Saint Peter in Chains

According to an ancient tradition in Rome, the faithful gather at a different church each day during Lent.  The designated church for the day is called the “station” church.  Some writers note that the designation comes from the Latin, referring to the people gathering or standing around the altar.

In any case, the “station” church for today is Saint Peter in Chains, which is also my titular church in Rome.  I thought that this might be an opportunity to share a few reflections in the form of some paragraphs from my homily on the occasion of the taking possession of my titular church.

Excerpts from that homily:

“Three years ago, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, came to the United States and, particularly, to the Archdiocese of Washington, and he began his celebration of the Eucharist with us by telling us ‘in the exercise of my ministry as the successor of Peter, I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles (cf. Luke 22:32).’

Today we return the visit.  We come to profess our faith, our loyalty and our love for the Successor of Peter.

Last November I had the great privilege of concelebrating with our Holy Father at Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica.  The day before, he handed me the Papal bull naming me to this ancient and historic church.  It is one of only two ancient churches in Rome that bear the name Peter — Saint Peter in the Vatican and Saint Peter in Chains. That ceremony highlighted the bonds that every Cardinal has with Rome, as a priest of one of its parishes, and with Rome’s Bishop, Peter.

Cardinal Wuerl takes possession of his titular church, Saint Peter in Chains.

Today our celebration is a visible sign of the communion of faith spread throughout the whole world and how it is anchored here in Rome, where Peter lives now, bearing the name Benedict XVI.

But there is still more that makes us one.  Today’s Gospel recalls for us how Jesus is recognized and present in his Church in the Eucharist.  The Gospel tells us that Jesus sat at a table with disciples and then, ‘he took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them.  With that, their eyes were open and they recognized him.’

Our faith teaches us that ‘when the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and the work of our redemption is carried out’ (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 11).  For this reason we can rightfully speak of the Mass as the source and summit of our Christian life.

In our celebration today we recognize and we proclaim that because we are members of the Church in communion with Peter and his successors, we not only hear the Good News that Christ is risen, but we actually recognize him in the breaking of the bread and share in the mystery of his death and Resurrection — in the Eucharist.

Let us simply thank God that you and I have been invited into the life of the risen Lord and are privileged to encounter him every time we celebrate this Holy Eucharist — this Holy Mass.”