Cardinal Fernández: Offer Yourselves to the Lord ‘Like Clay Ready to be Molded’

Cardinal Fernández was one of several new cardinals to take possession of his titular church in recent weeks.

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández celebrates his Mass of titular possession at the Church of Sts. Urban and Lawrence at Prima Porta on the northern outskirts of Rome on Dec. 3, 2023.
Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández celebrates his Mass of titular possession at the Church of Sts. Urban and Lawrence at Prima Porta on the northern outskirts of Rome on Dec. 3, 2023. (photo: Elizabeth Alva/EWTN News / EWTN)

The new head of the Vatican’s doctrine office gave a homily in the suburbs of Rome this week in which he encouraged Catholics not to be like “hard stones” unwilling to change but to be like clay, ready to be transformed by the Lord.

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, took possession of his titular church on Dec. 3 on the northern outskirts of Rome, the parish church of Sts. Urban and Lawrence at Prima Porta.

In his homily, the Argentine cardinal, known as Pope Francis’ longtime personal theologian and ghostwriter, reflected on the prophet Isaiah’s words, “O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands,” on the first Sunday of Advent.

“When these words are spoken with the heart, it means that we let ourselves be shaped by the Lord, that we let ourselves be led by him, that we let ourselves be transformed by his grace,” Cardinal Fernández said.

“There are people who don’t let themselves be transformed, and they say: ‘I’m like this, I’m fine like this, what need do I have to change anything?’ Others say: ‘I don’t commit serious sins, I’m not vicious like others, what do I need to change?’ These people are not clay, they are hard stones that will not even be touched by the Holy Spirit. And then they die despite being alive because they no longer grow and improve, much less offer something new to the Lord.”

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández celebrates his Mass of titular possession at the Church of Sts. Urban and Lawrence at Prima Porta on the northern outskirts of Rome on Dec. 3, 2023. Credit: Elizabeth Alva/EWTN

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández celebrates his Mass of titular possession at the Church of Sts. Urban and Lawrence at Prima Porta on the northern outskirts of Rome on Dec. 3, 2023. Credit: Elizabeth Alva/EWTN

Cardinal Fernández noted that the Buddhists invite us to be adaptable and able to take many shapes, like water, and that the Chinese Daoist philosopher Laozi said that we must be “like the flexible branches of trees.”

“But the Word of God proposes something more personal,” he added. “To look into the eyes of God our Father, to establish a personal relationship with him and to say, ‘You are my Father.’”

“And then offer oneself to him as a handful of clay ready to be molded, ‘Mold me, Lord, as you will. I trust in your love, you know what is best for me, do with me what you will.’”

The cardinal also warned against the temptation of an idealism that “demands that everything be perfect in order to be happy.”

“In the midst of misery and darkness, there are many little things that are good, that are real. They may be imperfect, they may not be heaven, but they are real,” he said.

Pope Francis made Fernández a cardinal in the Catholic Church’s last consistory held on Sept. 30. 

In the three months since he took on the new role as the Vatican’s doctrine chief, Cardinal Fernández has responded to multiple questions, or “dubia,” from cardinals and bishops submitted to the dicastery, including on issues related to transgender persons and divorced and remarried Catholics.

Cardinal Fernández was one of several new cardinals to take possession of his titular church in recent weeks. 

Cardinals are assigned a titular church to formally make them a part of the Diocese of Rome, whose bishop is the pope. This means that cardinals are always linked to Rome, even if they reside elsewhere.

Portugal’s Cardinal Américo Aguiar also took possession of his church, the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua located near the Lateran Palace, on Sunday; and Poland’s Cardinal Grzegorz Ryś became the first cardinal in history to hold the 20th-century church Sts. Cyril and Methodius near Ostia as his titular church on Nov. 22.

Cardinal Claudio Gugerotti, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, is scheduled to take possession of his titular church dedicated to St. Ambrose on Dec. 7, and Cardinal Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla of Juba, South Sudan, will offer his first Mass at his church, St. Gemma Galgani at Monte Sacro, on Dec. 10.

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