News Archive

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle...

Seattle Catholic is not affiliated with the Archdiocese of Seattle
Seattle Catholic
A Journal of Catholic News and Views
6 Jun 2003

Homily of Cardinal Darìo Castrillon Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei"
Saturday, 24 May 2003 - Basilica of St Mary Major

(translation by Br. Alexis Bugnolo from the Italian text published at

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Today, three figures attract the attention of us believers, in this Patriarchal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore: the Blessed Virgin Mary, Peter and today St. Pius V.

1. The Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God

Let us then turn our attention first to the Holy Virgin, Mother of God, the Theotokos. Divine Providence has in this Basilica, the first marian church of Rome and of the West, reunited us Catholics, originating in diverse parts of the world, united in the same faith. We turn ourselves to Her, the Mother of God, glad to have been welcomed to her house, in the context of this year of the Rosary, proclaimed by the Holy Father.

Salve, sancta Parens, enixa puérpera Regem, qui coelum terramque regit in saecula saeculorum.

Everything, in this sacred temple, speaks of the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Here, She appears to us in permanent relation with the august mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. The Father, who, in his salvific design, has willed to send to the world his Son, asks of Mary of Nazareth her agreement and consent. The Holy Spirit makes fruitful the ark of the new alliance, the golden temple. And behold the miracle comes: ecce concipies in utero et paries filium et vocabis nomen eius Iesum. Mary gives flesh to the eternal Word (cf. Lk. 1:30-38).

But this temple does not carry us in spirit to Bethlehem alone, to the "et incarnatus est" of our profession of faith, of which the "confessio", beneath this altar, is a permanent record, with the venerated relics of the manger. This basilica also speaks to our common hope in the resurrection and in glory. It is enough to contemplate the splendid mosaic in the asp: Mary, from the Annunciation to her glorious Assumption. It is the whole existence of the Blessed Virgin Mary, presented to the prayerful contemplation of the believer. It is the mystery of our interior existence, which has been reproduced here.

In fact, one of the intuitions of the Second Vatican Council, in continuity with the whole Tradition of the Church, is the relationship which is established between the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Church, of which She is the most eloquent icon. The seventh chapter of the dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium" is dedicated to the "Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and of the Church". "Recognized and honored as the true Mother of God and of the Redeemer", She is, equally, "the daughter loved beforehand by the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit", and, at the same time, "a singular member of the Church and her image and most excellent model in faith and in charity, and the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Spirit, venerates her with the affection of filial piety, as a most beloved mother" (Lumen gentium, n°53).

In this manner the same Council presents to us the Holy Virgin, always present to the daily vicissitudes of the Church, of every one of her members and at the same time she responds to our affection: Auxilium Christianorum. In Her we contemplate the whole beauty of the Church, thus as one known and born in the divine heart of her Founder, in whom everything is light and there are no shadows. In recent times, in our historic journey, there comes from the human nature of her members, sinners poor and always in need of conversion and salvation.

2. The successor of Peter

The second figure which today is intensely present is the venerated person of the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome and, as such, the Successor of Saint Peter. He is -- as the Second Vatican Council teaches in continuity with Vatican I -- "the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of the unity, both of the Bishops, and of the multitude of the faithful" (Lumen gentium, 23; cfr. Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, Proemio, Dz. 3050-3051).

Through the waves of history, he is "The Rock". This is the Aramaic expression used by the Divine Founder of the Church in reference to Simon, and it is reported in the 16th chapter of the Gospel of Saint Matthew. But to better understand the thought of Christ regarding the "rock", we are enlightened by the epilogue to the 7th chapter of the same Gospel. For Jesus the "rock", the "peter", e that upon which, if the edifice is founded, though the most terrible storm break out, the house can withstand it. From this the consistence of the name conferred upon Peter is clear. The concept of Rock contains a quality of consistency, of resistance, of cohesion, of firmness, of solidity, and of strength.

With the eloquence which is characteristic to him, Saint Leo the Great taught: "This disposition of the Truth remains forever: and Peter, persevering in the solidity of the rock assigned to him, has not abandoned the rudder of the Church again. He in fact was placed before all the others and, thus, when he came to be called "peter", when he came to be named "foundation", when he came to be constituted "guardian of the kingdom of heaven", when he came to be placed as arbiter of the binding and of the loosing of those judgments which shall remain stable even in the heavens, we were made to know what his union with Christ is by means of the mystery of this appellation." (San Leone Magno, Sermo 3).

It is to John Paul II, our beloved Pope, that our thoughts, our prayer and our profound and affectionate sense of ecclesial communion goes out. In these twenty-five years, his life and his supreme apostolic ministry have been characterized by an unwearying defense of the Truth, by a total dedication to the cause of the unity of the Church and by a prophetic and courageous pastoral work for the promotion of a true and just peace among people and among all men. However much his personal physique appears fragile, so much more does he exercise, before all humanity, his moral and spiritual role. "And you confirm your brethren!" (Lk 22:32).

We are very much aware of the storms and of the disbelief which presents itself to the Mystical Body of Christ. Such is the lot of the Church, divine in her essence and human in her members. We suffer through the many contradictions which human nature and sin can inflict upon the painful history of our humanity and upon the steps of the Church, pilgrimaging towards her final Fatherland. But, we are advised to renew constantly our entrustment to the Lord of History, the Founder and invisible Head of his Mystical Body: "Do not be afraid . . . I have conquered the world." (Jn 16:33)

The Church is Victrix through the permanent assistance of the Holy Spirit, the guarantor of the continuity of the catholic faith: "and the gates of hell shall not prevail" (Mt 16:18). A victrix because in the Sacraments there is assured to us the grace which transforms and sanctifies. The Church is victrix, because constructed upon the rock of Peter, which is nothing other than the same rock of Christ. Victrix because in the communion with legitimate Pastors there is guaranteed that note of catholicity, indispensable for remaining in the mystical company of the Body of Christ. The Church is a victrix in her Saint: many and emblematic are the figures of outstanding sanctity with which the Holy Father has broadened the calendar of Saints, and whom he has proposed to us along this quarter century of his Supreme Pontificate!

"Duc in altum!", exclaims John Paul II and in him there resounds the same voice of the Good Shepherd. "Men of little faith, why do you doubt?", "Cast the nets for a catch . . . Lead us on high!" And the fish were made abundant (cf. Lk 5:4)

"Duc in altum!" We want to take a seat, in the bark of Peter. With Saint Leo the Great, we want to reaffirm our faith: "The solidity which he, Peter, become rock, takes from the rock of Chirst, is propagated even in his heirs . . ." (St. Leo, Sermon V). We want to say, with St. Jerome: "I do not follow a primacy which is not that of Christ; through this I put myself in communion with the chair of Peter." (Letter to Damasus)

We are here to pray with the Auxilium Christianorum to bind the Vicar of Christ with the warmth of our affection and we do this with the most potent reality that exists: the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with which "the work of our redemption is accomplished" (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 2). A reality absolutely omnipotent, in which it renews, in an unbloodly manner, the unique Sacrifice of the Cross, rendering substantially present the Body and the Blood of Christ. The Unique Savior represents, ritualized constantly in the Holy Mass, the infinite fruit of the bloody Sacrifice of the cross, offered on account of our sins.

3. The Venerated Rite of Saint Pius V

A coincident providence permits us today to render worship to God, celebrating the divine Sacrifice according to the roman rite which takes form in the so-called Missal of Saint Pius V, whose mortal remains repose nearby in this Basilica. Behold the third figure, so present in this celebration.

You yourselves, dearest faithful, particularly sensible that this rite has, throughout the centuries, constituted the official form of the roman Liturgy, have taken advantage of today's celebration. And I am very happy to be able to condescend to your request, that comes from a good number of those present, both because it is animated with a filial devotion to the Holy Father, near the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of His Pontificate, and because of the recognition of the fruits of holiness which the Christian People have obtained from the Most Holy Eucharist in the embrace of this rite.

The so-called rite of Saint Pius V cannot be considered to be extinct and the Authority of the Holy Father has expressed his benevolent recognition of the faithful who, though recognizing the legitimacy of the roman rite renewed according to the indications of the Second Vatican Council, remain bound to the preceding rite and find in it valid spiritual nourishment in their journey of sanctification. On the other hand, the same Second Vatican Council declared that " . . . holy mother church considers as having equal rights and honor the legitimate recognized rites, and she wills that in the future they be conserved and in every many increased, and desires that, where it is necessary, they come to be prudently revised in an integral manner in the spirit of holy tradition and come to be given a new vigor according to the circumstances and necessities of our time" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 4)

The ancient roman rite conserves, hence, in the Church its right of citizenship among the multiformity of catholic rites, both Latin and Oriental. That which unites the diversity of these rites is the same faith in the Mystery of the Eucharist, the profession of which has always assured the unity of the holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

John Paul II, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Motu Propio "Ecclesia Dei", exhorted "all Catholics to accomplish gestures of unity and to renew their own attachment to the Church, so that their legitimate diversity and different sensibility, worthy of respect, does not separate them one from another, nay rather they urge themselves to announce the same Gospel; thus has the Holy Father proceeded, urged by the Holy Spirit who makes all the charisms run together toward unity, so that all will be able to glorify the Lord and salvation be proclaimed to all nations." (Osservatore Romano, n. 26-27, Oct. 1998, p. 8)

All this constitutes a special motive of gratitude for the Holy Father. We are grateful from our hearts for the exquisite and paternal comprehension which He shows towards those who desire to maintain alive, in the Church, the riches represented through this venerated liturgical form, which has nourished his infancy and youth, which was that of his priestly ordination, of his first Mass, of his episcopal consecration, and which hence forms a part of his most beautify and spiritual crown of memories.

I know that you are immensely grateful to the Holy Father for the invitation given by him to the Bishops of the whole world " to have a comprehension and a renewed pastoral attention for the faithful bound to the ancient rite and, at the threshold of the third millennium, to help all Catholics to live the celebration of the holy mysteries with a devotion which is a true nourishment for their spiritual life and which is a source of peace" (loc.cit.). A devotion which, as Aquinas teaches, out to be supreme "proper hoc quod in hoc sacramento totus Christus continetur" (III, q. 83, a. 4, ad 5).

We are all called to unity in the truth, with mutual respect for the diversity of opinions, upon the base of the same faith, proceeding "in eodem sensu" and mindful of the saying of Augustine: "in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas".

In the name of all of you and of all those who are today associated with us in this celebration, I repeat with the Holy Church, to the Most Holy Trinity, which has given us Mary as a helper: "concede propitius, ut, tali praesidio muniti certantes in vita, victoriam de hoste maligno cónsequi valeámus in morte" Missale Romanum, Mass of the Feast, Collect).

Praised be Jesus Christ

Home | Articles | News Archive | Assistance Needed
© Copyright 2001-2006 Seattle Catholic. All rights reserved.