The deacon — the conscience of the Church
This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the permanent diaconate here in the United States, as a result of the Second Vatican Council. This certainly is an occasion truly to celebrate. That was carried out at the recent Diaconate Congress held in New Orleans July 22-26. Present for that celebration was Pope Francis’ representative in the United States, the papal nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. In his remarks at the end of the opening Mass for the Congress, Archbishop Pierre rightly praised the permanent deacons for their humble service of charity, proclaiming the word and leading the faith community in prayer.
The pope of surprises — start, stop, continue
From the very beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has frequently spoken of God as the “God of surprises.” In his words on Easter Sunday this year, he referred to God’s intervention in history, which culminated in the resurrection of Christ, as all acts of the “God of surprises.” Most recently, on the solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, the pope asked the question of his audience in Rome, “Is our faith open to surprises from God? Because God is the God of surprises!” Pope Francis has made it abundantly clear that many times we judge God in terms of what we expect and are surprised when he acts in a different way outside of our boundaries.
Our Catholic schools — a second home
It seems like yesterday that I wrote this column on schools being closed for the summer and the children who attend them on vacation at home with their families. It is hard to believe that the schools are now open as we are more than halfway through August. While time does go by quickly, it may not seem that way for our young people as they begin another school year and anticipate the year and the years ahead of them. However, one day they will look back and appreciate the importance of these years in school. School years are precious ones and a great gift to all of us. We are especially grateful for our Catholic schools here in the Diocese of Palm Beach.
The Precious Blood gives us life
On June 30, Pope Francis spoke to various groups dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. He noted that his audience with them came on “the vigil of the month of July, when Christian piety turns in a special way to the blood of Christ.” As we enter into the culminating days of this month, it is good to reflect upon the Precious Blood for, as Pope Francis expressed, “the blood of Christ is the fount of salvation for the world.” God chose “the sign of blood because no other sign can express so eloquently the supreme love of a life given for others.”
Summer — Complaining is forbidden
The summer has long begun, not only with its official opening on June 21, but also with the many signs of it that we have here in southern Florida. Schools have been closed for over a month, and some families have taken their children and gone on a well-deserved vacation away from our area. The winter residents are long gone and the heat of the summer is upon us. As we recently celebrated the Fourth of July, we know that we are truly in the midst of summer that is quickly passing.
The Birth of John the Baptist
The celebration of the Birth of John the Baptist, June 24, occurs during Religious Freedom Week. This year the celebration falls on Sunday and takes the place of the ordinary Sunday of the year in the liturgical cycle. The Birth of John the Baptist is a solemnity and therefore takes precedence in our celebration. It is fitting that we are able to celebrate this great feast on Sunday during Religious Freedom Week since John the Baptist was a tremendous example of a man who was not afraid to proclaim his faith and to go to his death for it. He truly was a living example of religious freedom and of the reality that Christ is the light of the world who enlightens our lives. John bore witness to the truth without compromise. He was ever faithful to the fullness of freedom, always following the words of Christ, “If you remain in my word, you truly will be my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:31).
Religious Freedom Week — ‘Serving Others in God’s Love’
For the past several years we have commemorated the Fortnight for Freedom invoked by the United States bishops as a two-week period of prayer and reflection upon the great treasure of religious freedom. The fortnight was a two-week period which began on June 21 and concluded on July 4. It was an opportunity for us to come together as believers across the nation and to celebrate what Pope Benedict XVI referred to as the “most cherished of American freedoms,” religious liberty. The Fortnight for Freedom has been a great blessing for us as the Church in the United States, bringing with it a greater appreciation for this precious liberty and the opportunity to join together to ensure that it is not threatened, especially in the context of today’s culture which brings with it so many confusing opinions. Last year the Fortnight for Freedom concluded with the Convocation of Catholic Leaders which called together all the dioceses of the United States in Orlando, Florida, as a very significant and faith-filled event in the history of the Church in our nation.
WWMD — What would Mary do?
As always, the first Sunday of May was a great one in our diocese as we gathered at Emmanuel Church in Delray Beach for the annual Marian Festival. The afternoon brought a tremendous amount of rain that prevented us from gathering outside at the beautiful rosary walk. However, the weather did not prevent the faithful of our diocese from coming to the event and literally packing the church of Emmanuel to honor Our Lady and to consecrate our diocese to her Immaculate Heart. Many also brought with them the different statues representing the various titles of Our Lady representing different cultural backgrounds and placing these beautiful representations within the church. It truly was a faith-filled, joyous and awesome experience under the mantle of Mary.
Prayer — the first task of a priest
Recently, on March 19, the solemnity of St. Joseph, Pope Francis ordained three bishops at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In his homily at the ordination, the pope spoke clearly and directly on what he considered to be the primary responsibility of a bishop. While he was speaking about a bishop, there is no question that his words equally apply to a priest. He said emphatically, “The first task of a bishop is prayer. A bishop who does not pray does not fulfill his duty, does not carry out his vocation.”
My brothers, Frank and Daniel, as you are ordained priests this day, keep always before you that your primary responsibility is prayer and that without fulfilling this fundamental undertaking to which you commit yourselves this day, you will not be able to live your vocation. Not only will you be unable to live your vocation, but the essential joy of priesthood will become lacking to you and, as the pope told the bishops to be ordained, you will begin to become involved in other occupations and matters for which you were not chosen by the Lord and you will succumb to the temptation of considering yourselves more privileged than others.
‘Rejoice and be Glad’
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has given us a great treasure on the subject of holiness in his new apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate.” Its title is taken from the concluding words of Our Lord in the Beatitudes from his Sermon on the Mount, “rejoice and be glad” (Mt 5:12). The pope emphasizes that Jesus explained what holiness is all about in the Beatitudes which truly are the basis of Christian identity. Pope Francis considers joy as the distinctive mark of holiness for he states that in the Beatitudes, “The word ‘happy’ or ‘blessed’ (thus) becomes a synonym for ‘holy.’ It expresses the fact that those faithful to God and his word, by their self-giving gain true happiness.” The title of the exhortation, “Rejoice and be Glad,” is so fitting during this Easter season.
He’s 2,000 years old
We live in complicated, challenging and extremely difficult times. Confusion, anger, pain and even violence are very much present among us. Certainly the tragedy that occurred in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, so proximate to us in Parkland, is evidence of this. We live in times which seem very different than other periods of history as we are affected by instant communication, advanced technology, disparity of the availability of resources, and completely new outlooks and philosophies of life. These alter moral and religious convictions as well as the very understanding of truth. The understandable question is where are we heading and what is the solution?
You are in me and I am in you
Some of the most vivid artistic depictions of the Resurrection are found in Eastern icons. Eastern icons, by their very nature, take us into a mystical world in which the characters in the icons are depicted in striking color, but always with a dignity to them and an expression of looking into the heavenly realm. The Easter icons generally depict Christ being raised from the dead and descending through the gates of hell, which he smashes to pieces, and raising its inhabitants to new life. In these icons, many times, it is Adam and Eve who are being grasped by the hand of Christ and being raised to new life. Oftentimes, presented are also some of the figures of the Old Testament such as Moses, David and Solomon.
Pause, see, return
Pope Francis has spoken on several occasions regarding three of his favorite words — please, thank you and sorry. He has reflected how these words are simple ones but profound ones in regard to our relationship with God, each other and life in general. Pope Francis has frequently spoken of the importance of these three words in the context of marriage and family life. Certainly, using these words with others is not only a polite way of speaking but reveal an attitude of great respect when they are spoken from the heart. The pope has stated that these words “are simple expressions, but not so simple to put into practice. They hold much power: the power to keep life intact even when tested with a thousands problems. But if they are absent, little holes can start to crack open and the whole thing may even collapse.”
The truth will set you free
The season of Lent is a graced time in which we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery of the fullness of life bestowed upon us in the resurrection of Christ. This 40-day period, which affords us an opportunity to grow in our knowledge of ourselves and of the Lord’s presence within our lives, is already moving by quickly. In his message for Lent this year, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, reflects that false prophets are manipulating human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would rather not go. Such false messages are causing a great deal of loneliness, unhappiness and disruption within our world. Titling his message on the words of our Lord, “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24:12), the pope encourages us to take up practices of almsgiving, fasting and prayer during the season of Lent in order better to hear God’s voice over that of the false prophets.
Come fly with me; the friendly skies of Pope Francis
I recently wrote a column in which I reflected upon Pope Francis’ frequent use of public transportation, especially the subway, when he was archbishop of Argentina. It appears that the subway gave him time to reflect as well as to travel to the peripheries of both territory and human nature of which he is so fond of speaking. It is interesting to note that, before his papal election, Pope Francis rarely traveled outside the Archdiocese of Argentina and made very few trips, even to Rome. In fact, he was not fond of traveling and rarely used an airplane. It is also a fact that he was not very fond of speaking to the press and avoided it as much as possible.