Archive for January, 2011

THE THREE-QUARTER POLE

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

To my beloved brothers, the priests of the diocese, thank you for your unfailing kindness to and patience with me the last fifteen years. To the deacons of this local Church, your sacrifice and service is beyond admirable. To the religious women and men, you have set the highest standard of love and service to Jesus through your ministry throughout the years and I am privileged to call you my friends. To the Catholic people of the five counties of the diocese, I began my service to and with you by recounting that marvelous line from the spiritual hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus” and fifteen years later I can add what friends Jesus shares with me in all of you whose witness, dedication, presence and love have enlightened my life over the last fifteen years.

Today I am passing the three-quarter pole and in a few months will round the final turn of 70 years of age and can set my sight on the finish line and the end of the race which has been my episcopal ministry to and with all of you. There is still a race to be won and I do not intend to let up on the reins in my hands until there is someone else in the saddle to lead and see this great thoroughbred of a Church to yet another lap. To those whom I have disappointed and hurt, and there surely are some, I deeply apologize, will try to do better by you, but assure you that relief is no longer that far away.

The past fifteen years have been a privilege I did not deserve but thank you so much for sharing your lives and your faith with me and, if God wills it, we can continue the love affair begun fifteen years ago today.

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UNBROKEN SEAL

Monday, January 24th, 2011

There is some strong evidence that I need to do some teaching on the matter of the seal of confession.

Canon Law on the matter of the seriousness of the Seal of Confession

Canon 983 #1   The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore, it is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason.

Canon 984 #1   Even if every danger of revelation is excluded, a confessor is absolutely forbidden to use knowledge acquired from confession when it might harm the penitent.

Canon 1388 #1 A confessor who directly violates the seal of confession incurs an automatic excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; if he does so only indirectly, he is to be be punished in accord with the seriousness of the events.

No confessor is ever, ever allowed to speak of something which occurred within individual confession. Not to his bishop, not to the Holy Father, not even to the penitent outside of and after the confession. Violating this simple and straightforward protection brings to bear the most serious punishment the Church holds, automatic excommunication which can only be lifted by the Holy See itself. There are within the entire law of the Church only five actions which incur this horrible penalty, including violating the seal. In recent history, priest confessors have gone to prison and some have been put to death for refusing to violate the seal and reveal something which a penitent said during sacramental confession. We have heard often the expression, “it is to die for.” Capture that and you will understand the importance of the seal of confession. Catholics have a right to expect its strictest observance and every priest has the responsibility, which can be accompanied by a stunning vulnerability, to apply the strictest interpretation.

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The English translation of the Code of Canon Law quoted above comes from THE CODE OF CANON LAW: A TEXT AND COMMENTARY published by the Canon Law Society of America, Paulist Press, 1985.

HOPE FOR LIFE

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

I have been somewhat “under the weather” this week and my best intentions had been to post some thoughts on yet another anniversary of the Supreme Court’s tragically landmark 1972 decision in the abortion cases, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton earlier than today but please God, better late than never. My reflections this year are much more personal perhaps than in the past since my nephew and his wife who live here in the area and another couple who are good friends and whose marriage I witnessed a few years ago who also live here brought new life into my life with daughters delivered within days of each other this Fall. In one case “Uncle Bob” and in the other “Bishop Lynch” shared the joys and challenges of childbirth from the moment they were comfortable in sharing with me the new life inside the mothers’ wombs through the delivery to the first time I held the child within hours of the birth. I am getting old and gnarly, cynical and occasionally too readily dismissive but I melted holding and gazing on the adorable baby in my arms. It is a miracle I said once again as every time I gaze on a new born and a prayer of gratitude to the Lord for the new life, and then the inevitable comes into my mind. What if? What if someone had decided to end this life in my hands prior to birth? What if this glorious child had been the recipient of another’s decision to terminate. Our nation makes it far too easy to make that choice and someone like myself or perhaps the child’s grandmother or grandfather would be deprived the joy of gazing at those darling two new baby girls. Reverie to be sure but also reverence for life, for the amazing manner in which the Lord of creation brings new life onto the planet, into families, and even into a bishop’s arms. Thank God the choice was for life. What can we do to make more young women choose life, not death for their pre-born children?

The tens of thousands gathered in Washington this week-end are most likely experiencing new hope. Everywhere but probably “Catholic” Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the movement to reduce abortions and strike yet another blow at the fallacy of Roe seems to be in the air. While the elections this past Fall did not at the time seem to be a referendum on Roe those elected seem to be more serious than I can remember in reversing the horrible nightmare of abortion-on-request. It remains the legal precedent sadly but it will in time be reversed, of that I am sure. Just as God gave life to the two babies born this Fall, God has given strength and stamina and life to those who have prophetically carried the torch all these years.

If we are to be a pro-life nation, however, we must not only divest our land of the chains of poor law and public policy but also be ready to embrace that any significant change will come also at a cost. Who will care for the child a women believes she can ill afford and wishes to abort when that option is removed? How do we as a country assume a caring attitude to those who feel so mired in desperate poverty that death seems a blessing? How open are we to open our purses (it requires little in terms of cash commitment at this moment to be anti-abortion and pro-life) when suddenly those look us in the face and say: “all right, you ended this option, now who is going to help me raise this child of  mine?” Planning for that day should give birth to an excitement that approaches the joy of childbirth, but does it, really? So many politicians and others who may not be pro-life as are we, admire the steadfastness with which the Church has supported the cause of life. I hope and pray that we as Church will be ready when that moment for which we march this week-end arrives. Pro-life means far more than anti-abortion, although the current state of the question is so immoral that it must be addressed first.

New life indeed!

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BLESSED POPE JOHN PAUL II

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Nearly the worst kept secret of the week was publicly revealed this morning in Rome when it was announced that Pope John Paul II would be beatified on May 1, 2011 in St. Peter’s Square, Rome, by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. Pope John Paul joins his good friend, Mother Teresa of Calcutta as at the final step on the path to declaration that their saintly lives can be embraced by the faithful of the Church, sainthood. For both it will take yet a second miracle attributed to each but to most of the world, the Catholic world for certain, they are believed to be already among the saints. Pope Benedict was very careful to let the process of beatification run its course according to the prescribed rules of the Church but with both, it has been a quick journey. It is amazing to me personally that I have known, been in close company with, and in one case travelled with a future saint. I remember well in October of 1979 when soon-to-be Blessed Pope John Paul II came down the steps of the former Cardinal’s residence in Boston in a bathrobe at 4:30 a.m. to “beg” a cup of coffee. If I had had my camera and snapped the moment, I would not out of reverence and respect show it here but my experiences with him in Rome and here in the United States are a priceless part of my life. In the days leading up to his beatification on May 1, 2011 I will share with you some personal stories and experiences and I will begin with this one.

in 1986, a year prior to his lengthy pastoral visit to the United States, the papal advance team from Rome had come for their first visit to the proposed site the Pope would visit. In Los Angeles, Cardinal Mahony wanted to have the Holy Father meet with and speak to the media moguls and it was arranged that this opportunity would take place at the Sheraton Universal Hotel on the grounds of Universal Studios in Hollywood. Lew Wasserman, the genius behind the success of the Universal theme parks and the movie/television production company would be our host and make the arrangements to invite the giants of movies and television to the special audience. As we were preparing to leave Universal Studios Los Angeles, Wasserman asked if we could take a minute to see an attraction in the park that he thought the Pope might enjoy. Somewhat reluctantly we agreed and he took us to that spot where the “Parting of the Red Sea” in the film The Ten Commandments took place. Wasserman, Jewish, asked what we thought and we could only say we would present it to the Pope. A few weeks later I was in Rome and with the Papal Advance Team we had lunch with Pope John Paul II in his apartment. Now Cardinal but then Father Roberto Tucci, S.J., head of the Advance Team asked the Pope if when at Universal he would like to “part the Red Sea” and after a pause and a slight smile, the Pope responded: “why should I, it has already been done before!”

For the Church throughout the world, in Poland especially, and for the strong memory of this strong leader, I rejoice at today’s news.

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A MAN FOR OTHERS

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

The Society of Jesus (a.k.a. “Jesuits”) ingrain in the minds and hearts of their students in high school that their ultimate aim in educating them for the future is to help them become “a man for others.” Almost every graduate of a Jesuit High School for boys knows that phrase as well or better sometimes than they know the Hail Mary. Jesuits themselves attempt to live their lives for others, be they their students, people in the parishes where they serve, or in various ministries throughout the Church universal. Probably the most significant Jesuit priest to serve on the West Coast of Florida died on January 3, 2011 and if you are a reader of either paper you will know that he was beautifully remembered in those articles this past week. Father Michael Kennelly wh0 was born in Ireland but educated in the United States went home to the Lord on January 3, 2011 at the age of 96. I  will share with you my reflections on his life and ministry which I preached this evening at St. Anthony Chapel on the campus of Tampa Jesuit. Hopefully it may be helpful in reflecting on Christian death as well as a priestly life well lived.

First, I would like to express my appreciation to the Jesuit Community here present and to all of you for both the invitation to celebrate this Mass this evening in memory of our beloved Father Kennelly and for allowing the time to change to seven o’clock. I had Mass for a group at the Tradewinds Resort on St. Petersburg Beach at 4:45 p.m. Also, I somewhat reluctantly accepted the invitation to be the homilist in lieu of many of you who knew Father Michael better than I. So please allow me some reflections which center more on death and the priesthood of Jesus Christ which was lived by Father Michael as I will let the beautiful tributes which appeared in both papers to serve as a more eloquent eulogy.

I often recall that as different as we all are, there is one thing which is sure and certain and the same for everyone [popes, presidents, kings and queens, day laborers, priests and religious] – death. In Math, which I was never all that good at, it might be called the common denominator. We all know that the Lord will come for us some day, perhaps when we know and are ready and perhaps when we least expect it.

For people of deep faith, death is the moment we all live for. Oxymoronic as that might sound, we echo throughout our lives the words of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, “thy will be done – thy kingdom come.” They are, of course, the words of the Lord’s Prayer.

Father Kennelly was granted the gift of the Creator in spending ninety-six years on this planet and almost sixty-four years as a priest, seventy-seven in his beloved Society of Jesus. During all those years he lived the beatitudes: comforting those who mourned, helping the meek and poor seize an opportunity which without him might otherwise be denied, bringing  peace to the sons of Jesuit High School, sons and daughters at Loyola New Orleans where he served as President, at a high school in Houston when uncertainty, fear, anxiety were present in their lives. We must recall that he prepared men for adulthood during the Second World War, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the cold war and women and men in the first four years of the turbulent ‘70’s. He was always a minister or mercy and of hope.

The justice of this holy priest now in the hands of God has been attested to by those who knew him here in Tampa. Stories abound of assistance given to students and families in time of economic challenge. It was his vision to buy the very property on which tonight we worship. His vision was to reach beyond the simply attainable to the seemingly unattainable. So significant is his legacy that I have only one question to ask him when, hopefully, I join him in eternity: “Mike, why did you build the Rectory at Sacred Heart and totally shield those beautiful stained glass windows on the right of the Church from the rays of the sun?” Well maybe there is a second question – the parking garage where this school once stood but that might not have been his decision!

My personal time with Father Kennelly was all too brief. I hardly knew him but I loved being with him. Witty, concerned, focused on only those who were present to him, he was a fountain of wisdom for me in my early years in this diocese. As pastor emeritus of Sacred Heart at that time, he took his turn at the late night phone calls from Tampa General and answered the door for the homeless and hungry walking Florida Avenue.  If the battle between Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno was intense for who would have more victories prior to retirement, then the gentle contest between Monsignor Higgins and Father Kennelly as to who would perform more marriages in their priestly lives was also at play. The winner of that one is the one still witnessing marriages today.

With both memory and motion beginning to fail him, he acceded to saying farewell to active ministry and placed himself under the care of the community of priests and brothers to whom he himself had dedicated his life. He awaited the day when no further torment would touch him and he would finally be at peace. That peace came on January 3rd.

Non-believers generally have a harder time dealing with death than do those who believe. For them it is the ultimate “riddle of life”. So maybe the answer to the riddle of Christian death is that in that nano-second when we pass from this life into the next, we join not only Christ in Eternal Life, the Father and Spirit, the Mother of the Redeemer and St. Joseph, Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Robert Bellarmine, but lesser luminaries yet still heroes like Michael Kennelly.  He was not only the quintessential Jesuit man for others but equally a man for all seasons.

Tonight we pray for this great priest: “receive his soul and present him to God the Most High!”

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TERREMOTO

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

The Italians have a phrase which once fit while I was in Rome during a  minor earthquake called “terremoto” or loosely translated, “the earth moved.” Yesterday was the first anniversary of the earth moving in a large portion of western Haiti in an earthquake in this hemisphere causing massive destruction, dislocation and loss of life. Haiti one year later is only marginally better and recovery is still something of a dream despite the generous response of people from all over the world seeking to help in the recovery effort. Heaven and earth has not moved significantly in that tormented nation so close to ours in aiding the people to resume their lives, find work, and occupy safe housing. Why not? What success can be shown? What can be expected?

In Haiti, success like beauty is in the “eye of the beholder.” Certainly until the onslaught of the cholera epidemic a few months ago, it can be said that early response and relief efforts kept disease to a negligible minimum, food and water found its way to the dispossessed quicker and more effectively than in past calamities in that nation, and medicine and medical assessment and treatment were provided to the thousands wounded and sickened by the earthquake and its aftermath. A lot of credit needs to go to the U.S. military and especially the U.S. Navy for coming quickly and organizing the first response. A lot of credit should also go to some relief agencies, especially Catholic Relief Services which was already on the ground and able to begin relief efforts immediately. A point of humble pride (I know, that is an oxymoron) is that our initial and immediate gift from the Diocese of St. Petersburg of $250,000 were the first monies sent to CRS for Haiti and our final total to them is around $1,750,000 from this diocese alone. Stabilization of water, food, medicine and temporary housing were successful. But then it seems the success ended.

Every relief organization, CRS included, is sitting on sizable amounts of contributed funds, goods and supplies awaiting the permission of the Haitian government to begin the process of reconstruction. Haiti just recently completed general elections which turned out to be mandatory prior to any action. Now the world continues to wait while millions of Haitians  sleep in tents, refrigerator boxes, very temporary and often shabby housing. The cholera epidemic set timetables back to be sure but it is the government of Haiti who must approve and signal the start of the real relief effort. When will they? They don’t know and I doubt if God knows.

The Church in those portions of Haiti where the earthquake was the worst lost lives, buildings and property. There is evidence that the bishops of the country are ready to work together for reconstruction of churches, schools, hospitals, clinics, orphanages, you name it,  lost one year ago yesterday. Most of you know that the Archbishop of the capital city of Port-au-Prince died in his own Cathedral when the walls came tumbling down upon him. Today in Rome Pope Benedict XVI named a new archbishop for Port-au-Prince who while he is 68 years old has a reputation for getting things done. This is a hopeful sign.

Many who gave to the Haitian earthquake relief collections and funds are frustrated by the lack of action and some suspect that CRS and other relief agencies are just sitting on the money, accumulating interest, etc. Both of these possibilities are likely true and necessary but I can tell you from personal experience that until nation and those who wish to help can agree, spending money in that country at this moment is throwing good money down a dubious hole. Painful as it is, it is far better to wait and spend it wisely for the relief of the people than waste it now in an environment of corruption. It will be spent and sometime soon, we hope, the lives of the Haitian people now displaced will improve. The Haitian people long ago learned all about patience and they have much to teach us.

Finally, not only the earth moved on January 11, 2010 but hearts were also moved as well. Your response like that to the tsunami and Katrina humbles and edifies me at the same time. What you gave will continue to be spent in a wise and prudent manner and as soon as we are allowed. Parishes in this diocese who twin with other parishes have already stepped up and the progress there is more measureable since the Haitian government need not have been involved. But settling title to land rights, assigning property for the erection of new permanent and storm/earthquake resistant homes – that requires working with the government which at times can seem so callous toward the obvious and painful needs of its citizenry. 366 days ago the earth shook, now might the government?

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150 YEARS OLD AND STILL GOING STRONG

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Florida generally is not too big on antiquity. There is, of course, the elusive fountain of youth allegedly found by Ponce de Leon and a few other major historical places but for the Church, antiquity is even more rare and more so on Florida’s West Coast. Thus it was stunning to me today to help Sacred Heart parish in downtown Tampa celebrate its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary. We just don’t have in this diocese or south of us too many Churches or structures which date to the turn of the last century must less the sixth decade of the nineteenth century (the Civil War had not yet begun). Sacred Heart, Tampa, however is a beautiful exception – majestic, inspiring, beautiful in so many ways. True the parish begun in 1860 for about forty Catholic families, the only Catholic families living in Hillsborough county at the time, began at a slightly different site (Twiggs and Ashley) and with a different initial title, “St. Louis parish” but soon land was donated at the present site, the name was changed with the coming of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) to Sacred Heart and by any name it remains the historical mother parish of the diocese. I will attach here some parts of my homily yesterday which relate to its history, present and future [please keep in mind that liturgically we were celebrating the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus]:

At the heart of its history, Sacred Heart has been baptizing for a century and a half. God alone probably knows the number of children and adults who have been baptized in this parish. The horrible Civil War in the colonies was not yet being fought when Bishop Verot sent Father C.S. Malley as first pastor of Saint Louis parish, the original name for Sacred Heart. There were only forty-one Catholic families in Tampa at that time.

Through the last century and a half with its wars, economic depression and countless recessions, the plague which practically obliterated Tampa and innumerable challenges those baptized here formed a strong community of faith, witnessing to the city and county that being Catholic meant imitating Christ, caring for one another, educating children. As you well know, most of the history of this parish is associated with the Society of Jesus. Only this week came the sad news of the death of a much loved and revered pastor, Father Michael Kennelly for whom we will celebrate a Memorial Mass at Tampa Jesuit High School which he founded this coming Thursday night.

Figuratively baptized in fire on many occasions, this great parish has been the spiritual home to the baptized now for a century and a half. The Franciscan Friars who now grace us with their ministry and presence witness to this area that being baptized does not mean being isolated from the environment in which the parish prays and worships, but makes Christ present in the core city of Tampa to those who live in the greatest dungeons of darkness and cold. Their life is one of humble witness and service.

Presently the Franciscans serve the parish, its school Sacred Heart Academy, Tampa General Hospital, the University of Tampa Campus Ministry program, and the convent of the Allegany Franciscan Sisters along the Hillsborough River. Active in serving the homeless, Sacred Heart has a significant outreach program into the downtown community and the daily Mass at 12:10 p.m. serves the business people of the center city as well as those working in the state and federal courts. Many of the priests and sisters serving at Sacred Heart during the 0utbreak of the Yellow Fever epidemic of the end of the 19th century died in service to the Tampa community but enough lived to courageously continue the ministry in this significant parish. The parish has  a great past, a powerful present, and a glorious future.

Here, then, are some wonderful pictures of beautiful Sacred Heart Church as it exists today:

The beautiful main altar (Photo by Michael Pruchnik)

The Rose Window on the left side of the Church (Photo by Michael Pruchnik)

Photo by Michael Pruchnik

Photo by Michael Pruchnik

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CHRISTMAS SEASON ENDS – FINALLY

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

The Christmas season which began in 2010 and ends today with the Baptism of the Lord will forever hold many memories for me but I thought you might enjoy some of them in pictures of the last sixteen days:

The newly renovated Holy Family Church on Christmas Eve, 2010

The new transitional apartments for the homeless at Pinellas Hope who have jobs and are transitioning to independent living

The Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus at the Cathedral of St. Jude present me with a picture just prior to Midnight Mass of the reception of the relic of St. John Bosco last September

Pausing for private prayer at the Cathedral creche prior to Midnight Mass

Midnight Mass over at 1:15am and I am off to bed and the Women's Prison on Christmas morning. Cameras are not allowed there. Cathedral pictures were taken by Brendan J. Stack.

GATORS, DEER AND A HERD OF BISHOPS

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Fair Warning

The bishops of the lower east coast (Diocese of Wilmington all the way down to the Archdiocese of Miami and including the Archdiocese for the Military Services) held their annual four day retreat for the first time this year at the Bethany Center. Our “retreat master” was Bishop Jaime Soto, the bishop of Sacramento, California and his short talks to us focused on the psalms and their meaning and application for our lives today. I found his insights and his applications to be challenging, thoughtful and very rewarding. The retreat master in addition to speaking to a “gaggle” of bishops, has to give ten conference and three homilies at Mass during the three and a half day annual retreat. This was the first time that my brothers from episcopal regions 4 (provinces of Baltimore, Washington and the Military Services) and 14 (Atlanta and Miami) met here in this diocese for the retreat and they found our Bethany Center beautiful, seductively silent, comfortable beyond belief for retreat centers, and the food as one bishop who had probably eaten too much, “better than on a cruise ship.” (We used to call a comparison like this, “damning with feint praise”) The staff at Bethany went out of their way to make the two cardinals, six archbishops, and twenty-four bishops in attendance comfortable. The non-spiritual highlight of the week occurred on Wednesday when Cardinal Wuerl spied two alligators. That word spread more quickly than the word of God. Then there were the herd of twenty deer who appeared at appropriate moments, the resident armadillo, the wild turkeys, the herons and a second alligator. Amazing the lengths we go to in pleasing our guests. This diocese shines, dear friends, in its people, places and programs. In a few days I will acknowledge my fifteen anniversary of ordination as a bishop and we have come through a lot and come a long way.

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THE WEEK THAT WASN’T

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Today also belongs to the Mother of the Redeemer as the Church pauses between Christmas and the Epiphany of the Lord to remind us of the significance of Mary in the story of our salvation. We celebrate her solemnity which is interesting because the only thing one can reasonably glean from the scriptural references these past few weeks is her “humility.” The joy of successful childbirth preceded by weeks of uncertainty, physical dislocation and discomfort, and giving birth without the known assistance of a mid-wife or what she might have had available to her in Nazareth quickly gives way to more uncertainty, physical dislocation, discomfort, and outright fear as she, Jesus and Joseph flee Herod’s jealousy. This is not a story that would play well on ET or make the cover and front pages of PEOPLE magazine. The solemnity is to be found in her incredible faith and trust in the Lord, in her religious belief and practice, and in her trust. How I long to comfortably possess in my own life those foundational elements of a person of true faith. Remember at Christmas I spoke of the “risks” one must take to come to Jesus? Tomorrow three more “risk-takers” show up on the scene, the Magi or “Wise Men.” They come to see Jesus bearing gifts, a message, and an uncertainty that quickly turns to an investment in faith when in the presence of the Lord, his mother and his foster-father. What happened in the week or days between Christmas and their arrival on the scene is silent and somewhat lost in Scripture, like the last seven days were for most of us, unless like Mary we took time to contemplate the place of Christ in our lives.

Christmas 2010 is mostly a blur to me already. I was planning to make a quick trip to see a friend who is an Archbishop and papal diplomat serving in another country but the great blizzard of Christmas in the Northeast left me sitting on the tarmac of my house wondering what to do, so I changed directions, literally and figuratively and went west to spend some days with a family in St. Louis with whom I have been very blessed with friendship for almost forty years now. Among the opportunities afforded me this past week was one to go and see what I consider one of the most extraordinary and compelling movies I have seen in some time. Titled The King’s Speech and now showing in this area at only three theaters (including the Tampa Theatre), this movie is definitely worth the look and if it does not win the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Actor for Colin Firth and best supporting actor for Derek Jacoby, then it will be a travesty. Rated as an “R” film, there is absolutely no sex in the flick at all. There is, however, the repeated use in several momentary segments of a four-letter word which is always inappropriate in daily speech. The story is about King George VI of England, Queen Elizabeth’s father, who was second in line of succession to the throne but succeeded when his older brother who most of us remember not as King Edward but the Duke of Windsor abdicated to marry an American woman and divorcee, Wallace Simpson. George VI was born with a stutter and stammer and wanted no part of being King until thrust into it by the decision of his brother David (aka, King Edward). His wife seeks out a speech therapist and therein lies the story. Want to feel good in the early moments of 2011, go see this one.

My Christmas Day was full as expected and also as expected the day’s climactic moment of Mass at the Hillsborough Correctional Institution for Women was the highlight. My how they sang and prayed. I confirmed two of the inmates during the ceremony who had been prepared for the sacrament by the wonderful women and men who work there as volunteers, mostly from Prince of Peace parish in Sun City Center and Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission in Waimauma. My deep sleep Christmas night was interrupted by a phone call at 4 a.m. informing me of the flight cancellations. I went back to sleep dreaming not of sugar plum fairies but of the faces of those who had come in the previous twenty-four hours to see Jesus.

Yesterday, I joined about  dozen of our priests and offered the Funeral Mass for Clarice Larkin, the sister of our beloved former bishop, W. Thomas Larkin. With her passing, a chapter in the emerging history of the Diocese of St. Petersburg comes to a close. May she rest in the peace which she found difficult to find in this life and take her place alongside her beloved brother and parents in everlasting life.

Happy New Year, all

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