I watched fascinated yesterday, June 29, the live broadcast of the Mass from St. Peter's for the great Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
It was the occasion for the Imposition of the Pallium.
Please see more photos of woolen pallia here.
And a nice photo of Papa Francesco receiving the three special pins (representing the three nails on the cross) on his own pallium when he became Pope.
The palllium is a symbol of communion with the successor of Peter; it shows some shared authority between the Pope and the archbishops.
This is really interesting, as told by Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans:
Each year on Jan. 21, the Feast of St. Agnes, the pope blesses two baby lambs. The Trappists, who oversee a flock of sheep at Tre Fontane, select the two choicest baby lambs from their flock for this purpose. The Feast of St. Agnes has been chosen because Agnes means lamb and the lamb has always been a symbol associated with this Roman virgin and martyr of the fourth century. When the lambs are brought to St. Agnes Church on their way to the pope, one is crowned with white roses to signify her virginity and one with red roses to signify martyrdom.
Every archbishop is challenged not only to a virginal spousal love for the church he serves, but also to be willing to suffer even martyrdom in witness to the faith.
After the lambs are presented to the Holy Father, they are transferred to the sheepfold at Castel Gandolfo, where a Vatican shepherd nurtures them. Approximately a month prior to June 29, the shearers remove their wool coats. Religious sisters then make the palliums for the new archbishops from this wool. Vatican officials insert the newly stitched palliums into a silver-gilt box located in a special alcove in the confessio of St. Peter’s Basilica overnight before the pallium ceremony. They rest here in a niche that is very close to the bones of St. Peter.
On June 29, the Holy Father celebrates the Eucharist with the new archbishops and, after the homily, places a pallium on the shoulders of each one. This expresses the solemn responsibility which each archbishop assumes to shepherd the flock of Christ entrusted to him. Like the shepherd who carries a lamb on his shoulders, the archbishop is to care for the flock entrusted to him with the care of the Good Shepherd.
- Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans
You know, I was a shepherd of real sheep in 1996-2002, part of my livestock responsibilities as a volunteer at the Arkansas ranch and learning center of Heifer International.
It is much easier to lead a herd than to move an individual sheep.
Sometimes, rather than dragging a recalcitrant bleating young sheep on a lead rope to a new place, I would just carry it on my shoulders.
Work-campers and visitors seeing this would immediately be transported to New Testament imagery.
But friends, let me tell you, that hot oily wool pressing on your sweating bare neck is often full of burrs and bugs, dirt and poop.
You must hold on tight to two hind legs and two front legs, all trying to pull away.
Sheep protest, they do not always lie passively.
They want off your shoulders, back on the dirt and back to the herd.
This experience of mine helps me appreciate the not-so-different hard work of pastors in their pastoral work with their flock. People can be a lot like sheep.
The video of the Imposition of the Pallium can be see at http://www.vatican.va/video/index.html , just go to June 29.
Papa Francesco's good sermon, translated to English, is here.