By George P. Matysek Jr.
BALTIMORE — Holiness is possible, and the Catholic Church provides the tools to achieve it.
That was the theme of a May 15 speech by Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore.
The evening conference, which was preceded by a morning Mass celebrated by Cardinal Sarah, was part of the closing celebration of the 200th anniversary of the dedication of the basilica, the first Catholic cathedral built in the United States. United.
The neoclassical cathedral, designed by U.S. Capitol architect Benjamin Latrobe and envisioned by Baltimore Archbishop John Carroll as a beacon of religious freedom, was dedicated in 1821 by Baltimore Archbishop Ambrose Field Marshal.
“Holiness is nothing but living exactly as God wants us to live, conforming ourselves more and more to his son,” said Cardinal Sarah, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline. sacraments.
Prayer, fasting and penance can be invaluable aids in helping individuals in the pursuit of holiness, Cardinal Sarah said.
Prayer shapes one’s true identity, he explained, and fasting helps discipline hearts and free them from distraction. Through daily meditation on the scriptures, he said, “we allow God to shape our minds and we learn to recognize his voice.”
“These practices are nurtured in the church community,” Cardinal Sarah said. “In community life, we need to surround ourselves with brothers and sisters, and good mentors, who reinforce our daily rhythms of prayer, penance and meditation on the word of God and who encourage us in the pursuit of holiness. .
“Moreover, we receive the sacraments in community, and in the sacraments we encounter Christ with the greatest power.”
The pursuit of holiness requires believers to “quiet” their hearts, Cardinal Sarah said.
“In time, we discern the outlines of our hearts,” he said. “We learn to recognize temptations more quickly. We uncover and correct the subtle habits toward evil and deceit that we have accepted over the past years. Over the years, every systematic tendency toward evil can be overcome with the help of God’s grace.
A prolific author whose books include “The Power of Silence,” Cardinal Sarah said quieting the heart makes silence possible. He defined silence not just as the absence of noise, but as “chosen stillness”. Silence is a “word in the soul, a participation in the word of God”, he said.
“In silence,” the cardinal said, “we discover the most intimate prayer, the holy and eternal presence of God in our hearts.”
Silence becomes a place of refuge, Cardinal Sarah said, a place where people can offer God every experience and every detail of their day.
“There is no better place to encounter God in silence than in Eucharistic adoration,” Cardinal Sarah said. “Here, we are beginning to resume the posture of right relationship with our creator. Worship testifies to our desire for an amazing intimacy with God.
Cardinal Sarah urged his audience to yearn to suffer with Christ. He also called on Catholics to reflect deeply on the vocations to which they are called by God and to recognize that vocations require ongoing formation.
“Our habits, our desires, our expectations will not remain the same as when we entered the seminary or religious life or married life,” he said. “This change in us is part of God’s plan.”
Around 250 people attended the conference, which was also livestreamed on the Archdiocese’s social media channels.
Earlier today, Cardinal Sarah noted in his homily at Mass that the basilica’s architecture – especially its large dome which lets in natural light through a series of skylights – highlights the call to walk in the light of God.
The alternative to God is nothing, he said, noting that the world must choose light or darkness.
“The challenges of our time are no excuse to recreate, to fabricate the church in the image of postmodern society in the illusory hope of not losing numbers by changing its doctrine and moral teaching,” a- he declared. “On the contrary, our time demands of us a greater love for the light we receive from Christ, and a renewed fidelity to the Gospel.”
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori and Father James Boric, Rector of the Basilica, thanked Cardinal Sarah for being present to celebrate the Basilica’s anniversary.
Father Boric noted that the basilica marks the first anniversary of the dedication of a chapel of perpetual eucharistic adoration in the basement of the church on May 31. He urged Catholics to spend time in prayer inside the chapel.
“If everyone in this archdiocese committed to an hour of prayer in the nation’s mother church, I can’t imagine what would happen,” Fr. Boric said.
Angelus Virata, the basilica’s evangelism director, said Cardinal Sarah’s speech reminded her of the importance of making prayer the foundation of everything she does, especially in parish ministry.
“Prayer is the work for the work of evangelism,” she told the Catholic Review, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. “Without prayer, without this connection with God, who can you evangelize?
“We have to be completely in tune with God,” she added, “because he’s the one who’s going to give me the words to speak when people ask me questions that I might not be able to answer.” .