Homilies by Bishop Kevin Rhoades, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana
"Francis' Little Assisi" is located in this Fort Wayne, Indiana. The homilies featured on this page occurred in connection with events in "Little Assisi."
Indiana and Ohio Confraternity of Penitents Members with Bishop Kevin Rhoades, January 8, 2015. Taken in Confraternity of Penitents International Headquarters following Mass by the Bishop for the CFP. Mass homily on Homilies link on this website.
At the time this photo was taken, approximately 200 Confraternity members in various stages for formation and profession live worldwide in several countries besides the United States. These include, among others, the Philippines, India, New Zealand, the British Isles, Spain, Canada, and Italy.
The Confraternity of Penitents maintains the website for Saint Francis' Little Assisi
INVESTITURE OF NOVICES - MAY 18, 2015
Deo gratias! I begin this homily with these words which Saint Felix used to bless everyone he met. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God! Many called this blessed Capuchin religious “Brother Deo gratias!”
Deo gratias! We thank God for our six postulants who today are invested as Novices: Michael Miller, Nathan Rider, John Baumann, Nathan McDevitt, Daniel McCallister, and Parker Zurbach. We pray for them as they continue their spiritual journey. Though religious formation is lifelong, the novitiate is a particularly important stage in religious formation. It is an intense time of discernment of one’s divine vocation. It is one in which these brothers will be formed in the particular charism of the Franciscan Brothers Minor. Like all who seek to embrace the consecrated life, they are being initiated into the form of life the Son of God embraced, a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
My six brothers are about to become novices, I encourage you to use this coming year well, focused on the Lord and His call. Your formation in the novitiate will involve the cultivation of both human and Christian virtues. The religious life presupposes your maturity in these virtues. In this regard, I am reminded of the words of Saint Paul to the Philippians: Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. My brothers, the Church teaches us the importance of the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. These human or moral virtues build character. They are the key to living a moral life. With God’s grace, pursue these virtues, pursue growth in these virtues during your novitiate year. Of course, it’s the theological virtues that give life to all the moral virtues: the virtues of faith, hope, and charity, the supernatural virtues infused into our souls by God at our Baptism. If your novitiate is truly fruitful, you will have grown in these theological virtues. You will, therefore, have grown in the spiritual freedom of the children of God. It is only by your growth in these virtues that you will be able to embrace wholeheartedly the consecrated life. Without these virtues, the evangelical counsels are emptied of their meaning. To be poor, chaste, and obedient without faith, hope, and charity makes no sense and is not a witness to the Gospel.
In the novitiate, you will be introduced to a fuller way of perfection by prayer and self-denial. You will frequently read and meditate on Sacred Scripture. You will worship Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Though you have been doing these things as postulants, in the novitiate there should be less distraction. There should be more focus, especially on prayer. This will not always be easy. You will be initiated more deeply into the Paschal dimension of the consecrated life. This is vitally important: the sacrificial aspect, detachment from self, an evangelical asceticism. You are being invited to stand with the Blessed Virgin at the foot of the cross, to contemplate the face of our crucified Lord. Allow your hearts to be touched by the love of Christ, to discover anew and in an even deeper way the love that God has for you, the beauty and power of that love. It is that love which embraces you. And only with that love can you love God and others in return, can you embrace the consecrated life, and live as true sons of Saint Francis.
You’ll be learning a lot about Saint Francis and the spirituality and mission of the Franciscan Brothers Minor during the novitiate. You will be learning about his evangelical life and that of the Franciscan saints, like Saint Felix of Cantalice, whose feast we celebrate today, the first canonized Capuchin saint. Of course, you learn these lives of the saints not just as interesting history lessons. You are to learn from them the virtues I spoke about. You are to learn holiness. We are not called to be Christians and you are not called to be Franciscans in some idealistic, abstract way. Christianity isn’t about embracing abstractions. It’s about living the Gospel. Think of the saints; they embodied the Gospel; they didn’t just talk about it in lofty language. They weren’t supermen and they weren’t born perfect. Neither are we. But they did live their lives with passion and purpose. What animated their lives, Pope Francis says, is that “they recognized God’s love and they followed it with all their heart without reserve or hypocrisy. They spent their lives serving others, they endured suffering and adversity without hatred and responded to evil with good, spreading joy and peace.” I think that’s a good description of the vocation and mission of a Franciscan Brother Minor. In the novitiate, brothers, may you recognize God’s love and learn to follow it with all your heart.
Mass with Vows of Franciscan Brothers Minor – May 18, 2015
Final vows of Br. Fidelis Maria and Br. Issac Mary
The consecrated life is a precious gift to the Church and to the world. At this Mass, we pray for our Franciscan Brothers Minor who have been called by God our Father to the consecrated life. They have experienced in their hearts the deep and powerful love of God. Today they respond to that love through their profession of vows. Brother Fidelis and Brother Isaac will make their perpetual profession. Freely and unconditionally, they dedicate their lives to God. They place their lives in His hands. Four brothers will make a temporary profession: Brother Peter, Brother Juan Diego, Brother Leopold, and Brother Mariano. Having completed their novitiate, they commit themselves to live for three years a life according to the evangelical counsels.
These six brothers profess their vows during this special Year of Consecrated Life. Pope Francis reminds us of how the founders and foundresses of religious institutes “were attracted by the unity of the Apostles with Christ and by the fellowship which marked the first community in Jerusalem.” We heard about this community in our first reading today. They shared all things in common. They took their meals in common. The Acts of the Apostles tells us they were of one heart and one soul. Brothers, I wish to emphasize today this essential part of your life; your fraternity, your fraternal life in love, your unity as brothers. Your mutual love is at the heart of your vocation, a love that is nourished by your life of prayer and by the Eucharist. It’s a love that also needs to be purified in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Be open to the Holy Spirit, the source of the Church’s unity. He leads our souls to communion with the Father and with Jesus. This communion with God is the source of our communion in the Church and also of your fraternal life in communion with your brothers. I pray that you who share all things in common with truly be of one heart and one soul. Don’t just call yourselves brothers, but live as brothers, real brothers, authentic brothers. Saint Paul, in our second reading, gives excellent counsel on how to live this way. He writes: “clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you. Over all these virtues, put onlove which binds the rest together and makes them perfect.” If your fraternity lacks this love, it loses its purpose. Without love, a religious community not only ceases to be a sign of the communion of the Trinity, it becomes a counter-sign and hurts the Church’s witness and mission. So remember: fraternal love, always and everywhere. It’s not always easy, as you know, because we’re all sinners, but it’s essential. And it’s possible because of God’s grace, because of the Holy Spirit. My advice to you today is simple: love one another. It’s Jesus’ advice: “love one another as I have loved you.” The Church needs your witness of fraternal love. Such witness has power, an evangelizing power. The theme of this Year of Consecrated Life is “Wake up the World.” In the midst of so much division, discord, and disunity among people, be witnesses of unity. Gossip, envy, jealousy, hostility must have no place in your houses. Follow always the path of charity. Be a prophetic witness in the Church and in the world of the communion of life and love of the Most Holy Trinity!
I must say a word about today’s Gospel, especially in light of your Franciscan charism and your vow of poverty. The Lord warns the disciples not to worry about food and clothing and teaches us that “life is more than food and the body more than clothing.” These things are obviously necessary, but there are more important things to be concerned about. Jesus teaches us not to worry about these material things, but to trust in God’s providence. He exhorts us, instead, to seek and strive for the kingdom of God. We pray many times every day: “Thy Kingdom come.” My brothers, this should be our preoccupation, our number one priority. Our lives are in the hands of our heavenly Father. Saint Francis believed this with all his heart. That’s why he was able to live evangelical poverty in such a beautiful way. Remember Our Lord’s assurance that those who give up everything for the sake of the Kingdom of God will receive “an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come” (Luke 18:29-30).
“Wake up the world,” Pope Francis says to men and women in the consecrated life. Franciscans, your life of poverty is meant to wake up the world from its slumber in materialism and consumerism.
Refrain from asking people for things you really don’t need. Show love for the poor and the needy in our midst. Be a sign and a witness to all that God is the true wealth of the human heart. I encourage you to be Franciscan Brothers Minor, minor: seeing yourselves as lesser, minor, small, like Saint Francis did. This is part of genuine evangelical poverty: humility. We must all strive to see ourselves as dependent, not on self or personal resources, but on God. We remember what Jesus says about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.
Brothers, you make your vows today on the feast of the first Capuchin saint, Felix of Cantalice. What a great model of fraternal charity and evangelical poverty, of kindness and piety, of humility and simplicity. For forty years in Rome, he walked barefoot, begging alms to help his brother friars and to aid the sick and the poor. He loved children and taught them the faith through simple songs he wrote for them to sing. Saint Felix spent hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament every day. He was devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. And he was a man with a joyful faith.
In these days between the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost, we remember the presence of Mary with the disciples in the upper room, praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Brothers, you will make a special vow to her, along with the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Remember that she is always with you, like she was with the disciples in the upper room. She will share your struggles and surround you with God’s love. That’s her role: she is a true mother. I implore her intercession for you today. She is the unsurpassed model of the consecrated life. Always keep Our Lady with you, in each of your friaries and in each of your hearts. Like the Apostle John, take her into your home. With our Blessed Mother’s help, may you grow in holiness at the school of your father Francis. Like our Mother Mary and Saint Francis, may you let yourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit on your journey of faith and live the consecrated life as an adventure of love, spreading the joy of the gospel through your evangelical life!
--Bishop Kevin Rhoades
BISHOP RHOADES OFFERS MASS FOR THE CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS IN THE CFP HOUSE CHAPEL, JANUARY 8, 2015
On Thursday, January 8, 2015, Bishop Rhoades offered Mass for the Confraternity of Penitents in the Confraternity of Penitents International Headquarters House Chapel. The photo of Bishop Rhoades, priest guests and concelebrants, and Confraternity of Penitents Members was taken in the CFP House following the Mass. The entrance to the chapel is seen in the background. The Bishop's Mass homily follows below.
THURSDAY AFTER EPIPHANY – JANUARY 8, 2015
+ We are still in the Christmas season which ends this Sunday, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
+ Wonderful readings last week and this week from the first letter of Saint John. Saint John, the beloved disciple, wrote 5 New Testament books: the Gospel of John, the three letters, and the book of Revelation. A major theme: love (God’s love and our vocation to love). Recall the famous words in the Gospel of John (the famous 3:16): “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” This is what we have been celebrating during this Christmas season – the gift of the Incarnation – the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us.
+ When Saint John wrote his three letters, he was addressing a difficult problem in his communities at the end of the first century. Many were being led astray by false teachers who were denying the truth of the Incarnation, the truth that the Son of God became flesh. He called them “antichrists.” They believed in Jesus but they denied that He came in the flesh. They claimed they were being led by the Spirit. Saint John makes it clear that it was not the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth, that was guiding them, but the spirit of deceit, the father of lies. This heretical group also claimed that they loved God, but they were not loving their neighbor nor keeping the commandments. They hated the other members of the Christian community. That’s why Saint John wrote in today’s reading: “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
This teaching of Saint John is very challenging. He says we are liars if we say we love God and hate our neighbor. Being a liar means being on the devil’s side since the devil is the father of lies. Loving God means we keep his commandments. John writes: “For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.” The principal commandment is charity, therefore, it is not possible to love God without loving one’s neighbor. Love of God and love of neighbor are inseparable! The true disciple of Christ loves God and neighbor.
Earlier in this first letter of John, Saint John wrote that “God is love.” This is a profound truth of Christianity. With love, He sent us his Son. This was entirely gratuitous. In today’s reading, he reminds us that “we love God because he first loved us.” But there is a requirement attached to God’s gift of love, that of sharing it with others. The love for others brings us as close as we can come on earth to union with God. Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that in this life we come closer to God through love than through knowledge.
Saint John tells us God’s commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.” So faith and love are connected. Our faith in Jesus, lived through love, enables us to conquer the world. This is what our world so desperately needs. It is the only way to true and lasting peace. There is no justice nor peace without forgiveness and love.
The Eucharist we now celebrate is the sacrament of love as Jesus comes to us, His Body broken and His blood poured out for us, giving us the grace and strengthen to love one another as He has loved us.
May God help all of us to live our vocation to love! This is what makes life meaningful and beautiful.
--Bishop Kevin Rhoades
December 8. 2014
LOVING DEVOTION TO MARY
The following is the text of Bishop Rhoades’ homily on December 8, 2014 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne:
It is with special joy and gratitude that I celebrate this Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the title of our beautiful cathedral, the patroness of our diocese and nation. Tomorrow, December 9th, the feast of Saint Juan Diego, is my 10th anniversary of episcopal ordination. My heart is filled with gratitude to God for the gift and privilege of serving as a successor of the apostles these past ten years. My heart is also filled with gratitude to you and all the faithful of our diocese for your love and goodness to me during the past five years that I have been privileged to serve as your bishop. Half of my life and ministry as a bishop was in Harrisburg and half of my life and ministry as a bishop has been here in Fort Wayne-South Bend. It’s hard to believe it has been ten years already. I think back to December 9th, 2004 and the joy of my family and friends that day. It was Pope Saint John Paul II who named me as a bishop at the age of 46, a huge surprise to me. God is a God of surprises, Pope Francis says. It’s true. Another big surprise came when Pope Benedict XVI transferred me to Fort Wayne-South Bend. These surprises have all been blessings for which I thank the Lord.
The greatest surprise and greatest event of grace in human history was the Incarnation, the great mystery of God becoming man. We heard the surprising announcement of the Incarnation in our Gospel today. Imagine Mary’s surprise (shock really) when the angel Gabriel said to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
Though Mary was surprised and even naturally afraid, God had prepared her for the awesome vocation to be the Mother of His Son. He prepared her by preserving her from all stain of original sin from the moment of her conception. In view of the merits of His Son, God enriched her with the rich fullness of His grace. That’s why Gabriel would greet her as “full of grace.” This is the beautiful mystery we celebrate today: the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I have always felt close to Mary throughout my life, including these past 10 years as a bishop. I think back to the Marian year we celebrated in the diocese of Harrisburg when I was bishop there and also of the Marian consecration here in our diocese this past summer. Pope Saint John Paul II used to speak about “the Marian thread in his life.” Inspired by the great John Paul, I also see a Marian thread in my life. It is good today for all of us in this diocese, which has Immaculate Mary as our patroness, to think about our relationship with Mary – are we close to her? Do we practice devotion to her? She is our model of holiness. She is our loving mother who protects us and leads us to her Son. She is an advocate of grace for us. Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote that “the Blessed Virgin was so full of grace that it overflows onto all mankind.” She then surpasses even the angels. In every struggle or danger, we can find refuge in her. She’s involved in our salvation. Love for Mary helps us tremendously to live a deep spiritual life of love with her Son.
As I mentioned, I was ordained a bishop on December 9th, the feast of Saint Juan Diego. Interestingly, 500 years ago the feast of the Immaculate Conception was celebrated throughout the Spanish empire on December 9th. December 9, 1531, was the date of the first apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe to the humble Indian, Juan Diego. At the fourth and final apparition, Mary said some beautiful words to Juan Diego, words that have meant so much to me and given me so much joy and consolation these past ten years. They express our Blessed Mother’s love and tenderness. Our Lady told Juan Diego to put these words into his heart. I invite all of you to do the same. Mary says: “Am I not here, I, who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”
“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
Mass with Solemn Profession of Vows of Brother Crispin and Brother Pio (November 19, 2014)
Five years ago today in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the community of the Franciscan Brothers Minor was officially established as a Catholic association. During Mass on this day, November 19th, 2009, the feast day of Saint Agnes of Assisi (the blood sister of Saint Clare), Father David made his perpetual vows in my hands.
Also, during that Mass, seven other brothers were invested as postulants as I blessed and placed their crosses around their necks. I prayed that the blessed crosses would always remind them of the love of Jesus, our crucified Lord, and also remind them of the words of Jesus in that day’s Gospel about taking up the cross and following Him as a necessary prerequisite to being His disciples.
I also blessed and placed around their necks the miraculous medal, imploring Our Lady’s motherly protection. I never would have foreseen the rapid growth of this beloved community of the Franciscan Brothers Minor, nor would I have foreseen the growth of this Franciscan family with the establishment of our Poor Sisters of Saint Clare.
Today, on this 5th anniversary of the Brothers, we raise our minds and hearts in thanksgiving to God for the blessings of these past five years. And we implore His grace and blessing for the future. During this liturgy, two of our brothers, Brother Pio Maria of Our Lady Co-Redemptrix and Brother Crispin Maria of Our Lady help of Christians, will make their perpetual vows.
Let us pray fervently for then, for their fidelity, perseverance, and growth in holiness. As you well know, in addition to the profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, our Franciscan Brothers Minor make a 4th vow of consecration to our Immaculate Mother Mary. Since its inception, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary has been a distinctive part of the spiritual life of this community.
Today, November 19th, happens to also be a feast of Mary under the title “Our Lady of Divine Providence.” It is a happy coincidence that Brother Crispin makes his perpetual vows today since Our Lady of Divine Providence is the principal patroness of Puerto Rico, declared such by Blessed Pope Paul VI 45 years ago. Perhaps some of you have seen the beautiful image of Our Lady of Providence since the National Shrine of Our Lady of Providence is right here in Indiana, at Saint Mary of the Woods, at the motherhouse of the Sisters of Providence where Indiana’s saint, Mother Theodore Guerin, is entombed.
The original 1700 century Italian painting of Our Lady of Providence depicts Mary cradling the Infant Jesus in her arms. The child’s fingers confidently clasp those of His mother. It is as if Jesus is placing into His Mother’s hands the authority to act in His name, to provide good things to all who implore her aid. Truly our Blessed Mother shows us the providence of God.
Through His Mother, Jesus indeed provides. Brother Pio and Brother Crispin, may you always trust in Divine Providence and may you also always be close to Our Lady, our beloved Mother, a gift of Divine Providence.
Five years ago, I spoke to Father David and the first brothers about the evangelical counsels, looking to the example of Saints Francis, Clare, and Agnes of Assisi. Today we should also look to example of Saints Pio and Crispin. All these Franciscan saints are models of fidelity to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience because they model for us the poverty, chastity, and obedience of Jesus.
These vows are quite counter-cultural, like your habits and appearance. But you don’t take the vows to be counter-cultural. You take the vows to live like Jesus, to live His love. The vows have no meaning apart from love, the greatest of all virtues.
It is only by God’s grace that you can live this love through holy poverty, celibate chastity, and humble obedience. You make these vows in the communion of Christ’s Church which you are called to love and serve. And the Church helps you by sharing with you the treasures of Our Lord entrusted to her: the Word of God and the sacraments.
Like Mary, the Church is your Mother who gives you life, the life of grace, the means of sanctification. You are sons of the Church who make your vows today before God in the hands of your bishop. Your fraternal life in your community of brothers is a microcosm of the larger family of all your brothers and sisters in Christ in His Body, the Church.
Within this larger family, you are to be examples of Christ’s love, witnesses of the Gospel, men who help others to discover the joy of following Christ, the joy of living the Gospel. I wish to remind you before you take your vows today of something I said 5 years ago because it is so important for your growth in holiness. Poverty, chastity, and obedience have no merit if the vowed religious lacks the virtues of charity and humility.
Renunciation of possessions, sexual abstinence, and docility to superiors have a higher aim: love of God and love of neighbor, the two great commandments. Humility is also essential since pride corrupts. It exalts the self and not the Lord. Pride, the original sin, was the major fault of the Pharisees and scribes.
I think your Marian vow is a great help in this area since Mary, who recognized her true identity as the handmaid of the Lord, teaches us genuine humility. In the Magnificat, she proclaimed the greatness of the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God as her Savior. As Brother Pio and Brother Crispin make their solemn vows, they do so in the spirit of Mary’s humility, the humility of Francis and Clare, indeed in the humility of the Son of God who humbled Himself in becoming a man and accepted death on a cross.
And why? Only for one reason: love. And that’s the reason Brother Pio and Brother Crispin surrender their lives today to the Lord and his Church as Franciscan Brothers Minor. Brother Pio and Brother Crispin, thank you for saying yes to the Lord’s call to follow Him in the consecrated life. May Jesus and Mary be ever at your side! May the Holy Spirit strengthen you and help you to grow in holiness as sons of Saint Francis, as men of charity and humility, poor, chaste, and obedient disciples of Jesus our Savior! Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades .
ASSUMPTION OF MARY HOMILY BY MOST REVEREND KEVIN C. RHOADES
August 15, 2014
This homily is also on line in the Confraternity of Penitents Penance Library under the "Mary" heading.
Assumption of Mary
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” These words, which welled up from the depths of Mary’s heart at the Visitation, re-echo in this cathedral today. They re-echo in our hearts and in the hearts of the faithful in churches and homes throughout our diocese on this beautiful feast of Our Lady’s Assumption. They re-echo in my heart which rejoices that over 12,000 men and women of all ages throughout our diocese entrust their lives to her today. Like the apostle John, we welcome the Mother of Christ into our home, into our hearts. Our Marian consecration is our saying “yes” to the beautiful gift Jesus gave us from the cross when He said to John: “Behold your mother.” We are responding with faith to Our Lord’s gift of love, the gift of His mother, and to our Mother’s love. She wants to act in our lives, to share with us the joy of her faith, to help us to know and follow her Son. She invites us, as she invited the servants at the wedding feast of Cana, to do whatever Jesus tells us. She wants to lead us to know the height and depth…. Of Christ’s love for us. And she wants us to be with her in the glory of heaven, in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity. Today we say yes to her. We say yes to the truths of our baptismal promises. We say with her: “Behold the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your Word.” And so we are able to rejoice with her in God our Savior and to repeat her words in the Magnificat: “the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his Name.”
I believe the Lord will do great things for us, for our diocese, and for the thousands who make the Marian consecration today. He will do so through the one who cooperated fully in His saving work, through His mother who was the first to experience within herself the supernatural consequences of Christ’s mediation. She pours out upon us and upon the Church her maternal love. Mary is the mediatrix of God’s mercy who helps us to receive the mercy she sang about in the Magnificat, the mercy promised to Abraham and his children forever. She is our mother who stretches out her arms to embrace all who take refuge in her. She is “the most merciful, the most compassionate mother, the most tender mother, the most loving mother” (Saint Lawrence of Brindisi). She gives us hope in the midst of life’s challenges, the hope that comes from placing all our trust in the Lord, like she did. She became our hope when she was assumed body and soul into heaven, our sure hope of salvation. Hope was lost through the sin of Eve; hope is restored through Mary, the new Eve, through whom the Savior, the new Adam, came into the world. Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.” Mary was brought to life and, when she passed from this world, her body was not corrupted by death. She was assumed body and soul into heaven. There she is our advocate, always interceding for us, accompanying us with her love.
In these past 33 days, we have been united in our prayers of preparation for today, for our Marian consecration, guided by the wisdom of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Saint John Paul II. These spiritual giants, heroes of our faith, reached the heights of holiness, powerfully aided by their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. They learned from Mary, and they teach us to learn from Mary, the way of perfection. They learned from Mary’s example to be faithful disciples of Jesus, to be steadfast in faith, persevering in hope, and abounding in love. They learned, in a word, to follow Jesus. They learned to be authentic Christians, to be saints. That’s what Mary teaches us. And she not only teaches us, she helps us. Through her prayers, she fills our hearts with the light of Christ’s holiness.
The beauty of Mary’s virtue and holiness came from the Holy Spirit. She was adorned with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Mary was present in the upper room with the apostles at Pentecost, praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had already descended upon Mary at the Annunciation, when she conceived the Son of God by His power, when she became the Mother of God. At Pentecost, that outpouring of the Holy Spirit was repeated and reinforced in her because of the new motherhood she had received at the foot of the cross. At Pentecost, she received a renewed gift of the Spirit for the fruitfulness of her new motherhood as Mother of the Church, as our Mother. Just as Mary prayed for the disciples in the upper room, she also prays for us today. She prays that we too will open our hearts to the seven-fold gift of the Holy Spirit. In her motherly love, she implores the Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide us in the way of her Son. Today I entrust our diocese to Mary’s intercession so that the Holy Spirit may descend in abundance upon us, filling the hearts of all the faithful and enkindling in us the fire of His love.
Before we make the Marian consecration, I invite you to think about the “woman clothed with the sun” in the book of Revelation. This woman, who represents both Mary and the Church, is clothed with the sun, that is, she is, as Pope Benedict explained, “surrounded and penetrated by God’s light.” The moon is under her feet. The moon is “the image of death and mortality.” On her head is a crown of twelve stars that represent the people of God: the twelve tribes of Israel and the Church founded on the twelve apostles. The dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, wanting to devour her child. But he couldn’t. “Her child was caught up to God and his throne” and “the woman fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.”
The dragon, Satan, evil, is present throughout human history. The struggle between the woman and the dragon, between God and the evil one, between the Church and the enemy, is perennial. We see it in the world and world events. Saint Maximilian Kolbe saw it dramatically in Auschwitz. Pope John Paul experienced it when he was shot in Saint Peter’s Square. We see it today in wars, violence, persecution, hatred, and destruction of innocent human life. The struggle between good and evil is one that we as disciples of Jesus must also confront, in our own lives and even in our own hearts. All the disciples of Jesus must face this struggle. Pope Francis teaches us that we do not face this struggle alone, that “the Mother of Christ and of the Church is always with us. She walks with us always, she is with us…. Mary has of course already entered, once and for all, into heavenly glory” (that’s what we celebrate on today’s feast of the Assumption), “but this does not mean that she is distant or detached from us; rather Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil.” Pope Francis especially recommends the holy rosary to sustain us in this battle. The Marian consecration is a powerful way for us to be on the winning side in this battle. In Mary, Christ’s victory over Satan shines. The woman who escaped the dragon fled into the desert, the wilderness. We live in that desert, that wilderness. This time on earth is a like the desert, a time of anguish, persecution and trial. But it is not an indefinite time. Liberation and the hour of glory will come. And during this time in the desert of the world, God nourishes us with the bread of his Word and of the Holy Eucharist. And he has given us the help of His mother. Saint John Paul called Mary “the icon of the pilgrim Church in the wilderness of history but on her way to the glorious destination of the heavenly Jerusalem,” and “the shining emblem of humanity redeemed and enveloped by the grace that saves.” She is the fairest honor of our race. In the end, she wins, not the dragon. After the battle, Saint John heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One.”
Today we celebrate with joy that Mary is free from any shadow of death and totally filled with life. She shares in her Son’s victory. And she deeply desires that we do too. The woman clothed with the sun is “the great sign of the victory of love, of the victory of goodness, of the victory of God” (Pope Benedict XVI). She is truly blessed among women! We entrust our lives to her. Holy Mary, our Mother, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen!
SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY -
JUNE 15, 2014
FINAL PROFESSION OF FRANCISCAN BROTHERS MINOR--Brother Juniper, Brother Leo, Brother Paschal, Brother Lawrence
Today, the Church invites us to praise God not merely for the wonders that He has worked, but for who He is; for the beauty and goodness of His Being from which His actions spring. On this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the Church does what Saint Francis so often did; we praise and thank God because He is love and because He calls us to enter into the embrace of his love. God is love, “not a sentimental kind of love, but the love of the Father who is the origin of all life, the love of the Son who dies on the cross and is raised, the love of the Spirit who renews human beings and the world” (Pope Francis). As Pope Francis teaches us: “Thinking that God is love does us so much good, because it teaches us to love, to give ourselves to others as Jesus gave himself to us and walks with us. Jesus walks beside us on the road through life.”
Today we contemplate the Heart of God, His deepest reality, His being One in the Trinity, a supreme and profound communion of life and love. Think about God’s words to Moses in our first reading today. They are quite exceptional because they tell us the truth about God. God tells Moses His name: “Lord” and he cried out to Moses” “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” This is God’s name: Mercy, Grace, Love, and Fidelity. This is the essence of Christianity because it is the essence of God Himself. We see this truth in the words of today’s Gospel: “God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish, but might have eternal life.” This is God: Mercy, Grace, Love, and Fidelity. God gives to us what is most dear to Him, His Son, who empties Himself of His glory in order to give Himself to us. And the Father and the Son give to us the Spirit, who, as Pope Benedict, once said “leaves the peace of the divine embrace to water the deserts of humanity.”
Today, Brothers Leo, Juniper, Lawrence, and Paschal put their lives at the service of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Church. This is an incredible thing we are witnessing here today. Four men are making a total commitment, leaving everything behind, to share Christ’s love of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They are making a definitive life commitment to live as Franciscan Brothers Minor, a very radical way of living the Gospel on this earth. These men know their weakness, so how can they do this? The answer is faith, deep faith. They trust that God indeed is Mercy, Grace, Love, Fidelity. They trust in Him and they love Him. Why else would they vow their lives in poverty, chastity, and obedience?
The evangelical counsels are, above all, Saint John Paul II taught us, “a gift of the Holy Trinity.” He said: “the consecrated life proclaims what the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit, brings about by His love, His goodness and His beauty.” The deepest meaning of the evangelical counsels is revealed when they are viewed in relation to the Trinity.” The heart of poverty, chastity, and obedience is love for the Trinity: “love for Christ, which leads to closeness with Him; love for the Holy Spirit, who opens our hearts to His inspiration; and love for the Father, the first origin and supreme goal of the consecrated life.” And dear brothers, besides the evangelical counsels, your fraternal life in community has a Trinitarian dimension. Like the first Christians, you must strive to live in Christ with “one heart and soul.” This too is a witness to the Trinity, the unity, the oneness, of the three Divine Persons.
The Franciscan Brothers Minor also make a fourth vow of consecration to our Immaculate Mother Mary, to the one who is already living in the glory of the Trinity. In his salutation of the Blessed Virgin, Saint Francis prayed: “Hail, holy Lady, most holy Queen, Mother of God, Mary who art ever Virgin, chosen from heaven by the most Holy Father, whom He has consecrated with the most holy beloved Son and the Spirit Paraclete, in whom was and is all the fullness of grace and all good.” Saint Francis recognized that Mary was chose by God the Father. That she was the Mother of the Son and consecrated by the Holy Spirit. How beautiful it is,, brothers, that you make a perpetual vow to honor the woman who brought the eternal Son of God to us, the beloved daughter of the Father who always did the will of the Father, the woman who in an extraordinary way was a temple of the Holy Spirit. Mary truly had a privileged relationship with the Trinity.
Mary is a gift of God’s love to us. She is a gift to you, dear sons, who are about to make your perpetual vows. In difficult and tough times, as well as in joyful times, look to her. She is our mother and our queen. She accompanies us always on our journey of faith. Let us entrust Brothers Leo, Juniper, Lawrence and Paschal to her love. Mary, our mother, always watch over these your sons and help them to be holy disciples of your Son, as they walk in the footsteps of Saint Francis!
--Bishop Kevin Rhoades