Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sermon

What of Christ’s little flock here on earth? What of the people who profess the resurrection but act as if they are dying? Those who have lost faith, those who doubt God, who have given into corruption, wickedness and sin? Surely they are part of the Church much as you or I? Was not Judas one of the Twelve? It becomes easy to despair when pondering the faults, vices, jealousies and strivings that the Church has experienced in her membership of near two-thousand years. At times, the Church certainly appeared dead on the outside, sunken and sallow like a dry tree. Yet one would be greatly amiss and rather ignorant of heavenly things if he truly deemed the Church of God to be dead.

Do we not know, where sin abounded, grace did more abound. (1) Do we know that Christ, when we were weak, died for the ungodly??  Yes, He purchased the Church- and all souls in it, by his own blood. He lay down his life for it while ever-knowing betrayals, divisions, quarrels and scandals would wait! The saint and the Pharisee both He loves… both have their home within His Church. And during starkest times, when all hope seemed lost, did not the Lord cleanse his Church, pull her from the ashes and give life anew? Not by man’s prowess, has the Church endured alongside Christ, but by his Holy Spirit. Just as Christ Jesus was raised not of his own power but that of his Father whom He glorified, the Church is raised from Christ, whom she betrothed. From the cross, Our Lord declared: “It is consummated” This wedding, born of blood, had been destined to wear a crown of glorious resurrection. Whoever lives in the Lord and dies in the Lord shall be raised in the Lord.

The apostle Paul, no stranger to religious evils, speaks for the Church when he says: And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me. And that I live now in the flesh: I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered himself for me. (2) The force that steadies a reeling, sinful church also uplifts mortal, sinful men. Sin sets its ugly countenance before us all. The world- and the Church shall always confront this grim face of evil until everything sees final consummation, when Christ comes with glory to crush death beneath his heel once and for ever. What is this hallowed feast about? Why do we come forward to Easter after an arduous, long Lent?

Because He is risen! The once beaten and bruised Savior, bloodied beyond recognition, had died. In a moment, darkness celebrates- but the victory proves short. He that embraced death’s cold arms now marches triumphant from the grave. From His wounds pour a river of strength, from his death flows a fountain of life. If we expect not to undergo the same, our faith is in vain. Because of the resurrection, we can stand fearless before death and evil. Because of the resurrection, we can sing hymns in the darkest pit. Because of this, we march forth, staggering- yet whole, wounded- but not conquered, weeping- yet singing, “alleluia” that ancient, Paschal refrain.  Indeed, among many things, did Christ Jesus tell us: “Be you of good cheer for I have overcome the world.”

1)     Romans 5:20
2)     Galatians 2:20

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sermon for Palm Sunday

     “Tell ye the daughter of Sion: Behold thy king cometh to thee… Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation ” Long have we awaited the day, verily have the prophets yearned: when we would hear these words- Your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation. This King is different from the rest, coming on a humble ass but bringing salvation! Salvation!

      Who brings salvation but God? Jesus the Son Of  God- True God, comes himself to deliver his people, to fulfill the Scriptures. Yet, we know that also to fulfill the Word of God which the prophets spoke, he must suffer and die. Just as the Savior of mankind arrives humbly arrayed, he dies in abject humility. He rules from the throne of the cross, paying our ransom in his blood. His Kingdom is one in which glory is purchased by suffering. It is not easy…truly he said: If you do not take up your cross, you are not worthy to follow after me. He not only saves us but calls us to be more than passive spectators. Thus, we are invited to place ourselves into the great "passion play" of today's Gospel. We are invited to walk there with the Lord who endures mockery and abuse. His Kingdom is not of this world, it is above this world and yet He calls even those who mock and hate Him into it. We, His children, most of all, who love Him, should take heed.

       We who are unworthy, we who are small, we all have place in his coming into kingship as did the lowly ass. How he beckons each one of us! Jesus speaks upon this day saying: Come forth and bear Zion’s King!”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tea with Cardinal Fratelli, # 17

From: Mary,
“Your Eminence, we just lost our family-dog, Buddy. This will be my children’s first experience of loss and I don’t know what to say. Should I tell them that Buddy is in heaven? Should I tell them that animals don’t have souls and they just go away? Help, I’m tongue-tied!”

Dear, Mary.
My, you have such a beautiful name…but yes, about the dog. I sympathize with your loss. Animals can be wonderful companions, even when they steal food from the table and sneeze on you… It’s best to inform your children about death in light of God. In this case, I wouldn’t declare it anathema to tell them dear Buddy is in heaven. The Good Lord created all animals and I’m sure he takes them all back somehow. Moreso, their crying, tantrums and begging for another dog will be eased by explaining that one day, they may see Buddy again.
In Christ,
Angelo Cardinal Fratelli.

Tea with Cardinal Fratelli, # 16

“I am 42, a single mother and am seriously thinking about becoming Christian. However, there are different churches in my town and I don’t know which one to attend. I am just starting out with this and need a place that is comforting and accepting, where they won’t look down on a silly convert like me.

Dear Joyce,
Firstly, praised be God that you are considering the Christian faith! This will be so good for you and for your children- even if they are grown. Your spiritual journey will be hard no doubt, and confusing since there are indeed many, various churches which teach different things. Now, I’m not one to push and pry but the church that will benefit you most is one steady and well-established… anything founded after 1300 AD is probably no good. Also, stay away from churches that sing 60’s rock songs made into hymns…
Why don’t you come to the cathedral for Mass? I’d be very pleased speaking with you and sorting things out. This world we live in can be immensely chaotic and painful but verily, as you have discovered, Christ is the answer!
Yours in Christ,
Angelo Cardinal Fratelli.

Friday, March 15, 2013

At home

I am so glad to be home in my comfy chair, sipping tea and finishing off the last of my Turkish Delight, Yes my sweet treat has lasted long. Now it is gone! God's blessings to you!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Oh no, not a Conclave! -Part II

This morning, I felt very much full of vigor as I got up. I spent some time making sure my choir dress was perfect and unwrinkled then attended Mass at St Peter's Basilica. I must admit, that the powerful beauty and austerity of it all drew me in- so that I was almost distracted from the gravity of the matter at hand.

I ate breakfast at the inn, by myself, kindly excusing Father Rodrigo and taking a seat by a sun-filled window. My coffee was too hot and my pastry was cold but I didn't mind as there were grapes and delicious cheese. I considered sneaking a jar of olives into the conclave...oh and a tin of Turkish delight! Rodrigo, knowing my love for these foods said it seemed a rather good idea- especially if I was going to be held long. So I sent my aunt Francine out to buy those things.

That afternoon, I traveled to my titular church: Santi Apostoli, or the church of the Holy Apostles. It was the last bit of free time I'd have. Walking around calmed my nerves a bit yet when I tried to pray, a feeling of dryness came over me. Why now?

Sometimes instead of talking, there needs to be listening. God is not heard in the thunder or the earthquake but He speaks with a quiet voice. How often do I dim that quiet voice with my own musings, worries and circular thoughts? No, this was not a time to talk but to listen. The voice didn't come to me until I returned to the Piazza of St Peter. My aunt Francine was there, handing over my "secret" food items. She started fretting about my cross and biretta. Merciful goodness, I had my biretta perfectly straitened until she touched it! It was when I fixed the biretta, walked away and stood by the nearest water fountain that God told me softly, not to worry so much. He said "What are you afraid of? For this you were called."

Certainly, from time to time, it is necessary to remember that when we are doing the will of God, answering His call, that He will make a way. Worrying is quite natural, especially when facing momentous decisions or adventures but we must trust and put our best foot forward. I am ashamed to admit that before, I considered it good to run away and hide from this the same way I wanted to run away from being a cardinal many years ago. However, when laboring for the Lord, there is no hiding or running away.

We must boldly say like the prophets of old: "I am here, send me!" Sometimes things are frightening. like the prospect of being locked in a room for days with cantankerous and pompous cardinals. However, sometimes we make ourselves more afraid than we really have to be. If the Lord is on your side, who can stop you? Not even the crankiest, most pompous cardinal that is for sure! Certainly, in carrying out the Lord's will, there is no need to fear. I suppose I ought to fearlessly approach this and do it right- with His help of course.

Disclaimer: Cardinal Fratelli is not an actual cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church but a fictional character.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Oh no, not a conclave! - Part I

When I arrived to Rome yesterday, I noticed my leg had fallen asleep. Stepping from the stagecoach, I almost fell! Luckily, my secretary, Father Rodrigo, caught me. He told me I must be careful. Rome is always a very exciting place for me. They have the best calzone and make the creamiest tomato soup, which was perfect on the cold day I arrived. There was some rain in the air and I prayed the Lord would keep me dry and warm. I don't tend to have good luck with rain as it usually finds some way to evade an umbrella and get my little zucchetto all wet.

Now it was getting dark when I arrived. Many people were scurrying about, their attention drawn to the lamps being lit, restaurants opening and the occasional cardinal who darted by hoping to be unseen. Must I say, I dread being fussed over!

As I approached the Piazza of St. Peter's I suddenly wondered what it was like for the chief apostle of Christ to walk these very same streets. Was he bold, standing on a monument to proclaim the love our Lord has for us? Did he baptize many in the Tiber River nearby? Was he afraid soldiers would come to arrest him? Rome was a place of wonder to Peter but in a way, it was his own garden of agony. He knew he was going to die there as Jesus foretold, he probably wrestled with this. However, the once weak, cowardly apostle now rose courageously to meet his suffering. He stood in this square, condemned to death and still lifted up prayers. He didn't care for the cruel world which hated him and hated his message, he knew he was going to be with the Lord. His sadness would be eternal joy!

That is somewhat how I feel. This is my first conclave and all I know is that being in a room full of cardinals is dreadful. There will be much bickering and posturing. We, being sinful men, assert ourselves at the most awkward when I tried to enjoy a bit of supper.

 I didn't want to be asked about my opinions on democracy, other religions and reforming the Roman Missal when I was tired, cold and hungry. I am going to suffer in these next days, I know it. Hopefully, I can lift my voice to God and think of the innumerable things He has stored up for those who love Him. I hope I can act according to His will...and not raise my voice at anyone. True courage and strength amidst danger comes from God. Power comes not from man but from God. I remind myself that it was only because of the Rock of Salvation that Peter could become a rock of the Church.

After I had eaten only one spoonful of that splendid tomato soup I mentioned earlier, I was approached. Two of my fellow-cardinals spoke in loud voices. One asked if I think he would make a good pope. Merciful goodness! They sat right next to me and fought over a pitcher of water, wetting the table right where my zucchetto had been laid. Frustration and suffering indeed! I put the zucchetto in my pocket. At least, I can keep it safe. Cannot say the same for myself.

(disclaimer, Cardinal Fratelli is not an actual cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church but a fictional character.)