His Church.

All those who aspire to present Jesus and His teachings to others must themselves enter into an interior encounter with Christ. Saint Paul persevered as a witness for Christ through his union with him. He writes, "For to me life is Christ.... I long to... be with Christ" (Philippians 1:21,23).

Your personal relationship with Jesus, dear friends, energizes your service and provides continuing motivation, vitality and force in all your catechetical activity.

The foundation of your role as catechists must be a life that is nourished by the sacraments. This enables you to be God’s instruments in communicating Christ. Catechists water the seeds of faith, but God gives the growth. When you are sustained by prayer and by the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist, your ministry is vital and effective. The success of your mission depends on your close union with Jesus Christ.

We are part of an exhilarating time in the life of the Church. The renewed emphasis on catechesis encourages each of us to introduce others to Christ. The task that God gave Paul was far beyond his own ability; yet he fulfilled his mission with the help of God’s grace. Dear catechists: the Church depends on you in the essential task of handing on the treasure of our holy Catholic faith. What a magnificent mission you have! What an incredible dignity is yours! God will accomplish great things through you, if you allow his grace to act in you.

Today we offer thanks to God for so many blessings. On my part I express profound gratitude to all of you who participate in the catechetical ministry of the Archdiocese. You offer time and talent to share the faith that you have received and cherish.

In addition, I am thankful to the parents who attend to the religious education of their children at home and encourage their children to participate in religious education programs. I deeply appreciate the effort of pastors and other priests to ensure that the catechetical needs and goals of the parish are met.

I am grateful to Directors and Coordinators of Religious Education and to all catechists for the assistance that they provide to their pastors. Know that I support you all in this great ecclesial ministry.

In particular, I congratulate our award recipients. Know that the Archdiocese treasures the many years of faith-filled service that you have provided. May you be specially blessed. And may the Blessed Mother Mary be always your life, your sweetness and your hope!

Finally, together we thank the Lord for having chosen Paul and for making him the apostle to the nations and the teacher of us all. Through the prayers of Saint Paul, the witness of our lives and the grace of the Holy Spirit, may the Gospel of God take ever deeper root in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Solemnity of Corpus Christi
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dear Boys and Girls—all of you who have made your First Holy communion this year,
Dear Parents and Families,
Dear Catholic People, assembled with our Bishops, Priests, Deacons and Religious,
Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

This is a wonderful day—a wonderful feast day: the feast of Corpus Christi; the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is a day of very special blessing for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. All our children who have made their First Holy Communion this year have been invited to celebrate together in our Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Our children are wearing their First communion outfits and they are prepared to walk in procession at the end of Mass in order to show publicly that they believe in Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist and that they want to live in His love.

And all of us, dear friends, who are gathered here in the Cathedral, in the Chapel and also outside are making a solemn profession of our holy Catholic faith in the Eucharist. And what is it exactly that we believe?

We believe what Jesus told us: that He promised to give us His Body and Blood as our food and drink. And we believe that Jesus actually fulfilled that promise at the Last Supper when He instituted the Holy Eucharist and gave His Apostles and their successors the power to say Mass and, in His name, to change bread and wine into His Body and Blood.

Our Gospel today tells us how Jesus prepared His Apostles to accept His teaching—which was something new and hard to grasp. In the sixth chapter of Saint John’s gospel, we see first how Jesus, after He had multiplied five loaves and two fish, fed a large crowd of thousands of people. After Jesus did this, He explained that He would give them still another type of food: His own Body and Blood. These are Jesus’ words proclaimed in the Gospel today: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

For some people these clear words of Jesus were difficult to accept. Some people objected, saying: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus wanted to explain so as to help the people accept His words and to accept His person. He could have said: "No, you misunderstood me. I didn’t mean what I said; I was only speaking figuratively; what I really meant was that the bread I will give is a little symbol of my body." But, no, Jesus then repeated his original teaching in different ways. How many times? Once? Twice? No. Actually, Jesus repeated His very important statement seven times.

As the Son of God, He could not leave people in doubt about the meaning of His words on such an important subject. And so He began to repeat seven more times:

(1) "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you."

(2) "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day."

(3) "For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink."

(4) "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him."

(5) "...the one who feeds on me will have life because of me."

(6) "This is the bread that came down from heaven."

(7) "Whoever eats this bread will live forever."

Dear friends: we see that Jesus meant what He said. And this is why we are here today, because we believe the words of Jesus. We know that, as the Son of God, He has the power to do what, humanly speaking, is impossible. We accept the words of Jesus because we accept Jesus Himself as true God and true Man. What He tells us is true, because He cannot deceive nor be deceived. We know, moreover, that Jesus loves us, that He died for us on the Cross, and that He gives us His Body and Blood precisely so that we can live with Him forever in the glory of heaven, in the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity.

Dear boys and girls, dear friends: This is the wonderful message that the Church proclaims today: that Jesus is truly with us in the Holy Eucharist. He gives us His Body and Blood as an expression of His love. And by our presence today and by our prayers we acknowledge His love and show Him our love in return.

And finally, dear parents: what a magnificent role you exercise in handing on to your children our holy Catholic faith, our belief in the true presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament! In your marriage you have experienced God’s love through one another; you have communicated love and transmitted life to your children and you continue to strive by your own faith and example to introduce your children to the fullness of God’s love that is found in the Holy Eucharist.

The feast of Corpus Christi, this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ is precious for the entire community of the Church, but how personally and profoundly meaningful it is for all our families—parents and children, especially our First Communicants—for whom it is such an outpouring of the love of Jesus Christ, who once again repeats to all of us today: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; ... and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." Amen.

Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Solemnity of Corpus Christi
Enthronement of the Image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help
Blessing of New Shrines
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,
            On this solemn feast, we celebrate the inestimable gift of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Holy Eucharist is both the Sacrament of Thanksgiving and the Sacrament of Unity.  This evening, here in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, here in the mother Church of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, we demonstrate and celebrate with gratitude the unity we share within the Sacrifice of the Mass.  We demonstrate our unity also in the blessing of four new shrines in honor of Our Blessed Mother Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint John Neumann and Saint Katharine Drexel.

The shrine to our Blessed Mother first of all offers for veneration the statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, as she appeared in 1830 in Paris to Saint Catherine Labouré―a devotion long fostered among the faithful of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by the Vincentian Fathers, represented here this evening by the Provincial, Father Michael Carroll.  This devotion is actually a devotion that honors the Immaculate Conception of Mary. 

In addition, this evening we have the solemn Enthronement of the sacred image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help―another devotion so dear to the piety of people throughout the world―a devotion that honors the Motherhood of Mary in relationship to Jesus and to all of us.  On this happy occasion we demonstrate our unity, coming together from different parishes in our Archdiocese, together with our priests and deacons, together with our consecrated Religious, to proclaim our gratitude for the gift of the Eucharist and for the abundant blessings which flow from that Most Blessed Sacrament.

            With gratitude, I acknowledge the presence of Bishop DeSimone, Bishop Cistone and Bishop McFadden, as well as the presence of my brother priests who are with us this evening. I express special gratitude to the Redemptorists who are present, including Father Patrick Woods, the Provincial, and Father Alfred Bradley, the Assistant to the Provincial.  For almost two centuries, the Redemptorists have been great collaborators with the Bishops and Archbishops of Philadelphia in the pastoral care of souls.  Typified in the ministry of our fourth Bishop, the Redemptorist Saint John Neumann, the Redemptorist priests and brothers have given faithful witness to the Passion and Cross of Jesus, and have proclaimed to the poor the love and mercy of God.  Since 1865, the Redemptorists at the Church of Saint Alphonsus, in Rome, have been entrusted with the care and veneration of the precious icon  and have fostered devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.  On behalf of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Peter and Paul and the entire Archdiocese, I am grateful to the Redemptorists for donating a venerable image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, which is to  be enthroned at this liturgy.  Furthermore, I thank the Redemptorists and the faithful of the former Saint Boniface Parish, for donating the altars in honor of Our Lady and Saint Joseph.  They replace the original side altars.  These magnificent gifts are an expression of the unity which all parishes and all the faithful enjoy in relationship to the Cathedral Church of the Archdiocese.  

            I extend a warm welcome to Monsignor John Savinski and parishioners of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Morton for their demonstration of solidarity as we enthrone the sacred image which has such great meaning for the life of their parish. 

            My gratitude goes likewise to Monsignor Michael McCulken, Rector of the Cathedral, and to all of the parishioners of the Cathedral Parish.  I thank you for your support of these projects and for the enthusiasm with which you awaited these renovations.  Not only do these shrines enhance the beauty of our Cathedral, but they will also inspire for many years to come all who come here to pray in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord and to seek the intercession of Our Lady and the Saints.  It is then with great joy that we dedicate the new shrines in honor of Our Lady and the Saints. 

            All of this has been made possible by the extraordinary generosity of a faithful member of the Archdiocese, Mr. Peter Carlino, who, in memory of the piety of his beloved wife Betty, has supported the entire project of the shrines that we inaugurate today, and to whom we express deep appreciation and esteem.  How fitting that this event takes place on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi!  Mary, whom the Servant of God Pope John Paul II referred to as “the Woman of the Eucharist,” helps us to grow in our love for Christ,  whom she conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pope John Paul II reminded us that “Mary can guide us toward this most holy sacrament, because she has a profound relationship with it” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 53).

            In dedicating the shrine in honor of Saint Joseph, we honor the chaste Spouse of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Foster Father of the Son of God, Patron Saint of Workers and Protector of the Universal Church. Saint Joseph, by his example, constantly draws us to love ever more deeply Jesus and Mary.  In every aspect of his life, Saint Joseph invites us to pray fervently, to work diligently, to trust unwaveringly in divine providence, and to live faithfully that, like him, we may die in the embrace of Jesus and Mary. 

            It is most appropriate, too, that it is on this great feast of Corpus Christi that the new shrines in honor of Philadelphia’s beloved Saints, John Nepomucene Neumann and Katharine Drexel are dedicated.  In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI stated: “The first and fundamental mission that we receive from the sacred mysteries we celebrate is that of bearing witness by our lives.  The wonder we experience at the gift God has made to us in Christ,” continued the Holy Father, “gives new impulse to our lives and commits us to becoming witnesses of his love” (no. 85).  How vividly this sentiment is reflected in the lives and witness of Saints John Neumann and Katharine Drexel.  Motivated by their loving encounter with Christ in the Eucharist, these saints sought to bring that love to all.  Saint John Neumann established within our Archdiocese the annual Forty Hours Devotion, a time of renewal through Eucharistic Adoration for each parish.  This devotion remains a steadfast sign of the love which the faithful of our Archdiocese have for our Eucharistic Lord.  Saint Katharine Drexel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, was transformed by the Eucharist and sought to bring to our nation’s most oppressed people the love and hope which flow from the Eucharist.  We are pleased that some of the Sisters are present with us this evening, including their President, Sister Patricia  Suchalski.  Mother Katharine’s beautiful sentiment to the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament continues to inspire us today:  “Ours is the spirit of the Eucharist, the total gift of self.” 

            The Liturgy of the Word for this celebration of Corpus Christi places in perspective this spirit of the Eucharist as we look at the Sacrifice of Jesus.  Jesus gave Himself completely for us on the Cross and He gives Himself completely to us in the Eucharist.  This Sacrifice is prefigured in the sacrifices of old and in the sprinkling of the blood of slaughtered animals upon the people.  God sealed His covenant with His People in blood.  On the night before His death, Jesus, at the Passover meal, gave new meaning to the ancient rites so sacred to the memory of Israel.  Jesus Himself is the Paschal Lamb.  Jesus Himself is the Bread of Life.  It is the Blood of Christ Himself which seals God’s new and everlasting Covenant with His People.  The Letter to the Hebrews explains the meaning and emphasizes the power of the sacrificial and precious Blood shed by our Savior on the Cross:  “…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God” (Heb 9:14). 

            This evening, as we give thanks for the gift of the Eucharist, we necessarily contemplate the Passion of Christ, for in the Eucharist we recall and enter into the mystery of the death of Jesus.  At the heart of our dedication ceremony is today’s Enthronement of the Image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, which draws our attention to the Passion of Christ.  In this revered icon, we behold the tender strength of the Mother of God as she draws her Divine Child into her embrace.  The Archangels Michael and Gabriel are depicted bearing the instruments of the Passion:  the Cross, the nails, the lance, and the reed with the gall-soaked sponge.  As the Christ Child beholds the instruments which will be used in his painful Passion and Death, he is filled with anguish.  With haste, the Christ Child throws Himself into the arms of His Mother, running so quickly that the sandal is loosened and dangles from his foot. 

            Dear friends: as Our Mother embraces and comforts her own Christ Child, so she gazes upon the human race to bring all of us constant help and loving solace.  She offers us her Divine Son, Jesus Christ, to be our hope.  As we enthrone the Image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in our Cathedral, let us enthrone this image and all that it represents in our hearts.  In the midst of our pains and trials, in the face of our anxieties and fears, Mary is with us to comfort us and to offer us the gift of her Son, especially in the Holy Eucharist.  He who endured the pain of the Cross will give us grace to endure whatever crosses God may place upon our shoulders.  Remember also that, while enduring the agony of the Cross, Jesus gave us His Mother to be our Mother.  The stirring words of Jesus, “Behold, your Mother!” (Jn 19:27), remind us of the loving and merciful woman who always intercedes for us, her children, before the throne of God, and who is indeed Our Mother of Perpetual Help.  Mary, who stood beside the Cross of Christ, stands by us always and directs us to Jesus.  Mary beckons us to trust in Jesus, and she instructs us to love Him who gives Himself completely to us in the Most Holy Eucharist.  It is this Holy Eucharist, the true Body of Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, that we honor and adore in a special way today on this vigil Solemnity of Corpus Christi.  Amen.
             

Address to Couples for Christ Conference in Baltimore

Address of Cardinal Justin Rigali
To the Partcipants in the Couples for Christ Conference
Baltimore Washington Marriott
Baltimore, Maryland
July 3, 2009

The Challenge of Building a Culture of Life

 

Dear Friends,

I am grateful for this opportunity to be with you during this meeting of Couples for ChristCFoundation for Family and Life.  Your celebration of marriage and family life is so needed in our world today, and even in our Church.  We live in challenging times when marriage and family life are under attack by many forces.  And so we must not only celebrate marriage and family life, but we are also called to heroically defend marriage and family life.

As you know, I chair the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.  And so I have the unique perspective of witnessing not only new threats to family life, but also new threats to human life at its most vulnerable stages.

The effort to restore legal protection for unborn children faces new challenges, as we deal with a new Administration and Congress that support "abortion rights." Many are asking: Where do we go from here?  We first need to recall why we are here and why we Catholics became involved in these tough battles. We begin with the dignity of each human person.

From the neighbor next door to the unknown person living thousands of miles away, each and every one of us has intrinsic and immeasurable worth. That is because God created each of us in his image by the outpouring of his infinite and unconditional love. In return he asks only that we share that love with others, beginning with the family, and embracing especially those most in needCthe poor, the vulnerable, and the despised of this world.

This intrinsic God-given human dignity is the basis for all inalienable human rightsCbeginning with the most basic right, the right to life. It is most basic because it is the condition for all other rights.  First we must live, then we can talk about living well. If a government acknowledges a right, such as that of free speech, but can kill you if you say something it dislikes, you don't in effect  have any real right to free speech.

The right to life is not more important or higher than all other rights. In a sense the highest or supreme right is freedom of religion, because that is the right to do what God created us for, loving and serving Him by loving and serving others. But the right to life is the core element of other rights. All other earthly rights involve something more than life itself B but without life, they are illusory.

That "something more" is vitally important. The defense of life reaches its fullness when it expands to defend the entire range of human well-being. This is all one vision, and ultimately one issueCthe dignity of the human person. In the words of St. Irenaeus, Gloria Dei vivens homoCthe glory of God is man fully alive.

To keep that vision constantly before our eyes, to remember why we are here and to gain the strength to move forward, we need to begin all our efforts with prayer. Our efforts must be centered on God and His infinite love for usCfor the born and the unborn, for those who oppose us as well as those who agree with us. Only in this way can we maintain our perspective in a world of political pressures and partisan loyalties.

In defending the right to life, our first duty is to oppose the direct taking of innocent human lifeCany human life, at any stage. As Pope John Paul II confirmed in his encyclical The Gospel of Life: "...the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral" (no. 57). Abortion and euthanasia are preeminent concerns of the Church for reasons that are intrinsic to these issues, as well as reasons that are situational.

Intrinsically, abortion and euthanasia always constitute the direct taking of a human life that is innocent and defenseless. And they are willed and carried out by those most called to defend human lifeCmembers of the healing professions, and of one's own family. To undermine these two havens of life is to make a culture of life impossible.

Situationally, abortion and euthanasia are the areas where those committed to a conditional and selective vision of human rights have planted their flag in our time. They want to draw lines between so-called "important" and "unimportant" members of society, between "persons" and "non-persons." In a different time or place the forcing issue might be slavery, racism or anti-SemitismCtoday abortion and related issues force us to decide whether we mean what we say in speaking of inalienable human rights, linked simply to being human.

In particular, the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision has made abortion the battleground over our tradition of inherent human rights, and has polarized our society as nothing else has. Later efforts to use law as a weapon against other innocent human livesCagainst newborn children with disabilities, for example, or against the sick and elderly through a "right" to assisted suicideChave cited Roe as their inspiration and precedent.

Thus in promoting a culture of life, we must give priority to defending innocent unborn boys and girls from direct attack. We must also make it clear how this effort stands for the dignity and well-being of everyone, before and after birth.

Opportunities are available to do exactly this through our advocacy in Washington, D.C. to defend the unborn, and to show how this effort upholds all who are vulnerable. 

In defending conscience rights in health care, for example, we stand with the unborn child, and also with the women and men of our healing professions whose freedom of conscience is at risk, and with women who will lose access to basic life-affirming health care if those who truly care about them and their children are forced out of medicine.

In sending tens of millions of postcards to Congress against the radical "Freedom of Choice Act," we have helped stop extreme legislation that would treat ready access to abortion as the ultimate public goalCa goal overriding respect for unborn children or for the well-being of pregnant women.  I thank each of you who participated in that massive postcard campaign earlier this year.

By insisting that the federal government promote only morally sound stem cell research, we defend the life of embryonic children and also the health of patients endangered by the many risks of attempted embryonic stem cell treatments, and the health of women, whom some want to exploit as "egg factories" for attempts at cloning human embryos for stem cells. 

Our positive efforts to extend life-giving help to those most in need include support for  the "Unborn Child Rule" in the State Children's Health Insurance Program, allowing states to provide prenatal care for unborn children and their mothers regardless of the woman's immigrant status. More broadly, the "Pregnant Women Support Act" will provide a wide range of assistance so women can bring their children to live birth and receive a helping hand as they parent the child or make an adoption plan.          

Of course, helping those in need is not only the task of government. The dedicated efforts of Catholics at pro-life pregnancy centers, maternity homes, hospitals, retirement homes, and parish-based support networks for pregnant women and children, as well as prayer and assistance efforts outside of abortion facilities, are needed now more than ever. These important efforts will help change the culture, one person at a time.

Our task is to help change hearts and minds, including our own. Nothing brings about this conversion more effectively than prayer and sacrifice. All our good works in the areas of public policy, education and pastoral care must be undergirded by prayers and sacrifices offered up to the Lord of Life.  By His saving power, and through the prayerful intercession of our Blessed Mother, we can indeed  build a lasting culture of life.

The defense of human life at its most vulnerable stages is an essential duty of those inspired by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our prayers and efforts in this cause should open us up to defending the rights and meeting the needs of human beings all along life's spectrum. Having said "no" to attacks on innocent human life, we need to affirm a great "yes" to the full range of human living and well-being. 

Dear friends: the work of changing hearts and minds begins within the sanctuary of the family.  We can change the culture if our families are loving environments where human life is loved, cherished and protected, and where openness to children is celebrated.  From generous families open to life we learn the transforming power of sacrifice for the good of another. We learn the importance of setting aside our own desires for the benefit of the community around us. 

This generosity and self-sacrifice, dear couples, is also central to the mission of Couples for Christ and all those associated in your apostolate.  Thus you share in this unique calling to build a culture of life that reflects a true civilization of love.  I encourage you to live that calling dramatically, prophetically and prayerfully.  Thank you for your witness to the sacredness of all human life, as well as to the immense dignity of the family that reflects the communion of the Most Blessed Trinity in life and love.

May our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you, dear friends, in your great mission and fill you with His joy and peace.  And may our Blessed Mother Mary, the Mother of Life, sustain you by her love.

Homily for Couples for Christ Conference in Baltimore

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass during Couples for Christ Conference
Baltimore Washington Marriott
Baltimore, Maryland
July 3, 2009

"Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Our Lord Jesus Christ,

We are gathered together on this feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, on the occasion of this meeting of Couples for ChristCFoundation for Family and Life.  I am grateful to have this time to be with you in support of your ecclesial mission and to reaffirm the significance of your witness to marriage and family life.

Today I hope to offer a few reflections on our Gospel reading, which describes the doubt of Thomas before he encounters the risen Lord:

Upon hearing the news of the risen Christ, Thomas reacts by saying, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."  He expresses a natural human perspective, which demands physical evidence and proof .  So often we are limited to only this viewpoint, afraid of daring to go higher. 

But faith offers a supernatural perspective, transcending earthly realities in a way that surpasses our understanding.  Indeed, faith is extraordinary.  Faith gives us the supernatural outlook that enables us to view all people, situations, and circumstances with God's eyes, rather than our limited human perspective. 

Faith goes beyond our naturally limited notions.  When God achieves a great work, He can do it through the most unexpected channels.  There are many examples of this in the Bible.  In the Old Testament, for example, Abraham and Sarah have a son, Isaac, despite their old age.  There is also the story of King David.  As a young boy, he defeated the giant soldier, Goliath.  And, when it was time to select a new king for the people of Israel, it was not a man of high stature whom he chose to be king; it was the lowly shepherd boy, David. 

At the Annunciation, we see a beautiful and simple expression of faith when the Virgin Mary is informed by an angel that she is to be the mother of God.  Here, we have a case of an unmarried adolescent, with wisdom and grace beyond her years, who responds to God with a resounding "yes" to the awe-inspiring mission ahead of her.  She could not have anticipated the future "sword that would pierce her heart," yet her "yes" was total, free, and unconditional.  It was a great act of faith.

But faith is something extraordinary and not always easy to embrace.  Thomas reacts, not with faith, but with natural, human expectations.  How does Christ respond?

Christ gives a peaceful greeting and allows Thomas to touch him: "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe."

Christ has infinite patience with us.  When we have doubts and fears, He never stops reaching out to us with his love.  He wants us to love Him back, he wants us to trust him completely.  We sometimes lack faith because the realities of the world press in on us:  a financial situation, a job situation, a difficulty in the family, and other factors.  When these concerns cloud our hearts, we begin to lose the clear vision of faith that frees us.
  
Trust Christ!  Have faith!  Do not be afraid to trust Christ completely,  offering Him your worries and fears, your joys and hopes. Jesus, I trust in you!  This is the great exclamation of the Church.  It is only through trust that you will begin to experience the depths of Christ's love for you.  And when you begin to experience this love, deeply and profoundly in your lives, you cannot help but see the world around you differently. 

This is the experience of Thomas when Christ shows him His wounds and allows Thomas to touch him.  Thomas responds with the words, "My Lord and my God!"-a profound expression of wonder and awe, and ultimately, of faith.  This is the moment of transformation for Thomas.

Christ says, "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."  Thomas and the other disciples had the privilege of living with Christ in their midst everyday.  What a gift it must have been to live side by side with Christ and see him in the fullness of his humanity!  What a privilege, to be able to converse with him, to share meals with him, to observe and learn from his example when he dealt with the different personalities and characters from all walks of life!  What must it have been like to see his joy at the wedding at Cana, his tears at the tomb of Lazarus, his diligence and humility in his carpenter=s work, and his leadership and authority with the crowds?

We do not have that privilege as the disciples did, but Christ does speak to us now these special words: "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."  We cannot see Christ as the disciples did, but He is no less present to us now in the world.  He remains with us in the Eucharist.  I encourage you, especially as married couples and as families, to develop a strong Eucharistic life where you can draw close to Christ to find the strength to deal with the many challenges you face in your daily lives.

And so I say once again: trust Jesus Christ!  He waits for you in the many lonely tabernacles of the world.  He waits for your love, and it is through you that He wishes to make known His presence in the world.  As the first apostles were messengers of Christ, so too do you bear witness to His love through your lives!
 
In a special way, dear married couples, you are called to radiate this love through your spousal fidelity as a sign of Christ's fidelity to his bride, the Church.  In a world in a culture where lifelong commitment is increasingly scoffed at, where virtue is mocked more often than rewarded; how greatly your joyful, firm and faithful witness is needed.  You are to be beacons of light in the world.

Equally important, dear married couples, is your great gift and responsibility as parents.  The family is the first school of the faith.  The family is the source of the child=s development as a person in all dimensions: the intellect, the heart, the will, and the soul.  Dedicate yourselves to forming your children with a deep awareness of Christ's love; and, as husband and wife, model this love through your respect and affection for each other.

In a society where family life is suffering severe setbacks, broken marriages, the attacks of the media and other social influencesCall these threaten to destroy the very foundation upon which society is built.  Draw close to Christ in the sacraments to maintain always your perspective of faith.  Continue to build up your marriage and family life through your mutual support and encouragement with others who share the same values.  You already are united by a common ideal through your involvement in Couples for Christ.  Such is an example of the gift of movements in the Church that provide a support for those in the married and lay state.

Remember these words of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."  If you have faith, you will see the world differently, not from a human perspective, but with a supernatural view.  This vision of faith will bring to your ordinary everyday activities a fresh divine perspective.  If you see the world differently, with the eyes of Christ, you will be able to radiate His love to all you meet.  You are a light in this world, because you reflect the light that is Christ.  In your marriage and family life, you are to be a witness, a reflection, a mirror of that Love which is so powerful yet gentle, sacrificial yet victorious, so instant yet eternal.

May God give you grace and strength, dear friends, in the days to come-grace and strength to fulfill your role, to be partners in the Church with the Lord Jesus Himself in building up His Kingdom in your families, in your parishes, and in the world-a Kingdom of holiness and truth, a Kingdom of peace, a Kingdom of life and love.  Amen.

Address from Daylesford Abbey

Address of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Daylesford Abbey, Paoli, Pennsylvania
November 12, 2005

The Eucharist: Mystery of Trinitarian Love
“I love the Father” — “The Father loves me”

Father Abbot,
Dear Brothers,
Friends in Christ Jesus,

On this Founders’ Day we render honor to the Rule of Saint Augustine and to the great Eucharistic apostle Saint Norbert, who embraced Saint Augustine’s formula for consecrated life in the Church. Today we joyfully celebrate this anniversary of Daylesford Abbey that takes us back to 1963, to the days of Vatican II, and we commemorate all the saints whom God has raised up over the centuries and sanctified as canons regular.

We are all deeply convinced that to speak about the Eucharist is to speak about what the Second Vatican Council calls “the source and summit of the whole Christian life” (LumenGentium, 10). It is to speak about the center of our faith and about the love of God which has made the Eucharist possible. I would like to begin by turning our thoughts to words of Jesus in the fourteenth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. Jesus says: “If you truly loved me you would rejoice to have me go to the Father …the world must know that I love the Father and do what the Father has commanded me. Come, then! Let us be on our way” (Jn 14: 28, 31).

These words express the great revelation that Jesus loves His Father. And in another place Jesus will tell us clearly that the Father loves the Son, the Father loves Him. But these words also tell us that Jesus wants the world to know that He fulfills the Father’s will. And because He fulfills the Father’s will, He tells His Apostles: “Come, then! Let us be on our way.” Tonight we hope to enter more deeply into the mystery of the Eucharist, which is the Mystery of Trinitarian Love.

Already in our evening prayer, with Saint Paul we have extolled the mystery of Christ’s emptying Himself and sharing in on our humanity which becomes the matter of His Sacrifice, and, with His divinity, the content of His Eucharistic gift.

There are many profound reasons why Jesus died. There are many profound reasons why He offered up the Eucharist as a memorial of His death on Calvary. Jesus died for His Church. In a special way Jesus died for His Mother in order to merit her redemption and her special privileges. But above all, Jesus died because He loved His Father. He died to fulfill the will of His Father. In other words: “…the world must know that I love the Father and do as the Father has commanded me. Come, then! Let us be on our way.”

I am suggesting that the key to understanding the Eucharist in its most profound dimension is to understand that Jesus went to His death motivated by a great love for His Father. The Eucharist is indeed the mystery of Christ’s love and above all it is the mystery of Christ’s love for His Father.

Some years ago a book came out entitled, Gift and Mystery. It was the short autobiography of Pope John Paul II that he presented to the world on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. And in that book he recounts what he had previously said on the occasion of an interview with one of the journalists who accompanied him on one of his pastoral visits around the world. The interview went something like this.

“Holy Father, as Pope you must have many problems, but also as Pope there must be many joys in your life. Tell us what your greatest joy is.” And the Pope answered that the greatest joy that he has as Pope is to be able, like every Catholic priest, to celebrate the Eucharist every day.

These words show the depth of his faith in the Eucharistic mystery; they show the depth of his love for the Sacrifice of the Mass. Over many years he meditated on the Eucharist. At this point I would suggest: “Let us be on our way” with Jesus, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and the whole Church—on our way to enter the great mystery of God’s love.

The origin of the Eucharist is the Last Supper and the Sacrifice of Calvary—both of which are commemorated and re-enacted in the Eucharist, both of which are different moments in the one salvific reality of Christ’s Paschal Mystery. But if we are to understand this life-giving event proclaimed at the Last Supper and enacted in immolation on Calvary, we must go back to what we have been speaking about: to the relation of Jesus with His Father — in other words to the Most Blessed Trinity.

Here we find the deepest explanation of the Most Blessed Sacrament—the deepest explanation of the Mass. The Council of Trent, over four hundred years ago, defined the Mass as a true sacrifice which recalls and renews Christ’s immolation on Calvary. But why did Christ give Himself over to death on Calvary? Why does He give Himself in the Eucharist? Here of course we must speak of sin and redemption, of Christ’s desire to save the world from sin and to communicate His life to humanity. Here we must speak of God’s love for humanity, just as Saint John does: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3: 16-17).

This is a stupendous revelation that explains the Eucharist—the love of God for us, the love of the Father in sending His Son to redeem the world. But there are two other aspects of God’s love that are even more stupendous and basic, without which we will not understand the Eucharist and all the suffering that Christ endured on Calvary.

The Eucharist flows directly from the love of the Son of God for His Father, in response to the eternal love by which He is loved by the Father in the Holy Spirit.

The Second Vatican Council tells us that the Eucharist contains all the riches of the Church (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5), and that it is the source and summit of all Christian life. Why? Because the Eucharist is the expression of the love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus took great pleasure in proclaiming to the world—it was His greatest proclamation—the love that the Father has for Him and the love that He has for the Father. These, I would dare say, are the most sublime words of divine revelation:
“The Father loves the Son” (Jn 3:35; 5:20).
“The Father loves me” (Jn 10:17).
“I love the Father” (Jn 14: 31).

Jesus’ Sacrifice and the Father’s Acceptance

Regarding this last revelation — “I love the Father” — what is the context? We have already seen it at the beginning of this talk. Jesus is ready to go to His hour. The prince of this world is at hand. He has no hold on Jesus. The world must know that Jesus loves the Father. And therefore He says: “Come, then! Let us be on our way.”

And so Jesus goes forth to Calvary, to death and immolation. There is an explicit connection between Calvary and Christ’s loving His Father. In other words, Calvary is motivated by His love for the Father and His obedience to the Father. Calvary—with Jesus hanging on the Cross—is the divine plan of the Father for the redemption of the world. Calvary, and therefore the Eucharist, is the Trinitarian response to sin. But it remains the exchange of love between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.

This exchange of love is so great, the Son’s acceptance of death is so full of love, that the Father wants the world to know of His acceptance. The Father’s response of love is the Resurrection of His Son. This is the meaning of Easter. The Father raises the sacred humanity of Jesus to life in order to confirm the redemption of the world and to proclaim His eternal love for His Son, His acceptance of the obedience of the Son, His acceptance of the Sacrifice.

Saint Paul tells us in his Letter to the Philippians, in speaking of Christ, that “he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father” (Phil 2: 8-11). All of this shows us how profound the mystery of redemption; how great Christ’s love for His Father; how fruitful Christ’s obedience; how glorious the Father’s acceptance of the Sacrifice, His ratification of Christ’s death by raising Him to life! With Saint Paul, we exclaim: “How deep are the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God!” (Rom 11:33).

The Sacrifice and Worship of the Community

In the exchange of love between Jesus and His Father we see explained the great mystery of the Sacrifice of Calvary, even as it is anticipated at the Last Supper. We also note that the Sacrifice of the infinite divine love of Christ becomes, in the Eucharist, by God’s loving design the Sacrifice of the Church, our Sacrifice.

As the Sacrifice of Christ and His Church, the Eucharist is our worship and we are privileged to partake in the Eucharistic Sacrifice every day of our lives. We are privileged to be able to do this as a community, to offer God praise as foreshadowed in the Old Testament, in the great assembly.

Let us never forget that the offering of the Church’s Sacrifice is a great hymn of adoration, thanksgiving, reparation and supplication on the part of the entire assembly. We are in this together.

Sent Forth To Adore and To Serve

At the end of Mass we are sent forth in order to serve in the name of Jesus. We are sent out from the Eucharist in order that, by the power of the Eucharist, we may contribute to the building up of the Body of Christ.

As soon as we go out, our thought is to come back; to come back to the Eucharist at the time appointed by Christ. In the meantime we profess the Eucharistic faith of the Church as expressed throughout the centuries. The liturgy which we have celebrated as an act of adoration—as the Second Vatican Council calls it: “the worship of the divine majesty” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 33)—is prolonged in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Real Presence of Christ in our midst.

We believe and we proclaim the faith of the Church that, after the celebration of the Eucharist, Jesus Himself remains in the Blessed Sacrament in His glorified flesh, in His glorified humanity, in His divinity, to be adored and loved and to be a permanent source of union and life for His Church. And to the Blessed Sacrament present on the altar, or in the tabernacle, the Catholic Church attributes latria, which is the adoration that is owing only to the living God. And this Eucharist, which contains all the treasures of the Church and is “the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14), is at one and the same time a sacrifice, a banquet and the sacred presence of the Lord Jesus. And the sacred Eucharistic presence of the Lord, whom we adore, constantly directs our hearts back to the celebration in the assembly, when once again we will all be together in order to renew the Eucharistic celebration and to be sent out once again on our mission to the world.

This mission to the world takes its origin from the Eucharist and receives its dynamism from the Eucharist to embrace charity and service in the Church.

We have seen in the history of the Church not only people like Pope John Paul II with an immense love of the Eucharist, but we have also seen the martyrs, the imprisoned confessors, the holy priests, virgins and Religious who have understood the Eucharist and have been willing to give everything in order to participate in the celebration and in order to possess the sacramental presence of Christ. The saints and heroes of our Church have given us an example of the effort that we must expend in order to participate in the Eucharist, in order to adore Christ’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Millions of holy priests, lay people and Religious in the Church, over the centuries, have made supreme efforts to demonstrate their faith in the Eucharist and to avail themselves, amidst difficulties and tribulations, of the Eucharistic celebration and of Eucharistic adoration.

How inspiring to think of all the Saints formed in the tradition and Rule of Saint Augustine, which is perpetuated in the Norbertines. Today we recall centuries of adoration, centuries of “worship of the divine majesty,” centuries of the imitation of Christ’s kenosis in the Incarnation and the Eucharist perpetuated in a religious order that exists in the independent status of an abbey within our local Church. Today we think of and reconfirm the Eucharistic challenge of total commitment in integrity of life, fidelity, and “the service of love.”

The Eucharist is undoubtedly the center of our life, because Jesus is the center of our life, just as He is the object of the Father’s eternal complacency—the Father’s eternal love.

In our prayer let us not forget the importance of spending time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us realize how important it is for us to keep Jesus company. The saints understood and accepted this challenge. Certainly the Order of Premontré glories in this legacy.

In 1997, in the Synod of Bishops for America, it was my privilege to be a participant and my privilege to speak. The topic of my intervention was prayer. I mentioned at the time that it is my conviction and the conviction of other bishops throughout the world that there is a new emerging sign of the times and it is Eucharistic adoration. In the most recent Synod of Bishops a whole new impetus emerged in promoting Eucharistic adoration as it flows from the Eucharistic action and leads back to it.

Powerful Incentive and Challenge to Service

There are many indications in the world that God wishes to draw further attention to His beloved Son present in the Eucharist. There are many indications that Eucharistic adoration is a form of prayer particularly adapted to this present moment. It is a particular form of manifesting faith in the total mystery of the Eucharist, which is sacrifice and banquet, sacred presence and viaticum. Eucharistic adoration is a powerful incentive and challenge to ever more generous service to those in need. Many of our young people are able to grasp this.

The Second Vatican Council has been an enormous grace in the life of the Church, particularly in emphasizing over and over again the role of the Christian people as a Eucharistic people. There have been some aberrations of interpretation of the Second Vatican Council. There have been some exaggerations and misinterpretations of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist. Many of these difficulties have now passed. It is time to get on in the life of the Church with traditional Eucharistic piety as enriched and explained and exalted by the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar implementation of the Popes.

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of every community in the Church having full, conscious and active participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice! I cannot over-emphasize the importance of the graces that are received for the living and the dead by this internal and external participation of all the members of the Church in the Eucharistic assembly, especially on Sunday. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, of Eucharistic adoration, Eucharistic exposition, the Eucharistic holy hour for reparation and renewal, visits to the Blessed Sacrament and the recommitment of ourselves in faith, day in and day out, to the words of Jesus who says: “For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me” (Jn 6: 55-57).

There is much more that we could say about participation in the Eucharist, about external reverence, about the internal dispositions that we bring to the Eucharist, about our community singing and about the dignity of every form of Eucharistic participation and ministry. We have just completed the Year of the Eucharist. This emphasis in the life of the Church urges us to be faithful, to grow in the love of the Eucharist so as to be an ever more fervent Eucharistic community committed to the service of the world.

I am happy to have this occasion to thank the Norbertine Community past and present for their fidelity to the charisms of Saint Augustine and Saint Norbert. I am grateful for the spirit of unity and pastoral solidarity that they have manifested with our local Church. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia renews its deep appreciation for the valued contribution of their service but most of all for their ecclesial identity according to the mind of Christ and His Church. Here in this local Church, dear friends, under the powerful action of the Holy Spirit, the charism of Saint Augustine and Saint Norbert interact in you with the charisms of Saint John Neumann and Saint Katharine Drexel, serving and benefiting the people of God.

An important goal still lies before us, and it is the glory of the Father. Our Eucharistic journey beckons us on. Jesus is with us to lead us. He says to us: “Come, then! Let us be on our way.” And our common response to him is: Jesus, I trust in you!

Homily for the Memorial Mass of Deacon Adam S. Crowe

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Memorial Mass for Deacon Adam S. Crowe
Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary
February 6, 2009

Your Eminence, Cardinal Bevilacqua,
Your Eminence, Cardinal Foley,
Bishop DeSimone,
Bishop Cistone
Bishop McFadden
Bishop Thomas,
Monsignor Prior, Rector and Father of this Family of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary,
Dear Priest Alumni,
Dear Faculty, Administration and Seminarians,
Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

We are gathered here this afternoon in a close Eucharistic union with the Church in Ogdensburg, with its shepherd, Bishop Robert Cunningham; with Mrs. Crowe, Adam’s mother; with his twin sister, Erin; his brother Darin, and the priests from the Diocese of Ogdensburg. We are close in prayer also to Adam’s father and to his brother Kevin.

As we recall the years of his presence among us at Saint Charles Seminary, we are supremely conscious of our union now with Adam himself in the Communion of Saints. It was here that he was sent by his Bishop to complete his discernment and to prepare for the sacred priesthood in the service of the Diocese of Ogdensburg. It was here that he was known, among other things, for his quiet gentleness, his compassion, his sense of humor, his love for the liturgy and his involvement in the Seminary. Here his brother seminarians admired him for his perseverance in following God’s call and for his fidelity to Jesus Christ.

At the end of five years and five months God personally intervened and called Adam to Himself. Those years in Saint Charles Seminary were just enough time for Adam to fulfill his mission and to fulfill it well. A period had been given to him with a divine time-limit.

Dear Adam, realizing how close you are to all of us in the love of Christ and in the Communion of His Saints, we know that we can always address you personally. Although you had already received the Sacrament of Holy Orders as an ordained deacon, all of us would have hoped that it be God’s will to permit you to be ordained a priest so as to offer up the Eucharistic Sacrifice for the living and the dead. And yet, in God’s mysterious plan, you were called to leave your beloved parents, your sister, your brothers, your seminary family, your home parish and your local Church to belong forever to Jesus Christ.

God took you to Himself as one of His chosen deacons. This was His inscrutable plan. For all eternity you will be counted with the original seven deacons of the apostolic Church—with Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas of Antioch—and with all the others, like Saint Lawrence, Saint Vincent of Saragossa, Saint Ephrem of Syria and Saint Francis of Assisi.

We who are left behind realize that your death, Adam, is, like your life, a gift to us. On the occasion of your going home to God, we are called to open our hearts to the holy word of Scripture in order to reflect on the mystery of Christian death. With all the conviction of our being we proclaim today with the Book of Wisdom: "The souls of the just are in the hand of God.... God tried them and found them worthy of himself." Our sacred text tells us, moreover: "Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love." Now that God has taken you, Adam, to Himself, He gives you the capacity to grasp His eternal truth and to abide with Him in the love of the Most Blessed Trinity.

In the word of God that we celebrate today there is still more that deserves our attention and calls for our response of faith and love. Saint Paul tells us: "If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him." We are convinced that having died with Christ in Baptism, Adam is called to live with Him in glory. Adam’s death reminds us of our own mission and destiny: to die and live with Christ forever.

The word of God in our sacred Liturgy offers us yet another beautiful opportunity to see how meaningful for us is the death of Jesus. We just heard these words in the Gospel: "It was about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.... Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’; and when he had said this he breathed his last."

Because of the unbreakable bond between Baptism and the Death of Jesus, our heavenly Father—the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—looks upon the death of each of us as a sharing in the death of Jesus. With love the Father accepts our death, freely offered to Him, and He responds, as He did to Jesus, by calling us to resurrection and eternal life.

Our Gospel ends this afternoon describing the culmination of Christ’s suffering and death. We read: "At daybreak on the first day of the week the women...went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb;...two men in dazzling garments appeared to them." And then the women heard the words: "Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised."

Dear Adam, the resurrection that awaited Jesus is your lot and ours. At this Memorial Mass for you, we proclaim again our holy Catholic faith in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and in His promise to all of us of eternal life.

In this promise we find strength and consolation. This is the hope that we offer in love to your mother and father, to your sister and brothers, and to all who mourn you in the pain of separation. This is the faith that you preached and lived, and in which you died in Christ.

We are sure that our Blessed Mother, the Mother of Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead, will lovingly watch over your dear family, your home parish of Saint Raphael, your brother seminarians at Saint Charles and the local Church of Ogdensburg with all its faithful people, whom you are now called to serve as a deacon in the solemn Liturgy of heaven. Amen.

Mass during Deacon Day Celebration

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass during Deacon Day Celebration
25th Anniversary of the Establishment of the
Permanent Diaconate in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Saint Joseph Church, Aston
April 8, 2006

Dear Deacons and Wives,

Once again I have the joy of gathering with you on this annual Deacon Day. Each year it is important for me as your bishop, to be with you who are joined so closely in my episcopal ministry through sacred ordination. It is an opportunity to renew my appreciation to you for your collaboration in the work of serving the Lord and His people in our local Church. It is also an opportunity to express my deep thanks to your wives, whose support of your ministry is so important, and who themselves contribute so much to the life of the Church. While this is indeed a joyful occasion each year, Deacon Day this year takes on special significance, as it is occurring during the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of the establishment of the permanent diaconate within the Archdiocese. A jubilee year is a special moment of grace, and our jubilee year prayer addresses this petition to God: "...lead us to rejoice in your providential grace, to be renewed in Christian charity, and to rededicate ourselves to a greater service of your Holy Church." It is my fervent prayer that this special year will not simply come and go, but rather that each deacon will embrace more fully and more deeply his call to serve in the name of Jesus, thus advancing in the way of holiness, and of that service to which the diaconal ministry is dedicated.

We are poised at the beginning of Holy Week. We see our Lord Jesus Christ in His journey, and we want to accompany Him. Yet there can be no illusions concerning where this following of our Lord will lead us. The Gospel today from Saint John clearly demonstrates that ominous clouds are beginning to surround Jesus. The words of Caiaphas are chilling: "It is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish." Yet Caiaphas did not understand that the "whole nation" was already perishing because of sin, and that it would only be through the offering of the life of the Son of God that the "whole nation" would be saved. Rightly did Ezekiel prophesy when he said: "I will deliver them from all their sins of apostasy, and cleanse them so that they may be my people and I may be their God." Here we catch a glimpse into the mind and heart of God, and His desire toward us, His people. We see what drives divine love: God wants to dwell with us, "to make a covenant" with us, to do for us what only He can do—take our divided hearts and make them one again with Him. Here we listen to Ezekiel prophesying and revealing God’s desire: "I will make with them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them.... My dwelling shall be with them...." How much it would cost the Son of God to fulfill this prophecy! No matter how many Lents and Holy Weeks we may celebrate, we will never be able to comprehend fully the height and breadth and depth of God’s love. But we do know what we should be striving to attain as we seek to imitate Christ in His sacrificial love.

During this jubilee observance, as you are reflecting on the gift and call of the diaconate, perhaps those words of God spoken through Ezekiel—"My dwelling shall be with them"—can be words to motivate and sustain your special service in the Church. You know that, as deacons, you are especially dedicated to the works of mercy, to practical charity. Motivated by the love of God, a deacon personally serves the sick, the suffering, the forgotten, the poor, the dying, and thus becomes God’s presence for them, representing Christ’s love and that of His Church. In Our Holy Father Pope Benedict’s first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est—God is Love , he speaks specifically about deacons and about this charity which you are called to extend in a special way. Here are his words: "Saint Luke provides a kind of definition of the Church, whose constitutive elements include fidelity to the ‘teaching of the Apostles,’ ‘communion’ (koinonia), ‘the breaking of the bread’ and ‘prayer’ (cf. Acts 2:42). The element of ‘communion’ (koinonia) is not initially defined, but appears concretely in the verses quoted above: it consists in the fact that believers hold all things in common and that among them, there is no longer any distinction between rich and poor (cf. also Acts 4:32-37). As the Church grew, this radical form of material communion could not in fact be preserved. But its essential core remained: within the community of believers there can never be room for a poverty that denies anyone what is needed for a dignified life.

"A decisive step in the difficult search for ways of putting this fundamental ecclesial principle into practice is illustrated in the choice of the seven, which marked the origin of the diaconal office (cf. Acts 6:5-6). In the early Church, in fact, with regard to the daily distribution to widows, a disparity had arisen between Hebrew speakers and Greek speakers. The Apostles, who had been entrusted primarily with ‘prayer’ (the Eucharist and the liturgy) and the ‘ministry of the word’, felt over-burdened by ‘serving tables,’ so they decided to reserve to themselves the principal duty and to designate for the other task, also necessary in the Church, a group of seven persons. Nor was this group to carry out a purely mechanical work of distribution: they were to be men ‘full of the Spirit and of wisdom’ (cf. Acts 6:1-6). In other words, the social service which they were meant to provide was absolutely concrete, yet at the same time it was also a spiritual service; theirs was a truly spiritual office which carried out an essential responsibility of the Church, namely a well-ordered love of neighbour. With the formation of this group of seven, ‘diaconia’—the ministry of charity exercised in a communitarian, orderly way—became part of the fundamental structure of the Church."

You must note that, at one and the same time, your service must be absolutely concrete and yet a truly spiritual service. As deacons you are not ordained social workers; you are ministers of Jesus Christ and of Christian charity, offering what Pope Benedict calls "a well ordered love of neighbor." This is what sets you apart, what must distinguish you as deacons—that you are "full of the Spirit and of wisdom."

It was exactly one year ago today when our Holy Father Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, presided over the funeral of Pope John Paul II. From his rich and profound homily for that Mass, I lift out two parts for your consideration. The first are the words of Christ which the then-Cardinal Ratzinger repeated throughout his homily: "Follow me." He reflected on the stages of Pope John Paul II’s life, and how each stage was a deeper response to this call of the Lord to come and follow Him. Christ has issued a call to you, dear Deacons, as well. During this jubilee year you must reflect on how you have responded thus far, so that, in the words of Christ which Pope John Paul highlighted for us, you may "put out into the deep," rededicate yourselves and follow the Lord more closely. Secondly, the then-Cardinal Ratzinger pinpointed for us the secret of Pope John Paul’s tireless ministry: " Thanks to his being profoundly rooted in Christ, he was able to bear a burden which transcends merely human abilities: that of being the shepherd of Christ’s flock, the universal Church." It is this rootedness in Christ which I exhort each of you deacons to ponder, so that you may bear that share of the burden of the Gospel which Christ has placed on your shoulders. It is out of this profound and close union with Christ that you go forth as deacons, to roll up the sleeves of your dalmatic and humbly but joyfully serve God’s people. This is costly: most worthwhile things are! But there is nothing more worthwhile than loving and serving the Lord. So resolve to carry Christ’s Cross wherever it takes you, knowing that His grace is all sufficient.

Dear Friends: in a moment we shall turn to the altar, at which the Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the "whole nation" is saved will once again be offered to the Father in the Holy Spirit. Rejoice that you have been redeemed by that Sacrifice; be renewed by the graces it affords; and rededicate yourselves to your ministry as deacons. If you continue to do your part in the work of Jesus Christ and His Church, you and those to whom you minister will truly be His people, and He will be your God and the sacramental servanthood of the Lord will be exalted and glorified for the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity. Amen.

Deacon Day

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Deacon Day
March 31, 2007

Dear Deacons and Wives,

Once again I have the joy of gathering with you on this annual Deacon Day. I am so pleased to be with you all here at St. William’s. Each year this is an important celebration and an opportunity for me as your bishop to proclaim the importance of the Permanent Diaconate. It is a celebration of our unity and shared ministry in the name of Jesus and for the good of His Church. But this is also an opportunity for me to express my gratitude to you for the service you give to the Church and to the People of God. The Permanent Diaconate brings great blessings to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia through the service you undertake in so many ways. As teachers and catechists, ministers in parishes, hospitals, nursing homes and prisons, ministering to children, engaged couples, new parents, the aged and the bereaved, you serve the Body of Christ as you yourselves embody Christ the servant of all. For all of this, I thank you!

This is also an opportunity to renew my particular gratitude to you wives, whose support is so important to the deacons’ ministry, and who yourselves contribute a great deal to the life of the Church. Your presence today bears testimony to the support you give to your husbands and their ministry as deacons.

A Journey with Jesus the Deacon in Holy Week

As we gather here today on the day before Passion Sunday, we prepare ourselves to celebrate the essential mysteries of our faith this coming week. Priests often meditate on how Jesus acted as Priest and Lamb of Sacrifice during Holy Week to gain a greater sense of their priesthood. So how might a deacon celebrate Holy Week?

When I was last with you, it was October and we were celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Permanent Diaconate in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. At that time I mentioned in the homily that Jesus Himself was a deacon who came to serve rather than to be served. By meditating on Jesus the Deacon throughout Holy Week, you can come to a greater appreciation of your own ministry as His deacons.

Passion Sunday

Tomorrow, on Passion Sunday, we recall that Jesus entered Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week. Jesus knew that He must come into Jerusalem even at great personal sacrifice. In a wild scene with the crowds shouting "Hosanna," it might have been seen as a moment of glory to those watching from the outside. But to Jesus it was simply a prelude to His week of service and suffering. It was the beginning of a week during which He emptied Himself, "taking on the form of a servant" as Saint Paul says in his letter to the Philippians.

Each of the four evangelists has his own perspective on Jesus’ Passion. Mark stresses the isolation of Christ crucified. He is abandoned by His disciples, tortured and taunted by those around Him, and, finally, dies on the Cross in agony.

Matthew emphasizes the royal dignity of Christ in fulfillment of all the promises of the Old Testament. Matthew tells us that if we know our Scriptures, we will see through the seemingly powerless crucified Jesus and recognize the Messiah in His glory. John also shows us a royal Christ on the Cross, but John’s vision of Jesus is of Christ the King completely in control of His "hour of glory" on the Cross.

This year we will read Luke’s version of the Passion which has particular significance for deacons. Luke shows Jesus as a compassionate servant even as He is giving up His own life. While it appears elsewhere in the other Gospels, in Luke’s Gospel Jesus tells His Apostles at the Last Supper that the greatest among them is the servant of all the others. The rest of Luke’s Passion narrative describes how Jesus became this Servant.

Just as Stephen the deacon is seen as the first martyr in Luke’s companion book, the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus’ Death on the Cross is presented as the final act of His diaconal service. Luke’s parallels between the Death of Jesus and the death of Stephen were intentional—showing the connection between Jesus and the Church modeled by Stephen. Jesus, as He is described by Luke, is one who heals the severed ear of the High Priest’s servant, who ministers in sympathy to the daughters of Jerusalem and the criminal who hung on the cross next to Him. Jesus performed diaconal service until His last breath.

Holy Thursday

Later this week we will again meet Jesus the Deacon. On Holy Thursday, we will read from Saint John’s version of the Last Supper. John is unique in his description of the Last Supper because he does not include the words of consecration or the breaking of the bread. Instead, he presents Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. No Gospel passage is more diaconal than the washing of the feet. Jesus’ admonition, "...as I have done for you, you should also do," echoes in the ears of every deacon everyday. May you always be deeply conscious that, while you are serving the people of God, you are not just ordained social workers. Rather you are Christ washing the feet of His disciples. Your service is more than just useful, it is holy.

Good Friday

On Good Friday we will continue our encounter with Jesus the Deacon in the first reading from Isaiah. Again as a suffering servant, Jesus bears our afflictions and our infirmities. As deacons, you too are asked to bear the afflictions and burdens of those you are called to serve.

This is not an abstraction! Compassionate suffering is part of the life of every Christian, but especially part of the life of a deacon. Part of my wanting to be here with you today is to acknowledge the good work you do and the suffering that it sometimes entails. But also as we gather here together in unity, we can remind ourselves that our suffering is not pain and sacrifice for the sake of pain and sacrifice. No, it is suffering united to the suffering of Christ the Suffering Servant, who leads us to salvation. On Good Friday Jesus the Deacon gives meaning to all Christian suffering. And deacons today, in their service in the name of Jesus and His Church, help make visible the redemptive work of Jesus on the Cross.

Easter

At the Easter Vigil we will hear Saint Paul tell the Romans that anyone who dies with Christ will rise with Him in the Resurrection. The life of every Christian, and certainly every deacon, is marked by a steady dying to sin and selfishness so as to take on the life offered by Jesus.

In a particular way deacons offer their lives in service, and in so doing can experience dying to themselves. Service certainly comes at a price for every deacon, and his family too. But you gladly pay that price because of the life you and your families receive in Christ.

When Jesus rose from the dead, He rose as Priest, Prophet and King. He rose as Savior and Messiah. He rose as the New Adam, the New Moses, and the New David. He rose as the Son of God and the Son of Man. He also rose as the Deacon of the new and eternal covenant!

The Easter season brings a steady unfolding of the mystery of the Resurrection. As we contemplate Jesus raised from the dead by His heavenly Father, who thus shows His loving acceptance of Jesus’ Sacrifice, I pray that you will rejoice in knowing that your ministry as deacons not only extends the service of Jesus the Deacon but also gives testimony to our faith: Jesus is alive! He lives for His Father; He lives for His Church! In this way your ministry of service becomes also a ministry of hope in the Church.

Gratitude and Hope

Dear friends: our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI mentioned deacons in his recent Post- Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, under the heading "Gratitude and Hope." I join him in giving thanks once again for the service that deacons give to the Church, and I pray that all of you may be renewed at Easter in your life and ministry, as Saint Peter says, through "a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3). Amen.

Deacon Day Celebration

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Deacon Day Mass
Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary
October 3, 2010

"Lord, Increase our faith!"

Bishop Thomas,
Brother Priests,
Dear Deacons, dear Wives,
Dear Fellow-Servants of the Lord,

It is in the spirit of joy that we lift up our hearts to the Lord God who has blessed us with faith in His Son Jesus Christ. It is with hope that we confidently expect faith's increase, and it is in love that we respond to the wondrous calling we have received?me as your Bishop, our dedicated priests, you as the faithful deacons serving this Archdiocese, your spouses and families living the life of grace with you, and supporting you in the call to serve the wider Christian community in charity.

The Apostle, in his Second Letter to Timothy exhorts the young Bishop in these words: "Beloved, be reminded to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands." It is an exhortation to Timothy and to each of us that we have a responsibility to be solicitous of the gift freely bestowed upon us. Any hint of carelessness, indifference or neglect of the ministry which is entrusted to us must be vigorously resisted. St. Paul alludes to the reality that by our diligence in sincere worship and prayer, by our personal effort and care to cultivate the rich gifts we have, these gifts grow even more abundant through divine grace. We are thus renewed in strength and zeal for the demands of the ministry which are indeed ceaseless, wide-ranging, at times sublime, and at other times very ordinary. So we beseech the Lord, saying: "Lord, Increase our faith!"

St. Paul offers to Timothy a tender, sympathetic, and solemn appeal, bringing all that there is in his own character, age, and strong relationship, to bear on Timothy, in order to encourage him to be faithful to his charge. It is with a like heart that, as your bishop, I enjoin you deacons to be thankful for, and faithful to your charge. My heart is enlivened at the knowledge that so many wonderful works of charity and of service are being carried out by you, my dear brothers in the vineyard of our Savior.

You and I know that in receiving this call you have made your share of sacrifices for love of Christ's Church. This has stretched from the time of your initial formation with your wives by your side, to the present moment where we pause to consider how the Lord has graced and sustained you in your journey.

You have enjoyed successes and achievements of which you may rightly be proud, but even more so, grateful. At times you have also been humbled by apparent failures, personal shortcomings and yet unrealized hopes. The latter is no reason for discouragement but is indeed part of every person's challenging journey of faith. Take courage, then, in St. Paul's exhortation: "Do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord.but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God."

The Apostles, humbled at their own limitations, had the great sense to turn away from an over-reliance on their own resources and to trust more completely in the Lord as they begged of Jesus in Luke's Gospel account: "Lord, Increase our faith." It is only Jesus who has the power to increase the faith of His people. All strength comes from Jesus, especially strength to accept the Gospel and to be faithful to its just demands. Hence, Jesus is called in the twelfth chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews the "Author and Finisher" of our faith.

So we are in this world, embracing the good in it, reaching out to promote and protect life in it, all the while recognizing that we are not of this world but pilgrims in it. This supernatural knowledge that faith gives us is dismissed outright by some whose voices are loud and constant. Nonetheless we hear the inspired words of Habakkuk, so important that Paul quotes them in no less than three of his letters: "The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live." With this exhortation we continue to pray: "Lord, Increase our faith!"

Indeed we live now with the God of life, and we shall live with Him in eternity. This is what animates our apostolate and allows us to bear fruit and to be constant "doers of the word." Yet we credit none of this to ourselves as the Lord Himself instructs: "When you have done all you have been commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'"

In essence, the Lord Jesus, our Savior, is saying to us: be humble, and know who you are before your God. The Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, held that after faith, hope and love?humility is the most important of virtues, and that humility prepares the soul for the greatest outpouring of gifts. Humility is central to Christian existence. It is central to the ministry of every deacon, priest and bishop. Our Seminary Patron, St. Charles Borromeo, reminds us of this each time we look at his crest, across which is emblazoned the word "humility," Humilitas. When we know who we are in the sight of the Lord, and confess it in our heart and on our lips, He will increase our faith.

When we have done all we have been commanded, should we dare make a claim on the Lord? A sound theology reveals to us that God cannot be enriched by our service, and therefore cannot be made a debtor by it. He has no essential need of us, nor can our service make any addition to His perfections. And yet He is willing to use our service and through it build up His Church and lead His people to eternal life. Still it is most fitting for us to recognize that we are unprofitable servants, and to cry out to Him, saying: "Lord, Increase our faith!"

God's love is so great, His mercy so abundant! May it continue to enliven your hearts and the hearts of your spouses and children, and all those you love. May your charity overflow in the service you give at the altar and pulpit, in the community, the nursing home, the funeral parlor and all those places where you endeavor to minister with self-effacing and persevering love.

Dear Deacons: may the Lord Jesus constantly increase your faith, so that you may realize and fulfill ever more the challenging demands of your sacramental ministry?a ministry which is to bear witness to and to share in His sacred servanthood. Amen.

Permanent Diaconate Ordination

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Permanent Diaconate Ordination
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
May 31, 2008

Dear brother Bishops, Priests and Deacons,
Dear Candidates for the Diaconate,
Dear Wives and Children of these chosen men,
Dear Friends in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Servant of Humanity,

Yesterday the Church celebrated the love of God as it passes through the humanity of Jesus and is manifested in His Sacred Heart. Today, the feast of the Visitation we celebrate the same reality of God’s love as it passes through the humanity of Mary and is manifested by her loving service to Elizabeth. But we also celebrate the love of God as it passes through the generous service of those to be ordained Deacons this morning.

In our first reading we recalled the words God spoke to Jeremiah: "To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear…because I am with you…says the Lord."

Today these words are addressed to our deacons about to be ordained, whose names are important to the Church. They are: Joseph, Mark, Dennis, Gary, James, Edward, Mark and William.

These men take their place today among the successors of the first deacons, in a close and sacramental partnership with the priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, indeed with the priests of the world. This partnership is a partnership in the Gospel of Christ. It is a vocation of special service to the people of God, special service closely associated with that of the priests.

The service we are speaking about for our Deacons is above all a service of charity; it is an outreach in the name of Jesus Christ and the Church. The service of the diaconate is a dynamic part of the spiritual structure of the Church, as willed by God.

The service of each deacon is more than a personal contribution of an individual. It is part of the life of the Church and the mystery of Christ. But in each individual, this service begins at the altar, with the power that comes forth from the Eucharistic Sacrifice; it is consolidated and intensified in personal prayer; it presupposes the witness of an upright life.

This service strives to respond to so many needs—to needs wherever they are found among God’s people. As a special sacramental service, the diaconate further extends and fulfills the service that Baptism requires of all.

My dear brothers: your training has helped you to understand the challenge you now embrace as part of the Church’s life. Your wives and children are here to pledge collaboration and support, and we are so happy for this.

Your call to service is sacramentally inspired and sustained, and it clearly challenges you to be like Christ, who says to each one of you: "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you."

Jesus further explains the type of love that He is talking about, saying: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."

You are being asked to lay down your life in service. Never before have you aspired to the greatness that you now take on. Jesus says: "...whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 20:26).

In practice, your service will require zeal and the ingenuity to discover the needs of God’s people and to help fulfill them: the needs of the poor, the sick and suffering, the homeless, those uninstructed in the faith, those in need of love, those languishing in despair, all those in need of Christ.

And so you fulfill a basic role in communicating Christ by word and example. Your word must be inspired by God’s word as proclaimed, interpreted and lived by the Church. Your example must be deeply rooted in prayer and charity. It must express a life of justice, honesty and truth. You will always be expected to speak and act in communion with Benedict our Pope and with his successors, with the presbyterate of Philadelphia and in the communion of faith of the universal Church.

In giving you a sacramental configuration to Christ, the Servant of humanity, the Church is asking a great deal of you. She is counting on your perseverance and on the authenticity of your lives. To accomplish this you will absolutely need the energy and strength that flow from the Death and Resurrection of the Lord, which are renewed in the Eucharistic Sacrifice; and so often you will have the opportunity to share in this Sacrifice at the side of the priest.

The Church , moreover, needs your efforts to model the relationships required of Christian families in charity, prayer and openness to the needs of others.

In all your life and ministry, what is needed is a team mentality of collaboration, and the team is the Church of Jesus Christ. And "the rules of the game" are the Gospel of Christ as proclaimed and interpreted and lived by the Church.

Every individual gift of yours is needed and esteemed, but all of them must be coordinated by the action of the Holy Spirit in the communion of the Church. In the years to come, your words of faith must flow forth from a heart steeped in prayer. Everything that you teach and communicate will be in union with the teaching of the Church—which is one, holy, Catholic and apostolic.

Now, more than ever before, the Church needs your holiness and zeal. And this means that you personally need the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Penance, prayer, meditation on the word of God, an intimate relationship with Christ and a loving trust in His Mother Mary. An intimate relationship with Christ requires an openness to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, who can never contradict the guidance He offers us through the Church.

Through your selfless giving and through your holiness of life, Christ’s own ministry of service in the world will be perpetuated. His servant Church will be more effective, more authentic, more compassionate, more loving.

Yes, dear brothers, the love of God passes through your ministry of service as deacons in the Church, just as it passes through the humanity of Christ and His Mother Mary, and finds expression in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

From now on, as deacons, you too will be special signs of God’s love in the Church, because you will be dedicated to a service that can only be motivated and sustained by God’s love.

Dear brothers, deacons to be, and dear friends in Christ all: there is a special reason for the Church today to proclaim God’s love to be revealed in the humble and self-effacing service of His new deacons. Amen.

Defending the Faith Conference at Franciscan University.

Address of Cardinal Justin Rigali
"His name is Jesus Christ!"
Defending the Faith Conference
Franciscan University of Steubenville
Steubenville, Ohio
July 30, 2010

Dear Friends,

I am very pleased to participate with you in the 2010 Defending the Faith Conference sponsored by Franciscan University of Steubenville. Together, we mark the 35th anniversary of Steubenville Conferences and their contribution to the mission of evangelization. I express deep gratitude to Father Terence Henry, TOR, the President of Franciscan University, for his invitation, and I congratulate him and the whole Franciscan University community on this great milestone.

I wish likewise to express my greetings to the co-hosts of this Conference, Professor Scott Hahn and Professor Alan Schreck.  I appreciate the presence of the priests, religious, seminarians, married couples and single persons.  I thank all of you for your clear support for the mission of the Church.

Conversation often begins ordinarily enough. We may be at the supermarket, in the car pool on the way to work, on the sidewalk in our neighborhood, in the airport waiting for a flight, at the ball field watching a son or daughter, niece or nephew’s game or practice, or, perhaps we are in the office or in the lunch room at work. In common conversation, colleagues or friends ask us about what we may be reading lately, or perhaps they ask where our children go to school or about our own background, schooling or education.

We see the topic emerging as we respond: “I’ve been reading about the theology of the body.” “I’ve been reading Pope Benedict’s book on Jesus of Nazareth.” “My children attend Immaculate Heart of Mary School.” “My son graduated from Holy Savior School.” “I am on my way to a parish council meeting tonight.” “We’ll be late for the gathering because we are attending the 12:30 Mass.”

Then comes the puzzled look.  The prudent and polite pause.  The lull in the conversation.  And many of us could fill in the words for what comes next.

In their response to us, the next sentence perhaps begins: “Well do you really …?  Well …how can you …?  Do you really …  believe all that?!” By now, those who are standing around turn to listen more closely. They weren’t eavesdropping. They were just listening! And now they are really listening!  What is our response?

The topic of faith and religion emerges. We may be asked what we believe about God, about the moral teaching of the Church or even about the reasons behind our faith practice.

When they ask us if we “really believe all that,” and we respond, “Yes, I do,” a new moment and an original moment is born. Our “yes” might not convince our friends, neighbors or family members of all the truths of faith, at first. It might not move them to change their opinions, ideas or positions. But our “yes” accomplishes something in the heart of those who hear us. They can no longer remain where they were prior to our conversation. Their heart has been touched. It has been moved simply by their experience of our response. They no longer have the option or the luxury of remaining where they were a moment before. They have been moved. They may, of course, write us off for a time. They may dismiss us, avoid us, think us naïve and remain at a distance, unconvinced. But they are moved.

Our “yes” inherits all of the grace of every “yes” uttered throughout salvation history. Our “yes” is not unconnected with every prior “yes,” because it exists always and permanently as a witness to the truth. Our “yes” unites with the “yes” of Abraham. Our “yes” unites with the “yes” of the Patriarchs and Prophets. Our “yes” unites with the most perfect “yes” of our Blessed Mother Mary, her fiat. Our “yes” unites with the “yes” of the apostles and martyrs. Our “yes” is an echo of the fidelity of the faithful men and women of every time and place. In our “yes” we are never alone. Our “yes” is part of a larger chorus, a witness that points to Besus Christ, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Son of the Eternal Father, the Son of the Virgin Mary, the Redeemer of the world, the great lover and defender of humanity. Our listeners hear the Word of truth reflected in our voice, and as the author of the Letter to Hebrews tells us, "… the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart" (Heb 4:12). Our listeners cannot remain where they were prior to our response.

I would like to offer for reflection today three core principles that must form our response, our defense of the faith in the twenty-first century. First, underneath all of the surface opinions and perhaps even protestations to the contrary, people are hungry for faith. Second, their hunger is of such considerable proportions that our presentation of the faith, the evangelization and the catechesis of the Church, must address both the heart and the head together. Third, and most importantly, Jesus Christ alone fully satisfies the human heart.

I. People are hungry for faith

First, the people we meet are truly hungry for faith. At times, our friends, neighbors, and sometimes our own family express confusion, questions, or even dismay and bewilderment at our faith and practice. Sometimes, there is even disagreement and distance.

The people who question us about our faith, and even those who may disagree with us, sometimes perhaps vehemently, are not for that reason less worthy of our attention, interest and respect. So often they have disengaged from the practice of their faith due to overwhelming pressure to conform to a worldly mindset. Some have been battered by an unrelenting de-formation that conditions them to disregard and dismiss their own deep yearning for God. Some are registered in their parish, participate as best they can, but they have grown cold due to the numbing gale-force insistence of the world. How easy it is to be overpowered by the world with all of its labels and prejudices, and simply to give in, to give up. Those who are pressured and cast about by the world have a special friend in our Blessed Mother. The Blessed Virgin Mary is always eager to guide those who wander, so that their hearts may be transformed from places of worry and pressure into hearts that treasure the things of God.

The skepticism we face today differs from that of yesterday. The skepticism of the previous generation arose as the residue of a pragmatic atheism in the academy. It rarely trickled down to the person on the street. The skepticism of today is different. It arises out of a lost sense of meaning. Our friends, neighbors and family are told repeatedly that the undeniable religious yearning we all feel in the depths of our heart is only a superficial, sentimental affect, an individualist search for an emotional high, the quest for inner serenity and harmony so that they can feel calm in the midst of a busy world filled with demanding activities and hectic schedules. Over time, unaddressed, this skepticism erodes the foundations of faith and metastasizes into an understated yet practical atheism. We find that sometimes our friends, co-workers, family, fellow students, and even our fellow parishioners, may look on us as out of step with the times and on a different wave-length. And, of course, we are and pray to remain there.

The subtle atheism of today seeks not so much to deny the existence of God as to inhibit, prevent, redirect and, if necessary, refuse the acknowledgement and exercise of the deep hunger for God that slumbers in every heart. The atheism of today does not arise from the academy alone. It arises within the practical and daily attempts, even within proposed civil legislation and judicial activism, of the denial of religious liberty and freedom of conscience that our culture and society have from the very beginning acknowledged as the bedrock of the common good and the rights of the human person. Pope Benedict XVI, in his most recent Encyclical Letter, Caritas in Veritate, emphasizes: “When the State promotes, teaches, or actually imposes forms of practical atheism, it deprives its citizens of the moral and spiritual strength that is indispensable for attaining integral human development and it impedes them from moving forward with renewed dynamism as they strive to offer a more generous human response to divine love” (no. 29).   The Holy Father concluded, “A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism” (no. 78).

The exercise of religion is more and more being treated as an exclusively private attitude that ought not to extend beyond the property-line of the Church. We simply cannot confine ourselves to a strategy of neutrality in the face of the recent erosion of religious freedom. The skepticism we face does not simply disagree with Christians; it is hostile to Christians and resentful of the Good News of Jesus Christ. It seeks to relegate Christians to the sidelines of society. Pope Benedict XVI, in his Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, called attention to this troubling phenomenon: “… ‘redemption’ … is no longer expected from faith, but from the newly discovered link between science and praxis. It is not that faith is simply denied; rather it is displaced onto another level—that of purely private and other-worldly affairs—and at the same time it becomes somehow irrelevant for the world. This programmatic vision has determined the trajectory of modern times and it also shapes the present-day crisis of faith ... " (no. 17).

The theme of this year’s Conference, “Be Transformed by the Renewal of Your Mind,” is an urgent call to faithful citizens and all people of good will to embrace the persistent and fundamental calling of the human person to respond to a deep yearning for God, especially through religious freedom and the free exercise of religion. The atheism of today infects not only the head, but the heart. This leads us to our second principle: The remedy we offer must speak not to the head alone, but to the heart and the head together. The words of St. Paul call us to a new commitment: "Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect" (Rom 12:2).

II. We must address both the head and the heart

To address both the head and the heart, we step forward with courage. Courage, after all, is the path to nobility. As we step forward, at first, we may fall into the trap of trying to construct the silver bullet, that all-embracing phrase or line of argumentation that effectively refutes every argument and convinces the skeptic to believe the truth of faith. Certainly, we need the familiarity and well-tuned expression that arises from immersing ourselves in research on the truths of faith. We benefit greatly from honing the technical skills of informed study and debate. These skills help us to express reasonable, logical, linear reasoning of faith through affable, yet vigorous, discussion. This point-for-point dialogue is invigorating and crucial to our witness.

Divine Revelation does not contradict right reason. Rather, Divine Revelation illumines human reason and invites it to new heights. The light of Divine Revelation, expressed in Sacred Scripture and the living apostolic Tradition of the Church and authentically interpreted in the Church’s living Magisterium, is a gift to man, to lead him to penetrate the mystery of human existence.

This generation must be well prepared to demonstrate in common and accessible language that the prevalent body-soul dualism which informs so much of secular thinking and education is woefully inadequate and destructive of the common good. We must be prepared to demonstrate that proportionalism is an unacceptable moral methodology. This August marks seventeen years since the Venerable Servant of God Pope John Paul II published Veritatis Splendor, his Encyclical Letter on certain fundamental questions of the Church’s moral teaching. Yet so many of us still very much need to receive fully this crucial teaching as the center of gravity in our moral analysis and everyday experience.

 The critical examination and reasoning so crucial to apologetics is not meant, in its first instance, to show that we are correct, but to show that we love one another. Our reasoning ought never to sink to intense polemics. We must never turn to cynicism or contempt in our effort to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we discover ourselves becoming frequently frustrated in our efforts to defend the faith, this may be a sign that we need to calibrate our approach to include greater emphasis on the beauty and invitation of faith. The reasoning we propose in witness to our faith is not meant to end all arguments, but to begin a new search in the lives of those with whom we speak. Our reasoning is not meant to be the last word, but the first word, the invitation, the doorway to a quest, a journey into the truths of faith, into the life of God. We do not simply refute arguments, we invite people. The keynote of apologetics in every age of the Church is the way we live our lives. The world must see the honesty in our eyes long before it hears the conviction in our voice. And science is always on our side: The modern ultra sound picture of the child in the womb proves the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. There are two central threads of the Culture of Life. The first is to protect the inviolable dignity of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death, especially of those most in danger, namely, the child in the womb and persons who are approaching the end of life. And the other central thread of the Culture of Life is the protection and promotion of marriage as the permanent, faithful, fruitful bond of one man and one woman.

So many of the people we meet are wounded, even though they appear healthy and successful by worldly standards. The voice deep in their heart, which cries out for meaning, has been marginalized and exiled. They have been hurt by so many others who say one thing and do another. They have been scarred by attempts to maximize control, by constant image-driven preoccupation with status, by the narrow understanding of life which the world never ceases to impose. They may often feel as if they are simply going through the motions. They seek escape from the tensions and are burdened by resistance and reluctance to reach out to the God who is calling them. Too many of our friends, our colleagues, our brothers and sisters are experiencing a secret despair in life which they have kept hidden for far too long.

God sends us to those who are suffering to announce again that only Jesus Christ can totally satisfy the deepest hunger of the human heart. This is our third and final principle.

III. Jesus Christ alone uncovers the meaning of human existence and fully; satisfies the hunger of the human heart.

Human existence has meaning, and it is not found in money, fashion or pleasure. The flavor of these passing pursuits always runs out. These do not move the depths of our being, and they never explain the meaning of our existence. They never even scrape the surface of our deep and abiding hunger for God. We must build on this yearning and rediscover beauty, surrender to beauty, and awaken again to the meaning of human existence. The loss of meaning can only be fully restored by the experience of beauty. And nothing is more beautiful than the countenance of God the Father shining on the face of Jesus Christ. As Pope John Paul II said in Veritatis Splendor: “The light of God's face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ”  (no. 2).

One of the great tasks, if not the principal task, of evangelization and catechesis in this moment is their mobilization on the local level. The central work within the New Evangelization is the formation and expression of a robust Christian anthropology. The renewal of anthropology was the landmark and hallmark of the teaching of Pope John Paul II. As Pope John Paul II reminded us so often, and the teaching of the Second Vatican Council made clear: "The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light ... Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear" (Gaudium et Spes, 22). And the Word made Flesh, Jesus Christ, revealed to us the ultimate meaning of human existence in His Passion, Death and glorious Resurrection. Once again, in the words of Vatican II: “… man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself" (Gaudium et Spes, 24). The sincere gift of self is not only good advice, a good idea or simply polite manners, it is the path of human existence. The total gift of self in love is not activism, but the action at the heart of all that we do. It is the heart of the meaning of human identity. If we are not making a gift of ourselves, then we will not be able to find ourselves. We learn to make the gift of self not on the basis of our own efforts or good intentions. The gift of self in love is the centerpiece of Christian anthropology that provides the basis by which we can form complete responses to the stormy questions of the day. The Cross of Jesus Christ alone gives us courage to offer ourselves as a gift even in the face of confrontation and contradiction.

The task of the Christian in the twenty-first century is, simply stated, to be an instrument of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit seeks to awaken the people around us to a beauty in Christ and therefore to a meaning in their own existence that they never suspected to find. We encounter His beauty in and through the Church. In the Church we sense an immediacy of beauty that arouses and shapes the persistent hunger of the human heart. In the Church, as we partake of the Sacraments, our life is transformed by the superabundant grace of Jesus Christ.

There is no room in the New Evangelization for empty words. Every time we utter “yes,” the missionary summons of our “yes” becomes a spark that can enkindle and ignite a hardened heart. The only way to move a generation is to ignite hearts. As Pope Benedict explained in Spe Salvi: “… the holy power of [Christ’s] love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God” (no. 47).  This holy fire alone is the catalyst by which the words of St. Paul are fulfilled: "Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect" (Rom 12:2). Only hearts on fire have the power and courage to dismantle the ideologies of the Culture of Death and embrace the Culture of Life and the call to holiness.

People today need Christians to coax them back from the edge, to remind them how much the world matters to God. We fulfill this role not by diluting the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but by living it to the full and sharing it with others. People are indeed hungry for faith in Jesus Christ.

The next time you are at the supermarket, on a soccer field or sidewalk, or in a gathering and someone asks you: “Do you really believe all that?” you can respond: “Yes, I do!”  But perhaps somewhere in your conversation and your personal exchange you can also use the Word that denotes the Person who unites us all and with whom we are united through faith, the Word that fills hearts and minds, the only Word that fully satisfies the hunger of the human heart, the Word uttered by the Father before all ages, the Word who became incarnate and was born of the Virgin Mary.  His name is Jesus Christ!  He is the Savior of the world and the greatest treasure of all humanity.  He is the one whose Gospel we want to share with all our fellow human beings because for all of us He is the way, the truth and the life.  Dear friends:  Jesus Christ, whom we know through faith is the greatest gift we can offer to all who willingly accept to know Him and His message of eternal life.  Hence, let us say, for all to hear:  “Blessed be the name of Jesus!” 

Defending the Faith Conference in Steubenville, Ohio

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Defending the Faith Conference
Franciscan University of Steubenville
Steubenville, Ohio
July 31, 2010

Today I come, speaking to all of you―especially you young people―as friends:  friends in our Lord Jesus Christ, friends of our Lord Jesus Christ and what I say is this: “Glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol his name” (Ps 34:4). These words of the psalmist, proclaimed only moments ago in the responsorial psalm, capture and express the spirit of these past thirty-five years of Conferences here at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. “Glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol his name.”

There is a palpable eagerness in the words of the psalmist. That same eagerness is present here, today, on the campus of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. I can hear it in your voices, see it in your faces and sense it in your presence.

Glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol his name.” These words of the psalmist are remarkably similar to those of Saint Paul from the first reading: “…whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).

And the theme mounts: The words “For the Greater Glory of God” (Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam) are so characteristic of the Christian mission that they form the motto of the Society of Jesus, the religious community founded by the Saint whose memorial we celebrate today, Saint Ignatius of Loyola.  From his place in the Liturgy of heaven at the Supper of the Lamb, united with our Blessed Mother and all the Angels and Saints, Saint Ignatius continues to call out to us, saying:  “Glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol his name.”

The eminent Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar gave considerable and extensive consideration in his theological work to the glory of God as the beauty of Divine Revelation. The splendor of God’s holiness shines forth as the light of his glory which the living God longs to communicate to man through faith. The memorial we celebrate today, along with the words of the first reading and responsorial psalm, invite us to glorify God.

Glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol his name.” Our contemporary society, formed from the post-modern era, has a different idea about glory. The world of today seeks to sway, pressure, manipulate and persuade our families and friends to buy into the glory of self. And the world is feverishly targeting this generation.

This generation moves quickly. It is not waiting. It experiences the lure of the spotlight, the enticement of pleasure and power, the fast pace of the corporate ladder, the race to get the next promotion, the bigger bonus and the higher status. The world repeatedly tells us that glory is found only in being powerful, in what we own, in how much money we have, how much power we achieve and how popular we are.
 
Glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol his name.” In the post-modern lifestyle, glory to anyone but the individual self is judged to be a myth. The world tells this generation that the life of faith is outdated, and the difference between right and wrong is hollow and empty. When the Church speaks of avoiding sin and embracing the life of grace, the common reaction of society is to label and attack us. So often today to be a Christian is to be labeled, if not targeted, as “old-fashioned,” “backward,” “reactionary,” “to be against everything.” Yet, a question lingers: If the contemporary society is so convinced of its own way, why is it so eager and determined to oppose the effort to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ?

Saint Paul provides a position for us to take: "Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect" (Rom 12:2). His words are so appropriate as the theme of this 2010 Defending the Faith Conference.

Transformation does not come from our reputation or from what we own. It does not arise from our status, getting our own way or having everything we want. Self-worth does not come from net-worth. Jesus tells us plainly the origin of transformation. At first, His words from the Gospel of Saint Luke seem to sound a somber note: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:25 ). The words of Jesus at first sound upsetting to us. The maxim of Jesus seems to run counter to the fourth commandment of the Decalogue: “Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you” (Ex 20:12; cf. Deut 5:16).

How different these words of Jesus seem from the words with which we began: “Glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol his name.” How can He who taught us to love our enemies now teach us to hate our families? In fact He does not. Transformation in the Lord may seem on the surface like such a reversal, a contradiction. The great Franciscan Doctor of the Church, Saint Bonaventure, leads us through this apparent contradiction. He teaches that the hatred spoken of in the Gospel does not arise from cruelty, but from love. Commenting on this Gospel passage, Saint Bonaventure tells us that we are commanded to hate our “father, mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even our own life” as far as sin goes. We are to hate any attachment to sin in our relationship to our family and even in regard to our own life. Saint Bonaventure recalled the words of Saint Augustine: “If you have loved badly, then you have hated. If you have hated well, then you have loved.”  Obviously Jesus is telling us, yes, to love our father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, but to love God and His law above everyone else in our lives.

To buy into the world’s definition of glory means to love badly. We, however, are called to love well. There is only one way to love well. That is to accept the invitation of Jesus: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14: 26).  The Cross of the Redeemer is the key which opens the meaning of all of history. Our own cross to which Jesus invites us is never far away: It is in the suffering we share as our spouse, parents, siblings, children or other relatives go through a crisis; it is in the distress we may face as we struggle to love our brothers and sisters from one day to the next; it is in the waiting and discernment to which we dedicate ourselves as we listen while God teaches us the deeper purpose of His will; it is in the pain we feel in our body as our physical health wanes.

Each of these moments is a new opportunity to make a gift of self in love and so join ourselves to the saving action of Jesus. This is what Christianity is all about:  making a gift of self in love.  In the Eucharist we find the nourishment to accept the invitation of Jesus. In the Eucharist we fulfill the summons of the psalmist: “Glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol his name.”

The world, despite all claims to the contrary, is always mystified by the Cross of Jesus. On the Cross, the Son of God reveals his glory as He makes the gift of Himself in the supreme act of love for His Father and for His Church. His obedient and sacrificial outpouring of love is the saving action that reveals the radiant inner depths of His glory. The Cross of our Redeemer Jesus Christ is the great anchor of love that moors all of history.

There is a special person who has stood close to that Cross, and she longs to guide us so that we, like her, may imitate Her Son. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the one who has humbly discerned “the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Through this Conference, through the preparation, hard work and determination of the presenters, participants, administrators and staff, she has reached out her hands to inspire us, motivate us and teach us to cling to her Son, Jesus, to hold fast to His Cross. The Cross of Jesus  is the leverage by which the Holy Spirit transforms our life.  

Today, as we mark this 35th year of Conferences at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, we reach again for the Cross. With strength that comes from Jesus Christ we lift the Cross high so that this generation may see its radiance and be transformed by its power.  And let us all, in the Communion of the Saints, call out saying: “Glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol his name.”  Amen.

Permanent Diaconate Ordination

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Permanent Diaconate Ordination
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
June 2, 2007

Praised be Jesus Christ,
Dear brother Priests,
Dear Deacons and those to be ordained this morning,
Dear Wives and Families of these chosen men,
Dear Candidates still preparing for the Diaconate,
Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,

This morning the Acts of the Apostles present to us the names, individually recorded, of the first deacons of the Church. They are listed one by one: Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas of Antioch. There were seven of them—chosen for the office of assisting the Apostles in a role of special sacramental service in the early ecclesial community.

Today the Church has selected another group of men called by God to this same work. This time there are fourteen of them. Their names are equally important to God and to His Church: Thomas Concitis, Adolfo Crespo, James DiFerdinand, Frederick Druding, Joao Ferreira, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Stephen Guckin, Felipe Hernandez, Homer Panganiban, Ralph Shirley, Patrick Stokely, Jorge Vera, Raymond Wellbank, Stanley Zaleski.

Their identity as deacons is linked to the Church’s role of service, which, in turn, is linked to the servanthood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world.

This ordination today takes place, therefore, under the sign of service. It is service that we are celebrating: the special service characteristic of the diaconate.

There are deacons in the Church only because Jesus Christ came to serve and because service is Christ’s legacy to His Church. In the words of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II: "The service of the deacon is the Church’s service sacramentalized." "By your ordination," he went on to tell the permanent deacons of the United States, "you are configured to Christ in his servant role. You are … living signs of the servanthood of the Church."

What a magnificent Gospel we have this morning! Jesus speaks those words which are at the origin of all service in the Church: "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you." And then He shows to what point they are applicable: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." On this your ordination day, dear brothers to be ordained, you must not miss the meaning of Christ’s challenge. You are called to lay down your lives in a special form of service. The service that you are called to render as deacons of the Church is a sacramental service. It is a ministry of the word, a ministry at the altar, a ministry of charity.

In regard to your witness to God’s word, Saint Paul tells us clearly this morning. "...we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus."

Your ministry places you at the altar, close to the Bishop and his priests in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. It is from the altar that you will derive strength and power to go out and bear witness not only to the truth but also to the charity of Christ. For every Christian there is a close link between worship and service. For you this link is a seal of your identity as a sacramental minister of the Church.

Your ministry of charity will require zeal and the ingenuity to discover the needs of God’s people and to help fulfill them: the needs of the poor, the sick and suffering, the homeless, those uninstructed in the faith, those in need of love, those languishing in despair, all those in need of Christ.

Pope John Paul II put it this way: "… it is a source of satisfaction to learn that so many permanent deacons in the United States are involved in direct service to the needy: to the ill, the abused and battered, the young and old, the dying and bereaved, the deaf, blind and disabled, those who have known suffering in their marriages, the homeless, victims of substance abuse, prisoners, refugees, street people, the rural poor, the victims of racial and ethnic discrimination and many others."

Dear brothers to be ordained deacons: these are your people; these are your friends. So many of your brother deacons have preceded you in seeking out those in need. With the power of Christ’s charity they have knocked on doors, broken down barriers of long-standing aversion, penetrated closed spaces and entered into the lives of many brothers and sisters, bringing with them Christ Himself and His sanctifying and uplifting Gospel of justice and peace, of truth and life.

For the effectiveness of your ministry we know that there is, however, a necessary condition. The humble Christ wants His minister of service to be endowed with holiness of life. That is why the Church prays for you today in these words, at the moment when she invests you with the dignity and sacramental character of the diaconate: "May there abound in them every Gospel virtue: unfeigned love...the purity of innocence, and the observance of spiritual discipline."

It becomes crystal clear in the context of the ordination liturgy that your lives of service require union with God. For this reason your success requires prayer: the prayer of praise, adoration and intercession. Your fidelity to the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist will fortify you to persevere in generous service and to live your sacred commitment joyfully to the end.

You present yourselves for ordination today accompanied by your wives. Your service as deacons will be integrated with your vocation to Christian married love. At every turn you will be challenged to contribute to the transformation of family life according to the Gospel. This will be a special part of your service to the Church.

In speaking of the married deacon, Pope John Paul II stated: "He and his wife, having entered into a communion of life, are called to help and serve each other.… [T]he nurturing and deepening of mutual sacrificial love between husband and wife constitute perhaps the most significant involvement of a deacon’s wife in her husband’s public ministry in the Church. Today especially this is no small service. In particular, the deacon and his wife must be a living example of fidelity and indissolubility in Christian marriage before a world in dire need of such signs."

Dear brothers to be ordained: every dimension of your lives is a challenge to be faithful, a challenge to serve. Jesus Himself has left you the example of how to serve faithfully. In receiving the gift of ordination to the diaconate, you are confirmed as living signs of the servanthood of Christ’s Church, living signs of the Christ who serves.

Your vocation will involve team work. The team is the Church. Your co-workers are all the faithful, your fellow parishioners, all your brothers and sisters in the community. In a special way you are linked with the priests in their ministry and with your Bishop. No act of service in the parish is beneath your dignity. No need in the Church is outside the sphere of your sacramental service. Christ wills to continue His role of servanthood in you.

To preserve the spirit of your ordination, you must always remember today’s Gospel. You must remember Christ’s words: "No one has greater love than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."

Dear brothers: Mary the Mother of Jesus, herself the Servant of the Lord, will help you to serve faithfully in the name of her Son. She will teach you how to lay down your life with Jesus. On this your ordination day, I invite you to consecrate yourselves to Mary, and entrust to her your families and all those whom you will be honored to serve in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Permanent Diaconate Ordination

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Permanent Diaconate Ordination
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
May 30, 2009

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Bishop Thomas,
Dear brother Priests,
Dear Deacons and those to be ordained this morning,
Dear Wives and Families of these chosen men,
Dear Candidates still preparing for the Diaconate,
Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,

The Acts of the Apostles present to us this morning the names of the first deacons of the Church. They are individually recorded and listed one by one: Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas of Antioch. There were seven of them—chosen for the office of assisting the Apostles in a role of special sacramental service in the early ecclesial community.

Today the Church has selected another group of men called by God to this same work. This time there are eight of them. Their names are equally important to God and to His Church: Ernest W. Angiolillo, Patrick J. Diamond, William W. Evans, Michael J. Kolakowski, Francis C. Lally, Charles G. Lewis, John J. Pileggi, Huan C. Tran.

Their identity as deacons is linked to the Church’s role of service, which, in turn, is linked to the servanthood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world.

This ordination today takes place, therefore, under the sign of service. It is service that we are celebrating: the special service characteristic of the diaconate.

There are deacons in the Church only because Jesus Christ came to serve and because service is Christ’s legacy to His Church. In the words of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II: "The service of the deacon is the Church’s service sacramentalized." "By your ordination," he went on to tell the permanent deacons of the United States, "you are configured to Christ in his servant role. You are … living signs of the servanthood of the Church."

What a magnificent Gospel we have this morning! Jesus speaks those words which are at the origin of all service in the Church: "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you." And then He shows to what point they are applicable: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." On this your ordination day, dear brothers, you must not miss the meaning of Christ’s challenge. You are called to lay down your lives in a special form of service. The service that you are called to render as deacons of the Church is a sacramental service. It is a ministry of the word, a ministry at the altar, a ministry of charity.

In regard to your witness to God’s word, Saint Paul tells us clearly this morning. "...we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus."

Your ministry places you at the altar, close to the Bishop and his priests in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. It is from the altar that you will derive strength and power to go out and bear witness not only to the truth but also to the charity of Christ. For every Christian there is a close link between worship and service. For you this link is a seal of your identity as a sacramental minister of the Church.

Your ministry of charity will require zeal and the ingenuity to discover the needs of God’s people and to help fulfill them: the needs of the poor, the sick and suffering, the homeless, those uninstructed in the faith, those in need of love, those languishing in despair, all those in need of Christ.

Pope John Paul II put it this way: "… it is a source of satisfaction to learn that so many permanent deacons in the United States are involved in direct service to the needy: to the ill, the abused and battered, the young and old, the dying and bereaved, the deaf, blind and disabled, those who have known suffering in their marriages, the homeless, victims of substance abuse, prisoners, refugees, street people, the rural poor, the victims of racial and ethnic discrimination and many others."

Dear brothers to be ordained deacons: these are your people; these are your friends. So many of your brother deacons have preceded you in seeking out those in need. With the power of Christ’s charity they have knocked on doors, broken down barriers of long-standing aversion, penetrated closed spaces and entered into the lives of many brothers and sisters, bringing with them Christ Himself and His sanctifying and uplifting Gospel of justice and peace, of truth and life.

For the effectiveness of your ministry we know that there is, however, a necessary condition. The humble Christ wants His minister of service to be endowed with holiness of life. That is why the Church prays for you today in these words, at the moment when she invests you with the dignity and sacramental character of the diaconate: "May there abound in them every Gospel virtue: unfeigned love...the purity of innocence, and the observance of spiritual discipline."

It becomes crystal clear in the context of the ordination liturgy that your lives of service require union with God. For this reason your success requires prayer: the prayer of praise, adoration, reparation and intercession. Your fidelity to the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist will fortify you to persevere in generous service and to live your sacred commitment joyfully to the end.

You present yourselves for ordination today accompanied by your wives. Your sacramental service as deacons will be integrated with your vocation to a state of life which is that of Christian married love. At every turn you will be challenged to contribute to the transformation of family life according to the Gospel. This will be a special part of your service to the Church.

In speaking of the married deacon, Pope John Paul II stated: "He and his wife, having entered into a communion of life, are called to help and serve each other.… [T]he nurturing and deepening of mutual sacrificial love between husband and wife constitute perhaps the most significant involvement of a deacon’s wife in her husband’s public ministry in the Church. Today especially this is no small service. In particular, the deacon and his wife must be a living example of fidelity and indissolubility in Christian marriage before a world in dire need of such signs."

Dear brothers to be ordained: every dimension of your lives is a challenge to be faithful, a challenge to serve. Jesus Himself has left you the example of how to serve faithfully. In receiving the gift of ordination to the diaconate, you are confirmed as living signs of the servanthood of Christ’s Church, living signs of the Christ who serves.

Your vocation will involve team work. The team is the Church. Your co-workers are all the faithful, your fellow parishioners, all your brothers and sisters in the community. In a special way you are linked with the priests in their ministry and with your Bishop. No act of service in the parish or the Archdiocese is beneath your dignity. No need in the Church is outside the sphere of your sacramental service. Christ wills to continue His role of servanthood in you.

To preserve the spirit of your ordination, you must always remember today’s Gospel. You must remember Christ’s words: "No one has greater love than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."

Dear brothers: Mary the Mother of Jesus, herself the Servant of the Lord, will help you to serve faithfully in the name of her Son. She will teach you how to lay down your life with Jesus. On this your ordination day, I invite you to consecrate yourselves to Mary, and entrust to her your families and all those whom you will be honored to serve in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Mass for Persons with Disabilities

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass for Persons with Disabilities
Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul
Sunday, May 16, 2004

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is good for us to gather together in prayer to praise our God who sent His Son, so that the whole world may know your will; so that all nations may know your salvation (Psalm 67:2). We, the baptized, infused with the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, rejoice that Jesus gave His life so that our sins might be forgiven and so that we might live forever with the Father. God is our Father who loves each of us without reservation and unconditionally. Dear brothers and sisters with disabilities, your families and friends are profound witnesses to this reality. I welcome and extend my greetings to you. Today our Sacred Scripture re-enforces the need to celebrate our unity as members of the one Body of Christ, all invited to live out our baptismal call.

Our coming together today, in many ways, models the gathered community of the early Church, a community made up of many individuals. They were Jews and Gentiles, free and enslaved, all desirous of learning more about Jesus and His message. They wanted to know this Jesus who promised, that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you (John 14: 26). Not unlike the early Church, we, too, are a Church blessed with many individuals possessing different gifts and talents to be shared for the good of the community and for ourselves. My dear brothers and sisters, we must take the faith and knowledge we have in Jesus, and, guided by the Holy Spirit, share this life-giving message with all whom we encounter. We are all called to be residents of the New Jerusalem, in a close relationship with our loving God. That closeness bids each one of us to carry out the work Jesus began. The work of salvation is built upon love, compassion, forgiveness and caring for one another.

Saint Paul was instrumental in the early Church laboring for a common bond between Jew and Gentile as Jesus opened the doors to all people. This bond was forged together by a shared faith, common needs and desire to live as Jesus taught. As faith-filled members of the Body of Christ, we all are charged to carry on St. Paul s efforts toward unity. Today I ask for your help as members of our faith community to assist me in this work. I reiterate the words of our Holy Father spoken on the occasion of the Jubilee of the Disabled in December 2000, when he said, In Christ s name, the Church is committed to making herself more and more a welcoming home for you. We know that the disabled person - a unique and unrepeatable person in his/or her equal and inviolable dignity - needs not only care, but first of all love, which becomes recognition, respect and integration: from birth to adolescence, [and] to adulthood . . . (Homily December 3, 2000 ). In our common humanity and in our differences we can find the strength needed to build bridges which carry us all to a common understanding of a Church open and welcoming to all, one without walls of segregation and prejudice. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is that bridge which will brings us all together. Today, I say to you, my brothers and sisters, that you have the duty, like all the baptized to do the Lord s work in the world being mindful of your God-given talents and gifts. It is the desire of the Church that you be fully integrated into the community, welcomed into the apostolate of the Church and active witnesses to the compassion and love of Jesus Christ.

 Our brothers and sisters in the early Church experienced a difference of opinion regarding who was to be welcomed into the community. Guided by the Holy Spirit the community and its leaders struggled with the issue and found their way to a common good inclusive of all who desired to follow Jesus. Remember, dear friends, we are a universal Church, made up of many parts all important to each other as we journey together in this life to salvation.

I know that the journey can be challenging especially when circumstances limit or restrict one s full participation within society. But we must take heart that, like the early Church, we, too, will overcome certain limits with the aid of the Holy Spirit and move to even greater openness and inclusion. The perfect model of openness is found in the words and actions of Jesus who stopped, noticed and called the person forward as he did the two men born blind in Jericho (Mt: 20: 32-33): What do you want me to do for you? We know that Jesus showed compassion and touched them. Through his healing power, he reminds us that people with disabilities possess the sacred and inalienable rights that belong to every creature.... (Pope John Paul II to the International Symposium on the Dignity and Rights of the Mentally Disabled Person, January 5, 2004). So, too, recall Jesus compassion for the deaf man in the Gospels of Saint Mark and Saint John, when He shows deep regard for persons with disabilities. Jesus tells His disciples: neither he nor his parents sinned. He was born blind so that the works of God might be made visible through him.

Our Sacred Scriptures today continue to lead us into a deeper and more profound understanding of the magnificent love God has for all of us a love that is manifested in each one of us through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit who guided the members of the early Church continues to guide us today. May the peace of Jesus Christ bring you the well-being of daily life in harmony with your neighbor, yourself and God, now and forever. Amen.

Mass with Persons with Disabilities

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass with Persons with Disabilities
the Deaf Community, their Family, Friends and Caregivers
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
April 29, 2007

Praise to you, our Risen Lord and eternal Shepherd...now and forever!

Dear Friends,

On this Fourth Sunday of Easter in the Bicentennial Jubilee Year of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, I welcome all of you to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. How fitting it is on this Good Shepherd Sunday that we welcome and celebrate together with our brothers and sisters with disabilities, the deaf community, their families, friends and care providers. Our celebration today is a beautiful manifestation of the Church. I welcome you in the name of Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and proclaim with the Church’s love the words of Psalm 100: "Know that the Lord is God, he made us, his we are; his people, the flock he tends." As we celebrate together the mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection through word and sacrament, Jesus our Risen Lord and Shepherd is here with us.

Your presence here and your faithful response to the call of the Good Shepherd gave me great joy as I prayed the opening prayer in today’s liturgy: "Though your people walk in the valley of darkness, no evil should they fear; for they follow in faith the call of the shepherd whom you have sent for their hope and strength. Attune our minds to the sound of his voice, lead our steps in the path he has shown, that we may know the strength of his outstretched arm and enjoy the light of your presence for ever." You who are unable to see yet envision God’s bountiful love; you who may not hear but heed God’s call to love and service, to you who may not walk but follow the path of the Good Shepherd—you are truly God’s faith-filled disciples. God is offering you His outstretched arm as He longs for you to enjoy the light and joy of His bountiful love. May our gathering together today help to reaffirm that we are God’s people, the flock He tends with love. May we with open and generous hearts commit ourselves to following the Good Shepherd always.

Often the Church and her people are described as a sheepfold with Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Sometimes this image can lose its deep and powerful meaning. Today’s readings bring to light the image Jesus often used to describe himself. It is an image that can only be fully understood when we envision Jesus on the Cross, a Shepherd who willingly laid down His life for His sheep, who died for His flock, and, now risen, offers us eternal life.

In our first reading today, we see Paul and Barnabas continuing to proclaim God’s word with hope and joy even in the midst of persecution. Paul, rebuffed by his own people, does not lose heart and the accounts in the Acts of the Apostles continually remind us that good often flows from misfortune. Paul’s missionary efforts are beset with rejection and countless difficulties and yet God crowned Paul’s efforts with success and the Church spread by leaps and bounds. In the Acts of the Apostles we read: "...the following Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord" (Acts 13:44).

Our lives too are often beset with difficulties and hardships day after day. For us also, the struggles in life can become moments of grace. This is not always easy for us to see at the time of trial. It takes the perseverance that is God’s great gift. Keeping faith alive in the midst of hardship and struggle is the real sermon that you are able to preach in life. Our Lord Jesus Christ exemplified this most eloquently in His Death on the Cross. Although He was wounded, unable to move and seemingly helpless, His great act of love won for us our salvation.

In our second reading from the Book of Revelation we see painted before our eyes the magnificent vision of those who have attained salvation: "a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count from every nation, race, people and tongue" (Rev 7:9). We are told that these are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; their robes are washed in the blood of the lamb. We wish to be among them, for the Lamb, Christ Jesus, " who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Rev 7:17).

Today’s Gospel, dear friends, gives us the words of Jesus, so powerful in this Liturgy, which remind us that He is truly the Good Shepherd, and that we who follow Him belong to Him and to no other. Jesus promises us eternal life and that we shall never perish. Jesus promises that no one can take us from His hands. What words of encouragement we hear proclaimed today! Words of encouragement that can keep us going in times of struggle and frustration! We are Christ’s and Christ is God’s! With the help of Jesus and His Blessed Mother Mary, no path is too steep, no burden too heavy to bear. We are in God’s hands and no one can snatch us away.

Praised be Jesus Christ! Amen.

Mass with Persons with Disabilities

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass for Persons with Disabilities
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Sunday, March 21, 2010

Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ...now and forever!

"The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy."

 

On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, I welcome you to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.  Today, more than midway through our Lenten journey, we encounter God’s mercy in splendid ways that give us hope. As I welcome and celebrate together with you, our brothers and sisters with disabilities, your families, friends and care providers, I acclaim with the psalmist, "The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy" (Ps 126:3).  Today, we gather to celebrate the treasured expression of God’s vision that lives and breathes in people with disabilities. We celebrate the gifts, the culture and even the crosses carried so magnificently in your lives.  How you enrich the Church with your lives, with your talents, with your witness, your courage and your love! Today we praise God for the wholeness and redemption that He brings to us just as we are, just as He has created us.  We praise God for the dignity and profound equality as children of God that we enjoy in His love.  In speaking to people with disabilities, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI spoke these words: “Dear brothers and sisters, the Church needs your contribution, to answer fully and faithfully to the Lord’s will…. Humanity needs your gifts, which are prophecies of the Kingdom of God” (March 19, 2007).

              The readings today offer us a wonderful vision of hope.   The First Reading from Isaiah recounts God’s mighty actions in restoring Israel as a nation after years of captivity in Babylon.  The people of Israel missed their land and longed to be home as God’s family. Isaiah reminds us that we should remember not the events of the past but, instead, behold the beautiful image of God doing something entirely new.   Something new is soon to take place. The people of Israel, and you and I, are invited to look ahead to where the desert will bloom, rivers will flow and there will be new life for the people God has chosen.  Their new creation will be the new memory-point of their identity. All this, God is doing for a people whom He formed for Himself that they might announce His praise.  We are engrafted on to that people.   Our baptism into Christ forms us into a people with an identity that makes us a new creation.  As we claim this dignity, we too are called to announce God’s praise.  We each do this in different ways.  While we may not be able to see, we can still share the vision of God’s merciful love; while we may not be able to hear, we can still heed God’s call to service and discipleship; and while we may not be able to walk, we can still follow the path that leads to an encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Second Reading, Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians, reminds us to “forget what lies behind” and to look toward a future full of hope.  This letter reveals to us Saint Paul’s efforts to strain forward as an athlete strives to win the prize.  We can hear in Saint Paul’s words that this is no easy pursuit; it involves effort, suffering and possibly the loss of everything. Yet, what he attains is the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus, his Lord.  Saint Paul realizes that relying on himself alone would be sheer hopelessness.  May we, like Saint Paul, rely on faith and the power of Christ’s resurrection.  Thus, with the words of Saint Paul echoing in our ears and keeping in our mind’s eye the profound example of our blessed Mother Mary, who experienced the agony of watching Jesus’ passion and death, we too experience suffering and dying to ourselves daily in many ways.

Dear brothers and sisters with disabilities, you  know first hand the physical, emotional and mental suffering of life.  All of us, at one time or another, witness the vulnerability and diminishment of those whom we love.  This is a unique way in which we are conformed to the suffering and death of Jesus. However, as Saint  Paul reminds us, Christ Jesus has taken possession of us and we are able to hold on to the supreme good of sharing in the glory of His resurrection.

Today’s gospel is a story very familiar to us.  We can envision the accusing crowd trying to trap Jesus, the misery of the adulterous woman and Jesus bending down as He writes on the ground with His finger.  Jesus does something new. He shames the honored members of the community and honors the shamed. This story that begins with deathly accusations ends with divine mercy. Whereas the community’s condemnation would have led the adulterous woman to death, Jesus’ mercy offers her new life.  A story that begins with human beings testing the divine, ends with a divine invitation to repentance and new life.  After the crowd went away one by one, Scripture tells us that Jesus “was left alone with the woman before him” (John 8:9).  Can we imagine that being alone, face to face with Jesus.    Saint Augustine uses these words to describe this encounter:  “Only two were left, misery and mercy.”  What an amazing encounter of grace and divine mercy! Jesus does not condemn the woman. He does however condemn her act. He says to her “sin no more,” then he calls her to repent and choose a new way of living. Imagine her life after this encounter.  No longer is she a woman of misery but a woman whose life is opened up to hope.  Lent calls us to the same kind of encounter with Jesus so that we may come face to face with the truth of our personal situation and our need for divine mercy.  Central to this Gospel event and central to our Lenten journey is our encounter with Jesus.  This divine encounter is directed to repentance, to God’s mercy and to the promise of new and abundant life.  

As we gather here today at the Sacred Liturgy of the Eucharist, we intimately encounter Christ.  We come before Him present in the proclamation of the Divine Word and in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.  Jesus is here with us in Word and Sacrament and in the Mystical Body of His Church of which each of us is an honored member.  Jesus is with us every day of our lives, always offering us the magnificent gift of His presence and love.  May we open our hearts to the loving mercy of God, always offered and revealed by Christ in words and actions.   May we be bearers of that mercy to each other so that our lives will give praise to our God.  "The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy." And may we always realize that God intends to complete in us and through us in the world His plan of loving mercy.  As we continue to journey with Jesus this Lent, may we embrace His suffering in order to celebrate with Him the glory of His Easter Resurrection.  Amen.

Mass with Persons with Disabilities

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass for Persons with Disabilities
Second Sunday of Lent
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Lord, it is good that we are here."

Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ. Now and forever!

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

On this Second Sunday of Lent, I welcome you to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. As I celebrate together with you our brothers and sisters with disabilities, your families, friends and care providers I proclaim the words spoken by Peter on the mountaintop with Jesus, Lord, it is good that we are here@ (Mt 17:4). It is good for us to be here because we gather to celebrate the cherished expression of God=s vision that is present here in you, our brothers and sisters with disabilities. We honor the gifts and the crosses carried so lovingly in your lives. How you enrich our Church with your lives, with your faith, with your witness, your courage and your love! Today we praise and thank God for bringing us together around the altar of the Sacrament of Christ=s love, the Eucharist. We praise God for the dignity and profound equality which we enjoy in God=s love as we contemplate the gospel story of Jesus= Transfiguration.

In today=s gospel, Jesus took Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain to be alone with Him. These three disciples of Jesus were given a special and unique invitation into a profoundly intimate encounter with the Lord, Jesus. In an instance, Peter, James and John saw Jesus transfigured before them, resplendent with divine light, His garments shining like the sun this same Jesus with whom only a few moments before, they were climbing the slope together; this same Jesus who, soon afterward, will resume in their eyes his usual appearance; this same Jesus whom, later on, they will see disfigured by human outrages beyond their imaginings and hanging on the cross.

In the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John saw that there was more to Jesus than what they could see, hear and touch. They were given a glimpse of the future glory of Jesus= resurrection. It was an extraordinary privilege. Our celebration of Jesus= Transfiguration today, during this season of Lent, reminds us of the glory of the risen Jesus after His death on the cross. It reminds us that the penance of Lent will give way to the joy of Easter, just as it reminds us that the suffering of this life will give way to the joy of eternal life. In his Second Letter to the Corinthians St. Paul wrote these words which we sang in our entrance hymn: AWe walk by faith, not by sight@ (2 Cor 5:7), meaning that, even though we do not see God, nevertheless we believe. Truly all of us here walk by the light of faith not by sight. Yet, there are times when God does send us clear glimpses of His presence in our lives and his wondrous love for us. We get glimpses of God in the love we receive from other people; when badly needed help suddenly comes to us from out of nowhere; when we look back over our lives and what we couldn=t understand in the past seems to make sense and gives us renewed hope. We see glimpses of God when we see parents and caregivers caring lovingly for another without counting the costs. We see glimpses of God when a passage from the Bible or a homily strikes a cord in our hearts. We are given a glimpse of God when we spend time in prayer and contemplate the loving presence of God in our lives. We get more than just a glimpse of God when we receive the Body of Jesus in Holy Communion. These are the little transfigurations that keep us going when times are tough.

When Jesus and the disciples came down the mountain Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about His Transfiguration until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. Of course they did not know what He meant. Unknown to them, the glory of Jesus= Transfiguration was preparing them to accept the scandal of the cross. They would understand this only afterwards when looking back. The good times take us through the bad times. So when our cross is heavy or when we are tempted to despair about the meaning of life, let us look beyond the pain of the present moment and remember those times when we are given glimpses of God, those times when God invites each of us to experience deeply his intimate presence in our lives. Let us look beyond the pain of life and see the presence of God in our world, and the offer of abundant life that God wants to make to each of us. Let us look beyond the illusion of happiness that this life offers to the real happiness that God offers us. Let us look beyond this world to eternal life with God.

The second reading today gives us an insight into what God has destined for us, AHe saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest@ (2 Tim 1:9). God=s grace has been granted to us before the beginning of time. Imagine, since the beginning of time God had you in his plan and had his grace planned for you. Since the beginning of time God planned to transform you through his Son, Jesus.
In our first reading we heard Abram being called by God to leave his home and go to a new country (cf. Gen 12:1-4). He was seventy-five when called to leave his own country but he had to wait another twenty-five years for the promised son, Isaac to be born, so that the promise of future descendants could be fulfilled. That was a long wait. All of us here know the patience needed to wait. Abraham is a wonderful example of enduring faith as he waits patiently looking courageously beyond the present, beyond what he can see with his eyes to the promise of God known only by faith. Just as AAll communities of the earth shall find blessing@ (Gen. 12:4) in Abraham=s faith, our communities find blessing through our ardent faith, enduring hope and vibrant love.

On the mountain Peter, James and John looked beyond the appearance of Jesus and saw his future glory. Let us look beyond, and see that God is really with us. God has not left us on our own, God is with us. Just as Jesus revealed to Peter, James and John the eternal now of His own glory on the mountaintop, here within this Cathedral Basilica, within the sacred Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist God=s presence is with us. Jesus was doing so much more than simply encouraging Peter, James and John. Jesus was showing them who He was, and who they would become in Him. He was revealing to them what had already begun, giving them a vision that would forever change the way they viewed themselves, their daily lives and their mission. Just as Jesus said to the three disciples, He says to us: ARise and do not be afraid@ (Mt 17:8). Let each of us take heart, and with a glimpse of the glory that is to come let us choose Jesus in our daily lives. When we do this, we allow Him to transfigure us and lead us through the difficulties of our present life to be with Him in His eternal glory. Amen.

Palm Sunday 2006

HOMILY OF CARDINAL JUSTIN RIGALI
SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER OR DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY
CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL
APRIL 15, 2006

Dear Friends in Christ,

Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, and the Church is still filled with the joy of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. But there is a very special aspect to our celebration today which is revealed in the Resurrection of Christ: it is the great mercy of God. Our texts in the Mass today speak about God’s love—about His mercy. The Psalm tells us: "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever."

In our First Reading today from the Acts of the Apostles we see how, in the community of the early Church, mercy was exercised by the members of the community through their loving solicitude for one another: "There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need." We see that mercy toward others is something that the Church herself has always exercised in so many ways. Today we have a beautiful example in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

But, above all, in the Gospel today we have the full story of God’s mercy. This Gospel takes us back to the first Easter Sunday. Saint John uses the phrase: "On the evening of the first day of the week…." And then Saint John recounts for us what happened. The disciples were gathered in the Upper Room—the disciples who had undergone a tremendous trauma. Jesus their Lord and Master had been crucified on Good Friday. The disciples had acted in a very cowardly way. All of them, except John, had abandoned Jesus, and their leader, Peter, had denied Him.

We must keep in mind, as we reflect on this Gospel, which takes us back to Easter evening, that this is the first time that the group of the Apostles, after the events of Holy Week, are face to face with Jesus, the Risen Lord. It is their first meeting as the apostolic college with Jesus, who comes into their midst. The doors are locked because the disciples are full of fear—they are fearful for the future—and Jesus stands in their midst and He has that beautiful message for them. He says: "Peace be with you." And then He says it again: "Peace be with you."

We must remember that those words of greeting are something very special. After Jesus was born, the very first message of the angel to the shepherds was peace—glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth. And now, Jesus repeats that message of peace, and He extends peace to His Apostles, these men who are filled with fear, these men who are conscious of their sin. They are conscious of the fact that they had abandoned Jesus and had denied him; now they are filled with shame and guilt at this their first encounter with Jesus after His Resurrection from the dead. They were slow, as Jesus Himself says in another part of the Gospels, to believe that He was going to conquer death and sin by rising from the dead. But now He is present with them. He could have chosen this moment to blame them, to reproach them, to point out how their relationship with Him had completely broken down, but Jesus says only: "Peace be with you." And, in this Mass, we will say: "Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you."

This Gospel is spectacular as it goes on to tell us what Jesus does then at this moment of supreme shame and supreme guilt for His Apostles. What does He do? He breathes on them and says: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." This is the moment when Jesus chooses these weak and sinful men, who are conscious of their misery, their weakness and their sins, and gives them the power to forgive sins in His name. This is the moment when He gives them the power to act in His person. And this power Christ intends to transmit to the Church as the great gift of His mercy. His mercy is simply His love in the face of our sins, in the face of our needs, in the face of our weaknesses. And Jesus chooses this moment as being the most appropriate moment psychologically to reveal mercy to the world. He does it through men who have sinned, who are conscious of great sin, and who, now repentant, are called upon to accept forgiveness and pardon and extend it to others.

What a magnificent message this is to the whole Church and what a magnificent gift this is—the Sacrament of Penance, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Sacrament of Confession, the Sacrament of Mercy. This is Christ’s Easter gift! It is the gift that Jesus gives us on Easter day. Why? Because His Resurrection is the seal of the Father’s love and acceptance of His Death on Calvary, and it is through His Death and Resurrection that all the sins of the world are taken away. And so today, on this Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, the Church speaks about the forgiveness of sins as the manifestation of God’s mercy, the manifestation of His power, and the victory of His Resurrection.

It is very interesting that all during Easter week the Church has spoken so often, about sin, in order to magnify the mercy of God. Today, as we continue to celebrate Easter, the Church continues to speak about sin, because she wants to speak about the forgiveness of sins through divine mercy.

Six years ago on this day in Rome, on the steps of Saint Peter’s Basilica before thousands and thousands of people assembled, Pope John Paul II canonized as a saint Blessed Faustina Kowalska. She was a Polish nun who came from Krakow and her mission in life was to propagate devotion to the mercy of Jesus and His Father. And the picture that we see here in the Sanctuary of our Cathedral Basilica is the picture of Divine Mercy which portrays Jesus with the rays of light that come from His heart to signify His merciful love. This is the image of Jesus as He appeared to Saint Faustina Kowalska. Her mission in life was to emphasize God’s mercy for His people. But it is not on the basis of a private revelation that we honor God’s mercy today. Rather, a private revelation, strengthened by the canonization of the Church, confirms the message of the Sacred Scriptures. It is because of God’s public revelation that we believe in His great mercy and pardon. For each one of us, this means that forgiveness is always possible. Today, according to the devotion of the Church, we celebrate this great act of God’s mercy whereby He is always willing and ready to forgive us.

We extol the mercy of God and turn to Him and ask for mercy. And the beautiful prayer that Saint Faustina prayed was a prayer that, according to her diary, Jesus Himself had taught her to say: "Jesus, I trust in you!"

This devotion corresponds to the most authentic revelation of the Scriptures. As Christian people we trust in Jesus because we are convinced that He is our Savior. We are convinced that the mercy of His Father passes through His Sacred Heart and reaches each one of us.

Today, then, in union with the whole Church, we celebrate the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday. We celebrate and magnify the mercy of God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Just as the Psalm says: "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever."

And if, therefore, we are ourselves candidates for mercy, if we are recipients of God’s merciful love, then we know what this demands of us: that we in turn show pardon and exercise mercy. The fact that we have been forgiven and that forgiveness is always available to us through God’s mercy is an unrelenting challenge for us to understand others, to forgive them, to help them, and to exercise mercy ourselves.

Today we open our hearts to receive divine mercy in all its power, but we also commit ourselves, in the community of the Church, to deeds of mercy.

"Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever."

Mass for the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass for the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
March 30, 2008

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

How joyful it is for us to be gathered in this Cathedral Basilica, like the Apostles in the Upper Room, to experience and to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the mercy of God. With exultation, we say with Saint Peter: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pt 1:3). On this Second Sunday of Easter, we particularly rejoice in the gift of Divine Mercy, the Mercy which is revealed in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Today, it is appropriate to recall that the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Dives in Misericordia, described mercy as God’s greatest attribute. In the encyclical, Pope John Paul II reminds us of the grandeur of the mystery of the invisible God, who “dwells in unapproachable light” (no. 2). While He makes Himself known in the splendor and beauty of creation, God is only fully revealed in Jesus Christ. “In Christ and through Christ, God also becomes visible in His mercy.... Not only does he speak of it and explain it by the use of comparisons and parables, but above all he himself makes it incarnate and personifies it. He himself, in a certain sense, is mercy” (no. 2). In Christ, we see then how close God is to the human family, “especially when man is suffering, when he is under threat at the very heart of his existence and dignity” (no. 2).

Throughout the sacred season of Lent, during Holy Week, in the Easter Triduum, and in celebrating the Octave of Easter, the Church contemplates the nearness of Jesus to the human family. We reflect on all that Jesus endured for us—the depths of His love for us as revealed in His sorrowful Passion and Death—and in the hope bestowed upon us in the triumph of the Resurrection. All of this was endured by the Sinless One so that we who are sinners might know the boundless love of God and the lengths to which God will go to reveal to us His mercy and to draw us to Himself.

Saint John the Evangelist describes for us in beautiful detail the events of Easter Sunday evening when, in the Upper Room crowded with the disciples in the midst of their heartache and confusion, Jesus appeared. Grief-stricken by the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus, ashamed at their abandonment of Jesus in his hour of need, the Apostles rightly might have expected from Jesus a severe reprimand. Instead, Jesus greeted them with a message of “Peace,” revealed the wounds in his hands, feet and side, breathed upon them the gift of the Holy Spirit, and bestowed upon His Church the Easter gift of the Sacrament of Penance, the sacrament through which the mercy of God is bestowed upon us sinners. At that moment, Jesus proclaimed that, just as He had redeemed all people, acting through his sacred humanity which was handed over to death for the redemption of the world, so He would continue to bestow His Easter gift of pardon and peace, through the humanity of His Apostles, as well as their successors, the Bishops, and the priests who collaborate in the ministry of Bishops, through the Sacrament of Penance. Thus, the great mercy of God continues to be available through the ministry of the Church. For that reason, I thank my brother priests present today, and those in all of the parishes of the Archdiocese, who so faithfully minister to God’s people in the Sacrament of Penance.

It is fitting that this Octave Day of Easter emphasizes the gift of Divine Mercy, the mercy entrusted by Jesus to His Church. Our presence here today also is a testimony to the efforts of the messenger of Divine Mercy, Saint Faustina Kowalska, a young nun, who in early twentieth-century Poland, experienced a revelation of Divine Mercy and was given the task to promote this devotion. Saint Faustina was called by God to announce to our modern world that the love of Christ is a forgiving love, a merciful love. This message is consistent with revelation. God chose Saint Faustina as an instrument to remind our modern world of what the Church has proclaimed for 2,000 years. We consider prayerfully this message in our recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, a powerful petition to our Heavenly Father to pour out abundantly that mercy which Jesus won for us by His Passion.

Furthermore, Saint Faustina related the desire of Jesus that we place our trust in Him. The image of Divine Mercy is signed with the words, Jesus, I trust in you! The Diary of Saint Faustina offers details of a very moving dialogue between Jesus and Saint Faustina. Jesus acknowledges that Faustina has given so much to Him: her life, her love, her good works and her efforts to be holy. However, Jesus indicates to Faustina that there is something which she has not yet given to Him. When Faustina questions what this is, Jesus responds in effect: “You have not given me what is so peculiarly and specifically your own. You must entrust your weakness and sinfulness to my mercy.” Jesus does not ask for our sins; He asks for us to entrust our lives as they are to His great mercy. He desires that we renounce sin, but also to be convinced that His mercy has the power to obliterate all our sins, that His Blood is able to wash away all our sins. Jesus truly wants us to trust in Him!

In today’s Gospel passage, Saint John the Evangelist admits us to the Upper Room on the eighth day after that first Easter. We recall that, on Easter Sunday, Thomas the Apostle was not present. We are told that Thomas refused to believe that Jesus rose from the dead until he could see for himself and touch the wounds in the risen body of Christ. When Jesus appears to Thomas, the moment is sublime. He invites Thomas to touch His wounds: “Do not be unbelieving, but believe” (Jn 20:27). Thomas then makes an act of faith which is at the very core of the Easter mystery as he declares Jesus “my Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28).

“By means of touch and the sharing of a meal,” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his passion” (CCC, 645).

At this Mass, we encounter the same Risen Jesus, wounded for our sins yet victorious over sin and death. He comes to us in the Holy Eucharist, and in our “Amen” we declare with Saint Thomas that Jesus in the Eucharist is “my Lord and my God.” As we kneel in adoration before our Eucharistic Lord, we contemplate those glorious wounds which forever are trophies of the victory of Divine Mercy. In our prayerful recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, we implore the grace to be truly grateful for the gift of mercy; we beg the grace of a genuine trust in the mercy of God, and we intercede that the entire world, one soul at a time, may be transformed by the mercy of God. As we are told in the Acts of the Apostles: “And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2: 47).

Like Saint Faustina, we live in a world troubled by darkness, violence and sin. Jesus invites each of us, by means of His sacraments and by devotion to His mercy, to draw others to trust in Him. The task seems enormous and we seem so insignificant. Yet, the power we possess is from Jesus Himself and it is the ability to intercede for the world. Pray for the conversion of sinners! Pray for peace in the world! Pray for that abiding trust which enables us to place at the pierced feet of Jesus all of our weakness and sinfulness. Confident in His mercy, we can tell everyone about the transforming gift of Divine Mercy.

Jesus, I trust in you! Amen.

Divine Mercy Sunday

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday
April 11, 2010

Dear Friends in the Risen Christ,

Ten years ago on this Second Sunday of Easter our Holy Father Pope John Paul II canonized in Saint Peter’s Square a Polish nun who was born in 1905 and who lived a short life. Her great mission in life was to draw attention to the fact that Jesus is merciful, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He is the God of mercy.

At the canonization of Blessed Faustina Kowalska the Holy Father also changed the name of this Sunday from the Second Sunday of Easter to its new title which is the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday. Actually, quite independently of Saint Faustina Kowalska, the liturgy of the Church itself speaks to us today in a wonderful way about God’s mercy, about Divine Mercy, and this shows us that the message that this great Saint—Saint Faustina—proclaimed is a message that is rooted in the Sacred Scriptures. It is a message that is part of the very deposit of our faith. And, so, the role of Saint Faustina was simply to draw attention, in a very spectacular way, to something that God Himself has revealed in His holy word: that He is the God of mercy, that Jesus Christ is our merciful Savior.

We want to take a few moments this afternoon to consider the Gospel reading that we have heard, to reflect on this stupendous message that is presented to us by Saint John. Today this Gospel takes us back, first of all, to Easter Sunday itself. This is where the Gospel opens up. Saint John says: “On the evening of that first day of the week”—the first Easter Sunday—“when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”

We have to realize that the encounter of the Apostles with the Risen Lord is the first time for the group of them to meet Jesus after His Death and Resurrection. We have to keep in mind that only a couple of days have passed since the events in the Garden of Olives, in the house of the high priest and in the praetorium. Only a few days have passed since the Apostles abandoned Christ; only a few days have passed since Peter denied Him. And now Jesus is victorious, Jesus is alive. He has been raised from the dead by His Father as a sign of the Father’s total acceptance of His Sacrifice. And yet the Apostles, on this Easter Sunday afternoon, are still filled with fear. Then Jesus appears to them. He comes into the room, with the doors locked. The Risen Lord comes into their midst. Not only are they filled with fear, but in meeting Jesus for the first time after their very poor record, they are also filled with shame and guilt. Being in the presence of Jesus Christ, the Risen One, the Apostles are truly weighed down by their sins.

Jesus takes this opportunity not to scold them, not to say: Here I am. You abandoned me. You did not trust me. Jesus takes this opportunity to give them His first message after His Resurrection from the dead. And that first message is: “Peace be with you.” In His Risen body He brings them peace, not a scolding, not a condemnation—only peace. And then He shows them His hands and His side and once again He repeats the words: “Peace be with you.” This is the mercy of the Risen Jesus. Something else very important follows and it is this. This is the moment—Easter Sunday—that Jesus chooses, when the Apostles are supremely conscious of their sins, when they are supremely conscious of their weakness, when they are filled with fear and shame and guilt—this is the moment that Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, the Son of God chooses in order to communicate to these weak men the great power of forgiving sins. He does this not because they are any better than their brothers and sisters, but simply because it is His will to give to His Church a great treasure and that treasure is the forgiveness of sins. It is the great gift of God’s mercy in all its concentration. And, so, Jesus says to the Apostles—in this particular moment, in this particular psychological condition in which they find themselves—“Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

In the Sacrament of Penance we see the supreme manifestation of God’s mercy. And the Sacrament of Penance, the Sacrament of the forgiveness of sins, the Sacrament of Confession, the Sacrament of Reconciliation becomes the Easter gift of Jesus Christ to His Church. Jesus knows that throughout the ages you and I will need His mercy and His forgiveness and His pardon. That is why He invests His Apostles with this power, not because of them, but because He is merciful and powerful. This is the reason today that, in the liturgy of the Church, we read this beautiful Gospel, we proclaim this beautiful Gospel of mercy, and this is why the Church now explicitly says that the Second Sunday of Easter, when this Gospel is proclaimed, is to be called henceforth the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday.

What is this Divine Mercy? Divine Mercy, dear friends—and we know it really by our intuition, but let us spell it out—is simply God’s love for us in the face of our weaknesses, God’s love in the face of our sins, God’s love as it reaches down and touches our needs. That is what mercy is. Love on God’s part, plus need or weakness or sinfulness on our part, equals Divine Mercy. Today we pause and celebrate this Divine Mercy.

As the people of God, however, there are two responses that we must give to Jesus. We cannot listen to this Gospel, to this great proclamation of God’s mercy without a response on our part. The response is a response of gratitude, of deep thankfulness to God that He reaches out and in His loving kindness gives us the forgiveness of our sins in the Sacrament of Penance.

Our gratitude cannot stop there. Our gratitude has to express itself in trust. And, so, our response to all of this, when we see the great Easter gift of Jesus Christ to His Church, is: Jesus, I trust in you! Jesus, we trust in you! If Jesus has done all this, if He has died on the Cross to forgive our sins, if he has established this great gift of His mercy within the Church, in the Sacrament of Penance, then, yes, we must trust. We must trust that this mercy is for us and for all our brothers and sisters. That was the great prayer of Saint Faustina. Actually, in her diary, she speaks of her visions with Christ Himself, and He constantly encouraged her to say this prayer: “Jesus, I trust in you!” See how all this is based on God’s revelation. It is based on God’s word. It is because God is merciful, because Jesus Christ the Risen Lord gives His Easter gift—the forgiveness of sins—to the Church for all ages that we trust.

Gratitude, trust and still one more response is necessary on our part. And it is this. If we have received mercy, then we must show mercy. If we have been forgiven, we must forgive. If we have been shown compassion, we must show compassion. There is no doubt about it. The Gospel parables go on to explain to us that, yes, anyone who is forgiven must forgive. Dear friends: this too is our response on this beautiful Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, when we proclaim the mercy of God, especially as it is revealed in the great Easter gift of the Risen Lord, the Sacrament of Penance, the Sacrament of God’s mercy.

Once again, the opportunity for Confession presented itself earlier today. Sometimes we do not think of the Sacrament of Penance as being appropriate to Easter, but today in the Gospel we see that the Sacrament of Penance is Christ’s Easter gift to His Church. For this reason, on this Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, the Church generously made Confessions available here earlier in this Cathedral Basilica. All this is within the context of our celebration today—the celebration of God’s mercy.

In the Mass booklet today we see the image of Jesus as He appeared to Saint Faustina, as He presented Himself as the merciful Savior. From His Sacred Heart there radiate rays of light—the red rays and the white rays—representing the blood and the water that flowed out of His Sacred Heart when His side was pierced on Calvary. This image is just one more assurance of what is already proclaimed in the word of God. It is only one more confirmation that what we have proclaimed today is the truth of God: Jesus Christ is the merciful Savior of the world. This means that you and I, dear friends, must trust in His mercy. We must bear witness to others of the forgiveness and pardon that we have received, of the compassion that we have experienced. Jesus Christ has been merciful to us and we are called to show mercy in His name. Amen.

Dedication of the Dome of the Redemption

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Dedication of the Dome of the Redemption
National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Washington, DC
November 16, 2006

The hour has come, after great expectation and preparation, for us to dedicate the new Dome in this National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception—the Dome of the Redemption. It is a magnificent achievement made possible by the grace of God and the zeal and generosity of so many people, many present here, and others who have gone before us to take their place in the liturgy of heaven.

As God’s people we gather in the name of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and we gather to proclaim His name and the power of His Blood. For this we are convoked by God’s grace. From our place beneath this Dome we hear the words of a great hymn from the Church’s midmorning prayer: "From all that dwell below the skies, let the Creator’s praise arise: let the Redeemer’s name be sung...." Hence, we sing the Redeemer’s name beneath the Dome dedicated to His saving work. And we proclaim His love in the Church.

The Gospel this afternoon introduces us to this love, as we hear Jesus Himself tell us that He came down from heaven in order to be lifted up on a Cross so as to redeem us and draw us to Himself. In this context we hear Jesus Himself explain to us the meaning of Redemption: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him."

In our second reading Saint Paul tells us that, in order to accomplish this redemption, the Son of God emptied Himself, embraced our humanity, became obedient unto death, and triumphed on the Cross.

And because so much is in a name, God the Father bestowed on Jesus the name that is above every name—a name whose very meaning identifies Him as Savior and Redeemer of the world. And at the name of Jesus every knee must bend and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

As we proclaim the name of the Redeemer, we see portrayed above us in the new Dome four great scenes that find their unity in testifying to the work of our Redeemer. The scene of the Temptation of Jesus witnesses to the humanity through which Jesus saved us, in which He endured our human condition and encouraged us by His own fidelity to the Father. What is so exhilarating is that the one who was tempted like us is able to show us mercy.

The second scene, that of the Crucifixion, represents the greatest act of love in the history of the world. For this reason the Church addresses Jesus in those sacred words of the Book of Revelation that surround the Dome: "...for you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation." This explains why in the Litany of the Most Precious Blood we invoke the Blood of Christ as "the price of our redemption," "our only claim to pardon," and "the torrent" of divine mercy.

Our third scene, the Descent of Jesus to the realm of the dead who were awaiting His coming, represents the early redemptive fruits of His saving Death, by which He liberated the souls of the just who longed for His presence. From that day of His descent among the dead till the end of time, the Church proclaims: "Let the Redeemer’s name be sung, through every land, by every tongue."

The fourth great image in the Dome’s mosaic depicts the triumph of Christ’s Resurrection. The profound meaning of the Resurrection is found in the completion of Christ’s redemptive work and in the Father’s total loving acceptance of the offering of His Son. As Jesus the Redeemer rises from the dead, the Father proclaims anew, in the communion of the Holy Spirit, that Jesus is His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased. This great act of the Father’s love for the Risen Jesus evokes in our hearts and minds those words with which Jesus tells us: "This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life..." (Jn 10:17). At the moment of His Resurrection, which is the culmination and consummation of all the redemptive work of Jesus, the Father and the Son embrace eternally in the communion of the Holy Spirit, and every tongue confesses to the glory of God the Father that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Today as God’s grace and the zealous work of so many people enable us to bring to completion a project first envisioned by the original Iconography Committee during the years 1954-1958, the continuity of praise for the Redeemer goes on in the Church in the United States and finds eloquent expression in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Today as we praise the Redeemer and invoke an outpouring of the fruits of His Redemption on the people of our land and throughout the world, we also proclaim the full identity of this Redeemer as we pray: "Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man." Jesus, our Redeemer, is true God because He is divine like His Father in heaven. He is true man because He is human like His Mother and like us. This entire Shrine speaks to us of Mary and of her role as Mother of God, communicating humanity to the Word of God. And through this humanity Jesus redeems the world and faithfully fulfills the Father’s loving plan. Through this humanity received from Mary all mankind enters into redemptive solidarity with the Word made flesh.

Lazarus, Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene and Simon of Cyrene—all pictured in the Dome of the Redemption—are there because the humanity of Jesus links them to Himself and placed them among the early recipients of His Redemption.

Dear Friends: this is an hour of thanksgiving for the great gift of Christ’s Redemption and for its exquisite representation in our new mosaic Dome. But this is also an hour for faith—an hour for us to renew our holy Catholic faith in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world.

In His name—in the name of Jesus Christ—and through His Eucharistic Sacrifice which we now offer in this Shrine, we confidently approach the throne of grace, proclaiming: "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Memorial Mass for Dr. Ann Amore

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Memorial Mass for Dr. Ann Amore
Rosemont College
Saturday, February 4, 2006

It was less than two months ago, December 12 last, that we heard the announcement of Dr. Amore’s health difficulties. At that time she wrote: "Dear Friends, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence from Rosemont.... It has truly been a joy and privilege to serve as Rosemont’s President since 2001. I have always been and will continue to be, proud to be a member of the Rosemont College community."

The College graciously responded through the Chair of the Board of Trustees, saying: "All our prayers and good wishes are with President Amore. President Amore’s leadership, her commitment to Rosemont, and her boundless energy have enabled Rosemont to clearly define itself according to its mission...."

Just six days later, God, in His wisdom and goodness, took Ann to Himself definitively.

After the Mass celebrated yesterday for students and parents, we gather today as friends, members of the College and alumni to pray for Ann, to remember her and her family—her father and brothers—and to keep alive the legacy of her commitment as a Christian woman and educator, a disciple of Jesus Christ and a member of His Church. In our prayer we entrust her soul to God, who is merciful and gracious and abounding in kindness. In her own goodness, kindness and graciousness, Ann endeavored to imitate the Lord to whom we now commend her.

The death of every Christian, like his or her life, is related to the life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ that give special meaning to all human life, and special power to us to live life worthily.

In this Memorial Mass we evoke then and commemorate and re-enact in the Eucharist the Death and Resurrection of Jesus as the source and summit of Dr. Amore’s life of loving service to so many people that benefitted from her generosity and dedication. We also proclaim in the Gospel Saint Luke’s account of how the Death and Resurrection of Jesus took place. These events, which we call the Paschal Mystery, are so important for us because they give us all the right to eternal life. Today we extol the gift that God gives to Ann, the gift whereby she shares fully in God’s loving plan by entering into His eternal life.

For our reflection and thanksgiving the Gospel recounts how Jesus redeemed the world, how He redeemed Ann, and you and me and all of us. "It was about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon....Then...Jesus cried out in a loud voice: ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’; and when he had said this he breathed his last." And then, the Gospel tells us, how Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus down from the Cross and laid Him in a new tomb.

What follows in the Gospel is so important: "At daybreak on the first day of the week the women...went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus." Rather they heard the angels announce to them: "Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised."

In our second reading today Saint Paul explains to us the full meaning of this Death and Resurrection of Jesus. He says: "Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.... For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then...those who belong to Christ....The last enemy to be destroyed is death."

As we keep alive Ann’s memory, we likewise renew our holy Catholic faith in the power of Christ’s Death and Resurrection. And this faith in Christ’s victory over death leads us to hope and to joy and to the renewed commitment of our lives in Christian charity and service.

In the tradition of the Church, we continue to pray for Ann, as we entrust her to God’s goodness, reiterating in the words of the Psalm that the Lord is indeed merciful and gracious and abounding in kindness.

These qualities of God which assure us of the gift of eternal life are also the qualities that He invites us to imitate and to show to others. We believe that Ann was faithful to this mission through her goodness, her graciousness, her kindness.

We are deeply grateful to Ann for her contribution not only to Rosemont College and, before that, for so long to Saint Francis College, but also for her service to our entire community, to all those who benefitted from her faith and love. And finally we praise God for His having given her the grace and strength and perseverance to labor generously and well.

Our final act of farewell is a renewal of our faith in eternal life, obtained and offered and imparted by Jesus Christ, of whom we boast as being the first-born of the dead.

Dear Ann, we will always honor your sacred memory, guard the deposit of your Christian faith and praise God for your gift of self to the many whom you loved and served so well. Amen.

Feast of Saint Katharine Drexel

Homily for the Feast of Saint Katharine Drexel
March 3, 2004
Cardinal Justin Rigali

Dear Friends in Christ,

The holy season of Lent is an invitation from God, a call into the desert of our minds and hearts, to examine our lives as Christians. During this sacred time, we are lured by a loving God, who calls us to be renewed by engaging in three Gospel-inspired activities: fasting, works of mercy and prayer. In the midst of busy lives maintained at a hectic pace, these three hallmarks of Lent remind us, as Jesus reminded Martha, "There is need of only one thing." For us, that one thing is union with Christ.

How fortunate we are in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to be celebrating today the feast of a local saint whose life demonstrates what it means to be united to Christ. Saint Katharine Drexel inspires us in so many ways to perseverance in sacrifice, diligence in works of mercy and constancy in prayer. Saint Katharine Drexel is a stellar model of what it means to embrace the Gospel call to holiness and service, both of which led her to sacrifice much and to love profoundly.

As a very young woman, Katharine Drexel, inherited twenty million dollars, which, in the 19th Century, was similar to having 200 million dollars in our own day. Such a fortune assured Katharine of a very comfortable and enviable life of privilege and prestige. Even more than the family wealth, Saint Katharine was fortunate to grow up in a loving home. Although her mother died while Katharine and her sister were quite young, they were blessed with a caring father and a loving, nurturing stepmother.

While raised in happy and prosperous surroundings, Katharine was not isolated from the realities of her day. As a young girl, she witnessed the genuine charity of her stepmother, who regularly opened her door to the poor and needy. The example of her stepmother, who with compassion and tenderness brought hope and relief to those in need, helped to form Katharine into a woman of active charity. Further, this charity was the fruit of an authentic family piety. Devotion and family prayer were significant in the Catholic atmosphere of the Drexel household.

Certainly, the example of Christian charity, as practiced by her family, was recalled by this impressionable young woman while on a tour of the American West. Observing with horror the destitution of the Native American peoples, Katharine knew that something needed to be done to bring relief and hope to those suffering such dire want. Soon enough, during a Papal audience, at the prophetic urging of Pope Leo XIII, Katharine would realize that she herself was called by God to bring the hope and mercy of Christ to the oppressed. To that end, Katharine Drexel would sacrifice her entire fortune. Her prompt detachment from worldly wealth show us that, truly, Saint Katharine Drexel is a model of perseverance in sacrifice.

Saint Katharine's relief of the poor was not to be done by mere contribution of wealth. Katharine offered her entire being, all that she had and all that she was, to bring mercy and hope to the most oppressed. Her founding of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament embodied Saint Katharine's vision to bring to both Native American and African American peoples the gift of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Further, against seemingly insurmountable odds, Saint Katharine sought to build up a society where all people were recognized as being equal in human dignity and able to live in harmony and peace. Saint Katharine established missions and schools which, she hoped, would accomplish her vision. Her active pursuit of this vision of a world of justice and peace demonstrate that, truly, Saint Katharine Drexel is a model of diligence in works of mercy.

The source of Katharine's strength was her prayer life centered on Jesus Christ whom Saint Katharine loved with her entire being. The self-giving Christ, truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, was also the model on whom Saint Katharine's Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament would base their life and work. Saint Katharine's profound words indicate her Eucharistic spirituality and apostolic inspiration: "Ours is the spirit of the Eucharist - the total gift of self." The work on which Saint Katharine and her Sisters embarked could never have been accomplished unless it was anchored in prayer, the expression of our desire to be united with Christ, who deeply desires to be united with us. Even when poor health and advanced years prohibited Saint Katharine from engaging in missionary activity, her prayer united her with the Sisters and sustained them in their mission to those in need. Lovingly placing herself always at the feet of our Eucharistic Lord, Saint Katharine Drexel is a model of constancy in prayer.

As we enter more deeply into the season of Lent, may our lenten practices of sacrifice, works of mercy and prayer become more than means of self-discipline and mortification. Rather, may these always be the hallmarks of what it means for us to be Christians. Saint Katharine Drexel stands before us today and joyfully inspires us all to give totally of ourselves that Christ may be known and loved. Saint Katharine reminds us to recognize the significance of the family in forming young people with a Christian vision who will be fine-tuned to the call of God to service in the Church. Saint Katharine also gently invites us, in the busyness and haste of everyday life, to sit at the feet of Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament. It is there that Jesus will lure us away from the distractions of the world and speak to our hearts. It is there, at his feet, that we will learn that there is need of only one thing: to be united with Christ, our hope, our strength and our love.

Feast of Saint Katharine Drexel and Tenth Anniversary of the Death of Cardinal Krol

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Feast of Saint Katharine Drexel and
Tenth Anniversary of the Death of Cardinal Krol
March 3, 2006

Dear brother Bishops,
Dear Priests and Deacons,
Dear Sisters, in particular Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament,
Dear Children from our Catholic Schools,
Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Ten years ago today, shortly after midnight, Cardinal John Joseph Krol died. He was the tenth Bishop and sixth Archbishop of Philadelphia. At this holy Mass we remember all the good things he did for our local Church and, in particular, how he worked to promote the canonization of Mother Katharine Drexel. In God’s providence he lived to see her beatified and died on her feastday. On this anniversary of his death and hers, we once again commend his soul to the mercy of our loving Father through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Fifty-one years ago today, at 9:05 in the morning, Mother Mary Katharine Drexel, former socialite turned foundress of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People, died in the ninety-seventh year of her life, and the sixty-fifth year of her vowed covenant with the Lord. Days later, an overflow crowd assembled at this Cathedral for her Solemn Requiem Mass, only to be surpassed by the thousands upon thousands of faithful who lined the funeral procession all the way from Philadelphia to her Bensalem motherhouse, where she remains entombed today.
As one young father was overheard remarking prophetically to his little son, "Remember this day, because you are a witness to the burial of a saint." Local and national newspapers carried stories about "these sad days...when many a tear has been shed in remote Indian reservations of the Southwest, and in schools and institutions for the colored both in great cities and in the rural lands of the south." In the words of the late Bishop Joseph McShea, who preached her funeral sermon, "Generations of colored and Indian people have lost a loving mother who so affectionately and effectively had opened her hand to the needy, and stretched out her hand to the poor. In her patient search for the Will of God in her life, Mother Katharine had chosen the difficult field to till."

The story of the life of Saint Katharine Drexel is legendary, from her birth into one of the wealthiest families in the United States in the nineteenth century, to her forsaking of that wealth to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the most neglected in our society; from her encounter with the Klansmen who threatened to burn down her school in Lafayette, Louisiana, and to kill her, her sisters, and the orphans—only to witness a few days later the Klan’s headquarters struck by lightning and burned to the ground—to her visit from the President of the Republic of Haiti, who came to Bensalem personally to thank her for her work among his people, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.

But, probably her most famous and life-changing moment was her audience with Pope Leo XIII, whom she asked to send missionaries to the United States to care for the Black American and Native-American peoples, to which His Holiness responded: "Why not, my child, become a missionary yourself?" Leo’s words echoed the words of Jesus to the Twelve in today’s Gospel: "Give them some food yourselves."

Obediently and humbly following the Pope’s advice, Mother Katharine’s daunting life’s-work became possible only through her reliance on the presence of the Holy Spirit as her true Counselor. In fact, one of the early missionaries to the Native Americans, who was supported by Mother Katharine’s generosity, witnessed firsthand her prayerful reliance on God the Holy Spirit. During visits to his mission, he noticed that when she went to chapel, Mother Katharine would forget everything else around her, sometimes having to be reminded that it was time for a meal. Often she was found in chapel till late at night, trying to solve all the problems of her missions with God’s gracious assistance. She truly recognized the power of the Holy Spirit transforming the earth, as she witnessed even those with the most stubborn of hearts back down in the presence of divine action bringing about justice and peace.

Saint Katharine Drexel could rightfully be called a woman of faith. Through her Eucharist-centered life, she became like Wisdom as described in the Book of Proverbs, saying to the poorest of the poor: "Let whoever is simple turn in here." And Saint Katharine Drexel could rightfully be called a woman of love. It was her total love of Christ which led her to open her hands to feed the poor and answer all their needs.

But, the one virtue that was most evident throughout her life, and which best describes her, was that she was a woman of hope. In the initial stage of her canonization process, many witnesses came forth to testify to Mother Katharine’s heroicity in the practice of Christian virtues. One witness stated, "Mother Katharine manifested hope in every hour of trouble that she went through, and those were many. She manifested hope particularly in the growth and spread of her community, because it is almost inconceivable to realize that one lone woman could have faced all the opposition she faced in her desire to spread the faith. Unless she had a tremendous amount of hope in the power of God to sustain her and to carry her works to completion, I do not think she could have gone on."

Mother Katharine’s entire life was dedicated to teaching the Gospel of Christ to the poorest of the poor, and to the most neglected among them. At the same time, she instilled in the Black and Native American peoples the desire to go and to do the same: to help others learn of the Good News of Jesus Christ and to be so moved as to teach this Good News to others. Hers was a life totally devoted to evangelization: she appreciated how the Holy Spirit helps to continue Christ’s work in our day; she experienced a new hope; and, she desired to deepen this hope in herself and to share it with others.

Saint Katharine Drexel recognized in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the "total gift of self," the sacrament of hope for a broken world. She knew that, despite the many achievements of humanity in the first half of the twentieth century, the world was still, for so many people, a desert of despair instead of an oasis of hope. But, Mother Katharine learned, and taught, that it is our Christian calling to live in this desert, facing despair but not consenting to it; to demolish despair through the hope that the Eucharist brings, which is hope in the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. Saint Katharine leads us in waging war unceasingly against despair. She clearly showed us, if we wage this war courageously, Christ will be always at our side.

It is the Eucharist, then, which is our only hope. This Blessed Sacrament is our hope because it is the fulfillment of God’s saving mercy, His justice, and His love. The Eucharist is our hope as the great visible sign of God’s faithfulness and love for all people. The Eucharist is our hope, for it makes us one with Christ, who is victorious over all evil, anxiety, sin, and even death itself. The Eucharist, as the Sacrament of Hope, was the focus of the life of the saintly woman of our local Church whose memory we celebrate today.

Let us, dear Friends, look at the Eucharist we celebrate, and see, as Saint Katharine Drexel saw, the suffering and risen Christ. Let us listen to Christ’s call in the Eucharist and hear, as Saint Katharine Drexel heard, Christ’s divine promise of hope. Then, as we receive the Eucharist, let us recognize, as Saint Katharine Drexel recognized in her life, that hope has indeed been realized and that the Lord Jesus is here among us! With Saint Paul, Mother Katharine identified Christ Jesus as our Hope (cf. 1 Tim 1:1).

In a letter which Saint Katharine wrote to her sisters on Christmas Day eighty-eight years ago, she shared with them her vision of how we can change the face of the earth by following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. "Reflect on the infant Jesus," she wrote; "how tiny were His feet. We do not have to do anything too great in our lives; just follow in those tiny footsteps. Then, let God do the rest and He will transform those tiny footsteps of ours into giant strides which will help us to carry the Peace, the Hope, the Love, and the Joy which is Jesus Christ to all whom we meet."

What a magnificent mission, dear Friends, for Saint Katharine Drexel and for all of us: "to carry Jesus Christ to all whom we meet." Amen.

Palm Sunday 2006

HOMILY OF CARDINAL JUSTIN RIGALI
MASS ON EASTER SUNDAY MORNING
CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL
APRIL 16, 2006

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

Dear Friends, fellow-disciples of the Risen Christ,

          On this special day which the Lord has made, the Church proclaims a message of great joy. She repeats the announcement of the angel to the women who came to the tomb of Jesus: “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’”

          The Jesus who suffered, died and was buried is now alive. He is our triumphant Lord, our victorious Christ, our leader, the one who goes before us to show us the way to live.

          During Lent we reflected on the Passion and Death of Jesus. We followed Him in His journey to the Cross. And when we ask ourselves if there is a single expression that summarizes all the events of Christ’s sufferings, we say yes. That expression is: “Jesus humbled Himself unto death—death on the Cross.” And because of this humility of Jesus, God the Father raised Him up to life on Easter Sunday.

          And when we ask ourselves if there is another word that summarizes the great event of the Resurrection, we say yes. It is the word life. In the Resurrection, God the Father accepts the sacrifice of Jesus. He sets His final seal of approval on His Son’s work and raises Him to life.

          This word life tells the wonderful story of Easter. It is the meaning of the Resurrection. Jesus Christ is alive! The same Christ who humbled Himself by freely accepting to suffer and die on the Cross now lives the fullness of human life. Death can no longer have any power over Him. He has triumphed over death and has conquered the cause of death, which is sin.

          In the words of Saint Paul: Jesus lives for God! His human nature is radiant with life. But Saint Paul tells us that there is an intimate connection between Christ’s life and ours. We are called to participate in Christ’s victory over sin and death. We are called to be alive like Christ, and like Him to live the fullness of life. And so Saint Paul will say to us: “...think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:11).

          Our Easter reflection on the Risen Christ, the living Christ, leads us to understand the great value of Christ’s human life—the human life that Christ received from His Mother Mary, the human life that He offered to His Father on the Cross, the human life that His Father gave back to Him on Easter Sunday.

          But our Easter reflection also draws our attention to the value of all human life—our own and that of all those who like us share humanity with Jesus, the Son of God. The Resurrection of Jesus is the exaltation of all human life. It confirms our human vocation to live in peace with all people, and with all people, to respect, protect, love and serve life! It makes us truly understand the need to reject whatever wounds, weakens or destroys human life.

          God Himself on this Easter day, in restoring life to Jesus, shows us the incomparable value of all human life. Through our human life we are able to share in the very life of God and we are able to do this for all eternity. We remember those beautiful words that Pope John Paul II spoke to the American people some years ago: “When God gives life”—he said—it is forever!”

          And so our challenge today on this Easter Sunday is to be alive in Christ, and to use our human life to serve life in all our brothers and sisters.

          In our first reading today from the Acts of the apostles, we saw how Jesus “went about doing good” in the service of life. And this is what the Risen Christ, the living Christ, asks of us today. We must indeed live the way Christ taught us, according to His word, His commandments, His way of life. We must live in charity and justice, in peace, in purity and truth, in prayer, in the worship of God, in service to others.

          This is the challenge of life that is held out to us by our Risen Christ, our living Lord. We are a people of life, striving to understand everything that God is asking of us in the protection, defense and service of every life, including that of the unborn, and in helping our brothers and sisters to reach eternal life in heaven.

          Yes, this too is part of our message of life: everlasting life with God, with one another, with all angels and saints, with Mary the Mother of the Risen Christ.

          As the Christian people celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus we share the sentiments that Mary experienced on the first Easter Sunday after having shared with Him the suffering of His Passion. In recalling Mary, the Church invokes God in these words: “You gave Mary strength at the foot of the cross and filled her with joy at the resurrection of your Son.” Then the Church prays: “lighten the hardships of those who are burdened and deepen their sense of hope.”

          What we ask of God in prayer is also a pressing challenge to us as the Christian people, a people of life, a people of hope. Ours is the role of working with God and one another to lighten the hardships of life of those who are burdened and to deepen their hope.

          Dear friends in Christ: our role is important, our challenge is great. Jesus Christ the Risen One is in our midst. He calls us to be faithful as a community of worship, a community of service, a people of Easter joy.

          Jesus repeats today in our hearts: Peace be with you! Do not be afraid!

          This is why our Easter is the day the Lord has made, and why we rejoice and are glad. Amen.

Easter 2004

Easter 2004

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

             Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised (Luke 24:5-6). The message of the angels to the holy women at the tomb that first Easter morning resounds through the ages as an invitation to a new vision and proclamation of hope: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. He has conquered death and he calls us to share in his glory.

            On Good Friday, the entire Church observed with deep emotion the sorrowful passion, death and burial of our Savior. In his death, Jesus shows the immeasurable mercy of God, whose love cleanses us of sin and eases the burdens of everyday life. Now, this Easter day invites us to stand before the empty tomb, to bury there our troubles, anxieties, fears and doubts, as we hasten to embrace a new life in the Risen Lord. Christ s Easter greeting, Peace be with you (John 20:19), is a gentle call to empty our minds and hearts of the tensions which weigh us down and to experience the serenity which he offers us. Hope in the resurrection enables us to live tranquilly in this world with our minds and hearts ever fixed on the new life which Jesus offers us in heaven.

            To the newly baptized, I extend special greetings. The Church rejoices that now, through the saving waters of baptism, the gift of the Spirit and the Holy Eucharist, you are one with us at the Table of the Lord. I express my heartfelt joy that you have embraced the Catholic faith and now I urge you to share that faith with others. May your new life and new vision in Christ bring hope and peace to others who are burdened by the cares of this world.

            With Mary, Mother of God, the holy women and the apostles, let us pray that we will experience the Easter hope proclaimed throughout the ages. On this glorious day, may the Risen Christ bestow his Easter gift of peace on all people.

                                                                        Sincerely in Christ,

Easter Sunday Mass

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Easter Sunday Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
March 23, 2008

“This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad.” Alleluia!

Dear Friends in the Risen Christ,

During the whole period of Lent, and especially during Holy Week, the Church has followed Jesus through all His suffering. We have reflected on His Passion and His Death. We have stood with Mary His Mother at the foot of the Cross. And we were with Jesus when He died. We accompanied Him to His burial place and then we withdrew waiting for something more.

This morning, Easter Sunday, we return to the tomb. Here we join Mary of Magdala and the other women of the Gospel. We come with Peter and John and, like them, we find the tomb empty. We see “the burial cloths there and the cloth that had covered his head not with the burial cloths, but rolled up in a separate place.” We see and we believe.

And then we hear those words that the angel spoke to the women—words that come thundering down the ages: “I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.”

Like the women and the Apostles, we too believe. And Jesus speaks to us as He spoke then, saying: “Do not be afraid.” In the midst of the problems and challenges of the world and of our own Archdiocese of Philadelphia, despite our weaknesses and sins, Jesus says to us: “Do not be afraid.” And we begin to understand that Jesus is alive and that the destiny of the world is in His hands. We listen also to Saint Peter speaking to the Christians of his day saying: “You know what has happened…. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised up on the third day…. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Dear friends: this is what the Resurrection brings to you and me, to all of us: the forgiveness of our sins. Christ’s Resurrection is a victory over sin and death, but it is a victory, a triumph that Jesus shares with us. Jesus takes away our sins. His victory, though, is also a challenge for us. Jesus beckons us to turn to Him, to make the effort necessary to embrace His forgiveness and to live in newness of life.

Saint Paul summarizes this for us when he states, as we heard proclaimed this morning: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above.” In our personal lives, in our dealings with one another, in the family, in the community, in society, we are challenged to put into practice the meaning of our Baptism: to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Last night, at the Easter Vigil, I spoke about the need for the power of Christ’s Resurrection to touch the hearts of all. There is no other power that can change people’s hearts and bring peace to the world.

Today, at this Easter Mass, I wish to emphasize how each one of us must turn to the Risen Christ, to the One who lives, the One who has conquered death, the One who is merciful and wishes to forgive our sins. You and I must personally accept the pardon won for us by Christ, through His Death on the Cross.

Today, Easter Sunday, God the Father, by raising Christ from the dead, ratifies the value of Christ's redeeming death and confirms before all the world His plan of mercy for humanity.

Dear friends, Christ’s love for us and the Father’s mercy require a response of love and action on our part. This is the hour for us to turn to God, to open our hearts to Him and to be made new by the power of Christ’s Resurrection.

Nine years ago Pope John Paul II came to the United States and pronounced some very special words, words that in one way or another apply to each one of us. He said: “In the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd I wish to make an appeal—an appeal to Catholics throughout the United States and wherever my voice or words may reach—especially to those who for one reason or another are separated from the practice of their faith.... Christ is seeking you out and inviting you back to the community of faith. Is this not the moment for you to experience the joy of returning to the Father’s house?”

The return to the Father’s house challenges us at various levels and in different degrees. Christ wishes all of us to be fully His, to share abundantly His risen life through the sacraments, through prayer, by good works, by an authentic Christian life of service to one another. Christ wants His mercy to envelop us and His Easter joy to fill our hearts today and throughout our lives. The Holy Father concluded his appeal invoking Mary the Mother of Mercy, the Mother of Jesus. This was his final prayer: “Mary, Mother of Mercy, teach the people of ... the United States to say yes to your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Is this not the meaning of our Easter celebration: to say yes to Jesus in newness of life, to let the power of His Resurrection challenge us to live always according to His Gospel?

Dear friends: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.”

For Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Alleluia!

Easter Sunday Mass

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass on Easter Sunday Morning
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
April 12, 2009

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

Dear Friends, fellow-disciples of the Risen Christ,

On this special day which the Lord has made, the Church proclaims a message of great joy. She repeats the announcement of the angel to the women who came to the tomb of Jesus: "Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’"

The Jesus who suffered, died and was buried is now alive. He is our triumphant Lord, our victorious Christ, our leader, the one who goes before us to show us the way to live.

During Lent we reflected on the Passion and Death of Jesus. We followed Him in His journey to the Cross. And when we ask ourselves if there is a single expression that summarizes all the events of Christ’s sufferings, we say yes. That expression is: "Jesus humbled Himself unto death—death on the Cross." And because of this humility of Jesus, God the Father raised Him up to life on Easter Sunday.

And when we ask ourselves if there is another word that summarizes the great event of the Resurrection, we say yes. It is the word life. In the Resurrection, God the Father accepts the sacrifice of Jesus. He sets His final seal of approval on His Son’s work and raises Him to life.

This word life tells the wonderful story of Easter. It is the meaning of the Resurrection. Jesus Christ is alive! The same Christ who humbled Himself by freely accepting to suffer and die on the Cross now lives the fullness of human life. Death can no longer have any power over Him. He has triumphed over death and has conquered the cause of death, which is sin.

In the words of Saint Paul: Jesus lives for God! His human nature is radiant with life. But Saint Paul tells us that there is an intimate connection between Christ’s life and ours. We are called to participate in Christ’s victory over sin and death. We are called to be alive like Christ, and like Him to live the fullness of life. And so Saint Paul will say to us: "...think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus" (Rom 6:11).

Our Easter reflection on the Risen Christ, the living Christ, leads us to understand the great value of Christ’s human life—the human life that Christ received from His Mother Mary, the human life that He offered to His Father on the Cross, the human life that His Father gave back to Him on Easter Sunday.

But our Easter reflection also draws our attention to the value of all human life—our own and that of all those who like us share humanity with Jesus, the Son of God. The Resurrection of Jesus is the exaltation of all human life. It confirms our human vocation to live in peace with all people, and with all people, to respect, protect, love and serve life! It makes us truly understand the need to reject whatever wounds, weakens or destroys human life.

God Himself on this Easter day, in restoring life to Jesus, shows us the incomparable value of all human life. Through our human life we are able to share in the very life of God and we are able to do this for all eternity. We remember those beautiful words that Pope John Paul II spoke to the American people some years ago: "When God gives life"—he said—it is forever!"

And so our challenge today on this Easter Sunday is to be alive in Christ, and to use our human life to serve life in all our brothers and sisters.

In our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we saw how Jesus "went about doing good" in the service of life. And this is what the Risen Christ, the living Christ, asks of us today. We must indeed live as Christ taught us to do, according to His word, His commandments, His way of life. We must live in charity and justice, in peace, in purity and truth, in prayer, in the worship of God, in service to others.

This is the challenge of life that is held out to us by our Risen Christ, our living Lord. We are a people of life, striving to understand everything that God is asking of us in the protection, defense and service of every life, including that of the unborn from the first moment of conception, and in helping our brothers and sisters to reach eternal life in heaven.

Yes, this too is part of our message of life: everlasting life with God, with one another, with all the angels and saints, with Mary the Mother of the Risen Christ.

As Christian people celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we share the sentiments that Mary experienced on the first Easter Sunday after having shared with Him the suffering of His Passion. In recalling Mary, the Church invokes God in these words: "You gave Mary strength at the foot of the cross and filled her with joy at the resurrection of your Son." Then the Church prays: "lighten the hardships of those who are burdened and deepen their sense of hope."

What we ask of God in prayer is also a pressing challenge to us as Christian people, a people of life, a people of hope. Ours is the role of working with God and one another to lighten the hardships of life for those who are burdened and to deepen their hope.

Dear friends in Christ: our role is important, our challenge is great. Jesus Christ the Risen One is in our midst. He calls us to be faithful as a community of worship, a community of service, a people of Easter joy.

Jesus repeats today in our hearts: Peace be with you! Do not be afraid!

This is why our Easter is the day the Lord has made, and why we rejoice and are glad. Amen. Alleluia!

Easter Sunday Mass

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Easter Sunday Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
April 4, 2010

Dear Friends in the Risen Christ,

"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever."

These words of Psalm 118 challenge us to joy and thanksgiving. Joy and thanksgiving are particularly appropriate today on Easter Sunday as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. With the entire Church we proclaim that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of the Virgin Mary, one who shares humanity with us, has risen from the dead.

Last night at the Vigil Mass the Church recalled the great Easter proclamation as recorded in the Gospel of Saint Luke, the words of the angels to the women who came to the tomb on that first Easter Sunday morning: "Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day."

On this Easter morning the Church presents the testimony of two more heralds of the Resurrection, two outstanding witnesses to the greatest event in human history: Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

Saint Peter’s words proclaimed in our First Reading this morning touch us all: "You know...how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.... They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day.... To him all the prophets bear witness, saying that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name." These words of Saint Peter help us to understand that the Death and Resurrection of Jesus are all about the forgiveness of sins. Christ died to save us from our sins. He rose to restore us to divine life. In His Death and Resurrection, Jesus is our merciful Savior. Our psalm reminds us of this: "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever."

In our Second Reading Saint Paul spells out for us the challenges that we find in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because God is good and merciful and takes away our sins we are called to respond to His love. And so Saint Paul says: "...seek what is above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too shall appear with him in glory."

Last night, dear friends, the Church concentrated her attention on Baptism, and Saint Paul explained to us how, by Baptism, we are immersed into the Death of Christ and rise with Him to new life.

The radical challenge inherent in the Easter Gospel, the radical challenge of our Baptism is all about new life. We are called to walk in newness of life and to set our hearts on God, with love for one another.

The love that inspired Jesus to lay down His life for us and to forgive us our sins, the love of the Father for Jesus, the love that inspired the Father to raise Jesus from the dead on Easter Sunday— this is the love that must inspire us to forgive one another and to serve one another.

But forgiveness and service require strength. And where does this strength come from? From the power of Christ’s Resurrection. From the One who says to us: "Once I was dead but now I live." The Risen Christ, the living Christ, is the source of our strength, the reason for our hope, the reason for the hope of the world.

In our own City of Philadelphia and throughout the world we face innumerable problems and difficulties. And yet we are confident, for we are an Easter people and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is our hope.

We will continue to hope and work and pray for the resolution of violence in our neighborhoods, for peace in our families and on our streets, for harmony in all the strife-torn spots throughout the world. And we will strive in our hearts and consciences to be faithful to what we know is God’s holy will for us. We will remember how important it is to be part of the worshiping community of the Church on every Sunday, when we are called to celebrate together the Death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Where do we expect to get this strength? Is there any basis for our hope? Yes, dear friends: in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are an Easter people and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is our strength.

Do you remember how years ago in the former Soviet Union there was an explosion in the nuclear plant in Chernobyl? Ever since, there have been negative effects in the region and the impact of that explosion remains to this day.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ produced an explosion—an explosion more powerful and lasting than any nuclear explosion in the history of the world—not with negative effects, but unleashing forever in the world the power of Christ’s Resurrection, which is the power of God’s love and mercy.

Today we celebrate the immense power that derives from Christ’s Resurrection and has entered the world and taken possession of our hearts and minds and consciences. This power is the power to respond to God’s love, to show mercy and forgiveness to others, and to serve one another. All of this is what, through the power of Christ’s Resurrection, we are called to do with renewed fervor and commitment on this Easter Day.

The psalm, dear friends, is right: "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever."

Yes, Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead! Jesus Christ is our hope, our strength, our joy on this Easter Day and always! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Easter Sunday Mass 2011

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Easter Sunday Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
April 24, 2011

“This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad.” Alleluia!

Dear Friends in the Risen Christ,

During the whole period of Lent, and especially during Holy Week, the Church has followed Jesus through all His suffering. We have reflected on His Passion and His Death. We have stood with Mary His Mother at the foot of the Cross. And we were with Jesus when He died. We accompanied Him to His burial place and then we withdrew waiting for something more.

This morning, Easter Sunday, we return to the tomb. Here we join Mary of Magdala and the other women of the Gospel. We come with Peter and John and, like them, we find the tomb empty. We see “the burial cloths there and the cloth that had covered his head not with the burial cloths, but rolled up in a separate place.” We see and we believe.

And then we hear those words that the angel spoke to the women—words that come thundering down the ages: “I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.”

Like the women and the Apostles, we too believe. And Jesus speaks to us as He spoke then, saying: “Do not be afraid.” In the midst of the problems and challenges of the world and of our own Archdiocese of Philadelphia, despite our weaknesses and sins, Jesus says to us: “Do not be afraid.” And we begin to understand that Jesus is alive and that the destiny of the world is in His hands. We listen also to Saint Peter speaking to the Christians of his day saying: “You know what has happened…. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised up on the third day…. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Dear friends: this is what the Resurrection brings to you and me, to all of us: the forgiveness of our sins. Christ’s Resurrection is a victory over sin and death, but it is a victory, a triumph that Jesus shares with us. Jesus takes away our sins. His victory, though, is also a challenge for us. Jesus beckons us to turn to Him, to make the effort necessary to embrace His forgiveness and to live in newness of life.

Saint Paul summarizes this for us when he states, as we heard proclaimed this morning: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above.” In our personal lives, in our dealings with one another, in the family, in the community, in society, we are challenged to put into practice the meaning of our Baptism: to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Last night, at the Easter Vigil, I spoke about the need for the power of Christ’s Resurrection to touch the hearts of all. There is no other power that can change people’s hearts and bring peace to the world.

Today, at this Easter Mass, I wish to emphasize how each one of us must turn to the Risen Christ, to the One who lives, the One who has conquered death, the One who is merciful and wishes to forgive our sins. You and I must personally accept the pardon won for us by Christ, through His Death on the Cross. And we do this, dear friends, when we go to Confession and receive the wonderful Sacrament of Christ’s mercy, His pardon, His forgiveness.

Today, Easter Sunday, God the Father, by raising Christ from the dead, ratifies the value of Christ's redeeming death and confirms before all the world His plan of mercy for humanity.

Dear friends, Christ’s love for us and the Father’s mercy require a response of love and action on our part. This is the hour for us to turn to God, to open our hearts to Him and to be made new by the power of Christ’s Resurrection.

During one of his visits to the United States, Pope John Paul II, who will be beatified next Sunday in Rome, spoke some very special words, words that in one way or another apply to each one of us. He said: “In the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd I wish to make an appeal—an appeal to Catholics throughout the United States and wherever my voice or words may reach—especially to those who for one reason or another are separated from the practice of their faith.... Christ is seeking you out and inviting you back to the community of faith. Is this not the moment for you to experience the joy of returning to the Father’s house?”

The return to the Father’s house challenges us at various levels and in different degrees. Christ wishes all of us to be fully His, to share abundantly His risen life through the sacraments, through prayer, by good works, by an authentic Christian life of service to one another. Christ wants His mercy to envelop us and His Easter joy to fill our hearts today and throughout our lives. The Holy Father concluded his appeal invoking Mary the Mother of Mercy, the Mother of Jesus. This was his final prayer: “Mary, Mother of Mercy, teach the people of ... the United States to say yes to your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Is this not the meaning of our Easter celebration: to say yes to Jesus in newness of life, to let the power of His Resurrection challenge us to live always according to His Gospel?

Dear friends: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.”

For Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Alleluia!

Easter Sunday

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Easter Sunday
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
April 11, 2004

Dear Friends in the Risen Christ,

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.

            In these words Psalm 118 challenges us to joy and thanksgiving because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of the Virgin Mary, one who shares humanity with us, has risen from the dead.

            Already last night the Church recalled the great Easter proclamation as recorded in the Gospel of Saint Luke, the words of the angels to the women who came to the tomb on Easter Sunday morning: Why do you search for the living one among the dead? He is not here; he has been raised up. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee there the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.

            This morning the Church presents the testimony of two more heralds of the Resurrection, two outstanding witnesses to the greatest event in human history. Saint Peter s words touch us all this morning as he says: I take it you know ... about Jesus of Nazareth.... They killed him finally, hanging him on a tree, only to have God raise him up on the third day.... To him all the prophets testify, saying that everyone who believes in him has forgiveness of sins through his name.

            These words of Saint Peter help us to understand that the death and Resurrection of Jesus are all about the forgiveness of sins. Christ died to save us from our sins. He rose to restore us to divine life. In His death and Resurrection, Jesus is our merciful Savior. Our psalm reminds us of this: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.

            This morning Saint Paul spells out for us the challenges that we find in the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because God is good and merciful and takes away our sins we are called to respond to His love. And so Saint Paul says: &set your heart on what pertains to higher realms where Christ is seated at God s right hand. Be intent on things above.... After all, you have died! Your life is hidden now with Christ in God. When Christ our life appears, then you shall appear with him in glory.

Last night, dear friends, the Church concentrated her attention on Baptism, and Saint Paul explained to us how, by Baptism, we are immersed into the death of Christ and rise with Him to new life.

            The radical challenge inherent in the Easter Gospel, the radical challenge of our Baptism is all about new life. We are called to walk in newness of life and to set our hearts on God, with love for one another.

            The love that inspired Jesus to lay down His life for us and to forgive us our sins, the love of the Father for Jesus, the love that inspired Him to raise Jesus up from the dead on Easter Sunday this is the love that must inspire us to forgive one another and to serve one another.

            But forgiveness and service require strength. And where does this strength come from? From the power of Christ s Resurrection. From the One who says to us: Once I was dead but now I live. The Risen Christ, the living Christ, is the source of our strength, the reason for our hope, the reason for the hope of the world.

            In our own City of Philadelphia and throughout the world there are innumerable problems and difficulties. And yet we are confident, for we are an Easter people and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is our hope.

            We will continue to hope and work and pray for the resolution of violence in our neighborhoods, for peace in our families and on our streets, for harmony in all the strife-torn spots throughout the world. And we shall strive in our hearts and consciences to be faithful to what we know is God s holy will for us: we shall remember how important it is to be part of the worshiping community of the Church on Sunday, when we renew together the death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

            Where do we expect to get this strength? Is there any basis to our hope? Yes, in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are an Easter people and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is our strength.

            Do you remember years ago, how in the former Soviet Union there was an explosion in the nuclear plant in Chernobyl? Ever since, there have been negative effects and the impact of that explosion remains to this day.

            The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was more powerful and lasting that any nuclear explosion in the history of the world not for negative effects, but to unleash forever in the world the power of Christ s Resurrection, which is the power of God s love and mercy.

            Today we celebrate the immense power that derives from Christ s Resurrection and has entered the world and taken possession of our hearts and minds and consciences. This power is the power to respond to God s love, to show mercy and forgiveness to others, and to serve one another.

            The psalm, dear friends, is right: This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.

            Yes, Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Easter Sunday Mass

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Easter Sunday Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
April 8, 2007

Dear Friends in the Risen Christ,

"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever."

In these words Psalm 118 challenges us to joy and thanksgiving. Joy and thanksgiving are particularly appropriate today on Easter Sunday as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. With the entire Church we proclaim that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of the Virgin Mary, one who shares humanity with us, has risen from the dead. Today our Easter joy and thanksgiving become even more intense as we begin our Bicentennial Year, celebrating the Two-hundredth Anniversary of our local Church as the Diocese of Philadelphia. During all these years the people of God have witnessed to the Lord alive in our midst.

Last night at the Vigil Mass the Church recalled the great Easter proclamation as recorded in the Gospel of Saint Luke, the words of the angels to the women who came to the tomb on that first Easter Sunday morning: "Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day."

This morning the Church presents the testimony of two more heralds of the Resurrection, two outstanding witnesses to the greatest event in human history: Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

Saint Peter’s words proclaimed in our First Reading this morning touch us all: "You know...how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.... They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day.... To him all the prophets bear witness, saying that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name." These words of Saint Peter help us to understand that the Death and Resurrection of Jesus are all about the forgiveness of sins. Christ died to save us from our sins. He rose to restore us to divine life. In His Death and Resurrection, Jesus is our merciful Savior. Our psalm reminds us of this: "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever."

In our Second Reading Saint Paul spells out for us the challenges that we find in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because God is good and merciful and takes away our sins we are called to respond to His love. And so Saint Paul says: "...seek what is above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too shall appear with him in glory."

Last night, dear friends, the Church concentrated her attention on Baptism, and Saint Paul explained to us how, by Baptism, we are immersed into the Death of Christ and rise with Him to new life.

The radical challenge inherent in the Easter Gospel, the radical challenge of our Baptism is all about new life. We are called to walk in newness of life and to set our hearts on God, with love for one another.

The love that inspired Jesus to lay down His life for us and to forgive us our sins, the love of the Father for Jesus, the love that inspired Him to raise Jesus from the dead on Easter Sunday— this is the love that must inspire us to forgive one another and to serve one another.

But forgiveness and service require strength. And where does this strength come from? From the power of Christ’s Resurrection. From the One who says to us: "Once I was dead but now I live." The Risen Christ, the living Christ, is the source of our strength, the reason for our hope, the reason for the hope of the world.

In our own City of Philadelphia and throughout the world we face innumerable problems and difficulties. And yet we are confident, for we are an Easter people and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is our hope.

We will continue to hope and work and pray for the resolution of violence in our neighborhoods, for peace in our families and on our streets, for harmony in all the strife-torn spots throughout the world. And we will strive in our hearts and consciences to be faithful to what we know is God’s holy will for us. We will remember how important it is to be part of the worshiping community of the Church on every Sunday, when we are called to celebrate together the Death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Where do we expect to get this strength? Is there any basis for our hope? Yes, dear friends, in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are an Easter people and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is our strength.

Do you remember years ago, how in the former Soviet Union there was an explosion in the nuclear plant in Chernobyl? Ever since, there have been negative effects in the region and the impact of that explosion remains to this day.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ produced an explosion—an explosion more powerful and lasting than any nuclear explosion in the history of the world—not with negative effects, but unleashing forever in the world the power of Christ’s Resurrection, which is the power of God’s love and mercy.

Today we celebrate the immense power that derives from Christ’s Resurrection and has entered the world and taken possession of our hearts and minds and consciences. This power is the power to respond to God’s love, to show mercy and forgiveness to others, and to serve one another. All of this is what, through the power of Christ’s Resurrection, we propose to do with renewed fervor and commitment in our Bicentennial Year that opens today.

The psalm, dear friends, is right: "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever."

Yes, Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead! Jesus Christ is our hope, our strength, our joy on this Easter Day, throughout our Bicentennial Celebration and always! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Easter Vigil Holy Saturday Night

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Easter Vigil Holy Saturday Night
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and PAUL
April 10, 2004

Dear Friends,

            Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Alleluia! Alleluia!

            This is the good news of great joy that the Church proclaims on this holy night. This is the Easter proclamation of the Church. This is the Easter Gospel. This is the joy of being a Christian. This is the hope of humanity.

            A little while ago some of us gathered in the Vestibule of the Cathedral Basilica for the liturgy of light, to proclaim that the Risen Christ is the light of the world. We then followed in procession after the Easter Candle, which represents Christ our light. By His Resurrection, Jesus dispelled the darkness of the world and became our leader, leading us in His light, along the path of life, to eternal life.

            Christ has shown His power over sin and death. He has overcome death. Indeed, by dying He has destroyed our death and by rising He has restored our life. We remember that Jesus told us: I am the way, and the truth, and life and again I am the light of the world.

            This evening after our liturgy of light we have had the liturgy of the word. We have heard about the wonders that God did for His people in the Old Testament. We proclaimed God s love in creation and in how He delivered His people from Egypt, enabling them to pass through the Red Sea. This was the first Passover.

            Through the prophet Isaiah we heard about God s intention to offer pardon to His people and establish with them a new covenant. And through the prophet Ezekiel we heard that God would sprinkle His people with clean water and give them a new spirit.

            And tonight in the third part of our liturgy, the liturgy of Baptism, we see the complete fulfillment of God s promise. While all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus are conscious of the great privilege of our own Baptism, we welcome into the Church those who are being baptized and confirmed and those who are being received into the full communion of the Catholic Church.

            Here we pause to reflect on the meaning of Baptism. Saint Paul explains it all to us. He tells us that Baptism associates us with the death and Resurrection of Christ. Indeed through Baptism we die with Christ and are buried with him. And then come those wonderful words of the Apostle Paul: If we have died with Christ, we believe we are also to live with him. We know that Christ, once raised from the dead will never die again. St. Paul then explains the impact of Baptism on us and on our conduct. You he says must consider yourself dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

            This tells it all: dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus. This is why our brothers and sisters have presented themselves for Baptism this night; this is why all of us have been baptized: to die to sin, to be alive for God in Christ Jesus.

            And with our Baptism and Confirmation we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christ and His Father give us the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that we may live and walk in newness of life.

            The fourth part of our celebration is the liturgy of the Eucharist itself, in which Jesus our Lord renews the Sacrifice of His death on Calvary and its glorious culmination in the Resurrection. Through His banquet he shares with us His body and blood as the pledge of life, eternal life the same life that He received from His Father in His Resurrection. He makes it possible for us to live eternally in the communion of the Most Blessed Trinity.

            And so, dear friends, the Church continues to proclaim the Easter message the message the women heard from the angels when they went to look for Jesus in the tomb: Why do you search for the living One among the dead? He is not here: he has been raised up.

            And because Jesus has been raised up in victory over death and sin, we too are called to walk in newness of life. The Risen Lord is our Light. He teaches us how to live, how to love, how to serve one another. Through the power of His death and Resurrection, He infuses into us the strength to be faithful in the community of the Church to His way of life our holy Catholic faith.

            At Easter, God s grace calls back to the community many people, who in the past, for one reason or another, have been separated from the practice of their faith and therefore from the joy of celebrating Christ s Resurrection. Today the Church reaches out in particular to those brothers and sisters, to welcome them and to share with them the joy of Christ s Resurrection.

            Dear friends: to all of you I proclaim good news of great joy: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Easter Vigil - Holy Saturday Night

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Easter Vigil - Holy Saturday Night
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
April 7, 2007

Dear Friends,

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Alleluia! Alleluia!

This is the good news of great joy that the Church proclaims on this holy night. This is the Easter proclamation of the Church. This is the Easter Gospel. This is the joy of being a Christian. This is the hope of humanity.

A little while ago some of us gathered in front of the Cathedral Basilica for the liturgy of light, to proclaim that the Risen Christ is the light of the world. We then followed in procession after the Easter Candle, which represents Christ our light. By His Resurrection, Jesus dispelled the darkness of the world and became our leader, leading us in His light, along the path of life, to eternal life.

Christ has shown His power over sin and death. He has overcome death. Indeed, by dying He has destroyed our death and by rising He has restored our life. We remember that Jesus told us: "I am the way, and the truth, and life" and again "I am the light of the world."

This evening after our liturgy of light we have had the liturgy of the word. We have heard about the wonders that God did for His people in the Old Testament. We proclaimed God’s love in creation and in how He delivered His people from Egypt, enabling them to pass through the Red Sea. This was the first Passover.

Through the prophet Isaiah we heard about God’s intention to offer pardon to His people and establish with them an everlasting covenant, through which they would have life.

And tonight in the third part of our liturgy, the liturgy of Baptism, we see the complete fulfillment of God’s promise. While all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus are conscious of the great privilege of our own Baptism, we welcome into the Church our catechumen and those who are being received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. What a joy for us all to welcome these new members to the household of the faith! We thank all those who have helped them to arrive at this sacred night.

Here we pause to reflect on the meaning of Baptism. Saint Paul explains it all to us. He tells us that Baptism associates us with the Death and Resurrection of Christ. Indeed through Baptism we die with Christ and are buried with him. And then come those wonderful words of the Apostle Paul: "If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more." St. Paul then explains the impact of Baptism on us and on our conduct. "You"—he says—"must think of yourselves as being dead to sin but living for God in Christ Jesus."

This tells it all: "dead to sin but living for God in Christ Jesus." This is why we administer Baptism this night; this is why all of us have been baptized: to die to sin, to live for God in Christ Jesus.

And with our Baptism and Confirmation we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christ and His Father give us the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that we may live and walk in newness of life.

The fourth part of our celebration is the liturgy of the Eucharist itself, in which Jesus our Lord renews the Sacrifice of His Death on Calvary and its glorious culmination in the Resurrection. Through His banquet he shares with us His Body and Blood as the pledge of life, eternal life—the same life that He received from His Father in His Resurrection. He makes it possible for us to live eternally in the communion of the Most Blessed Trinity.

And so, dear friends, the Church continues to proclaim the Easter message—the message the women heard from the angels when they went to look for Jesus in the tomb: "Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but has been raised."

And because Jesus has been raised up in victory over death and sin, we too are called to walk in newness of life. The Risen Lord is our Light. He teaches us how to live, how to love, how to serve one another. Through the power of His Death and Resurrection, He infuses into us the strength to be faithful in the community of the Church to His way of life — our holy Catholic faith.

At Easter, God’s grace calls back to the community many people, who in the past, for one reason or another, have been separated from the practice of their faith and therefore from the joy of celebrating Christ’s Resurrection. Today the Church reaches out in particular to those brothers and sisters, to welcome them and to share with them the joy of Christ’s Resurrection.

Dear friends: to all of you I proclaim good news of great joy: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Easter Vigil

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Easter Vigil
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
March 22, 2008

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ risen from the dead,

In his Letter to the Romans Saint Paul poses an important question: “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”
What Paul is saying is that there is an intimate connection between our Baptism and what took place at Christ’s Death and Resurrection. We know that by His Death and Resurrection Jesus Christ destroyed our death and restored us to life. He made it possible for us, in the expression of Saint Paul, to live in newness of life.

This is what Easter is all about: newness of life. For those being baptized and confirmed on this night there is indeed newness of life. A wonderful future opens up before them as they seek constantly to pass from sin to life in Christ Jesus. What is it to be a member of the Church? It means to die to sin, to live for God in Christ Jesus. In other words: to live in newness of life.

But where does the power come from to be able to live in newness of life? How is it possible to live in newness of life? The power comes from the Death of Jesus—a death that He endured out of love for us, a death that, in the Resurrection, is now ratified and accepted as a sacrifice by the Father, who raises Jesus to life.

All of us tonight—priests, deacons and religious and lay faithful—are called to newness of life. How good God is to give us a fresh opportunity to live in newness of life! Tonight we rejoice with our newly baptized and committed Catholics. We express solidarity with them. But we are also publicly challenged to renew the promises of our own Baptism: to get on with our Christian lives in newness of life. We remember our own Confirmation, the gift of the Holy Spirit that we have received in order to be strengthened in Christian living. The new way of life that opens up before us means the rejection of sin, the rejection of Satan and all his works and all his empty promises.

All of this is possible because Jesus died for us and rose from the dead. In His sacred humanity he was raised up by His Father. The power of Christ’s Death and Resurrection is what makes newness of life possible for our catechumens and candidates, for all of us, and for all the members of the Church. By His Resurrection Jesus has definitively conquered sin and death and has made newness of life possible. By this power we are able to set aside in our lives whatever is opposed to the commandments of God and to the Gospel of Christ.

As individuals, as families, as a parish, as a community, as the Church of Philadelphia—all of us need the Resurrection of Jesus. The world needs the Resurrection at this moment of continuing armed conflict, of raging violence, and of widespread suffering of innocent people.

What is needed—and what is possible—is newness of life. It can come only from the power of Christ’s victory over sin and death. Only the Risen Christ has the power to bring about peace, because only the Risen Christ can change hearts. Without a change of heart there is no peace, no newness of life. Human effort is not enough. Human justice is insufficient. Human force can backfire. But God’s mercy is unleashed by the prayer of His people. And God’s strength is available through the power of Christ’s Resurrection, which becomes our power during this Easter celebration of the Eucharist. Newness of life is possible only because Christ is risen from the dead.

We heard those wonderful words tonight in the Gospel. At the empty tomb the angel spoke to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary saying: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”

And as the women went away quickly from the tomb, they ran to find the disciples of Jesus to share with them the Good News of the Resurrection. Meanwhile, as the Gospel says: Jesus Himself “met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid …’.”

On this Easter night, Jesus speaks to each of us, to the Church of Philadelphia and to the whole world these same words: “Do not be afraid!” Strengthened by the power of Christ’s Resurrection we have nothing to fear. Jesus has died to redeem us from our sins and to make it possible for us to reject all sin in our lives. In His mercy, He will forgive us if we turn to Him with contrition and a firm purpose of amendment. We need not be afraid of death, because, by dying, He has destroyed our death and, by rising, has restored us to life. He has truly made it possible for us all to live in newness of life.

This, dear friends, is what we mean by a blessed Easter: to live with Christ—the Risen Christ—in newness of life! Amen. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Easter Vigil

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Easter Vigil Easter Vigil - Holy Saturday Night
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
April 3, 2010

Dear Friends,

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Alleluia! Alleluia!

On this holy night the Church proclaims this good news of great joy. This is the Easter proclamation of the Church. This is the Easter Gospel. This is the joy of being a Christian. This is the hope of humanity.

Just a little while ago a number of us gathered in front of the Cathedral Basilica for the liturgy of light, to proclaim that the Risen Christ is the light of the world. We then followed in procession after the Easter Candle, which represents Christ our light. By His Resurrection, Jesus dispelled the darkness of the world and became our leader, leading us in His light, along the path of life, to eternal life.

Jesus Christ has shown His power over sin and death. He has overcome death. Indeed, by dying He has destroyed our death and by rising He has restored our life. We remember that Jesus told us: "I am the way, and the truth, and life" and again "I am the light of the world."

Tonight after our liturgy of light we have had the liturgy of the word. We have heard about the wonders that God did for His people in the Old Testament. We proclaimed God’s love in creation and in how He delivered His people from Egypt, enabling them to pass through the Red Sea. This was the first Passover.

Through the prophet Isaiah we heard about God’s intention to offer pardon to His people and establish with them an everlasting covenant, through which they would have life.

In the third part of our liturgy, the liturgy of Baptism, we see the complete fulfillment of God’s promise. While all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus are conscious of the great privilege of our own Baptism, we cordially welcome our catechumen and the person being received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. What a joy for us all to welcome these new members to the household of the faith! We thank all those who have helped them to arrive at this sacred night.

Here we pause to reflect on the meaning of Baptism. Saint Paul explains it all to us. He tells us that Baptism associates us with the Death and Resurrection of Christ. Indeed through Baptism we die with Christ and are buried with him. And then come those wonderful words of the Apostle Paul: "If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more." St. Paul then explains the impact of Baptism on us and on our conduct. "You"—he says—"must think of yourselves as being dead to sin but living for God in Christ Jesus."

This tells it all: "dead to sin but living for God in Christ Jesus." This is why we administer Baptism this night; this is why all of us have been baptized: to die to sin, to live for God in Christ Jesus.

At both our Baptism and Confirmation we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christ and His Father give us the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that we may live and walk in newness of life.

The fourth part of our celebration is the liturgy of the Eucharist itself, in which Jesus our Lord renews the Sacrifice of His Death on Calvary and its glorious culmination in the Resurrection. Through His banquet he shares with us His Body and Blood as the pledge of life, eternal life—the same life that He received abundantly from His Father at His Resurrection. He makes it possible for us to live eternally in the communion of the Most Blessed Trinity.

And so, dear friends, the Church continues to proclaim the Easter message—the message the women heard from the angels when they went to look for Jesus in the tomb: "Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised."

Because Jesus has been raised up in victory over death and sin, we too are called to walk in newness of life. The Risen Lord is our Light. He teaches us how to live, how to love, how to serve one another. Through the power of His Death and Resurrection, He infuses into us the strength to be faithful in the community of the Church to His way of life — our holy Catholic faith.

At Easter, God’s grace calls back to the community many people, who in the past, for one reason or another, have been separated from the practice of their faith and therefore from the joy of celebrating Christ’s Resurrection. Today the Church reaches out in particular to those brothers and sisters, to welcome them and to share with them the joy of Christ’s Resurrection.

Dear friends: to all of you I proclaim good news of great joy: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Ecumenical Prayer Service for the Victims of Katrina

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Ecumenical Prayer Service for the Victims of Katrina
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
September 15, 2005

Dear Friends,

As our program indicates, we are gathered together in sorrow and in hope. We are glad to be in solidarity with so many people throughout our land of different backgrounds and religions, and especially with our suffering brothers and sisters.

We are honored to have various interreligious and ecumenical dignitaries present here today and participating in our service.

Our hope is to give a united witness of religion and humanity.

Coming together as religious people we proclaim that the primacy of God in this world necessitates solidarity with all in need.

The importance of humanity under God and the need for outreach, help, understanding, compassion and mercy are our message.

We hope to help bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of God.

And so we were together. And in our togetherness we pray and worship God according to our hearts.

We ask God’s help and once again we solicit aid for the victims. And as we bear together the sorrow of our brothers and sisters, we also proclaim hope for their future.

In God we trust—the God who is our help in ages past and our hope for years to come.

Jubilee Mass for Catholic Educators

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Jubilee Mass for Catholic Educators
Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary
April 2, 2006

Dear Friends and Collaborators in the teaching mission of our Lord Jesus Christ,

On this joyous occasion I congratulate each of you who celebrates a Jubilee as an educator in our Catholic schools. I speak for all in the Archdiocese in expressing gratitude for your part in providing Catholic education to another generation.

The custom of celebrating jubilees can be traced to the Old Testament. A jubilee was a joyful event, an occasion to honor God by freeing slaves and canceling debts. The tradition continued in the New Testament. The Gospel of Luke recounts an episode when Jesus returned to the synagogue of His home town. The Gospel describes how He stood up and read from the book of the Prophet Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor" Then Jesus added, "Today, this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:18-19, 21). He indicated that the day of salvation had come.

During your years in education, you have encountered the gifted and talented. You have also come upon the afflicted and brokenhearted. You have met those who seek freedom from ignorance, poverty or oppression. As disciples of Jesus, you have continued His work. Another’s success or sorrow became an opportunity for you to act in the name of Christ. By your words and deeds you have brought glad tidings and liberty. You have been instruments of God’s favor.

This jubilee celebration is enhanced by the commemoration of another significant event. Today marks the first anniversary of the death of our beloved Pope John Paul II. With the Spirit of the Lord upon him, he was an extraordinary instrument of God’s favor for the world. His popularity and impact transcended race, nationality, age, gender, religious affiliation or economic status. He had a special concern for the poor and needy, and a unique relationship with young people. We remember him fondly and thank God for the gift of such a loving person, such a loving father and shepherd of the Church.

In our Gospel today we find the request made by some Greeks to the apostle Philip: "We would like to see Jesus.". Moved by great curiosity they wanted to know who Jesus really was. Pope John Paul II, in his last World Youth Day message in 2004, invited young people to imitate those Greeks. He indicated that the search for Jesus is motivated by intellectual curiosity, but above all by an inner urging to find the answer to the question about the meaning of life. He reminded them that Christianity is not simply a doctrine. It is an encounter with God made present in history through the incarnation of the Word of God, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pope John Paul II spoke of the value of seeking God with the eyes of the flesh through the events of life and in the faces of others. Even more, the Pope advised young people to seek God with the eyes of the soul through prayer and meditation on the word of God. The Pope assured the young people that, if they allowed this desire to emerge, they would have the wonderful experience of encountering the living Jesus.

The Greeks, in search of truth, in their desire to see Jesus, were aided by the apostles. You, our jubilarians, together with our Catholic Schools, continue to serve a similar role in the lives of students. Young people seek the truth. Teaching science, history, mathematics and so forth, nurtures and responds to their intellectual curiosity. By relating these subjects to salvation, you show how Jesus illumines all of life. In so doing, you respond to the deepest longing of young people "to see Jesus."

Students in our Catholic schools are fortunate that their quest for truth takes place within a religious atmosphere. The National Directory for Catechesis teaches that "The Catholic school...is not simply an institution which offers an academic instruction of high quality, but even more important is an effective vehicle of total Christian formation" (no. 230). Catholic schools provide a favorable setting where, daily, young people are afforded the opportunity to hear and live the Gospel, to learn and appreciate the teachings of the Church, to acquire a deep understanding, reverence and love for the Liturgy, to build community, to pray and properly form their consciences, to develop virtue and participate in Christian service. According to Vatican, students are provided "an education by virtue of which their whole lives may be inspired by the spirit of Christ" (Gravissunum Educationis, 8).

The desire to see Jesus is not reserved to the young. It is the longing of all humanity. We discover Jesus in the faces of our brothers and sisters, in the poor, and especially in its Eucharistic presence of the Lord.. We discover Jesus when we give of ourselves in self-sacrificing love. During this Lenten season, we should not be surprised to meet Jesus on the Cross and in the crosses of life. Remember, though, that after the Cross, comes the Resurrection. Death does not have the last word, for love is stronger than death. Jesus accepted death on the Cross, thus making it the source of life and the sign of love. He did so to gain our salvation and to allow us henceforth to take part in his divine life.

A jubilee is a time of joy. Your jubilee, dear Friends, is an occasion of special grace, a day blessed by the Lord. It is an opportunity to reflect on the past, to offer praise and thanksgiving for all that God has done and accomplished in and through you. It is a day to recommit yourselves, as teachers and administrators, to your mission, which is that of Christ and His Church. What a lofty dignity is yours!

There is so much for which to be thankful. Today I express deep gratitude to the parents who have entrusted the education and formation of their children to our Catholic schools. In so doing, they have given us the privilege of sharing a role in which they have the primary and irreplaceable responsibility.

I am grateful for the priests, religious Sisters and Brothers, and laity who serve in the educational apostolate. Our schools provide a context in which young people discern God’s call and develop skills that are associated with the fulfillment of that call. Among the many career and vocational opportunities, we pray that those whom God is calling to the priesthood and religious life will respond generously.

I am grateful for the support of the entire Catholic community who by their prayers and financial support enable our schools to accomplish their purpose. With this support, many are able to receive a Catholic education who otherwise might be deprived of it.

In particular, I express gratitude to you our jubilarians for your many years of service to this Archdiocese and to our Catholic schools. We depend upon you to set high academic standards and instill a spirit of faith and values rooted in Christ. You have given generously of your time, talent and treasure to advance the teaching mission of Christ and His Church. You assist parents by providing their children with a solid moral foundation. All who teach in our schools understand that their work is not just a career opportunity; it is a vocation, a response to God’s call to teach and evangelize our youth.

A jubilee is also an opportunity to look forward to a future that offers new possibilities. The future of the world and the Church belongs to the younger generation. We are proud of our students. They are young men and women who contribute to our country, our community, our Church. Christ expects great things from young people, so did Pope John Paul II. He challenged them to put their talents at the service of the proclamation of the Good News. He encouraged them to be friends of Jesus and offer witness so that others might come to see Jesus.

In a short time, Christianity will celebrate the great Feast of Easter. "Go and teach all nations," was the great directive that Jesus gave His apostles after His Resurrection. It is also His last command recorded in Saint Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 28:19-20). I congratulate and thank our jubilarians for their fidelity to the Lord’s command. We entrust them, the students they teach and our Catholic schools to the patronage of Mary, the Seat of Wisdom. Through her maternal intercession, may she aid all who seek "to see Jesus." Amen.

Catholic Participation in the Political Process

Statement of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Archbishop of Philadelphia

The Gravest of All Issues

Catholic participation in the political process

No one observing our nation’s electoral process over the past several months could fail to notice the role of religion in politics. Some have sought to deny this role, citing a strict “separation of Church and State.”

This phrase itself is a misinterpretation of the Constitution, which actually allows for free exercise of religion and prohibits establishment of a state religion. It does not preclude religious involvement in the civic arena. The issue nonetheless leads us to examine whether religious faith should play a role in the political process and to what extent the faith of citizens should bear upon their nation’s public policy.

There is a necessary and integral relationship between beliefs and actions. Catholics believe we are all created by God in His likeness, that our sinful nature is redeemed by Christ and that, because we are oriented toward justice and peace as sons and daughters of God, we are led by the Holy Spirit to live these values.

If we believe these truths about ourselves then we are compelled to believe them of others. We have life, and because we revere our own life we want life to be lived in fullness by all. We wish to be free and gain respect for our rights as persons. We wish to be healthy and secure in our basic needs, and indeed, prosper.

As we seek these goods for ourselves we are compelled to seek them for others whom we also recognize as created, redeemed and sanctified persons. We do this by contributing to public policy, codified in the civil law of our society, that values all persons as we value ourselves. This is the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you.

 Catholics seek the common good

The Catholic Church is a community of believers who are also citizens of the United States of America. Catholics seek, as do many others, the common good based on our view of the person. The leaders of our community, the bishops, serve as teachers for the faithful. When a bishop speaks to the faithful it is to remind them of the truths of our faith as expressed in Sacred Scripture, in the tradition of the Christian faithful and in the official teachings in our 2,000-year history. We look to Jesus Christ and present his constant truths to the living Church, living in the ever-changing circumstances of the contemporary world.

The role of Catholics in politics, then, is to have a voice on policies that reflect the truths of the natural law. Being informed by our own faith perspective, we seek to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ as we seek in truth the common good for all citizens of our land.

We acknowledge threats and even attacks against the human person in a variety of ways which we are compelled to address. We seek an end to deadly attacks against the most defenseless, including children in the womb, and aged or infirm individuals. We seek security at home and peace abroad, mindful of the horrible consequences of violence and war. We endeavor to serve the needs of poor families and search for ways to ease their burden of poverty. We work to establish justice in a society free from the discrimination and vice that deaden the human spirit.

 The role of one’s conscience

In order to remedy these situations, the Church proclaims that Catholics have not only a right to vote but a duty to participate in the election process. The Church expends enormous effort to teach moral norms for the good of society. It also goes to great lengths to avoid endorsing specific candidates for public office or political parties, thus showing respect for the conscience of individual voters.

It is this conscience which, if it is well formed with the help of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium, will help build a culture that serves the common good. Persons with a well-formed Christian conscience will want to work for a just society not only on election day but in the many circumstances of everyday life.

Since voting is the fundamental means of participation in the political process, Catholics are obliged to bring their conscience to bear on issues that affect society.

The Church encourages Catholics to learn its teachings on morality and the place of morality in society. These teachings will be helpful in evaluating the position on public policy that is taken by candidates for political office. Thus education in Church teachings and in candidates’ public positions is a means by which Catholic citizens may best decide for whom they will vote.

 On the issues

The Church identifies moral principles about which Catholics should be informed when exercising their right to vote. As Catholics, we hold in highest priority the right to life and our duty to defend innocent human life. This principle applies directly to the protection of unborn children as well as to the Church ’s opposition to embryonic stem cell research, cloning, assisted suicide and euthanasia

On a different level, we also vigorously oppose the death penalty. Although it does not involve the taking of innocent human life, we consider it cruel and unnecessary for the defense of society, an affront to human dignity.

We oppose so-called "same-sex marriage" as we consistently uphold marriage as defined between a man and woman and as we promote family life as the stabilizing factor in society. We acknowledge the need to serve the poor and vulnerable, as we also work to promote the dignity of workers and the protection and well-being of children.

As Catholics, we also seek the way of peace by practicing global solidarity. Further, we acknowledge the importance of proper stewardship over creation by appropriate care for the environment.

All these issues should be considered by voters as they form their conscience. Since one votes not only for people but also for issues, one must consider the candidates’ stands on these issues. Citizens of faith should learn about the candidates’ specific proposals and, if possible, their past positions on all these matters. Catholic voters should note well when candidates assume positions in support or opposition to an issue with a moral component for which the Church has and must continue to take a stand.

             Not all these issues are of equal gravity. Prudent judgments made by thoughtful Catholics can lead to different legitimate approaches to solving the problems of poverty, immigration, healthcare and acceptable military force. Some issues, however, because they lie at the foundation of society and address fundamental aspects of what it means to be human, must be considered first and foremost.

As Catholics we revere life and find the destruction of innocent human life abhorrent. Abortion is an act evil in itself because a fetus in the womb is a complete human being in the process of development. The person is innocent and defenseless from attack. Since abortion destroys this life, it is intrinsically evil. In a similar way embryonic stem cell research by its nature destroys a fertilized egg – an embryo – that would otherwise mature until birth. Regardless of putative benefits to medical science, the cost is the destruction of innocent human life.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia, also known as "mercy killing," violate the gift of life by destroying it instead of permitting it to pass through its natural course. Cloning also violates the natural order by attempting to create life by scientific means divorced from the natural process of generation: the conjugal union of two persons married for life.

The family itself, as the font from which all human life springs and which nurtures it to maturity, is also under direct attack with attempts to redefine marriage to include "same-sex marriage." Legal protections and provisions for homosexual persons may be reflected in civil law, but society cannot change the definition of marriage that is revealed in natural law and confirmed by human history. The Church consistently proclaims that marriage exists only between one man and one woman.

Catholic citizens must directly oppose the promotion of laws that sanction these threats to the very foundation of society. With his or her vote, each Catholic chooses whether or not to contribute to the common good by safeguarding the innocent and most vulnerable. All actions that enable direct attacks upon innocent human life and the family deserve absolute rejection.

 Questions to consider

As we prepare to exercise on November 2 our right to vote according to our properly formed conscience we should keep in mind a number of questions which the candidates for whom we vote are called to address in the coming months and years:

*    Above all, must we not reject the taking of innocent human life? 

*    Must we not work to overcome all threats to life in our midst?  

*    Must we not remedy the civil laws that permit, if not encourage, these evils to continue? 

*    How can we more effectively build a more just, more secure, more peaceful world, thoroughly respectful of human life and dignity? 

*    How will we overcome poverty, maintain healthcare, apply justice, heal injustice, care for creation? 

*    How can society defend traditional marriage and better support families to raise children with respect for life, sound moral values and personal responsibility?  

In these and other questions, with God’s help and the guidance of the Church, as Catholics we are committed to moral solutions. This is the work of faithful citizenship. 

In our earthly pilgrimage of which political activity is a part, we have food and strength for the journey. The Eucharist sustains and fortifies us. Through it Christ becomes present to us in the Sacrifice of the Mass. He is the source and summit of our life, and He calls us to go forth into the world sanctified by His presence in the Eucharist.  

Local polling stations for voting are open on November 2 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. I earnestly encourage all Catholics to try to begin their day on Tuesday, November 2 by participating at Mass which is celebrated at various times in the parishes of the Archdiocese.  

The Eucharistic table is a fitting place to begin the journey of casting our votes. This privilege, for which so many of our forebears sacrificed, can lead to a more just society and a more just world, a world ultimately transformed by the power of Christ.

 

Cardinal Justin Rigali
October 28, 2004

Mass during the Archdiocesan Encuentro

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass during the Archdiocesan Encuentro
for Hispanic Youth and Young Adults
Saint William Church
February 11, 2006

Mis queridos amigos en Cristo,

Estoy muy contento de tener esta oportunidad de reunirme con ustedes y celebrar esta liturgia la cual cierra el Encuentro Diocesano de Jóvenes Hispanos.

En las últimas semanas ustedes han trabajado bastante asistiendo a talleres enfocados en el proceso del Encuentro: conversión, comunión, solidaridad y misión; su participación ha sido muy valiosa, y yo les doy las gracias por trabajar en este proceso tan importante. Han trabajado juntos para identificar modelos de ministerio que respondan a las necesidades de los jóvenes y jóvenes adultos en nuestra arquidiócesis de Filadelfia.

Es importante también reflexionar no sólo en las necesidades, sino además en las aspiraciones y contribuciones que nuestros jóvenes traen a la Iglesia y a la sociedad; son muchos los retos que enfrentan ustedes hoy día en este mundo tan complejo. Por eso este proceso del Encuentro invita a todos los jóvenes hispanos a una experiencia evangelizadora, a un encuentro con Jesucristo vivo. Y es el mismo Jesús que les pide remar mar adentro y echar las redes (Duc in altum), « ...los discípulos habiéndolo hecho, recogieron una cantidad enorme de peces»(Lc 5:6).

Durante estas últimas semanas ustedes han sido invitados a pasar un tiempo de reflexión y unión con el Maestro Jesús. Ustedes han conversado y orado junto al Señor, han tenido ‘experiencia’ de Jesús vivo. A su vez han tenido la oportunidad no sólo de tener experiencia de Jesús, sino también de compartir esa experiencia juntos como comunidad de fe. Esa experiencia de Jesús vivo que ustedes han tenido y tienen cada día, no es algo que todos los jóvenes hispanos han tenido. Por eso es necesario que, al igual que los discípulos, vayan y se lo comuniquen a los demás. Hay muchos jóvenes hispanos que necesitan recibir el mensaje de Jesús a través de ustedes. Hay muchos jóvenes que no participan activamente de las actividades de la Iglesia y necesitan ser invitados nuevamente al encuentro con Jesús. Ese es uno de los objetivos de este Encuentro, el que ustedes habiendo experimentado al Señor salgan a comunicarlo, que vayan invitando a los demás jóvenes de su edad a que ‘vengan y vean’. Ustedes son los mensajeros de lo que han aprendido, ustedes son la voz de Jesús entre las personas que los rodean; comuniquen lo que han aprendido a los demás. ¡Comuniquen a Jesús!

Ustedes han tenido una experiencia de Jesús, y ésta es el inicio de la vida cristiana. Han sido llamados al camino de conversión. La vida cristiana es un camino de fe, de aprendizaje, de constante conversión en un plano personal, buscando conocer a Jesús de modo más cercano y profundo. El camino de fe no es solo la experiencia primera, sino una continua comunicación con Jesús y sobre todo el vivir en continuo testimonio frente a la comunidad cristiana, testimonio de nuestra experiencia con el Señor. Ustedes están llamados a ser discípulos. Ser discípulo se traduce en ser ‘testigo’ de que Jesús vive frente a la comunidad a la que pertenecemos. Ser testigos de la resurrección en el mundo moderno es llevar el mensaje cristiano a cada rincón del mundo y hacer que la verdad del Evangelio ilumine todos los aspectos de la cultura moderna. Esto se conoce como evangelización de la cultura. Cada cultura, con su riqueza y diversidad, puede ser iluminada con la verdad del mensaje cristiano.

Uno de los objetivos del Encuentro es ‘fortalecer una visión de Iglesia como una comunidad de comunidades, donde la diversidad es vista como un don de Dios y donde se promueve su unidad como un solo cuerpo de Cristo’(Manual del Encuentro). La Iglesia, lugar de encuentro con Jesucristo vivo, no es simplemente una estructura. En su ser más profundo ella «constituye un sacramento de comunión y de participación». La Iglesia es comunidad de acogida, que acompaña en el camino de seguimiento a Jesús y en el camino de servicio al mundo. A imitación del Buen Pastor, la Iglesia sale al encuentro de las personas y acoge a todos con misericordia. Por eso la Iglesia local debe ser el espacio donde cada uno de ustedes, jóvenes hispanos, pueda nutrir su fe, encontrar amigos y descubrir el sentido de su vida. Busquen y edifiquen en sus parroquias un ambiente necesario para crecer y vivir el desafío de ser seguidores de Jesús y vivir la espiritualidad de la comunión.

Ustedes han reflexionado en estos talleres sobre la solidaridad; pienso que la solidaridad nos urge hoy más que nunca con una exigencia especial. En muchos sectores de nuestra sociedad hay exactamente lo contrario a lo que debe ser la solidaridad humana: el no sentir como propio los problemas y carencias de una gran mayoría empobrecida de nuestros hermanos y la falta de interés, de los unos por los otros, llegando hasta situaciones alarmantes de exclusión. La enseñanza de San Juan es verdaderamente profunda: «Quien no ama a su hermano que ve no puede amar a Dios a quien no ve». Si decimos amar a Dios, es necesario que tengamos y crezcamos en nuestro espíritu solidario especialmente con aquellos que más lo necesitan. Los necesitados del mundo moderno no son sólo los que padecen hambre o sufren pobreza, sino también aquellos que se sienten solos, abandonados; aquellos que sufren injusticias de cualquier tipo, que son sacudidos por leyes injustas o sufren discriminación, o no se les respetan sus derechos básicos como personas. Sobe todo, los mas necesitados del mundo son los que no conocen a Dios, los que no experimentan la verdad liberadora de Cristo, y los que no conocen su amor. La solidaridad es entonces una urgencia en el mensaje cristiano. Si verdaderamente amamos a Dios, eso nos tiene que mover a trabajar por la promoción de la justicia y la paz en el mundo—la justicia y la paz de Cristo.

Mis queridos amigos, al final de este proceso Jesús envía a cada uno de ustedes a esta misión. «Naveguen mar adentro —dice Jesús a sus discípulos— echen sus redes». La Iglesia ve en este mandato de Jesús un llamado a la misión. Les dice Jesús a cada uno de ustedes, ‘... echen sus redes’. Cada uno de ustedes se ha convertido en un misionero, en un discípulo de Jesús, porque ha recibido un bien que no debe retener en la intimidad. Lo que han visto y oído reclama que lo transmitan a quienes quieran escuchar. Ustedes se han convertido en Iglesia de Jesús y la Iglesia existe para evangelizar; tiene como centro de su misión convocar a todos los hombres al encuentro con Jesucristo.

El mandato misionero de Jesús: «Naveguen mar adentro... echen las redes», los introduce en el mundo moderno invitándolos a tener el mismo entusiasmo que los cristianos de los primero siglos. Para ello cuentan con la fuerza del Espíritu, que fue enviado en Pentecostés y que hoy los impulsa a partir animados por la esperanza.

Este Encuentro, como toda experiencia de gracia, ha cumplido la función de dar nuevas fuerzas para recorrer el camino que les espera. Convertirse, es también renunciar a cierta comodidad. Hay un nuevo camino que emprender, colmados de una esperanza que no defrauda; no vale la pena demorar la partida. ¡Vayan, naveguen mar adentro y echen las redes! El Evangelio de Jesús ofrece el mensaje que se necesita escuchar para alcanzar una vida mejor. «Naveguen mar adentro» nutridos por la Palabra de Dios, perdonados en el sacramento de la Confesión, y reconfortados en el banquete de la Eucaristía.

Queridos hermanos y hermanas, que Jesús resucitado, el cual nos acompaña en nuestro camino, los encuentre vigilantes y preparados para descubrirlo y correr hacia nuestros hermanos llevándoles el gran anuncio: ¡Hemos visto al Señor! (Jn 20:25).

A ustedes, que han acompañado a estos jóvenes y jóvenes adultos durante este proceso de Encuentro, les doy muchísimas gracias por su apoyo y les pido que continúen caminando con ellos. Los jóvenes son una parte muy importante de la mística que ha de impulsar la acción evangelizadora de la Iglesia. ¡Vamos a ayudarles a conservar el fervor espiritual que han recibido durante estas últimas semanas, para que ellos no pierdan nunca su entusíasmo de comunicar a Cristo a los demás.

¡Dios les bendiga a todos!

Mass during the Archdiocesan Encuentro

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass during the Archdiocesan Encuentro
for Hispanic Youth and Young Adults
Saint William Church
February 11, 2006

Dear Friends in Christ,

I am very happy to have this opportunity to gather with you today and celebrate this liturgy closing the Archdiocesan Encuentro for Hispanic Youth and Young Adults.

During these last few weeks, you have worked hard attending workshops that focused on the Encuentro process: conversion, communion, solidarity and mission. Your participation is very valuable and I thank you for taking time to work on this important process. You have worked together to identify models of ministry that respond to the needs of youth and young adults in our Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

It is also important to reflect not only on the needs, but also, on the aspirations and contributions that our young people bring to the Church and society. You face many challenges today in this complex world we live in. For this reason this Encuentro process invites all Hispanic young people to have an evangelizing experience, an encounter with the living Jesus Christ. It is this same Jesus that asks you to "put out into the deep" for a catch (Duc in altum). After the disciples obeyed, "they caught a great number of fish"(Lk 5:6).

During these past weeks, you were invited to spend some time with the Lord Jesus in reflection. You have conversed and prayed with the Lord, you have "experienced" the living Jesus. You have also had the opportunity to share this experience of Jesus together as a community of faith. The "experience" of the living Jesus that each of you has had is not something that many of our young adults have had. It is necessary that, just like the disciples, you also go and communicate your experience to others. There are many young Hispanics that need to receive the message of Jesus through you. There are many Hispanic young adults that do not participate actively in the Church; they need to be invited; they need to encounter Jesus. This is one of the objectives of this Encuentro process that you who have "experienced" the Lord now must go out and communicate Him to others. You must invite other young adults of your age to "come and see". You are the messengers of what you have learned, you are the voice of Jesus among those with whom you come into contact. Communicate to others what you have learned. Communicate Jesus to others! In this way you will really contribute to the lives of other youth and young adults.

You have had an experience of Jesus and this is the beginning of Christian life. You have been called to a path of conversion. Christian life is a journey of faith, of learning, of constant personal conversion, seeking to know Jesus in a more personal and profound way. The faith journey is not only a faith experience, but a continuous communication with Jesus; above all you must give constant testimony, in the community where you live, of your experience with the Lord. You have been called to be disciples. To be a disciple is to be a "witness" that Jesus lives in the community that you belong to. To be a "witness" of the resurrection in the modern world is to spread the Christian message, to make the message of the Gospel shine on every aspect of modern culture. This is known as "the evangelization of culture." Each culture with its richness and diversity can be illuminated with the truth of Christ’s message.

One of the objectives of the Encuentro is "to foster a vision of Church as a family of families where diversity is seen as a gift from God and where the unity in this diversity is promoted as the one body of Christ"(Encuentro Manual). The Church, a place where we encounter the living Jesus Christ, is not simply a structure; in the most profound sense she is "a sacrament of communion and of participation." The Church is a welcoming community that accompanies us in our walk with Jesus and in our service to others. Imitating the Good Shepherd, the Church goes out to meet those dispersed and mercifully gathers them to her. For this reason your parish should be the place where each one of you, Hispanic young adults, can nourish your faith, find friends and discover in which direction your life is headed. Search and build in your parish the atmosphere needed for you and others to grow and to live the challenge of being followers of Jesus, for living the spirituality of communion.

During these workshops you have also reflected on solidarity. I believe that the need for solidarity is more urgent today than ever before. In many sectors of our society, there is the exact opposite of solidarity, which is a great insensitivity to others: not to feel as our own the problems and needs of our brothers and sisters, and a lack of interest in one another to an alarming point of exclusion. The teaching of Saint John is very profound: "Whoever does not love his brother whom he sees, cannot love God whom he does not see." If we say that we love God, it is necessary to have a spirit of solidarity with all those in need. The needy of the modern world are not only those that are hungry or suffer poverty, but also those that are lonely and abandoned; those that suffer any type of injustice, that are betrayed by unjust laws, or those that suffer discrimination, or whose basic human rights are not respected. Above all the neediest of this world are those who do not know God, those who do not experience the liberating truth of Christ, those who know nothing of His love. Solidarity with others is then an urgent dimension of our Christian message. If we truly love God, we must work to promote peace and justice in the world—the peace and justice of Christ.

My dear friends, at the end of the Encuentro Jesus sends each one of you out on a mission. "Put out into deep water" —Jesus commanded His disciples— "and lower your nets for a catch." The Church sees this mandate of Jesus as a call to a mission. Jesus is saying to each one of you: "...lower your nets for a catch." Each one of you is a missionary, a disciple of Jesus, because you have received a gift that you cannot keep to yourself. What you have seen and heard begs to be transmitted to all that will listen. You have been converted in the Church, and the Church exists to evangelize; at the center of her mission she convokes all people to have an encounter with Christ.

The missionary mandate of Jesus: "Put out into deep water and lower your nets" introduces you to the modern world, inviting you to have the same enthusiasm as the first Christians had in the early centuries. For this you can count on the power of the Holy Spirit who was sent at Pentecost, and who today sends you forth, animated with hope.

This Encuentro, like all experiences of grace, has accomplished its function, giving you new strength to follow the road that lies ahead of you. Conversion means turning to Christ, accepting His way of life. There is a new road to follow, and you must not delay your departure! Put out into the deep and cast your nets! The Gospel of Jesus offers this message that we need to hear in order to live life fully in Christ. In doing this we are nurtured by the word of God, forgiven in the Sacrament of Confession and strengthened in the banquet of the Eucharist!

Dear brothers and sisters: may the Risen Jesus, who accompanies you and walks with you, find you vigilant and ready to discover Him, so that you may run to your brothers and sisters with the great news: "We have seen the Lord!" (Jn 20:25).

To you who have accompanied these youth and young adults during this Encuentro process, I express my deep gratitude for the support that you have given them. I urge you to continue to walk with them. The young adults are a very important part of the mística that will impart momentum to the evangelizing action of the Church. Let us help them to maintain the spiritual fervor that they have received during these last few weeks, so that they never lose their enthusiasm for communicating Christ to others.

Episcopalian Cathedral

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Episcopalian Cathedral
November 5, 2005

Bishop Bennison,
Dear Friends,

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Bishop Bennison has informed me that, from what anyone can tell, this is the first time in 222 years that the Archbishop of Philadelphia has addressed a convention of the Episcopal diocese!

It is a joy for me to be with you, and I thank Bishop Bennison and all of you for the warm welcome that you afford me today. Through you I would like to extend respectful and fraternal greetings to all the congregations and individual members of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. In the words of Saint Peter, permit me to say: "Peace to all of you that are in Christ" (1 Pt 5:14).

Despite our ecclesial differences, God’s providence has brought us together, in Christ, in so many ways. How close physically are this Cathedral and Saint Agatha and Saint James Church. But how many other issues of our Christian faith—substantive issues—unite us! How blessed that we share one Baptism in the name of the Most Blessed Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—that we share the divinely revealed word of God in the Sacred Scriptures, and that we share faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Mary.

In this regard may I share with you a personal experience that I had many years ago in Rome. It took place at a gathering honoring the work of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The work of Mother Teresa among the poor in India and throughout the world has become legendary. In the Catholic Church she is now known as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Although she has been deceased for several years now, her Sisters still go out to the streets and gutters of Calcutta to bring to their home those who have been abandoned and are near death.

It is a remarkable work that can only be explained and sustained by a great measure of Christian love—love for Christ and for the poor whom He loves. The gathering in Rome to which I have alluded was on the occasion of Mother Teresa’s receiving an international recognition for her contribution toward world peace. The audience was made up of many distinguished people. Before the ceremony began, I spoke to Mother Teresa and asked her what she was going to talk about. I was eager to know, since I was going to be her translator from English into Italian. Her response to my question was remarkable. I will never forget it! She simply said: Oh! I don’t know. All I know is that I will be speaking about Jesus! And so she did! For Mother Teresa speaking about Jesus meant, yes, speaking about His identity as the Son of the living God, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, and the Son of Mary. But it also meant speaking about His commandment to love one another and to serve Him in His needy brothers and sisters. We remember the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew: "...for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me" (Mt 25:35-36).

Dear friends, in this short meeting with you today, I really just wanted to speak to you about Jesus—about His identity, His primacy in our lives and in the world, about what He has done for us: how He is our Savior, our one Mediator, our Reconciler and the Head of His Body, the Church.

For this reason I am so pleased that together we can hear proclaimed this beautiful reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. What a beautiful act of faith it is for us to repeat: "God has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col 1:13-14). And again, Saint Paul says: "For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" (Col 1:19).

Our greatest common treasure, dear friends, is the person of Jesus Christ, who means everything for all of us. May we all submit ourselves to His dominion, share with others the forgiveness that He has so lavishly bestowed upon us, and strive to fulfill His commandment of love.

And finally may we all have a new appreciation of the great prayer that Jesus prayed to His Father for all of us His followers: "that they may be one, even as we are one" (Jn 17:11). May we walk together in mutual respect and love the remaining journey to full Christian unity, realizing that this goal is beyond all our human efforts (which we must still intensify) and that it is a gift of God’s Holy Spirit, given us by Jesus, the Lord.

Thank you, Bishop Bennison and dear friends, for the opportunity to speak to you about Jesus.

International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec

The Eucharist in North America
Remarks of Cardinal Justin Rigali
International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec
June 16, 2008

The Sunday Celebration

Although my topic is the Eucharist in North America, my pastoral experience is limited to the United States and particularly to the two Archdioceses that I have served: Philadelphia and, prior to this, St. Louis. I am convinced, however, that for so many parishes in North America the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is the essential experience of the faith and the source of our people’s identity as the Church. It is the central act of parish life in which the faithful offer adoration and thanksgiving to God for their salvation in Christ and seek the grace of the Holy Spirit to grow as faithful disciples.

According to a survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate Georgetown University, 2007, feeling the presence of God as well as prayer and reflection are important aspects of Mass for people in the United States. These aspects are in fact realized in the Sunday celebration.

In the sacred Liturgy, the proclamation of the Word immediately begins to draw the faithful into an encounter with Christ through which the Father’s will for daily life is revealed. After our people participate in the Eucharistic action, their reception of the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion strengthens their unity—begun at Baptism—with the Most Blessed Trinity and with one another. At this point, the People of God are then sent forth as witnesses of justice, truth and charity in their communities.

With different degrees of realization, the faithful of our dioceses perceive this mysterious plan of God and this is a great blessing for the Church. So many of our parishes have begun to appreciate the centrality of the Eucharist and become vital families of faith. The teaching of Vatican II expressed in the Liturgical Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium has borne fruit in our parishes: "The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows" (no. 10).

Despite this central focus on the Eucharist in parochial life, studies report that less than fifty percent of our people regularly attend Sunday Mass with any regularity. For many people the feasts of Christmas and Easter, together with the occasional family baptism, marriage or funeral, are the only encounters with the great mysteries of their faith and the community that celebrates them. The lives of these people reflect an indifference to God that permeates the culture. This situation certainly calls for increased efforts at catechesis to invite a return to the Eucharist of those who do not fully participate in it, and to help strengthen the fidelity of practicing Catholics.

Scripture and the Mass

The celebration of the Liturgy of the Word within the Mass has in fact transformed the lives of many of the people in our parishes. This weekly encounter with Christ through the proclamation of the Word and the homily has provided a school of spiritual formation and a source of teaching the faith of the Church. The people have been guided by zealous priests and deacons through this experience in the application of the faith to their daily lives. In this way they have more deeply experienced the community of the Church.

The Liturgy of the Word has also become the means of catechesis for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the preparation of children for the sacraments of Penance, Holy Communion and Confirmation. Those participating in Scripture study groups, lectio divina and many lay ecclesial movements are being assisted to reach a deeper relationship with Christ when they come to the Liturgy.

Frequent Holy Communion

Every Sunday many of the faithful regularly receive the Body and Blood of Christ and are drawn into an intimate union with Christ. This Sunday Communion is the primary source of their spiritual nourishment on the path to holiness and of their empowerment to live out faithfully the commandments in a culture that is so often opposed to the Gospel.

At the same time, there is a great need to reemphasize what is required for the proper reception of Holy Communion so that the Blessed Sacrament is duly appreciated and reverently received. This would include occasions such as Christmas, Easter, Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals where inactive Catholics or members of other Christian denominations are present. So many Mass booklets used in the United States print the norms of the Bishops for the reception of Holy Communion, indicating the need to both be Catholic and spiritually prepared. A very succinct statement of Pope John Paul II is very relevant to emphasize in today’s situation: "If a Christian’s conscience is burdened by serious sin, then the path of penance through the sacrament of Reconciliation becomes necessary for full participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 37).

Eucharistic Adoration

Through the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition, the adoration of Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament is growing throughout the United States. Parishes are re-establishing the custom of the Forty Hours Devotion, erecting chapels of perpetual adoration and scheduling Holy Hours with extended exposition. This intimate union with the Eucharistic Lord in continuous prayer is a sign of increased reverence and devotion as well as a source of many graces and blessings, not least of which is the discernment of priestly and religious vocations by many of our young people.

At the same time, there is the need to safeguard and teach the proper relationship between the celebration of the Mass and Eucharistic Exposition. This must be done through appropriate catechesis that enables the faithful to understand that exposition is a continuation of the supreme adoration begun in the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice and a deepening of our union with God and one another. Pope Benedict XVI summarized this aspect in Sacramentum Caritatis: "The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the celebration itself" (no. 66).

Full, Conscious, Active Participation

One of the goals of Vatican II was the call to full, conscious and active participation in the Liturgy so that the faithful may grow in holiness and apostolic works. Our people are actively engaged so often when they gather for the celebration of the Eucharist. Through programs of catechesis dedicated to formation and instruction, many have come to understand the mysteries they celebrate, uniting themselves through the action of the rite with our Lord Jesus Christ, and recognizing the consequences for their daily lives of what they celebrate. At the same time, responding to their baptismal graces, our people have assumed many of the liturgical ministries envisioned by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

Liturgical Music

The liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council have highlighted the integral role of music within the celebration of the liturgy, especially the Mass. Music has successfully engaged the faithful in the action of the rite, leading to adoration, praise and thanksgiving. As such, it has had a formative role within the celebration of the Mass. For so many parishes, music is normative at the Sunday Mass. In addition to the retention by some communities of traditional Gregorian chant, many forms of contemporary music are effectively used. Yet there is a need to re-examine the forms of music that are used and the lyrics that are sung. Since music is at the service of the Liturgy, it is important that the lyrics authentically express the truth contained in the texts of the rites and that the forms of music are respectful of the sacred mysteries celebrated. Work must continue in this important field.

Inculturation

Within the North American continent a variety of ethnic communities, both native to this land and those who have immigrated, reside and celebrate the Catholic faith. The diversity is great and a manifestation of the universality of God’s kingdom. On any given Sunday, Mass is celebrated in a great variety of languages as the Church strives to meet the needs of the people. In addition to language, cultural aspects, as permitted and approved by Church law, have been included in the liturgy. Much more needs to be accomplished in this area, under the guidance of the Church, to engage the different communities and their cultures in the faith. In this process, the proper balance between the unity of the faith and cultural diversity needs to be constantly maintained.

Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of the Priest

In certain areas of the continent due to the shortage in the number of priests, parishes do not have regular access to the Sunday Mass. Instead, a Sunday Liturgy of the Word with or without the Distribution of Holy Communion is celebrated, or one of the hours of the Liturgy of the Hours. Doctrinal questions concerning the true meaning of the Eucharist and the nature of the ordained ministry can arise when these interim rites are celebrated frequently. These celebrations call for an increase in prayer for vocations to the priesthood, as well as a proper catechesis on the meaning of the Eucharist as sacrifice, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the nature of the ordained priesthood and its essential role in the Church.

The Eucharist as Source of Justice and Charity

Many parishes who devoutly and faithfully celebrate the Eucharist and deeply reflect on the mystery they have experienced, are undergoing a profound moral transformation that empowers them as witnesses of justice and charity. Communion with God is leading so many communities to communion with others; as a result the face of God is more often recognized in others and the bonds of mutual love in Christ are strengthened. As a result parishes commit themselves to the practice of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in service to the community. This is an exhilarating effect of Eucharistic piety.

The celebration of the Eucharist in North America continues to be filled with many challenges. At the same time it bears splendid witness to the mighty works that God is accomplishing in and for His people. In a world that God is always drawing closer to Himself through the Blood of the Lamb, the celebration of the Eucharist in the midst of the Church is the great sign of her vitality and the assurance of her share in Christ’s victory.

Homily for International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
International Eucharistic Congress
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
June 19, 2008

Dear Friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

"I love the Father"—"The Father loves me"

In the Eucharist, which is indeed "God’s gift for the life of the world," we "worship the Father in spirit and truth." This beautiful expression of Jesus, which we find in today’s Gospel, challenges us to try to understand more fully the relationship of God the Father to the Sacrifice on Calvary of His Son, Jesus Christ. Our holy Catholic faith proclaims that this Sacrifice, which is our worship, is renewed in every Eucharist. To speak about the Eucharist is then to speak also about the Father.

In Saint John’s Gospel Jesus says: "If you truly loved me you would rejoice to have me go to the Father…The world must know that I love the Father and do what the Father has commanded me. Come, then! Let us be on our way" (Jn 14: 28, 31).
These words express the great revelation that Jesus loves His Father. And in another place Jesus will tell us clearly that the Father loves the Son, that the Father loves Him. But these words also tell us that Jesus wants the world to know that He fulfills the Father’s will. And because He fulfills the Father’s will, He accepts to go to His death on the Cross, saying to His Apostles: "Come, then! Let us be on our way."

The Eucharist: Mystery of Trinitarian Love

There are many profound reasons why Jesus died and why He instituted the Eucharist as a memorial of His death on Calvary. Jesus died for His Church. In a special way Jesus died for His Mother, to win for her the graces that would be granted her by anticipation at the time of her Immaculate Conception. But above all, Jesus died because He loved His Father. He died to fulfill the will of His Father. In other words: "…the world must know that I love the Father and do as the Father has commanded me. Come, then! Let us be on our way."

The key to understanding the Eucharist, "God’s gift for the life of the world" in its most profound dimension is to understand that Jesus went to His death motivated by a great love for His Father. The Eucharist is indeed the mystery of Christ’s love and above all it is the mystery of Christ’s love for His Father.

Some years ago a book came out entitled, Gift and Mystery. It was the short autobiography of Pope John Paul II that he presented to the world on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. And in that book he recounts what he had previously said on the occasion of an interview with a journalist who accompanied him on one of his pastoral visits around the world. The interview went something like this: "Holy Father, as Pope you must have many problems, but also as Pope there must be many joys in your life. Tell us what your greatest joy is." And the Pope answered that his greatest joy as Pope was to be able, like every Catholic priest, to celebrate the Eucharist every day. These words showed the depth of his faith in the Eucharistic mystery; they showed the depth of his love for the Sacrifice of the Mass as the great mystery of God’s love.

The origin of the Eucharist is the Last Supper and the Sacrifice of Calvary—both of which are commemorated and re-enacted in the Eucharist, both of which are different moments in the one salvific reality of Christ’s Paschal Mystery. But if we are to understand this life-giving event proclaimed at the Last Supper and enacted in immolation on Calvary, we must go back to the relationship of Jesus with His Father—in other words to the Most Blessed Trinity.

Here we find the deepest explanation of the Most Blessed Sacrament—the deepest explanation of the Mass. The Council of Trent, well over four hundred years ago, defined the Mass as a true sacrifice that recalls and renews Christ’s immolation on Calvary. But why did Christ give Himself over to death on Calvary? Why does He give Himself in the Eucharist? The answer involves God’s love for humanity, just as Saint John relates: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (Jn 3: 16-17).

This is a stupendous revelation that explains so much about the Eucharist—the love of God for us, the love of the Father in sending His Son to redeem the world. But there are two other aspects of God’s love that are even more basic, without which we will not understand the Eucharist and all the suffering that Christ endured on Calvary. The Eucharist flows directly from the love of the Son of God for His Father, in response to the eternal love by which He is loved by the Father in the Holy Spirit.

Jesus took great pleasure in proclaiming to the world—it was His greatest proclamation—the love that the Father has for Him and the love that He has for the Father. These, I would dare say, are the most sublime words of divine revelation:

"The Father loves the Son" (Jn 3:35; 5:20).
"The Father loves me" (Jn 10:17).
"I love the Father" (Jn 14: 31).

Jesus’ Sacrifice and the Father’s Acceptance

Regarding this last revelation—"I love the Father"—what is the context? It has already been mentioned: Jesus is ready to go to His hour—the hour of His death. The prince of this world is at hand but he has no hold on Jesus. The world must know that Jesus loves the Father. And therefore Jesus says: "Come, then! Let us be on our way."

And so Jesus goes forth to Calvary, to death and immolation. There is an explicit connection between Calvary and Christ’s love for His Father. In other words, Calvary is motivated by His love for the Father and His obedience to the Father. Calvary—with Jesus hanging on the Cross—is the divine plan of the Father for the redemption of the world. Calvary, and therefore the Eucharist, is the Trinitarian response to sin. It is the exchange of love between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.

This exchange of love is so great, the Son’s acceptance of death is so full of love, that the Father wants the world to know of His acceptance. The Father’s response of love is the Resurrection of His Son. This is the meaning of Easter. The Father raises the sacred humanity of Jesus to life in order to confirm the redemption of the world and to proclaim His eternal love for His Son and His acceptance of the obedience of the Son—His acceptance of the Sacrifice.

Saint Paul tells us in his Letter to the Philippians, in speaking of Christ, that "he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father" (Phil 2: 8-11). All of this shows us how profound the mystery of redemption; how great Christ’s love for His Father; how fruitful Christ’s obedience; how glorious the Father’s acceptance of the Sacrifice. The Father ratifies the Sacrifice of Christ’s death by raising Him to life! With Saint Paul, we exclaim: "How deep are the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God!" (Rom 11:33).

The Sacrifice and Worship of the Community

In the exchange of love between Jesus and His Father we see explained the great mystery of the Sacrifice of Calvary, even as it is anticipated at the Last Supper. We also note that the Sacrifice of the infinite divine love of Christ becomes, by God’s loving design in the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of the Church, our Sacrifice. As the Sacrifice of Christ and His Church, the Eucharist is our worship in spirit and truth, and we are privileged to partake in the Eucharistic Sacrifice as frequently as we can, even every day of our lives. We are privileged to be able to do this as a community, to offer God praise, as foreshadowed in the Old Testament, in the great assembly.

Let us never forget that the offering of the Church’s Sacrifice is a great hymn of adoration, praise, thanksgiving, reparation and supplication on the part of the entire assembly. We worship together: with one another and with Christ our Head—in spirit and truth.

Sent Forth To Adore and To Serve

At the end of Mass we are sent forth in order to serve in the name of Jesus. We are sent out from the Eucharist in order that, by the power of the Eucharist, we may contribute to the building up of the Body of Christ.

As soon as we go out, we must be ready to come back. In the meantime we profess the Eucharistic faith of the Church as expressed throughout the centuries. The liturgy which we celebrate as an act of adoration—as the Second Vatican Council calls it: "the worship of divine majesty"(Sacrosanctum Concilium, 33)—is prolonged in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Real Presence of Christ in our midst.

We believe and we proclaim the faith of the Church that, after the celebration of the Eucharist, Jesus Himself remains in the Blessed Sacrament in His glorified humanity, to be adored and loved and to be for us a permanent source of union and life. To the Blessed Sacrament present on the altar, or in the tabernacle, the Catholic Church attributes latria, which is the adoration that is owing only to the living God. And the Eucharist, which contains all the treasures of the Church and is "the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14), is at one and the same time a sacrifice, a banquet and the sacred presence of the Lord Jesus. And the sacred Eucharistic presence of the Lord, whom we continue to worship in spirit and truth, constantly directs our hearts back to the Eucharistic action, after which we will be sent out once again on our mission to the world. To accomplish this mission to the world we are empowered by the Eucharist to live charity and embrace service.

We have seen in the history of the Church not only people like Pope John Paul II with an immense love of the Eucharist, but also the martyrs, confessors, priests, deacons, holy virgins, Religious, lay faithful, mothers and fathers of families, young people and children who have understood the Eucharist and have been willing to sacrifice in order to participate in the Eucharistic celebration and to guard the sacramental presence of Christ. The saints and heroes of our Church have given us an example of the effort that we must expend in order to participate in the Mass and to adore Christ’s Eucharistic presence. Millions of holy people in the Church have made supreme efforts over the centuries to live their faith in the Eucharist and to avail themselves, amidst difficulties and tribulations, of the Eucharistic celebration and of Eucharistic adoration. The Eucharist is undoubtedly the center of our life, because Jesus is the center of our life, just as He is the subject of the Father’s eternal love. Truly the Eucharist is the life of Christ in our life.

Powerful Incentive and Challenge to Service

There are many indications in the world—like this International Eucharistic Congress—that God wishes to draw further attention to His beloved Son present in the Eucharist. There are many indications that Eucharistic adoration is a form of prayer particularly adapted to our present age. It is a particular form of manifesting faith in the total mystery of the Eucharist, which is sacrifice and banquet, sacred presence and viaticum. Eucharistic adoration is a powerful incentive and challenge to ever more generous service to those in need.

The Second Vatican Council has been an enormous grace in the life of the Church, particularly in emphasizing over and over again the role of the Christian people as a Eucharistic people. The importance of the community’s full, conscious and active participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice cannot be over-emphasized! The importance of the graces that are received for the living and the dead by the internal and external participation of all the members of the Church in the Eucharistic assembly cannot be over-emphasized. Nor can the importance of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, of Eucharistic adoration, Eucharistic exposition, the Eucharistic holy hour, visits to the Blessed Sacrament and the renewal of our own faith, day in and day out, in the words of Jesus who says: "For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me" (Jn 6: 55-57).

Dear friends: in the Eucharist we live Christ’s life and we fulfill His words "to worship the Father in spirit and truth." Jesus Himself leads us on this Eucharistic journey to the Father as He says to us: "Come, then! Let us be on our way." And the response of each of us to Him is: Jesus, I trust in you! Amen.

Erev Shabbat Service

Talk of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Old York Road Temple - Beth Am
Erev Shabbat (Eve of Shabbat) Service
October 28, 2005


Senior Rabbi Robert S. Leib,
Rabbi Andrew Sklarz
Rabbi Emeritus Harold B. Waintrup
Dear Friends, 

What a joy it is to gather with you this evening in this holy place, and together raise our hearts to the Lord, using the holy words of the Psalm: "Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who stand in the house of the Lord through the long hours of night. Lift up your hands toward the sanctuary, and bless the Lord. May the Lord who made heaven and earth bless you from Zion" (Ps 134).

It is indeed a pleasure to be with you this evening during your Shabbat Service and to be able to draw attention to an important anniversary for both of our faith traditions: the promulgation of the Declaration Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council.

Forty years ago today Pope Paul VI promulgated this Vatican II "Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions." As is the custom with official documents of the Church, the document is identified by its opening words in Latin, Nostra Aetate ("In our time"). While Nostra Aetate originated as a statement on Judaism, it came to include the treatment of the Catholic Church’s relations with all Non-Christian religions. Within this wider context, Catholic-Jewish relations formed a principal part of this Declaration.

Much has changed in the world during the past forty years. Vatican II had a vibrant enthusiasm that recognized much promise in the modern world. Pope John XXIII, who was elected to the papacy forty-seven years ago today, and who was affectionately known to the Italians as "Il Papa buono," "the good Pope," had a spirit of deep optimism that permeated the Council. Pope John knew that in the modern world we must learn about each other, and learn from each other. The world was getting smaller. One thing that was apparent was how little Catholics and Jews really knew each other. Yes, Jews and Catholics lived side by side for centuries; but they did not truly know each other. Reflection upon this deep reality led them to the development of a document addressing not only Judaism, but also other world religions.

After the passage of four decades, it is clear that the Declaration Nostra Aetate has ushered in a new age in Catholic-Jewish relations. The work begun in Nostra Aetate was enthusiastically continued by Pope John Paul II in both statements and actions. Pope John Paul’s pontificate is remembered for his groundbreaking outreach to the Jewish people that found much of its inspiration in Nostra Aetate.

• He was the first Pope to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.
• He was the first pope to visit the Jewish synagogue in Rome.
• He established formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel.
• He visited Yad Vashem.
• He prayed at the Western Wall. After praying for a time, he placed within the wall a written prayer expressing deep sadness for all the wrongs done to Jews by Christians. That prayer ended, "Asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant."
• Under Pope John Paul II, the Holy See published guidelines on how Catholics should teach and preach about Jews and Judaism.
• In the year 2000 the Pope presided at a liturgy of repentance for the wrongs of Catholics toward Jews.

In a 1987 meeting with Jewish leaders in Miami, Pope John Paul II emphasized what Catholics and Jews hold in common: Our belief in the one true God who made an everlasting covenant of love with His people. As Pope John Paul II said, "The Jewish people, the Church, and all believers in the merciful God - who is invoked in the Jewish prayers as 'Av Ha-Rahhamim' – can find in this fundamental covenant with the patriarchs a very substantial starting point for our dialogue and our common witness in the world" (Address to Jewish Leaders in Miami, September 11, 1987).

Noting the success of the American experiment in religious freedom, with contributions by both Catholics and Jews, Pope John Paul II called the American example of interreligious dialogue a model for the entire world. Many immigrants came to America to flee religious persecution. Together, we have learned to put into practice the prescriptions found in Leviticus: "You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the LORD, am your God" (Lv 19:34).

What has been the result of all this? A survey of the forty years since Nostra Aetate shows the deepening relationship between Catholics and Jews. It is not sufficient to have a relationship of mutual tolerance; we are called to a relationship of mutual fraternal love. During these