ROME — With a big smile and an outstretched hand, Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell said it was great to spend a Sunday morning in a parish like he had done for many years as bishop of Dallas.
“This is my Rome parish,” he told the congregation at the Church of St. Julian the Martyr on Via Cassia near the northern edge of the city.
The prefect of the new Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life entered the College of Cardinals in November, and Pope Francis chose St. Julian as his titular church, a sign of the cardinal’s bond with the Diocese of Rome.
In a brief ceremony before the regular 10:30 a.m. Mass, Cardinal Farrell took possession of his titular church Jan. 29 and then concelebrated Mass with the pastor, Father Massimo De Propris, and with his brother, Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
“We hope to see you here often,” Father De Propris told the cardinal. “You should always feel at home here.”
With boy and girl Scouts ages 6 to 18 ushering people in and serving them, the parish held a reception for the cardinal after Mass in the hall outside the parish theater.
The day’s Gospel reading was Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes, which, the cardinal said, was Jesus’ proclamation of what happiness is.
“It is a beatitude that, at first, seems to contrast with what we commonly think of as ways of being happy, those most widespread in our society, those that seem natural,” he said. “At first, it seems that to be blessed, to be happy, it is necessary first of all to increase our material wellbeing, our comfort, our social prestige, our possibilities for leisure and fun, economic security for the future, and so on.”
But the Beatitudes, he said, proclaim that “it is not possible to reach true happiness if one excludes a relationship with God and with one’s neighbors.”
In fragility, pain and difficulty, he said, believers learn to put their trust in God and to be sympathetic to the trials others are facing. They learn “to seek in God the true consolation for every affliction, mercy for every sin and the joy and peace of a life lived as children of God.”
Massimiliano Mascoli, a member of the parish council, said St. Julian’s has about 300 families who are very active in parish life, and “Father Massimo is not clerical at all, so he lets laity and young people be very involved.”
“We just renewed the parish Caritas organization, which is something we are very proud of,” he said.
Looking out at the congregation, with its grandparents and newborns and the big group of Scouts seated near the altar, Cardinal Farrell said that as head of the new office for laity, family and life, the parish of St. Julian was a perfect fit.
St. Julian of Sora, for whom the parish is named, was a young man beheaded in the year 161. His feast day is Jan. 27, but the parish moved its celebration to Jan. 29 so the cardinal and all the parishioners could join in.
Cardinal Farrell said St. Julian “encourages us to think about how today, too, there are many laypeople and many young people enthusiastic about their faith, ready to make many sacrifices to be coherent with their faith and to share it with others.”