August 25, 2010 | The Long Island Catholic Vol. 49, No. 19 | BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY
As the summer starts to wind down, my hope and prayer are that everyone has had an opportunity to find some rest, relaxation and refreshment over these summer months. The 12 days I spent in the countryside with a long time friend gave me the chance to stop, look at the beauty of the world around us, pray and read and share simple meals and friendly conversation in ways he and I seem never to be able to do during the other busy months of the year. The Holy Father, at his Sunday Angelus last month, reminded us that vacation time is also a time to open ourselves up to God and to give Him the time in silence and prayer to enter more fully into our hearts and into our lives. I pray that that precious gift was given to each of you as wondrously as I experienced it this summer.
One of the gifts of such an experience is a renewed sense of peace and tranquility in our lives. Soon enough we all will be busy about many things. And in our communities, our city, state, nation and world, the many issues that need addressing will come at us once again with a force and insistency that can be at times overwhelming. There are many voices shouting for our attention and urging our support. All too many of them are angry, partisan and polarizing. Wouldn’t it be a great gift if we all could lower the tones, give up the anger and talk with one another civilly and politely even about those issues which cause disagreement and emotional reaction? Some years ago, Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh (now Archbishop of Washington) wrote a very helpful little pastoral letter to his people in that diocese. Entitled Speaking the Truth in Love: Christian Discourse within the Church, he reminded us that we are called as disciples of Christ to be one Body, the Church, united under our bishops the shepherds, to live our lives in truth and mutual trust, participating in that spirit within the Church to carry on a truly Christian discourse. Such a discourse will take place on many levels, formal and informal, parochial and diocesan. Such a discourse respects the various roles and responsibilities each of us may have in this community of communion. It will be sustained by prayer and have understanding, respect and reconciliation as its fruit. And it will set an example not just for us in the Church but for us and others as we participate in the many other discourses and debates that we must engage in as citizens of our communities, our state and nation and indeed in issues that affect the whole world.
Let me share with you one paragraph of his conclusion:
As Catholics, we know that we work together in a very special way. We seek the common good through consensus. We invite Jesus to walk with us in our discussions and we pray that God’s Holy Spirit will enlighten our minds with God’s wisdom and enliven our hearts with God’s love. We accept decisions for the good of the whole Church, even if at times individuals are saddened by these very difficult choices. We know that ultimately all of us together, priests, parishioners, bishop and religious, share the goal of helping to manifest more clearly in this world God’s kingdom; manifest first in our hearts and then in our community. Families come together and grow strong when they share sacrifices and even disappointments and when they help each other to face reality and the future — together. We as God’s family are committed to do the same.
In the months ahead you and I will be called to address many elements of our lives as Catholics in the Church and our lives as Catholics who are citizens in this nation of ours. We must do so as Catholics who are one in the Body of Christ, this community of communion, the Church. Wouldn’t it be salutary if we commit ourselves to being simply Catholic, not “hyphenated Catholic,” whether it be pre or post Vatican II, traditional or progressive, right or left, but just simply good Catholics seeking to be holy and responsible before God and one another? In that spirit we would listen together to the Gospel message of Jesus and the teaching of the Church by the popes and bishops in union with him that make up the living magisterium of the Church.
The most important of these issues will be our seeking together to grow in holiness, to be better disciples, to pray and live the life we have received as Christ’s great gift of His love, especially in the Eucharist. We will continue our commitment to witness that life to others, first and foremost by passing on the faith to the next generation through Catholic schools and faith formation in religious education. We will never cease to care for one another, especially the poor, the marginalized, the weak and the vulnerable from those in the womb to those who are rejected by society to those who have no other source of help in their need. We will rejoice in the many gifts God has given us, build up those gifts and honor them in one another. We will speak to the world around us and not hesitate to try to influence our society on very practical and real issues for the sake of truth and the common good. And we can and will always speak that truth in love.
Practically speaking, this year we will have to continue our work in making sure that our diocese and its apostolic works, and everyone of our parishes use our human and material resources wisely for today and the future. We will have to prepare ourselves by prayer and pastoral effort for the new Order of Mass that will begin next year on the First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011. I hope we can mount a great effort to support a bill introduced last month into Congress by Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey. H.R. 5939 is called the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” and it would close the loopholes and make permanent a ban on any federal funding for abortions. I hope we can be as one in defending the true meaning of marriage as the permanent union of a man and a woman. I hope we will be able to resolve the many issues surrounding immigration in ways that are honest, fair and just according to the laws and traditions of this nation. I hope that we all will pray ever more fervently for the good of one another, entrusting ourselves to Mary, the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church and to St. Agnes, the pure one, who is our patron and our protector.
What gifts this summer has offered us all! What renewal of faith and hope and love can be ours if we open ourselves to the gift of the Holy Spirit and support the many gifts He gives us in one another to make us one in this Church as the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son and we in God and God in us!