Mass for the Pilgrims
of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter
February 25, 2014
Cardinal Gerhard Müller
Dear Monsignor Steenson,
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
It is my great joy to welcome you to the Eternal City and to join you in the celebration of Holy Mass during your pilgrimage in the footsteps of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Indeed, in the great mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, we are drawn ever deeper into communion with God and with one another.
This communion, expressed so well in your faith and in your prayers, has been a great support and encouragement to me and to the other Cardinals created during these days. I am very glad that you could be in Rome for the Consistory. Because of the special relationship between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, I count you among my dear family and friends, and I ask you for your continued prayers for me. It is no easy thing to be given the robes of a Cardinal. The red color is a reminder of a willingness to give all for Christ and his Church, usque ad effusionem sanguinis, even unto the shedding of blood! I can wear such an outward sign not because of my own strength, but because of the support of your prayers! Thank you for that gift!
You have come to Rome as pilgrims and in celebration of your patronal feast of the Chair of St. Peter. In the many shrines you have visited, in the tombs of the saints which you have seen, in the faces of the thousands of other pilgrims with whom you have celebrated and prayed—I hope you have a deeper sense of the universality and vitality of Catholic Communion. The Lord in his Providence has lead each of you along a path to communion. For some of you, the path has been long and even difficult. But on pilgrimage to Rome, we are reminded that these journeys of faith are like jewels with which the Lord adorns his bride the Church. This is part of your patrimony! You priests and faithful of the Ordinariate who have set off on the adventure of fidelity have a unique story of faith to share with your brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church.
And yet, the rich patrimony of the English Church is not new. Today, in my home country of Germany, we celebrate the feast of Saint Walburga. This holy woman from the south of England is very important to us in the south of Germany! She was asked, along with her brother Willibald, to leave England and help their uncle, Saint Boniface, with the evangelization of Germany. They had no idea where this journey would take them. I am sure they did not even have a clear idea how to go about the task of evangelizing in any formal way. But in fidelity to the Lord Jesus who is himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life, they set out. Willibald became the founding Bishop of Eichstätt. Walburga, for her part, founded a monastery and served there as Abbess for the rest of her life.
Walburga was known for the sincerity of her faith and the simplicity of her life. And in that, she was a very effective preacher of the Gospel. Many came to see in her sincere faith and straightforward life an authenticity that was new and very attractive. Other women gathered around her and entered the monastery. Many, many people from the surrounding farms and villages sought out her counsel and prayers. She was transparent to the love and power of God, and in this way, drew thousands to Christ.
Something of an opposite example is given in the Gospel today. We read that the disciples were arguing among themselves who among them is the greatest. That is, of course, very human, as the sin of pride sometimes gets the best of each of us. But take note of the Lord’s response. He knows full well that pride will prevent these disciples from becoming apostles and evangelizers. Pride, after all, puts the focus on ourselves, not on the great things God’s grace accomplishes in us! Still, Jesus does not reprimand them nor does he become angry. Rather, he takes a child and places it before them.
In the Gospel there is always a clear distinction between being child-ish and child-like. One is an expression of pride, placing the emphasis on myself and my wants and desires, brooding in disappointment when we do not get our way. But the other, being child-like before God, is an expression of great humility, great openness, and great faith. It directs our attention on the Other, in what we have to learn and receive from God. In childlike humility, we can receive Christ. In receiving Christ, we receive the Father who sent him.
Humility is not just one virtue among others. True Christian humility is transparency to the grace and power of God which accomplishes great things in us. Humility allows God’s power to work through our weakness, God’s healing grace to work through our infirmity.
Saint Walburga understood this, and in her child-like humility, she was transparent to the love and power of God. And God’s power knows no limits, not even death! For twelve centuries, people have come to the tomb of the Abbess Walburga to receive the clear water that drips from it—in German we call this Walburgisöl. The water is used to invoke the Saint’s intercession for healing, and countless people have received the healing grace of God through her intercession.
When she set out from England on her journey of faith, Walburga did not know where God’s grace would eventually bring her. But she had faith that grace would bring her safely home and make the preaching of her religious witness effective. The same is true for us and our journey of faith, if we only imitate the humble openness—the wonder—of a child before the infinite possibility of God. There is no telling what he can accomplish in us.