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America needs ‘new sense of our common humanity,’ says Red Mass homilist

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez on Oct. 1 asked the Supreme Court justices, government officials, lawyers and other members of the judiciary gathered at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington to renew a commitment to a government that “serves the human person.”

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who is vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivers the homily during the 65th annual Red Mass Oct. 1 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. The Mass traditionally marks the start of the court year, including the opening of the Supreme Court term. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

He was the homilist at the 65th annual Red Mass in the nation’s capital. Celebrated the Sunday before the opening of the Supreme Court’s term, the annual Mass invokes the Holy Spirit upon those who are responsible for the administration of justice.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl was the main celebrant. Concelebrants included Washington Auxiliary Bishops Barry C. Knestout, Mario E. Dorsonville and Roy E. Campbell Jr.; Archbishop Gomez; Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Va.; Auxiliary Bishop Richard B. Higgins of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services; and Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria.

The distinguished guests at the Mass included five members of the Supreme Court: John G. Roberts Jr., chief justice of the United States; and Associate Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr.; and U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco.

In his homily, Archbishop Gomez spoke about St. Junipero Serra, the newest American saint who was one of the founding missionaries of Los Angeles as part of a string of missions in California and was canonized by Pope Francis during the pontiff’s 2015 visit to Washington.

By canonizing him, Archbishop Gomez said Pope Francis was making a point that “we should honor St. Junipero Serra as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States,” since the missionaries came here before the pilgrims and began their outreach before the nation’s first president was inaugurated.

“It reminds us that America’s first beginnings were not political,” he said. “America’s first beginnings were spiritual.”

Those missionaries, along with the colonists and statesmen later on, laid the groundwork for “a nation conceived under God and committed to promoting human dignity, freedom and the flourishing of a diversity of peoples, races, ideas and beliefs,” said Archbishop Gomez, who is vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The reason the Red Mass is so important each year, Archbishop Gomez said, is because “there is a time for politics and a time for prayer. This is a day for prayer.”

The readings for the Mass included the story of Pentecost, which Archbishop Gomez said “reveals the Creator’s beautiful dream for the human race,” where people from different nations were brought together through the Holy Spirit, who spoke to each of them in their native tongues.

“The mission that Jesus gave (the church) is the beautiful mission of gathering all the peoples of the earth into one family of God,” said Archbishop Gomez. “In God’s eyes, there are no foreigners, there are no strangers. … When God looks at us, he sees beyond the color of our skin, or the countries where we come from, or the language that we speak. God sees only his children, sons and daughters made in his image.”

Archbishop Gomez noted that before God created the earth, he knew each person he would create and had a plan for each of their lives.

“Every life is sacred, and every life has a purpose in God’s creation,” he said.

The Founding Fathers understood this teaching so well that they called the truths “self-evident,” said Archbishop Gomez.

“America’s founders believed that the only justification for government is to serve the human person, who is created in God’s image; who is endowed with God-given dignity, rights and responsibilities; and who is called by God to a transcendent destiny,” said Archbishop Gomez.

Addressing the guests at the Mass, Archbishop Gomez said, “My brothers and sisters, you all share in the responsibility for this great government.”

He called public service a “noble vocation” that requires honesty, courage, prudence, humility, prayer and sacrifice.

“So today, let us ask the Holy Spirit for his gifts and renew our commitment to this vision of a government that serves the human person,” said Archbishop Gomez. “Let us commit ourselves to an America that cares for the young and the elderly, for the poor and the sick; an America where the hungry find bread and the homeless a place to live; an America that welcomes the immigrant and refugee and offers the prisoner a second chance.”

While at times our nation has failed to live up to its founding vision, Archbishop Gomez said, “that should not make us give in to cynicism or despair.”

“For all our weakness and failure: America is still a beacon of hope for peoples of every nation, who look to this country for refuge, for freedom and equality under God,” he added.

Jesus gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins, but he also is “giving every one of us the power to forgive those who trespass against us,” said Archbishop Gomez, who noted that this gift of forgiveness is “part of the unfinished revolution in American society.”

“True forgiveness sets us free from the cycles of resistance and retaliation; it sets us free to seek reconciliation and healing,” said Archbishop Gomez. “”And this is what we need in America today — a new spirit of compassion and cooperation, a new sense of our common humanity. We need to treat others as our brothers and our sisters — even those who oppose or disagree with us. The mercy and love that we desire — this is the mercy and love that we must show to our neighbors.”

The Mass is sponsored by the John Carroll Society, a network that aims to enhance fellowship among Catholic leaders in the Washington area and serve the archbishop of Washington.

By Kelly Sankowski, a staff member of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Living the Gospel is risky, embrace challenges with courage, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Better to take risk of carrying the freshness of the Gospel to others than to be a “museum Christian” afraid of change, Pope Francis told Serra International.

“When Christians go about their daily lives without fear, they can discover God’s constant surprises,” he said June 23. Read more »

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Thousands at L.A. Mass celebrate immigrant spirit in America

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LOS ANGELES — Pilgrims from all nationalities and backgrounds walked several miles from a couple of different points in Southern California to join thousands of others at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles for a special Mass to recognize all immigrants July 17.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles blesses a girl during a special Mass celebrated July 17 in recognition of all immigrants at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. (CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Vida Nueva)

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles blesses a girl during a special Mass celebrated July 17 in recognition of all immigrants at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. (CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Vida Nueva)

Participants raised awareness of the need for immigration reform in the United States, calling for solidarity on the issue for all to be merciful and compassionate toward immigrants in this Year of Mercy.

“We celebrate the immigrant spirit of the people of our country. This is the story of Los Angeles, the story of the state of California and the story of our country, which is a nation of immigrants,” said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, the main celebrant of the afternoon Mass.

“We gather to pray for all of the immigrants and their families — past, present and future. We pray for immigration reform in our country, for our elected officials and for people all over the world that they open their hearts to the immigrants who come to their countries,” he said.

The congregation included people from the Los Angeles Archdiocese, the Diocese of Orange and the Diocese of San Bernardino.

On July 15 a group from Lake Forest, in the Orange Diocese, began a three-day, 50-mile walking pilgrimage to the Mass

The pilgrimage, called “Siempre Adelante” (“Always Forward”), was dedicated to St. Junipero Serra as it followed part of the same route he traveled with fellow missionaries to found the first nine missions in California.

St. Junipero’s first feast day was July 1; he was canonized last September by Pope Francis during his U.S. visit. The title of the pilgrimage was taken from his motto: “Always forward, never back.”

Before Mass, immigrants of diverse backgrounds shared testimonies including Emiliano Leonides, one of the leaders of the “Siempre Adelante” pilgrimage for a second consecutive year and catechist at Santiago de Compostela Church in Lake Forest.

“I’m here to ask God and all the people attending the Mass in recognition of all immigrants to not forget how much we suffer when pursuing our dreams and crossing the border,” said Leonides. “We are sending the message to those in power that there’s a need to change the laws for a comprehensive immigration reform and stop the separation of families.”

“I am walking with them to raise awareness about the need of a comprehensive immigration reform and to let people know what the Constitution states: that we are one under God. God loves all his children,” said Lily Nguyen-Ellis, also a parishioner of Santiago de Compostela Church. She joined the pilgrimage for the first time this year.

“In this Year of Mercy, I want to show people that immigration isn’t just about talking, it’s about doing, and we’re all immigrants one way or another,” said Nguyen-Ellis. In 1984, when she was 17, she entered the U.S. without legal permission, arriving from Vietnam with her parents and five siblings.

A month before she decided to participate in the pilgrimage and immediately challenged herself to walk at least a couple of hours a day on her own. She ended up seven hours in one day “just to make sure I would be able to walk the 53-mile pilgrimage,” said the 49-year-old hairdresser. It was hard, but worth it, she said.

“We have been helping each other and getting to know each other better,” added Nguyen-Ellis.

At 4 o’clock the morning of the Mass, a group of 20 pilgrims from Holy Family Catholic Church in Wilmington, in the Los Angeles archdiocese, journeyed 20 miles on foot to the cathedral to offer prayers of solidarity for all immigrants.

The group was led by longtime parishioner Maria Mejia, who is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion. “Our country has been built my immigrants and as we traveled on foot to the cathedral we prayed for all immigrants and for immigration reform that is just and honors all human life,” said Mejia.

A pre-gathering procession began inside the cathedral just before Mass and included representatives from parishes throughout Southern California and people impacted by what advocates feel is a broken immigration system in the U.S.

The crowd included including DACA students who have benefited from the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and parents eligible for the Obama administration’s DAPA program, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.

Among others in attendance were families facing separation; refugees and expatriates from different nationalities; and members of the interfaith community.

DAPA and an expansion of DACA have been put on hold by the courts; the plans would temporarily protect more than 4 million unauthorized immigrants from deportation. President Barack Obama created DAPA and expanded DACA via executive actions in 2014.

During the Mass, prayers were offered in French, Spanish, Polish, Vietnamese, Swedish and English for immigrant families “suffering in the shadows from poverty and brokenness,” according to a news release.

The relics of Sts. Junipero Serra, Frances Xavier Cabrini and Toribio Romo were on display during the Mass and available for public veneration following the Mass.

The first U.S. citizen to be canonized, Mother Cabrini arrived in the United States in the late 19th century to start a ministry to immigrants at the request of Pope Leo XIII. St. Toribio Romo is considered by many to be the patron saint of immigrants.

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Pope Francis declares Blessed Junipero Serra a saint during Mass at National Shrine

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Catholic News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Here is a timeline of key points in the life and ministry of Junipero Serra, the 18th-century Spanish missionary to California. Pope Francis canonized the Franciscan friar a saint Sept. 23 during his visit to Washington. Read more »

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