Posts Tagged ‘Family’

New Pastoral Letter: Generous Distributors of God’s Grace

Pastoral CoverAs 2015 begins, I wish each of you a very blessed new year!

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

Statement On Marriage in Wyoming

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.

Message From Extra-Ordinary Synod On Family

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






            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.

Day Of Study And Prayer

From left to right: Dr. Kevin Roberts, Dr. Jeremy Holmes, Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. John Mortensen

From left to right: Dr. Kevin Roberts, Dr. Jeremy Holmes, Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. John Mortensen. Not pictured, Deacon Vernon Dobelmann

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.


Mother’s Day; Good Shepherd Sunday, Wyoming Catholic College

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.”


Wyoming Catholic College graduate, Joanna Mason.

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.

Applauding Bishop Conley

Bishop James Conley, Dr. Kevin Roberts, Bishop Etienne, Mr. David Kellogg, Dr. Jeremy Holmes.

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)

Throwing Hats II

Some Christmas Traditions Take Place Before Christmas

Hartshorn Cookies 002A 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.

Hartshorn Cookies 001In 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!



Prayer Breakfast With Wyoming Stock Growers Association

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.

God bless,


St. Joseph The Worker, Mary’s Month & Immigration Reform

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.

More Instruction on the Nature & Beauty of Family & Marriage

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:

b. Importance of the family for society

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’“[468].

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”[469]. 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[470].

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[471]. 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[472].


a. The value of marriage

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”[473]. Therefore, the institution of marriage — “intimate partnership of life and love … established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws” [474] — is not the result of human conventions or of legislative prescriptions but acquires its stability from divine disposition[475]. 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”[476], 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[477]. 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.


Be Open To The Good God Desires; Renewing Our Desire For God

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.


January 2015
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