From the Cenacle to the World
This Stational church is one of the numerous sanctuaries built at Rome in honour of the 3rd-century martyred deacon. It was built on the site of the house of a Roman matron called Lucina who had sheltered Pope St Marcellus I during the persecution of Maxentius. Pope St Damasus I was elected at this ancient site in 366 and in the 5th century the Titulus Lucinae was established as a parish of Rome. In that century a tradition began of the Major Rogation day on 25 April, at which the Litany was sung in procession, beginning at this basilica and making its way to St Peter's Basilica. Part of the gridiron on which the martyr was famously tortured is kept in this church and in recognition of this church's antiquity, the first of the Cardinal Priests derives his title from this church.
Yesterday, Pope Benedict gathered the cardinals around him in prayer and reflection, in an atmosphere that was described by Cardinal Angelo Sodano as a "spiritual climate which reigned in the Cenacle at Pentecost, when the Apostles were joined with Peter and Mary in expectation of the Holy Spirit." Hence, I posted yesterday on the Pope's reflections on the Pentecost event as indicative of the marks of the Church - one, holy, catholic and apostolic - and that the cardinals are called to express this Mystery in their lives and to enter into it ever more deeply.
Today, the eve of the Annunciation, the Holy Father will hold a public consistory and confer the red biretta on fifteen men, thus admitting them to the Sacred College of Cardinals. Like Our Lady, Queen of the Apostles, the cardinals are called to deepen their 'Fiat' to God's plan and mission in the Church. Emerging from the cenacle and filled with the Holy Spirit, they are to set out with renewed vigour as Apostles of the Word, walking in the footsteps of the Prince of the Apostles, St Peter, around whose successor they have gathered and at whose threshold they have prayed. Once more, let us pray for these servants of the Gospel, that the Lord may give them the grace to rise to so great a calling and faithfully proclaim it as Heralds of Christ to all peoples and nations. May He who has begun this work in them bring it to fulfillment.
Thus the Pope said on Wednesday at his General Audience, referring to the apostles and by extension all who share in their mission: "They would not have to be heralds of an idea, but witnesses of a person. Before being sent to evangelize, they would have to 'be' with Jesus (cf. Mark 3:14), establishing a personal relationship with him. With this foundation, evangelization is no more than a proclamation of what has been experienced and an invitation to enter into the mystery of communion with Christ (cf. 1 John 13)."
I believe that this is essential for the cardinals but no less so for us, who are baptised and so called to preach Christ to all nations. This begins, as the Holy Father suggests with spending time with Jesus and getting to know Him: in prayer, in adoration and celebration of the Eucharist, through the sacraments of the Church.
As the Pope and the cardinals have gathered in prayer and reflection, we too must do likewise, especially in this time of grace, this season of Lent. As we reach mid-Lent and we prepare to solemnly celebrate the Annunciation, let us imitate Our Blessed Mother and with her, contemplate the face of Christ in prayer so that we too may bring forth Christ and give Him to the world.
The images above and right show the pivotal moment of the Public Consistory - when the cardinal receives the red biretta (or galero) - as it was in 1960 and as it was today.