Haven’t been to confession in awhile? Interested, but worry you don’t remember how to make a good confession? Visit www.diopitt.org/lightstillon. Stop by any Catholic Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh on WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14 from 6:00 pm until 9:00 pm. The Cathedral will have several priests available for confession that evening, including Bishop Zubik. PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE WILL BE NO NOVENA TO OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP ON THE EVENING OF WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8 is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and is a holyday of obligation, requiring Mass attendance for all Catholics. Our Mass schedule for December 8th is 6:45 am, 8:15 am, 12:05 pm and 6:00 pm.
This is a season of special grace that calls the faithful to be alert and be prepared for the coming of Christ. Our minds focus immediately on the coming of the Lord at Christmas as we prepare to commemorate the birthday of our Savior and the mystery of the Incarnation. Advent calls us to be attentive and to be careful that we keep Christ in Christmas. All around us are the pulls of secularism, commercialism and materialism. Our response must be one to remind the world of why we have this season – it is to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ into the world, the mystery of God becoming one like us in all things but sin, so that the darkness of sin could be eradicated by God’s saving power and human redemption won through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Be careful not to water down Christmas. We must unapologetically and forcefully remind the world that Christmas is a Christian holiday – one in which we take great pride in celebrating – because it is the birthday of our beloved Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Lord of all Life.
I encourage everyone, especially our families, to make this season of Advent a time of holiness and grace. Prepare well to celebrate the birthday of Christ by growing in faith. Read the Scriptures; pray the rosary and reflect on the mysteries of Jesus Christ; light the advent candles at home on your table and pray that God’s light will slowly diminish the reality of sin in your own life and in the world; go to confession and receive the healing power of God’s grace to prepare your heart to receive Christ in the Eucharist; attend Mass at least one additional day each week in Advent and realize the fruits that come to those who come to Mass daily. Make this season a time of preparation so the Christ-child will find a worthy place in your heart and home to dwell more completely with his love.
Pope Francis has called for Advent to be a time where we allow ourselves to be immersed in silence “so that we can discover the God of surprises.” God invites us to be still so that we can hear his voice more clearly and discover the gifts of his grace and be led to respond in the ways that he is calling to follow. Let us take the time to dispose our hearts and minds in such a way that we can discover what surprises God has in store for each of us this Advent season.
The German mystic, Meister Eckert, wrote that if the only prayer a person ever says in one’s entire life is “thank you,” it would be enough. But our human experience reminds us all too painfully that we like to complain far more often than we give thanks. We see the glass as half-empty more often than half-full. St. Pope John Paul II called this the disease of spiritual amnesia. He claimed that the greatest threat to our Christian life lies not from forces external to us but from within our own human heart. Materialism, secularism, personalism – all lead us away from God and our ultimate dependence on his grace. We are forgetful of God’s every guiding hand and focus on our own selfish pursuits. This was the downfall of many throughout the history of salvation.
The only effective antidote to this disease of spiritual amnesia Is our conscious act of remembering and giving thanks. This is why our patron, Saint Paul, urged the early Christians to make gratitude part of their daily prayer: “Be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly with gratitude in your hearts to God. Give thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything.”
American tradition remembers that at some point the pilgrims who came to this country in pursuit of the freedom to practice their religious beliefs without persecution set aside a day to thank God for their blessings. Thanksgiving may be for some, America’s great secular holiday, but it is an intensely religious and spiritual celebration at its roots. President Lincoln spoke to this in his proclamation establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday on November 26, 1863: “This year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensitive to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”
We will soon be caught up in the turkey, stuffing, football and family. But we must never forget the reason that we have this day in the first place. Thanksgiving should bring to the forefront of our minds and hearts, the many and abundant blessings of our lives: the gifts of life and faith, the gift of family, and the gift of our bounty, the peace and freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Especially this year as our country continues to manifest deep struggles and disagreements over the presidential election, we must come together as we reflect on the greatness of the foundations, sacrifices and values upon which this country has been built.
Most importantly, of course, we remember today the blessings of our Catholic faith. In baptism, God gave us the life of His Spirit and brought us into the living Body of His Son, the Church. How blessed we are to have the Church – and the enduring presence of Christ in our lives – especially in the Eucharist, the very body and blood of our Savior that nourishes us for the journey. It is faith that makes us one family, united in the love of God. But we remember as well, that this great act of thanksgiving, celebrated here in the Eucharist, is only fully complete when believers go out to the whole world and tell the Good News of Jesus Christ. This is the work of the new evangelization that Pope Francis has entrusted to the Church. And the Pope has made it clear that the credibility and fruitfulness of this proclamation will depend entirely on two virtues: Joy and Mercy. As Mother Teresa said: It is only joy that catches souls and opens hearts. And as Pope Francis has reminded us time and again: it is the tenderness, compassion, kindness, forgiveness and mercy extended to others that will convict people with the Truth of the Gospel message and lead them to life in Christ. As we gratefully sing God’s praises this Thanksgiving Day, may we seek to pass our blessings forward to others, especially those in need among us.
I wish each of you – and your families – a blessed and joyous Thanksgiving Day!
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” We all learned the content of the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States in our civics class. Every American has the right to have his voice heard, to assemble, to march, and to protest. But the key word in the first amendment is “peaceably.” As Americans, we have an obligation to voice our opinions and disagreements respectfully, civilly, and peaceably. It appears that we have lost that virtue in our country. People make their voice heard by demeaning others, by yelling, screaming, degrading and hurting others. This is not the American way; and it most certainly is not the Christian way. “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” That is the Golden Rule and its wisdom has much to teach our generation. Sadly, we have seen the protests in recent days of those who are not happy with the legitimate outcome of the American electoral process. The people have spoken, the votes have been counted, and we have a new President-elect in Donald Trump. Some may not like him as a person; others disagree with his policies. But none of that gives anyone the right to speak hatefully of others or to engage in the acts of destruction or violence that we have seen in recent days. It would help if our government leaders, those in the media and other responsible adults would simply “call a spade and spade,” and denounce what is taking place as unacceptable and out of line.
But worse yet are the scenes of high school and grade school students simply leaving the school in the middle of the day and taking to the streets, underage children sitting in major highways, wandering the streets of big cities in the middle of the school day, even destroying public property in some instances. And not just once, but day after day – a sight quite incredible to behold. Where are the administrators and teachers? Where are the parents of these children? Responsible adult behavior dictates that school administrators and teachers do not let students run the school, and parents do not let their children get up from the classroom at will and decide to march in the streets. Some reports have the students leaving school at the instigation of their teachers; two parents at the Cathedral reported to me that the teachers of their children were so distraught by the election results that they sat at their desk all day and cried, unable to teach, while the children sat and watched. In all truth these teachers should be suspended and forced to give back their paycheck for such outrageous and childish behavior. And we see the frenzied, out of control behavior being orchestrated at so many secular colleges and universities across the country as exams are being cancelled, classes suspended, service dogs brought in to console those distressed by the election results, and campus wide protests being organized in place of class. Teachers are too traumatized to teach and students are too distraught to learn. No wonder some have identified this generation as the “snowflakes students” who claim that “we are too fragile to be educated.”
So my question is where are the adults in all of this? Where are those who should know better? Can we really allow our children and young people to be subject to this kind of damaging behavior and cultural influence embraced by a radical liberal elite that has rejected morality, faith, virtue and the pursuit of real knowledge? I read a statement recently on a blog by Elizabeth Scalia that summed it up nicely: “Ideas thoughtfully explored? Debate? Critical thinking? That’s all too threatening to worldviews that have become so shrunken, narrow, parochial and self-interested that they could almost be mistaken for…wait for it…reactionary, know-nothing, provincialism.” Indeed, it is a sad state of affairs and our children, youth and young people deserve far better than this.
Our parish consultation sessions will be held in the Cathedral on Monday, November 21st and Tuesday, November 29th, at 7:00 pm.) Following the second meeting the draft models will be available at OnMissionChurchAlive.org.
If you haven’t ordered your peanut brittle yet there is still time! Please visit the following link for more information and to download the order form: www.stpaulpgh.org/ministries/social-service-outreach/
Last year, on December 8, 2015, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis opened the Holy Year of Mercy, unsealing the holy year door in Rome, and as he spoke these words: “To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them. Passing through this door of mercy leads us directly into the arms of our Heavenly Father, to find his sweet and gentle touch, his tenderness and compassion, and the forgiveness our hearts so desperately need.”
And unlike any other Holy Year ever celebrated in the history of the Church – since the 13th century when this practice began – Pope Francis gave every diocese in the world the singular grace of having a Holy Year Door at the Mother Church, the Cathedral, so that as many people as possible may have the opportunity to pass through the door of mercy, the door of love, the door of hope and restoration.
There have been thousands of visitors to Saint Paul Cathedral over these past twelve months. It has been a powerful experience to see the pilgrims make that journey, some coming from great distances like the 400 young people from the Archdiocese of Omaha and a group from the Archdiocese of Chicago. The holy year door afforded each of us the opportunity to stop for a moment before we pass through that door, and remove the burdens of our sins, our burdens, our disappointments, our anger and bitterness, our jealousy and pride, our lack of compassion for others, and our anxiety and fears. The prayers on the outside of the holy door force us to stop and reflect on the magnitude of God’s unconditional mercy, but also challenge us to leave outside the things that so often prevent us from loving God with our whole heart and soul, and loving our neighbor. This has been the greatest blessing and gift of this Holy Year.
But clearly the hope of Pope Francis is that this year will encourage us to be people of mercy in our daily lives – to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy – and this will be a lasting effect of this year of grace. Christians must be the face of mercy for others, especially those who are marginalized and pushed aside in our culture. We must go out to the fringes of our society and bring the tender compassion of God to those who so desperately need it. “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.” Each day, we approach the altar as sinners and yet what really is most important for us is that we have the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, to trust in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love. As Pope Francis reminds us: “We hear many offers from the world around us; but let us take up God’s offer instead: his is a caress of love. For God, we are not numbers, we are important; indeed we are the most important thing to him. Even if we are sinners, we are what is closest to his heart.” As the holy door closes to end this Year of Mercy, the doors of our hearts are meant to open more readily and easily to God’s love, the kind of love that God has for us – sacrificial love, merciful love, unconditional love, divine love, lasting love, burning love, real love. This is how God makes a new creation not only for humanity but for every human heart.
THE YEAR OF MERCY CLOSES THIS SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20 ON THE SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING. ALL ARE WELCOME TO JOIN BISHOP ZUBIK AND FATHER STUBNA FOR THE CLOSING LITURGY ON SUNDAY EVENING, NOVEMBER 20 AT 6:00 PM.
“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.” These words of Jesus in today’s Gospel speak to what we celebrate in our country today as we honor and salute our veterans. My father was a veteran of World War II, serving as Merchant Marine. Often in the most dangerous and difficult situations, these brave men serviced the navy ships, keeping them operative, often in the midst of battle. My uncle served in the Army in World War II and was in the first troops who entered Auschwitz, where the Germans had murdered so many thousands of Jews. Those atrocities he could never speak about to anyone but they remained a burden in his heart. My brother was a United States Marine during the Vietnam War serving his country in a conflict that created so much division among our own citizens. I am sure we all can call to mind family and friends who answered the call to service. It is easy for people to criticize the military, to denigrate those in law enforcement, to speak about badly about the wars in which we are engaged in our history. But the facts speak for themselves. I have visited the cemeteries in Anzio, Nettuno, Monte Cassino, and Normandy Beach. I have seen the graves in Gettysburg, Antietam, and Arlington. Rows and rows of white crosses that mark the graves of those – many whose names cannot be found – who gave their lives in selfess service to our country. Our nation was formed from the blood sacrifices of brave men and women who fought for freedom, liberty, life and justice. These precious gifts that are the hallmark of our great nation, the United States of America, have not come easily. Throughout our history there are those who wish to destroy our nation and our ideals. We honor today those valiant citizens who came to the defense of our freedom in every generation. They put service to our country above all else and we honor today their patriotism, their valor, their suffering and their sacrifice. I, for one, am proud to be an American citizen. We have the greatest country on earth – not perfect by any means – but a country that is based on the greatest ideals for a human society to thrive for all its citizens. Of course we must always work for peace, and fight against the atrocities of evil that are part of human history. But words alone will not defend and protect our freedom and way of life. We salute and honor those bravest of men and women who in the past and present rose to the challenge and sacrificed their lives for the good of all. To our deceased veterans we pray that God will grant you eternal rest; to those who are still living we honor you with your deepest appreciation and respect; to those who serve our country in the armed forces we thank you for your service to our nation and pray that God will protect you from all harm. We must never forget the sacrifices made by so many people over all these years. They are the heroes in our nation’s history.
There is probably no one who is not happy to see the election campaign behind us – the commercials, advertisements, rhetoric ad nauseum – and much of it divisive and demeaning. But in our democratic process of government the people have spoken and we have a new President-elect, Donald Trump. As citizens of this country, and as responsible Christians, we have a moral and civic duty to work together in building up the ideals of our nation and to seek unity and goodwill among all. As Christians we bring a view of life that is in line with the natural law – the way in which God himself created us and how we are to live in accord with his law, not our own. Aristotle said that politics is the art of creating virtue in man so that the world reflects the beauty of what is good, true and just. This is not just an ideal; it must be sought after, protected, defended and brought more and more into view by our actions. We will never find a perfect candidate to reflect the whole view of life that adheres to what we believe as Catholics, but we must work always within the constraints of our laws and policies to advance what we know to be the truth. To that end, we must first and foremost pray for our new President and for his administration that God will grant him wisdom, integrity, and compassion as he seeks to govern our nation. Sadly, we have seen many in recent days who have responded with hatred, anger, bitterness and discord because their candidate lost. For Christians we must choose a different path.
I for one believe that this election has reinforced some of our most fundamental Christian values that have been under attack for some years now: the sanctity of human life, the defense of the unborn against the evil of abortion, the protection of our religious freedom against the intrusion of our government, the interpretation of the laws of our land in accord with our Constitution and not personal opinion or bias, the defense of marriage and the family as God created it to be, respect for our laws and those serving the public good in civic government and law enforcement. Yes, we must work diligently as Catholics and citizens to be a nation that welcomes immigrants and refugees, but one that can protect our liberty and freedom against the threats that seek to destroy those values. Our forefathers gave their lives – as have many other brave men and women in our country have done and continue to do to this day – so we can live in a land of liberty and justice for all. We must insure that this way of life is not destroyed by those seeking to do us harm. We must always seek ways to care for the poor and the vulnerable, to tear down the walls of bigotry, hatred, prejudice and discrimination that divide us. We have much work to do – but each of us must play a role in this work of “politics” as Aristotle understood it. Let us work with those who have been elected by the people of this land to be our leaders and seek ways to build up in our country and between all its citizens what reflects the good, the true and the just. It is our civic duty and our moral responsibility as Christians to move forward with hope, courageously bearing witness in word and deed to what we have come to possess in Jesus Christ.