In New York, the heart of the most hardened secularist softens when visiting one of our inner-city Catholic schools. When one of our benefactors, who described himself as an agnostic, asked Sister Michelle why, at her age, with painful arthritic knees, she continued to serve atone of these struggling but excellent poor schools, she answered, “Because God loves me, and I love Him, and I want these children to discover this love.”
7. Joy, love . . . and, last point . . . sorry to bring it up, . . . but blood.
Tomorrow, twenty-two of us will hear what most of you have heard before:
“To the praise of God, and the honor of the Apostolic See receive the red biretta, the sign of the cardinal’s dignity; and know that you must be willing to conduct yourselves with fortitude even to the shedding of your blood: for the growth of the Christian faith, the peace and tranquility of the People of God, and the freedom and spread of the Holy Roman Church.”
Holy Father, can you omit “to the shedding of your blood” when you present me with the biretta?
Of course not! We are but “scarlet audio- visual aids” for all of our brothers and sisters also called to be ready to suffer and die for Jesus.
It was Pope Paul VI who noted wisely that people today learn more from “witness than from words,” and the supreme witness is martyrdom.
Sadly, today we have martyrs in abundance.
Thank you, Holy Father, for so often reminding us of those today suffering persecution for their faith throughout the world. Thank you, Cardinal Koch, for calling the Church to an annual “day of solidarity” with those persecuted for the sake of the gospel, and for inviting our ecumenical and inter-religious partners to an “ecumenism of martyrdom.”
While we cry for today’s martyrs; while we love them, pray with and for them; while we vigorously advocate on their behalf; we are also very proud of them, brag about them, and trumpet their supreme witness to the world.
They spark the missio ad gentes and New Evangelization.
A young man in New York tells me he returned to the Catholic faith of his childhood, which he had jettisoned as a teenager, because he read The Monks of Tibhirine, about Trappists martyred in Algeria fifteen years ago, and after viewing the drama about them, the French film, Of Gods and Men.
Tertullian would not be surprised.
Thank you, Holy Father and brethren, for your patience with my primitive Italian. When Cardinal Bertone asked me to give this address in Italian, I worried, because I speak Italian like a child.
But, then I recalled, that, as a newly-ordained parish priest, my first pastor said to me as I went over to school to teach the six-year old children their catechism, “Now we’ll see if all your theology sunk in, and if you can speak of the faith like a child.”
And maybe that’s a fitting place to conclude: we need to speak again as a child the eternal truth, beauty, and simplicity of Jesus and His Church.
Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!