Archive for October, 2010

TWO’S COMPANY

Friday, October 29th, 2010

A second of our beloved priests entered Eternal Life on Monday of this week. Father William J. Kearney went home to the Lord at the wonderful age of eighty-six. Father Kearney never married but rather presented himself for ordination on May 21, 1983 at the age of fifty-nine. Prior to his death, Father Kearney was an associate pastor at Christ the King in Tampa, St. Patrick parish in Largo, and Prince of Peace parish in Sun City Center. Incredibly well educated (AB from Case Western Reserve, MA in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh), he also did graduate work at one time or another at Notre Dame, Catholic University, Niagara and John Carroll.Prior to ordination he was a counselor and social worker. He retired shortly after I arrived (I hope there was no cause and effect) and in the end was cared for by a loving nephew in Evansville, Indiana. I will celebrate his funeral Mass in his home town of Nanticoke, Pennsylvania on Tuesday, joined only by his good friend, Father Raymond Lettre and his pastor at Christ the King, Father  Michael Muhr.

When we opened Father Kearney;’s instructions for his funeral we found that he asked that Monsignor John Scully preach. Father Kearney wrote this: I ask Monsignor Scully preach my funeral Mass as he was the source and inspiration of my becoming a priest.” This twosome entered eternal life within days of one another, keeping each other company I am sure. Rest in peace, dear Father Bill.

+RNL

HOMILY FOR MONSIGNOR SCULLY

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

As promised,  I wish to share the homily for Monsignor John Scully which I gave this morning at his funeral Mass at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Spring Hill. It has been something of a labor of love and has required more restraint than I usually exercise because there are so many stories about this near legendary figure that time does not allow to be told. I share herein but two. The tributes and testimonies found below are often far more personal and eloquent and thanks to all who wanted me to know how much they admired and loved him.

Monsignor John Scully

Monsignor John Scully at the Chrism Mass in 2006 -Photo courtesy of Ed Foster, Jr.

Lamentations 3:17-26 [5], Revelation 14:13 [17], Matthew 11:25-30 [2]

Much has been written and spoken since last Friday morning when the Lord called to Himself, John Francis Scully, a priest of God for sixty-two years. We have marveled at the moment of his transition from this life to the next, at the length of both his years and his ministry, and recalled with love his interaction with many of us here present this morning.

Morning after morning, Monsignor Scully waited in silence for the Lord to come for him. Mirroring Lamentations, with patience and hope he awaited the coming of his Savior, first in the Eucharist he offered each day of his life and only in the end in death, which he never feared. He knew that God’s favors were never exhausted and His mercies were never totally spent. So in hope, like the energizer bunny, he kept on ticking – hearing confessions, praying his office, begging for the opportunity to begin yet another parish even at the age of 78, desirous of knocking on doors of homes in search of converts. The Lord was good to Monsignor who waited in hope and sought in faith the moment, which came suddenly at Mass last Friday.

How can even the most callous observer deny that this priest, in the words of Revelation, did anything other than “die in the Lord.”? In May, I went to visit him at Brandon Regional Hospital and he was in a wheelchair, hospital gown with a stole around his shoulders, MAGNIFICAT resting on the table before him, offering his daily Mass. It was a labor that day for Monsignor to pray. Now, again recalling the words of the second reading, he has found rest from his labors and his works have accompanied him.

Sixty-two years, Monsignor Scully accepted the Lord’s invitation in the Gospel to take upon his shoulders the yoke of ordained priesthood. I doubt if at any time in those sixty-two years he felt over burdened. Rather I know he found the priesthood to be exciting, fulfilling, challenging, if at times demanding. It was a different Church in 1948 for which he was ordained in many ways and he might easily have complained about the ground rules having changed. Many of the changes of the Second Vatican Council must have caused him some pain but complain – never. His celebration of the Mass maintained many of the gestures and movements which signaled reverence for the Godhead right up to his death.

In my fourteen years here as bishop, I had only two complaints against Monsignor Scully. The first was occasioned by Monsignor driving and coming upon a serious accident on US 19. He pulled over, opened his glove compartment, took the Oil of the Sick and his Purple Stole out, pushed aside the EMT’s to their chagrin and anointed the woman on the ground before him. The EMT’s complained to the sheriff and so did the woman – she was not Catholic and likely worried more about receiving a Catholic sacrament than her broken bones. Monsignor and I talked through the incident and he promised that he would at least ask if they were Catholic in the future.

Pleased that the hurdle was over, a little before his retirement I got a second letter from the Sheriff saying that someone had died in their home, the police had secured the scene and were waiting for the arrival of the medical examiner. Three hours after the death and before the medical examiner could arrive, Monsignor Scully burst on the scene, pulls down the yellow tape, turns the body over and anoints. The Sheriff said that if I did not do something, one more incident and I would be visiting Monsignor in the Hernando county jail. Monsignor sheepishly came to my office where together we read the Catechism for the Church and its teaching on the Sacrament of the Sick and I said, “John, it is no longer Extreme Unction – it is a sacrament for the living.” He looked at me in a way that you would have thought I shot his brother.

I tell you those two stories because they will forever be endearing memories for me of this incredibly zealous and dedicated priest. Three years after he retired from here at St. Theresa’s and again at age eighty, he asked me if he could begin a new parish in Trinity in Pasco County. He was so afraid that I might ban him to a nursing home, that he made everyone swear not to inform me when he was indeed in a nursing home in Framingham, Massachusetts, run by the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm. Why did he not want me to know – he simply strongly felt that he was not done with his ministry yet and that God was not done with him? “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

He got his reprieve from his worst fears because one of our young pastors offered him a place to live, to say Mass and hear confessions, to feel useful and employed. Allow me to be the first to say that all in this Church and in this diocese who knew and loved Monsignor Scully thank you, Father Bill Swengros, and the staff and people of St. Stephens parish for giving him a dignified, priestly conclusion to an incredible life.

Because he spent his vacation days not at leisure but in his beloved Africa, he probably has baptized, absolved, confirmed and married more Catholics in his life than most of us combined. From his days as a child his mother taught her son to look beyond Dorchester, Boston, and the United States and to the mission lands of the world; the propagation or spread of the faith was his secondary vocation. And because of him, our medium size diocese was for years thirteenth among all the dioceses in this vast country in its support for the missions. So far Monsignor Scully is the one and only recipient of the Founder’s Award, the highest recognition given by the Society of St. Peter the Apostle, the pontifical mission society supporting vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the Developing World. About our great priest, Monsignor John Kozar, the National Director of Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States wrote to me: “Since my childhood missionaries have always been my heroes. Through my association with Monsignor Scully in “this one family of mission,” I added another “hero” to my list almost immediately after my first meeting. May he rest in peace.”

 

Monsignor John Kozar, national director, Pontifical Mission Societies, with Monsignor Scully, recipient of the Founder's Award for the Society of St. Peter Apostle, and Monsignor Jose A. Galvez, then international Secretary General, Society of St. Peter Apostle, Rome, Italy -Photo courtesy of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States

Now he is making his last journey, not over seas, but from death to life, new life and the rest he never treasured or sought in this life. To call him indefatigable is not enough. To call him tireless cheapens the word. But to call him “father” is the greatest gift one can say about him and the one of which he was the most proud.

Father in heaven; take our Father Scully to yourself. But keep an eye on him in case he thinks heaven also needs some work. You will have your hands full, Father in heaven, but here on earth he gave you his hands, raised in blessing, anointing, forgiving, initiating, transforming mere bread and wine into the life-giving Body and Blood of your Son. Be for him Lord, all that he hoped for, for his future indeed is not lost but paradise gained.
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TRIBUTES TO AN AMAZING MAN (Updated 10/29/2010)

Monday, October 25th, 2010

As I have often said, I do not wish this blog spot to become a forum for polemics, disagreements, displeasure with the Church or myself, etc. There are plenty of other places that excel in that. But I am going to break my long-standing custom of not sharing the comments which readers make by posting below all the tributes which have been shared with me about Monsignor Scully who died on Wednesday and  for whom I will celebrate his funeral Mass next Wednesday at eleven a.m. at St. Theresa Church in Spring Hill. Since those of you who commented were not expecting to see your words in print, we shall not print the names and as additional comments arrive, we will add them to this electronic tribute.

+RNL

  1. Monsignor will always be missed. My most vivid memory is one Sunday during mass he was giving out communion and someone did not consume the body. Being the sharp tack that he was, he noticed and went after the man. Monsignor always wore a cassock and as he ran after the man, he looked like Superman. He had to be in his 70′s then. It was at that moment I came to know the importance of receiving communion. Thank You Monsignor. You taught me so much.
  2. I love you Msgr. Thank you. I am a better person because I was touched by your true holiness.
  3. As a Benedictine sister, here at Holy Name Monastery, I have so many memories of Msgr. Scully because of the wonderful work he and our dear Sr. DeChantal Ducuing did as they worked together on projects for the Propogation of the Faith and the religious programs in the diocese, which are still evident today. All of our community will be praying for the repose of the soul of this priestly priest.
  4. I among others owe so much to Msgr. Scully for his work at St. Catherine of Sienna. I remember Msgr. Scully in his early days at St. Catherine which were not great in number but powerful in effect. I am saddened by his passing but joyful over the timing of the Lord’s call. This Priest could never have asked for a more spiritual ending to his earthly ministry. While my memories of Msgr. Scully are distant they are not vague even if they are short. I believe the Diocese of St. Petersburg has been and is blessed to have so many special priests, and a very special Bishop.
  5. There were many signs that told me I needed to join the Catholic church, the church in which I was baptized but not raised. And then there were several different people who told me I needed to get to St. Teresa’s Church in order to follow those signs before Msgr. Scully retired since he was the best and the only one from whom to learn about the Church and to do what I needed to do in order to become a full-fledged Catholic. I followed those suggestions and learned a tiny bit about how holy this beloved man, this wonderful priest, really was. His reverence for the faith was truly awe-inspiring and I will NEVER forget him. There have been several times I needed to talk to a priest but was told by more than one that they were simply too busy to spare me even 15 minutes of their time when I was really in need. I had helped them but when I needed them? But Msgr. Scully was not like that at all. It was his privilege to talk about the faith and to help in any way he could. He would talk about the huge numbers of people he was blessed to have been able to help in Africa each year and when he had to leave St. Teresa’s it was so important that he be allowed somehow to continue his work somewhere else – and he found that home with Fr. Bill. God bless you, Fr. Bill, and God bless you, Msgr. Scully. God truly scripted your passing into His hands for your end on this earth could not be more perfect. I will miss you and your Christmas cards each holiday season. Thank you, dear Msgr., for everything you’ve done and all you have given to so many people around the world. I have no doubt you are resting in great peace.
  6. Our dear Msgr. John Scully, now, your job is over on this earth and as you enter gates of your Heavenly home, you will be greeted by the sounds of the trumpets and with your mother and father standing by the door. May you rest in peace.
  7. I met Father when he was assigned to St. Therese Parish in Everett, Massachusetts. I was in high school at the time and chose him as my confessor. Our friendship started there and continues until now. He was always there, ready to listen and ready to guide. I had the good fortune to work with him in Spring Hill for a year. It seemed that in trying times in the family Father was always there for us, consoling and guiding. I was with him when he made the arrangements to be brought back to Boston for burial. Fr. Ray Lettre called me on Friday to tell me of Father’s death. I am grateful that he will have a showing, Mass, and burial here in Boston. Mass was difficult for me this morning but I felt that Father was with me and I firmly believe that he will continue to listen to me, hear my petitions and continue to guide from heaven. Can’t you just hear the Lord saying–”Welcome, good and faithful servant.”. I have indeed been blest to have such a wonderful and faith-filled friend.
  8. So sad to hear the news of this Godly mans death. You are so right he would have picked this way to pass had he been giving that choice. Every Christmas we would get a letter from him and it was amazing how much he did at his age. He was Pastor at St. Patricks, Tampa, Fl. when all my children were born and he baptized two of them. May he rest in Peace.
  9. A gentle leader; a marvelous role model.
  10. Msgr. Scully will truly be missed at St. Stephen. Msgr. was always on the go. The beginning of 2009 I received a phone call from Msgr. asking if I could help him start a Legion of Mary at St. Stephen. He was so happy that he want to go to visit all the New Comers or what else Fr. Bill wanted him to do. He really did an excellent job in the Legion. I could see how happy he was when he came to the meetings to talked to us about Jesus and Mary. He will be truly missed. Rest in Peace my friend for a job well done…..
  11. The saddened news of the loss of Msgr. John Scully came as a surprise. As a member of our family he was a man who you always thought would be around forever. As a child he taught myself and my siblings the Hail Mary in Swahili when he returned from Africa on his Missionary work there. He always stayed at our [aunt]’s whenever he returned back to Boston to visit the family. He always made himself available to the family to celebrate Mass with us as a family. When my grandmother passed away he celebrated a special Mass for us. His homily still is fresh in my mind. I’m sorry I can’t attend a Mass for him this week in Florida or in Massachusetts. I’m studying at Catholic University in Washington but know my prayers there will be heard.
  12. The Church has lost without any doubt the finest priest bar [none] in Florida.  A Boston native dear Msgr. Scully was so deeply spiritual. He cared for others more than anyone I have ever known.  He was a model priest.  He was [saintly] more than anyone I ever met…  I was converted to by Msgr. to the Catholic faith in Tampa.  He was so caring and understanding.  I remember the late Bishop Lawrence Riley of Boston always kept in touch with this saint as he called him.  So much can be said [of] dear Msgr. Scully… Rest in Peace Msgr. No doubt at all the Lord will say “Welcome home good and faithful servant’. Amen, I know I can [now] pray to him for any help I need.
  13. Msgr. John Scully is the priest who catechized me and received me into the Roman Catholic Church nearly 16 years ago when I was 52 years of age. He was fond of quoting St. Theresa who said words to the effect that she could do more good in heaven than here on earth. Msgr. Scully was also fond of saying that he regretted that he only had one life here on earth to serve God. I would beg to differ with him. Msgr. Scully has a new life now, and can join St. Theresa in doing even more good here on earth. Those of us who knew him personally will find great comfort in knowing we have such a friend in Heaven. To Msgr. John Scully “a priest forever”.
  14. Fr. you have [imparted] the gift of God that you have to so many people, we [appreciate] your life and we will forever be [grateful to] God for a life well spent. Sleep in the Lord servant of God. Rest in peace dear Msgr. John.
  15. A truly spiritual man in all ways. Rest now.
  16. Such a marvelous tribute. I have been blessed to have met many of our great priests and he has made an indelible mark on my heart. What a fine example of the priesthood. Thank you for your kind and loving words.

THE LORD TAKES AND THE LORD GIVES

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
The Most Rev. John Noonan, Bishop-designate of Orlando

The Most Rev. John Noonan - Bishop-designate of Orlando

On the day I was ordained a deacon for the Archdiocese of Miami, the final step in my journey to priesthood, as we were preparing to leave St. James Catholic Church in North Miami to drive to St. Clement’s Church in Fort Lauderdale where I would be the first ordination of Miami’s new archbishop, Edward A. McCarthy. one of the senior priests whom I had been living with, Father George Razzutis, was rushed to the local hospital with what appeared to be (and was indeed) a heart attack. From the stretcher on the way from the house to the ambulance, this grand old priest said to me, “It is OK, God today gives us a new priest and takes an old one.” Father Razzutis lived for three more days in the hospital and each day when I would visit him would take my hand and say almost exactly the same phrase. It is a characteristic of our God, He sometimes takes away but then if we wait long enough, we can see His provident hand at work once again as He gives us something unexpected to raise and buoy our spirits. Yesterday was one of those days with the death of our dear Monsignor Scully but I did not have to wait long to witness God’s loving care for his Church at work again.

This morning at noon in Rome (6:00am EDT), it was announced that my brother Miami priest and bishop, John Noonan, was chosen by the Holy Father to become the fifth bishop of Orlando, our neighbor the east, starting in the border counties of Polk, Sumner and Marion. Bishop Noonan was a classmate in the seminary of our Father Michael Muhr and escaped myself as his Rector by several months as he was already in the theology seminary in Boynton Beach in 1979 when I was made Rector of St. John Vianney Seminary. Born in Ireland but with most of his education, certainly in the seminary, in the United States, once ordained he became a priceless, hard-working parish priest. He would later return to St. John Vianney College Seminary as Vice-Rector and Dean of Men as well as Rector. A number of our younger clergy ordained the last twelve years remember him fondly in this capacity. Astute, holy, hard-working, Bishop John Noonan would earn the respect and, I would say, fondness of the priests of Miami during the recent years when he has served as Auxiliary Bishop and touchstone with the priests often in their relationship with their archbishop.

A segment of our diocesan family will remember that last October he came to St. Jude’s Cathedral and ordained nineteen of our permanent deacons, in so doing winning the hearts of all those in the Cathedral that day. Orlando does not yet appreciate how lucky they are in this appointment but it will not take them long. I thank the Lord this morning that a good and dear friend has been chosen to lead the Church adjacent to my own, begun on the same day as my own, now slightly larger than my own. There is a world of difference between being an auxiliary bishop in the Church and an ordinary or bishop-in-charge. Together let us pray between now and his installation on December 16, 2010 for our sister Church in Orlando and for Bishop Noonan. Orlando I hope appreciates that they did not have to wait long when the Lord took their previous bishop and then gave them their new bishop. Vere dignum et justum est (it is truly right and just.)

+RNL

DEATH OF A LEGEND

Friday, October 22nd, 2010
Monsignor John Francis Scully

Rev. Msgr. John Francis Scully

I have just received word that Monsignor John Scully, a priest for sixty-two years of this diocese (and St. Augustine for twenty years prior to our formation) died this morning while concelebrating the morning Mass at St. Stephen’s parish in Valrico. The exact moment of his death occurred during the Institution prayers of the Mass or the “consecration” of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. It was precisely how he wished to go and would have scripted it had we any power over the time of our death. Monsignor Scully did so many things during his sixty-two years of priesthood, started parishes (St. Catherine’s, Largo and St. Michael’s, Clearwater (both named after his own mother and father) to name but two, schools and institutions.

Since he has designated me as the Principal Celebrant and Homilist at his funeral Mass at St. Theresa’s in Spring Hill, the last parish he was to pastor, I need time to think of this man’s accomplishments and place them in the context of the priestly life which he lived. I will see that a text of the homily I deliver at his funeral is placed here and the Diocese will give you much more biographical information later today. They are busy about attending to his wishes for his death. He will be buried in his beloved Boston where he was born and raised, next to his parents sometime later next week, most likely. The news came quickly and somewhat unexpectedly this morning so we are busy about many things in light of his death.

I tried often and unsuccessfully to get Monsignor to agree to an assisted living facility in his last few years of life and he successfully withstood me. He found security, comfort and continued meaning for his priestly life due to the extraordinary kindness of Father Bill Swengros, pastor of St. Stephen’s parish in Valrico and his staff and parishioners. Repeatedly Monsignor on his numerous overnights at the hospital would tell me how grateful he was to Father Bill and to St. Stephens for taking him in and treating him with love and respect. So am I.

There is so much good and something amusing which can be said about this almost “legendary” priest of our diocese and Monsignor, probably somewhat reluctantly and ruefully, has given me the opportunity in preaching the homily at his funeral Mass sometime next week. Suffice it to say for the moment, one had to have a stone heart not to appreciate his zeal, energy, and desire for souls. As our Diocesan Director for the Propagation of the Faith for many years, Monsignor Scully’s ministry took him to remote parts of the globe, baptizing and confirming, absolving and marrying. He gave his ministry not just to the people of the parishes to which he was assigned but to the world as well. As I digest the news, it is almost like a giant oak has fallen and a huge space has been revealed – one that will not be easy to fill, even though he has been retired for about ten years. When I would suggest to him that he had done enough, he would look at me as if I didn’t get it and tell me in effect, “heaven can wait.” It did until this morning and, John, rest there now in the peace you earned, reunited with your beloved mother, Catherine, and father, Michael and other members of your family. We are all a little better for knowing you.

+RNL

Msgr. John Scully's photo on his 25th Jubilee of Priestly Ordination Prayer Card

Msgr. John Scully's photo on his 25th Jubilee of Priestly Ordination Prayer Card

ET ALIA #3

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

When my mind is unable to focus on a single thought, it is time to share many scattered and unrelated thoughts with you. So here we go.

Cardinal-designate Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington

Cardinal-designate Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington

Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

Pope Benedict named new cardinals yesterday including two Americans, Archbishops Raymond Burke, formerly of St. Louis and now in Rome and Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. Cardinals came into being in the Church in 1056 when the Emperor of the Holy Roman Emperor was a six year old boy. Until that time, the emperor and other political figures had a significant say in who was to become Pope so the Church taking advantage of a moment when the sovereign was too young to do anything about it established a new rank of prelate, namely cardinals, who would meet as needed to elect a new pope upon the death of his predecessor. The end of the eleventh century was a particularly challenging time for the Church because it did not have good control over its priests and bishops who were too often subject to outside influence and interference. Thus the birth of a group of men whose main task was to elect popes. Over time, the college took on additional meaning and duties and can be and has been called on occasion to advise the Pope on matters of concern to him. Pope Paul VI limited the number of cardinals who could vote in a papal election to 120 members under the age of eighty. Pope John Paul II while never changing that “magic” number did give it some elasticity at times and often, as did Pope Benedict XVI yesterday took into consideration the number of soon-to-reach-the-eighty age limit. Yesterday’s choices marked somewhat a return to a heavier preponderance of archbishops working in the Vatican than in the trenches but little should be made of that in my opinion since there have been a number of changes in administrative offices whose head is usually a Cardinal. In the time of Popes Pius XII and John XXIII, elevation to the cardinalate was not done that often and made significant news when done. Now it seems to happen about every three years and the secular media largely gave the moment a giant yawn except in the U.S. in Pittsburgh and Washington where Archbishop Wuerl once served and now serves. On a personal note, I was elated that Archbishop Wuerl was chosen as I regard him very highly as a churchman of great principal, good mind and a pastoral heart. I think he will serve the Church in the United States very well as a member of that special group of advisors to the Holy Father. Enough said.

If yesterday marked the coming of the “red tide”, today in this diocese we welcome Catholic women from around the state as they gather here for their once every two year statewide meeting of the Florida Council of Catholic Women. I will offer Mass for them tomorrow morning and officially welcome them and on Saturday afternoon, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami will make his first visit to our diocese as our Metropolitan Archbishop to say Mass for the FCCW. Welcome ladies and enjoy your time on Florida’s west and best coast.

Like most of you, I can not wait for November’s elections to end. The bitter acrimony and charges and counter-charges which mark the Florida landscape this year is deafening and downright depressing. Visitors to this state from other countries who make the mistake of turning on the television in their hotel rooms or apartments must wonder about the nature of our form of democracy. Scare tactics rule the discourse and untruths and partial truths are the order of the day. I am early voting again this year so I can shut myself off to all the last minute diatribes and for the first time will have voted purposely without listening to a single debate – what is there to hear other than charges and counter-charges between the candidates and no plan for real recovery and hope. God help us!

Earlier this week I joined thirteen other bishops from the South in a meeting to discuss financing of Catholic education. The meeting was held in a hotel adjacent to the Atlanta airport and was organized and paid for by the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education program. Our schools throughout the region, except perhaps for Atlanta where the population continues to explode with parents with good annual incomes, are in trouble and the number of students declines either due to demographic shifts, economic reality, better public school options like charter and fundamental schools, etc. The bishops listened to a number of presentations on how we might access more federal and state monies for our own children in our own schools. An outstanding advocate for parental choice in education from Tampa, John Kirtley, spoke of his experience spearheading the corporate income tax credit program (STEP UP, FLORIDA) through the legislative and administrative process and my brother bishops deeply admired his commitment, counsel and concern. Good stuff!

Finally, on Saturday I will celebrate the annual jubilee Mass for religious women and men who pass this year their 25th, 50th, 60, 70th anniversaries of religious profession. The number of jubilarians is in steep decline as the religious age and die. In my first years as bishop, fourteen years ago for example, we acknowledged annually about fifty religious passing significant anniversary dates. This year I think we are half that number and only about eighteen can be present for Mass and lunch. I would do it even if there were only one left because these women and men have given their life and love to the Church unconditionally, and sometimes that has not always been “easy street” for them. Happy Anniversary Sisters, Brother and priests. We still love you!

+RNL

CHARACTERS WELCOME

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Ask almost any priest which Cycle of Sunday readings they like the most, and many if not all of us would likely respond, CYCLE C, the year in which we hear the Gospel of Luke proclaimed almost every week. Matthew would likely wind up in second place and is a very “preachable Gospel”, Mark would come in third, partly because it is so short that there are not enough chapters to fill the thirty or so Sundays and the Church falls back to the hardest Gospel of them all to preach: John. Luke is liked by preachers because there are  a plethora of parables to be found and we all like parables.  Parables give the creative preacher a platform from which to dive into the mysteries of life today. I personally like Luke’s Gospel for that reason but I also like it because it presents us with some of the most interesting characters to be found anywhere in Scripture. Just reviewing the major characters of the last few weeks and the coming Sundays, we find:

The Prodigal Son a lesson in forgiveness
The Samaritan Leper a lesson in gratitude
The Widow and the Crooked Judge a lesson in perseverance in prayer
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector a lesson in genuine humility (coming attraction-Oct. 24)
Zacchaeus the promise of salvation to a tax collector to boot (Oct. 30)

These are the kind of Gospel stories that stay with us long after we have left Church on Sunday. In each instance, Jesus teaches us something about what it takes to live the Kingdom of God on earth so that we might some day enjoy the Kingdom of God in eternal life. Each Gospel has one or more central characters who somehow effects what is called a metanoia or life changing moment. They lift up the virtues of love of the lost, insistence and persistence, heaven does not depend on worldly wealth or success, time for gratitude, opening up one’s life in faith to God. These Gospel characters who populate the chapters of Luke leading up to the passion account give hope to the hopeless, confidence to the fearful, welcome to the stranger and disenfranchised, and support for the vulnerable.

Soon Christ the King will be upon us and after the Christmas season we will begin to listen again to the Gospel of Matthew with its great teachings by Jesus. Somewhere along the way I and many others will be saying, please Lord, tell us the story of someone like ourselves whose life was changed by an encounter with your Son, Jesus. In preaching, like on the USA network, characters are always welcome.

+RNL

DOMER

Monday, October 11th, 2010

The previous two blog entries (here and here) centered on my visit to Notre Dame this past week-end and on the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. It was a long and very physically challenging week-end in many ways for me but exhilarating and faith-filling. I was not the only bishop on campus this week: Archbishop Joseph Kurtz had come up from Louisville for a mini-reunion with some of his high school classmates, Bishop Daniel Jenky, C.S.C. of Peoria was present as a member of the Board of Trustees and a Holy Cross priest/bishop, Bishop Dale Melchek of Gary and Bishop Bernard Harrington, retired of Winona were also seen by myself at one time or another. So the place was as I like to say “filthy with bishops”.

Grotto at Night, Image from nd.edu

The Grotto at Night

But my most memorable moments once again were those spent at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes where almost every hour of the day one can find a dozen or more students praying to Mary, our Mother. There was a big football player on Thursday night (she certainly heard his prayer and granted his wish on Saturday), students who were dating and at the end of the day stopped by for prayer and all manner of campus people pausing in prayer, a good number reciting the Rosary.

Notre Dame from time to time is accused of not being pro-life. All week long during Respect Life Month, there were 356 white crosses to be seen on one of the quads, one white cross for every child aborted during the average length of a Notre Dame football game. Awkwardly constructed posters carried strong and poignant messages on abortion as an assault on life and I saw a lot of students on their way to and from class stopping to read, or making a sign of the cross while passing this reminder of the modern tragedy.

Someone already asked me today were there any signs of fall-out from the Obama affair of last summer. To the contrary, I would say. One of my brothers brags about the amount of money Notre Dame has lost in donations in the last 16 months. Baloney! Their 1.5 billion dollar current capital campaign has eclipsed its goal [and at just a whisker from two billion, this effort will net a record amount for an American non-profit which does not have a medical college attached] and I know from a very reliable source that donations in cash to the university are up and at an all time high. The current crop of students are proud to be Domers and there is little evidence that any significant number of alums have backed off their love for their alma mater. There is now a new bishop in Fort Wayne-South Bend and relationships between local Church and university are also going very well.

Holy Cross Chapel in the new engineering building at Notre Dame

Holy Cross Chapel in the new engineering building at Notre Dame

How about sacramental life? Eighty-five per cent of the student body is Catholic and of those who reside on campus, in the dormitories, eighty percent attend Sunday Mass, mostly in the dorms. Try getting a spot to get married in the Basilica throughout the year – good luck. Five of our ACE students who used to teach or are currently teaching in our diocese came back for this week-end and a reunion with myself, the Gipper’s ghost, and the Grotto. All are fully engaged in the parishes in which they live. The challenge of the Church in the United States after a serious Catholic students departs the Dome is to provide them with a liturgy and homily which touches their hearts and minds as much as their experience of faith on campus.

The Our Lady of Sorrows window in the Holy Cross Chapel in the new engineering building.

The Our Lady of Sorrows window in the Holy Cross Chapel in the new engineering building. The Congregation of Holy Cross is under the patronage of Our Lady of Sorrows.

I have known three Notre Dame presidents in my lifetime, Fathers Hesburgh, Malloy and Jenkins and each of them took or takes their priesthood even more seriously that their occupational duties as president. The priests on campus are priests first and astro-physicists second and their engagement with campus ministry provides the spiritual blood-stream to keep the faith alive in our young people. No other Catholic college of which I am aware has (1) a chapel in every dormitory and a (2) resident priest in every dormitory. Grads come back to greet their dorm priests before even stopping at the Grotto. There is a new engineering building on campus, yes you read that right, an engineering building. The Dean insisted that this new home for wanna-be engineers have a Chapel worthy of their future occupations and the result is stunning and spiritually beautiful. I think I was told that campus ministry now supports something like sixty chapels in as many buildings throughout the campus.

I have not been on campus while the students have been there in full complement in about five years. I left last night tired but energized once again that intelligently presented, traditionally preserved, and comfortable with every young person’s search for truth and meaning of life, Notre Dame gets the job done. I just wish it were not so hard to get admitted.

+RNL

Mass Video

Monday, October 11th, 2010
[video:http://www.ndprayercast.org/webmedia/masscast_video/2010-10-10%20T1145%20BSH.m4v]

Thanks to the Campus Ministry staff at Notre Dame, the video of the Mass yesterday is available as part of their “Masscast” so that you can watch this Mass if you are interested.  They make both the 10:00 am (on CatholicTV) and 11:45 am Masses (on ND Prayercast) available online every week.

The text of this homily was published in my blog yesterday, “Sunday Morning at Notre Dame

Notre Dame Prayer Cast - Mass Cast Logo

SUNDAY MORNING AT NOTRE DAME

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Sacred Heart Basilica on the Campus of the University of Notre Dame on October 10, 2010

I am celebrating and preaching this morning at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. It is always an awesome privilege for me to be provided this opportunity as the Basilica will be filled to over-flowing and the music is provided by Notre Dame’s awesome Folk Choir under the direction of Steve Warner (we sing his beautiful “Our Father” in many Churches throughout the diocese). The Irish won yesterday but that really is not the reason I am present on campus as soon we will be announcing a new form of partnership in education between our Diocese and this very Catholic University.

In the first reading from 2 Kings today, Naaman finds healing in an alien land and the population allows an alien to come and benefit from a miracle, a grace. I feel that this Old Testament story has relevance to today’s debate in the nation about immigration reform so I wish to share the homily with you here and hope you will read it and reflect on it.

The Liturgy of the Word this morning places us right smack in the face of “outcasts.” Outcasts at the time of the writing and I would suggest outcasts even in our midst today. The Gospel is familiar enough and easy enough, especially for those who attend Mass on Thanksgiving Day when it is always heard. Ten Lepers were cured but only one came back to say “thanks.” It is, hoever,  the first reading this morning which captures my attention: the curing of Naaman, his restoration to wholeness, to relationships and to religious faith.

Naaman was a senior officer, a general in the pagan Syrian army, which had both defeated and devastated the Jews. He suddenly comes down with something which woefully sets him apart – in Scripture it is called “leprosy” but it is somewhat unlikely that it truly was what today we call Hansen’s disease. For in Old Testament times as well as the time of Jesus, almost any disease causing blemish, acne, skin cancer, or any disfigurement, Down’s syndrome or any neuro-muscular disorder such as Parkinson’s disease was thought to be leprosy. Who of us personally has not personally seen a person so poor that their emaciated and weakened presence, their deep-set, recessed eyes and hunger induced bone structure made us look away in horror even at the sight?

So, Naaman, conquering military hero, comes down with something inexplicable and equally inexplicably his friends say to him: you defeated these Jews but they have some kind of cure for what you have, go see their priests. Naaman was not a man with any faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac or Jacob. However, his lot in life has turned for the worst and he is just desperate enough to try anything. He goes to Israel where the prophet Elisha tells him to wash in the River Jordan seven times [think baptism] and he will be cleansed. Naaman thinks the notion stupid but he is desperate. Naaman thinks the River Jordan is a filthy place to take a swim and he would rather take his plunge in a cleaner, safer Syrian River, but he is desperate. Seven times he does what the prophet commands and he is cured. Astounded he pronounces his new faith in the God of Israel and embraces Him. The Jews are in wonderment; this dreadful, despicable and despised man who leveled our homes, our fields, our husbands and sons, unwanted in our land now embraces our God. What gives? And why does God heal this outcast of our society when there are so many of our own in need of His help? In the end they embrace this stranger, set aside their fears, because he has become one with them in faith.

That’s the Old Testament story, worthy on its face of a few moments of quiet reflection, but there is more to God’s word this morning. Who are the Naaman’s in our midst today – scorned, scoffed and often sacrificed on an altar of political expediency? What are the forms of “leprosy” today, which our moment in history has created to be set apart, feared, and kept always at arm’s length? Make no mistake about it, every generation has its own modern forms of “leprosy”.

Perhaps, immigrants? No sector of American society has handled immigration better than the Catholic Church. This very basilica stands on ground purchased by an immigrant priest who understood a century and a half ago that from the many would come the one, the unity – e pluribus unum. Until 1924 the Catholic Church in the United States was the immigrant Church, all were welcome no matter their language, their country or origin, the color of their skin. In certain segments of society, we Irish, Italian, German, Polish Catholics were not welcomed; rather we were often feared – in eternal life I intend to ask my Boston Irish great-grandparents about their life in the land of the Cabots and Lodges. We were feared, seen as a threat, religious rabbits who given enough time would out-populate everyone else. But our forebearers were told, just like Naaman was told to visit the land of Israel, go to America, a land of opportunity, religious freedom, hope. We Catholics tend to forget our own roots, so fully have we become assimilated into the American culture.

If Naaman the Syrian could be an example of the diversity of God’s people in Old Testament Israel, what then is the reason for the fear and loathing today accorded our mostly Catholic brothers and sisters seeking the same opportunity for freedom and cleansing from economic and sometimes political oppression? Who among us today would encourage an undocumented to go and show themselves to the priests, to the Church, perhaps only there to find sanctuary, hope and help.

Ah, but they are illegal some would say – they are criminals. They are guilty in the law of the same level of misdemeanor as I was yesterday jaywalking across Notre Dame Avenue on my way to the stadium. Crossing a border and entering the United States is, not yet at least, a felony. Perhaps these undocumented are the Naaman’s of our generation, different from him only in that they started their journey, most of them, as our sisters and brothers in faith.

If Israel needed a Naaman to remind it of God’s mercy and generosity, how much more do we need the diversity of the stranger and newcomer? In the diocese in which I am privileged to serve, one third of those who offer the Eucharist this Sunday, priests who preach and preside at Mass, are newcomers, not always sure whether they can remain or not. The central moment of our Catholic faith, the Eucharist, depends more and more in this country on “outsiders”. The football team on the field yesterday in the stadium was a mosaic of diversity – xenophobia today would field few winners in Division I football. This great university has a commitment to diversity and opportunity which makes me proud. The Diocese of St. Petersburg in the winter months likely has more undocumented Catholics than registered Catholics. We depend on them for our food, our creature comforts. Yet we often treat the visitor, the undocumented with fear and loathing and as such the stranger too often today wears the face of political and/or social leprosy. Our country indeed has both a right and responsibility to secure our nation’s borders but our faith must open our hearts to those who today yearn to breathe free and are already in our midst.

In our Church we proudly carry the banner of respect for human life, from conception to natural death. This respect for life is at the heart of who we are and denominates us as Catholic Christians – “catholic” itself means open to all, universal. May we take today as our prayer from this Eucharistic liturgy words something like this:

Allow me, O Lord, to serve as the receiving prophet who welcome the Naaman’s of this time, too often today reviled and scorned as was Your Son. And at the end of the day, may humanity and history say of us as Naaman said, “there is no God greater than the God of Israel.”

Statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Campus of the University of Notre Dame

"Come to me Everyone"