Saints We Love

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I stand in wonder before a mystery;
God, who created all the universe,
dwells among humans as a human.

I bow before the living Tabernacle
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
from whom You drew each
part of Your body.

I kneel before a newborn Babe:
Almighty God now clothed in
human weakness.

Word-Made-Flesh, Lord Jesus Christ,
free me from every sin and evil
that I may also have the strength
to become truly human, like You.

Glory to God in the lowliest
Babe of Bethlehem.
Behold, a Child lifts up
the entire human race.

~ Father Joseph Veneroso, M.M.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Urbi et Orbi . . . Pope Benedict XVI

Christmas Day, December 25, 2011 Rome 

Urbi et Orbi: Christ come to save us

Christ is born for us! Come to save us! Those were Pope Benedict’s words to the city and the World this Christmas Day.

As the sun shone and the bands played, the Holy Father on the dot of 12 midday came out onto the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica for the traditional Urbi et Orbi message.

The Pope asked the faithful to repeat the words “Come to save us”! in spiritual union with the many people to are experience particularly difficult situations, people who have no voice.

Those people included the many thousands affected by insecurity, hunger and food shortages in the Horn of Africa. The Pope appealed to the international community during his message to continue to offer assistance to those displaced from that region and as he put it “whose dignity has been sorely tried”. Staying on the continent of Africa, Pope Benedict prayed also that political stability would reign in the Great Lakes Region of Africa and South Sudan.

The Holy Father during his message recalled the birthplace of the Christ Child and prayed that Prince of Peace would bring stability peace and dialogue between Israeli’s and Palestinians, an end to violence in Syria and reconciliation in Iraq and Afghanistan. May the Lord also grant, said the Pope, “renewed vigour to all elements of society in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East as they strive to advance the common good.”

2011 saw a number of natural disasters occur in the world and Pope Benedict turned his attention to South East Asia, particularly Thailand and the Philippines and to those who have been stricken by severe floods.

He also prayed that the birth of Saviour would bring about shared solutions in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

This address focusing on peace, stability and reconciliation was followed by Christmas greetings given by the Pope given in over 65 languages including Italian, Tamil, Irish, Arabic and Hebrew.

The Pope’s Urbi et Orbi message came less than 24 hours after the Holy Father celebrated the traditional Christmas Eve Mass in the splendour of St Peter’s Basilica.

Those gathered including the faithful and members of the diplomatic corps listened as Pope Benedict told them that the Christmas celebration had become too commercial and there was a need for people to look to the simplicity of the occasion to discover true “joy and true light”. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bad Things Happen On Your Way Through Life

I won't tell you about it but,  by 65 I was still on top of the mountain - literally. I could even out sing Julie Andrews standing there.  Things were nearly perfect. The perfect family, incredible husband, fairly good health, great home, great friends, happy and loved the Lord.

Who could,  or would,  ask for anything more?

But,  things happen on the way through life;  they just do.   And, I am not so sure it is not good to have them happen,  because you have to know who you really follow, who you trust,  and it better be the Lord.  Simple as that.  We can't put our trust in man or men, women or children either.  It is unfair to expect them to be trustworthy all the time,  as life is hard for them at different stages, too.  But the Lord GOD is in the CENTER of ALL the things that happen and HE is ALWAYS at work.  Sometimes you are there in the storm, and maybe you are not even the one needing the work,  or worse?   MAYBE YOU ARE THE ONE!

No matter who IS in the center of the hurricane in your life, when it comes, and it will, no matter who it is meant to be for, there is a always a lesson for everyone,  so we should declare, "I don't want to miss learning that lesson, 'cause I may be here again one day!"

But, before we go into the eye of the hurricane, grab a verse or 2 to take with you. Our friend, Henri Nouwen, did that for us today.  May I share it with you?  Romans 8:38-39.  And by the way, Henri also gave us a good message with the verse.  I learned from it today!  I received it from his staff,  but just in case I might be busy with Christmas preparation, a friend also thought to send the same message.  I knew I needed it.

So here we go . . .

Holding On to the Christ - Henri Nouwen

Life is unpredictable. We can be happy one day and sad the next, healthy one day and sick the next, rich one day and poor the next, alive one day and dead the next. So who is there to hold on to? Who is there to feel secure with? Who is there to trust at all times?

Only Jesus, the Christ. He is our Lord, our shepherd, our rock, our stronghold, our refuge, our brother, our guide, and our friend. He came from God to be with us. He died for us, he was raised from the dead to open for us the way to God, and he is seated at God's right hand to welcome us home. With Paul, we must be certain that "neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).

Merry Christmas!  Be Blessed to be a Blessing, 

Terry Fenwick

Friday, December 16, 2011

Your Very Desire Is Your Prayer - St Augustine

St Augustine on Psalm 37(38)

           I have roared out with the groaning of my heart. There is a secret groaning, which is not heard by man: yet if the thought of some strong desire has taken so strong hold of the heart, that the wound of the inner man finds expression in some uttered exclamation, everyone wonders why. A man says to himself, “Perhaps this is the cause of his groaning? Perhaps this thing or that thing has happened to him?” But who can know the answer except the one before whose eyes and ears he groaned? So the psalmist says I roared out with the groaning of my heart because if men ever hear a man’s groanings they hear only the groaning of the flesh; the groans within the heart are silent.
           And who observed and noticed the cause of his groaning? All my desire is in front of you. It cannot be before men because they cannot see the heart, but still the psalm says all my desire is in front of you. If your desire is laid before him then the Father, who sees in secret, will grant it to you.
            For that very desire of your heart is your prayer; and if your desire continues uninterrupted, then so does your prayer. It was not in vain that the Apostle said Pray without ceasing. Can we be always bending the knee, prostrating the body, or lifting up our hands, that he says Pray without ceasing? If that is what prayer means then I say that we cannot do it without ceasing.
            There is another inward kind of prayer without ceasing, which is the desire of the heart. Whatever activity you happen to be engaged in are doing, if you only long for that Sabbath then you do not cease to pray. If you do not want to pause in prayer then never pause in your longing.
            Your continuous desire is your continuous prayer. If you cease to desire than you will have fallen silent in your prayer. Who are those who have fallen silent? Those of whom it is said Because iniquity will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
             The freezing of love is the silence of the heart; the burning of love is the cry of the heart. If love continues then you are still lifting up your voice; if you are always lifting up your voice, you are always longing after something; if you are always longing, it is the Sabbath rest you are thinking of.
             And all my desire is before Thee. How can we suppose that our desire is before him, but our very “groaning” is not before him? How can that be, since our desire itself finds its expression in “groaning”?
             And so comes the line And my groaning is not hidden from you. From you indeed it is not hidden; but it is hidden from many men. The servant of God sometimes seems to be saying in humility, And my groaning is not hidden from you. Sometimes also he seems to smile. Is then that longing dead in his heart? If however there is the desire within, there is the “groaning” also. It does not always find its way to the ears of man; but it never ceases to sound in the ears of God.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


O Come Let Us Adore Him!

A Blessed Christmas!

“Where will you have your Christmas?”

A common question this time of the year.

What’s it mean?  Usually, the person asking is wondering where you’ll have Christmas dinner, or where you’ll be when the presents under the tree are opened.

But, for us as believers, the essence of Christmas is not the festive meal — as eagerly as I await that joyful experience! — or even where we’ll gather with family and friends to exchange presents.  (I’m all for that, too!)

No.  For us as Catholics, the heart of Christmas is the Mass!  Even the name of the holiday — Christ-Mass — implies the centrality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on this radiant feast of the Nativity of the Lord.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Hebrew word for “house of bread.”

Thus, on His birthday, we approach the Eucharist to receive this “bread of life” in Holy Communion.

Jesus was born in a manger, a feedbox, where creatures ate, because He desired to be food for our souls.  He nourishes us at Mass.

In the baby Jesus, the divine was hidden within the tender, innocent, humble human nature of an infant.
So in the Holy Eucharist, the divine is hidden under the simple, routine, natural elements of bread and wine.

That first Christmas, God the Son, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Eternal Word, assumed flesh and blood.

At every Mass, Jesus Christ — body, blood, soul, and divinity — comes into our midst on the altar, into our souls.

In a way, every single celebration of the Eucharist is Christmas again, as Jesus comes to us in His Holy Word and in the Blessed Sacrament.

The tree, lights, carols, cards, gifts, family, friends, visits, wreaths, cookies, dinner — all cherished Christmas traditions.

But, the greatest custom of the all:  Mass on the feast of Christmas!

So . . . where will you have your Christmas?

See you at Mass!

A blessed Christmas!

From the Archdiocese of  New York

Monday, December 12, 2011

Just in Time for Christmas - All Those Christmas Cliches

“Just In Time For Christmas”

Every Christmas 
Was special at our Home because of  
Tom Fenwick
Who read the Christmas Story from this book every year. 
Terry Fenwick

My precious friend in Canada, Mark Blackburn, who is also a favorite writer, posted this today.  It seemed like a good beginning to a family Christmas.  I loved Mark's father and was so pleased that George Blackburn made a promise to make "Every Christmas special."  That might be something we all should do.  
Mark Blackburn 
Thinking of Nancy Lamott this day (16 Decembers after her early death from cancer) I was recalling obscure seasonal songs she recorded – which I’ve not heard performed by other artists: I went in search just now for her “Just In Time for Christmas” and found another song (I love even more) from Nancy’s only Christmas album -- arranged (I believe) by Peter Matz and her auspiciously-named pianist, Christopher Marlowe (one of the best piano accompanists I’ve ever heard). I found my favorite ALL THOSE CHRISTMAS CLICHES has been set (when I wasn’t looking) to a ‘slide show’ so evocative it made me weep. If you promise not to laugh, I’ll share it with you. First a question . . .

Was Christmas a big deal in your house when you were little? Can you recall a 'best-ever' childhood gift? My own Dad made a vow to himself when he was little – that he would “make EVERY Christmas special” if he had children of his own. When he was young, his father was an alcoholic who might “disappear this time of year, on two-week ‘bender’.” His Mom was left to fend for herself and the three children.

My father surprised me the most (“blew me away” as we used to say) with gifts on consecutive Christmases when I was a teenager: There was a home-made pool table that he’d somehow managed to keep hidden during its construction in our basement (beneath strategically-located blankets). The Christmas after that when I was 18, there was a Fender “Tremolux” cream-colored 'tube' amp (1958) waiting for me under the tree. (Today they ‘E-bay’ for 5 thousand dollars; Dad bought mine ‘used,’ for 150.)

But my all-time favorite gift – the one with the most impact -- came when I was only three or four: my Dad made me a “steam shovel” (much like one in a famous children’s book of the time: that one was called “Mike” (I think) and it was red. Mine was painted shiny bright yellow – lovingly crafted of metal and wood – its ‘heart’ a noisy, clicking electric generator. A push-start from a little finger would get the rotor’s bright copper threads, clicking away and generating electricity. It was huge (to my little eyes) and looked so much like a real steam shovel! I was the envy of visiting adults that Christmas day.

My Mom believed in “slow-roasting the bird” (12 hours) beginning ‘the night before,’ (didn’t everyone?) so we awoke Christmas day with that fatty fragrance in our nostrils; turkey smell went well (we thought) with the aroma of freshly-peeled, big navel oranges left atop the big bowls of nuts that Santa always brought. 

Okay then. See if this brings back any vivid memories. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

St Augustine on John is the Voice and Christ is the Word

John is the voice, and Christ is the Word
Saint Augustine

John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives for ever.

Take away the word, the meaning, and what is the voice? Where there is no understanding, there is only a meaningless sound. The voice without the word strikes the ear but does not build up the heart.

However, let us observe what happens when we first seek to build up our hearts. When I think about what I am going to say, the word or message is already in my heart. When I want to speak to you, I look for a way to share with your heart what is already in mine.

In my search for a way to let this message reach you, so that the word already in my heart may find place also in yours, I use my voice to speak to you. The sound of my voice brings the meaning of the word to you and then passes away. The word which the sound has brought to you is now in your heart, and yet it is still also in mine.

When the word has been conveyed to you, does not the sound seem to say: The word ought to grow, and I should diminish? The sound of the voice has made itself heard in the service of the word, and has gone away, as though it were saying: My joy is complete. Let us hold on to the word; we must not lose the word conceived inwardly in our hearts.

Do you need proof that the voice passes away but the divine Word remains? Where is John’s baptism today? It served its purpose, and it went away. Now it is Christ’s baptism that we celebrate. It is in Christ that we all believe; we hope for salvation in him. This is the message the voice cried out.

Because it is hard to distinguish word from voice, even John himself was thought to be the Christ. The voice was thought to be the word. But the voice acknowledged what it was, anxious not to give offence to the word. I am not the Christ, he said, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. And the question came: Who are you, then? He replied: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord. The voice of one crying in the wilderness is the voice of one breaking the silence. Prepare the way for the Lord, he says, as though he were saying: “I speak out in order to lead him into your hearts, but he does not choose to come where I lead him unless you prepare the way for him.”

What does prepare the way mean, if not “pray well”? What does prepare the way mean, if not “be humble in your thoughts”? We should take our lesson from John the Baptist. He is thought to be the Christ; he declares he is not what they think. He does not take advantage of their mistake to further his own glory.

If he had said, “I am the Christ,” you can imagine how readily he would have been believed, since they believed he was the Christ even before he spoke. But he did not say it; he acknowledged what he was. He pointed out clearly who he was; he humbled himself.

He saw where his salvation lay. He understood that he was a lamp, and his fear was that it might be blown out by the wind of pride.

A sermon by St. Augustine  used in the Roman Office of Readings for the Third Sunday in Advent known as Gaudete Sunday.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

St Ambrose of Milan

St Ambrose of Milan (340? - 397)
     St Ambrose was born in Trier (now in Germany) between 337 and 340, to a Roman family: his father was praetorian prefect of Gaul. Ambrose was educated at Rome and embarked on the standard cursus honorum of Roman advocates and administrators, at Sirmium, the capital of Illyria. In about 372 he was made prefect of Liguria and Emilia, whose capital was Milan.
  In 374 the bishopric of Milan fell vacant and when Ambrose tried to pacify the conflict between the Catholics and Arians over the appointment of a new bishop, the people turned on him and demanded that he become the bishop himself. He was a layman and not yet baptized (at this time it was common for baptism to be delayed and for people to remain for years as catechumens), but that was no defense. Coerced by the people and by the emperor, he was baptized, ordained, and installed as bishop within a week, on 7 December 374.
  He immediately gave his money to the poor and his land to the Church and set about learning theology. He had the advantage of knowing Greek, which few people did at that time, and so he was able to read the Eastern theologians and philosophers as well as those of the West.
  He was assiduous in carrying out his office, acting with charity to all: a true shepherd and teacher of the faithful. He was unimpressed by status and when the Emperor Theodosius ordered the massacre of 7,000 people in Thessalonica, Ambrose forced him to do public penance. He defended the rights of the Church and attacked the Arian heresy with learning, firmness and gentleness. He also wrote a number of hymns which are still in use today.

 He died on Holy Saturday, 4 April 397. 
Ambrose was a key figure in the conversion of St Augustine to Catholicism, impressing Augustine (hitherto unimpressed by the Catholics he had met) by his intelligence and scholarship.

Monday, December 5, 2011

"I can give my heart . . ." Mark Blackburn from Canada

"I can give my heart"

Searching just now for James Taylor’s version of that song (with Natalie Cole) I happened upon a lovely ‘slide show’ set to Taylor's version of IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER -- based on a poem by the English writer Christina Rossetti, who died more than a century ago. Taylor sings a slightly modified version of Rossetti's lyric, and his modern arrangement by (one of my favorite pianist/orchestrators) Dave Grusin, features an electric guitar solo by . . . someone good! 

This is my favorite version of this carol. If you're young and unfamiliar with it . . . I envy you hearing it for the first time, here and now! [I admit I needed to Google & Wiki for this reminder] 

Christina Georgina Rossetti (5 December 1830 – 29 December 1894) was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children's poems. She is best known for her long poem Goblin Market, her love poem Remember, and for the words of the Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter. Rossetti's Christmas poem became widely known after her death when set as a Christmas carol first by Gustav Holst, and then by Harold Darke.[17] Her poem "Love Came Down at Christmas" (1885) has also been widely arranged as a carol.[18] Rossetti is honoured with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on April 27.

Friday, December 2, 2011

St Basil the Great on Poverty

St. Basil the Great on Poverty

The harshest form of covetousness is not even to give things perishable to those who need them.  “But whom do I treat unjustly,” you say, “by keeping what is my own?”  Tell me, what is your own?  What did you bring into this life?  From where did you receive it?  It is as if someone were to take the first seat in the theater, then bar everyone else from attending, so that one person alone enjoys what is offered for the benefit of all-this is what the rich do.  They first take possession of the common property, and then they keep it as their own because they were the first to take it.  But if every man took only what sufficed for his own need, and left the rest to the needy, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need.

Did you not fall naked from the womb?  Will you not go back naked to the earth?  Where is your present property from?  If you think that it came to you by itself, you don’t believe in God, you don’t acknowledge the creator and you are not thankful to Him who gave it to you.  But if you agree and confess that you have it from God, tell us the reason why He gave it to you.

Is God unjust, dividing unequally the goods of this life?  Why are you rich, while the other is poor?  Isn’t it, if for no other reason, so that you can gain a reward for your kindness and faithful stewardship, and for him to be honored with the great virtue of patience?  But you, having gathered everything inside the empty bosom of avarice, do you think that you wrong no one, while you rob so many people?

Who is the greedy person?  It’s him, who doesn’t content himself with what he has.  And who the thief?  He who steals what belongs to others.  And you think that you are not greedy, and that you do not rob others?  What had been granted to you so that you might care for others, you claim for yourself.

He who strips a man of his clothes is to be called a thief.  Is not he who, when he is able, fails to clothe the naked, worthy of no other title?  The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

J.R.R. Tolkien: Lord of the Imagination

"The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work," wrote Tolkien, "unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like "religion", to cults or practices, in the Imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism."

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973)

"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament ... There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth ... which every man's heart desires"

 JRR Tolkien

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks to US bishops of Region II – Vatican Radio

Letter from Papa!

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 07:16 AM PST

Pope Benedict XVI and friend

"Only through such interior renewal will we be able to discern and meet the spiritual needs of our age with the ageless truth of the Gospel." 

Many of you have shared with me your concern about the grave challenges to a consistent Christian witness presented by an increasingly secularized society. I consider it significant, however, that there is also an increased sense of concern on the part of many men and women, whatever their religious or political views, for the future of our democratic societies. 

They see a troubling breakdown in the intellectual, cultural and moral foundations of social life, and a growing sense of dislocation and insecurity, especially among the young, in the face of wide-ranging societal changes. Despite attempts to still the Church’s voice in the public square, many people of good will continue to look to her for wisdom, insight and sound guidance in meeting this far-reaching crisis.

The present moment can thus be seen, in positive terms, as a summons to exercise the prophetic dimension of your episcopal ministry by speaking out, humbly yet insistently, in defense of moral truth, and offering a word of hope, capable of opening hearts and minds to the truth that sets us free. 

At the same time, the seriousness of the challenges which the Church in America, under your leadership, is called to confront in the near future cannot be underestimated. The obstacles to Christian faith and practice raised by a secularized culture also affect the lives of believers, leading at times to that “quiet attrition” from the Church which you raised with me during my Pastoral Visit. 

Immersed in this culture, believers are daily beset by the objections, the troubling questions and the cynicism of a society which seems to have lost its roots, by a world in which the love of God has grown cold in so many hearts. 

Evangelization thus appears not simply a task to be undertaken ad extra; we ourselves are the first to need re-evangelization. As with all spiritual crises, whether of individuals or communities, we know that the ultimate answer can only be born of a searching, critical and ongoing self-assessment and conversion in the light of Christ’s truth. 

Only through such interior renewal will we be able to discern and meet the spiritual needs of our age with the ageless truth of the Gospel.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan - Presidential Address 2011 Fall USCCB

2011 Fall Meeting - Presidential Address

Presidential Address

Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York
General Meeting - November 14, 2011
"Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives!"
My brother bishops:it is with that stunningly simple exhortation of Blessed Pope John II that I begin my remarks to you this morning.
"Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives!"
You and I have as our sacred duty, arising from our intimate sacramental union with Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to love, cherish, care for, protect, unite in truth, love, and faith . . .to shepherd . . .His Church.
You and I believe with all our heart and soul that Christ and His Church are one.
That truth has been passed on to us from our predecessors, the apostles, especially St. Paul, who learned that equation on the Road to Damascus, who teaches so tenderly that the Church is the bride of Christ, that the Church is the body of Christ, that Christ and His Church are one.
That truth has been defended by bishops before us, sometimes and yet even today, at the cost of "dungeon, fire, and sword."
That truth -- that He, Christ, and she, His Church, are one -- moistens our eyes and puts a lump in our throat as we whisper with De Lubac, "For what would I ever know of Him, without her?"
Each year we return to this premier see of John Carroll to gather as brothers in service to Him and to her.We do business, follow the agenda, vote on documents, renew priorities and hear information reports.
But, one thing we can't help but remember, one lesson we knew before we got off the plane, train, or car, something we hardly needed to come to this venerable archdiocese to learn, is that "love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives!"
Perhaps, brethren, our most pressing pastoral challenge today is to reclaim that truth, to restore the luster, the credibility, the beauty of the Church "ever ancient, ever new," renewing her as the face of Jesus, just as He is the face of God.Maybe our most urgent pastoral priority is to lead our people to see, meet, hear and embrace anew Jesus in and through His Church.
Because, as the chilling statistics we cannot ignore tell us, fewer and fewer of our beloved people -- to say nothing about those outside the household of the faith -- are convinced that Jesus and His Church are one.As Father Ronald Rolheiser wonders, we may be living in a post-ecclesial era, as people seem to prefer
a King but not the kingdom,
a shepherd with no flock,
to believe without belonging,
a spiritual family with God as my father, as long as I'm
the only child,
"spirituality" without religion
faith without the faithful
Christ without His Church.
So they drift from her, get mad at the Church, grow lax, join another, or just give it all up.
If this does not cause us pastors to shudder, I do not know what will.
The reasons are multiple and well-rehearsed, and we need to take them seriously.
We are quick to add that good news about the Church abounds as well, with evidence galore that the majority of God's People hold fast to the revealed wisdom that Christ and His Church are one, with particularly refreshing news that young people, new converts, and new arrivals, are still magnetized by that truth, so clear to many of us only three months ago in Madrid, or six months ago at the Easter Vigil, or daily in the wonderfully deep and radiant faith of Catholic immigrants who are still a most welcome -- -- while sadly harassed -- -- gift to the Church and the land we love.
But a pressing challenge to us it remains . . . to renew the appeal of the Church, and the Catholic conviction that Christ and His Church are one.
Next year, which we eagerly anticipate as a Year of Faith, marks a half-century since the opening of the Second Vatican Council, which showed us how the Church summons the world foreward, not backward.
Our world would often have us believe that culture is light years ahead of a languishing, moribund Church.
But, of course, we realize the opposite is the case:the Church invites the world to a fresh, original place, not a musty or outdated one.It is always a risk for the world to hear the Church, for she dares the world to "cast out to the deep," to foster and protect the inviolable dignity of the human person and human life; to acknowledge the truth about life ingrained in reason and nature; to protect marriage and family; to embrace those suffering and struggling; to prefer service to selfishness; and never to stifle the liberty to quench the deep down thirst for the divine that the poets, philosophers, and peasants of the earth know to be what really makes us genuinely human.
The Church loves God's world like His only begotten Son did.She says yes to everything that is good, decent, honorable and ennobling about the world, and only says no when the world itself negates the dignity of the human person . . .and, as Father Robert Barron reminds us, "saying 'no' to a 'no' results in a 'yes '!"
To invite our own beloved people, and the world itself, to see Jesus and His Church as one is, of course, the task of the New Evangelization.Pope Benedict will undoubtedly speak to us about this during our nearing ad limina visits, and we eagerly anticipate as well next autumn's Synod on the New Evangelization.Jesus first called fishermen and then transformed them into shepherds. The New Evangelization prompts us to reclaim the role of fishermen. Perhaps we should begin to carry fishing poles instead of croziers.
Two simple observations might be timely as we as successors of the apostles embrace this urgent task of inviting our people and our world to see Jesus and His Church as one.
First, we resist the temptation to approach the Church as merely a system of organizational energy and support that requires maintenance.
As the Holy Father remarked just recently in his homeland of Germany, "Many see only the outward form of the Church.This makes the Church appear as merely one of the many organizations within a democratic society, whose criteria and laws are then applied to . . .evaluating and dealing, with such a complex entity of the 'Church'."
The Church we passionately love is hardly some cumbersome, outmoded club of sticklers, with a medieval bureaucracy, silly human rules on fancy letterhead, one more movement rife with squabbles, opinions, and disagreement.
The Church is Jesus -- teaching, healing, saving, serving, inviting; Jesus often "bruised, derided, cursed, defiled."
The Church is a communio, a supernatural family.Most of us, praise God, are born into it, as we are into our human families.So, the Church is in our spiritual DNA.The Church is our home, our family.
In the Power and the Glory, when the young girl asks him why he just doesn't renounce his Catholic faith, the un-named "Whisky Priest" replies:
"That's impossible!There's no way!It's out of my power."
Graham Greene narrates:"The child listened intently. She then said, 'Oh, I see, like a birthmark'."
To use a Catholic word, Bingo!Our Church is like a birthmark.Founded by Christ, the Church had her beginning at Pentecost, but her origin is from the Trinity.Yes, her beginning is in history, as was the incarnation, but her origin is outside of time.
Our urgent task to reclaim "love of Jesus and His Church as the passion of our lives" summons us not into ourselves but to Our Lord.Jesus prefers prophets, not programs; saints, not solutions; conversion of hearts, not calls to action; prayer, not protests:Verbum Dei rather than our verbage.
God calls us to be His children, saved by our oldest brother, Jesus, in a supernatural family called the Church.
Now, and here's number two: since we are a spiritual family, we should hardly be surprised that the Church has troubles, problems . . . to use the talk-show vocabulary, that our supernatural family has some "dysfunction."
As Dorothy Day remarked: "The Church is the radiant bride of Christ; but her members at times act more like the scarlet woman of Babylon."
It might seem, brother bishops, that the world wants us to forget every Church-teachingexcept for the one truth our culture is exuberantly eager to embrace and trumpet:the sinfulness of her members!That's the one Catholic doctrine to which society bows its head and genuflects with crusading devotion!
We profess it, too.With contrition and deep regret, we acknowledge that the members of the Church -- starting with us -- are sinners!
One big difference:we who believe in Jesus Christ and His one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church interpret the sinfulness of her members not as a reason to dismiss the Church or her eternal truths, but to embrace her all the more!The sinfulness of the members of the Church reminds us precisely how much we need the Church.The sinfulness of her members is never an excuse, but a plea, to place ourselves at His wounded side on Calvary from which flows the sacramental life of the Church.
Like Him, she, too, has wounds. Instead of running from them, or hiding them, or denying them, she may be best showing them, like He did that first Easter night.
As Monsignor John Tracy Ellis used to introduce his courses on Church history, "Ladies and gentlemen, be prepared to discover that the Mystical Body of Christ has a lot of warts."
And we passionately love our bride with wrinkles, warts, and wounds all the more.
We bishops repent as well.At least twice a day -- at Mass, and at compline -- we ask Divine mercy.Often do we approach the Sacrament of Penance.
One thing both sides of the Catholic ideological spectrum at last agree upon is the answer to this question:who's to blame for people getting mad at or leaving the Church?Their unanimous answer?
. . . nice to meet you!We're the cause, they never tire of telling us.
Less shrill voices might comfort us by assuring us that's not true.Nice to hear . . .
But we are still sincere in often praying "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa."
As Gregory the Great observed fifteen centuries ago: "the Church is fittingly pictured as dawn . . . dawn only hints that night is over. It does not reveal the full radiance of the day. While it indeed dispels the darkness and welcomes the light, it presents both of them . . . so does the Church."
Bishops, thanks for listening.
I look out at shepherds, fishermen, leaders, friends.
I look out at 300 brothers each of whom has a ring on his finger, because we're spoken for, we're married.
Our episcopal consecration has configured us so intimately to Jesus that He shares with us His bride, the Church.
There's nothing we enjoy doing more than helping our people, and everybody else, get to know Him and her better.That's our job description.
Because . . . "Love for Jesus and His Church is the passion of our lives!"