Christ must increase and we must decrease

On Saturday, January 11, nearly 1,000 catechists and parishioners turned out for our 25th annual ministry conference held at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi. The conference offered a number of workshops to help those in ministry in carrying out their work in the New Evangelization.

I celebrated the opening Mass and focused my homily on the Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation EVANGELII GAUDIUM, ON THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL IN TODAY’S WORLD. Pope Francis warns us that we too often “indulge in endless fantasies and we lose contact with the real lives and difficulties of our people.” Following is a podcast of my homily in which I call for: “Christ to increase, and  we must decrease.”

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As we conclude this year of faith, we open a new life of faith

Below is a podcast of the homily I gave at the Cathedral on the closing of the Year of Faith on Nov. 24. We closed the Year of Faith—called by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church—on the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

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Legacy of Faith ~ Future of Hope Progress

Through this video I want to share the latest progress report on the Legacy of Faith ~ Future of Hope.  I want to thank every person and family that has given so generously to make this a reality.

 

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Jesus is the great healer

On Thursday, Oct 17, I celebrated the annual White Mass at the CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital – Shoreline Chapel. The White Mass honors healthcare professionals and is celebrated in conjunction with the Feast of St. Luke, patron of physicians and surgeons.

Following is my homily from this Mass, which touches on the need for health professionals to rely on faith in Jesus Christ as they perform their ministry—a ministry deep in mystery. Jesus is the great healer of body and soul.

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SOLT Seminary visit and ordination

On Sept. 22 through Oct.1, I had the privilege of traveling to the Philippines for a visit to the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) community. As many of you know, the SOLT community exists as a diocesan rite under the ordinary of the Diocese of Corpus Christi.

I was accompanied Father Peter Marsalek, SOLT, the society’s new General Priest Servant, Sister Megan Mary Thibodeau, SOLT, their new General Sister Servant, and others. It provided me an opportunity to acquaint myself with the community in Asia and visit their seminary.

My visit was very successful. I came away very impressed with the dedication and zeal of the priests, seminarians and sisters who serve in such difficult situations in the Philippines and beyond. I was able to ordain three priests and three deacons on Saturday, Sept. 28, in the St. Gregory the Great Cathedral in Legazpi, Philippines.

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We are called to embrace peace in our own lives

Below is my op ed piece that appeared on the Corpus Christi Caller on Sept. 11, 2013.

President John F. Kennedy, in his 1961 address to the United Nations, declared: “Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.”  More than a half-century later, we are still straddling the brink President Kennedy feared.  Extremists of every stripe, in every corner of the world, threaten the peace that finds its origin in God.

This past weekend Pope Francis raised his voice of deep concern for the survival of peace for the human family.  The events that are taking place in Syria are only the tip of an ever-increasing march towards more violence and war. Throughout the Middle East violence prevails.  The same is true in many parts of the world, even in so-called “civil societies”.

The events in Syria are horrifying, but they are only the latest assault on peace in that beleaguered country.  The conflict in Syria has claimed more than 110,000 lives and displaced six million of their citizens.  The people of the world cannot remain silent while our sisters and brothers suffer.

In other parts of the world, including our own beloved country, attacks on peace may not necessarily be aimed at individuals, but against the human spirit and the love that God has planted in the human heart.  Attacks against the unborn, neglect and indifference toward the elderly and people at the end of life, the manipulation of God’s creation in laboratories, constant threats to religious liberty, disregard for the poor, mistreatment of immigrants, are seen by many, not as acts of violence, but signs of “progress.” Yet, these offenses against the dignity of the human person strike at the very root cause of conflict, violence and even war.  Disinterest or disregard for the created order results in “chaos” that goes against human nature, created to be in harmony with God, the human family and all of creation.

Amidst this deterioration of society and attacks against peace and harmony, the humble pastor from South America challenges all of us to return to the love of God; to once again experience an encounter with his unconditional mercy and love. Pope Francis’ appeal is not to Catholics alone, indeed he asks all people of good will, irrespective of religious beliefs, to join him in his quest for peace and harmony.

Pope Francis has urged world leaders to take courage and overcome “blind opposition.”  He further pleads with the international community “to promote clear initiatives for peace in Syria, based on dialogue and negotiation.”

We should reject the illusion that peace can result simply from legislation, and much less that it can be achieved through acts of violence and war.  The great proponent of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, said, “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”

Is peace possible?  Absolutely! But what can we do? Too often people feel helpless and hopeless with events that seem to overwhelm the world. All of us–Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and women and men of good will, can begin with prayer.  Once people discover the harmony with God, they not only regain hope, but also begin to discover, individually and as a community, new paths to peace.

Never underestimate the power of prayer.  It is God who has created and who can, with our help, restore all creation to a new harmony and peace

Write to your Congressman, email the president, talk to your neighbors, but above all, engage in earnest prayer for peace. Pray in the quiet corner of your room; pray with your family at the dining table; pray with your friends and neighbors at your church, synagogue, mosque or temple. But pray, pray, pray.

Today we are called in a new way to embrace peace in our own lives, love and harmony with God, and peace with our neighbors. We can work together in the everyday events of life, to build a culture of peace through a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue with each person we meet. Each one of us can decide to commit ourselves to be peacemakers, so that our world and the world that we leave to future generations will be a world ruled by peace and harmony.

 

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USCCB press conference on Syria

I wanted to share with you the bishops’ latest position on the HHS mandate. This is a press conference Cardinal Timothy Dolan held on Sept. 11.

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A call for peace through prayer

 

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Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria

As many of you may have heard, during the Angelus this past Sunday, Pope Francis declared this coming Saturday, Sept. 7, as a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, and throughout the Middle East. It is a special challenge to us during this Year of Faith to believe that Jesus Christ has sacrificed himself for our reconciliation with God and with one another.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined Pope Francis in asking the faithful to join in prayer and fasting.  Last Friday, the bishops reaffirmed an earlier message of the Holy Father “that the path of dialogue and negotiation between all components of Syrian society, with the support of the international community, is the only option to put an end to the conflict.”

In a statement on behalf of the USCCB, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said, “As our nation’s leaders contemplate military action, it is particularly appropriate and urgent that we in the United States embrace the Holy Father’s call to pray and fast on Sept. 7 for a peaceful end to the conflict in Syria and to violent conflicts everywhere.”

Prayer therefore is our strength and our shield as we ask the Lord to assist all those who are innocent victims of war and violence and to convert the hearts of those who seek violence and war as a way to bring about their political or ideological agendas. Yes, it is not the normal approach, but even Simeon in the Temple said that He and therefore we would be signs of contradiction.

I am asking everyone to join Pope Francis and the universal Church in this. I encourage you to pray the rosary as a community or in the family.  It would also be appropriate to make time for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Saturday. Reciting the following prayer for peace is recommended:

Prayer for Peace in Syria

God of Compassion,

Hear the cries of the people of Syria,

Bring healing to those suffering from the violence,

Bring comfort to those mourning the dead,

Strengthen Syria’s neighbors in their care and welcome for refugees,

Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,

And protect those committed to peace.

God of Hope,

Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence and to seek reconciliation with enemies,

Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria,

And give us hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.

We ask this through Jesus Christ,

Prince of Peace and Light of the World,

Amen.

I will celebrate the 5:30 Mass on Saturday in the Cathedral with an hour of adoration and prayer following the Mass. Our solidarity as men and women of faith with the people of Syria and the Middle East is very critical at this time. Let us be in solidarity with our universal Church in one voice for Peace.

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Be friends with Jesus in order to be his disciples

I’m in the airport in Rio waiting for a flight to Sao Paolo where I will spend about 10 days with some bishops from different parts of the world to share some time of communion and fraternity. Most of them have been here for World Youth Day.  It will be a wonderful time to refresh myself in that aspect of our Christian life called communion.

We have had difficulties keeping in touch via Internet.  Many times my messages wouldn’t go through and now they are a bit old.  On Saturday Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Cathedral of St. Sebastian in the center of Rio.  Bishops, priests, deacons, religious, seminarians and those in formation for consecrated life were present.  What strikes me each time the pope speaks is that it is simple but profound.  A particular thought that stayed with me is when the said that we should not create our own cloisters, but go to those on the periphery of life.

As is custom for World Youth Day, there was a prayer vigil on Saturday night in which the pope listened to the youth share some very moving experiences of conversion and a witness to faith.  And as always there was music and well-choreographed dances and artistic expressions.

By then there were 3 million people stretched on the 8-10 miles of Copacabana Beach.  With sleeping bags and backpacks they came with food and other provisions to stay the night.  They continued to come throughout the night to reach 3.5-4 million by the morning for Sunday mass.  One priest in the hotel whose room faced the beach jokingly said he didn’t get to sleep until 2:30 a.m. and then at 4:40 a.m. someone started snoring too loud and everyone was awakened and the noise started again.

As you probably already know, it was announced that the next WYD will be held in Krakow, Poland in 2016.

What did we hear and what do we take home?  Be friends with Jesus in order to be his disciples and as his disciples we are also his missionaries–missionary disciples.  This is the challenge and commission for all of us, not jus to call ourselves disciples, but disciples who go to others and share the richness of faith we have received.  This of course must be rooted in our living the word and rooted in the Eucharist.

The Holy Father yesterday, before his departure, encouraged the bishops of Latin America during a meeting with them to create a “Culture of Encounter,” because without a dialogue with those who embrace secularity the Church will not grow or be faithful to its mission.  As a diocese we will have to find our way to discover the appropriate instruments of Evangelization.

When I can over the next weeks (depending on internet availability), I’ll send some news. I continue to pray for all you.

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