A shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger! September 23rd brings an historic moment for the Stateside Church in Oklahoma and beyond – the first major beatification to take place on American soil, and that of the nation's first declared martyr. Beginning at 10am Central (11am ET, 5pm Rome) in Oklahoma City's 15,000-seat Cox Convention Center, the Mass declaring Fr Stanley Francis Rother (right) among the ranks of the Blessed will be celebrated. Read about it by clicking these buttons
‘It is better to go forward limping, and even at times to fall, while always trusting in the mercy of God, than to be “museum Christians” who are afraid of change.’ Pope Francis stressed this to participants of the 75th Congress of ‘Serra International’ today, Friday, June 23, 2017 in the Vatican. The June 22-25 congress in Rome has as its theme: “Siempre adelante. The Courage of Vocation.” The Jesuit Pontiff recalled that they were gathered to discover anew the meaning of every Christian vocation: to offer our lives as a gift, and that this made him wish to reflect on something “which is central” to the experience of faith: to be friends. “Today, the word ‘friend’ has become a bit overused,” the Pontiff said. “In our daily lives, we run into various people whom we call “friends”, but that is just a word we say,” he noted, especially in virtual communications. “When Jesus speaks of his “friends,” Francis highlighted, “he points to a hard truth: true friendship involves an encounter that draws me so near to the other person that I give something of my very self.” “We become friends, then, only if our encounter is more than something outward or formal, and becomes instead a way of sharing in the life of another person, an experience of compassion, a relationship that involves giving ourselves for others.” It is good, the Pontiff noted, for us to reflect on what friends do. “They stand at our side, gently and tenderly, along our journey; they listen to us closely, and can see beyond mere words; they are merciful when faced with our faults; they are non-judgmental. They are able to walk with us, helping us to feel joy in knowing that we are not alone. They do not always indulge us but, precisely because they love us, they honestly tell us when they disagree. They are there to pick us up whenever we fall.” He also noted there is a kind of friendship that you seek to offer to priests. “The Serra Club helps foster this beautiful vocation of being laity who are friends to priests. Friends who know how to accompany and sustain them in faith, in fidelity to prayer and apostolic commitment. Friends who share the wonder of a vocation, the courage of a definitive decision, the joy and fatigue of ministry. In this way, the way in which Serra often possesses sincere friendship with priests, he noted, is similar to the home of Bethany, where Jesus entrusted his weariness to Martha and Mary, and, thanks to their care, was able to find rest and refreshment. The Holy Father noted there is another phrase that describes you, namely that which they chose for the theme of their convention: “Siempre adelante! Keep moving forward!” Like them, the Pontiff noted, I believe that this is a synonym for the Christian vocation. “For the life of every missionary disciple bears the impress of his or her vocation. Vocation is an invitation to go forth from ourselves, to rejoice in our relationship with the Lord, and to journey along the ways that he opens up before us.” Of course, he said, we cannot make progress unless we take a risk. “We do not advance toward the goal if, as the Gospel says, we are afraid to lose our lives (cf. Mt 16:25-26). No ship would ever set out into the deep if it feared leaving the safety of the harbor. So too, Christians cannot enter into the transforming experience of God’s love unless they are open to new possibilities, and not tied to their own plans and cherished ways of doing things.” On the other hand, he pointed out, when Christians go about their daily lives without fear, they can discover God’s constant surprises. “A vocation is a calling received from another. It entails letting go of ourselves, setting out and placing ourselves at the service of a greater cause.” Pope Francis concluded, saying, “with courage, creativity and boldness, do not be afraid to renew your structures. Do not rest on your laurels, but be ever ready to try new things.”
The Sacred Heart of Christ is not a ‘holy card’ for the devout, but is “the heart of revelation, the heart of our faith, because He made Himself small,” choosing this way “of humbling Himself, of emptying Himself even to death on the Cross.” According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis stressed this during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, as the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Drawing inspiration from today’s first Reading, from the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses says that God has chosen us “from all the nations on the face of the earth to be a people peculiarly His own.” For this, God is praised, Pope Francis explained. because “in the Heart of Jesus, He gave us the grace to celebrate with joy the great mystery of our salvation, of His love for us,” that is to say, in celebrating our faith. The Holy Father dwelled on two words in the reading: “choosing,” and “smallness.” Choosing On choosing, the Holy Father said, it is not that we have chosen God, but rather, that God has made Himself “our prisoner.” “He has attached Himself to our life; He cannot detach Himself. He is strongly yoked! And He remains faithful in this attitude. We were chosen for love and this is our identity.” “‘I have chosen this religion, I have chosen…’ [we might say]. No,” Francis stressed, “you have not chosen. It is He Who has chosen you, has called you, and has joined Himself to you. And this is our faith. If we do not believe this, we don’t understand the message of Christ, we don’t understand the Gospel.” Smallness Turning to ‘smallness,’ the Jesuit Pope recalled that the Lord, Moses did say, chose the people of Israel because it was “the smallest of all nations.” “He was enamored of our smallness, and for this reason He has chosen us. And He chooses the small: not the great, the small. And He is revealed to the small: ‘you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.’ “And He not only chooses and reveals Himself to the little ones; He calls the little ones: ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.’” “But the great, does He not call them?” Francis asked. “His heart is open, but the great do not recognize His voice because they are not able to hear it because they are full of themselves. To hear the voice of the Lord, you must make yourself little.” The mystery of the Heart of Christ Coming to the mystery of the Heart of Christ, the Pope said, it is not a “holy card” for the devout. Rather, the transfixed Heart of Christ is “the heart of revelation, the heart of our faith, because He made Himself small, He has chosen this way”: that of humbling Himself, of emptying Himself “even to death on the Cross.” It is, the Pope said, “a choice for smallness, so that the glory of God might be manifest.” Today’s celebration, he reminded, is “of a Heart that loves, that chooses, that is faithful,” and that “is joined to us, is revealed to the little ones, calls the little ones, makes itself little.” “We believe in God, yes; yes in Jesus too, yes… ‘Is Jesus God?’ [someone asks.] ‘Yes,’ [we respond]. This is the manifestation, this is the glory of God. Fidelity in choosing, in joining Himself and making Himself little, even for Himself: to become small, to empty Himself.” “The problem of the faith is the core of our life: we can be so much, so virtuous, but with little or no faith; we must start from here, from the mystery of Jesus Christ, Who has saved us with His faithfulness.” Pope Francis concluded his homily with the prayer that the Lord might grant us the grace to celebrate “the great acts and works of salvation and redemption” in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
For the first time since the new administration began, leaders from a wide variety Christian denominations gathered on Wednesday to oppose budget cuts that would harm vulnerable people and devastate families living in poverty. Read about their statement by clicking the button that will take you to Deacon Walter Ayres' blog.
Several have asked what is the Catholic response to the withdrawal from the Paris agreement. Deacon Walter Ayres recently sent the following to the parishes in our Diocese. You may find it helpful. "Catholic leaders have not reacted positively to President Trump’s announcement yesterday that the United States will not honor the Paris climate agreement on climate change. The following information may help you respond to questions about the Church’s position on climate change. Before the decision was announced, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, director of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences told the Italian daily La Repubblica: “If Donald Trump really decides to pull the U.S. out of the Paris accord it will be a disaster for everyone.” Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, stressed that, although the Paris agreement is not the only possible mechanism for addressing global carbon mitigation, the lack of a current viable alternative is a serious concern. He said, "The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), along with Pope Francis and the entire Catholic Church, have consistently upheld the Paris agreement as an important international mechanism to promote environmental stewardship and encourage climate change mitigation. The President's decision not to honor the U.S. commitment to the Paris agreement is deeply troubling.”
The Catholic Climate Covenant issued a statement signed by representatives of several Catholic organizations, including Catholic Charities USA, Franciscan Action Network, Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. It said, in part: “Catholic teaching insists that climate change is a grave moral issue that threatens our commitments: to protect human life, health, dignity, and security; to exercise a preferential option for the poor; to promote the common good of which the climate is part; to live in solidarity with future generations; to realize peace; and to care for God’s good gift of creation.”
The statement went on to state, “We, the members of Catholic Climate Covenant, believe there is no justification for his decisions and we implore President Trump to reconsider this path. We will continue to raise our voices against climate policies that harm the planet and people while we will advocate for policies that respond to “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (Laudato Si’ no. 49, emphasis in original).”
I read an interesting article and interview with Cardinal Cupich as he reflects on how Pope Francis is "giving new life to Vatican II reforms". Read the interview by clicking on the picture of Pope Francis.
Donna Munafo from UpstateNY Ministry Network recently joined us for our 8:30 am Sunday liturgy. She wrote - "I enjoyed my visit, and I am sharing here the blog I wrote. I hope you enjoy it." Our thanks to Donna for her kind words and for the invitation she extends to many in our region to come pray at historic St. Mary's. (You can click on the image to go to her blog)
The noted Jesuit author Father James Martin, S.J., wrote this and while his words might make us uncomfortable, the question raises challenges each of us needs to consider. Originally a post on Father James Martin's public Facebook page, this reflection on the call to treat migrants and refugees as Christ went viral, and the accompanying video (see link above) has been viewed by over 3 million people and shared over 50,000 times. “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me.” President Trump has announced that he will order the construction of a Mexican border wall, the first in a series of actions to crack down on immigrants, which will include slashing the number of refugees who can resettle in the United States, and blocking Syrians and others from what are called “terror-prone nations” from entering, at least temporarily. These measures, which mean the rejection of the stranger, the rejection of the person in need, the rejection of those who suffer, are manifestly un-Christian and utterly contrary to the Gospel. Indeed, last year, Pope Francis said, "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the Gospel." But maybe you don’t want to listen to Pope Francis. Maybe you think that he was being too political. Or maybe you think Pope Francis is too progressive for you. Maybe you think that you have a right to refuse a person in need. And that you have the right to protect yourself. Well, we do have the right of self-protection. But refusing the one in need because you want to protect yourself, especially when the other is in desperate need and obvious danger, is not what Christianity is about. It’s about the opposite. It’s about helping the stranger, even if it carries some risk. That’s the Parable of the Good Samaritan in a nutshell. But if you still don’t want to listen to Pope Francis, then listen to Pope John Paul II, St. John Paul II, who wrote dozens of times about refugees and migrants. “Seek to help our brother and sister refugees in every possible way by providing a welcome…Show them an open mind and a warm heart,” he said. And as if predicting our current situation, he said, "It is necessary to guard against the rise of new forms of racism or xenophobic behavior, which attempt to make these brothers and sisters of ours scapegoats for what may be difficult local situations.” For this is an issue of life or death. Migrants flee from profound poverty, which causes suffering and can lead to death. Refugees flee from persecution, terror and war, out of fear for their lives. This is, then, one of the church’s life issues, so dear to St. John Paul II. But maybe you don’t want to listen to St. John Paul. Maybe you’re not Catholic. Then listen to the voice of God in the Book of Exodus, speaking to the people of Israel: “You shall not oppress the resident alien [i.e, the refugee] for you were aliens yourselves once, in the land of Egypt.” Every American heart should be stirred by that. Other than the Native Americans, all of us are descendants of immigrants. We were aliens ourselves once. But maybe you don’t want to listen to the Old Testament. Then, in the end, listen to Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew, he provides a litmus test for entrance into heaven. At the Last Judgment, he will say to people, “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me.” And people will say, “When were you a stranger and we did not take care of you?’ And he will say, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Jesus himself is speaking to you from the Gospels. It is Christ whom we turn away when we build walls. It is Christ whom we reject when we slash quotas for refugees. It is Christ whom we are killing, by letting them die in poverty and war rather than opening our doors. “Today,” St. John Paul II said, “the illegal migrant comes before us like that ‘stranger’ in whom Jesus asks to be recognized. To welcome him and to show him solidarity is a duty of hospitality and fidelity to Christian identity itself.” So, reject these measures and welcome Christ. Call your local legislators and tell them to care for Christ. Write to the White House and ask them to protect Christ. Show up at town hall meetings and advocate for Christ. And pray for our brothers and sisters who are refugees and migrants. Because if you do not, and you reject Christ, then it is their prayers that you will need.
This is a modest effort at a "blog" my attempt to offer some brief reflections each day that come from various sources that I find interesting - primarily the daily reflections of Pope Francis as found on Zenit and Rome Reports. Fr. John