Yesterday the Sunday Gospel was from St. Luke (12:49-53):
Jesus said to his disciples:“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
Father Adam Keiter, the Rector of the Cathedral, used the phrase "I have come to set the earth on fire" to frame his homily, referring to the Venerable English College in Rome and its Latin motto, Ignem veni mittere in terram. Sometime this week, they will post the audio file of his homily on the Cathedral website.
It moved me to hear a priest speak about the martyred priests of the Venerable, how they trained and prepared in the midst of the splendor of Counter-Reformation Rome (with the Oratorian Philip Neri as a neighbor), the music of Palestrina, the art of Michelangelo, and the architecture of Bernini and then traveled in disguise to their home country to serve Catholics in hiding, knowing that they faced arrest, torture, and horrendous death--and 44 from the Venerable have been canonized or beatified because they suffered such a martyrdom. Father Keiter then went on the verse about the baptism Jesus wanted so urgently to accomplish: His crucifixion, death, and Resurrection. He also reminded us of the gloriously precious presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle and how so many have suffered and died throughout Church history, including in sixteenth and seventeenth England, to offer and receive Holy Communion.
When we came home from Mass, I searched for the remarks Pope Benedict XVI made when he visited the Venerable on December 3, 2012 at the close of the 650th anniversary celebrations, because the pope also highlighted that motto:
When I visited the United Kingdom, I saw for myself that there is a great spiritual hunger among the people. Bring them the true nourishment that comes from knowing, loving and serving Christ. Speak the truth of the Gospel to them with love. Offer them the living water of the Christian faith and point them towards the bread of life, so that their hunger and thirst may be satisfied. Above all, however, let the light of Christ shine through you by living lives of holiness, following in the footsteps of the many great saints of England and Wales, the holy men and women who bore witness to God’s love, even at the cost of their lives. The College to which you belong, the neighbourhood in which you live and study, the tradition of faith and Christian witness that has formed you: all these are hallowed by the presence of many saints. Make it your aspiration to be counted among their number.
Please be assured of an affectionate remembrance in my prayers for yourselves and for all the alumni of the Venerable English College. I make my own the greeting so often heard on the lips of a great friend and neighbour of the College, Saint Philip Neri,Salvete, flores martyrum! Commending you, and all to whom the Lord sends you, to the loving intercession of Our Lady of Walsingham, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you.