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.
Our hearts and thoughts are closely joined to our brothers and sisters in the path of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. As the hurricane hit first at the beautiful town of Corpus Christi it seemed like a call from God to stir us into action. Corpus Christi is the Latin for “Body of Christ.” As Saint Paul wrote many years ago, “when one of the members of the body suffers, all the members suffer.” In this terrible tragedy where so many have lost their homes and all they possess, when some have died and others are injured, the hearts of all the members of the Body of Christ share in the pain of their loss. But as Christians we are stirred to action. Tragedy brings out the best in others; it always does. We have seen the bravery of our police officers, firefighters, those on search and rescue patrols, emergency medical personnel, national guard, those serving in our shelters, the Red Cross, and so many other regular people who are doing all they can to help. It speaks to the goodness that lies in every human heart; the care and compassion that we have for our neighbors, especially those in need. In a country where politics has caused such sad divisions, where some people choose to tear down the fabric of our society by their hatred for others, by violence and destruction of property, how important to see manifested in these days such beauty, goodness and kindness. No one cares if you are a Democrat or Republican, no one is asking whether you are an illegal immigrant – what matters is that each person is seen as a beloved child of God; every life is sacred and precious; and those who are working to help their neighbors in need care little for differences. Every human life matters. We are all Americans who suddenly are confronting the fragility of human life and the most precious blessings that we have: our blessed nation and the freedom we possess as Americans; the cherished gifts of family and friends, the beauty of the gift of life, the faith in God that gives us strength and peace, and the reality of God’s love that surrounds at every moment of life in good times and in bad. Nothing else matters in the end. May we learn to treasure the priorities in life and not wait for another tragedy to strike to build up the bonds of unity and love with everyone in our country – brothers and sisters all in Jesus Christ – members of the Body of Christ (Corpus Christi). God bless those confronting this hurricane; God keep them safe and bring them through harm’s way; God fill them with hope for the future and give them strength.
Our hearts break with sorrow as we witness the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia this past Saturday. We mourn the tragic loss of one innocent life and we are deeply saddened that 19 others have been wounded and hurt by the senseless act of violence spurned by a rally of hate. Anger and hatred always beget violence. Freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to malign, denigrate and murder other people who may not share your world view. There is no place in our country for hatred, for discrimination, for prejudice, and for seeing and treating others as inferior. The Catholic Church has long denounced any form of racism as an absolute evil and a great sin. As Christians we must fight vigorously against any ideology or vision of life that espouses hatred for others and embraces violence as an acceptable solution. As Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, stated this week: “We stand against the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-nazism. We stand with our sisters and brothers united in the sacrifice of Jesus, by which love’s victory over every form of evil is assured.” We must affirm our belief in the sanctity and dignity of every human life; that each person is made in the image and likeness of our God. We are brothers and sisters who stand together in solidarity and we must renounce vigorously anyone who tries to convince us that a certain group of people are superior to others. St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta spoke often of the call to see the face of Jesus in each and every person that we meet. What a different kind of nation we would belong to if that were true. We must stand in solidarity – regardless of race, creed, ethnic background or political party – and affirm the goodness and beauty that is reflected in every human person, that divine spark of God himself that lies in every human heart. We saw that so clearly in the response of so many other people who have come out in force to reaffirm our foundational values that each and every person is worthy of respect regardless of our differences. And as Cardinal DiNardo reminded us let us lift us this tragedy to God, the divine healer. “At Mass, let us offer a special prayer of gratitude for the brave souls who sought to protect us from the violent ideology displayed yesterday. Let us especially remember those who lost their lives. Let us unite ourselves in the spirit of hope offered by the clergy, people of faith, and all people of good will who peacefully defended their city and country.” Each of us bears the responsibility to stand up and proclaim loudly and forcefully: “No to racism; No to hatred; No to bigotry. Not here; Not now; Not ever.”
Our hearts go out to the victims of the senseless acts of terrorism and violence that have taken place in London over these past few weeks. There is no other description for what took place than the face of evil broke into our lives once again. We stand in solidarity with all those whose lives have been so brutally taken, along with their families and loved ones, and with all victims of terrorism throughout the world. We must pray fervently for God’s grace and peace to fill the hearts of his people and that the power of God’s love will do what seems to be impossible for us. We pray that the Almighty One himself will bring healing, reconciliation, harmony and concord to all God’s people and to put an end to hatred, violence and the tragic extremism in the name of religion that has brought so much destruction to so many people. Radical fundamentalist extremism has twisted the truth and does not reflect the wisdom of a religion that is founded on God’s law and his love – truths that we have been given by God himself. Those who twist the truth and change the laws of God for their own evil purposes will be judged accordingly at the throne of the King.
In the face of so much evil and hatred, we can become paralyzed and wonder what can we possibly do. The first response is clear: we must turn to God more and more often in these days. We take to heart the message of Our Lady at Fatima who pleaded with us to offer our trials and difficulties for the conversion of sinners. We can be beacons of mercy and kindness, helping the light to dispel the darkness in our own corner of the world. Let us remember the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln who in the darkness of the Civil War was asked by someone fighting against slavery if he thought God was on their side. President Lincoln said very thoughtfully, “It isn’t a matter of whether God is on our side; the only thing that matters is if we are on God’s side.” We stand in the confidence of our faith that God has defeated death, darkness, sin and death once and for all in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior. Now it is for us to stand on God’s side and be those who seek each day to bring the truth of God’s Holy Word, the light of his love, and the power of divine grace into the hearts of all people around us and into the world. We do that by standing with God, by praying fervently, by living rightly and justly as we have been taught by Jesus himself.
Tuesday was an incredible and inspiring day as the Cathedral hosted the relics of St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio). The Cathedral was jam packed for the 12:05 pm Mass celebrated by Bishop Zubik and the lines of people coming to venerate the relics stretched down the aisle, out the center door, along Fifth Avenue and up Craig Street all afternoon and evening. I have never witnessed anything quite like it in my time as pastor of the Cathedral. It was a beautiful and touching sight to see so many people coming to offer their prayers and intentions, and seeking blessing through the intercession of this saint, canonized by St. Pope John Paul II in 2002. There was deep and sincere faith among the pilgrims, a joy of being able to draw close to a man who had suffered greatly but manifested the tenderness and mercy of God in every dimension of his life. Padre Pio was a holy man of God, given the stigmata, and he had miraculous powers of healing and knowledge, spending hours of time in the confessional dispensing the mercy and love of God to penitents seeking grace. Padre Pio’s father actually emigrated to New Castle, PA in the face of serious economic crisis in Italy so he could provide for his family. Padre Pio is a source of inspiration to so many. His own sufferings led him to be an instrument of compassion and mercy to so many. Venerating his relics will bring great grace and strength to those who came in humility and prayer but will also be a source of grace to our entire Cathedral parish family. We take to heart his words: “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry,” have trust and faith in God’s love. St. Padre Pio pray for us.
Click on the following link to listen to Bishop Zubik’s Homily from the Mass in Honor of Padre Pio recorded on Tuesday, May 9, 2017, as well as Fr. Kris Stubna’s Homily from May 11th, 2017: https://dioceseofpittsburgh.sharefile.com/share?#/view/8743375c596741c4
Yesterday, May 4, President Trump signed his executive order on religious liberty. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued a response to President Donald J. Trump’s executive order signed on Thursday, May 4, 2017: “Today’s Executive Order begins the process of alleviating the serious burden of the HHS mandate. We will engage with the Administration to ensure that adequate relief is provided to those with deeply held religious beliefs about some of the drugs, devices, and surgical procedures that HHS has sought to require people of faith to facilitate over the last several years. We welcome a decision to provide a broad religious exemption to the HHS mandate, but will have to review the details of any regulatory proposals. In recent years, people of faith have experienced pressing restrictions on religious freedom from both the federal government and state governments that receive federal funding. For example, in areas as diverse as adoption, education, healthcare, and other social services, widely held moral and religious beliefs, especially regarding the protection of human life as well as preserving marriage and family, have been maligned in recent years as bigotry or hostility — and penalized accordingly. But disagreement on moral and religious issues is not discrimination; instead, it is the inevitable and desirable fruit of a free, civil society marked by genuine religious diversity. We will continue to advocate for permanent relief from Congress on issues of critical importance to people of faith. Religious freedom is a fundamental right that should be upheld by all branches of government and not subject to political whims. As president of the Bishops’ Conference, I had the opportunity to meet with President Trump this morning in the Oval Office to address these and other topics.”
For far too long, people of many faiths, and particularly Christians, have been under attack by our society and by our government. Laws were passed to force Christians to do things in violation of their beliefs and conscience with severe penalties attached to those who would not comply. Our long held belief is this country of separation of Church and state was a principle enshrined by our founding fathers to protect American citizens in the free exercise of their religious beliefs in this country without governmental interference; it was never intended to stamp out faith or religious beliefs in our nation. We are a country founded on Judeo-Christian principles and values which remain at the core of our identity as a nation. Those beliefs welcome and invite people of all faiths to be part of our society, but not in a way that they can then demand that Judeo-Christian beliefs be eliminated because they may offend someone. It is a glorious day to see once again the President of the United States asserting the right and freedom of peoples of all faiths to practice what they believe without fear or discrimination. “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced again and we will never stand for religious discrimination,” Trump said before signing the order, which states it is now administration policy is “to protect and vigorously promote religious liberty.” This is big news indeed and an encouraging development for all of us who belief in God and strive to live out the values and ideals of our deeply held religious beliefs” which do indeed bring a richness and blessing to this great country of ours. We can say once again with pride and without fear: “In God we trust,” “one nations under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
We have seen and heard in recent days a widely disparate response to the immigration debate, particularly in light of President Trump’s executive order halting people from certain countries from entering the United States for a period of 90-120 days and instituting an “extreme vetting” process for dealing with all immigrants and refugees moving forward. As we examine the issue in light of Church teaching, we see a number of competing rights, responsibilities and moral principles that point to its complexity.
The epitome of the Church’s teaching on immigration is found in paragraph 2241 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states: “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.” And the Catechism goes on to state that “political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.” Clearly the Catechism envisions an orderly process of immigration, subject to legal requirements.
Jesus was clear about our obligations toward our neighbor. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Lord makes clear to the scholar of the law with whom he’s speaking that loving our neighbor even means caring for our enemy (see Lk 10:29-37). Jesus also speaks of a rich man who finds himself in Hades for failing to care for the poor man at his door (Lk 16:19-31). Moreover, Jesus tells us that when we fail to help “the least of these” we fail to care for Him (Mt 25:31-46). As Christians we must allow Jesus’ teaching to form our consciences and to guide our actions: Every human life is sacred and inviolable; we are brothers and sisters to one another; Christians are obliged to welcome those whose lives are in danger; the virtues of kindness, compassion, hospitality, generosity and love must always come into play in our interactions with others, especially those in need who seek our help. As Bishop Zubik, our diocesan bishop, stated recently: “American policies have always been rooted in compassion and justice. We cannot abandon those virtues now. They define us to the world. Some immigrants are quite literally fleeing for their lives. They are coming to America with their eyes on the lit torch of Lady Liberty. Let’s not extinguish that light when the world needs it the most.”
Most immigrants today come from developing nations that often have high unemployment, little or no basic health care and spotty access to potable water or nutritious food. Some are being persecuted for their religious or political beliefs and face imminent danger of death. Many immigrants come not to break our laws or because they want to leave their homeland and families. Rather, most immigrate to follow their God-given right to work, to food and to life. People have a right to search for those things if they cannot be found where they live.
The Church teaches, as well, that a society has the right and obligation to manage itself — and borders are an outgrowth of that responsibility. Law means little if there are no borders within which laws can be enforced. The maintenance of borders is an extension of the state’s obligation to the common good, and therefore borders are important. The Church teaches that immigrants have a moral obligation to respect the “material and spiritual heritage” of the welcoming nation and to obey its laws. This does not mean that immigrants may not bring their own distinctive cultural life with them as previous waves of immigrants have done throughout American history. But, rather, it means that immigrants may not impose their own culture or religious laws on a nation in such a way as to undermine that nation’s principles and values. Sadly, we live in a society today where there are enemies to our way of life, those who seek to do us harm. Acts of violence, hatred and terrorism that have taken many innocent human lives in many countries of the world, including our own, give us grave cause for concern. No one has a right to come to our country with the intention to do us harm. There is justification for carefully vetting or screening those who desire to come to insure that their intentions are good ones and not harmful. These are reasonable measures for any government to take as we face the challenges of our contemporary society.
In an interview published in Our Sunday Visitor, Bishop John Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe and a prominent Church leader on immigration, said “Despite assertions to the contrary, the U.S. bishops do not support ‘open borders,’ but support generous, but reasonable, immigration policies that serve the common good.” He went on to state that the bishops’ vision for illegal aliens would be to “register them with the government, require them to pay a fine and any taxes owed, and require them to learn English and work as they wait for a chance for citizenship.” He stressed further that, in the mind of the bishops, “the lasting and humane solution to the challenge of illegal immigration” will come through addressing the economic root causes of migration, eliminating “push factors” like poverty and violence which compel people to migrate in the first place. This speaks to a moral imperative that as one of the greatest nations on earth, the United States of America must use its abundant resources, its powerful leadership, diplomatic prowess, and all the means it has to insure that other countries respect human rights, protect the dignity of every person, insure the freedom of religion for its citizens, and provide for the basic needs of every individual (adequate food, water, housing and employment).
Immigration is a complex issue indeed; which is why we look so intently to God for his grace and his wisdom to guide us forward. Catholic teaching calls us to be responsible and faithful citizens. We must pray for President Trump, his administration, and for all in public office that they may be led to embrace goodness and truth. We pray for our country and it citizens that we will always be people of compassion for others. We pray for immigrants and all those who seek to live with us in peace as citizens of our great country. May God continue to bless the United States of America!
PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS NOMINATED JUDGE NEIL GORUSCH to fill the seat on the United States Supreme Court which was vacated at the death of the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. The President had promised in the election campaign to nominate a judge who has a demonstrated fidelity to the Constitution , a strong commitment to the sanctity of human life and supports religious freedom in our country. These are all critical principles and values for Catholic faith teaching. The post-election polls have indicated that President Trump carried the Catholic vote (52-45 percent) and the vote of evangelical Christians (by an even larger margin) in large part due to his promise to appoint a Supreme Court justice who would protect these important ethical and moral values and it seems he has fulfilled that promise in nominating Judge Gorusch. We can only pray and hope that these principles will be protected at the highest court in our land.
THE CHURCH’S TEACHING ON HUMAN HAS BEEN CONSISTENT AND LONG STANDING. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” (No. 2271). From earliest times, Christians sharply distinguished themselves from surrounding pagan cultures by rejecting abortion and infanticide. The earliest widely used documents of Christian teaching and practice after the New Testament in the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) and Letter of Barnabas, condemned both practices, as did early regional and particular Church councils. Given the indisputable scientific fact that a human life begins at conception, the only moral norm needed to understand the Church’s opposition to abortion is the principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with the respect due to a human person. This is the foundation for the Church’s social doctrine, including its teachings on war, the use of capital punishment, euthanasia, health care, poverty and immigration. Conversely, to claim that some live human beings do not deserve respect or should not be treated as “persons” (based on changeable factors such as age, condition, location, or lack of mental or physical abilities) is to deny the very idea of inherent human rights. Such a claim undermines respect for the lives of many vulnerable people before and after birth.
Each year on January 22nd – the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade – people pause to recognize the date in some way. Some speak out, some march, some reach out, some educate, some just reflect. Many pray. Each year, for the past 43 years, pro-life Americans have shown that their commitment will not waver, their efforts will not cease. Our firm conviction as Catholics that “life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception” (Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, no. 51) has been a part of the Church’s constant witness since the Apostolic age and has inspired millions to defend human life at every stage. Against the backdrop of a society in which many institutions of influence endorse legal abortion, the pro-life movement has grown year by year, in numbers and in vitality. Roe v. Wade has left a trail of broken hearts. Through Project Rachel and other ministries, we will continue to help the broken-hearted. Those who resort to abortion out of a sense of desperation often find the cruel reality of abortion too difficult to bear. But it is too difficult only in a world without God and therefore without hope. We must reach these hearts and give them hope. These are the converted hearts that will at last bring an end to abortion.
Roe v. Wade cannot stand as the law of this great nation, a nation founded on the self-evident truth that all people are created with an inalienable right to life. We are committed, no matter how long it may take, no matter the sacrifices required, to bringing about a reversal of this tragic Supreme Court decision. We will speak out on behalf of the sanctity of each and every human life wherever it is threatened, from conception to natural death, and we urge all people of good will to do likewise. For, as Pope John Paul II reminds us, “it is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop” (The Gospel of Life, no. 101).
OUR NEWLY ELECTED PRESIDENT, DONALD J. TRUMP, will be inaugurated this Friday, January 20. He was elected by the majority of the Electoral College, the duly recognized authority enshrined by our Constitution to allow equal representation of all our citizens in every state to elect a leader that best represents them as American citizens. It is sad that these past two months have not brought healing and reconciliation, but have amplified the divisions and mean partisanship that has been such a strong force in our political life for all too long. Elections allow those running for office to make their best case for why they should be elected. We know those campaigns, like this most recent ones, can bring out the worst in so many people. But once the people have spoken, we must all as American citizens, strive to work together for the good of our country and for others. We have many challenges before us, and many opportunities as well. Each of us has a responsibility to pray for our newly elected leaders and to ask God’s blessings on them and our country. It has been a long tradition that a variety of clergy have offered prayers at every Presidential inauguration since 1937.
One of those asked to lead the prayer this year is Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York. He said: “I am honored to have been asked to offer a reading from Scripture at the upcoming presidential inauguration, and look forward to asking Almighty God to inspire and guide our new President and to continue to bless our great Nation.” All of us are invited on this day to lift up the needs of our nation to Almighty God, to pray for President-elect Donald Trump and his administration. We must give thanks to God for the abundant blessings and prosperity that marks our lives in this great nation of ours. We pray that God’s wisdom and truth will lead those who serve us in public office. We pray that they may work – once again – to defend and to advocate for the sanctity of every human life. We pray that –once again – people of faith will be respected and allowed to practice their beliefs and to worship freely without penalty or discrimination. We pray that the rule of law as intended by our Constitution and Bill of Rights will – once again – be respected by the judiciary in exercising their responsibility to interpret the intent of the law, not to create it. We pray that those in authority will understand their responsibility to serve as stewards of all that God has placed before them and to work to build a better country for all of its citizens, especially the poor and disenfranchsied, and those seeking to come to our shores and live peaceably with us as citizens.
Recently, I read the prayers offered at past presidential inaugurations and was struck by how fitting and appropriate for this week is the pray offered by Franklin Graham at the inauguration of President George Bush in 2001: “Blessed are you, O Lord, our God. Yours, O God, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor; for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and to give strength to all. As President Lincoln once said, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.” O Lord, as we come together on this historic and solemn occasion to inaugurate once again a president and vice president, teach us afresh that power, wisdom and salvation come only from your hand.
We pray, O Lord, for our President and Vice President-elect, to whom you have entrusted leadership of this nation at this moment in history. We pray that you will help them bring our country together, so that we may rise above partisan politics and seek the larger vision of your will for our nation. Use them to bring reconciliation between the races and healing to political wounds, that we may truly become “one nation under God.” Give our new president and all who advise him calmness in the face of storms, encouragement in the face of frustration, and humility in the face of success. Give them the wisdom to know and to do what is right and the courage to say no to all that is contrary to your statutes of holy law. Lord, we pray for their families and especially their wives, that they may sense your presence and know your love. Lead them as they journey through new doors of opportunity to serve others. Now, O Lord, we dedicate this presidential inaugural ceremony to you. May this be the beginning of a new dawn for America as we humble ourselves before you and acknowledge you alone as our Lord, our Savior and our Redeemer. We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
MAY GOD BLESS PRESIDENT TRUMP AND VICE PRESIDENT PENCE.