Monthly Archives: November 2011

Thanksgiving – Already?

Two years ago, our holy father, Pope Bendict XVI, said “the thanksgiving to God expressed in the Mozart Mass in C Minor is not a superficial gratitude given lightly.” The piece was played for his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger’s 85th birthday in January of 2009.  The Pope continued: “the piece is wholehearted and reflects Mozart’s interior struggle, his search for forgiveness, the mercy of God and, then, from these depths, his joy in God shines more brightly than ever.”

Gratitude, my dear brothers and sisters, is an astonishing thing; a rare pearl in the jewel box of human sentiment, a treasure that multiplies as it is spent.  For Mozart, gratitude was expressed in such a rare mixture of sound that one might think the angels delivered it note for note.  In a wonderful abandonment of time and space, the listener is captivated, and the soul takes flight.  Gratitude fills the mind and heart of humanity on so many different levels and in so many ways.  Music is one of the most common ways to express gratitude, but there are so many others.

Our Eucharist – the true presence of Jesus Christ: body, blood, soul, and divinity – constitutes for us the most eloquent and complete expressions of gratitude we can ever know in this life!  Our hearts and minds cannot contain the mystery; and the soul, the eternal part of our being, experiences a joy that we may not fully know until we experience it completely in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Thanksgiving is a great holiday, a national “free-day” for most folks.

At least until now, it remains unsullied by consumerism that is ever so gradually clutching and grabbing at its short span of just a few hours of family gathering and tradition.  As family life weakens in our nation, Thanksgiving is becoming a chore and a duty, an obligation of some forgotten simpler way of life that could be so much more “hip” if we could just “move it along.”

Like a Mozart symphony or motet, gratitude needs to be lavish and savored.  Take your time saying: “Thanks!”

Express yourself with joy and with an open heart.  May this national holiday, the patrimony of presidents, and the tradition of our great and beloved country, truly remind us to lift up our minds and hearts to God.  However rich or poor, however grand or simple, the words: “thank you” are an offering of the heart; they bring us great contentment, knowing that we recognize the goodness of others.

“Thank you” makes us realize further that we are not alone and that we are subject to others.

“Thank you” inspires us with true humility and helps us know that we are loved.

Thank you, my dear brothers and sisters.  May you share the bounty of God’s good earth with one another as He intends. God be with you.

…and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.

American and Catholic – what a country!

I probably don’t need to tell you that, years ago, being a Catholic in our beloved country was a major problem! Yes, it is true. You think trying to get a job today is tough; in those days being a Catholic (largely determined by your ethnic background) meant: “Catholics not welcome.” Well, the old adage: “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” is certainly getting some revision in our day.

As the nation looks over and considers the results of this week’s election, the bishops of the USA are looking at a situation that stirs the hearts of many Catholics and touches us deeply as people of faith and as patriots.

I often speak about the challenge of living our faith courageously when I teach the young people at confirmation celebrations. I don’t think that I can impress the point clearly enough or often enough that when the bishop used to tap us on the cheek, he urged us to be mindful that we were preparing to do battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The “peace of Christ” is the greeting used by the bishop, then, and now, to instill the sense of valor that can only be used by an authentic “soldier of Christ.” Times and rituals have changed and, somehow, the mettle of Catholic courage to be about the work of Christ in the world seems weakened to a thin veneer of humanistic courtesy at best.

Last month, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, led by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, announced a new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, with Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., as the chairman. Through this Committee, we bishops will be able to take action on major issues that affect us as Catholics and as Americans.

Catholic teaching is being challenged in such essential areas as mandated coverage of contraception (including abortifacients) and sterilization in all private health insurance plans; Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is concerned that the  United States Agency for International Development (USAID), under the direction of the Department of State, is increasingly requiring condom distribution, along with “reproductive health activities” including artificial contraception within a wide range of international relief and development programs; the Department of Justice has ratcheted up its attack on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as an act of bigotry claiming that supporters of the law could only have been motivated by bias and prejudice. If the label of “bigot” sticks to us because of our teaching on marriage, court battles could go on for years!

So many areas affect our lives as Catholics and Americans. It is important to stay informed as a citizen and stay active as a Catholic in your faith. The bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee will work closely with national organizations, charities, ecumenical and interreligious partners, and scholars to form a united and forceful front in defense of religious freedom in our nation. The Framers of the Constitution themselves understood this “First Freedom” to be based on the norms inherent in natural law – namely, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Being a Catholic and being an American is all part of the great gifts of freedom in our society. What a Faith! What a Country! God bless it!

…and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!

Francis and his / our Assisi

Depending how you reckon the time of his birth, folks note that we are celebrating the 830thbirthday of Saint Francis of Assisi. Francis is a very popular saint ­for many reasons. As a Franciscan, I would hasten to say that his popularity is certainly not centered only on ecological ideals – not by a long shot!

While that may make him universally “acceptable,” what made him a saint was his incredible understanding of the love of God. His understanding was so different from anyone else – he really “got” the Incarnation. This made all the difference in the world. He understood God on God’s terms – God loves us! God became one of us, in Jesus, to show us how much He loves us! Jesus shows us the perfectibility of man as He redeems us and brings us back to unity with our Father. This is what Francis understood; and in his hometown of Assisi, the air is filled with the peace that this understanding imparts to everyone who ever has had the awesome gift of God’s providence to go there.

Twenty-five years ago, in 1986, Blessed John Paul II joined the religious leaders of the world at the tomb of Saint Francis for an amazing gathering of prayer for peace. Last week, our beloved Pope Benedict XVI gathered with 176 religious leaders and people of good will to breathe the air of Assisi and be transformed again by God’s gift of peace that centers on the mystery of Jesus Christ and His humble servant, Francis, who sought to be an instrument of that true peace!

Marking the event that was titled: “Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace,” His Holiness pointed out that in these past 25 years much has changed in the world. John Paul’s gathering took place just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The pope noted that the forms of violence that have replaced it are different and far more insidious.

“Let us try to identify the new faces of violence and discord more closely,” the Holy Father suggested. “It seems to me that, in broad strokes, we may distinguish two types of the new forms of violence, which are the very antithesis of each other in terms of their motivation and manifest a number of differences in detail.”

The pope spoke of terrorism, a phenomenon in which religion “does not serve peace,” but is “used as justification for violence.” A type of discord in which “everything that had been commonly recognized and sanctioned in international law as the limit of violence is overruled.”

Benedict XVI then turned his attention to another basic type of violence, precisely the opposite of the first. It occurs “as a result of God’s absence, his denial and the loss of humanity which goes hand in hand with it.”

“The denial of God has led to much cruelty and to a degree of violence that knows no bounds, which only becomes possible when man no longer recognizes any criterion or any judge above himself, having only himself to take as a criterion,” the pope observed.

Though mentioning the concentration camps in this regard, he clarified that he would not speak about state-imposed atheism, but rather “about the decline of man, which is accompanied by a change in the spiritual climate that occurs imperceptibly and hence is all the more dangerous.”

These profound reflections made in the city of Assisi continue to give witness to the reality of Francis’ spirit there. It is the true presence of perhaps one of the greatest witnesses to the Incarnation.

Francis, after his conversion, used to walk the streets of Assisi and weep out loud, crying that “Love, was not loved.” This was his simple way of noting the very thing that Pope Benedict and Blessed John Paul have called to our attention in our own day: God loves you … he’d like you to return the favor!

… and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!