Taking a break from Pope Francis blogging (though I’m loving his Chrism Mass homily too and hope to share some excerpts from it later) to share some words from my local bishop. Here are a few excerpts from Cardinal Sean’s homily from Tuesday’s Chrism Mass (If you click through you can listen as well as read the full text.)
He opens with a typical joke. His remarks on St Patrick and fearing the Italians were going to get even made me laugh. Though maybe you have to hear it. Part of what makes it so funny is Cardinal Sean’s delivery, so understated:
I was very sorry to miss St. Patrick’s Day last week here in Boston. I did manage to get to the Pontifical Irish College in Rome for a great meal with the Irish community there. No corned beef, our normal Seder meal here in Boston. The food, though, was green, orange and white.
The whole pre-Conclave atmosphere where I was leading in the Italian polls was quite surrealistic. I thought of St. Patrick who was of a Roman family living in Britain. Patrick was an Irish wanabee, he was actually an Italian kidnapped by Irish pirates. I was worried that the Italians were trying to get even. Actually, I was very touched by the Italian people’s enthusiasm for your Archbishop.
about the reading from Acts:
One of my favorite books in the New Testament is St. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, which has been called the Gospel of the Spirit. Acts highlights the ministries of Saint Peter and Saint Paul but the real protagonists of this book are the Holy Spirit and the community of faith. It is a book of frenetic action amid a constantly shifting scene: Conspiracy and intrigue and ambush; hostile confrontations and fierce conflicts, rioting lynch mobs and incessant missionary journeys all over the Mediterranean world, complete with shipwrecks and venomous serpents, chains and imprisonments and at least two successful prison breaks; famine and earthquake; crime and punishment; and powerful sermons, all guided by the Holy Spirit who was poured out on those first Christians at Pentecost.
In our Greek classes, the old German friar who taught us stressed how St. Luke used classical literary forms and the most elevated style for the Acts of the Apostles, but that the way Acts ends so abruptly is quite a departure from the literary construction of the rest of the book. There are several plausible explanations: Luke may have died, leaving the work unfinished; Amazon may have cancelled his contract, or, as I like to believe, he meant that the Acts of the Apostles never really ended, that now we are the new cast of characters and the Holy Spirit is leading us in these turbulent times.
I love his description of Acts as the Gospel of the Spirit.And his description of the action reminds me of the grandfather’s description of the action in The Princess Bride. It really makes me want to re-read Acts. And his conclusion that we are the new cast of characters… wow. Blows my mind.
about kissing the altar:
Archbishop Sartain wrote a very moving letter to his priests urging them to say Mass each day. He says, “as a husband kisses his wife with affection each morning, so a priest should kiss the altar every day.” This is a very public gesture made in the presence of those gathered for the Eucharist; but it is at the same time an intensely private gesture, an act of affection and surrender, an act of love and trust. Even more to the point, the priest’s kissing the altar is an act of identification: he is proclaiming to Christ, to himself and to his parishioners that it is Christ the High Priest who makes him who he is. We kiss the altar as a sign of the Lord himself, the sacrifice of Calvary, and the table of the Last Supper. Everything we do flows from the altar and back to it. The kiss symbolizes our daily embrace of the sacrifice of Christ as our way of life, for on the day of our ordination, we were totally and irrevocably joined to Christ our High Priest.
on the widow’s mite:
Once as a young priest I was unvesting in the sacristy after Mass when a young Bolivian lad came in and handed me a hundred dollar bill. This is the first time this happened in that parish. I said, “What is this?” and he explained that he had found it in the parking lot. I was surprised that anyone who would have been in that lot would have had a hundred dollar bill. I knew the boy and his family. I had just recently baptized his little sister Shirley who had Down Syndrome. Their father had recently abandoned the mother and five children who were undocumented immigrants and were living in deplorable conditions. I went and spoke with the mom, Anita, who was waiting with the other children. I said, “Anita, do you have any money?” She said, “No, Father”, and then, “actually I had five dollars I was going to use to buy food, but then I heard today’s Gospel about the widow’s mite. So, I decided to put it in the collection.” I gave Anita the $100 bill and said, “I think God wants you to have this. If anyone shows up looking for their hundred dollars, I’ll take care of it.” Needless to say, no one ever came.