06 December 2008

Bonus Bishop Hermann: Sermon from St. Francis de Sales 100th Anniversary Mass

Thanks to the reader who sent this copy to me.  I wanted to post it since I heard it.  It contains some of the same themes as his column in my last post, with an emphasis on the congruence of worship and faith, and the mission of the Oratory.  

And, because I couldn't help it, my emphases throughout.


(photo by Rebecca Venegoni Tower of the Review)

Homily of Bishop Robert Hermann

Archdiocese of St. Louis

St. Francis De Sales

100th Anniversary of Dedication of Church

November 23, 2008

It is truly an honor and a joy to be here today with Father Wiener and other members of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, and members of this Oratory, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the dedication of this beautiful gothic Church. This is a celebration of new hope for this historic church, for this neighborhood, and for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Here Catholic liturgy takes on a beauty that is ever ancient and ever new. It is the beauty of the Gregorian Chant that has been deepened by centuries of contemplation. It is the beauty of the Mass that has pointed us in the direction of other worldly mystery. It the beauty of the restoration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, with long lines at the confessional each week, receiving the gift of mercy that Zacchaeus received in today’s Gospel.

This church building over the past 100 years has witnessed the most violent century of Christianity with its two world wars, the spread of atheistic communism and Nazism and now secularism and the culture of death.

And yet it is within these walls that a new hope is rising. The verticality of its architecture matches the verticality of its worship. Both point to the beyond for help in rescuing us from a godless culture of death and destruction.

I am most grateful to Archbishop Burke, who welcomed Father Lenhardt and the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest to this very special place. I am most grateful to Father Lenhardt who worked so hard to establish the spirituality that flows from the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. I am most grateful to Father Wiener who is building upon the work of Father Lenhardt. I am most grateful to all the members of this congregation who have discovered this oasis of Sacramental worship.

In today’s first reading from the Book of Revelation we are told:

“I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

What is our worship, if it is not an entering into the heavenly worship that is taking place night and day? When with deep faith and reverence we enter into this worship, the heavenly liturgy becomes present to all who enter into it. It speaks to the deepest hungers and thirsts of our spirit. It speaks to the longing for infinite beauty and truth found in each one of us. It gives us rest from “the world that is too much with us.” It inspires us with love, hope and confidence. It removes human limitations and enables us to aspire to greater holiness.

As the Book of Revelation continues, it states: “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away. The one who sat on the throne said “Behold, I make all things new.”

Yes, this is God’s dwelling place and we are his people and he will always be our God because it is he who says: “Behold, I make all things new.”

In the Gospel, Jesus demonstrates how we are made new. Zacchaeus was a Jewish tax collector, and tax collectors were notorious for extorting huge sums of money from their fellow countrymen.

Apparently this did not leave Zaccheaus as a happy man. He probably felt the scorn of his countrymen, as well as self hatred for taking what was not his to start with, but did not know how to get out of the trap he was in.

He probably had heard of the wonderful things Jesus had been doing and saying. He probably had a longing for the peace that others experienced when they came into contact with this man who was giving so many people new hope and showing them a deeper meaning for their lives. It was with the hope of just getting a glimpse of the face of the man who had so many beautiful thoughts and yet placed such challenging demands in the hearts of his listeners.

What shocked Zacchaeus was the personal invitation he received from the Master. He was flattered that the Master would want to come to his house for fellowship and for a meal. In the presence of this holiness, love and acceptance, Zacchaeus gives half of his possessions to the poor and promises to restore fourfold anything he has extorted from others. Jesus’ response was simple. “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

The same Jesus that walked beneath the Sycamore tree and looked up is the same Jesus that enters the confessional every time a penitent comes to receive the Lord’s mercy and reconciliation. Only Jesus can forgive sins and he uses the body of the consecrated priest to extend that mercy, but it is Jesus that is forgiving, it is Jesus that is restoring the sinner to health.

One of the most precious gifts the Church has is the gift of mercy which comes to us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. One of the greatest needs in the Catholic Church today is the gift of repentance. This gift is given by the Lord when the truth is preached from the pulpit in an uncompromising fashion. What we Catholics need today more than anything else is to be awakened by the searing truths of the Catholic faith, especially in the areas surrounding conception and birth.

We need to make it very clear that artificial contraception is a serious sin that needs to be brought to the confessional. We need to make it very clear that human sexuality is a very sacred gift given to us and it must be understood, reverenced and treasured, but not used as a vehicle for lustful pleasures. We need to make it very clear that pornography is not only degrading but also death-dealing. We cannot engage is viewing pornography and then receiving the Holy Eucharist without first receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

When we do this it leads very rapidly to the death of our spirituality. We may go through the motions of attending Mass, but we are sleep-walking.

We cannot get out of this trap without help from above. We need to pray for the gift of repentance. We need to study the truths of human sexuality as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We need to fast and pray for the gift of seeing what Zacchaeus saw – a life going down the wrong path and closing in on him. We need to pray for the grace of making a good confession and getting a new start. It won’t be easy but it is so freeing and so energizing. It is so uplifting and when we make a good confession and tell it like it is, we will experience what Zacchaeus felt – a profound sense of joy and peace, and hope for a new lease on life.

Do not be afraid of going to Confession, even if it has been thirty or forty years ago. Do not be afraid of the Jesus that Zacchaeus met. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Do not let human fear keep you from the peace that our Lord and Savior died to give you. We celebrate bravery in war. We are at war with the enemy, who is Satan who is trying to discourage us and cause us to fear. Do not be afraid of coming back to confession and then going often because you will find it so life-giving and so hope-inducing.

Finally, when you give yourself over to worship, spirit, soul and body, they you also experience God’s mercy and love. The Eucharist is a love feast because Christ shed his blood for our salvation. “Take and drink all of you. This is the cup of my blood which is being shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.”

The Eucharist takes away venial sin. The Eucharist is so much greater than our collective sinfulness. The Eucharist is overwhelmingly powerful and plentiful. We can never exhaust its love. Our hungry hearts yearn and long for this love that is unconditional and unearned. Our hearts yearn for this infinite love.

When you come to the Eucharist, come with hungry hearts, come with open hearts, come with deep searching hearts, come with profound yearnings for the infinite.  God is glorified when we come seeking his holiness. The more we are aware of our sinfulness, the more God is glorified by sharing with us his mercy. “It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice.” “I came to save sinners.”

It is my prayer that as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the dedication of this beautiful church, that again and again we will hear our Lord saying to us in this sacred space: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly for today I must stay at your house.” It is my hope that we will hear again and again our Lord speaking to the depth of our hearts saying: “Behold, I make all things new.”

May the verticality of this Church’s architecture and the verticality of this worship here be complemented by the openness of our hearts to receive from above the gifts that help us to realize the new Jerusalem in our families and in our individual lives. We are not only celebrating the dedication of this church, but we are celebrating the rededication of our own hearts to him who alone can make them new.

# # #


Anonymous said...


My wife and famiy are now going to the Oratory.

Everything is true.

This IS the new hope.

Thank you Institute-

thetimman said...

I am having some problems posting some commnents on blogspot lately. I have lost two that I hit the "publish" button for in the last three days.

My apologies to those affected.

Now, there was one anonymous commenter who said he was present at the Mass mentioned in this post, and who thought it was an unwelcoming and elitist homily. And he doesn't want to be counted among the "1000 believers" present.

I tried to post this, but lost it. I rephrase it here because I hope readers keep this person in their prayers. The truth does divide, as our Lord said.

thetimman said...

Anon, welcome to the Oratory!

Patrick Kinsale said...

"Unwelcoming"? God's mercy welcomes all who approach him in humility, seeking it. I notice the alt-Catholic parishes here in town stress the "welcoming all" angle. Moral relativism at its finest.

Anonymous said...


The bishop said in his homily artificial contraception is a serious sin. Yet virtually no priests in the archdiocese ever say that in their homilies, and the bishop knows that and permits that to persist, as it has persisted for the last 30 or so years. So, I conclude, that this bishop is not really serious about this sin. What's the problems? I don't know. Maybe he's just afraid. Maybe he's confused. Maybe...I just don't know. But I do know that he could order that every priest read a letter in every parish in the archdiocese stating that couples using artificial contraception must stay away from Holy Communion. But he doesn't do that. So, sorry, but I conclude that he is not innocent on this matter. He, the bishop, is part of the problem. He needs to repent. What other conclusion is there?


thetimman said...

The Bishop has been administrator for approx. five months, and you want him to undo four decades of problem overnight.

Realism, that is not.

Maybe, he could start to reverse this process by, in the short time he will have as administrator, writing and speaking publicly on the evils of contraception, and the link between it and abortion. Maybe he could call people to repentance, and urge priests to speak the truth from the pulpit.

Oh yeah, that's what he's doing.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tom,

Do you have children? Do they ever disobey you? Having a bishop/archbishop in charge of a diocese/archdiocese is similar. I can only IMAGINE how hard it is for him to keep all the priests of our archdiocese "in line". IMO, that is why it's important for us to be good examples in our parishes, actions speak volumes to people -- we are told OFTEN how great it is to see our family at Mass and how good the children are in Church. We, as parents, must do our best to start training our children young to help make a difference in our archdiocese. It's not JUST the bishop/archbishops responsibility.

Anonymous said...

God bless Bishop Hermann for this incredible homily!

Wow! Amazing!!!

To have a Bishop get up and say what he said is absolutely a testament to his "trying to turn the ship around after 40+ years".

To Tom: this change won't happen overnight, but you guys in St Louis are fortunate to have a Bishop say this kind of thing in a public setting, in front of a crowd of >1200 people!

May God bless your dear Bishop always!

Timman, thanks for posting this as we don't get much "soul food" like this in CA. Thanks for your blog!!!

Anonymous said...


Mr. Editor, thank you for publishing my humble little note above in your excellent publication.

And yes, it is very good that Bishop Hermann is speaking out against birth control in some homilies and in his column in the St. Louis Review. He is to be commended for that. Truly.

Yet, at the parish in my hometown today, the deacon gave the homily and he said not word one about birth control. He did offer his opinion that Saint John the Baptist was "weird." No one in my hometown parish has heard a homily about birth control in 30 years!

Anyway, forgive me, but I want this "crisis in the Church" that Monsignor Michael Schmitz and so many others have been talking about, to be over, just be over. It is ruining peoples' lives. Enough is enough. Am I wrong to want that, long for that?

People are "sick" with sin and very badly need the undiluted "medicine" of the Whole Truth.

ALL the Catholics need that, not just the tiny few who worship at St. Francis de Sales Oratory and other traditional mass locations.

The parishioners over at St. Cronan's and St. Francis Xavier deserve the whole Catholic Truth as much as parishioners at the Oratory--don't they?

But that ain't the way things are, and that state of affairs is not my fault, or your fault, but the bishop's fault. There's no other conclusion, is there? Holy Scripture and Canon law places some very serious obligations on the pastors of souls, right?

So are we wrong if we remind bishops of that, and urge them to show more zeal and more backbone and more fidelity to their vocation?

The great Catholic poet Dante Alighieri portrayed many bishops in Hell, and some saints said it is very hard for bishops to attain eternal life in Heaven. Isn't there something to all this?

Oh well, it's Sunday, a day of rest. So I hereby put my malcontentedness to rest for the rest of the day. Merry Christmas, Bishop Hermann. Merry Christmas everybody. Jesus is still Lord and Savior.

Tom the Malcontent ("Sed Libera Nos A Malo")

thetimman said...

Tom, I don't disagree with much of what you say. The thrust of my response was merely to point out that Bishop Hermann can only do so much with his current position, and in a short time. If your larger point is that most Bishops have not done a lot to stand for the truth of the evil of contraception, that is certainly true.

St. Cronan's, or Our Lady of Sorrows, or Immacolata, or any other parish deserves the truth.

Perhaps events will cause a reassertion of the truth. Let us pray for it. In the meantime, let's give credit for the first steps when we can.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

"Do you have children? Do they ever disobey you? Having a bishop/archbishop in charge of a diocese/archdiocese is similar. I can only IMAGINE how hard it is for him to keep all the priests of our archdiocese "in line".

Total rubbish! Priest are not children and Bishops are not some haggard old woman in a shoe. How long must we be fed this good cop bad cop routine, of the long suffering Bishops/Cardinals/Popes and their eternally rebellious troops. It's baloney. If heads must roll than so be it. If you dont think a large organization can be run with uniformity, efficiency and discipline you need to check into the Marine Corp. When an organization operates in the manner of the Catholic Church over the last 40 years its because it's meant to run that way by those who make the decisions.

Anonymous said...

"The tiny few who worship at St. Francis de Sales Oratory"

Have you ever been to the Oratory?

Sure doesn't look like a "tiny few" to me.

More and more catholics are coming to the Oratory. Young families, from all over are now seeing the benefits of a ture catholic center..

Hey they even have one of the largest homeschool co-ops.

I would love to send me kids but I hear- like the Institues seminary, the co-op is full for this year...

This is the future folks.

Anonymous said...

YES! Let us be thankful for all the small baby steps that are happening in our Archdiocese! 28(I think it was) men were just given papal honors in our archdiocese AND 7 WONDERFUL men were just ordained to the priesthood this past year! We are truly blessed to have one of them at our parish and, he too, gave an AWESOME homily on respect life Sunday.

Tom, I'm sure you heard about Fr. Waldman's "controversial" homily on respect life Sunday as well. THINGS ARE HAPPENING! I agree, not as fast as I would like either, but they ARE happening!

Holy Mary, our Hope, pray for us!

Patrick Kinsale said...

As a parishioner at a parish I sometimes call "Cronan's West," I share many of Tom's concerns. We have had great leadership in the past several years, but it often did not reach into some of the entrenched or threatened suburban parishes. Certain favored parishes, it seems, get the orthodox priests while others are left alone.