Tag Archives: pallium

Saint Agnes and the lambs

pope-francis-blessing-of-lambsOn the feast of Saint Agnes –one of our early female martyrs– lambs are blessed by the pope and the wool harvested by Benedictine nuns to weave a pallium is given to metropolitan archbishops as a sign of communion with the Bishop of Rome on the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul (June 29); a solemn Mass is celebrated each year by the Holy Father with the presence of the Orthodox bishops because it is a key feast day for the Roman Church. Joan Lewis writes today about the event. Here is the opening paragraph:

Just before 9 am Wednesday morning, in keeping with the tradition for the January 21 liturgical memory of St. Agnes, two lambs, blessed earlier in the morning in the Roman basilica named for this saint, were presented to Pope Francis in the atrium of the Santa Marta residence where he lives. The lambs are raised by the Trappist Fathers of the Abbey of the Three Fountains. When their wool is shorn, the [Benedictine] Sisters of St. Cecelia weave it into the palliums that, on the June 29th feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, are bestowed on new metropolitan archbishops as signs of their office.

The rest of the blog post is here.

Saints Peter and Paul

The annual liturgical observance of the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul is an exceptional day for the Christian Church, especially the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. These saints represent for us the founders of the Church in Rome (but in reality the church universal–the church to the nations). Martyrs both; Peter and Paul knew Jesus Christ in very unique ways; both called all of humanity to seek the Lord and to submit to the Lord of the Harvest, the Good Shepherd who cares intimately for each of us.

The sole American metropolitan archbishop –among 23 others– to have received the pallium is His Excellency Archbishop Leonard Paul Blair. Three other archbishops will receive the pallium at another time.

Pope Francis’ is typical of his concern for our encounter with the Lord, and our discernment of how we live what has been given to us (the gospel, tradition, magisterial teaching). He calls you and me to attend to the experience of the apostles in their struggle to follow the Lord faithfully and with conviction. In many ways Francis echoes what Father Carrón of Communion and Liberation taught us in this year’s annual Fraternity Spiritual Exercises (2014) regarding the essential of Christian life: Christ and His mission. “Following” Christ, belonging to Christ is often replaced by our sin and temptation. But as Francis adeptly reminds, we follow the experience of Peter and Paul.

The Holy Father’s homily follows.

Francis at the statue of St Peter June 29 2014On this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the principal patrons of Rome, we welcome with joy and gratitude the Delegation sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch, our venerable and beloved brother Bartholomaios, and led by Metropolitan Ioannis.  Let us ask the Lord that this visit too may strengthen our fraternal bonds as we journey toward that full communion between the two sister Churches which we so greatly desire.

“Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod” (Acts 12:11).  When Peter began his ministry to the Christian community of Jerusalem, great fear was still in the air because of Herod’s persecution of members of the Church.  There had been the killing of James, and then the imprisonment of Peter himself, in order to placate the people.  While Peter was imprisoned and in chains, he heard the voice of the angel telling him, “Get up quickly… dress yourself and put on your sandals… Put on your mantle and follow me!” (Acts 12:7-8).  The chains fell from him and the door of the prison opened before him.  Peter realized that the Lord had “rescued him from the hand of Herod”; he realized that the Lord had freed him from fear and from chains.  Yes, the Lord liberates us from every fear and from all that enslaves us, so that we can be truly free.  Today’s liturgical celebration expresses this truth well in the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm: “The Lord has freed me from all my fears”.

The problem for us, then, is fear and looking for refuge in our pastoral responsibilities.

I wonder, dear brother bishops, are we afraid?  What are we afraid of?  And if we are afraid, what forms of refuge do we seek, in our pastoral life, to find security?  Do we look for support from those who wield worldly power?  Or do we let ourselves be deceived by the pride which seeks gratification and recognition, thinking that these will offer us security?  Dear brother Bishops, where do we find our security?

The witness of the Apostle Peter reminds us that our true refuge is trust in God.  Trust in God banishes all fear and sets us free from every form of slavery and all worldly temptation.  Today the Bishop of Rome and other bishops, particularly the metropolitans who have received the pallium, feel challenged by the example of Saint Peter to assess to what extent each of us puts his trust in the Lord.

Peter recovered this trust when Jesus said to him three times: “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21: 15,16,17).  Peter thrice confessed his love for Jesus, thus making up for his threefold denial of Christ during the passion.  Peter still regrets the disappointment which he caused the Lord on the night of his betrayal.  Now that the Lord asks him: “Do you love me?”, Peter does not trust himself and his own strength, but instead entrusts himself to Jesus and his mercy: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17).  Precisely at this moment fear, insecurity and cowardice dissipate.

Peter experienced how God’s fidelity is always greater than our acts of infidelity, stronger than our denials.  He realizes that the God’s fidelity dispels our fears and exceeds every human reckoning.  Today Jesus also asks us: “Do you love me?”.  He does so because he knows our fears and our struggles.  Peter shows us the way: we need to trust in the Lord, who “knows everything” that is in us, not counting on our capacity to be faithful, but on his unshakable fidelity.  Jesus never abandons us, for he cannot deny himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13).  He is faithful. The fidelity which God constantly shows to us pastors, far in excess of our merits, is the source of our confidence and our peace.  The Lord’s fidelity to us keeps kindled within us the desire to serve him and to serve our sisters and brothers in charity.

The love of Jesus must suffice for Peter.  He must no longer yield to the temptation to curiosity, jealousy, as when, seeing John nearby, he asks Jesus: “Lord, what about this man?” (Jn 21:21).  But Jesus, in the face of these temptations, says to him in reply: “What is it to you? Follow me” (Jn 21:22).  This experience of Peter is a message for us too, dear brother archbishops.  Today the Lord repeats to me, to you, and to all pastors: Follow me!  Waste no time in questioning or in useless chattering; do not dwell on secondary things, but look to what is essential and follow me.  Follow me without regard for the difficulties.  Follow me in preaching the Gospel.  Follow me by the witness of a life shaped by the grace you received in baptism and holy orders.  Follow me by speaking of me to those with whom you live, day after day, in your work, your conversations and among your friends.  Follow me by proclaiming the Gospel to all, especially to the least among us, so that no one will fail to hear the word of life which sets us free from every fear and enables us to trust in the faithfulness of God. Follow me!

Saint Agnes

St Agnes lambsThe prayer for Mass has this line that I think is a terrific reminder for us on this feast of Agnes the Virgin Martyr, follow her constancy in the faith. To have steadfastness of purpose in the faith and praxis is not only a terrific grace but also essential.

On the liturgical memorial of Saint Agnes it is custom for Holy Father to receive a couple of lambs. So, today in Rome at 12:30pm at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, two lambs were presented to Pope Francis. The wool of these lambs will be made into to the pallia for the new metropolitan archbishops (nominated since last June 29); six black crosses are placed on the it. The pallium is a stole that the metropolitan wears at “important Masses” in the respective province (unfortunately the archbishop wears the pallium all the time so it takes away from the sign of particular unity between the the particular archbishop and the bishop of Rome).

The wool of the lamb is noted for its purity and what these lambs sacrifice is a symbolic act that points to Christ Himself. Scholars like to point out that the Greek translation of Agnes means pure one while in Latin the name means lamb. The great Church Father Saint Jerome writes: “All nations, especially their Christian communities, praise in word and writing the life of St. Agnes. She triumphed over her tender age as well as over the merciless tyrant. To the crown of spotless innocence she added the glory of martyrdom.”

The lambs are raised by the Trappist monks of the Tre Fontane Monastery and the wool is turned into pallia by the Benedictine nuns of  Saint Cecilia Monastery, where they will care for them and finally shear them on Holy Thursday. The lambs were blessed earlier at the Basilica of St. Agnes Outside-the-walls, where the virgin-martyr is buried.

Thanks to Fr Dominic Holtz, OP for the picture today; Father Dominic teaches at the Angelicum.

35 metropolitan archbishops receive pallium from Pope

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Earlier today in Rome, Pope Francis bestowed the sign of communion between himself and the metropolitan archbishops appointed in the previous year. 35 metropolitans received the pallium today on the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. The Vietnamese archbishop could not go to Rome so his pallium will be given in Vietnam. 25 of the metropolitans were Benedict XVI appointees.

An excerpt of Pope Francis’ homily:

As a point of comparison, sacraments are to take place during a Eucharistic celebration following the homily; They are: Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, Matrimony, Anointing of the Sick.The pallium is a symbol of communion with the Successor of Peter, “the lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion” (Lumen Gentium, 18). And your presence today, dear brothers, is the sign that the Church’s communion does not mean uniformity. The Second Vatican Council, in speaking of the hierarchical structure of the Church, states that the Lord “established the apostles as college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from their number” (ibid., 19). To confirm in unity: the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the primate. Let us go forward on the path of synodality, and grow in harmony with the service of the primacy. And the Council continues, “this college, in so far as it is composed of many members, is the expression of the variety and universality of the people of God” (ibid., 22). In the Church, variety, which is itself a great treasure, is always grounded in the harmony of unity, like a great mosaic in which every small piece joins with others as part of God’s one great plan. This should inspire us to work always to overcome every conflict which wounds the body of the Church. United in our differences: there is no other Catholic way to be united. This is the Catholic spirit, the Christian spirit: to be united in our differences. This is the way of Jesus! The pallium, while being a sign of communion with the Bishop of Rome and with the universal church, with the Synod of Bishops, also commits each of you to being a servant of communion.

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Among some of the 19 countries represented:

1 from Vietnam

3 from Africa

3 from Brazil

3 from India

3 from Mexico

4 from the USA

5 from South America

The rite today followed the Cerimoniale Episcoporum (Ceremonial of Bishops). The pallium is not a sacrament, nor is the pallium a sacramental in nature. It is a symbol of communion between two people: the residential archbishop and the Bishop of Rome. The is generally given only to archbishops who head archdioceses and not to those who have the title of archbishop for other reasons (nuncios, Vatican curia officials, those who have received the title ad personam), but the pope can give to anyone he chooses (which hasn’t happened in a long time).

(In the picture is Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR, archbishop of Indianapolis wearing his pallium at St Peter’s Basilica, Rome. Photo Paul Haring, CNS).

To the roots of communion

You can count on a delegation from the Ancient See of Constantinople visiting Rome and the Holy Father on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. Most years a small of group of bishops and archimandrites designated by the Ecumenical Patriarch descend on Rome to pray at the Tombs of Peter and Paul, to attend the Mass with the Pope and those receiving the pallium and to exchange ideas with the Pope. Lunch in the Apostolic Palace is regular. In an editorial by L’Osservatore Romano,  Pope Benedict talks more openly about the goal of these ecumenical exchanges. Eucharistic sharing is still impossible, but the hope and identifiable goal is that one day –and one hopes it happens in the next 50 years– that we can be in full visible communion. The editorial is below with my emphasis.


The Second Vatican Council, the 50th anniversary of whose opening is to be celebrated next 11 October, has marked “a new and important phase in relations” between Catholics and Orthodox. In recognizing this the Pope expressed the hope that “progress may also be made in the current phase“, while waiting “to arrive soon at the blessed day when we will be able to share in the Eucharistic banquet“.

The traditional meeting with the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, received in audience on Thursday morning, 28 June, on the eve of the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul, was an opportunity for Benedict XVI to recall the importance of the Council in the development of ecumenical dialogue. It was also an opportunity to remember, in particular, the “passion for the unity of the Church” which inspired the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and the Pontiffs, John XIII and Paul VI, who “made themselves champions of courageous projects that paved the way to renewed relations between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Catholic Church”.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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