Pilgrims from Ireland in Rome for the Canonisation of Blessed Popes John XXIII and John Paul II gave thanks to God at a special Mass of Thanksgiving, celebrated this afternoon by Cardinal Seán Brady, archbishop of Armagh and primate of All Ireland.
Cardinal Brady was the chief celebrant at the Mass which was concelebrated by Bishop Kieran O’Reilly of Killaloe, Monsignor Ciaran O’Carroll, Rector of the Pontifical Irish College, and college staff Father Thomas Norris, Father Hugh Clifford and Father George Hayes as well as many Irish priests travelling with pilgrimage groups.
The Mass was celebrated in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Domnica, which is close to the Irish College.
Here is the text of Cardinal Brady’s homily:
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We are in Rome this weekend to celebrate two new saints. In baptism they were born again through water and the Spirit as Jesus had foretold in his conversation with Nicodemus.
Through their long lives Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II were attentive and obedient to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as they strove to see more clearly the call of the Kingdom of God at work in their own lives and the demands and challenges involved in following Christ.
Of course the Kingdom of God, announced and proclaimed by Jesus, has always encountered opposition in this world. In the first Reading we saw how Peter and John had been arrested, warned to desist from their preaching of Jesus – Crucified and Risen from the dead – and then released. Later Peter and John sought refuge in the support of the Community of Believers in the Church. In other words Peter and John told the Community all that the chief priest and elders had threatened. Together they prayed about the situation and asked for help in proclaiming the Good News. They asked for boldness to do all that was needed to be done in the name of Jesus.
We saw how their prayers were answered in a spectacular fashion. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit – who signalled His arrival with a thunderbolt – and the result was that they all began to proclaim boldly the Word of God. That is to say they all became missionaries of the Good News. Peter came to Rome and John went to Patmos. Of course Peter paid the supreme price with his own life precisely where hundreds of thousands gathered yesterday at Saint Peter’s here in Rome.
Here we are today – gathered almost two thousand years later – on another of Rome’s famous hills; the Coelian. We come to pay tribute to how the Good News of the Kingdom has spread and continues to spread. Here we are within yards of the Colosseum which was the scene of the horrific deaths of so many martyrs. We are surrounded by the churches built in honour of the Apostles and Martyrs. The Church of Saint Stephen – the first martyr is just across the road, burial place of the son of King Brian Boru, whose thousandth anniversary was celebrated yesterday in Armagh the place of his burial. The Church of Saint Clement – the home of the Irish Dominicans – is at the foot of the hill. Saint Clement was the martyred fourth Pope. We could go on and on, for example the Church of Saint Agatha – previous home of the Irish College – is nearby. She suffered martyrdom for her faith in Sicily and was honoured throughout the Church from the earliest times.
It is worthy of note that the while the great monuments built by the persecutors like the Emperors Nero and Diocletian lie in ruins, the temples built in honour of their victims continue to be centres of prayer, charity and solidarity promoting a civilisation of love.
Today we thank God for having the privilege of living in a century that has produced three popes who are now canonised Saints. Where they have gone, we all hope to follow. Of course we all hope to become Saints. What is the alternative? We are all called to be holy. We all have the exact same helps available to us, to guide us on our way. The helps are:
– The presence of Christ, Risen and alive in His Church
– The Spirit of Christ in our Hearts
– The power of Christ, Risen and Alive, in His Sacraments
– The help of Prayer in His name, and,
– The intersession of His Saints on our behalf.
I thought the prayer of the faithful – or the Universal Prayers as they are called – summed up well what yesterday’s ceremony was about. We are using them again in this Mass today.
Yesterday was Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast so dear and so significant for Saint John Paul. Mercy is also a virtue core to Pope Francis.
By Divine Mercy God the Father has saved us in the Paschal Mystery of the Lord Jesus. In other words, out of His infinite love and mercy God has already saved us through the sufferings and death, the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, His Son.
The first prayer was made through the intersection of Mary and Joseph. It was Saint John XXIII who included the name of Joseph in the Canon of the Mass. The prayer asked God the Father to make the Church radiant with the beauty of new life – the New Life of Holiness.
I thought the beauty of yesterday’s ceremony was outstanding; beautiful music, beautiful artwork, beautiful flowers and processions, beautiful readings and singing in Latin, Greek, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, English, Italian, Polish and French – all the major languages of the world.
The prayer concluded by asking that all people, not just the chosen few, may encounter Jesus. Of course if that happens, as Pope Francis frequently reminds us, our own hearts will be flooded with joy.
The second prayer was made to the Father, through the intersession of the Apostles and Evangelists. It was for sinners, and again as Pope Francis tells us, that includes all of us. We ask that the Spirit would assist us in our dark night of the soul. We ask that in the alienation and desolation brought by sin, we too would encounter Jesus, Risen and Alive, and get fresh hope.
The third prayer was made through the Martyrs and the Confessors of the Faith. The two new Saints were outstanding witnesses and confessors of faith. Once again the prayer asked that we would recognise the Risen and Living Christ present and at work in His Sacraments and derive from them holiness and wholesomeness. It is a prayer for all Christians.
The fourth prayer was in Chinese offered through the intersession of Saint John XXIII. It was for the leaders of nations. It asked that they reject every escalation of hatred and violence. It is a prayer that is timely in our troubled world. It was offered very appropriately through the intersession of Saint John XXIII. We recall that he wrote a great Encyclical called Peace on Earth, and another one on social justice, and yet another on truth and unity as the basis of peace built on charity. He intervened in various crises, for example, the Berlin crisis, the Cuban crisis, and regarding Algeria, and was awarded the Balzan Prize for peace. The prayer ends with the request that all human relations, which once again is very inclusive, may reveal the victory of Christ over all divisions and splits, as well as over bitterness and revenge. It asks the Spirit of Jesus should inspire all our relationships.
The final prayer was through the intersession of Saint John Paul II. It pleads for a passionate commitment to human dignity. It asks that this commitment be present and active especially in the lives of men and women of culture, science and government. Commitment to the worth and dignity of every human being, at every moment of existence was surely one the hallmarks of the life and work of Pope John Paul II. Let us pray that the same commitment may replace the selfishness which tempts each an
d every one of us. And as the prayer concludes, may honour be given in every person to Jesus, Risen and Alive. The fact is that each and every one of us is made in the image and likeness of God our Father, and Jesus Christ is the Brother of each and every one of us. What a change it would make in the world if that commitment were to come to pass.
I have often been asked what do I hope for from these two new Saints. I did not know at first, but I know now. It is the fulfilment of those five prayers;
– For the Church, the Body of Christ
– For the world , especially the suffering in the world
– For all Christians
– For the leaders of nations, and,
– For the people of culture, science and government
It has been noted that Saint John Paul was certainly the most travelled pope ever, and one of the most travelled individuals in the history of the world. It is estimated that he was seen personally by more than 500 million people in his lifetime. It was as if he had gone around the world thirty times or more than three times from here to the moon.
Saint John travelled much less of course but he too made history by travelling to the Roman prison during his first Christmas in Rome as Pope, travelling out to Loretto and Assisi and metaphorically travelling into strange places as he tried to persuade world leaders to back off from violent confrontations, and instead to choose peace.
Both new saints were excellent communicators, chiefly because they had something precious to communicate. It was the fruit of another journey – the journey inward – to the realms of self-awareness and self-knowledge; to discover there the Presence of God and to enter into union those prayers with Jesus Christ. Fortified by the fruits of that journey, and emboldened by the courage of the Holy Spirit, they became outstanding pilgrims for Christ.
All of us who have had the privilege of these days in Rome are called to go and do likewise in our own time and place. We do so under the protection and patronage of our Lady to whom both Saints were intensely devoted.
Saint John XXIII pray for us.
Saint John Paul II pray for us.