VI Card OMalley To glorify the feast

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					Milano 2012

To glorify the Feast: The Family in the Day of Lord

When I was attending the seminary, our Provincial, Father Victor, wrote a letter to Rome to announce
that our mission in Puerto Rico was flourishing and that our province was ready to assume another
mission. He also wrote that this time the mission had to be the hardest in the world. The answer arrived
at the speed of light: we were told that we should open a mission on the highlands of Papua New
Guinea. The Father Guardian from the College of Cappuccini in Washington, Fermin Schmidt, became
the first bishop and several monks joined him, including three of my classmates. When our friars arrived
by plane, landing in the middle of a field, they were immediately surrounded by the curiosity of the
natives, who had never seen an European or an airplane. The first question the natives asked them was
if the airplane was a male or a female and - in case it was a female - if it was possible to have one of her

Many years later, a young friar I had ordered and who worked in Papua New Guinea came to visit me
while he was spending a period of rest at home. He had beautiful pictures of smiling natives, with bones
in their nose, feathers in their hair, and who were wearing very few clothes. Proudly the friar
announced: “This is my parish board.” I was particularly impressed because I was returning from a
meeting with one of my pastors where I was informed that the parishioners were not ready for a parish
council. I am sure that if the Province Father sent the letter to Rome asking for the most difficult mission
today, the answer would not be Papua New Guinea, but rather the United States of America. Think of
the Youth Day in Cologne, where Pope Benedict addressed the German bishops gathered at the seminar
talking about his homeland, Germany, as “land of mission”. This is also true for many Western countries
where secularism and the de-Christianization are gaining ground.

We have to find new ways to announce the Gospel to the contemporary world, proclaiming again Christ
and laying the foundations of faith. As Pope Benedict said: “We are not here just for the ‘existing flock.’
We have to be a missionary church."
Our duty is to turn "consumers" into disciples and masters. We need to make men and women who will
be able to witness faith; we don’t need witness protection programs. As the American bishops wrote in
the document Go Make Disciples:"Every Catholic can be a minister of hospitality, reconciliation and
understanding for those who have stopped practicing the faith."

In the new millennium, usual administration is not enough. We must become a team of missionaries,
moving from simple administration to the mission. We have to ask ourselves: "What does living in a
culture of non-believers mean, in a culture that it is not even conscious of their disbelief because it is
still living on the remains of Christian civilization?" As Hauerwas well said: “The Church exists today as a
stranger, it’s a colony of adventurers in a society of unbelievers. Society is now made of unbelievers, and
the Western culture has lost the sense of journey and adventure since it is lacking much more than the
confidence in a reduced horizon, which is only focused on self-expression and self-preservation.”
Being a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church is much more than an imaginary journey. It
is a way to live together, and the whole person is involved in the process. The education to this route
should be experimental, personal, engaging and invigorating. We learn to be disciples in the same way
we learn a language, this means being part of a community who speaks that language. Young Catholics
should be guided by the faith of those who are around them, be they peers or adult Catholics who are
doing the same journey.

The Third Commandment

When I was a bishop in the West Indies, on the island where I lived there was the oldest synagogue in
the Western Hemisphere. It was built by Sephardic Jews in the Danish West Indies. I was invited to visit
the synagogue by the rabbi. It was a beautiful building, typical of the old West Indies, with a white sand
floor. In the ark there was an ancient and magnificent Torah scroll. While I was walking in the synagogue
I came across a book of prayers. It happened to be open on an ancient and beautiful Jewish prayer
beginning with the words “More than Israel has kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept Israel.” I was
amazed and I said to myself: the same is true for us with the New Alliance. It was not us who have
maintained the obligation of Sunday Mass, but rather the New Alliance has kept us focused on God as
people, united to the others, with a sense of mission.

I recently attended a charity dinner that bishops organize regularly, where we usually eat a lot. On this
occasion, the principal of a local Catholic high school was awarded an honor. In his acceptance speech,
he told us: "I grew up in a family where going to mass on Sunday was considered more or less as
optional as breathing.” The statement immediately rose interest among the participants because I think
that many of us could identify with those words. It was not a matter of authoritarian parents or social
pressure, since we were sure of the importance the Holy Communion had for our identity and for our
survival. In his first apology addressed to the Emperor Antonius and the Senate of Rome, St. Justin
proudly describes the Christian practice of Sunday assemblies. When - during the persecution of
Diocletian - the Eucharistic assemblies were strictly banned, many people found the courage to defy the
imperial decree, and they were ready to die rather than give up the Eucharistic banquet. One of these
courageous Christians has left us an answer which has been frequently cited. Emeritus - who had
confessed that Christians had gathered in his house - was asked this question because he had violated
the emperor’s command. He answered: "Sine Dominico not possumus." In other words, "We cannot live
without Sunday." Not attending the Holy Mass is like stopping breathing: it is the road towards spiritual

When I was in seminary, I remember reading on a newspaper an interview with Flannery O'Connor
about the meaning of being Catholic in the South of the United States. At that time There were few
Catholics in that area, maybe three percent of the population, and there were many prejudices against
them. In this interview, Flannery O'Connor talked about her best friend, a Baptist. Flannery often invited
her to go to church with her. Finally, the girl's mother gave her daughter the permission to go with
Flannery to Sunday mass. Flannery could not wait the end of the mass to ask her friend: "Did you like
it?”. The girl replied: “WOW. You Catholics really have something special. The sermon was so boring, the
music was awful, the priest mumbled prayers in a language nobody could understand, and all those
people were there!” Evidently they were not there for fun. I am sure that most of them were there
because “Sine Dominico non possumus” and also because God wrote on the tablets he gave to Moses:
"Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day."

The Eucharist

The truth is that the Catholic Church has been built around the Eucharist. Christ commanded us: "Do this
in commemoration of me." And since then we have been doing it; we have been celebrating the
Eucharist, changing the bread and wine into the Body and Blood, so that the Good Shepherd could
continue to feed his flock. I was pleased that this year the World Day for Missions happened to have the
Gospel of the great commandment of love. I’m afraid that we often think of Christian charity just in
terms of feeding the hungry, of the care for the sick and the elderly, or assisting the homeless and the
poor. But if we truly love our neighbor we should worry about all those people who are spiritually
homeless, spiritually hungry, spiritually sick and spiritually imprisoned. The Church exists to evangelize,
to proclaim the Good News of the love of God as well as His desire that we follow him as part of His
people. Being a follower is not a "solo flight" but rather an adventure to live together. At the heart of
this adventure there is the Eucharistic banquet where the Calvary and the Last Supper become part of
our lives and our history. I was a young priest when the Kennedy Center was inaugurated in Washington.
Jackie Kennedy invited Leonard Bernstein to compose a Mass for the inauguration. (The Mass was sung
and the celebrant was the main character). In particular, one scene caused a great stir in those days. At
one point the climate became very emotional and the cacophony of the choir interrupted the elevation
of the Body and Blood. The celebrant, in a furious rage, threw the Holy Chalice on the floor.

This image of the mass in Washington came to my mind when I was preparing a speech to a gathering of
young people in the North End, because one of the books I was using was the story from the Old
Testament when Moses went up for the second time on Mount Sinai to receive the Commandments. It
was the second time because when he had got off the mountain the first time and he had found the
people worshipping the golden calf, Moses had broken the tablets throwing them to the ground. I
realized that Bernstein - a Jew - had included this picture in its mass, and the celebrant, throwing the
Holy Chalice on the ground, was like Moses throwing the Tablets of the Law on the place where God's
people was worshipping the calf. When people do not worship God anymore they begin to worship the
golden calf, they begin to find false gods, such as money, power and pleasure. If we love God with our
entire mind, with all our heart, with all our strength, is unthinkable that we will turn our backs on his
commandment: "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day."
In such a highly individualistic society - described in the book of Prof. Putnam, Bowling Alone, where
generation after generation Americans spend more and more time alone, eating alone, living alone,
spending hours alone in front of the television or the computer - in this social climate we must
communicate that being disciples means being part of the family of Jesus, and part of the community. In
this fun-addicted culture some Christian churches have been transformed into entertainment centers. In
the Eucharist we have something much more important than fun. We have love carried to the extremes.
Our God has given us Himself when he invites us to wash each other’s feet and invites us to give our
lives to Him and to others.

We would like to have the best sermons and the best music for the liturgy. We all want the Mass to be
celebrated with dignity and beauty. It is very important that people understand the meaning of the rites
and the rich history of our tradition. But this is not enough. We need to teach people how to pray, then
the mass will have sense. Then we will begin to penetrate the mystery. Without the Eucharist on Sunday
we lose our identity.

A way to measure the success of our evangelization and the training of new generations of disciples
must be the loyalty of our parishioners to the Sunday Eucharist. Without the strength that comes from
the Word of God proclaimed during the Mass - and without the community arising from the Eucharist
and from the witness of our brothers and sisters - it is hard to imagine how somebody will be able to
keep on being a disciple. The metaphor of the vineyard and the branches is very suitable. A branch cut
from the vine does not survive very long. The same happens in today's world, where the values of the
Gospel are often rejected, religion is being trivialized and politically correctness prevails even against the
supremacy of conscience. In such a society only those Catholics who pray and go to church will persist in
their vocation as disciples of Jesus in the Catholic Church.

In the upcoming Year of the Faith we hope that our parishes and other communities, schools and
universities, will seriously consider a way to help people who have moved away from the Sunday

When I was a young priest I have always underlined the importance of eating together in the family.
Looking back at my childhood I remember how we met every night: the children, my parents and my
grandmother, who stayed with us for dinner. It was a moment of giving and receiving. We told each
other the sad and happy things that had happened during the day, we shared ideas and aspirations, but
above all we shared each other. Prayer was always a part of that, as well as giving thanks before eating
and praying the rosary after dinner. As a child there were many places where I would rather be: I’d
rather be playing outdoors, visiting a friend or whatever. And as they say, the shortest book is the book
of Irish recipes: boil everything and serve potatoes on the side. However, looking back I realize that
during those dinners with the O'Malley clan we learned our identity and forged bonds which would last
forever. There we shared our stories, and all our personal stories intertwined in the story we were
sharing together.
For the same reason our celebration of the Eucharist - the Sacrifice of the Mass - for us Catholics is a
family meal. And there we experience the love of God and we learn our identity, who we are, why we
are in this world and what we should do with our lives. Not going to Mass is like stopping breathing,
breathing the life of the Body of Christ. In the Gospel Jesus narrates the parable of the man who sends
his servants to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet. It was not an easy task; some of
them are beaten rather rudely. Sometimes we have to win our vanity, human respect and find the
courage to tell a friend or an acquaintance of ours: "Would you like to come to church with me on
Sunday?" Believe it or not, there are many people waiting for an invitation and they will not hit you over
the head with a blunt instrument if he calls. (Example Mark D.)

The great truth is that the Eucharist is the center of our lives as Catholics. We all have to do more in our
parishes and in our schools in order to make people feel very welcome, invited and supported in their
faith. We have to help our people discover the great treasure of the Eucharist on Sunday. Our ideal is to
make our Sunday Eucharist become our Saturday, i.e. a great school of charity, justice and peace. As we
can read in the encyclical Dies Domini: "The presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of his people is an
outreach project, urgent need for inner renewal, inspiration to change the structures of sin in which
individuals, communities and at times entire peoples are entangled. Far from being an escape, the
Christian Sunday is a "prophecy" inscribed over time, prophecy obliging the faithful to follow in the
footsteps of Him who came "to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to
the blind view, to set at liberty those who are oppressed and proclaim a year of gracefulness to the

We know that some have chosen not to go to church anymore because they were injured by the actions
of someone in the church, or because of their difficulties with the teachings of the Church. Since the first
day as archbishop - and perhaps I will do it for the rest of my life - I’ve always asked for forgiveness to all
those who were injured by the action or inaction of the people and leaders in the Church. We do not
want those experiences to become grounds for separation from the love of Christ and our Catholic
family, or that these experiences may prevent anyone from receiving the grace of the Sacraments.

The Eucharist and the Family
The celebration of the Mass, like life, has vertical and horizontal dimensions. This supports the great
commandment that calls us to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. The Christian life is a pilgrimage
we make together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus gave us His example by bringing together
all the apostles at the Last Supper instead of eating with every apostle separately. God has planned from
eternity that we would be placed in a particular community, in this particular moment, and that we
would live as disciples in friendship and brotherhood with those for whom and with whom we pray at
Mass every Sunday. Our presence for each other is a symbol of solidarity and unity with God and with
each one of us. This is the most complete expression of our Christian identity.

"Liturgy" means “service by the people and in favor of the people." The best service that we can do
every Sunday is to worship God and pray with and for our parish family. Father Patrick Peyton - the great
"Rosary Priest"- teaches us that saying that "The family that prays together stays together." He asked to
pray the rosary with the family every day. Similarly, I recommend people to attend Sunday Mass and
pray together. This will strengthen your family and you will be able to face the many challenges of our
time which often tear us apart. During the sacrament of Baptism, parents are reminded that they are
called to be the first and best teachers of their children as far faith is concerned. Knowing that the Mass
is the central prayer of Catholicism and that it is the source and the highest point of Christian life, when
we attend Mass with them we teach our children and grandchildren the most important lesson.

Our faith: A living heritage for our children and grandchildren

The children always look up to their parents and grandparents. We train our youth in the way we
participate in the Mass. Seeing their parents going to church before the Mass in order to pray, children
will want to imitate them. Children who observe their parents and other adults receiving the Eucharist
with reverence will easily realize that the Eucharist truly is the Body and Blood of Christ. The example of
parents is an essential part in the preparation before receiving the First Communion. Children who feel
their parents’ love for the Mass will be less likely to compare attending Mass with watching TV, thus
considering it "boring".

A great tribute during a funeral liturgy is when the deceased is described as someone who has never
missed Sunday Mass and as someone who had a great desire to receive the Eucharist and be part of the
parish family. During my adolescence, my families and others in the parish would go together to
confessions on Saturday and then to Mass on Sunday mornings. After the mass, these extended families
stayed together for a great Sunday lunch and for some time of relax. The celebration of Sunday, the Day
of the Lord, was a legacy handed down from generation to generation. It was the time to build the
family of Christ, the Church, as well as our family.
Today the pace of life has sped up. Technology allows work and other responsibility to intrude into our
family time. Youth sports -which once took place in a specific time of the year and did not have any
competition on Sunday - now take place throughout the year and games can start even at 7 on Sunday

Indeed, many families are much more busy on Sundays rather than during workdays because Sunday
has simply become part of the weekend. Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote in his pastoral letter on the
Day of the Lord: "The practice of weekend is a weekly period of relief, spent perhaps far from home, and
often involving participation in cultural, political and sporting activities whose performance matches are
usually held on holy days. It is a social and cultural phenomenon that has no shortage of positive
elements to the extent that it can contribute, according to the true values, human development and
progress of society as a whole. It not only responds to the need for rest, but also to the feast that is
inherent in being human. Unfortunately, when Sunday loses its fundamental meaning and becomes
merely a weekend it can happen that people stay locked within a horizon so limited that they can no
longer see the "sky." Then, when ready to celebrate, they are really incapable of a celebration. Us as
Disciples of Christ, we need not to confuse the celebration of Sunday, which should truly be a
sanctification of the Lord, with a weekend, understood as a time of simple rest and relaxation."

St. Ignatius calls the Christians people who "live by the Lord's day” because they meet on the first day of
the week after the Jewish Sabbath to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Their lives are renewed by this
sacred worship. As Pope Benedict says "Sunday is not just a suspension from the ordinary activities, but
a time when Christians discover the Eucharistic form which their lives are called to have." The way we
celebrate Sunday will determine the way we will live the rest of the week, and it is the brand of Christian
identity from generation to generation.

The Eucharist is not just something symbolic. Jesus says "I am the bread which came down from Heaven,
and whoever eats this bread will live forever; those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me,
and I in them.” Hearing these words many disciples abandoned Jesus but he did not call them back
saying “I was joking“. Rather he asked the apostles if they wanted to leave. St. Peter answered on
behalf of all the faithful disciples: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” The
graces and visions that God gives to every celebration of the Mass helps us live a happier and more saint
life. As we prepare for the Mass, we have the opportunity to pray with confidence that Christ will give us
his sanctifying grace. When we arrive we ask God to speak through the readings, the music, the homily
and the prayers, showing us the way to grow and to become the person that God had in mind when he
created us. Once you reach that intuition, we can pray for the remainder of the Mass asking for the
grace to practice during the week.
The Eucharist gives us the strength to face life's challenges and allow us to be aware of God's love for us.
Every Sunday is a “little Easter" because it is the resurrection and the victory of Jesus’ death. This is the
most significant victory in the history of the world since it opens the blossoming possibilities of eternal
life. Think for a moment of the fact that God has loved each one of us so much that he suffered death on
the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Our God did this because he wanted us to live with him eternally in
Heaven. His victory, through his love, is destined to become even our victory.

Over the last ten years, Boston fans have had the good fortune of celebrating the victory of many
leagues. The parades of the victories are amazing. No American football fan can deny that Boston knows
how to celebrate a victory. Would not it be great if you could say the same of us for the way in which we
celebrate the greatest victory, the victory of Jesus’ death? You are the first teachers of faith to your
children. Your deeper legacy in life will be helping your children to know God and His grace, and to go to
Heaven. It is never too late to make this a priority and ask for God's help. Your example of loyalty to the
Sunday mass, prayer and morality talk more than many sermons. When children see that parents love
Sunday Mass they also start loving it. Too often parents “go to Mass for their Children” and the kids go
because their “father and mother take them”. Show your love for Jesus to your children by participating
in the Holy Mass on Sundays as a family, educate them by sending them to school or catechism. I ask
you to experience the Sunday as the day of Lord, a day that includes Mass, religious instruction
activities, lecture time, family meal, spiritual readings and works of charity.

I recommend playing an active role in teaching catechism to your children. It is a great opportunity to
show your faith and to tell episodes about how your parents, family members and friends handed down
faith to you. Children love stories and these conversations can be part of the tradition passed on to the
next generation. Introduce them to the lives of the saints. In a time when society rapidly makes "heroes"
out of entertainers and sport stars you will do a great favor to your children by sharing with them the
stories of those who entered in the "eternal roll of honor." Make prayer become a natural part of family
life. Pray before going to bed, before meals and in difficult situations, for illnesses or family problems.
Ask your children to pray for you, tell them that God loves the prayers of children in a special way. The
Catholic educator Jim Stenson wrote that children often have the perception of not being able to
contribute very much in family life, but they can learn that their prayers are mighty to God. When your
children see that you are living the faith joyfully, then they learn an important lesson for life, i.e. that
prayer is part of adult life. Show your children with your example the need for God's mercy, forgiveness
and love in the sacrament of penitence. The love of God is higher than any sin we have committed. The
confession gives us a chance to press the button and start from zero in our relationship with God. This is
a sacrament particularly useful for adolescents who pass through very difficult years. When teenagers
see confession as a normal act for parents and friends, it then becomes a normal and useful step in their
Let me add a note to the fathers. Research studies indicate that children practice their faith more
regularly when they see that their dad and mom and worship together. These same studies also indicate
that is the father’s practice of faith which helps both boys and girls most to consider this practice as an
important activity for adults. Therefore, I particularly ask all the fathers to be closely involved in shaping
the faith, and to consider proposing themselves as catechists in the programs of religious education.

I know that it is difficult to be loyal to the Church’s vision about family, especially in our culture which is
increasingly secularized. You and your families can witness to society the supremacy of God in your life.
Jesus did not promise that His way would be easy, but he promised that he would provide the grace
necessary to live your vocation. I ask you, fathers and mothers of young families, to imitate Joshua and
the People of Israel, when asked if they would serve the Lord or rather the pagan gods they replied: “but
for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

The Eucharist prepares us for the mission

For us, every Sunday, is the Day of Resurrection. On that first Easter, Jesus appeared to two disciples on
the road to Emmaus. The disciples were confused, hurt, and full of fear and doubt. They were trying to
figure out what to think of Jesus’ death and of the empty tomb. They talked about these developments
with Jesus, whom they hadn’t recognize. Once they reached the village they asked Jesus to stay with
them. St. Luke says that when they arrived in Emmaus, Jesus wanted to continue his journey. It was only
the insistent invitation of the two disciples who hosted Jesus at their table. I think this is an important
detail of this Gospel. The Lord is not imposed on us, like being invited into our lives. When they sat down
for dinner, Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and began to distribute it. Then the disciples
recognized Jesus. Suddenly Jesus disappeared, but the bread remained. The disciples then immediately
returned to Jerusalem to tell the apostles that Jesus had truly risen and had revealed to them.

We too live in a time where people are confused, hurt and full of fear. Jesus wants to meet us in the
same way he met the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Like them, we recognize Jesus and we will
encounter him more deeply in the breaking of bread during the Mass. The Eucharist is the fulfillment of
the promise of Jesus to be with us until the end of time. I pray that our love for the mass and the
wonder of the Eucharist may increase, so that our spirit will rejoice when we hear the proclamation of
the Holy Scriptures and observe the breaking of the bread. Let’s do what the two disciples on the road
to Emmaus did. Let us hasten to say to the world that Christ is alive and that our family should gather
together at the Lord's table to experience the love of God, to learn our identity and to fulfill our mission
together, telling the world: "we have seen the Lord and we have recognized him in the breaking of
bread. "

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