2006-09-17 Friday, September 8, being the occasion of my 25th anniversary

September 17, 2006

On Friday, September 8, being the occasion of my 25th anniversary, I wore the cassock in which I was ordained. I have recounted to some of you how I was being fitted for it in the tailor shop of Signore Gammarelli when Pope John Paul II was shot, the sound of the gun echoing in the square. Since then, that cassock has seen many events. It is a symbol of the dramatic events that have taken place in the years I have so far been privileged to serve as a priest. It is not possible adequately to express my gratitude for the remarkable celebration of my anniversary on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Mother. I have never seen such a wonderful gathering of people in our church or heard such joyful singing. The reception afterward stretched the capacity of our Undercroft beyond legal limits, but no one complained. It is humbling to be able to thank all those who worked so hard to offer such a transporting act of worship and conviviality. It was a magnificent way to begin our return from the summer months. I extend my deepest thanks for all the kindnesses and generous expressions from people in the parish, our beloved city, and so many countries, all witnessing to the breadth of our holy Church.

This Sunday, September 17, precisely at 12 o’clock Noon, marks the fifth anniversary of the canonical start of my office as pastor of this parish. Like the twenty- five years of my priesthood, these five years in the parish have seen momentous events. I took up my responsibilities when the air was acrid from the attack on the World Trade Center. For many of our new parishioners and visitors it is hard to imagine the challenges we faced then. While much more needs to be done, I am deeply grateful to the loving power of the Holy Spirit who has given strength to preserve what was worthy, mend what was broken, guide the wandering, encourage the perplexed, reprove the obdurate, and raise up new life. In all this there was the heroic witness of John Paul II and Benedict XVI to lead us. Many things I urged upon my arrival as pastor as necessary elements of authentic renewal and Catholic witness are being realized on a global scale by our Pope, whose writings influenced me greatly many years ago. I pray that God’s grace will help me to become a better pastor day by day, and always to be faithful to the promise I made at my installation five years ago:

“With firm faith I also believe everything contained in God’s Word, written or handed down in tradition and proposed by the Church, whether by way of solemn judgment or through the ordinary and universal magisterium, as divinely revealed and calling for faith.”

Fr. George W. Rutler

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