Homilies

Memorial of Saint Cajetan, Priest – Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Anniversary of the Dedication of the Church – Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Homily list

Memorial of Saint Cajetan, Priest – Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

La Crosse, Wisconsin

7 August 2019

Sir 2, 7-11

Ps 112, 1-2. 3-4. 5-6. 7-8. 9

Mt 5, 3

Lk 12, 32-34

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and for ever. Amen.

We live in a tumultuous time for the Church. Seemingly, her perennial doctrine and discipline are all subject to doubt and questioning, even at the highest levels of authority. For those who know the Faith, handed on to us in an unbroken line through the Apostolic ministry, the seeming disregard within the Church for both the Regula Fidei, the Rule of Faith, and the Regula Iuris, the Rule of Law, is profoundly disconcerting. Many devout Catholics and students of Sacred Tradition, in fact, feel abandoned by the Church herself, and are sorely tempted to give way to discouragement. In a recent conversation, a canonist who, to no avail, has valiantly attempted to point out various canonical acts which are radically destabilizing Church discipline, concluded with sadness: “There is no longer any regard for the truth.” There are many signs that the animus toward discipline and law, which has beset the Church, in a rather aggressive way, for some decades, has reached an alarming intensity. Satan, of course, happily uses the situation to tempt good souls to discouragement, to the abandonment of the necessary cultivation of Church discipline for the safeguarding of the most sacred realities of our Catholic faith.

Saint Cajetan, the Patriarch of Clerics Regular, who was born in 1480 and died on this day in 1547, lived at a profoundly troubled time in the life of the Church. It was a time of great corruption in the Church, especially among the clergy. It was the time of the Protestant Revolt. One biographer writes:

The state of Christendom at this time was not less than shocking. The general corruption weakened the Church before the assaults of Protestantism and provided an apparent excuse for that revolt, and the decay of religion with its accompaniment of moral wickedness was not checked by the clergy, many of whom, high and low, secular and religious, were themselves sunk in iniquity and indifference. The Church was “sick in head and members”.[1]

These words could, in many respects, be applied to our own time.

How did Cajetan respond? He knew that the soundness of life of the Church depended upon a worthy clergy and that, therefore, the heart of the revival of Church life would have to be the reform of the clergy. Having earned, after his theological studies, the doctorate in both civil and canon law, he found the proper canonical institute to assist such a reform: an association of the regular clergy who would model the life of the Apostles. History documents the struggles and suffering which the new institute had to undergo in responding to the charism of its foundation. Cajetan remained steadfast, even though he died at a time when the Council of Trent was suspended, much to his disappointment. Of Cajetan, it is said:

St. Cajetan was one of the most outstanding figures among the pre-Tridentine Catholic reformers, and his institution of clerks regular, priests bound by vow and living in community but engaged in active pastoral work, played a very great part in the Catholic reformation.[2]

At a most bleak moment in the life of the Church, the light of Christ shown forth in the life and work of Saint Cajetan, of the priests who joined him, and in other saintly faithful who would not permit the darkness to confound their faith.

Contemplating the situation in which we find ourselves in the Church on the feast of Saint Cajetan, the words of the Book of Sirach sound with particular force in our ears:

You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy, turn not away lest you fall. You who fear the LORD, trust him, and your reward will not be lost… Study the generations long past and understand; has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed? Has anyone persevered in his commandments and been forsaken?[3]

In the Gospel, Our Lord, Who brought to fulfillment all that the Father had taught and promised through the Law and the Prophets, exhorts us to put aside fear and rather to give our hearts to Him Who alone is our sure and lasting, indeed eternal, treasure. He tells us unequivocally: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom.”[4]

Not giving way to discouragement means likewise giving ourselves completely to the Lord and His Bride, the Church. Our Lord further exhorts us: “Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.”[5] Many, in fact, much to our edification, are following in the Lord’s way. They do not lose heart. They do not give way to discouragement. Rather, they give themselves ever more ardently to the service of Christ and the Church, trusting in His word:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well.[6]

Writing about Saint Cajetan and his foundation, the Theatines, Dom Prosper Guéranger comments: “While Luther was denying the very existence of God’s Providence, their heroic trust in it was often rewarded by prodigies.”[7]

Let us be no less heroic in carrying out our service to Christ and the Church in these tumultuous times. Let us be renewed in trust in God’s Providence. In a particular way, let us, as canonists, strive to know deeply the discipline of the Church and its reason, to help others to know and appreciate it, and to defend it with clarity and serenity.

We now lift up our hearts, one with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, ever open to receive us and to fill us with the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit. With the Mother of God, let us give our hearts completely to Christ, so that He may act through us in the service of justice which safeguards and promotes our life in Him, the life of His beloved Bride, the Church.

Heart of Jesus, abode of justice and love, have mercy on us.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mirror of Justice, pray for us.

Saint Cajetan, pray for us.

Saint Raymond of Peñafort, pray for us.

Saint Thomas More, pray for us.

Saint Juan Diego, pray for us.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE

[1] Butler’s Lives of the Saints, Complete Edition, ed. Herbert J. Thurston and Donald Attwater (Notre Dame: Christian Classics, 1956), Vol. 3, pp. 272-273. [Butler’s Lives of the Saints].

[2] Butler’s Lives of the Saints, p. 274.

[3] Sir 2, 7-8. 10.

[4] Lk 12, 32.

[5] Lk 12, 33.

[6] Mt 6, 25. 33.

[7] Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, Time after Pentecost, Book IV, tr. The Benedictines of Stanbrook Abbey (Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto Publications, 2000), p. 290.