Archive for March, 2014

NOT EXACTLY THE RED SEA BUT A SEA OF RED

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

I am on the plane returning to the diocese from two recent board meetings which I serve on. The first is the Board of Directors of the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) which is located in and requires travel to and from New York five times a year.

CMMB has been around a long time but is not well known to most Catholics. With its origin and roots in the Society of Jesus, CMMB accepts donation of huge supplies of pharmaceuticals, hospital and medical equipment, etc. and distributes them for use in about nine poor “focus” countries and elsewhere in the desperately poor world. I will write more about CMMB soon.

From bitterly cold New York I flew Monday evening to bitterly cold Tallahassee for the annual Red Mass at which I was asked to be the homilist and the quarterly meeting of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Our day yesterday began with breakfast with Governor Scott at the Mansion. The governor has grown quite comfortable and relaxed with the bishops over the last three years and our conversation focused on many items of common concern. I brought up the subject of Medicaid expansion to allow access to non-Emergency but necessary medical care to the poor and indigent. Governor Scott would be supportive but the legislation has no “legs” in the present Florida House and Senate. This is a shame and an embarrassment.

After a morning of Conference business, we met our various delegations who descended on capitol city dressed in their traditional red clothes for Catholic Days at the Capitol, a two-day event for Catholics from around the state to gather and discuss human life and dignity issues with elected officials.

There were over 350 at the luncheon for the volunteers which the bishops host each Spring during the legislative session, including forty-seven from the Diocese of St. Petersburg, including a delegation from St. Petersburg Catholic High School who are pictured here with me prior to the luncheon.

With seniors from St Petersburg Catholic and chaperones "lobbying" the Legislature

With seniors from St Petersburg Catholic and chaperones “lobbying” the Legislature

Here is a photo of our entire delegation, graciously taken and shared with us by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Our delegation. Photo kindness of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Our delegation. Photo kindness of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In the afternoon, the state’s now eight bishops gathered for the Red Mass in a jam-packed Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More.

With the Bishops of Florida before the Red Mass. From left to right: Most Reverend Gregory Parkes, Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee; Most Reverend Peter Baldacchino, Auxilary Bishop of Miami; Most Reverend Felipe J. Estévez, Bishop of St. Augustine; myself; Most Reverend Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami; Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach; Most Reverend John Noonan, Bishop of Orlando; and Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice.

With the Bishops of Florida before the Red Mass. From left to right: Most Reverend Gregory Parkes, Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee; Most Reverend Peter Baldacchino, Auxilary Bishop of Miami; Most Reverend Felipe J. Estévez, Bishop of St. Augustine; myself; Most Reverend Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami; Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach; Most Reverend John Noonan, Bishop of Orlando; and Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice.

My homily which is solely based on yesterday’s two readings from Deuteronomy and Matthew follows, or you can read it as a PDF by clicking here. I hope I did not embarrass our beloved diocese.

SOMETIMES WE NEED A GENTLE TAP ON OUR SHOULDER
Homily at the Red Mass
St. Thomas More Co-Cathedral, Tallahassee, FL
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of St. Petersburg 

            There are those moments in the Church, more rare than regular, when through the daily readings from Sacred Scripture and on special occasions such as this that one can feel the gentle touch of the Lord’s hand on our shoulder and his whisper, “this is meant for you.” The two readings just proclaimed are those for the day, everywhere, throughout the world, and yet they seem to have special import for us this evening gathered in this place.

            In God’s plan for His people, law has always occupied an important place. In the first reading, freed from the tyranny, slavery and wanton injustice of the Egyptian exile, God knew that his chosen people would need a framework of law by which to govern their life and actions upon their return to their homeland. Statutes, which would govern their relationship both with their creator as well as with one another. To Moses. their liberator and leader, he proposed ten simple statutes: thirty percent dealing with their relationship with Him and seventy percent dealing with their relationship with one another. Called “commandments” because they were to allow for no wiggle room of interpretation or appeal to a higher power, since there was no such thing, they set the framework for life which endures throughout the millennia to the present moment.

            Respect life, don’t take it. Never steal. Stealing the good name of another through calumny and slander has no place among God’s people. Honor your parents and ancestors. When you take someone to be your wedded partner, be faithful to that person. God knew well the weaknesses, which dwell in human hearts and he legislated primarily for the common good. In so doing, in the eyes of God and humankind, law became constitutive of the human experience, necessary to insure right conduct and hallowed by none other than the creator.

            Moses knew that ten laws would never be enough but were to provide the foundation, the framework for future guidance of human conduct. Centuries passed between Moses and Jesus, but the Lord himself underscored the need for law in the lives of us all. Pharaoh had been replaced by Caesar and divine law had been forced to give way to legislation enacted in far-away pagan Rome to be applied in far distant Jewish Palestine. But Jesus in the Gospel again affirms the place of law in the lives of a faithful person. Though not a lawyer, I find Jesus siding with the Scalia, Thomas, and Alito wing of the Supreme Court in a belief that law, at least divine law, is not organic but foundational. I think that is precisely what Jesus is suggesting in the Gospel tonight: “whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” 

            Thus my second point is that God’s Word tonight touches us ever so gently on the shoulder to remind us that all law is founded on the twin pillars of love of God and love of neighbor. While a secular state must approach the former with great dexterity, the rule of law rooted in the love and care and welcome provided to one’s neighbor is embraceable by all the world’s great religions. If as Jesus affirms, his appointed task in becoming man and coming to earth was not to abolish the law but rather to fulfill it, then that fulfillment finds itself in his never-ending desire to place his life, his ministry, his mission at the service of others. Government works best when it is constantly at the service of others and not of itself.

            Third and finally, in most of our lives, we sin today not so often by commission but by omission. The commandments tell us what we must avoid doing. Our Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions tell us more about what we ought to be doing. Caring for the modern day equivalents of widows and orphans, the defenseless and the endangered, the lonely and the brave (especially those who bear the emotional and psychological scars of having served our nation in defense of the rights of others.) I am convinced that I will be judged not so much on how well I fulfilled the ten commandments but rather on how often I reached out to grasp the hand stretched out to me by a homeless man, a battered woman, a fear-filled immigrant, a family seeking medical care for a child which they can not afford, a single mom working at McDonalds forty hours a week but still not earning enough to support her two kids, a victim of sexual abuse by someone they should have trusted like a priest, scout leader, big-brother. So often these acts of loving outreach get filed away as what Jesus called tonight “the least of these commandments.” My generation has a lot to answer for to the Lord on Judgment Day, even if all we seek is entrance into and not the greatest place in the Kingdom of heaven.

            Governor, Senator, Representative, Judge, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Religious and all of God’s people. Feel the touch. Listen to His voice as he says, this one’s for you. Often it is what we have failed to do which is more violative of the spirit of the law than what we do with the letter of the law. 

We do have some photos from the trip already, graciously taken and shared by Sabrina Burton Shultz, our Director of Life Ministry and Jackie Briggs, Campus Minister at St. Petersburg Catholic High School. You can see the photos by clicking here. More photos will be added to that album as they are received.

So it is back home this morning and hard at it till Easter.

Tonight I will be hearing confessions from five p.m. to seven p.m. as we offer our annual THE LIGHT IS ON FOR YOU opportunity for all to experience the healing graces of the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.

I invite you to come to Confession at one of our parishes tonight. EVERY Catholic Church in the diocese will turn on its lights and open its doors for YOU. Here is a short guide on Reconciliation in English and Spanish should you need it.

 2014_LIOFY_letter_final

 It will be nice to be back home.

+RNL

BACK TO THE FUTURE

Monday, March 24th, 2014

I am giving an anniversary party this Saturday morning, March 29, 2014 and you are all invited.

It will be held at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg beginning at 9:00 a.m. and will end no later than 1:00 p.m. What’s the occasion, you ask?

2014_Sacred_Liturgy_Poster_8.5x11

Last December the universal Church celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the first document to emerge from the Second Vatican Council entitled Sacrosanctum Concilium. We know it better as the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” and it was to change, rather quickly; some might say too quickly, the manner, language and style of Catholic worship.

Out, or so it seemed, went the use of Latin as the universal language of the liturgy; gone, or so it seemed went much of the music which Catholics of my age and generation had grown up with. The seeming mystery of sacred action taken by the priest with his back to the congregation quickly gave way to moving and shifting altars so that suddenly the priest was facing the people and they, in turn, were encouraged to full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy.

I am absolutely certain that had the Council fathers not seen to the reform and renewal of the sacred liturgy there would be far, far fewer Catholics in the pews today than we currently enjoy.

Over the intervening fifty years, there have been some horrible moments (the introduction of so-called “clown” liturgies being the absolute pyrogee) and some pretty bad music. But those were the early years and over five decades the liturgy of the Eucharist has become more ritualized than in the beginning and while, when one travels throughout the world, Mass can be attended in the many languages of humanity, it has morphed into a celebration which has nourished the mind and spirit as well as the soul with the reception of our Blessed Lord.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory. Photo kindness of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and Michael Alexander.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory. Photo kindness of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and Michael Alexander.

At this Saturday’s “anniversary party”, I have asked Archbishop Wilton C. Gregory, Archbishop of Atlanta and himself a holder of an advanced degree in Liturgy, to review in a keynote address the evolution of the Mass from what it was fifty years ago prior to the Council to the best of the present moment.

The Archbishop did this for the nation’s bishops last November at our meeting in Baltimore and I knew then that we could all benefit from listening to him as he recounts how far we have come from those early days. We are graced to have the Archbishop with us next Saturday morning.

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond. Photo kindness of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond. Photo kindness of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

To look into what the future of liturgy may hold, I have asked Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans, to give the follow up address. Archbishop Aymond has just completed three years as chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship and the Liturgy and knows well what is being contemplated for the future.

Liturgical renewal is a constant process that should never end as long as there is life on this planet. For example, the prayers which priests, deacons and some religious pray each day, The Divine Office, has not been touched since the 1970s and is currently under study. So is the form for some of the other sacraments, several of them for the first time in fifty years. Archbishop Aymond will give us a peek into the future in his talk.

This local Church is very lucky that both of these men so generously will give of heir time to be among us and share with us the blessings of the first fifty years of the renewed liturgy as well as what it portends for the future. I am personally grateful for their willingness to accept my invitation to enlighten us next Saturday.

I hope we fill the Cathedral. Morning prayer will begin at 9:00 a.m., coffee and donuts will be available at the break between the two talks and, best of all, there is NO CHARGE for the morning. Consider it an anniversary gift from me to you!

Visit www.dosp.org to register (so we know how much coffee and donuts to provide) and please share this invitation with those who might not regularly read this blog.

+RNL

FUTURE NOW

Friday, March 21st, 2014

It has been my custom all these years to visit our two seminaries annually and when I can manage it, our seminarians also studying in Rome at the North American College and outside of Boston at St. John XXIII National Seminary (n.b.: I know, I am anticipating!).

Last year the seminary visitation was not necessary because we were all together for the extraordinary trip to the Holy Land during the New Year’s break from their studies. And, while my presence is needed twice a year at both Florida seminaries for meetings of the Board of Trustees, it is never possible to spend any quality time with the seminarians or those responsible for their formation on those occasions.

So, last week I resumed the custom again and visited St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach where our men spend their last five years of study and formation and St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami where they complete their college studies or pre-theology.

With our seminarians at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. (First row, left to right): Alec DeDios, Anthony Astrab, Connor Penn, Patrick Lambert, Chris Grevenites, Manny Gozo, Ralph D'Elia. (Second row, left to right): Fr. Carl Melchior, Joshua Bertrand, Drew Woodke, Billy Augensen, myself, Msgr. John Cippel, Joshua Hare, Mark Yarnold

With our seminarians at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. (First row, left to right): Alec DeDios, Anthony Astrab, Connor Penn, Patrick Lambert, Chris Grevenites, Manny Gozo, Ralph D’Elia. (Second row, left to right): Fr. Carl Melchior, Joshua Bertrand, Drew Woodke, Billy Augensen, myself, Msgr. John Cippel, Joshua Hare, Mark Yarnold

 

At the St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. (First row, left to right: Msgr. Mike Muhr, myself, Father Carl Melchior, Deacon Jonathan Emery. (Second row, left to right): Elixavier Castro, Kyle Bell, Dan Angel, Deacon Kyle Smith, Tim Williford, Jackson Reeves. (Third row, left to right): Anthony Ustick, Chuck Dornquast, Curtis Carro, Lou Turcotte, Bill Santhouse, Deacon Brian Fabiszewski

At the St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. (First row, left to right: Msgr. Mike Muhr, myself, Father Carl Melchior, Deacon Jonathan Emery. (Second row, left to right): Elixavier Castro, Kyle Bell, Dan Angel, Deacon Kyle Smith, Tim Williford, Jackson Reeves. (Third row, left to right): Anthony Ustick, Chuck Dornquast, Curtis Carro, Lou Turcotte, Bill Santhouse, Deacon Brian Fabiszewski

Our medium size diocese has been generous for some time in lending both seminaries some great priests for the faculty and for Spiritual Direction. As strapped as we are for priests, it only makes sense to most of us that we invest in the quality, education, spiritual and pastoral formation of our future priests. Currently both the Rector/President of St. Vincent de Paul (Monsignor David Toups) and the Spiritual Director of the same (Monsignor Michael Muhr) are from the St. Petersburg Diocese.

When two years ago, the Archdiocese of Miami was unable to provide a sufficient number of in-house priest spiritual directors, I asked Monsignor John Cippel, who had been retired from administrative duty for a few years, if he would pitch in and help by going to and living at St. John Vianney for two years as Spiritual Director (something he had previously done at St. Vincent de Paul before becoming pastor of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Spring Hill in 1995). He is completing those two years of heroic service and wishes to return to our area to continue his amazing retirement activity.

I mention this because I am aware that last week Father Arthur Proulx, pastor for eleven years at Nativity in Brandon, announced that he would be leaving that parish to begin a term of service as a Spiritual Director at St. John Vianney in Miami. I have already heard about the pain that announcement and the decision which preceded it has brought to many at Nativity. I understand it and acknowledge that it springs from great respect and appreciation which is held for Father Proulx.

But we have fourteen men at St. John Vianney in pre-theology and college and Miami (which owns and operates the seminary and promised when St. Vincent de Paul Seminary became provincially owned by all the Florida dioceses that it would cover the cost and staffing of the college) still has no one to provide at this time. If you sat where I sit, you would not stand idle either and deprive not just our men, but others in the 85 student strong resident college seminary community of spiritual direction during a very important part of their lives. The parishioners of Christ the King understand this, in their heart and from experience. They gave up both Monsignors Muhr and Toups to the seminary with the fond hope that young men being ordained would come back better for having these two guides and examples during their formation.

I have an opportunity on these visits to have some private moments with each seminarian. They share with me their joys as well as their trials and readily provide me with an insight as to how they are doing in their pursuit of understanding better God’s call in terms of their own vocation. Believe me, dear reader, it is not easy in today’s world to give up the love of a potential wife and the attraction of another profession. Some of our pre-theologians hold degrees in engineering from UF or FSU or UCF and USF to name a few. They once dreamed of something else and then felt this calling from the Lord, which they will test out right up until the moment of their ordination. I admire them so deeply and firmly believe that without exception you would be honored to have any of them as your sons and we will be honored, please God, to have them some day as our brothers in the priesthood.

They care for one another very well also. Our men, on their own, make it their personal duty to weekly pray together, share their life experience over the past week with their peers, and fairly regularly to recreate together. They are already a “band of brothers” and this augurs well for the future of ministry in this diocese. Priests today and more so since the sexual abuse crisis of the last decade need to support one another. Almost without exception I find them devoid of clericalism and in the seminary because they feel called by the Lord to serve His people and not themselves. They know how to gently “needle” one another but never in a manner or way that hurts someone else. In fact, at the dinner which I have with them during these visits, they can be quite fun. I don’t remember during my seminary days of ever being as open, unthreatened and casual with my bishop at the time. In the end, however, they are very respectful of authority and genuinely understand its place in the Church.

Before I leave both seminaries we celebrate the Eucharist together and it is then when I see their deep commitment to prayer. I pray that the men are learning that it is what they do after ordination as priests at Eucharist and not what they wear that is important. I pray that they will come to appreciate that the greatest privilege that can be accorded any priest is to be truly and genuinely called “Father” and not to worry about other honors, privileges and distinctions. I pray that they will understand that if they have truly become whom they have received in the Eucharist, they will yearn to walk out of that chapel or any Church like Jesus would and serve the poor, battle societal injustice, call to serve both women and men in our parishes, embrace the great gifts of women to serve in any and all ministries and offices open to them, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Yes, it is a tall order but something tells me that the men I spent time with last week will not repeat the mistakes of my generation and will serve the Lord with genuine gladness, sacrifice and dedication.

They are the future, now!

+RNL

A LOT LIKE ST. JOSEPH

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Today the universal church celebrates the Solemnity of St. Joseph, foster father of our Lord and husband to Mary.

But this year we must also acknowledge that it is also first year anniversary since the formal Mass of Installation of Pope Francis. I missed the opportunity last week to offer some reflections on the “year in review” but lots of other people seized the occasion and there is a lot out there which needs not being repeated even in these lines.

Yesterday morning I arose to find that Rocco Palmo had once again served the Church well by posting eight minutes of remarks by our present Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò given last Sunday at the conclusion of a Mass remembering the Holy Father’s election and celebrated at the National Shrine Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

In those eight minutes, Archbishop Vigano spoke every thing which I would have liked to have written but he said them better than I.

Thanks to the mother of all ecclesial blogs (www.whispersintheloggia.com), I am happy to share with you these thoughts, via the video below, with deep and abiding gratitude to Archbishop Vigano who is, like St. Joseph, a treasure to the Church.

Hope you watch and listen:

+RNL

COMMITMENTS, COMMITMENTS

Monday, March 17th, 2014

I have not had an opportunity to return to this blog in too many weeks and yesterday my brother Tim asked if I was “all right?” since he had not read anything of my composition the last couple of weeks. It was a very busy time leading up to Ash Wednesday, made more complicated by the previously mentioned quick trip to London for the funeral of my friend, Canon Adrian Arrowsmith.

Quite unplanned during that soiree was that my presence coincided with the return to his archdiocese from the consistory which made him a Cardinal of my friend, Vincent Nichols. Off the plane, into the shower, and then to Westminster Cathedral for his Mass of Welcome. The new Cardinal is such a good preacher that though fighting it, I remained awake throughout his homily. The beautiful Cathedral was filled to the rafters for the occasion.

The funeral was in a parish Church in Ruislip, which is a London suburb near Heathrow airport where the Canon had served as pastor many years ago. The Church was quite full of friends and admirers of Monsignor Adrian, including the Academy Award winning English actress Maggie Smith (aka, “the Dowager Lady” on Downton Abbey) and Michael Crawford, the first Phantom in London and New York in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Phantom of the Opera.” With friends like that the aging bishop of St. Petersburg was hardly noticed. The funeral was over at 1215pm and I found myself at Heathrow Airport by 1245pm for a 205pm Delta flight to Atlanta and back to Tampa.

Up early the next day for Ash Wednesday. For a number of years I have been saying Ash Wednesday Mass next door to my office at St. Petersburg Catholic High School. I like saying Mass there as the students are quite respectful and well behaved, often joined by a good number of parents and this year the music provided by the assembled student choir was quite good.

Distributing ashes at Mass at St. Petersburg Catholic High School. Photo kindness of John Christian.

Distributing ashes at Mass at St. Petersburg Catholic High School. Photo kindness of John Christian.

I encouraged them to do more this year than simply give alms (money) to some cause for the poor but to personally deliver their Lenten sacrifice to some person, some face, somebody. I tried to build on the Holy Father’s challenge to go out of our individual comfort zones to share Christ with the poorest of the poor. Anyone can give money to a good cause, “do not sinners and tax collectors” do the same, but to see the face of God in another person who is not nearly as comfortable in life as perhaps we are is to be an authentic Christian during Lent and even beyond. I think I got through. I hope I got through. I trust that I believe it myself and will do the same.

My pastors reported astounding and outstanding crowds in Church to receive ashes this year. See some photos from Ash Wednesday around our diocese here.

The first Sunday of Lent brought the Rite of Election to the Cathedral and we had a record number in my eighteen years of catechumens and candidates (the former to be baptized, confirmed and first Eucharist and the latter to be received, first penance, confirmed and first Eucharist) to welcome into the Church at the Easter Vigil.

While I do not have the exact number of each at my disposal as I write this, memory seems to indicate that we had slightly over 1100 at the Cathedral for our two sessions. The place was packed with people standing at both services.

A "full house" at the 1:30PM prayer service. It was also a "full house" at the 4:00PM prayer service. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

A “full house” at the 1:30PM prayer service. It was also a “full house” at the 4:00PM prayer service. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Our wonderful Worship Office does a great job of preparing for this moment annually and those who come are amazed, first by the number of women, men and children, who like themselves are seeking entrance into the Church and then by the beauty of the Church’s Evening Prayer.

At the 1:30PM prayer service. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

At the 1:30PM prayer service. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

At the 1:30PM prayer service. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

At the 1:30PM prayer service. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

At the 4:00PM prayer service. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

At the 4:00PM prayer service. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

At the 4:00pm prayer service.

At the 4:00pm prayer service. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Among the firsts this year was that it was possible for those in wheelchairs to come to me in the sanctuary because of the newly renovated Cathedral and I had my first “selfie” request (see pictures below) (darn Pope!).

The selfie request. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

The selfie request. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

The selfie taken and shared  with me by Kathryn, a RCIA candidate from St. Lawrence Parish in Tampa.

The selfie, taken and shared with me by Kathryn, a RCIA candidate from St. Lawrence Parish in Tampa.

I always leave feeling that a mere handshake and brief greeting is not enough on my part for these courageous people but they leave swearing that they are not going to wash their hands for the rest of the day. God is good!

You can view photos from the 1:30PM Rite of Election Prayer Service and the 4:00PM Rite of Election Prayer Service by clicking on the included links.

Just before Lent began we had the annual Marriage Jubilee Mass with also an overflowing crowd. Close to 400 couples celebrating 25, 50, 60+ and even 70+ years of marriage joined me for Mass and a reception following at St. Jude’s Cathedral.

Talk about collective adrenalin, this Mass has it in super-abundance. Music this year was provided by the young women and men of Largo High School’s concert choir who, though many were not Catholic, rehearsed and led us in Catholic hymnody quite beautifully and this is a Mass at which there are no “strangers” to our liturgy so the singing and responses are always quite robust.

The special presentation of the longest married with to Ray and Marge Flack from New Port Richey who had been married for seventy-one years and behaved like two people just dating and falling in love in the front row of the Cathedral.

With Ray and Marge Flack. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

With Ray and Marge Flack. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

In an era when the very definition of marriage is being changed by society, it was quite comforting to spend time at prayer with couples who renewed their promises and commitments to one another during the year of a major anniversary celebration.

A couple renewing their marriage vows. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

A couple renewing their marriage vows. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Another couple renewing their marriage vows. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Another couple renewing their marriage vows. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

It’s always a “kick” and thanks go to our Marriage and Family Life office and to the leadership of Marriage Encounter in the diocese, who annually direct, seat and assist those present. See more photos from the Marriage Jubilee Mass here.

Finally, while thinking of “commitment”, on the Friday prior to the Marriage Jubilee Mass I was at the White House in Washington. Let me begin by saying that none of the present four occupants of that real estate were anywhere to be seen.

Instead, in the First Lady’s reception room of the East End, our Father Michael Morris who is serving as an Air Force Chaplain was promoted from the rank of Major to that of Lieutenant Colonel.

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Colonel/Father Michael Morris during the promotion pinning on ceremony.

Colonel/Father Morris has been assigned for the past few years as Chaplain to the Military attached to the White House, a special honor to be sure in its own right.  That assignment is most likely how he earned the opportunity to be raised in rank in such distinguished “digs.”

Because it was happening at the White House, however, was not the reason I chose to attend. It is fairly well known that Father Michael is battling a very rare and aggressive form of cancer, which seems to be winning. In spite of chemo infusions and all that accompanies what millions of people go through with this disease, he carries on with his commitment to his God, church and nation. With both parents deceased and only his brother and sister-in-law in attendance as his family, I wanted to be present for this occasion as did Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services.

Myself, Colonel/Father Morris, and Archbishop Broglio

Myself, Colonel/Father Morris, and Archbishop Broglio

Both of us and everyone else the room on this occasion are proud of Colonel Morris and I ask you now to join the ever-widening cadre of people praying for him, his recovery if it is God’s will and his continued grit and determination to soldier on.

Enough for now. More about commitment later this week when I describe my visit last week to our two seminaries and to our seminarians.

+RNL