Its stature swelled with a soul-stirring bicentennial Mass sung Saturday by 40members of the Capella Guilia, the first time in the Vatican Choir's 485-year history that it performed the liturgy in a church in the Americas.
The mission's walls and roof were stretched to their limits by the rich tones of the chorale that has sung Mass every Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica since it was formed by Pope Julian II in 1513.
The two-hour-and-15 minute Mass drew a crowd of 350 into the Oceanside church and an additional 700 jammed on both sides of the giant television monitor in Serra Center, where the momentous event was transmitted via closed-circuit television.
Several dozen people sat in the adjacent cemetery to listen to the sacred music, written by Austrian composer Joseph Haydn the same year the mission was founded.
"Awesome," is the only word Jim Schroeder, a bicentennial committee member, could repeat over and over when the birthday Mass was over. "I was at the concert Friday night and this was better. All that work (on the organizing committee) was worth it," he said.
Dulce Fajardo, a San Luis Rey Parish member since 1965, said getting to the church at 5:30 a.m. - she was first in line - was worth it to hear the choir. "It was even better than I thought it would be," she said.
Leony Patterson, who accompanied Fajardo, couldn't pick a favorite between Friday night's concert or the jubilee Mass.
A third friend with the pair, Tessie Fernandez, said the Mass music was "touching." "It lifted your spirit up," she said. She also was looking forward to attending Saturday night's concert, a repeat of Friday's program that featured Mozart music.
Father Ben Innes, the mission's guardian, opened Saturday's Mass with a welcome to everyone and recalled that "Two hundred years ago today, three Franciscan friars celebrated Mass here - and they rang a bell to invite the Native Americans to the service."
The four church bells that were to be rung to announce the mission's 200th birthday remained silent because, as Innes reminded everyone, the Franciscans did not want to disturb a nest of owls in the tower.
In his sermon, San Diego Bishop Robert Brom lauded the missionary work accomplished by the Franciscans and thanked the Vatican choir for coming "all the way from Italy to help us celebrate."
The communion between choir and congregation was immediate Saturday in the mission church. Most of the worshipers sat on the edges of their seats when the choir sang, accompanied by about 20 Philharmonic musicians from Los Angeles and directed by Maestro Gilbert Levine.
Linda Walters, one of the organizers, said she's heard the choir sing at its Rome home and "it sounds much more intimate here. The Vatican is just so big."
[Editor's Note: The USA is big to the Choristers, too and they have earned a well-deserved trip to Disneyland today before their Air Italia flight returns to Rome from LAX later this evening.]
As we approach the third Christian millennium, the Second Vatican Council's call for generous dedication to the whole enterprise of Catholic education remains to be more fully implemented (cf. Gravissimum Educationis, n. 1). Few areas of Catholic life in the United States need the leadership of the Bishops for their reaffirmation and renew as much as this one does. Any such renewal requires a clear vision of the Church's educational mission, which in turn cannot be separated from the Lord's mandate to preach the Gospel to all nations. Like other educational institutions, Catholic schools transmit knowledge and promote the human development of their students. However, as the Council emphasized, the Catholic school does something else: "It aims to create for the school community an atmosphere enlivened by the Gospel spirit of freedom and charity. It aims to help the young person in such a way that the development of his or her own personality will be matched by the growth of that new creation which he or she has become by Baptism. It strives to relate all human culture eventually to the news of salvation, so that the light of faith will illumine the knowledge which students gradually gain of the world, of life, and of the human family" (ibid., n. 8). The mission of the Catholic school is the integral formation of students, so that they may be true to their condition as Christ's disciples and as such work effectively for the evagelization of culture and for the common good of society.
3. Catholic education aims not only to communicate facts but also to transmit a coherent, comprehensive vision of life, in the conviction that the truths contained in that vision liberate students in the most profound meaning of human freedom. In its recent document The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, the Congregation for Catholic Education drew attention to the importance of communicating knowledge in the context of the Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture and of history: "In the Catholic school there is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom. The various school subjects do not present only knowledge to be attained but also values to be acquired and truths to be discovered" (n. 14).
The greatest challenge to Catholic education in the United States today, and the greatest contribution that authentically Catholic education can make to American culture, is to restore to that culture the conviction that human beings can grasp the truth of things, and in grasping that truth can know their duties to God, to themselves and their neighbours. In meeting that challenge, the Catholic educator will hear an echo of Christ's words: "If you continue in My word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:32). The contemporary world urgently needs the service of educational institutions which uphold and teach that truth is "that fundamental value without which freedom, justice and human dignity are extinguished" (Veritatis Splendor, n. 4).
To educate in the truth, and for genuine freedom and evangelical love, is at the very heart of the Church's mission. In a cultural climate in which moral norms are often thought to be matters of personal preference, Catholic schools have a crucial role to play in leading the younger generation to realize that freedom consists above all in being able to respond to the demands of the truth (cf. Veritatis Splendor, n. 84). The respect which Catholic elementary and secondary schools enjoy suggests that their commitment to transmitting moral wisdom is meeting a widely-felt cultural need in your country. The example of Bishops and pastors who, with the support of Catholic parents, have persevered in leadership in this field should encourage everyone's efforts to foster new dedication and new growth. The fact that some Dioceses are involved in a programme of school building is a significant sign of vitality and a great hope for the future.
Next installment: part two
There is another side to this coin and it is this: could it possibly be that it is we, her children, who keep her in tears and make it necessary for her to keep on begging and pleading, by our resisting her, dragging our feet, turning a deaf ear to her? I would suggest that it is, at least this is how I would personally perceive it to be. I base my perception on my own behavior towards my mother as also on the many others and their children whom I have counseled in the many years of my priesthood.
Whenever there came forth a request, a plea from my own mother, I would respond verbally in the affirmative, but there was always a delay, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer, in carrying out the plea or the request. At times, I know that it was sheer laziness, at other times mere procrastination, and all the time I felt a need to put a buffer between request and fulfillment. It seems that I held on to a need on my part to be in control, protecting myself from having to do something I was not quite ready to do. A third and even a fourth request had to be made, at tines these with threats or tears. Secondly, I learned in my counseling sessions with mothers and their children that my situation was not unique, that hesitation in fulfilling a mother's wish or plea was quite commonplace. In almost every case, it seemed that youngsters as youngsters, and sometimes these youngsters were already "oldster," would be testing the endurance of their mothers, to see what it would take to get her upset, angry or to shed tears.
Do you think that there are those in our day who are testing Our Heavenly Mother's endurance? I think that there are some, but I think that most of her children do not respond to her due to a weakness, a lack of will, or at least because they do not take her seriously. There are those who do respond even wholeheartedly from the beginning, but gradually fizzle out or burn out or at least lose their wholehearted response. It is no easy task to maintain a listening stance for a longer period of time. The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.
The best way, and perhaps, the only way to a wholehearted response to any or every request being made by Our Lady, especially her wish that we pray with the heart, is to invite the Holy Spirit to become a partner in the action. He h as power that we do not have; He has power that He would like to share with us, power which would make it possible for us to become stable in our response to His Spouse. With His Life flowing through us, everything goes easier. As He indeed dwells within each one of us, it needs for each one of us to welcome Him, reverence Him and to love Him as the One given to us by Jesus to facilitate our imitation of Him in following through on the fulfillment of our purpose in life.
To pray with the heart for one or two days is not that difficult, but to pray with the heart day in day out is something else. It can, however, be done. Our Heavenly Mother would not be asking us to do something that was impossible.
Endurance in anything takes will power. To endure in some things, those more difficult, takes a healthy will strengthened by grace. Once one is able to maintain a life of prayer with the heart, all of the other requests that Mary makes will be more easily responded to. When one prays with the heart to be able to take on fasting and/or to do penance, it would fall under the hope that Jesus gives us in saying, "knock, and it will be opened to you." It would certainly please all of heaven were this to be our chief prayer, namely, "Dear Holy Spirit, help me to live my life in praying with the heart so that I may fulfill all of the wishes of Your Spouse. Help me not to resist, not to put off complying with her wishes that sooner would come the time when her Immaculate Heart triumphs."
As Mary endures in staying by our side in these difficult times, let us ask for the necessary help to endure in a life in which we not only SAY PRAYERS with the heart, but indeed and in fact, PRAY with the heart.