Bishop Lacey at Mass in Medjugorje
Homily – English Mass, St. James Church, Medjugorje
Bishop Pierce Lacey, Retired Bishop of Toronto Diocese of Canada
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
When introducing himself, Bishop Lacey mentioned that he will be turning 90 years old this November 26th.
I‘ve been coming here since 1987. I was very privileged then. When I came here in 1987, Mary, due to the political nonsense that’s been associated with Medjugorje, was appearing in the choir loft.
I was one of the privileged people, as was another priest, to have that moment with the experience of the visionaries. I’ve been coming ever since. This is my fifth visit. There’s so much I could say and so little time. But, I want to read a message. It’s a picture of a blessing that was sent to Fr. Jozo Zovko who was one of the Franciscan priests here who was singled out in a very special way.
I want to read it, because there is such unbelievable nonsense being written in some of our Catholic papers about Medjugorje. I wish to God that the reporters would get their facts straight. Most of them who write them haven’t even been here. In any case, there was a small group of Polish pilgrims coming from, obviously, Poland and on the way to Medjugorje, they stopped off in Rome and were able to attend the private Mass of the Holy Father. And of course, typical of the late Pope John Paul II, he invited them to breakfast. As they sat around, the discussion certainly turned to Medjugorje because he knew this was where they were going. He said to them as they were leaving; I want you to take a message, a blessing to Fr. Jozo Zovko.
I had received through a fax, the message that’s contained here. I was thrilled and it simply contained the words of the message or blessing that the Polish people carried to Fr. Jozo on behalf of Pope John Paul II. So in due time, I drove to Siroki Brieg and met Fr. Jozo. I was taken into his office and I had a chance to take a picture of the message which was in a beautiful gold frame. And it said in Latin: “I grant from the heart a particular blessing to Fr. Jozo Zovko, OFM. I now invoke a new outpouring of graces and heavenly favors and the continuous protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope John Paul II.” Now that’s factual! Dear God, how the Lord puts up with us, really! Today’s Gospel stimulates some serious reflection. (The story of Martha and Mary, where Martha is concerned about many things, while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, choosing the better part.)
One of the things I do is I bury a lot of my relatives. And I recall two of them. Burial practices change from country to country, and the particular country I was in for the burial of two of my relatives, I noticed the undertaker putting some things in the coffin. I said, “What are you doing?” “Well, these are things your relatives wanted put in the coffin.” Oh, Lord help us! You can’t take a thing with you!!! The best thing you are doing for your salvation is coming here to Medjugorje! And that’s why I have literally followed Mary around so much of my life. I needed Mary. Or I would have lost my soul. Our Lord makes it very clear and His Mother Mary too, as well as our dear Sr. Faustina. Jesus said to Faustina, “Speak to the world about My mercy. It is a sign for the end times. Tell souls about the great mercy of Mine!”
Tragically, our Church is suffering from a standard abuse of the Sacrament of Penance. I’m only saying that. I’m not going to get into the many reasons that have laid the foundation for the downsizing of the Sacrament of Penance in our Catholic Churches. I remember going around as a bishop, doing what bishops are suppose to do, at least once a year anyhow. They visit their parishes and kind of check things out. I remember saying to one priest about the little time he provided for Confessions on the weekend, I said, “If you were in business you’d be out of business. Your store is closed most of the time.” I’m afraid we all, bishops, priests and laity mixed with a great deal of loss of faith, are responsible for what has happened.
One of the great gifts of healing that I’m sure you will experience in your visit here in Medjugorje is a good Confession. Moreover, the intention to continue your practice of the healing power of Confession when you go home. How else are you going to receive genuine self knowledge and humility, see bad habits to be corrected, and a conscience to be purified, so that we can begin to fathom Jesus’ words to Martha, who like so many of us are distracted? Oh my, how we are distracted. Throw the television out!
I remember a few years ago, a nun was entering the convent and as she entered the convent, she had a mini radio stuck up in her ear. I knew in my heart she’d never last. We seem to have a fear of quietness, of silence. Perhaps that’s the reason there is so little prayer. Jesus, gently, or maybe not so gently, said, “Oh Martha, you’re worried and distracted by so many things.” “There is“, he said, “only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part which will not be taken away from her.” Mary simply took time to be present in prayer. What are we so busy about? We must pray, pray, pray.
I realized that early in my priesthood, because to be honest, oh I was a great activist. My brother who was a priest, who is dead and I believe in Heaven, said, “Pierce never knows when to stop. He drives it into the ground.” Well, eventually I could see “Pierce,” that’s me, and I saw my ineffective spirituality, which is a nice way of putting it. Many times, as a young priest, I would be caught saying my breviary in the back seat of the car by the streetlights at midnight, to get it in. To get it in. My spirituality had to change.
The travesty of what goes on in families today – the corruption of what is in family life, to say nothing of the poor children who are the ones who suffer. How often I have said to parents, you can’t tell your children to do what you’re not doing yourselves. On the other hand, my life has been so blessed by so many, many, many devout families who literally have inspired me.
So for many years, I have pursued Mary. I’ve been to Lourdes four times. To Knock twice. To Betania, Venezuela, where I had a small cancer cure. To Fatima, twice. Our late Pope John Paul said many wonderful things about Medjugorje. But somehow or another our reporters seem to be frozen to even mention it. He said, “Medjugorje is the extension of Fatima.” The late John Paul said many beautiful things about Mary. “Her role in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Jesus Christ but ratifies and shows His power. It follows there among all devotions that which most consecrates and confirms the soul of our Lord is devotion to Mary, our Holy Mother—the more we’ll be consecrated to Her the more we will be consecrated.” Mary lives only in Christ and for Christ. Blessed will you be when you realize that holiness will only come through uniting yourself in continuous prayer.
I’ve given out well over 60,000 Rosaries to the children I have confirmed. I’ve given them out at funerals, much to the surprise of some people. I even give them out at marriages, again to the surprise of some people. I’m not embarrassed. Maybe they are. In any case, I’m in my daily holy hour and I happen to look back one day and I saw a rather young priest; but everyone’s young around me. He was one of our professors of theology at the National Seminary, and you know that pleased me. I was glad to see that he was praying. I saw him there again a few days later. I made it my business to get out of the chapel at the time he was getting out because I wanted to talk to him. At that time, I was pretty high on the diary of St. Faustina. If you haven’t read it, treat yourself. There are about 600 pages and it will do things for you as you will hear. I very naively said to this priest, “Have you ever read Faustina’s diary?” And he looked up at me and said, “Yes, three times,” He said, “You know Bishop, I have several degrees but they really mean nothing. There’s more mystical theology contained in that book than in most I’ve ever read.” Well, I was really treated to some beautiful revelations about the young priests in our midst. A few years later the head priest of the seminary was made a bishop and the Cardinal was out looking for another man to take his place. One day I just happened, very deliberately, to tell the Cardinal I had some information to give him. I said don’t do anything but just listen to it. It’s not often you can say that to a Cardinal. Well, in any case, I told him about this young priest. That holy priest is now the head of our seminary and I’m told when you go looking for him you’ll either find him in his office or in the chapel. And I’m also told that he hopes and prays that the men graduating from the seminary today will all be men committed to Jesus in the Eucharist and make a daily holy hour.
There’s nothing wrong with us or the Church that the Lord God Himself can’t transfigure.