Observes that imitation is the most perfect form of praise for Shepherd of Church who transformed the Gospel into effective works and witness in challenging times
WASHINGTON, D.C.—His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the United States Military Services, was principal celebrant and homilist at a high noon Mass of Thanksgiving for the Beatification of Pope Paul VI on World Mission Sunday in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. William Cardinal Baum, one of three living cardinals created by Blessed Paul VI, also participated in the celebration. Concelebrants included Rev. Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, Rector of the Basilica, and Rev. Msgr. Vito Buonanno, Basilica Director of Pilgrimages. The Mass was seen around the world on a live broadcast transmitted by EWTN, CatholicTV, and Telecare Television of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y. Here follows the text of Archbishop Broglio’s homily:
On February 5th, 1977 Blessed Paul VI held a private audience for the seminarians and priests studying at the North American College to celebrate – a few months late – the bicentennial of the United States. Before reading his prepared remarks in English, he spoke to us in Italian off the cuff.
He told us about looking across St. Peter’s Square and seeing how many windows of the college were darkened. He wished that there were more students there. He wanted us to know that we had a father in the Eternal City. We should feel welcome and cared for. It was a touching message and we asked the Rector to make sure that we all received a copy of the transcription from Vatican Radio. I have it somewhere, but I did not need it to begin this homily. I can still remember the warmth of his message.
At the end of the same audience, he expressed the desire to greet each one of us, but it was not possible. However, he was giving us a gift, a book of quotations from the documents of the Vatican II. He teased us that they were in Latin—he knew that many of us were not fluent in that language.
Today Jesus provokes the Pharisees with the question about whose image is on the coins they use. We recognize the images on our coins, but it might be more in keeping with the passage for us to ask ourselves about the image inscribed on our hearts.
In the newly beatified Pontiff we can recognize a truly great figure, who always strove to project the image of Christ, inscribed on his heart. When he was elected in 1963, Life Magazine gave a synopsis of his predecessors named Paul. Only the first of that line has been canonized and he was elected in 757. The figure we honor today perceived the nature of his vocation and knew how to wrestle with difficult questions. We can indeed give thanks for his inscription into the album of the Blessed. For his love and tireless service to the Church, may he be known as Paul the Great.
The Lord says, “I have called you by your name.” Students of history know that Blessed Paul defied the old Italian adage that he who enters the conclave pope, exits among the cardinals. He was the favored candidate at the death of St. John XXIII and he was clearly the one chosen by the Holy Spirit to govern the Church in very challenging times.
He continued the work of the council and fostered a spirit of consensus so that most of the documents were passed with overwhelming majorities. He sponsored the reform of the liturgy to return it to its origins and allow the faithful of our time to worship, as had those in centuries past, in their language. Daily he affirmed his love of the Church and his desire that she always project the image of Christ.
He reaffirmed the essential truth about the nature and purpose of matrimony in a splendid document simply entitled On Human Life. There he tells us that marriage “is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.” (Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, 8.)
That encyclical, Humanae Vitae, marked a decisive moment in his pontificate. Dissent was widespread. The political uproar of 1968 in Europe and later in the United States ushered in changed forms of discourse, protests, civil disobedience, and a different era. It was a shock to the 71-year-old Pontiff.
I was a seminarian in Rome when a referendum was held on the question of divorce. The Italian Episcopal Conference and the Holy Father pleaded that the principle of the indissolubility of holy matrimony be maintained in civil law. That battle was lost and the new blessed was disillusioned by the result. The Holy Father felt the weight of his office and yet continually responded to the demands of the Lord’s call.
Like Jesus in today’s Gospel he knew how to wrestle with difficult challenges. The Catechism reminds us that: “It is a part of the Church’s mission ‘to pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it.’” (GS 76, 5; CCC 2246.)
From Pope Paul the Great we have the most important document to date on evangelization. Evangelii nuntiandi makes clear the principles of the task of preaching the Gospel. He insists that the catechist must also be an effective witness in his or her life to living the Gospel. Otherwise the listener will not be open to the message of faith. As St. Paul wrote: “Our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.” (1Th. 1:5b.)
How appropriate that he is beatified on World Mission Sunday. We know that the Lord, whose teaching is so clear in the Gospel, commanded us to spread the message of salvation to the ends of the earth. Having spent four years in a missionary country, the Ivory Coast, I can assure you that the important work done by foreign missionaries, supported by our prayers and by our financial assistance, is essential. It is one of the responses we make to the Lord’s imperative. The Church by its very nature is missionary. How else can the image of Christ be manifested to all people?
Blessed Paul the Great made certain that the international dimension of the Church was amply reflected in the College of Cardinals, the Roman Curia, the diplomatic service, and the album of saints and blesseds.
Reflecting on the mystery of death, he prepared his last will and testament, an incredible witness to his deep spiritual life and unending love of the Church. This great man and historic, selfless minister of the Church remarked that at the end of this pilgrimage he would say, “servus inutilis sum”. Indeed, what can any of us say? We have only done our duty.
Yet, I think that Blessed Paul the Great would invite us to respond to the Lord who calls us by name. In the midst of so many tribulations, including the tragic killing of the statesman Aldo Moro, he always announced a message of hope and pointed out the passage to everlasting life.
He told us at that audience in 1977: “In the knowledge of Jesus we have indeed the key to his Gospel, and we begin to understand his brethren and to have a true insight into the needs of the world. Through a knowledge of Jesus, we see the limitations of human wisdom and come to experience the power of God, whereby we appraise “spiritual things in spiritual terms” (1 Cor. 2, 13), attributing a primacy to the Message of the Cross. And an intimate knowledge of Jesus will enable us to give meaningful witness to all who turn to us, saying: “We want to see Jesus” (Io. 12, 21). In this way our preaching and our testimony will have, not the persuasive force of human wisdom, but the power of the Spirit.” (Pope Paul VI, address to the Pont. North American College, 5.II.77.)
Is this not the path to a deeper union with Christ? Jesus asked for a coin and noted the image and inscription of Caesar. Our image, however, is God’s. We need teachers and shepherds like Blessed Paul VI to show us how best to reflect that image.
“We give thanks to God always” says the oldest part of the New Testament. St. Paul gives thanks because the gift of God did not remain sterile. It has been transformed into works, commitment to Lord and others, tenacity and endurance in the face of trials. Blessed Paul VI has shown us how to serve the Lord and how to lead others to Christ.
It is then right and just that we should give thanks, but the most perfect form of praise is imitation. That is why he has been beatified so that we might learn from him to project the image of God into our world.