Posted October 2nd, 2017
This Sunday, October 1, the Church begins Respect Life Month, an opportunity for each of us as Catholics to reflect in a special way on the sacred and magnificent gift of human life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “human life is sacred from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one under any circumstance can claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.” Catholic teaching is clear and uncompromising on this issue and yet, sadly, we know how often those who claim to be Catholic can hold positions contrary to the teaching of the Church. This is impossible and inconsistent with what it means to be a Catholic.
Catholic teaching has long articulated that the culture of life, love and civilization that is at the foundation of God’s plan begins in the heart of the Christian family. This is seen in the permanent, faithful and life-giving love of husband and wife in the marriage covenant as designed and ordered by God’s plan which leads to children and the creation of the family, “the school of love.” This kind of love reflects and mirrors for us the love that God has for the Church. It is a love that is at its roots selfless and giving, leading to a total care for others and a deep respect for the dignity, value and worth of every human being in every state of life. The marriage covenant speaks powerfully to all of us of the total giving, the unconditional love, the laying down of one’s life for another that is the hallmark of every Christian life. But whether married or not, whatever our vocation in life, each of us is called to respond to God’s unconditional love with the gift of ourselves in loving service to others. We must see the dignity of each person and respond with love. Blessed Mother Teresa’s ability to see Christ in the face of each person she met is the wisdom and grace that needs to guide us in our relationships with others.
The threats against human life in our society are frightening. Abortion is the law of the land. Each year countless numbers of unborn babies are put to death in the name of a woman’s right to choose without any regard at all for the rights of the unborn child who has no one to be his advocate. But there are threats against life at every stage: persons with disabilities, the elderly, the infirmed, refugees, immigrants, and the poor – so many of whom are pushed aside by our society. As Catholics we have an obligation and responsibility to be defenders of human life, to be advocates for life and fight against the threats that minimize and destroy any human life. We must be those disciples who through our prayer, fasting, and actions work to transform American culture in building a civilization of life, love and hope, in helping to create a society that values the dignity of every human life and cares for the very least of our brothers and sisters who have no voice in defending their right to life. May God bless these efforts!
Posted September 28th, 2017
Scriptures give no indication of the precise time of the creation of angels; it is assumed that they were created very early. Like us, angels were created in and receive God’s grace and love. But because, unlike us, they are non-bodily creatures, their response to God’s love did not require time and reflection to grow and mature. As soon as they were created and received grace, they had the opportunity to respond to God’s love and be welcomed into bliss. For them, this choice was once and for all time. Despite the skepticism of our modern age, or the romanaticism of New Age cultic belief in angels as interstellar messengers, angels created by God to be His messengers and Heavenly court are real. We know this from the many Scripture references to them and from the numerous mentions that Christ made of angels in His teaching. They are servants and messengers of God, intermediaries between God and man, seeking the fulfilment of God’s saving plan.
In the same way, we also know that there are good angels who follow and obey God and bad angels called demons or devils, who in pride refused to obey God’s commands. The Temptation of Adam and Eve presupposes the reality of evil angels or demons wanting to lead others into disobedience. Accepting the existence of angels then naturally leads to an acceptance of the devil and of hell, which is nothing more than the total and everlasting absence of God without hope of redemption. The pride of Satan and the other demons created hell. Accepting the existence of devils and of hell then leads to the understanding that Christian tradition holds that the Archangels have four tasks or offices:
To lead the fight against Satan.
To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death.
To be the champion of God’s people, the Jews of the Old Testament, the Christians in the New Testament.
To lead away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgement.
September 29 celebrates the three archangels who were sent to man to proclaim wondrous messages, or defend mankind against the wickedness of the devil: Michael, whose name means ‘Who is like God?’ which was the war cry of the angels, led by Michael who cast Satan and his followers out of Heaven. He is especially honored and invoked as a patron and protector by the Church throughout history. Gabriel primarily appears as a messenger for God, in the Old Testament and the New. He was the angel who appeared to Zechariah to proclaim the conception of John the Baptist and then appeared to Mary at the Annunciation. The name means ‘man of God’ or ‘God has shown himself mighty’. Raphael means ‘God has healed’ This angel has acted as a guide to God’s people and healed others. He reveled his identity as “I am the Angel Raphael, one of the seven who stand before the throne of God.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “The whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels.” (CCC 334) which in one of the reasons we pray the Prayer to St. Michael at the end of every Mass at the Cathedral – a powerful helper and one who protects each of us and the Church from Satan and evil.
Posted September 27th, 2017
Today the Church honors Saint Vincent de Paul, a man whose life and ministry focused on finding ways to serve the poor. He was zealous in his efforts to lead others to respond in Christian charity to the needs of their less fortunate brothers and sisters. We all have an obligation to use the means that we have been given by God to help others in need. Charity is at the heart of our Catholic faith. To love God and to your neighbor – there is no greater commandment than this. St. James reminded the early Christians that faith without good works is a dead and lifeless faith; it has no power, no conviction and no merit. But Saint Vincent de Paul modelled for the Church the true virtue of Christian charity. We are called as believers to involve ourselves in the lives of those in need. It is not simply dropping off clothes to a Vincent de Paul box, or donating to food to a pantry, or writing a check for charity. We must care not only for the physical needs of the poor, St. Vincent de Paul says, but their spiritual and emotional needs as well. We have an obligation in charity to pray with the poor, to get to know them, to walk the journey with them as companions and friends. This is the measurement of the last great judgement: when you do it for one of the least of our brothers and sisters, we do it for Jesus Christ himself. The Church has a fundamental option for the poor, a call to each of us to be concerned for the needs of the least of our brothers and sisters. St. Vincent de Paul taught that we don’t need to look for big ways to help the poor, just extend compassion, mercy, kindness and love to those whom God sends across our path each day. See in them the face of Christ; respond with a kind work; pray with someone in need; share your resources; encourage someone struggling; bring a meal to someone who is lonely and by themselves; visit the sick; lend a hand; look into the eyes of a beggar and treat them like a human being in need of tenderness and mercy. How blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall indeed see God. Saint Vincent de Paul pray for us!
Posted September 24th, 2017
The team officials claim that since the team as a whole could not decide what to do the decision was to remain in the locker room during the singing of the National Anthem. What a shame. That decision speaks for itself. Where are the leaders of the team and the organization at a time like this? Respect for our country, respect for the flag are foundations of the American way of life. Many people have fought to protect our freedoms; many have sacrificed their lives. The United States of America proudly stands as a country that protects democracy and freedom around the world – we have history to back us up. We are not perfect but our country stands as a beacon of hope, freedom and justice for all nations in the world. If someone wants to take a knee during the national anthem then stand in public and do what freedom allows you to do – but don’t hide in the locker room. Let us see your disrespect for our flag and our country and allow us in our freedom to respond to this display of anti-patriotic behavior. The fans deserve to know where the players stand. Our tax dollars have helped to build the stadiums and fan support keeps teams financially stable. We have a vested interest in where players stand and we have a right to know. The NFL has put in place many rules about what a player can wear and what they are allowed to and not to do and players are penalized when they step out of bounds. But now team leaders insist that they cannot regulate a players response to the national anthem because of freedom of speech; that is a ludricrous argument because as owners and employers they can set the standards for what is expected of any player on their team. I for one want to know where the players stand – are they in solidarity with their country or are they not? I was proud to see Alejandro Villanueva – a US Army veteran and Bronze Star recipient – not hiding in the locker room with his teammates but standing proudly in the stadium, respecting our flag and showing his patriotism for the greatest country in the world. That all of the other players choose to remain in the locker room in a show of mock solidarity did nothing but denigrate our country. I turned off the television when they took the field on Sunday and its unlikely I will turn it on anytime soon. It’s a sad day for NFL football, a sad day for football fans, a sad day for Pittsburgh, and a sad day for our country. Interestingly another Pittsburgh sports franchise, the Stanley Cup champions, took another approach. The Penguins said they will indeed go ahead with the customary White House visit. The Penguins said that they as a team will “respect the institution of the office of the president and the long tradition of championship teams visiting the White House. Any agreement or disagreement with a president’s politics, policies or agenda can be expressed in other ways,” the Penguins said. GO PENS!
Posted September 21st, 2017
Sadly there continues to be so much hostility, anger and hatred towards President Trump and his administration nearly a year after the election. Some continue to try to do anything they can to undermine the work of the government and seek ways to challenge the legitimacy of his administration. Democracy rests on the voice of the people; the people voted in November and elected President Trump to the highest office in our land. Despite cries of the Russians meddling in the election, or then FBI director Comey’s surprise announcement, or any other number of excuses being put forward, the will of the people has been expressed and verified. Regardless of whether you like him or not, President Trump is the legitimate President of the United States of America. That some of our legislators continue to reject this fact with such vitriol and hatred is a scandal. We need to get over politics as usual – the bickering, partisanship, division and real hostility. The members of Congress have been elected to do the job of governing; they are responsible for working with our duly elected leaders for the good of the people. Yes there will always be different values and priorities for our political parties, even a different vision of life between people in our country. But there is a great deal at stake when we consider what is facing our country: a health care system that is failing, infrastructure that needs serious attention, tax reform codes that have to be changed to benefit every day Americans and the business community in our country, judges that need to be appointed, and the list goes on. For Catholics we have grave concerns about the issues related to the protection needed for the unborn and the sanctity of every human life, the protection to practice our religious beliefs without penalty and persecution, the protection of the nature of marriage as God designed it to be, and the care we must give to the poor and marginalized. I for one applaud the appointment of the Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch – one of President Trump’s campaign promises that I believe was the reason he captured the majority of the Catholic vote in this election. We need to move behind partisan politics as usual and demand that our elected officials do the work for which they have been elected: governance of our country for the common good. We need to return to true statesmanship in our country, where opposing parties can work together and find ways to address problems positively and effectively. We do not need politics as usual. Whether someone likes him or not is mute; he is our duly elected President. How much easier it is to pass the back, to point fingers, to jockey for position and blame the other side for all the problems and issues facing our country. Sadly it seems that many members of the Congress simply have chosen to be obstructionists and not legislators. Isn’t it about time that those we have entrusted to leadership begun to act like true leaders? If they can’t then its time for a change for a number of the members of Congress.
Posted September 21st, 2017
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who are victims of Hurricane Maria and the earthquake in Mexico. We stand in prayerful solidarity with those who have died and their families, and with so many who have lost homes and whose lives have been forever changed by these natural disasters. In a special way the people of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and the people of the Mexico City and surrounding regions, are in our hearts as they face tremendous suffering in the wake of the hurricane and earthquake. May God draw close to all those in need; may you find peace and strength in God’s love; and may hope fill your hearts with the compassionate outreach of so many good people who want to help. Please consider making donations to the American Red Cross, the Catholic Charities USA, and to other relief agencies. We pray for the safety of the first responders, the police and firefighters, the national guard and other military personnel, and so many good citizens who are working at those sites to provide support and assistance. May God be with you.
Posted September 11th, 2017
This date, 9-11, carries a heavy burden of memory. This day does not pass in the calendar without our remembering. We remember images of death and destruction. Images that human eyes were never meant to see. We remember words our ears were never meant to hear, the tender last words of husbands and wives who would never embrace again. We imagine the feeling of emptiness in the arms of children who at the end of the day could not find mom or dad for their welcome home hug. We remember our own feelings of emptiness as our sense of security, as our own confidence in the predictable order of life and work was radically shaken. We remember the heroism of the many that lost their lives in saving others. We remember all those who suffered and died, we grieve for them still, friends and strangers alike, along with their families and friends. And it is right that it should not pass from our memory. But today and in this prayer, along with our remembrance of profound loss, it also seems right that we give voice to our deep longing for peace, and with this prayer, commit ourselves to those actions that will draw us closer to our most ancient and most holy desire, peace among all God’s children. Lord, grant us peace. Amen.
Posted September 8th, 2017
If Jesus has been clear about anything in his teaching, it is the call to love, to forgiveness, to mercy and to compassion. The Church’s foundational belief in the unconditional mercy of God has been the consistent theme of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, as well. “It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! … “Oh, I am a great sinner!” All the better! Go to Jesus: He likes you to tell him these things!” He forgets; He has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, He kisses you, He embraces you and He simply says to you: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more “
It is this gift of love and mercy showered upon us by our Heavenly Father that not only frees us from our sin and restores us to a life of grace, but it is the reason we must be the same with others. In our second reading, Saint Paul makes it clear that “the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” This is part of the great and most important commandment of the law: We can only love God to the degree that we are able to love our neighbor. This is no easy sentiment or fleeting emotion but the greatest virtue of all. “Love does no evil to the neighbor.” Saint Paul has spoken about this call to love in concrete terms that leaves no doubt as to what is expected of us. Love is kind; it is patient; it bears all things and forgives all things; it is never boastful or proud or self-seeking. Love requires of every Christian the ability to put the other’s interests above our own. Even Jesus reminded his disciples: What good is there in loving those who love you, even the pagans do that! We are called to love our enemies, those who are difficult and unkind and mean spirited and ungrateful.
Jesus challenges us to work at healing divisions. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” This is the work of every Christian. It is our responsibility in faith to speak with love, to seek reconciliation, to heal what is broken, to shower another with mercy and tenderness so that the human heart can receive tenderness and the bonds of love among us can be restored. But so often our response is to get angry, to speak badly of another, to desire harm, to seek to get even, to push another aside in disdain. These are contradictions to those who want to live as Christians. Even when our best efforts fail, Jesus says that we must pray with a desire that God’s power and grace will accomplish what we unable to do. “If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my Heavenly Father.” The mercy and love of God given to us in Jesus Christ is the gift that we must seek not only for ourselves but for all our brothers and sisters, especially those with whom we struggle.
Posted September 8th, 2017
We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean and south Florida as they face the threat of Hurricane Irma. We are keeping them in our prayers that God will keep them safe. We pray for all those who are working so hard to offer assistance – our police, national guard, firefighters, Emts, rescue workers and so many helping their neighbor. May God bless them. Let us keep everyone in prayer.
Posted August 29th, 2017
Saint Paul Cathedral is known for its majestic building. The beautiful and awesome Gothic architecture; the colorful and detailed stained glass windows, the stunning statues, crucifix and stations of the cross, the marble altars and reliefs, and the list goes on and on. Many who come to us are overwhelmed by the beauty of what they see and behold. But the true beauty of our parish family was on display this past Sunday (August 27) in all its glory. We celebrated our fourth annual parish picnic. Nearly 400 people gathered on the lawn of the Cathedral on a picture perfect day. Our parish family is diverse: old and young, many families with children, persons with disabilities, white, black, Asian, Latino, people of every ethnic origin and nationality, young adults and the elderly, single and married, even some in consecrated life. The differences are stunning to behold but the unity that joins us together is awe-inspiring. The Cathedral parish is joined together as one faith family marked by an incredible spirit of welcome and hospitality, full of people who generously give of their time, talent and treasure for the good of others and the glory of God. What stood our so boldy that day for me was the real, authentic spirit of joy that was so evident that it outshined the external beauty of the Cathedral standing behind us. We have smiles everywhere, children running around joyfully, conversations and friendships that were genuine and inspiring, and all kinds of people caring for others, true servants after the heart of Jesus himself. That is the true beauty of Saint Paul Cathedral parish – the people who bring our parish family to live. There are so many and all of us work together in building up the unity of the Body of Christ. What joins us as one is our genuine love of God, our faith in Jesus Christ, our love for the Church and the sacramental life that gives us strength, and a sincere commitment to bring that faith into the public square and share our joy with others. As the pastor and rector of Saint Paul Cathedral parish now for the past five years, I was filled with the greatest pride as I walked the picnic grounds last Sunday. I keep thinking this is what being a parish family is all about! What a beautiful sight to behold indeed.