The following is a transcription of the homily delivered by Bishop Robert Hermann on Friday, November 13, 2015, at a solemn choral Requiem Mass in memory of Msgr. Joseph D. Pins, the previous rector of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis who passed away June 17, 2015.
Just hours before Mass, a coordinated series of terrorist attacks had taken place across Paris, France. At the time of the Mass, details were still emerging; nevertheless, Bishop Hermann took the opportunity to address the developing situation.
The entire Mass was recorded on Periscope, which you can watch here. The homily begins approximately at 15:50.
I think Monsignor Pins would say I would be remiss if I didn’t begin first by focusing on the tragedy that is something the whole world needs to focus on, and that is what is happening in Paris. As I understand it, in a concert hall a hundred people were killed, and they did catch one of the perpetrators. But there are other incidents around Paris that are happening also.
What this means is that tonight we were gathered for one purpose, but now we’re gathered for more than one purpose, and that is to offer up this Mass for Monsignor Pins, yes, but to keep in our prayers those who died, keep in our prayers the families of the victims, keep in our prayers the police and firemen, the medical officers, and all those who are trying to restore order, and those who are responsible for the safety of the people in Paris, not only now, but in the future.
And so now we pray for all of them, but we also pray for ISIS itself, because they too are victims. They’re victims of the evil one and they do not even know it. They do not know what they are doing. And so therefore we have a great high priest who prayed that prayer on Calvary: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And the more we pray for the victims – the perpetrators and those who were killed – the more that our hearts will be filled with peace, that we are imploring God above to come into the midst of this turmoil and to bring peace, to restore peace, and to make it a lasting peace. And so with that we want to make sure that we, like Christ, have pity on all those involved.
As we look tonight at this memorial mass, you are here because you have received so much from God through Monsignor Pins. You are here because you saw Jesus Christ, ministering through him. You heard Christ’s voice in his voice; you received Christ’s forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation. And some of you have attended funerals where he has ministered to the deceased. And some of you have attended weddings, maybe your own, where he was the chief minister. And so it is for those reasons that you are here tonight, thanking God for what you saw in him and heard from him, and what has touched your hearts and what has changed your lives. For that, tonight, we give thanks, and pray for Monsignor Pins.
I chose the readings that I thought, he would most appreciate. The first one is that profound belief that “the souls of the just are in the hands of God.” [Wis. 3:1] And how often did he not use those words to console the bereaved. “They are in peace for if before men indeed, they seem punished. Yet their hope is full of immortality. Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed because God tried them and found them worthy of Himself.” [Wis 3:3-5]
Monsignor Pins knew only too well that those who have gone before us are in the state of purification. He knew only too well [break in video] knew God loved him. He knew only too well that the greatest pain is, even though they know God loves them, they cannot see Him in glory. But they are so filled with hope because they know that that day is coming.
I want to move to the beatitudes where Christ goes up on a mountain and he says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” Christ went up on a mount, which was the throne between earth and Heaven; it was the earth’s throne for the Son of God. And when he saw these people come to him, he saw in them a blessedness – “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” [Matt. 5:3] Blessed are those who have nothing else but God, because God is their fullness. Happy are they, happy are they, because they have so much room for the God who loves them. He didn’t say “happy will you be.” He said “blessed are you.” You are so blessed right now, because you make up the kingdom. You are the ones that reflect God’s goodness to you and God’s goodness for others through you. As he looked on their faces, he saw the kingdom taking shape in their hearts. And this brought him great satisfaction. He was there to affirm all of them, in their brokenness, in their poverty, that they were so rich, because they had the greatest gift that anyone can receive, and that is they know their God, and they know their God lives in them, and God they know that their God has a plan for them for all eternity. And so, before Christ ascended into Heaven, he gave all authority to his disciples, to make disciples of all nations. And that has been passed down for 2,000 years.
And so in this parish then, it is Monsignor Pins, who for the past 11 years has celebrated Mass here, entered the confessional to forgive sins, mounted the pulpit to proclaim the words of Jesus, and in his [daily routine] was there to teach, to console, to reassure all those who came, to reassure them of God’s love for them. So what was it that Monsignor Pins saw in those who came to him? He saw the hunger of God. He saw the hunger of God waiting to pull forth from him wisdom, and compassion, and understanding, and forgiveness, and a word of hope. So often in the confessional he was there for the forlorn, for those who wanted a deeper freedom, for those who wanted forgiveness. And so much did he see happening in their hearts that he decided it’s not enough to do this on Saturday; he decided to do it every day, and to enlist other priests to help on Sunday, so the two priests would appear after 8 o’clock mass and after the ten o’clock mass. And the lines kept coming. Why? Because Monsignor saw the hunger on the faces of the parishioners who wanted this sacrament and grace; who wanted forgiveness for their sins.
His office was always open to those who had problems. He had an uncanny ability to listen and give them the freedom to get to the bottom of what it is that was bothering them. The listening alone freed up their hearts so much, because they got in touch with things they didn’t even know were inside. Then, with a word of encouragement, and a word of reassurance, and a prayer for continuity, he sent them forth with new hope and with new confidence. He prepared very faithfully for his homilies as well as for the celebration of Mass. This was a most sacred event for him and he wanted quality liturgies. Liturgies that are vertical. Liturgies that lift us into the heavens with quality music, quality cantors, quality preachers, quality proclaimers of the word, quality hospitality ministers who welcomed people. He was a pastor’s pastor and so many pastors sought him out for advice. Why? Because at the bottom, Monsignor Pins was a very prayerful person, probably the best read priest in the diocese, the one who comprehended everything he ever read. And the one who used the wisdom he read to guide his pastorate here at the Cathedral parish.
So it is for all of these reasons that we give thanks tonight, because he saw on your faces and heard in your voices a cry for Jesus. And that was his role: to bring you Jesus. So, tonight we are here to thank him. The greatest way we can thank him is to offer up the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which we are doing. And I want to conclude with a reading from the Book of Revelation. I’m sure that this reading was always uppermost in his mind everyday: “I, John, heard a voice from Heaven say, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ said the Spirit, ‘let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them.’” [Revelations 14:13] Not only does this apply to Monsignor Pins, it applies to all of us. This was his guiding light, to keep in our focus the kingdom that will last forever. Yes, let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them. So, as we offer up this Holy sacrifice of Mass, let us thank God, for the difference his ministry made in our hearts, and in the hearts of our families, and in the hearts of our friends. Amen.[end transcript]