Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

Becoming New in Christ

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

One of the many happy occurrences of this radiant Easter season in the Church is meeting those former “candidates” and “catechumens” who entered into full communion with the Church at Easter Eve.

They bring an exuberance, a joy, a devotion that I at times find lacking in lifelong Catholics, myself included.

In addition, they easily speak about Catholic doctrines, practices, and traditions that they find “awesome,” which, once again, sadly, for us “cradle Catholics,” may have lost their luster.

Let me mention a few:

For one, they love Sunday Mass and receiving the Eucharist.  For instance, Easter Sunday morning, at 10:15 Mass at Saint Patrick’s, I saw one of our brand new Catholics, who had just been baptized, confirmed, and received his first Holy Communion the night before.

“You didn’t have to come back this morning!” I teased him.  “You went to Mass last night!  You could have slept-in.”

“I know I didn’t have to come,” he replied.  “I wanted to!”

Two, believe it or not, they enjoy the Sacrament of Penance, and see the need for it.  At a time when a lot of us folks, Catholic from birth, have quit this powerful sacrament, our new Catholics love it.

Three, they rejoice in the Holy Father, not just in Pope Francis – although they sure love him – but in the papacy itself.  The tradition, the living teaching authority of the Church personified in the Pope, gives them confidence, they tell me.  Good to hear…

Four, they appreciate Mary and the saints.  One of our new Catholics told me that the most powerful moment of the Easter Vigil came during the chanting of the Litany of the Saints, when it dawned on her that she was joining a spiritual family with older brothers and sisters – the saints – and a mother – Mary – in heaven.

Finally, they speak eloquently about the power of conversion.  They have left their “old selves behind:” they are a “new creation.”  They have accepted the invitation of Jesus to conversion.

Sometimes that means the cross. So, a number of years ago, a nurse who had become Catholic at Easter saw me a month or so later.

“Well, I know what Jesus meant when He said His followers must take up His cross,” she remarked to me at the coffee and donuts after Mass.

When I asked her to explain, she went on, “In my work as a nurse, I’ve a time-or-two had to assist at an abortion.  I knew that, after I converted, that would have to go.  So, this week, when I was assigned to help at one, I told them I could not.  My supervisor told me to give up hopes of any raise or promotion…”

There it was…conversion…the cross…our new converts know about that.

Can they ever teach us a lot about our “old faith”: the appeal of the Eucharist, the power of confession, the gift of the Holy Father, the solidarity with our blessed Mother and the saints, the call to conversion…

Welcome, new family members!

Spring and Easter Renewal

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

In this week’s Catholic New York column, I wrote about the Easter season and renewing our faith.

Here is an excerpt:

Easter blessings!

I’m all for celebrating! We prepared for Easter with forty days of intense prayer, penance, and charity during Lent.

How about celebrating now for forty days—until Ascension Thursday—come to think of it, for fifty days—until Pentecost Sunday?

These ninety days—forty days of union with the suffering and death of Jesus during Lent, plus forty days of Easter joy, plus ten more days until Pentecost—are classic days of renewal for us who follow Jesus.

Even nature cooperates, as this grand season of the Church calendar takes place against the backdrop of the cold, dark, and dreary days of winter giving way to the warm, bright, vibrant days of spring.

You can read my whole column here.

Let Us Rejoice

Monday, April 1st, 2013

A blessed Easter!

Thank you, brother priests, for confessions heard, sermons preached, converts welcomed, liturgies prepared!

Thank you, deacons, for standing next to our priests and people as they went through this Holy Week!

Thank you, religious women and men, quietly, yet effectively there these sacred moments!

Thank you, choirs, musicians; sacristans, lectors, ushers, servers, and all who made our rituals so moving!

Thank you, catechumens, candidates, catechists, and sponsors… and welcome to the Church!

Thank you, God’s People, for once again accepting God’s invitation to renewal, grace, and mercy!

Thank you, Pope Francis, for giving us such good example in moving sermons, your first Holy Week as our Pope!

Thank you, Jewish neighbors, for keeping Passover, reminding us powerfully, of God’s ancient promises of freedom!

“He has risen as He said, alleluia, alleluia!”

“This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

In an Empire State of Mind

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

It has been awesome taking part in the events in Rome these past three weeks, saying goodbye to Benedict, and then taking part in the conclave last week to elect Pope Francis.  Today I will be joining our new Holy Father for his Mass of Installation, in Saint Peter’s Square.  At the same time, I am sorry that I will not be able to join my brother bishops of New York State as they undertake two days of advocacy on important public policy issues in Albany, as well with as the nearly 1,000 Catholics from every part of our state who will join them Wednesday for Catholics at the Capitol. I do love Rome, but, boy, do I wish I could be with all of you in Albany.

Pope Francis has a reputation for intense devotion to the poor, of humility, of promoting the Culture of Life.  That’s what we, as the Church, must be all about as well, and that is what we must bring in our meetings with our elected representatives in Albany.

I will certainly be with my brother bishops in spirit as they meet with Governor Cuomo, Senators Skelos and Klein, and Speaker Silver Tuesday afternoon to lay the ground work for Catholics at the Capitol by affirming the Church’s beautiful teaching on the dignity of every human person made in the image and likeness of Almighty God from the moment of conception until natural death.

And I will be praying for those committed advocates traveling to Albany to join with your bishops in proclaiming a great big Yes! to life, by working together to build a Culture of Life in New York by providing real choices for pregnant women and girls who may find themselves pressured to abort, and who so often suffer quietly for years afterward as a result. Surely, we can find some area of agreement among our elected leaders to help those who make the heroic choice to keep their babies, as well as those who have already aborted and need love, compassion and healing to move forward with their lives.

You will also uphold the Culture of Life  and proclaim the dignity of every human person by fighting for the safety of all children, wherever their parents send them to school. We bishops stood in support of Gov. Cuomo in his stand for sensible gun control, but while the NY SAFE Act rightfully included money for public school safety, no such funding was included for religious or independent schools in that legislation. We worry about the message that this sends. We’re also grateful for those who supported our efforts to get full reimbursement for all of the state mandates on our schools.

And, of course, you will passionately advocate for more state funding for affordable housing and for health care for the poor and vulnerable, because these are basic human rights that preserve human dignity. And you will speak out as well for the dignity of those in our state’s prison system, because our Lord taught us very clearly that whatever we do for any of the least of our brothers and sisters, we truly do for Him.

Know that my brother bishops and all of our laity, religious and clergy doing this important work in Albany will hold a special place in my prayers these next few days, even if I cannot be there with you in person.

A blessed St. Joseph Day, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter!

Asking St. Joseph to Help Us Prepare for a New Pope

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

It seems so providential that we would meet here in Rome for this extraordinarily significant event during Lent.

These forty days are a sacred occasion of recalling the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus – the Paschal Mystery – uniting ourselves to the death of Jesus by dying to sin, through prayer, sacrifice, and acts of charity, so that we might rise with Him to life at Easter.

Sure enough, the Church is experiencing death, as we observe the passing of a beloved Pontiff, and await the rebirth that comes with the election of a new one.

And these days of transition allow us as the Church to die to sin, corruption, scandal, and evil, even in the members of the Church – including her leaders – so that the Church can then rise to renewed life.

It also seems providential that we undergo this passing of one Pope and the rising up of a new one during March, classically devoted to St. Joseph (whose feastday is March 19th).

St. Joseph, a man of silence – and we need quiet reflection as the College of Cardinals and members of the Church;

St. Joseph, a man who dealt with emergencies – – think of his virgin wife’s “untimely,” embarrassing pregnancy; the birth of Jesus in exile, in a stable; the flight to Egypt to escape a murdering tyrant, the three-day loss of his boy – – with calmness, trust in God, and responsibility.  What an example he is as we see so many “emergencies” in the Church and the world today!

St. Joseph, ever attentive to God’s will, placing Jesus and Mary at the heart of his life, reliable in his duties to care and protect his virgin wife and adopted son; a working-man who took pride in his profession as a carpenter.

No wonder we call him the Patron of the Church Universal.  Wouldn’t it be great to have a new Pope by his feastday?

I’m going to begin a novena to him on March 11, nine days of prayer in preparation for his feastday (two days after St. Patrick’s Day), asking him and his virgin-wife to look after the Church, and get us an inspired new Successor of St. Peter.  Will you join me?

It’s All About Passing Over!

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

In my recent Catholic New York column, I wrote about the meaning of Easter and how it is important to pass over to a renewed life!

Here is an excerpt:

So, the pivotal question each Holy Week is: will I simply look at Good Friday and Easter Sunday and say, “How nice! Let’s dye eggs, buy candy, get new shoes and a hat?” Or, will I unite with Our Lord in passing over from spiritual death—sin—to new life—grace—with Him?

Holy Saturday night, the Easter Vigil, will find thousands of people, our catechumens and candidates, passing over into the new life of Christ, in His Church, through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, and through their profession of faith.

Last Monday, early estimates say perhaps 40,000 people passed over from sin to mercy as they accepted the invitation of Reconciliation Monday and made a good confession.

Last week, as I visited Taconic Prison, I met a woman to be released from incarceration on Good Friday, now sober, with a GED, a revived faith, and a reformed attitude on life, ready to pass over from prison to freedom.

Good examples. Now, what about us? What about our lives?

Will we remain in the darkness, sin, and slavery of Egypt or pass over to the Promised Land?

You can read my whole column here.

A Blessed Easter Season

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

It was great!  During Easter Sunday morning Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I had a sneezing fit!  Apparently, all the magnificent lilies, in full springtime bloom throughout the sanctuary, got my allergies going!  The church was exploding with pollen!

It was worth it!  Because the Church is exploding with new life this paschal season!

We took the forty days of Lent, preparing for Easter, very seriously.  Congratulations to those who, by more fervent prayer, more dramatic self-denial, and enhanced service to those in need, responded so well to the Ash Wednesday invitation of the Lord to “return to me with all your heart!”

A special word of congratulations to those who approached the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent, especially the thousands who lined-up for confession on our Reconciliation Monday during Holy Week.

Our priests, deacons, and parish leaders report good crowds during the Holy Week liturgies.  Our cathedral was bustling with pilgrims — not tourists — and, as usual, Monsignor Robert Ritchie and the clergy, sacristans, ushers, volunteers, lectors, servers, and renowned choir continued the tradition of making St. Patrick’s a “house of prayer.”

On Good Friday night, I went out for a walk around the block with my little nephew, Pat, and we ducked into the cathedral at about 9 p.m.  How moving it was to see a long line of people up the center aisle waiting to venerate the cross on display at the communion gates.

Anyway, the forty days of Lent are behind us, so now let’s celebrate the fifty days of the  Easter Season leading up to Pentecost Sunday.

Back to the “explosion of new life” I mentioned at the start of this article.  See, it’s just not the lilies in full bloom (making me sneeze).  The risen life of Christ is in full bloom!

See, our faith tells us that the victory of Jesus over sin, Satan, and death at Easter is not just His triumph alone — He shares it with all of us!

So, at the Easter Vigil, for instance, throughout the parishes of this archdiocese, 2,000 people conquered sin, Satan, and death with Jesus as they were baptized, confirmed, received Him for the first time in Holy Communion, and joined His Church!  Alleluia!  Welcome!  What a boost you are for all of us!  And thanks to all of you who prepared our new Catholics through the RCIA.

So, for the next Sundays, thousands of our eight-year olds will share the risen life of Jesus as they make their first holy communion!  Alleluia!

So, over the next fifty days, thousands of our seventh and eighth graders will be confirmed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Alleluia!

So, over the next couple of months, hundreds of couples will begin new lives in the sacrament of marriage.  Alleluia!

Spring is busting out all over!

The Resurrection of Christ is radiating life and light all over!  Alleluia!

For fifty days we’ll keep the paschal candle on fire, we’ll sneeze from the lilies, we’ll bellow out “alleluia,” we’ll stay close to Jesus through the sacraments.

The darkness, gloom, and death of Good Friday do not have the last word.  The night is over; winter is gone.

The light and life of Easter Sunday morning triumph!  It’s morning . . . it’s springtime in the Church.

A blessed Easter!

To Whom Shall We Go?

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

“It” starts tomorrow, Ash Wednesday.

What is it ? Lent is the forty days of preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

Why do we have it ?  To accept in a more intense way the invitation of Jesus to be more closely united with Him on the cross, thereby dying with Him to sin, selfishness, Satan, and eternal death, so to rise with Him on Easter Sunday to a more radiant life of grace, mercy, and spiritual rebirth.

How do we do it ?  Through the three ancient Lenten practices: prayer, sacrifice, and charity.

A newsman asked me if I have any practical counsel for Lent.

“Yes,” I replied.  “Get back to confession.”

This sacrament of penance is most associated with this season of Lent.

There is no better time to approach this sacrament of reconciliation than before Easter.

Last week I made my annual retreat with thirty-five other priests from the archdiocese in Ars, a tiny village in southwestern France.

That village had a legendary pastor, or curé — the Curé of Ars by the name of John Vianney for forty-one years.  While there, he converted the town, and, a case can be made, all of France, simply by hearing confessions.  By the time of his death in 1859, they had built a new train station to handle the thousands who came weekly to approach the confessional of the humble, holy pastor now venerated as the patron saint of priests.

We priests knelt before that simple wooden confessional a lot last week, preparing for our own confession on retreat, and praying, at my request, for a renewal of the sacrament of penance in our own parishes and archdiocese.

A good friend of mine is pastor of a bustling, prestigious parish in a large city.  He loves it, and they, him.  A couple of years ago he shocked them one Sunday when, in his sermon he announced that, as much as he enjoyed being their pastor, he had asked the archbishop for a transfer.  When the congregation gasped, he explained:

‘Well, I don’t think you need me.  See, you must all be saints.  I was sent to serve sinners.  But, apparently there are none here in this parish, because I sit in the confessional with no customers!”

We’re called to be saints, but we’re sure not there yet.  And a great help to get there is the sacrament of penance.

And Lent is a grand time to return to it!

A blessed Lent !