The Greatest Family of All

If it were not so sad, it would only evoke the response of a yawn.  I’m talking about the most recent Hollywood star who was “raised a Catholic” but now, as an “enlightened, liberated” adult, has shed his or her faith for some toney, exotic “New Age” movement.  I watched her tell the talk-show host how she had left the faith of her family because it left her so “isolated” and “out of touch” with the cosmos.  Seems her new religion is big on the “inherent harmony of the universe,” which provides a valuable sense of unity for her.  She finds it provides her a real feeling of closeness to all of those who have gone before her and are now in eternity, and a union with all her brothers and sisters throughout the world who share her belief.

This is new?  Was she home with the measles when the Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints was covered in her religion class?  We Catholics have believed in this “inherent harmony of the universe” for two millennia, and at the heart of our faith is a sense of union with God, with the faithful departed, with the saints in heaven, and with all of our brothers and sisters in the Church throughout the world.

Of course, this wonderful doctrine of the communion of saints comes to mind these pleasant days of fall.  November 1st is All Saints Day, as we praise God for all those citizens of heaven, all members of the “Church triumphant” who now reign with Christ the King in paradise.  On November 2nd we observe All Souls Day, as we remember with reverence and gratitude those who have died, whether they are now with Jesus in heaven, or await their goal of heaven as they undergo a period of purification in purgatory, members of the “Church suffering,” who deserve our prayers.  We on earth then comprise the “Church militant,” as we continue to persevere in grace, fighting the ancient enemies of sin, Satan, and selfishness.

Thus, we belong to the greatest family of all, the communion of saints, and are intimately united to all who share residence in the household of the faith.  The limits of time and space fade away in this deep unity, and never do we feel alone or isolated.  All creation is in harmony under Christ the King, whom we hail the last Sunday of this month of November.

I can only pray that our friend in Hollywood rediscovers this ancient doctrine of the Church, and that we of the “Church militant” use this upcoming month of November to honor the saints, pray for the dead, and savor the sense of communion with Christ the King and all His disciples which comes from belonging to the Church.

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28 Responses to “The Greatest Family of All”

  1. Larry says:

    “Was she home with the measles when the Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints was covered in her religion class?”
    Why do you assume that it ever WAS “covered in her religion class,” Your Excellence? Why do you assume that she even HAD a “religion class” to go to? You don’t say how old the starlet was. If she came of age right after Vietnam, her CCD classes may have already stopped covering such old-fashioned concepts as the communion of saints on the grounds that the “Spirit of Vatican II” had superceded it.
    If she was a child of someone “educated” and “formed” during that time, her parents may not have ever thought it necessary to catechize her. “Nemo dat quod non habet.” They simply passed along to her their own spiritual know-nothingness.
    We may have “believed in this [and many other doctrines]…for two millennia,” but for two generations we’ve been keeping a lot of our beliefs secret from the young, and now we see the results.
    It’s not this lady’s fault. It’s our fault.

  2. Nita Steck says:

    Always good to read your words – you have always had the \spark\. Miss you in St. Louis.

  3. Melinda Hunt says:

    I am wondering if there could be a special blessing on All Souls Day for those buried in Potter’s Field on Hart Island. Many have family who do not know where they are. To date there are over 850,000 in mass graves on Hart Island in New York City. There used to be a full-time priest who performed daily Catholic burials on Hart Island. An interfaith stone church was built during the Great Depression with funds from the Catholic church. Now the burials are managed by the Department of Correction and the parents of infants must contact the prison system to visit. These souls are prisoners of a system that forbids the most basic forms of reverence.

  4. Andrew Piacente says:

    A great time of year to pray the St. Gertrude Prayer for all those in Purgatory:

    Prayer of
    St. Gertrude the Great

    Our Lord dictated the following prayer to St. Gertrude the Great to release 1,000 Souls from Purgatory each time it is said.

    “Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.”

    AndyP/Doria2 Yonkers, NY

  5. Sue Widemark says:

    Thank you again, ArchBishop, for writing such a relevant and well constructed article – we were just having a sort of discussion on a yahoo group about some types like you mentioned who left the church for the New Age, deluded into thinking they had made a spiritual advancement! I shared your blog with them! I totally love it!

    Again, thank you so much for all you do!
    Sue
    agnostic by birth, Roman Catholic by the grace of God

  6. kirsten says:

    Father, i am afraid you are being FAR to generous.
    you assume she was EVER taught about the communion of saints, other than as a line to be recited in “i believe in…”

    modern catechism would be a joke, if it wasn’t too tragic to be laughable. most of the Catholics i meet under the age of 30 cannot even begin to discuss the most rudimentary beliefs of Catholicism. They dont understand the “connection to those who have gone before” or know much of the doctrines beyond whatever purely local impression their priest gave them…
    IF they had any local priest to have an impression of.

    As a convert in RCIA, i am sad to say that one of our priests tried to convince us that married priests and women priests were “soon” to be a reality in our church, and that we were not to concern ourselves with such “archaic” things as the Rosary, purgatory, etc.

    Had the measles? Father, if my RCIA class was any indication.. if my cradle Catholic friends education was any indication, she only had to blink.

  7. Suzanne says:

    @ Larry….
    “It’s not this lady’s fault. It’s our fault.”
    You are correct to a point. However, I seriously doubt when she stands before the judgment seat, God will blame the Church. At some level as we grow up, we have responsibility to find out the truth. I found it and I was raised Protestant. It can be done if one is willing to look and it is our responsibility to look. The church has been around for over 2000 years and has gone thru many times of stress and strain where it has not lived up to its calling. The last few decades could be included in that, it’s true; but even in the darkest times of the church there have been faithful Catholics who follow the path…it’s about personal responsibility.

  8. Rosemary says:

    Ditto, Larry. Even my friends who went to Catholic school K-College have told me that they never got the full picture, just disconnected dots. What does it all mean? How does it apply to me? That sort of thing was missing.

    After my own kids started asking me questions that I could not answer, I began to catch up with what I never got in CCD classes by reading JPII’s encyclicals and the Catechism. What a great book!! Everyone should send it to their Catholic and non-believing friends alike. Even if they are not interested in becoming Catholic, at least they will know where we are coming from.

  9. Mary Ann Andersen says:

    Thank you, Archbishop. I concur with Larry’s comments. My children were raised in the 60′s. I was not paying attention to what they were being taught in CCD. Only the oldest of my four is still practicing his Catholic faith. I pray daily and hard for the other three, asking God to forgive me for my sins of omission.

  10. Dom says:

    I agree with Larry. Don’t blame the young generation today. Why the idea of “communion” didn’t get into her head but the “new age” is? It’s the way the Catholic Church presents its doctrines that is outmoded and not attractive to the young. We are using a pre-Vatican approach to catecheize a generation born in a high-tech globalized environment. Time to do some soul searching. Can we blame our young leaving the Church when they can’t understand the jargons of the church? Even the strict adherance of the GIRM is beginning to push our young out of the Church.

  11. Martin Mallon says:

    You correctly analyse why this star left the church; “because it left her so “isolated” and “out of touch” with the cosmos” and her new religion “provides a valuable sense of unity” and “provides her a real feeling of closeness to all of those who have gone before her and are now in eternity, and a union with all her brothers and sisters throughout the world who share her belief.”

    What is really sad here is that instead of considering why our church left her so “isolated” and “out of touch”, and did not provide her with a “valuable sense of unity” and a “union with all her brothers and sisters throughout the world who share her belief ” you basically tell her she is wrong; that in our church “never do we feel alone or isolated” when clearly she, and many others who leave, do feel alone.

    It is our job to make the communion of saints visible and tangible to our brothers and sisters. Every person who leaves because they do not experience the communion of saints is a sad loss and we should attempt to remedy what is lacking in our individual and community practice of being members of the communion of saints, rather than criticize those who feel they must go elsewhere to experience community. It is one thing to believe in the communion of saints and quite another to make it present and alive in our communities.

  12. penelope carter says:

    Dom, only some are using a pre Vatican approach. It appears this Archbishop is one of those few. This is NOT the norm in the education of people re: Catholic Doctrine today and it was NEVER the “norm” in NY, however, Timothy Dolan at this time is the one who has the camera and mike.

  13. Charles Hawkins says:

    I also agree with Larry. This a diificult time but we must turn the tide. In my parish the DRE spoke at the conclusion of Mass on Catechetical Sundayand said that the main reason we are at Mass is so we could build community and that secondarily we also received Holy Communion and we could pray. Not a good foundation to build on

  14. penelope carter says:

    You’re JUDGING, Charles. It may not be the BEST foundation, but it’s not a BAD one, either. After all, Jesus DID “round up” that “community” of apostles and that ever controversial Mary Mag BEFORE He instituted the Eucharist.

    Last summer a very BRILLIANT and highly EDUCATED and devoted Sister of Charity of New York passed away. Some of her writings to different news outlets and editorial letters were published as part of her ‘memorial’. Some of her quotes ………… “We need to STOP mourning the Baltimore Catechism and start living it !” “Catholics were born with a flame in their soul. They need to STOP using it to burn each other and start using it to light the way to God.”……….. just sayin’………….

  15. Irene says:

    When I was in Catholic school, the picture on the wall was of Pope Paul VI, so I guess that makes me a post-Vatican II Catholic. My religious education was just fine, thank you, as is the education of my little girls in Catholic School now. The old-timers may be much better at reciting all of the rules, but generally they seem to do so in a very negative way.. ‘Catholics DON’t do this, DON’T do that” and so on. I’m much happier with the way my children are learning our faith: what we DO believe, and how we can live our faith to be better Christians and better people.

    Frankly, I get a little demoralized by the frequent comments I see on the Archbishop’s blog about how Catholics today aren’t really Catholics like they were way back in the good old days. We’re trying our best, you know.

  16. Rich says:

    Your Excellency it is good to have that “spark” here in New York that Nita from St.Louis mentions. Thank you and thank you Nita for the reminder of the great gift we have in the archbishop.
    Melinda’s comments struck quite close to home. Some time ago a wonderful and dedicated monsignor I know told me that he had been out to Hart Island one cold Saturday morning to say mass there. I never knew that this was a regular occurrence in spite of having lived nearby all my life. I always thought of the potters field as a place of great sorrow and pain. About three weeks ago I learned that I may have two aunts buried there who died as very very young children. I should make it my business to go there for the mass and I hope to do just that.
    I’m sorry that penelope did not mention the name of the Sister of Charity…would like to learn more about that good sister and her work.
    Really nice blog!

  17. Lanette says:

    I was a Director of Religious Education and a CCD teacher for many years overseas. Coming back to the states it is very easy to see why the church has problems retaining many members. The the invitation is for the most part assumed and therefore absent.
    While overseas, I regularly attended orientation for new arrivals. My RCIA class became as large as one of the First Holy Communion classes because I would talk about what programs were available. For some of us, CCD was a long time ago and unlike many of our protestant brothers and sisters, for the most part, there are no ongoing Sunday school classes for adults available.
    I would also give those who were not practicing, interested in learning more (usually attractive to non- Catholics married to Catholics – whether practicing or not) or never completed their sacraments a clear, immediate call to action (a simple contact card with a check off list of programs).
    Some people want to come back to the faith but maybe they are embarrassed that they did not make their First Holy Communion or they do not remember what they were taught because they only went to CCD when their family wanted “photo” moments of a baptism, Confirmation, etc. I also found that unlike a weekday or Saturday CCD, most our parishes overseas, CCD was held on Sundays after Mass allowing for conveinence and didn’t compete with pop warner football or little league. RCIA and bible studies were held during CCD time and included coffee and donuts – the perfect time for adults to become acquainted and/or re-quainted with their faith.
    Finally, the music and enthusiasm of the parish to meet its community cultural needs. Our parish is composed of a lot of Southerners and has a Jazz Mass, my grandfather’s parish, near many retirement communities has an “elder” room – similar to a crying room only with amenities for more mature parishioners.
    Basically, its not the CCD programs for the most part its our “marketing” of continuing education. There are so many great programs ranging from the Theology of the Body to Fr. Stan Fortuna’s 8 part session for young adults.
    Our church is composed of fantastic, culturally diverse, and rich members. It’s time for “the body” of Christ to nurish itself so that it can grow.

  18. Father Kokona says:

    Best wishes for the election for president of the American bishops. I accompany you and remember you during Mass.

  19. Rev, William J. Bonner says:

    Dear Tim, Congratulations and best wishes on your election as president of the conference, Although I am retired now in Los Angeles, I rejoice that now the conference will speak out now loud and clear for the church in the States. God bless you now and always. Bill Bonner

  20. Congratulations on your election as president of the USCB. I hope the clear voice that you speak and write with will now be heard by Roman Catholics and other faith-filled people around this great country of ours.

  21. Rafael Corral says:

    I am really sad after reading what you said yesterday when you were elected to lead the United States Conference, especially \Archbishop Dolan said in a news conference after the vote that he would carry on the forceful opposition of his predecessor, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, to the recent health care overhaul because the bishops believed it would permit expanded government financing for abortion\. I must assume by your words that you, as a catholic bishop, prefers to let children die because they do not have health insurance, then try to prevent abortion through other methods that do not take off health insurance from the tens of millions of Americans that do not have the means to buy it?. Is this really following the Gospel, and what Jesus taught us?. You fight the health insurance bill to preserve the life of unborn children by allowing or promoting the deaths of uncounted children and adults because they cannot afford health insurance?.
    I think you should read and meditate again about what Jesus really wanted from us. Very sad.

  22. Barbara Peters says:

    The tone of this piece appears to be more hostile and sarcastic than pastoral. Perhaps the piece was not vetted before it was posted.and it came out more harsh than intended. A Bishop’s job is to Shepherd and go out and find the lost sheep and bring them back to the flock even Hollywood actors. I dont know how ibelittling someone in print accomplishes that objective.

  23. So VERY glad to have a social media-savvy Archbishop elected to head up the U.S. Conference this year. Congratulations on your election and please do help make this the year our Church finally extends a meaningful social media presence to meet us where so many of us now must live and work: online.

  24. Nancy D. says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan,
    The Catholic Church is in crisis. Many who profess to be Catholic do not believe in The Word of Love. I will Pray that the USCCB has the courage to be Catholic and will lead us in Truth for the sake of Christ, His Church, and the common Good.

  25. JD says:

    Great post, Archbishop. I also agree that our CCD is partially blameworthy for the actress’s departure.

    Mr. Corral, the Obama healthcare law is what will result in the deaths of more babies, children and seniors! The current health care system in the Unites States stinks (we probably both agree on that). Over the past half century or so it seems to have been getting worse and worse. However, bright spots have been medical science, technology and pharmaceuticals. (Yeah, that last one could be a negative depending on how one looks at it, but in general lives are saved or prolonged.)

    Even without abortion funding, this law would wreak havoc on family and public finances so that private health insurance would eventually be out-of-business. Everyone, except the rich, connected and Congress, would be forced into a lowest-common-denominator government run health system with shoddy service, bottom-barrel quality and deadly wait times.

    Archbishop Dolan is spot-on when he opposes the Obama law. A question or two for you, Mr Corral: Why won’t the Congress, made up of so many Catholic Democrats, eliminate abortion funding? Why won’t all the Democrats fight for the sanctity of life from conception to natural death? It’s such a no-brainer, right. Instead they constantly push abortion to the detriment of everyone.

  26. Irene says:

    @Rafael: Some very good news, the Pope just came out strongly in favor of universal access to health care. http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=11009 I think as Catholics, we should follow the Pope’s lead, and support health care reform, while working to strengthen the legislation’s anti-abortion protection and expand its coverage for immigrants.

  27. Sasha says:

    Thank you Martin Mallon for your very thoughtful and compassionate remark.

    Not only did I go to Catholic school, but I also graduated from a Catholic Seminary and worked in parish ministry for many years, so my faith education/formation is more in-depth than average. Nonetheless, like the actress the bishop mocks, I too have left the church in order to preserve my faith.

    Posts from Archbishop Dolan like this one–and those in which he rails against President Obama and for The Catholic League–further contribute to the alienation so many of us former Catholics feel.