“Today, I will say ‘I do’, but for me, that means 'I will'.
I will take your hand and will not let go until we have reached the abyss of the underworld.
You will not starve and thirst, for I will endlessly pray and beg for your sanctuary to the highest of the Lords.
I will guard your heart the way Achilles has cautiously reserved his heel.
I will seek for the safest haven for your scars and your tears to heal.
I promise to keep the blues and reds away and keep the yellows and the whites unstained.
I will not be the Orpheus, for I will be the darkness that would never leave your way.
And I will pledge that this vow would last, and would never go away.
This ring is the metaphor of my love and warmth, and with this, I ask you to be mine.”
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HOMILY for Votive Mass of the Holy Rosary
Mass of Thanksgiving for 10th Anniversary of Ordination
In 1898, fifteen years after this church was completed, Pope Leo XIII decreed: “We wish the privilege of the Votive Mass of the Most Holy Rosary, so often confirmed for the Order of Preachers, to be retained”, and so he permitted this particular Votive Mass, the Mass of the Most Holy Rosary of Our Lady, to be said twice a week by Dominican priests. Why? Because this was the special formulary of the Mass to be offered for a votum, that is to say, offered in fulfilment of a vow made to God, and for us Dominicans this was a promise to pray for the members of the Rosary Confraternity. Through this Mass, we called down God’s blessings and graces and merits, and the protection of the Virgin Mary, upon all those who prayed the Rosary, and who were united to the Order through their membership of the Rosary Confraternity.
So, in celebrating this Mass of the Holy Rosary tonight, as the Order’s Promoter General for the Holy Rosary, I am remembering this vow, this promise of our Order to pray for the Rosary Confraternity, and to strive for its increase, to the glory of God and to the praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary who first gave the Rosary to St Dominic. “Preach my psalter”, Our Lady is believed to have told St Dominic: Preach and pray the Rosary, she told us, so that the Gospel would be proclaimed and remembered; so that heresy would cease and sorrows be dispelled; so that unity might be restored and, as she promised at Fatima, so that peace may reign – peace in our hearts, peace in our homes, peace in our communities, and peace in our world.
Like the divine Sower in the Gospel who sows abundantly the seeds of salvation, so we who pray the Rosary are collaborating in Christ’s saving work, sowing the Gospel whenever we proclaim the Mysteries of the Rosary, letting the seed of the Gospel germinate and take root in good soil whenever we meditate and contemplate those Mysteries. This great church, with its Rosary chapels and altars dedicated to each of the fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary, the first in the world to be so built, is meant to be help us better to meditate on the Rosary Mysteries. Through the power of beauty, sacred art, and architecture, the people who built this great Shrine to the Rosary, hoped that the seed of Gospel would germinate and bear fruit in the lives of all those who worshipped here.
For this church, too, was the result of a vow, and it stands today, a structure of great ambition built over the course of fifteen years, because we Dominicans helped him to fulfill his promises to Our Lady. This man was Thomas Walmesley, a great devotee of Our Lady of Lourdes who ran a group, a forerunner of the Legion of Mary, called The Association of the Legion of the Blessed Virgin. Mr Walmesley promised Our Lady that he would build a church in England that would be “worthy to mark the gratitude of the Catholics of the United Kingdom for the many blessings and graces received through Our Lady of Lourdes.” This church, therefore, is a votive church, a church built in fulfilment of a promise, built in thanksgiving for favours received. In this Mass therefore, we thank God for the favours we have received from him through Our Lady’s prayers, and we give thanks to God for the recent restoration of this apse and High Altar, which is the central focus and heart of this building. For it is here that Our Lord is enthroned, here that he is reserved in the Tabernacle, and here that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has been offered from the very beginning when this church was completed.
The restoration of this church, and the on-going work of beautifying it, therefore, places us and our generation in continuity with Mr Walmesley, and we are partakers in the realisation of his vow: that this church should be worthy of expressing our nation’s gratitude to Our Blessed Mother Mary. As a community we are grateful to those women and men who have contributed their talents and skills to the restoration of this church, and I am glad that they can join us here tonight. But the building is just an aid to prayer. As Thomas Walmesley wrote in 1875, the greatness of this Marian Shrine will require the devotion of the faithful, for “prayers can do more than the architect.” So, as you, my friends and my fellow parishioners gather here in this church week after week, let us adore the Blessed Sacrament enthroned here; let us contemplate the mysteries of salvation depicted in these chapels; and above all, let us pray and pray daily the Holy Rosary entrusted to us by Our Lady.
And finally, I offer this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass today in remembrance of a public vow I made ten years ago – some of you who are here tonight were there in Oxford witnessing those vows being made at my Ordination. Please continue to hold me accountable to those vows. As the Archbishop anointed my hands with sacred chrism ten years ago he said: “The Father anointed our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and to offer sacrifice to God.” I made a vow then to offer the sacrifice of the Mass for the sanctification of God’s people, and as a priest of Jesus Christ, I do this daily, even privately when nobody else is present, as was the case during the lockdowns in the past year. And yet, although the church was closed, regrettably, nevertheless, we continued to offer the Mass for the salvation of souls in this parish, for God’s holy Church, for this is the promise we made at our Ordination.
Hence in psalm 115, the psalmist asks: “Quid retribuam Domino pro omnibus quae retribuit mihi?” ‘What shall I render to the Lord for all that he has given to me?’, and he answers: “Calicem salutaris accipiam, et nomen Domini invocabo”, ‘I will take up the chalice of salvation, and I will call upon the Lord’s name.’ These verses are said in the Dominican rite of the Mass, silently prayed just before the Offertory. And in the Dominican rite High Mass, the next line is taken up by the deacon: “Vota mea Domino reddam coram omni populo ejus”, ‘I will pay my vows to the Lord before all his people.’ For standing there at the High Altar today, I will pay my vows to the Lord before all his people, before you, my friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ. For what can I give to God for all his blessings and gifts to me except to give back to him the most perfect and beautiful gift he has given me, namely, the Holy Eucharist, the Mysterium Fidei.
So, please, join your prayers with mine in this Holy Mass, offer yourselves to Christ with me, and so, as we turn and face the Lord together at the High Altar, let us prayerfully call upon the Lord’s name, let us fulfill our baptismal promises made to God, and so let us call down his blessings and peace upon ourselves, our families, our loved ones, and this community. So, let us fulfill our vows to the Lord that he shall be faithful to the promises he made to us that, as we hear in the Gospel, we might be fruitful and yield a hundredfold. Hence we say at the close of every Rosary: “Pray for us, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary: that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”
7 notes · View notes