The blog has been quiet most of the week due to my schedule resulting from the final of the two missions which I had committed myself to give this year. The mission at Holy Family concluded last night and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I hope those in attendance did as well.
Tomorrow I will celebrate the annual Mass of Recommitment with the Permanent Deacons of the diocese (aka “married deacons”). Since they are ordained into the clergy while still maintaining their marital responsibilities, they have chosen to gather one Saturday late in Lent each year to hear again the consecratory prayer from their ordination rite and to recommit to the promises made to the Church at that time. These generous servants of the Gospel now number in excess of 100 in the diocese, serving in many of our parishes, at the Port of Tampa, and in prison ministry. Their number will increase when in October the first class of new deacons will be ordained in slight over a decade – eighteen of them, I believe. Generous, desirous of serving, making time for prayer and service in their already busy lives, these men and the wives and families are edifying in their commitment to the Lord, to His Church, and to this diocese and their assignments. Say a prayer for them this week-end, that God who has begun His good work in them will see it through to its conclusion.
Sunday finds me at the Cathedral in the afternoon for the annual Altar Server Appreciation Mass. Many parishes send their servers to this Mass and one of them is selected by the pastor and others as the “Altar Server of the Year” from each parish.
I note with pride and satisfaction that Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico signed into law a statute which will prohibit the use of the death penalty in that state. Initially in favor of the death penalty, he came to the opposite conclusion and acted after going to Mass and receiving the Eucharist, meeting with a bishop representative of the Church in that state,visiting a prison and confronting for the first time in his life that he could not be absolutely sure in most cases that he would not be ordering the execution of an innocent man. Conversation with his Church in this instance led to conversion on a life issue. His position on abortion remains woefully wrong but perhaps the same patient consultation and conversation can turn him on this major issue of public life as well. I applaud the Governor for changing his mind and taking a position in favor of life and pray that he will now revisit his other positions and be consistent in defense of innocent human life.
Finally, Notre Dame University has created quite a stir by announcing that at the Spring Commencement ceremony they have invited President Barack Obama to give the graduation address and receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. It is a very prestigious platform to offer a President who is leading the battle for an expansion of abortion rights which may ultimately end up being unparalleled in recent history. Early “markers” are not encouraging in this regard but hope needs to spring eternal and while Notre Dame may have acted way too early and too generously, I am more alarmed that the rhetoric being employed is so uncivil and venomous that it weakens the case we place before our fellow citizens, alienates young college-age students who believe the older generation is behaving like an angry child and they do not wish to be any part of that, and ill-serves the cause of life. Notre Dame has in the past and continues to give this local Church fine, professional and very Catholic women and men who both know and live out their faith. Most of them I know are ardently pro-life and like myself are probably disappointed with their alma mater. They and I will choose to convey our sadness to the Board of Trustees and Administration in a calm and dignified manner. I am especially sad for Bishop John D’Arcy, bishop of the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in which Notre Dame is located. For almost two decades he has supported the University and loved the University, even when he felt it necessary to correct the University privately which I can assure you he did. Now in the waning days of his tenure as bishop there, he is told of the invitation shortly before its public announcement and in words clearly laced with pain has had to announce that he will choose not attend the final commencement of his time as bishop. What sadness for this good man as well. I see Father Ted Hesburgh quoted as saying that “visits to campus of leaders has never changed the campus but has often changed the visitor.” One can only hope and pray for this outcome.