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"My Father," Jesus prays, "I thank you for all the beauty of nature with which You surround Me, Your Son. I thank You that You give to Me at this time these beautiful souls who love Me, and thus love You. Let the Divine Will be made known to them who seek comfort as the darkness of My Passion approaches."
A timid knock on the door, and a woman enters. She is dressed in a light linen dress of dark color, and her veil completely covers her face as she hurries across to kneel before Jesus. It is evident she is crying.
"Martha," says Jesus with utmost kindness. "Do not weep. Am I not here to help and comfort you?"
His gentle tone helps Martha to lift her head and the stains of her tears are evident. She appears to me to be of medium height and build. Her face has a beauty that comes from within, but is not the beauty the world ponders and desires. Her eyes are large, dark velvet brown awash in her deep inner sorrow.
"O! Master! The tears have flowed all day. Even I do not understand them. But my heart, (here she strikes her breast) does understand. All you have said to us concerning Yourself is about to happen, and I, I--."
"Martha, do not grieve. You are strong. You have always been strong. The hour has come for Me, that is true. But you must believe also that which the Sacred Scriptures foretell of Me after My death."
"O! I believe. But, I... O! My Lord, My God, to not have you any more! When shall I see you again?"
Jesus gently touches her grief-stricken face and then lays His hand in blessing upon her head. "Martha, you are one of my strong believers. And in the days to come, many who, for now, are weaker, shall look to you for strength. Martha, I shall always be with you. You shall truly feel My presence. This I promise you until I call you to Me in Heaven. And you will also have My Mother!"
"Yes," Marthaís lips quiver slightly. "O! Master, what is my grief compared to that of Your Holy Mother? Jesus, allow me to be of service to her, who is blessed among all women."
"You shall comfort each other, my beloved daughter. Be at peace, Martha. Now is the time for strength."
Martha takes His right hand and kisses his long, slender fingers, then leaves the room. The door does not close. Rather, another enters, an older woman, yet stately. Despite the heat of the day which still lingers in the room, she wears a dark dress, a mantle and veil also of dark color. She crosses to Jesus, who instantly takes her outstretched hands and gently moves into position another chair, until they sit knee-to-knee.
"Well, Aunt?" Jesus beings, gazing at Mary fondly.
"My Lord, I -" Mary looks down, then up and directly into His eyes.
"I have come to ask forgiveness."
"You have it, Mary. But of what do I need to forgive you, my dear aunt?"
"O! Jesus! I am often a foolish old woman. I...I have caused You grief because of my worries over my sons. I have been proud to have James and Judas in your company. But..."
"Continue, Mary. I am listening and I read your heart."
"Jesus, I have always believed you to be The Son of God, the promised Messiah. Yet never could I conceive that all that Scripture contains about You - Your death - could really be true. I did not want to accept it."
"I know. James and Judas do not accept fully. Only My Mother...."
"I need Your forgiveness, Jesus. And I need your blessing. All I ask now is to remain faithful."
"Dear Aunt Mary, I do forgive you and I do bless you. Have no fear. You and your sons shall serve Me faithfully and you shall assist My Gospel to spread far and wide. You shall have My Mother to continue to guide and instruct you. I give you My Peace, Mary of Alpheus. Do not be troubled, for I solemnly tell you that in My Fatherís Kingdom your place is prepared."
Mary, Jesusí aunt, now breaks down and really sobs and Jesus, compassionate, allows her cleansing grief to run its course. At length He rises, and leading Her gently by the arm walks to the doorway with her. He says once again, "Peace, My beloved Aunt. I will always be with you."
NEXT INSTALLMENT: Part Three of Lesson 2: FAREWELL TO THE HOLY WOMEN AND THE MOTHER
A statement released by the Vatican press office today indicated that the agreement "confirms once again" that dialogue is more effective than force as a means of resolving international difficulties. The Holy See went on to suggest that further dialogue might lead to the lifting of the international embargo on Iraq-- and embargo which the Vatican has consistently opposed.
For the past several weeks the Vatican diplomatic corps has been working with steadily mounting energy to forestall the possibility of military action in the Persian Gulf. Archbishop Renato Martino, the permanent Vatican observer at the UN, had met with Kofi Annan last week, urging the UN leader to visit Baghdad for personal negotiations with Saddam Hussein.
Three of the new cardinals were unable to attend the Saturday ceremony. Cardinal Alberto Bovone, who is seriously ill, was confined to Gemelli Hospital for an operation; he received his red hat there. Two other new cardinals were named "in pectore"-- which means that their identity has not been disclosed. Vatican-watchers have speculated that these unnamed cardinals are probably from countries such as China, Vietnam, Algeria, or Sudan-- where the public disclosure of the honor might create new problems for them.
But only the Pope knows the names of these new cardinals with certainty. At times a Pontiff may reveal the identity of a cardinal whom he has named "in pectore," because of changing circumstances. That was the case with Cardinal Ignatius Gong Pin-Mei, the former Archbishop of Shanghai, who was named "in pectore" in 1979, with the honor made public in 1991. Cardinal Gong is now the eldest member of the College of Cardinals.
Among the new cardinals-- including 8 bishops serving at the Vatican, and 12 archbishops of major metropolitan sees-- two names stood out. Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 64, a former theology professor and vice president of the Italian bishops' conference, has earned an enviable reputation for his energy and his ability as a mediator in difficult situations; he is the Archbishop of Genoa. Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, one of the youngest cardinals at 52, is a Dominican theologian, the head of the committee which produced the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and a respected leader who inherited a difficult situation in the Archbishop of Vienna. Even before becoming a cardinal, Archbishop Schoenborn was often listed as "papabile"-- a potential candidate for the papacy.
This consistory-- the seventh of Pope John Paul's consistory-- did not give rise to any startling new appointments, such as the elevation of Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo and Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana in 1994. Most of the archbishops raised to the cardinalate now head sees which traditionally have commanded the honor.
The College of Cardinals now includes roughly one-half European members; the remainder are (again roughly) 20 percent from Latin America, 10 percent from North America, 10 percent from Africa, 11 percent from Asia, and 3 percent from Oceana.
A consistory is a liturgical ceremony, which includes a Liturgy of the Word, followed by a profession of faith and an oath of fidelity on the part of the new cardinals. Each new cardinal then comes forward, kneeling before the Pope to accept the red cap and the assignment of a titular church in the Diocese of Rome. (The cardinals, as the clergy of the Rome diocese, are thus empowered to elect the Bishop of Rome.) In a short homily for the occasion, Pope John Paul II spoke of the "grave responsibility" of a cardinal as an adviser to the Pope and an elector, and said that the diversity of the College of Cardinals gives the Church the benefit of a "symphony" of opinions.
Father Leo O'Donovan asked school chaplain Father Adam Bunnell to move forward "expeditiously" to put up the crucifixes, surprising advocates who expected any decision to come after a study of religious pluralism at the school to be finished in several months. The controversy began last spring when a student group called the Committee on Crucifixes began lobbying to have crosses placed in all classrooms. The administration demurred at first, citing the university's desire to balance its Catholic identity with its mission to educate people of all faiths.
The debate reached a head in the fall when Father O'Donovan asked Father Bunnell to survey students, faculty, and campus religious groups on their opinions. Eventually groups of alumni became involved and even Cardinal James Hickey of Washington called on the university to put up the crucifixes. When asked why the decision on the crucifixes was speeded up, Father Bunnell said, "We wanted to have the non-negotiable piece affirmed first that we are Jesuit and Catholic."
Father Bunnell said he will appoint a committee of students and faculty to select crucifix styles for classrooms and a variety of Christian and non-Christian symbols and artwork for the interfaith Bunn Center.