Posts Tagged ‘Family’
For over a year, I have felt the desire to gather some theologians to pray and discuss the truth regarding the human person, family and marriage. Along with so many others in our Church and society today, we are searching for a positive way to address the many challenges our culture is both facing and creating.
One does not have to be too attentive to world headlines and local news to be aware of the troubling times we live in; wars in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Ukraine, Africa; violence of so many forms with school shootings, drive by shootings, domestic violence, police officers being shot, the list just goes on.
There are no simple answers to either understanding all of these realities nor to solving them, but at the heart of it all is a lack of understanding and respect for the dignity of the human person.
In addition to the already mentioned violence, we are also seeing serious threats to traditional marriage and family life.
Desiring not to remain silent in the face of these serious social challenges, I asked a group of theologians from the Wyoming Catholic College along with our Director of Pastoral Ministries, Deacon Vernon Dobelmann to spend a day with me in prayer and study.
Each of the group was given an assigned topic to research and to prepare a study paper on their findings. Joining the effort were Dr. Kevin Roberts, President of the Wyoming Catholic College, Dr. Jeremy Holmes, Dr. Elizabeth Mortensen and her husband, Dr. John Mortensen, Academic Dean of the Wyoming Catholic College.
The Second Vatican Council and our present Holy Father, Pope Francis remind us that we are not to remain separated from the world and all of its challenges. Rather, we are to be engaged with the world, bringing the light of Jesus Christ into the world, as yeast mixed with bread dough. This means that we cannot be afraid to share the Good News of our faith in a manner that heals the ills of our world, one person at a time if necessary.
Our day together this past Thursday was very fruitful. It was a real gift to set aside such quality time for serious discussion of serious societal issues, and to do so with hope in faith. It is my strong desire at this time to begin writing a pastoral letter on the topic of the dignity of the human person and the dignity and sanctity of marriage and the beauty of family life. Our Church teaching is rich, and has so much that is positive and good to say about the human person, about human sexuality, marriage and family, and the more of us that step up to live this teaching in all of its richness, we can and will begin to make a difference that serves the common good of the broader society.
Please pray for me and those who will assist in the preparation of this pastoral letter. More importantly, continue to pray for peace in each human heart, every home, community and nation.
This Sunday, as with so many Sunday’s in Spring, there are many moments calling for reflection. First and foremost, a very Happy Mother’s Day to all our moms! By God’s providential and loving plan, there would be no life without women, and more particularly, without moms. May all of our moms enjoy a memorable day, and may you know of the love and gratitude of your children.
I just spoke with my mom and the family gathered in Tell City. They were busy opening the pool for another summer season. I guarantee you no such events are taking place here in Wyoming today, where we are experiencing one of those Spring Winter Storms, snow, ice, and 20 – 35 mph winds.
Today is also Good Shepherd Sunday. A good part of the renewal of the Church will require more and more of our people to come to know Jesus in such a familiar way that we will so fall in love with Him that we will follow Him faithfully. Following of course begs the question: “where?” Today’s psalm response (Psaom 23) gives the answer: “to verdant pastures, restful waters, right paths, a banquet table, a place of anointing, a place of goodness and kindness, the eternal dwelling of the LORD.”
Good Shepherd Sunday is a time for each of us to listen for the Voice of Jesus, and to be attentive to this voice over all others, which prove to be mere distractions during this pilgrimage of faith. Today is an invitation to renew our conviction that the LORD is the Good Shepherd Who alone can give us what we long for – communion with Himself. Each of us is to grow in the wisdom that understands that only in following Jesus can we achieve the destiny of our life.
I pray that more and more families will place Jesus at the center of their lives. I pray that more and more young people will humbly pray to know the Good Shepherd, that He may lead them to understand and embrace God’s will in their life. I pray that every parish and family will call discover and empower the vocations our Church so desperately needs of holy married men and women and especially the vocations of religious and priests. Christ is calling. Let us listen.
If Christ is calling your son or grandson to become a priest, will you support this call and support your son / grandson to answer this call? If Christ is calling you to be a priest or religious, will you answer? … will you follow Him? I pray the answer will always be “Yes.”
Finally, some brief thoughts about yesterday’s graduation ceremony at Wyoming Catholic College. In keeping with tradition, this year’s graduating senior chosen to give the senior address was Joanna Mason from Rockville, Maryland. It is so refreshing to hear a young adult speak so articulately and comfortably of her faith. Her address clearly reflects that this class of graduates understands that they are to go into the world to carry on the great commission of Jesus Christ, following Him as our Good Shepherd, proclaiming the Good News, and setting the world on fire with the approaching Kingdom of God. Well done, Joanna and graduates. You give great hope to this bishop, and to many others.
I could not help but share at the banquet on Friday night my hopes for the future of these graduates. If I can do what I am doing as a bishop with the education I received, I cannot wait to see what this group of young people will do with the unique education they have received at Wyoming Catholic College.
I also wish to acknowledge what a fine commencement address Bishop James Conley delivered. He obviously shares an education very similar to what these young graduates of Wyoming Catholic College have received. Bishop Conley understands what a treasure a liberal arts education is, as well as how that rich gift imbued with faith is the remedy for the poverty of today’s society.
His challenge to the young graduates was to recognize the great treasure of our Christians faith along with our relationship in Christ. True human satisfaction comes from following Christ and living a life of witness to our faith in him. The encouraging reality for me is that I believe Wyoming Catholic graduates understand this fundamental truth.
Bishop Conley was also awarded this year’s Sedes Sapientiae Award. This award is given each year by the Wyoming Catholic College in honor of the College’s Patroness, the Blessed Virgin Mary. The award recognizes a Catholic who has made an outstanding contribution to articulating and defending the Faith in today’s Church.
Congratulations to our Wyoming Catholic graduates of 2014!
(photos courtesy of Joseph Susanka)
A long held tradition in the Voges (my mother’s maiden name) and Etienne families has been baking lots of cookies and other goodies to get ready for Christmas. One of my fondest memories were the days we spent baking a traditional Christmas cookie called Hartshorn. Last Christmas, I searched high and low here in Wyoming for the main ingredient, and it was nowhere to be found. So, this year while back in Southern Indiana for Thanksgiving, I stopped in a store I knew sold the Hartshorn, and brought an ounce back to Wyoming.
My mother always had a true gift for ‘building family’ with so many traditions. Cutting out cookies from dough, decorating the cookies with all sorts of sugar sprinkles, and baking these Hartshorn cookies ranks among one of my favorite memories as a child, that still to this day is one of those events that helps ‘make Christmas.’ Today, for the first time since I have been here in Wyoming, I gathered some friends and we decorated the Christmas tree and baked cookies.
In reality, the cookies are the lesser of the main ingredients for building community. The simple gathering of people for a common effort, visiting, sharing a common goal, listening to music and making memories is a basic for building community; building relationships. These relationships are at the heart of family, and are at the heart of Church.
I am so grateful to my Grandmother and my mother for making so many great memories from my childhood – not to mention so much good food! Jesus knew what he was doing when he gathered people around a meal. Life revolves around eating, and just as equally, around relationships.
If your Christmas and other holidays do not hold many such traditions, I strongly encourage your family to make your own. I also suggest that making memories in a kitchen is a great place to start!
Rejoice! It is Gaudete Sunday. The Lord is near!
This morning was an early public start as I joined the Wyoming Stock Growers Association for their annual prayer breakfast. As I have been in Wyoming now for three and a half years, I appreciated the invitation to offer an inspirational message this morning.
I am becoming more aware of a disturbing reality in our world today, and that is how separated people are from their use of energy and their knowledge and understanding of where that energy comes from. The same is true of food. People have little perception or appreciation for where food comes from and the people and the varied processes it takes to put meals before them.
My presentation this morning drew upon the reality of creation. It seems the best avenue for having a better understanding of energy and food, is to have a greater consciousness regarding creation. And the best way to grow in one’s understanding of creation is to grow in right relationship with the Creator. I spent quite a bit of time this week reflecting on the Creation account of the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis, and this served as the source of my presentation this morning.
Ranchers have been entrusted with a tremendous gift with the lands and streams they manage, along with the herds of cattle, horses and flocks of sheep. I have often admired the way of life of ranchers and farmers. People who make their living from the land have a unique opportunity to work hand-in-hand with God, and in the process learn much about the natural cycle of life and death, in a way that leads to a deep appreciation for the dignity and sanctity for all of life and creation.
For example, my neighbor back in Indiana had a mare that was due to foal any day. As he did not have any stallions on his place, I asked him, “what are you expecting?” He said: “I don’t know, but I hope it is a Bobcat with implements.” Now, we all know that Bobcats do not come from horses. Stock growers and their knowledge of husbandry know colts come from horses and calves come from cows. If we as a human family could come to the same appreciation and respect that women give birth to babies, and not anything else.
The regularity and harmony of nature is a beauty and wonder all by itself. The regular cycle of sunrise and sunset and seasons tell us of the constancy and Providence of God. These consistent realities of nature tell us that we can trust God. Indeed, the Psalms say: “the just man places his trust in God.”
At the same time, we know that nature can be quite harsh and demanding. Spring snow storms can take the lives of newly born livestock, even some of the mature animals. Drought, which is a regular part of life in the West also takes a toll. These difficult realities of nature tell us that we do not and will not experience the fullness of God’s Kingdom in this life. They are reminders that Life resides in its fullness only in God, and that we are God’s servants. He is not ours.
Finally, I shared some of my experience from a cattle drive last July. There was a young boy who rode with us that day, and he was a genius with a horse. He was so in union with his horse that he could get that horse to do whatever he wanted, and thus move the cattle wherever he needed them to go.
This is a great analogy for us. We are to be in such an intimate communion with God, that we are doing His work, His will, according to His laws and ways.
I invited those present to realize that God envisioned them from the beginning of time. He knew He would entrust to them their present ‘piece of heaven’ in this particular period of salvation history. I challenged them to be good stewards of their piece of God’s creation. Be collaborators of God. Allow faith to inform the way they manage the land and relate with their family and workers. What they have is about far more than profit; it is about a way of life. Treat your workers with respect and pay them a decent wage, so that they may enjoy this way of life and provide for their families.
We are called to live in right relationship with God, with God’s creation, and with our neighbor. Thus we keep the great commandment of Jesus, to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. God created everything to be in complete harmony. If and when we seek first harmony with God, greater harmony with God’s people and God’s creation will more easily be accomplished.
Today the Church celebrates a feast of St. Joseph the Worker. This day gives us pause to reflect upon the dignity of work. Through our labors, we are co-creators in a sense, laboring with the elements of God’s good creation, to produce the goods for the world’s population. Labor is also a means of continuing to discover the secrets of God’s creation in order to better sustain the human person and community with the dignity they deserve. The more obvious beauty of human labor is the means it provides to support those we love, namely, the human family.
May is also dedicated to the Blessed Mother. Mary is the Mother of Jesus and through Jesus, the Mother of the Church. This month we are all invited to seek Mary’s intercession on behalf of all families, especially the family of God that is the Church. This Year of Faith is a call to all of us to grow in our relationship with Jesus, and Mary desires nothing more than to draw us close to her Son.
Of course, when we think of Joseph and Mary together, we think of the Holy Family. And, today, there are many families that are in need of our practical assistance, namely, the many families that are separated because of our nation’s immigration laws.
When I was in Gillette a few weeks ago, I met briefly with three individuals from our Hispanic community. They made a strong plea on behalf of all the Latinos that I as their bishop do all that I can to encourage immigration reform. There are numerous reasons for their plea, but one of the most urgent is that our present immigration laws are keeping families apart, or threatening to take parents from children.
Many of the individuals that came here years ago have had families. Their children are now legal citizens of the US because they were born here. Their parents have worked here and have made great contributions to the communities where they live, often taking jobs that no one else wants. They live with a fear that one day, they could be deported, possibly never seeing their spouse or children again.
Our current immigration laws would require that illegal immigrants to return to their native homeland prior to applying for permission to enter the country. The present law also requires that these persons ‘get at the end of the line’ to make application, sometimes waiting up to ten years. As you can imagine, this would be an intolerable burden on a husband, father, wife or mother, families to make.
So, as we honor St. Joseph today along with the Blessed Mother this month, let us keep in our prayers the immigrants. Let us pray for just legislation. Let us pray for the strengthening of all families. Let us pray for the many unemployed. Let us pray for the peace and harmony of all God’s family. May we learn to live in peace. May we strive to work for justice for all.
The Church’s understanding of the human person as well as her understanding of the family and marriage are beautiful, and timely (timeless!).
Today’s instruction comes from the Compendium Of The Social Doctrine Of The Church. I apologize that the footnotes are not included, but for further reading and study, you may access the entire document through the Vatican Website:
213. The family, the natural community in which human social nature is experienced, makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the good of society. The family unit, in fact, is born from the communion of persons. “‘Communion‘ has to do with the personal relationship between the ‘I’ and the ‘thou’. ‘Community‘ on the other hand transcends this framework and moves towards a ‘society’, a ‘we’. The family, as a community of persons, is thus the first human ‘society’“.
A society built on a family scale is the best guarantee against drifting off course into individualism or collectivism, because within the family the person is always at the centre of attention as an end and never as a means. It is patently clear that the good of persons and the proper functioning of society are closely connected “with the healthy state of conjugal and family life”. Without families that are strong in their communion and stable in their commitment peoples grow weak. In the family, moral values are taught starting from the very first years of life, the spiritual heritage of the religious community and the cultural legacy of the nation are transmitted. In the family one learns social responsibility and solidarity.
214. The priority of the family over society and over the State must be affirmed. The family in fact, at least in its procreative function, is the condition itself for their existence. With regard to other functions that benefit each of its members, it proceeds in importance and value the functions that society and the State are called to perform. The family possesses inviolable rights and finds its legitimization in human nature and not in being recognized by the State. The family, then, does not exist for society or the State, but society and the State exist for the family.
Every social model that intends to serve the good of man must not overlook the centrality and social responsibility of the family. In their relationship to the family, society and the State are seriously obligated to observe the principle of subsidiarity. In virtue of this principle, public authorities may not take away from the family tasks which it can accomplish well by itself or in free association with other families; on the other hand, these same authorities have the duty to sustain the family, ensuring that it has all the assistance that it needs to fulfil properly its responsibilities.
II. MARRIAGE, THE FOUNDATION OF THE FAMILY
215. The family has its foundation in the free choice of the spouses to unite themselves in marriage, in respect for the meaning and values of this institution that does not depend on man but on God himself: “For the good of the spouses and their offspring as well as of society, this sacred bond no longer depends on human decision alone. For God himself is the author of marriage and has endowed it with various benefits and purposes”. Therefore, the institution of marriage — “intimate partnership of life and love … established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws”  — is not the result of human conventions or of legislative prescriptions but acquires its stability from divine disposition. It is an institution born, even in the eyes of society, “from the human act by which the partners mutually surrender themselves to each other”, and is founded on the very nature of that conjugal love which, as a total and exclusive gift of person to person, entails a definitive commitment expressed by mutual, irrevocable and public consent. This commitment means that the relationships among family members are marked also by a sense of justice and, therefore, by respect for mutual rights and duties.
216. No power can abolish the natural right to marriage or modify its traits and purpose. Marriage in fact is endowed with its own proper, innate and permanent characteristics.
One of the practices I began when named a bishop is to take the month of July not so much as a vacation month, but to take more time for prayer and study, and less time in the office. I am still available to my staff, and willing to schedule appointments as needed, but my focus is more on my interior life, and less on the external demands of the office.
As you may expect, it has been a blessing to spend more time in silence before the Blessed Sacrament. Much as married couples, celibates must take time to nurture their relationship with the LORD. So far this month, I have spent less time telling the LORD what my needs are, and more time simply recalling His goodness, fidelity, and love. It has been a time to renew my own desire for Him, and be mindful of His great desire for me.
This kind of prayer is very much what the coming Year of Faith is calling us to. Spending quiet time with the LORD and His WORD are central to our Christian life and identity, and are the fonts that give life to all our work, apostolic as well as worldly. This being soundly rooted in the LORD is what makes our worldly, daily life, apostolic.
Today’s Gospel leads me to pray for all God’s people to be open to Him, to Christ, to His Gospel and His Church.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. (Matthew 11:21, 23)
This seems so in line with the thought captured in this week’s Opening Prayer for Mass:
O God, who show the light of your truth to those who go astray, so that they may return to the right path, give all who for the faith they profess are accounted Christians the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the name of Christ and strive after all that does it honor… (Opening Prayer, Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time)
I pray that our world, today’s society and culture will be open to hear God’s WORD. I pray that the values and laws of today will no longer be established by opinion polls, but firmly rooted in the unchanging Truth of God’s law. I pray that we will all spend more time seeking the Common Good (God’s will), and less time promoting and protecting selfish personal agendas.
Our Diocesan Strategic Plan invites our families (all of us) to renew their own Sacramental practice in the life of the Church. I pray all or our people will spend more time in prayer, and let their own desire for the LORD lead them to strengthen His life in them, and their life in Him, through the Sacraments of the Church.
I know our families are under many demands today, with economics and social pressures. For these reasons, we need the Light that comes from the Gospel. We need the Truth of the Gospel that is unchanging. We need the steady guidance of the Tradition of the Church to maintain our own secure foundation in this world.
Our world, as each of us, truly needs God, and many of the needs of our present world can only be met by God. However, God still seeks our free, and willing cooperation with His plan. Let us pray for true Wisdom for all people to not withdraw from God. May each of us be open to this Providential will of God, and let us pray for a greater openness in the world around us to Good God desires for us.
As this American holiday sees people traversing the country, and families gathering in many settings, just wanted to express my prayerful gratitude for all of you. Family and friends are among the choicest of gifts in this life. May you enjoy these relationships in the days ahead. May our gatherings with family and friends remind us of our broader relationships in the family of God; for faith and love are the greatest gifts.
This past year certainly gives me pause to reflect on the presence and action of God in my life, and in the life of the Church. Last year at this time, I was preparing to make a big move from southern Indiana and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to Wyoming and the diocese of Cheyenne. What a marvelous gift was in store for me to greet my new “family” of faith.
This past week of traveling around the diocese and listening to people renews a spirit of deep gratitude within my heart for the faith that is alive and well, even in the face of the challenges of the present day. I am grateful for the many who are living their faith and encouraging and inspiring others, including me. Keep it up, gang, and God bless you for it!
After “missing a step” on the stairs, and falling down the rest this morning, I’m now “wide awake”! (I’ll be a little sore, but I’m fine.) Such missteps do have consequences. One such “misstep” of present day society is the topic of a newly released Pew survey regarding marriage. According to this latest survey, 4 in 10 say marriage is becoming obsolete.
Clearly, marriage and family life, and their definition, are two of the key and critical elements of fundamental society, and sacramental elements of faith and Church that are under threat today. Our challenge as Church is two-fold. First, we need to be able to understand the many factors that are behind present practice and thought, and second, we need to be clear and consistent regarding our teaching regarding the tremendous good and absolute necessity for marriage, as the union of a man and woman, and family life.
The reality in society today is that there are greater numbers of men and women choosing to cohabitate (live together without the benefit of marriage, civil or sacramental). As a former pastor who worked with numerous such couples, the reasons for this are many. The hopeful sign I experienced is that most of these young couples I spoke with were at least open to learn more about their faith life, and the teaching regarding the sacramental nature of human love, and the tremendous benefits of such sacramental love. The sad reality is there are still many more such couples who do not present themselves for such discussion and formation.
Another reality is a growing “openness” in society towards gays and lesbians, and in more and more states, desires to redefine marriage in a manner that allows for the civil recognition of the union of such couples. This societal issue is one more and more “promoted” through media and public television and movies. All of these representations in today’s TV shows, movies, print material and even national news coverage begins to influence the norms of acceptability among not only the young, but all age groups. These are powerful forces in our culture today, and their effect cannot be underestimated.
As the opening of this blog entry suggests, when we make missteps in society, there are consequences. We as Church are clear about our teaching around the dignity, sanctity, and necessity of marriage. From the opening pages of Sacred Scripture, we learn God has created us in His image, male and female He created us; and He created us to be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 1:26-28) This human love of man and woman is an essential part of God’s plan for all of humanity. It not only “mirrors” the very nature of God, but is the means by which God chooses to continue the creation of all humankind. It is a primoridal and essential expression in the human experience of the very love of God.
The essential reality and necessity for family is written into the commandments themselves when we are taught to honor our father and mother. (Exodus 20:12) The very first miracle of Jesus occured in the moment of a wedding in Cana. (John 2:1-12) I’m sure this was not conincidental. If from the beginning, God created man and woman in His own image, it seems only natural the first miracle continues this priority of marriage and family life.
I write on this topic because it will be one requiring more and more of our conscious effort, both in terms of practical teaching, and in terms of a continued effort in the public and political forum to come to the aid of the defense of marriage and family life. Our Bishops Conference is making great strides in producing materials to this very end. I encourage you to go to the USCCB website and review the materials presently available on marriage. I know I have asked that family life be one of the priorities for our diocesan strategic plan, and I have every hope and belief that others share this priority!
We cannot ignore this basic plan of God, and this basic teaching of Jesus regarding the dignity and sanctity of marriage and family life. In the coming week, look how many people will gather as family around the Thanksgiving table. There is no other source for each and every human person than Jesus Christ (for in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth (Colossians 1:16) through the love of man and woman. There cannot be any other legitimate source of human life.
May we continue to show our love for each and every human person, those born and unborn, and may we continue to do all we can to stand up for the dignity and sanctity of marriage and family life according to the plan of God.
For nearly sixteen years, my brother and I have owned some forested property in Southern Indiana. This part of the country is known for its beautiful hardwoods, such as White and Red Oak, Maple, Walnut, Cherry, Tulip Poplar, Ash, etc. We have had many years of enjoying a day off working in the woods, managing the forest, hunting, or simply enjoying the beauty of nature.
Nature has many things to teach us about life. For instance, these woods were harvested heavily at the time we bought the property, and needed a lot of attention. Because of the heavy harvest, we were suspicious of several large Oak trees that were left on the property. In time, nature revealed the “core” of the problem. Several years ago, the remnants of Hurricane Ike found its way across the property, taking down many trees. Several of these large Oak trees went down…they were hollow.
Even though these trees provided a lot of acorns over the years, and sheltered much wildlife, and had a certain beauty, in the end, there was not much “fruit” to show for the years of life. On the other hand, last year two beautiful White Oak trees died, and we harvested them and sawed them into 750 board feet of lumber…quite precious, and know that they provided the same basics through life as did the hollow trees.
Human life is very much the same. If we are to “leave something behind” in the end, how will the final judgement be made? How many people today are walking around “hollow”? How many are “solid at the core”? Such perspective helps us see to the “core of life”, where the things that really matter come to light; family, relationships, love, gentleness, patience, kindness, peace. (see Galatians 5:22-23) All of these are found in our basic need for God. All of these gifts are given and developed in our relationship with Jesus Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit.
This is why it is so essential to develop a deep, personal, spiritual life. The LORD develops the “core of life”, the heart. We find these principles in the teaching of Jesus, which means time spent reading and knowing Sacred Scripture. This means taking time to make the Sacraments of the Church a priority, so Christ can nurture His presence within us. This means making time for family and friends to nurture love and life. This means believing in such things as ultimate Truth, and not being afraid to drive the stake of Truth into the core of my life as the anchor that roots me in everything I do.
Please, God, make us solid in Truth and Love.