Posts Tagged ‘Reconciliation’

MERCY, MERCY, MERCY

Friday, February 26th, 2016

Regular readers of this blog know of my love for Pope Francis. So it is with unaccustomed temerity and alacrity that I have chosen in this diocese to highlight mercy in a different manner than Pope Francis has asked. Many of you know that he has asked that every Cathedral Church in the world be open this Saturday for twenty-four hours of confessional opportunity and we shall not be offering that at St. Jude’s as recommended. I hope what we will be doing will be found pleasing to him, to yourselves, and more realistic for our time and local setting.

You see, if we were to have at least one priest hearing around the clock at St. Jude’s, he would not be very busy – for a variety of reasons. Also, I would want to provide security for those who would come during the nighttime hours and that would mean hiring off-duty police, etc.

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God is pure mercy.

What we are doing beginning next Monday is offering eleven opportunities throughout the five counties for our people to experience the tenderness, compassion and mercy of our God.

Communal penance services will be held in each of the locations, which I will list below and will be presided over and preached by myself. In each of our deaneries, priests have been enlisted to hear confessions and absolve from sins. Many of them will help out at more than their own deanery.

To assist in hearing the sins and granting pardon and absolution, these penance services will utilize what is referred to as the “Second Rite of Reconciliation.” This is how it will work. The opening prayers, scripture reading, homily and examination of conscience will take about twenty-five minutes. There will also be a recited Act of Contrition after which those wishing to confess their sins will do so to individual priests who will be stationed everywhere. Let me emphasize several important things:

  1. Penitents should confess only mortal sins or those failings they truly believe to be serious.
  2. This is not a moment or a good occasion to seek counseling. If it is needed or thought to be needed by the priest, a recommendation will be made to return at a later time for a conversation with the/a priest.
  3. The priest will assign a penance to be said prior to leaving the Church but will not ask the penitent to say that Act of Contrition again.
  4. The priest will pronounce the words of absolution and the penitent will be sent forth assured that his/her sins are truly forgiven.

We used this form in 2000 during Lent of the Great Holy Year and several thousand people came to the sacrament or came back to the sacrament.

These diocesan-wide Penance Services should not be confused with the Third Rite of Reconciliation, which is called “general absolution.” In our form, every person approaches a priest, confesses their sins, and receives both absolution and a penance. My memory of the 2000 experience was that due to the number of priests hearing confessions each evening, we were able to reconcile and bring closure, peace and mercy to sometimes in excess of 1000 per night within about ninety minutes. At each service, if someone needs more time and attention, there will be one or two priests available to help.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation, aka confession, is one of Christ’s great gifts to us and it is within this context that we can most often and most appropriately extend the loving mercy of the Lord to many.

Try us – you will like us! Here is the schedule for the Diocese during the next few weeks of Lent- you can find parish addresses and directions on the diocesan website.

Mon, Feb. 29 St. Scholastica Lecanto 7:00 p.m.
Tues, Mar 1 St. Theresa Spring Hill 7:00 p.m.
Wed, Mar 2 St. Thomas Port Richey 7:00 p.m.
Thurs, Mar 3 St. Timothy Lutz 7:00 p.m.
Mon, Mar 7 St. Ann Ruskin 7:00 p.m.
Tues, Mar 8 Our Lady of the Rosary Land O’Lakes 7:00 p.m.
Wed, Mar 9 Incarnation Tampa 7:00 p.m.
Thurs, Mar 10 Cathedral of St .Jude St. Petersburg 7:00 p.m.
Mon, Mar 14 St. Jerome Largo 7:00 p.m.
Tues, Mar 15 Espiritu Santo Safety Harbor 7:00 p.m.
Wed, Mar 16 St. Rita (En Español) Dade City 7:00 p.m.

There will be other moments during this Holy Year of Mercy for other opportunities to experience God’s mercy. Like others, I am awaiting Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Exhortation to perhaps shine some light on healing broken and re-marriages.

Come and join us during the next three weeks at the place most convenient to you to experience of your Church at its merciful best.

+RNL

FORTY DAYS OF GRAY

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

I bet at least I have your attention!

Some people look at and others believe that Lent is nothing less than forty days of penance, prayer, retreat into one’s own spiritual life to sift out all the accumulated weeds of the past year. Sackcloth and ashes or its modern day equivalents are the marks of the “darkest season” of the Church’s year. Baloney I say. Lent is also a period of great light, not just introspective light but ecclesial light as well.

True that Lent begins with ashes and a call to repentance. We need to hear that and we need to practice penance from time to time. Many have begun some form of personal sacrifice. I have given up fast food for Lent but have unleashed within my own office, which contains one theologian, whether or not Steak and Shake is fast food! (Steak and Shake says “no.” but I still stay away from them). But did not Jesus in the Gospel on Good Friday suggest that we should not put on the appearance of remorse and sacrifice? Vestments changed to violet. The “alleluia” bade us farewell for a brief period of time. We need some reminders of these forty days but there is also a lot to rejoice in as well.

Lent was no longer than four days when about 950 catechumens and candidates arrived at the Cathedral for the Rite of Election.

During the 1:30 p.m. Rite of Election. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

During the 1:30 p.m. Rite of Election. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

I wish the whole diocesan Church could be present for that simple moment in a person’s journey to baptism and full communion. They would have crawled to the Cathedral and simple gestures like a handshake and brief words of welcome were greeted by the broadest of smiles and words and gestures of thanks.

During the 4:00 p.m. Rite of Election. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

During the 4:00 p.m. Rite of Election. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

It is always a “wow” moment, for myself as bishop, for my pastors and priests who accompanied the candidates and catechumens to the Rite ceremony and to their sponsors, spouses, parents and others who accompanied them. So little brings such happiness to so many. You are an awesome God! And we are a great Church! You can see more photos by clicking here.

On Thursday night, March 12, every parish Church in the diocese will be open for confession.

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If you need it, do it! Even if you don’t need it, think about doing it. You can pick a Church on your way home from work, school, gymnastics class or a work out and there will be a priest waiting who knows you not but is desirous of assuring you of forgiveness, mercy, compassion and love. This now annual exercise is called “The Light is on for You.” Darkness be damned.

How about the readings at Sunday Mass throughout Lent? They don’t get any better than the temptation of Christ, the Transfiguration, the Woman at the Well, the Prodigal Son, and so on. And the first readings from major moments in salvation history, however familiar, stir the imagination and challenge the life of every believer. Would you have sacrificed your children for God like Abraham thought he would? Lots of parents I know have had to do so for an endless variety of painful reasons, bearing their suffering with greater faith than I can sometimes muster up. They are truly people of the light who suffered through an incredible period of gray.

Bishop Robert W. McElroy. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of San Francisco's website.

Bishop Robert W. McElroy. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of San Francisco’s website.

And then there is the Holy Father! He surely has not taken Lent off as a time to retreat into a prolonged period of penance. Today one of the members of the U.S. episcopacy whom I have admired for his intelligence, compassion and mercy, and commitment to justice for all has been made bishop of the seventh largest diocese in the United States, San Diego. Bishop Robert McElroy is a “Francis”can bishop if there ever was one and the good Catholics of San Diego have won the “Powerball” lottery. With Archbishop Cupich in the Midwest and Bishop McElroy in San Diego in the West, this Pope is refashioning the American hierarchy. Only briefly, however, do I wish I were younger.

I conclude with the acknowledgment that I am writing these words on a Delta flight from Chicago Midway Airport to Atlanta and then on to Tallahassee for “Catholic Days” at the Capitol. It was snowing and sleeting in Chicago this morning and our plane was late arriving from Atlanta. The Delta captain approached me and began the conversation with this question: “How is your Lent going, Father?” “Well,” I responded, “and yours?” “Me too,” he responded with a smile. He told me that he attends St. Michael’s parish in Auburn, Alabama, his home and was looking forward to making the last two nights of his parish’s annual mission.

Lent is far from forty days of gray, but rather is forty days of dawn. Enjoy it! Thanks for putting up with me!

+RNL

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.

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 It will be nice to be back home.

+RNL

WHAT A LENT THIS IS GOING TO BE

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

I am certain that almost every serious Catholic has spent the run-up this week to Ash Wednesday thinking about “Super” Monday. Here I use the word “super” only to emphasize the magnitude of the news to which we awakened some forty-eight hours ago. Pope Benedict’s momentous decision to stand down from his office of Pope later this month  commanded almost all of my energy Monday as I raced from one local TV station to another, answered phone calls and mail from friends and others, and had dinner with about twenty-six young men interested enough in a vocation to priesthood to come with their parish priests to dinner with the bishop (this latter group was full of good questions showing an interest in things “Churchy” that I found quite surprising.) As a consequence the time I would usually devote to preparing myself spiritually for Lent which began this morning was seriously encroached upon by the news coming from Rome and around the world.

Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Petersburg Catholic High School. Photo courtesy of Maria Mertens.

Distributing ashes during the Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Petersburg Catholic High School. Photo courtesy of Maria Mertens. View more photos by clicking here

Only last night, after coming home from my final confirmation for seven weeks (in this diocese we do not confirm during Lent), dead tired and knowing that I had my traditional Mass with the students of St. Petersburg Catholic High School this morning for Ash Wednesday in just a few hours, I retired to my chapel for some quiet time. It occurred to me that the three principal actions of Lent are all to be found in some way in Pope Benedict’s brave and humble decision. If fasting reflects sacrifice, imagine walking away in a few days from one of the world’s remaining spotlights. Even our critics acknowledge the continuing presence of the papacy and its influence in much of the world. While some might wish to write Popes off as irrelevant, they can not. Pope Benedict’s highly successful pastoral visits to Great Britain, to use only one example, showed that a politically neutral moral voice still has a role to play in the public square. This Holy Father can retire into the “wings” confident that he has made a difference. So he soon begins a life time fast of giving up the “spotlight” as you will, which has been his and watching the attention which remains with the office to come to his successor.

Pope Benedict has twice including this morning in his General Audience mentioned that he looks forward to spending his remaining days in prayer for the Church and (I am sure) for himself. During Lent we are all encouraged to look for more opportunities of communicating with our Lord in prayer. When Jesus grew weary and tired, the Gospels all tell us that he often went off to a “quiet place” to be alone in prayer. The Holy Father has chosen the same path in withdrawing from the glare of leadership of the Church and will spend his remaining time on earth praying for the Church, for us. In some ways, it would  not miss the mark too much to say that life will be one long Lent for Pope Benedict.

Finally, the thought occurred to me that in the challenge of “almsgiving” which is also a part of our Lent observance, there are many ways in which we can place ourselves at the service of others. Giving m0ney is one way but not the only way. It may come as a surprise to many, but the popes of the modern era are not rich men. I doubt if they ever receive a salary and while it is also true that they receive what they need to live and maintain a modest household, there is no such possibility as accumulated wealth derived from the papacy. They live simply in what I believe is incorrectly called a “palace” (sometimes “prison” would be a better word), spend a lot of their day seeing people and having little time for themselves, constantly preparing public statements, greetings, encyclical letters which have to be delivered within the next 24 hours, week or month. Benedict took time out from his little leisure time to write three wonderful books on Jesus of Nazareth, pure gifts – alms of another kind. He did not so much receive as a result of the office he held, but “spent” himself for us.

The Light Is on for YOU

The Light Is on for YOU

So, in these special forty days beginning today, each of us has an opportunity to join ourselves to him in the practice of this Lent by making more time for prayer, giving up something we hold precious but which might no longer be essential (at least for the next six weeks) and sharing our gifts, talents, selves with others even if we do not have the means to share “alms.” During Lent, giving of our “arms” can be just as fulfilling as giving of our “alms.” In  his final, humble and extraordinary gifting of himself, all of us can find something which we can do to make this Lent special. Confession and reconciliation are also essential and your parish will be having many opportunities for receiving the sacrament in the coming weeks, what with Penance Services and for the fifth year in a row, on Thursday, March 7th, “This Light is on for YOU” during which all our parishes will be open and priests available to hear your confession from 5pm until 7pm. Find out more information about “The Light Is on for YOU” by clicking here.

Lent 2013 begins with historic significance but at the personal level, the possibilities of turning away from sin and returning to the Gospel are even more awesome.

+RNL

IN WHOM DO WE PLACE OUR TRUST?

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Florida summer weather has finally come to far northern Michigan with a vengeance! This was the week-end when I attempted substituting for the pastor of the local parish by hearing confessions yesterday afternoon and celebrating and preaching the 5pm Vigil Mass and this morning’s 8 and 10am. The church is not air-conditioned so everyone felt the need to seek the visiting bishop out and apologize for the heat and humidity. They trusted I would understand. At least they did not blame me for bringing it along with me.

This week I thought a lot about how people in the Church can sometimes so disappoint God’s faithful people. I focused on how some highly trusted and “believed” personalities have fallen into ecclesial disgrace because of things which they have done in life which when revealed cost them their ministry. In my endless desire that this blog not be  place to vent my own anger or outrage, I will not use any names. But there have always been preachers of the Gospel whose actions when made publicly known brought sometimes shame, sometimes disbelief, sometimes great sadness to God’s people. In particular, possibly vunerable are those who are able through the use of the media to connect with the spiritual feelings of people, to often use their electronic pulpits to hammer others with whom they do not agree, to paint a path to holiness that gives great value to material poverty, doctrinal fidelity, clearly delineating the saved from those at risk losing their immortal souls only to be discovered to have themselves not lived by the code and sometimes even the creed which they preached. And when they are discovered, the community of believers are thrown into first the pain of disbelief and then the anger at the betrayal of trust. Everyone has their failings. God knows I do. But in my preaching and in my life I try not to make myself out to be perfect but rather a pilgrim, struggling to get it right more often than get it wrong. I try not to be judgmental in the administration of my office, but to give everyone the same chance at forgiveness which I often feel gifted with. I think the vast majority of priests in our Church try hard and struggle to live life in the gray and not in the black and white. We know the moral absolutes to be sure and we preach them and try to live them but we also know what it means to confess our sins, amend our lives and try hard to offend neither God or neighbor again.

In Christian history as in any history there have always been falls from grace. The presence of evil is a powerful force even in today’s society or maybe even better said it is a major force. It is the weed which attempts to strangle the shaft of wheat. However, God the sower, plants wheat everywhere and no force for evil can ever totally overcome the plan of God which is directed not just to the present but more importantly to the moment of “harvest.” Put your trust in God. Listen to our voices as long as we betray not the task which the Lord has given to us and preach the truth in love. The real soldiers of the Gospel are not those you see on TV or listen to on the radio or read in the printed word, but those who week in and week out stand before you in Church to unpack the Word of God and apply it to daily living – their own and as well as ours. Then your faith will be well placed and it will likely not be shaken in the presence of human failure. In God we trust!

+RNL

THIS CANDLE IS ON FOR YOU

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Our third diocesan opportunity to make the Sacrament of Reconciliation available and easy for as many people as possible was for the second year in a row accompanied by torrential rainfall, lightning and thunder and countless other disincentives. In fact in some of our parishes, the electricity was out and only a candle could shine for those who braved the elements to experience the healing power of this great sacrament. My thanks to the priests of the diocese who made themselves available for the three hours and to those who chose like the U.S. Postal Service to come despite rain and cold, etc. We will have to evaluate the collective experiences throughout the diocese to discern whether we should continue the practice but for the moment we all agreed that the Thursday of the Third Week of Lent would be the annual date. A reader took exception to my use of the word “lucky” in several past blogs and one of them was from the previous blog entry where I mentioned that if you were looking for a convenient and anonymous opportunity to experience the sacrament, yesterday would be your “lucky” day. He thought Divine Providence was more at work than pure “luck.” I don’t want to blame yesterday’s weather on Divine Providence!

 

+RNL

THIS LIGHT IS ON FOR YOU

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Woman at the WellDid you notice how long you were standing for the Gospel this past Sunday? Hopefully not as you were most likely engrossed in the long dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well – in fact, the longest dialogue in all four Gospels between Jesus and any one person. Next week prepare yourself for a second long Gospel, the curing of the man born blind and in two weeks perhaps the longest until Palm Sunday (and the reading of the Passion according to Matthew) which will be the wonderful story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The Church chooses these Gospels and they are often used every year in conjunction with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults because they serve as a “triptik” (the old AAA words for the spiral bound road maps between two points or destinations) for those coming into the Church through baptism and confirmation and first Eucharist. If I were to pick one word for each of the areas where the first five Gospels of Lent take us, they would be in ascending order: temptation, epiphany, conversion, faith, and new life. We are now well past the half way mark between Ash Wednesday and the start of the Sacred Triduum of Holy Week on Holy Thursday.

The Church reminds us that we will all from time to time face temptation from the evil one and how we respond to these temptations is crucial. Jesus was not moved by the offer of power, domination, ownership. Jesus 1 – Devil 0. As he began his journey to Jerusalem and immediately following the scolding of Peter, Jesus takes his three closest friends up to the top of Mount Tabor and once again his divinity is made manifest. We are told to “listen to Him”. Jesus 1 – Three Apostles 0. Last Sunday among the many themes flowing from that well in Samaria that day was a call to conversion, to turn away from sin, and drink of the waters of living life. Jesus 1 – Disciples 0. Jesus heals the blind manNext week, the blind man asks for a favor, a healing, and his request is granted but there are still many who are in disbelief. The Gospel indicates that there is still time to sign on to the legion of Christ and make the journey with him. Jesus 1-witnesses to the miracle 0. And if we need any proof of the opportunity for redemption and resurrection with faith in Jesus brings, Lazarus. Jesus 1 – those still refusing to believe he is the long awaited Messiah 0. Jesus advances to top seed in the final four (Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil/Easter Sunday.

The three Gospel stories (Sunday, next Sunday and the following Sunday) all come from John’s Gospel and they exemplify so well the dualism found there between the Gospel of Light and the Gospel of Darkness. Listen carefully next Sunday and the following one to illusions as to light and darkness and draw your own conclusions as to which world you are living in. Time is a’wasting but if we listen to the words of Jesus this week and act on them, what a glorious Easter awaits us.

If you are desirous of emerging from the darkness of sin and/or guilt this Lent, Thursday may be just your lucky night. For the third year running, every Catholic Church in the diocese will be open and priests will be hearing confessions in each from five until eight p.m. Our priests are very desirous of making confession available to you during this Lenten season and they show their desire in three ways: the regular hours for confession in each parish church, the Lenten Penance Services which will be starting up in each parish soon and this unique and special opportunity for you this Thursday. Designed to make it easy for the busy person to stop by on the way home from work, the embarrassed person to have a chance to confess their sins in a place and to a person who is highly unlikely to know them, the harried parent who finds the Saturday hours impossible between dropping off and rooting for their children at sports, dance, gymnastics, etc., or catching up with chores around the house arising from another busy week, the lights of our churches will be left on and you are most welcome. Like the father who welcomes his profligate son home, try us again, you will like us. Most of all you will feel and revel in the healing touch of Christ. Thanks, dear brother priests, for the gift of your time and the treasure of your love and and extension of God’s forgiveness.

The Light is ON for You

+RNL

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.

+RNL

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.

TIME TO CHECK YOUR PERSONAL SECURITY SYSTEMS

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Within seven days the Liturgy of our Church moves us from the image of Jesus Christ, our King, to, in the words of this Sunday’s Gospel, prepare for the coming of the “thief in the night.” It is quite a literary and theological chasm to span between these two images but both are important to our lives of faith. Today, as I write this, the USA consumer culture acknowledged what our retailers have come to call “Black Friday.” The malls and shops are full of people anxiously expecting to receive bargains for Christmas gifts. Last night, Thanksgiving, I went to sleep as one of the local television stations showed pictures of people sleeping outside the stores of one of our major electronic and appliance stores in the hope of being first in line to grab the few items which really are on sale today. The expectation which drove the waiting is amazing to me.

Advent season, beginning Sunday, is also a time of expectation and waiting, not for a bargain but for a baby. This baby comes in fulfillment of the Scriptures which foretold of a child who would fulfill the hopes and dreams of all humankind, a Messiah, God Himself, in the person of Jesus. It takes us all of about fifteen days to deal with His infancy but it will take us another year to deal with his life, mission, ministry until at its conclusion we acknowledge once again that he is indeed our King, our Lord, our Savior. So the Church would have us prepare for something which we know happened and which needs to happen every year in our life – to acknowledge and live with the Word who became flesh, taking on all our humanity, save our sins, in order to save us from our sins. But Advent is also the season when we most need to reflect that He will indeed come again and we need to be prepared.

I drove by several of our parishes this morning and I saw no lines of people, or even one solitary person, perched outside the door awaiting their opening. I understand this. But I wonder how prepared we are for the coming of the Lord, not just historically as we will recall in four weeks, but spiritually. I live with the realization that “the thief in the night” almost came for me fourteen  months ago and I must confess that I was not as prepared then as I am today having lived with that reality now for some time. This is the season to check your spiritual security systems. The sacrament of reconciliation is more readily available at this time with Penance Services in almost all the parishes and additional hours in others. Try preparing by spending a little time in quiet reflection if you can find both the time and the space. Ask the good Lord for help in acquiring those gifts and habits which will best prepare you for the day of reckoning.

There is no lock which can keep the “thief” from entering our lives, rather we leave the door slightly ajar, prepared and awaiting his arrival at any time of His choosing. Not to fear, take comfort. Have a blessed Advent.

+RNL

ET ALIA

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Early reports about Thursday night’s THE LIGHT IS ON FOR YOU are that despite the heavy rain and strong wind throughout the five counties, many people still made use of the opportunity to approach the sacrament of reconciliation, including many who were returning to the sacrament after a long period away. In the Church in which I heard confessions, we were not busy or “slammed” and I thought perhaps that last year’s success was wearing off. But, when outside the sacrament, I would inquire what was the impetus for seeking the sacrament this night , many told me that they had seen the thirty-second spots on TV (especially ESPN) and decided to come home. Today, we have heard from a number of pastors that confessions last night in their Church were steady and extremely worthwhile.

Sunday is Laetare Sunday which is Latin for “rejoice”. We are at the halfway point in Lent and Holy Week and the reenactment Lord’s passion and resurrection are drawing near. It is also the Sunday when we take up in all the parishes and missions around the country the annual collection for Catholic Relief Services. CRS’s work and importance shown once again in their response to the earthquake in Haiti and no Church has a disaster and development program to rival our own CRS. Some of the money also goes to Migration and Refugee Services, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the USCCB Committee for International Justice and Peace and to the Holy Father for his assistance to nation’s suffering from disasters, natural and manmade. Please be generous this week-end to one of the best causes for which special collections are taken in the United States.

This afternoon (Friday) I took the occasion to visit the Intensive Care Unit and the fifth floor of St. Anthony’s Hospital which took such great care of me in the days and weeks of my hospital confinement. The reason for my visit which was spontaneous on my part was to thank those wonderful, dedicated women and men (nurses, aids, cleaning people) who took care of me and take great care of all. I would say that they loved seeing me and a number commented that they seldom see people whom they have nursed back to good health after they leave the hospital upon discharge. Many could not believe how much weight I have lost. I had a great time telling of the lady who approached me at the Cathedral to ask if it was really Bishop Lynch standing before her and then commenting on my loss of weight asked me if it was “Weightwatchers” or “Jenny Craig.” Even the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES declared me healed. One could not ask for a better source on the subject!

The Diocesan Pastoral Council meets tomorrow (Saturday) at the Bethany Center and on Sunday I will be celebrating the 1030am Mass at St. Mary’s parish, Lutz, where the pastor has returned to the Philippines for kidney replacement surgery. I wish to assure the parishioners of my concern and prayers for their Father Jude Vera and my concern for them during this time without a shepherd.

Finally, it is not too late to get serious about Lent and preparing for Easter. Starting on Palm Sunday, this space will include a special reflection for each day of Holy Week. I will shut down for the week after Easter and return on “Low Sunday” – a term which I will attempt to explain when the day gets here.

+RNL