For the second year in a row, the Diocese of Cheyenne invited legislators and other government officials to gather at the Cathedral of St. Mary with faith community leaders for an interfaith prayer service. Our crowd grew from last year to this year, and once again a tremendous amount of gratitude was expressed for the opportunity to bring the community together as an expression of unity and faith.
Rabbi Larry Moldo from Mt. Sinai Congregation in Cheyenne represented the Jewish community, Dr. Mohamed Salih from the Southeast Wyoming Islamic Center in Cheyenne represented our Islamic brothers and sisters, and there were many other representatives from the various Christian communities of Wyoming.
Rabbi Moldo, Dr. Salih and myself each offered a reading from the sacred texts along with a brief commentary. Other ministers were invited to offer prayers on behalf of our legislators, respect for human dignity, remembrance of all the poor and less fortunate and freedom to exercise our religious freedom. The was a well-attended reception following the prayer service for participants to enjoy some time socializing before everyone had to get on with the business of the day.
Below are my welcoming comments and reflection. Thanks once again to Matt Potter for providing photos from this morning’s prayer service. You can view all of the photos from this morning here.
Opening & Welcome:
Good morning! I wish to welcome all of you; my brothers and sisters who are ministers of the various faith communities throughout the State of Wyoming, all of our legislators and justices, all those who serve in any public office, and all who come as people of faith to join us in prayer.
This interfaith prayer service today is an expression that all revealed religions flow from a belief in One God. The Revealed Religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, share a common root in the tree of God’s Family, our Father Abraham. The One God, Creator of all things, calls every human person into life. The dignity of every human person is rooted in their being created in God’s image and likeness. Thus, the basic freedom of every human person is to worship God according to their own conscience. Our prayer this morning exercises our belief that every human person has the right to religious freedom. May our prayer this morning be an expression of the unity we share as brothers and sisters in the One Family of God.
READING: 1 John 4:11-21
People of Wyoming have known for generations the truth of the statement that God’s first book is creation. The beauty and grandeur of creation naturally leads the human person to discover the Creator himself. The harmony and laws of nature instill within us a search for truth and goodness. “Every human person is bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God … and to embrace it and hold onto it as they come to know it.” (Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis Humanae #1)
The laws that govern nature flow from the wisdom and love of God. This divine law is the highest form of human life, thus a well-ordered life recognizes God and the laws of divine wisdom and love. As God’s love gives order to all creation and each individual life, it is only reasonable to believe that God’s wisdom and love are necessary for a well-ordered society.
St. Pope John XXIII recognized this correlation when he taught in his encyclical Pacem in Terris (1963): “Peace on earth — which man throughout the ages has longed for and sought after — can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order.” (Pacem in Terris #1)
God is eternal, and so too his ways, his wisdom and his love are eternal. God calls out in love to every person. Indeed, it is in love that we hear most clearly the voice of God, who is always teaching us to live according to his way, the ways of peace and justice. The scripture we just heard reminds us: “If we love one another, God remains in us.” The same reading also reminds us that “We love because he first loved us.” Our love for one another is the path to remaining in God’s love, and thus the path to true justice and peace in our world today.
The Church through the years has expounded greatly upon the revealed Word of God in applying God’s wisdom to the lived circumstances of each generation. In the Compendium Of The Social Doctrine Of The Church #4, there is a concise and pertinent statement fitting to our prayer today:
Knowing that they are created and loved by God, people come to understand their own transcendent dignity; they learn not to be satisfied with only themselves, but to encounter their neighbor in a network of relationships that are ever authentically human. … They are people capable of bringing peace where there is conflict, of building and nurturing fraternal relationships where there is hatred, of seeking justice where the exploitation of man by man prevails. Only love is capable of radically transforming the relationships that men maintain among themselves.
It is God’s presence and action, the divine plan and providence that are at the heart of human dignity and true freedom. It is our free cooperation with God’s love that advances the common good and the well-being of every society.
Religion has a viable and vital role in building a just society. Human dignity and human rights are not bestowed by the state, but are inherent to every person by right of being a child of God. Thus the fundamental freedom of every person is the right to worship God and to live one’s faith free from any and all coercion. “Consequently to deny man the free exercise of religion in society, … is to do an injustice to the human person and to the very order established by God for men.” (Dignitatis Humanae #3)
St. John reminds us today that ‘perfect love drives out all fear.’ As a new legislative session begins today, may we cast out all fear, so as to live freely and fully in God’s love. May we cast out all fear as we seek together to build a society that recognizes and protects the dignity of every human person; a society where all are called and equipped to live fully the freedom that is ours as the one family of God.
“The crowd was pressing in on Jesus…” In today’s Gospel (Luke 5:1-11), Jesus is seen preaching along the Lake of Gennesaret, or perhaps better known as the Sea of Galilee. Our initial focus is not so much on the crowd as it is upon the person of Jesus. Even though the crowd is coming to Jesus, it is Jesus who has come to them, who makes himself available to them.
Jesus as God’s Son has ‘gone out’ from his heavenly home to take on our human flesh; he enters the world to meet us. Jesus who grew up in Nazareth has now gone out into the surrounding area of Galilee to preach the word of God and to call others to follow him. From the Sea of Galilee Jesus wades into the sea of humanity to speak to us, to touch our hearts and our flesh, to heal us and lead us to our true home. Even though there are large crowds who come seeking him, Jesus still takes the time to enter into personal relationships, which he does today with his first followers, namely Peter, James and John.
“Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, …” Jesus has literally walked right into the daily reality of Peter. He comes to meet him where he works; the seashore and his own boat from which he makes a living. Jesus in usual fashion does not make a direct request of Peter, other than wishing to use his boat as a podium from which to address the crowd. Yet, as Jesus proceeds to teach, he is most certainly aware of the man in the boat, making a very large impression upon him. We should not think the only place Jesus is present is in the church. He comes to us in our daily lives just as he did Peter.
“Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” After Jesus is done teaching, he turns his attention directly upon Peter. Clearly, Jesus’ teaching has had a strong impact upon Peter, because even though he had been fishing all night and caught nothing, he willingly follows Jesus’ instruction. A miraculous catch of fish is the result.
This teaches us several important realities. First, Jesus’ teaching is powerful and captivating. Second, we, as Peter, do well to follow Jesus’ instructions. Third, the fruit of the actions of Jesus are always abundant.
What follows this miraculous catch is significant, and important for all to understand. Peter’s initial response is to ask Jesus to leave him. Jesus through his preaching and action has revealed his divine power to Peter, and in the presence of Jesus, Peter is painfully aware of his sinfulness; of his unworthiness. It is the same response had by so many in the scriptures, including the Prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading. When the Lord appears to the Prophet in a vision, he responds in similar fashion to Peter: “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (See Isaiah 6: 1-8)
In God’s presence, before Jesus, we can only be aware of his holiness and our sinfulness. This is an appropriate initial response. It is good for us to be aware of our humble origins, as we will recall this Wednesday: “we are dust, and to dust we shall return.” At the same time, it is sheer joy to be in the presence of the one who formed us from the dirt of the earth into his own image and likeness. It is the gladness of every human heart to encounter Jesus, the one who comes to redeem us and restore us to the fullness of our human dignity.
Peter, in this encounter with Jesus, discovers the deepest desire of his heart. That is why he can leave behind his boat and nets, family and friends to follow Jesus. It is Jesus who inflames every human heart, and leads each of us to our truest self and most meaningful purpose (in that order.) Being always precedes doing. Relationship with Jesus is what allows our actions to bear any meaningful fruit.
“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Jesus first tends to the human heart, then he helps us identify the gifts he has entrusted to us and how to fruitfully use these gifts in service of God’s family.
Even though today’s Gospel recalls Jesus calling his first apostles, it still has much to teach us about the call of Jesus in every person’s life. All are called to be disciples; to follow Jesus. All of us, particularly the laity, are entrusted with a holy dignity and activity of building up the Body of Christ. Read again the wisdom of some of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council in regard to the role of the laity:
“The laity – no matter who they are – have, as living members, the vocation of applying to the building up of the Church and to its continual sanctification all the powers which they have received from the goodness of the Creator and from the grace of the Redeemer. … The apostolate of the laity is a sharing in the salvific mission of the church. Through Baptism and Confirmation all are appointed to this apostolate by the Lord himself.” (Lumen Gentium #33)
Let there be no doubt; Christ has entered the boat of each of our lives. Christ is calling each of us into a fruitful relationship. Christ calls each of us to follow and serve him in our love for one another. All that seems ‘unfulfilled’ in life finds fulfillment in Christ! To answer Christ’s call is to ‘put out into the deep.’ To follow Christ is to leave all behind, only to discover the abundance of God in return.
I mentioned recently in a previous blog that Sherry Weddell gave a great series of presentations to our clergy for this year’s clergy institute. One of the astounding statistics she provided indicates that many Catholics do not believe it is possible to have a personal relationship with God. This statistic alone can give tremendous guidance to every pastor and parish regarding a key priority in our day-to-day mission. That priority is simple; lead people to Jesus Christ.
Last Sunday’s first reading came from the Prophet Jeremiah, and gives a great starting point for all of God’s people to believe that it IS possible to have a relationship with God. In fact, this is God’s deepest desire for us, to enter into relationship with us!
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. (Jeremiah 1: 5)
Similar teachings can be found throughout sacred scripture. The Prophet Isaiah says the same thing in Chapter 44 verse 2. Psalm 139 vs 13 repeats this wisdom. And Psalm 8 takes this knowledge and further develops it into the foundation and basis for the dignity that is due every human person.
We believe God brings every human life into being. We also believe that because God is love, (1 John 4:8) our human dignity is rooted in God’s love for us. St. John further defines love: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) This divine teaching tells us just how much God desires a relationship of love with each of us. And if this is God’s desire, then clearly, it is not only possible to have a relationship with God, but at the core of every human person is a deep desire to be in this relationship of love with God! For Catholics, and for all Christians, this relationship with God takes place in the person of Jesus Christ.
The Gospels speak of the many human relationships Jesus developed during his earthly life and ministry. He called many people into personal relationship and friendship. He taught of the Father’s love. He healed with the power of Life that was his as the Son of God, and in the same manner healed hearts and consciences with compassion and mercy through the forgiveness of sins. His ultimate gift of healing is the gift of salvation he offers every human person through his death and resurrection.
Through the resurrection, Jesus continues to be present to any and all who choose to believe in him, who welcome him as both the Son of God and as Friend. We need only make the slightest opening in the door of our hearts to Christ by simple acts of faith in him, and he will walk directly into our life. I know how much I need the gift of salvation he brings. I know how much I need his friendship. I am so very grateful for his presence, love and action in my life.
Sunday’s Psalm response reminds us of a basic result of experiencing this life changing relationship with Jesus. Psalm 71 says that “I will sing of your salvation.” Any of us who have fallen in love know that we cannot wait to tell others of this amazing relationship in our life. We must not remain silent in the reality of the amazing relationship that is ours with Christ. Our lives must take up this song of salvation.
There are many ways that we sing of the Lord’s salvation. Yes, we can actually sing, especially at Church. But at the heart of our ‘song’ is our relationship with Jesus. The joy of our heart at the knowledge that we are forgiven our sins and the gates of heaven are open to us will naturally exude joy in our very being, let alone in everything that we do.
In today’s Gospel, we hear Mark’s version of the Gospel we heard from Luke on Sunday. Jesus returns to his home town. Here is another ‘setting’ for us to employ. Can we picture Jesus in our home town? Can I picture Jesus coming to my home?
Because the people that watched Jesus grow up could not believe him to be anything more than ‘the son of Joseph and Mary,’ they lacked the faith required to allow Jesus to work any mighty deeds in their midst. When we keep Jesus at a distance, believing he is a fictitious figure of a man-made bible, or only a great prophet, we fail to open the door of possibility for a life-changing encounter with Christ.
In fact, Jesus has come into the world. Through his resurrection and through the Church, he continues to be present. And Jesus has promised to come again. He is calling. He is waiting. He longs to call each of us his friend, so that ‘his joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.’ (John 15:11)
As I sat in my chapel praying early this morning, I could hear the snow plows clearing the snow from the two major streets that run along my house. Yesterday and last night we had one of the heaviest snows of recent years. Two thoughts crossed my mind. First of all, I had to get up from prayer and watch the plows. I was easily distracted to watch this display of the power of nature vs. the power of human ingenuity. When I sat back down to continue my prayer, I asked the Lord: “Please, LORD, let me be as fascinated with you as I am with these worldly distractions!”
This seemed to capture one of the great needs of our time, to be captivated by God’s grandeur, rather than all of the lesser things of this world.
My second thought of the morning had to do with our worldly understanding of power and the manner in which God demonstrates his power through ‘littleness’ and ‘humility.’ As I heard the snow plows this morning, there was a part of me that wanted to be driving those big trucks, and pushing that snow. I could not wait to finish prayer and put on my warm cloths and get outside and start shoveling the snow from the steps and walks.
Since we celebrate today the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, I was praying with these readings. The Prophet Malachi foretold the moment Mary and Joseph would bring the infant Jesus to the temple:
And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? (Malachi 3:1-4)
God appears upon the earth as a small, vulnerable child. Mary and Joseph bring the infant Jesus to the temple in keeping with Jewish tradition. Jesus, the Son of God, is presented formally to his Father. The great works of God in freeing Israel from slavery in Egypt is recalled in this Presentation. This act of worship recalls the time that God claimed all the first born of Egypt and foretells of the ultimate salvation that will be achieved by his own Son, Jesus Christ. This is the power of God that still fascinates the imagination of believers today!
My dear friends, may this salvation of God continue to captivate us, so we may better live in the freedom won for us by Christ. May the words of Simeon from today’s Feast continue to inspire us of the work of Christ in our lives and world today:
Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
Catholic Schools Week 2016
Catholic Schools Week is celebrated each year beginning on the last Sunday of January. It is an opportunity to highlight the profound impact that Catholic education has on local communities as well as throughout the world. It is a time to truly give thanks and praise to God for the resources entrusted to our care for the building up of the Kingdom of God.
In an address given on May 10, 2014 to Italian school teachers, parents, educators, pupils, and other workers, Pope Francis stated the following:
“Education cannot be neutral. It is either positive or negative; either it enriches or it impoverishes; either it enables a person to grow or it lessens, even corrupts him. The mission of schools is to develop a sense of truth, of what is good and beautiful. And this occurs through a rich path made up of many ingredients. This is why there are so many subjects — because development is the results of different elements that act together and stimulate intelligence, knowledge, the emotions, the body, and so on.”
Catholic schools in Wyoming strive to be a positive influence which fulfills that mission to develop a sense of truth. An environment is created in our Catholic schools designed to enrich each student and teach to the whole child: academically, physically, emotionally, and most of all, spiritually. Local governance and control along with small class sizes sets up the Catholic school for maximum success. Finally, opportunities for service help our students understand the value of building a stronger society through community involvement.
Catholic Schools Week 2016 finds us sincerely living out the final mandate of Jesus, “Go teach!” The tradition of Catholic education is alive and well in Wyoming. Congratulations to the administrators, teachers, support staff, students, parents and parishioners of the following Catholic school communities.
St. Anthony Tri-Parish Catholic School—Casper—since 1927
St. Mary School—Cheyenne—since 1884
St. John Paul II School—Gillette—since 2006
St. Laurence O’Toole School—Laramie—since 1951
St. Margaret School—Riverton—since 1965
Holy Spirit Catholic School—Rock Springs—since 1951
Holy Name School—Sheridan—since 1914
Have a blessed Catholic Schools Week!
As mentioned in yesterday’s blog entry, today a good friend of mine celebrates his 20th anniversary as a bishop. Congratulations to Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida! I’ve always felt that he could not have had a better day in the liturgical calendar for his ordination other than the feast of these two great companions of St. Paul, Sts. Timothy and Titus. My reason for this? Simple. Friendship with Jesus Christ. Friendship with others in service of Jesus Christ.
Bishop Lynch chose as his episcopal motto: Pro Amicis Suis, or For His Friends. The motto comes from John’s Gospel, Chapter 15, where Jesus talks about friendship. Jesus calls us friends. Jesus tells us there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. For those of us who know Bishop Lynch, we know this is more than a motto for him. As one of his friends remarked at the end of dinner last night, everyone who knows Bob knows that if you are in trouble or facing a difficulty of any kind, he will be at your side in the matter of time that it takes him to make the journey. And he will remain there until the crisis passes.
I told someone else during dinner last night that I’m not sure I would have ever made it to the altar as a priest had it not been for the friendship and support of +Bob Lynch. But once I made it to the altar; once I became a priest, I knew this was who God created me to be. In my early life as a priest, and before, Bob modeled what it means to be a good priest. Now, the mentoring continues as he helps me be the best bishop I can be for God’s people.
I believe this was the kind of support and ‘training’ provided by St. Paul to both Timothy and Titus. And who knows, perhaps Timothy and Titus were also good friends, giving each other fraternal support in their vocations and life as bishops in the early Church.
When I was a seminarian in Rome, I visited St. Paul Outside the Walls with a good priest friend. We visited the burial place of St. Paul at the base of the main altar. My priest friend told me that St. Timothy is buried beside St. Paul. I asked him if that was true? He said: “If it is not, it should be!” St. Paul and St. Timothy are models of friendship in the service of Christ and his Church.
Feasts like today remind us that we all need friends. First and foremost, we need to experience the friendship of Jesus Christ. Then, once we enter his service, we need the support of other faith-filled people with whom we grow in holiness together.
My dear friends, let us be together in friendship with Christ! Let us serve Him together in our labors on behalf of God’s holy People.
Sts. Timothy and Titus, Pray for us!
Always a favorite feast of mine, today has been a special celebration of the Conversion of St. Paul. For more than any reason, from the very beginning of this day, I have been blessed with a sense of the nearness of Christ, and that grace has abided throughout the day. Partially, no doubt, is the setting. I am with a dear friend, who has always been Christ to me, and tomorrow will celebrate his 20th anniversary as a bishop.
The Conversion of St. Paul is a great teaching moment for all of us. This incredible moment reminds us that even after the resurrection, Christ continues to live and interact in our lives. Obviously, he had great plans for St. Paul, and thus an immediate conversion was necessary. Christ’s powerful interaction in St. Paul’s life would seem to indicate the powerful way he intended to act through him in the life of the early Church.
But, we should not discount the fact that Christ is present in the life of every believer. Just as St. Paul came to know Christ in a very personal way, so Christ wishes to be personally encountered by each of us. This is such a critical point for us to believe, and should also be at the heart of all our prayer. St. Ignatius of Loyola used to pray: “Father, place me with your Son.” When we pray, it is important to imagine and believe Christ to be close, not distant; to be personal, not just a ‘thought.’
Jesus spoke to St. Paul. Jesus revealed many truths and mysteries to him. Jesus sustained St. Paul through many trials, giving power to his words and courage to his apostolic ministry. When we are open, Jesus comes to us. When we pray with firm faith and fervent desire, Jesus reveals himself to us. Jesus alone determines the manner in which we experience his presence and the degree to which we come to know him and his truth – but the reality is – he comes. He speaks. He draws us into a living relationship with himself.
I have reflected today on the moments in which I have encountered Jesus, and I give thanks. In reality, I have built my life upon this foundational relationship, and it is Christ who gives meaning and purpose to my life. I pray that as St. Paul bore so much fruit in the service of Christ and by the power of his Name, so too may my life and ministry bear fruit – fruit that remains.
That is my prayer for you, my friends. May you have this life-giving encounter with Jesus. May Christ then become the foundation and sole purpose of your life. Then, may your life bear much fruit, sharing the life that Christ came to share with all the world.
Today has also drawn my attention to the episcopal ring I wear. The ring was given to me as a part of the ordination ceremony for a new bishop. This particular ring is called a Council Ring, referring to the Second Vatican Council, and the original rings Pope Paul VI had made for the Council Fathers. Still to this day, most bishops wear or at least own this ring.
It is significant, because it has the same symbolic meaning of a wedding ring, only in this case, the spouse of a bishop is the Church, or more personally, God’s holy people. As you will notice, this ring bears the image of Christ in the center, with St. Paul on one side, and St. Peter on the other.
Clearly, a bishop also shares a spousal relationship with Christ. Just as Christ called St. Paul to follow him, so too every bishop. To the degree we remain faithful in that discipleship, our lives help sustain the Church. Please pray for me and all bishops, that our lives may always be rooted in Christ, for the building up of his body, the Church.
St. Paul, Pray for us!
This past week, the vast majority of our deacons and priests gathered in Casper for the annual clergy institute. This year, we had Sherry Weddell for our presenter. She is well known in the Church for her book, Forming Intentional Disciples and the follow-up book of Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples.
Sherry has a commanding knowledge of cutting edge statistics on the life of the Church, and even more importantly, she has a vast experience built from personal conversations with people of all walks of life. She has led workshops for the majority of dioceses in the United States, and is working with others around the world.
The first session on Tuesday evening could have been quite depressing. Many present statistics tell us we have much work to do in our parishes. The number of Catholics who have left the Church in the last decade is greater than the numbers of those entering the Church. The number of people claiming to have no religious affiliation is also on the rise. But, there are some encouraging factors.
People describe themselves with greater liberty today. This means that they use language that ‘means’ something to me, but may not mean the same thing to them. This was for me one of the great ‘take aways’ from this training session. We must enter into relationships and conversations with people. We must invite them to tell us their story about their lived relationship with God. Then, we must listen, listen, listen, and ask lots of clarifying questions.
One mistake I made as a pastor years ago was making far too many assumptions about why people did what they did, or were not doing what I expected them to do. The only way to get accurate information is to ask people to tell you their story. Then, we must listen in a way that respects their story, does not impose any of our presumptions or judgments, and does not try to answer questions they are not yet asking.
Then, once we build some trust in this relationship, then and only then can we accompany them in their journey of faith. Once we are allowed to accompany, then we can begin to share our own story and our relationship with Christ. Our desire is obviously to lead people to Christ, and through him to the Church and the sacraments. From there, we help each person discover their gifts and how God is calling them forth to produce some fruit in others.
It is always good to get the clergy together for ongoing formation. Equally important are the opportunities to pray together, celebrate Mass, and enjoy some fraternity. For me, there were also many meetings, trying to make the best use of having all the priests and deacons together in one spot for a few days.
We are blessed with a great presbyterate, with many gifts and generous hearts in serving the needs of the People of God. It was a fruitful and enjoyable couple of days together.
We come together today to praise God for his creative genius. We come together today to proclaim once again that all life is good, and that every human life is very good. Every human life from the moment of conception is a sign of God’s free choice to bring forth new life. The choice is God’s. God chooses. God chooses love. God chooses life. Anyone who takes life, unjustly pursues the frustration of God’s divine plan.
After 43 years of legalized abortion in this country, somewhere between 56 and 58 million lives have been unjustly pursued and destroyed. After 43 years of so many of us working to reverse the unjust decision of Roe vs. Wade, we continue to place our hope and trust in God that our efforts on behalf of the unborn are not in vain. We know that our strength in this struggle comes from heaven, and that the victory is certain, and will be achieved in God’s time. Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si says as much when he states: “The God who created the universe out of nothing can also intervene in this world and overcome every form of evil. Injustice is not invincible.” (Laudato Si, # 74) We will not lose heart.
We live in a time when great liberty is taken with human language. People freely redefine the meaning of words to cleverly confuse reality. One such example is the present practice of referring to birth control as a necessary component of ‘women’s health.’ Sadly, many people have come to embrace this distortion. Even of greater concern is that abortion has now become a means of birth control, in other words, abortion, taking life, is accepted practice in the name of health care.
The truth of the matter is that fertility is not a disease. Rather, fertility is a sign of health. Health is the obvious goal of health care. Life is the precious gift to be cared for and nurtured in health care. The truth of the matter is that abortion is not birth control. Rather, it is the unjust pursuit and taking of innocent life. Abortion is the rejection of a loving choice of God, who is Life.
Let’s look a bit closer at this choice of God. I wish to refer again to Pope Francis and the teaching found in his encyclical, Laudato Si. Our Holy Father reminds us of the tenderness and love of God, who is the source of all that exists.
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (Ps 33:6). This tells us that the world came about as the result of a decision, not from chaos or chance, and this exalts it all the more. The creating word expresses a free choice. The universe did not emerge as the result of arbitrary omnipotence, a show of force or a desire for self-assertion. Creation is of the order of love. God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things: “For you love all things that exist, and de- test none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it” (Wis 11:24). Every creature is thus the object of the Father’s tenderness, who gives it its place in the world. Even the fleeting life of the least of beings is the object of his love, and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with his affection. (Laudato Si # 77)
Our goal is to build a culture of Life. We do this by recognizing the dignity of every human being, whether members of our own family, our neighbors, the unborn, the poor, immigrants, the elderly and dying, even prisoners and those presently on death row. Every human life is sacred and deserving of respect, as our Catechism teaches so well:
Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being. (CCC #2258)
Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72 (CCC # 2270)
We believe in God. We believe in Jesus Christ his only begotten Son. We believe in the power of his death and resurrection. We believe that our life comes from the very life of God. We believe that our lives have been redeemed by the life blood of Jesus Christ, and the mercy and love of God. We will continue our efforts to build up this culture and our society upon the strong foundation of the God of Life.
Finn and Betty McCarthy were honored at a special ceremony at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Wednesday evening, January 20, 2016. Mr. & Mrs. McCarthy are the recipients of a distinguished service award known as the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (For the Church and Pope.) This is the highest medal that can be awarded to the laity by the Pope.
When I notified them prior to the celebration of the award, Finn responded: “What did we ever do to receive such an honor?” Here are just a few indications of the loving service Finn and Betty have provided the Church and broader community for many decades.
Finn and Betty were married in October 1960 and raised seven children. Finn’s work experience included Senior Vice President and Chief Operations Officer at First Interstate Bank in Casper, Wyoming, St. Joseph’s Children’s Home, helping with their computer systems, finances, and planned giving and as Development Director of the Diocese of Cheyenne until 2001. Finn has been a Trustee and member of St. Patrick’s (Casper) Finance Council for 50 years. He was involved in starting the Edge Campaign for St. Anthony’s School and instrumental in the raising money for the new school, St. Anthony Tri-Parish School.
Betty worked in the lab at Memorial Hospital in Casper, Wyoming. She did volunteer work at the Church, helping with religious education, and the Council of Catholic Women. Betty started making priest vestments, banners, and altar cloths primarily for St. Patrick’s. She has made over 75 diocesan vestments for the priests in the Diocese of Cheyenne, along with vestments for the bishop and deacons and other liturgical items for many parishes who asked for her assistance. For well over 25 years, she was head of the liturgical environment for St. Patrick’s. Recently she started a Grandma’s prayer group whose purpose is to donate a bible and pray for a First Communion candidate. She has also made stuffed hearts for either the new members of the Church and for Confirmation students. She makes baptism frontals for the babies getting baptized. Her labor is always donated.
Both Finn and Betty have been part of St. Patrick’s Perpetual Adoration for years. Finn and Betty have been heavily involved with Wyoming Special Olympics.
Finn and Betty’s are well known for their hospitality and they are well-respected throughout the state of Wyoming. The priests and the deacons of the Diocese were all present at the Mass, along with many others. Following the award, Betty and Finn received a standing ovation.
Following the celebration, there was a long line of people who wished to congratulate them and thank them for their years of dedication and faithful witness. Betty and Finn are a great example of what it means to follow Christ and to serve him in others. They are generous, faithful servants and it is a true joy to honor them with this award.
Congratulations Finn and Betty!
I know we have many other people in the Diocese worthy of such recognition, and it is my hope to do more of these ceremonies in the future.