Yesterday, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini–the former Archbishop of Milan–was laid to rest in the city’s venerable cathedral. Before his funeral Mass began, over 150,000 pilgrims prayerfully visited his remains.
His effect on the life of the Church, especially on the lives of young people of faith has been noted by Robert Christian. In many ways, he serves as a patron saint of Millennial and our attempt to engage the young faithful of this ancient tradition in a new century.
Some commentators have derided Martini for the remarks he made in an interview that was published posthumously. In the interview, he challenged the Church to work for “radical transformation.” Asked what he is doing to work for this change, Martini gave this lengthy response:
The church is 200 years behind the times. Why doesn’t it stir? Are we afraid? Is it fear rather than courage? In any event, the faith is the foundation of the church. Faith, trust, courage. I’m old and sick, and I depend on the help of others. Good people around me make me feel their love. This love is stronger than the sentiment of distrust that I feel every now and then with regard to the church in Europe. Only love defeats exhaustion. God is love. Now I have a question for you: What can you do for the church?
Embedded in these somewhat rambling, but prophetic remarks is this soul-stirring question: what can we do for the Church?
This question has caused ripples in the Church and and throughout the world. In death, Martini continued to do what he did throughout his life: to ask the heart of the Church and the margins of the world the same tough questions.
And who was one of the biggest admirers of Cardinal Martini and his approach? None other than the Holy Father.
For his funeral, Pope Benedict penned a letter in which he praised Cardinal Martini for being a “man of God” whose every thought and action was inspired by love of Christ. He also noted the Cardinal’s ability and desire to bring this love to all persons, even those distant from the Church and in “the most difficult situations.” The Holy Father continued:
He was, with a spirit of profound pastoral charity… attentive to all situations, especially the most difficult, lovingly close to those who were lost, the poor, the suffering.
The Holy Father gets it: Martini’s tough questions are necessary and his critiques must be heard. Why? Because they come from an authentic love of Jesus Christ and the Church and from a man who sought to do God’s work in this gritty reality. Are we willing to listen to him?
In what ways can we contribute?
What can we do–you and I–to make of this blessed, but broken Church something all the more blessed still?
Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, saint of God, pray for us.