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"Three Giants of Holiness"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 9, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the homily Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, gave April 22 at the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica which was attended by participants in a Jesuit-organized pilgrimage.

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Altar of Confession of the Vatican Basilica

Your Eminences, Confreres in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate,
Dear Members of the Society of Jesus,
Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

"Alleluia, alleluia!" is the joyous exclamation that wells up from our hearts in this Easter season while we contemplate the power of the Risen One who rolled the heavy stone away from the tomb and appeared to his disciples in the full splendor of his glory.

"Alleluia, alleluia!" we too repeat today, turning our gaze to what the Lord has brought about in the Church through his Holy Spirit in the course of history, awakening ever new forms of holiness within her.

Today, our gaze falls in particular on three great religious who laid the foundations of the Society of Jesus: Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier and Peter Faber.

In the Easter season

A glorious story impels us to sing our "alleluia" in chorus today, in the joyful atmosphere of Easter. In his well-known treatise, "Missarum Solemnia," the late Father Joseph Jungmann of the Society of Jesus, a distinguished historian of the liturgy, gives us a good explanation of the short biblical exclamation, "Alleluia," which runs through the entire Church in this season of Easter joy. He first reminded us that before St. Pius X's liturgical reform, the "Alleluia" was actually repeated nine times on the Sunday after Easter to express the full jubilation of Christians in the Lord's gifts (ibid., Verlag Herder, Vienna, 1949, No. 434).

With this inner attitude, let us also sing a hymn of praise to the Almighty, repeating the words of the Responsorial Psalm: "Haec dies quam fecit Dominus, exultemus et laetemur in ea" -- "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118[117]:24).

Today's celebration

With this spirit we are gathered here around the altar of the Lord to renew the Eucharistic Sacrifice, offering ourselves to the Father with Christ in an attitude of adoration, thanksgiving, expiation and supplication. These are the four well-known purposes of every Eucharistic Celebration, according to the teaching of the Church.

In this regard, I still remember with nostalgia the profound lessons that the late Father Giuseppe Filograssi, S.J., used to give at the pontifical Gregorian University. As an outstanding teacher and a true man of God, he introduced us to a better knowledge of the various aspects of the "mysterium fidei."

Before the Divine Majesty

Today too, the first reason why the Ignatian Family has gathered round the altar of the Lord is to adore the Father, our Creator and Lord. Five centuries ago, with his Holy Spirit, he awakened in the heart of Europe the three giants of holiness whom we wish to commemorate today.

They wanted to be "Deo militare" -- "soldiers at God's service," as Pope Paul III said in his bull, "Regimini Militantis Ecclesiae," of September 27, 1540. They wanted to create a Society "for his greater service, praise and glory" (Constitutions, No. 693), confident that "his Divine and Supreme Majesty" wished to use "this least Society" for the spread of his Kingdom (cf. Constitutions, No. 190).

In fact, also in the efforts of apostolic life, St. Ignatius wanted God to be served first. In the same spirit, St. Francis Xavier dedicated himself to his missionary ventures and Blessed Peter Faber carried out his silent work of guiding so many souls in search of God.

Everything had to be "ad majorem Dei gloriam" -- "for the greater glory of God," as the motto bequeathed to us by our saints said. And it is with this same spirit that we desire to celebrate our Eucharistic Sacrifice today.

The duty of thanksgiving

Secondly, together with Christ, today we would like to thank the Father who is in heaven for all the benefits that he has granted to the Church by inspiring within her the holy men we are commemorating today. We contemplate today Ignatius, Xavier and Peter as men who were closely united with one another, but we know well from their own testimonies that they were closely united with one another because they were intimately united to Christ.

Together they ardently wanted to constitute the Society of Jesus, living with his same lifestyle and working with his same goals for the coming of his Kingdom.

Of course, Ignatius initiated this sequence. While he was studying at the Sorbonne University in Paris, he was soon joined by Francis Xavier from Navarre and Peter Faber who came from Savoy.

So it came about that their reciprocal emulation led them to give life to the Society in the years 1539-1540, precisely for the purpose of "helping souls" to love and serve the Lord.

Today, we would like to thank the Heavenly Father for giving us these masters of holiness, who point out to us the path of love for Christ and the resulting apostolic commitment of leading souls to God.

The request for forgiveness

Furthermore, remembering that every Eucharistic Sacrifice has a propitiatory purpose, today we would like to ask forgiveness for our infidelities. Indeed, we know well that every human undertaking is carried out by sons and daughters of Adam who have the propensity to sin, and that they should therefore repeat every day the prayer taught to us by Jesus, saying: "Pater noster ... libera nos a malo" -- "Our Father ... deliver us from evil."

Evil exists in the history of individual people as in that of communities. In the apostolic college there was already Judas who betrayed the Lord, as well as Peter who denied him. Also for us today the cock often returns to crow, inviting us to weep for our infidelities and implore the Lord's forgiveness.

Prayer for the future

Lastly, today let us implore the Father in Heaven for abundant graces for the entire Society of Jesus, for the sanctification of all its members and for the fruitfulness of their ministry.

This commemoration will thus mark an hour of grace for the Ignatian Family and will spur it to new apostolic zeal, to proclaim Christ to the people of today.

In today's Gospel we heard once again the universal missionary mandate: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15).

During this Holy Mass, we will pray for the light and power to fulfill this mission for all of us. As they were in Jesus' time, today too "the fields are already white for harvest" (John 4:35), and are but waiting for the arrival of the harvesters.

Thus, we raise our prayer to God for the Society of Jesus, that it may continue to develop generously its mission to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to today's world, recapturing the enthusiasm of its origins and the apostolic ardor of Ignatius, Francis Xavier and Peter Faber.

Brothers and sisters in the Lord, it is for this purpose that we will today be celebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Thus, abundant graces will be poured out upon the Church at the beginning of this third Christian millennium.

May Mary Most Holy intercede for us from heaven, especially invoked today as Mother of the Society of Jesus. May she obtain from her Divine Son the grace for us to continue with fresh devotion in the holy service of the Lord. Amen.

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