WATCH LIVE   ·  English  ·  Français   ·   中文    

50 Years Ago Today: Mass in the Vernacular

Paul VI new mass

On Saturday March 7, Pope Francis will visit the church of “Ognissanti’ (All Saints) in Rome to commemorate fifty years to the day that Blessed Paul VI celebrated the Eucharist for the first time in the vernacular rather than in the customary Latin language. It was the first time a new way of celebrating mass was inaugurated after Vatican II’s Decree on the Liturgy SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM was promulgated on December 4, 1963. This important document, the first of Vatican II, was approved at the end of the second year of the Council.

When Paul VI celebrated mass 50 years ago today, he said that it was a great liturgical reform that would bring about an authentic spiritual renewal in the Church. This weekend is a good opportunity to recall some important points about the great changes that have taken place in the liturgy over the past half a century. The practices associated with the “New Mass” after the Council had their beginnings decades earlier. The reform of the liturgy did not simply begin with Vatican II. The practices introduced in 1964 had been suggested much earlier. Since the middle of the 19th century there had been an interest in various aspects of the liturgy, its history, ceremonies and music. Fr. Lambert Beauduin, a Belgian responsible for the liturgical movement in France held that the liturgy creates Christian community; it is the source and center of all Christian life – an idea that later made its way into the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the liturgy. The theological basis of the entire liturgical movement was the body of Christ. This idea “body of Christ” gained momentum and finally received papal approval in Pope Pius XII’s encyclical, Mystici Corporis Christi.

Maria Laach Abbey GermanyBenedictines were real pioneers and leaders in the international Liturgical Movement. Benedictine liturgical scholars claim that the origin of the pastoral liturgical reform was in 1924, when the first Missa recitata, or dialogue Mass, was celebrated in a crypt of Maria Laach Abbey in Germany. This German abbey played a significant role in the 20th century, particularly in the field of liturgy. The Benedictine monks of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, beginning with liturgical pioneer Fr. Virgil Michel were the founders of the Liturgical Movement in English-speaking countries. St. John’s Abbey was a real center of liturgical activity. Already in 1926, the Benedictines in Minnesota were publishing an influential liturgical journal, Orate Fratres (later renamed Worship).

Collegeville Abbey MinnesotaThe Collegeville abbey was instrumental in founding in 1940 the Benedictine Liturgical Conference that would host national meetings called Liturgical Weeks. They were attended by thousands of priests, religious and laity interested in liturgical reform. While at first the main concern of the Liturgical Movement was that people be educated about the liturgy so they could better understand and participate in it, at a later stage, liturgists decided that the people’s participation would be possible only if changes were made in the rites, and began to advocate such changes.

The First Instruction on the Proper Implementation of the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy, Inter oecumenici, was issued by the Sacred Congregation for Rites on September 26, 1964, to take effect by March 7, 1965, the first Sunday of Lent. This document specified which parts of the Mass could be in the vernacular as permitted by SC #54. The normal Sunday experience for the vast majority of Catholics continued to be the new Mass celebrated in the vernacular. The new Mass could also be celebrated in Latin, something that I do often especially in international assemblies. The use of Latin is a beautiful way to express unity rather than division.

The Extraordinary Form

We must not forget that the Second Vatican Council never asked for the creation of a new rite for the liturgy, but for greater use of the vernacular language and greater participation of the faithful. On July 7, 2007 Pope Benedict XVI released his apostolic letter “Summorum Pontificum” on the use of the Roman liturgy prior to the reform of 1970. The decree was issued “motu proprio,” a Latin term meaning on the Pope’s personal initiative in the matter. In the letter Benedict eased restrictions on the use of the 1962 Roman Missal, which was standard before the new Order of the Mass was introduced in 1970. The so-called “Tridentine” Mass an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite is not considered to be a distinct rite, but rather a different form of the same right.

Addressing fears of opponents of his apostolic letter, Benedict pointed out that the norms do not detract from the authority of Vatican II, nor do they question the liturgical reform that the council called for. In an explanatory letter that accompanied the document addressed to the bishops of the world, Benedict wrote that his decision was motivated by a desire to bring about “an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church.” In Pope Benedict’s decision about the greater use of the Tridentine Mass, there are no winners or losers. Whoever wants to appeal to the Motu proprio to ignite tensions, instead of fostering the spirit of reconciliation, will radically betray it.

The liturgy accompanies the Church on her journey through history. We have two forms of the mass: one ordinary and the other extraordinary – of a single rite of celebration of the Mass. The mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord is so great that it cannot be identified or limited in a definitive and exclusive way with one form or the other of the rite that is celebrated. Both Popes Benedict and Francis strongly desire to support reconciliation among Catholics and to reconcile the church with its rich liturgical past. It is through the liturgy that we encounter the Lord Jesus, his death and resurrection. He is the source and summit of our life. He is our reconciliation and our lasting peace.

The Voice Crying out in the Wilderness

Bolivians celebrate as it is announced that the next Missionary Congress will take place in their country in 2018.

This an adaptation of my homily for the  second Sunday in Advent, Year A. The readings were: Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72;  Romans 15:4-9 and Matthew 3:1-12.

On this Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist it is good to reflect on the meaning of being a “voice”.

The voice crying out in the wilderness “prepare the way of the Lord!” I love John the Baptist. He’s my role model. I guess we can say that John the Baptist is the  first proclaimer. Maybe we can say that he is the first  missionary.

I’ve been  thinking about missionaries a lot for a number of reasons. The first is that  last November, Pope Francis published his first Apostolic Exhortation. It’s  not like an encyclical, or a letter; it’s more like a book! It’s 214 pages!  It’s called Evangelii Gaudium: The joy of the Gospel. And he writes about a  lot of things, all in the context of the joy of the Gospel and the joy with  which we should always share the gospel. In it he writes, “I am a mission on  this earth.” [EG 273] That really struck me. It’s more than simply I am called  to be a missionary or I have a mission: I AM a mission. And he doesn’t mean  that he alone is mission; he means that all of us are mission. We are the  mission of the Father: The Church is the mission of God. And who better to say  that about than John the Baptist? John was mission. On the day he was born his  Father, Zechariah (remember he had lost his voice because he doubted the  angel) regained his voice and prays a beautiful canticle (Luke 1:68-79), the  Canticle of Zechariah: “You my child shall  become the prophet of the most high, for you will go before the Lord to  prepare his way; to give his people knowledge of salvation, by the forgiveness  of their sins.” From the day he was born, John had a mission and he  became that mission: to prepare the way. Even before Jesus himself was  proclaiming the Good News, John was proclaiming the Good  News.

I’ve  actually been thinking about mission since this summer at World Youth Day.  That event was all about mission: Go be missionaries. The theme was from  Matthew 28:19, “Go make disciples of all nations.” That passage has been my  favourite since my first World Youth Day in 2002. In fact the whole section,  from verse 28 to 20 is my favourite: “All  authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have  commanded you. And remember I am with you always, to the very end of the  age.” Everything we need to know about what we have to do as  Christians is there: Go, baptize, teach and remember.

And  especially, I’ve been thinking about mission because at the end of November  last year, I had the opportunity to attend the Missionary Congress of  the Americas in Maracaibo,  Venezuela. It’s a congress that takes place every 5 years to promote missions  and encourage missionaries from the whole continent, from Canada down to  Argentina, including the Caribbean. There were some 4000 participants, mostly  missionaries; 400 priests, 70 bishops – it was a great gathering and the motto  was very simple: “share your faith”. And so I’ve been thinking about how we  share our faith; or rather how we don’t share our faith.

It may be  a Canadian thing, I don’t know (it’s certainly different in  Latin America) but either we are too afraid, or shy, embarrassed  or ashamed. Or perhaps we are too “politically correct” and we really believe  that we shouldn’t meddle in other people’s business. We’ve really bought into  the idea that anyone can believe and do whatever they want as long as they  don’t bother me and that faith is private and personal; but it’s not. We  gather as Church in community because faith is public. It has to be shared.  And so our idea of mission is to take school supplies to children in the  Dominican Republic. We go on mission trips to build homes in Mexico; dig wells  in Uganda. I went on a mission  trip  with a group to paint a church up in the Yukon .  Don’t get me wrong, these things are important. We are called to do acts of  charity. Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those who  are sick and in prison (Matthew 25:34-40). Jesus himself healed the sick and  comforted the afflicted. We must do all that, but if that is all we do, then  who is preaching the good news? Who is proclaiming the Gospel? Who is making  disciples of all nations? Who is baptising? Who is teaching? Who is the voice  crying in the wilderness? We love that expression that is attributed to St.  Francis that says, “preach the Gospel at all times and use words if  necessary.” We love it because it gives us an excuse to not use words. But we  must use words. I don’t even  need to know my faith in order to fill shoe boxes with toiletries and send  them to Honduras; but we must know our faith so we can share it. We cannot be  ignorant of our faith.

When I  arrived in Venezuela we had to wait for two hours for the bus to  pick us up and so I began speaking with a gentleman at the airport. Turns out  he was an evangelical pastor. Guess what that conversation was like! He was  evangelizing me and I was sharing my faith and we were evangelizing each  other. It was a great conversation. We really shared a lot and I believe that  we grew in communion with each other. But if I didn’t know Scripture and if I  didn’t know what the Church teaches about Mary and the Eucharist and about the  Papacy (because that is what he wanted to talk about), I could not have had  that conversation. Could you have that conversation? We have to share our  faith and we must use words.

That’s  what the Year of Faith was about. Remember the Year of Faith? We had three  things to do with our faith: Learn about it; live it and share it. Did you  take up the challenge? We have to learn about our faith. It’s not enough to go  to Mass on Sundays and pay attention to the homily. We have to read Scripture;  we have to study it; we have to study what the Church teaches and understand  it, so we can teach it. We have to live our faith, that’s why we have to do  charitable works, why we send money and resources to the victims of the  typhoon in the Philippines. And we have to share our faith. In  order to do that, words are necessary! And it’s not just with our family and  close friends, although that’s a good place to start. We are called to go out.  Pope Francis keeps telling us to go to the peripheries, to the margins. The  doors of the Church have to be open so that people can go out. That is what  the Church calls “missio ad gentes”: mission to those who are outside. We have  to go out to the wilderness. Part of today’s readings are about that: That  beautiful prophecy from Isaiah is for “all the nations.” It’s not just for the  Jewish people. And Paul writes to the Romans that the promise is not just for  the circumcised; the Jews. It’s for the gentiles; for everyone! Not just for  those in the Church. And what does John say to the Pharisees and Saduccees in  the Gospel? “Don’t think that salvation is just for you because you are  children of Abraham.” Salvation has come for everyone – not just for those in  the Church! And we have to go and get them. We are to happy being the ones  listening to the voice crying out in the wilderness; but we have to become the  voice in the wilderness. We have one mission: Go make disciples of all  nations!

At the  end of Mass the deacon says “Go”. In Latin it used to be “Ite, missa est.”  “Missa” that’s where the word for “Mass” comes from. “Ite, missa est.” It  means, “Go, you are sent” or “Go, you are dismissed.” (later, when the whole  celebration was called “Missa”, this phrase in Latin comes to mean, “Go, the  Mass is over.” But originally it literally means, “go, you are dismissed” –  “dimissa est”) The root of that word, “missa”; “Mass”, “dismissal” is the same  root as the word “mission.” That’s what the Mass is all about: to send us on a  mission. Everything the Church does is because the Church is missionary. The  Church would not have grown had it not been missionary. The Gospels were  written because the Church is missionary. The Bible was put together because  the Church is missionary. The printing press was invented because the Church  is missionary. Great art and sculptures and music was created because the  Church is missionary. We have Mass because the Church is missionary. We have  Catholic Schools because the Church is missionary. We baptise because the  Church is missionary. Everything we do is because we have one mission: to make  disciples of all nations and we have to become that mission.

I can’t  tell you what words to use, except that we must learn about our faith so we  can share it. Perhaps a good place to start is by always using words of hope;  always preaching with joy (that’s why the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation is  called “The Joy of the Gospel”). Truly, John the Baptist is not just for the  Advent season, as we prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. We must  prepare our own hearts at all times and we must help others prepare too. Let’s  be, like John the Baptist, the voice (using words) the cries in the  wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi’s Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday


Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi’s homily at Vancouver’s mega celebration for Two Popes Two Saints on Sunday April 27, 2014.

I greet all of you with great joy. I bring and offer each one of you the greetings and paternal affection of Pope Francis. In the communion of the great family that is the Church, Pope Francis is spiritually here with us: he thanks you and blesses you.

I thank your beloved Pastor, Archbishop Michael Miller, who wanted to give me a gift: to be with you and share with you the experience of celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday on the very day when in Rome, in the presence of a great multitude, Pope Francis proclaimed as saints, two great Popes: Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.

I will first ask you a favor: have mercy on my poor English. I rely very much upon the generosity of your attentive listening. I know, indeed, that the attention and love of those who are listening give beauty and flavor to the words of the speaker. I invite you all to be protagonists in this moment: you, listening with love; me offering to you these modest words! Thank you.

Some beautiful words of Pope Benedict XVI help me to begin my homely. In his encyclical Letter, dedicated to hope, he wrote, “Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history.” (Spe Salvi, no. 49)

Dear brothers and sisters: Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen, the Sun par excellence, accompanies us in this liturgical celebration. Let us allow the Risen Lord to take us by the hand. He is among us, just as he stood among his disciples on Easter evening, in the Upper Room, where they had gathered in fear and with the doors closed. We are today the Upper Room, the Cenacle. Jesus himself comes into our midst and says to us, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:26)

Let us ask: who were the people Jesus greeted when he said “Peace be with you.”? We know: they were his disciples, the apostles, who, at his arrest, fled and abandoned Jesus; one even came to deny him!

We are not so different from those disciples. We also – if we are honest – must acknowledge having denied and betrayed the love of God. We do this all those times when in our choices we are saying: “You do not interest me. I do not need your love, nor your commandments. I prefer to do what pleases me.”

What happens when Jesus appears to the disciples and shows them his hands and side marked by the wounds of the crucifixion? It is a moment of great commotion. The Gospel says, “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” The gospel does not tell us the reason for this joy but we can easily guess. We can think that, in different ways, each disciple may have thought, “I abandoned him and he comes to look for me; I betrayed the friendship of my master and he comes again to call me friend; I thought it was all over and he tells me that everything can start again; we distanced ourselves from him and he reunites us to himself and to one another.” For the disciples it is a new experience of that love which is rich in mercy (Eph. 2:4), and which Jesus taught – let us think of the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-25) – which Jesus taught and especially by his life manifested, taking care of the poor, the sick, the sinners. The disciples discover that Jesus offers them the opportunity to rise up after the fall and that he is calling them to a new beginning.

“Peace be with you” Jesus says again and continues, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” As if to say, “I have shown you the love, forgiveness and mercy of the Father: now you have to be the witnesses of the love and mercy of the Father! Go and tell others that there is no tear that cannot be dried, no sin that cannot be forgiven…”

“Receive the Holy Spirit.” Precisely because it is not within our own strength that we can forgive, Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who had made him exclaim on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) As we know, it is on the day of our baptism that each of us received the Holy Spirit. That day a love making us capable of loving as Jesus loves including forgiving, was given to us. Let this love flow forth from us. Let this love come alive in us. The Christian is a person forgiven who forgives; he is a child of God who, receiving the mercy of God becomes merciful.

After reminding that – in the journey of our life – Jesus is the true light, Pope Benedict XVI continues, “But to reach him we also need lights close by – people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way.” Who are these “lights close by”? We know them. They are, firstly, the Virgin Mary whom with profound trust we call “Star of the Sea”, and the saints, these friends of God who are our friends, our treasures. In a particular way we can apply to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to the saints the saying: “Who finds a friend finds a treasure.”

Saint Pope John XXIII and Saint Pope John Paul II are two new treasures, two great friends that the Church gives us.

Pope John Paul II was a great apostle of mercy, by his teaching and above all, by the witness of his life. Permit me to recall with you what I consider to be the most significant example: his meeting with Ali Agca, the young Turk who had attempted to assassinate him. It was on December 27, 1983. Two years after the attempt on May 13, 1981. Pope John Paul II had gone to pay a visit to his would-be assassin in the Roman prison of Rebibbia. A personal meeting of 15 minutes took place. Leaning towards each other – the man who had used violence and the man who had suffered from violence – they looked and listened with love to each other. Once the meeting ended, the Pope went to visit some 200 women detained in the same prison and shared with them what he had experienced in the encounter with Ali Agca. He said: “We met as men and as brothers, because we are all brothers and all the events of our lives must lead us to fraternity.”

I have always been struck by this episode and witness. John Paul II teaches us that all life experiences, even the most painful, lead us to fraternity. It is not true – says the Pope now Saint – that discord and hatred can only generate more discord and more hatred. No! The evil that unfortunately lives within the human heart can be stopped. It’s enough to allow mercy to work within us: mercy which is the gift of the Crucified and Risen Lord, the gift that enables us to overcome evil with good, to transform enmity into friendship, and therefore to increase fraternity within the human family.

In particular, John Paul II has taught us that forgiveness and mercy are something more than pious intentions when they promote brotherhood: in other words when they lead us to see one another and treat one another as God sees and treats us: as his children. For this to happen it is necessary to constantly overcome all those emotional, temperamental, cultural and social obstacles that our personal or collective history may build. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female” – the apostle Paul used to remind the Christian community of Galatia – “for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28) In the context of the history of Canada these words may be translated in this way: there is neither English or French, Filipino or Chinese, Polish or Mexican… or rather… there are English and French, Filipinos and Chinese, Polish and Mexicans – because the Lord respects and promotes our own history and individuality – but above all, we are all brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

A few words now on Saint Pope John XXIII. He was born in the region where I too was born: Bergamo. It is also for this reason that your Archbishop kindly did me the honor of asking me to speak to you today. Pope John XXIII. What can we say about him?

He who had been affectionately called il Papa buono, “the good Pope” had a secret. He was faithful to a resolution made as a young priest: to transform into an opportunity for goodness every situation of life, thanks to the power of prayer and charity. He pledged to keep himself from all bitterness, to avoid anger and personal outbursts, to have for all a happy and smiling patience. He made as his own, the aspiration taken from the Gospel, “Jesus, meek and humble of heart (Mt. 11:29), make my heart like unto thine.” Belonging to a family of humble and modest farmers, he knew that it was precisely the meek and gentle that Jesus promised would “inherit the earth.” (Mt. 5:5) Yes, in the end, it is neither violence nor arrogance but goodness, the spirit of kindness, gentleness and peace that conquers hearts. Of all these things, Saint Pope John XXIII is a living example.

Lord, help us to be instruments of peace and mercy. Help us to give and to receive pardon. Help us to see in others not strangers but brothers and sisters, perhaps different but always brothers and sisters, and to work together to build a civilization of love. Then we will rejoice. Then all of us, like the disciples when they saw the Lord, will experience joy. The true joy. Amen.

Who am I? Asks Pope during Palm Sunday homily


On Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014, in an unscripted, extremely moving, Ignatian-style homily, Pope Francis invited the crowd of over 100,000 people to enter into today’s passion story from Matthew’s Gospel and ask some very personal questions of our own roles in the Gospel story.

Here is the Vatican’s official English translation:

St. Peter’s Square
29th World Youth Day
Sunday, 13 April 2014

This week begins with the festive procession with olive branches: the entire populace welcomes Jesus. The children and young people sing , praising Jesus.

But this week continues in the mystery of Jesus’ death and his resurrection. We have just listened to the Passion of our Lord. We might well ask ourselves just one question: Who am I? Who am I, before my Lord? Who am I, before Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid the enthusiasm of the crowd? Am I ready to express my joy, to praise him? Or do I stand back? Who am I, before the suffering Jesus?

We have just heard many, many names. The group of leaders, some priests, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, who had decided to kill Jesus. They were waiting for the chance to arrest him. Am I like one of them?

We have also heard another name: Judas. Thirty pieces of silver. Am I like Judas? We have heard other names too: the disciples who understand nothing, who fell asleep while the Lord was suffering. Has my life fallen asleep? Or am I like the disciples, who did not realize what it was to betray Jesus? Or like that other disciple, who wanted to settle everything with a sword? Am I like them? Am I like Judas, who feigns love and then kisses the Master in order to hand him over, to betray him? Am I a traitor? Am I like those people in power who hastily summon a tribunal and seek false witnesses: am I like them? And when I do these things, if I do them, do I think that in this way I am saving the people?

Am I like Pilate? When I see that the situation is difficult, do I wash my hands and dodge my responsibility, allowing people to be condemned – or condemning them myself?

Am I like that crowd which was not sure whether they were at a religious meeting, a trial or a circus, and then chose Barabbas? For them it was all the same: it was more entertaining to humiliate Jesus.

Am I like the soldiers who strike the Lord, spit on him, insult him, who find entertainment in humiliating him?

Am I like the Cyrenean, who was returning from work, weary, yet was good enough to help the Lord carry his cross?

Am I like those who walked by the cross and mocked Jesus: “He was so courageous! Let him come down from the cross and then we will believe in him!” Mocking Jesus….

Am I like those fearless women, and like the mother of Jesus, who were there, and who suffered in silence?

Am I like Joseph, the hidden disciple, who lovingly carries the body of Jesus to give it burial?

Am I like the two Marys, who remained at the Tomb, weeping and praying?

Am I like those leaders who went the next day to Pilate and said, “Look, this man said that he was going to rise again. We cannot let another fraud take place!” and who block life, who block the tomb, in order to maintain doctrine, lest life come forth?

Where is my heart? Which of these persons am I like? May this question remain with us throughout the entire week.

After Communion, Pope Francis delivered his Angelus address, during which he extended a special greeting to the participants of the World Youth Days (WYD) organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

He recalled that the next WYD will take place in 2016 in Krakow, Poland, under the theme: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5,7).

The Pope recalled how 30 years ago John Paul II entrusted the WYD Cross to the youth, exhorting them to “carry it through all the world as a sign of Christ’s love for humanity.”

He also announced that St. John Paul II would be the patron of the next World Youth Day in Krakow. Then a delegation of young people from Brazil handed to a delegation of youth from Poland the WYD Cross, which had stood in Saint Peter’s Square throughout the Mass.

The Holy Father went on to announce he would be paying a visit to Daejeon, South Korea, on August 15 where he will meet with the youth of Asia.

Pope Francis concluded his address by calling us to turn to the Virgin Mother, “because she helps us always to follow the example of Jesus with faith.”

CNS photo/Paul Haring

IEC Day 2 – Br. Alois: A Passion for the Unity of Christ’s Body’

The following is the full text of the catechesis talk given by Brother Alois, Prior of the Taizé Community, at the Internation Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland in 2012

Passion for the Unity of the Body of Christ
Presented by Brother Alois, Prior of the Taizé Community

The Christ of Communion

The first day of this Eucharistic Congress wishes to deepen the meaning of our common baptismal faith. Mutual recognition of baptism among the various Churches is a great gift that God has given us in the last century. Despite the certainty expressed by the apostle Paul: “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4, 5), this recognition has not always been obvious. Definitively concluding a long period often marked by suspicion, the Second Vatican Council asserted confidently: “Baptism establishes a sacramental bond of unity which links all who have been reborn by it” (Unitatis Redintegratio, no. 22).

Can I allow myself today to illustrate the question of the meaning of our common baptismal faith by sharing with you our experience in the Taizé Community? The life we live in Taizé is intimately linked to the rediscovery of our common baptism as, in the words of Vatican II, a “beginning, an inauguration wholly directed toward the fullness of life in Christ” (ibid.).
[Read more…]

May you imitate Thomas More in your noble calling


Red Mass Homily, Holy Rosary Cathedral
Vancouver, January 16, 2014
Archbishop J.M. Miller, CSB

Dear brother priests, dear members of the St. Thomas More Guild: lawyers and their co-workers, members of the judiciary, and law students; dear brothers and sisters in Christ:


Today’s sober readings speak of “sharing Christ’s sufferings” (1 Pet 4:13), while rejoicing; of being “reviled for the name of Christ” (1 Pet 4:14), while blessing; and of not worrying when handed over to the courts to be flogged (cf. Mt 10:17), because how you will defend yourself will be inspired from “the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Mt 10:20). Tough words, but also with a consoling edge. These Scriptures bluntly lay out for us the cost of discipleship: what we can expect when we live our calling with fidelity to Christ and his law. There is a real warning here – plain talk. Christians cannot expect to be spared anything that the Lord himself did not experience (cf. Jn 15:20), for “a disciple is not above the teacher” (Mt 10:24).

Thomas MoreDown through the centuries, countless faithful Christians have faced persecution by the powerful. Thomas More, “a canny London lawyer,”1 was one such man. This great sixteenth-century English scholar and statesman was a model layman who lived the Gospel, like Christ, “to the end” (Jn 13:1). He was a learned academician, an outstanding member of the legal profession and Lord Chancellor of England. This “man for all seasons” was also a loving husband and doting father, as well as being courageous, humorous and holy in adversity.2 It’s no wonder that St. Thomas More “is admired by believers and non-believers alike for the integrity with which he followed his conscience, even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign whose ‘good servant’ he was, because he chose to serve God first.”3 In order to remain faithful to his own conscience, he was willing to give up everything: honours, affection, and even life itself; but by doing so he acquired the pearl of unsurpassable value, the kingdom of heaven.

The dilemma which More faced in those difficult times touched upon the perennial question of the relationship between what we owe to God and what we owe to Caesar. He chose God and his law. Even when subjected to various forms of psychological pressure, St. Thomas More refused to compromise his conscience, informed by his faith. At the same time, however, he never forsook his reverence for legitimate authority. He was always firm “in his intention to serve not power but the supreme ideal of justice.”4 Your Guild’s patron is, then, for all of us, “an extraordinary example of freedom and of fidelity to the law of conscience in the face of morally untenable, albeit authoritative, demands.”5

Marginalization of Religion

Among the many questions which touch upon the role of law in society, I would like to voice my concern at our country’s increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, even while we pay lip service to tolerance. Some advocate that the voice of religion in public life should be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere, because they seek to deny religious faith any influence on society. And there are those who argue that Christians in public roles should, at times, be lawfully required to act against their conscience.

This occurs wherever laws are promulgated – most often those dealing with issues linked to the dignity of human life from conception to its natural end or the nature of the family – which would limit the right to conscientious objection by health-care workers, legal professionals and educators.

Such situations are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the right of believers to freedom of conscience and of religion, but also the legitimate and healthy voice of religious believers in the public square.

This past November, Pope Francis summed up the challenge to religious freedom societies are facing in this way. He said:

Religion is looked upon as something useless or even dangerous; Christians are even required at times to act in the exercise of their profession with no reference to their religious and moral convictions (cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 10 January 2011). It is widely thought that coexistence is only possible by hiding one’s own religious affiliation, by meeting in a kind of neutral space, devoid of references to transcendence. But how would it be possible to create true relationships, to build a society that is a common home, by imposing that each person set aside what he considers to be an intimate part of his very being? . . . Of course it is necessary that all things be done while respecting the convictions of others, and of unbelievers, but we must have the courage and patience to come together as we are.6

The Pope is right. The suppression of religion in the public affairs of humankind is no way to achieve social harmony among citizens in a free and democratically plural society. This approach of a forced “privacy of religion” is a thinly veiled way of curbing the freedom of religious believers to express their convictions publicly. To act and speak out publicly as convinced believers in one’s professional life has never been more necessary.7

It is my hope that the traditional mutual respect and cooperation between Church and state, which has characterized Canadian history, will continue to mark our national life. This will be possible, however, only if religious institutions as such – and I include here specifically our Catholic health-care institutions and schools – are “free to act in accordance with their own principles and specific convictions based upon the faith and the official teaching”8 of their respective traditions.

Prayers for the Legal Profession at Red Mass

Those of you learned in the law have the awesome responsibility of safeguarding the fundamental principles of justice and equity which undergird a humane social order. Undoubtedly there are times when you feel almost overwhelmed by the burdens of your profession, and for that very reason today we want to assure you of our prayers for your success and consolation. Yours no easy task under the best of circumstances. Considering the ruthless secularism that is seizing Canadian life, it is a vocation of justice and mercy that has only grown even more difficult.

Invoking the Holy Spirit

Fortunately, you are not left alone in fulfilling your demanding duties. This evening, we have gathered to invoke the Holy Spirit who pours forth the love of God into your hearts (cf. Rom 5:5); to pray that you will place yourselves under the influence of the Creator Spirit who is ready to speak through you (cf. Mt 10:20). Recall what Jesus promised his disciples at the Last Supper: “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:26; cf. 16:12-15). The Spirit is with you. He is your great advocate, your defender, your counsellor and your guide along the way.

At the beginning of our celebration we sang the ancient ninth-century hymn of Rabanus Maurus, the Veni, Creator Spiritus, “Come, Creator Spirit,” which has been intoned at the Red Mass since the early Middle Ages. Why this hymn? Because the Church understands the complexity of your world, of the climate which envelops the practice of law and the administration of justice.

And so, at this Red Mass – whose colour links the blood of martyrdom and the fire of the Holy Spirit with the robes of justice – we stand before this altar to invoke the Holy Spirit: that he will come with his grace and heavenly aid to fill your hearts; that he will kindle a light in your minds to know and honour the truth; and that he will strengthen your conviction that the law is an irreplaceable and morally worthy instrument for attaining a society where justice and mercy will prevail.

Like St. Thomas More, may you grasp ever more clearly that your profession is a noble calling which, when lived faithfully and courageously, unites your natural talents with a vision of faith and the force of reason to serve the supreme ideal of justice and the common good.

J. Michael Miller, CSB
Archbishop of Vancouver

The “O” Antiphons: O King…

From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 22, the antiphon is based on Isaiah 2:4; 11:10, Psalm 47:8; Jeremiah 10:7, Daniel 7:14; Haggai 2:8, Romans 15:12 and Ephesians 2:14, 20.

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

O King of all peoples and their hope, cornerstone uniting Jews and Gentiles in one people: Come, and save man whom You formed from the dust of the earth. [Read more…]

The “O” Antiphons: O Key of David

From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 20, the antiphon is based on Isaiah 22:22, Jeremiah 13:13; 51:19, Matthew 4:16; 16:19 and Luke 1:79

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel, qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperuit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel! You open and no one closes, You close and no one opens: Come and lead out of prison the captive who sits in darkness and the shadow of death.

From Evening prayer
O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel,
controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.

From O Come, O Come Emmannuel:
Verse 5:
O Come, Thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heav’nly home,
make safe the way that leads on high,
that we no more have cause to sigh.

Key of David
Jesus, our Lord possesses the royal power of His ancestor David in a far fuller and higher way. What he commands is done. By His death on the Cross, He broke open the gates of death and led the souls of the just into everlasting life. He broke the power of the devil who had helped all people captive in sin and the fear of death. We pray Him to come and free us from slavery to sin and to the fear that sin brings with it.

(Reflection taken from Bible and Liturgy, a Sunday parish bulletin published by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. Edited by Rev. William Heidt, OSB. Published with the approval of Bishop Peter W. Bartholome of St. Cloud. Printed in 1959 by the North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota (c) 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.)

The “O” Antiphons: O Stock of Jesse…

From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 19, the antiphon is based on Isaiah 11:1, 10, Isaiah 52:15 and Romans 15:12.

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O stock of Jesse, set up as the rallying sign for the nations! In Your presence rulers are silent and the peoples make supplication: Come deliver us; do not delay.

From Evening prayer
O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

From O Come, O Come Emmannuel:
Verse 4:
O Come, Thou Rod of Jesse’s stem,
from ev’ry foe deliver them
that trust Thy mighty power to save,
and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

Stock of Jesse
In His human nature, Christ is the descendant of Jesse, Father of David, the great king of God’s people.

Our Lord is the King of kings. His power extends to all peoples and to their rulers. In the desperate perils of our age, we pray Him to come quickly and deliver us, to establish in all hearts His kingdom of truth and of life, of justice, love and peace.

(Reflection taken from Bible and Liturgy, a Sunday parish bulletin published by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. Edited by Rev. William Heidt, OSB. Published with the approval of Bishop Peter W. Bartholome of St. Cloud. Printed in 1959 by the North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota (c) 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.)

The “O” Antiphons: O Adonai…

From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 18, the antiphon is based on Exodus 3:2, Isaiah 33:22; 63:11-12, Micah 6:4 and Acts 7:30-31.

O Adonai, et dux domus Israel, qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai and Leader of the House of Israel! You appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave the Law on Mount Sinai: Come, and redeem us with outstretched arm. [Read more…]