By Bishop James Conley
September 14th is the feast day of the Exaltation of the Cross, also known as the Triumph of the Cross. This is the day the Church commemorates the discovery and recovery of the true cross of Jesus by St. Helena in the year 326 AD.
St. Helena was the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine and a convert to Christianity. History tells us that St. Helena went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land to visit the places made holy by the life of Jesus. She also had a desire in her heart to discover and safeguard any relics of the Christian faith that still remained. One of her express goals was to find the place where the crucifixion of Jesus took place and, if possible, recover the very cross upon which he was hung.
Nine years later, St. Helena oversaw the construction of a church built on the original site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Her son Constantine dedicated the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on September 14th in 335 AD, thus the origin of the feast day of the Exaltation of the Cross.
On Friday, September 14th at 7 p.m., the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, I would like to invite those who can to join me at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ for a Eucharistic Holy Hour of reparation, to pray for the victims of sexual abuse and for their healing.
Many of our parishes have already begun to conduct special Eucharistic holy hours to pray for victims of sexual abuse and to make reparation for these sins. I have been offering Masses for the healing of victims, and will continue to do so. I encourage all of us to intensify our prayer and fasting.
First and foremost, we must pray for the victims of sexual abuse, for their healing and peace. Secondly, we need to pray for the Church during this time of intense purification and cleansing. It is no coincidence that we have just marked the 100th anniversary of apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima where Mary called us to pray, fast, and make reparation for sin, particularly reparation for sins of the flesh. I believe that Our Lady is now cleansing the Church, and calling us to make reparation for these horrible crimes and sins.
We are currently undergoing a purification in the Church — of epic proportions. Recently, someone related an analogy to me, comparing what we are going through now, to a prairie fire that farmers allow in order to burn off and cleanse their fields. These fires leave the earth scorched, destroying everything in its path. New life begins to emerge very quickly after the fire, in the form of wild flowers, the seeds of which are buried in the soil.
Like a prairie fire, God, in his mysterious providence, is allowing the fire of his love to shine in the darkness, exposing sin and evil, that we might be purified and renewed “in the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
We need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and on his saving cross. The scriptures tell us that Jesus “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7). Through the mystery of his suffering, death and resurrection, we are healed and made whole again. Jesus has already won the victory, and therefore we must cling to his cross.
In the cross of Jesus we know we are not alone. He knows our sufferings and it is from the cross that he has given us his Blessed Mother to accompany us in our sufferings. Mary and the other women, along with the apostle John, were faithful to the end.
The Church as an institution is being cleansed from top to bottom. With Our Lady, Jesus is purifying the Church through the fire of his love and mercy, much like a prairie fire. And in the midst of this painful purification, God will raise up saints in our midst who, like the wild flower, will bring new life and beauty to our world.
Please join me in prayer at the Cathedral on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.