Peace Through Music in Our Age
The two weeks following the canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II have seen more and more graces flowing in Washington! On Monday, May 5, we had the privilege to attend a special concert in honor of our new saints and in the spirit of Pope Francis. Entitled Peace Through Music in Our Age, the concert was the inspiration of well-known conductor Sir Gilbert Levine and Cardinal Dziwisz, the former secretary of Pope John Paul II. It was held at the Daughters of the American revolution Constitution Hall.
The concert was a collaborative effort of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Krakow Philharmonic Choir and the Washington Choral Arts Society. A young soloist, 14 years old, was imported from the St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir in London, where he is the head chorister.
Sir Gilbert Levine himself explained the inspiration for the concert: “When, on September 30, 2013, Pope Francis announced the dual canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, to take place in Rome on April 27, 2014, an idea was born in me as an American, proud of my country’s deep commitment to religious liberty and brotherhood. Both these great Popes spent their entire pontificates seeking Peace and Love among all the world’s people, whatever their belief. This is the essence of the Vatican’s 1965 declaration called “Nostra Aetate” — from which we get our concert’s title: “In Our Age.” What better place then, to demonstrate these enduring, universal values of Music and Spirit, than our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.
We thoroughly enjoyed the evening’s musical program, which included a wide variety of musical genres: Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, Giuseppe Verdi’s Sanctus, Henryk Gorecki’s Totus Tuus Opus 60, Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, an ancient Polich Marian Hymn entitled Bogurodzica, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 Opus 68.
Mass of Thanksgiving
Today, May 11, we attended the National Mass of Thanksgiving for the canonization of Saint John Paul II and John XXIII at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, or as we refer to it, Mary’s House. The Basilica, which was amply decorated with banners and Easter flowers, was filled with people from many walks of life and cultures as the longest line of Knights of Columbus we have ever seen began the entrance procession at noon. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, was the main celebrant, accompanied by the apostolic nuncio and several cardinals and bishops, along with a large number of priests. The relics of our two new saints were carried in the procession and place to the right of the sanctuary, right in front of where we chose to sit. Throughout the Mass there was a red glow coming from the relic of John Paul II, evidently produced by the reflection of the bright lights on the vial of liquid blood. Cardinal Wuerl began the Mass by reflecting that John Paul II and John XXIII were actually with us through the presence of their relics.
In his homily the Cardinal evoked the funeral of John Paul II, remembering the signs and chants of Santo Subito, Sainthood quickly! He said that there is always a crowd before the tombs of these two pope in the Vatican, evidence that they were universally recognized as holy men of our time long before they were saints.
Since this is Good Shepherd Sunday, the Cardinal also evoked the ancient statue of the Good Shepherd with a lamb over his shoulders, saying that it is not difficult to picture John Paul II and John XXIII with a lamb on their shoulders (perhaps he was alluding to the photo circulating online of Pope Francis carrying a lamb!). Both men, he said, are images and icons of the Good Shepherd.
John XXIII, the Cardinal said, became pope at a time when many were calling for a revolution. Even while initiating Vatican II, he spoke words of assurance to the flock in an uncertain age. The came John Paul II, who vowed that his pontificate would be dedicated to the implementation of Vatican II. Like John XXIII, through word and example he proclaimed “Do not be afraid!” His magisterium touched every aspect f human life, cardinal Wuerl said, and “he was always there.”
Today, the cardinal concluded, we recommit ourselves to the message of Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II as disciples of Jesus — to be his witnesses and to share faith with others.
At the conclusion of Mass a procession formed, led by the Knights of Columbus and then the celebrants, followed by Cardinal Wuerl carrying the relic of Saint John Paul II and about 1,000 of the faithful, including us. We walked from the Basilica to Harewood Road, and then up the middle of the street to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine. Once everyone gathered inside the Shrine, the relic was placed on the altar for veneration as we recited the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Archbishop Vigano, the apostolic nuncio, and supreme knight Carl Anderson spoke, along with Cardinal Wuerl. We concluded by saying the prayer for the intercession of Saint John Paul II. The relic was carried to the small side chapel where it will remain for veneration.
We headed home, so grateful for the graces of this celebration, and at the same time grateful for the privilege of living in the shadow of a saint. As Cardinal Wuerl had said in his homily that John Paul II was “always there,” his presence now is always there, just next door to our home, where he can watch over us and bless us.
top, inside the Basilica before Mass.
middle left: Cardinal Wuerl incenses the relics of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II.
middle right: the procession arrives at the John Paul II Shrine. Cardinal Wuerl is carrying the relic of John Paul II.
left: relic of Saint John Paul II in the side chapel at the John Paul II Shrine.