Pope Francis Challenges Congregation: ‘Rejoice in the Lord Always’
After months of preparation, involving thousands of people from the University community, more than 25,000 people flocked to the campus of The Catholic University of America Sept. 23 to hear Pope Francis deliver a message of love and mercy during the Canonization Mass of St. Junípero Serra.
The Mass, which was concelebrated by 1,000 priests, was held on the East Portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The massive congregation gathered on the University Mall, in crowds that spread from the front of the Basilica to Mullen Library and beyond.
Pope Francis began his homily with a message of joy.
“Rejoice in the Lord always,” he said. “I’ll say it again: Rejoice in the Lord always.”
Rather than settling for earthly pleasures and “things that are comfortable,” the Pope told the massive congregation to avoid falling into apathy, “a habit with a fatal consequence: our hearts go numb.”
Continuing, the Pope said Christians should live out their joyful faith by proclaiming the Gospel to the entire world — going out “to the highways” — and sharing the good news without judgment or condescension.
“Jesus would not provide a short list of who is or who is not worthy of receiving his presence,” Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis also spoke highly of St. Junípero, calling him “the embodiment of a church which goes forth.” He said people should follow in his example by following the new saint’s motto in life: “Siempre Adelante,” which translates to “Keep moving forward.”
The Mass, which was celebrated in Spanish, was intended to shine a light on the diverse Catholic community in the United States and the Washington Metropolitan Area. The program included readings in English and the Native American Chochenyo language. Following the Homily, a Universal Prayer included lines read in Korean, American Sign Language, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Igbo, and Creole.
Music for the Mass was provided by the CUA Symphony Orchestra and five choirs, including the University Chamber Choir. The orchestra performed under the direction of Simeone Tartaglione, the orchestra’s music director, while the chamber choir was conducted by Leo Nestor, Justine Bayard Ward Professor and director of choral studies and CUA’s Institute of Sacred Music.
Several alumni and faculty members composed original works for the visit, including Nestor. Nestor’s compositions for the Mass included the introit, the communion antiphon, and an original work, “I am the Living Bread,” that was performed during the communion rite.
Following the Holy Eucharist, which was distributed by more than 200 deacons accompanied by student volunteers, Cardinal Donald Wuerl gave a short address to the Pope and those in attendance.
“Not far from here in 1634, the first Catholics arrived in what is now the United States and began the evangelization effort that we see so wonderfully realized today at this great Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the campus of The Catholic University of America,” Cardinal Wuerl said.
“As we seek today to enrich our human culture with the great love — love of God and love of neighbor, we also try to care for our common home, the good earth,” he continued. “We take seriously your call in Laudato Sí to face the challenges of our day and to do so with respect for the dignity of each person; concern for one another, especially the marginalized and the poor; and care for the good earth, God’s gift to us now and for generations to come.”
Thanking the Holy Father for visiting the University and the United States, Cardinal Wuerl continued: “We look to you, Holy Father, for renewed inspiration so that we might truly be evangelizers.”