ROCHESTER — There wasn’t an empty seat inside Sacred Heart Cathedral on the evening of March 25.
That’s because hundreds from across the Diocese of Rochester filled the mother church of the diocese to join in prayer for peace in Ukraine. On the occasion of Pope Francis’ consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Bishop Salvatore R. Matano celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of the Annunciation.
“United with our holy father Pope Francis and the whole universal church, we unite in prayer tonight for peace in Ukraine, for an end to war, and for lives that have been lost in Ukraine and Russia, that God’s gift of life will be renewed and respected and war will cease,” Bishop Matano said as he fought through tears after processing into the cathedral.
After Deacon Jonathan Schott proclaimed Luke’s Gospel of the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she would be the mother of God’s son, Bishop Matano spoke of how Mary’s faith never wavered throughout the many difficulties of life. From finding no room to give birth to her son, to the exile into Egypt to escape King Herod, to searching for three days for her young son in Jerusalem, Mary’s faith was firm, he said.
“Throughout all of these ordeals, some so very painful, Mary’s faith was strong throughout,” Bishop Matano said. “As Jesus began his public ministry and was met with unbelief and threats, Mary’s faith never wavered. The young maiden at Nazareth and the sorrowful mother of Golgotha, they are one in the same. A woman of limitless faith in God.”
Mary’s example of faith is never brighter than in the Lenten season, especially as we approach Holy Week and recall Mary standing at the foot of the cross of her son’s crucifixion and death, Bishop Matano said.
“The full glory of Mary standing in the shadow of the cross becomes radiant amongst the dark clouds of Golgotha. The Blessed Virgin Mary becomes for each Christian the ultimate example of perfect faith by her steadfast presence during those horrible hours of the Lord’s death,” he said.
Pleading for peace
Now from her place in heaven, Mary looks again upon Golgotha, recalling the crucifixion of her son as she beholds the countless loss of lives of children, women and men, both in Ukraine and Russia, that resulted from the war in Ukraine, Bishop Matano said.
“We have no choice, my sisters and brothers, than to be in this house of God in union with our holy Father, Pope Francis, pleading our Mother Mary, Queen of Peace, to intercede on our behalf before her son to grant an end to this senseless attack upon human life, to end the war in Ukraine and to bring us the peace of her risen son, the peace of Easter,” he told the faithful in the cathedral.
Bishop Matano concluded his homily by telling the faithful that the voice of the church has always been consistent in praying for peace.
“It is all we can do,” he said. “We will continue to raise our voices for peace.”
Joined in prayer
Following Communion, Bishop Matano knelt in front of the statue of Mary to pray the Act of Consecration using the same text that Pope Francis recited earlier in the day at the Vatican. Children presented white flowers to the bishop to be placed in front of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Eight-year-old Xavier Reger, along with his two brothers, 6-year-old Henry and 3-year-old Wes, were among the children to bring flowers to the bishop.
“He (the bishop) blessed me,” Xavier said. “It was pretty exciting.”
“It was beautiful,” the children’s mother, Sarah, said about her sons take part in the Mass. “It was important for our family to be here. We just wanted to be with the bishop and join with our Holy Father and just pray during these times.”
“Everyone together is just so important in our faith, and it is so uplifting to have everyone here,” she added.Tags: Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, Mary, War in Ukraine