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Lumen Fidei

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How extraordinary! An encyclical largely written by one Pope and signed and promulgated by another. I have already begun to study it. The following section from Chapter Three leaped off the page and into my heart:

The Church, Mother of our Faith
37. Those who have opened their hearts to God's love, heard his voice and received his light, cannot keep this gift to themselves. Since faith is hearing and seeing, it is also handed on as word and light. Addressing the Corinthians, Saint Paul used these two very images. On the one hand he says: "But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture -- 'I believed, and so I spoke' -- we also believe, and so we speak" (2 Cor 4:13). The word, once accepted, becomes a response, a confession of faith, which spreads to others and invites them to believe.
Paul also uses the image of light: "All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image" (2 Cor 3:18). It is a light reflected from one face to another, even as Moses himself bore a reflection of God's glory after having spoken with him: "God... has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Cor 4:6).
The light of Christ shines, as in a mirror, upon the face of Christians; as it spreads, it comes down to us, so that we too can share in that vision and reflect that light to others, in the same way that, in the Easter liturgy, the light of the paschal candle lights countless other candles. Faith is passed on, we might say, by contact, from one person to another, just as one candle is lighted from another. Christians, in their poverty, plant a seed so rich that it becomes a great tree, capable of filling the world with its fruit.

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Spiritual Cleansing

Something truly extraordinary happened in the gardens of Vatican City State this morning. Pope Francis, in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI, consecrated Vatican City to Saint Michael the Archangel and to Saint Joseph, whom the Church Universal venerates as her patron and invokes as the Terror of Demons. The Holy Father, Pope Francis said, "On consecrating Vatican City State to Saint Michael the Archangel, we ask him to defend us from the Evil One and to cast him outside." Is this not an implicit prayer of exorcism? The housecleaning of Vatican City is no mere figure of speech. The Pope released a mighty archangelic power of cleansing this morning.

Consecration

It is also worthy of note that Pope Francis used the term "to consecrate" rather than the softer "to entrust" that was in favour some years ago. This would, I think, indicate a certain theological shift that may not be pleasing to everyone in the Curial offices. My dear friend, Monsignor Arthur Calkins, is an expert on the question and vocabulary of consecration. I should be very eager to hear him on this point.

Here is a translation (courtesy of Zenit) of the brief address Francis gave this morning at the inauguration of a monument to Michael the Archangel in Vatican City State. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI joined Francis for the ceremony. Subtitles are my own.

Holiness,
Lord Cardinals, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies!
Initiative Planned by Pope Benedict XVI
We have gathered here in the Vatican Gardens to inaugurate a monument to Saint Michael the Archangel, patron of Vatican City State. It is an initiative planned some time ago, with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI, to whom always go our affection and gratitude and to whom we wish to express our great joy to have him present here in our midst today. My heartfelt thank you!
I am grateful to the Presidency of the Governorate, in particular to Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, for his cordial words, to the offices and workmen involved in bringing this about. I also thank Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, President Emeritus of the Governorate, for his presentation to us of the works carried out and the results attained. A word of appreciation goes to the sculptor, Mr. Giuseppe Antonio Lomuscio, and to the benefactor, Mr. Claudio Chiais, who are present here. Thank you!
Michael: The Champion of God's Primacy
There are several artistic works in the Vatican Gardens; however, this one, which is added today, assumes a place of particular importance, be it for its location, be it for the meaning it expresses. In fact, it's not only a celebratory work, but an invitation to reflection and prayer, which is well inserted in the Year of Faith. Michael - which means: "Who is like unto God?" - is the champion of God's primacy, of His transcendence and power. Michael fights to re-establish divine justice; he defends the People of God from its enemies and above all of the enemy par excellence, the devil. And Saint Michael triumphs because it is God who acts in him. This sculpture, then, reminds us that evil has been vanquished, the accuser is unmasked, his head is crushed, because salvation was accomplished once and for all in the Blood of Christ.
To Cast the Evil One Outside Vatican City State
Even if the devil always tries to scratch the Archangel's face and man's face, God is stronger; the victory is His and His salvation is offered to every man. We are not alone in life's journey and trials; we are accompanied and sustained by the Angels of God who offer, so to speak, their wings to help us surmount so many dangers, to be able to fly high in regard to those realities that can weigh down our life or drag us down. On consecrating Vatican City State to Saint Michael the Archangel, we ask him to defend us from the Evil One and to cast him outside.
Saint Joseph
Dear brothers and sisters, we consecrate Vatican City State also to Saint Joseph, the custodian of Jesus, the custodian of the Holy Family. May his presence make us stronger and more courageous in making space for God in our life to overcome evil always with good. We ask him to guard us, to take care of us, so that the life of grace will grow every day more in each of us.

In the Heart of the Church

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Saint Gregory the Great with Saints Ignatius and Francis Xavier, by Guercino, 1626.


The One Thing Necessary

Quaerite Dominum et confirmamini,
quaerite faciem eius semper.

From today's Introit, Psalm 104:4.

When the world and the Church are taken by surprise, or shaken, and filled with noisy commentary and debate, the role of the monk is to disappear even more radically into silence and adoration, seeking the One Thing Necessary, seeking the Face of the Lord. Quaerite faciem eius semper.

In the Secret of Thy Face

The monk lives hidden in the heart of the Church, beyond the veil, in her Holy of Holies, where nought is heard but the steady heartbeat of Love. The monk prefers the inviolable silence of the Church's mystic sanctuary -- the Heart of Christ -- to the wranglings of the public forum, and to the exchange of private opinions. "O how great is the multitude of thy sweetness, O Lord, which thou hast hidden for them that fear thee! Which thou hast wrought for them that hope in thee, in the sight of the sons of men. Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy face, from the disturbance of men. Thou shalt protect them in thy tabernacle from the contradiction of tongues. " (Psalm 30:20-21)

The devil seeks always to destabilize a monk and to lure him out of the silence and separation from the world that is his natural habitat. In moments of fear, of confusion, of spiritual disorientation, and of doubt, the wisest and best response is to go more deeply into the heart of the Church, following the example of Saint Thérèse and, before her, of Saint Benedict, Saint Anthony of Egypt, and Saint John the Baptist. It is to follow the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who "kept all these words, pondering them in her heart." (Luke 2:19)

An Unshakable Love

The mystic heart of the Church is found in the silence and hiddenness of the Sacred Host, and in the silence and hiddennness of the desert sanctified by the presence of Christ and of the angels.

We, who mystically represent the Cherubim,
And chant the thrice-holy hymn to the Life-giving Trinity,
Let us set aside the cares of life
That we may receive the King of all,
Who comes invisibly escorted by the Divine Hosts.

(Cherubikon, Byzantine Divine Liturgy)

There, in the heart of the Church, is an unshakable love, a constant indefectible love, a love that reveals itself as mercy in the face of every distress.

Until the Day Dawn

What, then, are we to do with our questions and our fears? We are to let go of them. They will be answered and dispelled in the time and in the manner ordained by God. And if our questions go answered, it is so that we might grow in faith and in hope, while keeping vigil "until the day dawn, and the day star arise in our hearts. " (2 Peter 1:19)

What are we to do with our fears and apprehensions? We are to release them into the maternal Heart of Mary, trusting her to deal with them as she sees fit. We are, after all, children, too little to grapple with the things that frighten us and with the fear of the unknown, but we have a Mother: the Star of the Sea who shines serene and bright over the stormy waves, even in the darkest night.

In Praying Much

For a monk, the answers lie not in talking much, but in praying much, like a child in his mother's arms, held safe upon her breast; like John, the beloved disciple resting his head upon the Heart of Jesus.

Immotus in Te Permanens

Change, all change, but especially the election of a new pope, feels threatening and destabilizing, but beyond all change, and untouched by it, is the God whom we call each day at None immotus in te permanens, "unmoved and unchanging in Thyself." The essence of the divine immutability is that "God is charity: and he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him." (1 John 4:16) Let us, then, hide ourselves and quiet ourselves by resting in love at the heart of the Church.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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