Pray for us, pray for Germany.
We come today to the feast of the greatest Archbishop of Milan, Saint Ambrose. He served at a time when Milan was the center of the Empire. We know historically that Ambrose was elected bishop when he was still a catechumen (not yet baptized). The faithful had a suspicion that the excellent civil servant would prove to be most competent churchman: in theology and sacred Liturgy, in administration, and a holy and sincere Christian. Saint Benedict recommends his hymns in the Rule and traditionally think that the “Te Deum” hymn is ascribed to him.
Born of a noble Roman family in Gaul around the year 340, Ambrose studied in Rome and served the imperial government at Sirmium. In 374, elected bishop of Milan, and ordained on this date. Saint Ambrose died April 4, 397. The Pope proclaimed Saint Ambrose a Doctor of the Church in 1298; he is honored as the patron saint of beekeepers and candle makers, because of the honeyed words of his preaching.
The image here of the saint hangs at Newark Abbey (Newark, NJ).
Ambrose’s civil experience as governor allowed him the skill of knowing how “to talk to power.” When the Emperor Theodosius had 7,000 Thessalonians slaughtered over the assassination of their governor, he excommunicated him for his horrendous crime – and made it stick, bringing Theodosius to repentance.
As a theologian, Bishop Ambrose wrote about the incarnation of the Son of God:
“And the Word was with God . This that he said is to be understood thus: The Word was just as was the Father; since He was together with the Father, He was also in the Father, and He was always with the Father. […] It is of the Word to be with the Father; it is of the Father to be with the Word, for we read that the Word was with God. So if, according to your opinion, there was a time when He was not, then, according to your opinion, He too was not in the beginning with whom was the Word. For through the Word I hear, through the Word I understand that God was. For, if I shall believe that the Word was eternal, which I do believe, I cannot doubt about the eternity of the Father, whose Son is eternal.” (The Sacrament of the Incarnation of our Lord (III, 15-18, from the Vatican web site)
Born to an aristocratic family; orphaned by age six, he and his sister Mary were raised by their grandfather. Studied at Jesuit schools in Nancy and Paris, France from 1872 to 1875. Entered the Saint-Cyr Military Academy in 1876. Joined the 4th Hussar regiment; in 1880 his unit was sent to Setif, Algeria. He was discharged from the service in March 1881 for misconduct, and moved to Evian, France. During the Revolt of Bon Mama in South Oran two months later, Charles re-enlisted, and fought for the eight months of the rebellion. He became so fascinated with the Arabs that he met that when he could not obtain a leave of absence to study them, he resigned his commission.
He spent 15 months learning Arabic and Hebrew, and then travelled into Morocco. In May 1885 he received the Gold Medal of the French Geographic Society for his work. He explored Algeria and Tunisia from September 1885 through January 1886, returning to Paris in February to work on his book Reconnaissance au Maroc, which was published in 1888. He lived very simply, sleeping on the floor, spending hours each day in prayer at home and in church. Pilgrim to the Holy Lands from November 1888 to February 1889, and spent much of the rest of 1889 in spiritual retreats.
On 16 January 1890 he joined the Trappist monks at the monastery of Notre Dames-des-Neiges, taking the name Brother Marie-Alberic; he moved to the monastery of Akbes, Syria in June. Sent to study in Rome in October 1896, but after three months it became obvious that his heart, head and spirit were elsewhere, and he was released from his vows.
He made multiple pilgrimages through the Holy Lands on foot before returning to France to study for the priesthood. Ordained on 9 June 1901 at Viviers. He moved to the Oran region near Morocco in late 1901 to establish a base and found an order to evangelize Morocco. In 1902 he began a program of buying slaves in order to free them. In 1904 he began evangelizing nomadic Tauregs in the area of south and central Sahara. Translated the Gospels into the language of the Tauregs. In November 1908 he translated Tauareg poetry to French, and he spent years compiling a Taureg lexicon. In March 1909 he succeeded in founding the Union of Brothers and Sisters of the Sacred Heart to evangelize the French colonies in Africa. Killed when caught in the middle of combat between French forces and Arab insurrectionists.
The Quattrocchis are the first married couple to be beatified together (in 2011). We have few married couples among the saints and blesseds in comparison to those in religious life and priesthood. It was Pope John Paul II who held up for us the Quattrocchis who lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way.
Luigi, a lawyer and civil servant, died in 1951 at the age of 71; Maria, who dedicated herself to her family and to several charitable and social Catholic movements, died in 1965 at the age of 81.
The cause for Beatification for Maria and Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi was opened on 25 November 1994 and, on 21 October 2001, the Holy Father John Paul II raised the married couple to the honour of the altars. On 28 October 2001, the relics of Luigi and Maria were transferred to their crypt in the Shrine of Divino Amore (Divine Love) at Rome.
Homily of Pope Saint John Paul II for the first beatification of a married couple together: Luigi Beltrame Quattroccchi and Maria Corsini, (11/25):
“… they could accompany their children in vocational discernment, training them to appreciate everything “from the roof up”…”
1. “And when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18,8).
The question with which Jesus ends the parabable on the need “always to pray and not lose heart” frightens our soul. It is a question that is not immediately followed by an answer: indeed, it is intended as a challenge to each person, each ecclesial community, each human generation. Each one of us must give an answer. Christ wants to remind us that human life is directed to the final meeting with God; but in this perspective he asks himself whether, on his return, he will find souls ready, waiting for him, to enter the Father’s house with him. This is why he says to everyone “Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Mt 25,13).
Dear brothers and sisters! Dear famlies! Today we have gathered for the beatification of a married couple: Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi. With this solemn ecclesial act, we intend to highlight an example of a positive reply to Christ’s question. The husband and wife lived in Rome in the first half of the 20th century, a century in which faith in Christ was harshly tried, and gave a positive reply. Even in those difficult years, the husband and wife, Luigi and Maria, kept the lamp of the faith burning – lumen Christi – and passed it on to their four children, three of whom are here today in this basilica. Dear friends, this is what your mother wrote about you: “We brought them up in the faith, so that they might know and love God” (L’Ordito e la trama, p. 9).
But your parents also handed on the burning lamp to their friends, acquaintances, colleagues…. And now, from heaven, they are giving it to the whole Church.
Together with the relatives and friends of the new Blesseds, I greet the religious authorities participating in this celebration, starting with Cardinal Camillo Ruini and the other Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops present. I also greet the civil authorities, and, in a special way, the President of Italy and the Queen of Belgium.
2. There could be no happier nor more momentous an occasion than today to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation “Familiaris consortio”. This document, which even today remains a guiding light in the field, while highlighting the centrality of marriage and the mission of the family, particularly asks spouses to follow the path of holiness by virtue of the sacramental grace, which “is not exhausted in the actual celebration of the sacrament of marriage, but rather accompanies the married couple throughout their lives” (Familiaris consortio, n. 56). The beauty of this path shines out in the witness of the Blessed couple Luigi and Maria, an exemplary expression of the Italian people, who demonstrated the great importance of marriage and the family that it brings forth.
This couple lived married love and service to life in the light of the Gospel and with great human intensity. With full responsibility they assumed the task of collaborating with God in procreation, dedicating themselves generously to their children, to teach them, guide them and direct them to discovering his plan of love. From this fertile spiritual terrain sprang vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life, which shows how, with their common roots in the spousal love of the Lord, marriage and virginity may be closely connected and reciprocally enlightening.
Drawing on the word of God and the witness of the saints, the blessed couple lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. Among the joys and anxieties of a normal family, they knew how to live an extraordinarily rich spiritual life. At the centre of their life was the daily Eucharist as well as devotion to the Virgin Mary, to whom they prayed every evening with the Rosary, and consultation with wise spiritual directors. In this way they could accompany their children in vocational discernment, training them to appreciate everything “from the roof up”, as they often, charmingly, liked to say.
3. The riches of faith and love of the husband and wife Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, are a living proof of what the Second Vatican Council said about the call of all the faithful to holiness, indicating that spouses should pursue this goal, “propriam viam sequentes”, “following their own way” (Lumen gentium, n. 41). Today the aspiration of the Council is fulfilled with the first beatification of a married couple: their fidelity to the Gospel and their heroic virtues were verified in their life as spouses and parents.
In their life, as in the lives of many other married couples who day after day earnestly fulfil their mission as parents, one can contemplate the sacramental revelation of Christ’s love for the Church. Indeed, “fulfilling their conjugal and family role by virtue of this sacrament, spouses are penetrated with the spirit of Christ and their whole life is permeated by faith, hope, and charity; thus they increasingly further their own perfection and their mutual sanctification, and together they render glory to God” (Gaudium et spes, n. 48).
Dear families, today we have distinctive confirmation that the path of holiness lived together as a couple is possible, beautiful, extraordinarily fruitful, and fundamental for the good of the family, the Church and society.
This prompts us to pray the Lord that there be many more married couples who can reveal in the holiness of their lives, the “great mystery” of spousal love, which originates in creation and is fulfilled in the union of Christ with his Church (cf. Eph 5,22-33).
4. Like every path of holiness, yours too, dear married couples, is not easy. Every day you face difficulties and trials, in order to be faithful to your vocation, to foster harmony between yourselves and between your children, to carry out your mission as parents and participate in social life.
May you be able to find in God’s word the answer to the questions which arise in everyday life. St Paul, in the Second Reading, reminded us that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness” (II Tm 3,16). Sustained by the force of these words and acting together, you will be able to insist with your children “in season and out of season”, convincing, rebuking, and exhorting them, “unfailing in patience and in teaching” (II Tm 4,2).
Married and family life can also experience moments of bewilderment. We know how many families in these cases are tempted to discouragement. I am particularly referring to those who are going through the sad event of separation; I am thinking of those who must face illness and those who are suffering the premature death of their spouse or of a child. In these situations, one can bear a great witness to fidelity in love, which is purified by having to pass through the crucible of suffering.
5. I entrust struggling families to the providence of God and to the loving care of Mary, the outstanding model of wife and mother who knew the suffering and the exhaustion of following Christ to the foot of the Cross. Dear married couples, do not be overcome by hardship: the grace of the Sacrament supports you and helps you constantly to raise your arms to heaven, like Moses, mentioned in the First Reading (cf. Ex 17,11-12). The Church is close to you and helps you with her prayer, above all, in hard times.
At the same time, I ask all families to hold up the arms of the Church, so that she may never fail in her mission of interceding, consoling, guiding and encouraging. I thank you, dear families, for the support that you give to me in my service to the Church and to humanity. Every day I beg the Lord to help all the families suffering from poverty and injustice, and to advance the civilization of love.
6. Dear friends, the Church has confidence in you to confront the challenges that await her in the new millennium. Among the paths of her mission, “the family is the first and the most important” (Letter to Families, n. 2); the Church is counting on it and calling it to be “a true subject of evangelization and the apostolate” (ibid., n. 16).
I am certain that you will be equal to the task that awaits you in every place and on every occasion. Dear husbands and wives, I encourage you to embrace your role and your responsibilities.
Renew your missionary zeal, making your homes privileged places for announcing and accepting the Gospel in an atmosphere of prayer and in the concrete exercise of Christian solidarity.
May the Holy Spirit, who filled Mary’s heart so that, in the fullness of time, she might conceive the Word of life and welcome him, together with her husband Joseph, support you and confirm you. May he fill your hearts with joy and peace so that every day you may know how to praise the heavenly Father, from whom come every grace and blessing.
O Christ, who summoned all
To follow in your way,
That we might bear our cross
And live in endless day:
We thank you for Cecilia’s stand;
And trusting in your loving hand,
We too will sin and death withstand.
(hymn text by J. Michael Thompson)
I love music, don’t you? I also love real good sacred music: polyphony, chant and the like… today is a beautiful feast day in our honoring Saint Cecilia, patron saint for church musicians. Like any good Christian, Cecilia sang in her heart, and sometimes with her voice. She has become a symbol of the Church’s conviction that good music is an integral part of the liturgy, of greater value to the Church than any other art. In the present confused state of Church music, it may be useful to recall some words of Vatican II:
“Liturgical action is given a more noble form when sacred rites are solemnized in song, with the assistance of sacred ministers and the active participation of the people…. Choirs must be diligently promoted, but bishops and other pastors must ensure that, whenever the sacred action is to be celebrated with song, the whole body of the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightfully theirs…. Gregorian chant, other things being equal, should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded…. Religious singing by the people is to be skillfully fostered, so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out” (Constitution on the Liturgy, 112-118).