U.S. Bishops Conference President Announces Emergency Collection For Those Impacted By Hurricane Irma For Week Of September 23-24

September 14, 2017

WASHINGTON—The President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has invited his brother bishops to take up an emergency collection the weekend of September 23-24 on behalf of those devastated in parts of the Caribbean and southeastern United States by Hurricane Irma. In the letter sent to bishops today, Cardinal DiNardo says the emergency collection is greatly needed to help victims of Hurricane Irma rebuild their lives and also help support reconstruction needs of churches destroyed or severely damaged in the U.S. and Caribbean.

Cardinal DiNardo’s letter to the bishops follows:

“In the past few days Hurricane Irma devastated significant parts of the Caribbean and the southeastern United States. While emergency outreach was immediate, we know that the road to recovery and the rebuilding of communities will be long and additional support will be needed.

“I write to you today and ask that you take up an emergency collection for those impacted by Hurricane Irma. These funds will be used in the affected areas to support humanitarian aid, assistance with long-term efforts to restore communities after widespread destruction, and for the pastoral and reconstruction needs of the Church in US and the Caribbean.

“I am aware that this call comes on the heels of the emergency collection for Hurricane Harvey. That storm, which hit Texas and Louisiana and held on for days before moving inland, caused catastrophic damage and compelled us to respond. Likewise, Hurricane Irma has been devastating and our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean, especially the Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, and the southern US need our help.

“The Church is a channel for grace and solidarity in the wake of natural disasters as it offers solace and support in their aftermath. However, as is so often the case, the Church itself in these regions is both a long-standing provider of aid and now is in need of tremendous assistance itself. So many of the Church’s structures have been damaged and their resources depleted which makes it even more challenging to provide assistance and pastoral outreach to those in need.”

Homily for Thursday, May 28, 2015

Readings for Today

There can be times where it can feel as if everything depends upon us. We can become overwhelmed thinking that if we do not work hard at something, everything will fall apart. Sometimes it is because we are overwhelmed by the circumstances of life. Consider a single parent in the inner city who works a job simply to provide a meager living for her children. Or how about an adult child caring for a very sick parent? Or people engaged in a very difficult ministry?

To be sure we can forget that in our lives, we need to depend upon others. We need to know how to rely upon others. We need to know that as human beings we should not go it alone. We have a duty to care for one another. We are not made to go it alone. We are designed for a community.

Unfortunately we can have the same attitude for ourselves when it comes to faith. We can act as if it believes upon us completely. We can think that even when it comes to our faith life, we have to go it alone. But such is not the case. From the Book of Sirach we are reminded that God’s activity is always primary. It is never at our instigation that the Spirit moves. We respond to God’s invitation who invites us to proclaim and share his good deeds. But it is very clear that we need God to do so.

And so just as it was in the day of Sirach, so it is today. Do we allow ourselves to admit we need others and God to grow in the faith? Are we able to let go and allow God room to act in our lives? Can we allow God to act through us? Or do we need to do everything ourselves?

The spiritual life is about giving our lives over to Christ, and acknowledging his Lordship over us. It is about making sure we can submit to the will of God. Can we cooperate with the grace of God? Can we trust that God will lead us to the place where things are best? Such is the invitation of God. Trust in the Lord to lead you to eternal life.

Homily for Sunday, April 12, 2015

Readings for Today

There are few things that bring as much joy as when we think about the perfect place. It might be a vacation spot that is a particular favorite of ours. It may be a camp where we can get away from it all. It might even be an imaginary world where we can envision having special powers. Imagining other places may be the reason we see movies, tv shows or read books.We might play games for the same reason.

As we listen to today’s first reading we can make the mistake of thinking that the world described in the Acts of the Apostles is simply an imaginary place that does not, or can not, really exist. In a world where every element of life seems to divide people, even quite sharply, it can seem downright impossible that any group of people can be of one heart and one mind. Even when the group professes belief in Jesus, it can obviously seem to be impossible in this group as well.

That being said, we cannot lose hope. The call to be of one mind and heart is a call to open our hearts ever more fully to the Spirit. When our hearts are open to the Spirit as believers, the beauty of being of one heart and one mind becomes real. And when we live in that unity, it becomes possible for us to live the ideal presented, one where all have their needs met, and living in harmony and generosity is the norm.

Today’s readings are meant to remind us of generosity. There is the generosity of spirit that compels us to care for one another. But perhaps on this Divine Mercy Sunday, there is the generosity we witness in the forgiveness of Jesus, first to the apostles but ultimately also to you and me. This mercy seemed so unreal, that neither Thomas nor the other apostles could believe without confirming this Jesus was the real Jesus, and that the mercy of God was indeed so powerful it could overcome the sinful abandonment of Jesus done by the apostles.

There can be two mistakes, probably more, but two I can think of when I consider the mercy of God. The first mistake is to believe that somehow our sins are too big to be forgiven by God. We can limit the mercy of God, by failing to realize that Jesus came to die for everyone’s sinfulness. There is never the sin that is too big, too evil, that cannot be overcome by the mercy of God because of the salvific victory won by Jesus.

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Homily for Saturday, May 31, 2014

Readings for Today

Do you ever talk about your faith with someone else?  Have you ever had faith experiences that are so powerful you need to discuss them with another to make sense of them?  Some may have these types of conversations with their spouse, while others may seek out a spiritual director.  But, there are those events, either powerfully sad or powerfully joyful that just must be shared with with someone else.

Such is the reality we celebrate today.  Mary, who has just had this miraculous appearance from an angel, and has said yes to something she may not completely understood, seeks out the one person who has herself just had a miraculous occurrence, that being her relative Elizabeth.  Can you imagine what their conversations must have been like?  There is the infant, John the Baptist, leaping in her womb when Mary greets her.  Just imagine the joy the two shared in their conversations with each other.

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Homily for Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Readings for Today

“The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”  How wonderful this sounds!  But this statement must be placed in its proper context.  It is not the case that this style of life was being advocated for a government.  Rather, this is the model that is pointed out for religious life.  In the second chapter of Acts, we read this: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.

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Homily for Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Readings for Today

So much is contained in the praying of the “Our Father.”  In fact, it is the perfect prayer.  It reminds us of our place with God, and focuses our attention on the basic needs we have.  Most of all, especially with the lines after the “Our Father”, the emphasis today is on giving and receiving forgiveness.  “If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.

I remember hearing a homily once where it was suggested that the words “just as” be added to the Our Father.  “Forgive us our trespasses, [just] as we forgive those who trespass against us,” as a reminder that there was a direct correlation between receiving God’s forgiveness and our forgiving others.  It needs to be clear, however, that this correlation is not because God is limited, but by failing to forgive others our hearts become closed.

The task during the Lenten season is to ask God to open our hearts anew.  It is for this reason that we fast.  By focusing on what might keep us from seeing the presence of God, by fasting from it, then we are able to see more clearly what is truly important.  By reflecting upon and making real the words we pray, or the silence we engage, we come more able to hear the voice of God deep within us.  By almsgiving, we seek to remove that selfishness that keeps us from being more like God.

To be sure, one more point is needed to emphasize here.  The “Our Father” also reminds us that being a Christian is about community.  There is no “Jesus and me” in the Christian religion.  It is always “Jesus and us” or “God and us.”  Jesus prayer beings with the “Our Father” and not the “My Father.”  To that end, we need to be reminded that we are in this together, and one concrete sign of that is being able to forgive one another.

Statement on the Shootings in Newtown, Connecticut

Greetings in Christ,

I am sure everyone is saddened still by the events that occurred last week in Newtown, Connecticut. I want to provide some updates and to offer some reflections as to how these events will affect us here Blessed Sacrament, and what people of faith might do to make sense of the senseless. Before I write anything else, let us continue to offer prayers and support for all those whose lives have been so dramatically affected in such a sad and tragic way. As we focus on the arrival of the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus, we pray our words and actions will reflect our faith. What I write is my initial attempt.

Blessed Sacrament Parish and School have a safety plan, but events like these demonstrate the importance of constant vigilance about making sure we do everything we can to provide a safe environment. We are fortunate here so many in fact do feel safe. But tragic events rightly cause schools and parishes to examine their existing plans to see how to improve them. We do the same. Specifically, a committee will be formed to examine various aspects of our plan, a work that will proceed quickly but judiciously. It is important to note that even before this committee is finished you will begin to notice changes in the access to various parts of the parish and school. Seeking to make sure everyone is safe is obviously the top priority.

Many times when human beings have an encounter with God or an angel, the first words are “Do not be afraid.” I believe God is saying that to us now. Rather than responding out of fear alone, we ask, “How do Catholics, and all persons of faith, make sense out of such a senseless tragedy? At times like this, believing there are simple or quick solutions to complex problems is a naïve quest for the impossible.

We live in a broken world, the signs of which are all around us. While events such as the tragedy in Newtown gain national attention, there are too many parents each day who grieve the children who die by violence. And, too many parents worry about providing food, shelter, healthcare and other basic needs to their families. And most if not all of us have life experiences that have caused brokenness.

In seeking out a foundation for reflection, I begin with a quote from the U.S. Catholic Bishops document, Confronting a Culture of Violence: A Catholic Framework for Action, written in 1994, but still relevant for today.

Not all violence is deadly. It begins with anger, intolerance, impatience, unfair judgments and aggression. It is often reflected in our language, our entertainment, our driving, our competitive behavior, and the way we treat our environment. These acts and attitudes are not the same as abusive behavior or physical attacks, but they create a climate where violence prospers and peace suffers. We are also experiencing polarization of public life and militarization of politics with increased reliance on “attack” ads, “war” rooms and intense partisan combat in place of the search for the common good and common ground. Fundamentally, our society needs a moral revolution to replace a culture of violence with a renewed ethic of justice, responsibility and community. New policies and programs, while necessary, cannot substitute for a recovery of the old values of right and wrong, respect and responsibility, love and justice. God’s wisdom, love and commandments can show us the way to live, heal and reconcile. “Thou shalt not kill, thou shall not steal” are more than words to be recited; they are imperatives for the common good. Our faith challenges each of us to examine how we can contribute to an ethic which cherishes life, puts people before things, and values kindness and compassion over anger and vengeance. A growing sense of national fear and failure must be replaced by a new commitment to solidarity and the common good.

I believe there are common threads in these experiences of violence. How often do we hear about individuals who perpetrate such terrible evil is being as loners? Having just arrived from Chicago, so much of the violence there comes from young men who even at an early age feel alienated from the larger community. While not meant as judgment, how many seek to fill up those empty spaces in their soul by the use of drugs and alcohol, by shopping and the Internet, by casual sex or by the quest for more stuff? How many of our senior citizens are removed from family and isolated by the circumstances of their life? While it is too simplistic to draw a causal connection between violent movies, violent lyrics in rap music, and violent video games to the violence perpetrated in real life, we must confront in faith the depictions of violence so realistic they cause us to become numb to violence and its effects.

I propose community, and more specifically a community of faith, as the rightful antidote to a culture of violence. This is not to minimize the role of our legislators or public servants who will seek solutions to uphold the common good and protect the safety of our societies. It is to suggest small communities of faith focused on the common good can strengthen the bonds which connect us and to make it less likely individuals find themselves alienated.

We are dedicated to the concept all human beings possess a dignity that reflects the holy and divine image of God. We must be committed to working for peace at every appropriate level, from the individual to the world community. This vocation is ultimately an invitation to strengthen our relationship with Christ and to acknowledge the necessary connections between our faith and our actions.

When comedians like Bill Mahar ridicule the concept of prayer and parents hugging their children a little bit more often they miss a critical and fundamental point. No policy, no law, can be effective in a society that does not recognize the profound and holy vocation to treat all with dignity they possess. Subsidiarity and solidarity, the right balance between fostering action at the local level and in larger soceity, and standing with the most broken, must form a foundation for what we do.

Moments such as these test our faith. One could ask, “How is it God allows such terrible tragedies to occur?” The greatest act of God’s love for us is the profound respect for our freedom. We are a sinful people, but we stand in hope because of God’s abundant love, mercy and forgiveness. Just as human beings are capable of violence, we are more capable of peace.  We know this because of the loving self-gift of Jesus on the cross which brought us salvation.

As a people of faith, there is no more important solution than to deepen our relationship with God. And so, in the midst our busy daily activities, I suggest we carve out some extra time for prayer. You might consider a visit to the church in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament to ponder and reflect in silence and quiet. You might make the reading of the Bible, God’s powerful word, the greater part of your life. You might seek to attend a daily mass, the source and summit of our Christian life. I will also place resources on our website to help.

Second, cherish the people God has graced you with in your lives.  Seek never to take them for granted, and hug them and share your love for them often.  And remember every person you encounter is an invitation to grow closer to God.

God reminds us gently and forcefully of his profound love.  We imitate our God in this profound love as we seek to create the care essential for connected communities.

Homily for Wednesday, August 8, 2012 (Feast of Saint Dominic)

Readings for Today

These are strange times.  Our country and our Church appear more polarized than ever.  On the political level, Obama is loved by some, reviled by others, and each side is entrenched in their views.  On an ecclesial  level, we are either dismantling Vatican II or correcting the misinterpretations of it.  And the fireworks really begin when the political and spiritual worlds collide.  We have access to more information, at the touch of a few buttons, than we have ever had before.  But, in some ways we know even less about what is really important.  We have a much greater number of ways to stay in touch, and yet some would argue we are more isolated than ever.  We are living longer than ever before, but we hear reports that these “golden” years are not really that golden at all.

We seek to remove moral discussion from modern political day issues, relegating faith as anachronistic at best, a delusional set of fairy tales at worst.  And yet when a horrible event like the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, or a troubling diagnosis like an aggressive cancer hits our lives, we are shaken enough to search for meaning again.

This is not to be cynical, but is rather an attempt to discuss aspects of the present age in which we live.  And I am not pessimistic about the current age in which we live, but rather hopeful and optimistic about what opportunities it provides.  So too was Dominic.  Perhaps when he first ventured outside of Spain, and encountered people not at all like him, he was as overwhelmed as we can be about the paradoxes of our current age.  But he quickly came to “read the signs of the times” to use a Vatican II phrase, and understood an overwhelming need for more informed preaching in ways that were accessible to people.

Things are not that much different today.  A person could be forgiven if they believed the only issues of importance today were abortion, homosexuality and artificial birth control, since the bishops speak about this often, and the press covers it often because controversy sells.  But while I am not suggesting these are not important issues, but I believe there are deeper spiritual questions that the average person questions and seeks answers from God about.

So, since Dominic was empowered to preach, an act that was in his day reserved to bishops, let me be so bold as to suggest the life of St. Dominic provides a life that may need to be more imitated today.  Perhaps we also need to emphasize these fundamental ideas more.  What spiritual issues underlie the current state of things?

First, I think we must be called to  imitate Dominic by finding a more appropriate balance between action and contemplation.  We live in a fast paced world, with a flurry of activity, with things that could distract us twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.  It is now common to accept that people can be addicted to the internet, that technology, which was supposed to make our lives easier, has in fact, lengthened our work day and taken away relaxation, because we can now always be reached, and that in the name of keeping our kids out of trouble, we sign our children up for as many activities as possible.  It is said that Dominic either spoke “to God or about God.”  This was only possible because of the balance he carved out between contemplation and action.

When do we find the time simply to relax, let alone enter into that meditative prayer that provides the gateway to make sense of it all?  On many levels, we have bought into (literally) a mentality that calls us to work more and more, but to experience less and less?  Professed Dominicans are not immune from this temptation.  Far too often we are engaged in active ministry at the expense of contemplative prayer.  We too have bought into the western obsession with production, preferring to see what we make, rather than to focus on who we become.

So, firstly, I think Dominic is challenging us to say, “Enough!”  This is time for God and God’s people.  “Be still.”

Second, I think Dominic would challenge us to be people of community.  Namely, to seek out how we can become more connected to the people that should and do matter to us.  Families need to deliberately carve out that time away from television, computers and video games.  Parents need to work less, and spend time together more.  Employers and employees need together to acknowledge that life cannot simply be about work.  And we professed Dominicans, and indeed all in ministry, need to imitate more the person of Jesus who sought out those out of the way places.

Third, we need to inform ourselves about the faith.  How often do we hear, “I do not agree with the Church”, and yet when pushed, people really do not know where the Church taught this or where they even heard it.  Dominic lived in an age of tremendous ignorance, not simply the people he encountered, but the clergy too!  It was why study was to become so important for him, and his community.  Preachers must be informed.  In so many ways the challenges still remain.

Whatever we feel about the Second Vatican Council, we owe it to ourselves, at least once a year, to reread the documents of the Second Vatican Council.  If we are discouraged for whatever reason, we need to read a little Church history.  We Americans are not strong on history.  We do not understand that in the words of the Bible, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Lastly, we need to be close to the sacramental and prayer life of the Church.  We are spoiled here in the United States.  Many of us have easy access to more than one parish.  We can seek out the parish family that helps us to find God.  Whether it is communal prayer, the sacraments, or the devotional life of the Church, we must make efforts to make it a part of our regular lives.

But perhaps most importantly, we need to develop the attitude of Dominic.  The world is a good place, and creation  provides the means to help us come to know God.  For God is indeed knowable.  And we are redeemable.  We are not, in the words of Martin Luther, no better than manure covered with a little grace, but rather are good, even though we commit sin as well.  But God has overcome sin and death!

The reason this is so important is that we live in a world that both needs to be challenged, but at the same time, needs to be reminded of the limitless hope is has, because of the grace of Christ and the tremendous gift he has given to the Church.

If we can begin by embracing the aspects of Dominic’s life I suggest, I am confident we will be more able to live simply, not having more than we need.  If we embrace these aspects of Dominic’s life, we will find it easier to have that type of trust that allows us to be obedient to the will of God.  And if we embrace these aspects of Dominic’s life, all of our relationships will mirror THE relationship, our relationship with God.