After the meeting at the General Directorate, Archbishop Velasio De Paolis went to the Center for Higher Studies to celebrate Mass with the Legionary priests and brothers stationed in Rome and delivered the following homily which I reproduce here directly from the Legionaries website. It is an important statement delivered to those most directly affected by the scandals caused by Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Congregation - the members of the Legion of Christ. I think it is an intimate and reassuring speech -tailored to a very specific audience and not intended to assuage the anger of so many bloggers and commentators who see no other solution for the Legion dilemma other than its complete dissolution. I think it is a message of hope and, in all humility, I must say that it is the only message I expected to hear. Maybe I learned a thing or two about "Vatican speak" when I worked there many years ago. As time permits, I'll come back and make some comments on this homily. Meanwhile, here is the complete unedited text.
In these weeks, I’ve lived in a state of agitation ever since the Secretary of State, first, and then the Holy Father, spoke to me about this mission of being the pontifical delegate for the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ.
Yesterday the official communication was made, and now my interior state has intensified even more, hearing so many people tell me, “Good, congratulations for your assignment, but it will be a difficult one.” And at the same time, everyone has assured me of their prayers, because this assignment’s difficulty can be at least intuited in prayer. It is an assignment that with the Lord’s grace can and must be fulfilled.
Speaking here today, I am still a little emotional. But seeing this spectacle of all these priests and students who fill this chapel today, I feel more peaceful with myself and with the task I must fulfill. I have already spoken with your superiors, those who are at the top of the congregation. I presented the letter with which the Holy Father gave me this assignment, and I also gave them a letter of my own, to communicate my feelings and also my exhortations for you at the beginning of this task.
I do not think it is necessary or fitting to repeat these things, because your superiors will find the way to convey them better and also to help you understand them. It is about the assignment of the pontifical delegate. The Pope says that—given the situation—he believed it to be, on the one hand, urgent to begin a process of reflection that he himself, the Holy Father, wishes to accompany. The Church that helped you earlier by sending its visitators to carry out a first discernment, the same Church, in the person of the Holy Father, today sends you his delegate. A delegate who, as the Pope says in the letter, has the task of witnessing to the Pope’s closeness to all of you. And it is in the conviction that we are in the Church and that we have the task of fulfilling God’s plan that we have this mission of ours, this task.
You yourselves, with your presence, are a testimony that brings hope and imbues us with encouragement. The Pope sends his delegate to tell you that he loves you and that he is close to you. At the same time, he states—he says in his letter—that a great number of the members of this congregation have great zeal and live with great fervor.
Your presence is a witness to a reality that goes beyond us: it is your vocation, with which you celebrate this Eucharist today. You received the vocation of being members of this congregation from the Lord. The Lord raised up this vocation within you and has accompanied you until today, and the works of the Lord—as we know—are never left incomplete. St Paul tells us, “He who began his work in you will bring it to completion.”
It is the mystery of Christ that we celebrate now with your presence. It is the mystery of his love, of his mercy, of his grace that never abandons us. And it is still the time of departure, of an examination of conscience, because we need to reflect at times, to pause for an examination of conscience. Not to reflect constantly about the past, but to take stock of our present, to realize our situation, giving thanks to the Lord before all else. The first word that should spring from the depths of our heart is “thank you.” Thank you to God who called us, who called you to priestly and religious life in this institute. Thank you to God who accompanies you. Thank you to God who can bring his work to completion. Thank you to God and thank you to the Church, because the risen Lord lives in his Church and fulfills his work through the ministry of the Church. And this Church that has carried out a first process of discernment today wants to complete the work—through the pontifical delegate—of reconstruction, of restructuring, or rather, of a new commitment in our spiritual journey.
We know that in critical moments, so many thoughts go through our minds; sometimes they even nestle in our heart. And in the confusion that sometimes besets us, we are tempted to make accelerated decisions, to make decisions in the time of darkness without consulting. In the time of confusion, we only need to recover our serenity, we need to discover God’s presence, believe in a new way in his love, and then return to the path of fidelity. With our presence, we celebrate the eternal fidelity of God’s love. God never fails in his love. The one who has called you continues calling you still, and he awaits a new response, but a deep response, on the path of fidelity. To the Lord’s eternal fidelity we must respond with our “Yes,” our fidelity.
We are called to walk a path, the Pope tells us, a path of renewal particularly in the norms with which we govern our life, so to proceed—renewed and with new understanding, new awareness, and new strength—to the celebration of an extraordinary chapter in which we will re-confirm our fidelity to the Lord, where we will re-confirm our commitment to follow Christ in the profession of the evangelical counsels, where we will re-confirm that the Lord is our everything. We have given our life for him, and we want this life to belong to him totally and forever; this is my desire at the start of this process we want to undertake. We will be more secure, more serene, more full of confidence if we renew our alliance with the Lord; and since the Lord is always faithful and never fails, thus we will also find the courage of our fidelity, our self-giving, and our total dedication to the Lord.
Today, Saturday, the day dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, we want to remember the presence of Mary alongside the mystery of Jesus. On Sunday we remember the mystery of the glorious resurrection of the Lord and the new creation. On Good Friday we remember the day of the passion and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And Saturday is the day of silence. It is always the day of shadows; it is the day on which the entire earth falls silent before the mystery of the death and burial of the Lord Jesus. But on that Saturday, there was also one heart, at least one, in which the believer, Christian tradition, represents the image of Mary who kept her faith and her love for Christ, her Son, intact in the silence on that Saturday. She knows that death cannot be the last word; she knows that her Son lives; she knows that her Son has triumphed over the darkness and has triumphed over death. And Christian tradition represents Jesus who, after his resurrection, appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary before all others.
To celebrate Sunday well, we must pass not only through Friday, but also through the silence of Holy Saturday, keeping intact our faith in the presence of Jesus among us and in the midst of any circumstance of life, but with the certainty that the last word is the triumph of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that the last word is the triumph of life over death, that the last word is the mystery of God’s love that transforms our heart and with his grace makes it capable of responding with the same love to Our Lord Jesus Christ. We will overcome the darkness that at times can oppress us; we will overcome the difficulties also of our human weakness and fragility, because the mystery of God is greater than all human weakness.
It is the mystery of God that, upon entering into our life, makes us capable of the impossible: the vocation of Isaiah, whose story we heard. Every man is a vocation, the Pope tells us in the encyclical Caritas in veritate; he has a vocation. Why? Because man is by nature a being who listens, a given being; before him, there is another who gives meaning to his life. We came into the world because there is someone who loved us first: at the beginning is always love, the gift, and when we consider ourselves, we realize that we feel the need to redirect ourselves toward the source from which we come. We came from the eternal love of God.
And when we enter into the mystery of God’s love, we feel almost a fear, a tremor, like the prophet Isaiah. Contemplating the mystery of God, it almost seems like we are dying, because we feel all our fragility and weakness; but when the mystery of God enters into even our fragility, into our weakness, it purifies us. God does not enter into our lives to annihilate us, but to free us and allow life to be manifested in its fullness. And purified by God, we discover untold energy within us, and then if man by himself can do nothing, man with God can do everything. Nothing is impossible for God, and we are called every day— we created beings, we who have a vocation— we are called every day to rediscover the eternal mystery of God, to experience our weakness and fragility, and at the same time, to experience the merciful and renewing grace of God. And on God’s side, under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with Jesus who has risen and called us to be his friends and brothers, we can do great things. We can be at the service of his kingdom and make the kingdom of God triumph first in ourselves and then by the witness of life we want to give.
With grace, everything is possible, and the grace of God has triumphed in us, in you, up to today. And it will triumph again today and also tomorrow until the mystery of God is fully revealed. With this confidence, we want to commit ourselves to prayer, in humility, in the awareness of our limitations, but above all in the certainty of God’s infinite and merciful love. The Lord has big plans for each one of us; the Lord has a mission for each one of us. Let us not abandon the Lord. He is always faithful. May we also remain faithful in our meeting with the Lord at this time, particularly in this Eucharist. He nourishes us with his word, and he becomes our body and blood. He becomes our life, and with the Lord’s life in us, we become transfigured people, always able to bear witness to the mystery of the love of God who walks in time.