Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Saint Matthews Cathedral is 175 years old.It seats 1,000 people.It is the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.The Rector of the Cathedral is Monsignor Ron Jameson. St. Matthew's is the Church from which President Kennedy was buried after his assassination in 1963.

Those present for midday prayer included, a large number of American Bishops (272 by staff count), Archbishops and Cardinals.At least two Eastern rite prelates attended.Also attending were staff of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, staff of the Archdiocese of Washington, staff who organized the Pope's welcome at the Cathedral, and a large number of invited guests.

The choir for the event was composed of 50 musicians and singers. It is the schola for the Cathedral.

The pope was about 15 minutes late to the Cathedral.When he entered there was a somewhat subdued response.Applause, but no cheers.

When the Pope got to the altar he proceeded to the sacristy for some minutes while the community prepared for him to go to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.The Blessed Sacrament Chapel is the first place the Pope goes when visiting a Cathedral.Because the Eucharist is the center of Catholic life, and the Cathedral the center of the local Church, it is appropriate that the Pope visit the Tabernacle, before presiding at other events such as midday prayer as the Pope did on this occasion.

Midday prayer is a venerable custom of the Catholic Church, and is a part of the daily prayer life of monks, priests and other Catholics and Christians who wish to pray the hours of the day in a formal way. Midday prayer, as its name suggests is the prayer recited in Catholic monasteries throughout the world in the midday times.

The music opening the prayer service was a prayer to the Holy Spirit.It is well known in Catholic liturgies and the response of those gathered was deeply felt and sung.

The Pope wore a red stole and glasses.He is presiding from a chair positioned at the altar and not at the Cathedra which is the usual place for a prelate to preside at a Cathedral. Six cardinals were on the altar, with the Holy Father, led by Cardinal Wuerl.Archbishop Kurtz, President of the USCCB was also seated on the altar. Msgr. Jameson and the parish priests of the Cathedral were also present.

The normal liturgical protocols for the Liturgy of the Hours were observed with alternating verses of the Psalms being sung by the community.

The cantor's name was Veronica Jaeger. The Lector's name was Gloria Harrington.

The Pope gave the traditional solemn blessing at the end of the ceremony.A monsignor from the Vatican removed his red stole.

Cardinal Wuerl then spoke to the Pope saying "It is an honor and joy to welcome you to the Archdiocese of Washington and its Cathedral. He reminded the Pope that "Our mother Church is called St. Matthew."And just as Matthew had a mission to proclaim, in that same way, the Archbishop pointed out, the people of the United States think of the Holy Father in the same way.Cardinal Wuerl pointed out that the Archdiocese just celebrated its 75th anniversary, and noted that the lay faithful and the priests of the archdiocese were true disciples.He then presented Archbishop Kurtz, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Kurtz noted: A welcome "on behalf of my brothers…"He also said that though the Pope would only visit three cities, his welcome extended across the country. He noted that the mission of the Church … remains an American dream that remains for all" and continued "Holy Father your witness that no one is beyond God's mercy," lifted the hearts of all the Bishops."Let me extend to you our eternal embrace and our heartfelt joy for your presence among us."

Archbishop Kurtz and the Holy Father spent a few minutes speaking together at the altar.

A lectern was then prepared for the Holy Father. He took a sip of water before he started.

Major and important difference to the prepared remarks were:

"I would like to send my greetings to our Jewish brothers.I hope the Lord brings down his peace and will keep them in peace and happiness, according to the Word of the Lord. "Be holy, for I am holy."

With the above exception, the Pope's remarks followed the released document very closely. It is clear that the Pope intended the Bishops to hear a message about the importance of a pastoral response to the immigration and refugee question, and urged them to be good and loving pastors and to encourage their priests to do the same.

He finished in just over thirty minutes.

Archbishop Kurtz then presented the Pope with two gifts – one a painting of the United States Saints as they await the canonization of Junipero Serra, and a second monetary gift of an unannounced value for the Pope's use in his own charities.

The Pope then returned to the sacristy and departed from there.


Filed by: John Geaney, CSP