Rorate Caeli

The final homily: Let us avoid "the sins against the unity of the Church, overcoming individualism and rivalry"
"Now is a unique opportunity that will not be repeated"

Venerable Brothers, 
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin a new Lenten journey, a journey that extends over forty days and leads us towards the joy of Easter, to victory of Life over death. Following the ancient Roman tradition of Lenten stations, we are gathered for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The tradition says that the first statio took place in the Basilica of Saint Sabina on the Aventine Hill. Circumstances suggested we gather in St. Peter's Basilica. Tonight there are many of us gathered around the tomb of the Apostle Peter, to also ask him to pray for the path of the Church going forward at this particular moment in time, to renew our faith in the Supreme Pastor, Christ the Lord. For me it is also a good opportunity to thank everyone, especially the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, as I prepare to conclude the Petrine ministry, and I ask you for a special remembrance in your prayer.

The readings that have just been proclaimed offer us ideas which, by the grace of God, we are called to transform into a concrete attitude and behaviour during Lent. First of all the Church proposes the powerful appeal which the prophet Joel addresses to the people of Israel, "Thus says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning" (2.12). Please note the phrase "with all your heart," which means from the very core of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom. But is this return to God possible? Yes, because there is a force that does not reside in our hearts, but that emanates from the heart of God and the power of His mercy. The prophet says: "return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment" (v. 13). It is possible to return to the Lord, it is a 'grace', because it is the work of God and the fruit of faith that we entrust to His mercy. But this return to God becomes a reality in our lives only when the grace of God penetrates and moves our innermost core, gifting us the power that "rends the heart". Once again the prophet proclaims these words from God: "Rend your hearts and not your garments" (v. 13). Today, in fact, many are ready to "rend their garments" over scandals and injustices – which are of course caused by others - but few seem willing to act according to their own "heart", their own conscience and their own intentions, by allowing the Lord transform, renew and convert them.

This "return to me with all your heart," then, is a reminder that not only involves the individual but the entire community. Again we heard in the first reading: "Blow the horn in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly! Gather the people, sanctify the congregation; Assemble the elderly; gather the children, even infants nursing at the breast; Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her bridal tent (vv.15-16). The community dimension is an essential element in faith and Christian life. Christ came "to gather the children of God who are scattered into one" (Jn 11:52). The "we" of the Church is the community in which Jesus brings us together (cf. Jn 12:32), faith is necessarily ecclesial. And it is important to remember and to live this during Lent: each person must be aware that the penitential journey cannot be faced alone, but together with many brothers and sisters in the Church.

Finally, the prophet focuses on the prayers of priests, who, with tears in their eyes, turn to God, saying: " Between the porch and the altar let the priests weep, let the ministers of the LORD weep and say: “Spare your people, Lord! Do not let your heritage become a disgrace, a byword among the nations! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’"(V.17). This prayer leads us to reflect on the importance of witnessing to faith and Christian life, for each of us and our community, so that we can reveal the face of the Church and how this face is, at times, disfigured. I am thinking in particular of the sins against the unity of the Church, of the divisions in the body of the Church. Living Lent in a more intense and evident ecclesial communion, overcoming individualism and rivalry is a humble and precious sign for those who have distanced themselves from the faith or who are indifferent.

"Well, now is the favourable time, this is the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2). The words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth resonate for us with an urgency that does not permit absences or inertia. The term "now", repeated several times, says that this moment cannot be let go, it is offered to us as a unique opportunity that will not be repeated. And the Apostle's gaze focuses on sharing with which Christ chose to characterize his life, taking on everything human to the point of taking on all of man’s sins. 

The words of St. Paul are very strong: "God made him sin for our sake." Jesus, the innocent, the Holy One, "He who knew no sin" (2 Cor 5:21), bears the burden of sin sharing the outcome of death, and death of the Cross with humanity. The reconciliation we are offered came at a very high price, that of the Cross raised on Golgotha, on which the Son of God made man was hung. In this, in God’s immersion in human suffering and the abyss of evil, is the root of our justification. The "return to God with all your heart" in our Lenten journey passes through the Cross, in following Christ on the road to Calvary, to the total gift of self. It is a journey on which each and every day we learn to leave behind our selfishness and our being closed in on ourselves, to make room for God who opens and transforms our hearts. And as St. Paul reminds us, the proclamation of the Cross resonates within us thanks to the preaching of the Word, of which the Apostle himself is an ambassador. It is a call to us so that this Lenten journey be characterized by a more careful and assiduous listening to the Word of God, the light that illuminates our steps.

In the Gospel passage according of Matthew, to whom belongs to the so-called Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to three fundamental practices required by the Mosaic Law: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. These are also traditional indications on the Lenten journey to respond to the invitation to «return to God with all your heart." But he points out that both the quality and the truth of our relationship with God is what qualifies the authenticity of every religious act. For this reason he denounces religious hypocrisy, a behaviour that seeks applause and approval. The true disciple does not serve himself or the "public", but his Lord, in simplicity and generosity: "And your Father who sees everything in secret will reward you" (Mt 6,4.6.18). Our fitness will always be more effective the less we seek our own glory and the more we are aware that the reward of the righteous is God Himself, to be united to Him, here, on a journey of faith, and at the end of life, in the peace light of coming face to face with Him forever (cf. 1 Cor 13:12).

Dear brothers and sisters, we begin our Lenten journey with trust and joy. May the invitation to conversion , to "return to God with all our heart", resonate strongly in us, accepting His grace that makes us new men and women, with the surprising news that is participating in the very life of Jesus. May none of us, therefore, be deaf to this appeal, also addressed in the austere rite, so simple and yet so beautiful, of the imposition of ashes, which we will shortly carry out. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and model of every true disciple of the Lord accompany us in this time.


Benedict XVI
Homily, Ash Wednesday
February 13, 2013


  1. Tu es Petrus!

  2. He's really disappointed that SSPX is not back in the fold.

    There's only one fold. SSPX is obviously not that one fold.

  3. Dear Beng. So, you don;t think he was talking about the Protestants ?

  4. Judith11:51 PM

    If adherence to the Traditions of the Church, with a capital T, constitutes disunity, then it logically follows that there is a hermeneutic of rupture with Tradition.

  5. If His Holiness was willing to accept SSPX as they are (i.e. without a compromise on vii), then I would see no reason for their not accepting.

  6. Fidus et Audax12:57 AM

    Dear beng, So you don't possibly think he was talking about the folks in the Vatican itself after this whole "retirement"? If I'm to be on the side of these cretins, call me a schismatic.

  7. Joseph1:50 AM

    As Fellay has implied, the Orthodox and the SSPX may have to be accepted "as is." This pope was probably willing to do that.

    He does, however, have the energy to conduct an operation of that magnitude.

  8. PunchingPilate2:06 AM

    "Today, in fact, many are ready to "rend their garments" over scandals and injustices..." Who is he talking about--the topless women who are protesting at the Vatican? The gay priests accompanying their half-naked gangs to the gay PRIDE orgies? Considering that he and his VCII compadres rent the church and created a "counter syllabus" and counter mass as well as created, participated in, presided over and covered up the homosexual perversion of the priesthood and the sexual abuse of children and priests - both of which virulent scandals are still ongoing at this time, it would have been nice to see ONE of them, ONE time, EVER rend their garments or weep. I wonder what does it take to make them repent and turn back to God?

    Better to be excommunicated from them - I wonder if he has resigned to avoid his name on that. Still goes to show appeaser way of 1/2 and 1/2 doesn't work. Also, it makes me puke to think Schonborn was his student.

    Ash Wednesday is a good day for his last (public) mass. VCII has turned to ash. God will return beauty for ashes, but only when you are willing to give up to Him your ashes (the destruction you have wrought) can He transform them and give you back beauty. I think Benedict half way gets it.

  9. Catherine of Siena4:11 AM

    Sins against the unity of the Church are among the most horrendous, and they will most assuredly bring the greatest penalties in the hereafter. In this homily, the Holy Pontiff reveals the depth of the wounds the SSPX have inflicted upon him, the Vicar of Christ on Earth. Woe to all those who have participated in this great evil. You have caused in no small measure the events we are seeing unfold these days.

  10. Catherine of Siena4:17 AM

    SSPX Bishop Fellay: Your moment has passed, the moment when Our Lord put you to the most important test of your life. The moment has now passed, the opportunity lost... Et vous le savez déja...

  11. Judith4:36 AM


    The Protestants are not part of the Church.

  12. God bless you, New Catholic and everyone at Rorate Caeli.

    The work you do in assembling these different reports is more of a blessing than you will ever realise.

    At least in this life.

    In the next life I am sure you will see ...

    My "two cents" as they say in America ...

    The situation of the Church in the modern world is very, very grim.

    The Holy Father knows that the Church needs to stand united in this grim time.

    The Holy Father is aware of many issues not enough on the radar screens of Catholic Traditionalists.

    Note: I did not say "not on the radar screens". I said "not enough" ...

    The Holy Father sees things like the very aggressive secularisation sweeping Europe that may well end in things like laws compelling the Church to "marry" homosexual people.

    The Holy Father sees New Age neo-paganism which is totally wiping out Christianity in the Anglosphere, at least.

    And more.

    In this grave time, there is no more room for the SSPX to continue breaking the unity of the Church.

    The world situation is too serious.

    Again my heartfelt thanks to Rorate Caeli.

    What you have done for me alone these last years is immeasurable. And I am one man.

    In the next life, you will see the full extent of what you have done that you cannot see now.

    My prayers are with you and MJ.

  13. really?11:52 AM

    Quo Vadis? Maybe Benedict will meet Christ on his flight from Rome.

  14. Catherine of Siena12:32 PM

    The Holy Pontiff sees clearly what must be done with respect to the SSPX, and he does not feel capable of carrying this out. It will not happen on his watch. To all those who have supported, aided, and abetted this terrible schism: you have changed Church history in a major, major way.

  15. Benedict Carter1:45 PM

    sl524Catherine of Siena:

    You have got it entirely the wrong way round and upside down: it is the BISHOPS who obstructed the Indult, who have obstructed the motu proprio, and who have forced the Pope to abdicate in sheer frustration and grief that he is being ignored (his own fault - he ruled as a conciliarist Pope, but should have fired a few people to encourage the rest).

    The SSPX escaped a trap probably forced onto the Pope by others.

    They are not in schism, they have not caused his abdication. The wolves lay in wait within the Curia and Episcopate, not in Econe.

  16. Forever Faithful2:06 PM

    To "Catherine of Siena," Tom, and a few others:

    As I read in post after post your vitriolic spewings against what you imagine to be H.E. Bp. Fellay and the SSPX, I can only see in my mind images of Our Divine Savior on His way to Calvary, as He is yelled at, ocked, and spit upon by not only Romans, but also those once His chosen people...

    How my heart goes out to you with pity, great sorrow, and deep compassion. ...My mind cannot but see Our Lord weeping over Jerusalem.

  17. NewCristero2:32 PM

    " Catherine of Siena said...

    The Holy Pontiff sees clearly what must be done with respect to the SSPX, and he does not feel capable of carrying this out. It will not happen on his watch. To all those who have supported, aided, and abetted this terrible schism: you have changed Church history in a major, major way."

    Do you know better than the senior Vatican clergy who have specifically said the SSPX is NOT schismatic? Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos has repeatedly affirmed that the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is not a case of formal schism on at least five separate occasions in public interviews. Google it.

  18. Ora et Labora2:45 PM

    Forever Faithful is this extreme way of thinking of some people within the SSPX that makes difficult to reason with you.

  19. Liberal modernism focuses on the individual - phenomenology individualises inner experience and perception at the expense of the communitarian. Almost every conciliar emphasis places what is personal at the centre of faith - primacy of conscience actually encourages the schismatic mentality through making faith experience a relativised phenomenon. How can the modern church ever reestablish Christ at the Head of His Church restoring unity of purpose, if true obedience to The Faith is not restored?

  20. Common Sense9:24 PM

    Dear Catherine of Siena,
    Is all that ranting and raving necessary to put your point across? What do you hope to achieve? No ammount of wild exageration will advance your view point. If only life were so simple. That is why the SSPX doesn't subscribe to simplistic, 'one size fits all' solutions. Rest assured, our leadership has far more foresight than you perhaps credit it with.

  21. Picard12:35 AM

    Dear IANS,

    probably the best comment of the week.

    Hitting the nail (even some will not understand ;-)

    I love it!

    GOD bless!

  22. Gratias7:22 AM

    Catherine of Siena and Tom:

    Verbum sapientae.


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