Culture of Life
A Bear, a Shell, a King
User’s Guide to Sunday
BY Tom & April Hoopes
April 13-19, 2008 Issue | Posted 4/8/08 at 5:12 PM
April 20 is the Fifth Sunday in Easter (Year A, Cycle II). Pope Benedict will visit Ground Zero, site of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, at 9:30 a.m. At 2:30 p.m., he’ll say Mass at Yankee Stadium. At 8 in the evening, after taking a helicopter from a heliport on Wall Street, he will depart from JFK Airport.
Pope2008.com will carry live video feed courtesy of EWTN and the Register’s blogging on the Pope’s events in the United States.
Help your family get excited about the Pope. Watch some of the visit, share any stories of encounters with the Holy Father and explain what Pope Benedict’s coat of arms says about him. The three symbols on it are:
A Shell. This symbol of baptism is also a visual reference to a story of one of Pope Benedict’s favorite saints. St. Augustine was once walking along the beach trying to understand how God could be both three and one. He saw a boy using a shell to pour seawater into a little hole. Augustine asked him why and he said, “I am emptying the sea into this hole.” “That’s impossible,” he said. “And so is it impossible for your mortal mind to comprehend God,” said the child. The Pope sees this as an important commentary on the limits of a theologian’s knowledge.
The Ethiopian King. Pope Benedict is originally from the diocese of Freising, Germany, whose coat of arms features the heraldic symbol known as a “Moor’s head.” Pope Benedict uses a crowned head. The symbol is a reference to Prester John, the Ethiopian priest and king who helped defend Bavaria, and also to Balthazar, one of the Magi from the Bible. Pope Benedict said of the symbol: “For me it is it is an expression of the universality of the Church, which knows no distinctions of race or class since all are one in Christ.”
Bear With Backpack. The Diocese of Freising was founded by St. Corbinian, whose horse, in one legend, was killed by a bear when he was on his way to Rome. The saint commanded the bear to carry his load instead. The bear represents obedience to God’s will. Before he became Pope, Benedict was looking forward to returning to his beloved Bavaria. But, like the bear, he has gone to Rome carrying the weight of his office instead.
The Keys and the Pallium. The coat of arms also includes two symbols of the Holy Father’s work.
First, the keys of authority that Christ gave Peter (Matthew 16:19): “I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Second, the wool pallium, sign of a shepherd: Christ made Peter a shepherd, or pastor, when he said (John 21:16) “Tend my sheep.”
Acts 6:1-7; Psalms 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12
Epriest.com offers free homily packs for priests.
Today’s Gospel is a particular favorite of ours, because in it Christ promises that in his Father’s house there are “many dwelling places” — translated “many mansions” in the Douay Rheims version — and that he has gone there to prepare a place for us.
Our children have enjoyed watching ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” but the show inevitably makes them start longing for their own dream house. This passage tells us that we each have our own “dream house” awaiting us.
With God’s grace, if we watch and pray, we can one day see our dwelling place, more wonderful than we can imagine.
The Hoopeses are
editorial directors of
Faith & Family magazine.
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