Benedict XVI in Oporto: “How much time we have lost…”

I am incessantly going on about what I think Pope Benedict is trying to do in his pontificate: reinvigorate Catholic identity so that Catholics can fulfill their mission to shape the world around them.  If we don’t know know we are as Catholics, then as Catholics we will have nothing to contribute in the public square.  Why should people listen to us if we have nothing to say?

Of course this involves far more than being able to make good arguments.  It is also about living. Not just dicta but also facta.

In regard to what I call Pope Benedict’s "Marshall Plan" for the Church, our worship must play a vital role.

The Holy Father gave a sermon in Oporto, Portugal.  Let’s have a look with my emphases and comments.

Remember… he is not speaking only to the people of Oporto.  He is speaking to everyone who reads and listens.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"It is written in the book of Psalms, … ‘His office let another take’. One of these men, then […] must become a witness with us to his resurrection" (Acts 1:20-22). These were the words of Peter, as he read and interpreted the word of God in the midst of his brethren gathered in the Upper Room following Jesus’ ascension to heaven. [Pay attention: This is, once again, Peter reading and interpreting the Scriptures in the midst of the brethren gathered. Benedict is Peter.] The one who was chosen was Matthias, who had been a witness to the public life of Jesus and his victory over death, and had remained faithful to him to the end, despite the fact that many abandoned him. The "disproportion" between the forces on the field, which we find so alarming today, astounded those who saw and heard Christ two thousand years ago. It was only he, from the shore of the Lake of Galilee right up to the squares of Jerusalem, alone or almost alone at the decisive moments: he, in union with the Father; he, in the power of the Spirit. Yet it came about, in the end, that from the same love that created the world, the newness of the Kingdom sprang up like a small seed which rises from the ground, like a ray of light which breaks into the darkness, like the dawn of a unending day: it is Christ Risen. And he appeared to his friends, showing them the need for the Cross in order to attain the resurrection.  [The Holy Father is also trying to spur a "new evangelization".]

On that day Peter was looking for a witness to all this. Two were presented, and heaven chose "Matthias, and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles" (Acts 1:26). Today we celebrate his glorious memory in this "undefeated city", which festively welcomes the Successor of Peter. I give thanks to God that I have been able come here and meet you around the altar. I offer a cordial greeting to you, my brethren and friends of the city and the Diocese of Oporto, to those who have come from the ecclesiastical province of Northern Portugal and from nearby Spain, and to all those physically or spiritually present at this liturgical assembly. [That means you, dear reader.] […]

"One of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection," said Peter. [Nota bene:] His Successor now repeats to each of you:[!]  My brothers and sisters, you need to become witnesses with me to the resurrection of Jesus. [NB:] In effect, if you do not become his witnesses in your daily lives, who will do so in your place? Christians are, in the Church and with the Church, missionaries of Christ sent into the world. [We must shape the world around us.] This is the indispensable mission of every ecclesial community: to receive from God and to offer to the world the Risen Christ, so that every situation of weakness and of death may be transformed, through the Holy Spirit, into an opportunity for growth and life. [And here is the dimension of worship:] To this end, in every Eucharistic celebration, we will listen more attentively to the word of Christ and devoutly taste the bread of his presence. [Notice that both of these involve activity receptivity.  True "active participation".] This will make us witnesses, and, even more, bearers of the Risen Jesus in the world, bringing him to the various sectors of society and to all those who live and work there, spreading that "life in abundance" (cf. Jn 10:10) which he has won for us by his cross and resurrection, and which satisfies the most authentic yearnings of the human heart.

[And now something from Peter, Benedict, about his own style…] We impose nothing, yet we propose ceaselessly, as Peter recommends in one of his Letters: [One of my favorite quotes from Scripture…] "In your hearts, reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3:15). And everyone, in the end, asks this of us, even those who seem not to. From personal and communal experience, we know well that it is Jesus whom everyone awaits. In fact, the most profound expectations of the world and the great certainties of the Gospel meet in the ineluctable mission which is ours, for "without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. [!] In the face of the enormous problems surrounding the development of peoples, which almost make us yield to discouragement, we find solace in the sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ, who teaches us: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn 15:5) and who encourages us: ‘I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Mt 28:20)" (Caritas in Veritate, 78).

Yet even though this certainty consoles and calms us, it does not exempt us from going forth to others. We must overcome the temptation to restrict ourselves to what we already have, or think we have, safely in our possession: [Here is strong language…] it would be sure death in terms of the Church’s presence in the world; [Get that?  "sure death"] the Church, for that matter, can only be missionary, in the outward movement of the Spirit. From its origins, the Christian people has clearly recognized the importance of communicating the Good News of Jesus to those who did not yet know him. In recent years the anthropological, cultural, social and religious framework of humanity has changed; today the Church is called to face new challenges and is ready to dialogue with different cultures and religions, in the search for ways of building, along with all people of good will, the peaceful coexistence of peoples. The field of the mission ad gentes appears much broader today, and no longer to be defined on the basis of geographic considerations alone; [Indeed.  There is a "digital continent" also.] in effect, not only non-Christian peoples and those who are far distant await us, but so do social and cultural milieux, and above all human hearts, which are the real goal of the missionary activity of the People of God.

This is the mandate whose faithful fulfilment "must follow the road Christ himself walked, a way of poverty and obedience, of service and of self-sacrifice even unto death, a death from which he emerged victorious by his resurrection" (Ad Gentes, 5). Yes! We are called to serve the humanity of our own time, trusting in Jesus alone, letting ourselves be enlightened by his word: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" (Jn 15:16). [Here it is.  A theme in his trip to Portugal.  How we have failed so often and in so many ways….] How much time we have lost, how must work has been set back, on account of our lack of attention to this point! Everything is to be defined starting with Christ, as far as the origins and effectiveness of mission is concerned: we receive mission always from Christ, who has made known to us what he has heard from his Father, and we are appointed to mission through the Spirit, in the Church. Like the Church herself, which is the work of Christ and his Spirit, it is a question of renewing the face of the earth starting from God, God always and alone.

Dear brothers and sisters of Oporto, lift up your eyes to the One whom you have chosen as the patroness of your city, the Immaculate Conception. The angel of the Annunciation greeted Mary as "full of grace", signifying with this expression that her heart and her life were totally open to God and, as such, completely permeated by his grace. May Our Lady help you to make yourselves a free and total "Yes" to the grace of God, so that you can be renewed and thus renew humanity by the light and the joy of the Holy Spirit.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. revs96 says:

    The city is actually called “Porto”. As a Portuguese person, I am offended by the ignorant spelling. The commentators on EWTN (Vatican Radio, I think) called the city by it’s correct name: “Porto”. “Porto” has two o’s not three.

  2. CeeLee says:

    Benedict’s, like the Fathers’, writings are infused with Scripture as source and highway and destination. He helps us trust and step out in faith.

    I enjoy “reading” him with you, Fr. Z. — to be able to share the meaning the depth and the excitement in his message to us.

  3. John V says:

    The original text in Portuguese on the Vatican web site says “Porto”, as do the Italian and French translations. Somehow in the English translation, it becomes “Oporto”.

  4. Leonius says:

    That is because Oporto is the correct name for Porto in English, it is the English name for the city as the article is in English, it is not an error.

  5. Leonius says:

    The same reason in English we spell Rome with an e not Roma with an a which is the Italian spelling and the same goes for a host of other cities to.

  6. revs96 says:

    The city’s name is “Porto” in both Portuguese and English.

  7. Leonius says:

    And the same reason the Portuguese spell London as Londres.

  8. Leonius says:

    You are mistaken revs96 it is not, even UNESCO spells it Oporto in English.

  9. West of the Potomac says:

    No, the city’s name is not Porto in both Portuguese and English. Google any tourism site, like

    From Wikipedia: “Porto (Portuguese pronunciation: [?po?tu]), also known as Oporto in English…. In Portuguese, the city is usually referred to with the definite article as “o Porto” (the port), hence the English name ‘Oporto’.”

    And what a silly thing to get “offended” by. Sheesh.

  10. Is strikes me that this exchange about the orthography of the name of the city is like straining at a gnat.

    At least it keeps some people from dealing with the content of the sermon.

  11. From the Vatican website with the text of the sermon, here is a screenshot:

  12. LouiseA says:

    The Pope speaks beautifully about our being missionaries and our being called to serve others, etc. But, whenever the Pope speaks so loftily, I feel some frustration. I want to say, “Yes, I understand the beautiful principles of which you speak, but please teach us HOW to implement them in our daily lives! Give us practical examples! Give us instructions!” His letter to the Irish people was clear, practical, and pastoral – I wish he would always use that style, rather than the “professor” approach he usually takes.

  13. Tom in NY says:

    Qui, si non simus, quando, si non hodie?

    In foro pradedicando, exemplo praedicando, in Actis Apostolorum fides crescat, mundo sibi interessente et divis naturae adolendis. Quod mutatur? Fortes in fide et ratione, in hoc signo vincemus.

    Salutationes omnibus.

  14. Leonius says:

    You are right father, on my part sorry for the digression.

    The Pope is showing he understands excellently the problems of our times which ultimately are the same as they have always been and the solutions also are the same as they where in the beginning of the Church.

    He understands that the key to everything is sanctity, it is sanctity which is the founding principle on which everything else rests. This is what he communicated to the address to the Bishops and now what he is communicating also to the faithful, H.H. is working to fulfil the role of all priests including Popes, the sanctification of the laity and through them the world.

  15. Tom in NY says:

    Antiquis et novissimis temporibus, forum fortem identitatem clientes allicere et tenere probat. Quomodo identitatem firmamus? Disciplina secundum catechismum, cultu reverentiae secundum rubricos, exemplo caritatis. Convertando stultitiam crucis ad vitam, identitatem monstramus.
    Vianney, ecclesia in rebus novis Galliae morsa et aride communitate, vincit. Et nos?
    Salutationes omnibus.

  16. The Cobbler says:

    Papa Ben has quite the gift for explanations that are both deep and helpful. So many folks talk of integrity and [insert pet virtue here] and bla bla bla without it being relevant to personal lives other than their own unless they tie it into a political take (help the poor, support [insert pet issue] policies!). Others are exceedingly practical or deeply personal but can’t step back and understand their object. Then I come and read Benedict and he incessantly talks of profound understandings that I instantly see apply to my own life and cares without any forcing on my part or hinting on his.

  17. Norah says:

    We impose nothing, yet we propose ceaselessly,

    You know, considering the mess the Church is in at the moment I don’t think it would hurt if the Vicar of Christ would impose every now and then. As a mother, I know that if my kids are running amok and I “impose nothing yet propose ceaselessly’ the situation will only get worse and will be harder to fix when I eventually have to come down hard on the inappropriate behaviour.

    Yes proposing has put a few more candlesticks on the altar but what else??

  18. Norah: Yes proposing has put a few more candlesticks on the altar but what else??

    What have you done to help?

  19. Mitchell NY says:

    The Holy Father always speaks so eloquently and truthfully. Recovering Catholic identity is something that this Pontificate has woke up in me. It makes me want to know more and more about who we all are and where we came from. His message is clear to me.

  20. Geoffrey says:

    “What have you done to help?”

    A very good question that we all need to ask ourselves, and pray over.

  21. HighMass says:

    Ok, just watched the Mass From Porto, can someone explain why there were Extra Ordinary Ministers distributing Holy Communion with all those Priests there

  22. tired student says:

    Fr Z: good point about the “digital continent”. Another great sermon for our Holy Pontiff. ad multos annos, as ever.

    Say a prayer for the Portuguese faithful of the Extraordinary Form. From what I understand the Portuguese bishops have tried to prohibit celebrations of the usus antiquor in Portugal. Can’t the Pope gently remind the prelates with a letter that the Roman clergy and faithful have unfettered access to the EF? That letter would have been a great gift to the traditional Portuguese.

  23. Geoffrey says:

    “Ok, just watched the Mass From Porto, can someone explain why there were Extra Ordinary Ministers distributing Holy Communion with all those Priests there.”

    I noticed that too and thought it very odd. Papal liturgies are usually the one place you can be sure there will be no extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist needed. Perhaps they were seminarians at least? Doubtful…

    Nevertheless, a great apostolic journey for the Holy Father and my “fatherland”!

  24. spesalvi23 says:

    I guess the ‘butchering’ of geographical names in various languages is very common and shouldn’t be a reason for offense. München alone goes under various names (some of them a bit misleading).

    I think the Holy Father will always regard us ‘simple folk’ as intelligent enough to grasp what he’s teaching. I do agree to the Professor part. His sermons are not just sermons, they’re lectures by Professor Ratzinger, who has always challenged people to think and to consider and to re-consider the points of his sermons/lectures/speeches.
    The lack of practical advice is due to the fast that everybody has a total different life-situation. If he attached his points to practical advice, which might be ‘right on the money’ for one person, they might get lost on some other person who’s living in a completely different set of circumstances.
    That’s why he trusts in our intelligence to take his words and to integrate in our particular life situation.
    I believe many people are attracted to his message(s) because he challenges us to think and to apply his points to our own lives; because he doesn’t connect them to anything specifically practical; and because he considers us intelligent enough to comprehend his lofty lectures.

  25. pelerin says:

    Geoffrey comments on the extraordinary ministers present at the Papal Mass and asks whether they were perhaps at least seminarians. As there were women in this capacity I trust they were not!

  26. Re: specifics

    That’s more the business of local pastors and bishops and spiritual directors. When you see the Pope giving definite instructions about specific actions, it’s a “I told you not to make me come down there” situation. (The Irish letter was definitely this.) He does occasionally give specifics, though, as when he explained and promoted “offering things up” in one of his encyclicals. I think this is more or less out of necessity, also. He’s not afraid to step on toes; but not being too centralized and imperial is an ancient theological principle of the Church. Subsidiarity is easy to crush, in today’s world; and waking people up by reminding people of what they already know is more fruitful. But when he talks to priests and bishops, he’s more likely to mention specific measures (after explaining the principles). This makes sense, since it preserves subsidiarity more.

    Re: the homily

    The part I found very striking was: “‘Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you”. And everyone, in the end, asks this of us, even those who seem not to.”

  27. catholicmidwest says:

    What have I done to help? There’s very little I can do. Every church I walk into has mass abuses of one sort or another. Each parish has it’s own little lay ministry clique and heaven forbid you offend the clique!

    So I live the faith the best I can, but shouldn’t I be doing that anyway, whether there’s tarnation that’s broken loose in the church or not????

  28. Sedgwick says:

    The most powerful weapon to restore Catholic identity is the traditional Mass.

  29. Geoffrey says:

    “Geoffrey comments on the extraordinary ministers present at the Papal Mass and asks whether they were perhaps at least seminarians. As there were women in this capacity I trust they were not!”

    Oops! I had just noticed one man in a suit, not women! Mea culpa! :-)

  30. KAS says:

    “Norah: Yes proposing has put a few more candlesticks on the altar but what else??

    What have you done to help?”

    Fr. Z, this may be a good question, but as a lay person who gets shot just as effectively by the Catholics who like modernism as do the priests who dare to stand up and teach Truth, I find I resent the question.

    I have nearly completed a Masters degree in Theological Studies. So now I will be nicely trained to teach classes. But unless the parish priest has the nerve to teach Truth and back me up when I put the Catechism on the table and teach it, I don’t know how long I will last.

    Honestly, I don’t know how priests manage to survive if they teach soundly! The nastiness is awful. And supposedly orthodox Catholics are so worried that somebody might get their feelings hurt that they prefer to kick you if you try to teach Truth. Apparently it is better to teach nothing rather than teach Truth.

    Every time someone says that we must be “charitable” they appear to mean that we must not teach from the Catechism because it might bother someone. Or else they say we must be “tactful” which seems to mean that we avoid teaching the Catechism or we add to the basic teaching about how circumstances may mitigate…yadda yadda yadda–and again Church teaching is gutted and the people are not taught anything solid.

    I love what the Holy Father teaches. The problem is that nobody is correcting the people out there who attack those are try to make a difference. Nobody wants to hurt the feelings of the people who have deviated from Church teaching and are held up as examples of what it means to be Catholic.

    And I probably wouldn’t be so bothered by your question if I were not feeling very much alone. Most of the good Catholics I know have been taught wrongly by people they respect, people who were more interested in not hurting feelings than in Catechism. What is even more upsetting, many nice Catholics learn a bit of Catechism, enough to become uncomfortable with the wrongness of what is passing for catechesis, only to be faced with an angry director of Catholic education when they speak up, and they feel stupid or don’t want to cause trouble, and so they back off and stop learning because they feel helpless for changing anything.

    And then I feel just a bit ticked at the Bishops because if they aren’t standing up and teaching boldly then doesn’t that mean the priests who might stand up if they were not also left flapping in the wind by lack of support are also feeling alone?

    My wants are simple.

    I want the bishops to get some courage and stand up and teach boldly and without worrying that somebody’s feelings might get hurt or that donations might go down. Teach the TRUTH and let God worry about how He is going to fund His programs!

  31. irishgirl says:

    As regards EMHCs at the Oporto Mass-I saw them, too! And there was at least one woman!

    I saw an ‘altar girl’ among the servers. She was wearing a long white robe with a cross around the neck.

    All this didn’t look right; why were lay people distributing Communion, and the priests were sitting in their seats? I saw some ‘young’ priests who could have easily stood the strain of standing and distributing Communion to the crowds.

    I averted my eyes when the cameras showed Communion in the hand, but watched as the Holy Father gave Communion to those KNEELING and ON THE TONGUE!

    I never saw the Masses in Washington DC or in New York City during the Holy Father’s 2008 visit to the US. Were there any EMHCs at those Masses, or just priests and seminarians? If anyone who saw the TV broadcasts-or were there in person-could I get an answer?

    OK, I probably got off tropic….a great sermon by the Holy Father! I always like your ’emphases’ and ‘comments’, Father Z-they really help in understanding!

  32. Bornacatholic says:

    In recent years the anthropological, cultural, social and religious framework of humanity has changed; today the Church is called to face new challenges and is ready to dialogue with different cultures and religions, in the search for ways of building, along with all people of good will, the peaceful coexistence of peoples. The field of the mission ad gentes appears much broader today, and no longer to be defined on the basis of geographic considerations alone…

    Am I the only one who rolls their eyes when they read this Vatican Two humanism?

    With all of the various “missions” the primary one of salvation is constantly slighted when not totally neglected.

    We impose nothing, yet we propose ceaselessly,as Peter recommends in one of his Letters

    Pope John XXIII started us down that unfortunate path and I do not think we will begin to retrace our steps until we have a Pope who was not a participating peritus or Prelate at Vatican Two.

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