To my Brother
D. JOS É MANUEL GARCIA CORDEIRO
Bishop of Bragança-Miranda and President of
Portuguese Episcopal Commission of Liturgy and Spirituality
I gladly welcome the request for a greeting to the acolytes of Portugal on the occasion of their twenty-fifth National Pilgrimage, which will take place on May 1, 2021 with their (virtual) meeting point with Our Lady at the Shrine of Fátima. She will be happy to see them around her, cover them with her protective cloak and whisper to them as to the servants at the wedding at Cana, unexpected collaborators of Jesus' first miracle just because they followed her mother's recommendation: «Do what He tells you ”(Jn 2: 5). This is the first thing that Jesus says to each one: "be holy". Dear acolyte, you have been taught - and it is true - that, at Holy Mass, that little speck of bread becomes the Body of Christ and the wine in the cup becomes the Blood of Christ. Every time you approach the Altar, you have the fortune to collaborate closely for this miracle. Your eyes do not see Jesus, but the heart and the lips adore Him, as our little mothers and catechists made us repeat: “My Lord and my God, I adore Your Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, as real and perfectly as it is in Heaven ». It is true! Jesus is there as real and perfectly as he is in Heaven; and, seeing you, he must recognize an angel. You will behave as you should in the service of holy things. Your inner and outer attitude is in accordance with what you do, especially when you are at the altar, when you make the sign of the cross, when you kneel, when you are seated or when you participate in prayer and in common songs. Excited with respect and inner recollection, your service as an acolyte will become a profession of faith for the community. To do this, put all the enthusiasm of your age in the encounter with Jesus hidden under the Eucharistic veil. Offer Jesus your hands, your thoughts and your time, and He will not fail to reward you, granting you true joy and making you feel where the most complete happiness is found. You have the example of the saints who found food in the Eucharist for their path of perfection, if not their bodily life: have you never heard of Blessed Alexandrina of Balazar? Fourteen years fed only on Communion ... How many times have they been moved to tears in the experience of such a great mystery: that the Holy Cure d'Ars says. They lived indescribable hours of joy in front of the Blessed Sacrament, like the little shepherd of Fatima, Saint Francisco Marto, whom you chose as a model and heavenly protector. «Be holy»: this is the first thing that Jesus asks of you. And the second: «be original». Dear acolyte, as I wrote to you in 2019 (I do not know if it has already reached your hands, but I wrote to you ...) in the Apostolic Exhortation Christ lives, “you will not be holy nor will you be fulfilled by copying others. When it comes to imitating the saints, it does not mean copying their way of being and living holiness: there are testimonies that are useful to stimulate and motivate us, but not to try to copy them, because that could even get us out of the way , unique and specific, that the Lord has predisposed for us. You have to find out who you are and develop your personal way of being holy, regardless of what others say and think. To make yourself holy is to become more fully yourself, the one that God wanted to dream and create, not a photocopy. Your life must be a prophetic stimulus that inspires others, that leaves a mark on this world, that unique mark that only you can leave. Whereas, if you copy, you will deprive this land and also Heaven of what no one else will be able to offer in your place ”(no. 162). Anyway, dear acolyte, be holy, be original! «All are born as originals, but many die as photocopies»: observed Blessed Carlos Acutis. He wanted to say that, “although they look different, in fact they end up being the same as others, chasing what the powerful impose on them through the mechanisms of consumption and stun. Thus, they do not let the gifts that the Lord gave them spring up, they do not make available to this world the abilities so personal and unique that God sowed in each one ”(No. 106, of the Exhortation Christ lives). Please, dear acolyte, do not let yourself fall into mediocrity, which demeans and makes us gray. But life is not gray, life must bet on great ideals. Do not follow negative people, but continue to radiate the light and hope that come from God around you! As you know, this hope does not disappoint; never disappoints! With God, nothing is lost, but without Him everything is lost. Do not be afraid, then, to throw yourself into the arms of the Father in Heaven, and trust Him, who will see to it that He will make you the original saint.
To conclude and summarize in some way what is said, I leave you a holy and original figure of Jesus' acolyte: Saint Joseph! You may have difficulty seeing him help Mass, but if you think about how it was done in four so that the Son of God could descend from heaven to earth, become man and grow until he became food for the life of the world, you will see that was a great acolyte. And even when you need to run to make up for last-minute forgetfulness or surprises, you will have no difficulty recognizing yourself in St. Joseph in distress in search of the twelve-year-old Son who was lost in the Jerusalem temple. For the world, I wanted to lose Jesus! For nothing in the world, he wanted to lose Maria de Nazaré, the bride that was already promised to him and now appears as a baby: Joseph sets aside his plans to follow God's, grabbing the Virgin Mother with the Son he brings in her bosom and taking them to your home. And for nothing in the world, Saint Joseph wants to lose you, generous and good acolyte; he confidently invokes and zealously imitates St. Joseph, to always serve with dignity the miracle of Jesus' descent into the land that takes place daily in our altars. Guardian of the Holy Family and Patron of the Universal Church, São José guard and protect all the acolytes of Portugal with those who accompany, energize and instruct them, from families and catechists to diocesan and national structures, under the paternal gaze of parish priests and priests. I gladly recall this call of St. John Paul II (in his Letter to Priests on the occasion of Holy Thursday 2004): “in regular Sunday and holiday celebrations, the acolytes find you, in your hands they see“ doing the Eucharist, in your face you read the reflection of the mystery, in your heart the intuition of a call to greater love. Be parents, teachers and witnesses of Eucharistic piety and holiness of life for them! » My Blessing arrives to all, bearer of grace and joy. Pray for me.
Rome, Saint John of Lateran, April 16, 2021.