Archive for January, 2015

TWO THAT ARE WELL WORTH YOUR READ

Friday, January 30th, 2015

I have finished my first attempt at a new blog entry but I need at least another day to allow it to settle to be totally comfortable with it. In the meantime, I commend to your reading two excellent pieces.

First, the long interview with the new Archbishop of Chicago, Blasé Cupich, which appears in the current issue of Commonweal magazine.

The second is in my opinion the best homily I have ever heard delivered yesterday by its new bishop, +Christopher Coyne at his installation as Bishop of Burlington, Vermont. As a former English teacher and as an aging bishop, he hits a veritable home run – literally and ecclesiologically. Thanks are due to the mother of all ecclesial blogs, Whispers in the Loggia for making the latter available so quickly.

Two new bishops beginning their tenure as shepherds firmly rooted in the reality of today’s church and speaking from the lived experience of today’s Church. It is exciting.

+RNL

GOODBYE NINE, HELLO TEN

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

It’s past time for a little light relief in this space. A number of things happened outside of the life of the Church in recent days to set me thinking about the topic contained in the title to this blog entry.

First, there was the announcement that my favorite baseball player had been traded by my favorite baseball team – BEN ZOBRIST. That news was a bitter pill and hard to swallow. Like most RAYS fans, we hated saying good-bye to David Price two-thirds of the way through last season and it was really hard to realize that the team’s future would not include Andrew Friedman who I always thought was a “genius” and Joe Madden who I have long held was the best manager in baseball. But I took comfort that this year we would still have “Gentle Ben” and “Longo”. Especially the former.

I loved watching Ben Zobrist play baseball. But I loved even more Ben Zobrist watching with pride and love as his wife Julianna would occasionally sing the National Anthem before a Rays game. It was clear to me that he loved her more than he loved baseball as he shot her a sign of that love at the end of the song.  I sat in the waiting room of my doctor who was also Ben’s family doctor when one day he and she brought the children to the office. It was clear to me then that he loved his children even more than he loved baseball. And it has always been clear to me that Ben Zobrist loved God more than he loved baseball as he was ever ready to appear at a local Church to show the kids that real men could indeed love God and have faith.

Then I read their book, Double Play, co-authored by both which told the story of their meeting, their falling in love, their challenges living with the vagaries of professional sports. To me Ben Zobrist is not just a great baseball player but a great example for kids and adults. Toward the end of last season, a friend of mine whose father, a retired Florida judge, asked if I might secure an autographed baseball since his Dad attended the same Protestant Church in Eureka, Illinois where Ben’s Dad is pastor. I asked our common doctor and he approached Ben who gladly did it with a lovely inscription – more than just an autograph.

Madden gave him the nickname “Zorilla” but for me he will always be a great witness to love for and faith in Christ, a great husband and father, and a steady student of the fine art of baseball in all its manifestations. I personally will greatly miss him. I wish him well always and hope and pray that I will be found worthy to meet him again in heaven.

Having lived in Columbus, Ohio from 1957 until 1972, and also having attended the Ohio State University, the Buckeyes kept me up later last night than usual and I rejoiced at their convincing victory. Urban Meyer is a serious Catholic as well as a fine leader of men and football coach. I was happy for him and for his team.

I don’t have a dog in the NFL hunt though I am developing a great appreciation for Aaron Rodgers. I think I am going to need someone in the pro-ranks to root for as it appears that Peyton Manning may soon be fading from the scene. I will switch my quarterback allegiance, however, in a nanosecond if the Bucs draft Marcus Mariota, a truly gifted athlete for whom narcissism is simply a Greek root and humility is genuine and deeply appreciated.

Here I have mentioned men of discipline, character and faith. We need more of them – in life, in the Church, and in professional sports. By the way, a special prize to anyone who can tell me in the comment section the context of the title to this blog!

+RNL

CHALLENGING THE TRADITIONAL TEACHING ON MARRIAGE

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Everyone living in the state of Florida knows by now that various judicial rulings in recent months has led to a change in state law allowing same-sex marriages to be recognized as legal. I write not as someone schooled in the law, which I am not. Were I, I would love to study how courts can overrule a decision of the citizenry passed as a state constitutional amendment. I am also not a sociologist or psychologist. Were I, I would love to plumb deeper into my uncertainty about the consequences of this new definition of marriage for the future of society. I am rather a pastor and shepherd looking to the peripheries for people in the Church who long have felt alienated, unwanted, embarrassed, angry and marginalized.

In this moment in Florida, I take some comfort in that my beloved Church under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of Pope Francis had already begun a discussion about how we might reach out in love to those same people in the peripheries while upholding the traditional sacramental definition of marriage even as the civil society appeared to be moving away from it. It is indeed a tightrope to be treaded but I find myself akin to the Wallenda family standing at one end attempting to gain some balance to begin a thoughtful journey across the seeming chasm.

As I was beginning yesterday to develop my first thoughts on what was happening for this space, I received an email from the editor of the “Perspectives” section of the Tampa Bay Times editorial section asking if I would submit my thoughts on all of this for publication this morning. He accepted that work product and I agreed that I would wait a day before posting it here and in our diocesan web page. What follows is what appeared in today’s Times.

In light of the judicial decision effective January 6, 2014, I wish to lend an additional voice to the discussion regarding the challenges we face as we strive as a Church to preserve the traditional sacramental understanding of marriage even as the law now accommodates couples of the same sex. 

As one of our seven sacraments, the Catholic Church upholds marriage as an indissoluble relationship between a man and a woman committed to mutual consolation and open to procreation.  Such a view is rooted not only in the Church’s longstanding theological understanding of married life, but in the Church’s understanding of Christian anthropology as well, which views the conjugal and complementary relationship between a man and a woman as part of God’s Providential design whereby human beings are able to be co-creators of life with God.

Therefore, any dialogue which reaffirms such a view of marriage and which seeks to ensure that such a view continues to be respected and enabled to serve and edify both the Church and the wider society is to be commended and supported.

However, together with Pope Francis and in light of the discussions at the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family held in Rome, I also recognize that the reality of the family today, in all its complexities, presents the Church with pastoral challenges as the Church strives to accept people in the specific circumstances of their lives and support and encourage them in their search for God and their desire to be members of the Church.  Therefore, I do not wish to lend our voice to notions which might suggest that same sex couples are a threat incapable of sharing relationships marked by love and holiness and, thus, incapable of contributing to the edification of both the Church and the wider society.

In the midst of changing societal definitions and understandings of marriage, there may no doubt be some confusion.  However, with patience and humility, our Church must continuously strive to discern what the Spirit is saying and respond to the Synod Fathers’ suggestion to discern what pastoral response faithful to Church teaching and marked by respect and sensitivity might be appropriate for same sex couples, even as God’s creative designs for and the Church’s sacramental understanding of marriage are also affirmed.

Bishop Robert N. Lynch
Diocese of St. Petersburg