2012-10-26 Vatican RadioCardinal Edwin O'Brien, the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, took possession of his titular church, St. Sebastian on the Palatine. The 10th century church is said to be the place of his martyrdom. In his homily (full text below), Cardinal O'Brien said "Sebastian was consumed by that fire which Christ came to cast on the earth – enflamed as he was by a love for Christ and His Church, a love stronger than death."
Full text of Cardinal O'Brien's homily
Siamo convenuti in questa importante chiesa del decimo secolo, dedicata a San Sebastiano, un martire del terzo secolo, uno dei tanti primi martiri, i luoghi di sepoltura dei quali sono sparsi ovunque in questa antichissima parte della Città Eterna. Sebastiano era un soldato romano che fu torturato a causa della Fede, consumato da quel fuoco che Cristo venne a spargere in terra – infiammato dall’amore per Cristo e la Sua Chiesa, un amore più forte della morte.
We come to this treasured 10th century church, dedicated to the honor of St. Sebastian, a third century Christian martyr, one of the many early martyrs whose burial places dot this ancient section of the Eternal City. Sebastian was a Roman soldier who was tortured for the Faith, hands at his back and tied to a stake, his body shot through with arrows – a favorite portrait for medieval artists. (In a bit of ecclesial irony, by the way, St. Sebastian is the patron saint of archers.) Whether by the grace of God or poor marksmanship, he survived the assaults but was later clubbed to death and buried not far from here.
In the image brought forth by Jesus in today’s Gospel, the martyr Sebastian was consumed by that fire which Christ came to cast on the earth – enflamed as he was by a love for Christ and His Church, a love stronger than death. Jesus shares with his disciples words of bitter anguish as He faces and embraces His own impending passion and death and he warns of similar anguish destined for all who would follow him seriously and completely.
St. Augustine noted that martyrs bear what they do not love – suffering – but they embrace it willingly and with full Faith and confidence in the Resurrection – Christ’s and their own.
Which brings us to the reason for choosing this votive Mass in honor of Our Lady Queen of Palestine: Our Holy Father was so kind in committing this jewel of a church to my predecessor and friend, John Patrick Cardinal Foley and now to me, successive Grand Masters of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Blessed John Paul II called the 29,000 members of the Order, Honor Guards for the care of the Holy Sepulchre, defending Christ’s empty tomb no longer with the force of arms but rather by their constant witness of Faith. In a public, visible way, members of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre profess what a martyr’s death proclaims – a richer life awaits us beyond this, for those who are faithful to the end!
For the Sepulchre is empty. Christ is not here, the angel announced. He is risen and alive, not only in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, but alive here and now. This very day and in this very place He lives, strengthening us through the power of His Spirit, dwelling in our hearts through Faith, filling us with the fullness of God.
The Sepulchre is empty – Christ is alive and pours his new life into His Church in every age – into Her sacraments, Her teachings, and in the witness of the self sacrificing, Christ-like love of Her members.
The Sepulchre is empty and whether in 3rd century Rome or 21st century suffering Christian Palestine, His followers are willing to stake their lives on the fact both of the empty tomb and of the living Christ.
La nostra Patrona, che è anche Patrona della Terra Santa, è Nostra Signora Regina della Palestina la cui festa sarà celebrata domenica prossima nell’unica terra da Lei conosciuta – una terra santa che Ella continua ad amare. Sotto la Sua protezione possano gli impavidi fedeli che abitano quel luogo, e tutti noi, dar prova di essere coraggiosi nell’affrontare la battaglia della Fede, decisi nel sostenere gli insegnamenti degli Apostoli e tranquilli nello spirito durante le tempeste di questo mondo fino a che non raggiungeremo la gioia nel nostro domicilio celeste.