Our Holy Father Pope Benedict wants us to focus with him on prayer. That is one of the many things our pilgrims learned during our time with him last week. In his catecheses during his weekly general audiences, he is addressing prayer, and last week he focused particularly on Psalm 23 – the Lord is my shepherd. This is particularly appropriate to us Americans because the popularity of this psalm with our Protestant brothers and sisters has probably made it the equivalent of a chart-topper. But how often do we Catholics remember that it is in fact a prayer?
Said the Pope: Turning to Lord in prayer involves a radical act of trust, in the awareness that one is entrusting oneself to God who is good, "merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 86:15; cf. Joel 2:13; Genesis 4:2; Psalm 103:8; 145:8; Nehemiah 9:17). For this reason, today I would like to reflect with you on a Psalm that is wholly imbued with trust, in which the psalmist expresses the serene certainty that he is guided and protected, and kept safe from every danger, because the Lord is his shepherd.
Of course, he said that in Italian – but gave a synopsis in English, and spoke some seven or eight other languages too, to teach and greet the thirty to forty thousand pilgrims who were with us in the square that day. He gave us his blessing, which he assured us we could bring home to you. It was good for us to be with our shepherd – Christ’s vicar, who shepherds His flock upon earth.
I am thrilled to learn how well you all thrived without your (local) shepherd for the days I was away. Father DeRosa did a fine job of keeping an eye on things. The Fall Festival and associated events were a great success, despite some disappointing weather. I thank chairmen Lauren Draley and Stanley and Jessica Barsch for doing such a great job of pulling it together, and the Knights of Columbus, Boy Scouts, Holy Name guys, and all the volunteers and sponsors who made it work so well.
We parish priests count on your prayers for us and for the parish, in extraordinary times and day to day. Your prayer is a vital support for the work not only of the priests but also of the whole community. We priests just get the chance more than you to see the need, direct the grace, and often, see the results of all your prayer.
Our pilgrimage was characterized by prayer as well. Everywhere we went – Saint Catherine’s Siena, Saint Francis’ Assisi, the catacombs and the basilicas of Rome, we offered Mass, and we always, always prayed for the parish and all the intentions that had been entrusted to us. In our rosaries and in our visits to the sacred places, we brought your needs with us to the Lord.
Deacon Patrick Lewis and thirty-four others were ordained in splendor, and now have a license to preach and assist at the Holy Altar. Deacon Lewis was radiant with grace and looks forward to being ordained a priest here, in Washington’s basilica, next June 16. Do not neglect him in your prayers!
As this week in our most powerful prayer, the Holy Mass, we begin using the musical settings of the new English translation, let me share with you a Latin phrase that sums up the fabric of our relationship: Oremus pro invicem. It means, let us pray for one another. Our Holy Father Pope Benedict wants us to focus with him on prayer. Together here, or on separate continents, Oremus pro invicem.