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Don’t forget, in most cathedrals and many other churches the world over, faithful will join Pope Francis in an hour of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. United in faith, the Church that Christ established will simply be with the Lord, in prayer, adoration and silence. If you haven’t already, see what your cathedral or local church is doing today between 5 and 6 in the afternoon.
In his Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, by which he announced the Year of Faith, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI reminded us:
“During this time we will need to keep our gaze fixed upon Jesus Christ, the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2): in him, all the anguish and all the longing of the human heart finds fulfilment. The joy of love, the answer to the drama of suffering and pain, the power of forgiveness in the face of an offence received and the victory of life over the emptiness of death: all this finds fulfilment in the mystery of his Incarnation, in his becoming man, in his sharing our human weakness so as to transform it by the power of his resurrection. In him who died and rose again for our salvation, the examples of faith that have marked these two thousand years of our salvation history are brought into the fullness of light.”
This afternoon’s Holy Hour will be the perfect opportunity to keep our gaze upon, or return it to, Jesus Christ, and also to reflect on what we have done, as individuals, communities, parishes, dioceses or other groups of faithful, in this Year of Faith. Porta Fidei is a great outline on how it was intended by our retired Holy Father. Did we succeed in making that intention reality, or is there still much work to do?
“The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself. Indeed, “only in adoration can a profound and genuine reception mature. And it is precisely this personal encounter with the Lord that then strengthens the social mission contained in the Eucharist, which seeks to break down not only the walls that separate the Lord and ourselves, but also and especially the walls that separate us from one another.” 
“The bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). In these words the Lord reveals the true meaning of the gift of his life for all people. These words also reveal his deep compassion for every man and woman.
Our communities, when they celebrate the Eucharist, must become ever more conscious that the sacrifice of Christ is for all, and that the Eucharist thus compels all who believe in him to become “bread that is broken” for others, and to work for the building of a more just and fraternal world.”
Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum caritatis, N. 66 and 88.
These words about the value of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI open a prayer card issued by the Dutch bishops on the occasion of the Feast of Corpus Christi, this June 2nd. This year the day will be marked with a worldwide Holy Hour of Adoration, as called for by Benedict XVI as he opened the Year of Faith. The power of prayer before the physical Lord should never be underestimated, but a simultaneous effort should be truly significant.
The prayer card continuous with a Gospel passage that reflects this same unified nature of the Church:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more. You are clean already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, unless it remains part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a branch — and withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire and are burnt.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for whatever you please and you will get it. It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit and be my disciples. I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.
Gospel of John 15:1-11
Finally, a short prayer by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, perhaps chosen not entirely by coincidence, as he is the founder of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit Order of which Pope Francis was a member:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.
Suscipe, St. Ignatus of Loyola
 Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia (22 December 2005): AAS 98 (2006), 45.
Photo credit:  AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito
Fifty years ago, on 4 October 1962, Good Pope John travelled to Loreto to dedicate the Second Vatican Council, then mere weeks from opening, to the protection and intercession of the Blessed Virgin. Today, his fourth successor, Pope Benedict XVI, followed in his footsteps to do the same for the Year of Faith and the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
After some time spent in silent prayer and Adoration for the Blessed Sacrament in, the Holy Father offered Mass in front of the Basilica of the Holy House, location of the house where the Blessed Virgin grew up and lived, as tradition would have it. In his homily, the pope spoke of the Blessed Virgin, whose will, coinciding with the will of the Son, represents the “union of heaven and earth, which is the purpose of the Incarnation and Redemption”, as Blessed John XXII said half a century before. It is the impact of that Incarnation and Redemption that the Second Vatican Council set out to spread in every part of life.
Building on the topic of ‘home’, the Holy Father went on [emphases mine]:
“The idea of the Son of God dwelling in the “living house”, the temple which is Mary, leads us to another thought: we must recognize that where God dwells, all are “at home”; wherever Christ dwells, his brothers and sisters are no longer strangers. Mary, who is the Mother of Christ, is also our mother, and she open to us the door to her home, she helps us enter into the will of her Son. So it is faith which gives us a home in this world, which brings us together in one family and which makes all of us brothers and sisters.”
But homes, and houses are usually on streets. The Holy House of Loreto is on a street.
“At first this might seem strange: after all, a house and a street appear mutually exclusive. In reality, it is precisely here that an unusual message about this House has been preserved. It is not a private house, nor does it belong to a single person or a single family, rather it is an abode open to everyone placed, as it were, on our street. So here in Loreto we find a house which lets us stay, or dwell, and which at the same time lets us continue, or journey, and reminds us that we are pilgrims, that we must always be on the way to another dwelling, towards our final home, the Eternal City, the dwelling place of God and the people he has redeemed (cf. Rev 21:3).”
Benedict wrapped up his discourse with a final very important topic. Mankind’s ‘yes’ to God.
“God asks for mankind’s “yes”; he has created a free partner in dialogue, from whom he requests a reply in complete liberty. In one of his most celebrated sermons, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux “recreates”, as it were, the scene where God and humanity wait for Mary to say “yes”. Turning to her he begs: “The angel awaits your response, as he must now return to the One who sent him… O Lady, give that reply which the earth, the underworld and the very heavens await. Just as the King and Lord of all wished to behold your beauty, in the same way he earnestly desires your word of consent… Arise, run, open up! Arise with faith, run with your devotion, open up with your consent!” (In laudibus Virginis Matris, Hom. IV,8: Opera omnia, Edit. Cisterc. 4, 1966, p.53f). God asks for Mary’s free consent that he may become man. To be sure, the “yes” of the Virgin is the fruit of divine grace. But grace does not eliminate freedom; on the contrary it creates and sustains it. Faith removes nothing from the human creature, rather it permits his full and final realization.”
The Year of Faith begins on 11 October, one week from now. But in a way, the ball started rolling in the undulating hills of Loreto today.
Photo credit: ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/GettyImages
“At the moment of adoration, we are all on the same plane, kneeling before the Sacrament of Love. The common and ministerial priesthoods are united in Eucharistic worship. It is a very beautiful and significant experience, which we have experienced several times in Saint Peter’s Basilica, and also in the unforgettable vigils with young people – I recall, for example, those of Cologne, London, Zagreb, Madrid. It is evident to all that these moments of Eucharistic vigil prepare the celebration of the Holy Mass, prepare hearts for the encounter, so that it is more fruitful. To be all together in prolonged silence before the Lord present in his Sacrament, is one of the most genuine experiences of our being Church, which is accompanied in a complementary way with the celebration of the Eucharist, listening to the Word of God, singing, approaching together the table of the Bread of life. Communion and contemplation cannot be separated, they go together. To really communicate with another person I must know him, I must be able to be in silence close to him, to hear him and to look at him with love. True love and true friendship always live of the reciprocity of looks, of intense, eloquent silences full of respect and veneration, so that the encounter is lived profoundly, in a personal not a superficial way. And, unfortunately, if this dimension is lacking, even sacramental communion itself can become, on our part, a superficial gesture. Instead, in true communion, prepared by the colloquy of prayer and of life, we can say to the Lord words of confidence as those that resounded a short while ago in the Responsorial Psalm:
“O Lord, I am thy servant; I am thy servant, the son of thy handmaid.
Thou hast loosed my bonds.
I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the Lord”
Pope Benedict XVI
Homily for Corpus Christi, 7 June 2012
Photo credit: author’s own, Father Hans Pauw displays the Blessed Sacrament for Adoration during a meeting of young people of the Archdiocese of Utrecht, 10 June 2012.
Looking back at last Saturday’s pilgrimage to Warfhuizen - a visit to our heavenly Mother before visiting our biological mothers for Mother’s Day – I can safely affirm that it was once more a day of unexpected moments. Aside from the personal element which I will keep to myself, there was the wind preventing the use of banners in the procession, for example. First time that happened.
Before we processed to the hermitage and shrine of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed, cathedral administrator Father Rolf Wagenaar offered Mass in concelebration with Father Maurits Damsté at the church of St. Boniface in Wehe-den Hoorn, some two kilometers away. The procession had, as always, a very physical element: the distance is not long, but the wind made us put in some effort indeed. Personally, I find it a welcome element, although the prayers were all blown away from my ears. As we came closer to the hermitage, the church bells were victorious over the wind and welcomed us as we entered the village of Warfhuizen.
We spent about half an hour in Adoration and communal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Many candles were lit for all kinds of intentions. The afternoon’s devotions will, I expect, have its long-term effects over the coming days and weeks. I welcome those effects…
A few photos I snapped:
Today we look at a short reading in which, at first glance, nothing much seems to happen. It’s one of those readings that connect two more interesting stories (in this case the beheading of John the Baptist and the miracle of the loaves and fishes). Or is it?
The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught.
And he said to them, ‘Come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that there was no time for them even to eat.
So they went off in the boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many recognised them; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.
The Apostles are returning from some work they have done. They are properly tired and at the same time eager to tell the Lord what has befallen them. But as Jesus is quite popular, he invites them to come with Him to some quiet place and rest. This immediately brings to mind the times when we are alone with the Lord: at times of Adoration, receiving Him at Mass, or simply when we are sitting by ourselves for a bit, in Church or just at home praying or reading and reflecting on some Biblical passage. These moments give us rest, or rather, Jesus gives us rest. And at the same time, just like the Apostles, we tell Him of the things that have befallen us, the things that keep us busy, the things we worry about or fear, or simply just about ourselves. We need these moments of spiritual recharging. Just like the Apostles, we too are sent out by Jesus, and we too need to return to Him at times to be able to continue our work.
But, in apparent contrast, we are not solo fliers. Sometimes people need us. Or, as in the text above, people want to be with Christ. He recognises that, and after only a short time with His Apostles in the boat, he returns to teach the crowd. In this we may read again an example for us. After spending time with the Lord, we must let Him go to other people, and today He needs us for that: we need to bring Christ to other people,”to teach them at some length”.
If we don’t have Christ, we can’t bring Him to others, so we must first spend them alone with Him. Christians do not operate in a vacuum. We must go out and recognise the sheep who have no shepherd and bring Him to them: the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
Five years ago (well, five years and a few months), the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter was given the church of St. Agnes to use as their home base in Amsterdam. The society, more commonly known by its abbreviation FSSP, is a worldwide group of priests who, according to their website, work towards “the formation and sanctification of priests in the cadre of the traditional liturgy of the Roman rite … and the pastoral deployment of the priests in the service of the Church”. In Amsterdam they do so with two permanent priests and under the pastoral care of the bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam, Msgr. Jos Punt.
To mark the fifth anniversary of the Tridentine Mass being offered at St. Agnes, today’s Mass will feature two musical ensembles. Bishop Jos Punt will be the first Dutch ordinary to attend a Mass in the extraordinary form. Since he doesn’t celebrate the Mass in this form, he will attend in choir dress and give the homily. The Apostolic Nuncio, Msgr. Bacqué, is also said to attend. For him it will be the second visit to St. Agnes, after having presided in August of last year.
The main celebrant of the Mass will be quite high-profile. Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Roman Rota, or chief of the canon law courts and legal system of the Holy See. Cardinal Burke has offered Mass in the extraordinary form at several important occasions, and is a great supporter of it. He will be couple his visit to the Netherlands with tomorrow’s visit to the Tiltenberg seminary, where he will be laying and blessing the first stone of a new wing and attending the ‘dies natalis’. There he will speak about the importance of Eucharistic adoration in the education and life of priests. Among others, the nuncio and the metropolitan Archbishop Wim Eijk, will be in attendance there.
It’s a pretty big day, which was originally planned to take place in September. Other commitments of the cardinal took precedence then, so the Mass and celebration was moved to today. I will be heading down to Amsterdam today, and a report will of course be forthcoming here.
“My greatest joy is to teach the faith and celebrate the Sacraments for the flock which God has entrusted to my pastoral care. Having been called by Christ to the priesthood, I am ever more humbled by the reality of the priestly life and ministry. At the same time, I am filled with confidence, because the ministry belongs to Christ Whom I, through no merit of mine, have the privilege to serve.”
[Quotation taken from the website of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, where Cardinal Burke was archbishop from 2004 to 2008]