Mass at Pauline Chapel inside the Papal Basilica St. Mary Major

Ad Limina Pilgrimage to Rome

Friday, May 11, 2012
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami

Sister Elizabeth Worley

Archbishop Thomas Wenski celebrated Mass on Thursday, May 10, 2012, in the Pauline Chapel, the most beautiful of the side chapels in this Basilica dedicated to Mary the Mother of God. 

Now that you have walked through this beautiful and ancient church you can understand, perhaps, why it is called Santa Maria Maggiore.  Of course, major basilicas are found only in Rome - churches in other parts of the world honored with the title of basilica are regarded as "minor" basicilas - to distinguish them from the "major" basicilas of Rome.  In the Archdiocese of Miami, at the end of this month, on the Feast of the Visitation of Mary, another church named for Mary will be raised to the rank of a minor basilica:  St. Mary, Star of the Sea, parish in Key West.  

This church will be one of only four basilicas in Florida.  For its historical significance and for its simple beauty, St. Mary, Star of the Sea parish is certainly worthy of this designation.  It is the oldest parish in what is now the Archdiocese of Miami.

Earlier this week, I said that "we obey what we love".  And as we look around the beauty of Santa Maria Maggiore - and the other basilicas we have visited here in Rome - we can certainly assume that the people who built these places loved their faith. Their buildings could perhaps be an indictment of our own times and cultures - and what we love today. Today, the most impressive buildings that our contemporaries build are not cathedrals or churches but sport stadia, banks and shopping malls.

In the first reading today, the Acts of the Apostles tell us about the first council of the Church, the council of Jerusalem in which the question of the circumcision of Gentile converts to Christianity was resolved.  The Gentiles would not have to be circumcized - in other words, they would not have to become Jews in order to be Christians.  To become Christian, we do not have to change our language, our nationality, our culture or even our dietary customs - we only have to change our hearts.  The apostles Peter and Paul saw that even the hearts of the gentiles were fertile ground when the gospel could take root.

If Gentile hearts could be fertile ground for the gospel to take root, then so can the secularized hearts of our contemporaries today.  As Peter and Paul present the gospel convincingly to the gentiles, so we too can present the gospel to our neighbors today.  If the gospel is presented in its integrity is can still be percieved as offering to the concerns of those living in this post modern world   But today many of us Christians seem to be tired of the faith - and very all know the phenomenon of the "cafeteria Catholic" who thinks that he or she can pick and choose from a menu of Catholic beliefs leaving on the sheft those Catholic teachings that appear unappealing to them.

To address these issues that Pope has called for a Year of Faith to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council - and in October a synod will be held here in Rome in which bishops from around the world will discuss a "new" evangelization.  What is new of course is not the content - since Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever.  However, what is needed is new zeal, new ardor and perhaps new strategies to reinvigorate those who called themselves Catholics but seem to be tired of their faith.  Only in this way can we offer a witness that is credible because it is also coherent.

Mary is the "star of the New Evangelization".  The morning star appears in the darkened night just before the dawn.  Its light announces the coming of a new day.  Mary, the morning star, the "Star of the Sea", shows us the way to the light of Christ.  Today, in this church of St. Mary Major we ask her prayers that the gospel message may take root inb our hearts and in the hearts of all our contemporaries.

Sister Elizabeth Worley
Fr. Chanel Jeanty, Msgr. Michael Souckar, Fr. Vigoa, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Fr. William Frigo & Fr. Chris Marino

Sister Elizabeth Worley
Decorated in a multitude of colors and patterns of marble and dominated by blue marble, this Marian chapel was an extraordinary setting for Mass for the Miami pilgrims.

Sister Elizabeth Worley
Pilgrim Vicky Yardley of Assumption Church receives Holy Communion from Archbishop Thomas Wenski.

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