By John Jalsevac
NEW YORK, NY, April 21, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – This past Sunday Pope Benedict XVI concluded his six day whirlwind visit to the United States with a massive outdoor Mass in Yankee stadium. The stadium was packed with a crowd of close to 60,000 worshippers for a Mass that was the largest, most energetic and triumphal display of American Catholic identity and solidarity since the Pope touched down in Washington last week. The event was praised by some commentators as one of the most impressive papal events they had ever seen.
The Holy Father arrived in the stadium to uproarious applause, as tens of thousands waved the papal colors. He was visibly delighted by the characteristic Yankee Stadium exuberance and responded with many smiles and animated gestures of appreciation to the crowd.
When the Pope began the Mass with the traditional greeting, “The Lord be with You,” the massive congregation responded in a union of voices that shook the ground in the stadium, “And also with you!”
In his lengthy homily the Holy Father once again touched upon the theme of the nature of true freedom, a topic that he has repeatedly emphasized during his visit to the country that prides itself on being “the land of the free.”
“‘Authority’…‘obedience’. To be frank, these are not easy words to speak nowadays,” he said.
“Yet, in the light of our faith in Jesus Christ – ‘the way and the truth and the life’ – we come to see the fullest meaning, value, and indeed beauty, of those words. The Gospel teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love. Only by losing ourselves, the Lord tells us, do we truly find ourselves.”
“Real freedom, then,” he continued, “is God’s gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free. And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality. When we put on ‘the mind of Christ’, new horizons open before us!”
The Holy Father couched his reflections about the history and future of the Church in America in terms of the bicentennial anniversary of the creation of the Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville, from the mother See of Baltimore, which event Sunday’s Mass commemorated. The creation of the four Sees was one of the earliest defining moments of the history of the Church in America, a powerful sign of the rapidity of the growth and vibrancy of the American Church.
“How many ‘spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God’ have been offered up in these two centuries!” exclaimed the Pope. “In this land of religious liberty, Catholics found freedom not only to practice their faith, but also to participate fully in civic life, bringing their deepest moral convictions to the public square and cooperating with their neighbors in shaping a vibrant, democratic society. Today’s celebration is more than an occasion of gratitude for graces received. It is also a summons to move forward with firm resolve to use wisely the blessings of freedom, in order to build a future of hope for coming generations.”
One of the most extraordinary moments during Sunday’s Mass occurred when the Holy Father encouraged the young people present to “find the courage to proclaim Christ…and the unchanging truths which have their foundation in him.”
“These are the truths that set us free!” he said. “They are the truths which alone can guarantee respect for the inalienable dignity and rights of each man, woman and child in our world – including the most defenseless of all human beings, the unborn child in the mother’s womb.”
With the mention of the unborn child, the until-then-silent and attentive congregation of 60,000 burst into spontaneous applause.
Benedict XVI continued, urging American Catholics to reject any philosophy that preaches a separation between the faith and life, and to bring the hope of their faith into the public square, thereby to transform society. “Praying fervently for the coming of the Kingdom,” he said, “means overcoming every separation between faith and life, and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness. It also means rejecting a false dichotomy between faith and political life, since, as the Second Vatican Council put it, ‘there is no human activity – even in secular affairs – which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion.’ It means working to enrich American society and culture with the beauty and truth of the Gospel, and never losing sight of that great hope which gives meaning and value to all the other hopes which inspire our lives.”
The Holy Father concluded his homily by charging his listeners to go forward and to work to “hasten the coming of God’s Kingdom in this land!”
The powerful music before and during the Yankee Stadium Mass featured many high level performing artists. There were choirs and orchestras assembled from throughout the Archdiocese of New York that included the Harlem Gospel Choir and the West Point Cadet Choir, from the U.S. Military Academy. The event was also elevated by inspiring performances from guitar virtuoso Jose Feliciano, Metropolitan Opera tenor Marcello Giordani, Irish singer Dana, Jazz singer Harry Connick Jr., and Salvatore Licitra, a tenor with the Metropolitan Opera.
See EWTN video of the entire Yankee Stadium event: