May 8, 2009

175th Anniversary Mass

Cardinal Francis George's remarks

Cardinal George speakingArchbishop Buechlein and dear brother bishops, dear sisters and brothers, in Christ Jesus our Lord, of the 175 years that you mark today, 10 were spent with Vincennes and Chicago together … After that, we managed to create something else. Before that, we were all governed from Louisville and, before that, for the Catholics who gathered on the shores of Lake Michigan in 1673 and first celebrated the Eucharist in the central part of North America, we were governed by the Church in Quebec.

It’s a good thing to note and celebrate the anniversaries of the structures of the Church, mostly because they’re convenient … for remembering the real history of the Church, the history that God remembers, and that is the history of holiness, the history of sanctity, the history created by the proclamation of the Gospel, created by the celebration of the sacraments of the Church in renewed spirit and renewed faith, created by the love and care of good pastors and good people for one another.

In looking at the history of holiness here in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, there are two who we have noted whom the Church has recognized as truly holy——Mother Guérin and Bishop Bruté. But there are undoubtedly many thousands of others who have grown close to the Lord and become holy in these many years. But perhaps we should look more closely and recognize that those whom the Church has recognized first are immigrants to this country, people who were trained in the ways of the Lord elsewhere and who came here as disciples of Christ in order to share his love with the people who are here. Especially those of you who were confirmed, we thank you in hand and in mind and in heart, the resolution with God’s grace to become saints so that in the next 100 years the Church will recognize how the Holy Spirit has transformed the people of Indiana … through the work of the Church here.

It will take a certain amount of courage to live a life of faith in a radical way, for when we look for the signs of sanctity, and certainly the bishops and your priests and those responsible for you before the Lord will look for them, for a desire to pray and a generosity of heart, for a desire to share the gifts of Christ, for a good conscience. As we look for the Lord, we will see people who are somewhat different. Jesus’ voice in his own time and in every time is unique. He didn’t quite fit. And the Church in our time and in every time is to be an original voice. It is neither of the left nor of the right. It speaks to the world through the world’s Savior. It speaks therefore what is true, and it never quite fits. It should never fit for no society, no country, not even our own, is the kingdom of God. And so as you go forward, you’ll have to have the courage to be different, to speak the truth, to follow the ways of the Lord, who is never captured by any of the structures or any of the social customs or any of the ways of acting or thinking that are part of a new culture or nation. Have that urge, you will have it, for God wants to give it to you. And all of us will pray that you become holy. And all of expect, especially the bishops here, that you will pray for us so that before the Lord we may be here his holy people and forever the people of God in his heavenly kingdom.

In the ways of discipleship that are part of the Church’s path of holiness that mark the history of the world, there are those who live a way of life that makes no sense because it does not exist. Many things that the Church does make sense even to those who are not believers, and they should——to feed the poor, to take care of those who are hungry or homeless, particularly in the difficult situations in which we find ourselves now together. We must pray that we are able to be the glue that holds a society together.

All of that makes sense. But there is a way of life that would make sense on no other terms except the terms of faith. And that is what we call consecrated life, the life given to the Lord in the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. And that is the last celebration that they have asked me to lead tonight. It’s my privilege to recognize all the men and women who will celebrate anniversaries of consecrated life during this anniversary year, in particular, as you know, Archbishop Buechlein. We all want to congratulate you for this year marks 50 years of monastic profession in Saint Meinrad’s Archabbey that has so marked the life of the Church in the Midwest. We thank you for cooperating with God’s grace, for drinking deeply from the well of the Benedictine monastic tradition. We are grateful for your prayer and work for the Church, especially as archbishop of Indianapolis and in the conference of our bishops. Thank you.

And now I would invite Archbishop Buechlein, and all the religious jubilarians, to stand. The Gospel calls the whole people of God to a life of holiness after the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit pours forth the gifts of each one according to God’s plan so that the Church strives always to be better conformed to the life and example of the Lord. In response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, women and men throughout the ages have taken up the consecrated life, and so it was on the day of your own profession of vows, when you responded to the Gospel call with greater earnestness by taking up the God of life in the service of God in Christ’s body, the Church.

Today as we recognize your jubilee of the consecrated life, I urge you once more to live joyfully for Christ by dying to self …

And now let us pray. God, our Father, guide of mankind and ruler of all creation, look kindly upon your servants as they renew the offering of themselves to you. Protect and guide them by the power … so that they may continue … in the way of salvation. Give them the joy of vows … so that on the day of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ they may be gathered into the communion of all your saints and with them praise you forever. We make this prayer for our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

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