09 June 2011
"Anyone who lives as a Christian will have his faith put to the test."
Another excellent sermon from the Canons of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest--this time, Canon Aaron Huberfeld:
The hour is coming, when whoever kills you will think that he is doing a service to God.
As happy as I am in St. Louis, this time of year I think a lot about seminary days. This weekend, priests, oblates, sisters and faithful of the Institute in Europe are making a pause between two great pilgrimages. Last weekend, as our apostolates north of here were making their pilgrimage to Holy Hill in Wisconsin, the Institute in Europe made its pilgrimage to Lourdes, accompanied by His Eminence Cardinal Burke. We now make this pilgrimage nearly every year in honor of the Institute’s consecration to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
This week, seminarians in Gricigliano will be packing their bags to prepare for the great Pentecost pilgrimage from the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris to the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres. The seminary is already buzzing in anticipation. Veteran pilgrims are singing the Chartres hymn and teasing the younger seminarians with stories of sleeping in the pouring rain and lancing their blisters by moonlight (if the rain stops and the sky clears enough), while newcomers are scrambling to borrow sleeping bags and good hats and shoes for the three-day march. Those among you who have made this pilgrimage can well attest that there you find before your very eyes the truth of what the Scripture tells us of the first Pentecost: At that time there were men present out of every nation under heaven. 10,000 people from around the world take part in the pilgrimage to Chartres, a route which has been walked by pilgrims since the Middle Ages (more correctly known as the Age of Faith). Early Saturday morning, on the Vigil of Pentecost, the pilgrims crowd into the Cathedral in Paris and kneel for the intonation of the Veni, Creator Spiritus. At the conclusion of the opening ceremony, they file out of the cathedral and divide into their various chapters as the enormous column begins to form. On Saturday and Sunday they unite under the universal language of the Church attend the timeless Roman Mass outside in the French countryside, and in the evening they sleep under the stars. At the end of the 75-mile march they arrive at Chartres Cathedral for the closing Mass celebrated at the high altar. It is a Marian pilgrimage, dedicated to Our Lady of Christendom for the restoration of that Catholic Faith which was once so boldly confessed in every nation on the continent of Europe. I have had the grace of making this pilgrimage four times. The record in the Institute is held by my confrere Canon Amadieu, who has made the pilgrimage at least 25 times, though for the first few times he was carried on his father’s shoulders. I fear I won’t make it this year, but today I would like to share with you my two favorite memories of the pilgrimage to Chartres.
The first is the walk to the campsite on Sunday afternoon, about the halfway point of the pilgrimage. As you walk through seemingly endless fields, for a short time you are able to see the entire column at once, all these nations under heaven who have gathered to carry their banners in profession of their Catholic Faith. Then the great moment comes: the one moment during the three-day walk when, far in the distance, the spires of Chartres Cathedral can be seen. As the entire column of pilgrims falls to its knees, you stare out at those distant spires and hope that the Son of Man will soon come in glory, for on this day, at least, He would find faith upon the earth.
My other favorite memory is of the end of the pilgrimage, when the pilgrims begin to make their way home. Most of them have to catch a train in Paris, so they pile into the trains which have been reserved at Chartres train station and make their way for the capital. I will never forget the first time I took one of these trains. As I disembarked at the station in Versailles, I was greeted by a sea of voices which were still singing the closing hymn from the Mass at Chartres Cathedral. Every other day of the year, people who live in the city must listen to screams, gunshots, and every sort of ungodly music. The Monday of Pentecost is different: everyone must hear the hymn to the Blessed Virgin which closes the Chartres pilgrimage every year: Chez nous, soyez Reine – be our Queen, in our world, in our country, in our homes, in our hearts.
Even if we are not going to Chartres this year, we are still joined with our fellow Catholics in prayer as we make our novena to the Holy Ghost. The word novena simply means ‘nine’, and every novena finds its origin in the nine days from the Ascension of Our Lord to the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles. During this novena the Church in her liturgy sings every evening an O Antiphon, recalling the O Antiphons which she sang in the novena to Christmas: O Adonai, O Emmanuel, and so on. Now the theme is the same every evening: O Rex Gloriae -- O King of Glory, Lord of hosts, who today art ascended above all the heavens: leave us not as orphans, but send to us the promise of the Father, the Spirit of truth, alleluia. This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us of the meaning of this promise.
When the Paraclete comes. The Greek word Paraclete is usually translated as ‘comforter’, ‘consoler’. Is this last age of the world an age of consolation? Far from it. The Holy Ghost is sent to us because He is to be our Comforter in an age of persecution. Don’t waste your time reading billboards on the highway, which, on June 5, are still announcing the end of the world two weeks ago. Enough for you to know that we are, without any doubt, in an age of persecution. Anyone who lives as a Christian will have his faith put to the test. Christians in the middle and far east have been suffering martyrdom for a long time already, and I think I can safely predict that many of us Catholics on either side of the Atlantic will live to see a new age of martyrs in the West. St. Thomas More said the times are never so bad that a good man can’t live in them. As we know from his glorious life, part of living is making a good death. The end of the world is coming for each of us very soon, like a thief in the night. For a Christian this is a promise, not a threat. As we make again the first Christian novena during this time after Our Lord’s triumphant Ascension, we have good cause to make an act of hope: O my God: relying on thy infinite goodness and promises, and believing in the truth of thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension, I hope to obtain pardon for my sins, the help of thy grace, and life everlasting. Amen.