Posts Tagged ‘Family’
In final preach of this pastoral visit to the United States, Pope Francis encourages us to be prophets of the joy of the Gospel; prophets of the family, of the love of the family, as disciples of Christ.
Today the word of God surprises us with powerful and thought-provoking images. Images which challenge us, but also stir our enthusiasm.
In the first reading, Joshua tells Moses that two members of the people are prophesying, speaking God’s word, without a mandate. In the Gospel, John tells Jesus that the disciples had stopped someone from casting out evil spirits in the name of Jesus. Here is the surprise: Moses and Jesus both rebuke those closest to them for being so narrow! Would that all could be prophets of God’s word! Would that everyone could work miracles in the Lord’s name!
Jesus encountered hostility from people who did not accept what he said and did. For them, his openness to the honest and sincere faith of many men and women who were not part of God’s chosen people seemed intolerable. The disciples, for their part, acted in good faith. But the temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God, who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike (Mt 5:45), bypassing bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles, threatens the authenticity of faith. Hence it must be vigorously rejected.
Once we realize this, we can understand why Jesus’ words about causing “scandal” are so harsh. For Jesus, the truly “intolerable” scandal consists in everything that breaks down and destroys our trust in the working of the Spirit!
Our Father will not be outdone in generosity and he continues to scatter seeds. He scatters the seeds of his presence in our world, for “love consists in this, not that we have loved God but that he loved us” first (1 Jn 4:10). That love gives us a profound certainty: we are sought by God; he waits for us. It is this confidence which makes disciples encourage, support and nurture the good things happening all around them. God wants all his children to take part in the feast of the Gospel. Jesus says, “Do not hold back anything that is good, instead help it to grow!” To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not “part of our group”, who are not “like us”, is a dangerous temptation. Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith!
Faith opens a “window” to the presence and working of the Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. “Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name will not go unrewarded”, says Jesus (cf. Mk 9:41). These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith.
Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles. Instead, he wants us to encourage them, to spread them. He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as signs of his own living and active presence in our world.
So we might ask ourselves: How are we trying to live this way in our homes, in our societies? What kind of world do we want to leave to our children (cf. Laudato Si’, 160)? We cannot answer these questions alone, by ourselves. It is the Spirit who challenges us to respond as part of the great human family. Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions. The urgent challenge of protecting our home includes the effort to bring the entire human family together in the pursuit of a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change (cf. ibid., 13). May our children find in us models and incentives to communion! May our children find in us men and women capable of joining others in bringing to full flower all the good seeds which the Father has sown!
Pointedly, yet affectionately, Jesus tells us: “If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:13). How much wisdom there is in these few words! It is true that, as far as goodness and purity of heart are concerned, we human beings don’t have much to show! But Jesus knows that, where children are concerned, we are capable of boundless generosity. So he reassures us: if only we have faith, the Father will give us his Spirit.
We Christians, the Lord’s disciples, ask the families of the world to help us! How many of us are here at this celebration! This is itself something prophetic, a kind of miracle in today’s world. Would that we could all be prophets! Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of all the families of the world, and thus overcome the scandal of a narrow, petty love, closed in on itself, impatient of others!
And how beautiful it would be if everywhere, even beyond our borders, we could appreciate and encourage this prophecy and this miracle! We renew our faith in the word of the Lord which invites faithful families to this openness. It invites all those who want to share the prophecy of the covenant of man and woman, which generates life and reveals God!
Anyone who wants to bring into this world a family which teaches children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil – a family which shows that the Spirit is alive and at work – will encounter our gratitude and our appreciation. Whatever the family, people, region, or religion to which they belong!
May God grant to all of us, as the Lord’s disciples, the grace to be worthy of this purity of heart which is not scandalized by the Gospel!
For a change of pace this year’s September Institute was held in Laramie, rather than Casper. Though attendance was down slightly this year from previous institutes, the energy and information were above par. For a complete tour of the three day event, you may view pictures here, courtesy of our Stewardship and Development Director, Mr. Matt Potter.
There are many benefits to gathering the clergy and pastoral leadership of the diocese, but I would like to reflect on just a few. First of all, it serves as a great way to strengthen the bonds that unite us as pastoral leaders. Institutes provide not only good information, but they also re-ignite the fire and passion of our mission to serve all of God’s people. We are reminded that we are not in ministry alone, but that we serve with many others, and we have their emotional and spiritual support. Mostly, we are reminded of the unity that we share in the Lord, Jesus Christ. We have an opportunity to renew relationships and rediscover the ‘call’ of Christ who entrusts to each of us the work of building His Kingdom.
The prelude to the institute every year, at least for the bishop and others, is a round of meetings with Diocesan Pastoral Council, Presbyteral Council, Deans, who also serve as the Personnel Board, and a business meeting with all clergy. This year also included a quick meeting with the College of Consultors. The event is officially opened with Tuesday evening Mass.
We were particularly blessed and pleased to have his Eminence, Edwin Cardinal O’Brien join us. He presided and preached at one of our Liturgies and gave the key note opening address on Tuesday night. Since 2012, Cardinal O’Brien has served in Rome as the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
During my final years as a seminarian at the North American College in Rome, then Msgr. O’Brien was the rector of the College, thus my previous relationship with him, and my reason for inviting him to take on the role of Keynote Speaker for this year’s Institute. He did not disappoint!
In his opening address, Cardinal O’Brien reviewed some of Pope Francis’ recent teaching on the family from his Wednesday General Audiences. We were reminded of the central role of the family in the plan of God. It is in the family that we learn to live with one another despite our differences. That children have a right to grow up in a family with their biological mother and father. The family is where basic relationships are formed, and we where learn how to live in relationship with others.
Today’s notion of freedom is distorted to the point that pursuit of a false sense of freedom is leading not to true freedom, but to material and spiritual devastation. This is why it is so important that we help people rediscover the true dignity of the human person, and the dignity and sanctity of marriage and family. The family is the nucleus of society.
The family is the domestic church where Jesus grows, in the lives of spouses, in the lives of children, and in the love of the nucleus of the family. This is precisely why Pope Francis warns that the devil attacks the family. He tries to destroy it to make sure there is no love there. Prayer is the antidote. One critical role of the parish is to bring families together. This is precisely what we do every time we gather around the table of the Lord to celebrate the Eucharist. The family is actually a microcosm of the parish family. Parents today need the help of the faith community (the parish) to form their children in the faith. Though the primary place of formation in the faith is the home, their is also a critical role the parish plays in this process.
Perhaps the most powerful moment of Cardinal O’Brien’s presentation was when he spoke of the magnetism of Jesus Christ. His magnetic presence and personality was so attractive and compelling that people left everything else to be in his presence, and to learn from him. Jesus is still in our midst today. He still draws people to himself! People still leave all else behind and follow him! Jesus is indeed very near, and his mystery is very much at work in you and in me.
On Wednesday, we were presented with a very dynamic presenter, who energetically gave us his all in four separate presentations. Mr. Roy Petitfils, MS, LPC is from Lafayette, Louisiana, and is a counselor. He has a powerful personal story, and is blessed with strong faith, and tremendous insight into the challenges individuals, couples and families are facing in today’s culture. He shared a voluminous amount of information with our pastoral leaders in order to help us be more effective in accompanying our married couples and families, and helping them deal with the difficulties of their lives.
The point most driven home for me was just how the identity of family has changed in such a short period of time. Ministering to today’s married couples and families is far more challenging that even I had allowed myself to truly believe. Here are just a few modern day statistics that help us better understand the reality in which we preach the Gospel:
Only 7% of families today are so-called ‘traditional,’ meaning a husband and wife, neither married before, raising their own children. 45% of marriages today end in divorce; 67% of those spouses enter into other marriages, creating what is known as ‘blended families.’
The average couple today spends less than 10 minutes a day in uninterrupted communication.
34% of children today are being raised by single parents.
5- 10% of families are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual couples. Estimates put the number somewhere around 1 million LGBT couples (about 60% are not married) raising 125,000 children.
2.4 million grandparents are raising 4.5 million children today.
The average young person today spends up to 8 hours a day ‘on screen.’ (TV, i-phone, etc.) In reality, it is probably closer to 10 – 16 hours a day. The average father spends 7 minutes a day with a child.
For this reality check, I am very grateful! Much more similar information was presented, along with practical suggestions for how we enter into these new realities to build relationships and trust in order to help people deal with their pain and struggles. At the same time, we are hopefully able to help them enter more fully into the life of faith and the life of the Church.
As a sound wrap-up, on Thursday morning, Fr. Kevin Barrett provided us with a beautiful theology and spirituality of family. Fr. Barrett has spent the last 33 years of his life working with the Apostolate for Family Consecration. His years of practice and ministry shown through by the power of his words. It was a fitting conclusion to the information shared during the three day event.
These Liturgies are generally, and intentionally, very well-done, inspiring and uplifting. We benefited greatly from the excellent music provided at each of our Liturgies. I hope our pastoral leaders go home to further build a ‘sound’ liturgical music ministry in each of our parishes.
The preaching duties are shared at each Mass. Fr. Steve Titus, Vocations Director, preached on Tuesday evening, Cardinal O’Brien presided and preached on Wednesday, and I had the honors for the final Mass Thursday morning.
To all of our families, please know you were front and center in all of our hearts and minds and prayers this week. Please God, may our pastoral leaders be better equipped and motivated to enter into each of your lives in a manner that benefits you in your struggles, as well as raises you up in the Paschal Mystery and Life of the Risen Christ!
On this Labor Day, we give thanks to God for the dignity of human labor. Think of the many families that are supported through the labor of individuals. I remember well the life my family had due to the hard work of my father, and of the loving care of our home and family by my mother. We did not have a lot, and we did not take fancy vacations, but what we had were lots of good memories as a family.
Each of us children had our own chores to perform as well. On Saturday’s, there was no TV until all of the house chores were done. From an early age, we learned to take responsibility for the common good of the family and home, and that eventually led to other initiatives by which we began to earn a little of our own income. By the time I reached high school, I was able to pay for some of my own clothes, as well as an old car and its upkeep.
It felt good to work, to do a good job, no matter what the task, and begin to build a good reputation. These are just a few of the indicators of the dignity that is a part of human labor. Work and family go hand-in-hand, as recently reflected in the annual Labor Day statement by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Our Holy Father Pope Francis also spoke eloquently about the dignity of labor as a part of God’s plan for the human family:
Therefore, work too, like celebration, is part of God’s creative plan. In the Book of Genesis, the theme of the earth like a back yard, entrusted to the care and cultivation of man (2, 8:15), is anticipated by a very moving passage: “In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up — for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground” (2:4-6). It’s not romanticism, it is God’s revelation; and we are responsible for understanding and implementing it. The Encyclical Laudato Si’, which proposes an integral ecology, also contains this message: the beauty of the earth and the dignity of work were made to be united. The two go together: the earth becomes beautiful when it is worked by man. When work is detached from God’s covenant with man and woman, and it is separated from its spiritual qualities, when work is held hostage by the logic of profit alone and human life is disregarded, the degradation of the soul contaminates everything: even the air, water, grass, food … the life of society is corrupted and the habitat breaks down. And the consequences fall most of all on the poor and on poor families. The modern organization of work sometimes shows a dangerous tendency to consider the family a burden, a weight, a liability for the productivity of labour. But let us ask ourselves: what productivity? And for whom? The so-called “smart city” is undoubtedly rich in services and organization; but, for example, it is often hostile to children and the elderly. At times those in charge are interested in managing individuals as a workforce, assembling and utilizing them or throwing them away on the basis of economic benefit. The family is a great workbench. When the organization of work holds it hostage, or even blocks its path, then we can be certain that human society has begun to work against itself! (Pope Francis, General Audience, August 19, 2015)
So, if you have the ability to work and support yourself and your family, give thanks to God. Let us also keep in mind those who are without work; those families who struggle just to find a safe place to live. If we are in a position to assist others who are in need, let us never fail to offer a helping hand, and especially in a manner that helps others maintain their basic human dignity.
Last night as we began a Holy Hour, prior to the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Andrew Kinstetter made his Profession of Faith and Deacon Oath of Fidelity. This ceremony is very simple, yet profoundly significant.
Today, this local Church gathered for Andrew’s ordination as a transitional deacon. We are very grateful for Andrew’s generous response to God’s call to serve this Church as a deacon, and eventually, as a priest.
Below is my homily for the Ordination Mass.
Deacon Ordination of Andrew Kinstetter
Cathedral of St. Mary, Cheyenne, February 6, 2015
Today is a joyous occasion as this local Church of the Diocese of Cheyenne gathers to bestow the sacrament of Holy Orders upon Andrew Kinstetter. On behalf of our community of faith we welcome all of the family and friends of Andrew who have gathered here with us today.
Andrew, as you sit before us today, you come to a significant moment of life, and in particular, to a magnificent moment in your relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. The Prophet Jeremiah speaks for you as he states so eloquently in the first reading: “The word of the Lord came to me: 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.” Such is the intimacy with God that belongs to everyone who opens their heart to the truth.
Every person is brought to life by the loving, creative hand of God. Every person is created for communion with God. As the Psalmist reminds us, we are called to friendship with God. And, as if creation and salvation history did not proclaim clearly enough God’s love and intimacy for every human person, God sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to reveal that the love of God is indeed very intimate and very personal. And in the Gospel today, Christ himself calls us friends.
Andrew, you have come to discover this intimacy and love of God at work in your own life. By God’s grace, you have been blessed with loving parents, as well as the love of two brothers. Don and Janet, thank you for the manner in which you have manifested God’s love in the world through your married life and love, and through the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. To you along with Greg and Paul, I express the gratitude of this local Church for living the demands of love in family life. Thank you especially for sharing your son and brother with the Church. Today we see concretely that the family is the seedbed of vocations for the Church.
Andrew, beyond your family you have continued to hear Christ call to you: “Come, follow me.” He has been calling and leading you for some time, indeed throughout your life. And because of your openness of heart, Christ has led you to his heart. Within his heart you have discovered the fire of divine love. The warmth of this fire has been shared with you through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, granted to you sacramentally in Baptism and Confirmation. This flame of love has provided you with light to guide you all the days of your life, and in your young years, this light revealed the desire of God’s heart; that you serve his people as a priest.
In the Gospel today, Christ invites you and all of us to remain in his love. And where Christ extends an invitation, he offers the means by which we may accept it. This love of Christ which knows no bounds, he offered throughout his earthly life and ministry. He walked with his disciples and God’s holy people. He proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven, healed the sick, forgave sins, fed the hungry, admonished the hard-hearted, consoled the grieving, gave hope to the downcast, cast out demons, raised the dead to life, and finally conquered death itself by his own death and resurrection.
This love of Christ which has no limits has come to you and nourished you through His Body and Blood through the Eucharist. This love of Christ which is the fullest expression of God’s mercy you have experienced and received through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Each time we drink and draw from these sacraments, we enter into the love of Christ, and thus accept his invitation: “Remain in my love.”
Remaining in the love of Christ is the sine qua non of the sacrament you request and receive today; the sacrament of Holy Orders. Remaining in the love of Christ is the only way to faithfully live this sacrament, for to truly live this gift of Holy Orders is to give your life as gift to others in the manner you have received the gift of God’s life, the gift of friendship with Christ. Today, the Lord bestows upon you the office of Deacon, which is above all a call to live as Christ for others, and to do so by serving Christ in all others. Your life, Andrew, is now to be a ministry of charity, a manifestation of the love of Christ.
As a Deacon, you are to be a man of good reputation and continue to grow in wisdom and the Holy Spirit. (Homily from Rite of Ordination of Deacons) Having made your public profession of faith last night, you are to continually grow in faith, and the very ministry entrusted to you today will test that faith at times, which is the primary means by which it will grow. By your life and through your preaching, you are to strengthen the faith of your brothers and sisters.
From this day forward, you are no longer one who simply hears God’s Word, for as a Deacon you are entrusted with the responsibility to proclaim the Word to others. The Master Craftsman sends you forth today as one of his engineers and architects. By word and example, you are now sent to teach others how to excavate the shifting sands of falsehood from their lives. Through your life and ministry of charity, you are sent to help others design meaningful lives built upon the solid foundation that is the truth of the Gospel. By your example and instruction, you are to lead others from darkness into light, walking with them in the journey of discovering the joy of a fully human life found by loving God and loving one’s neighbor.
Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, as a Deacon you become a close collaborator with me as your bishop, and with the priests of this diocese. You will join your brother deacons in presiding at public prayer, administrating Baptisms, assisting at and blessing Marriages, bringing Viaticum to the dying, conducting funeral rites and burying the dead. (Homily from Rite of Ordination of Deacons)
Joining the Order of Deacons also brings an obligation to pray for God’s People. More specifically, you promise to pray faithfully the Liturgy of the Hours, which is a prayer with, in and for the Church. In the Liturgy of the Hours, as a Deacon you will discover a unique manner of being in communion with all of God’s holy people. Here as in Eucharist, we discover and exercise a profound solidarity with the Body of Christ that is the People of God. This is the context in which you will exercise your ministry as a Deacon, the communion and the unity of this local portion of God’s people that is the Diocese of Cheyenne.
Andrew, today through the sacrament of Holy Orders, your own identity becomes more closely associated with Christ. This association with Christ is what has called you to this moment. Christ is now to be your sole source of strength and inspiration. He is now your sole possession. That you may remain in his love, Christ espouses you to himself. This espousal is manifest in a clear and fruitful way in the life of celibacy which you publicly promise to live.
Andrew, it is important that you be clear and honest about the promise and demands of celibacy. The promise is not just an appendage to Holy Orders. It is a call of Christ all by itself. Thus, you do not just embrace celibacy as a requirement of Holy Orders, but freely receive this call from Christ for what it is, an invitation to receive his sincere love. This love, as the love of every spouse, is his love freely and fully given to you, unconditionally. Your promise of celibacy in return is the same, a love freely and fully given to Christ. This celibate love is the source of a fruitful charity lived for God’s people, Christ’s bride, the Church. With regards to celibacy, guard against any confusion in your mind, and divisions in your heart. Now that Christ has embraced you with his love, never let him go!
Your own intimacy with Christ is to be nourished, as spouses must always be attentive to nourishing their love for each other. You will do this in a number of ways. Recognize that as you nourish this intimacy, Christ is nurturing his intimacy with you. First and foremost, we are strengthened in love and for love through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Never fail to call upon the grace of Holy Orders, which is always at work in God’s deacons, priests, and bishops.
Prayer is another fundamental life source of intimacy with the Lord. Beyond the Liturgy of Hours, spend time daily with Christ before the Blessed Sacrament. Joining to this sacred setting and time regular reading of the Sacred Scriptures, you will grow in spiritual maturity, just as your body matures in age.
Never forget, love is not just a matter of the heart, but a matter of exercise. Your intimacy with Christ is nourished in a powerful way when you recognize him in those you serve, and serve him in those you love. You are now to be Christ for others, as symbolized in the Good Samaritan who tended to the needs of the man beaten and robbed and left to die in the ditch. (Luke 10:25-37) At the same time, you are to discover Christ and serve him by touching the flesh and healing the wounds of humanity today.
The exercise of charity is both physical and spiritual. This exercise of charity requires us to walk with God’s people, to rise from our desk, and depart our chapels and offices and seek out the lost and the lonely. Our physical presence in the midst of the people brings a joy that is found only in living our life in relationship with and as a gift for others.
One final admonition, Andrew; the love of Christ is infinite and unconditional. We can never merit such love. Part of Christ’s invitation to ‘remain in my love’ will be regular invitations to expand love. As a Deacon, and later as a Priest, please, never draw boundaries or place limits upon your love, or your ministry. The fire of Christ’s love burns away such stinginess of heart.
This Bishop and this Church thank you for your “Yes” today. Know that God receives your “Yes” and will multiply it for the good of his people. May our Blessed Mother who was always “Yes” to God embrace and accompany you all the days of your charitable service through the gift of Holy Orders.
After some final edits and formatting, my recent pastoral letter is now available on line (here) and will soon be mailed from the printers to every home in the Diocese of Cheyenne. I pray you will take the time to read this letter, and more importantly, join us in carrying out these new priorities for our Diocese.
As we are making our resolutions for the new year, I hope a few of those resolutions involve renewing your relationship with Jesus Christ, through prayer, sacrament, and greater involvement in the life of the parish. Another great resolution is to make more time for family.
This pastoral letter offers several suggestions for prayers, including a prayer for vocations, a prayer to be included with the recitation of the rosary, and the Angelus. I strongly encourage as well each person learn when your local parish is offering a Holy Hour for Eucharistic Adoration, and that you spend some time in intimate prayer with the Lord.
May 2015 hold many blessings for each of you. Together, let us hold each other in prayer, asking for the grace to grow in holiness as we strive to fulfill God’s will in each of our lives. Peace, +pde
In light of Friday’s (Oct. 17, 2014) order by U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl that Wyoming’s state law banning same-sex unions is unconstitutional, I wish to offer a few thoughts. (According to an AP story, the ruling is on hold until defendants have the chance to appeal.)
The Catholic Church teaches the dignity and sanctity of every human person. This belief is rooted in our understanding that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. Every person is deserving of this respect, even those with same-sex attraction.
The Catholic Church also teaches that marriage is by nature a union of a man and a woman. It is perhaps the single oldest institution of society, and as such, the primary and natural starting point of family life. Marriage expresses, strengthens and protects the love of a man and a woman, and endures for their lifetime. Their love promotes harmony in their relationship, and generates new life in the children they bear and raise together. Marriage and the family it generates are unique bonds of love meant for the well-being of each of its members and the common good of society as a whole. This ‘unique bond of love’ cannot be replicated in any other fashion. A true understanding of the nature of marriage prohibits any institution, secular or religious, from redefining marriage.
As Church, we will continue to promote the understanding that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, a covenantal relationship instituted by God. We as Church will continue to teach this truth in all of its richness and encourage all people to embrace this truth. At the same time, we encourage respect for all persons and a respectful dialogue in discussing marriage and family in our culture today.
Here is a concluding text from the Extra-ordinary Synod of the Family:
Synod14 – Message of the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops , 18.10.2014
III EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY
OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
We, Synod Fathers, gathered in Rome together with Pope Francis in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, greet all families of the different continents and in particular all who follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We admire and are grateful for the daily witness which you offer us and the world with your fidelity, faith, hope, and love.
Each of us, pastors of the Church, grew up in a family, and we come from a great variety of backgrounds and experiences. As priests and bishops we have lived alongside families who have spoken to us and shown us the saga of their joys and their difficulties.
The preparation for this synod assembly, beginning with the questionnaire sent to the Churches around the world, has given us the opportunity to listen to the experience of many families. Our dialogue during the Synod has been mutually enriching, helping us to look at the complex situations which face families today.
We offer you the words of Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20). On his journeys along the roads of the Holy Land, Jesus would enter village houses. He continues to pass even today along the streets of our cities. In your homes there are light and shadow. Challenges often present themselves and at times even great trials. The darkness can grow deep to the point of becoming a dense shadow when evil and sin work into the heart of the family.
We recognize the great challenge to remain faithful in conjugal love. Enfeebled faith and indifference to true values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and stress that excludes reflection leave their mark on family life. There are often crises in marriage, often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another. Failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic, where the Christian choice is not obvious.
We think also of the burden imposed by life in the suffering that can arise with a child with special needs, with grave illness, in deterioration of old age, or in the death of a loved one. We admire the fidelity of so many families who endure these trials with courage, faith, and love. They see them not as a burden inflicted on them, but as something in which they themselves give, seeing the suffering Christ in the weakness of the flesh.
We recall the difficulties caused by economic systems, by the “the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” (Evangelii gaudium 55) which weakens the dignity of people. We remember unemployed parents who are powerless to provide basic needs for their families, and youth who see before them days of empty expectation, who are prey to drugs and crime.
We think of so many poor families, of those who cling to boats in order to reach a shore of survival, of refugees wandering without hope in the desert, of those persecuted because of their faith and the human and spiritual values which they hold. These are stricken by the brutality of war and oppression. We remember the women who suffer violence and exploitation, victims of human trafficking, children abused by those who ought to have protected them and fostered their development, and the members of so many families who have been degraded and burdened with difficulties. “The culture of prosperity deadens us…. all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us” (Evangelii gaudium 54). We call on governments and international organizations to promote the rights of the family for the common good.
Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone. We warmly thank our pastors, lay faithful, and communities who accompany couples and families and care for their wounds.
There is also the evening light behind the windowpanes in the houses of the cities, in modest residences of suburbs and villages, and even in mere shacks, which shines out brightly, warming bodies and souls. This light—the light of a wedding story—shines from the encounter between spouses: it is a gift, a grace expressed, as the Book of Genesis says (2:18), when the two are “face to face” as equal and mutual helpers. The love of man and woman teaches us that each needs the other in order to be truly self. Each remains different from the other that opens self and is revealed in the reciprocal gift. It is this that the bride of the Song of Songs sings in her canticle: “My beloved is mine and I am his… I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 2:16; 6:3).
This authentic encounter begins with courtship, a time of waiting and preparation. It is realized in the sacrament where God sets his seal, his presence, and grace. This path also includes sexual relationship, tenderness, intimacy, and beauty capable of lasting longer than the vigor and freshness of youth. Such love, of its nature, strives to be forever to the point of laying down one’s life for the beloved (cf Jn 15:13). In this light conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.
This love spreads through fertility and generativity, which involves not only the procreation of children but also the gift of divine life in baptism, their catechesis, and their education. It includes the capacity to offer life, affection, and values—an experience possible even for those who have not been able to bear children. Families who live this light-filled adventure become a sign for all, especially for young people.
This journey is sometimes a mountainous trek with hardships and falls. God is always there to accompany us. The family experiences his presence in affection and dialogue between husband and wife, parents and children, sisters and brothers. They embrace him in family prayer and listening to the Word of God—a small, daily oasis of the spirit. They discover him every day as they educate their children in the faith and in the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel, a life of holiness. Grandparents also share in this task with great affection and dedication. The family is thus an authentic domestic Church that expands to become the family of families which is the ecclesial community. Christian spouses are called to become teachers of faith and of love for young couples as well.
Another expression of fraternal communion is charity, giving, nearness to those who are last, marginalized, poor, lonely, sick, strangers, and families in crisis, aware of the Lord’s word, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). It is a gift of goods, of fellowship, of love and mercy, and also a witness to the truth, to light, and to the meaning of life.
The high point which sums up all the threads of communion with God and neighbor is the Sunday Eucharist when the family and the whole Church sits at table with the Lord. He gives himself to all of us, pilgrims through history towards the goal of the final encounter when “Christ is all and in all” (Col 3:11). In the first stage of our Synod itinerary, therefore, we have reflected on how to accompany those who have been divorced and remarried and on their participation in the sacraments.
We Synod Fathers ask you walk with us towards the next Synod. The presence of the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their modest home hovers over you. United to the Family of Nazareth, we raise to the Father of all our petition for the families of the world:
Father, grant to all families the presence of strong and wise spouses who may be the source of a free and united family.
Father, grant that parents may have a home in which to live in peace with their families.
Father, grant that children may be a sign of trust and hope and that young people may have the courage to forge life-long, faithful commitments.
Father, grant to all that they may be able to earn bread with their hands, that they may enjoy serenity of spirit and that they may keep aflame the torch of faith even in periods of darkness.
Father, grant that we may all see flourish a Church that is ever more faithful and credible, a just and humane city, a world that loves truth, justice and mercy.
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!