Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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Diocese gathers for memorial Mass for Pope John Paul II
the Inland Register
(From the April 28, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)
Msgr. John Steiner gestures as he preaches during the memorial Mass for Pope John Paul II April 7 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, Spokane. (IR photo)
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, Spokane, was filled the evening of April 7 as the Diocese of Spokane gathered to celebrate a memorial Mass for the late Pope John Paul II. Pope John Paul died April 2.
Bishop William Skylstad was in Rome at the time. Celebrating the Mass was Father Steve Dublinski, Vicar General of the diocese. Co-celebrant was Father Tom Caswell, the diocese’s Ecumenical Relations Officer.
The readings were proclaimed by Professor Marta Gonzalez and Providence Sister Rosalie Locati. Another Providence Sister, Myrta Iturriaga, read the General Intercessions in Spanish.
Homilist for the Mass was Msgr. John Steiner, co-Vicar General.
Here is Msgr. Steiner’s homily, edited slightly for print:
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, preaching in St. Peter’s Square last Sunday morning, about 12 hours after the Pope’s death, hailed him as John Paul the Great! While my prophetic charism is not of the highest quality, Karol Joszf Wojtyla – John Paul the Great – has transformed the face of the papacy and the Church.
The Holy Father did not create context of his papacy, but he listened to the personal call of the Lord Jesus as addressed to Peter. “Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these?... Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.... Follow me!”
Do you know the other Popes who have been given the title of “the great” throughout the history of the Church? There have been three of them. Each of them served in the chair of Peter at a time when the Church was facing a new age and they inspired the Church for its mission to the future.
“In this Pope’s conception of his duties as supreme pastor, the maintenance of strict ecclesiastical discipline occupied a prominent place. This was particularly important at a time when the continual ravages ....were introducing disorder into all conditions of life, and the rules of morality were being seriously violated. He used his utmost energy in maintaining this discipline, insisted on the exact observance of the ecclesiastical precepts, and did not hesitate to rebuke when necessary.” No, this was not said about Pope John Paul II, but about Leo the Great.
Like John Paul, Leo the First, in the middle of the 5th century, faced off against the political enemy of the century, Attila the Hun. His political strength brought an opportunity for peace to Italy. John Paul’s polish heritage reframed Eastern Europe. His spirited defense of human life, human solidarity and religious freedom have remade our Church and our world. Communism in the 20th century makes the barbarian invasions of the 5th century seem rather insignificant.
The reading tonight from Second Peter reminds us of the tradition that Peter, James and John were on the Mountain of the Transfiguration. The words of the letter ascribed to Peter speak of this spiritual experience: “We have heard this voice come down from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. Moreover we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
John Paul was a man of the Spirit. He prayed. He prayed privately and publicly. His prayerful spirit guided his life. He took seriously the title “Universal pastor.” And thus he prayed for the Church. It was written about Pope Gregory the Great that at the very outset of his pontificate at the end of the 6th century, Gregory published his Liber Pastoralis Curae, or book on the office of a bishop, in which he lays down clearly the lines he considered it was his duty to follow. He describes how the bishop’s life should be first of all a life of prayer.
This commitment was the key to Gregory the Great’s life as pope. It is the same spirit that guided John Paul, for what they preached, they practiced. Again, First Peter described this commitment “as a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” The Morning Star.... the Blessed Mother’s title, the faithful mother of the Church who guided his prayer and his ministry. Totus Tuus, his personal motto. Mary was his guide to prayer.
The third pope known as the “Great” was Nicholas the Great. Christianity in Western Europe at the end of the 9th century was then in a most melancholy condition. The empire of Charlemagne had fallen to pieces, Christian territory was threatened both from the north and the east, and Christendom seemed on the brink of anarchy. Christian morality was despised; many bishops were worldly and unworthy of their office. Pope Nicholas appeared, filled with a high conception of his mission for the vindication of Christian morality and the defense of God’s Law.
It has been a millennium, over 1,000 years, since any pope has been described as “the Great.” John Paul the Great has moved the papacy into the center of modern society. When the future King of England has to change his so called wedding date because of the funeral of the Pope, you know that the first miracle authenticating the ascendancy of John Paul II has already taken place!
The media have reminded us of 26 years of papal teaching and papal travel. We have reviewed the pictures of World Youth Days in every corner of the world. We have seen again the first pope in the White House. Most of all, we have watched the whole world remember the impact of this man.
But in faith, tonight the death of John Paul II is Easter witness. The first reading, from Acts, tells us of the power of the Easter Apostolic Witness: “Observing the boldness of Peter and John, and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, the leaders, elders and scribes were amazed.” We, too, have been amazed in the last five years at the dying of an ordinary man, trapped in a body frail from Parkinson Disease. We have wondered at the spirit which brought him shaking and disabled to the altar table to proclaim the mystery of faith with us and for us. But Easter apostolic witness is described by Acts in these words: “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”
And so tonight Our Holy Father, John Paul II, brings us together as ordinary men and women, as Easter Christians. Most especially our prayer is a prayer of thanksgiving for his witness and his spirit. Our prayer is a prayer for the Church. Our prayer is a prayer for the fulfillment of the things he cared about so much: The sacredness of human life from the moment of conception to natural death; the solidarity of all human persons, without regard to race or nation or wealth; the unity of the Church from East to West under one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; and a world of peace without war or violence. An ordinary man from Poland, an actor on the stage of the world, has brought us to the Altar of Eucharist.
In his last encyclical he gave us this Eucharistic guidance for our prayer tonight:
“In the humble signs of bread and wine, changed into his body and blood, Christ walks beside us as our strength and our food for the journey, and he enables us to become, for everyone, witnesses of hope. If, in the presence of this mystery, reason experiences its limits, the heart, enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, clearly sees the response that is demanded, and bows low in adoration and unbounded love.”
His last word to the world is his message Urbi et Orbi on Easter Day, six days before he died, a message for us on the journey:
We, the men and women of the third millennium,