Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Remember that you are dust...

Today begins our 40 day Lenten journey towards the very summit of our Christian faith, the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This season is set aside for fasting, prayer, and almsgiving so that our lives may be converted and we walk ever closer with God. 

As you all know, these last few days have been especially filled with historic events. Today, Ash Wednesday our Holy Father made his first public appearance since his announcement on Monday. Fortunately I don't have classes today so I was able to attend both the general audience and the celebration of Holy Mass at St. Peter's basilica. I'd like to leave with you all a few of my impressions from today's event.

Ash Wednesday started for me early this morning. I made the traditional Station Church pilgrimage walk from the North American College to Santa Sabina, the first station church. The priests from the college celebrated Mass and distributed ashes. Since I didn't have class I took my time walking back to the college winding my way through the streets of Rome with a typically American black cross of ashes on my forehead (the Italians don't put the ashes on their forehead, but rather sprinkled upon the top of their head).

I ran into a friend from Aquinas College
Pope Benedict XVI conducted his normal Wednesday audience today in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. The whole thing was really beautiful. Our Holy Father came out onto the stage smiling as the room was filled to the brim with applause. When it came time for him to begin the catechesis he began as he always does, "Cari fratelli e sorelle...My dear brothers and sisters" which was interpreted with an explosion of clapping. The entire hall swelled with appreciation, thankfulness, and love for him. The clapping lasted for what seemed like five minutes as all came to their feet. Once we gave him a chance to speak, he thanked us for our prayers and support. He said, "Thank you; in these days which have not been easy for me, I have felt almost physically the power of prayer – your prayers – which the love of the Church has given me." So let's keep those prayers coming for him and for the Church as she is guided by the Holy Spirit.

Then, he simply did what he has done his whole life for the Church. He broke open the word and taught us. He led us through a beautiful Lectio Divina on Sunday's Gospel reading where Jesus is led into the desert and tempted. If you get a change you should read it. (though it has not been entirely translated yet) At the heart of the Pope's talk he held up for us three examples of radical conversion from the 20th century.

Leaving the audience hall, I couldn't help but be a bit emotional, the Pope who I had known throughout my teenage years and adult life was saying goodbye. I don't have words yet to describe all of this, just simply a few thoughts. . .

This evening the Holy Father offered his last public celebration of Holy Mass in St. Peter's basilica with the distribution of ashes. I couldn't help but go. The Mass was simple and noble, as the season calls for, but quite beautiful. The Holy Father at no point made a public spectacle of himself or at all talked about himself. In his homily he only mentioned his decision to resign along with a words of thanks and a request for prayers. His homily was a classic example of his preaching style that is he simply broke open the Word of God. He tied all the readings together and in 15 minutes talked about each of the readings giving a few deep insights into each. We'll have to wait for the translation of it. The Mass ended with a short speech by Cardinal Bertone wherein expressed the sentiments of all those gathered in the Basilica. There was a grand standing ovation for what seemed like minutes. It only ended once the Holy Father took to the microphone and said, "Thank you, Thank you all, let us now return to prayer."

Walking home from St. Peter's tonight, I was left with a feeling of deep gratitude for the great humility of Pope Benedict. He is very much in the same line as St. John the Baptist who declared that 'He must increase but I must decrease' (John 3:30) These are truly exiting days. I'm blessed to be able to be in Rome for these events that will transpire of the next few weeks. But most importantly, let us prepare ourselves for a worthy celebration of the Easter mysteries by entering deeply into the holy season of Lent. And as the Holy Father said, "Let us now return to prayer..."

"Repent and believe in the Gospel"

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return"

No comments:

Post a Comment