Please let me reflect with you on some of the wonderful events in which I was blessed by the Lord to participate during my days in Rome. The most important moments are always those spent with the Holy Father, though generally these are quite brief - much treasured, nonetheless. I was able to greet the Holy Father on three different occasions - twice at the Wednesday General Audiences on May 3 and 10 and once after the Holy Father concelebrated Mass to honor and celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Swiss Guard.
The invitations to concelebrate at the Mass honoring the Swiss Guard were issued through the Swiss Guard and I was especially thrilled and blessed to have been invited to concelebrate. Fathers Bartylla and Sternberg were also invited for this concelebration.
Concelebrating with Pope Benedict XVI is a relatively rare opportunity, to the point where at times I had wondered if I would ever enjoy this particular blessing, because concelebration with Pope Benedict is generally available only on Holy Thursday. Otherwise it is reserved to very particular groups of cardinals or bishops, among whom I would not expect to be numbered. So this was a particular thrill and a very special joy, especially in light of the fact that over the years I have known many Swiss Guards as good friends.
After the Mass, which was so beautiful in every way, the Pope greeted the roughly twenty bishops who had concelebrated with him, and as I said, this is always a great privilege, thrill, and blessing for me.
Audiences and meetings
On the May 3 General Audience, as I promised our Holy Father our unfailing faithfulness and truly loving obedience as his flock in the Diocese of Madison, I also asked him to pray for us as we look to the future of our Cathedral Church, which had burned down. The Holy Father expressed strong interest and promised to pray.
When I saw the Holy Father the following Wednesday, on May 10, having seen him briefly twice before within a short period of time, he commented to me, "You should build a worthy Cathedral, one that will truly be a strong symbol of the presence of Christ and His Church among your people, and of His love for them." His words were words of advice, not a direct order, but I found them very strengthening in the face of what will certainly be a daunting task. In meeting with some of the Holy Father's collaborators about the Cathedral issue, the importance of engaging everyone who wants to be engaged in the process leading up to a decision was stressed, and as you know we have already begun that process and it will continue for some time.
I also visited at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints to promote the ongoing process leading toward the canonization of Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli and to allow myself to be informed clearly as to my own role in that particular process. That meeting was very helpful. There were several other meetings in which I had to participate, the subjects for which are confidential for the foreseeable future, but let it be said simply that the meetings were quite time consuming.
Tomb of St. Peter and Sistine Chapel
The visit to the Tomb of Saint Peter and to the excavations where it is possible, clearly, to see the containers wherein lay the bones of Peter, is always a very strengthening and inspirational moment. Peter, who denied Christ three times, became the chief of the Apostles and died a martyr's death. Peter regularly in Scripture showed forth his weakness and sinfulness, but God was glorified by both his life and his death, even with his weakness and sinfulness. One cannot help but to be tremendously strengthened by the experience of the grace of God at work in Peter and at work in the successors of the Apostles, the bishops, unworthy though we are.
Then there was the opportunity privately to visit the Sistine Chapel. I have not been in the Sistine Chapel in a private and prolonged way, since the late 1980s, so there was a real freshness to the experience. Every time one sees the beautiful paintings in the Chapel, especially Michelangelo's Last Judgment one sees different aspects; one notices different things because there is never enough time or opportunity or lighting, given the time of day, to take in absolutely everything.
This year, I was particularly drawn to Michelangelo's depiction of the nearness of Mary to Christ, the Judge. This being the month of Mary, I was particularly and predictably aware of her in this magnificent painting. All the other saints in the painting are, at least, a small distance from Christ, the Judge. But our Blessed Mother stands close in unity with Him, because she is the Queen of Heaven and Earth and the Mother of All the Saints.
Interestingly, in the painting Mary is not looking at her glorified Son, nor is He looking at her. Rather, each is looking out in almost the opposite direction so as to take into their view all of the rest. Christ, the Judge, is Love and Mercy Himself and she is the Mother of Mercy. The gaze of both of them, looking in opposite directions, encompasses all who will accept their gift in the Loving Mercy of Christ. Mary's free maternal cooperation was essential in carrying out this marvelous plan for Mercy.
And this is why May and October are devoted to her in a special way. Devotion to all the other Saints is very much encouraged but devotion to any particular saint is never required, except in the case of our Blessed Mother. Because of her free, maternal cooperation which was essential for Christ in accomplishing the work of our salvation, we must be devoted to her as the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, and our mother. We are not obligated to express that devotion in a particular way - the Rosary is always strongly encouraged - but devotion to Mary is an essential element in the faith life of any Catholic who really understands the very special privileged role that Mary enjoyed in the salvation of each one of us.
So as we move through this month of May, I hope this reflection on the place of Mary, alongside Jesus, in Michelangelo's Last Judgment, will stir the devotion that the Lord wishes to be His gift to all of us.
Lastly and very importantly, I remembered all of you and your loved ones before the Lord in prayer during the Masses celebrated and at the holy places I was able to visit in Rome. You are always close to my heart, and I thank you for your prayers during my time in Rome and you know that I count on them every day. Thank you for reading this and God bless each one of you. Praised be Jesus Christ!
Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of Madison, wishes to announce the following appointments effective June 15, 2006. Most are temporary appointments while the diocesan strategic planning process proceeds:
Reverend Richard D. Lesniak, from Pastor, St. Joseph Parish, Markesan, and St. Mary Parish, Kingston, to Pastor Emeritus.
Reverend Francis J. Schmidt, from Pastor, St. Martin of Tours Parish, Martinsville, to Pastor Emeritus.
Reverend Eugene F. Hollfelder, in addition to Pastor, St. Peter Parish, Ashton, to Pastor, St. Martin of Tours Parish, Martinsville, officially linking the two parishes.
Reverend John H. Hedrick, in addition to Pastor, St. Mary Parish, Pardeeville, and St. Andrew Parish, Buffalo, to Administrator, St. Joseph Parish, Markesan, and St. Mary Parish, Kingston.
Reverend Michael Klarer, in addition to Pastor, St. Victor Parish, Monroe, to Administrator, St. Rose of Lima Parish, Brodhead, and St. Patrick Parish, Albany.
Reverend Robert J. Butz, in addition to Pastor, Immaculate Conception Parish, Boscobel, and St. John Parish, Castle Rock, to continue as Administrator, St. John the Baptist Parish, Muscoda, St. Joseph Parish, Avoca, and St. Malachy Parish, Clyde.
Reverend Kevin D. Holmes, in addition to Pastor, St. Aloysius Parish, Sauk City, to continue as Administrator, St. Camillus Parish, Durward's Glen, and St. Mary Health of the Sick Parish, Merrimac.
Reverend Henry N. Kalscheuer, Pastor Emeritus, to continue as Administrator, St. Patrick Parish, Hollandale, Immaculate Conception Parish, Blanchardville, and Holy Redeemer Parish, Perry, until the return of Reverend Sanctus Ibe.
Reverend William F. Vernon, Administrator, St. Pius X Parish, Cambridge, effective date to be determined.
Diocese of Madison, The Catholic Herald
Offices: Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, 702 S. High Point Road, Madison
Mailing address: P.O. Box 44985, Madison, WI 53744-4985
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