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Pentecost Vigil
Vatican Basilica
Saturday, 14 May 2005


Eminent Cardinals,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Pilgrims,

The new-born Church prepared for the first Christian Pentecost by following an itinerary of faith in the Risen Lord. It is he, in fact, who gives his Spirit to the people of the New Covenant.

After Jesus' Ascension to heaven, the community of disciples was gathered in the Upper Room prior to being "baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1: 5), and this event caused them to have an intense experience of fraternity and prayer: "Together they devoted themselves to constant prayer... with Mary, the mother of Jesus (cf. Acts 1: 14).

Tonight, we too find ourselves truly gathered together in the Upper Room. We feel the maternal presence of Mary and the closeness of the Apostle Peter, over whose tomb this Basilica arises.

We are now a liturgical assembly that proclaims the same faith in the Risen Christ; that feeds on the same Eucharistic Bread; that raises to heaven with persistent faithfulness the same intercession: "Come, Holy Spirit, send us from heaven a ray of your light. Come, Father of the poor; come, Giver of gifts; come, Light of hearts (Sequence).

I therefore greet the many who have left their cities and homes, and those who, travelling across oceans and continents, are here in order to share with us the grace of Pentecost and the joy of the Beatification of Mother Ascensión of the Heart of Jesus and of Mother Marianne Cope.

A cordial greeting to the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary and to the Sisters of the Third Order of St Francis of Syracuse, and to the many pilgrims coming from the birthplaces and apostolates of the new Blesseds.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Word of God that was just proclaimed helps us to recall the great mystery of Pentecost, which signalled the solemn beginning of the Church's mission in the world.
The Gospel passage ends with the cry of Jesus: "The one who is thirsty, come to me and drink".

People of every time and culture are thirsty for life, truth, peace and happiness. They are thirsty for eternity; they are thirsty for God. Jesus can extinguish this thirst. He said to the Samaritan woman: "But whoever drinks the water I give him will never be thirsty" (Jn 4: 14). The water of Jesus is the Holy Spirit, the Creator and Consoler Spirit, who transforms the person's heart, emptying it of darkness and filling it with divine life, wisdom, love, good will and joy, thus realizing the prophecy of Ezekiel: "I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes" (Ez 36: 27).

The Holy Spirit's presence in the Church and in individual hearts is a permanent "inhabitation", dynamic and creative. The one who has drunk the Water of Jesus will have within himself "rivers of living water" (Jn 7: 38), "a fountain of water that leaps up to provide eternal life" (cf. Jn 4: 14).

The Holy Spirit changes the life of the one who welcomes him, renews the face of the earth and transforms all of creation which - as St Paul affirms in the Second Reading - "groans and is in agony even until now" (Rom 8: 22), in anticipation of returning to being the garden of God and of man.

The Holy Spirit is the inner teacher and, at the same time, the hardy wind that blows the sails of the barque of Peter to lead it to the shore. Duc in altum! This is the exhortation that the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II presented to the Church of the third millennium (cf. Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 58).

The Apostles experienced the Holy Spirit and became witnesses of Christ who died and rose, missionaries for the ways of the world. The same experience is repeated in all those who, accepting Christ, open themselves up to God and to humanity; it is above all repeated in the saints, those who are anonymous as well as those who are raised to the honours of the altar. The saints are the masterpieces of the Spirit, who carves out the face of Christ and transplants the charity of God in their hearts.

Our two Blesseds have opened wide their lives to God's Spirit and have been led by him in their service to the Church, the poor, the sick and the young.

Bl. Ascensión of the Heart of Jesus is one of the great missionaries of the last century. From her youth, she viewed life as a gift for the Lord and for her neighbour, and she wanted to marry no one except God, to whom she consecrated herself as a Dominican Missionary Sister at the monastery of St Rose in Huesca, Spain. She lived unreservedly the dynamism of charity which the Holy Spirit generates in those who are open to him in their hearts.

The first part of her apostolate consisted of being a teacher in the school connected to the monastery. Testimonials recall her as an excellent educator, amiable and strong, understanding and exacting.

But the Lord had different plans in store for her. At age 45, he called her to become a missionary in Peru. With youthful enthusiasm and total trust in Providence, she left her Country and dedicated herself to the evangelization of the world, beginning on the American Continent. Her work was so generous, vast and efficacious that it left a profound mark on the missionary history of the Church.

She collaborated with the Dominican Bishop, Ramon Zubieta, in founding the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary, of which she was the first Superior General. Her missionary life was rich in sacrifices, hardships and apostolic fruits. She made many apostolic trips to Peru, to Europe, and she even went to China. She had the temperament of an intrepid and tireless fighter, together with a maternal tenderness that was capable of conquering hearts. Driven by charity for Christ, she showed to all the charisms of spiritual motherhood. Sustained by a living faith and by a fervent devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to Our Lady of the Rosary, she dedicated herself to the salvation of souls, even to the sacrifice of her very self. And she frequently urged her Daughters to do the same, saying that souls are not saved without sacrificing themselves. She inspired an ever more pure and intense charity, and for this, she offered herself as a victim to the Merciful Love of God.

The life of Bl. Marianne Cope is a wonderful work of divine grace. She demonstrated the beauty of the life of a true Franciscan. The encounter of Mother Marianne with those suffering from leprosy took place when she was far along on her journey to Christ. For 20 years she had been a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Third Order of St Francis of Syracuse in New York. She was already a woman of vast experience and was spiritually mature. But suddenly God called her to a more radical giving, to a more difficult missionary service.

Bl. Marianne, who was Provincial Superior at the time, heard the voice of Christ in the invitation of the Bishop of Honolulu. He was looking for Sisters to assist those suffering from leprosy on the Island of Molokai. Like Isaiah, she did not hesitate to answer: "Here I am. Send me!" (Is 6: 8). She left everything, and abandoned herself completely to the will of God, to the call of the Church and to the demands of her new brothers and sisters. She put her own health and life at risk.

For 35 years she lived, to the full, the command to love God and neighbour. She willingly worked with Bl. Damian de Veuster, who was at the end of his extraordinary apostolate. Bl. Marianne loved those suffering from leprosy more than she loved her very self. She served them, educated them and guided them with wisdom, love and strength. She saw in them the suffering face of Jesus.

Like the Good Samaritan, she became their mother. She drew strength from her faith, the Eucharist, her devotion to our Blessed Mother, and from prayer. She did not seek earthly honours or approval. She wrote: "I do not expect a high place in heaven. I will be very grateful to have a little corner where I can love God for all eternity".

"Rivers of living water will gush forth from the heart" of the one who believes in Christ. The signs of his presence are summarized in the Letter to the Galatians: They are: "love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness and chastity" (5: 22).

Our two Blesseds brought to the world the fruits and signs of the Holy Spirit and spoke the language of truth and love, which alone is capable of breaking down the barriers of culture and race and of building the unity of the human family, scattered by pride, the desire for power, the refusal of God's sovereignty, as was explained to us in the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel (cf. First Reading).

The Holy Father Benedict XVI has confirmed, in inaugurating his Petrine ministry, that "it is not power, but love that redeems us! This is God's sign: he himself is love.... God, who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified him" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 27 April 2005, pp. 6-7).

St Irenaeus, commenting on Pentecost, offered this reflection: "The Holy Spirit has cancelled separations, has eliminated falsity and has transformed the assembly of peoples as first fruits to the Lord.... Indeed, just as flour does not mix into dough or become bread without water, in the same way, neither are we, a scattered multitude, able to become the one Church in Christ without the "Water' that comes down from heaven" (Adversus Haereses, 3, 17).

We therefore place our prayer in the hands of Bl. Ascensión of the Heart of Jesus and Bl. Marianne Cope: "Lord, give us this water" (Jn 4: 15). Amen.


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