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Installation Homily by Mass Celebrant,
Wilton D. Gregory, Cardinal-Elect of Washington
We celebrate an official moment of transition today as The Catholic University of America and I formally welcome Father Dominic Ciriaco, P.S.S., as the new rector for the Theological College community. The academics and formational components of Theological College come together to rejoice at this new moment. I welcome students, faculty, and administrators to this celebration with a joyful heart.
The first reading this evening is perhaps one of the sources of our references to the Blessed Mother under her title of “Seat of Wisdom.” It is not without rationale that a few personal titles fit some people better than others. Young people – and that includes most of you who are students – are primarily bright, clever, smart, and even precocious but only a truly mature person deserves the title: WISE.
Wisdom is not an attribute that seems to be compatible with youth. Wisdom comes with age. Wisdom is a property that accompanies a person who has experienced and overcome at least a few of life’s unavoidable challenges and difficulties. Wisdom is the state of a person who sees the “big picture,” a person who has gained some perspective on life.
Wisdom is the gift that comes to Mary after she had “kept all these things in her heart.” [Luke 2:51b] That young girl who quickly and without hesitation declared herself to be the Lord’s handmaid becomes the Mother of Wisdom, the very image of Wisdom itself. Like most mothers, Mary develops in her understanding of what it means to be a mother. Visited by angels and astrologers, warned by prophets and prophetesses, a midnight emigrant into Egypt, she could not help but to come to understand more deeply all that God had asked of her in becoming the Mother of the Christ.
Seat of Wisdom is a title of the mature Woman of Faith who never took back her initial enthusiastic “yes” to God’s will, but who nonetheless came to understand the price of what God had asked of her. Is hers not the journey of Faith that we are all asked to follow? The successful formation of every ordained minister requires each candidate to grow in their commitments. I dare say, I now understand better today what I publicly accepted in presenting myself to the Church as a Candidate for the Priesthood and I suspect that even tomorrow should bring me additional insight.
Moreover, I certainly realize now, as I could never have understood 37 years ago, what the honor and the burdens of episcopal service in the Church mean. Wisdom comes with experience. She who is the Mother of the Church is also a person who developed in her own Faith. Mary is not the static, cardboard, docile individual who was perfectly formed in obedience in her youth and never deepened in her love for God and in her acceptance of God’s will. She grew as we all must grow in the love of God. Her title as Seat of Wisdom is thus one that fits her as a mature woman of Faith, one who had tasted of the mystery of being the Mother of the Word Made Flesh in both His sorrow and in His triumph.
Wisdom enriches our lives. Wisdom allows us gradually to come to understand issues that are long since passed and prepares us to be open to moments still to come. The wise person becomes the individual who sees things with a calm perspective. Wisdom also brings with it the gift of humility since the truly wise person is always capable of admitting to himself that God’s plan may always be more than my ability fully to understand. Wisdom brings peace because the wise person is a resigned individual who has learned to trust not so much in his or her own gifts as in the fidelity of God.
Mary is thus Seat of Wisdom for the Church. She is that model whose enthusiasm never falters, but whose patience and trust only increase. She is the Seat of God’s Wisdom and she never forgets that God’s Wisdom is more than she can fully appropriate. When the Church honors Mary as the Seat of God’s Wisdom, we must also pray for the gift of Wisdom. Not to make us more than we are, but to help us become all that we are intended to be in God’s Plan. We pray that the gift of Wisdom be found within the entire Church so that we, as the People of God and the children of Mary might not only say “yes” to all that God might ask of us, but that we continue to grow in our ability to allow God’s Wisdom to guide our very lives.
As members of the Theological College community, you are here this afternoon to honor the Mother of Wisdom, to formally welcome your new rector, and to commit yourselves once again to following Mary’s wise and generous example of service and dedication to the Church and the mission that her Son has left us as His legacy and promise.
Mary, Seat of Wisdom – Pray for us!