Insight from Fr. James Martin

December 3rd, 2013

Father James Martin, SJ has an excellent response to Bill Keller’s piece in yesterday’s New York Times about celibacy.  Father Martin is right:  “Overall, the article is rife with lazy stereotypes and flat-out guessing. (“The apostles had wives.” Really? Peter did–but all of them? Guess I missed those mentions of Zebedee’s daughters-in-law.)

Ironically, Keller likes Pope Francis a great deal and speaks of his overall approach to the church approvingly. But he somehow missed the fact that Jorge Mario Bergoglio took a vow of chastity when he made his first vows as a Jesuit in 1960, and made a promise of celibacy at his ordination in 1969. In short, he has been living celibately longer than Keller has been away from the church. Does the Pope strike anyone as a sad and lonely guy?”

You can read Father Martin’s article here.

A Blessed Advent to You

December 2nd, 2013

It’s all about the kids, isn’t it?

That dawned on me over the Thanksgiving weekend, when I was back in St. Louis with my family.

Besides eating . . . which I obviously relished – - and sleeping, we spent most of our time just enjoying the kids!  There we sat, passing one little one to another, cooing, talking baby-talk, or laughing as the kids would do something new.

My nieces are mostly grown-up, and now the married ones are having babies!  So we’ve got five of them, four and under, with two on the way.  All we adults seem to do is get ready for them to arrive, wait for them, play with them, hold them, change them, feed them, get their coats back on, and tell them good-bye.  Then we can’t wait for the next time we see them.

Those babies, those kids, are the center of our lives.

Which, of course, is the way it should be!  Anthropologists, researching primitive cultures, tell us that they were centered on the protection and nurturing of babies, until the young grow up to have their own.  Not “primitive” at all, is it?  Rather “advanced”, I’d say.

I remember the old Ben Casey, M.D., TV series, which began each week, “Man-woman-birth-death-infinity.”

A culture not centered on babies and children becomes narcissistic, and soon, extinct.

Sociologists tell us, for instance, that Europe is in a “demographic winter,” since more people are dying than being born.

And I’m afraid we’re not far behind!

Babies not only insure survival but selflessness.  When a husband and wife become a father and mother, their very lives are changed:  All is now about their baby, not themselves.

And, as Blessed John Paul II reminded us, the greatest gift one can give a child is a brother or a sister.

We men are created to become husbands and fathers; women to become wives and mothers.

True, it doesn’t always happen.  Some can’t be; some (like the author) choose not to be.  But, all of us would like to be!  That drive is sacred, noble, natural, good.  Those of us who can’t be or choose not to be usually become doting aunts, uncles, and godparents!

A culture, a society, a country, that does not protect marriage, the baby, and the family, is dying.

Now we’re in Advent.  We await the baby Jesus.

All of history is dated either before or after the birth of this baby.

All existence centers on a pregnant woman, and her baby, who is our Savior.

This baby is intended to be the center of our lives.

A blessed Advent!

Our Lady of Guadalupe

November 20th, 2013

Haga clic aquí para leer mi blog en español.

This past weekend, I was honored to join hundreds of other pastoral leaders from North and South America for a moving Pilgrimage and Encounter at the Shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

It was a grace for me.  For one, I enjoy visiting any sanctuary where Our Lady has appeared, such as Lourdes, Fatima, or Knock.

Two, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is patroness of all America . . . that’s us!

Three, our Mexican-American Catholics, now such a vibrant part of our national Catholic makeup, have a deep and passionate devotion to her.  December 12, her feast day, has become a huge fiesta for all of us in our liturgical year.

Finally, my titular (honorary) parish in Rome is called Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s as if she keeps reminding me of how close she is to me!

In January, I’ll return there, to Guadalupe, in company with about thirty of our priests, for a retreat pilgrimage.

The purpose of our pilgrimage and encounter last weekend was to consider her as “the star of the new evangelization.”

With her apparitions to St. Juan Diego December 9-12, 1531, Mary became the first native evangelist to the new world.

Sure, the brave priests and faith filled explorers who came from Spain did indeed bring the Catholic faith and introduce it here.  Evangelization was one of the principal motives for the voyages of discovery by Columbus and the others.

But they, of course, came from Europe.

Mary (granted, she came from heaven) appeared as one of the native people, in features, dress, and language, not a visitor to them but one of them, to tell them about the way, the truth, and the life, Jesus, her son.  She appeared as a pregnant woman, ready to give birth to the Son of God at the exact geographical center of the Western hemisphere, the new world, Tepeyac.

And with that apparition, evangelization was unleashed, as the faith began to increase miraculously all over South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the south and west of what we now call the United States of America.

An evangelization no longer foreign but homegrown, confirmed by a young pregnant Aztec woman who consoled St. Juan Diego, “I am your mother,” and left her tender image on the Tilma for all to see.

This role was not new to her.  Remember how, right after the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel had asked her to be the Mother of God’s Son – - an invitation she accepted – - she left to go see her cousin, Elizabeth?  We call that event the Visitation.  Gabriel had told Mary that Elizabeth, too, was pregnant (her son would be known as John the Baptist), and Mary went to her, not only to help her, but to let her in on the great news that the Savior was on the way, a baby in her very womb.

She hasn’t stopped evangelizing since.

The most successful evangelist America (both North and South) has ever known:  a woman, a wife, a mother . . .

Our Lady of Guadalupe!

Congratulations to Archbishop Kurtz & Cardinal DiNardo

November 12th, 2013

Congratulations to Archbishop Joseph Kurtz and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, who were elected as president and vice president, respectively of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I would like to share with you the following press release that was issued today by the USCCB.

Archbishop Kurtz Elected President of U.S. Bishops, Cardinal DiNardo Elected Vice President

Bishops elect chairman of Catholic Education Committee Chairmen-elect chosen for five other USCCB committees New CRS, CLINIC board members chosen 

November 12, 2013

BALTIMORE—Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) during the bishops’ annual fall General Assembly, November 12, in Baltimore. Archbishop Kurtz has served as vice president of USCCB since 2010. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston was elected USCCB vice president.

Archbishop Kurtz and Cardinal DiNardo are elected to three-year terms and succeed Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Archbishop Kurtz, respectively. The new president and vice president’s terms begin at the conclusion of the General Assembly, November 14.

Archbishop Kurtz was elected president on the first ballot with 125 votes. Cardinal DiNardo was elected vice president on the third ballot by 147-87 in a runoff vote against Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia.

The president and vice president are elected by a simple majority from a slate of 10 nominees. If no president or vice president is chosen after the second round of voting, a third ballot is taken between only the top two vote getters on the second ballot.

Archbishop Kurtz was born August 18, 1946, and ordained a priest of Allentown, Pennsylvania on March 18, 1972. He previously served as bishop of Knoxville, Tennessee from 1999-2007 before being appointed to Louisville. Cardinal DiNardo was born May 23, 1949, and ordained a priest of Pittsburgh on June 16, 1977. He previously served as bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, from 1998-2004 before being appointed to coadjutor bishop, then archbishop, of Galveston-Houston. Pope Benedict XVI named him a cardinal in 2007, making him the first cardinal from Texas.

The bishops also elected Archbishop George J. Lucus of Omaha chairman of the Committee of Catholic Education in a 141-93 vote over George V. Murry, SJ, of Youngstown, Ohio. Archbishop Lucas, who has served as interim chair of the committee since the May 2013 death of Bishop Joseph P. McFadden, will begin his term at the conclusion of this week’s bishops’ meeting.

The bishops chose chairmen-elect of five other USCCB committees. The chairmen-elect will begin their three-year terms in one year, at the conclusion of the bishops’ fall 2014 General Assembly. These were:

  • Coadjutor Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of Newark, New Jersey, to the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance in a 167-70 vote over Bishop Joseph N. Perry, auxiliary bishop of Chicago.
  • Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, to the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs in a 130-105 vote over Bishop Arthur L. Kennedy, auxiliary bishop of Boston.
  • Archbishop-designate Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, to the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis in a 135-98 vote over Bishop John O. Barres of Allentown, Pennsylvania.
  • Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, to the Committee on International Justice and Peace in a 126-110 vote over Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois.
  • Bishop Edward J. Burns of Juneau, Alaska, to the Committee on Child and Youth Protection in a 118-114 vote over Bishop Robert J. Cunningham of Syracuse, New York. 

On November 11, the following bishops were elected to the board of Catholic Relief Services (CRS): Bishop William P. Callahan, OFM Conv., of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, and Bishop Cirilo B. Flores of San Diego.

Also on November 11, the following bishops were elected to the board of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC): Bishop Richard Garcia of Monterey, California, and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami.

Prayerful Best Wishes to Bishop Salvatore R. Matano

November 6th, 2013

I am grateful to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, for the appointment of Bishop Salvatore R. Matano to be new Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester. Bishop Matano has been an excellent Bishop of Burlington, and I know that he will be warmly welcomed as he undertakes his new pastoral duties in Rochester. He succeeds my good friend, Bishop Matthew Clark, who served the people of Rochester so well and so faithfully during his time as their bishop. I look forward to working with Bishop Matano in caring for God’s people in New York.

Ask the Holy Spirit for Inspiration and Vote

November 1st, 2013

A blessed Feast of All Saints!

I want to encourage you to vote on Tuesday. One of our national embarrassments is that we American citizens do not take our duty to vote — a freedom most of the world’s inhabitants long for — seriously.

Might I also thank our candidates. Disagree with them on issues I do, but I sure appreciate the sense of public service that inspires them, and will ask God’s guidance for Tuesday’s victors.

We Catholic pastors scrupulously avoid endorsing candidates. Why? For one, we trust the judgment of our people, that they will “render to God what is God’s, and to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

Two, it’s counterproductive, as our people want us to stick to principles that should guide us, not partisan politics.

Three, we embrace America’s heritage of “separation of Church and State.” (Although it does annoy me that other pastors hardly seem to blush at overt endorsements, even inviting candidates to preach in their churches, without a peep from the usual watchdogs who blast any Catholic pastor who dares even to offer guidance on issues or candidates.)

Many of you have expressed appreciation for the statement of the bishops of New York State on Proposition 1, on casino gambling. You have kindly observed that this was helpful, as we offered a moral reflection to hopefully enlighten, while refraining from taking a side.

What about Proposition 6? Well, having just elected a seventy-six year old for one of the world’s more challenging duties, and seeing the zeal and success of Pope Francis, prompts me to admit a lot of sympathy for the measure, which would allow judges to stay on. I suppose one of the virtues we most admire in a magistrate is wisdom, and that trait usually advances with age. We allow our pastors to stay on in pastoral administration until they’re eighty, and, if healthy, invite them to remain active in a parish even after that. I’m glad we do.

Blessed John Paul II once observed that the real enemy of democracy is not tyranny, but apathy! Study the issues! Ask the Holy Spirit for inspiration! Then, vote! Then ask the Lord to guide the winners, and thank God for the defeated who were willing to serve.

 

The Good Old Days

October 22nd, 2013

A string of good popes!

In recent memory, all of the occupants of the Chair of St. Peter have been virtuous, good, even saintly men.

Only the naïve will consider that statement a “no-brainer.” Why? Because this has not always been the case.

We have had more than one bad pope! There are books written on them! We have had drunks, philanderers, tyrannical, bloodthirsty rogues whose exploits would make a truck driver blush.

Come to think about it, the first one, St. Peter, was no gem, as he denied even knowing Jesus, three times, at the very moment the Lord could most have used a loyal friend.

No wonder, one of the best histories of the papacy around is entitled Saints and Sinners, since we’ve had our share of both. And, no surprise, the word “Borgia,” the name of a family that gave us more than one medieval pope, connotes corruption and immorality.

What’s remarkable, of course, is not that there have been knavish, scandalous popes — there sure have been! — but that the Church keeps on going in spite of them.

No surprise there, if you trust the promise Jesus made that “I will be with my Church all days, even until the end of the world.”

In our time, though, the successors of St. Peter have been men of sanctity and honor, real luminaries for the Church and the world.

I’m just thinking of the pontiffs I’ve known:

Pius XII, who died when I was eight, was a man of piety, asceticism, diplomatic skills, and theological erudition. I remember my third grade teacher commenting, as we dropped to our knees to pray the rosary upon hearing of his death in 1958, “We’re all spiritual orphans now, and I don’t know who could ever take his place after his nineteen years as our Holy Father!”

The Holy Spirit was not as worried, and we got Blessed John XXIII. When he died in 1963, my hometown newspaper had an editorial cartoon showing the globe, with the face of a man, crying.

Then came Paul VI, who led the Church courageously and wisely through the final years of the council, and the decade of its implementation keeping us from “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

We can hardly remember the brief thirty-three days of Pope John Paul I in September, 1978, except that he captivated us with his warmth, smile, and sincerity.

But we sure recall with awe and devotion the twenty-seven years soon-to-be-Saint John Paul II filled the “shoes of the fisherman.” It was no hyperbole when shouts of Santo Subito (“a Saint now!”) filled the square at his funeral, or that God’s people began to refer to him as John Paul the Great. And today’s his feast day.

His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, was just what we needed after Pope John Paul II, and challenged us with insightful teaching worthy of the vicar of Christ. We’re still in awe of his act of humility in resigning the office of Peter lest the Church suffer from a fragile pontiff.

And now? Viva il Papa! The world has fallen in love with Pope Francis, who has already been hailed as “the world’s parish priest.” If I had a dollar for every New Yorker, Catholic and not, who has told me how much he or she loves our current Holy Father, I’d pay off the big repair bill of St. Patrick’s Cathedral!

So, face it: we’ve had quite a few popes throughout our 2,000 year run that have been real lemons, hardly worthy of the high dignity of the office. Thank God Jesus is in charge!

But, in our memories today, we’ve had great, holy, and good popes. These are “the good old days” for us as Catholics.

Welcoming Catholic Extension to New York

October 21st, 2013

Catholic Extension is dedicated to transforming poor Catholic communities across the United States – by building faith, inspiring hope and igniting spiritual renewal. More and more people are becoming aware of its vast network of support for 11 million Catholics who live the teaching of Christ day after day despite the most challenging of circumstances.  I hope you will take a moment to learn more about how Catholic Extension has been empowering Catholic faith communities for more than 100 years by supporting remarkable ministries, leadership initiatives, seminarian education and much more.

Rev. John J. Wall, president of Catholic Extension, will concelebrate Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral with me tomorrow, and together we will welcome guests at The Yale Club to hear stories about the transformative power of faith in changing hearts, lives and communities across the country.

Click here for more information

 

Welcoming Newcomers

October 18th, 2013

Today the Wall Street Journal published my editorial on the Catholic Church’s history of welcoming immigrants. I would like to share it with you. (*Subscription to this article may be required).

Here is an excerpt:

It’s a familiar sight at the Catholic Center, the archdiocesan headquarters on First Avenue in Manhattan where I work. Dozens of new arrivals to our country line up early in the morning, waiting for our office to open. They know that here they will get the help they need to become citizens, learn English and civics, reunite with their families, and navigate the complex legal immigration system. Our telephone counselors answer 25,000 calls from immigrants each year in 17 different languages.

It isn’t, however, confined to our office. We’ve all seen the men—almost 120,000 of them nationally on any given day—queuing up on the side of the road on hundreds of street corners throughout the U.S., hoping to be hired for the day. In places like Yonkers, N.Y., volunteers from Catholic Charities offer these day laborers coffee and sandwiches and even some employment advice.

The Catholic Church is doing the same things in Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Houston, Newark and Miami. More than 150 Catholic immigration programs across the nation assist immigrants in becoming Americans. Helping the newcomer to our land feel at home is part of our mission, as Christ reminds us in Matthew 25 that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Historian Henry Steele Commager wrote that: “The Church was one of the most effective of all agencies for democracy and Americanization.”

You can read the whole editorial here.

The Greatest Story Ever Told

October 17th, 2013

In this week’s Catholic New York columnI wrote about the rosary, a wonderful prayer and an effective means of evangelization.  I thought you might want to read it.

Here is an excerpt:

Pope Francis has radiantly reminded us of this, hasn’t he? It’s not helpful to start with what the Church is against; it’s not productive to begin with what’s right or wrong. We’ll get to that eventually. No, we start with the Person, the invitation, the message of Jesus! Then, everything else flows from this saving proclamation!

My friend, Father Bob Barron, one of the nation’s premier evangelists today, puts it like this: if a foreign visitor asks you to explain the complicated game of baseball, you would hardly start with the “infield-fly rule”! No! You would first introduce him to the beauty, rhythm, and flow of the game! Father Barron suggests he would take him instead to Wrigley Field, gradually introduce him to the majesty of our national pastime, and then patiently explain the details of the game.

The same is true of the mystery of the faith. We begin with Jesus, with the story of salvation, with prayer, liturgy, community, and the beauty of the Church. Gradually we then get to faith, doctrine, morals, practice.

You can read my whole column here.