Archive for September, 2009

THROUGHOUT THESE FORTY DAYS, O LORD

Monday, September 28th, 2009

The familiar words above are from a hymn we often sing during Lent but they also apply for the second year to a growing national observance on behalf of the defense of human life, “Forty Days for Life.” Last year I kicked the forty days off by joining a sizeable number of pro-life advocates outside of an abortion clinic in Tarpon Springs. I would have willingly done the same this year were I physically able. October which starts later this week is the month of the “Holy Rosary” and Mary is the patroness of the pro-life movement so there is a certain synergy in having these forty days coincide. I ask all of you who read this to join with me in praying the rosary for an end to abortion.

Iran is getting to be a major challenge to world peace and prayers for peace are also in order it seems to me. The footprint looks a lot like Iraq but with a genuine threat to regional and world peace. Amazing how two essentially “mad men” can imperil their own country men and women and children as well as threaten world and regional peace.

Finally, pray for your priests who will be together next week on convocation as we prepare for the catechesis on our final year of the Eucharistic initiative Living Eucharist.

+RNL

SIGNS OF HOPE AND CARE

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

You have no idea how hard it is to be confined at home unable to be present at things which are near and dear to my heart. This week was full  of those frustrations. Saturday last the Diocesan Pastoral Council met, without me. Monday the Priests Council met, without me. On Thursday, the second phase of our amazing homeless project had a ground breaking without me. I have always known that I am replaceable but think I secretly hoped that retirement or death would make disengagement more palatable.

Things are beginning to look very favorable for our homeless initiative in Hillsborough county, “Hillsborough Cares.” Strong editorial support from the TAMPA TRIBUNE and ST. PETERSBURG TIMES helped make the case and courage on the part of the majority of the county commissioners seem to make the possibility of our “care” for a small portion of the county’s homeless within reach. Once approved, finding the necessary private and public financial backing and seeing what level of support the various political units can provide will be necessary.

On the other side of the Bay, Pinellas Hope is ready to start construction of apartments to be used as transitional housing for those moving toward independent living. Made possible because of government grant money, we will also be able to upgrade the sanitary and common areas of Pinellas Hope I. But there are some dark clouds on the horizon occasioned by budget cuts in the county and community budgets. Don’t hold me for the precise numbers but the Diocese in addition to providing the land gives about $350,000 a year additional through Catholic Charities. Pinellas County provided $750,000 last year and the City of St. Petersburg $250,000. Mayor Baker has pledged the same amount for the coming year but he will soon be leaving office and Candidate Kathleen Ford has been quoted as saying that while she likes Pinellas Hope as an idea, she also thinks that more of the city’s donation should be spent within the city. Candidate Bill Foster in the past has voiced his support for Pinellas Hope but no present firm commitment. The Pinellas County Commissioners have allocated a paltry one million dollars in the budget for all social service programs. What happens if the present commitment of Catholic Charities and the major political units makes it no longer sustainable – it will have to close unfortunately – just when we are beginning to show significant success in helping close to fifty percent of our overnight, tent city people to independent living and self-sustaining life. Finally, each year over 1.2 million is given by countless Church groups who prepare and serve the evening meals and provide much of the food cost. That is real charity.

So some care for the homeless is manifesting itself in Hillsborough and hope which is at an all time high in Pinellas is severely threatened. If you don’t wish to see this manifestation of what Jesus would do, make your feelings and thoughts known to the Pinellas County Commisson and to both candidates for Mayor of St, Petersburg.

That’s the most I can do in my present condition.

+RNL

CONFESSION OF A COUCH POTATO

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

I am now two weeks home from the hospital and have come to several conclusions. First, daytime television is a vast wasteland. Second, the new Jay Leno show on at 10pm is nothing more than NBC’s continuing effort to extend the TODAY show to all day, and finally, thank God on week-ends for college and pro-football. In other words terminal boredom is settling on me! So some thoughts on recent events.

No matter what position one takes on health care reform politically, and the US bishops are strongly on record as favoring universal access,  especially for the uninsured, it was consoling and heartening to hear President Obama announce in his joint session speech to Congress and the nation that he would not sign a health care reform bill that included federal funding of abortion and that present conscience protection for health care workers would remain in place. He’s going to have a hard time selling that to  pro-abortion members of the House and Senate but I take him at his word: “I will not sign….” There are still many more ways the government can expand abortion access so the pro-life cause has won a battle but not the war and we must be attentive to activity outside the  pail of health care reform.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, newly installed Archbishop of New York and star of SIRIUS satellite radio has accepted my invitation to come to the diocese and speak at a dinner honoring our priests here in the diocese. The date in Saturday, February 20, 2010 and the site to be determined. Details will follow. Proceeds from the event will be used to increase the amount of tuition assistance we can make  available to families who wish a Catholic education but can not afford. His talk will be on the priesthood during this special year of the priest – that is the serious purpose of his presence. However, he has enough humorous materials of the two of  us over the 25 years of our friendship to keep you in stitches.

Finally, I have graduated from the walker to the cane and within days to nothing. Progress, slow but certain. Again thank you for your prayers.

+RNL

SOMETHING WORTH READING AND THINKING AND PRAYING ABOUT

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley has written of his decision to be present at the funeral of Senator Kennedy last Saturday. The recipient of vitriolic attacks by some who lay special claim to the pro-life movement, in his response the Cardinal makes many telling points which I have been making since the outset of this blog and even since I came here thirteen plus years ago. I would have done the same as the Cardinal but perhaps not been as eloquent or patient. The following in full is from the Cardinal’s weekly blog.

On Senator Kennedy’s Funeral

Saturday was the 39th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood, at St. Augustine’s Church in Pittsburgh by Bishop John B. McDowell, who is still going strong today.  In the Church’s calendar, the feast day for August 29 is the Beheading of John the Baptist.  People usually take note when I tell them that I was professed to religious life on Bastille Day, July 14, and ordained on the feast of the Beheading.  Not that I am superstitious.

On Saturday morning I attended the funeral Mass for Senator Edward M. Kennedy.  Father Donald Monan, S.J., former president of Boston College, celebrated the Mass and Father Mark Hession, pastor of Our Lady of Victories in Centerville, preached the homily.

The music was outstanding with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus enriching the liturgy along with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham who later sang an absolutely striking rendition of Schubert’s “Ave Maria.”  Cellist Yo-Yo Ma graced us with his beautiful solo performance of Bach and later joined Placido Domingo, who sang the “Panis Angelicus.”  Placido has a superb voice.  I told him how much I like the Zarzuela, the Spanish classical musical theater productions.  His family had a troupe that presented Zarzuelas in Mexico and he promised to arrange a performance.

The venue for the funeral Mass was Mission Church, the magnificent Redemptorist Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Senator Kennedy prayed often in this church when his daughter, Kara, was stricken with cancer.  It is a church where countless faithful have gone to pray and ask for healing, grace and forgiveness.

In light of these themes, I wish to address our Catholic faithful who have voiced both support and disappointment at my having presided at the Senator’s funeral Mass.

Needless to say, the Senator’s wake and Catholic funeral were controversial because of the fact that he did not publically support Catholic teaching and advocacy on behalf of the unborn. ­­­Given the profound effect of Catholic social teaching on so many of the programs and policies espoused by Senator Kennedy and the millions who benefitted from them, there is a tragic sense of lost opportunity in his lack of support for the unborn.  To me and many Catholics it was a great disappointment because, had he placed the issue of life at the centerpiece of the Social Gospel where it belongs, he could have multiplied the immensely valuable work he accomplished.

The thousands of people who lined the roads as the late Senator’s motorcade travelled from Cape Cod to Boston and the throngs that crowded the Kennedy Library for two days during the lying in repose, I believe, were there to pay tribute to these many accomplishments rather than as an endorsement of the Senator’s voting record on abortion.

The crowds also were there to pay tribute to the Kennedy family as a whole.  On the national political landscape, if Barack Obama broke the glass ceiling of the presidency for African Americans, Jack Kennedy broke it for American Catholics.

As a young lad, I saw photographs of both Pope John XXIII and President John Kennedy hanging in the thatched cottages of County Mayo and heard the Gaelic greeting, “God and Mary be with you.” Three of the Kennedy brothers died in service of our country in the prime of life.  And Eunice Shriver, who died just a few weeks ago, was an outspoken defender of the unborn and an apostle of the Gospel of Life.  She taught us all how to love special children and to make room for everyone at the table of life. In 1992, Eunice petitioned her party’s convention to consider “a new understanding” of the issue, “one that does not pit mother against child,” but instead seeks “policies that responsibly protect and advance the interest of mothers and their children, both before and after birth.”

Much of what is noble in the politics and work of the Kennedys had its origins in the bedrock of the faith of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy.  As a young woman she had a profound experience of God’s love that transformed her life.  She strove to communicate that faith to her large clan.  Since the time of her funeral Mass I have kept her memorial prayer card, inscribed with Rose Kennedy’s own words:

“If God were to take away all His blessings, health, physical fitness, wealth, intelligence, and leave me but one gift, I would ask for faith – for with faith in Him and His goodness, mercy, love for me, and belief in everlasting life, I believe I could suffer the loss of my other gifts and still be happy – trustful, leaving all to His inscrutable Providence.”

There are those who objected, in some cases vociferously, to the Church’s providing a Catholic funeral for the Senator.   In the strongest terms I disagree with that position.   At the Senator’s interment on Saturday evening, with his family’s permission, we learned of details of his recent personal correspondence with Pope Benedict XVI.   It was very moving to hear the Senator acknowledging his failing to always be a faithful Catholic, and his request for prayers as he faced the end of his life.  The Holy Father’s expression of gratitude for the Senator’s pledge of prayer for the Church, his commendation of the Senator and his family to the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and his imparting the Apostolic Blessing, spoke of His Holiness’ role as the Vicar of Christ, the Good Shepherd who leaves none of the flock behind.

As Archbishop of Boston, I considered it appropriate to represent the Church at this liturgy out of respect for the Senator, his family, those who attended the Mass and all those who were praying for the Senator and his family at this difficult time.  We are people of faith and we believe in a loving and forgiving God from whom we seek mercy.

Advocating for the dignity of life is central to my role as a priest and a bishop. One of my greatest satisfactions in my ministry thus far was helping to overturn the abortion laws in Honduras.  The person who answered my call for help with that effort was Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who had been a prominent leader in NARAL and the abortion rights movement.  His own change of heart led Dr. Nathanson from a practice of providing abortions to becoming one of the most eloquent exponents of the pro-life movement.

Helen Alvaré, who is one of the most outstanding pro-life jurists, a former Director of the Bishops´ Pro-life Office and a long standing consultant to the USCCB Committee for Pro-Life Activities, has always said that the pro-life movement is best characterized by what it is for, not against.  We are for the precious gift of life, and our task is to build a civilization of love.  We must show those who do not share our belief about life that we care about them.  We will stop the practice of abortion by changing the law, and we will be successful in changing the law if we change people’s hearts.  We will not change hearts by turning away from people in their time of need and when they are experiencing grief and loss.

At times, even in the Church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another.  These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church.  If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure.  Jesus’ words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us.  Jesus loves us while we are still in sin.  He loves each of us first, and He loves us to the end.  Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the Church, for our proclamation of the Truth is hindered when we are divided and fighting with each other.

President Obama and three former presidents attended Senator Kennedy’s funeral.  I had the opportunity to speak briefly with President Obama, to welcome him to the Basilica and to share with him that the bishops of the Catholic Church are anxious to support a plan for universal health care, but we will not support a plan that will include a provision for abortion or could open the way to abortions in the future.  The President was gracious in the short time we spoke, he listened intently to what I was saying.

On Senator Kennedy’s Funeral

Saturday was the 39th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood, at St. Augustine’s Church in Pittsburgh by Bishop John B. McDowell, who is still going strong today.  In the Church’s calendar, the feast day for August 29 is the Beheading of John the Baptist.  People usually take note when I tell them that I was professed to religious life on Bastille Day, July 14, and ordained on the feast of the Beheading.  Not that I am superstitious.

Stephen M. Kessinger/ Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

On Saturday morning I attended the funeral Mass for Senator Edward M. Kennedy.  Father Donald Monan, S.J., former president of Boston College, celebrated the Mass and Father Mark Hession, pastor of Our Lady of Victories in Centerville, preached the homily.

Patrick E. O'Connor photo

Stephen M. Kessinger/ Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

KENNEDY-FUNERAL

KENNEDY/

The music was outstanding with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus enriching the liturgy along with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham who later sang an absolutely striking rendition of Schubert’s “Ave Maria.”  Cellist Yo-Yo Ma graced us with his beautiful solo performance of Bach and later joined Placido Domingo, who sang the “Panis Angelicus.”  Placido has a superb voice.  I told him how much I like the Zarzuela, the Spanish classical musical theater productions.  His family had a troupe that presented Zarzuelas in Mexico and he promised to arrange a performance.

The venue for the funeral Mass was Mission Church, the magnificent Redemptorist Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

bolph_gm001

Senator Kennedy prayed often in this church when his daughter, Kara, was stricken with cancer.  It is a church where countless faithful have gone to pray and ask for healing, grace and forgiveness.

In light of these themes, I wish to address our Catholic faithful who have voiced both support and disappointment at my having presided at the Senator’s funeral Mass.

Needless to say, the Senator’s wake and Catholic funeral were controversial because of the fact that he did not publically support Catholic teaching and advocacy on behalf of the unborn. ­­­Given the profound effect of Catholic social teaching on so many of the programs and policies espoused by Senator Kennedy and the millions who benefitted from them, there is a tragic sense of lost opportunity in his lack of support for the unborn.  To me and many Catholics it was a great disappointment because, had he placed the issue of life at the centerpiece of the Social Gospel where it belongs, he could have multiplied the immensely valuable work he accomplished.

Stephen M. Kessinger/ Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

The thousands of people who lined the roads as the late Senator’s motorcade travelled from Cape Cod to Boston and the throngs that crowded the Kennedy Library for two days during the lying in repose, I believe, were there to pay tribute to these many accomplishments rather than as an endorsement of the Senator’s voting record on abortion.

KENNEDY/OBIT

KENNEDY/OBIT

KENNEDY/OBIT

The crowds also were there to pay tribute to the Kennedy family as a whole.  On the national political landscape, if Barack Obama broke the glass ceiling of the presidency for African Americans, Jack Kennedy broke it for American Catholics.

As a young lad, I saw photographs of both Pope John XXIII and President John Kennedy hanging in the thatched cottages of County Mayo and heard the Gaelic greeting, “God and Mary be with you.” Three of the Kennedy brothers died in service of our country in the prime of life.  And Eunice Shriver, who died just a few weeks ago, was an outspoken defender of the unborn and an apostle of the Gospel of Life.  She taught us all how to love special children and to make room for everyone at the table of life. In 1992, Eunice petitioned her party’s convention to consider “a new understanding” of the issue, “one that does not pit mother against child,” but instead seeks “policies that responsibly protect and advance the interest of mothers and their children, both before and after birth.”

Much of what is noble in the politics and work of the Kennedys had its origins in the bedrock of the faith of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy.  As a young woman she had a profound experience of God’s love that transformed her life.  She strove to communicate that faith to her large clan.  Since the time of her funeral Mass I have kept her memorial prayer card, inscribed with Rose Kennedy’s own words:

“If God were to take away all His blessings, health, physical fitness, wealth, intelligence, and leave me but one gift, I would ask for faith – for with faith in Him and His goodness, mercy, love for me, and belief in everlasting life, I believe I could suffer the loss of my other gifts and still be happy – trustful, leaving all to His inscrutable Providence.”

Stephen M. Kessinger/ Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

There are those who objected, in some cases vociferously, to the Church’s providing a Catholic funeral for the Senator.   In the strongest terms I disagree with that position.   At the Senator’s interment on Saturday evening, with his family’s permission, we learned of details of his recent personal correspondence with Pope Benedict XVI.   It was very moving to hear the Senator acknowledging his failing to always be a faithful Catholic, and his request for prayers as he faced the end of his life.  The Holy Father’s expression of gratitude for the Senator’s pledge of prayer for the Church, his commendation of the Senator and his family to the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and his imparting the Apostolic Blessing, spoke of His Holiness’ role as the Vicar of Christ, the Good Shepherd who leaves none of the flock behind.

As Archbishop of Boston, I considered it appropriate to represent the Church at this liturgy out of respect for the Senator, his family, those who attended the Mass and all those who were praying for the Senator and his family at this difficult time.  We are people of faith and we believe in a loving and forgiving God from whom we seek mercy.

KENNEDY-FUNERAL

Advocating for the dignity of life is central to my role as a priest and a bishop. One of my greatest satisfactions in my ministry thus far was helping to overturn the abortion laws in Honduras.  The person who answered my call for help with that effort was Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who had been a prominent leader in NARAL and the abortion rights movement.  His own change of heart led Dr. Nathanson from a practice of providing abortions to becoming one of the most eloquent exponents of the pro-life movement.

Helen Alvaré, who is one of the most outstanding pro-life jurists, a former Director of the Bishops´ Pro-life Office and a long standing consultant to the USCCB Committee for Pro-Life Activities, has always said that the pro-life movement is best characterized by what it is for, not against.  We are for the precious gift of life, and our task is to build a civilization of love.  We must show those who do not share our belief about life that we care about them.  We will stop the practice of abortion by changing the law, and we will be successful in changing the law if we change people’s hearts.  We will not change hearts by turning away from people in their time of need and when they are experiencing grief and loss.

At times, even in the Church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another.  These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church.  If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure.  Jesus’ words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us.  Jesus loves us while we are still in sin.  He loves each of us first, and He loves us to the end.  Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the Church, for our proclamation of the Truth is hindered when we are divided and fighting with each other.

KENNEDY/

President Obama and three former presidents attended Senator Kennedy’s funeral.  I had the opportunity to speak briefly with President Obama, to welcome him to the Basilica and to share with him that the bishops of the Catholic Church are anxious to support a plan for universal health care, but we will not support a plan that will include a provision for abortion or could open the way to abortions in the future.  The President was gracious in the short time we spoke, he listened intently to what I was saying.

29842647

Democrats and Republicans sat side by side in the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, praying for Senator Kennedy and his family.  It is my sincere hope that all people who long to promote the cause of life  will pray and work together to change hearts, to bring about an increased respect for life, and to change laws so as to make America a safe place for all, including the unborn.

Democrats and Republicans sat side by side in the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, praying for Senator Kennedy and his family.  It is my sincere hope that all people who long to promote the cause of life  will pray and work together to change hearts, to bring about an increased respect for life, and to change laws so as to make America a safe place for all, including the unborn.

(Original Source)

SLOW BUT SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Having been in the hospital for five weeks to the day, I was discharged to home yesterday. I am only six days out of intensive care. I can walk small distances, climb a few stairs and I learned how to dress myself using multiple, amazing gadgets and gizmos. For a sixty-eight year old man, it is humbling to learn to walk again, wash again, and just manage to climb in and out of bed. In the last days in the hospital, I was coached, encouraged, and affirmed by incredibly dedicated physical and occupational therapists who are succeeding in teaching an old dog new tricks. Medically those challenges which three weeks ago challenged my life seem behind me. One could not ask for better doctors than those who have been at my side, and the nursing staff of St. Anthony Hospital are nothing short of spectacular. I was overcome with many emotions leaving Intensive Care which had been my home for almost three weeks, I shall always love that staff and pray for them and their families. A major moment in my day was when the Eucharistic Lord came to me in my room from the Pastoral Care staff – there is a peace found in being alone with the Lord.

I will live with a reversible ileostomy, which I am learning how to manage, for the next several months. Soon after the first of the year, I will return for the final surgery which will reverse the ileostomy, and, after recovery, be able to fully resume my usual activities. I have been counseled often and wisely to take it slow and my new short-term companion in life guarantees short homilies and brief ceremonies. Already I must continue to embrace the cross of Christ and suffer disappointment. On October 3rd nineteen wonderful married men will be ordained to the diaconate for this Church. They have studied long and hard and we will  all be blessed by their presence. While I may be ambulatory enough (I do not know for sure) my companion at the moment will not allow me that length of time so I have asked my friend, Bishop John Noonan of Miami to stand in for me. He will be terrific but I wish…….

Each day now brings wonderful new accomplishments. I conclude with the words I spoke to my doctors and nurses at St. Anthony’s sometimes in tears, I not only owe my life to you but my future is more full of compassion, care and promise. You hold a special place in my heart.

+RNL