Saturday, November 2, 2019

Mass in the Catacombs

This afternoon, marking the Commemoration of all the faithful departed, the Holy Father, Pope Francis went to the Catacombs of Saint Priscilla in Rome to celebrate the Holy Mass which began at 4:00pm.

Unscripted Homily of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the Mass celebrated at the Catacombs of Saint Priscilla

The celebration of the feast of all the dead in a catacomb - for me it is the first time in my life that I enter a catacomb, it is a surprise - tells us many things. We can think of the life of those people, who had to hide, who had this culture of burying the dead and celebrating the Eucharist in here ... It is a moment of bad history, but it has not been overcome: even today such situations exist. There are many. Many catacombs in other countries, where people even have to pretend to have a party or a birthday in order to celebrate the Eucharist, because in those places it is forbidden to do so. Even today there are persecuted Christians, more than in the first centuries, more. This - the catacombs, the persecution, the Christians - and these Readings, make me think of three words: identity, place and hope.

The identity of these people who gathered here to celebrate the Eucharist and to praise the Lord, is the same as that of our brothers and sisters today in so many, so many countries where being a Christian is a crime; it is forbidden, they have no right. The same. The identity of these people is what we have heard: the Beatitudes. The identity of the Christian is this: the Beatitudes. There is not another one. If you do this, if you live like this, you are a Christian. No, but look, I belong to that association, to that other ..., I belong to this movement ... Yes, yes, all good things; but these are fantasies in the face of this reality. Your identity card is this (he indicates the Gospel), and if you do not have this, movements or other belongings are of no use. Either you live like this, or you're not a Christian. Simply. The Lord said it. Yes, but it's not easy, I don't know how to live like this ... There is another passage from the Gospel that helps us better understand this, and that passage of the Gospel will also be the great protocol according to which we will be judged. It is Matthew 25. With these two passages of the Gospel, the Beatitudes and the great protocol, we will see, living this, our identity as Christians. Without this there is no identity. There is the fiction of being Christian, but not identity.

This is the identity of the Christian. The second word: the place. Those people who came here to hide, to be safe, even to bury the dead; and those people who celebrate the Eucharist today in secret, in those countries where it is forbidden ... I think of that nun in Albania who was in a re-education camp, at the time of communism, and it was forbidden for priests to give the sacraments, and this nun, there, she baptized in secret. The people, the Christians knew that this nun baptized and the mothers approached her with their children; but this one did not have a glass, something to hold water ... She did it with shoes: she took water from the river and baptized with shoes. The place of the Christian is everywhere, we do not have a privileged place in life. Some want to have it, they are qualified Christians. But these run the risk of remaining with the qualified and dropping the Christian. Christians, what is their place? The souls of the just are in the hands of God (Wis 3,1): the place of the Christian is in the hands of God, where He wants us. The hands of God, who are plagued, who are the hands of his Son who wanted to bring with him the wounds to show them to the Father and intercede for us. The Christian's place is in the prayer of Jesus before the Father. In the hands of God. And we are sure that there, whatever happens, even the cross happens. Our identity (he points to the Gospel) says that we will be blessed if they persecute us, if they say everything against us; but if we are in God's hands, if we plea for love, we can be sure. This is our place. And today we can ask ourselves: where do I feel the safest? In the hands of God or with other things, with other securities that we rent but that will eventually fall, that have no consistency?

These Christians, with this identity card, who lived and who still live in the hands of God, are men and women of hope. And this is the third word that comes to me today: hope. We heard it in the second reading: that final vision where everything is re-done, where everything is re-created, that country where we all go. And to enter there, we don't need strange things, we don't need sophisticated attitudes: we just need to show the identity card: It's okay, go ahead. Our hope is in Heaven, our hope is anchored there and we, with the rope in our hands, support ourselves by looking toward that river bank that we must cross.

Identity: Beatitudes and Matthew 25. Place: the safest place, in God's hands, plagued with love. Hope, future: the anchor, there, in the other bank, but I cling to the rope. This is important, always cling to the rope! Many times we will only see the rope, not even the anchor, not even the other bank; but you, hold on to the rope and you will arrive safely.
Testo originale nella lingua italiana

At the conclusion of the Mass celebrated in the Catacombs of Saint Priscilla, having returned to the Vatican, the Holy Father, Pope Francis went to the Grotto below the Vatican Basilica to spend a moment of private prayer for the deceased Pontiffs.

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