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Ursuline, Sallies students address distracted driving

December 13th, 2011 Posted in Our Diocese, Uncategorized, Youth


Students launch safe-driving campaign

WILMINGTON — Students from Ursuline Academy and Salesianum School have launced a modern-day campaign to promote safe driving among their peers.

This bumper sticker is part of a safe-driving campaign initiated by students from Ursuline and Salesianum.

Thirteen students from the Art Forum class, which includes both schools, presented a marketing campaign consisting of four elements to combat the use of cell phones while driving. The visual reminders of the dangers of distracted driving include a cell phone pouch, a bumper sticker, a warning ticket and a music video.

The pouch is designed to conceal a driver’s phone, making it less tempting to use it while driving. The bumper sticker includes the popular phrase “LOL,” but instead of standing for “laugh out loud,” it is short for “loss of life.” The warning ticket reads, “a warning from someone who cares” and reminds drivers not to operate a vehicle while “inTEXTicated.” Finally, the video includes lyrics written by Ursuline senior Lindsay Henzes and set to the tune of the television show “Kim Possible.” The lyrics tell the story of why driving and texting is dangerous.

A pilot program with these elements will kick off in January in collaboration with SmartDrive, a nonprofit driver education reinforcement program aimed at students who already have their license.

The video can be seen below.

No texting and Driving

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Vatican thanks KOC for restoring tomb


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — With help from the Knights of Columbus, the only papal tomb transferred from the old to the new St. Peter’s Basilica has been restored.

Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica and president of the office responsible for the basilica’s upkeep, rededicated the tomb of Pope Innocent VIII during a brief ceremony attended by leaders of the knights Dec. 5.

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Sunday Mass is the family meal for Catholics

December 2nd, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized


 The following article on the importance of Sunday Mass attendance is an excerpt from Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s Nov. 20 pastoral letter “Jesus’ Eager Desire: Our Participation in the Sunday Mass.” While it was written for the Catholics of the Boston archdiocese, the cardinal’s perspective on Sunday Mass as the family meal of Catholics applies to all the faithful.

Jesus’ Eager Desire: Our Participation in the Sunday Mass


Pastoral Letter – 
Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley
November 20, 2011 – Solemnity of Christ the King


A. Introduction: Family Meals

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year. Every year so many of us willingly endure highway traffic jams and overcrowded airports because we want to be with family members on Thanksgiving, even when we know the turkey might be overcooked, the stuffing barely edible, and the conversation boring. Why? We go because we know our presence matters to our parents, siblings, family and friends — and we love them. We each witness to this love for each other when we are present at table for Thanksgiving and other milestones such as birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms, first holy Communions, weddings and funerals. Our presence is a sign to each other of the gift and the importance of family in our lives.

As a young priest preparing couples for marriage, I always stressed the importance of the family meal. I look back at my own childhood and recall how we gathered each evening for dinner — the children, my parents and my grandmother who lived with us.  It was a time of lively exchange when we recounted both the sad and funny things that may have happened during the day. We shared ideas and aspirations. But most importantly, it was a time to share ourselves. Prayer was always part of the gathering with grace before meals and often the Rosary afterwards. As a child, I would rather have been many places, such as playing outside or visiting friends. And, as for the food, well, as they say, the shortest book in the world is the Irish cookbook: boil everything and serve the potato with it! Looking back, however, I realize that those dinners with the O’Malley clan are where we discovered our identity and forged bonds that have lasted a lifetime. There we shared our own stories, and our individual stories were woven in to a history that we shared together.

B. Jesus’ Eager Desire – Do This in Remembrance of Me

The Thanksgiving meal of our Catholic family occurs every Sunday. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word (eucharistia), which means “thanksgiving.” Jesus himself instituted this family tradition on the night before He died. When he gathered the disciples in the Upper Room for the Last Supper, he told them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover meal with you.”1

He taught them the importance of humble service through washing their feet.  Then he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and through his divine power transformed it into his own body, blood, soul and divinity.  He told them, “Whoever eats this bread and drinks this blood will have eternal life.”  He then instructed them to, “Do this in memory of me.” Since that day almost 2,000 years ago, the church has carried out Jesus’ command.

Jesus’ eager desire is to celebrate this thanksgiving meal with every one of us each Sunday. We pray in many good and helpful ways but none equals the prayer that is the Sunday Mass. It is the one that Jesus implored us to do in his memory. As St. Paul wrote to the 1st century Christians of Corinth, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”

We live at a time when many people state that they are “spiritual but not religious.” If this is the way that you see your relationship with God, I am grateful that you are reading this letter. You recognize your hunger for God and want to have a relationship with God because he created you, redeemed you and loves you. Perhaps you have drifted over time from the regular practice of our faith or possibly you have made a conscious choice not to join our family each Sunday. Please know that you are missed. Jesus instituted the Eucharist and founded the church to gather his chosen people and to foster communion with him, and through him, communion with each other.

Our culture today promotes an unhealthy individualism that has certainly crept into the way some members of our Catholic family practice their faith. But Christian discipleship is never a solo flight; it is a lifelong family pilgrimage. At the heart of that adventure is the Eucharistic banquet where the Last Supper and Calvary become present.

Pope Benedict describes what happens at Mass in this way:

At the celebration of the Eucharist, we find ourselves in the ‘hour’ of Jesus. . . [and] this ‘hour’ of Jesus becomes our own hour; His presence in our midst. . . By making the bread into His Body and the wine into His Blood, He anticipates His death, He accepts it in His heart, and He transforms it into an action of love.  What on the outside simply brutal violence — the crucifixion — from is within becomes an act of total self-giving love. . . In their hearts, people always and everywhere have somehow expected a change, a transformation of the world.  Here now is the central act of transformation that alone can truly renew the world. . . Jesus can distribute His Body, because He truly gives Himself. . .  The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we ourselves will be transformed in our turn. We are to become the Body of Christ, His own Flesh and Blood. We all eat the one bread, and this means that we ourselves become one. 

Some people say, “Mass is boring” or “I don’t get anything out of it” or “I pray in my own way.” Consider for a moment how parents would feel if their children said similar things about the family celebration of Thanksgiving or a birthday party. “I don’t get anything out of the celebration” or “it’s boring” or “I’ll celebrate your birthday in my own way.” We would feel disappointed, incomplete, and certainly hopeful that the family would be fully reunited at the next gathering.  Similarly, Jesus’ eager desire is to have us all present each Sunday for his thanksgiving meal.

C. Sunday Mass: A Great Hunger Throughout the Ages

The Eucharist is Jesus’ great gift to us, and the fulfillment of his promise to be with us always until the end of time. It is a central part of God’s saving plan of infinite love for us.

Many Catholics today seem to take the gift of the Sunday Mass for granted. It is a great sadness to me as spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of Boston to note that, on any given Sunday, so many Catholics choose to be absent from Mass. It was not that long ago that almost all Catholics went to Sunday Mass unless they were sick or incapacitated.

In the early days of the Church, Christians did not enjoy the freedom of religion that we do today in the United States. They were regularly persecuted by the Roman authorities for attending Mass. Pope Benedict XVI often tells the story of the martyrs of Abitene (in modern-day Tunisia).  In 303, 49 Christians suffered torture and martyrdom because they defied the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s order not to celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday. When asked why they had disobeyed the emperor, one of them said, “Sine dominico non possumus” — “Without Sunday, we cannot live.”

In fact, for nearly 2,000 years Christians have risked their lives to participate in Sunday Mass.  During the Reformation in England, priests were martyred when caught offering Holy Mass for English Catholics.  Courageous lay people who gave their homes over as places of Catholic worship, and who harbored priests, suffered torture and death.

The witness of saints in our own lifetime testifies to the tremendous price paid by some of our Catholic family for celebrating the Sunday Eucharist. In the past century, Catholics in former Communist countries like the Soviet Union or Vietnam were persecuted for practicing their faith. Today in places such as Egypt, China, North Korea, Iraq, Sudan and countless other areas, Catholics risk their lives and travel for hours to attend Sunday Mass. We give thanks to God that we do not have to put our lives in jeopardy to attend Mass at our local parish. We rejoice that, unlike those in poor areas, we do not have to walk for miles, over hills or on inadequate dirt roads to attend. The vast majority of us can walk safely down the street or make a short drive to arrive at our beloved parish. But the ease, convenience, and legality of the Mass should not cause us ever to lose sight that the Mass is so precious that many of our Catholic brothers and sisters around the world are braving great inconvenience and persecution to receive what we, by God’s love, have available near us.

In his first Holy Thursday letter to priests, Blessed Pope John Paul II touchingly recalled situations of the faith triumphing over persecution from his own personal experience of living under religious oppression:

Sometimes it happens that [the lay faithful] meet in an abandoned shrine, and place on the altar a stole which they keep, and recite all the prayers of the Eucharistic liturgy: and then, at the moment that corresponds to the transubstantiation a deep silence comes down upon them, a silence sometimes broken by a sob … so ardently do they desire to hear the words that only the lips of a priest can efficaciously utter.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta often spoke about how precious each Mass is.  Frequently she would instruct newly ordained priests to “celebrate each Mass as if it is your first Mass, your last Mass and your only Mass.”  In other words, she implored priests never to take the celebration of the Mass for granted and let it become routine.  I ask the same of every Catholic in the archdiocese.  Just as we should be grateful for each day God grants us, let us anticipate and participate in each Mass as if it could be our last or our only Mass. Let us never take for granted the wonder that is the encounter we have with God each Sunday that we celebrate the Eucharist together.

D. Why Catholics Come to Mass

Sometimes we become fixated on the reasons Catholics give for skipping Sunday Mass. These are important and the church needs to hear these concerns and respond. However, it is equally important to focus on and share the many reasons why Catholics throughout the church’s history have come, and continue to come, with eager anticipation.

1. We desire to respond to God’s love 

“God so loved the world that he sent his only son so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Jesus’ love for us led him to offer himself on the cross for our salvation.  The same saving love of Jesus leads him to continue to give himself through the gift of the Eucharist.

The word “love” in English, particularly today, has been stripped of much of its beauty and meaning. It often is reduced to a “feeling.”  In Greek, there are seven words for love and the word for the love God has for us, agape, connotes action, a self-gift. The love we want to have for God is a self-gift in return, of our time, energy, worries, hopes and joy. The Mass is the best place to thank God for the gifts besides Himself that He gives us — especially life, family, friends, faith and love.

2. We desire to encounter Christ in the most profound way possible

At Mass, eternity and time intersect. It is part of God’s plan of salvation that we would be able to meet him directly and receive his grace through the sacraments. Because he is all loving and truthful, we believe him when he and the church he founded teach that he is really present with us in the celebration of the Mass.

The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy explains that Christ is present to us in four ways during the celebration of Mass: (1) in the community celebrating; (2) in the Word proclaimed; (3) in the priest presiding; and (4) in the Eucharist.10   Dr. Tom Curran elaborated on these four forms of Christ’s presence at Mass in a way that is very helpful.

First, we encounter Christ in the community of the faithful. Each one of us is made in God’s image and likeness. The kindness we show each other in Jesus’ name is a way we show kindness to Jesus Himself. Also, by joining in the community of the faithful, we are included in Jesus’ prayer of thanks and praise to God the Father. It is a holy encounter with Jesus and with our fellow communicants.

Second, we encounter Christ in his Word. The readings proclaimed from sacred Scripture are truly the words of everlasting life and the letter from a loving God to his people.  What is truly amazing is that, if we pray before Mass for guidance in a decision and we intently listen to the proclamation of Scripture and the homily, God will often speak to us in words we most need to hear.

Third, we encounter Christ in the priest. Jesus chose to have His sacrifice re-presented on the altar by an ordained priest or bishop.  When the priest speaks in the first person during the Consecration, and says, “Take this, all of you and eat of it, for this is my body,” Jesus is speaking through him.  He stands in the person of Christ, the Eternal High Priest. Through the priest, we are able to participate in the greatest event in history, the one that saved us from our sins and opened up the possibility of spending eternal life with God in heaven.

Fourth, and most importantly, we encounter Christ in the Eucharist. We take Jesus’ body and blood within us, and Jesus transforms us. We become one with him by receiving him in holy Communion, and through him, with each other.12

Because of these direct encounters with Christ at Mass, we seek to be active participants — not passive spectators — in listening to his Word, sharing in the Offertory, joining in the singing, and proclaiming a reverent “Amen” (“truly, I believe”) when we worthily approach to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

3. We desire to gather and pray with our parish family

The celebration of Mass, like life, has vertical and horizontal dimensions. This parallels the great commandment, which instructs us to love God and then to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Christian life is a pilgrimage we make with our brothers and sisters in Jesus.  Jesus set the example by gathering all the Apostles at the Last Supper instead of having a dozen individual meals. God foresaw from all eternity that we would be placed in our particular community at this particular time and that discipleship is lived in friendship and fraternity with those for whom and with whom we pray at each Sunday Mass.  Our presence to each other is a symbol of our solidarity and unity with God and with each other.  It is the fullest expression of our Christian identity.

Liturgy means, “work of the people.” The greatest work we will do each week is to worship God and pray for, and with, our parish family.

4. We desire to strengthen our particular family

Father Patrick Peyton, the great “Rosary Priest,” instructed us, “The family that prays together, stays together.”  He advocated praying a family rosary daily. In the same way, I recommend that attending and praying at the Sunday Mass together will strengthen your family to confront the various challenges today that often tear families apart.

During the sacrament of baptism, parents are reminded that they are called to be the first and best teachers of their children in the ways of faith.  Knowing that the Mass is Catholicism’s central prayer and that it is the source and summit of Christian life, we teach our children and grandchildren one of the most important lessons of all when we attend Mass with them.

Recently I attended a dinner at which the principal of one of our local Catholic high schools was being honored.  In his remarks he said: “I grew up in a family where going to Mass on Sunday was about as optional as breathing.” Many of us in the audience could identify with those words — it was not a matter of authoritarian parents or social pressure, but rather a sense of how important the Sunday Eucharist was for our family identity and survival. To miss Mass is to stop breathing; it is the sure path to a spiritual asphyxiation.

The rest of Cardinal O’Malley’s pastoral letter on Sunday Mass participation can be found at  www.bostoncatholic.org/Pastoral-Themes/Feature-Story.aspx?id=22302

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Commentary: Advent lesson from Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow

December 1st, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized


Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow, shown when he played for the University of Florida, is under scrutiny for the way he publicly proclaims his faith. (CNS)

A lot of ink is being spilled on Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Sports pundits are incredulous that this less-than-stellar passer has helped to turn his team into a contender for the NFL playoffs. Unlike most other football players, however, Tebow has also come under scrutiny for the way he publicly witnesses to his Christian faith — something he references in nearly every interview and public appearance.

This open embrace of faith, by all accounts, has been ingrained in Tebow for a long time, although it received a great deal of national attention for the first time when the former star quarterback for the University of Florida and Heisman Trophy winner appeared in TV ads with a pro-life message during the 2010 Super Bowl.

As a member of the Denver Broncos, he occasionally takes a knee in prayer — a phenomenon now known, and sometimes spoofed, as “Tebowing.” He started a recent postgame news conference by thanking “my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” The son of former missionaries, he works with a foundation that bears his name to help sick and orphaned children around the world. That foundation is now teaming up with another organization to build a children’s hospital in the Philippines.

Like him or hate him, Tebow seems nothing but sincere about his beliefs — a fact his coach, John Fox, acknowledged in a recent online story about the quarterback. “He’s real,” Fox said. “He walks the walk. A guy like that in today’s society, in my mind, ought to be celebrated, not scrutinized to the level that he is.”

But Tebow is scrutinized because, to some, his public displays of faith are irksome, bothersome, too “in your face.” These critics often have no problem with his beliefs, they just wish he would keep them private and not wear them on his sleeve to the extent he does.

Those critics should be more concerned, however, about the antics of others that are as public but certainly not worthy of emulation: athletes guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct on and off the field, coaches and politicians caught in scandals, celebrities whose commitment to marriage lasts a whopping 72 days.

With Tebow you get something genuine — a role model. What you see on the outside is what’s on the inside, particularly when it comes to his spiritual life.

In the same story in which his coach was quoted, Tebow had this to say: “That’s the thing about my faith: It’s not just something that happens when you’re at church or happens when you’re praying or reading the Scripture. It’s a part of who you are, as a person, as a player, in your life and everything. And it should be who you are because you’re not just a Christian or a believer at church. That’s who you are everywhere, and it shouldn’t matter what situation or what setting you are in. Hopefully, you’re the same guy everywhere.”

And, therein, is a lesson for all of us this Advent season: to spend this season of waiting to welcome Christ once again by synching our everyday lives with our beliefs, to translate our words and prayers into action, to live out what we profess on Sunday during the other days of the week — at home, at work, at school and in our communities.

Advent isn’t about Black Friday or Cyber Monday or buying ever more stuff that other people don’t need or, frankly, often don’t want. It isn’t about office parties. It’s about making room for Jesus in our lives and bringing the hope and peace of Christ into the lives of others.

We celebrate Advent when we make a deeper commitment to prayer in our lives. To spending more time with loved ones who need our presence more than our presents. To bringing hope to the poor and lonely through service and financial contributions that will improve their lives by helping them meet basic needs.

Advent is about living out what we believe and not being afraid to share and show our faith to the rest of the world, even if someone gives us grief about it.

That’s an Advent lesson for us, courtesy of Tim Tebow.

This commentary was published in the Nov. 30 online issue of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It was written by Joe Towalski, The Catholic Spirit’s editor.


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Detroit music minister writes ‘Mass for Motor City’


DETROIT — Aaron Kaleniecki said he didn’t see how changing the wording to prayers was going to work musically with the new Roman Missal.

“When you are expected to keep the melody the same and use words with additional or fewer syllables, it gets clumsy,” said the music minister at St. Aloysius and St. Patrick parishes, both in downtown Detroit.

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Food programs in diocese serve the needy in season of plenty


Dialog Editor

Advent, a time of spiritual renewal in preparation for Christmas, always arrives at a time of plenty in the United States.

The Thanksgiving feast, the Black Friday sales and the monthlong consumer frenzy of shopping highlight abundance in society but hide the year-round needs of the poor.

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The dangers of sports and the strength they give

November 23rd, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized


Everything we do every day has the potential to be dangerous. We often ignore the risks because there’s little that we can do to reduce or eliminate them.

For millions of teenagers, that risk comes from participating in sports activities. Recent news stories have detailed events leading up to the unexpected deaths of three students had nothing and everything in common.
Ridge Barden, who had just celebrated his 16th birthday, played football for a high school in Phoenix, N.Y. During the third quarter of a game a few weeks ago, he took a hit that left him stunned, face down on the field. He was able to sit up, but he complained of a bad headache. He collapsed when he tried to stand. As he was being transferred from one hospital to a larger medical center in Syracuse, his condition deteriorated and he died.

Reggie Garrett also collapsed at a football game, this one last year in Texas. The high school senior had just thrown his second touchdown pass. He ran off the field and seemed totally fine. But moments later fellow players alerted coaches that Reggie had fallen to his knees and then onto his side. He was taken by ambulance to an area hospital but later died.

It’s not just players on the field who face risks. Angela Gettis, 16, passed out on the sideline of a high school football game in Los Angeles. The cheerleader collapsed without warning and was rushed to a hospital where she died about three hours later, reportedly from sudden cardiac arrest.

Each of these three teens had a parent or guardian who gave permission for them to participate in extracurricular activities.

One of the reasons that parents are asked to sign such waivers is because the risk of an accident is always present.

Since 1977, the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has studied catastrophic injuries in football, everything from fatal incidents to collisions that cause concussions.

Until relatively recently, concussions were often under-diagnosed and under-treated. Players and coaches questioned whether an injury could exist if you couldn’t see it. However, science has now proven that sitting out due to a concussion is not a sign of weakness.

Concussion symptoms include everything from depression, poor concentration and headaches to nervousness, vomiting and irritability. (Of course, if someone hit me so hard that I had a headache and wanted to vomit, I’d probably be a little irritable, too.)

Despite my joke, concussions are no laughing matter. Neither are the injuries that are easier to diagnose.
Since 1977, more than 300 high school and college football players suffered spinal cord injuries and never fully recovered, according to the Department of Exercise and Sport Science.

The good news is that improved equipment and stricter rules have resulted in a reduced number of serious injuries; presently, less than one injury a year for every 100,000 players.

Despite the pain, Jacqueline Barden, Ridge’s mother, has spoken out with a message to her son’s teammates and those who played on the field opposite him. She wanted them to know that what happened wasn’t their fault. She said that it was an accident, and that her son would feel the same way. Even more, even after what happened, she couldn’t imagine taking football away from her son.

A mother to the end, Barden protected her son’s passion and stood up for him despite the worst.
We should all be proud.


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Since Lincoln, U.S. presidents have proclaimed Thanksgiving

November 17th, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized


Here’s the proclamation for 50 years ago

Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day from the White House in 1863 and every U.S. president has done the same since then. In those nearly 150 years since, one president was Catholic, John F. Kennedy. Here is President Kennedy’s Thanksgiving proclamation from 1961, 50 years ago.

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.”

More than three centuries ago, the Pilgrims, after a year of hardship and peril, humbly and reverently set aside a special day upon which to give thanks to God for their preservation and for the good harvest from the virgin soil upon which they had labored. Grave and unknown dangers remained. Yet by their faith and by their toil they had survived the rigors of the harsh New England winter. Hence they paused in their labors to give thanks for the blessings that had been bestowed upon them by Divine Providence.

This year, as the harvest draws near its close and the year approaches its end, awesome perils again remain to be faced. Yet we have, as in the past, ample reason to be thankful for the abundance of our blessings. We are grateful for the blessings of faith and health and strength and for the imperishable spiritual gifts of love and hope. We give thanks, too, for our freedom as a nation; for the strength of our arms and the faith of our friends; for the beliefs and confidence we share; for our determination to stand firmly for what we believe to be right and to resist mightily what we believe to be base; and for the heritage of liberty bequeathed by our ancestors which we are privileged to preserve for our children and our children’s children.

It is right that we should be grateful for the plenty amidst which we live; the productivity of our farms, the output of our factories, the skill of our artisans, and the ingenuity of our investors. But in the midst of our thanksgiving, let us not be unmindful of the plight of those in many parts of the world to whom hunger is no stranger and the plight of those millions more who live without the blessings of liberty and freedom. With some we are able to share our material abundance through our Food-for-Peace Program and through our support of the United Nations Freedom-from-Hunger Campaign.

To all we can offer the sustenance of hope that we shall not fail in our unceasing efforts to make this a peaceful and prosperous world for all mankind.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOHN F. KENNEDY, President of the United States of America, in consonance with the joint resolution of Congress approved December 26, 1941, which designates the fourth Thursday in November of each year as Thanksgiving Day, do hereby proclaim Thursday, the twenty-third day of November of this year, as a day of national thanksgiving.

I urge all citizens to make this Thanksgiving not merely a holiday from their labors, but rather a day of contemplation. I ask the head of each family to recount to his children the story of the first New England thanksgiving, thus to impress upon future generations the heritage of this nation born in toil, in danger, in purpose, and in the conviction that right and justice and freedom can through man’s efforts persevere and come to fruition with the blessing of God.

Let us observe this day with reverence and with prayer that will rekindle in us the will and show us the way not only to preserve our blessings, but also to extend them to the four corners of the earth. Let us by our example, as well as by our material aid, assist all peoples of all nations who are striving to achieve a better life in freedom.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

DONE at the City of Washington this twenty-seventh day of October in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and sixty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and eighty-sixth.

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Column: The wonderful focus of Thanksgiving Day

November 17th, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized


When my kids were young, we lived far from relatives, and Thanksgiving Day included a crew of friends with lots of children. Our traditional prayer before the meal included each person naming something for which he or she was thankful.

Easy enough; we were very blessed.

But as we’d pray, the youngest members shied away from using their imaginations. Soon, several would repeat “my family” as their attention drifted to the turkey and trimmings.

Their reluctance to be creative was understandable. We’d starved them all morning, and now we were putting them on the spot.

And besides, I think that true gratitude can be a complicated matter.

Thanksgiving Day is one of the United States’ best traditions.

That’s an idealistic perspective, of course. Historians have shown that all was not so placid between the Native Americans, whose own survival was suddenly at stake, and the interlopers from Europe, who struggled desperately to make it through the first brutal winters.

Nevertheless, the basic story is a good and simple one: A group of immigrants, having already buried many loved ones in alien ground, thanked God for the harvest that might sustain their diminished group through another winter.

Over the years, the tradition evolved into today’s holiday, possibly our nicest because it’s less materialistic and overhyped than most.

There’s a wonderful focus to Thanksgiving — faith, family, friends, food.

But occasionally, I sense an American attitude of generic gratefulness; not a bad thing, but not a great thing if it leaves out the author of life to whom our gratitude is to be extended.

Sometimes being thankful can be a real challenge, and, without God, it makes no sense.

The Catholic notion of stewardship, articulated by the U.S. bishops’ pastoral “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response,” makes clear that thankfulness lies at the very heart of being a disciple of Jesus.

The rub for many is that it’s easy to say “thanks” when we get what we want — or what we think we want.

It’s harder to thank God for God’s presence in our lives when we most sincerely aren’t getting what we want.

Only thanking God for the good stuff as we see it, or the answer to prayers as we posed them, is probably the “illusory religion” that the Scottish philosopher John Macmurray was eluding to when he wrote this:

“The maxim of illusory religion runs: ‘Fear not; trust in God and he will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you’; that of real religion, on the contrary, is, ‘Fear not; the things that you are afraid of are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of.'”

That we are prepared to be thankful, and indeed are thankful, as we see our lives unfold in ways we didn’t plan is at the heart of Christian gratitude and “real religion.”

It would have been tough for those kids who sat around our Thanksgiving table to give thanks for the soccer goal they missed, and it’s hard to say “thank you” to the God, who opens the door to something that we didn’t expect when we knocked.

How many of us have gone through crises in our lives, only to discover on the other end that what we saw as a tragedy was later revealed to be a blessing?

It’s easy — and important — to thank God always for gifts as we perceive them. It’s more challenging but more powerful to keep hearts of trust and thanksgiving open to that which we fear and didn’t choose, and to believe that God will be with us through it all.


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USCCB president addresses nation’s bishops

November 17th, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized


The Dialog’s website has been running stories this week from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore. The following is the full text of Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York is president of the USCCB. Below is the full text of his Nov. 14 address to the conference.

“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 forward, 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.

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