My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
When I was in the seminary, I began to discern a vocation within my vocation. I had wanted to be a priest for as long as I could remember (my mother said I was about 4 years old when I started talking about being a priest!), but perhaps because I had been thinking about priesthood for so long, I began considering different ways to exercise ministry as a priest: diocesan priesthood vs. religious life, for example, or being a parish priest vs. teaching or some other sort of specialized ministry. It was in this context that I decided I want to do something concrete to help the poor, rather than simply talk about it. So, in conversation with my spiritual director, I discerned that I wanted to be a parish priest who would provide legal services for the poor.
Four months after my priesthood ordination and after spending the summer in Mexico studying Spanish, I began studying law at DePaul University College of Law while serving in a parish in the heavily industrialized steel mill area known as South Chicago. Since I was not officially asked to do this by my Archdiocese, I took out a student loan, which I repaid with my own money. Shortly after I graduated with my civil law degree in 1981, I passed the Illinois Bar Exam and co-founded the South Chicago Legal Clinic, which was later renamed the Chicago Legal Clinic as we expanded into other neighborhoods. I specialized in immigration law to help the many immigrants in the area, who were mostly Hispanic.
I also began an internship with Catholic Charities under the guidance of then Father Edwin Conway, the devoted and capable Administrator of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago from 1983 until 1996. In 1995, he was named Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, also serving as Vicar General of the Archdiocese from 2003 until his death from cancer in 2004. Having obtained a master’s of social work degree from Loyola University Chicago in 1970, Bishop Conway was an influential mentor for my work in serving the poor.
One specific piece of advice from Bishop Conway that I distinctly remember is that he said there was never any reason to give cash to panhandlers or homeless people begging for money on street corners. All the basic necessities of life — including food, shelter, and clothing — were readily available from Catholic Charities and other social service agencies. Giving them cash would only provide them with funds to enable their addictive behaviors.
Bishop Conway’s advice comes to mind frequently as I see homeless people begging for money outside our Cathedral, usually right before or after Mass. It is understandable that homeless people apparently consider church-going people more receptive to their requests to “help the homeless” since we Christians wish to do as Jesus taught when He said, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Caring for the least among us, however, does not necessarily mean handing out cash. To provide true assistance that will help the person in need usually requires more than a handout. We could, for example, offer to take the person to a restaurant to get something to eat. But that would require more than money; actually getting some food for a hungry person would require real time and effort. It is far easier to just drop some cash into their cup, which is perhaps doing more to make the donor feel good than to provide real assistance.
Once, I was walking in downtown Springfield wearing my clerical suit and Roman collar when a person approached me asking for money to buy food. We were just a couple of blocks from St. John’s Breadline, so I started giving instructions on how to get there for a free meal when the person cut me off saying, “Oh, I know all about the Breadline. I don’t want that.” I said I was sorry, but if he did not want that, I could not help him. I have served meals at St. John’s Breadline and have eaten the food there myself. It is quite healthy and good. Anyone of any faith can walk in and have a meal for free — no eligibility requirements and no questions asked.
So, if you want to help feed the hungry, you could donate to Catholic Charities, which operates the St. John’s Breadline at 430 North Fifth Street in Springfield and the Catholic Charities Regional and Mobile Food Pantries located throughout our diocese. For locations and hours of operation, as well as for volunteer opportunities, or to donate online, go to https://cc.dio.org/. Donations may also be sent by check payable to Catholic Charities – Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, 1625 West Washington Street, Springfield, IL 62702.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that “a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the temple called ‘The Beautiful Gate’ every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.’ Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God” (Acts 3:2-8).
Rather than give cash to beggars, our goal — like St. Peter and St. John — also should be to help them to rise and walk in the name of Jesus Christ, so that they too may enter the church to give praise to God.
May God give us this grace. Amen.
Sunday, June 19, is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, traditionally known by its name in Latin, Corpus Christi. This year’s celebration of Corpus Christi will mark the opening of the three-year Eucharistic Revival announced last year by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The mission of the Eucharistic Revival is “to renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.”
According to the Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, by Francis X. Weiser, S.J., “Very early (in the fourteenth century) the custom developed of carrying the Blessed Sacrament in a splendid procession through the town after the Mass on Corpus Christi Day. This was encouraged by the popes, some of whom granted special indulgences to all participants. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) solemnly approved and recommended the procession on Corpus Christi as a public profession of the Catholic faith in the real presence of Christ in the Holy Sacrament.”
The Code of Canon Law encourages liturgical processions outside the church, “When it can be done in the judgment of the diocesan bishop, as a public witness of the veneration toward the Most Holy Eucharist, a procession is to be conducted through the public streets, especially on the solemnity of the Body and the Blood of Christ” (canon 944). The leading of processions outside the church is among the specific liturgical functions especially entrusted to the pastor (canon 530).
In my Pastoral Letter of June 22, 2014, Ars celebrandi et adorandi, Latin for “The Art of Celebrating the Eucharistic Liturgy Properly and Adoring the Lord in the Eucharist Devoutly,” I wrote, “I highly encourage and give permission for pastors to conduct processions with the Blessed Sacrament through the public streets, especially on the solemnity of the Body and the Blood of Christ, as a witness to our faith in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist and as an expression of our belief that God is in our midst even in our everyday lives.”
This encouragement and permission for Corpus Christi processions is reflected in Statute 107 of our Fourth Diocesan Synod as adopted in 2017: “As a public witness of the veneration toward the Most Holy Eucharist, clergy in this Diocese may conduct processions with the Blessed Sacrament through the public streets and are especially encouraged to do so on the solemnity of the Body and the Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). Such processions shall be conducted in accord with the pertinent liturgical customs and norms. Arrangements for the procession through the streets shall be made with local law enforcement and civic officials for the sake of good public order and as required by civil law.”
Carrying the Blessed Sacraments in procession through the streets is what Stephen Bullivant, professor of Theology and Sociology at St Mary's University in London, calls a Credibility Enhancing Display (CRED), which is a sociological term for what makes this Catholic experience special.
The focus of the first year of the Eucharistic Revival will be on Diocesan Revival. Here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, we will observe a Year of the Eucharist, beginning on Dec. 8, 2022, and ending on Dec. 8, 2023. The highlight of our diocesan Year of the Eucharist will be our Centennial Celebration on Oct. 28, 2023, marking one hundred years since the translation of our Diocesan See from Alton to Springfield. This Centennial celebration will be held at the Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield, which holds 7,000 people. I have instructed pastors that there are to be no parish Masses or weddings across the diocese on Oct. 28, 2023, in order to allow all the priests and as many parishioners as possible to attend the day-long event at the BOS Center in Springfield. Our featured speakers, who will address the relationship of the Eucharist in the life of Christian discipleship, will be Dr. Scott Hahn, Professor of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, and Bishop Robert Barron, founder of the global media ministry Word on Fire, who recently was appointed as the new Bishop of Winona-Rochester in Minnesota.
The second phase of the Eucharistic Revival, through June 2024, will foster eucharistic devotion at the parish level, strengthening our liturgical life through eucharistic adoration, missions, resources, preaching, and movements of the Holy Spirit. These local efforts will be designed to help convert hearts and minds to fall more deeply in love with Jesus Christ, truly present in the Holy Eucharist.
The third phase of the Eucharistic Revival will be the National Eucharistic Congress, to be held in Indianapolis from July 17 to 21, 2024. At this historic event, more than 80,000 Catholics of all ages from every diocese in the United States are expected to gather in Indianapolis to worship our Risen Lord in the mystery of the Eucharist. Then, the Year of Going Out On Mission will take place from July 21, 2024, through Pentecost of 2025. We pray that the Holy Spirit will enkindle a missionary fire in the heart of our nation as we reconsecrate ourselves to the source and summit of our faith.
May God give us this grace. Amen.
“No one may share the eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.” These words were written between 155-157 A.D. to the Roman Emperor by St. Justin in his treatise providing a detailed explanation of Christian practices and rituals, while also seeking to convince the emperor to abandon the persecution of the Church. Not only did the emperor reject Justin’s arguments, but Justin was eventually put on trial around the year 165 A.D. for refusing to worship the pagan gods of the Roman Empire.
The testimony of St. Justin’s trial before the Prefect of Rome, whose name was Rusticus, was recorded in the The Acts of the Martyrdom of Saint Justin and his Companion Saints. After these Christians were seized and brought before the judgment seat, Rusticus the prefect said to Justin: “Above all, have faith in the gods and obey the emperors.”
Justin said: “We cannot be accused or condemned for obeying the commands of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Rusticus asked: “What system of teaching do you profess?”
Justin replied: “I have tried to learn about every system, but I have accepted the true doctrines of the Christians, though these are not approved by those who are held fast by error.”
Rusticus asked: “Are those doctrines approved by you, wretch that you are?”
Justin answered: “Yes, for I follow them with their correct teaching.”
Rusticus said: “What sort of teaching is that?”
Justin responded: “Worship the God of the Christians. We hold him to be from the beginning the one creator and maker of the whole creation, of things seen and things unseen. We worship also the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He was foretold by the prophets as the future herald of salvation for the human race and the teacher of distinguished disciples. For myself, since I am a human being, I consider that what I say is insignificant in comparison with his infinite godhead. I acknowledge the existence of a prophetic power, for the one I have just spoken of as the Son of God was the subject of prophecy. I know that the prophets were inspired from above when they spoke of his coming among men.”
Rusticus asked: “You are a Christian, then?”
Justin answered: “Yes, I am a Christian.”
The prefect said to Justin: “You are called a learned man and think that you know what is true teaching. Listen: If you were scourged and beheaded, are you convinced that you would go up to heaven?”
Justin answered: “I hope that I shall enter God’s house if I suffer that way. For I know that God’s favor is stored up until the end of the whole world for all who have lived good lives.”
Rusticus said: “Do you have an idea that you will go up to heaven to receive some suitable rewards?”
Justin said: “It is not an idea that I have; it is something I know well and hold to be most certain.”
The prefect Rusticus then said: “Now let us come to the point at issue, which is necessary and urgent. Gather round then and with one accord offer sacrifice to the gods.”
Justin said: “No one who is right thinking stoops from true worship to false worship.”
The prefect Rusticus said: “If you do not do as you are commanded you will be tortured without mercy.”
Justin replied: “We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved. For this will bring us salvation and confidence as we stand before the more terrible and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and Savior.”
In the same way the other martyrs also said: “Do what you will. We are Christians; we do not offer sacrifice to idols.”
The prefect Rusticus then pronounced sentence, saying: “Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to obey the command of the emperor be scourged and led away to suffer capital punishment according to the ruling of the laws.”
The execution of St. Justin and his companion saints was described in these words: “Glorifying God, the holy martyrs went out to the accustomed place. They were beheaded, and so fulfilled their witness of martyrdom in confessing their faith in their Savior.”
The courageous martyrdom of these faithful saints comes to mind as we see so many politicians stoop to false worship at the altar of abortion rather than give true worship to the Triune God and adherence to His commandments.
Thus, it is entirely appropriate that Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco announced on May 20 with regard to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, a staunch advocate of abortion who is a member of his archdiocese, “After numerous attempts to speak with Speaker Pelosi to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
I fully support and earnestly commend Archbishop Cordileone’s action in regard to Speaker Pelosi. All politicians who promote abortion should not receive holy Communion until they have repented, repaired scandal, and been reconciled to Christ and the Church.
The Memorial of St. Justin Martyr is June 1. St. Justin, pray for us to have the courage to stand up for the true doctrines of Christianity as you and your saintly companions did.
May God give us this grace. Amen.
Lex Cordis Caritas
The Law of the Heart is Love
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
A priest on pilgrimage in the Holy Land described how he watched two shepherds talking together while their sheep milled around them in the valley beneath him. The sound of their voices carried up to him on the hillside. After a while, the shepherds parted and went off in opposite directions, all the while keeping up a “kind of conversation” with the sheep. To the priest’s astonishment, the sheep separated from one another and sorted themselves out into two flocks, each one going after its own shepherd. It was a perfect illustration, the priest said, of sheep recognizing the voice of their shepherd and following him. We can only marvel at the instinct by which the sheep recognized the voice of their own shepherd and did not follow the other one. We see the same instinct at work among penguins, who in a crowd of thousands manage to find their own offspring.
In the Gospel of Saint John, Jesus observes that “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10:27). He is making a claim that we can verify. Every human being, young and old, good and bad, has a conscience. Conscience is, as St John Henry Newman taught, “the voice of God.” For Newman, conscience is a proof of God’s existence. “Every human being has a certain commanding dictate,” he said, “an authoritative voice, bidding him do certain things and avoid others.” If we want to know whether we should do a certain thing we only have to ask ourselves and our conscience will give us the answer. Often enough our conscience prods us before we ask it, warning us not to go down this way or that. More positively, it will lead us where we should go.
Furthermore, what our conscience tells us is confirmed in scripture. The scriptures are the revealed word of God. “The word of the Lord,” the reader proclaims at the end of each reading. There can never be a conflict between what God tells us in our conscience and what God tells us in the scriptures. It is the same voice speaking in two different ways.
But there is what we might call a “false conscience” or an “erroneous conscience,” persuading us that our conscience is nonsense; that the scriptures are untrue; that our faith is unfounded; that we can do whatever we feel like doing. A man once told a priest that he thought God was telling him to leave his wife and marry another woman who was a more devout Catholic. The priest reminded him of the Sixth Commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.” What the man thought God was telling him could not have been from God, but was only his own fantasizing.
In this regard, as the national debate rages across our country in light of the malicious leak of the draft of a Supreme Court decision that will apparently overturn the disastrous 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, abortion activists and pro-abortion politicians are trying to convince themselves that abortion is not wrong. For example, President Biden recently contradicted Catholic teaching by asserting that no “mainstream” religion claims to know when human life begins. He stated, “Roe says what all basic mainstream religions have historically concluded, that the existence of a human life and being is a question. Is it at the moment of conception? Is it six months? Is it six weeks? Is it quickening, like Aquinas argued?”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has made similar arguments, claiming that, “over the centuries, the doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition” [of when human life begins], arguing that St. Augustine said that ensoulment does not occur until 46 days after conception. Biden and Pelosi fail to mention, however, that both St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine were opposed to abortion.
Reacting to the news that Roe v. Wade may be overturned, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin issued a statement referring to abortion as “a critical constitutional right” and calling for legislation to “enshrine into law” the right to choose to have an abortion. While Biden, Pelosi, and Durbin are Democrats, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, both Republicans, have introduced their own bill seeking to codify current abortion protections into federal law.
These pro-abortion politicians, all of whom are baptized Catholics, but who do not speak authoritatively for the Church, are deluding themselves and their consciences, since the Catholic Church has always condemned abortion as gravely sinful since the earliest times of Christianity. They are listening to the wrong voices. A well-formed conscience, on the other hand, recognizes that human life begins at conception. Modern technology shows us plainly through ultrasound imagery that a fetus is indeed a human baby.
In response to those who say the Church’s teaching on abortion has changed or is of recent origin, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities has issued a fact sheet, noting that “knowledge of human embryology was very limited until recent times. Many Christian thinkers accepted the biological theories of their time, based on the writings of Aristotle (4th century BC) and other philosophers. Aristotle assumed a process was needed over time to turn the matter from a woman's womb into a being that could receive a specifically human form or soul. The active formative power for this process was thought to come entirely from the man – the existence of the human ovum (egg), like so much of basic biology, was unknown. However, such mistaken biological theories never changed the Church's common conviction that abortion is gravely wrong at every stage.”
Thus, 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).
Many voices speak to us today, very often through the media. But even the most intelligent people can be wrong: not all the opinions we hear are right, so we test them by faith. Saints recognize the inner voice of God with clarity because they habitually listen to it. They are not easily deceived or misled. They trust the teachings of the Church, meditate on the scriptures, and pray, listening to the voice of Jesus, who leads us to the truth and to eternal life.
May God give us this grace. Amen.
Over 90 bishops from around the world recently signed a “Fraternal Open Letter to the Bishops of Germany,” including Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, Cardinal Raymond Burke of the United States, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa, and Cardinal George Pell of Australia. I am among the signatories along with archbishops and bishops from every continent except Antarctica (which of course has no bishops).
The letter expresses “our growing concern about the nature of the entire German ‘Synodal Path’ process and the content of its various documents” as well as “the confusion that the Synodal Path has already caused and continues to cause, and the potential for schism in the life of the Church that will inevitably result.” Similar letters have been sent by the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference and the Bishops’ Conference of the Nordic countries, which includes Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.
So, what is the German Synodal Path and what are the concerns?
The German Synodal Path is the response of the Catholic Church in Germany to Pope Francis’ call to provide input for the Synod of Bishops that will take place at the Vatican in October of 2023. Pope Francis has encouraged bishops around the world to engage a process of “synodality,” characterized by dialogue, accompaniment, and collaboration among the diocesan leadership, ordained clergy, religious, and lay faithful. We have done this here in our Diocese of Springfield in Illinois at our listening sessions in various locations across our diocese on March 27, in conjunction with input from our Diocesan Pastoral Council and Presbyteral Council. All of this builds on the Fourth Diocesan Synod that we held in 2017.
Following the release of a study on the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clerics in Germany, the country’s Bishops expressed a desire in 2019 “to follow a binding Synodal Path” to address these and other topics. In the Fall of 2021, the German Bishops released several draft texts, which were discussed and voted on during the Second Synodal Assembly. In February of 2022, the Bishops met for the Third Synodal Assembly, where they released additional documents.
While listening to the flock, the shepherds must still lead and not let the sheep go astray. This is where the concerns arise, given that the German Synodal Path has gone off course, asserting in their documents that the Catholic Church “insists on doctrinal positions that many faithful, including deacons, priests and bishops, far beyond Germany, no longer find comprehensible.” They even go so far as to call certain Church teachings merciless, unloving, discriminatory, and intolerant. In particular, the German Synodal Path has called for the blessing of homosexual relationships, ordaining women as deacons, making celibacy optional for priests, giving the laity decision-making power in relation to the appointment of bishops, and restructuring the Church from its hierarchical form to something more democratic.
This is precisely what Pope Francis warned the German bishops about when he wrote a 28-page letter to them in 2019, urging them to be careful not to fall into the traps set along the way, which he calls “temptations” based on “the belief that the best response to the many problems and shortcomings that exist, is to reorganize things, change them and 'put them back together' to bring order and make ecclesial life easier by adapting it to the current logic or that of a particular group.”
In response to the concerns raised by bishops from around the world that Germany’s Synodal Path could lead to schism, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, President of the German Bishops’ Conference, defended their process as a response to abuses in the Church. However, as Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has pointed out in an article he wrote for First Things, “A tepid accommodation to the latest dogmas of secular orthodoxy, on the other hand, cannot be the basis for renewal.”
It is significant that Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, has said in an interview that “there are legitimate concerns behind” this Fraternal Open Letter “that have to be taken seriously.” He added that, “In Germany, I have the impression that synodality consists in dealing with the structures, something that Pope Francis already urged very energetically in his “Letter to the People of God” in Germany, that it is first and foremost not about structures but spirituality.”
My hope is that the Fraternal Open Letter to the Bishops of Germany will prompt them to see the widespread concern from their brother bishops, reassess what they are doing, and get back on course with the true teachings of the Church.
May God give us this grace. Amen.
Our Easter celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord provides an opportunity for us as Catholics to look forward with hope and anticipation to the resurrection of our own bodies when Christ comes again on the last day.
Unfortunately, many Christians today do not understand or at least do not accept the Catholic Church’s teaching about the resurrection from the dead. Our profession of faith, the Nicene Creed, which we recite on Sundays and Holy Days, concludes with the statement, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Do we really understand what that means? Many people, including many Catholics, believe in eternal life, but wrongfully think this means that when we die, we will live forever as spirits, without any type of body. This is what the ancient Greeks believed, but it is not what Christians believe. Hence the growing popularity of cremation on the part of people who think that death means we simply discard our bodies since they will not be needed any more.
In this regard, a bill on human composting (HB 4552), introduced in the Illinois General Assembly by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), passed the Energy and Environment Committee 23-0 on Feb. 15, but fortunately has not moved beyond the committee. The bill has 28 co-sponsors, which indicates a certain level of support, and environmental groups are supporting it. Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have approved similar legislation. HB 4552 authorizes a body to undergo human composting after death. The process known as “natural organic reduction” is an accelerated conversion of human remains to soil. The body is placed in a vessel that accelerates biological decomposition. The body is laid into the vessel onto a bed of wood, chips, alfalfa and straw. Over 30 days, everything inside the vessel breaks down to natural composition. Each body that completes the process creates one cubic yard of soil. The remains can then be used as compost, essentially serving as fertilizer for plants!
But the Church teaches that, “We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives forever, so after death the righteous will live forever with the risen Christ and He will raise them up on the last day” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 989. Thus, “Although cremation is now permitted by the Church, it does not enjoy the same value as burial of the body. The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of the deceased be present for the funeral rites, since the presence of the human body better expresses the values which the Church affirms in those rites” (The Order of Christian Funerals, Appendix on Cremation, n. 413). Most especially, this refers to our belief that God will raise our bodies when Christ comes again on the last day.
Canon law says that “Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death …, those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals” (c. 1184 §1). Now, I have never heard of anyone explicitly saying that they chose cremation because they do not believe in the resurrection of the body, but it does seem to be at least an implicit rejection of this dogma of our faith to turn one’s remains into compost to serve as fertilizer to grow plants! While God certainly has the power to raise cremated ashes into the form of a glorified body, burial of the full body better expresses our belief that we look forward to the resurrection of the body.
This belief is clearly expressed in the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, which says, “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you” (Rom 8:8-11). St. Paul also wrote, “How can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain … . But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:12-20).
Raising the dead to life is a sure sign of the presence and action of God. In the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, the Lord says: “You shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people” (Ezekiel 37:12-14). Faith in Jesus Christ empowers us to live in true freedom: freedom from fear, freedom from the power of death, freedom to live by the Spirit which God has placed in us — the Spirit of the risen Christ. Happy Easter!
May God give us this grace. Amen.
This past March 25th, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, Pope Francis carried out a solemn Act of Consecration of humanity, and Russia and Ukraine in particular, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, entrusting the nations at war to the Blessed Virgin Mary in a special way. In response to the Holy Father’s request that bishops join him in this act with the clergy, religious, and lay Christian faithful, I led people in praying the Act of Consecration in our Cathedral in Springfield that same morning.
In his March 21st letter to Catholic bishops around the world, Pope Francis wrote, “Nearly a month has passed since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine that is daily inflicting immense suffering upon its sorely tried people and threatening world peace. At this dark hour, the Church is urgently called to intercede before the Prince of Peace and to demonstrate her closeness to those directly affected by the conflict. I am grateful to the many people who have responded with great generosity to my appeals for prayer, fasting, and charity … .This Act of Consecration is meant to be a gesture of the universal Church, which in this dramatic moment lifts up to God, through his Mother and ours, the cry of pain of all those who suffer and implore an end to the violence, and to entrust the future of our human family to the Queen of Peace.”
What does it mean to consecrate? Consecration makes something or someone sacred or holy by dedicating that object or person to God. An act of consecration is made ultimately to God with the understanding that our consecration is a serious commitment on our part to respond faithfully to God’s grace at work in our lives.
When a church or altar is consecrated, it is dedicated for divine worship and therefore is not to be used for a profane or secular purpose. When a priest is ordained, his hands are anointed with sacred chrism, thereby consecrating them for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the administration of the sacraments. When consecrating a country to Our Lady, we are consecrating the nation and its people to Jesus through Mary, imploring her maternal protection. As Pope St. John Paul II explained, “Consecrating ourselves to Mary means accepting her help to offer ourselves and the whole of mankind to him who is holy, infinitely holy; it means accepting her help — by having recourse to her motherly heart, which beneath the cross was opened to love for every human being, for the whole world — in order to offer the world, the individual human being, mankind as a whole, and all the nations to him who is infinitely holy” (May 13, 1982).
During the third apparition at Fatima, on July 13, 1917, Our Lady said to the three little shepherds that God wishes to establish the devotion to her Immaculate Heart in the world in order to save souls from hell and bring about world peace, and also asked for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. Thus, we pray together with Pope Francis, “Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine. Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love. Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world.”
May God give us this grace. Amen.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
It is heart-wrenching to read the news reports and see the images of the damage being inflicted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, such as the Russian bombing of a maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariopol and the indiscriminate attacks on other non-military targets that have resulted in many civilian casualties. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zalensky has not only denounced Russia for these attacks, but has also expressed his frustration with the lack of support from the West, asking, “How much longer will the world be an accomplice to terror? You have power but seem to be losing humanity.”
Of course, everyone is concerned that the war in Ukraine not escalate into a catastrophic nuclear confrontation between Russia and the United States and other nuclear powers. At the same time, our basic sense of justice cries out for some way to help the victims of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked aggression and apparent violation of international law by invading a sovereign country and committing war crimes by targeting civilians.
Some political commentators seem to be saying that Ukraine has to be forfeited to the Russians because we do not want to provoke Putin into a reckless response that would start World War III and a possible nuclear holocaust. Such views seem reminiscent of the appeasement approach towards Adolph Hitler’s expansion of Nazi power prior to World War II.
Neville Chamberlain, who served as British Prime Minister from May 1937 to May 1940, was one of the chief proponents of appeasement towards Hitler. The Munich Conference of 1938, organized by Chamberlain and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, was an international meeting to settle the dispute between Germany and Czechoslovakia over the Sudetenland. The Conference was attended by Hitler from Germany, Chamberlain from Britain, Daladier from France and Mussolini from Italy. Czechoslovakia was not invited, despite the Sudetenland being part of its territory. At the Munich Conference, it was decided the Sudetenland was to be transferred from Czechoslovakia to Germany. After the Munich Agreement, Chamberlain and Hitler signed a document promising that Britain and Germany would promote peace in Europe. Chamberlain returned to London and announced that he had secured “peace in our time.”
Winston Churchill, who succeeded Neville Chamberlain as British prime minister in 1940, was a fierce opponent of appeasement. He said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” Churchill was convinced that Hitler would not stop, and of course, we know now that he was right. Hitler did not stop until he was defeated. Many people fear the same with Putin.
What does our Christian faith have to say about defending people who are being attacked? In his sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well” (Matthew 5:38-39). The New Jerome Biblical Commentary says that Jesus offers this teaching as “a strategy for winning, not for passive resignation or indifference to evil. The goal is to shame the opponent into a change of heart. This presupposes the requisite dispositions in the opponent, which are not always present.”
Indeed, Catholic theology developed the “just war theory” to deal with unjust opponents. St. Augustine (d. 430) was the original proponent of the just war theory, which St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) later adapted and explained in his Summa Theologiae. The traditional elements of the just war theory are described in paragraph 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time: the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; there must be serious prospects of success; and the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.”
The Catholic Bishops of the United States in 1983 addressed these modern means of destruction in their pastoral letter on war and peace entitled, The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response. Specifically with regard to the use of nuclear weapons, the bishops said: “Under no circumstances may nuclear weapons or other instruments of mass slaughter be used for the purpose of destroying population centers or other predominantly civilian targets. Retaliatory action which would indiscriminately and disproportionately take many wholly innocent lives, lives of people who are in no way responsible for reckless actions of their government, must also be condemned. . . . We do not perceive any situation in which the deliberate initiation of nuclear war, on however restricted a scale, can be morally justified. Non-nuclear attacks by another state must be resisted by other than nuclear means. . . . One of the criteria of the just-war teaching is that there must be a reasonable hope of success in bringing about justice and peace. We must ask whether such a reasonable hope can exist once nuclear weapons have been exchanged. The burden of proof remains on those who assert that meaningful limitation is possible. In our view the first imperative is to prevent any use of nuclear weapons and we hope that leaders will resist the notion that nuclear conflict can be limited, contained or won in any traditional sense.”
As we pray for a just and peaceful resolution of the war in Ukraine, let us pray that these important principles for just war in a nuclear age be kept in mind and strictly adhered to by those responsible for making these critical life and death decisions.
As part of our diocese’s response to Pope Francis’ call to provide input for the Synod of Bishops that will take place at the Vatican in October of 2023, I invite all the faithful of our diocese to a diocesan-wide listening session on Sunday, March 27 at 2 p.m. Groups will gather locally in the deaneries and connect together with me and across the deaneries by video. Seven locations have been designated as follows:
The theme for the “Synod on Synodality” is: A Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission. Pope Francis has encouraged bishops around the world to engage a process of “synodality,” characterized by dialogue, accompaniment, and collaboration among the diocesan leadership, ordained clergy, religious, and lay faithful. In our diocese, we have fully embraced this approach, having completed our Fourth Diocesan Synod of 2017, which involved a comprehensive process of dialogue and discussion, and produced great insights and goals for our diocese to become a community of missionary disciples.
While our official synod process has been completed, we continue to sustain dialogue, listening, and collaboration through avenues such as our Diocesan Pastoral Council, Diocesan Presbyteral Council, parish pastoral visits, and Canonical visitations. After a pause due to COVID-related restrictions, I recently revived parish pastoral visits and intend to visit all 129 parishes over the next few years.
These important and ongoing means of sustained dialogue and collaboration will be supplemented by the input from the local gatherings of the faithful in the deaneries throughout our diocese on March 27. In this session, which will begin in each location at 2 p.m., we will discuss three topics:
I look forward to the ongoing dialog across our diocese and the insights we will share in this upcoming listening session.
In listening to the needs of the faithful, I am also mindful of the cries for help coming now from the Ukrainian people, who have suffered so much and continue to suffer from the brutal and unjust aggression of Russia’s invasion into their country. While I have no special expertise in military strategy or international diplomacy, it is apparent to everyone in the free world that the Russian attack on the sovereign country of Ukraine is an unprovoked and unjustified act of aggression, which has already cost the lives and livelihoods of many innocent people. As people of faith, our strongest weapon, and the most important thing we can do is to pray, asking our Blessed Mother, the Queen of Peace, and her son Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to bring a peaceful end to this dire conflict.
The Gospel message is all about conversion, about change. Changing behavior starts with changing the way we think and the way we talk. There is a poster that urges its readers to “Watch your thoughts, they become your words … your actions … your habits … your character … your destiny.” That expresses well the influence that our thoughts can have on our actions. Obviously, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been engaging in some very toxic and wrongful thinking and has been saying outright lies about the Ukrainian people, leading to very violent actions with lethal consequences. We must pray for his conversion and change of heart, for as Jesus said, “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil” (Luke 6:45).
In the alternate Opening Prayer for the Mass in Time of War or Civil Disturbance, which I gave permission for priests to use last Sunday, Feb. 27, we prayed to “God, author and lover of peace,” asking Him to “defend us against every attack of those who cry to you, so that we, who trust in your protection, may not fear the weapons of any foe.” Indeed, the Ukrainian people have been fearless in defending their nation against a much more powerful foe, and we pray for God to protect them and assist them in their time of need.
May God give us this grace. Amen.