Wow VIDEO Over 60,000 at Holy Mass with Pope Francis in Alberta, Canada "Let us think about our own grandparents, and reflect on two important things" on Feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER
"Commonwealth Stadium" in Edmonton - Tuesday, 26 July 2022
Missal (program) for the Mass at Commonwealth can be found at this link.
Today we celebrate the feast of the grandparents of Jesus. The Lord has gathered all of us together precisely on this occasion, so dear to you and to me. It was in the home of Joachim and Anne that the child Jesus came to know his older relatives and experienced the closeness, tender love and wisdom of his grandparents. Let us think about our own grandparents, and reflect on two important things.
First: we are children of a history that needs to be preserved. We are not isolated individuals, islands. No one comes into this world detached from others. Our roots, the love that awaited us and welcomed us into the world, the families in which we grew up, are part of a unique history that preceded us and gave us life. We did not choose that history; we received it as a gift, one that we are called to cherish, for, as the Book of Sirach reminds us, we are “descendants” of those who went before us; we are their “inheritance” (Sir 44:11). An inheritance that, quite apart from any claim to prestige or authority, intelligence or creativity in song or poetry, is centred on righteousness, on fidelity to God and his will. This is what they passed on to us. In order to accept who we really are, and how precious we are, we need to accept as part of ourselves the men and women from whom we are descended. They did not simply think about themselves, but passed on to us the treasure of life. We are here thanks to our parents, but also thanks to our grandparents, who helped us feel welcome in the world. Often they were the ones who loved us unconditionally, without expecting anything back. They took us by the hand when we were afraid, reassured us in the dark of night, encouraged us when in the full light of day we faced important life decisions. Thanks to our grandparents, we received a caress from the history that preceded us: we learned that goodness, tender love and wisdom are the solid roots of humanity. It was in our grandparents’ homes that many of us breathed in the fragrance of the Gospel, the strength of a faith which makes us feel at home. Thanks to them, we discovered that kind of “familiar” faith, a domestic faith. Because that is how faith is fundamentally passed on, at home, through a mother tongue, with affection and encouragement, care and closeness.
This is our history, to which we are heirs and which we are called to preserve. We are children because we are grandchildren. Our grandparents left a unique mark on us by their way of living; they gave us dignity and confidence in ourselves and others. They bestowed on us something that can never be taken from us and that, at the same time, allows us to be unique, original and free. From our grandparents we learned that love is never forced; it never deprives others of their interior freedom. That is the way Joachim and Anne loved Mary and Jesus; and that is how Mary loved Jesus, with a love that never smothered him or held him back, but accompanied him in embracing the mission for which he had come into the world. Let us try to learn this, as individuals and as a Church. May we learn never to pressure the consciences of others, never to restrict the freedom of those around us, and above all, never to fail in loving and respecting those who preceded us and are entrusted to our care. For they are a precious treasure that preserves a history greater than themselves.
The Book of Sirach also tells us that preserving the history that gave us life does not mean obscuring the “glory” of our ancestors. We should not lose their memory, nor forget the history that gave birth to our own lives. We should always remember those whose hands caressed us and who held us in their arms; for in this history we can find consolation in moments of discouragement, a light to guide us, and courage to face the challenges of life. Yet preserving the history that gave us life also means constantly returning to that school where we first learned how to love. It means asking ourselves, when faced with daily choices, what the wisest of the elders we have known would do in our place, what advice our grandparents and great-grandparents would have given us.
So, dear brothers and sisters, let us ask ourselves: are we children and grandchildren capable of safeguarding this treasure that we have inherited? Do we remember the good teachings we have received? Do we talk to our elders, and take time to listen to them? And, in our increasingly well-equipped, modern and functional homes, do we know how to set aside a worthy space for preserving their memory, a special place, a small family memorial which, through precious pictures and objects, allows us to remember in prayer those who went before us? Have we kept their Bible, their rosary beads? In the fog of forgetfulness that overshadows our turbulent times, it is essential, brothers and sisters, to take care of our roots, to pray for and with our forebears, to dedicate time to remember and guard their legacy. This is how a family tree grows; this is how the future is built.
Let us now think of the second important thing. In addition to being children of a history that needs to be preserved, we are authors of a history yet to be written. Each of us can recognize ourselves for who and what we are, marked by both light and shadows, and by the love that we did or did not receive. This is the mystery of human life: we are all someone’s children, begotten and shaped by another, but as we become adults, we too are called to give life, to be a father, mother or grandparent to someone else. Thinking about the people we are today, what do we want to do with ourselves? The grandparents who went before, the elderly who had dreams and hopes for us, and made great sacrifices for us, ask us an essential question: what kind of a society do we want to build? We received so much from the hands of those who preceded us. What do we, in turn, want to bequeath to those who come after us? “Rose water”, that is a diluted faith, or a living faith? A society founded on personal profit or on fraternity? A world at war or a world at peace? A devastated creation or a home that continues to be welcoming?
Let us not forget that the life-giving sap travels from the roots to the branches, to the leaves, to the flowers, and then to the fruit of the tree. Authentic tradition is expressed in this vertical dimension: from the bottom up. We need to be careful lest we fall into a caricature of tradition, which is not vertical – from roots to fruits – but horizontal – forwards and backwards. Tradition conceived in this way only leads us to a kind of “backwards culture”, a refuge of self-centredness, which simply pigeonholes the present, trapping it within the mentality that says, “We’ve always done it this way”.
In the Gospel we just heard, Jesus tells the disciples that they are blessed because they can see and hear what so many prophets and righteous people could only hope for (cf. Mt 13:16-17). Many people had believed in God’s promise of the coming Messiah, had prepared the way for him and had announced his arrival. But now that the Messiah has arrived, those who can see and hear him are called to welcome him and proclaim his presence in our midst.
Brothers and sisters, this also applies to us. Those who preceded us have passed on to us a passion, a strength and a yearning, a flame that it is up to us to reignite. It is not a matter of preserving ashes, but of rekindling the fire that they lit. Our grandparents and our elders wanted to see a more just, fraternal and solidary world, and they fought to give us a future. Now, it is up to us not to let them down. It is up to us to take on the tradition received, because that tradition is the living faith of our dead. Let us not transform it into “traditionalism”, which is the dead faith of the living, as an author once said. Sustained by those who are our roots, now it is our turn to bear fruit. We are the branches that must blossom and spread new seeds of history. Let us ask ourselves, then, a few concrete questions. As part of the history of salvation, in the light of those who went before me and loved me, what is it that I must now do? I have a unique and irreplaceable role in history, but what mark will I leave behind me? What am I passing on to those who will come after me? What am I giving of myself? Often we measure our lives on the basis of our income, our type of career, our degree of success and how others perceive us. Yet these are not life-giving criteria. The real question is: am I giving life? Am I ushering into history a new and renewed love that was not there before? Am I proclaiming the Gospel in my neighbourhood? Am I freely serving others, the way those who preceded me did for me? What am I doing for our Church, our city, our society? Brothers and sisters, it is easy to criticize, but the Lord does not want us to be mere critics of the system, or to be closed and “backwards-looking”, as says the author to the Letter to the Hebrews (cf. 10:39). Rather, he wants us to be artisans of a new history, weavers of hope, builders of the future, peacemakers.
May Joachim and Anne intercede for us. May they help us to cherish the history that gave us life, and, for our part, to build a life-giving history. May they remind us of our spiritual duty to honour our grandparents and our elders, to treasure their presence among us in order to create a better future. A future in which the elderly are not cast aside because, from a “practical” standpoint, they are “no longer useful”. A future that does not judge the value of people simply by what they can produce. A future that is not indifferent to the need of the aged to be cared for and listened to. A future in which the history of violence and marginalization suffered by our indigenous brothers and sisters is never repeated. That future is possible if, with God’s help, we do not sever the bond that joins us with those who have gone before us, and if we foster dialogue with those who will come after us. Young and old, grandparents and grandchildren, all together. Let us move forward together, and together, let us dream. Also, let us not forget Paul’s advice to his disciple Timothy: Remember your mother and your grandmother (cf. 2 Tim 1:5).
July 26 is the Feast of St. Anne and St. Joachim, grandmother and grandfather of Jesus. They are highly revered, not only by Catholics but also for many Indigenous Christians, where Elders are so widely respected. There are numerous pilgrimages related to St. Anne in Canada including Lac Ste. Anne and Ste. Anne de Beaupré.
- Short video - learn more about the choir that will sing for the Papal Mass at Commonwealth (courtesy Archdiocese of Edmonton)
- Commonwealth Stadium is Edmonton’s largest venue, and has a seating capacity of 56,302, making it the largest open-air stadium in Canada.
- Since guests will also be seated on the field itself for the Holy Mass, attendance will be approximately 65,000 for this event. An overflow viewing space at the adjacent Clarke Field may also be utilized, accommodating up to 5,000 more guests.
- Edmonton is the capital city of Alberta, and as of 2020 there were approximately 207,000 parishioners in the Archdiocese of Edmonton.
- The Archdiocese of Edmonton includes the greater Edmonton area but also covers a geographic region stretching from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Saskatchewan boundary in the east, from Olds in the south to Mayerthorpe in the north.
- The archdiocese covers 150,000 square kilometres. It includes 61 parishes with resident priests in cities, towns, rural areas and Indigenous communities, and another 64 parishes and missions without resident priests.
- Papal Mass - short welcome video from Fr. Cristino Bouvette (National Liturgical Coordinator for the Papal Visit) can be found here.
- Distribution of Holy Communion for close to 70,000 attendees is a huge undertaking. A team of more than 460 priests and 56 deacons, each accompanied by an assistant will coordinate distribution. Numerous rehearsals have been undertaken - distribution stations will be placed strategically throughout the stadium with a goal of offering Holy Communion to the faithful in 10-12 minutes.
The placement of the first public celebration of Mass i on the second full day of the Pope's presence here in Canada is noteworthy. Despite arriving in Canada on Sunday, the Holy Father chose to wait to celebrate Mass , demonstrating his priority of first encountering the Indigenous Peoples on their lands to address the legacy of the residential school system and the pain it caused them and their communities.
And so now, as the universal pastor of 1.2 billion Catholics, the Pope will bring together a gathering of the Faithful to share his message of hope and reconciliation. Since people will be in their seats for a lengthy period prior to the start of Mass, programming has been planned, which will include music from the Papal Visit Choir inspired by the themes of mercy, healing and reconciliation.
The Pope will begin his tour in the popemobile at Clarke Field, an overflow facility adjacent to Commonwealth Stadium. He will then make his way via popemobile to Commonwealth, which will allow him to be closer to the Faithful and provide greater access to interact with each other. This short journey will be accompanied by the familiar sound of Indigenous drumming from a group of Dene drummers from Northern Alberta.
As we see the Procession coming forward, altar servers will lead the way for the Bishops. The Pope is responsible for preserving the unity of the College of Bishops throughout the world, and has also tasked the Canadian Bishops with the important work of building meaningful and lasting relationships with the Indigenous Peoples of this land as they seek to walk together in a new way. Together they will enter the sanctuary and prepare the altar for the celebration of the Mass in the usual way.
Due to his mobility constraints, Pope Francis will not join this procession, but will rather appear from behind the sanctuary with the assistance of his security who will help him to his seat.
The Pope entered vested not for celebration of Mass, but to preside from his chair over the Liturgy of the Word. Archbishop Smith was the celebrant of the Eucharist at the altar, vested in the specially prepared chasuble (outer vestment) and Pope Francis will preside over the rest of the Mass from his seat, wearing the specially prepared mitre (pointed hat) and a vestment worn by a prelate not officiating the Eucharist (a ‘cope’) which boasts matching Indigenous artwork.]
Of importance to note are the vestments that the Pope is wearing. We see they are adorned with traditional Indigenous decorations. These have been handmade, and feature beadwork in the style and custom of a traditional dancer from the Nisga’a Nation on the west coast of British Columbia. Mrs. Julia Kozak has handcrafted the beadwork that we see in the shape of the cross on the hat that is worn by a Bishop known as the miter. In the center panel on the front of his vestment referred to as a chasuble we see the beautiful significance of a cross and flowing from it are colored beads which are used to signify water- the living water that in the Catholic tradition we refer to as Christ Himself.
After the opening, the music will finish and all will take their place in the sanctuary. The Mass begins in the usual way, being led by the Holy Father and participated in by the choir and all of the Faithful. The Readings that we will hear from Scripture are specifically chosen to highlight the role of the Grandparents in the life of Christ, but in a mysterious way by affirming those who are faithful to their tradition without necessarily seeing the good fruit that it would one day bear. Here we will see a very close connection, something very dear to the Pontificate of Pope Francis, which is his love and concern for the elderly and for grandparents, further demonstrated by his institution of the World Day of Prayer for Grandparents and the Elderly, celebrated annually on the Sunday just passed. In Indigenous culture, the grandmother features very prominently in their communities, and so that the Holy Father has chosen to gather with the people of this country on this day in honor of the grandmother of Jesus is yet another way of indicating his closeness to those who traditionally in their culture have also honored St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus, precisely because of her role and identity.
The First Reading will be proclaimed by an Indigenous woman from the Enoch community, Pam Kootnay, and the Psalm will be sung by a local non-Indigenous cantor, both of whom have offered their gifts to their community- a testament to the unity we seek.
With greater solemnity, the gospel will now be proclaimed which contains the actual words of Jesus Christ Himself. A particular kind of ordained minister, known as a deacon, is appointed to carry out this task. It is also important to note the role of these four men that we will see in that sanctuary gathered around the Pope, called ‘Deacons’, three of whom are also of Indigenous heritage. The two who will be seated next to the Holy Father, attending to him throughout the celebration of the Mass- one is a Deacon from the Archdiocese of Vancouver, British Columbia and a member of the Squamish People, Deacon Rennie Nahanee. Seated on the other side of him will be Deacon Harry Lafond, a Cree man of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The man who will carry the book of the Gospel to the ambo, Deacon Gilbert Pitawanakwat, is an Ojibwe man from Manitoulin Island in the Diocese of Sault St. Marie, ON. Following the proclamation of the gospel, we will hear Pope Francis preach in his native Spanish language, with captioned English subtitles on the large screen.
We anticipate that the Holy Father will reflect in his homily upon the significance and role of grandparents and the elderly in ensuring and guaranteeing the future of the next generation.
A small group of four people- a meaningful number we continuously see appearing over the course of these Indigenous-minded events- will approach the ambo (lectern) to offer what are known as the Prayers of the Faithful.
These four women are all of Indigenous heritage and hail from different parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Ms. Hazel Vickland, from Northern Alberta; Ms. Shirley Pruden from central Alberta; Ms. Mary Laboucan from a northern Métis settlement and Ms. Joanna Landry from Regina area, will present petitions on behalf of the congregation for the needs of the gathered community and the whole world. These women have traveled here for the sake of highlighting the unity among Indigenous People of Faith, who have come here together to pray today.
As preparations are made to enter into the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Offertory procession will be assembled by a group of people who each have a part in coming forward to present to the Pope the vessels that will be used at the altar in the celebration of the Eucharist. First in the procession will be the family of Lars and Jocelyn DuckChief from the Siksika Nation east of Calgary along with their adult son Clarke. Clarke was recently Baptized after having made an adult decision to seek baptism himself, especially because of the growing faith of his parents. His father, Lars, is himself now entering into preparations in the Diocese of Calgary to become a Permanent Deacon.
Second, we will see a small delegation of Indigenous Elders, women from southern Alberta who represent the peoples of the Pikanii Blood Tribe and the Dene people of TsuuT’ina Nation. They will be led by Regena Crowchild who is currently serving as the Acting Chief of TsuuT’ina on behalf of Chief Roy Whitney who cannot be present here. Accompanying her will be Frances LittleLight who is originally also from a reserve in southern Alberta, and Vera Potts of Pikanii.
Next we will see the Federal Member of Parliament, Frank Caputo with his daughter Kateri Tekakwitha- a name very dear to them because of his and his wife’s devotion to this Indigenous Saint, although they themselves are not Indigenous. They have a deep respect for Indigenous culture and the example of this Indigenous Saint inspired them to bestow her name upon their daughter. Frank Caputo is the Member of Parliament for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, a place where much of the pain that has surfaced in recent months originated and that hopefully can also begin to be a source of healing for the people.
Last we will see Lea-Ann Maier with her daughter, Wynn Jamie Maier-Crowder and two students, brother and sister Tiana Teresa and Zander Raymond Dragon, all of whom are current students or recent graduates of the Braided Journeys Program, for which Lea-Ann is an Instructor. This program seeks to ensure education for Indigenous students to help see them through to graduation all the while remaining enriched by education in their Indigenous cultures and traditions.
With the celebration of the Eucharist [Editor’s Note: if Archbishop Smith proceeds as the main celebrant for Mass, it is to be explained that, due to the inability of Pope Francis to remain standing that long at the altar, the Archbishop is assisting him by presiding over the rites at the altar, with the Holy Father fully participating], the fourth deacon will undertake his duties. This is the only one of the four deacons not of Indigeous heritage. Deacon Santiago Torres is training for the priesthood for service in the neighbouring Diocese of Calgary and is in his final year of training at the seminary, here in Edmonton. He is an immigrant to Canada, originally from Colombia, and as a Spanish speaker- [in the event the Holy Father does celebrate the Eucharist]- it was thought he might prove to be of assistance remaining so near to the Pope. What a memorable way for this young man to begin his ordained ministry in the Church, having only been ordained a deacon several months ago in May, to be serving at the papal altar.
In this most sacred moment, great pains will be taken through the use of reverent music and gestures, the Latin language, bells, incense and torches, to convey the significance of what Catholics believe to miraculously occur in every celebration of the Eucharist- the invisible transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is what will be distributed to the nearly 70,000 faithful Catholics gathered here as Holy Communion.
As the celebration of the Eucharist is the highlight and culminating moment of the celebrations of Roman Catholics throughout the world, we see that the Faithful gathered here do so in great devotion for what is taking place before them. Soon we will see the great work that has gone into preparing for a complex scenario in this stadium, which is to ensure the reverent and careful distribution of Holy Communion to the tens of thousands who are gathered here and next door in Clarke Field.
Soon after the conclusion of the Eucharist the Pope will impart his final blessing over all of the Faithful gathered there, after which we will hear words of thanks from His Grace, Archbishop Richard Smith, the Archbishop of Edmonton, who will greet the Holy Father on behalf of the Faithful not only of this Archdiocese but from all over who have gathered today for the celebration of this Mass.
Archbishop Smith was nominated by his brother bishops of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to serve as the General Coordinator of the Papal Visit and has assumed full responsibility, with the assistance of a team of national leaders, for the organization of this momentous occasion. It would ordinarily take 52-72 weeks to plan a Papal Visit and this one was coordinated in just four months, which is no doubt one of the shortest windows of planning for any papal visit in recent history.
Once he imparts his final blessing and dismissal of the Faithful, before the Holy Father departs from the altar sanctuary, he will position himself towards the statue of the Virgin Mary, a figure who is renowned and revered by Catholics of all generations.
This particular image is of great significance, known as ‘Our Lady of the Cape’. The devotion to her originated in Quebec in a shrine in Trois-Rivières, where Canada was once consecrated to her by an Assembly of all of the country's Bishops 75 years ago this very year. Replicas of the original statue, such as this one, have been on a cross country pilgrimage. This particular statue, which has been refurbished for this occasion, has its origins in the Parish Church of the TsuuT’ina Nation. The people of that community have generously donated the statue to be used for this Papal Mass which will be returned to their Parish as an enduring legacy of the visit of Pope Francis to the province of Alberta. Nearly 40 members of their community requested to be specially seated on the same side as the statue, and as near to the stage as possible.