Posts Tagged ‘Holy Week’

Reconciliation Monday

Monday, April 14th, 2014

I hope that our non-Catholic friends will pardon many of us Catholics today.  They will probably sense that we’re a bit jittery:  This is Holy Week, and, today is Reconciliation Monday throughout all five boroughs, Long Island, and seven counties north of the Bronx, reaching almost to Albany.  Sometime this week, especially today in the Archdiocese of New York, Diocese of Brooklyn, and Diocese of Rockville Centre (as every parish in those three dioceses has confessions available from 3:00-9:00) many of us will approach the sacrament of penance to conclude Lent and be ready for Easter.

So, we’re a little nervous.  Going to confession is like a trip to the dentist:  we know it’s good for us, and we sure feel better afterwards, but we’re anxious about doing it.

The simple truth is, we are sinners.  We Catholics – - like all Christians, and our Jewish neighbors – - acknowledge that our sins not only offend our loving God and harm ourselves, but that they hurt everybody else.

We claim to be people of love, and, I’m afraid, sometimes are hateful; we pretend to be selfless, and often are the opposite; we say we’re honest, and on occasion lie and cheat; we’re supposed to be for peace, and end-up fighting and arguing. We say we’re humble, but are all too often cocky and arrogant.  As is evident from what Pope Francis expressed Friday, we remain sickened and sorry for such a horror as the abuse of minors by priests, and negligence by bishops, however tiny a percent of clergy they may be.  We have disregarded the commandments, the beatitudes, the Bible, and the teaching of Jesus and His Church.  We admit it.  We’ve hurt God, ourselves, and our neighbors.  We’re sorry.

We know God forgives us when we ask Him to, because He told us so.  We experience that in Confession.  We find it hard at times to forgive ourselves.  And we ask those whom we have offended to pardon us for our failure to practice what we preach.

I guess that’s why we describe ourselves as “practicing Catholics,” because we keep trying to get it right.

So, this week finds us somber, as we recall what our sins did to Jesus that first Good Friday.  Jesus, on his way to His cross, fell three times, which means, in the Bible, “a lot.”  We slip and fall a lot too!

But, this Holy Week finds us ultimately joyful, grateful, renewed as we celebrate His resurrection from the dead this Easter Sunday.

Today finds us jittery as we prepare for confession on this “Reconciliation Monday.”

So, to our non-Catholic friends who read this blog, I say thanks for your patience with us, not only today, but every day, as we often stumble and fall in what I hope is our ongoing journey to follow Jesus more faithfully and generously.

And, to my fellow Catholics, I strongly urge you to take advantage of this most wonderful sacrament.  If you’re in New York, Brooklyn, or Rockville Centre, stop by any Church between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. today, and a priest will be waiting to hear your confession.  If you’re outside the New York metropolitan area, I am sure your local parish will have additional opportunities to receive the Sacrament.

Happy Passover to our Jewish neighbors!

Happy Holy Week and Easter to our Christian neighbors!

Tenderness and Love

Monday, March 25th, 2013

It feels great to be back home! I would like to share with you my article on Holy Week and Passover that was recently published in the New York Daily News.

Here is an excerpt:

This upcoming week we will see both brutality and tender love in our churches and synagogues.

Our Jewish neighbors observe Passover, as they reverently recall how the Lord rescued them from brutal slavery in Egypt, and led them, with tender love, to freedom in the Promised Land.

We Christians, during Holy Week, somberly and prayerfully relive the brutal betrayal, torture, passion, Crucifixion and death of Jesus, and then, next Sunday, Easter, will rejoice that God Our Father’s tender love rescues Him from death and raises Him to a glorious new life, a life He wants to share with us.

You can read all of it here.

A Blessed Holy Week!

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Obviously, our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, hadn’t been listening to the news.

If he had, he would have heard about the major “problems” facing the Church, and would have announced “changes” in the Church’s “policies” on abortion, birth control, celibacy for priests, condoms, women priests, and allowing divorce and remarriage.

Instead, when he came to his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square his first Sunday as Successor of St. Peter, to speak and pray with the 100,000 people below, he didn’t mention any of those issues at all.

Poor man is already “out of it!”

Instead, he spoke of God’s mercy. “God never gets tired of forgiving us,” he observed.

Mercy is one of the richest, most profound teachings of the Bible.

Two facts: one, we sin a lot; two, God forgives us once we tell Him we’re sorry.

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good! For His mercy endures forever!”

God’s mercy is not just some fuzzy, vague idea. It is personally experienced in the Sacrament of Penance, as we admit our sins, confess them, ask God’s mercy, and receive it!

Today is Reconciliation Monday. In all our parishes, priests will be hearing confessions from 3-9 PM.

No better way to begin Holy Week and get ready for Easter, than by a good confession.

God’s mercy! It’s ours for the asking!

Listen to the Bible!

Listen to Jesus!

Listen to Pope Francis!

See you all in the confessional line. A blessed Holy Week!

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!

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!

A Blessed Holy Week

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Let’s see now:  we’ve got a Sunday night series on one of the most corrupt and tawdry families in Church history, the Borgias, with popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests, all part of this big, happy family; we’ve heard non-stop for a decade about abusive priests, (albeit a small minority) and lax bishops who reassigned them; we’ve got front page stories of priests who embezzled money from their parishes; and I saw one not long ago about a priest arrested for DUI.

Yes, all this is scandalous, sinful, sickening, and criminal.

But, it is not new.

Popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, nuns, brothers are human.

That means, we are sinners.

Granted, when one of us falls, it hurts and shocks more.  People rightly expect their spiritual leaders to practice what we preach.  When we don’t, we’re hypocrites.  And we know what Jesus thought about hypocrites.

But, this is not new.

If you think it worse today than in the past, I ask you to consider the solemn days we will observe next week, Holy Week:  Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

Within an hour or so after Jesus had ordained His very first bishops and priests — the twelve apostles — what happened?  They fell asleep when He asked them to pray with Him; one betrayed Him for thirty silver coins; one — the first Pope — denied three times even knowing Him; and all but one, the youngest, ran away scared at the time He most needed them.  That lonely loyal one, St. John, was there with our blessed Mother at the foot of the cross on a hill called Calvary on a Friday strangely called “good.”

Not a very good start for bishops and priests.  Within a few hours after their ordination, 11/12 had abandoned Him.  That’s a worse record than even the Mets!

What’s the point?  That we should tolerate and overlook the sins and vices of the clergy?  Absolutely not!  Or, worse, that we priests and bishops should stop seeking the heroic virtue, holiness, and perfection called for by Jesus?  Never!

The point is that, if the life, vigor, holiness, and efficacy of the Church depended only upon the virtue of priests and bishops, it would have been dead-on-arrival, not surviving that afternoon when the sun hid in shame and the earth shuddered in sadness.

Our faith is not in popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, or even in monsignors.  Nope:  our faith is only in Jesus.  He and He alone will never let us down; He will never sin; He and He alone will never break a promise; He and He alone deserves our absolute trust and confidence.

That’s why it’s especially tragic when someone leaves Jesus and His Church because of a sin, scandal, or slight from a priest or bishop.  If your faith depended on us, it was misplaced to begin with.  We priests and bishops might represent Jesus and shepherd His Church, however awkwardly — but we are not Jesus and His Church.

One of the more moving, sad, yet, usually “sacramental” duties I have as a bishop is to meet at times with victim survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, and on occasion their families.  Some of them tell me they have left the Church, they hate the Church, they have lost their faith.  Most of them, though, tell me that, as shattered, sickened, and angry as they may be, nobody, nowhere, nohow is going to take their faith away!  These are an inspiration to me.

The wife of one victim once graciously said to me, “Archbishop, you have helped me regain my faith in the Church!  I am putting my trust in you!”

I replied, “I’m flattered and grateful, but, please, don’t put absolute confidence in me.  I’ll work everyday to earn and keep your trust, and pray daily I’ll never, ever let you down, but, believe me, sooner-or-later, sadly, I’m afraid I will let you down and disappoint you.  Please, put your total faith and trust only in Jesus!  Anything else is idolatry!”

Maybe, maybe there’s a decent reason for leaving the Church.  I’ve never heard one, but a lot of people apparently think they have good cause, since “ex-Catholics” sadly number in the millions.

However, leaving because of something a priest or bishop may have done or not done is surely not a decent reason.

When I was about six-or-seven, I spent Saturday night with my grandpa and grandma, “Nonnie” and “Pata.”  On Sunday morning, we got ready for Mass.  Pata wasn’t budging from his EZ chair with the sports page and a second cup of coffee.

“Let’s go, Dad! (that’s what Nonnie called him),” yells Nonnie.  “We’ll be late for Mass.”

“I’m not going.  I can’t stand that new priest, Father McCarthy,” replies Pata.

“Oh, yeah,” responds Nonnie.  “You can’t stand the new bartender up at Nick’s, either, but that sure doesn’t seem to keep you from going up there!  Get moving!”

All three of us went to Mass . . .

Frank Sheed, that great Catholic lay theologian of last century, expressed it a bit more eloquently than Nonnie:  “We are not baptized into the hierarchy; we do not receive the cardinals sacramentally; will not spend an eternity in the beatific vision of the pope.  Christ is the point.  I, myself, admire the present pope, but even if I criticized him as harshly as some do, even if his successor proved to be as bad as some of those who have gone before, even if I find the Church, as I have to live with it, a pain in the neck, I should still say that nothing that a pope, a bishop, a priest could do or say would make me wish to leave the Church (although I might well wish that they would).”

Pray for us bishops and priests, please.  We’re sorry when we hurt you.  We must try harder to conform our lives to Jesus.  But don’t ever let our sins drive you away.

A blessed Holy Week!