A Homily on the Feast of Saints Timothy & Titus — January 26, 2011
The Irish Chapel, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome
We are on a journey of faith, not a sight-seeing tour, rather a pilgrimage – person to person, heart to heart. We accompany one another as witnesses – this experience in Rome can be a “life changer” for me and you.
Robert Frost, the great American poet, wrote: “I am not a teacher, I am an awakener!”
Today, I’m here at Saint Peter’s with you, as well as Prof. DGA, and Father Sal – in a sense, we are not teachers, rather “awakeners” to Rome, to faith, to old and new ideas, to religious practice, and yes, as awakeners to one another.
My first awakening to Rome occurred many years ago in 1963 and on the occasion of Pope Paul VI’s installation as pope. I came to this city with my Italian cousins Don Roberto D’Amore, the abbot of Montevergine Monastery, and his brother Salesian Father Guido D’Amore. That was my very first exposure to the awe and splendor of this mighty Church, and, most important, to people like you — who reflect the vibrancy and diversity of the People of God.
My cousins were extraordinary men. Don Roberto was a pious monk, and somewhat introverted but always could laugh. His historic monastery, high-atop Avellino, outside of Naples, remains a place of prayer and sanctuary for the people of the “mezzogiorno,” my ancestors. While brothers, Father Guido, was Roberto’s exact opposite.
Guido was the extrovert – a linguist who had the capacity to communicate in most modern languages, except German; he was most convincing in three or four dialects of Chinese. In fact, as a young Italian-speaking priest, he taught Portuguese to Chinese high school students in Macaw. Guido was a survivor and lived for five years under house arrest in China – he knew how to be patient and how to adapt; and after the World War came to the United States in various capacities teaching in industrial high schools and parishes.
Guido was such an engaging conversationalist – and so persuasive that he could sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, and throw in the Ponte Vecchio as an added bonus!
So there we were in Rome, at the brink of the 1960’s – at this installation of a new pope, in the summer when President Kennedy came to Italy, and far off — on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King told the world, via satellite television, “I have a dream!”
Guido and Roberto were different in many ways, and like the saints we celebrate this day – Timothy and Titus, they represented unique personalities with those extra precious gifts of energy and enthusiasm so essential in the service of the church. Clearly, we saw this energy and enthusiasm in the seminarians at the North American College and in our new friend Brother Alberto Gomez as he toured us around the Christian Brothers Rome headquarters.
“I am not a teacher, I am an awakener.” My hope is that you are awakened to your own unique talents now being developed at Saint Mary’s College, and that you have a place of welcome in our Church and in our faith community in Moraga.
Yesterday, we listened to our alumnus Peter Stemp and his work with “Sudan Solidarity.” After his presentation, David and I spoke with him and Sister Patricia Murray, the executive director, in their tiny office overlooking the Tiber and the Castel Sant’Angelo. Together shared their own feelings about their work, their goals, but also the boundaries, the limitations, and simply how complicated it is when trying to do good – especially in such a troubled place as southern Sudan.
Their concerns reminded of today’s gospel. Here Jesus tells his disciples about the very clear challenges they will face: “Carry no money bags, no sack, and no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him.” You too will face the challenges, the disappointments, and the opportunities – up ahead on your journey of faith. Remember: You are not a teacher, you are an awakener!
We are in the Irish chapel of this great basilica, the centerpiece of devotion for Roman Catholics, I leave you with a prayer for priest friends of mine – who are recently deceased, and whose Irish wit and wisdom have sparked my life: my friends, Declan Deane, Tom Mulvanerty, and Jack Ballweg. Their ministry and preaching were a comfort to me, and the countless thousands who they ministered to – at Saint Monica’s in Moraga, and, in the case of Jack Ballweg at Seton Hall University — over so many good years.
Father Mike R