Homily of cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos

Source: FSSPX News


Praised be Jesus Christ!

Today three figures draw our attention as believers in this Patriarchal Basilica of St. Mary Major: Most Holy Mary, the current successor of Peter and St. Pius V.

1. Mary, the Most Holy Mother of God

Let us turn our gaze first to Most Holy Mary, the Mother of God, the Theotokos.

Divine Providence has gathered us in this basilica, the first Marian church of Rome and of the West, we Catholics from different parts of the world united in the same faith. We address ourselves to thee, Mother of God, happy to have been gathered in thy house, in the context of this Year of the Rosary proclaimed by the Holy Father.

Salve, sancta Parens, enixa puérpera Regem, qui cælum terramque regit in sæcula sæculorum.

In this holy temple, everything speaks to us of the mystery of the incarnation of the Word of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Here, she appears to us in her permanent relation with the mystery of the august Holy Trinity. The Father who, in His plan of salvation, desired to send His Son into the world, asks Mary of Nazareth for her adherence and her consent. She, the Ark of the New Covenant, the Temple of Gold, conceived by the Holy Spirit. And behold the miracle: Ecce concipies in utero et paries filium et vocabis nomen eius Iesum. Mary gave flesh to the Eternal Word (cf. Lk. 1:30-38).

But this temple does not only take us in spirit back to Bethlehem, to this "et incarnatus est" of our profession of faith: the “confessio” under this altar, with the relics of the manger there venerated, perpetuates its memory. This basilica also takes us back to our common hope in the resurrection and the glory. We need only contemplate the splendid mosaic of the apse: Mary, from the Annunciation to her glorious Assumption.

It is the entire life of Mary the Most Holy, offered to the prayerful contemplation of the believer. It is the mystery of our entire existence which is reproduced here.

In fact, one of the intuitions of the Ecumenical Council Vatican II, in continuity with the entire Traditio Ecclesiae, consists in making the link between the Most Holy Virgin Mary and the Church, whose most eloquent icon she is. Chapter VIII of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium is dedicated to the “Most Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and the Church.” “Acknowledged and honored as the true mother of God and of the Redeemer”, she is also “the favored daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit”. She is at the same time “ a singular member of the Church and its image, its greatest model in faith and charity, and the Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, venerates her with an affection of filial piety as her beloved mother” (Lumen Gentium, no. 53). The same council thus presents the Holy Virgin as always being present in the daily vicissitudes of the Church, of each of its members, and once more it offers her to our affections: the Auxilium Christianorum. In her we contemplate all the beauty of the Church as she was conceived and born in the Heart of her divine Founder, in Whom all is light, and in Whom there is no darkness. Darkness, in our temporal path, comes from the human natures of her members, poor sinners who always need conversion and salvation.

2. The successor of Peter

The second figure who is powerfully present today, is the venerable person of the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome and, as such, the Successor of Saint Peter. He is, as Vatican II taught in continuity with Vatican I, – “the principle and perpetual and visible foundation of unity, of the bishops as of the multitude of the faithful” (Vatican II Ecumenical Council, Const. Lumen Gentium, 23; cf. Vatican I Council, const. Pastor Aeternus, introduction, DZ 3050-3051).

Among the fluctuations of history, he is “The Rock”. This is the Aramaic expression used by the Divine Founder of the Church with regard to Simon, as it is reported in the 16th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew. The epilog of chapter VII of the same gospel sheds light on what Christ understood by "The Rock". For Jesus the rock, the stone, is the foundation: if the building rests on it, the most terrible storm may arise, but the house will remain standing. The consistency of the name conferred on Peter is thus clear. The concept of Peter (rock) implies that of consistency, of resistance, of cohesion, of firmness, of solidity and of strength.

With the eloquence which is his hallmark, St. Leo the Great taught: “This disposition of the Truth will remain forever; and Peter, persevering in this rocky solidity which has been assigned to him, has never abandoned the governance of the Church. In fact, he has been placed over the others, in such wise that, when we call him ‘rock’, when we designate him as ‘foundation’, when he is constituted ‘guardian of the Kingdom of Heaven’, when he is established as arbiter of the work of binding and loosing whose judgments will remain constant even in Heaven, it is given to us to know the nature of his union with Christ through the mystery of these names” (St. Leo the Great, Sermo 3).

To John-Paul II, our beloved Pope go our thoughts, our prayers and our profound and affectionate sense of ecclesial communion . Over the course of these twenty-five years, his life and supreme apostolic ministry are characterized by indefatigable defense of the Truth, by total devotion to the cause of the unity of the Church and by prophetic and courageous pastoral work for the promotion of true and just peace between peoples and between all men. The more his physical person seems fragile, the stronger appears his moral and spiritual role before humanity. “And thou, confirm thy brethren!” (Lk. 22:32).

We are more than ever conscious of the storms and challenges which arise for the Mystical Body of Christ. Such is the fate of the Church, divine in its essence and human in its members. We suffer from so many contradictions, which human nature and sin can inflict on the tormented history of our humanity and on the journey of the Church in her pilgrimage toward her ultimate Fatherland. But we are invited to constantly renew our confidence in the Lord of History, Founder and invisible Head of His Mystical Body: “Fear not…I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).

The Church is victorious thanks to the permanent assistance of the Holy Spirit, guarantee of the continuity of the Catholic Faith: “and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18). Victorious, because in the Sacraments we are guaranteed the grace which transforms and sanctifies. The Church is victorious because it is built on the rock of Peter, which is none other than the very rock of Christ. Victorious, because communion with the legitimate Pastors guarantees this note of catholicity, which is indispensable in order to remain in the mystical society of the Body of Christ. The Church is victorious in her Saints: how numerous and characteristic are the figures of sublime holiness which the Holy Father added to the proper of the saints, and which he has proposed to our imitation over the quarter-century of his Sovereign Pontificate!

“Duc in altum!” exclaims John-Paul II, and through him it is the very voice of the Good Shepherd which resounds. “Ye men of little faith, why do you doubt?” “Throw out your nets for the catch…Duc in altum!” And the catch became abundant (cf. Lk. 5:4).

“Duc in altum!” We want to put out to sea in the bark of Peter. With St. Leo the Great, we want to reaffirm our faith: “The solidity that he, Peter who became rock, received from the rock which is Christ, continues also in his successors…” (St. Leo, Sermo 5). We want to say with St. Jerome: “I do not wish to follow any other primacy but that of Christ; that is why I remain in communion with the see of Peter” (Epistola ad Damasum).

Here we pray with her who is the Auxilium Christianorum to surround the Vicar of Christ with the warmth of our affection, and we do this with the most powerful reality there is: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in which “is accomplished the work of our Redemption” (Vatican Council II, Const. Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 2). This reality is absolutely all-powerful, in that it renews, in an unbloody manner, the one Sacrifice of the Cross, by rendering the Body and Blood of Christ substantially present. In the Mass the one Savior constantly re-presents and re-actualizes the infinite fruit of the bloody Sacrifice of the Cross, offered for the remission of our sins.

3. The venerable rite of Saint Pius V

Today a providential coincidence permits us to worship God by celebrating the Holy Sacrifice according to the Roman rite which took shape in the so-called Missal of St. Pius V; his mortal remains are in fact kept in this basilica. He is the third figure present in this celebration.

You yourselves, very dear faithful, particularly attuned to this rite which has constituted the official form of the Roman liturgy for centuries, you have taken the initiative of today’s celebration. And I was happy to be able to answer favorably to this request, which reaches beyond the number of all of you present here, because it was motivated by a filial devotion for the Holy Father, as he approaches the twenty-fifth anniversary of his pontificate, and because it is a means to acknowledge the fruits of holiness that the Christian people have obtained from the Holy Eucharist celebrated in this rite.

One cannot consider this rite “of Pius V” to be extinct. In fact, the authority of the Holy Father has expressed his benevolent regard for the faithful who, while recognizing the legitimacy of the Roman right renewed according to the directives of the Second Vatican Council, remain attached to the preceding rite and find there solid spiritual nourishment on their path to sanctification. Moreover, the same Council Vatican stated, “…Holy Mother Church holds all legitimately recognized rites to be of equal status and dignity, and desires that in the future they be preserved and fostered in every way. The Council desires that, where necessary, they be integrally revised with prudence, in the spirit of sound tradition, in order to give them a new vigor in keeping with the circumstances and needs of our times” (Vatican II Ecumenical Council, Const. Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 4).

The ancient Roman rite thus keeps in the Church its right of citizenship amid the multifomity of Catholic rites, Latin as well as Oriental. What unites the diversity of these rights is that same faith in the eucharistic mystery, whose profession has always assured the unity of the holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

John-Paul II, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Motu proprio Ecclesia Dei, exhorted “all Catholics to make gestures of unity and to renew their adhesion to the Church, so that legitimate diversity and different sensibilities, which are all worthy of respect, do not separate them from each other, but compel them to announce the Gospel together. Thus, the Holy Father continued, stimulated by the Spirit who makes use of all charismas to foster unity, all will be able to glorify the Lord and salvation will be proclaimed to all nations” (OR, 26-27 Oct. 1998, p. 8).

All this is a motive of special gratitude toward the Holy Father. We are truly grateful for the exquisite and paternal comprehension that he demonstrates to those who wish to keep alive in the Church the treasure of this venerable liturgical form. It was the spiritual nourishment of his childhood and youth, it was the liturgy of his priestly ordination, of his first Mass, of his episcopal consecration, and it is consequently part of his most beautiful crown of spiritual memories.

I know that your are immensely thankful to the Holy Father for the invitation he extended to the bishops of the entire world “to show understanding and renewed pastoral attention toward the faithful attached to the old rite; and, at the threshold of the third millennium, to help all Catholics to live out the celebration of the holy mysteries with a devotion which be true sustenance for their spiritual life and a source of peace” (OR 26-72 Oct. 1998).

This devotion, as Aquinas taught, must be the highest possible, “propter hoc quod in hoc sacramento totus Christus continetur” [because in this sacrament the whole Christ is contained] (III, q. 83, a 4, a 5).

We are all called to unity in the Truth, in reciprocal respect for the diversity of opinions, on the basis of the same faith, proceeding “in eodem sensu” and remembering the dictum of St. Augustine: “In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas” [In things necessary let there be unity, in things doubtful, liberty and in all things, charity].


In the name of all of you, and of all those who are united with us today in this celebration, I say together with the Holy Church, to the Most Holy Trinity who gave us Mary as auxiliatrix: “concede propitius, ut, tali præsídio muniti certantes in vita, victóriam de hoste malígno cónsequi valeámus in morte”. (Missale Romanum, Mass of the day, Collect).

Praised be Jesus Christ!