In his Homily the Sunday before last Cardinal George Pell got to speaking about commitment in the context of the dearth of vocations in the recent past and the growth of young unmarried couples living together, read what His Eminence said:

"It is fascinating to ponder whether the increasing level of prosperity in Australia over the last fifty years is connected with the decline in the number of seminarians and young religious and with the increasing number of young people who live together and are reluctant to commit to each other permanently and exclusively in the institution of marriage. Is our example, our easier life style (at least physically) encouraging a materialism and selfishness, which make it harder for young people to make commitments which involve explicit sacrifices? We have something to ponder and pray about here."

As so often, and in his characteristically laconic style, he hits the nail on the head.

Happily, in more recent years, and under His Eminence's leadership, the Archdiocese of Sydney has enjoyed a continuing growth in the number of Seminarians, so that it now has a total of 45 at its two seminaries and studying in Rome. It takes inspiring leadership and the Grace of the Holy Spirit to get young men to commit their lives to Christ, especially in this self-centred, materialistic society.

The "preserving of one's options"was much spoken of in military circles and political circles during Lyndon Johnson's Presidency, mired in the Vietnam war, where the concept had some validity. Unhappily it spilled over into the fields of everyday discourse where it became poisonous. In an era of abandonment of principles and ideals its effect was greatly destructive.

The return to ideals and commitment, and foregoing self-indulgence on that account , is essential to re-building the ranks of the clergy and re-establishing a flourishing Christian society.
Beautiful St. Marys Cathedral, flanked by statues of earlier Archbishops - Cardinal Moran (left) and Archbishop Kelly (right).
 I had the privilege of assisting at the Solemn Mass at 10.30 am on that Sunday in St. Mary’s Cathedral Sydney. It is always an impressive and deeply affecting experience. On this occasion it was even more so, for the assembled Parish Vocations Co-Ordinators were to be commissioned, and the Archdiocesan Vocations Director the inspiring Father Michael De Stoop, the Rector of the Good Shepherd Seminary Father Tony Percy and a number of other Seminary Professorial Staff concelebrated with His Eminence Cardinal George Pell

The entrance procession was long, being augmented by the Seminarians among the Altar Servers, and proceeded with due deliberation, from the Sacristy along the side aisle, turned and approached the Altar down the centre aisle, preceded by two thurifers and the great Processional Cross and followed by a majestic banner. The choir sang “Lord of All Hopefulness”to the Traditional Irish melody “Slane” and the fine Canadian organ over the College Street entrance complemented them perfectly. When this was completed the Choir sang the Introit “Factus est Dominus protector meus…’All were vested perfectly with hands properly joined palm to palm in front of them (no anxious old lady clutching of fingers) and lastly came His Eminence .No irregularity to distract, just precise order and obvious devotion on the part of those processing along, drew together and inspired the congregation, one could not have better created the atmosphere for a devout celebration of Holy Mass.

And that was exactly what we assisted at – everything just as it should be. Cardinal Pell’s homily was characteristically succinct and to the point, as we have seen above. The Vocations Co-ordinators were commissioned without any undue distraction – it was the Mass that mattered. I have seen it appear to be otherwise on some occasions in another place. But, the reader might say, “That’s OK in the biggest Cathedral in the Southern Hemisphere with scads of Priests and Seminarians and a huge choir….what is your point for the rest of us?”Just this – whether it is in St. Patrick’s in Melbourne or in St.Peter Chanel’s in Berala(Sydney) or St. Ignatius’ in Toowong (Brisbane)) – wherever, large or small , or on the bonnet of a Jeep in a far distant battlefield, it is always possible to do our very best: Bishop, Priest, Acolytes, people to produce the atmosphere of devotion.
I have seen the good Jesuit Father Greg Jordan at a temporary Altar in a School Hall with a small but devout group celebrate Holy Mass in such a way that the memory of it is with me years later and particularly the recitation of the Sequence for the Feast of Corpus Christi with its wonderful and noble evocation of the mystery of our redemption.

This very issue of the character of our celebrations of the Sacred Liturgy is very much at the heart of the life and teachings of the Holy Father and that fact becomes ever more clear. The great mistake of the false “spirit of the Council” folk now shuffling out of the sanctuaries, was to think that it was all about “us”. Whereas it is, and always has been in truth, all about HIM. Please pray for a true inspiration of devotion in all who prepare and celebrate the Sacred Liturgy, and that they may use the coming of the corrected texts for the Order of Mass as an opportunity to reform and enhance their celebration remembering just that – “its not about us , it’s about HIM”

Pope Benedict XVI concelebrates Holy Mass with Cardinal Pell and others after consecrating the new High Altar of St, Marys Cathedral Sydney in 2008.


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