Posts Tagged ‘World Youth Day’

Vivat Jesus!

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

What a grand summer so far . . . sure, some time-off with family and priest-friends, but also the 150th Anniversary Mass at Gettysburg, and World Youth Day in Brazil.

Last week added to a banner summer as I joined 3,000 other members at the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in San Antonio, Texas.

All of us are gratefully aware of the “K of C,” as we call them, observing them with admiration at parish, community, and archdiocesan events.  We especially appreciate their unflagging devotion to pro-life work, Catholic schools, vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, physically and mentally handicapped, and youth work.  As most bishops and parish priests will tell you, “If you want something done, go to the Knights of Columbus.”

In addition to all of this work — they are the largest volunteer organization in the world! — they run the best insurance program around, loyal to the goal of their founder, Father Michael Mc Givney, to care for the widow and orphan of poor, immigrant Catholic workmen.

They have also carried the light of faith to the public square, especially in efforts to protect the fragile life of the preborn baby, the definition of marriage, and religious freedom.

All in all, as I commented in the remarks I was honored to give at the festive States’ Dinner, they are a radiant exhibit of what the Second Vatican Council called for in the vocation of the lay faithful.

The Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, is an astute churchman, and in his splendid “state of the order address,” always a highpoint of the convention, he showed his attentiveness to the invitation now coming from Pope Francis, and encouraged us brother knights in our call to charity and service.

Mr. Anderson referred to the Holy Father’s warning about a “globalization of indifference.”  As I observed to the convention, “indifference is not a word you will find in the dictionary of the Knights of Columbus.”

I was particularly proud of my two brother bishops, Gustavo Garcia-Siller, the host Archbishop of San Antonio, who preached and celebrated the inspiring opening Mass; and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, who gave the Keynote, as they both gave priority to our care for the immigrant.

To promote the dignity of the immigrant was especially appropriate with the K of C.  Why?  Well, they were founded precisely to offer fraternity and care for Catholic immigrant workers of 130 years ago, who were then, as now, the victims of prejudice, and whose families were so vulnerable if the breadwinner died or was injured; and two, the Knights themselves are of all nations and ethnic backgrounds, so are naturally free of the nasty nativism that sadly characterizes anti-immigrant sentiment today.

Brother Knights, to be with you was like a retreat — yet fun! . . . as I was with you in prayer and recommitment!

Keep up the good work!

Vivat Jesus!

What the Holy Father Said

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Well, since everybody else is talking about it, I guess I should.

I’m speaking about, of course, the Holy Father’s remarks to the journalists on the plane returning from World Youth Days in Brazil.

Since I finally got to read the whole text of his conversation, it’s a good time to weigh in with a half-dozen or so of my own observations.

For one, the Pope was visibly “on a high” from his first international pastoral visit in Rio.  Understandably so.  Because I was there with him, I can verify that the superlatives being used — “oceanic” crowds, “frenzied” welcomes, “inspirational, heartfelt” words — are not exaggerations at all.

After the conclave, one of my brother cardinals predicted to me that, as Pope John Paul II “won back” the formerly communist controlled “Eastern bloc” countries, Pope Francis would revive the Church on his home continent of Latin America.  From what we saw in Brazil, he’s sure off to a great start.

In Rio, he was so positive, upbeat, forward looking, realistic, and challenging.  Look at his heartfelt pleas for “a Church that is poor and for the poor” as he visited hovels in the favela; his rejection of a “throwaway culture” that marginalizes elders, youth, babies, weak, handicapped, and refugees; his embrace of a “youthful, energetic faith,” with 3,000,000 young people giving the lie to the stereotype of a withered, listless, moribund Church; and his ringing chant that “lasting hope and joy comes from our faith in Jesus, from a God who enjoys surprising us.”

Two, mercy is the word that seems to summarize Francis’ talks:  both God’s tender mercy for us, and the mercy He wants us to have for one another.  I recalled his first Angelus in Rome after the white smoke, when he spoke of God’s lavish mercy, and his homily at his inaugural Mass on St. Joseph’s Day, when he asked us to be tender.

This mercy flows, not instead of or in spite of the Church, but through her!  This pastor reminds us that Jesus Christ and His Church are one.

Mercy, he claims, is not just for those who show-up.  No, says the world’s parish priest, “We shouldn’t just wait for the wounded to come to us; we go out and reach for them.”

Three, mercy was not just the theme of those radiant World Youth Days in Rio, but also of his now renowned hour-and-twenty minute comfortable conversation with the press on the plane.

So, his brief remarks on homosexuality were about mercy:  everyone has a welcome home in the Church; the Church considers unjust discrimination against any homosexual a sin;  and homosexual acts, which are contrary to Revelation — as are heterosexual acts outside of lifelong, life-giving, faithful marriage between one man and one woman — can always be healed by God’s mercy.  And when God’s mercy is sought, it is always given, the sin wiped away and forgotten; because of this, nobody — not the Pope, not a bishop, not a priest — can judge another!  Actions?  Yes; the heart? No.  No change in Church teaching here . . . or no intended “correction” to a more “dour” approach by his predecessors.  After all, it was under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger that the Catechism was composed, which reminded us that people with same sex attraction were as much God’s children, deserving dignity and respect, as anybody else.

Four, his comments on the alleged “gay lobby” in the Vatican were perceptive.  What bothers him is any lobby.  There can be only one agenda in the Church:  that of Jesus Christ, His Gospel, His Church.  He even praised the favorite “whipping boy” of all of us — bishops included — the Curia, which is made up, he insisted, of a vast majority of selfless, generous, virtuous priests and people, with, okay, a few lemons.

Then, five, there’s his reaffirmation of the need for a “theology of women,” who hardly need a Roman collar to lead and serve in the Church.  After all, Pope Francis reminds us, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, “is the most important of all the apostles.”

A few final words.

One wonders if the Holy Father is frustrated by all this attention to his interview.  For six days he spoke powerfully about lofty issues such as friendship, service, trust, joy, hope, love for the poor, humility, discipleship, faith, and simplicity.  Those words got a bit of coverage.  The “hot button” issues such as women’s ordination, contraception, divorce and remarriage, abortion, homosexuality, or celibacy, as I noted in my blog Monday, did not seem of any concern to the three million youth, or to their beloved Pope Francis.

But, as usual, the press predictably brought these weary issues up, and have given them more ink than any of the other noble themes that rang through Copacabana Beach.  It’s not the Church that is obsessed with those topics, but the media!

And haunting all of the coverage is the hint that we now finally have a Pope who will change the Church’s ageless teaching.  Of course, Catholics know that the Pope, like all of us, is a servant of the truth of the Gospel, not a crafter.  Doctrine is a given; it is settled, inherited, faithfully passed on.  That’s his duty, and he’s sure doing it well.  As Gayle King commented during our interview on CBS This Morning yesterday, “This really seems a change in style rather than substance.”  Bingo!  And the change I find refreshing!

Then the very event of a Pope comfortably, glibly, confidently visiting and dialoguing with the press!  That in itself, as more than one journalist remarked to me here in New York, is what’s really “revolutionary.”

Young People in Rio – Thanks!

Monday, July 29th, 2013

You did it again, dear participants in World Youth Days . . .

This was my sixth one.  Before each of them, I debate, should I go?  It’s so much trouble, travel, time; it will be unorganized and so jammed; there will be a lot of walking, waiting, and inconvenience . . . is it worth it?

Yes!  Monday morning, home safe and secure, after a glorious week in Rio, yes!   It was worth it!

You young people in Rio, you worked a miracle:  you made me young again!

Our Catholic faith is “ever ancient, ever new.”  At World Youth Days, you young people show us that the wise, tender, loving, grandmotherly Church, with teachings and traditions timeless, is also a dazzlingly beautiful young bride who enchants all of us.

In Rio I marveled at you:  standing in line waiting for us priests to hear your confessions, that dramatic occasion of the conversion of heart we all crave;

Kneeling silently before the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist;

Singing and embracing as you walked for miles in wind, rain, and chill (it was their winter);

Attentive at the three catechetical sessions I was privileged to lead, thoughtful in your questions and testimonies, so joyful and reverent at Mass;

And you got stronger, more and more enthusiastic, instead of fatigued and bored:  1½ million lining the Holy Father’s motorcade that “welcome ceremony” on Thursday; swelling to 2 million for that moving Stations of the Cross Friday; a crescendo of 3 million for Saturday’s vigil and Sunday Mass.

Copacabana, the three mile stretch of stunning beach, Rio’s jewel.  For carnivalé, Mardi Gras, it’s known for revelry and actions, I hear, less than noble.  Last week, it was the scene of prayer, virtue, friendship, Christian discipleship, solidarity in values and searching, exuberance in cheering the man who simply described himself as an “old pilgrim” among the young, Pope Francis.

You raised none of the “issues” flowing from ideologies or problems in the Church:  nothing about women’s ordination, priestly celibacy, same-sex marriage, the HHS mandate, even immigration or abortion.

You concentrated, not on issues, but on a Person:  the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ, your thirst for Him, your desire to know, love, and serve Him in His Church. He is the way, the truth, and a life! He is the answer to the question posed by every human life.

Today, back home, I’m tired, hoarse, coughing, sneezing, and out of clothes.  But, I am young again in my faith . . .

. . . thanks to you, Young People of World Youth Days in Rio! See you at the next one.