Christ Our Hope Indeed!
by Helen Hull Hitchcock
Eventful days! For thousands upon thousands of American Catholics who were in Washington or New York during the first apostolic visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States, or watched it on television, the five days went by in a blur. On each occasion, from the welcoming ceremony at the White House on April 16, to the Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York on April 20, Pope Benedict shepherd to this nation’s more than 60 million Catholics presented words of faith, words of hope, words of love. Profound words that require reflection and remembrance. It all went by so fast!
I was among the 12,000 or so gathered on the White House lawn on that brilliant April morning, which happened to be the Holy Father’s 81st birthday, amid a dazzling spectrum of sights and sounds from the yellow tulips adorning the White House portico and row upon row of American and papal flags held by military men, to parades and bands playing and people singing. Both addresses were eloquent. President Bush greeted his guest with “Pax tecum” Peace be with you and spoke of the “dictatorship of relativism”, a phrase the pope coined; and Pope Benedict quoted George Washington’s farewell address.
While in DC, the pope celebrated Mass for about 47,000 people at Nationals Stadium, met with the bishops of the United States, Jewish and interfaith leaders, addressed Catholic educators, and had a private meeting with victims of clerical sex abuse. On April 18 he went to New York where he addressed the United Nations (see “A Father Speaks to His Family”, page 11), celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for priests and religious, met with youth with disabilities and addressed young people and seminarians in Yonkers (see page 5), prayed at Ground Zero, and on April 20 celebrated Mass at Yankee Stadium for nearly 60,000 people (see “Journey of Hope”, page 14). Five busloads from St. Louis traveled to New York, including all our seminarians.
All the pope’s speeches and homilies are posted on the Vatican web site - http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_ xvi/travels/2008/index_stati-uniti_en.htm.
An exhausting schedule, certainly! But as those who were there or saw the Holy Father on television know, he seemed to radiate energy and, yes, joy, while he was in our country.
On his return to Rome, the first public event for Pope Benedict was the funeral for Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who had died April 19 after a brief illness. Cardinal López Trujillo, a courageous defender of Catholic teaching on family-related issues, was well known to WFF, having given the keynote address at our 1994 national conference, which we reprint in this issue (page 30) as a memorial to him.
We think you will agree that this Pentecost issue of Voices is a kind of time capsule filled with important pieces of our history, things we must remember always to be retrieved, revisited, relished, and pondered in our hearts.
The Year of Saint Paul begins on June 28 and we begin this observance with a Day of Recollection led by St. Louis auxiliary Bishop Robert Hermann.
The theme of our Day of Recollection is taken from John 4:10: “If you knew the gift of God”, Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water”. She did not understand. But she listened. And Jesus revealed to her that He is the Messiah Christ, the Living Water of eternal life that quenches our deepest thirst.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, speaks of our hope of “the glory that is to be revealed to us”, in spite of the confusion and anguish we experience in this worldly life.
“For in this hope we were saved”, Paul says, and explains, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:24-26).
Spe Salvi, the title and opening words of Pope Benedict’s encyclical, come from this passage of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, as did the theme of his apostolic visit to our country, “Christ our Hope”. In Christ alone we hope for things yet unseen not yet understood in God’s redeeming love.
At the Mass in Yankee Stadium, the Holy Father urged Americans to bring this life-giving truth to everyone:
“‘Thy kingdom come’. This prayer needs to shape the mind and heart of every Christian in this nation. It needs to bear fruit in the way you lead your lives and in the way you build up your families and communities. It needs to create new ‘settings of hope’ where God’s Kingdom becomes present in all its saving power.”
And his final words to us:
“Let us turn to Jesus! He alone is the way that leads to eternal happiness, the truth who satisfies the deepest longings of every heart, and the life who brings ever new joy and hope, to us and to our world. Amen.”
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