Today we gather to celebrate the completion of some very significant works here at this shrine. Indeed, in recognition of the fine work and the great ministry done at this Shrine Church dedicated to Mary, Queen of the Universe, the Bishops of the United States has responded affirmatively to my request and last March, they designated this beautiful church a “national” Shrine.
I greet Archbishop Migliore, the Pope’s representative to the United Nations. As a young monsignor, Archbishop Migliore frequently visited this shrine and assisted in its pastoral work. I greet Bishop Dorsey, Bishop Emeritus of Orlando. He dedicated this shrine after its construction, started under Bishop Grady, was completed. And, of course, I greet Msgr. Joseph Harte and the priests who serve here with him along with a legion of volunteers. I also greet – with the joy inspired by this feast of Pentecost – the priests of the Diocese of Orlando who join us this morning for this Mass and all of you who gather today as “one body, one spirit in Christ”.
Msgr. Harte was the man who dreamt the dream, and who, led by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, with his hard work and dedication, translated the vision into reality. Monsignor is a man of many talents. But he is also blessed with those gifts of the Holy Spirit given to the Church in Confirmation, especially the gifts of wisdom and courage. Through those gifts he brought to fruition this Shrine that we worship in today. And, even though he would be the first to tell you that it was God and the generosity of many, many people that made this shrine possible, we thank you, Monsignor, for without your leadership and your persistence, it could not have happened.
At Pentecost, the confusion of Babel was defeated by the unity born of the Spirit’s love. You will remember that the Book of Genesis tells us how, after the flood, people in a vain attempt to escape from God’s dominion sought to build the Tower of Babel. Human projects conceived without God or against God are always doomed to failure. But this Shrine was built not as a tower of Babel but as a temple of God, a place to encounter God and not to get away from Him.
Of course, Orlando is a great place to escape to. This destination with its many attractions offers tourists from around the world a “perfect get-away, a place when they can escape the cold of winter, or the routine of work and school. Such escape is perfectly legitimate. The human soul – and body – does need to rest and to recreate. This national Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, serves this area very well. It is an attraction in itself, a great destination for our visitors as well as for residents of Central Florida. Its business, however, is not recreation but rather “re-creation”. Even plans as simple as vacation with the kids cannot be conceived without God – or against God. (This is not Las Vegas.) As a young seminarian, I remember that our rector would tell us at the beginning of our summer recess: Remember, guys, there is no vacation from a vocation.
Central Florida is a great place for recreation certainly; but, even while on vacation we still must be faithful to our baptismal vocation to holiness. Here, parents by bringing their kids to Mass, witness to the fact that God does matter.
Visitors on vacation to our region come here to attend Mass, to receive the Sacrament of Penance, to spend some time in prayer and recollection. Thanks to this nation Shrine of Mary Queen of the Universe people who come to our area to recreate can also celebrate the eight day, the day of the Resurrection, the day of our re-creation as sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ in the gift of his Holy Spirit.
Of course, today is Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the Church. This feast reminds us that the Church has been Catholic and missionary from her birth. The universality of salvation is meaningfully manifested with the list of the numerous ethnic groups to which those who first heard the Apostles first proclamation belonged (cf. Acts 2: 9-11). That those assembled in Jerusalem each heard the Apostolic preaching in their own native tongue shows that the gospel finds its home in the hearts of all natures, all cultures, and all races. No one is excluded from the good news that is Jesus Christ, crucified and raised from the dead. Before his Ascension into heaven, Jesus gave the Apostles the Great Commission to preach to the entire world. And here at this Shrine every Sunday this message of the first Pentecost is relived, as people from the entire world come here to worship as one family of God.
Just before his Ascension, Jesus ordered the Apostles “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” (cf Acts 1: 4-5); that is, he asked them to stay together to prepare themselves to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, that same Upper Room where Jesus had eaten the Last Supper with them and instituted the Holy Eucharist. Here is a lesson for all of us today. In many ways, we still see all around us the confusion of Babel: human pride and selfishness always create divisions; they build walls of indifference, hate and violence. If we are to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit today, we too must “stay together” in the unity of faith and love with the Apostles and with Mary. We must pray that Spirit’s gifts will produce in our lives, and the lives of all mankind, their fruits of joy and peace.
Pentecost Sunday marks the birthday of the Church. The completion of the Bronze Doors at the entry to this church is certainly a fitting and beautiful “birthday gift” to the Church – both this local Church of Orlando and the universal Church. And so, we celebrate. And as the apostles gathered with Mary on that first Pentecost, today we also are with Mary, Mary, Queen of the Universe at this shrine placed under her patronage. Together with her, we cry out: “Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the first of your love!” Amen.