Benedict XVI’s sermon at Nationals Stadium

Here is the Holy Father’s sermon delivered at Holy Mass in Nationals Stadium.  My emphases and comments.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

"Peace be with you!" (Jn 20:19). With these, the first words of the Risen Lord to his disciples, I greet all of you in the joy of this Easter season. Before all else, I thank God for the blessing of being in your midst. I am particularly grateful to Archbishop Wuerl for his kind words of welcome.

Our Mass today brings the Church in the United States back to its roots in nearby Maryland, and commemorates the bicentennial of the first chapter of its remarkable growth – the division by my predecessor, Pope Pius VII, [+1823] of the original Diocese of Baltimore and the establishment of the Dioceses of Boston, Bardstown (now Louisville), New York and Philadelphia. Two hundred years later, the Church in America can rightfully praise the accomplishment of past generations in bringing together widely differing immigrant groups [Immigration is a concern of the Holy Father during this visit.] within the unity of the Catholic faith and in a common commitment to the spread of the Gospel. At the same time, conscious of its rich diversity, the Catholic community in this country has come to appreciate ever more fully the importance of each individual and group offering its own particular gifts to the whole. The Church in the United States is now called to look to the future, firmly grounded in the faith passed on by previous generations, [one could say "continuity"] and ready to meet new challenges – challenges no less demanding than those faced by your forebears – with the hope born of God’s love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5).

In the exercise of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles (cf. Lk 22:32). I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah, risen from the dead, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, and established as judge of the living and the dead (cf. Acts 2:14ff.). I have come to repeat the Apostle’s urgent call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins, and to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country. As we have heard throughout this Easter season, the Church was born of the Spirit’s gift of repentance and faith in the risen Lord. In every age she is impelled by the same Spirit to bring to men and women of every race, language and people (cf. Rev 5:9) the good news of our reconciliation with God in Christ.

[Pay attention to words and phrases that echo "continuity".]

The readings of today’s Mass invite us to consider the growth of the Church in America as one chapter in the greater story of the Church’s expansion following the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In those readings we see the inseparable link between the risen Lord, the gift of the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, and the mystery of the Church. Christ established his Church on the foundation of the Apostles (cf. Rev 21:14) as a visible, structured community which is at the same time a spiritual communion, [a good reminder, from Peter himself, that there is also structure] a mystical body enlivened by the Spirit’s manifold gifts, and the sacrament of salvation for all humanity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8). In every time and place, the Church is called to grow in unity through constant conversion to Christ, whose saving work is proclaimed by the Successors of the Apostles and celebrated in the sacraments. This unity, in turn, gives rise to an unceasing missionary outreach, as the Spirit spurs believers to proclaim "the great works of God" and to invite all people to enter the community of those saved by the blood of Christ and granted new life in his Spirit. [The Church has a mission to evangelize non-Christians and also non-Catholics.]

I pray, then, that this significant anniversary in the life of the Church in the United States, and the presence of the Successor of Peter in your midst, will be an occasion for all Catholics to reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their contemporaries a convincing account of the hope which inspires them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) [excellent verse!], and to be renewed in missionary zeal for the extension of God’s Kingdom.  [This missionary zeal must carry into the public square as well.]

The world needs this witness! Who can deny that the present moment is a crossroads, not only for the Church in America but also for society as a whole? It is a time of great promise, as we see the human family in many ways drawing closer together and becoming ever more interdependent. [globalization] Yet at the same time we see clear signs of a disturbing breakdown in the very foundations of society: signs of alienation, anger and polarization on the part of many of our contemporaries; increased violence; a weakening of the moral sense; a coarsening of social relations; and a growing forgetfulness of God. The Church, too, sees signs of immense promise in her many strong parishes and vital movements, [Years ago Papa Ratzinger stated that he thought in the future parishes would remain the foundation of church life but movements would rise in importance.] in the enthusiasm for the faith shown by so many young people, in the number of those who each year embrace the Catholic faith, and in a greater interest in prayer and catechesis. At the same time she senses, often painfully, the presence of division and polarization in her midst, as well as the troubling realization that many of the baptized, rather than acting as a spiritual leaven in the world, are inclined to embrace attitudes contrary to the truth of the Gospel.

"Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!" (cf. Ps 104:30). [This is an important point.  The Holy Father wants to spark a renewal of the Church in the USA.] The words of today’s Responsorial Psalm are a prayer which rises up from the heart of the Church in every time and place. They remind us that the Holy Spirit has been poured out as the first fruits of a new creation, "new heavens and a new earth" (cf. 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1), in which God’s peace will reign and the human family will be reconciled in justice and love. We have heard Saint Paul tell us that all creation is even now "groaning" in expectation of that true freedom which is God’s gift to his children (Rom 8:21-22), a freedom which enables us to live in conformity to his will.  [Freedom to do what is right, not simply freedom to do what you want.] Today let us pray fervently that the Church in America will be renewed in that same Spirit, and sustained in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel to a world that longs for genuine freedom (cf. Jn 8:32), authentic happiness, and the fulfillment of its deepest aspirations!  [Benedict XVI seems to underscore that the Church in the USA has a special mission to the whole world.  He would not surprise if he spoke about Rome in those terms.]

Here I wish to offer a special word of gratitude and encouragment to all those who have taken up the challenge of the Second Vatican Council, so often reiterated by Pope John Paul II, and committed their lives to the new evangelization. I thank my brother Bishops, priests and deacons, men and women religious, parents, teachers and catechists. The fidelity and courage with which the Church in this country will respond to the challenges raised by an increasingly secular and materialistic culture will depend in large part upon your own fidelity in handing on the treasure of our Catholic faith. [His quote from 1 Peter comes back to mind.] Young people need to be helped to discern the path that leads to true freedom: the path of a sincere and generous imitation of Christ, the path of commitment to justice and peace. Much progress has been made in developing solid programs of catechesis, yet so much more remains to be done in forming the hearts and minds of the young in knowledge and love of the Lord. The challenges confronting us require a comprehensive and sound instruction in the truths of the faith. But they also call for cultivating a mindset, an intellectual "culture", which is genuinely Catholic, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, [Benedict is always trying to show us how faith and reason work together and are not in conflict.] aBenednd prepared to bring the richness of faith’s vision to bear on the urgent issues which affect the future of American society.  [Well formed Catholics havea  role to play, a vital role in America’s future, but they must be true Catholics, well formed with a clear identity.  Also, this seems to me to hint at what Benedict is going to say to Catholic educators in what to my mind may be the most important speech he gives in the USA.]

Dear friends, my visit to the United States is meant to be a witness to "Christ our Hope". Americans have always been a people of hope [Hope is a recurring theme in his visit.] your ancestors came to this country with the expectation of finding new freedom and opportunity, [again immigration] while the vastness of the unexplored wilderness inspired in them the hope of being able to start completely anew, building a new nation on new foundations. To be sure, this promise was not experienced by all the inhabitants of this land; one thinks of the injustices endured by the native American peoples and by those brought here forcibly from Africa as slaves. Yet hope, hope for the future, is very much a part of the American character. And the Christian virtue of hope – the hope poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, the hope which supernaturally purifies and corrects our aspirations by focusing them on the Lord and his saving plan – that hope has also marked, and continues to mark, the life of the Catholic community in this country.

It is in the context of this hope born of God’s love and fidelity that I acknowledge the pain which the Church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors. No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church. Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation, and to ensure that children – whom our Lord loves so deeply (cf. Mk 10:14), and who are our greatest treasure – can grow up in a safe environment. These efforts to protect children must continue. Yesterday I spoke with your Bishops about this. Today I encourage each of you to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt. Also, I ask you to love your priests, and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do. And above all, pray that the Holy Spirit will pour out his gifts upon the Church, the gifts that lead to conversion, forgiveness and growth in holiness.

Saint Paul speaks, as we heard in the second reading, of a kind of prayer which arises from the depths of our hearts in sighs too deep for words, in "groanings" (Rom 8:26) inspired by the Spirit. This is a prayer which yearns, in the midst of chastisement, for the fulfillment of God’s promises. It is a prayer of unfailing hope, but also one of patient endurance and, often, accompanied by suffering for the truth. Through this prayer, we share in the mystery of Christ’s own weakness and suffering, while trusting firmly in the victory of his Cross. With this prayer, may the Church in America embrace ever more fully the way of conversion and fidelity to the demands of the Gospel. And may all Catholics experience the consolation of hope, and the Spirit’s gifts of joy and strength.

In today’s Gospel, the risen Lord bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and grants them the authority to forgive sins. Through the surpassing power of Christ’s grace, entrusted to frail human ministers, the Church is constantly reborn and each of us is given the hope of a new beginning. Let us trust in the Spirit’s power to inspire conversion, to heal every wound, to overcome every division, and to inspire new life and freedom. How much we need these gifts! And how close at hand they are, particularly in the sacrament of Penance! The liberating power of this sacrament, in which our honest confession of sin is met by God’s merciful word of pardon and peace, needs to be rediscovered and reappropriated by every Catholic. To a great extent, the renewal of the Church in America depends on the renewal of the practice of Penance and the growth in holiness which that sacrament both inspires and accomplishes. [RENEW THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE!]

"In hope we were saved!" (Rom 8:24)." As the Church in the United States gives thanks for the blessings of the past two hundred years, I invite you, your families, and every parish and religious community, to trust in the power of grace to create a future of promise for God’s people in this country. I ask you, in the Lord Jesus, to set aside all division and to work with joy to prepare a way for him, in fidelity to his word and in constant conversion to his will. Above all, I urge you to continue to be a leaven of evangelical hope in American society,  striving to bring the light and truth of the Gospel to the task of building an ever more just and free world for generations yet to come.

Those who have hope must live different lives! (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). By your prayers, by the witness of your faith, by the fruitfulness of your charity, may you point the way towards that vast horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to his Church, and indeed to all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Savior. To him be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Rose says:

    That homily made me tear up. I hope it is read in every parish in the United States this coming Sunday.

  2. Chris Molter says:

    wow.. just WOW.. I love how the Holy Father brings all the elements of the Catholic faith into his sermons. He knows when to subtly emphasise and when to really nail a point. He’s a terriffic homilist and we’re so blessed to have him as our shepherd.

  3. Geoffrey says:

    With this homily and his wonderful address to the bishops, His Holiness is giving all Catholics in the USA their marching orders: Be Catholic!

  4. Great homily, but… I can’t watch any more. It’s too depressing.

    And the worst thing? I’m watching at work (a parish), and after the homily leave my desk to go drop something up front. When I come back our music director, who is a good hearted person but a typical product of the Gather Us In era, is sitting at my desk watching the Mass and saying “oh, I just want to hear how they are doing the music to get some ideas” and what can I say? It is the Pope’s Mass after all… is there any hope any more of trying to say that the drivel we are being fed by music ministries is not what the Church intends?

    Oh and then she hands me the list of music she’s chosen for the First Communion Mass: Shout to the Lord. Sing a New Song. Mass of Creation. Halle, Halle, Halle. We are the Body of Christ. How Beautiful. Take and Eat This Bread. I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light.

    I’m depressed.

  5. TLM says:

    Does anyone have any idea who was responsible for the disgraceful spectacle of the mariachi band and the rest of this ghastly music?

  6. Rose says:

    Off topic, Fr, but how do I reach you by email. Your email button does not work from my computer. Thanks.

  7. Kaye Fairweather says:

    The homily was heavenly, but the music is absolutely the worst I’ve ever heard at a mass. I am embarrassed that our nation could do no better than this for an important mass watched by millions all over the world. Is there anywhere to go to complain? Was this the work of Archbishop Wuerl?
    Thanks for your website and a bit of sanity,

  8. Jacob says:

    I’m just waiting for the Holy Father to draw some kind of actual pastoral message regarding immigration. I doubt there is a single Catholic in the US who would claim to be against immigration per se. It’s the illegal immigration where US Catholics could use guidance.

  9. Will says:

    The homily is brilliant. The music is appalling. Fr. Neuhaus on EWTN seemed taken aback by both the music and the chatty and haphazard Presentation of the Gifts.

  10. Dominic says:

    I suspect that local Churches may not get such a free hand in future in arranging Papal Masses. The music at Nationals Park is truly execrable. Poor Pope Benedict having to cope with that.

  11. Allan says:

    OFF TOPIC: Anyone know where/how to snag free Gregorian Chant ringtones? I’m tired of all the pop songs going off during meetings and wanted to show them what real music sounded like ;)

    Thanks Fr. Z – apologies for the aside.

  12. Geoffrey says:

    The music sounds like that in my parish, so it is both grating and familiar. Let us focus on the Holy Father’s words to us, and be thankful. Deo gratias!

  13. Thomas says:

    An absolutely amzing homily with such a great reflection on the connection between the Sacrament of Penance and hope. But the music is disturbing. I finally had to stop watching when the Gospel music and clapping began during communion. I can only hope Sunday will be a better reflection of Pope Benedict’s mvement for liturgical renewal.

  14. Gil Ferguson says:

    Dear Fr. Z:

    Please pray for me as I feel so distressed. After watching the “ceremony” in D.C., I fell dismayed and lost as I was longing for and trying to remember what it was like to see the Holy Roman Catholic Mass. Awaiting to see what happens next in the Yankee Stadium.

    Christ is our Hope!

    Gil Ferguson

  15. B Knotts says:

    It would seem that someone hasn’t got the memo. There has been some very inappropriate music, and chatting during the Offertory.

  16. Paul Priest says:

    So many listen but how many will hear what is actually being said ?

  17. Seminarian says:

    Beautiful homily but…. WHAT IS THAT TERRIBLE SOUND I HEAR????

    Poor Pope… what a joke.

  18. mariadevotee says:

    I am so humiliated with this awful music for the Holy Father. Obviously someone has not read what the Holy Father has written about liturgy. At least now the Holy Father knows what we have to endure week after week. I really, really hope someone loses his job over this embarrassing display. I hope tomorrow will be better. Holy Father help us!

  19. John Paul says:

    The music disaster was well chronicled over at New Liturgical Movement.
    New York is going to be much much better. The director of music at St.Patrick’s
    is taking care of ALL the music at all events and Masses in New York.

    But this really is a horror show. What is truly a step backwards for the
    Reform of the Reform is that this was supposedly “approved” by Msgr. Marini.

    Yes, the homily was very moving and inspiring. Then, the show began.

  20. Geoffrey says:

    So many complaints…

  21. Tom says:

    Father Z wrote: “[This is an important point. The Holy Father wants to spark a renewal of the Church in the USA.]”

    As did Popes Paul VI and John Paul II.

    The same applies to our bishops in America.

    The bottom line is that only through the Mass can Catholics grow strong spiritually. Only through the Mass can Catholics in America acquire the necessary Catholic identity that will enable them to spark the renewal of the Church in the U.S.A.

    Unfortunately, based upon the Pope’s Mass, it is business as usual regarding “American” liturgy.

    It is clear…clear…clear…that regarding Latin Catholics, only the Traditional Latin Mass can spark the renewal of hearts and minds.

    Only when the Pope, bishops and priests of the Latin Church return to the Traditional Latin Mass can the Latin Church renew the hearts and minds of their Faithful.

    Pope Benedict XVI’s words are wonderful…as were the words uttered by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II.

    Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic visit to America failed to renew the (Latin) Church in the U.S.A.

    Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic visits to America failed to renew the (Latin) Church in the U.S.A.

    Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic visit to American will fail to renew the (Latin) Church in the U.S.A.

    The Latin Church in the U.S.A. (and elsewhere) will remain mired in Her state of liturgical and spiritual collapse as long as She remains committed to the Novus Ordo.

    Pray that Pope Benedict XVI will return to the Traditional Latin Mass, the Mass that he was ordained to offer.


  22. Kevin Fleurs says:

    It is unfortunate that the Holy Father’s first Mass in this country included every single piece of American liturgical musical garbage. We need a reform in vernacular liturgical music NOW! The Don better kiss his red hat goodbye.

  23. Andrew says:

    Yes, and also liturgical abuses. Like the choir singing the final doxology with the Pope. But as a good pastor, his chief desire was to reach out to the people.

  24. Teyra says:

    I feel relieved to see your notes over our Holy Father’s homily but the music is too much to take, Father Z please pray for us who are dismayed by seeing such a horrible liturgy. I speak Spanish but that doesn’t mean I want to hear Spanish at a mass that is being transmitted all over the world. I believe the focus was lost, we are not celebrating ourselves or our multiculturalism and we want to be in union with God at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We need to bring Latin back, and obviously some people in DC didn’t get the memo.

    God Bless!

  25. The Homily was beautiful…The music made me sick enough not to go to class. This was NOT the brain of Msgr Marini, this had to be Abp Wuerl and the “Liturgy Committee”

    On the bright side, the Pope knows what we have to endure on a weekly basis and can guide to better sacred music

  26. Ken says:

    Sermon — wonderful. Liturgy — an absolute embarrassment to the United States and to the Church.

    Everything we have been talking about for two or three years in the way of improvements to the liturgy was completely ignored this morning at Nationals Park.

  27. FOLKS: I have another entry about the Mass. Here, stick to the SERMON.

  28. Gordon says:

    Even for those of us in Europe (tho I did live in USA for a bit)the Holy Father’s sermon had much to ponder tho it was obviously tailored for America. I love the Pope’s continued refercences to the Paschal mystery. Many ignore this wonderful time of the year but Papa Ratzinger comes back to it over again. I think he likes Easter a lot. I thought it was somewhat courageous of Benedict to say sorry for the scandles caused by some clergy in such a setting.One would hope that helps some way. For all its problems, the Church in USA has many things going for it,(if some of you think it’s bad there…you wouldn’t want to live here!!) and one would expect the Pope’s hope for the future to be justified. Maybe not in the immediate time, but in due course, for such is the will of God.

  29. test says:

    test comment

  30. Matt Q says:

    Okay, folks. The homily was good overall, but what does “renewal” mean? We hear that so often. Does renewal mean continue on the way it has been, lousy liturgy, lousy teachings–FALSE teachings, UGLY churches, UGLY art, FALSE understanding and concept of vat2, etc. Or… does “renewal” mean return to the solid foundation of Sacred Tradition and Theology, an aesthetical practice of the Faith, SOUND liturgy and devotions? Where does Summorum Pontificum come into this?

  31. caesium says:

    Father ~ reading through the homily I thought it was fine. In contrast, I thought the homily to the Bishops bland and undemanding but correct me if I am wrong.

    On my visits to the US, I am struck by the quality of communication your priests have (in contrast to their British counterparts). The irony in all is that Americans are dynamic enough to preach magnificently and don’t to need to dilute this impact with the Novus Ordo in English.

    I am not being glib but I wonder would the EF (or even the OF in Latin) actually facilitate their brilliance in this area even more?

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