Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

Standing Up for Persecuted Christians in the Middle East

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Recently I read this moving piece on the plight of Christians in the Middle East. It is our duty to stand up for them as is eloquently outlined by Johnnie Moore, author and Professor of Religion and Vice President at Liberty University, on FoxNews.com:

I wept as I heard their stories, and I wondered why Christians around the world weren’t incensed by it all.

Ironically, that meeting in Jordan was not convened by Christians, but by Muslims who cared about the plight of their Christian neighbors.

At one point, Jordan’s strong and kind king said that “it is a duty rather than a favor” to protect the Christians in the region, and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, a senior adviser to the king, acknowledged that “Christians were in this region before Muslims.” He said, “They are not strangers, nor colonialists, nor foreigners. They are natives of these lands and Arabs, just as Muslims are.”

While I was deeply encouraged by the tone of these Islamic leaders, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “I wonder how many Christians in the West even care about those in the East?”

In that moment, I decided I would be their advocate.

Read the rest here.

Grit, Pride, Love, and Determination: What Makes Our Catholic Schools Succeed

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

As we begin Catholic Schools Week, let me send an early Valentine to all our wonderful students, teachers, principals, staffs, volunteers, boards, benefactors, parents, parishioners, and clergy who, with God’s grace and the sound heritage we’ve inherited, keep them strong.

We’ve been through a lot of trial. Forty-five years ago, especially as it became obvious that we would soon no longer have the precious resource of a numberless supply of our beloved Sisters, Brothers, and Priests, many predicted the demise of Catholic schools.

My predecessors would not let this happen. Not only were Cardinals Cooke, O’Connor, and Egan personally fervent about the inestimable value of our schools, but they knew you were as well.

Our schools got their problems for sure. But, they’re still the best thing we got for passing on our faith and for providing a first-rate education. Everybody – - friend and foe alike – - acknowledges this.

I sometimes wonder if the trials and hardship that come with our Catholic Schools are actually what make them so good. When you’ve got boards, principals, and priests who have to scrape for every dime; when parents have to sacrifice luxuries and even some essentials to keep their kids in our schools; when grandparents and volunteers pitch in to paint classrooms and repair leaks; when you’ve got teachers who could make a lot more money elsewhere, but freely choose Catholic schools; well, then you’ve got grit, pride, love, and determination.

Hits keep coming. Two weeks ago, the renowned Sisters of the Sacred Heart made the deeply painful decision, in concert with their dedicated board, that their splendid Mother Cabrini High School would not be able to open next fall. And another high school that’s already fighting hard just to stay alive, Monsignor Scanlon, was damaged severely by fire.

Sometimes we feel like saying with St. Theresa of Jesus, “Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have very many!”

Yet, the signs of hope are radiantly there. Our regionalization, while still in first gear, is working. The boards that now govern our regional and archdiocesan high schools have brought energy, competence and a sense of ownership. Pathways to Excellence – - our strategic plan for Catholic education – - continues to be implemented, with special attention to renewed Catholic identity, strengthened academic performance, financial stability, and more effective marketing. And there seems a very good chance that Albany will finally come through and approve the Education Investment Tax Credit.

As Sister Diane told me a couple weeks ago when I spent the morning at Santa Maria school in the Bronx, “I love our kids. When I get, tired and discouraged, wondering if it’s worth the massive effort, all I do is look at them. It’s all worth it. We can’t let them down.”

Thanks, everybody, for not letting our kids down.

Rebuild My Church

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Good morning!  Buon Giorno!  Happy Columbus Day!

Welcome to this ritual of blessing our newly repaired and restored doors here at our city’s, our nation’s, spiritual gem, America’s parish church, our beloved Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

Cardinal Egan, my brother bishops, Monsignor Ritchie, the rector of this Cathedral, my brother priests, join me in welcoming all of you, inside and outside of this sacred temple, as do prominent board members, trustees, and allies:

Ken Langone

Anthony and Christie DiNicola

Daniele Bodini

Sam and Melody DiPiazza

Patricia Dillon

Alice Sim

John Studzinski

Stephanie Whittier

Vicky McLoughlin

Judge Milton Williams

And so many more….

These leaders join me in saying Benvenuti  this splendid autumn morning,  Columbus Day.

You know what Jesus said to the patron saint of Italy, St. Francis of Assisi, from the crucifix at the crumbling church of San Damiano: Rebuild my church!

We have heard Jesus say the same to us, Rebuild my church, as a year-and-a-half ago, on Saint Patrick’s Day, we began the repair, restoration, and renewal of this historic soul of New York City.

Thanks to generous benefactors.

Thanks to our artisans –

Jim and Colleen Donaghy

Andy Bast

Rolando Kraeher

Jeff Murphy

And, thanks especially to God’s grace, the repair, restoration, and rebuilding progresses.

How fitting that we’d halt to bless these restored doors:

Through them have passed saints and future saints:

St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants

The body of Venerable Pierre Toussaint

Venerable Dorothy Day

Venerable Terence Cooke

Venerable Fulton Sheen

Through these doors have passed future Pope Pius XII, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II (twice!), Pope Benedict XVI.

Through these doors have passed immigrants and their children from Italy and from all over the world, who, with tears in their eyes from leaving their homes behind, had a smile on their face as they realized that, at St. Pat’s, they had a spiritual home.

Through these doors came not only saints, popes, immigrants…but sinners, people searching, seeking, and struggling, like you and me, who, once through these doors, know that our Heavenly Father embraces them.

Members of the Columbus Citizen’s Foundation Board:

President and Mrs. Fusaro

Maria Bartiromo

Grand Marshal and Mrs. Perella

Mr. and Mrs. Mattone

Ms. Pardo

Mr. and Mrs. Trennert

Mr. and Mrs. Freda

Louis Tallarini

Mary Young

And Consul General Natalia Quintavalle

Thank you for so graciously representing the millions of immigrants from beloved Italy, and from all over the world, who, like Christopher Columbus, dared to dream, hope, and discover, trusting in God, bringing their faith to a new land.

Thank you to all who support us as we “rebuild His church.” 

I invite you all to continue to support our humble attempt to answer the request Jesus gave Saint Francis, Rebuild my church!

Let us pray:

Open wide the doors to God’s mercy.

Jesus says, “Here I stand knocking at the door!”

Lord, you are a God who opens doors,  not closes them.

You are a God who opened to us the doors to life, and who longs to open for us the doors to heaven.

You are the God who desires that all pass through the doors into your household of faith…

Bless these restored doors, through the intercession of Mary, your mother, and the saints who adorn them – Saint Joseph, Saint Isaac Jogues, the North American Martyrs, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini, Saint Patrick – so that all who enter them may be refreshed by your love, grace, and mercy,

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…Amen!

 

A Call to Counter Cultural Witness

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Sad . . . worrisome . . . but hardly surprising.

That’s how I answered another concerned person who asked my sentiments about Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision allowing the redefinition of marriage.

Sad, because the ominous erosion of the pivotal institution of society and civilization — marriage – has been accelerated.  Yes, the decision could have been more troublesome, but it’s still somber.

The understanding of marriage as the lifelong, faithful, loving union of one man and one woman, as a husband and a wife become a mom and dad to their babies, and bring about a family, is a given in the human heart, a constant in history, flowing from what philosophers term the natural law, a definition embedded in reasoned reflection on the human person, antedating any government, written law, or religion.

To protect and foster that union has been the driving force of civilization.  Sure, it’s been under pressure from the start – by, for instance, cheating on one’s spouse, abandoning spouse and children, lack of selfless love, or divorce, just to mention a few threats — but culture has always understood that such pressures could not prevail, and that this ancient institution had to be cherished if the human community were to flourish.  Governments then have a duty to enact and defend laws that protect this special relationship, in order to promote the common good of all.

For those of us who believe in God, things get even better, because this God has revealed that this foundational relationship of marriage is a mirror of the way God loves us!  In other words, God loves us like a wife loves her husband, like a husband loves his wife.  Since God’s love for us is forever, faithful, and fruitful (bringing life), so is marriage!

The creator elevated this natural understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman, faithful and forever, giving us new life in babies, to a supernatural level, as Jesus taught.

In recent decades, this fundamental relationship of marriage has been under dramatic pressure:  no-fault, easy divorce; living together like a husband and wife before marriage, or even for years without the formal bond; glorification of promiscuity; and even same-sex “marriage.”

In the face of each threat, people of faith, and thoughtful, reflective people of no faith at all, have expressed genuine concern that the ordinary, intended, given definition of marriage was almost becoming the exception.  People of faith have tried — not always successfully, I admit — to do this in a non-judgmental, calm way.  In other words, we discourage divorce, without harshly judging those who have to suffer through it; we oppose same-sex “marriage” while never condemning those with same-sex attraction (a bigotry God also abhors); we consider adultery wrong, while forgiving adulterers.  In other words, we’re pro-marriage, not anti-anyone.  Thus, while we highly respect the Supreme Court, we find very troubling the statement that one’s defense of marriage as historically and naturally understood to be based only on bigotry.  The justices have the responsibility to interpret law, not the motives of honest citizens.

We love many people:  our parents and siblings, our good friends.  But we don’t marry them.  Marriage is about love, yes, but a unique love that procreates children.

This past Wednesday, marriage as classically defined, naturally understood, and historically defended, took a big hit.  That makes us sad.

We’re also worried, because those of us who will continue to hold to the definition of marriage consonant with reason, nature, tradition, and faith, might now be coerced to accept, promote, and allow what we find so sad and ominous.  We’ll be told to “keep our oppressive, bigoted, medieval, outmoded” opinions to ourselves.  If we want to hand those “opinions” on to our children, teach them to our people, behave in accord with them, and exercise the duties of our faith publicly — to serve, teach, heal — we’re worried we’ll be harassed.

We’re worried enough to ask, now just who is doing the imposing?  We’ve been stereotyped as imposing our strange “view” of marriage upon others.  We worry, because now the highest court in our land has undermined the definition of marriage, and imposed a new definition on everyone else.

We also worry about an apparent understanding of government that considers itself able to exercise such power.  If I remember my American Studies courses correctly, the wisdom of our founders, as we’ll celebrate Thursday, was that they viewed government as a human construct to protect and defend mediating institutions such as family, marriage, and faith, not to change or tamper with them!  Kings claimed a “divine right” to alter the natural order, and our founders rebelled against that claim.

So, as one commentator observed, “The government can talk and issue rulings all it wants, but nobody can change the very definition of marriage.”

Sad, worried, but hardly surprised.  I confess that I won a $5 bet last week, as I had wagered months ago that the Supreme Court would follow this rush.  The powerful engine to redefine marriage left the station about a decade ago.  Somberly, we’ve come to realize that, once Hollywood, the entertainment industry, college professors, the society and editorial pages of our big urban newspapers, the sit-coms, movies, and talk shows get behind something, get out of the way.

What becomes normative, then, is not natural law but the polls, not the Constitution but the “correct,” not the Bible but the blogs and the TV, not the Church but the chic.

No surprise . . .

What to do?  We can get mad, bitter, angry, and harsh.  Forget it.  That’s hardly decent, and it’s counterproductive.

We could “circle the wagons” and retreat from a culture that more and more finds our values toxic and wants to stifle us.  Don’t go there.  We’re to engage the culture, not run from it.

We could long for the “good old days,” and wring our hands about these awful modern times.  Of course, the older you get, the more you realize there were no good old days, and that our job is “to make pasta with the dough we got,” to work and live honorably and justly in the here and now.

We better start with ourselves, because, a good chunk of people of faith, even among our own Catholic people, do not share this sense of sadness and worry over Wednesday’s decisions.  Part of the New Evangelization is to present the timeless teachings of our faith – - like true marriage – - in a cogent, coherent, fresh way, re-convincing our people.

We remind ourselves of what Blessed John Paul II called our duty to be counter cultural:  that our beliefs are often at odds with contemporary trends, but that this reality only encourages us to live them out more heroically.  True freedom is not the license to do whatever we want, but the liberty to do what we ought.

We recover a sense of faithful citizenship, and, as loyal American citizens, continue to explore every method of reversing this sad and worrisome decision, reminding our elected officials and magistrates that the rights of conscience and religious freedom are not government favors or concessions, but flow from the very nature and dignity of the human person.

And, we never give up hope.  The witness given by our husbands and wives, moms and dads, to faithful, life giving, lifelong love is more cherished and essential than ever.  These days, the vocation of a man and woman, united forever in faithful love, leading to babies and families, is as potent a sign as celibacy is for priests!

Besides, “the truth shall set us free!”  That always gives us encouragement, and trumps worry and sadness, right?

A blessed Independence Day!

A Baseball Player, an Army Chaplain, and a Revered Pastor

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Charles Lamb has an excellent column in today’s Wall Street Journal on the role that faith played in the life of Jackie Robinson.   We all know the story of Jackie Robinson, a great ballplayer and a great American, whose courage and determination helped spur the civil rights movement and the integration of our nation.  But, as Mr. Lamb writes, “What is often overlooked in accounts of Robinson’s life is that it is also a religious story. His faith in God, as he often attested, carried him through the torment and abuse of integrating the major leagues.”

I’m looking forward to seeing the new movie, “42,” which opened today. I’m glad that, as Mr. Lamb’s column notes, the movie does portray at least something of the role that faith played in both Jackie Robinson’s and Branch Rickey’s lives, in their quest to break baseball’s color line.

The New York Times has two good stories about priests in today’s paper as well. The first is on Father Emil Kapuan, an Army chaplain who died as a POW during the Korean War, who yesterday was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House.  The second story was on Msgr. Gerald Ryan, New York’s – and probably the nation’s –  longest serving pastor,  who died yesterday at the age of 93.  Two outstanding priests, who each served the Lord and his people well and faithfully.

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.

Science and Spirit

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

This past weekend, the New York Times printed a story about a remarkable doctor in New York City who exhibits deep spiritual faith. Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in the care of children, is an inspiration and  a wonderful role model to all. I was really amazed with his ongoing effort to bridge faith and science in his everyday life. I encourage everyone to read this article.

Here is an excerpt:

Dr. Dutkowsky has made efforts to bridge the chasm between science and spirit. As president of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, he had the Rev. David Farrell, a Catholic priest who has worked among Peru’s poor since 1964, address the group’s convention last year on the topic of “Poverty and Disability.” That same year, on his third pilgrimage to Lourdes, Dr. Dutkowsky took part in a conference on faith and medicine, delivering a speech he titled “Dignity and Disability.”

He took the occasion to wrestle with the ontological question embodied by the unmerited suffering of patients like Mike and Christian.

“For years, when asked why I chose this profession, I had no good answer,” he said, “until I came upon the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Jesus and his disciples come upon a man who was blind from birth. The disciples asked Jesus, ‘Did this man or his parents sin that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered that the blindness was not the result of the man or his parents’ sin. The man was born blind ‘so the glory of God might be revealed.’ Every day in my work I find myself in the revealed glory of God.”

You can read the whole article here.

Keeping the Faith

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

I was not that surprised to read it, were you?

The Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago had a fine piece by Peter Beinart, very effectively making the point that, if Jews in the United States are worried about their children and grandchildren keeping the faith – - and are they ever worried! – - well, the best course of action is to support Jewish grade and high schools.

Mr. Beinart convincingly shows that Jewish children who attend Hebrew private schools are statistically much more likely, as adults, to practice their Jewish faith, attend synagogue, marry a Jewish spouse, and pass on the faith of Israel to their own children.

He remarks that American Judaism is at a crisis, with more and more Jews leaving their faith, and not raising their own children as faithful Jews.  A strong Jewish school system, argues the author, will correct that.

Sound familiar?  We Catholics have known this for years:  there is no more tried-and-true way of passing on our Catholic faith to our kids than by sacrificing to put them in a Catholic school.  Data proves they persevere in the faith at higher rates, pray better, are more faithful to Sunday Mass, live gospel values, are more generous to their parish, even have happier marriages, volunteer more, and transmit the faith to their own children, than those not in a Catholic school.

In our nation’s history, Catholic schools had two goals:  to educate excellently, and to form children in the faith.  Both are essential.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting with leaders in our Catholic high schools.  They observed that, in some of their areas, the public schools were, thank God, offering a good education.  Lord knows, they remarked, their facilities, and the frills in the government schools, were more dazzling than the Catholic high schools.

So, they asserted, there was only one reason for a parent to sacrifice financially to send his/her son/daughter to the Catholic high school:  formation in faith, values, character, discipline, and religion . . . along with a first class education.

In other words, Catholic identity is a priority.

If our schools are not visibly and robustly Catholic, let’s save a lot of money and close them in areas where our children can get a decent academic education free of charge.

Our Jewish neighbors have come to know that; we had best rediscover it!