Without a Doubt Tidbits for Summer

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin - Without a Doubt

A few random thoughts before we take a little break for summer.

** Our Holy Father’s encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si,” is an amazing document, a comprehensive challenge to the Church and the world replete with insightful observations and compelling exhortations. Pope Francis has encouraged us all to receive his teaching with “an open heart,” and indeed we should. If and how it will affect our attitudes and practical behaviors, however, remains to be seen.

** And speaking of practical behaviors, “Laudato Si” has been enthusiastically embraced by the American Bishops and we’ve urged our fellow Catholics to take action to protect the environment. But shouldn’t we bishops be giving a good example too? For the sake of reducing carbon emissions, might we consider reducing our national and international travel – especially the number of meetings and programs we schedule and attend? After all, as a story in the “New York Times” awhile back pointed-out, “Your biggest carbon sin might be air travel.” I offer this as a serious consideration, not to be snarky. After all, Pope Francis has encouraged us not to be “airport bishops,” hasn’t he?

** The launch of “Laudato Si” begins what will be an unusually busy and important time in the life of the Church. Think about the coming events in the next few months: The visit of Pope Francis to the U.S. in September; the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia; the October Synod of Bishops in Rome to discuss the pastoral care of the family; and the Jubilee Year of Mercy which begins in December. Each of these events has historic significance; each will provide an opportunity to present the teaching and work of the Church in a positive light; and each will invite the participation of the local Church.

** Closer to home, as I travel around the Diocese I’m always impressed by the personal dedication and hard work of so many individuals in our parishes who work day-in and day-out, often behind the scenes, to support the ministry of the Church. I think of parish secretaries, sacristans, custodians, food pantry volunteers, kitchen helpers, altar servers, choir members, and many others. Thank you, one and all, for your love for the Church and your good work. We couldn’t do it without you!

** Congratulations and blessings to our newly ordained priests – Fr. Joshua Barrow, Fr. Nicholas Fleming and Fr. Ryan Simas. Their ordination is a wonderful moment for them and their families and friends, and our entire diocesan Church. We are proud of our new priests and grateful for their willingness to serve. May they always be faithful and joyful servants of the Lord Jesus!

** But we need many more vocations to the priesthood in our Diocese, and as St. John Paul II reminded us so clearly, “all the members of the Church, without exception, have the grace and responsibility to look after vocations.” Every parish and school, every priest, deacon, parent, teacher and youth minister, should take personal responsibility for identifying and encouraging new vocations to the priesthood. It strikes me that there’s something dramatically wrong in our nation when we produce more young men willing to sign up and fight for ISIS than for the Catholic Church.

** Recently I had the opportunity of meeting with members of our Diocese who are involved in “Pax Christi,” an international organization that advocates for peace and justice. Although the group in Rhode Island is relatively small, the information they provide and the commitment they bring to their mission is most impressive. At the moment Pax Christi is working to remind us all of the enormous danger of nuclear weapons, particularly in a world destabilized by fractured governments and terrorist groups and thus ripe for nuclear proliferation. We should welcome the work of Pax Christi and take their message very seriously.

** One of the most moving events I’ve been involved in for a long time was the burial of Baby Francis at Gate of Heaven Cemetery. You will recall that he was the poor little unborn child who was found floating in the sewage treatment plant in East Providence. I am really grateful for all those who worked to provide a decent Christian burial for Baby Francis. When visiting the “children’s section” of the cemetery one cannot help but pause for a moment and reflect upon all the little babies buried there. They are now little angels, but the heartbreak their parents must have experienced at their loss is surely deep and wide.

** My mom always said that on the 4th of July summer was over, and we always thought she was crazy. As I get older, though, I understand exactly what she meant. The daylight has now begun to recede; NFL training camps will open soon; in the very near future we’ll be seeing ads for “back to school” sales; and I’ve already received my first Christmas catalogue from a religious goods store.

** My former dog, Molly and my new dog, Annie are strikingly similar in appearance and temperament. The difference between them, though, is what 15 years produces. Molly was an elderly, peaceful and predictable companion. Annie is, well, everything a puppy should be. Several people told me that having a new puppy would keep me young. Trust me – it’s not working!

** Sorry that the Red Sox are having such a tough season. Too bad you can’t deflate baseballs, huh?